John Grisham flings his sequined cape over one shoulder to reveal the bulging muscles of his right arm. He has been working out. His spandex bodysuit hides nothing from the crowd gathered tonight at the Blue Moon Diner. Readers have come in droves to witness the first match of CLAW – the Charlottesville Literati Arm Wrestlers. As Grisham leaps to the platform and begins showboating for his lady fans, the crowd frantically places its bets.

“In it to win it,” yells poet Charles Wright. He slips a $10 bill into the plastic bucket that Grisham’s wife Renee dangles on a stick above the audience.

“The hell he is,” mutters John Casey as he palms a $50 bill to George Garrett, the CLAW referee. “I think Grisham’s been juicing again,” Casey whispers in the ref’s ear. Garrett nods his understanding and then confers with Rita Dove, the celebrity judge of tonight’s tournament.

“And in the opposite corner,” hollers MC Jan Karon, who stands on a chair over her amplifier, “Taking on heavily favored contender John Grisham, aka the Legal Eagle, in a fight for the first bracket trophy, is poet Lisa Russ Spaar, aka the Blonde Bomber!”

“Booo, hisss,” says Charles Wright.

“98-pounds,” says Renee to her husband. “Poetry. Tears. Spaghetti arm.”

Spaar emerges from the bar wearing a khaki flight suit and aviator goggles. Before taking the platform, she works the crowd with Top Gun dance moves. Her own bet bucket passes through the audience like a rambunctious church collection. Spaar’s MFA students stuff her pockets with dollar bills. From the back row, Deborah Eisenberg offers the poet a shot of Jagermeister. Spaar takes it.

The ref blows his whistle. “Competitors, take your seats,” he says. Last minute bets are handed forward through the rows. Grisham stops flexing and puts the top half of his jumpsuit back on. Garrett gives Spaar a hand up to the platform. She lets John Casteen hold her flight goggles and he squeals like a little girl. Spaar assumes the arm wrestling position at the table.

Grisham links his thumb with Spaar’s and squeezes. George Garrett holds their two hands in his own like a holy man giving a blessing. “Wrestlers, are you satisfied with your grip?” The adversaries nod their heads and clench their teeth.

“You’ve met your Waterloo,” says Grisham.

“You’re going down like a clown,” says Spaar.

“The jury says you’re guilty, mama,” says Grisham.

“Saddle up, buttercup,” says Spaar.

“Ready, set, wrassle!” says the ref. But before he can finish saying “wrassle,” the Blonde Bomber has sacked the Legal Eagle’s hand.

“Foul!” cries Grisham, leaping from his seat. Referee George Garrett declares Spaar the winner. MC Jan Karon blasts “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins on her CLAW stereo system. Charles Wright and Renee Grisham scream at Rita Dove, who guards the winner’s trophy in the corner, but Dove says the match was fought “fair and square.”

“This courtroom is corrupt!” shouts Grisham. “I demand a retrial!”

“Shut your jaw and stuff your law,” says the Blonde Bomber, “You are not the king of CLAW.” Spaar’s fans applaud the impromptu poem. Spaar curtsies in her flight suit.

“Round two,” says the ref. “Find your grip.” After a brief shoulder massage from his wife, Grisham reluctantly sits down again. This time he offers Spaar his left hand. Spaar shrugs and switches from her dominant arm. The writers grip up.

“Ready, Freddy?” asks Spaar.

“Don’t try to beat the system,” says Grisham. “Punks always get it in the end.”

“Okey-dokey, smokey,” says Spaar.

“Ready, set, wrassle!” cries the ref.

But before the ref can say “set,” Spaar has pinned Grisham’s left hand to the mat. The diner erupts in cheers for the triumphant underdog. “Order, order!” shouts the ref. “We have a winner!”

“Foul! Foul!” rages Grisham. Rita Dove hands the Blonde Bomber her trophy, a first edition of Leaves of Grass. As Charles Wright subdues Grisham and leads him to the bar, Spaar begins to read.


  1. Hilarious — can’t wait for the next round.

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