“You know what the difference between a con-man and a grifter is, kid?” The old man eyed me as I thought about the question.

I shook my head that I did not know.

“A con man is a thief pure and simple.” He spat the word “thief” like it was an unwanted chaw of tobacco. “He has no scruples or morals. He mugs the mark as surely as with a knife or gun and throws him away like trash.”

I wrinkled my nose with disdain at that mental picture.

“A grifter,” the old man said with a sigh of pride, “is a craftsman. He plays the mark like a fine violin. He polishes and tunes the mark until he pines for the sting and is glad to give up his oakus. A con man lives for the blow-off. A grifter lives for the game.”

“I understand, Grampa,” I said. “I’ll do my best never to be a huckleberry.”

Satisfied, the old man handed me a fine leather wallet with five hundred dollars inside. “Allright, boy, here’s the grift.”

As he laid it out for me I could see the pride in his eyes. Today I would be a part of the sting.

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