Quincy waited in the Green Room with two other kids, a boy with braces and a girl wearing polka dots. From an intercom they could hear a comedian warming up the Jeopardy! crowd with a few jokes. "I met Natalya Pertman on a movie set once," he said. "Nice girl, friendly. I told her that my girlfriend looks a little bit like her . . . and a lot like Joe Pesci." A smattering of laughter.
never would have thought to try out for the
show. In fact, he had not tried
out. It had all been the idea of Piotr
Gleeman, his agent. Quincy
“It’s a game show on TV.”
“What’s the most I can win?”
“Just do it. I’m not just going to be your go-to guy for islands and movie stars and Lamborghinis. I'm your agent. I'm building your image.”
“You haven’t gotten me any of those things yet.”
"What's the Death Star?"
"Unpaved islands don't count. Plus, there's no castle in the middle yet. No moat. No standing army."
"You don't have the money yet."
Quincy was exasperated. "Well, I'm not going to get the money on a show that only pays fifty thousand dollars a day!"
Yet here he sat in the Green Room, across from his enemies. When Quincy had confessed to Piotr that he didn't know any trivia, Piotr had advised him to use poker strategy on his opponents. As for the history questions, how should guess Karl Marx for all of them.
“You’ll have to trashtalk these kids," Piotr had said that morning over chocolate pancakes at IHOP. "Get inside their heads. If you’re going to win, you’ve got to rattle them. Bad.” Then he had started rambling about how
was not a poker player but a product, one that needed to be marketed, like Cheez Whiz. And what better way to market Quincy at this early
stage of his poker career than by having him demonstrate his smarts on national
Quincy would have replied, "Smarts? I'm a C student," but he had stopped listening. He was devising a trashtalk strategy. As he saw it, he faced one problem, a major one. He had never trashtalked anyone before. Sure, he had infuriated other kids on the playground before, but he managed to do that simply by telling the truth. And when he told the truth, he occasionally found himself waxing poetic. "Your head has a weird shape," he told one of the school bullies once. "I bet it stays that way for life. A broken compass always pointing east." Before he could suggest a visit to a carpenter with a powerful head vice, the bully had pummeled him silent.
No, trashtalk was different.
He examined the other two contestants, a fifteen-year-old girl who had already produced three CDs of solo classical violin and a sixteen-year-old who had gone 15-for-15 in every spelling bee he had ever entered.
"Salmon," he said. "And white wine."
They both turned to look at him. The girl was wringing her hands. "Huh?" said Spelling Bee.
"As you were flying in here with Mommy and Daddy, maybe you had a turkey club sandwich. I was having the salmon and wine. On my jet." Actually, he'd had cold, waxy chicken on Southwest Airlines and a bag of peanuts, but they didn't know that.
"BS," replied Spelling Bee indifferently.
Weak, very weak. Time to find another gear.
“You watch, shitheads,”
“When you’re both under the bright lights, see what happens. You’ll start getting nervous. You’ll get sweaty. You’ll forget things. And I’m going to be there waiting to take you
“No one cares, hotshot!" added the girl forcefully.
"You mean," the boy added, "like the bright lights of a spelling bee?"
Oh, they came to play, did they? Quincy's mind raced. Plan C, the Dark Option, required him to lean forward and drop his voice to a whisper. “You could dump gasoline over me and set me on fire,” he said, smiling, “and you know what I would do next?"
"I would run towards you. Grab you both in a great big screaming bear hug and never let go. Burn unit, three incoming.”
A man with a clipboard poked his head in the door. “Okay kids, you ready? We’re on in two minutes. Let’s go have some fun! Follow me.”
His head disappeared.
Quincy added, “Charred skin smells like burnt peanuts. They'd put you in a little bag and serve you to your parents on the flight home.”
They stood, the girl a little shakily, and walked toward the door, Quincy singing, "I'll stop the world and melt with you."
He found that he enjoyed talking trash. It satisfied an inner need. Why, he wondered, don't people do it more often?
Now let's go meet this fuckball Trebek.