As they took the stage, the Applause sign started flashing rapidly, and the crowd obliged. An invisible announcer intoned, “This . . . is . . . Jeopardy! Welcome to our Child Prodigy Edition! Let’s meet our contestants! From
Amanda Barth! From Santa Ana, California ,
Tom Newsome! And from Jacksonville, Florida Truckee,
California, Quincy Capers! And nowwwww . . . Alex Trebek!”
Trebek was a quick mover. He appeared onstage to raucous applause, waving at the contestants and then at the crowd. He welcomed everyone and got right to work by introducing the topics: Games, Music, Cartoons, Geography, Colors, and Historical Figures.
After Amanda selected Cartoons, Tom grabbed the baton that she had been carrying, methodically swept the category, and leaped into the lead. The Answers: Snoopy, Family Circus,
Garfield, Foghorn Leghorn,
and Super Genius. Scarcely five minutes
had passed before Quincy
decided that he had run card-dead long enough.
And so when Tom selected Music for $100,
Quincy pushed the button on his selector
stick before he even heard the answer.
Trebek read it anyway, “These musicians won’t get fooled again. Quincy?”
He stared vacantly until the buzzer sounded. But nobody else got it either. A micro-smile appeared and disappeared from Trebek's face. “Who are . . . the Who?" The crowd chuckled. Trebek said, "Tom?"
Tom chose Music for $200. “This British band used Hells Angels as security during their concerts until the Disaster at
stared vacantly until the buzzer went off.
This time, he was not thinking of an answer. He only thought, That fuckball was smirking at me.
“Who are the Rolling Stones?”
“That’s it! Select.”
Tom and Amanda selected the remaining Music questions, added to their scores, and Trebek said, summing up the action, “Here are the scores. Tom leads with $1,900, Amanda is in second with $1,800, and
Quincy pulls up the rear with negative $300. We’ll be right back.”
The Applause signs began to blink, and the audience erupted with clapping. Trebek cupped the mic and said to
“It’s always better to guess than to say nothing.”
Trebek turned his ear toward Quincy, straining to hear him, then shook his head. He visibly straightened himself nevertheless, seeming to be a full three inches taller.
“And we’re back in—” the director began and held up three fingers, then two, then one, and then made a fist.
Alex smiled at the camera. “And we’re back. Let’s take a moment to learn a little bit about our contestants.” He looked at an index card. “Amanda, it says here that you have several unique musical talents. Care to share one with the audience?”
Amanda blushed. “Well, I can play anything by Tchaikovsky. While blindfolded. And riding a bicycle. Down a hill.” The crowd clapped hesistantly. Then she added glumly, "That was a joke."
The Laughter sign blinked furiously. A few people chuckled.
“Very impressive,” Trebek replied, but one of his eyebrows had risen to an odd height. He flipped the index card over. “Tom, you’ve entered over a dozen spelling bees and have yet to lose.” The audience oooo’ed. “Care to tell us your secret?”
“I have memorized all of the words in existence.”
"Even Latin words, Tom?"
"Even Taushiro, Alex." In response to Trebek's quizzical look, Tom added, "Native language of Peru. One of the rarest in the world."
“Quick, spell pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism.”
“P – S – E – U—”
“Just kidding, Tom. It’s only a half hour show.” The Laughter sign gave off a series of rapid-fire blinks; the audience giggled. “
Quincy. It says here that you have a knack for
"Yep." A vacuum seemed to have opened up in the room, sucking away all of the sound.
Piercing the void, Trebek continued, "And you . . . play poker for money? Can that be legal?"
"No, Alex. It can't."
Before the void could creep back in, Trebek responded smilingly, “Well, I guess you've realized by now that Jeopardy isn't poker. You’re sitting in third place. Let’s see if your gambler's instincts can turn things around.”
"The game is already over. I'm slowrolling a fullhouse."
Trebek began blinking rapidly, like a mechanical doll revealing its defect. Then the blinking abruptly stopped, and Trebek smiled. “Tom," he said, "your turn to select.”
Tom chose Historical Figures for $100.
“Let them eat cake was incorrectly attributed to this queen of
said Trebek. Quincy buzzed in. “ Quincy?”
“Who was Karl Marx?”
“Uh . . . no.” Another buzzer went off. “Amanda?”
“Who was Marie Antoinette?”
“Historical Figures for $200.”
"This first president of the United States." Quincy pressed his buzzer furiously. "Quincy?"
"Who is Karl Marx?"
"Incorrect." Tom nailed it a second later, as well as the three- and four-hundred dollar questions. Somehow, he was outbuzzing Quincy. When he called for Historical Figs for five,
Quincy was jamming his buzzer as if he was fighting his way through the toughest part of Grand Theft Auto III.
“This philosopher’s lesser-known works include Capital and the Poverty of Philosophy.
“Who is Karl Marx?”
Trebek seemed visibly rattled. “Uh, correct,” he said. A few gasps could be heard. “
“Games for five.”
Lights flashed and zapping sounds zapped. “And we have our first Daily Double!
you have negative one hundred dollars, but you can risk as much as one thousand.”
“For one thousand dollars, the answer: In this tile-based Chinese game, players compete with bamboos, stones, characters, winds, and dragons.”
“What is mah jong.” And then quickly, before Alex could say “Correct,” and before the audience could clap,
Quincy said, “Games for four.”
“Uh, correct.” The crowd clapped. “This Russian chessmaster who defeated Capablanca was incorrectly branded an anti-Semite during World War II.
“Who was Alexander Alekhine. Games for three.” Luckily, Piotr Gleeman worshipped Alekhine. His agent talked about Alekhine not only as if he were alive, but as if he might suddenly pop out from behind a corner and invite Piotr to play a game of blitz.
“Correct. In a standard deck of 52 playing cards, this card has become known as ‘the laughing boy.’
“What is the jack of diamonds? Games for two.”
“Correct. The only chess piece that can jump over any other chess piece.
“What is the knight? Games for one.”
“Correct. The most expensive piece of property on an original Monopoly board.
“What is Boardwalk? Gimme a break.”
“Correct.” Quincy heard strong applause. A new sound effect suddenly went off, and Trebek said, “And we’re out of time for Single Jeopardy. Come back after these messages to see our contestants square off in Double Jeopardy!”
“Annnnnd commercial!” announced the director.
Trebek said in a steely voice. “You give
your answer, and then you wait for me to tell you whether it is correct or
not. Then you select your next
question. That’s how it works.”
“You got it backwards, Trebek.”
“You give us the answers. We provide the questions.”
Trebek said firmly, “The question is the answer.”
“Don’t you know how your own show works?”
“When we get back on the air—”
“Naked freckled boy scout.”
Trebek frowned, shook his head. “Pardon?”
“That’s the answer. Then I give the question, ‘Who is handcuffed to Trebek's bed?’ Then you say ‘Correct’ and I choose the next topic.”
“Five seconds!” shouted the director. He held up an open hand.
Trebek's eyes were wide as plates. "Do you know what I am, you lit-tle piece of shit?" he said in the oddest singsong voice Quincy had ever heard. The director's fingers, which had been counting down, froze at three. "I'm the king of game shows. You try to upstage me on my own show? You've got--"
"I prefer," Quincy interrupted, "Wink Martindale."
Trebek's head jerked backwards as if he'd been slapped.
The director, snapping out of his shock, made a fist and started waving it wildly in the air. "We're running!" he croaked.
Trebek's blink reflex was machinegunning. He turned to the crowd with a smile more plastic than the worst bluffer. "Excuse me, folks. We'll edit that unfortunate exchange out of the program."
All of the Applause lights started flashing, but the audience remained silent.
"One more time!" the director pleaded, holding up his hand and counting down to zero.
Once the director made a fist, Trebek gave a warm smile to the camera and said, “And we’re back with Double Jeopardy. In quite a turnaround,
has plunged into the lead with $2,500,
but Amanda and Tom are close behind with $2,000 and $1,800. Our categories: Movies, American Literature,
Funny People, Name That Snack, World Cuisine, and Find the Dead Guy. Quincy ,
“Dead Guy for a dime.”
Trebek paused. “The dollar amounts are $200 to $1,000. A dime is not one of the choices.”
Half of the crowd gasped; the other half laughed. Trebek looked to his director and gave him the let’s-cut-that-part hand across the throat.
“For one thousand,” Trebek continued. “Abe Vigoda, Jimmy Carter, Boris Yeltsin, Margaret Thatcher.
“Who is Boris Yeltsin?”
Quincy understood that of
the four people listed, three are living and one is dead.”
“So that's what it is,”
Quincy pondered. “Cool. Dead Guys for $800.”
“Louie Anderson, Jerry Seinfeld, Rita Rudner, George Carlin.
“Who is George Carlin?”
The zappy sounds zapped, and the set lights flashed. “Our second Daily Double!
you have $4,300, more than double Amanda’s total in second place. How much would you—?”
Quincy felt that the audience wanted an excuse to shift over to his side. It turned out this game was pure momentum, just like poker. Better not to lose it. "All in.”
Trebek hesitated, seeming to consider whether to ask what Quincy meant, but then he thought better of it. “For $4,300 and a commanding lead: Willie Shoemaker, Luis Tiant, Y.A. Tittle, Kenny Stabler?”
With a dead face: “Correct.”
The crowd exploded.
Once the applause had died down, Trebek asked coolly, “Would you mind telling the audience what you were doing there?”
“Eeny meeny miney m
Barring any setback, the result of the game had already been decided.
Quincy tried sleeping with his eyes open, and found that he could not do it. For Final Jeopardy he bid
$1, because he could not lose, and without bothering to listen to the final
answer, he wrote as the final question, “Who is Alex Trebek?”
When his question was revealed, the audience burst out laughing, and
did not know why.