# of pages written: 14 of my novel, and I finished my short story
# of days left to write 1st draft: 97
I don’t know why no one ever wants to play trivia in this town. When I walk up to people at the bar and ask if they want to play trivia, they look at me suspiciously, like I’m trying to sell them a plate full of dead rats. “It’s free and easy,” I tell them. “You just answer questions. You could win a gift certificate!”
Last night, a blond woman with crazy eyes, who seemed surprisingly drunk for 6:45 pm, told me, “no way. No way we’re doing trivia.” She smacked the table, and the man across from her jolted a bit in his chair. It seemed he had been sleeping with his eyes open. “My damn ex-husband liked trivia,” she shouted, glaring at me. “And I ain’t doing it!”
“That’s absolutely fine.” I backed away from her table slowly, my hands raised in defense.
I moved on to two guys at the end of the bar. One was a man in his late fifties with thick, gray hair and an overly-tanned face. He was wearing a suit jacket over a white button-up shirt. A few too many of the buttons were undone. I would call him a silver fox, except he was not foxy. He only thought he was foxy. He was mostly smarmy, drunk, and rather weaselish, so I will call him the Silver Weasel.
The Silver Weasel sat next to a baby-faced guy in his late twenties who looked slightly like Keanu Reeves from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures, if Keanu had been ten pounds overweight and grown a goatee. Baby Keanu was wearing a t-shirt, sandals, and a pair of shiny blue and silver shorts that may or may not have been swim trunks. He was typing on a laptop.
“You brought your work to the bar, huh?” I asked him. “Want to take a break and play trivia?”
“What is it you want us to play?” Silver Weasel asked, leaning towards me and smiling.
“Trivia,” I said.
“We’ll play with you,” he said, winking. “What’s the game?”
“Trivia,” I said again.
It didn’t seem like he knew what the word meant, so I said, “you answer questions about all sorts of things. Sports and movies and music.”
“I know about music,” he said. “I’ll play.” He nudged Baby Keanu. “We’ll play, won’t we?”
“Great,” I said. “What do you want your team name to be?”
“Teammate?” Silver Weasel patted Baby Keanu on the shoulder. “He’s my teammate. We’re not gay or anything, but he’s my teammate.”
“Great,” I said again. “Do you guys have a team name? A name?” I tried to enunciate as clearly as possible.
“The MacMillans,” Silver Weasel said, winking again. “The MacMillans.”
They seemed excited, so luckily I managed to scrounge up two more teams. One was a fairly normal-seeming older couple. They named their team after their grandchildren, so I will call them The Grandparents. The other team was a fairly-crazy seeming couple celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary by doing whiskey shots at the bar. “Sure, we’ll play. Why the hell not?” they said.
I went to the trivia table and started my music. Silver Weasel and Baby Keanu moved to the table directly in front of me. “We wanted to be closer to you,” Silver Weasel explained, flashing a tooth smile.
“Good idea.” I clicked on the microphone. “All right, Tommy Doyle’s. It’s time to get started with Team Trivia. It’s free and easy to play, so let me just go over the rules. Every team should have a little pad of paper.”
Silver Weasel held his up proudly.
“I’ll ask a question, and you’ll have the length of a song to answer. Write your answer, your team name, and how many points you want to wager. You can wager one, three, or five points.”
“Oh man,” 25 Year Wedding Anniversary Woman said loudly, “this sounds like school.”
“It’s not hard, I promise,” I said into the mic. “You’ll the get the hang of it. Just wager five if you’re sure about your answer and one or three if you’re not so sure.”
“I’m sure,” Silver Weasel said. “I’m very sure.”
“We’re playing for some prizes tonight,” I said, “so please don’t use your laptops, cell phones, encyclopedias. Just use your brains and your teammates.”
“You hear that?” Silver Weasel slapped Baby Keanu’s arm. “Close your lap top.” Baby Keanu obeyed.
I finished giving the rules and asked the first question: According to Rolling Stone Magazine, who is the wealthiest, most influential entertainer of Hispanic heritage?
Baby Keanu rushed his answer up to me. I glanced at the slip of paper. He’d written Marc Anthony. “What’s your wager?” I asked. “Five, three, or one points?”
“Five,” Silver Weasel shouted. “We’re sure.”
25 Year Anniversary Man brought up his slip. He’d written J.Lo. “What’s your wager?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. “My wife did this. I’m just the messenger boy.”
Grandpa handed me his slip. He’d forgotten to put his team name on it.
I wrote down everyone’s points and felt someone’s breath on my neck. Silver Weasel had sidled up next to me. “Did we get it right?”
“I’ll announce it in just a minute,” I said.
“She’s got a poker face.” He sat back down next to Baby Keanu and they both stared at me, smiling. “Look at her. You can’t even read her.”
The song ended, and I picked up the microphone. “This is just a reminder, guys. Be sure to write down your team name and your wager every time. And I’ll go ahead and give you the answer to question one. The wealthiest, most influential entertainer of Hispanic heritage… is Jennifer Lopez.”
“See, I told you!” Baby Keanu muttered. Silver Weasel just shook his head. He stretched his arms behind his head and leaned back against the wall.
I asked the next question. Silver Weasel and Baby Keanu stared at me. I smiled back at them. I wished they weren’t so close.
“She’s got a great smile,” Silver Weasel said. “Hey, beautiful,” he yelled to me, “your teeth are perfect. They’re so white. How’d you get such great teeth? How’d you get to be so beautiful?”
I shrugged, smiling pleasantly, pretending to do something on my computer.
They were so busy staring at me, they nearly forgot to answer the question. Baby Keanu scribbled something down at the last second and rushed it to me just as the song was ending. “You’re doing a great job!” Silver Weasel yelled.
“The next question seems appropriate,” I said. “The category is Alcohol. And your question is, in what country was Bacardi founded in 1862? Again, Bacardi was founded in which country in 1862?”
The MacMillans wrote down England. 25 Year Anniversary wrote down Texas, which isn’t even a country. The Grandparents came the closest with Puerto Rico. “The answer, my friends,” I told them, “was Cuba. Bacardi was founded in Cuba. That’s OK. We’ll do better on the next round.”
As we got into the next round, I started to wish I had some easier questions. The MacMillans and 25 Year Anniversary were falling quickly behind, and while The MacMillans remained hopeful and didn’t seem to notice when they got questions wrong, 25 Year Anniversary was growing frustrated. “I feel like I’m in school!” the wife yelled. “I just came here to eat some wings.”
I picked a question that seemed doable. “What are the two main protein ingredients in the Chinese food dish “Phoenix and Dragon?”” I asked. “Listen carefully. The two main protein ingredients.”
“OK, so it’s protein,” Silver Weasel said.
Baby Keanu approached the table smiling. He had written down, “meat.” “Can you be more specific?” I asked, handing the slip of paper back to him. “And you need to write down two ingredients.” He came back a moment later. He had written, “meat and rice.”
“The answer,” I announced, “was chicken and shrimp.” Silver Weasel groaned, as if he had known it all along.
“These are too hard,” 25 Year Anniversary woman yelled, doing another shot of whiskey.
The next question was Geography. “Oh, we’re going to get this one,” Silver Weasel said. “I’m good at this.”
“Which U.S. State,” I asked, “was part of Massachusetts until it voted for succession in 1820?” I looked out at the teams. “So I’m looking for the name of a state. A state that used to be part of Massachusetts.”
Baby Keanu scurried up with his answer. He’d written Rhode Island. 25 Year Anniversary Man had written something that looked like “Watham.” “My spelling is terrible,” he said.
I stared at the paper. Whatever he had been attempting to spell, it wasn’t the correct answer, which was Maine. I wasn’t even sure that what he’d written was a state. Or a place of any kind. Only the Grandparents got it right.
I was beginning to feel like the Alex Trebec character from SNL’s Celebrity Jeopardy. Except my contestants were not celebrities. They were just insane drunkards. Except for the Grandparents. The Grandparents were normal. I started saying things into the microphone like, “just write down the name of a U.S. President. Any U.S. President.” I gave them hints. “He’s a very famous poet and his last name is what happens when it’s cold outside.” Despite my efforts, The MacMillans and 25 Year Anniversary were falling farther and farther behind.
Then I gave them what I thought was one of the easiest questions. “It’s the cheesiest is a slogan used to advertise what Kraft product?” I asked.
25 Year Anniversary came up to me. “I don’t know,” he said, handing me a blank answer sheet.
“Really?” I asked. “Does your wife know?”
“She can’t spell it,” he said.
“Really?” She couldn’t spell macaroni and cheese? The wife tottered up, unstable in her platform heels.
“Why don’t you just tell me the answer out loud,” I said. “You don’t have to write it down.” I was having flashbacks to my time teaching learning disabled children.
“Say the queshen again,” the wife slurred.
“It’s the cheesiest is the slogan for which Kraft product?” I repeated.
“Cheese,” the husband said. “I think it’s cheese.”
“Can you be more specific?”
“Kraft cheese,” he said.
“Mac and cheese,” the wife said after a moment of thought.
“Very good! Excellent.” I marked their points on my score sheet.
“I’m the smart one,” she said.
“We forgot to wager,” the husband said.
“That’s OK,” I told him. “I’m giving you all five points.”
I went over to check on Silver Weasel and Baby Keanu. They had gone out to smoke and had missed the question. I repeated it for them.
“Well that’s easy,” Baby Keanu said. “Cheez Whiz.” He wrote it down and handed the slip of paper to me.
“We wager five,” Silver Weasel added.
I went back to my table and picked up the microphone. This was getting ridiculous. “Next question,” I said. “In his 1950 writings, what was Alan Turing referring to when he wrote about “thinking machines?””
The answer was computers. I thought it was obvious. I really hoped it would be obvious to the contestants. Right now the Grandparents had a forty-point lead.
25 Year Anniversary couple stood up and walked over to me. The husband handed me their answer. “Baby doll,” the wife slurred, “we jus gotta go home now. But we’re gonna come again next week. We had so much fun.”
Her husband started pounding on a nearby bar table like it was a bongo drum. I wondered how they were getting home. Neither of them should be anywhere near the steering wheel of a car. They stumbled out the door, and I looked down at their answer. They had written “Back to the Future.”
“Well,” I said into the mic, “we’ve lost one of our teams, but that’s OK. Everyone’s a winner here, and now we just have to play to see who comes in first and who comes in second.”
The Grandparents came up to ask how many points they had so they would know what to wager for the final question. “Well,” I said. “I didn’t want to say it into the microphone. You guys have 56 and they have 13.”
“Oh,” The Grandparents said. They seemed pleased.
After the game, I gave the Grandparents their first place gift certificate. “Are you guys local?” I asked. “You should come back next week.”
“Oh no,” the wife said. “We’re just here on vacation.”
“Too bad.” I smiled and walked over to the MacMillans to give them their second place certificate.
“We were so close,” Baby Keanu said. “I totally thought we were going to win.” I’m not sure how exactly he thought that, but at least he has confidence going for him.
Silver Weasel tried to give me a hug. He was sweating through his suit jacket, and his breath smelled of sour beer.
Baby Keanu smiled at me. His downy cheeks were flushed pink. “That was really fun,” he said. “You’re pretty. We’re gonna do this again next week.”
“Oh good,” I said. “Please do come back next time.”
So I’ve got 25 Year Anniversary and the MacMillans promising to come back next week…
I need to get some easier questions.
P.S. Please please please come to Tommy Doyle’s in Hyannis, MA at 7pm every Wednesday for Team Trivia. It’s free and (somewhat) easy to play! $3 drink specials. We always need more teams. Obviously.