Six years ago the Jeopardy bus came to the GulfCoast. Jerry, my identical twin, drove over and spent the day at the Holiday Inn in Mobile taking written tests and competing with a herd of other nerds and ending up getting selected. The next week he got a registered letter from Los Angeles with a non-refundable plane tickets, hotel reservations, and a cashiers check for $400 travel expenses to fly out to L A the next month for the taping of the contest. Also enclosed was a contract Jerry had to sign in which he agreed not to disclose any Jeopardy information, follow the dress code, and other rules to obey while he was on the set. Rules, such as “Under no circumstances will a contestant argue with Mr. Trebec,” and “Under no circumstances will a contestant challenge the validity of any Jeopardy question,” and “Under no circumstances will profanity be expressed”…etc. Failure to follow the provisions of the contract or the on set rules would make contestants liable for all expenses, including the advance travel tickets and cash. Once signed, the scheduled date of the taping was sacrosanct and could be changed only by a death in the family or severe illness, verifiable by Jeopardy’s attorneys. Jerry signed the contract and would have flown to LA. had he not gotten arrested in Pensacola the day before he was to leave. He had been caught on video tape loading three flat screen TVs off the loading dock at CircuitCity into his white van, and he’d been seen by the warehouse manager who picked him out of a police lineup. Our dad was so pissed about this that he stayed drunk and he refused to throw bail for Jerry who was in the clink until his court date.
Me, I wasn’t havin’ none of this and frankly, since it was me, not Jerry, who’d boosted those TVs. The best place for my ass was out of state. I reckon it was kismet. I’d take Jerry’s place on Jeopardy. After all it’d save him from having to refund the travel money. Yeah we share the same DNA bein’ twins, but up inside our heads we have always been opposites and we have pretty much always hated one another. He’s a tattle-tale, pussy, nerd know-it-all, straight-arrow son of bitch who hangs out with a flit of other faggy grad school nerds. For me school has always been a waste of time. When I found out I hadn’t made the football team, I quit high school and got me my GED thereby savin’ two years of good times. Anyway lemme get back to this Jeopardy thing.
First thing I did was borrow Jerry’s student ID card and driver’s license from his desk drawer. Then I cashed that cashiers check, scored a quarter ounce, and headed to L.A.
Jeopardy contestants stay at the Raddison in StudioCity – a really nice place. There was a fruit basket and a big envelope with instructions and an autographed picture of Alex Trebec in my room. Among the instructions, contestants, all of whom were staying at the Raddison, were cautioned keep apart and not socialize. Ha. I seen this four-eyed chick in a room close by the elevator and I knew right away she was a contestant on accounta the fruit basket.
Her door was cracked, I pointed at her and said “Jeopardy?” She nodded her head.
“Me too. Hey sweetie, wanna get high? And I made the universal sign of tokin’ up.”
“No! Certainly not! And we are not even supposed to be talking!”
“Ok, sweet cakes. Your loss. I’m gonna kick your ass on the TV tomorrow, bitch.” I laughed as she slammed the door.
Next mornin’ a van from the studio picked us up. Four eyes wouldn’t even look at me without she give me the stink eye. Fuck her. I asked the other contestant, some black dude, if he had a cigarette and he looked at me like I was crazy.
He tells me, “You are not supposed to be wearing jeans and a tee shirt with a beer logo. Didn’t you read your instructions?”.
I stared back at him and said in my best ebonics, “I din’ ax fo’ no fashion advice, jus’ a smoke, bro.” It was plain he didn’t like me so I added, “Not many brothers on Jeopardy, huh?”
When we got to the studio my new friends ignored me which pissed me off so I tripped the black dude. Ha. He went ass over tin cup and smacked his head on the plate glass. His glasses were on the pavement and there was blood on the glass door to the studio.
“Did you see that,” I yelled, “that bitch tripped the brother? She tripped his ass. I saw her! In the van she kept tellin’ him she was gonna smoke his ass!”
It didn’t work. Some suit from the studio read me the riot act and two assholes in blue blazers escorted me back to the hotel, checked me out, and put me on a plane back home. They wouldn’t even let me keep the picture of Alex, the bastards.
Back home I told everyone about how Alex and me hit it off and he let me drive his Rolls over to Pat Sajack’s and how we all got high and took turns spanking Vanna White, who really dug it and asked me for my phone number.
In the morning I’m drivin’ my brother Jerry’s van up to my Uncle Bill’s in Arkansas. He won’t need a car for a while.
© Gary Ives
First published in April 2012, “The Rusty Nail”
Published February 25, 2013, “The Story Shack”
Illustration by Cait Maloney