"Are you up ready?" Calvin said, holding a stack of flashcards.
"No, but I'll muddle through, somehow." Lillian paced at the fountain's edge, its gentle mist cooling her face in the oppressive summer night. The plaza's Victorian lamps burned as will of the wisps against a maple tree canopy.
"That's the spirit. This Win Ben Stein's Money thing will be a disaster if you don't get it together by Monday."
"Whatever," Lillian said, massaging her temples. "I can only handle so many 'terrapin terror,' and 'promenading poodle' questions in a day. We've been at this for how many hours?"
"I'll pick easy ones. Stay sharp" Calvin's narrowed eyes tightened in a squint -- he sorted the cards high above his head. "Ok, pick a category: Your mother wears army boots; or drop everything and give me ten ... books."
"The army boots one."
Calvin cleared his throat and raised an eyebrow. His mouth hung slightly agape. "Jesus. Um ...Hallux valgus is a deformity that can lead to what ailment?"
"Crap, I know this one." She rubbed the heel of her palm in her eye. "Bunions?"
"Wow." He stared at the back of the card and smiled. "Nice job, Lil."
"Thanks." Lillian wished it helped her confidence, but her training for the big day had been an extreme exercise in mental exhaustion and frustration. Now she just wanted it over with.
"Let's see, nest we have the roar of greasepaint, smell of the crowd; and the book question again."
"I suck at sports, I'll try the books." Her strengths were science and pop culture, but she was no slouch at literature either.
"Yay," Calvin said, "this one's a little obscure-"
"I though you were picking easy ones!"
"These are the easy ones." He seemed to revel in torturing her. "Anyway, what do Bat Segundo and a galleycat have in common?"
"Bad table manners? How should I know?" Lillian plopped down next to Calvin and snatched his card. "Internet publishing commentaries? You call this a little obscure? Is Rochelle trying to give me an aneurysm?"
"No, we're trying to help." Calvin jumped to Rochelle's defense, as usual. "You have to use the category as a clue. It wasn't an impossible guess."
"That's bull. Even when you hit my strong suits, the questions are so vague, half the time I don't know what you're asking. I'm going to call in sick and try out for Jeopardy."
"Don't you dare." Calvin waggled a finger. "We didn't go through all this trouble so you could quit on us. You'll do fine, I promise."
"If that's true, then I'm done with all this priming," Lillian said. "I'm going to need some rest and a clear head."
"Oh, come on, don't you want to try: my PC's snark is worse than its byte, or my nose knows no ethos?"
"No way." Lillian stood, smoothing her sundress, and marched away from the fountain. While Calvin was right -she needed to think outside the box -Lillian knew it would take a miracle to win Ben Stein's money.
Bad table manners? Oh man I never WILL eat lunch in this town again after this stuff gets posted!!
Scoring to come