I have a recurring dream. In my dream I am standing behind the center of three podiums, holding an electronic clicker in my hand. I am a contestant on Jeopardy. Alex Trebek is standing across the stage next to the board of categories. The $400 square opens under "Presidents by the Numbers." Alex reads the answer: "The 15th after Washington." I press the button on my clicker too late. The fat little college freshman on my right has rung in before me. I can't believe my bad luck. Fifteen after Washington would be the 16th, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln and I share the same birthday. (Abe uses it on weekdays, I get it on the weekends) I should be the one responding, not this snot-nosed geek next to me. Alex indicates "Harold" has buzzed in first.
Harold says, "Who is James Buchanan?"
Alex says, "That's incorrect." Of course its incorrect. Buchanan was the 15th president. Harold forgot to count Washington. I jam my thumb on the button, but the lights on the other podium go on. I was late again. The middle-aged, vulture-faced woman to my left has beaten me to the punch. Alex says her name, "Maude?"
"Who is Arthur Godfrey?"
Alex squints at her. "The category is Presidents by the Number. Do you really think that Arthur Godfrey was a President?"
Flummoxed, Maude says, "Who was Godfrey Cambridge?"
Alex shutters. "Godfrey Cambridge? The Watermelon Man?"
Maude nervously says, "Godfrey Daniels?"
Alex hangs his head and squeezes his eyes shut. When he looks back up, he walks over to Maude and slaps her across her face. She falls to the floor. He screams at her, "You idiot! There never was a President named Godfrey. Godfrey Daniels is an expression W.C.Fields used instead of saying `God Damn.'"
It would be up to me now and I knew the proper reply. I said, "Who was Abraham Lincoln?"
Alex turns to me and snarls. "Did you ring in? No, I think not. I didn't hear your buzzer." He turns to audience and asks, "Did anyone hear a buzzer? No? I thought so." He turns back to me and raises his hand. His voice intensifies stating, "You're suppose to ring in before answering. Harold and Maude rang in before answering. Do you think you're better than Harold and Maude?"
From the floor, Maude says, "Who was Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort?"
Alex, hand still raised, turns from me and looks down at Maude. He walks around the podium, pulls out a snub-nose and puts a bullet in Maude's forehead. She winces in pain and says, "Ow. Alex, that hurts." Alex empties his revolver into Maude. She jerks with each bullet as they penetrate her chest and stomach. She pleads, "Alex, please, quit that." Alex triggers several times on empty chambers; the gun clicking away like a telegraph key. Maude, no longer being struck by lead, smiles up at Alex and says, "Thank you."
Alex, red faced and raging, throws the empty gun at Maude and storms off the set. Maude turns to me and asks, "Where did he go? We haven't finished the game." I stare at the hole in her forehead. I can see all the way through.
Harold, who had also stood there witnessing Alex lose his temper, suddenly turns and runs off. He shouts back at me, "Better look out. He's coming back."
Maude, having heard Harold, smiles saying, "Oh, good, now we can finish playing Jeopardy."
My gaze searches the stage and in the farthest corner Alex has started racing back to us. He is carrying a Thompson machine gun, like the ones gangsters used during prohibition. About halfway back, Alex fires the Tommy gun. The podiums are being shot into kindling. I squat down and hurriedly duck walk away from the onslaught. I push my way through the first door I come to. It is a public bathroom. I rush into a stall and lock myself in.
I hear the echoing rat-a-tat come and go. Between blasts, I hear Maude saying things like, "Alex, that isn't very nice" and "I don't care for this portion of the game" and "Would you mind shooting someone else for a while?"
After a short time the gunfire ceases, but the silence is worse. I don't know what has happened, or where Alex is. Did he finally kill Maude? Has he spent his anger? Or is he seeking new targets? I also wonder about Harold. Did he find safety? Has he alerted the police? The door to my stall flies open.
Alex Trebek, hulking over me, his face red with anger, aims his machine gun at me. His lips are parted revealing clenched teeth. I can see the forming of horns at his temples. His nostrils are puffing out smoke. He lets out an ear piercing shriek as he pulls the trigger.
As the bullets rip open my chest, I wake up. I am safe in my bed. I am breathing hard and I can feel the rapid pulse of my blood. The bedsheets are stuck to me with my sweat. I peel them off and make my way to the bathroom to wash myself off.
Inside the bathroom, I have to peek behind the shower curtain to be certain I was alone. And it has been like that ever since. I am constantly on the lookout for Alex Trebek; behind drapes, under tables, in closets... He could be lurking anywhere, armed and ready to go amok. I won't feel safe until they catch him and put him where he belongs, like a jail or mental institution or a deserted island. I just hope that day is soon.