“Okay, I got one, I got one. Everyone ready?” Sharon said, trying to shush the rest of the party as she pulled the next card from the bowl.
“I’m ready,” said Ivy.
“Bring it on!” Vance laughed.
“Yeah, baby!” said Serrated.
The mumbling died down. Sharon flipped the plastic hourglass, starting the countdown, then began reading the card.
“Okay, here we go. Category: film. Tip: John Wayne was not so loud in this picture.”
“’The Searchers‘?” said Vance.
“’True Grit‘” Serrated followed.
“Nope. Guess again.”
“Duh!” said Ivy. “’The Quiet Man‘, obviously.”
“That’s right. Point goes to Ivy,” Sharon said with an applause.
“What? Booh!” Serrated protested.
“How did you know that one? Don’t say IMDB. That’s cheating,” Vance said.
“My grandma is obsessed with that movie. Every Saint Paddy’s day she makes us all sit around the tube and watch that meathead pretend he can act.”
“Don’t be mean to an American icon, Ivy. Can we move on to the next question?” asked Sharon.
The group said yes, with Ivy muttering “American icon my ass.” under her breath, hostility she still hadn’t moved past after learning about the Hollywood blacklist. Sharon pulled the next card out.
“Category: famous last words. Tip: rockstars who recorded seven albums that went platinum.”
“Wait, what?” said Ivy. “I don’t get it.”
“Did you read that right, Sharon?” Vance asked.
“I think so. Yeah, I did. But I don’t get the question.”
“But it’s your game,” said Vance.
“Yeah, but I didn’t write these questions. They came with the box. Do I look like I can come up with trivia questions?”
“Do you at least have the answer?” asked Ivy.
“I should. Let me try and–,”
“Is it: ‘Say’, ‘Jackie’, ‘When’, ‘We’ and ‘Get’?” Serrated suddenly asked. “Or, if not that, is it: ‘Johnny’s Last Words’?
The group looked at her, stunned by the weird response from Ivy’s roommate. Sharon looked at the answer sheet and said: “That’s right. Holy crap! How did you know that?”
Serrated sighed, took a sip from her wine, and sighed again. “They were a band in the late sixties, early seventies. My parents were huge fans of them, especially my mom. They did “Rockin’ till five” and “Kiss me please”. Biggest and most popular Words in history.”
“I’ve never heard of them,” Ivy said. “But I know the song’s you’re talking about. They’re on the oldies stations all the time.”
“Yeah, it think I’ve heard of them once,” said Sharon. “Did they do the one that goes: boop-be-doo, rockin’ all night, boop-be-dee, rockin’ till five–,”
“That’s it. You got it,” said Serrated, finishing the chorus quietly under her breath.
“So they were Words? Words in a band?” Vance asked.
“Yeah, like me,” Serrated said. “They were: Say, the bad one, Jackie, the girl, When, the quiet shy one, We, the slutty one and Get, the one that never got the groupies. Together, they were ‘Johnny’s Last Words‘.”
“How do you know all this?” Vance asked.
“You’ve met my mom, right?” Serrated asked. The group nodded, having seen Mrs. Sawtooth drop by from time to time with a casserole and pictures from Serrated’s sister Edge and her husband Thomas to flaunt. A nice, quiet and reserved Word who, despite the frightening topic she embodied, seemed completely harmless. “Well, my mom used to be a groupie of theirs during their last few years,” Serrated finished.
“Get out. You mom? A groupie?” Sharon laughed.
“Swear to God. Smoked pot with them and everything. She hung out with Say the most.”
“Wow, that’s wild,” Vance laughed.
“Why were they called ‘Johnny’s Last Words‘?” Ivy asked.
“Because that’s what they were,” said Serrated. “John Kennedy’s last words, before the bullet blew his brains all out.”
The group went silent. Vance was the first to speak. “Dang, that’s freaking dark, man.”
“I know, but that’s how they got famous, really. After Jackie Kennedy let out what Johnny’s last words were, Say got some of his friends and relatives together and started the first major all-Word band. They rode the wave of the post-assassination mourning and JFK popularity hype with memorial concerts and protest songs, before hitting it big when they went on the Ed Sullivan show in 1966,”
Serrated continued in another display of her degree in Word history being put to use.
“Wow, I never knew any of this,” Sharon said.
“Most subjects in Word-history only cover when certain high-profile words started, and from which Word they originally derived from. Word-bands are considered trivial and are only brought up on game shows or games like…well, you know,” Serrated said, pointing at the green box by Sharon’s feet.
“What happened to them? Are they still around?” Vance asked.
“The words they embodied will always stay the same like my mom always says. That never changed. But the band broke up in ’74 after someone shot and nearly killed Say as he left a club with his Japanese girlfriend, Himei.”
“Jeez,” muttered Vance. “That’s awful.”
“Yeah, they didn’t have much luck. Comes with the fame, I suppose,” Serrated said, shrugging.
“That, and they based their work around John Kennedy’s murder. I’m sorry, but that is just ghoulish,” Ivy said.
“Hey, they weren’t the first to do so. You ever heard of “Day Of Infamy”?”
“No way,” Vance gasped.
“Did you ever meet them?” Sharon asked. “I mean, your mom toured with them and all. I’ve never heard of them before tonight, but it must be so cool that your parents were close with a famous set of Words like them.”
“Ehm, no. I’ve never met them. And my mom is the one who was close with them. My dad forbade us from trying to contact them, especially Say,” Serrated said, before taking another swig from her glass.
“Why? Is he secretly your dad or something?” Vance laughed.
Serrated turned red, trying to hide her face. Vance went pale when he saw her reaction. It suddenly hit him how little Serrated and her sister resembled their dad, Bob. In fact, it wasn’t until now that he realized Bob wasn’t even a Word. When he looked at Sharon and Ivy, he could tell from their expressions he wasn’t the only one putting two and two together.
The group went silent, lightly coughing and taking sips from their wine glasses to kill the awkwardness. Sharon finally broke the silence when she pulled out another trivia card, flipping the hourglass back around to restart the timer. “Okay, next one. Everyone ready?”
“Yeah! Let’s do it!” Vance cheered a bit too enthusiastically.
“Sure,” Serrated mumbled unenthused.
“Okay, let’s do this. Category: math–,” Sharon said.
“Ugh,” Vance groaned.
“Shut it,” Serrated said.
“I hate math. I’m terrible at it.”
“You haven’t even hear the question yet,” Ivy said.
Sharon continued. “Category: math. Hint: the mayor of Rockville, MD, from 1999 to 2007.”
“Wait, what?” asked Vance.
“What is up with these questions?” Sharon asked. “How–?”
“It’s Eighty-seven,” said Ivy. “Easy question.”
Sharon rubbed her eyes. “And how did you know that?”
“Duh. The first Number to be elected to office. My uncle down south, Twelve, worked on his campaign.”
“Wait, there weren’t any Numbers or Words in politics before 1999?” Vance asked.
“Numbers? No. Words, plenty,” Ivy sighed.
“Oh, don’t start with that again,” Serrated groaned. “That ‘Numbers have it worse than Words’ crap.”
“Oh, okay. I get it. Our struggle isn’t real, is it? Numbers don’t count, do they?”
“That’s not what I meant,” snapped Serrated. “But you all act like you’re the only ones who suffered over the years.”
“Girls, really, there’s no need–,” Vance tried to salvage the situation.
“Oh, yeah, sure. Words got suppressed and prosecuted in the past. But Words don’t get searched by cops without provocation. Words aren’t shot when going to the convenience store.”
“Hey now, we were having a good time–,” Vance tried again.
“She’s trivializing our struggle,” Ivy complained.
“Oh, like we don’t–,” Serrated interjected. By that point, Sharon already stopped listening. She took a swig from her wine, dumped all the trivia cards into the game’s box, then walked to the kitchen and dropped it with all its contents, crappy trivia questions and plastic hourglass included, into the garbage bin. It looked to be another long night of trying to mend bridges and avoiding fist fights. And once again, it would be Sharon’s collection of vintage wines that would save the evening. She made a mental note to stick to ‘Clue‘ from now on when game night rolled around again.
Joachim Heijndermans writes, draws and paints nearly every waking hour. Originally from the Netherlands, he’s been all over the world, boring people by spouting random trivia. His work has been published with Fictionmagazines.com, OMNI, Kraxon, Stinger, 365 Tomorrows, Shotgun Honey, Gathering Storm Magazine and Every Day Fiction, along with an upcoming tale in Ares Magazine. In his spare time he paints, reads, travels and promises himself that he’ll finish writing that novel someday.