With the waitress out of the way, it was time for business. I looked up at Gus, waiting for him to ask me about those ideas he'd told me to hold on to. But instead, he said, "Hey buddy, can we use a sheet of paper?" And he gestured to my notebook which was already open to a fresh page, ready for me to take notes on.
I ripped out a sheet and handed it to him, curious and slightly offended that he seemed to want to take notes himself, when I was so clearly prepared for the job. But I reminded myself, I'm sure they do this all the time, and he's probably always been the note-taker until now. It might take a minute for him to realize that I'm perfectly capable of taking that load off his shoulders.
Gus drew a large circle on the paper, and began writing each of our names around the outside of it. It appeared to be a model of our table, with our names arranged in the same pattern we were currently sitting in... Gus, then Hannah, then Dwayne, Parker, and...
"Sorry man, what was your name again?"
"Barnaby," I said.
"Oh, okay. Grandpa has a cat named Barnaby," said Gus as he filled in my name in the last position on the chart.
"He does? Grandpa told me the cat died..."
"Huh? Barnaby? When?"
I shrugged. "I don't know... sounded like it was a long time ago."
"Well I saw him yesterday," said Gus. "I’m pretty sure he’s not dead... I don't know why Grandpa told you that. Anyway."
Gus didn't seem too concerned about this, but it made me wonder for the first time if Grandpa might be a bit crazy. Or maybe... No... he couldn't have.... been LYING to me? What reason would he have to do that? But no, no, of course not. He was much too kind of an old man to intentionally lie to me. And what could be the purpose of making me think his cat was dead, anyway? So, although he certainly seemed sane to me, I was forced to conclude that he might be just a tad bit off.
The waitress showed back up with a tray full of drinks, and set the whole tray in the middle of the table without bothering to take the drinks off of it, and left it there. The Dr. Pepper sloshed over the sides of the glasses, and we all grabbed our drinks out of the resulting sticky puddle. Instinctually I looked around for a napkin, but there wasn't one, so I ripped out a new piece of notebook paper and wiped the side of my glass.
"Now then." said Gus. Finally, we were getting to the brainstorming. "Let’s go ahead and do the initial roll to see who goes first."
I was on the verge of asking why we had to do this, when Hannah beat me to it.
"The new guys don't know what to do, though."
"Oh yeah," said Gus. "Sorry. I guess I'll explain first."
But what could be so difficult about brainstorming? True enough, I'd never actually brainstormed before, not REALLY. I'd done it in school a couple times in essay writing classes where they'd forced everyone to brainstorm, but I didn't really need to do it then. I'd always figured out what my topic would be, as soon as the essay was assigned. But still, I think I understood the general principle of the concept of brainstorming. You spit out all the ideas you have, and write them down, and then later decide which ones are good. Right?
That's what I had been taught. But I was no longer just little old me, little awkward Barnaby trying to make his own way in the world. I was with Gus's group now. And I should have known that these people had a special way of brainstorming. It never ceased to amaze me how many regular, boring activities they incorporated their game-like mind-set to. And in doing this, I believe, they were much more successful than they otherwise would have been.
So, upon realizing that there was some sort of method to this brainstorming session, I switched my brain into learning gear and stared attentively at Gus.
Gus proceeded to blow my mind with a series of complex, intricate rules and procedures for this game that was the Brainstorming session. I couldn't explain it to you if I tried, just as I can not explain the rules of the role-playing game. There are way too many, and I don't think you would fully appreciate it anyway, at least not based on my humble explanation. Gus was much better at explaining than I was. He was much better at most things than I was, actually.
By the time Gus had finished explaining the process of brainstorming, Dwayne had drunk four Dr. Peppers, and Parker was finishing his third. Hannah had nearly finished her beer, and Gus had sipped about a third of his. I hadn't touched my Dr. Pepper because I was so caught up in listening and trying to understand. (I think Parker gave up, and assumed that someone would tell him when it was his turn to suggest an idea.)
Finally, we were ready to start brainstorming, I could hardly wait. Although, I did need to pee.
The waitress was suddenly back at the table, grabbing the empty Dr. Pepper glasses.
"I'll take another of these." Hannah picked up her empty bottle and handed it over.
"Yeah, me too," said Gus, and he proceded to drink the entire remaining two thirds of his beer, which took just long enough that the waitress rolled her eyes, placed her hand deliberately on her hip, and shifted her weight with an audible sigh. Finally Gus slammed the bottle down on the table unnecessarily, then picked it back up and handed it to the waitress, and then ordered 8 baskets of mozzerella sticks.
I couldn't take it any more. "I have to go pee," I announced, after the waitress was gone. "Um. Where's the bathroom?"
Gus pointed and said, "All the way on the left, past the bar." I followed his directions to the pair of doors that said "Chicks" and "Dicks".
On my way back to the table from the bathroom I was disappointed to discover that the gang had started brainstorming without me. Dwayne, it seemed, was explaining an idea, and Gus was writing ferociously on my notebook. I could tell this even from a distance, because I had never seen Dwayne so animated before. He was talking loudly instead of mumbling in a monotone (or shouting) like he usually did, and for a split second I saw the whites of his eyes from behind the greasy black hair I’d come to think of as his face. It struck me as odd that Dwayne generally seemed very opinionated about things, but was usually overshadowed or shut up by Gus or Erick in arguments or passionate conversations. Being the people-loving person that I am, I quickly got over any bitterness that I might have felt about them starting without me, and instead listened eagerly to Dwayne’s idea.
"So," Dwayne was saying, "if we could just find something really awesome to sell, and we could sell a whole bunch of them to people, then we could make so much money! Especially if we got something really good, you know. Something they can't find at a store, at least not here in town. You know?"
"Like what though?" Hannah asked. "Like, what are we going to find that other people can't find?"
"Yeah and besides," said Gus, "We'd have to buy them to begin with, and we don't even have money to buy things with. So, I don't know, maybe later after we have SOME money, then we can re-invest it into something that we can sell for more money. That's a good idea, Dwayne. We'll use it, just not first. Right now we need to figure out what we're going to do FIRST. Okay..." Gus drew some lines across the paper with our names on it, and then looked up. "Okay Hannah, your turn."
"Well. I think, we should throw together some huge event. Like get a famous rock band to play in the public park, or something. Or maybe a film festival for local film-makers! I'm sure we can think of something. Because, like, events are a lot better for making money than other things, like, selling products, for example, no offense Dwayne, because people feel like they GET more out of it. You know what I mean? Instead of paying 10 bucks for one thing that they’re not going to even want later, they pay 10 bucks to spend a whole day out in the sun, hanging out with their friends who all payed 10 bucks too of course, and they all get to see some cool music or movies or whatever. And we’ll have food and drinks and stuff, and games for the kids, or whatever.”
"That's a good idea," said Dwayne.
"Yeah it is," Gus agreed. "But what famous rock band do we know? I mean how could we possibly get anyone famous to come here, when we don't even have any money, and we don't want to give them any of the money that we make from the concert, because that would defeat the whole purpose."
"Well it could be ANYTHING really, it doesn't have to be music or movies, that's just what I thought of first."
"Okay, but I don't think there are that many film-makers in this town though," Gus reasoned. So that probably wouldn't be the best idea either.
"How do you know?" said Parker. "I used to make movies of myself doing bike tricks. You never know really, there might be a bunch of underground people making movies that no one ever sees."
"Just like my art!" said Dwayne. "I do it all the time, and I'm really good at it, but no one knows about me. But it's not because I'm not good, it's just because my name isn't out there, you know? And there's probably some movie people out there too, just like me, who make movies but don't know how to get famous. So we just need to figure out how to find them, and then get them all together to make one big movie that we can show at this event!"
"What do you mean, make one big movie?" asked Hannah.
"What do you mean, what do I mean?"
"I mean that's not what a film festival is... A film festival is where lots of film-makers show their OWN movies, just all on one day and in the same place."
"Duh I know THAT, I'm just saying..."
"You didn't know that, Dwayne!" Hannah laughed. "You thought I was talking about everyone making one big movie all together! HAHAHA! That's like, if we told all the artists in town to draw on one of your pictures! That would be so ugly!"
Dwayne wasn't looking at Hannah anymore. Instead he waved across the bar at the waitress, who came with a pitcher of Dr. Pepper this time, and left it on the table. This appeared to have successfully distracted Hannah, who was back on track when the waitress left.
"Okay well my idea is really good, and we should use it. Right?"
"Yeah," said Gus. "Anyway, let's keep moving..." He drew some lines on the paper again, and pulled two regular 6-sided-dice out of his pocket and handed one to me. "We tie for next priority, so we're rolling for tie-breaker. Highest number goes first, tie goes to Parker."
I didn't really understand this part of the rules, but I knew what I had to do. I rolled, and realized this was my first time to roll a dice with the group. I got a little emotional about it, and so you can understand how thrilled I was to see, that I had rolled a SIX! I shouted "YES!" but then sort of wished I hadn't. No one else seemed to care about this particular roll. I guess it was pretty obvious that some rolls were more important than others, and that one six didn’t necessarily indicate that I was a naturally lucky person. But I secretly remained very pleased with myself for it.
"Your turn then, Barnaby. Give us an idea."
"Oh!" For a moment I forgot everything I had thought of the night before. But then it all came back to me. "Okay. So. I've always been told that, the best way to make money is to do things that you're good at doing."
I had kind of hoped that this would inspire someone to shout out something they were good at, which might lead to further money-making ideas. But that wasn’t the way things had been going so far, and nothing was different now. They were all still staring at me, waiting for more of an explanation.
"And, so... Well, I'm good at... writing, I guess... and Dwayne, you're good at drawing. And Parker's good at bike tricks..."
I didn't know what Hannah was good at, and Gus was good at everything, so I stopped there.
"Yeah, that's what we were already talking about, yesterday," said Dwayne. "But now we need ideas for things we can ALL do. You know, together." He said this as if I were very slow to pick up on things. It made me feel a little stupid, but honestly, what ideas did they really expect me to have after only one night of thinking? But I decided to improvise.
"So, well, there's one thing that we, well, that you are all good at..."
They kept staring.
"You know. Roleplaying!"
"How are we going to use roleplaying to make money?" asked Hannah, putting on her skeptical face.
"Um," I stuttered. "Maybe we could, teach people how to roleplay? Or put on some sort of demonstration about it? Or we could include that in the event that you were talking about, Hannah, maybe?"
No one responded to this, and it was clear that my idea wasn't very good. I felt a little bad, but it didn't really bother me, because we already had one good idea, Hannah's. Gus spared me the awkward silence by gesturing to the waitress.
"I'll have another one of these um, Dos Equisses. Oh and, uh, where’s my damn mozzerella sticks? C’mon!”
"They're comin sir," she said dully and brought him another beer.
When they did come, I was starving, and I reached for a mozzerella stick only to be thoroughly embarrassed. No one stopped me from eating one, or said anything to me about it at all, they just looked at me. It became very clear that all 8 baskets had been intended for Gus alone. He was, after all, a Competitive Eater. I told myself not to be ashamed. To make up for it, I ordered a basket for myself, and after I had eaten all but one of them, I pretended to be full and gave the last one to Gus.
The brainstorming continued through the mozzerella sticks and for two or three more beers' worth of time, but the ideas were getting worse and the pee breaks became intolerably frequent.
Finally, Gus announced, "Okay, we're done! Grrreat job everyone!" and he somewhat sloppily got up and went to the bathroom. That was the first time I really realized how much he'd been drinking. I examined Hanna, and found that she slouched over heavily on the table, giggling and drawing pictures with her finger in a puddle of beer and Dr. Pepper.
Of all the ideas we'd come up with, I thought the best plans were the ones we'd come up with the previous night-- going to the career center and getting jobs. But I respected everyone's enthusiasm for wanting to work together, and I didn't want to burst their bubble. So you see, I was surprised when Gus returned and announced enthusiastically, "Alright guys, we got ourselves a plan! Now let's go to that Career Center and start figuring out what we're gonna do!"