SHOOT OUT AT THE RED HORSE BOWLING CLUB (2)

Episode 2 of Shoot Out

I should have mentioned this was going to be in serial form. Sorry! It will appear in 5 sections

At a table behind us, a man rose. He was a tall hombre, 6’ 3” if he was an inch. His hat added another six inches. It was a homburg. Dude had to be mean to wear a homburg this side of town.

‘Excuse me Mr MC. I just want to clarify the position of this team…’ he pointed at us, ‘…they appear to have an extra player.’

The MC looked across at us. He turned to the cadaverous character from the door, Jeff, who had followed us in. There was an exchange of words before he turned back and uncovered the mike.

‘It’s okay Ivor, the Rugby Club…,’ A murmur rippled through the crowd, ‘…have brought a spectator. There isn’t room for her elsewhere but she won’t be answering questions.’

Ivor looked at the MC, then at us, then back at the MC. He nodded and sat down.

‘Bloody hell.’ murmured Paul. ‘You were right, this doesn’t feel good.’

The MC resumed his spiel.

There were ten rounds and a picture round and a music round on top of that. There would be an intermission at half way. At the end of each round drinks orders for the bar would be taken by the waitresses passing amongst us.

He wished us all good luck and handed the mike over to the quizmaster.

Round one was an ice breaker. Politics. They did things differently at the Red Horse. He started the questions.

‘Who the hell came after MacDonald?’ Paul said.

‘Which time?’ Steve asked.

‘What do you mean?’ said John.

‘He had two terms as PM.’ Steve replied before I could say anything.

‘Oh.’

‘Doesn’t matter.’ I said. ‘It was Baldwin both times. It’s a trick question. MacDonald was PM in 1924 and 1929 to 1935 and both times Baldwin was PM before and after him.’ I nodded to Steve. ‘Write it down. Classic quiz trick. They’re trying to spoof us.’

Carol raised an eyebrow as we stumbled over Bohemian Queens in the European History section, cudgelled our brains about nematode worms in biology and struggled with whether the formula for the square root of -1 was E to the IxPi or not. The answer papers were collected and taken to the markers after each round. While the quizmaster asked the next round of questions the markers ticked and crossed and discussed the papers in front of them. While the next round of papers was being collected at the end of the round, Jeff scribbled the scores of the top five teams in the preceding round up on a whiteboard near the bar.

We weren’t making any friends. At the end of round two the results of round one were displayed on the whiteboard. We were equal first. A wave of murmuring swept the room. After round three the murmurs became an angry buzzing. We had gone out to a clear lead. After round four, the buzzing was accompanied by people standing and peering at the edges of the room. There were smoke signals in the hills. There was finger waving and pencil jabbing.

The picture round arrived. Last round before the half time break. The sheet of photographs landed on our table and a small, precise, bank teller of a man, rose to his feet and peered at the officials, trying to catch their eye over the seated crowd.

‘Excuse me Mr Question master. Excuse me. As we are going into the break, I’d like to raise a point of order. I can’t see how it can be fair to have one team, and one team only’ he looked at us, ‘of five, competing in what is after all a serious prize competition for four man teams.’

‘Person.’ Carol said loudly.

‘See!’ chimed in the homburg, ‘she is talking.’

‘Ivor, I think she was questioning Ronald’s lack of feminist credentials.’ the MC said, leaning in to take the microphone. If he was trying to lighten the mood, he failed; there was no answering chuckle from the assembly.

‘As agreed, by three committee members, we have extended our hospitality to accommodate the Rugby Club…’ there were boos from a couple of tables…’now now. As I said, our HOSPITALITY, so that they may look after one of their young lady followers.’ Carol glared.

‘They can do that in the car park after…’ came from somewhere near table 20 at the back. Carol began to stand. I put a hand on her arm and shook my head. The others looked at me. I rose.

I looked at the MC. The MC looked right back at me. We nodded.

I made quietening motions with my arms. I swept the room and the faces watching us and my eyes settled on the score board. We could still lose this if we worked at it but I felt a long line of Rugby Club quizzers of old at my shoulder. You can’t put fake answers down and walk in the club next Saturday. They didn’t do that. You can’t do that. You have to do it right. If you know The Picture of Dorian Gray was Wilde’s novel about a picture growing old in the attic you have to say so, even if Mac thought it was a play. Whatever happens. You have to do it right. Even if it means not walking in the club next Saturday.

My eyes went round the room one more time and landed on the homburg.

 ‘We came to play a charity quiz. We want to win but we aren’t going to cheat.’ I said staring at him ‘We’re very happy to be here in the spirit this evening was intended for.’ I just prayed none of the lads would smirk at this point. ‘So we’re going to play. As a foursome.’ The homburg started to open his mouth. I carried on. ‘But we won’t be playing for the prizes or the trophy. All we want is the fun of the competition and to help the Red Horse Bowling Club continue its proud tradition of fund raising for charity.’

I smiled at the MC and sat down. There was a silence and then someone clapped. The room took it up. We weren’t going to be lynched. Probably. Not yet.

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