‘And now in best Miss World tradition,’ Carol’s fingers curled into fists. ‘We will announce the winners in reverse order.’
The background noise dropped away.
‘In third place, with a sound knowledge of tropical birds and the albums of Anthrax and Slayer but a poor showing on organic chemistry, we have our very own Jack of All Trades.’ There were whistles and jeers and I felt the eyes of various tables boring in at us. The captain went up to receive the third place trophy and mementoes.
‘And now, in what was a very tight finish between two excellent teams, we come to the runners up.’
He paused. I felt the sweat trickle down my spine.
‘Second place goes to a team with a broad spectrum of knowledge save musical theatre… Red Horse Crown Princes!’
Ronald walked up with a face like thunder and took the prizes offered.
We looked at each other. That must mean…
‘And in first place we have a team confirming their elite league status, our knowledgeable guests from… The Rugby Club.’
I’ve heard deeper silences because I’ve attended military remembrance services. Those silences are solemn, contemplative and respectful. The silence in the Red Horse Bowling Club had another quality.
The MC still had his hands raised in acclaim and a fixed smile. He realised he’d missed the mood.
Everyone stared at our table and everyone on our table stared at me.
You know you have to say something, just to make sure the Marshal and the Judge can see you didn’t draw first, but I knew where this was going to end.
My chair clunked against the table as I rose to my feet.
‘Thank you, thank you everyone.’ That confused them and bought me a moment before the silence burst. ‘We’ve had a lovely time this evening and we’d like to thank everyone involved in organising this quiz, but as we said, we came for that enjoyment and to support the charitable work of the Club. So rather than have any misunderstanding, we said earlier we weren’t in the competition so we congratulate Red Horse Crown Princes on their well deserved victory.’
I sat down, Ronald, Ivor and their supporters glared. The MC had a hurried conversation with Jeff and the quizmaster before announcing.
‘That’s very gracious, but we have been able to see from up here that the young lady has not been involved in any answers and you have won fair and square. The Red Horse respects the spirit of quizzing and we would be honoured if you would collect your prizes.’
He smiled and his hand ushered me forward to the top table.
There was nowhere to go. I looked at the team and Carol.
They raised eyebrows and shrugged.
I rose and walked to the front.
There were a few boos now.
‘I’m not having any of that.’ The MC snapped into the mike.
I received the large, repurposed bowls championship trophy, four bowling bags with the sponsor’s logo, four jacks and four bowling mats. I immediately donated the latter two items to the club as none of us bowled and it seemed like a conciliatory gesture. There was some clapping, but the muttering outgrew it.
I thanked everyone again and walked back to our table.
The MC began a roundup of the evening but before he got beyond ‘And now ladies and gentlemen a reminder that…’ Ivor and someone who I presumed was closely related, judging by his looks and hat, but who had been better nourished as a child marched over to us. Ivor spoke.
‘That trophy should be ours. Coming here with five players. What’s the game?’
‘You tell ’em Ivor!’
I stood up.
‘Now look. We don’t want any trouble. We came for a fun night out and we’re going now.’
‘Are you now? Nick our trophy and then sod off ?’
‘Nobody “nicked” anything.’
‘Now gentlemen, let’s not have any unpleasantness. We don’t want to ruin a lovely evening do we?’ the MC’s voice called out over the PA system.
‘We haven’t had a lovely evening thanks to them!’ Ronald shouted, joining in the growing numbers behind Ivor and his large friend.
‘Could save it though.’ Ivor’s clone said. ‘What position do you play love?’ he asked with a leer. ‘Hoo…’
Carol was on her feet before he could finish the word.
‘I wouldn’t, even if you were paying.’ She said.
He sniggered and Ivor took a step forward.
She went for her pocket.
I was hoping she wasn’t going to do what I thought she was going to do, but she did.
Next second an open wallet was in Ivor’s startled face. ‘Hold it right there! She said.
Now in many circumstances the appearance of a Manchester Police warrant card would have given most people at least pause for thought before continuing in their nefarious activities.
In the Red Horse however it wasn’t pouring oil on troubled waters but petrol on a smouldering fire.
Ivor’s large companion leaned forward.
‘That’s Manchester police. You don’t have any jurisdiction here.’ He said and made a grab for her.
I hit him as sweetly on the chin as anyone I had ever punched on a pitch and he went down in a most satisfying heap. There was a gasp around the room.
‘About time someone did that.’ Someone on a nearby table said.
Ivor spun around.
‘Was that you Ernie Outhwaite?’
‘Aye! What of it? I’m sick of you and your idiot brother with your stupid hats.’
Ivor, already apoplectic at the quiz result lunged for Mr Outhwaite. Someone grabbed his arm before he could grasp his tormentor, but Ronald rabbit punched the man who had intervened.
The rugby club was already half way to the door. It opened and the doorman entered. The room had already passed beyond being aware of his presence. He looked at the three committee men at the front of the room and the MC nodded at him. He waded into the room. Tables, chairs, drinks, and quizzing paraphernalia were already flying about the place and now people joined the debris as he progressed towards the centre of the fracas. He grabbed Ivor and Mr Outhwaite and held them apart, one in each ham like hand. The rest of the room calmed down.
The MC looked at us and pressed the button on the mike.
‘And a last round of applause for our guests this evening, The Rugby Club!’ There was an enthusiastic burst of clapping from at least half the room from which I gathered my opinion of Ivor’s dress sense was widely shared.
We risked a wave and opened the door.
‘Same time next year lads?’