Tonight’s the night and I’m certain it’s not “gonna be all right”. Why did I agree? I’ve not done it for ages. I’ll make a complete fool of myself. I did it just once before and vowed then “never again”.
I had five minutes of fame in the village because the BBC produced one of my plays on the radio. The news got into the local paper somewhere between births, deaths and the week’s livestock prices.
It’s true I was flattered when I was contacted. But I should have been more careful, done more research.
I met them in a private room in a pub, isolated high up on the moor road. There were about a dozen of them including a couple of callow acne-infested youths, a local councillor, business folk, teachers…pillars of the community all. They formed a circle around me.
“Well” the group leader coughed nervously, “Shall we get on with it?”
I took the articles from my Harrod’s carrier bag (a keepsake from the days before I forswore city dwelling). I’d put some time into choosing each article.
“Shall I do it backwards then?” I asked.
I heard a snigger from one of the youths hosting a pimple fest. So fiddling nervously with the chiffon scarf draped around me, I continued.
“In third place – The Secret Life of a Pit Pony”
There was a bit of a murmur and a few heads nodded.
“In second place – Many a Flower, the Secrets of British Hedgerows” (You’ll notice a secretive theme emerging here).
This time there was definitely a restless shuffling and I distinctly heard someone mutter something about “being got at”. I cleared my throat, looked round the group and pinned an artificial smile across my face.
“And the winner is… The Secrets of an Eighteenth Century Scullery Maid by…”
A universal groan and a fair amount of chuntering interrupted me.
“He always wins, it’s so not fair”
“Aye, well she’s a teacher too so what d’ye expect?”
Hostile eyes fixed me to the spot like a rabbit caught in headlights. I stuttered something about “hard to choose; all well written” but my remarks fell loud into stony silence.
The group leader thanked me and escorted me from the room. He wiped his brow and then grinned at me.
“Well it makes a change for someone else to cop it. Ta very much” and with that he dived back into the room.
I fled, vowing never again.
Yet somehow my vanity has been tickled again and, well, you can guess the rest.