The day that a patronising little shit of a TV presenter told our heroine she had won a ‘life-changing’ amount of money was a good day. Firstly because she likes winning, and secondly because the aforementioned patronising bastard had his hand on her ass as he said it, thereby giving her the excuse to haul off and belt him one. It was a good punch, leaving him winded and retching. And the best of it was that the cameras were still rolling. But that’s at the end of the story. It would be better to start somewhere nearer the beginning
Messing around with the iPad can be injurious to your health and no more so than the day Jen Evans came across an advert for a new game show. ‘Little physical exertion’ it said ‘but contestants will need good general knowledge and nerves of steel.’ She passed the pad to her long-time partner Adam, who laughed.
“Nerves of titanium, more like” he grinned. “Whyn’t you apply?”
She did. On a whim. And promptly forgot about it.
An email asking for more details about her caused Jen and Adam great hilarity as they vied with each other to be more and more outrageous whilst remaining more or less within the boundaries of truth.
“They won’t” she said cheerfully “be wanting a forty-year-old woman with attitude.”
He grinned. “No. Maybe not. Most don’t. Ain’t you glad I do!”
“Ditto, smart arse.”
Surprise hardly comes close to their reaction – actually the pair of them giggled like schoolgirls – when a bulky envelope arrived in the post. It contained all sorts of information leaflets and an invitation to attend an elimination weekend somewhere in the Brecon Beacons. As most of the leaflets were about extreme sports, she declined the kind offer.
“Creepy bastards” she said brightly as they walked to the Post Office with her somewhat brisk letter of refusal.
It turned out that not only were the people behind the concept creepy, they were also convoluted, because refusing the offered weekend was the way to pass the first round of eliminations. Jen got a letter, a few days after her ‘stuff it’ missive, offering a place at the next round of eliminations in southern Spain. She gave the letter to Adam, who read it twice: once quickly and once carefully. He put the paper down.
“I dunno what to think. But you might be getting close to being chosen, so you’d better decide whether you want to do it or not.”
“No. Not specially. I think I’ll just duck out now.”
She stuffed the letter back in its envelope with a post it note saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ and returned it from whence it came.
“Thank fuck that’s over.”
Nothing happened for a couple months, so it came as a complete surprise to get an email asking if some people from the production company could come visit.
“It’s your call.” Adam looked at her over his reading glasses.
But they came anyway.
It was a lovely May morning when Jen noticed the shiny new Range Rover parking opposite and wondered idly who had so far lost their way as to find themselves in the one-cat hamlet she called home. She didn’t have to wonder for long, as two people climbed out of the car and scurried across the road, knocking importantly on the front door of her house.
It was one of the cleaning lady’s days, so she opened the door. The uninvited visitors took a couple steps back at the sight of the mountain of muscle and tattoos that was Albany Brown. To do them justice they recovered fast, and the man surged forward with one hand outstretched. Mrs B ignored the hand and stared down at them.
“We’re from One Thick Monkey Productions” the man said in rather forced tones. “Here to see Jennifer Evans.”
Mrs B shut the door in their faces and came to find Jen.
“Will I let them in, ask what they want, or tell them to piss off?”
Leo was hugely amused. “Ask what they want.”
She rolled back to the door and opened it a crack.
“Ms Evans wants to know what you are here for.”
The man turned a smile of blinding whiteness on her.
“We’re here to persuade her to become a contestant in our newest venture. A global game show like nothing that has ever been before.”
He made to walk in, but the door was firmly slammed shut.
“You hear that?”
“You want I should let them in?”
A couple of hours later Adam found Jen weeding in the back garden. He wobbled his eyebrows.
“They aren’t going to go away, you know.”
“They have to go some time…”
He grinned wickedly. “Not unless you chase them away with the twelve bore.”
“What d’you suggest Clever Dick.”
“Let them in. Listen politely.”
She snarled at him and he just grinned wider.
“Okay. You win. Invite them in. But no offer of refreshment. And if they want the john it’s the one out back.”
“We’re agreed on that” he smirked evilly and sloped off to the Range Rover, returning a couple of minutes later with the dubious duo in tow.
Mrs B decided to join in the fun, and leaned against the kitchen wall with her arms folded across her impressively corseted chest.
Jen was brisk. “Sit. You have ten minutes.”
Mister Corporate started fiddling about in his briefcase.
“Nine minutes thirty seconds.”
He looked up with a hint of panic his eyes before he continued his frantic scrabbling. It was noticeable that his female companion was having trouble keeping a straight face.
“What you lost?” Mrs B showed her gold tooth in a grin.
“The contract Ms Evans needs to sign. It’s not here,” Mister Corporate declared dramatically “Caroline. Go and search the car.”
Jen looked at his hair gel and his revolting tie and felt her gorge rise.
“It must have been you left it behind,” she said. “Whyn’t you go fetch it?”
“Because she’s a girl,” he spluttered. Then he bethought himself and tried for a charming smile.
“Tell you what, you pop out and sit in the car and let us girls have a nice chat.”
He opened his mouth again and both Jen and Mrs B glared at him. For a moment there was an impasse then he shrugged his shoulders and left. Adam grinned at his departing back.
“You haven’t made a friend there.”
“That’s fine. I’m not running for election.”
The girl, Caroline, smiled.
“I’m not sure I should thank you for that. He’ll have his vengeance.”
“Not if you get him first.”
I could see her thinking about that one, then a slow, vicious grin spread across her rather plain face. She sat up straight.
“Okay. How long do I have to pitch this thing to you?”
“Not long. I bore easily.”
It was boring. Very boring. But Caroline stuck to her guns. In the end the flood of words wore Jen down sufficiently so that she agreed to read information pack, promising to let the production company know by the end of the week.
Caroline went out and climbed into the Range Rover. A stony faced corporate man started the engine and the car pulled away. Jen put the pack of paper on the table and grinned her three-cornered grin.
“You’re gonna do it aren’t you?” Adam asked.
“Two reasons. One. It starts just after you go to Saudi for six months and even if I get right to the end it finishes just as you get back. Two. The buggers see me as canon fodder. I’d kinda like to prove them wrong.”
“Three. You didn’t like Mister Corporate a bit. However you did quite like his sidekick.”
“True. What’d you think.”
“I think it might amuse you while I’m gainfully employed for the last time. So fine. But. No risks. I’ll have your promise.”
“Yeah. I’d not expect you to get through a day without rocking somebody’s boat.”
He grinned and hugged her. She hugged back.
“Looks like I’m going to sign up for Mind Games then don’t it?”
Two months passed and Adam finished his secondment in England. Jen packed his bags for him, and took him to Heathrow, where he boarded a flight to his last ever assignment. In Saudi Arabia.
Jen went home and shut up the cottage before presenting herself at Bristol airport early one Sunday morning. She wore combats and carried a very small bag. The brainless bird who signed her in looked at her luggage with something akin to pity.
“That all you have?’
“No. But the rest is invisible.”
© Jane Jago 2017