Sian: Welcome back to Comeuppance! I’m Sian Welby, your hostess with the mostest. We’re roughly half-way through tonight’s vote, which will see either maths teacher Mrs Pascal, anti-piracy lawyer Judi, or her spam-happy twin sister Trudi punished in the putrid pit that is our Mucky Dip!
Sian is sitting at a desk, located on the opposite side of the Mucky Dip to the cages. An older woman is also seated, smartly dressed and rather prim.
Sian: And it’s my pleasure to be with Professor Penelope Thimbleswick-Watson. She’s a senior fellow at the Winchester Academy of Macroeconomics, and a board member of the polling company OiGuv. Professor Thimbleswick-Watson, a warm welcome to you.
Thimbleswick-Watson: Good evening Sian. It’s pronounced “Thinnick”.
Sian: My apologies. Professor, you’ve carried out extensive research in the days leading up to the vote. What are your conclusions?
Thimbleswick-Watson: One thing’s for certain, Sian, we’re looking at a divided nation. [A coloured map appears on a screen behind the desk] As you can see, the copyright lawyer is enjoying – perhaps that isn’t the right word – solid backing in London, Wales and the West Country. Meanwhile, the Midlands and the North are strongly in favour – or I suppose disfavour – of the spammer.
Sian: And it looks like Scotland has decided to do its own thing as usual.
Thimbleswick-Watson: That’s right. Step north of the border and the vote for both twins evaporates. I expect every district in Scotland to vote for the teacher. And as for Northern Ireland… [sucks breath] this vote could trigger a full-blown constitutional crisis.
Sian: I don’t think they’ve got over Princess Priscilla’s comeuppance yet.
Thimbleswick-Watson: It’s also worth saying that there are anomalous pockets of voting in some of the cities. Take a look at Liverpool, for example.
The map zooms in and an overly-complicated graph pops up.
Thimbleswick-Watson: Here we have a 50-50 split between the copyright lawyer and the teacher. This might have something to do with the Sun declaring itself for the spammer.
Sian: All very interesting, but ultimately it doesn’t matter where the votes come from, but how many there are for each candidate. Professor, I’m going to ask you to give your prediction on tonight’s final positions – i.e. who will come first, second and third at the close of voting – but I don’t want you to announce your prediction, lest it should influence the public’s choice. Instead I’d like you to write it down on the sheet of paper provided in front of you. You’ll understand why in a minute.
Thimbleswick-Watson: [cagily] I’m not sure it’s possible to give a firm conclusion. The margin of error is quite large based on the sparse data at hand.
Sian: Come on Professor, what do we pay you for? I’m not asking for percentages, just the order in which the contestants finish. So if you would kindly write down your prediction, then fold up the paper and hand it to me…
The piece of paper is shown pixelated as Thimbleswick-Watson deliberates over her decision. Looking uncomfortable, she folds it twice and hands it to Sian, who tucks it down the front her dress.
Sian: Ta very much. Now let me ask you, do you know what a “Thank You Desk” is?
Sian: Maybe by the end of the show you will. You see Professor, when the polls close and the final result is revealed, I’m going to open up your prediction to see if you got it right. If you did, then great – another success for the CV. But if your prediction turns out to be wrong, then you’ll have more than egg on your face!
Thimbleswick-Watson: [rattled] W-what do you mean?
Sian: Let’s just say there’ll be a forfeit, and I think you can guess its nature.
Thimbleswick-Watson: You can’t be serious!
Sian: If you’ve ever watched this show, you’ll know that we’re very serious when it comes to mess.
Thimbleswick-Watson: Sorry, but I didn’t come here to play infantile games!
T-W makes to stand up, but the guards block off each end of the desk. Realising there is no way out, the Professor sheepishly lowers herself back into her chair.
Sian: Did you bring a change of clothes with you?
Thimbleswick-Watson: Of course I didn’t!
Sian: Oh dear! Everything crossed that you get it right!
T-W bleats as Sian gets up and crosses the stage to where the cages are stationed. Mrs Pascal’s cage now occupies the central position, having been switched with Judi’s.
Sian: As you can see we had to make some rearrangements. The twins wouldn’t stop bickering, so the best thing for it was to put a teacher in between them.
Mrs Pascal: They soon simmered down after I threatened them with fifty sets of simultaneous equations!
Sian: Well I have some figures here that we will interest all three of you – the midway voting scores. But first it’s time to unveil the full horror of the muck that awaits one of you. Last week while we were in Cumbria, Sasha our muckologist-in-chief spent her time dredging the beaches of Sellafield, and she’s concocted something rather special. Can we dim the lights please?
The crew oblige. A ghostly green glow is apparent around the rim of the Mucky Dip.
Sian: And without further ado…
Audience: LET’S PREVIEW THE GOO!!
Like the core of a mad scientist’s reactor, a resplendent lime-green radiance greets the overhead camera, punctuated by small, equally luminous blotches of pink and yellow. The gunge is much more translucent than usual, adding a striking sense of depth, but the roughness of the surface, akin to textured glass on a bathroom window, indicates it is as thick as ever. The scene shifts to the Dip-side camera, to reveal the yellow and pink blobs elevated like islands in the vivid verdant sea. Throughout this spectacle, the inset corner box displays the faces of the contestants – none are exactly chuffed by the revelation.
The lights go up.
Sian: [rubbing hands togethers] Ooo yes, our special glow-in-the-dark goo! Ladies, whoever of you goes in will be visible from a mile off, and smellable from an even greater distance! Now, let’s see those midway scores!
Sian: Ooo, nice round figures!
Trudi: [blinking through her glasses at the screen] Damn!
Judi: [dancing in her cage] Oh yes! Oh yes! Eat that muck, Trude! Eat! That! Muck!
Judi turns 90 degrees, sticks out her rear and flaps her hands away from it, as if directing flatulence towards her sister.
Mrs Pascal: [rolling eyes] Judi, if you find that gesture so amusing, you can do it in the corridor for an hour!
Sian: Thanks Mrs P, but I can take charge of this. Judi, let me remind you we’re only halfway through. There’s still plenty of time for the scores to change, so your celebrations might be premature!
Trudi: Yeah Jude, keep sticking that ass out, cos I’m gonna come back and whip—
Sian: [stamping authority] But needless to say Trudi, you have a significant lead that’ll take some overturning. Mrs Pascal, the arithmetic looks promising for you. [Calls over to the desk] What do you make of it, Professor Thimbleswick-Watson?
Thimbleswick-Watson: [sharply] Thinnick-Watson!
Sian: You know folks, I reckon she’s not too happy with the way the scores are panning out [winks]… or maybe she just wants you to think that. [Turns back to cages] In any case ladies, whether the outcome stays like this or changes could well depend on the personal appeals you’re about to deliver. You know the score – 15 seconds for each of you – Mrs Pascal, go!
Mrs Pascal: You’re still chewing, aren’t you? Bin! Now! And 100 lines: “I will not chew gum in class.” And that dress is far too short for the classroom. Something funny, Sian? Maybe you’d like to explain yourself to the head—
The klaxon blares, followed by a low level of booing.
Sian: I’m the head around here. [Blows another bubble] Right Trudi, it’s your turn, and let’s have something a bit more cordial than your copyright letters.
Judi: Delighted at how you’re voting. And you’ve not even heard about Trudi’s bad habits yet. She picks her nose and she eats with her mouth open!
Trudi: I do not!
Judi: And sometimes she combines the two pastimes!
The klaxon blares, but Trudi is no mood to let these allegations pass.
Sian: Not now.
Trudi: She sits down watching the telly, takes off her socks and stuffs them down the back of the sofa! There’s a pile of ’em down there!
Sian: Trudi, this is not the time…
Trudi: And boy do her feet stink! She’ll be well at home in the Mucky Dip!
Judi: [louder] Utter lies! I’ll tell you what stinks: her room after a curry!
Sian: Girls, please!
Trudi: [even louder] Nonsense! You’re the biggest farter in the family!
Judi: AM NOT!
Trudi: ARE TOO!
Sian: Can you debate this some other time?
Judi: AM NOT!
Trudi: ARE T—
Mrs Pascal: SILENCE!!!
Mrs Pascal’s razor-edged tone echoes around the studio as silence duly and rapidly falls. Judi and Trudi stand sheepish, and even Sian is chastened enough to remove the gum from her mouth.
Sian: Uh, thanks Mrs Pascal. Trudi, you spent at least 15 seconds slagging off your sister, so that can count as your personal appeal.
Trudi: What!? That’s completely unfair!
Judi: Ha ha, you are such a loser!
Mrs Pascal: [menacingly] Don’t let me tell you again, you two!
The twins fall quiet as Sian turns to the camera.
Sian: Well folks, we haven’t had an appeals segment like that before! You might be forgiven for forgetting that this is a programme about professions, not family feuds. And it’s hard to believe that this pair are 31-year-old IT experts. But hey, if their squabbling influences your vote, so be it! Our lines remain open for your calls, so make your opinion counts. Will Trudi get filtered into our spam folder of shame, as the scores suggest? Or will a swing see Judi downloaded into the Dip? Or will an electoral upset send the disciplinarian Mrs Pascal into the slop? And will there be a Thank You Desk for Thimble-Woman? Join us at 10:30 to find out!
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