Thursday’s Countdown Short Story

26 02 2015

Hello – thanks again for all your lovely words about me being on Countdown. Really very kind. Here’s today’s offering, but two things first.

1)This version is slightly longer than the one that went out on TV, because when I wrote it I had no idea how long it’d take to read aloud and so it had to be editted for time.

2) The reason the characters are named Tracy and Dan, is because I once promised my lovely friend @tkingdoll that I would repay one of her many kindnesses with “something I had made”. She is nothing like the Tracy in this story, and her partner Dan is nothing like ‘Dan’. But they do love each other very much, so in that way, they’re almost identical.


A Three Letter word

Dan was normally down for his lunch at one, prompt, but – thanks to Greg in Office Management who apparently couldn’t tell the difference between “staplers” and “paper clips” – it was now after three and he was starving. Plus he was certain that all of the stroganoff would be gone by now, and he’d been really looking forward to that.

He pushed open the door of the staff canteen with his foot, and walked into a room that he’d never seen so empty. The odd plate scattered about, the waft of recent habitation, but deserted. The Marie Celeste! – if it had been the works dining hall of the most successful pebbledash supply company in Leeds. Well, as of just recently Leeds’ second most successful pebbledash supply company, which Dan attributed, mainly, to that idiot Greg in Office Management.

As he slid a plastic salver across the tray rail, he peered into the steaming bain maries, all empty save for smears of what once they’d held. There were half a dozen string beans and nine discs of carrot, which Dan dumped onto a plate with a sigh. “One of those days”, he said to himself. “One of those days.”

“Obesity.”

Dan looked round. Well, yeah, he knew he could stand to lose a few pounds, but anonymous shouting was a bit much. It had been a woman’s voice, but from where, he knew not.

“Sobriety!”

There it was again! Dan jumped, and dropped his plate. The beans and carrots would have gone everywhere, if there’d been many of them. The sound of clattering ceramic was, however, sufficiently alarming, that a woman in an apron appeared.

“You okay?”, she asked.

“Yeah.” said Dan, because he was. “Just a bit startled. Someone shouted.”

“Oh – right. Yeah. That was me. Sorry. I’ve got Countdown on in the office. At my house you have to shout out the words as you get them or no-one believes you. Force of habit. Sorry.”

“”No, don’t… um… don’t be.” said Dan, blushing. He always blushed when he met women, especially ones as clearly lovely as the one in front of him now.

“Tracy.” She said, sticking out her hand.

“No,” he replied “It’s Dan.”

“No, I mean, my  name is Tracy” she countered.

“I know. Sorry. It was meant to be a joke.”

“Oh – yeah right. Course. Sorry.” she smiled.

So did Dan.

“Well, look, do you want feeding?” she asked “I’ve got some stroganoff put aside for Greg in Office Management, but if he’s not been down yet, so I doubt he will be. Shame to waste it.”

Revenge – as it turned out – was best served piping hot, with new string beans and additional carrots.

“If you don’t want to sit on your own,” Tracy continued “you can sit in the office with me, but shush. Countdown’s on.”

And so it began. From then on, Dan took his lunch break at 3.15 and shouted words at a screen with the loveliest girl in the world.

A year later, and Tracy was a bit sad. Stood in the queue on her own, she was wishing Dan was with her. She’d been thrilled when he told her he’d got them both tickets to see Countdown being recorded, and they’d bought the train tickets to Salford together, but then something at work had come up, and now she was here on her own. It’d be fun, but not as fun as if Dan was here.

She took her seat and put her coat on the empty one beside her. Daft, but she missed him. The studio lights dimmed and out came Nick, Suzie, Rachel, some bloke with a beard she’d never heard of and the contestants.

The contestants were a quantity surveyor from Guildford and … and… Dan. As Dan took his seat, he looked nervous. Tracy’s heart was in her chest too, if for no other reason than she nearly always beat Dan when they played together, and this Quantity Surveyor had Octochamp written all over his face. Tracy was stunned. So stunned in fact, that the top of the show was a blur. By the time she snapped out of it, Dan was asking for his first set of letters.

LOASRPOPA

Tracy’s mind started whirring. It was true what they always said on the telly – it was harder to think in the studio. She’d got stuck on “Props” for five, but just before the timer ran out, she saw “Apropos” was there and had to stop herself from shouting it out. Seven. Not bad. Apropos was a funny word though. An odd shape. Not the sort of word Dan would normally get. Ah well, fingers crossed.

The dashing Nick Hewer turned to Dan. “What have you got Dan?” he asked.

“Eight.” Dan replied, and the crowd oohed.

Before he’d had time to say what the word was though, Rachel began shifting the letters, but was in the way. Tracy couldn’t see what she was doing. As if that wasn’t enough, Dan had stood up – had actually stood up in the middle of a game of Countdown – unheard of – and was making his way over to Tracy.

Tracy looked back across at the board, with Rachel stood now to one side.

“PROPOSAL”

When she looked back to Dan, he was down on one knee; a ring in his hand and hope in his eyes. An expectant hush fell over the studio.

And that was the day a three letter word won Countdown.

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