Ringside and the atmosphere is steamy. Itâ€™s minutes to go and â€˜Rockyâ€™ Birrell and â€˜Riddlerâ€™ Roberts slip off their silky gowns to the cheers and jeers from of crowd, prompting Buttkiss to leave an urgent message at the feet of the Chairman.
Topping the scoring with 8 points and no joker played, Birrell is favourite but the Riddler â€“ also on 8 points but with the tell-tale green hue, is whipping up his rowdy following.
Swathed in a emerald haze the front row is packed with the villainâ€™s supporters: Janet Roberts sitting proud on top of this weeks table and diamantes glinting regally in her crowning glory; Chairman David, content to bathe in Janetâ€™s limelight at 8th position this week, smearing off the damp patch on his dusty brogues and the â€˜Taylorâ€™ clan: Roger, Jill and Dave snuggling up with the â€˜inâ€™ crowd in 3rd, 4th and 5th position at the end of week 12. Who says beetroot doesnâ€™t talk?
Causing a commotion at the end of the row, Mark Young grapples to release his umbrella which cavorts disdainfully above his head to the irritation of the seats behind.
â€˜How did he get up there?â€™ whispers Steven Dunlop to Matt Wayne, watching discretely from 6 rows back with the 30â€“40 pointers. â€˜I managed to crawl back one point last week and after this weekâ€™s user friendly selection Iâ€™m 2nd in the table!â€™
â€˜Just watch and stay back Steve,â€™ Wayne offers sagely. â€˜Best to stay away from a crowd like thatâ€™.
The bout begins. â€˜Riddle me this Birrell:â€™ taunts the Joker, â€˜Whatâ€™s black and blue and red all over?â€™
Birrell lunges deeply into his opponents’ stomach, winding the man in green.
â€˜Less of the poetry, Nigmaâ€™ heckles the Penguin, â€˜or itâ€™ll be your face not hisâ€™ he sneers and goes back to wrestling his umbrella.
Meanwhile, Nick Watson; â€˜ a man celebrating his club’s first win since the invention of the wheel …â€™ according to Statman White, is cheering manically as either of the boxers lands a punch. Joining in the celebratory atmosphere are Predictors of the Week, Nicola Savage & Jill Taylor (Burnley 2-0 Hull City) & Andrew Thraves (Bolton 1-4 Chelsea – final score 0-4), dressed in gold and black to support their hero. Nicola, so giddy with the fumbling advances of the would-be champion that she almost forgot to submit her scores this week, is waving erratically in the air to signal her support.
Despite the hype itâ€™s been a low scoring round this far with only 24 correct scores, half of which were for Everton 1-1 Aston Villa.
Then, the crowd groan as Riddler lands a lethal right, sending Birrellâ€™s gum shield flying. Then another… as he stagger around the ring deliriously, everything goes into slow-motion. The baying front row, Nicolaâ€™s grief-stricken face as she runs towards the ring…
And then down.
Nobody notices that the Penguin has left or the fluttering pages of a reporterâ€™s notebook that spiral, unchecked to the ground….
Matt Wayne heads swiftly for the exit.