“…four thousand holes … And though the holes were rather small,” the radio alarm starts in a whisper and increases in volume until Joey stirs. He reaches over and stops it before the crescendo exponentially ascends and disturbs his beautiful, booze soaked, Brenda, who is sleeping off Thursday’s hen night.
He gets out of bed and drags a comb across his head. He finds his way upstairs and has a smoke. But his dream is disturbed as he switches on the TV on to hear, “Cumbernauld has just been named the most dismal town in Scotland.”
The TV reporter continues, “This is an embarrassing double for the town after winning the unwanted Plook on the Plinth award five years ago.” Then Joey’s own ghostly face stares back at him from the screen and he remembers that it wasn’t a dream. The bingo hall under-manager watches himself being presented with the award. He wishes that he’d straightened his tie.
He turns away, spies the trophy on the mantelpiece and frowns.
He goes through to the kitchen, scratches his head, loads the toaster and boils the kettle. The paper comes through the letter box and Joey picks it up to read with his breakfast. He goes from front page to the feature.
‘God! They have my photo too,’ he thinks.
A local is also quoted saying, “Cumbernauld is an overly brutal concrete jungle, with no sense of human scale or creation of a place that humans can inhabit. Access is abysmal unless by car and not integrated with the surrounding residential areas at all. Come on people we can do better than this.”
Relief slowly comes to Joey. ‘He could still walk down the street. Maybe?’ he thinks.
He goes to the back of the paper and starts to rummage through the sports pages, as Brenda rushes in.
“Oh boy, have you read the news today,” she says, as she grasps the paper from Joey’s hands and continues. “What tube accepted that?”
Joey says nothing. After all there is not much to say.
He remembers, ‘All that has happened is that I chased out the last punter and shut up shop, and as is usual for a Thursday, I had a few glasses in the Black Bull. I followed that by a few more at Jumping Jax. And then all at once this female, jumps out and thrusts the award into my hands. Nothing more than that!’
In her towelling housecoat and puppy dog slippers, Buxom Brenda turns from the front page to the feature.
She jumps back exclaiming, “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!” She is stamping the floor and staring at the paper. But not for long as she wheels round, eyeballs Joey and continues, “What have you done? You daft bastard! What have you done?”
“I can’t go out! What will my friends say? I can’t go out! You daft bastard! What have you done?“ says the distraught, makeup-less Brenda and under her fortnightly tan she turns red.
“Nothing, I just, ahem, came out of the Bingo and she, ahem, handed it to me, then took my picture.” Joey says sheepishly.
“Well you better just get down the road right now and give them it back or you’ll answer to me big time.”
“I’m just going.”
Joey grabs the plaque from the fireplace, slides quickly down the stairs into the bedroom and changes. He is out the front door before his Brenda is again on his case.
‘She’s not so beautiful this morning,’ he realises.
In the town where fame was Gregory’s Girl, our local hero rushes down the street where no pavements are. He dives across the junction but he doesn’t notice that the lights have changed. In seconds flat, a car hits him. A crowd of people turn away. They’d seen his face before but no one is really sure if he is from the bingo hall. They’d seen the photograph.
Joey was not a lucky man. Like Cumbernauld, he didn’t make the grade.