Campers – Beware!

A Short Story by Ken Wise

‘I really can’t believe that you talked us into this,’ sighed Pauline as they pulled into the entrance of the new 1950’s style Holiday Camp, called Highlights.

Ken looked at her and nodded.

‘I reckon that they should buy the first beer tonight – followed by the first drink the rest of the week.’

Brenda just laughed.

‘After this week you will be thanking us and buying us drinks, you will have had such a good time, isn’t that right, Tim?’

Tim looked at her not really knowing how to answer that, after all he had only found out about the holiday booking last weekend when he had returned home from work. Brenda and Tim had been Ken and Pauline’s best friends for many years, dating back when Tim and Ken were pals in the RAF in the 1960’s. Brenda had done the booking, she had arranged everything and Pauline had paid over their share without any hesitation. Pauline had great faith in her friend Brenda who had become her best friend while at school. Not that this type of holiday would have been her first choice; a camp set up in the 1950’s style, complete with its own ‘Wakey–Wakey’ morning welcome. Pauline knew that her husband Ken would not be too impressed about that! Still, she knew he would come around to it as he was always ready for a laugh – anyway she would make him an offer he couldn’t refuse! After fifteen years of marriage she knew how to handle him.

Tim parked the car and the friends took out their luggage from the boot of the car and made their way to the reception; it was hard to miss with the large neon lit sign flickering on and off. Standing at the reception while the girls took over the task of checking in, Tim and Ken took the time to look at the many photographs of cabaret acts that had performed at the camp since it had opened last year.

‘Gosh, I would have liked to seen him,’ remarked Tim.

Ken laughed.

‘I would rather have seen her; there is a lot more of her!’

It was Tim’s turn to laugh: ‘Oh, I see what you mean- not bad at all, don’t get many of them in a pound!’

‘Now, now, Tim, better not let Brenda hear you!’

‘Not worried about her,’ replied Tim.‘Anyway she never heard me-did she?’

Tim looked around anxiously. Ken laughed again.

‘Don’t worry you are safe, she is busy taking over the control of everything – including all our free time, no chance of any crazy golf this week.’

Tim suddenly gave a shout: ‘Hey look at the Camp Director’s photo, isn’t that Colin Fletcher who used to go to school with you, he came up to you in that pub we were in last year at Brixham!’

Ken nodded.

‘Well it certainly looks like him, there can only be one Colin Fletcher – I wouldn’t think there could be two of him!’

The two friends laughed as the girls returned with the keys to the two chalets which fortunately were placed next to each other.

The four friends were sitting in one of the bars that evening having a pre-dinner drink, with Brenda reading out some of the rules that every camper should adjure to during their stay. Brenda took from her handbag a wad of old fivers which the camp had specially printed for the campers to use during their stay. Everything was included in the original price of the holiday with the exception of the drinks; they of course were extra but could only be purchased with the specially printed pound and five pound notes which of course you had to purchase upon your arrival. Brenda and Pauline had purchased five hundred pounds worth and the drinks were all conveniently priced at one pound each – everything, bottle water included.

‘Oh, look!’ Brenda was looking at the brochure. ‘They even have a Beauty Queen Pageant, how about that Pauline?’

‘Don’t look at me, Brenda, that is strictly for the young set!’

Ken looked across at his pretty wife and smiled.

‘Pauline, you are still hot! Well, at least I think so.’

Pauline blushed, but replied that her husband had never had the best of eyesight. Still, it was always nice to hear such comments. Brenda turned to Tim.

‘Why don’t you say nice things like that to me? Tim ‘I did my love – twenty years ago – don’t you remember?’

Pauline laughed ‘I think we had better change the subject.’

Ken got up and took out one of the ready-made fivers. H e went up to the bar for another round of drinks. Coming back he placed the drinks on the table.

“Well, whatever old Colin Fletcher is running here he certainly is not charging 1950’s prices! That round costs two of those five pound notes.’

Brenda looked at him.

‘Oh don’t be a scrooge! We are on holiday!’

Ken and Tim looked at each other; they knew when they were beaten.

The four friends were just finishing dinner when he arrived; it was almost as if he had been announced by a fanfare of trumpets. Colin Fletcher had arrived; he swept into the dining room with his green suit and pink cravat, and trailing with him two seemingly adoring attendants which added to the effect. What effect one could not be sure of, but as far as our Colin was concerned his entrance into the hall had surely been noted and that was what he had set out to achieve. Even before he arrived unannounced at their table Brenda had already commented ‘Gosh, take a look at him!’ Tim laughed.

‘Oh that’s Ken’s old chum, Colin Fletcher; camp’s director and boss of Highlights!’

It was Pauline’s turn to join in.

‘Well he has those as well, just look at the blond and purple ones!’

Ken had been busy reading the next day’s schedule of events so he never saw him coming.

‘Ken darling, how are you?’ Colin exclaimed in his loudest voice.

Everyone in the dining hall turned around, what was the man doing now? Most of the diners had already met and dismissed the camp boss as a little eccentric to say the least but the majority had already resigned to the fact that he was a man who operated with a screw loose! In other words they had paid their money up front and they could not do anything about it now! However, it had soon become apparent that where Colin went so loads of laughter normally followed, perhaps not the original desire of the camp boss but funny never the less.

Looking up Ken suddenly realised the hush that had descended over the dining hall, and he inwardly gasped as he gazed upon his old schoolfriend who had apparently gave out all the signs that he had turned gay! This had not been at all apparent when the two had attended their school in Reading, Berkshire where the two had grown up. It could of course just be part of Colin’s elaborate façade which he now chose to display! In school he was always acting the goat pretending to be someone he was not.

Drawing a chair up to the table Colin continued his gushing; he shook the two girls’ hands but made a meal of shaking and holding onto Tim’s.

‘Hullo Timothy,’ went on Colin, his eyes dressing up and down the now totally embarrassed Tim. Tim pulled his hand abruptly away from the grasp of his attacker, but his embarrassment was not to end there as Brenda and Pauline collapsed in helpless laughter at the expression on poor Tim’s face. Pauline couldn’t help commenting that moment alone had been worth the cost of entry to the camp, after all Tim had always maintained a poise that sometimes could be mistaken as being a little pompous. This, she knew was not true, but the present expression on his face as priceless, perhaps it was the first time poor Tim had come into such a close contact from a member of the same sex.

Colin was now gazing into Ken’s eyes as if he was now the centre of attention. He was now in full flow, going over all the old times they had shared. He could remember things that now caused him great mirth and it was soon obvious that he now regarded Ken and he as having been long time buddies, which as far as Ken was concerned did not ring at all true! Fortunately this endless drivel did achieve one thing: the diners, who had been waiting for the next gem which would send them into complete and utter hysterics, turned away to finish their food and drinks.

‘Ken, my love, if I remember rightly you used to do a lot of compering at school and didn’t you at some time run a night club?’

Ken reluctantly nodded his agreement, so what?

‘Well, I have a small problem: you know we are running our extremely popular Beauty Queen Pageant?’

Colin did not wait for Ken’s response but went on to explain further.

‘Well, darling, our usual compere has been forced to …er… leave suddenly, yesterday before we actually had completed the last leg… so to speak’.

Ken looked at his ‘old friend’ dreading what was coming next.

‘I know you would love it Kenny but would you be a dear and host the last leg for us?’

Ken looked straight back at him.

‘No!’

Colin shrank back in horror almost as if he had been struck by lightening.

‘But why not, you would be perfect for it – darling!’

He added the ‘Darling’ almost as if he thought it would make some difference.

‘Look Colin, for one I have not done any compering for years, two I have never done a beauty contest, and three I don’t want to do it – we are all on holiday!’

Colin was not to be beaten. He realised his back was against the wall. He put up his hand and one of his lackeys immediately jumped to his side.

‘Oh a round of drinks, – for my best friends,’ Colin added.

Ken looked blankly at him. ‘Colin my old fruit’(instantly regretting the phase he had used)‘what part of No don’t you understand? Anyway you have all the gift of the gab – ‘you’ would be perfect doing it!’

‘Can’t do it, dear- wouldn’t be proper,’ answered Colin. ‘Some of my personal friends have got through to the last ten and I might be accused of bias. Tim, who had been totally enthralled about what was going on, looked at Brenda and mouthed ‘Friends, was this a ‘mixed’ kinda of contest!’

That he would have to see! Ken was shaking his head firmly, no way, not at all, but he had not bargained for Colin’s last card.

‘Ken, if you do it, we will not only refund you and your friends the full cost of this week, we will let you all stay another week free of charge!’

Colin sat back in his chair, his chest stuck out as if he had solved everyone’s problems. In a matter of fact he had because he had two converts straight away: the two woman conscious of the saving and a free week had completely became allies of this strange but comical man! Even Tim raised his eye brows as if he thought it was a good deal, the problem was of course he did not have to get up on the stage in front of five hundred people and handle the contestants!

Ken sighed, he instinctively knew he was sinking fast but he had one last go.

‘What happened to the last compere, why did he leave?’

Colin knew that he had to come clean.

‘Unfortunately he had to go to hospital suddenly, shame that because he was doing quite well.’ Brenda interjected ‘What was wrong with him, was he sick?’

‘Well, he was alright after they patched him up, and I understand he is out of danger now.’

Even Pauline sat up straight now.

‘What do you mean Colin? Out of danger now!’

Colin shrugged.

‘It was just one of those things; the guy who hit him didn’t agree with him throwing out his girl friend and took umbrage!’

‘Don’t you have judges?’ asked Pauline.

‘Yes we do, but he still blamed poor Tony.’

‘Oh by the way we do need another three judges – some of the judges quit also.’

‘How many do you need?’ asked Brenda.

‘Three.’ answered Colin. “My friend Rodger will fill in!’

Colin looked inquiringly at Brenda.

‘How about you lovely people? Are you Free?’ imitating a certain catch phase made famous in a popular television show.

Colin obviously thought this was hilarious and he sat back in his chair, his head thrown back shrieking with laughter, making the fellow diners turn around wondering if they had missed something good.

Tim couldn’t resist it.

‘Yes,’ he exclaimed excitedly. ‘It could be fun’

The two girls joined in and Ken knew that all was lost and he resigned himself to his fate. The big night was in three days’ time and he would of course have to meet the finalists! Ken sipped his drink. Why did he feel so uneasy? What on earth had he got himself into? He glared at his friends as they waved to their new genial host as he triumphantly made his usual dramatic exit. His smile was one of complete satisfaction – job done!

The friends returned to their respective chalets to spend their first night at the holiday camp.

The seven o’clock in the morning wake-up call was in the old holiday camp tradition of ‘Wakey –Wakey’, which to poor Tim was very unwelcome. He always took full advantage of his holiday lie-in, which of course are what most holidays are for. Brenda, of course was determined to get into the swing of things which included 1950’s theme of shower huts and such like.

The four bleary-eyed friends trudged to the café which had been designated as their feeding hall, and lined up with the small number of fellow guests who had answered the wake-up call. It would seem that most of the campers that day were still recovering from the previous evening’s entertainment which had included drinks followed by more drinks. It would seem that dealing with old money had clouded their judgement – as Ken had remarked the prices were certainly not 1950’s.

After a hearty breakfast the girls decided to go to the nearby beach and take advantage of the sun which was now starting to shine. Tim had offered to accompany Ken to the large entertainment hall where the jubilant Colin would introduce Ken to the final ten finalists.

Arriving on time, Tim sat in one of the front seats to watch and take notes on what lay in store for his friend Ken. The girls would want to know every detail so he would have to take care to record everything. Tim had realised that anything that the eccentric Colin would get up to must be worth taking note of. He was not to be disappointed for Colin came in straight down the aisle on a small but elaborate Roman style chariot! He was being pulled by his two lackeys but a chariot nevertheless, complete with two spears at the ready in case he needed to ‘spear’ somebody! Ken looked at his old school chum and shook his head deciding that he was completely mad, it was not just showmanship and it appeared that the nutty camp boss did actually believe that he was Caesar! The two men who had pulled their boss must have been glad that he at least had not used his whip which he had cracked into the air; almost as if he was reliving one of the old camp movies they were showing ‘Rawhide’! Yes, the Roman Emperor had overnight taken over the soul and mind of the camp boss! Ken knew instinctively that he was in for an experience that might take some getting over. His friends would have to be nice, and really nice to pay back what he was about to go through!

Ken turned away from the comical sight of the new Caesar complete in loin cloth getting off his chariot and striding up to the stage to confront the ten ladies who had gathered in their swimsuits for the meeting with the new compere. He cavorted around the stage, his protruding stomach showing even more from under the flailing gown.

‘Hail Spartacus!’ shouted the grand Caesar putting up his hand in salute.

Ken was not that keen at being called that particular name as he knew that individual ended up being nailed to a cross – heaven forbid!

Fortunately after ten minutes of Colin gesturing and waving his hands from each contestant to his new compere, he left as quickly as he had arrived, pulled by his now sweating lackeys who had a difficult task going up the steep slope of the large theatre. Each contestant held a number which they would keep for the duration of the contest. Number one was Sadie. She said she was Norwegian but spoke with an extremely strange accent. Sadie was rather plump and had trouble fitting into her rather tight swimming costume, although rather pretty. As far as the bumps being in their right places she did appear to be at a disadvantage. Sadie attempted to smile sweetly at the new compare only to show off her missing front tooth. Sadie looked more like a vampire who was looking out for her next fix of red blood.

Second in line was Blodwyne from Wales (of course, where else) she at least had her bumps in the right place but was rather skinny. Blodwyne at least had all her front teeth and with the exception of her bony knees, she at least looked reasonable.

Thirdly came Nancy, from Birmingham, she was pretty but insisted on winking at Ken as if she had a thing going on with him; he felt straight away uncomfortable when she whispered into his ear 322 which was obviously her chalet number. Perhaps another reason that Tony his predecessor had suddenly left – too much temptation!

The next contestant, number four, took Ken’s breath away; he instantly realised that number four Roberto was not a woman! Ken was not sure what he was exactly, but a woman he was not!

It would have been better if he had shaved a little closer that morning before coming to the theatre. However, he did have nice legs. Ken shivered. What was he thinking? The next five ladies were not exactly what you might call beauty competition material, ranging from being rather butch to extremely ‘not good looking.’ Still it would be up to the judges to decide and Ken laughed to himself when he realised that his ‘friends’ who had pushed him into this job would be in the firing line. That would teach them to offer his services to the eccentric camp boss!

The last but not least was the best of the bunch – Colleen, a nice-looking Irish lass who managed to tick all the boxes as far as Ken was concerned. She must be favourite, that was for sure. Still, it would not be Ken’s job to decide that, thank goodness, so he arranged for another dress rehearsal the following day which meant they should all be ready for the final the day after. It was then that Caesar dropped his bombshell: he wanted to have more elimination rounds, more entertainment and of course more money in the bar tills as the customers would have to come back another two more times. Ken groaned. That would mean instead of the one-off event, it was now being turned into a much grander affair because the ten ladies were now being asked to sing and or dance. To his horror Ken found that all the ladies had voted enthusiastically for the changes, this of course meant that rehearsals had to be held and to allow this Caesar had changed the date of the final to the Friday!

Tim, Brenda and Pauline had been summoned to a meeting with the Roman leader; sorry Colin. He had a nice surprise for them. For being specially constructed in the auditorium was a pulpit which would hold the four judges which of course included Colin’s friend Rodger and they would all be dressed in white togas fitting for the occasion. Rome’s Coliseum had come to southern England with a vengeance. All that was left was for the legions of Roman soldiers to descend and the invasion would be complete.

Pauline started laughing until she realised that the emperor was serious, and what was more they would have to do the customary thumbs down sign every time they chucked out a constant!

Brenda laughed.

‘The only thing missing is Leo the Lion!’

‘What a good idea!’ Colin’s face lit up.

‘No!’ Ken put his foot down – he would not work with a live lion! No way – not ever!

Colin’s face fell but brightened up when he realised he could have a make-believe lion and he had two willing people who would be the head and body! They would just have to move fast after pulling him into the centre stage. The judges had to go to the local town to get outfitted for their togas and sandals. The newly-created emperor knew exactly what was needed, it was almost as if he had been there and worn the t-shirt. Perhaps he had…in his dreams.

Ken emerged from the first dress rehearsal shaking his head and trying to blot out the terrible noises that had been emanating from ten contestants, that is with exception of Colleen. Bless her, with her lovely Irish voice she just underlined her place (in Ken’s eyes) as favourite to win by a landside.

Later as he sat on the sands looking out at sea with his wife and friends by his side he started to think that perhaps, just perhaps, it could all be worth it.

That was until someone suddenly sat down beside him. Looking sidewards Ken was surprised to find a large, rather ugly, very much overweight man looking straight into his eyes.

‘Just thought we would have a chat to you, guv’nor, me and my friends would like to give you what we would have given that last chap Tony.’

And the man pressed twenty five pounds into Ken’s hand. Ken gasped and said ‘I can’t take that’ to which the rather nasty individual replied ‘Oh, playing hard to get eh. Okay then fifty pounds but we are not going to pay you anymore, don’t forget it has to be Blodwyne, Sadie and then Nancy in that order.

Ken struggled to return the money into the man’s hand only to have it dropped beside him on the sand, the man beating a hasty retreat. Pauline, who had been closer than anyone else, asked her husband what was going on. Ken looked at her.

‘I don’t know but I think I have just been nobbled!’

Tim, who had been treating everything as a big joke, became very serious.

‘Goodness, Ken, we have to return the money. Something is going down here which could get ugly.’

Ken nodded and suggested that they all go and see Caesar – sorry, Colin. Arriving at the manager’s office they found to their horror that the front of the office area which included the reception where everyone had checked in was now having large white columns being erected. It would seem that Caesar was enclosing himself in a new coliseum. Ken shook his head as he banged on the door to the office and walked into the gloomy interior. All normal lighting had been disposed of or at least shut off and the whole office was illuminated solely by large candles sitting precariously on white columns – a health and safety inspector’s nightmare. Ken and Tim just looked at the scene laid out before them. Sitting on Colin’s lap was the fourth judge who they knew must be his friend Rodger and he was stroking Caesar’s hair. Standing up, he finished by planting a big red kiss on his forehead. Caesar had the red imprint to prove it.

‘Oh, come in Comp’, (his new name for Ken), ‘Rodger is just fixing my hair,’ he offered without blinking an eye.

After listening to Ken’s tale of woe, he suddenly turned around to his friend Rodger and calmly informed him that those three names must be worth putting a few bob on!

Ken then exploded: ‘If you don’t take this seriously, you can get yourself another idiot to do the show, because I am off! I would rather pay for the holiday.’

Colin looked calmly at his irate friend.

‘Oh. very well, give me the fifty pounds and the twenty pounds from each of the judges and I will get it back to Lenny, they will have to get it on somewhere else!’

Ken looking amazed at him, ‘You mean you know all about this, and anyway what is this about the twenty pounds from each of the judges?

‘Oh, haven’t they received that yet?’ went on the unfazed Colin.

The next four hours were spent debating whether to pull out not only from the contest but also from the camp. The four were evenly split – the girls wanted to stay and the men wanted to go. The girls won, after receiving even more assurances from the emperor that all had been sorted out. The emperor could be very persuasive when he needed to.

The day dawned for the first semi-final and while the sale of ear-plugs increased that day, the ‘thumbs down’ to three of the girls which included Blodwyne went without incident.

That was until next day when sitting again on the beach the three judges plus the compere were on the receiving end of countless half-eaten ic-cream cones from irate children who had seen their respective relatives chucked out of the contest. Tim couldn’t help laughing. ‘That went well!”

At least the exclusion of Blodwyne had gone without incident. Well, at least they hoped it had.

‘I’m getting to like all this power,’ exclaimed Brenda as she prepared for that evening’s last semi-final. ‘I mean, that final thumbs-down moment certainly lets you know how the old Roman Caesars felt.’

‘Don’t let it go to your head,’ remarked Tim. ‘I wouldn’t like you to turn me down at bedtime – you do that enough already!’

Pauline laughed at the thought of her friend giving Tim the thumbs-down when they got into bed.

The next evening came with the judges all sat in their respective seats and waiting for the evening’s proceedings to start. Ken had just brought back the remaining contestants who had managed to come up with a new act which was meant to reflect time in the 1950’s. While their accents came in all types of dialects they had made a good effort and the audience seem to enjoy their acts. As if to help things out, Ken, caught up in the moment, started replying in their own dialect which only managed to confuse the contestants even further. Still, it all went down well with the crowd who had by now been filling up with the large measures of beer and spirits which the bar staff had mistakenly been giving out. Caesar might have been more concerned than he was if he had known what was occurring, still what the emperor didn’t know would not hurt him.

The end result was that instead of having just three finalists, they still had five. Colin didn’t seem to worry, seeing one of these was his own ‘friend’ who had miraculously survived. Tim had been counting the votes and passing them to the top judge Rodger who, after, apparently checking the count, had passed the result to Ken. The addition of Roberto was something Tim and the others could not understand as he had finished last of the group and yet still his name was read out by the unknowing Ken. Pauline and Brenda finally sussed that Rodger was a rather dodgy judge and to make it worse it was quite apparent that Caesar was in full knowledge what was going on.

Colleen with her lovely Irish voice had been placed first by the three judges and was obviously the crowd’s favourite and rightly so. It was a very concerned group of judges minus Rodger that congregated in the bar afterwards to discuss the glaringly forged results. Tim was the first to comment.

‘Ken, if Colleen does not win this contest, there will be hell to pay, the audience are not fools.’

Pauline and Brenda agreed.

‘What was I supposed to do?’ Ken exclaimed. ‘Roger passed me the results in reverse order. I had no idea what you all had agreed on.’

As usual Colin had been up to his tricks and he has obviously rigged the whole result, either making his friend Roberto the winner or, even worse, making the other three end up in the order that the group of thugs wanted. It was an extremely concerned group that finally went to bed that night, their heads swimming with confused thoughts as to how they were going to stop all this skullduggery from happening. What had started as good wholesome fun was turning into something that might have occurred in gangland London in the fifties, but surely there could not be enough money involved in this silly small Beauty contest, in a small holiday camp set in the sleepy town of Burnham by the Sea. Ken and his friends had to come up with something soon or they might just find their special holiday was turning into a holiday from hell. They had less than twenty four hours to come up with a solution which would make the crowd happy and let them to come out smelling of roses! Not too hard then!

Pauline was speaking.

‘You know that Colin fellow has got a good idea here, it seems everything is an exact copy of how things were in the 1950’s and the customers here are enjoying every minute of it. Look at the children enjoying themselves on the Donkey Derby, the go-carts rushing around the tracks, not to mention the fun everyone is having on the sandy beaches.’

Brenda nodded her agreement.

‘It certainly looks like it is back to basics and, as we all know, a lot of the old ways of enjoying yourself were great’.

‘Ken, what do you think about Colin trying to fix the contest?’ asked Tim.

‘Well I can’t understand it at all. He is obviously not short of money and while he might like his friend Roberto to win, it does not make any sense to invite problems from the campers by fixing the results,’ Ken replied. ‘I am not sure he really knows about everything that is going on – I mean the extra two people added to your list were certainly not meant to be on it.’

‘What if our friendly judge Rodger is involved with the crooks?’ asked Tim. ‘It makes more sense that he could influence things as he is the last judge to handle the results.’

Pauline looked glum.

‘We don’t have long to come up with a solution to all this. I for one don’t wish to be tarred and feathered’.

The three others nodded their agreement.

The night of the grand finale arrived and the four friends had to agree that their friend Colin had not spared any expense. Somehow he had managed to tie up with the local army camp and in marched one hundred centurions, their armour shining in the spotlights which splashed their way around the auditorium highlighting every nook and cranny. It gave the impression that everyone was involved, whether they wanted to be or not. With the large kettle drums beating out in time to the soldiers marching, it had quite an effect.

The last performance as far as the contestants were concerned meant that they would all be dressed in their evening gowns and would give their reasons why they wished to be crowned Queen. If they could add some humour to their act then that would even be better. The first three ladies tried their best but failed to excite the crowd and the judges. Roberto was different. He was in fact extremely funny, going into a specially prepared act which had most of the audience laughing and clapping, he would be a hard act to beat. The problem was that he was not a she, but then everyone had seemed to accept that he was now a she – if you get the meaning. It fell to Colleen to come up with something special and to be fair she did. Colleen gave a humorous speech in which she told of her grandmother entering a similar competition some years back in which she had managed to win over the judges and crowd. One of the highlights was her grandmother, new to entering such a contest and doing so as a dare from her girl friends, had put on her swimsuit back to front and making matters worse had gone onto the stage, the kind organisers not stopping her! In the 1920s such a feat would have undoubtedly brought the house down, not to mention half the police force. However, it was all hushed up by the organisers and after giving her the cup they had all agreed that Colleen’s grandmother had shown herself to have the best figure! Well, everyone had seen much more of it, that was for sure! Now all the judges had to do was to make sure that Colleen came first, followed by the funny Roberto, but how could they pull it off?

It was Pauline who came to the rescue, she suddenly left her seat and disappeared behind the curtains. She reappeared, whispered into Ken’s ear and returned to her seat.

The judges completed their final summing-up and gave the result to Rodger who looked at them and after making a few mysterious marks on the cards, passed them onto Ken. The whole hall was silent. Everyone waited patiently while Ken went through the usual suspense of deliberately holding onto the results. The timing was good and the crowd started to get excited, with the majority of them now in the Colleen for Queen camp. If Ken got it wrong it could mean the end of the Roman

Empire and if the three judges read it right – Rome might burn that evening without anyone playing the fiddle! Perhaps however, someone had already been doing the fiddling already!

Ken’s face looked worried. He could not understand why Pauline had told him to do what she wanted him to do – it looked like it would be playing into the crooks’ hands and Colleen would finish – last! He glanced over to his wife and his eyes pleaded as if to ask for some guidance on what to do. Pauline nodded as if to reinforce the last instructions that she had whispered to him.

Ken cleared his throat and started announcing the results. In reverse order: No 5 and 4, they would be the Queens attendants with £10 each, followed by number 3 who would be receive the third prize cash prize of £25. Then number 2 who would be the official runner up and would receive the second cash prize of £50. and then the winner No 1….The crowd waited for the girls to appear from behind the curtains and in they came…5, 4, 3, followed by the triumphant Rodger who appeared to be completely happy to be the runner up…Cheers and screams echoed around the auditorium as the Beauty Queen for 2009 appeared, Colleen smiling broadly and waving to her supporters who now seemed to be everyone in the building including Caesar who was standing up clapping and waving as loud as anyone else. Ken gave a sigh of relief and the judges stood an applauded with the exception of Rodger who remained seated apparently stunned into silence. The next fifteen minutes were taken over by the man of the moment, Caesar, who waltzed onto the stage with his lion, fortunately one consisting of his two assistants. They caused great mirth as the front end could not see everything properly and bumped into Caesar, causing him to go spread-eagled onto his stomach inadvertently, showing that the Caesars of the day did not wear very much under their togas. His pink bottom was a picture, but the crowd loved it even more, thinking it was all part of Caesar’s act which they had all learnt to enjoy to say the least.

The four friends retreated to the bar and sat down with complementary drinks supplied by the management which was by now completely surrounded by customers congratulating him on such a wonderful night.

Tim and Brenda couldn’t contain themselves any longer. They wanted to know how Ken and even more so Pauline had managed to ensure the correct result!

Pauline smiled.

‘It was relatively easy, I went behind and gave them numbers which they would not have normally carried with their gowns. I gave Colleen number one and Roberto number two and told them under no circumstances were they to exchange or give them to anyone else. That is why the five of them took so long coming out – one of the five certainly knew of the arrangement and tried to change the numbers back. Colleen, being herself, refused and Roberto hearing the results was not about to agree!’

Ken went on: ‘I was a little confused because I had the results which were in the same order but with the same numbers against different people. If Pauline had not changed the numbers around behind the scenes they would have come out as the gang wanted!’

Pauline smiled.

‘As long as Ken called out only the numbers we were home safe and sound!’

Ken kissed her on the cheek.

‘It is the first time in my life that I was pleased that I followed your orders to the letter!’

‘Oh don’t you mean numbers, dear?’ replied his wife.

The following evening was the grand feast which was open to everyone who had been in the camp that week. All the contestants were there and seated in the centre was Caesar and his entourage which included the three judges and his compere. The fourth judge, Rodger, had suddenly disappeared, most likely to escape any retribution from his fellow gang members. Rodger’s interest in the camp boss had suddenly waned and he was nowhere to be found. If Colin was disappointed with this turn of events, he did not show it in any way and spent his time lying on his couch eating grapes and placing some in the mouths of the two young ladies who now accompanied him. It would seem that the Emperor had changed his allegiance yet again.

‘Hail Caesar and goodbye’ and as the four friends left the camp at the end of their free holiday. They couldn’t help agreeing that at the entrance of the sunny holiday camp, signs should be erected saying ‘Campers – Beware!’

(c) Copyright Ken Wise

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