It was in the pub that Bill was offered the chance to earn a hundred thousand pounds.
'What me, you serious?' was the young man's natural response.
'Absolutely serious,' said the young lady who had gone out to recruit likely candidates. 'We'd like you to take part in a documentary. It's an afternoon's work, that's all. The only proviso is you don't walk out. But stay with it and the money's yours.'
'Hey, what kind of documentary is this?' asked Bill, who was not one to be taken for a mug.
'I'm afraid I can't reveal that, you know,' said the lady, wagging her finger. 'You'll have to take it on trust, but you'll sign a contract guaranteeing the money if you continue to the end.
'Hey what do you think, lads?' Bill asked his friends.
His friends all readily agreed that Bill would be foolish to pass up the opportunity. Bill was not one to go against the wise council of his friends, so he immediately agreed and two weeks later, found himself at the secret location given to him by the young lady. That is why he was now meeting a thin middle aged man with a bald head and spectacles perched on the end of his nose.
'Mr Jones, pleased to meet you,' said the man. 'My name is Rupert, I am presenting the documentary.'
'Nice one,' said Bill. 'So what's the idea here?'
'Well the first thing Mr Jones, is we have to get you fitted out for a straitjacket,'
'A what?' said Bill.
'A straitjacket, Mr Jones. The idea is to be able to manage tasks which would normally require arms. Remember you can always back out if you wish.'
'No, that's good,' said Bill. 'I can do that,'
Rupert smiled warmly. 'Excellent, Mr Jones. I'm sure you won't regret it. Please follow me.'
Rupert was showed to a bare white room, containing only a table and chair. There were cameras in the top corners of the room.
'Please be aware that the filming starts now,' said Rupert and gestured towards the wall. The cameras suddenly all moved round to point at Bill with a mechanical whir.
'Please sit, Mr Jones,' said Rupert, gesturing to the chair.
A man came in with the white straitjacket and fitted Bill with it.
'How does it feel, Mr Jones? Comfortable.'
'Yeah it's fine,' said Bill. His arms were pressed against his chest and he wriggled around in it, grinning inanely at Rupert.
'Oh I'm afraid there's no escape from it,' laughed Rupert. 'The best escapologists can't get out of this one.'
'Ok so what's the first test,' said Bill with a grin. 'Bring it on, I'm ready for it.'
'Well actually the first task is to sign the contract, Mr Jones.' He produced a sheet of paper and a pen and placed it on the table in front of Bill. 'It's all quite simple. A hundred thousand pounds to carry on until the end.'
'Nice one, but how am I supposed to sign,' said Bill.
'Ah, I'm afraid you'll have to improvise there, Mr Jones,' said Rupert.
'Ok,' said Bill, nodding his head. 'Improvise. I can do that.'
Bill smirked at Rupert as he leant forward and picked up the pen with his teeth.
'Excellent, Mr Jones,' said Rupert with a smile, as Bill signed his first name in a childish scrawl. 'I see you'll have no trouble at all completing the tests. You'll soon be a wealthy man.'
The door opened and a large stout man walked in with a pint of beer. He placed it in front of Bill.
'In the questionnaire, Mr Jones you cited drinking beer as one of your favourite leisure activities. Well Mr Jones, to commence proceedings, why not start with a drink.'
'I think I'm gonna enjoy this game,' said Bill. He took the glass between his teeth and slowly tilted his head back. Some of the beer spilt down the sides of his face and over the straitjacket but he drank most of it all in one go before triumphantly placing the empty glass back on the table and belching. Rupert patted him on the back.
'Excellent, Mr Jones,' he chuckled. 'You truly are a remarkable fellow.'
Besides drinking beer, another of Bill's favourite activities was football, so it was apt that five men dressed in the colours of Bill's favourite football team clomped into the room. They brought with them a football and some goal posts, which they placed at the back of the room.
'How are you in goal, Mr Jones,' said Rupert.
'Well I'm normally a striker me,' said Bill. 'But I'll give it a go.'
'That's the spirit!' exclaimed Rupert. 'You have the makings of a winner, Mr Jones.'
Bill stood in the mouth of the goal and taking a wide stance swayed from side to side. The first player took a shot towards the corner of the goal. Bill took a dive, missing the ball and landing painfully on his right shoulder. Bill cursed and struggled to get back up, having to roll onto his front and stagger back into a standing position from his knees.
'I do hope you are not too badly injured, Mr Jones,' said Rupert. 'Do you wish to continue?'
'Too right, I do!' exclaimed Bill. 'Bring it on!'
'Stout fellow!' remarked Rupert. 'You are truly what this country needs. Men of backbone and stamina like yourself. I commend you, Mr Jones.'
Bill swayed from side to side again, breathing through his teeth, his eyes fixed at the next shooter. The next shot hit him square in the face, knocking him off his feet.
'Bad form bad form!' called out Rupert. 'This is surely not how the beautiful game should be played. Red card, red card!' The football players picked up the goal and left the room. Bill struggled into a kneeling position his head towards the floor. Blood gushed from his nose and onto the white tiles. Bill expressed a wish to end the life of the offending player.
'Of course, Mr Jones,' said Rupert. 'This behaviour is quite unacceptable. I'm afraid the boys do get a little boisterous at times. Please forgive us, Mr Jones.'
'Well come on lets get on with it then,' said Bill. 'What's the next test?'
'I admire your fortitude Mr Jones. First perhaps, you would like to clean up.'
A man dressed in a blue outfit came in with a bucket and a flannel. He placed it on the floor next to Bill. Bill lifted his head and peered into the bucket. 'What the –' he began before his head was roughly shoved into the icy water.
'Please refresh yourself Mr Jones,' said Rupert. 'There is nothing like a good invigorating wash. Sharpens the nerves and senses I think. Braces one for the challenges that lie ahead.'
The man lifted Bills head up, enough for a hurried gasp of air, before plunging it into the murky waters for a second time. Bill tried to manoeuvre his body around the bucket but the man knelt on his calves, pinning him to the spot. The darkness was swirling over Bill and just as his body was going limp he was thrust out into the light again and hurled onto the floor. The man picked up the bucket and emptied the remains of the water over Bill who lay gasping on the floor.
'Please recover yourself, Mr Jones, said Rupert, leaning over Bill. 'I am sure you will want to give this fellow a bit of a sorting out, I dare say. A bit of a pasting, a battering, a hiding if I may say so. I fear you will not be able to administer a knuckle sandwich, but surely a good kicking would be on the cards, would it not, Mr Jones. But be warned, Mr Jones. This fellow here is an expert on all the martial arts. Ju-jitsu, karate, aikido, tai-kwon-do, kick boxing; but I am sure this will not deter you, Mr Jones. You are not a man to take this lying down, Mr Jones. Stand up and regain your lost honour. Teach this ruffian a lesson he will not forget!'
Bill recovered himself and the gleam returned to his eyes. He spat and got himself to his feet. The man waited impassively a few metres away, his arms crossed.
'See how he mocks you,' said Rupert. 'He only has himself to blame, Mr Jones. Of course you can decide to end this now, if you so wish –'
'You reckon!' blurted out Bill. Bill then informed the fellow opposite that he would manufacture for him a new bodily cavity before charging headlong at the man, emitting a valiant battle cry. The man sidestepped him and Bill charged straight into the wall. Bill took the force of the collision on the soaking wet straitjacket which made for a good buffer and then turned to face his antagonist once again. Bill kicked out in front of him, first with the right, then with the left. The martial artist slapped the oncoming feet away and appeared to be doing a little dance as he did so, hopping from foot to foot with a playful smirk on his face. This enraged Bill so much that he emitted another battle cry and went for a head butt. At the last minute, the smug face was replaced with a hard hand, which slapped Bill on the forehead in a most insulting manner. Then another slap landed on the ear and the back of the head and Bill was been spun round, round and round before being catapulted off into the table. Bill recovered himself and charged again. This time the martial artist grabbed Bill by the hair and Bill felt his jaw crumple under a huge weight before blacking out.
When Bill came to he found himself strapped into a motor car. Through the windscreen he could see that he was situated at the top of a steep hill. A path lay before him plunging downwards at a most alarming gradient; on either side of which stood imposing stone rock faces going higher than the eye could see.
'Mr Jones, congratulations!'
Bill looked to see Rupert's face next to him, his face beaming with admiration.
'The test is over now, Mr Jones. Now it is time to collect your payment and very well earned it is too, if I may say so Mr Jones.'
'What?' said Bill, his eyes bloodshot and weary.
'One of your interests is motor racing, is it not Mr Jones. Well what better way to collect your fee than in a speeding motor car. Yes there will be no nasty policemen to apprehend you now, Mr Jones. Just a nice fat juicy wad of cash at the bottom of that hill. Does that not get the blood pumping Mr Jones? One hundred thousand pounds, as promised. Are you ready Mr Jones?'
Bill emitted a loud wail, his face anguished and tormented.
'Get me out of here!' he bellowed. 'Please get me out of here!'
'Never fear, Mr Jones. You will soon be on your way.'
Rupert nodded to the side and the car began to ease forward and begin it's descent down the hill. Bill rocked from side to side, his face contorted with all sorts of emotions.
'I want to quit! I want to quit!' he exclaimed. 'Save me, save me!'
But by now the car was picking up speed, the passing scenery accelerating into a blur. Bill slammed on the brakes which proved ineffective, the car continuing to get faster and faster. The wind rushed through the open windows and the car bounced and jogged along the rough terrain. Then Bill saw with deadly certainty a dead end straight ahead. A brick wall covered in bind weed coming straight towards him. Bill screamed and leaning forwards tried to move the steering wheel with his torso to avoid the terrible end that lay before him, but to no avail. The car had already plunged headlong into the wall and with it Bill, into a strange new life.
With a crash and a screaming of brakes and lungs, Bill was thrown into an unknown world filled with bright lights and noise. Looking around he saw lots of happy faces, applauding him, cheering him, chanting his name. The door next to him opened and he was lifted from the car and helped to his feet. The straitjacket was removed and he shook his arms free. Then a tanned, beaming man in a suit approached him with a microphone and a grin wider than a Cheshire cat.
'Ladies and gentleman, would you please put your hands together for Mr William Jones, the winner of this weeks show - Straitjacket'!'
The tanned man lifted one of Bill's arms aloft and the crowd whooped and cheered with wild abandonment. On the big screen the image of the car in which Bill was an involuntary passenger, was shown in slow motion as it went through the bind weeds and into the studio, before being halted by remote controlled brakes.
'Welcome to Celebrity Knocks!' said the tanned man. 'That was quite an ordeal you went through, wasn't it?'
Bill leaned into the microphone, his face dripping with sweat.
'It was tough,' said Bill struggling to control his emotions. 'I thought I was going to die.'
'But you did not die, you persevered and are the champion of this weeks show. How does it feel to be the winner of a hundred thousand pounds?'
'It feels bloody brilliant!' he said allowing himself to smile, because it was true. As his watering eyes took in the scenes of merriment and rapture and unrestrained joy he realised he had been given something far greater than money. As he looked into the glowing eyes of the audience he realised he was a hero, a celebrity. It was something no amount of money could give him. He was a somebody.