Jimmy Jangles prepared as he always did one late Saturday night to watch his favourite TV sport programme, Melee of The Day. He seemed to have watched this every week of his life as far as he could remember. His father had also been a fan though the format had apparently been somewhat different in those days. The broadcast was preceded by a news bulletin which ended with the advice that those not wishing to know the results of MOTD should leave the room. He duly acquiesced to this tiny bit of theatre and stood at the open kitchen window, feeling the slight breeze on his face and listening to cats wailing. There was no one in the street as many people were doing exactly the same as him.
He was summoned to his viewing chair by the cheerful, bouncy, electronic theme near-tune and sat down with one hand gently caressing the remote, the other gripping a glass of gin and tonic. A grab bag of caviar flavour crisps lay on the low table between him and the 110 inch TV that provided the only illumination in that room and that was in essence the room.
The presenter, Johnny Bland, beamed his smile, introduced the two pundits, Oliver Overbite and Alan Contemptible, and commented briefly on the events to be shown, claiming, with the right amount of gravitas in danger of being ruined by mirth, that it had been a very busy Saturday with some memorable action and debatable points.
They began as usual with the most spectacular event. Highlights were shown of a bomb attack on a northern discount shopping centre that had left 63 people dead and over 150 injured. The huge array of CCTV cameras available and the inclusion of smart phone and dash and helmet cam filming meant that most of the hostility was available to be viewed by paying customers. Contemptible was very impressed that the bombers had planted a second device in the narrow road that led to the shops, timed to go off as the first injured were being helped onto a convoy of ambulances. Vivid depiction of bodies being extricated from burning vehicles was repeated for purposes of analysis, being frozen when certain points were felt necessary to make. Jimmy was treated to the awful spectacle of distraught paramedics treating their colleagues and the long line of blazing, blooded ambulances framed in a sepulchral drizzle. Overbite felt that the follow up detonation was “unsportsmanlike”and fell foul of the much misunderstood offside rule, predicting that these terrorists would endure a wretched season as a result of the type of tactics employed in this cunning ambush. Contemptible disagreed, saying that attackers should always given the benefit of the doubt in such cases and a heated argument followed that ended when Bland, a slightly faded national hero, acted as referee, the screen filled by his face as he moved ironically but seamlessly on to the next encounter.
This turned out to be an entirely different kind of beast. This time Jimmy watched a distressed man dressed in an all purple outfit run amok in a bookies with a bread knife and a deodorant aerosol can. This was especially visceral entertainment replayed in grainy images of disembowelment and blinding with a background of banks of TV sets relaying live pictures of the new horse racing, a cross between the Grand National, the Charge of The Light Brigade and medieval jousting. The assailant was overcome by the surviving gamblers and passers by and was lifeless by the time the police armoured personnel carriers and the helicorpsecopters arrived. A small crowd had gathered across the road to watch, careful not to stand too close to one another in case of further danger.
Jimmy at one point thought that he recognised one of the victims as his cousin Eric who had recently moved to the midlands to find work as a forklift driver at a body armour warehouse. If he remembered, he would try to ring his aunt the following day or, failing that, replay that part of the show and zoom in for identification purposes.
There was a rather muted discussion of this crime in the studio, partly because of the personal nature of the offence, partly because the transgressor’s face was visible and therefore known to some extent. The three experienced former sportsmen were visibly uncomfortable. The terms and conditions of their healthy contracts prevented them from reminiscing on how things had been in the time of football before escalating aggression, both on and off the pitch, and the increasing susceptibility of large crowds to terrible devastation had led to the abandonment of conventional sporting events and venues.
No one was really sure how the civil war had started or even who was involved. Jimmy seemed to recall some social media spat getting out of hand and then people coming out from behind their computers when the country was broken up into different parts. But he thought that he could have been wrong especially as the combination of painkillers and alcohol was now making him confuse erotic with erratic and love with loathe . He had been this way since he had lost his job in a photographic equipment factory when it had gone onto short time working due to the necessity to observe two minutes silence in remembrance of the latest deaths for much of the working day.
The last featured atrocity was an assault on shoppers at a vast second hand car sales centre by a man driving a white van. He drove at speed along the lanes between the rows of cars and began to hunt other motorists, ploughing into them, throwing many into the air. He finally drove out wildly onto the nearby motorway where both he and his vehicle were obliterated by a cement lorry that he’d failed to see in his wing mirror.
Contemptible stood up and tried to analyse this event by rather hamfistedly operating an interactive screen to illustrate this latest act of terror. He allowed himself a whistle of admiration when he played back the scene that showed this particular murderer actually buying the van at the site of the carnage immediately before unleashing his killing spree. On the other hand, he felt that the reversing of the van over a number of prone victims was, well, contemptible. Much of the footage of this massacre came from the belt buckle cams of those present including the casualties and, equally harrowing, the dash and rear cams of the van.
The Bomb of The Month competition was mentioned and the merits of the ten entries considered. Jimmy thought that No.7, the petrol bombing of a petrol station that was about to close down on a forsaken part of the east coast, won his vote. He was at heart an old romantic and art lover who appreciated the bold colours of towering flames against a black sea sky and the fact that, in his view, these were activists protesting against the end of their community. He was especially drawn to the compelling, high camera views of the mob carrying their Molotov cocktails, advancing wordlessly across the forecourt towards the kiosk like something out of the Peasants’ Revolt or Children of The Damned.
Bland ended the transmission on an upbeat note, thanking his co-presenters and all those people who had allowed permission for the show’s producers, the New Blood Sport Broadcasting Corporation, to use their films of the violence. With a wink, he let the audience know of a new companion for MOTD that would be aired in mid week, Celebrity Melee of The Day and, as ever, he repeated the lie that what he had just presented to the nation were merely isolated incidents.
Jimmy muted the set and gulped down another G and T, washing down sleeping pills that he knew would not do the job tonight.