* 200 articles. Two years. Whelk. The best of Upsideclown. Might be reprinted.

Meat Bingo or Death

30 December 2002
George says the game is starting.

I call. I am the caller. I call and they come.

We open at eight-thirty each morning. Earlier, and we wouldn't be able to get the staff, although if we opened at six there would still be queues down the block. By the time the seafront doors are pushed to I've helped hoover over the main floor and scrub up the wide stage. We have to bleach and disinfect all wood surfaces: health and safety.

The punters pay at the door and get the glossed laminated cards from Dave. Even before the first of them have reached their tables the waitresses have begun bringing up the meat from the basement freezers. The display cabinets at the front are back-lit with clear perspex shelves and doors. From the prime table - centre, first step up - the fillet steak is at eye-level. To begin with there was an undignified half-rush to take this table and those around it. When you can see the prey the hunt is that much more exciting. Now the inner circle of meat winners rotate weekly there.

As the hunters sit, I prepare. My tuxedo has been sprayed and polished sparkling clean that morning. Even as the final chops and cuts are being arranged I am talced up and inching my way in.

When the final hunters are seated and carded and have their drinks, I check to see that the meat is neatly and attractively presented. I check the power lead to the ball machine. I run my forefinger over the trigger of the cold gun. And then I go onstage.

Some of the hunters have charms and trinkets on the tables. I think some of them are remnants of the hunting days - the real blood hunting. Not that there isn't blood here but...well. No dogs. The rich ones have elegant silver hound charms, jewelled horses. Those who don't win meat so frequently have smaller crude plush dogs. Some hunters, those who never hunted with dogs, have more traditional toys and bits.

It's been a very long time since anyone came to the hall in either red coat or jodhpurs. I think the knee-high boots are more for fashion's sake than a sign of anything else.

I walk onstage, passing one of the prey display cabinets. The hunters know and love me, and there is politely enthusiastic applause as I come to the ball machine and display board. I give my patter, rub them up gently to prepare them for the coming hours. The first game starts.

Even though there is the horrible urgency of the prizes, the prey, I do not take the numbers quickly. If it weren't for the economic need for multiple games, I would take several hours over each hunt, lingering over the figures, letting the hunters scent them as they fall and detecting those that remain. Even though our chiller cabinets operate perfectly I swear that the smell of the fresh beef and lamb becomes more and more detectable as the hours wear on. I am often thankful that the only dogs in here are metal and fluff.

I call well, I do not let my attention wander. Even so, though, I am still able to scan the hall as I call. Like me, the hunters are alert and listening. Occasionally there will be a darting of eyes from the scorecards to the meat but only from the lesser players. There is of course a high level of chance in this type of game, but I am convinced that good hunters also possess a high level of skill. Intense unbreakable concentration marks the best of the hunters here.

The end of the first game, when it comes, is always more surprising than subsequent games. The first winner, whilst not so lucky as the last winner (obviously) is somehow more special. I am still taken by the strange poignancy of the man or woman who has prime choice of the meat at the beginning of the day yet may not live to take it home.

The winner of the game comes up to the stage, and picks his or her meat. The hunter with the fewest marks on their card (and there is sometimes more than one, which is where providence and chance play their hand) also comes up, whereupon I shoot them. Both hunters leave (one carried), the stage is mopped and the cabinet disinfected, and the next game begins.

The hunt - there is skill and chance and danger. I used to start each game with a blow of the horn, but there were complaints from local residents, especially from the early morning games. Apparently the gunshots sound similar enough to the waves crashing on the shore.

Despite the obvious law of diminishing returns on this one, we always get a full house each day.


This is the fucking archive

Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
10 November 2003. George writes: Dead beat
20 October 2003. George writes: Shortening
29 September 2003. George writes: Manhattanites are Cleavage-Starved
11 September 2003. George writes: How to Bring Us in Line With the Future
18 August 2003. George writes: Slashtastic
28 July 2003. George writes: Underground Independent Small Press Comic Fight Club
7 July 2003. George writes: Careering
16 June 2003. George writes: Choose your own adventure
26 May 2003. George writes: Revelations
8 May 2003. George writes: Picture Perfect
14 April 2003. George writes: MetaPirate
24 March 2003. George writes: Preparation X
3 March 2003. George writes: F of x
13 February 2003. George writes: Three is the magic number
23 January 2003. George writes: Recorded Delivery
30 December 2002. George writes: Meat Bingo or Death
12 December 2002. George writes: Royal Inquisitor
21 November 2002. George writes: This Clown is Cancelled
28 October 2002. George writes: Shopping with God
3 October 2002. George writes: SaferSpoony
16 September 2002. George writes: Supercalanthropomorphicexpealidocious
26 August 2002. George writes: The deformed animal menagerie
5 August 2002. George writes: Plaice that Funky Music, Whitebait
15 July 2002. George writes: Safe as Houses
24 June 2002. George writes: Two Lions (DB/DS)
30 May 2002. George writes: Series 8
9 May 2002. George writes: Market Stall
11 April 2002. George writes: I, the Enlargened, Crunchy Product
18 March 2002. George writes: Cakexterminator
21 February 2002. George writes: Fiction Suit
28 January 2002. George writes: Spunk Gunk
31 December 2001. George writes: Fairytale of New Pork
10 December 2001. George writes: Circular
15 November 2001. George writes: A Man With No Ass Is No Man At All
22 October 2001. George writes: One Night in Heaven
27 September 2001. George writes: Uncut
3 September 2001. George writes: Porn Pants
9 August 2001. George writes: Names of the Roses
19 July 2001. George writes: No Fun Here
21 June 2001. George writes: All Your Elections are Belong to Us
28 May 2001. George writes: Pierced as Fuck
3 May 2001. George writes: My Lovely Horse
9 April 2001. George writes: Eight Hundred and Forty-Three
12 March 2001. George writes: Kill 'Em All
19 February 2001. George writes: Formal
25 January 2001. George writes: Sticks and stones
11 January 2001. George writes: A Thought on Morality
11 December 2000. George writes: You can't put that into a soufflé
13 November 2000. George writes: Lyrical Genius
19 October 2000. George writes: Wet wet wet wet wet
25 September 2000. George writes: Built on an Indian burial ground
31 August 2000. George writes: This Way
31 July 2000. George writes: Runt of the Litter

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