The Prize of the Cat: Wooof’s missing pony from 1979!


A TVTA Short Story Mystery Special !! 


WHSmith Pony competition Look-In N°15 1979 UK


Our intrepid office cat Wooof reckons that in 1979 he won a pony in a W.H. Smith ‘outdoors’ competition, and that W.H. Smith cheated him out of his prize by deliberately misplacing ‘Bess’ at the Bull Ring Shopping Centre in Birmingham, England (Wooof told me he had already named the pony ‘Bess’ even before the ink had dried on his entry form, such was his confidence in winning!).

“I vote we crank up the TVTA time machine and go back to 1979 Birmingham to find out what happened,” said Wooof.

“Right now?” I replied. “I haven’t finished scanning those vintage egg-cosy knitwear patterns Mrs Coldkettle the tea lady donated.”

“Forget fashion accessories for boiled eggs,” said the cat. “We need to find Bess!”

CUT TO:


** TEN MINUTES LATER ** DIAL SET TO 1979, BIRMINGHAM BULL RING SHOPPING CENTRE ** SOUNDS OF TVTA TIME MACHINE WARP-WHOOSHING!! **


1979!!!

Crivens! Wooof and I arrived in 1979 Birmingham to absolute mayhem… flipping dinosaurs everywhere!! Funny, I don’t remember dinosaurs being around in 1979 in the West Midlands… Gah! Worse was that one of the vicious beasts, a T-Rex no less, had captured our missing nag and was about to make a pony sandwich out of her! Poor Bess!

“NOOOOOOooooooo!!!!” cried Wooof.

“It’s okay Wooof,” I said. “I don’t think that’s actually Bess in the jaws of that mad dinosaur… look closely… the poor creature is a fully-grown horse… whereas Bess is a mere pony and has WHSmith gift tags attached her!”

“Thank goodness for that!” said Wooof. “So, tell me, if the dinosaur doesn’t have Bess, who does?”

“A simple process of elimination will have us arriving at a satisfactory answer in no time at all,” I replied.

“I’m all ears,” said Wooof. “Who’s the culprit?”

Elvis Costello!”

Wooof frowned. “No way. Elvis Costello would never stoop so low as to rustle a pony!”

“Alright, fine, if not Elvis, how about the TV versions of Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and the Incredible Hulk?”

“That’s just sick!” said the cat. “Superheroes are sworn to protect all ponies!”

“Even the TV superhero ones?”

“TV ones especially! There was no one else to look up to back in their day.”

“Maybe TV Hulk accidently stepped on Bess?”

“Are you serious?”

“Sometimes.”

“Next you’ll be accusing Captain Kirk!”

“Don’t be daft,” I said. “But maybe, just maybe… Spock has Bess!”

“Spock doesn’t have Bess,” sighed Wooof.

“Monkey?”

“Gahhhh! No,” said Wooof.

“Wonder Woman then?” said I.

“!!#!@!!! No!!!” cried the cat. This process of elimination is going to take ages!”


** SEVEN AND A HALF HOURS LATER **


Finally… I came up with a good solution to our dilemma…

“How about I call Spaceline?” I said.

“What in the name of holy cat biscuits is Spaceline?”

“It’s a recorded information line in 1984 that sometimes deals with time travel issues. All we have to do to access it is travel to 1984.”

“Well what are we waiting for!” said the cat, “Let’s hit 1984!”

CUT TO:


** DIAL SET FOR 1984 ** SEATBELTS FASTENED ** POWER FROCK SHOULDER PADS IN POSITION ** DURAN DURAN CASSETTES INSERTED INTO SONY WALKMANS ** SOUNDS OF TVTA TIME MACHINE WARP-WHOOSHING!! **


Wooof and I arrived in 1984 quicker than you can say ‘Big Brother is washing your Mullet.’ After several attempts we managed to locate a working red telephone box, and Wooof dropped a 10 Pence coin into the slot while I dialled the number on my print advert. We waited. Beep. Beep. Beep. ‘The time sponsored by Accurist is…’

Oops, wrong number. Try again…

We were eventually connected to a well-spoken female robot, and she said to us: “Welcome to Spaceline. You are speaking to Trinity9. How may I be of assistance?”

“We’re looking for my prize pony,” said Wooof. “Her name’s Bess…”  and he went on to explain the whole sorry story down the phoneline to Trinity9.

“I see,” said Trinity9. “So… you believe you were cheated out of a 1979 first prize pony by the competition organiser, and you suspect that this pony, who you named ‘Bess’, is currently located somewhere in a shopping centre in 1979 Birmingham, England?”

“Absotiffily!” said Wooof.”

“Liar!” said Trinity9, making Wooof jump. “There is no way you could have entered that competition in 1979… you weren’t even born!”

“I resent that undeniable fact!” said Wooof.

“He’s actually sixty-one in cat years,” I said.

“Your office cat is a big cheater!” said Trinity9.

“How dare you call me a cheetah!” exclaimed Wooof. ‘I’m a mixed breed Domestic Panther Tabby Green Nikto, if you must know!”

“He’s cross,” I said.

“I’m fuming!” said Wooof.

“We don’t appreciate these slurs,” I said.

“Too right,” agreed Wooof. “And I’ve been working hard on being appreciated!”

“Whatever,” replied Trinity9. “It doesn’t change the fact you manipulated your way into the past with the sole aim of winning a pony. This cat is a law breaker!”

“Operator, you’re crossing the line with these accusations,” I said.

“Mm.. actually, can you hold the line a moment…”

  • Please hold while you are connected to the next available agent.
  • For English press 1. Para Español presione el número 2.
  • Would you like to upgrade to our Elite Gold Viscount Emperor plan?
  • Your premium-rate call is important to us. Please continue to hold.
  • We’re sorry. All of our agents are busy. Please hang up and try again.

“Hello, Spaceline operator,” I said. “Trinity9, are you still there?”

“I’m still here.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing. I just put you on hold while I called the police.”

“Seriously? You called the police on us?”

“No. Not this time,” said Trinity9. “But think on… your cat cheated by secretly time-travelling to 1979 in order to win a pony. Just this very morning, he picked up an entry form from W.H. Smith… filled it in… posted it… then dashed back to the present time before you even had time to finish your breakfast! Cock-a-doodle-cornflakes!”

I turned to the cat. “Wooof, is this true?”

“I cannot lie,” replied Wooof. “I entered the competition this morning. I travelled back in time. I cheated. And I would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for that pesky Spaceline operator!”

“Wooof!” I cried. “Why? Why?!? You know our New Year’s Resolution this year was to stop cheating. Pfft. Failed once again… and we made it as far as October this year!!”

“Actually,” said the cat, “didn’t we, like, fail in February when you ‘accidently’ scanned 180 euros which you tried to pay the electricity bill with, and then we ended up…”

“Shhhhh! Not now, Wooof!” I hissed. “That was just an April Fool prank.”

“In February?”

“Ahem, ahem,” coughed Trinty9.

“Yes?”

“Talking of euros… it is my duty to inform you that your call so far has cost 50 euros in charges.”

“50 flippin euros!?!!”

“It’s a premium phone line, sir!”

“Well, for 50 euros you can at least tell us if Wooof won that perishing competition or not.”

“No, I’m afraid your cat didn’t win.”

“Not even the sailing holiday prize?” Wooof asked hopefully.

“No.”

“A Binatone TV?

“Nope.”

“The runner up prize of a camera?”

“No,” said Trinity9. “You won absolutely nothing. And good… serves you right for cheating!”

“Well that sucks massively,” said Wooof. “So how do you explain disappearing ponies called ‘Bess’ in the middle of Birmingham, shopping centres, dinosaurs on the loose, and all the other crazy things we haven’t even had time to mention yet?”

“I’m afraid your time-travelling shenanigans caused multiple time paradoxes,” said Trinty9. “Your competition cheating has damaged the very fabric of time.”

“Like the Butterfly Effect?” I said.

“More like the Bull-in-a-china-shop Effect,” replied Trinity9.

“Yes,” said Wooof. “We wondered why we saw dinosaurs in 1979 Birmingham. That really was stretching credibility to its absolute limits.”

“Yes,” I said, adding, “About as likely as finding King Kong in the Bullring Shopping Centre in 1972!”

“Ha, ha,” laughed Wooof. “Imagine that!”

“Ahem, ahem,” coughed Trinity9. “Sir, may I inform you that your call charge to Spaceline is about to exceed the 100 euro mark? This call is costing you and your cat a small fortune.”

“Wooof,” I said to the cat, handing him a shiny 50 Pence coin. “Nip to the nearest newsagent for two 10p mix-ups and a couple of comics, while I chat to the nice Spaceline operator.”

“Yippee!” cheered Wooof, leaving me alone in the phone box while he made for the nearest John Menzies.

John Menzies. Look In N°15. 1979. UK.

“So, what do you suggest I do?” I said to Trinity9. “I can’t possibly take Wooof back to the present time without some kind of pony prize… the poor cat will retreat into weeks of solitude and dark reflection, like how he did when he found out SpongeBob SquarePants wasn’t real.”

“I myself was equally shattered when I discovered Bob was only a cartoon,” replied Trinity9. “Didn’t sleep properly for days… and normally I’m a out-like-a-light-kind-of-robot-gal the moment my head hits the pillow…”

“Listen, Trinity9,” I said. “I’m not here to talk pillow talk… I’m here to kick missing first prize ass and chew nicotine replacement gum… and right now I’m all out of both! Come on, Spaceline lady robot buddy, help an editor out here… We can’t disappoint the cat! Fix it so that Wooof wins the pony, hm?”

“If you are suggesting I try and help you cheat in some way…” sniffed Trinity9.

“Not cheating…” I said, “Think of it more as bending the integrity of truth into a funny shape kind of thing… like those Bend ‘Ems toys, or Stretch Armstrong.”

“Or Play-Doh?”

“Yes! Absolutely! Do it for Play-Doh… think of the children!”

The phone went silent for an agonisingly long time.

Then: “Okay, Mr TVTA editor,” said Trinity9. “I have just the idea…”

“You do?”

“Oh boy do I!”

CUT TO:


** ONBOARD TVTA TIME MACHINE ** 1970s SWEETS AND COMICS BEING ENJOYED ** VERY HAPPY OFFICE CAT AND RELIEVED EDITOR ** DIAL SET FOR PRESENT TIME ** TVTA TIME MACHINE WARP-WHOOSHING!! **


“How do you like your new pony then?” I asked Wooof.

“She’s adorable,” replied the cat. “And you’re right… doing things the honest way is far more rewarding than cheating.”

“Correct,” I said. “Wooof, you know… cheating is never good… cheating is like…

[INSERT 4th wall break – brief lecture on the virtues of honesty vs cheating to get ahead, followed by back-slapping congratulations and manic laughter]

“Oh man! You are so right when you say all that!” agreed Wooof.

“Absolutely so. Now, tell me, old cat, what are you going to call your new pony?”

“I’m going to call her New Bess… In honour of Old Bess.”

“Wooof, that’s so thoughtful of you. Old Bess would be pleased to know you cared about her so much.”

“I miss her terribly,” said Wooof, gazing off into space, a sadness coming over him.

“I know, old cat. It’s going to take days to get over something like this.”

“Good thing I have my replacement pony then,” said Wooof, perking up a little.

“I admire your courage to move forward so quickly. Especially as it’s only been thirty minutes. Say, where is New Bess?”

“She’s right here,” said Wooof. “I just finished tidying her stables, and we’re all done with her grooming. Time for sugar cubes I think. New Bess…” Wooof called out to his pony… “Come to Wooof-daddy. It’s chow time!”

Enter:

New Bess

LATER…


TVTA EDITOR AND OFFICE CAT RELAXING IN FRONT OF LOG FIRE AT TVTA TOWERS ** COMICS, SLIPPERS, WARM MILK, G&T, PELICAN BEER, PIPE, VEGGIE CAT BISCUITS, PIZZA **


“What are you reading there?” I asked the cat.

He looked up from his vintage comic. “Catwoman,” he replied. “She’s my hero. But hey, I was just browsing some of the ads… and I was thinking of entering this, erm, competition thingy…”

“Hmmm… And what competition would that be?” I asked suspiciously.

“Oh, nothing too crazy.” Wooof handed me the comic, the page open to an advert… a competition… 1985…

“Wooof, no!!” I said, horrified.

“Come on… it’s only a quick trip to 1985… that’s just like yesterday man! And you know how much I’ve always wanted my own collection of art dinosaurs…”

“Absolutely no Wooof! No, no, no!!!!”


FIN


Story: TVTA

Images: scanned from the collection of TVTA

Dinosaur eating a horse comic strip images: Eagle, UK.

King Kong Bull Ring photo: Birminghammail.co.uk

Disco-claimer: No ponies or dinosaurs were harmed in this short story. Birmingham is a fictitious city and any resemblance to second cities in the UK either alive or dead is pure hearsay. No competitions were entered into illegally. W. H. Smith please don’t sue us… the above short story you have just read has been deep faked into the electronic pages of TVTA without our permission and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. Please help save TVTA immediately by donating cryptocurrency or sending hard cash in an envelope. We also accept diamonds, speedboats, Duran Duran tapes, pizza, cake, and cameo roles in indie or big budget films. Thanks.

Poem: The Broken Boat Saloon

Editor’s note: This poem is currently away on a top secret mission and will return later.

Words and art by the editor.

Thanks to a three-masted ship of inspiration:

Sophia Riley-Kobacker ** The History of Emotions Blog ** Everything2: Nick Cave’s Love Song Lecture **