There were some real fuzzy feelings hanging out in Ted’s chest as he looked around at his team. All the boys lounging around, Nate on the edge of his seat, Keeley on the couch with her legs folded underneath her, Rebecca injecting unabashed energy into the room. This whole Eurovision thing was a whole hoot and a half.
A Biscuits With the Boss discussion had been the hand that yanked the pulley that rang the clocktower bell—well, in short, things were set into motion. They’d ended up somehow or another on the topic of TV network owners Rebecca was acquainted with. Well, that she has the contact details of. She’d said they’re all twats she makes do with, but that’s besides the point. A new network had tried to wrench away the rights to broadcasting Eurovision this year, and there was a heckuva lot of behind-the-scenes drama from that fallout.
One major question arose while Rebecca was telling this tale. “Euro?” Ted had asked. “I thought that character was called ‘Wanda?’ I must be out of it—didn’t get enough sleep last night, got too into the Cowboys vs Steelers game. I kept telling my pillow that my head was ready to hit it after the next play, but pretty soon it was five a.m. Anyway, I haven’t really been keeping up with the MCU. Which has nothing to do with any statements public figures have or haven’t made lately! Although, Mr. Scorsese did make some points.”
“This isn’t about superheroes, Ted. Eurovision is a song competition. Think of it as, erm…” she’d waved her hands, “How can I put this for you? Think Super Bowl half time on cocaine.”
“I’ve always said that those performances have been going south since the year Carol Channing did half time.”
“Good! For instance, imagine Carol Channing, if she was singing whilst, I don’t know, riding a bull.”
“That imagery isn’t going to be leaving my head all day, so thank you for that.”
At training, Ted had saddled up to Beard. “You ever heard of this Europe vision thing?”
“And it’s this new competition they hold?”
“Not new. It was developed in the wake of World War II as a means of unifying the European nations through the power of music.”
“So it’s all them Europe countries going head-to-head?”
“Au-Australia?! And you’re telling me they count as Europe?”
“Nope. But they’re a commonwealth.”
Spotting Richard’s poor form, Ted had broken out of the conversation to actually do his job. “Richard! I want you to kick that ball like it’s a vending machine that’s just given you dark chocolate when you ordered a caramilk!”
Without stopping the exercise, Richard had said, “But that is my favorite kind, coach!”
“Well, substitute in something that really sends your taste buds running outta your mouth!”
“Fish!” Richard had shouted back.
A few days later, all eyes in the dressing room had snapped upward upon hearing Rebecca’s voice start to speak.
“Every one of you is putting your all into this club, and I thank you for your hard work. I’m extending an invitation to everyone here to come by mine next Saturday after the match, for the Eurovision final.” She’d looked pointedly at Ted, for they’d been discussing the importance of group camaraderie, and what off-time socialization can do to bond the team together. “Further details to be provided imminently.”
She’d left the room swifter than Taylor, rousing an excited buzz in her wake.
Team members had started crowding around Colin. Among the team, it was an open secret that Colin had a massive crush on their owner; they missed no opportunity to relentlessly tease him about it. Isaac had clapped him on the back, saying, “Don’t be disappointed when you find out you’ve got completely incompatible tastes in wallpaper or something, mate.”
Others, such as Sam, had been more on the confused side. “What is going on now? We’re watching a European match at Ms. Welton’s house?
To Ted, this had sounded like an excellent team building opportunity, what with the whole continent coming together for a shared event, or whatever was supposed to be going on. He still hadn’t known exactly what this whole song business was about, but he was exceedingly pumped about finding out.
And so it arrived: the day of both the away match against Crystal Palace and the Song Contest final. Before departing leaving for the game, Rebecca ensured her living room was in order and that the catering was all arranged. This was going to be the first time she entertained such a large group, at home, since the divorce. Though, knowing the company that was coming, they’d more than entertain their own selves.
Out in South London, Richmond tied, 0-0. The team arrived back at the clubhouse annoyed. Before they got off the bus, Roy spoke up.
“We’re going to go to Ms. Welton’s tonight, and we’re going to have a good time. Everyone hear me?”
“Yes captain,” all the boys (except Jamie, who rolled his eyes) chorused.
After arriving back at home, Rebecca’s doorbell rang. Expecting it to be the food, she opened the door without checking who it was. It was Colin.
She stared for a moment. “Hello, Colin. You’re quite early?”
“Really? I thought I’d come late?”
“No, you’re an hour early.” She put on a smile. “No bother, would you like to come inside?”
Colins’s cheeks went from Normal Cheek Sensations to On Fire in point oh four seconds. “Oh, no, I forgot, I was going to buy a. Lottery ticket. Forgot I was going to be doing that before coming here. Gotta get my lucky numbers.” He nodded and walked back up road.
She shut the door, puzzled.
Most everyone else showed up as a large group. It was quite like a parade, with the team walking in one after the other, issuing their greetings to Rebecca.
She had the largest TV screen any of them had ever seen. It had crisp, lifelike imagery and her surround sound was no joke.
“That’s a really nice television, Ms. Welton,” said Sam.
“Is that one with the paper screen technology, then?” asked Jamie. He’d been thinking of getting one for himself.
“It is,” she confirmed.
When everyone settled into a couch space or a chair before the opening, Jamie said, “Remember our entry in 2015? That shit stank.”
“It’s camp, Jamie,” said O’Brien. “How do you know about that anyway? I thought you said you’d never watched before.”
“Yeah, well I still know stuff, don’t I,” said Jamie.
“You’re missing out,” said Richard. “I listened to all of the songs fourteen times each already, and I know who I’m voting for.”
“And you’re voting for France,” said Isaac.
“And I’m choosing France because our song is the best.”
“Nobody gave me a heads up that we get to vote for our pick?!” said Ted. “How do we do that? I haven’t done something like this since—gee, memories of David. And David. Oh, Idol season seven…”
“American?” asked Rebecca.
“Ted, with love, don’t mention that uninspired filth tonight.”
“Coach,” said Dawkins, his long sleek locks of hair catching the lighting as he shook his head, “if you keep talking about your country we’re going to have to kick you out, that’s the rules.” He waved his hands at Rebecca. “Not that I’m trying to tell you what should happen in your own home, Ms. Welton.”
“No, I agree,” said Rebecca.
Graham Norton was commentating on the event; Ted had caught snippets of his TV show a few times. The guy was one heck of a snarkmaster. There was an opening number, and quips from the hosts, and then the real show began, with Austria performing first. The singers wore dirndls, and the song was catchy, and the lyrics were in German. Ted was starting to understand what this was all about: a kind of a multicultural extravaganza where each country showed off their best stuff. Or so he thought.
Up next was the Netherlands. Everyone in the band was wearing cowboy hats and there was a real live horse on stage, and they were singing a country song about tractors? Ted was overjoyed.
“The Dutch always does country music!” complained Richard.
Those around him murmured their agreement.
“Hey!” Ted yelled across the room. “What do you guys have against country music?!”
“This goes off, actually,” said Isaac.
“See!” said Ted. “I’m a little confused, though. What does this all have to do about the Netherlands? Unless this is their culture, and Am—You Know Where ripped everything off from them and I had no idea?”
“It’s Eurovision,” Keeley gave as a complete explanation.
Rebecca looked at Ted as if to say yeah, pretty much.
Ted was learning to just accept things as they came. He listened to the song and bobbed his head to the tune.
Belgium was third, and they sang an upbeat rock song in English. Ted thought the act was just like one he’d seen on America’s Got Talent, but he kept his mouth shut this time.
Finland did a pop number, and Canterbury said, “This is like S Club meets BWitched.”
“What’s Ess Club and Bewitched?” asked Ted.
Without taking her eyes off the TV, Rebecca took out her phone, unlocked it, and in her notes touch-typed: Get Ted into the classics.
Gentle strings started up Romania’s act. Most of the crew booed, and Ted couldn’t understand why. Did there used to be a team called the Vauxhall Violins who were Richmond’s biggest rival in the ‘70s or something? He didn’t ask, because he didn’t quite understand the rules of when or when not they were allowed to talk or yell over the TV.
The performer sang in a clear soaring voice and Isaac interrupted, saying, “Alright, piss song.”
“What?!” said Ted. “This is a perfectly beautiful song?”
Richard shook his head. “Eurovision is not about beauty undiluted. It’s about the beauty of chaos.”
Ted made a fist over his heart. “Y’know what, I’m coming to understand that, and I respect that. But I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a Piss Song.”
“It’s called that because it’s far more boring than the other numbers, so it’s time for a toilet break,” said Canterbury.
The other players agreed, and half of them got up. To take a piss.
Before each act, a graphic came up detailing the country and performer name. When Russia’s time had come, the name “Rebekka” overtook the screen.
Like a lump of idiot birds, the team all parroted “Rebecca” out loud.
Sam took out his phone and started typing on it. A few seconds later, he held it up for other to see, with a translator loaded. “I was just seeing what our names would be like translated to Russian. It says Ted’s is called ‘Voroshit?’ Something about this is not sounding right.”
[AN: What’s all this then]
The next act up was Georgia. Ted looked around the room, all wild-eyed and frantic, trying not to break the No America ban. But this was America?
Rebecca noticed Ted’s struggle and took pity on him. “That’s the name of a country, Ted, not one of your states.”
“Really? Really, now?”
“Really.” She patted his shoulder and turned back to the TV.
Cyprus came next, and Ted had to admit that even with all the performers’ striking facial hair, the actual song was a boring bummer.
“I had more fun at my Aunt Máire’s funeral,” commented Graham Norton.
“Yeooouch!” said Ted, turning to Beard. “Really, I thought you told me they imagined up this whole shebang to prevent a World War III? I think it might incite one.”
The entire time, Jamie had been texting, and got into an argument with Isaac about it, who told him he couldn’t absorb the dancing onscreen that way.
“I can hear it just fine,” Jamie said, while texting.
“It’s about the spectacle, you dickrat.”
Jamie told him where he could shove it.
Sweden really put the “tackle” into “spectacle;” their performance was full on cray-cray. It sounded akin to the end of the world, images of jellyfish were being projected, and sparks were coming out of guitars. Nate covered his ears. When it ended, Richard’s face was stuck in a state of horror.
Jamie was still texting.
By this point in the night most of the crew was tipsy. Isaac? He was skunk drunk. Slammed like a pickup truck into a tree.
Bulgaria had an act with ten women dressed like mermaids.
“They can get it,” said Keeley.
“Ooh Roy, you better watch out,” said Bumberbatch.
“Why?” challenged Roy.
“Should I feel threatened that my girlfriend finds some people on a screen attractive?”
“No, sir,” Bumberbatch stuttered out.
Twenty songs in, the doorbell rang.
Sam, who was sitting closest to the entranceway, tried to make eye contact with Rebecca to ask if he should get it, but she rose.
Upon looking through the peephole, she opened the door. “Colin?! What happened?”
All in the room turned their head.
“Rail delays,” he muttered.
“What?!” exclaimed Isaac.
“Like I just said, there were rail delays!” Realizing he’d raised his voice right in Rebecca’s face, he muttered a “sorry,” and scuttered into the room, making Zoreaux and Isaac scooch over so he could sit in between them.
They leaned in close to Colin.
“Where in the hell have you been?” asked Zoreaux.
“Places, innit?” said Colin.
“We said we were heading here all together, but you ditched us,” said Isaac.
“Look,” said Colin, even quieter, so Rebecca wouldn’t hear. “I showed up too early. Like, really early. Didn’t want her thinking I’m some weirdo, so to make up for it I had to come super late. It’s mathematics and all that.”
“Nah, mate, she thinks you’re a weirdo now,” said Isaac.
Once all 26 performances had taken place, intense discussions started up regarding which countries were deserving of votes.
“Who are you voting for, Dani?” asked Keeley.
Dani smiled. “I do not have a phone.”
Ted oscillated between turning to Beard and Rebecca as he spoke. “I just can’t pick who to vote for! Every last one of those acts did an amazing job! Except for Cyprus. But they all did so well! Who am I to say who’s most deserving?
“You can vote more than once, Ted” said Rebecca.
Beard, who was inexplicably drinking a Capri Sun, took his mouth away the straw and shouted, “Spread the love, baby!”
“Well, who do you want to win?” Ted asked Rebecca.
She merely smiled in response.
“Come on, give me a hint!”
“It’s none of your bloody business,” she said, rising to go top up her drink.
The time displayed on Ted’s phone screen terrorized him, as he sat with his indecisiveness. The time left went from ten minutes, to one minute, then was in the seconds, and he meant to take his pick, but he messed up, and—Cyprus. He’d accidentally voted for Cyprus.
“Let’s all go through our picks!” said Isaac, standing (badly). He pointed at each person in the room like he was a lecturer, prompting them to shout out who they voted for as their top pick.
“Spain for me.“
“Cyprus, but it was an accident.”
“UK,” said Colin.
“That won’t go through,” said Keeley. “They literally said so many times that you can’t do that.”
Isaac moved on.
He pointed to Rebecca.
“Ms. Welton, you have to say!”
“Don’t leave us hanging!”
“Rebecca, I know you didn’t invite us all here to your very nice very clean humble abode just to tease us like that.”
Jamie, who was sitting next to her, said, “I saw you voting for Sweden.”
The reactions to this intel ranged from gasps, to, well, gasps.
Rebecca shot up, standing to defend herself. “This is all about entertainment! They’ve entertained, haven’t they?!”
“Yes,” the team said.
“Did they not prompt the most discussion, therefore rendering the most enjoyment out of anyone else on the roster?”
“Yes,” they said again. Some of them didn’t believe in what they were saying, but were scared to say otherwise. Jamie had thought it was on a comparable level of entertainment as when Gary Lineker shat himself during the 1990 World Cup, but he didn’t say as much out loud.
“So there we are,” she said, sitting down.
Before the votes started being declared, it was announced that Verka Serduchka would be performing in between the jury and televote results. An effervescent Verka Serduchka, who was backstage, waved at the camera, showing off long glittery nails.
In that moment, madness descended upon Rebecca Welton’s living room. All of the Europeans started to yell. A bellow of “FUCK YEAH!” came out of Roy’s mouth. Feet were stomping on the floor. Sam was desperately yelling “Who is that? What is that?” over the rest of the noise.
When the votes started being announced, Ted couldn’t make sense of any of the numbers popping up on the screen. As the rest of the crew made a loud fuss about each score update, Beard muttered into his ear about juries and televotes and ranking. Ted processed a whole half of everything he was being told.
The crazy thing was that the UK wasn’t getting…any points. Updates were coming in, and numbers were being announced, and points were rising for every single country except the UK. Bulgaria was the last to provide their points distribution.
“United Kingdom, final jury score: Nul points.” The host was trying to say this in a professional, non-invested tone, but there was indeed pity to be heard in her voice.
Isaac, who was already on unsteady footing, stepped forward and threw out his fist. He stumbled, and his knuckles landed on the TV screen. The display cut out.
Not for the first time that night, everyone shut right up. Then: a chorus of expletives harmonized.
“I thought it was meant to be made of paper!” said Isaac.
“It’s only called that because the screen is so fucking thin, you fucking dolt brain!” roared Roy.
“Nie będę przedłużać swojej umowy bo ci ludzie to nosorożce,” muttered Mark, the newest member of the squad, from Poland.
Rebecca wasn’t even mad that a man inside of her home just beat her television screen so hard that it broke; she was mostly stunned speechless.
“Hey, hey!” Ted stood, trying to cut through the commotion. “Isaac, do you have anything to say?”
Isaac had to hug the wall so as to not fall over. “Ms. Welton, I’m really sorry. I can’t even see you straight right now, but I—I’ll get you a new one. Buy an even better one, install it myself. Unless you don’t want me in here, ever again. I would get that.”
“It was the best one on the market,” she said, bemused.
“We’re sorry!” shouted Sam.
“How are we going to watch Verka Serduchka?!” cried Richard.
“We’ve all got our phones, yeah?” said Bumberbatch.
“Not me!” said Dani.
“That would suck, watching like that,” said Dawkins.
“Boys! Boys and Keeley,” Rebecca said, attempting to get everyone to settle down.
Keeley threw up peace signs.
“A pub just two minutes up the road is showing Eurovision.” She’d noticed the signs plastered in the windows the other day. “If we head there now, we won’t miss anything.”
Roy, understanding with foresight that nobody would be ending up back at her house, called for attention. “Oi! Nobody’s leaving here until this place is spotless. If you want to see a Ukrainian legend perform the best song of all time, fucking earn it!”
There was a mad shuffle to set things in order and bin what needed binning. The mean level of inebriation did not help the process go smoothly. Colin tried fluffing the couch pillows, but Rebecca stopped him.
Dani put a winter hat on his head, despite it being May, and everyone marched out of the house and headed for the pub.
“Colin, get one last look at this place, because we’re never going to be invited back here again,” teased Zoreaux.
“I really like her wallpaper,” whispered Colin.
Rebecca led the way, because offering directions to this lot in this state would’ve been fruitless. Ted walked with her at the front of the herd, asking about why Andorra wasn’t on the roster.
“How do you even know about Andorra?” she asked.
At the entrance to the pub, Rebecca said, “No more alcohol for you lot!” and it was understood that she’d be handing her card over and paying for their right to be occupying the space. How dozens of people packed themselves into an already cozy pub, Rebecca would never know.
They stepped inside just as Verka Serduchka started performing. Even the most distinguished member of the authentic pubgoers was just as riled up as the Richmond gang, and Ted got caught up in the excitement of it all.
“Wow, she is my dream girl,” said Dani.
“Verka actually did it better at the concert I went to in Switzerland,” Jamie bragged, to everyone’s shock.
Something was wrong with processing San Marino’s votes, which they only knew because a friend of Rebecca’s, who was involved in the production, was furiously texting her updates. To Ted, the hosts clearly didn’t have enough improv experience, because they were struggling to come up with things to say while waiting for the results to come through.
In the end, the UK obtained a net sum of zero points and a country Ted had never heard of prior to a few hours ago, and could not pronounce, won.
Outside, the team was singing Dani Rojas, Jamie Tartt, and Roy Kent player chants in a round. Roy Kent did not participate.
Rebecca nudged Ted. “First Eurovision experience, then. Was it what you expected?”
“Absolutely not.” He tapped his left temple. “It was better than anything this machine coulda dreamed up.”
When Rebecca walked back home, she found that her neighbors had at some point during attached an enormous German flag to the front of their house. She stepped into her kitchen, aiming to obtain a glass of icy cold water after the night she’d had. This train of thought evaporated, as she spotted the television screen she had in her kitchen, with its more than ample space for everybody to gather ‘round it. Sitting on the counters wouldn’t have been any worse than what the group had been doing.
“Oh,” she said.