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A Phoenix Fiction Writer Rising From The Ashes of Nonfiction



The  Count 
by Michael T. Martin

“One!” a voice boomed over the loudspeaker. The sudden sound pierced the mid-morning quiet of a clear sky with puffy clouds. The puffs wafted a light breeze over the park greenery producing the rustle of leaves. Juan stood up, a puzzled look on his face. “What?” he asked. “Nothing,” whispered the quietspeaker.

“Somebody call my name?” shouted Juan to the people standing around him, who looked away or pretended not to notice him. Somebody in the crowd shouted back, “Tone it down, it's not about you.” Juan thought to himself: of course it's about me, they called my name. Nobody was looking at him; it made him uncomfortable.

“Two!” the loudspeaker proclaimed. “Is not,” whispered the quietspeaker. “Is too,” rebutted a man standing nearby. “Stay out of it,” said an attractive woman standing next to the man. His body sagged and he stared at his feet. Juan mumbled, “Okay, it's not about me. But I still think somebody called my name.” Somebody grabbed him by the arm, “It wasn't me, okay?” He let go of Juan's arm and walked off. Juan then noticed that the attractive woman was looking at him. He also noticed that the man standing next to her saw her looking at him.

Juan turned to another man next to him on the grass as a diversion. “Name's Juan,” he said. The man looked at him then answered, “Call me Ree. Ree Ality.” They exchanged a few pleasantries and talked about the ball game. He could sense the attractive woman still looking at him.

“Thuh-ree!” enunciated the loudspeaker. The Ree looked around with panic on his face. “How'd they know I was here?” he exclaimed. Several burly men exited a nearby car and ran toward The Ree, who took off in a dead run, knocking Juan to the ground. Unfortunately, since the run was dead the burly men quickly captured The Ree. They dragged him kicking and screaming to their car, where they stopped kicking and screaming and put him in the trunk.

Somebody from the crowd ran over and challenged the burly men getting into their car. “You can't do that to him,” he insisted. “We're undercover police,” said the driver. Sure enough, the driver and other men in the car covered themselves with a blanket as the car drove off.

Somebody looked around at the crowd, “Does any of this make any sense?” Nobody replied, “D'uh!” Somebody glared at him, “Anybody else?” The attractive woman sashayed over and looked him up and down while motioning to her figure with her hands, “You think this is just any body?” Nobody whistled at her and she gave him a glare. “No thanks,” he said, “I already have one.”

“Four!” the loudspeaker called out. Everyone dropped to the ground cowering. Suddenly a golf ball hit the cart path and bounced harmlessly away. However, the sound of the bounce resembled a gunshot and two of those cowering on the ground drew pistols. “He's got a gun!” someone screamed.

That prompted those with the pistols to start shooting at each other, and one of them convulsed, staggered, and fell dead. “I got him,” called out the other, “nothing to fear. I got him.” A young woman started screaming while tugging on the body of the man who had been shot, “someone give me a hand!” The rest of the crowd stood up and applauded. A horrible stench arose as the dead man's sphincter relaxed and his bowels emptied into his pants. The crowd moved away.

“Five!” came out of the loudspeaker. They had medical bags and a stretcher. The five proceeded to gather up the dead man. Somebody, back in the crowd, yelled, “Wait, how did you…?” One of the five waved him off, “We're professionals.” Moments later they carried the dead man on the stretcher towards a waiting ambulance. The stench followed them, alongside the young woman, asking her “you free for this evening?” She just glared at him and tried to hurry away. “Hey, you should smile more,” said the stench.

Everybody started talking again as the siren of the ambulance waned into the distance. The crowd pretty much ignored everybody, most of them tapping on their cellphones. They were lost in cyberspace, oblivious to everything around them. The breeze kept rustling the leaves in the quiet morning, and the smell of grass and trees began to replace the stench, but the woman whose companion had been shot dead still glared at him.

“Six!” announced the loudspeaker. “Six?” responded a shapely redheaded woman, “I was hoping for sex.” The man standing next to her just slowly shook his downcast head back and forth, feathers from the down floating around him. The shapely redhead clenched her jaw and turned to somebody next to her who asked, “Where did the ambulance come from?” The shapely redhead eyed him and replied, “It said Center Hospital on the side.” Nobody sneered at both of them, rolling his eyes, “D'uh.” Somebody still looked perplexed, his forehead wrinkled, “But how did they know….” The man standing next to the shapely redhead said, “Somebody probably called them.”

“No, I didn't. It wasn't me.” Nobody, the shapely redhead, and the man stared at him shaking their heads from side to side.

“Seven!” the loudspeaker declared. “Did he say sevin or savin?” whispered the quietspeaker, “They're both poisons.”

“No they're not, you're thinking of sarin, not savin,” corrected a voice, “Besides, you have to capitalize Sevin.” A frightened wavering voice nearby shouted “Oh god, it's a pedant.” Everyone dove to the ground cowering again, except for the remaining man with the pistol.

The pedant and the man with the pistol glared at each other. The pistol pointed directly at the head of the pedant, “I wanted to do this ever since freshman English.” The pedant looked down his nose at the pistol, “You mean 'I've wanted,' as in I have.” The pistol exploded in fire and smoke, which caused everyone on the ground to leap to their feet warily.

“Warily is an adverb,” sneered the pedant, “and it should precede the prepositional phrase.” Meanwhile, the man who'd held the pistol kept screaming as his mangled hand dripped blood from when the pistol exploded. “That seems unlikely,” whispered the quietspeaker.

“Eight!” blared the loudspeaker. “Already did,” replied the shapely redhead. The man standing next to her dropped his hands to his side and stared upwards. Juan looked over at her, “Were you the one who called my name?” She looked at him dismissively out of the corner of her eye, then turned away ignoring him. Juan persisted, “I asked a simple question.” The shapely redhead stopped, paused, then turned slowly to face him. She stared at him with her head bobbing slightly, her mouth partly open with her tongue slowly gliding over her lips. She started to say something while wiggling her body, but was interrupted.

“Nine!” said the loudspeaker. “Don't interrupt me!” shouted the shapely redhead at the loudspeaker. She pulled her long hair back behind her ears with both hands. The man standing next to her reached out his hand with a puzzled look. Juan slapped his hand away, “Leave her alone.” The man turned to face Juan, “Who are you?”

“Somebody called my name,” said Juan. The man stared at him. Juan started to continue but heard another voice. “You're getting repetitive,” said the pedant, “that's three times you said 'the man' and I don't think he's the man anyway.” Juan turned to face the pedant, “Why not?” The pedant placed his elbow against his hip with his hand extended, “Well, 'the man' usually refers to an unseen government. He seems too meek.”

“Who you callin' meek?” growled the man next to the shapely redhead stepping towards them. The pedant backed away, leaving Juan facing the man, but the shapely redhead stepping towards them interjected, “As I was going to say,” she stopped, looking at the man next to her and then at Juan, “uh, … what was I going to say?” Juan shrugged.

“Ten!” screamed the loudspeaker with a tone of finality. “Finally,” declared the quietspeaker. “Quit interrupting me,” screamed the shapely redhead. The pedant stepped forward again with an upraised pointer finger, “That's twice you used 'screamed,' one sentence after the other.” The shapely redhead looked at him blankly. The pedant lowered his pointer finger directly at her, but she clutched her throat: “I didn't say it.”

“Eleven!” said the loudspeaker. “STFU,” screamed the quietspeaker, almost becoming a loudspeaker. “That doesn't even spell a word,” said the pedant. “It's a dirty word,” replied the shapely redhead wobbling her head. The man next to her covered his face with his hands. “It's not Spanish,” said Juan, “I think it's geek.”

The man next to the shapely redhead dropped his hands from his face and balled his fists, “Who you callin' a geek?” The shapely redhead gave him a shove, “I'm getting sick and tired of being called a shapely redhead all the time.”

Juan, the man, and the pedant all stood dumbfounded watching her stomp off into the crowd. After a long silence, Juan said to the man, “I'm a little embarrassed.” The man stared at him for a moment then asked “Why?” Juan shifted from one foot to the other, “I've never been dumbfounded before.” The man laughed loudly, pointing to where the shapely redhead had disappeared, “You hang around her, it happens all the time.”

“Twelve!” announced the loudspeaker. “An even dozen,” whispered the quietspeaker. “Easily divisible by three,” noted Juan out loud. Nobody spoke, but the man grimaced, “Oh, no. She's not easily anything.” Juan raised his hands in front of him as if pushing away the idea, “I didn't mean her, I meant the twelve: four each.” Just then the attractive woman came up to him.

“There you are! I thought you'd run off,” she said smiling, “after Ree Ality knocked you down.” Nobody laughed. The man spoke to her quizzically, “I don't think we've met.” She shifted all of her weight to one leg while looking sternly at the man, “I don't think we're going to either.” She turned to face Juan again smiling broadly, “Now, where were we? Oh yeah, the loudspeaker called your name.”

“The loudspeaker? What the hell is a loudspeaker?” Juan asked. The attractive woman laughed and stepped up next to him, “It gives the count each morning, speaking loudly and clearly so everyone can hear. He's a little hard of hearing you know.”

“The count? What count?” asked Juan.

“The Count, you know: Sesame Street?” asked the attractive woman.

“Sesame Street?” asked Juan incredulously. The attractive woman poked him in the chest, “Of course, it runs right by here.”

Just then the shapely redhead showed up, glaring at the attractive woman. “What is this? I take a minute to go to the bathroom and you take up with this floosy?” Juan was dumbfounded again. The man leaned over to him chuckling, “Told ya.”

“Who you callin' a floozy?” snapped the attractive woman. “He called me a meek geek,” said the man, stepping between her and the shapely redhead.

At that moment the pedant stepped amid them with his hands raised over his head. “Whoa! Whoa. Wait, don't start blaming each other,” the pedant implored. “It's the author who's to blame.” The shapely redhead looked sharply at him, “Whose the author?” The pedant rolled his eyes, “Who's, not whose, short for 'who is,'and the author's the one who killed the guy with the pistol, caused the stench, and had Ree Ality taken away.” The quietspeaker whispered, “Really?”

Somebody looked astounded and then became angry, “So that's why nothing makes sense!” They all became angry, turning red, cursing at the author, picking up rocks. Nobody said anything, or did anything, but just then several burly guys came up and chased everybody away. Except for somebody who looked around saying “What the hey?” But rain started pouring out of the puffy clouds with thunder and lightning. “You better take cover with us,” said one of the burly guys. So they all got in the car and drove off. The End. Phew.


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Last Modified August 31, 2017

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