Fiction

Story: A show of hands

By: Wendy Lee Klenetsky  

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          Even if all they had been after was great ratings during “sweeps week” on television, the “JERRY MARKS SHOW” couldn’t possibly have concocted such a program.  After all, no one in their right mind would have planned a murder televised live to 10 million households.  Or would they?

            Well, that’s getting a bit ahead of the story….

            Jerry Marks, the loud-mouthed, arrogant, uncompromising star of the show had been toying with the idea of either having something spectacular happen on the show during that week or have the show broadcast from a spectacular location somewhere.  After much deliberation with his very talented yet unappreciated staff, Jerry vetoed all of their suggestions. He nixed the ideas set forth by Harry, his head writer, Eric, his executive producer and Joan, his assistant producer.

            The staff didn’t really want to drastically change a format which had been working so successfully for the past 4 years. After all, they tried to explain to Jerry, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”  Harry, Eric and Joan felt that taking the show to some deserted beach somewhere, making lighting and sound control a very precarious situation.  They told Jerry that being out in the open like that, there was no controlling the elements: weather, animals, vegetation, and the like. Joan even went so far as to warn Jerry about possible lawsuits his guests might hand him, should anything bad or unexpected happen at such a site.

            But Jerry being Jerry would have nothing to do with their imperative pleas, and went so far as to threaten to fire any and/or all of them should they not listen to and obey his orders.  He was, as he continuously told them, the star of the show, and they were expendable workers.

            Harry, Eric and Joan were really fed up with his tirades and put-downs of them, their abilities and their importance to him and/or the show. But, rather than showing Jerry that he had “gotten the best of them”, or that they knew that he could do just what he’d threatened, they reluctantly took the show to a deserted beach.  “Whatever happens, it’s on his  head” they agreed.  But each one had had it with Jerry Marks; once and for all, he had  to be cut down to size….

            So during “sweeps week” the “JERRY MARKS SHOW” was broadcast from a beach; location uncertain. Even though it was the unsettled-weather-pre-spring time of the beginning of April (April Fool’s Day to be exact), the show had to go on. 

            Jerry Marks had not let the fact that it was April Fool’s Day go unnoticed; he made his staff dress in clown suits.  He thought that this would put his guests and his viewers in the spirit of the day, and liven up the proceedings.

            This weird command from their boss did nothing to quell the anger of Harry, Eric and Joan. Just the opposite.. they were now determined to “make Jerry Marks pay” for his actions towards them. They had to come up with something.. but what?..

            The line-up of guests was interesting, to say the least:

1)         CHEF LUIS – the head chef at a popular bistro near the studio

2)         HANDY ANDY- the “fitness guru”.

3)         MARLEENA’S   STAR TALK -the gossip segment.

            While Jerry Marks did not know exactly what each of the segments on his talk show would entail, he nevertheless approved of it all.  He felt superior and smug for “getting his way”(the deserted beach location) once again. Therefore, whatever was planned by his “hands” as he referred to his staff, he’d go along with.

            This was the chance that Harry, Eric and Joan had been waiting for; their time to give Jerry some of what he’d been giving them for so long.    

            But even Jerry’s 3 “hands” didn’t know of the animosity felt by the guests on the show. Jerry regarded these guests as “hands” as well; as evidenced by his treatment of them:

             Chef Luis was practically put out of business by Jerry Marks, by a horrendous review he’d given about the food at Luis’ restaurant.  The word “swill” was used more than once in the review. Chef Luis’ appearance on Jerry’s show was (in some form) an apology..  perhaps..

            “Handy Andy” had been the butt of many vicious jokes of Jerry’s, and had cost Andy many appearances on other talk shows. Andy wanted to be on Marks’ show one more time.

            Marleena of “Marleena’s Star Talk” had also been ridiculed by Jerry on previous programs; he accused her of fabricating some of her “scoops” and of only wearing “phony jewelry”. She was livid, but agreed to do this show one last time..

            The funny thing was that, although Harry, Eric and Joan (the show “hands”) and Chef Luis, Handy Andy and Marleena (the guest “hands”) hated Jerry Marks to the point of having homicidal thoughts, no one knew anything the other was thinking or planning.

            And so “THE JERRY MARKS SHOW” went on; on that April Fool’s Day, on that deserted beach.

            Chef Luis made his famous “Lime and Vegetable Supreme”; a concoction of lime gelatin and vegetables and surprise spices in a mold form.  Jerry Marks was his usual obnoxious self, criticizing and making fun of the dish every step of the way.  He was so busy listening to his own voice, he failed to notice exactly what Chef Luis was putting into the mix. Upon completion of the gelatin mold, Luis let Jerry Marks taste a previously-prepared dish. Jerry made some sarcastic comment, shoved the gelatin mold-laden spoon into his mouth and ended the cooking segment of his show.

            The next commercial came on, and then came the exercise segment with Handy Andy.

            The newest model exercise bike was the focal point of Handy Andy’s demonstration.  Andy asked Jerry to sit on this bike, pedal ever-so-lightly, and watch what all of the gizmos on the machine were doing.  Since Andy was not the one who’d set up the apparatus, he couldn’t be sure of its condition. Jerry Marks did not wish to get up on the bike, and, after poking fun at Handy Andy’s overly-cheerful mannerisms and his diminutive size, promised Andy that sometime later he’d get on the bike.  

            Handy Andy’s segment and the commercial after it was followed by “Marleena’s Star Talk”.

            Marleena proudly displayed a diamond stud and elegant wristwatch, allegedly given to her by a T.V. show “hunk”, whose identity she refused to divulge to Jerry Marks.  Jerry then immediately jumped at the chance to tell her: (a) that if she didn’t have “the guts” to tell his audience the “hunk’s” name, everyone would know she was lying and (b) everyone would assume that the diamond was actually cubic zirconia. To prove it was genuine (and to vent her anger) Marleena took the diamond stud off of her blouse and proceeded to shove it across Jerry Marks’ face. She then stormed off of the set, muttering threats seemingly under her breath, but actually loud enough to be heard on her “body mike” (microphone on her blouse).

            The last commercial was quickly put on, and, when it ended, Jerry Marks said his “good-byes” to his audience.  The credits then rolled across the screen and it was all over.

            Since the exercise bike was still on the set, Jerry jumped onto it.  This was a foolish thing to do; the springs of the unchecked machine were badly damaged, and Jerry fell head-first onto the hard, cold sand.

            Dazed, bruised and in pain, Jerry Marks cried out to his “hands” (Harry, Eric and Joan) for help.  He didn’t know that they had been taping this entire comical incident. He also didn’t expect them to go about their businesses and leave him there in agony.

            The cameras continued rolling…

            Jerry Marks did not get up off of the sand.

            Blood began trickling down his cheek; strange, because he hadn’t fallen on his face.

            Jerry suddenly began gasping for air; somehow he couldn’t breathe and was starting to turn blue.  Why?..

            The life this loud-mouthed, arrogant, uncompromising star  of “THE JERRY MARKS SHOW” was ebbing away, and no one cared.   

            Several days had passed before anyone even bothered to try to contact Jerry Marks.

  By then, it was too late; Jerry Marks was very dead.

            No one knew that he had died there on that deserted beach, the one from which he had wanted so desperately to broadcast.

            If it wasn’t for a newlywed couple who’d stumbled upon that deserted beach, Jerry Marks’ body would never have been found.       

            But it finally was found..

            The police took the body to the morgue and confiscated the cameras and other paraphernalia that had been left behind. After the forensic pathologists finished their examinations on the corpse, they came to one conclusion: Jerry Marks was Murdered!

            There was deep scarring along his cheek, his back had been broken in the fall, and the lining of his lungs had been burned by a slow-working poison which had a still-lingering hint of lime emanating from within.

            The police now had found the “How” of Jerry Marks’ death; they needed the “Who” of it.  And they were soon to find the answers to that part of the puzzle, as soon as they viewed that long-running tape.

            It seems that no one person killed Jerry MARKS..

            The tape showed the GASH across his cheek was deliberately made by Marleena’s diamond stud; the one Jerry Marks said was “cubic zirconia“.  This gash eventually caused him to lose a lot of blood.

            Handy Andy, it seemed, tampered with the exercise bike; bending the springs until they were dangerous to the user.  It was from the fall off the bike that Jerry Marks’ back was broken.

            And the “surprise spices” in Chef Luis’ “Lime and Vegetable Supreme” were arsenic powders. Jerry Marks had shoved that gelatin mold into his mouth while ridiculing its creator.

            The tape, which had continued to roll, showed Harry, Eric and Joan picking up their belongings, hearing Jerry Marks’ screams for help, looking right at him, and walking obliviously away.

            So no one did kill Jerry Marks..

            Everybody did …

            I guess you could say that he was killed by

                         a Show Of  Hands……

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