The First Nine
by Rhonda Johnson
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen. We are here to celebrate 100 years of freedom, 100 years that have led to final triumph over the most harrowing oppression. Our forefathers fought and died that we might stand here and partake of glorious liberties. In accordance with this 100 year celebration 100 of you have been invited to represent your communities in this great nation."
The people sit politely listening to Raymond's preamble just enough to detect when he gets on with something important and worth giving their full attention to. Some are old. Some are young. They are business owners, students, teachers, Hollywood stars, truckers, single mothers, writers, customer service reps and computer programmers. Some have a look of immense pride on their faces. Some looked like they've been here done this big deal. And indeed they have all been there and done that, but there are always those who felt it their duty to God and to their ancestors to wake up to a new world every day, their belief in whatever good news they hear unfazed by experiences of dashed hope. These sit with what they think is infectious hope beside those who think of themselves as realists, as intellectuals to whom all good things must be proven and bad news is a matter of course.
Raymond looks out on his audience. This certainly is no monolith. Can he create from this hodgepodge a collective effort to maintain the victory he speaks of or will they rest on the laurels of their forefathers and go their own individual ways. As his eyes scan the audience his ears pick up a noise from a direction where there should be no noise. The door is not locked . The intruder comes in the same way the guests had.
"Nobody move and nobody gets hurt.."
Some in the back begin to make a commotion but it takes most of them a moment to switch their attention from Raymond to the intruder and even then they don't immediately comprehend that he is an intruder. They turn their attention back to Raymond expecting the new arrival to take a seat as unobtrusively as they all had. So he has to try again.
"What's wrong with you people? Don't you hear me? Don't you see this gun? This is a stick up. Nobody move and nobody gets hurt."
But they will not acknowledge any situation their leader does not bring to their attention. Raymond sees that it's on him.
"People, this man is not one of us. He is here to do us harm. He is here to..." he turns with uncertainty to the intruder. "What do you want?"
"I want everything you got. Then you will owe me for not having anything else I want."
"People this is serious. This man has come to rob us."
The ones in the back begin to scoff. This is the moment they've been waiting for and they play it to the max. "So Raymond are you conscious now? We told yawl he ain't no leader. Look at him. He's scared. Power! Power! We don't need leaders. We need power!"
The gunmen turns his gun on them. "Troublemakers. Shut up, will ya."
They won't shut up so he shoots them. A low murmur of terror runs through the whole audience. They look at Raymond. He does not move. They look at the shot men. They are dead. They do not move. The gunman notes their terror.
"Nobody else move, nobody else gets hurt. And shut up. I don't want any troublemakers."
A guy with long fat fingers looks at the gunman's gun. It isn't an automatic. In fact, it's a twelve shot revolver. He calculates in his head. Nine bullets left. Why should one man with nine bullets control a room of 100 people? Well 97 now. But still. He jumps up "hey everybody. He only has nine bullets and there are 97 people in here. He can't shoot all of us. Let's rush him. Take his gun and make him eat gunpowder."
Several people nod their heads but nobody moves. Raymond doesn't move. Not even pudgy fingers moves. Everybody wants the gunman to be overpowered but nobody wants to be among the first nine.
"Haha!" The gunman laughs. "Rush me, will you? There's not a man among you who would rush a snail if it meant sacrifice."
Pudgy fingers says in exasperation "Come on, yawl. Why don't you move?" He turns to the man sitting next to him. "Move, Man. if you want to get somewhere you have to be willing to die for what you believe in."
The man yanks his shoulder away. "Why you jumping on me talking about move man. I ain't seen you move. What are you, scared?"
"I ain't scared of nothing. I'm willing to die."
The gunman scoffs. "And I'm willing to kill whether you're wiling to die or not. So shut up and nobody get's hurt, understand?"
Cat got somebody's fingers and he doesn't move. The gunman places a big burlap sack on a table and motions to Raymond.
"I want you to go around and get everybody's wallet. Get their watches, purses and jewelry. No funny stuff hear because I'm watching you. I'm watching you real close."
Raymond picks up the sack. Pudgy fingers murmurs under his breath "Sell-out. Uncle Tom."
Raymond takes his wallet first and the gunman smirks his approval. When the sack is full Raymond pulls out a plastic bag and works his way through the rest of the audience taking a purse here, a watch there until everyone has been robbed. The gunman stares in delighted astonishment. After the last person has been robbed Raymond sets the bags on the table and waits for orders. The gunman motions him toward the crowd.
"All right leader, get over there with your people" Raymond looks at the gunman astonished.
"Oh yeah, you're one of them I guess you forgot. Well once I'm outta here you can lead them in prayer. If they'll follow you."
Raymond casts a pleading look at his people.
"Sell out! You're no leader. Just a kiss up."
"Yeah, a suck up."
The gunman grabs the bags and leaves.