Count Von Count’s alarm woke up at 7:15, like it did every day that he was on the shooting schedule. Truth be told, after so many years, he woke up at 7:15 most days. His wife, Loretta, was up shortly afterwards, and found him downstairs drinking a juice and reviewing the day’s script. She smiled as she looked at her husband, and thought to herself that while it was sad that he was slowing down, it was also good for him. Maybe he could finally retire. Maybe he could finally relax.
At 8:00 on the dot, he got up, kissed her goodbye, and walked out of the door. He drove his car – a 2000 Lincoln – to Kaufman Studios, and was waved in by the guard, Charlie. “Charlie was good people,” Count thought. He’s been there a while, and I like him. The Count drove to his assigned parking spot – it was a little farther away this season – and as he got out, he looked at his car. Maybe it was time for a new one, but the residuals checks weren’t coming in as quickly, and he wasn’t filming as many new episodes. This one would last another year. He could take that money and go on a vacation with Loretta. She’d like that.
When you’re the Count, you don’t need to flash an ID as you go through the studios, so he never bothered to put his on. He did wave at half a dozen people as he walked, though, quietly counting each one. And laughing, always laughing. Everyone always said that he was in good spirits … “ah ah ah,” they’d add. It was a joke that got old, but everyone always meant well, so he smiled along with them. Each new person on “the Street” as they called it would tell him that joke. Of course, since today was his only day of filming for this episode, that meant that they would all tell it to him today. Some, like Bobby, the second grip, would seek him out. Bobby told him how much he meant – that Bobby had grown up watching him and he couldn’t believe that he was meeting THE COUNT. “My favorite character, when I was a kid,” he’d said. “I wish they had you on more.” Bobby shook his head as he said that last part. Bobby shied away from saying what so few people would: The Count’s days were numbered and it was no laughing matter. Everyone could see it. Elmo and Abby were running things. And there was no place on the Street for an old man like him.
It didn’t matter, he told himself. The internal politics, the backbiting, that was all part of the job. He looked past it. That was what he did. The Count sat down in the makeup chair, and Christine got to work. She was another of the old-timers, and she finished his purple face in no time. “All set,” she told him. “Go make a difference.” He smiled at that. They both remembered the good old days when the show was more than just some red punk running around screaming that he loved everyone. They both remembered when he mattered.
He walked towards the set for his scene. Grover was sitting in a chair doing a crossword. “Hey Count,” he called. “Who you got in the 3rd at Belmont?” The Count just shook his head. Gone were the days of Grover, Big Bird, Bert, and the Count sneaking off to the track on a Thursday, when no one would notice them. Gone were the nights of their late night poker games, with all the beer and scotch. He was met by Phillip, Elmo’s new favorite director.
Elmo went through favorite directors at a dizzying pace. He tired of his hangers-on, and Abby wasn’t helping. She was even worse than he was. Poor Zoe had stood in between them, and now she was almost gone too. Poor kid. But this month, it was Phillip.
Phillip smiled at the Count, showing far too many teeth. It was a little unsettling. Phillip made him nervous. “Count, baby,” he started. “There’s been a change. We’re changing the number of the day. It’ll be on the card.”
“Fine. That’s fine,” Count replied. Changes happened, so he couldn’t get worried about this one.
His set was a white box with soft edges. Two cameras were stacked, one on top of the other, to capture his stomps and his singing. He made sure that he was in the frame, and Phillip called “Action.”
“The number of the day. It really is such fun. The number of the day is. … One!” One? That was it? “Now,” he said, trying to keep the defeat out of his voice, “let’s stomp one time.” Elmo and Abby stood off to the side, watching, reveling in his humiliation. He stomped. And Phillip called “Cut! Print! Great job!”
“You got everything then,” Count asked. “Would you like me to do it again?”
“Nope.” Phillip shook his head and moved away. “Elmo! Ready to start on your musical?”
That was it. The Count was left there on an empty set. One. All that just for one lousy stomp. He changed out of his costume, grabbed a snack from craft services – he hadn’t been there long enough for lunch yet, and he didn’t feel like staying – and got back in his old Lincoln. He’d go home early today; Loretta would be surprised and happy to see him. The car could last another year.