“Kill me! Kill me! I’ll just be a dead motherfucker, that’s all, bitch, you ain’t did nothin’ great,” Wayne Paul Nader warns the dimpled figment supine beneath him.
Wayne calls his make-believe girlfriend Zina Wax.
She reminds him of every mistake he’s ever made since he was a wee lad.
Zina Wax has eyes that are like Aesop’s fables.
She’s always the return engagement.
Other dolls might grab his fancy for a time, but he knows there’s no doll like Zina.
He gets off on pretending she’s in love with him.
And, daaaang, he tears that plastic pussy up.
For some reason when he comes inside her he thinks — for the duration of his climax— about his Injun friend Rainbow Littlecloud (who only liked to be called Ray . . . anybody who called him Rainbow got his ass kicked immediately . . . he was ‘Ray’, just ‘Ray’).
One day in 5th Grade, Wayne — without knowing why (’cause he wasn’t racist or anything) — called Ray “Tonto.”
Ray didn’t do anything but look Wayne straight in the face and say, “That’s fucked up, Kemo Sabe.”
That was way back when, though, back before the Civil War, back before the people he thought were his friends began conspiring against him.
And all those so-called friends of his are still on his trail.
Making sure his destiny eludes him.
But Wayne is hip to Their trickster conspiracies.
He knows that behind every mirror is a surveillance camera.
He knows They are watching him.
He is — he has heard (though he’s not sure from whom) — the subject of a popular website.
But he can’t seem to find it.
He’s got the wrong kind of internet or something.
What do They think he can tell Them?
The whereabouts of the late Allen Funt maybe?
God, he’d evolved beyond that incarnation a thousand-and-one kalpas ago.
That ancient delusion played itself out in an entirely different Los Angeles, a Los Angeles with an evening paper, a barely symphonic Philharmonic, an endless thirst for ersatz architecture.
He’s not about to tell Them anything They want to hear.
He mouths the words “Fuck You” every time he passes a mirror knowing full well They are ever vigilant.
When he is naked he flaunts his ‘wee lad’ at the cameras.
But there’s no time for that now.
Tonight is Halloween.
He has to get ready.
The children will be here soon.
Every Halloween, Wayne Paul Nader narrates the War in Heaven out loud, the axis around which all destiny spins, to the tune of “Alone Again, Naturally.”
Sometimes he pretends he is Vincent Price.
The eternal narrator.
Or sometimes he’s Seymour from Fright Night.
The front lawn of the home he inherited from his parents is strewn with skeletons and tombstones and other plastic mementos mori, synthetic spider webbing stretched across trees and windows and bushes and pillars, little boxes of Good & Plenty in a tupperware bowl by the front door.
“The children will be here soon,” he says to Zina Wax.
She does not answer, as per usual.
The Silent Treatment.
“Bitches, man,” grumbles Wayne, “even the inflatable ones, always be fucking your shit up at the wrong damn time.”
Wayne is fixated on the innate sadness of Halloween.
When he was a wee lad his parents took him to a Halloween carnival set up on the grounds of a large commercial oil refinery just around the South Bay curve on the 405, one of those places where the air smells like chemical energy and the life-force lies fallow.
The gargantuan oil tanks, shrines to mankind’s dependence on dinosaurs, were decorated to look like jack-o-lanterns, a frightful riot of orange and black menace.
Hypnagogic imagery from way back.
He was overwhelmed by the sound of traffic on the San Diego Freeway behind him.
One of the rides looked like a swing set, which Wayne reacted to with glee.
His mother asked him if he wanted to go on the swings.
As a child he liked to swing, did Wayne Paul Nader. Back and forth like a flying hamster. Whee!
“I like to swing, Mommy,” little Pauly enthused on his way to the first of many spiritual deaths.
“Have fun, baby boy; Mommy loves you,” she cooed as she strapped him into the saddle.
But these swings were not like the playground swings or the one in his cousin Leo’s backyard.
The most those other swings ever did was make his ‘wee lad’ tickle.
(Whee, lad! Whee!)
But these things went around and around really really fast and took you to a blurry world without mommies.
He beheld the terror of total separation.
He didn’t yet know the word betrayal.
But he knew, the first time he heard it a few years later, that it had to do with forever (which to a wee lad is the same thing as being alive).
After he got off the ride, he cried so convulsively that he threw up next to an orange metal trash can. He can still remember what it smelled like. Gasoline and garbage and his own carnival hotdog vomit.
Pauly, as his parents called him, would dream about those oil tanks for decades to come, even unto this very day.
Deciding ultimately to use as his creepy Halloween soundtrack Martin Denny, Wayne cranks up his formica-white stereo, and, looking about at the bare walls, considers purchasing velvet paintings or blacklight posters to hang on the walls and maybe to cover the mirrors.
He thinks he’d like to own a couple of paintings by Red Skelton.
The thing is, Wayne could never figure out why Red Skelton was funny.
Insanity always roared just beneath the comic mask, something Wayne was all too keen to recognize.
Red Skelton’s the guy who should’ve played Gilligan on the TV show instead of Bob Denver.
Don’t even get Wayne Paul Nader started on Red Skelton; he’ll get all up in your face and start talking like Jerry Lewis on the Muscular Dystrophy telethon.
You want to avoid such an encounter.
‘Jerry Lewis’ is a French euphemism for unrequited fantasy.
The term was coined in Paris when the movie The Errand Boy raped the minds of the French intelligentsia with its facile slapstick — the big band pantomime in the board room, for example — and its disarming and poignant pathos — Jerry and his lonely puppet friend in the prop room being sweetly alienated together, etc.
The film is a profound exploration of the myth of the eternal outsider, the Jewish Prufrock, the asexual Leslie Caron, the psychic forbear of Herman Munster.
Yes, ‘Jerry Lewis’ is the best possible sobriquet for the grand impossibility.
“Please don’t let the earth crumble before the children get here,” Wayne begs the perpetrator of all mysteries, “I’m not ready to die yet. There are still too many inflatable love dolls out there waiting for my masterful hands, tongue, and cock.”
At a school Halloween carnival when Wayne was 8-years-old, a game of bobbing for apples inflicted upon him yet another early trauma.
Bobbing for apples is the most wretched game. Sticking one’s face into a tub of cold, saliva-strewn, backwash-ridden water. Glory be to the Godless.
As little Pauly stuck his face in the scummy spitwater, steeped in the smell of the wet metal basin, he felt a hand at the nape of his neck, holding him underwater.
It was the hand of the unfortunately named bully Throckmorton Peeny.
His family name had been Penny, but it was recorded as Peeny at Ellis Island because his grandfather (“A total fucking retard,” according to Throck) wrote it down wrong on the form.
Anyone who called him Peeny got his ass kicked immediately.
He was ‘Throck,’ just ‘Throck,’ penitentiary-bound even then, and Throck just loved messing with weird little Wayne Paul Nader.
Trying to kick Throck in the peeny, Wayne went into drowning panic as his face remained submerged with the awful realization of his impending death.
When Throck relented, with much wicked laughter, Wayne’s wee lad felt like an itty-bitty nub, like a pencil eraser.
As his face emerged from the water, he saw the Kingdom of Heaven open all around him and beheld therein the faces of multitudes laughing at him.
That Halloween he went dressed as Casper The Friendly Ghost.
He didn’t really need a costume. He felt like Casper most of the time anyway.
Ever since he was a wee lad, Wayne has succumbed to the sensation of “Oh shit I’m going into another realm,” followed by bodily shakes like a dream in transition, revealing unto him a bath of glowing light that makes him feel connected to something. Inevitably though he blurs back into polarity realizing his utter aloneness.
Halloween in 9th Grade was unusual in that Wayne actually went to a party.
A costume party.
Wayne was never one for social gatherings of any sort, but he was especially wary of invitations to costume parties, as he believed, even then, that They, his nemeses, were out to get him, the ones who were only pretending to be his friends, and that the “costume party” was really a trap to humiliate him.
Oh, the party existed, but it wasn’t a costume party; Wayne would be the only one showing up in costume; the “party” would then consist of laughing at Wayne in his stupid-ass get-up.
All these raucous teenagers setting aside an entire evening to laugh at Wayne Paul Nader when he entered the party as the only one in costume.
He would always accept the invitation, then not show up.
Instead, he’d lie alone in bed and imagine all those sorry-ass fuckers sitting around waiting for him to walk in with a costume on. He’d sure show Them, boy. Blow Their pathetic evening. Triumph.
In 9th Grade, though, he decided to go to the Halloween party They were throwing. Lila Saddleback would be there, a wicked infatuation, the essence of all presence, deep and complicated, a fox.
Wayne concocted a John Lennon costume, with long, straight wig à la The White Album and glasses a la same and Sgt. Pepper coat (his Uncle Darryl’s navy dress coat), and guitar and the chords to a handful of Beatles tunes memorized ’cause chicks love that shit.
He would in fact end up singing “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” to Lila Saddleback, though she seemed at first to have no idea it was Wayne.
“I feel like I know you,” she said after Wayne serenaded her.
“That’s not possible dontcha know,” he replied in a horrendous Liverpudlian accent and a croaky frog voice, wondering why he’d just said that as soon as he said it.
For Wayne Paul Nader knew right then that nothing would ever happen between him and Lila, that he’d never really touch her, that it’d never get beyond talking.
“Want some pomegranate?” Lila offered.
“No, thank you,” declined Wayne, who didn’t like girls to see him eat.
“Oh, come on. If you swallow the seeds with swigs of Coke it’ll get you high. Don’t you wanna see God?”
“Nah, I’m allergic to God dontcha know.”
This made Lila laugh.
For the first time, he had made a joke rather than being the joke.
“Do you ever feel like everything’s all hollow, including yourself?” Lila asked, half-rhetorically, leaning her head back to wash down some pomegranate seeds with Coke. “I dunno, maybe it’s a girl thing,” she added.
“It’s hard to avoid emptiness,” observed Wayne, noticing not for the first time how beautiful Lila Saddleback was, that night costumed as James Bond ingenue Pussy Galore, “Great fullness seems empty dontcha know; yet it cannot be exhausted,” he attempted to awe her with a line he had memorized from the Tao Te Ching.
“Great intelligence seems stupid. Great eloquence seems awkward dontcha know,” he finished, leaving himself with nothing else profound to say. Those were the only lines he’d memorized.
Wayne and Lila looked at each other with the sort of unmitigated desire language can only diminish with its symbolic distances, prompting Lila to break the silence.
“So, what do you think of these decorations?” she smirked, referring to the dozens of inflatable love dolls dangling from the ceiling, and among which hung several of Wayne’s future paramours.
Zina Wax was merely the most recent in a skein of inflatable lovers, a series of failed relationships.
One doll, a black girl named Money, would, it turned out, be sexually dysfunctional (what a gyp).
Then he had one named Grandmother Teresa who was annoyed by the sounds he’d make while having sex and also while eating his cereal in the morning.
After that was this indiscernibly ethnic doll, like half heathen-Chinee/half Injun (so he could never decide what to name her), who would eventually come out as a lesbian.
And the doll before Zina, the one called Lucy, was a redhead who taunted him with implied accusations of inadequacy; she never said anything, but he could see it in her painted eyes.
Leave it to Wayne.
This is the guy who nicknamed his own dick ‘wee lad’ after all.
Even his inanimate fantasies reject him.
The worst sin is telling yourself you don’t deserve anything.
Wayne Paul Nader’s good at that.
It’s the wee lad’s specialty.
“I thought they were piñatas at first dontcha know.”
“I think it’s disgusting,” said the girl who’d chosen to dress up as Pussy Galore, “Throck’s a male chauvinist piglet.”
“Ah, well, yeah,” Wayne then articulated, “I’ve never met the bloke. I’m just a wee lad from Liverpool dontcha know.”
“Get off it, Wayne, I know it’s you,” she scolded, “Remember, I was there when Throck tried to drown you at the Halloween carnival in 3rd Grade . . . dontcha know,” she finished with a Liverpudlian twist of her own.
Ah, Wayne’s inept accent had betrayed him.
“Busted and disgusted, I can’t be trusted,” he quipped in the nerdiest fashion imaginable.
She wanted to talk to him, and he didn’t have anything to say really.
His core tragedy.
He watched her lose interest with each passing silence.
Oh, there would be other conversations with Lila here and there over the course of their school years together, always tentative, always uncomfortable, always a missed opportunity.
They had one final conversation, as adults.
The memory of it still grabs at him with a nightmare’s long tentacles.
Lila called him up one Halloween night, out of the blue, several years after they got out of high school, sounding way down.
Then, suddenly, there was her voice, in the most desperate crisis.
“Wayne? It’s Lila . . . I’m so glad you’re still at this number.”
“Hello,” Wayne stiffened, “What’s going on?”
“I’m killing myself right now,” she whispered.
He had just finished fucking the nameless heathen Chinee/Injun half-breed inflatable love doll moments before Lila called, and his wee lad was dripping belated jism as he spoke.
“I’m dying,” she moaned.
“Ah, yes, you were always dying . . .”
“Call somebody,” she rasped almost imperceptibly.
“Lila, is this a joke?,” Wayne demanded, “I mean, c’mon. It’s Halloween. The children will be here soon.”
“No,” she barely uttered, “Wayne . . . please.”
“Did They put you up to this?”
It would be just like Them to try to catch him off guard and manipulate his affections into making a bogus 911 call and looking like a jerk-off.
Those fuckface assholes.
The old fake suicide routine.
He knew Their tricks.
And Lila was one of Them for sure.
He looked directly at the mantel mirror, behind which was the main surveillance camera, and wagged a middle finger at the internet audience.
“Fuck all y’all motherfuckers. You think I’m gonna fall for that bullshit? Hail no. I got your resurrection right here,” he taunted as he whipped his wee lad out of his pants and waved it like so many lashes with a wet noodle at the astonished cabal.
Then he spoke back into the phone, “I hope you and your boys have had a good laugh at my expense, Lila,” to which there was the faintest answer, “No, God,” and then nothing, the old familiar Silent Treatment again.
He hung up on the dead connection.
“Damn bitches,” huffed Wayne.
He called Lila back about an hour later ’cause maybe she was serious, but he just got a busy signal.
That was like 20 years ago.
He tries not to think about that night as the night Lila Saddleback killed herself.
Rather, he thinks of it as the night he thwarted yet another attempt by Them to humiliate him in front of millions of viewers.
He returns his attention to the always present moment.
He peeks outside at the cobalt dusking.
It’s Halloween time.
In a little bit all the wee lassies and wee lads in their Halloween costumes will be going door-to-door in search of the perfect treat.
And Wayne wants to provide.
He wants to make their night.
“I love how there are always a few cripples and retards who show up,” he explains to the mirror, “They’re so cute. Especially the spastic ones. Like when they try to reach for the Good & Plenty and keep dropping it and shit.”
He decides there is just enough time for a very quick lovemaking session with Zina Wax and her rigid synthetic skin and sharp seams, down and dirty like he’s Harry Reems and she’s Georgina Spelvin.
But Wayne Paul Nader has to hurry (no problem).
The children will be here soon.