“Welcome to the show,” Marshmallarmé says.
“Show?” I stare into the camera.
“Rue du Doo. The show you’re in. The show we’re in. It’s playing on Channel 12. It’s 7:30 p.m.
“Do you know Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer?” he says.
I nod, or someone makes me nod.
“Rudolph was also a stop-motion TV special. Rankin/Bass, the puppeteers, made it.
“Rudolph had a misfit reindeer; Rue du Doo has a misfit boy—you! You’re a TV star. It’s Rudolph on the Rue du Doo. It’s Rue-du-doo-dolph.”
“Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer was the first successful stop-motion TV special,” he says. “Rue du Doo follows its formula.”
I blink. It makes a blinking sound.
“Rankin/Bass made the Rudolph puppets by hand, then animated them in Japan. Johnny Marks wrote Christmas songs for them to sing.
“Rue du Doo is more rank than Rankin, more ass than Bass. The songs are about poop. Rip Taylor is the voice of Antoine. Phyllis Diller is the voice of Choclette. Jonathan Winters is Cocoa Chanel. Paul Lynde plays Ploppy, a poo.”
“Who does my voice?” I say.
“A girl,” he says.
“Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer was a Christmas special; it was an ad for the idea of Christmas.
“Rue du Doo’s an ad for Halloween—and faggotry.
“Rudolph premiered on the Fantasy Hour. It was sponsored by General Electric. It was good advertising for G.E., and for all the gadgets they sold as Christmas gifts: a steam iron, a can opener, an electric knife. Rue du Doo’s sponsored by Count Choc-o-log, of course. Shit, sponsored by sugar!”
“I don’t know a thing about acting!” I say.
“Acting?” he says.
“You’re here to sell cereal; you’re here to sell toys.
“You’re here to sell the Count figurine, the Boo-Brownie figurine, the Franken-Fudge figurine—yours for five box tops and a money order.
“You’re here to sell the Haunted Dressing Room playset, with shattering mirror. The mirror’s foil. The Count’s foiled by it! You’re here to sell the Haunted Hair Salon, the Haunted Cosmetics Counter, the Haunted Haute Couture Atelier—yours for twenty-five box tops and a money order, sets sold separately.
“Then there’s this.”
He holds up a dollhouse.
“It’s Barbie’s Dreamhouse, but built for Barbey D’Aurevilly!”
It’s plastic. It’s plastic art nouveau.
“The Le Mal Marché dollhouse, yours for fifty box tops and a money order, figurines sold separately, some assembly required.”
I peer into it. I see me: a figurine of me in the Haunted Dressing Room. The figurine’s peering into the doll-sized dollhouse that a figurine of Marshmallarmé has in his hands.
“It doesn’t belong on a table.” Marshmallarmé holds it upside down. “It’s not a centrepiece. It’s made to be mounted upside down under a table. Cereal boxes and bowls sit on tables. The dollhouse belongs to the world beneath the bowls and boxes; the dark underworld where the cereal in the boxes and bowls is made, made, and made into merde. Mouths may gobble up Count Choc-o-log, but this is where the gobblings go—below, below, below.”
Rue du Doo will be right back.
All alone in the dressing room, I sing:
Somewhere beyond the box tops, brown bats fly,
Bats that poop puppet poop on Paris and on Versailles.
Somewhere beyond the box tops, brown bats soar,
Bats that poop in a monster puppet department store.
Somewhere beyond the box tops, bats brought me,
And I’m trapped in a world of stop-motion puppetry.
Someday I’ll wake up with a scream, someday I’ll wake from this bad dream called Paree.
I’ll eat fresh fruit and Wheaties, too, not cereal made of bat poo and dingleberry!
Somewhere beyond the box tops, bats fly free,
I sing, tears falling at twenty-four frames a second, “bats fly beyond the box tops, but what of, what of me?
A puppet stands at the dressing room door, applauding. “What a lovely song,” he says.
“Really?” I say, sniffling.
“No! It was so faggy! You’re fagging up the whole store!” He grins. Giggles. Guffaws. He’s my age, but gorgeous. Big brown eyes in a big round head. And his bum—it’s as if another puppet head’s been stuffed down the back of his pants.
He winks, then he’s gone.
I have a hard-on. It’s plastic wood. It took ten puppeteers ten minutes to animate it. Why?
“Somewhere beyond the box tops,” I sing, “I dream of a beautiful boy—is it puppy or puppet love?”
“A saccharine sentiment.”
I didn’t see Marshmallarmé come in.
“Who is this wonderful boy who’s inspired you to sing?” he says.
“I don’t know his name,” I say. “He dropped by the dressing room. He was really cute. Really, really cute. Really, really, really cute!”
“Merde,” he mutters to himself.
“The mirror,” he says. “If you want to live, you must make the magic mirror and make it immediately!” He hands me a book, a big book. “You are no longer Jon-D; you are John Dee.”
“Wizard!” the Count says, strutting into the scene with Boo-Brownie and Franken-Fudge. “Where’s my magic mirror? Is this crackpot poet preventing you from completing it?”
“Count,” Marshmallarmé says, “I’m here in my capacity as a reporter. I’m planning on profiling the wizard in an upcoming edition of La dernière mode.”
“La derrière mode,” the Count sneers.
“The wizard was showing me the book he wrote—weren’t you, wizard?” Marshmallarmé nudges me and I nod. “It includes incantations to conjure the archangel Anael, who governs Venus, the planet, and who oversees the forces of love and hate in this world.”
“Anal,” the Count sneers.
“Anael’s armed with the secrets of reflection, and of foreseeing the future in shiny surfaces—isn’t he, wizard?” Marshmallarmé nudges me and I nod. “It’ll take the wizard some time to summon the archangel and study his secrets so that he can create a magic mirror capable of reflecting a vampire puppet. He’ll need privacy, absolute privacy, so shall we all leave him alone to—Count?”
“Arthur!” the Count says, spinning around. “I smell him!”
The Count sings:
Come out, come out, wherever you are, and meet the wise wizard who fell from a star.
Come out, come out, wherever you be, and meet the wise wizard who’s known as John Dee.
“Come out, come out, wherever thou art, and— Oh, for fuck’s sake,” he says, ditching the good-witch demeanour. “Arthur, you little shit, come out! Come out or so help me God!”
“Arthur?” I say.
“Arthur Rainblo!” the Count says. “He’s a punk! He’s a prankster! He’s a pain in my ass! When I get my hands on him I am going to murder him! But before I murder him, I’m going to fuck the shit out of him!”
“Fist him!” Boo-Brownie says.
“Felch him!” Franken-Fudge says.
“Arthur Rainblo’s a brat, you see; but he’s also the most succulent creature in tout Paris, the faggot dream of the fin de Fudgesicle!” the Count says, silly strings of spittle dangling from his fangs. “He’s a boy made of chocolate—chocolate hair, chocolate eyes, and a big beautiful butt full of brown!
“I would hold it dear,” the Count says. “I’d slobber, slurp and smear his rear, his rear—his rear!”
The Count sings:
Arthur’s ass is a confection,
That gives me an erection, so let me make it clear,
I would pig out on a plate of that guy’s gorgeous chocolate,
If I only had his rear.
The Count dances across the dressing room.
Arthur’s ass is chocolate candy,
And chocolate makes me randy and fills me with désir.
Watch me sink my dent sucrée deep in his dark dessert buffet,
If I only had his rear.
The Count dances up the dressing room wall. He dances across the dressing room ceiling. Fred Astaire? Fred Ascare!
Sweet meat! I’d like to eat his plump posterior. I’d eat it a while and then eat it some more. I bet it’s better than a s’more!
If I devoured his derrière,
His seductive sucrière, his cheeky chocolatier,
I could blame my tooth decay on Arthur’s rectal cavité,
If I only had his rear.
“Alas, I do not have his rear,” he sings as the music slows, “and I never will, I fear—I shed the sweetest tear. A candy store in a kid is how I’d satisfy my id, if I only had his rear.”
He sheds a tear. It’s Cellophane. It’s a candy wrapper.