On the television the camera zoomed in for an extreme, grainy close-up of financial mogul Jonathon Spade in all his immaculate, superficial perfection—cleft chin; bonded teeth, without the unsightly gaps and crevices; and tons of makeup to mask lines of plastic surgery. The camera pulled back to reveal Spade with his trademark slick pompadour hairstyle. “You may know me from my reality shows Pick the Pauper or my other hit Brag about your Billions!”
The camera moved to a wide shot of Spade throwing his arms up in victory. “But let me tell you about my greatest accomplishment!” Behind him was the new Manhattan skyline—a theme park of monorails, Ferris wheels and roller coasters. Fireworks lit up the horizon.
Wearing a black double-breasted, pin-striped suit, Spade strode through a line of red-, white-, and blue-clad Rockettes as they high-kicked behind him and waved sparklers. He strode between tiny gymnasts who somersaulted and maneuvered around poodles on unicycles. “I would like to introduce you all to my Spade theme park extravaganza!” With a daring glance, Spade extended his hand, “Come with me . . .”
The lump on the couch, a young man of slender build with wildly disheveled curly hair, lifted his head and stared at the television. In a state somewhere between dream and consciousness, the young man reached out for Spade’s hand and allowed himself to be pulled into the commercial.
“Miss America opens her arms to all who cross before her,” Spade proclaimed over the scene of a tour boat passing the Statue of Liberty. Lady Liberty appeared to have been given a makeover to match that of Manhattan’s—a large bandage covered her newly constructed nose, her breasts appeared two sizes larger than before, and the word “Spade” flashed in neon lights on her crown.
The commercial cut to the excited energy at the New York Stock Exchange. Tickets floated from the ceiling like confetti. The young man, now playing the part of a stock market trader, grabbed a ticket, read the contents, and raised his arms in victory; he was a winner!
“In our land of wonder, every man is a rich man!” Jonathon Spade’s voice echoed. “Our theme park is action-packed where visitors can be heroes . . .”
The young man circled the crowded streets of Chinatown. Venders peddled their merchandise: fish, teas, and ointments. Suddenly black-garbed ninjas surrounded him with knives. A sword vendor bowed and presented his display. The young man picked his poison—a large, dragon-etched samurai sword. When the crowd dispersed, the ninjas threatened with their knives. The young man saved the crowd by taking out each ninja with the nimbleness of a cat and expertise of a great samurai warrior.
Jonathon Spade voice continued over the action, “. . . or villains.”
Sitting at a cute little bistro table in Little Italy, dressed in a pin-striped suit, the young man sipped pasta through pursed lips and downed a glass of vino. A black sedan pulled up to the curb. The shaded passenger’s side window lowered, and the tip of a sawed-off shotgun aimed through it. The young man removed a gun from his ankle holster and shot the villain in the passenger’s seat. He then performed a duck-and-cover, somersault over the hood of the car to do in the villain in the driver’s seat. After firing, he blew the smoke from his gun while two Italian beauties appeared at his side.
“And let’s not forget romance.” On television, Jonathon Spade walked down the street with a beauty contestant on each arm. “Forty-second Street is the place to be, where hearts are always wild and Spade is always Trump. It’s all here for you in my Manhattan.”
Jake immediately awoke to the sight of a lumpy figure haloed against the dim blue light of the television. Horrified by what he saw, he screamed. He widened his brown eyes to improve his vision in the dim light.
“What’s the matter with you?” asked Judy Morgan, his beauty queen girlfriend as she flicked on the switch of a tilted floor lamp, illuminating the room and revealing the objects of torture as merely hand-assembled furniture. But this furniture was built by someone with unskilled hands—Jake. Judy’s bleached blonde hair was spun in tight curlers and plastic moisturizing gloves covered her hands. Dried green mask cracked around her lips as she spoke. “Sweetie, I’ve been waiting for you to come to bed.”
In the light Judy was more ghastly than her shadow and Jake wished she would turn off the lamp and step away from the television. She was blocking his view. “Oh, I fell asleep on the couch,” he said.
“On that dilapidated thing when you could’ve been in bed with me?” Her attention turned to the television.
On the screen, Jonathon Spade broadcasted over the end shot, “Come with me on a journey that will stir your senses—sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch—to a place where you can dream the American dream. For information call 1-900-55-SPADE. That’s 1-900-55-SPADE.”
Jake reclined back on the couch staring dreamily at the television. “That could be me someday, Judy.”
“Yeah, and I’ll be your wife—Miss Universe—and we’ll live happily ever after in paradise.” Judy kissed him on the forehead, leaving behind a smudge of green mask. “Now, can you come back to bed? You have to be up early for your presentation.”
Looking at her discouragingly, he wiped away green traces of facial mask from his forehead “Right on.”