Isaac Sheldon Hale

Bingo and the Cockless Wonders

NEXT!!”

Bingo walked up to the massive wooden desk.

“What’s yer name, kid?”

“I’m the Cockless Wonder.”

The fat man behind the desk raised an eyebrow.

“Well, it’s Bingo – but I’m the Cockless Wonder.”

“You got a name like Bingo and you call yourself the Cockless Wonder?”

“It’s the act. You gotta see it. It’s really–”

“I like it! But we need four more guys. You’re Bingo and they’re the Wonders. I like it.”

“Don’t you want to see the act?” Bingo reached for the zipper on his crotch.

“Not if you’re gonna whip your fuckin’ dick out, kid. Leave the pleasure to the crowd.”

Bingo frowned. “I don’t whip my dick out. I’m a cockless wonder.”

“This is Hollywood, kid. You wanna be a wonder? You gotta have a cock to make it, or you gotta find one that can do it for you. It’s the only way.”

“You don’t understand – I’m different. I don’t need a cock to make it. That’s the whole point.”

“Fuck it. Let’s see what you got.” The fat man leaned back in his chair and lit a cigar.

The kid unzipped his fly and dropped his pants. The fat man was momentarily stunned; he choked on his cigar smoke. A cat hissed and scurried out of the room. Then Bingo began…

It was something magnificent, like a sunrise over Halong Bay. Like the chorus of angels from on high. A foul odor crept into the air, filling the small office space. The fat man sat frozen with awe, his tearful eyes growing wider with each passing moment. He hadn’t felt this way in so long; a lip quivered as his mind rolled through tender childhood memories. The Chinese Ballet had nothing on Bingo. The Roman Empire would have fallen to its knees for him. Such a glorious fantasy display, unparalleled in all of history. This kid had it.

As Bingo finished, the fat man sat silent for a moment. He couldn’t believe it: of all the talent agencies in L.A., Lady Luck had chosen this one to grace with her presence. He grabbed a tissue and wiped snot off his upper lip.

“Just sign right here,” he said.

Bingo walked past the hardware store and took a left, stopped next to a stairwell. He pulled a torn napkin out of his pocket and looked at the address again; this was the place. He climbed the stairs to a red door that groaned when he opened it. Inside, he stood in an old rehearsal hall. The fat man was at the other end of the room, pacing, eyes glued to his wristwatch. He looked up and startled, nearly tripped on his own feet as he went to greet the kid.

“Thank God! I thought we might’ve lost you. Follow me.”

The fat man hurried through another groaning door and Bingo followed. In the next room stood four men: two blondes, a redhead, and a bald one. Bingo could tell they had little means.

“Boys, this here is Bingo,” said the fat man. “He’s gonna make you the Cockless Wonders.”

The men looked concerned. The redhead took a step back.

“It ain’t like that,” said the fat man. “We’re all gettin’ a fuck-ton of money.”

The redhead stepped forward again.

“That’s more like it! This is the time of our lives, gents – believe me!”

Bingo waved the fat man over. “What exactly are these guys here for?”

“Son, it’s showbiz,” said Fatty. “With this act, you’re gonna be on a big circuit – a big stage, see? Can’t have just one guy up there. The crowd gets restless. Besides, this way the name has some zing to it.” He turned to the four guys and winked, then faced Bingo again.

“Okay, kid…go ahead. Show ‘em.” The fat man braced himself for the spectacle.

Bingo shrugged and dropped his pants. Then he began…

It was, of course, phenomenal. It was like the Grand Canyon: pictures could not do it justice. You had to be there yourself. All that beauty pouring out from one source…so much talent, such incredible moxie. Hitler would have been jealous. And the stink! – God, it was overwhelming.

When Bingo finished, the four men applauded. It would have taken a swimming pool to catch all the tears. Only the bald man spoke: “I’m gonna buy my mama a Cadillac.”

The fat man slipped a ten-dollar bill to each of the men. “I’ll have your suits ready on Friday,” he said. They thanked him and left the room in single file.

It was an opera house in New York City. Bingo rolled down the window and saw steam rising from the curb as the limo came to a stop. It was cold as ice out there; he hardly noticed. The past ten months had been a whirlwind of record deals, TV interviews, and a sold-out national tour. The reviews were fairly mixed: “CONTROVERSIAL!” … “GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH!!” … “THIS GUY’S GOING TO HELL.” This was the last leg of the tour and momentum was still on the rise. Top-notch film director Willoughby Jones was considering leads for his new action flick; rumor had it that he might be in the crowd. If tonight went smoothly, the sky was the limit.

Bingo got out of the car and squinted, then held up a hand to block the flashing lights. The fat man exited the vehicle behind him and beamed at the cameras. Bingo waved, gave an unsteady smile as he walked along the carpet. This was a bit more than he’d bargained for, but oh-so delicious. Along the grand marquee stood tall words lit up like a fairground:

TONIGHT!!

BINGO AND THE COCKLESS WONDERS

(Cash Only)

The fat man pushed Bingo through the double doors and into the lobby. They made a sharp right through an entrance marked ‘TALENT.’ Outside, the people were still screaming. There was a long corridor that reeked of spilled champagne; Bingo remembered New Years Eve, and marveled that it was coming up so soon. Time moves fast when you’re keeping busy, he thought. He entered a dressing room and the fat man followed.

Fatty closed the door and faced Bingo squarely. “Listen…I mean, this is kind of a big night. Not that it really matters, but do you do any other numbers…or just the one?”

“Just the one.” Bingo was confident.

The fat man grabbed his shoulders with love. “Okay. Well, no matter what happens, this has been amazing, kid. I want you to know how much it means to me – it means everything.” He looked pretty genuine.

“Just another day on the clock.” Bingo smiled.

“Yeah, but it’s a big fucking clock.” The fat man left the room and walked down the hall as Bingo closed the door. It was almost go-time.

Inside the dressing room, Bingo stood motionless for a moment. It was hard to believe this was all real. Last year he’d been picking up dimes off the sidewalk – it seemed people only dropped dimes, for some reason – and eating from trash cans in the park. His life then was filled with false starts, dead-end jobs, and broken promises. He was never the type to fit in. His response to the talent ad in the local rag had been a joke, a shot in the dark, a last-ditch attempt to do something worthwhile with his final hours. Just that morning, Bingo had decided to jump off the tallest bridge in town. But it was more like a choice, really. Decisions are made with conviction, and the suicide was mostly about apathy. His response to the ad? Now, that was a decision: a conscious effort to complete something once and for all. Just one thing – just one little thing, for God’s sake. It wouldn’t really matter any more or less than the things he had done before, only this time he would see it through to the end. Then he could get on with the suicide, if he still had the balls.

That’s the problem, he’d thought – I don’t have any balls. And the cycle of self-loathing started all over again.

Now Bingo was doing alright. No more dimes off the sidewalk. No more food poisoning from the recycle bin. Things were looking pretty good. So he stopped standing in the dressing room and began walking. He walked straight to the fridge for a bottle of chocolate milk. It was full of them, just as requested. This was important for the show.

Ten minutes later, the show was about to begin. The Wonders walked to center-stage and stood on their marks behind the stage curtain. They were ready. Bingo was ready. Somewhere not far away, the fat man was ready as well. A local radio announcer walked up to Bingo and shook his hand. He held out a Starbucks receipt and a ballpoint pen.

“Listen, if you don’t mind…my kid would really appreciate an autograph. He’s crazy about assholes. Don’t ask.”

Bingo obliged. The announcer thanked him and walked out into the spotlight as the music began playing. The audience piped up in celebration. Bingo stepped to his place in front of the Wonders. It was tuxedos all around.

From there, all Bingo could see was the dark backside of the deep-red curtain. But he could hear the audience; he could smell their popcorn, feel their bank accounts dwindling in the atmosphere. The roar of their excitement was beautiful. Bingo knew he had earned this with his commitment to that one fateful decision. And yet somehow he felt an immense gratitude to the powers beyond his control. It seemed the moment he had stepped out in faith, all the pieces just came together. If he could ride this high for just one more night, Bingo would never consider the bridge again. He could easily carry on living. He promised this, somewhere, deep down inside.

The radio announcer wailed into the microphone: “Ladies and gentlemen! Please give a warm New-York welcome for… BINGO AND THE COCKLESS WONDERRRSSS!!”

The ruby curtain rose. The audience stood clapping and cheering, happy as children on Christmas morning. Bingo waved to them. The Wonders waved to them, too. Panties flew onstage. Then the lights dimmed, the excitement softened, and everyone returned to their seats.

Bingo walked closer to the front of the stage, folding his hands in front of his waist. He turned briefly to his bandmates and nodded. On his cue, the Cockless Wonders cleared their throats and commenced humming a soft acappella number. They swayed from side to side in unison, their tune rolling in rise and fall like the refrain of a Southern Gospel hymn. It was low and sweet, fit for a funeral; the pace was measured, the tempo calm. For some in the crowd, it held a certain familiarity they could not yet define. The Wonders raised their volume. Bingo lowered his head in reverence, and just as the melody lifted he deftly unzipped his fly. Then he dropped his pants to the floor, and the audience gasped: Bingo was as bare as a plastic doll. Not a hair could be found, not a shred of evidence to suggest that he’d ever possessed an organ at all. But for the lack of scars, one could have sworn he was a eunuch, or the victim of some tragic accident.

On the next measure, Bingo turned his back to the audience and bent over at the waist. He spread his cheeks apart gently, and in that moment the sweetest voice rang out through the auditorium:

Clock strikes upon the hour,
and the sun begins to fade…”

It was an impossibly clear tenor, perfect in pitch. Gorgeous, velvet tone spilled into the theater in waves. The audience gasped again.

Still enough time to figure out…
how to chase my blues away…”

Such crystalline, operatic body… A range that stretched to infinity… And the vibrato – my god, that vibrato!

I’ve done alright up to now…
It’s the light of day that shows me how…
And when the night falls… loneliness calls…”

It was beauty incarnate. It was simply indescribable. It was a soulful, heart-crushing rendition of Whitney Houston’s nineteen-eighties mega-hit ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody.’

Ooohh, I wanna dance with somebody…
I wanna feel the HEAT with some-bah-da-aay…”

The impassioned wails moving each line… An incredible display of control… All that unfettered power, fit for a king, yet reserved to one lowly asshole. It hardly seemed just. The smell was overpowering.

Yeaahh, I wanna dance with somebody…
With somebody who loves me!”

The Sirens of ancient Greece were rolling in their mythical graves. This kid really had it. By heartache or by stench, not an eye in the house was dry. The fat man watched from the wings; his face was distorted with joy. Somewhere in the third row, Willoughby Jones was frantically reaching for his cell phone.

Bingo couldn’t believe it: for the first time in his life he felt the touch of grace. From a hobo on park benches to the darling of Hollywood; from the bottom of the gutters to the heights of his wildest dreams…this night was worth everything. It could all end tomorrow and he wouldn’t be any less grateful. This was more than the result of a decision; it was a validation of his desperate intention. It was magnificent and it was pure. It was, finally, a holy and miraculous calling.

As the anus reached its final note, Bingo sobbed into his open hands. The crowd went wild.

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