Does anyone remember the show “Reading Rainbow?” It was a show about a man named Levar Burton who taught children on a weekly basis about the joys of reading. I thought it was a pretty excellent show, and watched all the way up until my early 40’s, until it was abruptly cancelled with no explanation given by PBS except maybe “Fuck you, learn to read on your own, prick.”
Now, you should know that my family immigrated from Southern Mexico when I was just a young boy and I never learned to read. I had a computer whiz friend of mine who is proficient in Ms Fonz type this up. Anyway, the point is that I can’t read, and reading rainbow never taught me either. Let me fucking tell you something, broham, I made it to the end of that rainbow, and there wasn’t gold at the end. You can’t even reach the end of a rainbow because it is an illusion, a trick made up by the eyes to see something beautiful. Rainbows don’t exist. By the time you reach the end, it’s vanished. Kind of like my erection.
I acquired the tape through googling “What ever happened to reading rainbow?” and what d’ you know, LeVar Burton was personally auctioning off his own collection of the prized children’s television classic. I bought it, unwrapped it and played it. Don’t make me talk more about this than is necessary. It did concern me that the words “In Bizarre Fool.” Were written on the front. What did that mean?
Anyway, the episode started as normal. It was on VHS, which if you weren’t alive in the 90’s was like DVDs except shittier. This show wasn’t really about anything, you know. The VHS slipcase had a picture of LeVar Burton smiling with the caption: “Warning, this VHS will fucking kill you” in a highly stylized font. I can’t read, so it didn’t occur to me until later that this VHS was packaged with a clearly visible death threat. Maybe I shouldn’t have watched it, but I did watch it. And it changed my life forever. It changed my life... for the worse!
The episode was…strange. The surrealistic intro played, with a butterfly flying and turning into a dragon over a sandcastle while a boy flies into space with a robot, these little things that made nostalgic grooves in our minds as children. But the lyrics were different:
Butterfly in the sky I’m going to take your eyes Just take a look Oh wait you can’t Your eyes are gone, bro... I caaaaan’t see anythiiiiiing I hope you fall Bump into walls Your eyes are gone broooo... I can’t see anythiiiiing You can’t watch shrek, You’ll break your neck, Your eyes are gone brooooo...
The scene immediately cut to Lavar Burton smiling with the camera zoomed deep into his face. He’s eating a pie. Strange. He’s in a library alongside several books that are not usually portrayed on the show. He’s whispering. “We’re in a part of the library where they keep the really secret, secret books…Oh. By the way. I used to be on Star Trek. I’m Levar Burton.” I’m not sure why he was telling me that. I looked at the books he was “reading.” These didn’t seem like the sorts of books children should be reading. The Anarchist’s Cookbook. Lieber Falxifer: The Book of the Left Handed Reaper. The Gromlick. He picked up a copy of the 9/11 Commission report and started laughing rather loudly. “Let’s read some ‘nonfiction’ for a change.” He winked at the camera and threw it into the garbage. The book, not the camera.
He picked up a strange book titled “The Serpent and the Rainbow.” By the way I told you I couldn’t read earlier, but I recognized the fonts. Ah, Comic Sans, that old chestnut. This book seemed, rather strange. A little different from the other books. “This is a very interesting book.” Lamar smiled and began shaking an ancient voodoo stick and dancing around, while still whispering. People in the library are staring at him. Some begin to call the police as he started handing tiny voodoo dolls to the children. “I just wanna dance.” He said.
I began to get a little creeped out as LeVar picked up several of the books they are reading and threw them on the floor. People begin to whisper in the background. “Call the police I don’t give a fuck!” LeVar yells. There’s a lot of panicked yelling as he dances around and then the scene immediately cuts to LeVar at a graveyard. “We’ve got bigger fish to fry, kids. Literally. I don’t like fish.” He smiles at the camera, and the way he says fish sounds really creepy for some reason. I’m not making this up, there’s a real VHS of this that I saw and I don’t care if you believe me.
“Did you know that with just a few common household ingredients, we can raise the dead?!” He looked visibly aroused. He walks over to a gravestone that says “Clairvius Narcisse.” “If your grandmother is dead, for example, she’s never truly dead. We can always bring her back.” He picks up a pufferfish and begins extracting the puffer poison manually. “Cmon grandma..” He whispers, and smiles at the camera. As the camera zoomed, I noticed he had blood dripping from his left nostril and his right eye looked like a fake glass eye. Maybe it was a Dunkin Donuts donut hole that had a pupil drawn on with a sharpie. Whatever it was, it was highly effective and disturbing. If I was a more literate man, I’d say he looked disheveled. But what happened next made me spill V8 with lime juice all over my $800 ottoman.
“Cmon grandma.” He whispers again. He takes out a dead infant and crushes its skull in his hand while whispering something in a foreign dialect. He was reading from that book, The serpent and the rainbow. Dark stormclouds began to slowly appear over LeVar as he chanted louder and more maniacally. He takes out an arcane mortar and pestle and begins to grind the infant alongside pieces of a lizard, a horny toad and the tetrodoxin, or its common household name, puffer fish poison. He throws in some strange plants known as itching peas and pours them over the gravesite. At some point he was briefly naked from the waist down for some reason. I own a Montel Williams blender.
Suddenly, something begins to rise from the grave. I forgot that this was reading rainbow because it didn’t resemble a reading rainbow episode at all. It seemed more like a series of images involving LeVar Burton attacking people. “GET OUT I’M MAKING A FUCKING ZOMBIE!” He yells to some senior citizens in a golf cart, and throws his shoe at them. Wait a minute- this wasn’t a graveyard. It was a golf course. That grave was just a plastic tombstone he had strategically placed there.
The body started to rise from the grave and I began to become increasingly concerned as it showed its true form. It wasn’t a zombie- it was… it was Michael Jackson. The 80’s pop singer. Michael Fucking Jackson. “Yes.” LeVar said, sitting down in a series of cheap plastic lawn chairs. “Most of the television personalities that we know and love are deeply engaged in the necromicon. Michael Jackson died briefly in the 1980’s. The “Bad” music video wasn’t meant to be funny. It was an actual occurrence. Michael Jackson died in the 80’s and we’ve been using arcane practices and infanticide to periodically bring him back to life. Oh and by the way, that’s a nice ottoman.”
I did some research on Wikipedia (I recognized the pictures) and found that Michael Jackson died roughly around the same time Reading Rainbow was cancelled. I began to get increasingly disturbed as I saw the final scene in the VHS. It looked like Michael Jackson at a children’s birthday party. Hitler was there too. As he starts to drink some tea with a man that looks like he has a dinosaur head, his nose falls off. That explained all the plastic surgery. But what about those other, zombified celebrities? All the ones that never seem to age, or if they do they say they’ve gotten “plastic surgery?” I gasped. It wasn’t plastic surgery at all. The host of reading rainbow had been murdering infants and pufferfish to create a horrific combination of toxins that could be injected to turn them into zombies...
Everyone…everyone we watch on television is a zombie. All of your favorite tv characters are dead. They get their annual injection by LeVar and they’re up and shambling. I looked at my television set, flipping through the channels. Larry king…danny devito, even former President George W. Bush... zombies! All of them! I could see the stiches on their skin where they tied the pieces of their zombified corpses together!
Wait a minute- I rearranged the letters of the name Michael Jackson...well, we could shorten his name to mike Jackson... and wait a minute. It rearranged to the words... ”Man, sick joke” My god. It was all a sick joke being portrayed by these television stars, possibly part of the freemason or illuminati conspiracy. They weren’t even real human beings, just zombie actors acting. LeVar Burton began to kill and eat a three horned goat while laughing maniacally. He did... the jitterbug stroll. Several dead television stars shambled in, dancing, dancing around and laughing at me! The camera zoomed deep into LeVar Burton’s face. “Read my lips, bitch.” He mouthed the words “I’m gonna fucking kill you.” Before taking out a gun and firing it at the camera. The bullet obviously couldn’t pass through the camera, I know this due to science, so instead the episode just ended with a black screen as the bullet destroyed the camera.
My spine began to shiver. I took a shower while eating donuts, and the donuts became soggy. Then, I threw the VHS in the garbage. I would’ve destroyed it earlier, but I was using it to hold up one of the chair legs on my ottoman. At least something good had come out of that godforsaken VHS tape.
A few days later I got a letter on my door. If I could read, I would’ve known that it said LeVar was coming to my house for a special exclusive “Reading Rainbow Tour” in my living room. But I didn’t know that. When I opened my door, LeVar was standing there. Eyes bloodshot. What he said next sent a shiver up my spine. “Sizeable. Abornmal Virtuoso.” He smiled. His left pupil was floating around at random as he said it. “Sizeable. Abnormal Virtuoso.” If I could read, I would’ve been able to figure out that it was an anagram for “LeVar Burton is also a zombie.” But since I couldn’t read. I simply stood there as he bit into my shoulder.
And then, he presented a book. Over his crotch. “Just take a look, it’s in a book.” He smiled at me. Now, I know you’re going to think that this is a little bit racist, but I swear, he slowly transformed into Alfonz Ribiero, the actor who played Carlton on the Fresh Prince of Bel Aire. I mean if you look carefully, they’re the same actor. All major television films are broadcast in a sound studio by about ten different people wearing different hats, scarves and beards. Nothing on television is real, they’re all complex set pieces. I hesitantly opened the book to find that he had inserted his flaccid penis into a hole in the back.
He strolled over to my living room area, moving in a strange fashion and smiling. “This is a nice ottoman, too bad it’s got a gimp leg.” He kicked it. His leg twitched as He picked up my ottoman and put it in his car and drove away. He stole my fucking ottoman. He jitterbug strolled into a 1995 Honda Civic, put the ottoman in the trunk and drove away.
Leaving me there, alone. Cold. Ottomanless. There is nothing at the end of the rainbow, in fact, maybe you are the rainbow. Maybe you are the one reflecting light, and you spent so many years in pain that you couldn’t even see it. After all, a rainbow comes after rain. Maybe it’s more important that people don’t see you as an actor on a stage, but who you truly are. Alfonz was right, I had spent so many years in pain myself that I couldn’t see everyone else breaking down around me. I could have been the illusion that people want to see.
It turns out that he wasn’t a zombie, and I was simply infected with gonnhorea and herpes simplex b. A few days later I was watching the Montel Williams show. It was on in the other room and I wasn’t really thinking about it. That was until I heard the words “Oh and by the way, I’m really enjoying this brand new ottoman.” I squinted hard, and it was Montel Williams using my ottoman! I even recognized the gimp leg. But it wasn’t Montel Williams. It wasn’t Montel Williams at all.