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  • The O’Reilly Factor at 5 P.M., 8 P.M., 1 A.M.
  • Peter Nathaniel Malae (bio)

A very Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Mr. Lenzen would get a shower and, if necessary, a shave. Baths were easier in a practical sense—if he slipped and fell showering, ankle, wrist and hip bones could break—but he insisted on showers. They used less water. Conservation had nothing to do with it. Water bills can get high, and in the interest of saving money, Mr. Lenzen was willing to engage in a moment of coincidental liberalism. In this case, a good business risk.

I'd said once, turning on the faucet for his shower, "I thought good business had something to do with safety, Mr. Lenzen."

He'd said, "No baths again! Ever! I'm no Roman!"

"Then why should you get the royal treatment?"

"No baths! Ever!"

Mr. Lenzen preferred Bic disposable razors for his shave. Not because they were softer on his skin, though they were. They were a better deal than a permanent razor. He could conceivably die at any moment, and an eight-dollar Gillette Mach III would then be a posthumous waste. A three-dollar bag of fifty disposable razors would last, at about a one-shave-per-week rate, for a year. At that point, another bag of fifty disposables could be purchased for the ensuing year. At the end of that year, the living itself would be gift enough to trump any desire in Mr. Lenzen to ever shave again. He could then die in peace, unshaven and having saved, over the course of two years, two bucks on toiletries.

I knew Mr. Lenzen had the muscular capability to shave, and that it might have done some good for his spirit, which might, at some mysterious molecular level, have done some good for his antibody production, but he'd have probably cut himself and bled to death because of the poor vision. Mr. Lenzen refused altogether to wear anything visually corrective. When Mr. Lenzen was watching television, he was really simply hearing television, his head, in the moments he thought I couldn't see him, turned to the side for better reception. Even so, his hearing was only marginally better than the eyesight. Mr. Lenzen was, therefore, most attracted to the television show which was loudly consistent with his worldview. At five o'clock and then again at eight o'clock, Mr. Lenzen religiously participated in the debates on [End Page 54] FOXNews's The O'Reilly Factor, invariably in defense of the host. Not that the host needed it.

In a lot of ways, Bill O'Reilly was like Mr. Lenzen. O'Reilly directed conversations with his guests to best illustrate his point. Mr. Lenzen directed, entirely, me. O'Reilly took extremely complex regional, national and world issues and simplified them into right and wrong. Mr. Lenzen was always right, never wrong. O'Reilly was a master at skirting the surface of issues over which scholars gathered for week-long panels on C-Span, wrapping everything up in nine minutes (an hour-long show less fifteen commercial minutes results in five nine-minute segments), ending with a moral condemnation ("C'mon, Senator, you're a better person than that!"). Mr. Lenzen would rather skip the formalities and get right to the condemnation ("You piece of shit!"). Both were soapboxers, neither listeners, both raised Catholic, both shouters; both had dubious pasts ("O'Reilly," I'd reminded Mr. Lenzen one July weekend, "started out on Inside Edition."). And both (I learned this about O'Reilly on an A&E Biography that Mr. Lenzen demanded we watch that same July weekend) were cheap.

"The cheapness shouldn't bother you," Becca would say. We talked on the phone this past summer every night after I put Mr. Lenzen down. It was our ritual. "You're doing this for your soul, babe. Money should mean nothing to you."

"Working for Mr. Lenzen," I'd said, "it just about means nothing."

"He's got no one left but you."

"I sleep on the couch, Becca. Feet out over the armrest."

"He's fighting testicular cancer at eighty-three, Dysmus."



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pp. 54-77
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