Survivor, p.18
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       Survivor, p.18

           Chuck Palahniuk
 
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  If Fertility is here yet, I don’t know.

  If Fertility is here and sitting next to me, quiet until we’re alone, I’ll beg for my big miracle.

  Next to the hole on my right is written, Here I sit all downhearted, tried to shit and only farted.

  Next to that is written, Story of my life.

  Next to the hole on my left is written, Show hard for hand job.

  Next to that is written, Kiss my ass.

  Next to that is written, With pleasure.

  This is in the New Orleans airport, which is the airport closest to the Superdome, where tomorrow there’s the Super Bowl, where at halftime I’m getting married.

  And time is running out.

  Outside in the hallway, my entourage and my new bride have been waiting more than two hours for me, while I’ve been sitting here so long my insides are ready to drop out of my ass. My pants are crushed around my ankles. The paper toilet seat liner is wicking water up from the toilet bowl to wet my bare skin. The smell of people’s business is thick in every breath I take.

  Toilet after toilet flushes, but every time the last man leaves another arrives.

  On the wall is scratched, You know how both life and porno movies end. The only difference is life starts with the orgasm.

  Next to that is scratched, It’s getting to the end that’s the exciting part.

  Next to that is scratched, How tantric.

  Next to that is scratched, It smells like shit in here.

  The last toilet flushes. The last man washes his hands. The last footsteps go out the door.

  Into the hole on my left, I whisper, Fertility? Are you there?

  Into the hole on my right, I whisper, Fertility? Is that you?

  There’s nothing but my fear another man will walk in to read his newspaper and let loose with another spectacular six-course bowel movement.

  Then from the hole on my right comes, “I hate that you called me a harlot on television.”

  I whisper back, I’m sorry. I was only reading the script they gave me.

  “I know that.”

  I know she knows that.

  The red mouth inside the hole says, “I called knowing you’d betray me. Free will had nothing to do with it. It was a Jesus⁄Judas thing. You’re pretty much just my pawn.”

  Thanks, I say.

  Footsteps come into the men’s room and whoever it is, he settles in the stall on my left.

  To the hole on my right, I whisper, We can’t talk now. Someone’s come in.

  “It’s okay,” the red mouth says. “It’s just big brother.”

  Big brother?

  The mouth says, “Your brother, Adam Branson.”

  And through the hole on my left comes the barrel of a gun.

  And a voice, a man’s voice, says, “Hello, little brother.”

  The gun stuck through the hole aims around, blind, pointing at my feet, pointing at my chest, my head, the stall door, the toilet bowl.

  Next to the barrel of the gun is scratched, Suck this.

  “Don’t freak,” Fertility says. “He’s not going to kill you. I know that much.”

  “I can’t see you,” Adam says, “but I have six bullets, and one of them is bound to find you.”

  “You’re not going to kill anybody,” the red mouth tells the black gun, the two of them talking back and forth across my bare white lap. “He was at my apartment all last night putting that gun against my head, and all he did was mess up my hair.”

  “Shut up,” the gun says.

  The mouth says, “He doesn’t have any bullets in it.”

  The gun says, “Shut up!”

  The mouth says, “I had another dream about you last night. I know what they did to you as a child. I know what happened to you was terrible. I understand why you’re terrified of having sex.”

  I whisper, Nothing happened to me.

  The gun says, “I tried to stop it, but just the idea of what the elders were doing to you kids made me sick.”

  I whisper, It wasn’t that bad.

  “In my dream,” the mouth says, “you were crying. You were just a little boy the first time, and you had no idea what was about to happen.”

  I whisper, I’ve put all that behind me. I’m a famous celebrated religious celebrity.

  The gun says, “No, you haven’t.”

  Yes, I have.

  “Then why are you still a virgin?” the mouth says.

  I’m getting married tomorrow.

  The mouth says, “But you won’t have sex with her.”

  I say, She’s a very lovely and charming girl.

  The mouth says, “But you won’t have sex with her. You won’t consummate the marriage.”

  The gun says to the mouth, “That’s how the church worked it with all the tenders and biddies so they’d never want sex in the outside world.”

  The mouth says to the gun, “Well, the whole practice was just sadistic.”

  Speaking of marriages, I say, I could use the biggest miracle you’ve got.

  “You need more than that,” the mouth says. “Tomorrow morning while you’re getting married, your agent is going to drop dead. You’re going to need a good miracle and a good lawyer.”

  The idea of my agent being dead isn’t so bad.

  “The police,” the mouth says, “are going to suspect you.”

  But why?

  “There’s a bottle of that new cologne of yours, Truth, The Fragrance,” the mouth says, “and he chokes to death breathing it.”

  “It’s really bleach mixed with ammonia,” the gun says.

  I ask, Just like the caseworker?

  “That’s why the police will come after you,” the mouth says.

  But my brother killed the caseworker, I say.

  “Guilty as charged,” the gun says. “And I stole the DSM and your case history files.”

  The mouth says, “And he’s the one who set things up for your agent to choke to death.”

  “Tell him the best part,” the gun says to the mouth.

  “More and more in my dreams,” the mouth says, “the police have been suspecting you of murdering all the Creedish survivors whose suicides looked fake.”

  All the Creedish that Adam killed.

  “Those are the ones,” the gun says.

  The mouth says, “The police think maybe you did all the killings to make yourself famous. Overnight, you went from being a fat ugly housecleaner to being a religious leader, and tomorrow you’ll be accused of being the country’s most successful serial killer.”

  The gun says, “Successful probably isn’t the right word.”

  I say, I wasn’t all that fat.

  “What did you weigh?” the gun says, “And be honest.”

  On the wall it says, Today Is the Worst Day of the Rest of Your Life.

  The mouth says, “You were fat. You are fat.”

  I ask, So why don’t you just kill me now? Why don’t you put some bullets in your gun and just shoot me?

  “I have bullets loaded,” the gun says, and the barrel swivels around to point at my face, my knees, my feet, Fertility’s mouth.

  The mouth says, “No, you don’t have any bullets.”

  “Yes, I do,” the gun says.

  “Then prove it,” the mouth says. “Shoot him. Right now. Shoot him. Shoot.”

  I say, Don’t shoot me.

  The gun says, “I don’t feel like it.”

  The mouth says, “Liar.”

  “Well, maybe I wanted to shoot him a long time ago,” the gun says, “but now the more famous he gets, the better. That’s why I killed the caseworker and destroyed his mental health records. That’s why I’ve set up the stupid phony bottle of chlorine gas for the agent to sniff.”

  I was only a pretend insane pervert with the caseworker, I say.

  Scratched on the wall it says, Shit or get off the pot.

  “It doesn’t matter who kills the agent,” the mouth says. “The police will be right on the fifty-yard line to arrest
you for mass murder the second you step off camera.”

  “But don’t worry,” the gun says. “We’ll be there to rescue you.”

  Rescue me?

  “Just give them this miracle,” the mouth says, “and there should be a few minutes of chaos so you can get out of the stadium.”

  I ask, Chaos?

  The gun says, “Look for us in a car.”

  The mouth says, “A red car.”

  The gun says, “How do you know? We haven’t stolen it yet.”

  “I know everything,” the mouth says. “We’ll steal a red car with an automatic transmission because I can’t drive a stick.”

  “Okay,” the gun says. “A red car.”

  “Okay,” the mouth says.

  I couldn’t be more not excited. I say, Just give me the miracle.

  And Fertility gives me the miracle. The biggest miracle of my career.

  And she’s right.

  And there will be chaos.

  There will be complete pandemonium.

  At eleven o’clock the next morning, the agent is still alive.

  The agent’s alive at eleven-ten and at eleven-fifteen.

  The agent’s alive at eleven-thirty and eleven forty-five.

  At eleven-fifty, the events coordinator chauffeurs me from the hotel to the stadium.

  With everyone always around us, the coordinators and reps and managers, I can’t ask the agent if he’s brought a bottle of Truth, The Fragrance, and when he plans to sniff it next. I can’t just tell him not to sniff any cologne today.

  That it’s poison. That the brother I don’t have and that I’ve never seen has got into the agent’s luggage and set a trap. Every time I see the agent, every time he disappears into the bathroom or I have to turn my back for a minute, it could be the last time I see him.

  It’s not that I love the agent that much. I can easily enough picture myself at his funeral, what I’d wear, what I’d say in eulogy. Giggling. Then I see Fertility and me doing the Argentine Tango on his grave.

  I just don’t want to be on trial for mass murder.

  It’s what the caseworker would call an approach⁄avoidance situation.

  Whatever I say about cologne, the entourage will repeat to the police if he turns up choked to death.

  At four-thirty, we’re backstage at the stadium with the folding tables and catered food and the rented wardrobe, the tuxes and the wedding dress hanging on racks, and the agent is still alive and asking me what I plan to proclaim as my big half time miracle.

  I’m not telling.

  “But is it big?” the agent wants to know.

  It’s big.

  It’s big enough to make every man in this stadium want to kick my ass.

  The agent looks at me, one eyebrow raised, frowning.

  The miracle I have is so big it will take every policeman in this city to keep the crowds from killing me. I don’t tell the agent that. I don’t say how that’s the idea. The police will have their hands so full keeping me alive, they won’t be able to arrest me for murder. I don’t tell the agent that part.

  At five o’clock, the agent is still alive, and I’m getting strapped into a white tuxedo with a white bow tie. The justice of the peace comes up and tells me everything is under control. All I have to do is breathe in and out.

  The bride comes over in her wedding dress, rubbing petroleum jelly up and down her ring finger, and says, “My name is Laura.”

  This isn’t the girl who was in the limo from the day before.

  “That was Trisha,” the bride says. Trisha got sick so Laura is being her understudy. It’s okay. I’ll still be married to Trisha even though she’s not here. Trisha is the one the agent still wants.

  Laura says, “The cameras won’t know.” She’s wearing a veil.

  People are eating the food brought in by the caterer. Near the steel doors that open onto the sidelines, people from the florist are ready to hustle the altar out onto the football field. The candelabras. The bowers covered with white silk flowers. Roses and peonies and white sweet peas and stock, all of them brittle and sticky with hair spray to keep them stiff. The armload of silk bouquet for the bride to carry is silk gladioli and white poly-silk dahlias and tulips trailing yards of white silk honeysuckle.

  All of it looks beautiful and real if you’re far enough away.

  The field lights are bright, the makeup artist says, and gives me a huge red mouth.

  At six o’clock, the Super Bowl begins. It’s football. It’s the Cardinals against the Colts.

  Five minutes into the first quarter, it’s Colts six, Cardinals zero, and the agent is still alive.

  Near the steel doors that open into the stadium are the altar boys and bridesmaids dressed as angels, flirting and smoking cigarettes.

  With the Colts on their forty-yard line, it’s their second down and six, and the post-event scheduler is briefing me how I’ll spend my honeymoon on a seventeen-city tour to promote the books, the games, the dashboard statuette.

  Founding my own major world religion isn’t out of the picture. A world tour is in the works now that the pesky question about my having sex is covered. The plan includes goodwill tours to Europe, Japan, China, Australia, Singapore, South Africa, Argentina, the British Virgin Islands, and New Guinea, with me getting back to the United States in time to see my first child born.

  Just so there’s nothing left to guesswork, the coordinator tells me the agent has taken certain liberties to make sure my wife will have our first child at the end of my nine-month tour.

  Long-range planning calls for my wife to have six, maybe seven children, a model Creedish family.

  The events coordinator says I won’t have to lift a finger.

  This will be immaculate conception, as far as I’m involved.

  The field lights are way too bright, the makeup artist says, and smears my cheeks with red.

  At the end of the first quarter, the agent comes by to make me sign some papers.

  Profit-sharing documents, the agent tells me. The party known as Tender Branson, to be hereafter known as The Victim, grants the party hereafter known as The Agent the power to receive and distribute all monies payable to the Tender Branson Media and Merchandising Syndicate, including but not limited to book sales, broadcast programming, artwork, live performances, and cosmetics, namely men’s cologne.

  “Sign here,” the agent says.

  And here.

  Here.

  And here.

  Someone is pinning a white rose to my lapel. Someone is on his knees shining my shoes. The makeup artist is still blending.

  The agent now owns the copyright to my image. And my name.

  It’s the end of the first quarter with the game tied seven to seven, and the agent’s still alive.

  The personal fitness trainer needles me with 10 cc’s of adrenaline to put some sparkle in my eyes.

  The senior events coordinator says all I have to do is walk the fifty-yard line out to where the wedding party is standing in the center of the stadium. The bride will walk in from the opposing side. We’ll all of us be standing on a platform of wooden boxes with five thousand white doves hidden underneath. The audio for the ceremony was all prerecorded in a studio, so that’s what the audience will hear. I don’t have to say a word until my prediction.

  When I step on a switch hidden by my foot, that will release the doves. Walk.

  Talk. Doves. It’s a cinch.

  The wardrobe supervisor announces that we need to use the corset to get the silhouette we’re after and tells me to hurry and strip in front of everybody.

  The angels, the staff, the caterers, the florist people. The agent. Now.

  Everything except my shorts and socks. Now. The wardrobe supervisor stands with the rubber-and-wire torture of the corset ready for me to step into, and says here’s my last chance to take a leak for the next three hours.

  “You wouldn’t have to wear that monster,” the agent tells me, “if you could keep the weight o
ff.”

  It’s four minutes into the second quarter and nobody can find the wedding ring.

  The agent blames the events coordinator blames the wardrobe supervisor blames the properties manager blames the jeweler who was supposed to donate a ring in return for advertising time on the blimp circling the stadium. Outside, the blimp is going around the sky flashing the jeweler’s name. Inside the agent is threatening to sue for breach of contract and trying to radio the blimp.

  The events coordinator is telling me, “Fake the ring.”

  They’ll have the cameras do a head-and-shoulders on me and the bride. Just fake putting a ring on Trisha’s finger.

  The bride says she’s not Trisha.

  “And remember,” the coordinator says, “just mouth the words, it’s all prerecorded.”

  It’s nine minutes into the second quarter and the agent is still alive and yelling into his phone.

  “Shoot it down,” he’s yelling. “Pull the plug. Give me a gun and I’ll do it,” he’s yelling. “Just get that damn blimp out of the air.”

  “No can do,” the events coordinator says. The minute the wedding party comes out of the stadium, the crew in the blimp will dump fifteen thousand pounds of rice over the parking lot.

  “If you’ll come with me,” the senior scheduler says. It’s time for us to take our places.

  The Colts and Cardinals go chugging off the field, the score twenty to seventeen.

  The crowd is screaming for more football.

  The angels and property staff rush out with the altar and silk flowers, the candelabras flaming and the platform full of doves.

  The corset is squeezing all my internal organs up into my throat.

  The clock is ticking down to the start of the second half, and the agent is still alive. I can only inhale in little half breaths.

  The personal fitness trainer sidesteps up next to me and says, “Here, this will put some color in your cheeks.”

  He puts a little bottle under my nose and says for me to sniff hard.

  The crowd is stomping their feet, the clock ticks, the score is so close, and I sniff.

  “Now the other nostril,” the trainer says.

  And I sniff.

  And everything’s disappeared. Except for the hum of my blood chugging through veins in my ears and my heart pumping against the squeeze of my corset, I’m not aware of anything.

 
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CHUCK PALAHNIUK SERIES:

Damned

 

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