? ? Contents Title Page Dedication Epigraph Author’s Note ? Chapter 1–An Introduction Chapter 2–Guardian Angels Chapter 3–Dogs Chapter 4–Fake Stars Chapter 5–Invisible Art Chapter 6–The Tooth Fairy Chapter 7–Haunted House Chapter 8–Pacing Chapter 9–Fishing Chapter 10–Werewolves Chapter 11–The Bees Chapter 12–The Food
Chapter 13–Sporting Chapter 14–Going Away Chapter 15–Boosted Peaks Chapter 16–The Team Chapter 17–Hit Men Chapter 18–The City Chapter 19–Student Driver Chapter 20–Junkyards Chapter 21–Echo Chapter 22–A History Chapter 23–Love Chapter 24–Werewolves II Chapter 25–The Patsy Chapter 26–In Denial Chapter 27–Tree Night Chapter 28–Embedded Commands Chapter 29–Werewolves III Chapter 30–In Mourning Chapter 31–An Accounting Chapter 32–In Hindsight Chapter 33–Werewolves IV Chapter 34–What If Chapter 35–A Flashback Chapter 36–Hit Men II Chapter 37–Resolving Origin Chapter 38–Communitas Chapter 39–Werewolves V Chapter 40–Final Connections Chapter 41–Rant Revisited Chapter 42–Contributors ? About the Author Also by Chuck Palahniuk Copyright
For my father, Fred Leander Palahniuk.Look up from the sidewalk. Please.
Do you ever wish
you’d never been born?
Author’s Note: This book is written in the style of an oral history, a form which requiresinterviewing a wide variety of witnesses and compiling their testimony. Anytime multiplesources are questioned about a shared experience, it’s inevitable for them occasionally to
Capote bycontradict each other. For additional biographies written in this style, please see George Plimpton, Edie by Jean Stein, and Lexicon Devil by Brendan Mullen.
Car Salesman ): Like most people, I didn’t meet and talk to Rant CaseyWallace Boyer (
until after he was dead. That’s how it works for most celebrities: After they croak, theircircle of close friends just explodes. A dead celebrity can’t walk down the street withoutmeeting a million best buddies he never met in real life.
Dying was the best career move Jeff Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy ever made. After Gaetan Dugaswas dead, the number of sex partners saying they’d fucked him, it went through the roof.
The way Rant Casey used to say it: Folks build a reputation by attacking you while you’realive—or praising you after you ain’t.
For me, I was sitting on an airplane, and some hillbilly sits down next to me. His skin, it’sthe same as any car wreck you can’t not stare at—dented with tooth marks, pitted andpuckered, the skin on the back of his hands looks one god-awful mess.
The flight attendant, she asks this hillbilly what’s it he wants to drink. The stewardess askshim to, please, reach my drink to me: scotch with rocks. But when I see those monster fingerswrapped around the plastic cup, his chewed-up knuckles, I could never touch my lips to the rim.
With the epidemic, a person can’t be too careful. At the airport, right beyond the metaldetector we had to walk through, a fever monitor like they first used to control the spread ofSARS. Most people, the government says, have no idea they’re infected. Somebody can feel fine,but if that monitor beeps that your temperature’s too high, you’ll disappear into quarantine.Maybe for the rest of your life. No trial, nothing.
To be safe, I only fold down my tray table and take the cup. I watch the scotch turn pale andwatery. The ice melt and disappear.
Anybody makes a livelihood selling cars will tell you: Repetition is the mother of all skills.You build the gross at your dealership by building rapport.
Anywhere you find yourself, you can build your skills. A good trick to remember a name is youlook the person in the eyes long enough to register their color: green or brown or blue. Youcall that a Pattern Interrupt: It stops you forgetting the way you always would.
This cowboy stranger, his eyes look bright green. Antifreeze green.
That whole connecting flight between Peco Junction and the city, we shared an armrest, me atthe window, him on the aisle. Don’t shoot the messenger, but dried shit keeps flaking off hiscowboy boots. Those long sideburns maybe scored him pussy in high school, but they’re grayfrom his temple to his jawbone now. Not to mention those hands.
To practice building rapport, I ask him what he paid for his ticket. If you can’t determinethe customer needs, identify the hot buttons, of some stranger rubbing arms with you on anairplane, you’ll never talk anybody into taking “mental ownership” of a Nissan, much less aCadillac.
For landing somebody in a car, another trick is: Every car on your lot, you program the number-one radio-station button to gospel music. The number-two button, set to rock and roll. Thenumber-three, to jazz. If your prospect looks like a demander-commander type, the minute youunlock the car you set the radio to come on with the news or a politics talk station. A sandalwearer, you hit the National Public Radio button. When they turn the key, the radio tells themwhat they want to hear. Every car on the lot, I have the number-five button set to that techno-raver garbage in case some kid who does Party Crashing comes around.
The green color of the hillbilly’s eyes, the shit on his boots, salesmen call those “mentalpegs.” Questions that have one answer, those are “closed questions.” Questions to get acustomer talking, those are “open questions.”
For example: “How much did your plane ticket set you back?” That’s a closed question.
And, sipping from his own cup of whiskey, the man swallows. Staring straight ahead, he says,“Fifty dollars.”
A good example of an open question would be: “How do you live with those scary chewed-uphands?”
I ask him: For one way?
“Round-trip,” he says, and his pitted and puckered hand tips whiskey into his face. “Calleda ‘bereavement fare,’” the hillbilly says.
Me looking at him, me half twisted in my seat to face him, my breathing slowed to match therise and fall of his cowboy shirt, the technique’s called: Active Listening. The strangerclears his throat, and I wait a little and clear my throat, copying him; that’s what a goodsalesman means by “pacing” a customer.
My feet, crossed at the ankle, right foot over the left, same as his, I say: Impossible. Noteven standby tickets go that cheap. I ask: How’d he get such a deal?
Drinking his whiskey, neat, he says, “First, what you have to do is escape from inside alocked insane asylum.” Then, he says, you have to hitchhike cross-country, wearing nothing butplastic booties and a paper getup that won’t stay shut in back. You need to arrive about aheartbeat too late to keep a repeat child-molester from raping your wife. And your mother.Spawned out of that rape, you have to raise up a son who collects a wagonful of folks’ old,thrown-out teeth. After high school, your wacko kid got’s to run off. Join some cult thatlives only by night. Wreck his car, a half a hundred times, and hook up with some kind-of,sort-of, not-really prostitute.
Along the way, your kid got’s to spark a plague that’ll kill thousands of people, enoughfolks so that it leads to martial law and threatens to topple world leaders. And, lastly, yourboy got’s to die in a big, flaming, fiery inferno, watched by everybody in the world with atelevision set.
He says, “Simple as that.”
The man says, “Then, when you go to collect his body for his funeral,” and tips whiskey intohis mouth, “the airline gives you a special bargain price on your ticket.”
Fifty bucks, round-trip. He looks at my scotch sitting on the tray table in front of me. Warm.Any ice, gone. And he says, “You going to drink that?”
I tell him: Go ahead.
This is how fast your life can turn around.
How the future you have tomorrow won’t be the same future you had yesterday.
My dilemma is: Do I ask for his autograph? Slowing my breath, pacing my chest to his, I ask: Ishe related to that guy…Rant Casey? “Werewolf Casey”—the worst Patient Zero in the historyof disease? The “superspreader” who’s infected half the country? America’s “KissingKiller”? Rant “Mad Dog” Casey?
“Buster,” the man says, his monster hand reaching to take my scotch. He says, “My boy’sgiven name was Buster Landru Casey. Not Rant. Not Buddy. Buster .”
Already, my eyes are soaking up every puckered scar on his fingers. Every wrinkle and grayhair. My nose, recording his smell of whiskey and cow shit. My elbow, recording the rub of hisflannel shirtsleeve. Already, I’ll be bragging about this stranger for the rest of my life.Holding tight to every moment of him, squirreling away his every word and gesture, I say:You’re…
“Chester,” he says. “Name’s Chester Casey.”
Sitting right next to me. Chester Casey, the father of Rant Casey: America’s walking, talkingBiological Weapon of Mass Destruction.
Andy Warhol was wrong. In the future, people won’t be famous for fifteen minutes. No, in thefuture, everyone will sit next to someone famous for at least fifteen minutes. Typhoid Mary orTed Bundy or Sharon Tate. History is nothing except monsters or victims. Or witnesses.
So what do I say? I say: I’m sorry. I say, “Tough break about your kid dying.”
Out of sympathy, I shake my head…
And a few inhales later, Chet Casey shakes his head, and in that gesture I’m not sure who’sreally pacing who. Which of us sat which way first. If maybe this shitkicker is studying me.Copying me. Finding my hot buttons and building rapport. Maybe selling me something, thisliving legend Chet Casey, he winks. Never breathing more than fifteen inhales any minute. Hetosses back the scotch. “Any way you look at it,” he says, and elbows me in the ribs, “it’sstill a damn sweet deal on an airplane ticket.”
Historian ): The hound dog is to Middleton whatFrom the Field Notes of Green Taylor Simms (
the cow is to the streets of Calcutta or New Delhi. In the middle of every dirt road sleepssome kind of mongrel coonhound, panting in the sun, its dripping tongue hanging out. A kind offur-covered speed bump with no collar or tags. Powdered with a fine dust of clay blown off theplowed fields.
To arrive at Middleton requires four solid days of driving, which is the longest period of timeI have ever experienced inside an automobile without colliding with another vehicle. I foundthat to be the most depressing aspect of my pilgrimages.
Neddy Nelson ( Party Crasher ): Can you explain how in 1968 the amateur paleontologist
William Meister in Antelope Spring, Utah, split a block of shale while searching for trilobitefossils, but instead discovered the fossilized five-hundred-million-year-old footprint of ahuman shoe? And how did another fossilized shoe print, found in Nevada in 1922, occur in rockfrom the Triassic era?
Echo Lawrence ( Party Crasher ): Driving to Middleton, rolling across all that fucking
country in the middle of the night, Shot Dunyun punched buttons, scanning the radio for trafficreports. To hear any action we’d be missing out on. Morning or evening drive-time bulletinsfrom oceans away. Gridlock and traffic backups where it’s still yesterday. Fatal pile-ups andjackknives on expressways where it’s already tomorrow.
It’s fucking weird, hearing somebody’s died tomorrow. Like you could still call that commuterman, right now, in Moscow, and say: “Stay home!”
From DRVR Radio Graphic Traffic: Expect a gapers’ delay if you’re eastbound on the MeadowsBypass through the Richmond area. Slow down and stretch your neck for a good long look at atwo-car fatal accident in the left-most lane. The front vehicle is a sea-green 1974 PlymouthRoad Runner with a four-barrel carb-equipped 440-cubic-inch, cast-iron-block V8. Original ice-white interior. The coupe’s driver was a scorching twenty-four-year old female, blonde-slash-green with a textbook fracture-slash-dislocation of her spine at the atlantooccipital joint andcomplete transection of the spinal cord. Fancy words for whiplash so bad it snaps your neck.
The rear car was a bitchin’ two-door hardtop New Yorker Brougham St. Regis, cream color, withthe optional deluxe chrome package and fixed rear quarter-windows. A sweet ride. As yourubberneck past, please note the driver was a twenty-six-year-old male with a nothing-specialtransverse fracture of the sternum, bilateral rib fractures, and his lungs impaled by thefractured ribs, all due to impact with his steering wheel. Plus, the boys in the meat wagontell me, severe internal exsanguination.
So—buckle up and slow down. Reporting for Graphic Traffic, this is Tina Something…
Echo Lawrence: We broke curfew and the government quarantine, and we drove across thesestretches of nothing. Me, riding shotgun. Shot Dunyun, driving. Neddy Nelson was in thebackseat, reading some book and telling us how Jack the Ripper never died—he traveled back intime to slaughter his mom, to make himself immortal—and now he’s the U.S. President or thePope. Maybe some crackpot theory proving how UFOs are really human tourists visiting us fromthe distant future.