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2005-03-12 20:24:27 (UTC)

Guts by Chuck Palahniuk

Inhale.

Take in as much air as you can. This story should last
about as long as you can hold your breath, and then just a
little bit longer. So listen as fast as you can.

A friend of mine, when he was 13 years old he heard
about "pegging." This is when a guy gets banged up the
butt with a dildo. Stimulate the prostate gland hard
enough, and the rumor is you can have explosive hands-free
orgasms. At that age, this friend's a little sex maniac.
He's always jonesing for a better way to get his rocks
off. He goes out to buy a carrot and some petroleum jelly.
To conduct a little private research. Then he pictures how
it's going to look at the supermarket checkout counter,
the lonely carrot and petroleum jelly rolling down the
conveyer belt toward the grocery store cashier. All the
shoppers waiting in line, watching. Everyone seeing the
big evening he has planned.

So my friend, he buys milk and eggs and sugar and a
carrot, all the ingredients for a carrot cake. And
Vaseline.

Like he's going home to stick a carrot cake up his butt.

At home, he whittles the carrot into a blunt tool. He
slathers it with grease and grinds his ass down on it.
Then, nothing. No orgasm. Nothing happens except it hurts.

Then, this kid, his mom yells it's supper time. She says
to come down, right now.

He works the carrot out and stashes the slippery, filthy
thing in the dirty clothes under his bed.

After dinner, he goes to find the carrot, and it's gone.
All his dirty clothes, while he ate dinner, his mom
grabbed them all to do laundry. No way could she not find
the carrot, carefully shaped with a paring knife from her
kitchen, still shiny with lube and stinky.

This friend of mine, he waits months under a black cloud,
waiting for his folks to confront him. And they nev¬er do.
Ever. Even now that he's grown up, that invisible carrot
hangs over every Christmas dinner, every birthday party.
Every Easter egg hunt with his kids, his parents'
grandkids, that ghost carrot is hovering over all of them.
That something too awful to name.

People in France have a phrase: "staircase wit." In
French: esprit de l'escalier. It means that moment when
you find the answer, but it's too late. Say you're at a
par¬ty and someone insults you. You have to say something.
So under pressure, with everybody watching, you say
something lame. But the moment you leave the party....

As you start down the stairway, then-magic. You come up
with the perfect thing you should've said. The perfect
crippling put-down.

ThatÂ’s the spirit of the stairway.

The trouble is, even the French don't have a phrase for
the stupid things you actually do say under pressure.
Those stupid, desperate things you actually think or do.

Some deeds are too low to even get a name. Too low to even
get talked about.

Looking back, kid-psych experts, school counselors now say
that most of the last peak in teen suicide was kids trying
to choke while they beat off. Their folks would find them,
a towel twisted around their kid's neck, the towel tied to
the rod in their bedroom closet, the kid dead. Dead sperm
every¬where. Of course the folks cleaned up. They put some
pants on their kid. They made it look ... better.
Intentional at least. The regular kind of sad teen suicide.

Another friend of mine, a kid from school, his older
brother in the Navy said how guys in the Middle East jack
off different than we do here. This brother was stationed
in some camel country where the public market sells what
could be fancy letter openers. Each fancy tool is just a
thin rod of pol¬ished brass or silver, maybe as long as
your hand, with a big tip at one end, ei¬ther a big metal
ball or the kind of fan¬cy carved handle you'd see on a
sword. This Navy brother says how Arab guys get their dick
hard and then insert this metal rod inside the whole
length of their boner. They jack off with the rod inside,
and it makes getting off so much better. More intense.

It's this big brother who travels around the world,
sending back French phrases. Russian phrases. Helpful jack-
off tips.

After this, the little brother, one day he doesn't show up
at school. That night, he calls to ask if I'll pick up his
homework for the next couple weeks. Because he's in the
hospital.

He's got to share a room with old people getting their
guts worked on. He says how they all have to share the
same television. All he's got for privacy is a curtain.
His folks don't come and visit. On the phone, he says how
right now his folks could just kill his big brother in the
Navy.

On the phone, the kid says how-the day before-he was just
a little stoned. At home in his bedroom, he was flopped on
the bed. He was lighting a candle and flipping through
some old porno magazines, getting ready to beat off. This
is after he's heard from his Navy brother. That helpful
hint about how Arabs beat off. The kid looks around for
something that might do the job. A ballpoint pen's too
big. A pencil's too big and rough. But dripped down the
side of the candle, there's a thin, smooth ridge of wax
that just might work. With just the tip of one finger,
this kid snaps the long ridge of wax off the candle. He
rolls it smooth between the palms of his hands. Long and
smooth and thin.

Stoned and horny, he slips it down inside, deeper and
deeper into the piss slit of his boner. With a good hank
of the wax still poking out the top, he gets to work.

Even now, he says those Arab guys are pretty damn smart.
They've totally reinvented jacking off. Flat on his back
in bed, things are getting so good, this kid can't keep
track of the wax. He's one good squeeze from shooting his
wad when the wax isn't sticking out anymore.

The thin wax rod, it's slipped inside. All the way inside.
So deep inside he can't even feel the lump of it inside
his piss tube.

From downstairs, his mom shouts it's supper time. She says
to come down, right now. This wax kid and the carrot kid
are different people, but we all live pretty much the same
life.

It's after dinner when the kid's guts start to hurt. It's
wax, so he figured it would just melt inside him and he'd
pee it out. Now his back hurts. His kid¬neys. He can't
stand straight.

This kid talking on the phone from his hospital bed, in
the background you can hear bells ding, people scream¬ing.
Game shows.

The X-rays show the truth, some¬thing long and thin, bent
double inside his bladder. This long, thin V inside him,
it's collecting all the minerals in his piss. It's getting
bigger and rougher, coated with crystals of calci¬um, it's
bumping around, ripping up the soft lining of his bladder,
blocking his piss from getting out. His kidneys are backed
up. What little that leaks out his dick is red with blood.

This kid and his folks, his whole fam¬ily, them looking at
the black X-ray with the doctor and the nurses stand¬ing
there, the big V of wax glowing white for everybody to
see, he has to tell the truth. The way Arabs get off. What
his big brother wrote him from the Navy.

On the phone, right now, he starts to cry.

They paid for the bladder operation with his college fund.
One stupid mis¬take, and now he'll never be a lawyer.

Sticking stuff inside yourself. Stick¬ing yourself inside
stuff. A candle in your dick or your head in a noose, we
knew it was going to be big trouble.

What got me in trouble, I called it Pearl Diving. This
meant whacking off underwater, sitting on the bottom at
the deep end of my parents' swimming pool. With one deep
breath, I'd kick my way to the bottom and slip off my swim
trucks. I'd sit down there for two, three, four minutes.

Just from jacking oft' I had huge lung capacity. If I had
the house to myself, I'd do this all afternoon. After I'd
finally pump out my stuff, my sperm, it would hang there
in big, fat, milky gobs.

After that was more diving, to catch it all. To collect it
and wipe each hand¬ful in a towel. That's why it was
called Pearl Diving. Even with chlorine, there was my
sister to worry about. Or, Christ almighty, my mom.

That used to be my worst fear in the world: my teenage
virgin sister, think¬ing she's just getting fat, then
giving birth to a two-headed, retard baby. Both heads
looking just like me. Me, the father and the uncle. In the
end, it's never what you worry about that gets you.

The best part of Pearl Diving was the inlet port for the
swimming pool filter and the circulation pump. The best
part was getting naked and sit¬ting on it.

As the French would say, Who doesn't like getting their
butt sucked? Still, one minute you're just a kid getting
off, and the next minute you'll never be a lawyer.

One minute I'm settling on the pool bottom and the sky is
wavy, light blue through eight feet of water above my
head. The world is silent except for the heartbeat in my
ears. My yellow¬striped swim trunks are looped around my
neck for safe keeping, just in case a friend, a neighbor,
anybody shows up to ask why I skipped foot¬ball practice.
The steady suck of the pool inlet hole is lapping at me
and I'm grinding my skinny white ass around on that
feeling.

One minute I've got enough air and my dick's in my hand.
My folks are gone at their work and my sister's got
ballet. Nobody's supposed to be home for hours.

My hand brings me right to getting off, and I stop. I swim
up to catch an¬other big breath. I dive down and settle on
the bottom.

I do this again and again.

This must be why girls want to sit on your face. The
suction is like taking a dump that never ends. My dick
hard and getting my butt eaten out, I do not need air. My
heartbeat in my ears, I stay under until bright stars of
light start worming around in my eyes. My legs straight
out, the back of each knee rubbed raw against the concrete
bot¬tom. My toes are turning blue, my toes and fingers
wrinkled from being so long in the water.

And then I let it happen. The big white gobs start
spouting. The pearls. It's then I need some air. But when
I go to kick off against the bottom, I can't. I can't get
my feet under me. My ass is stuck.

Emergency paramedics will tell you that every year about
150 people get stuck this way, sucked by a circulation
pump. Get your long hair caught, or your ass, and you're
going to drown. Every year, tons of people do. Most of
them in Florida.

People just don't talk about it. Not even French people
talk about everything. Getting one knee up, getting one
foot tucked under me, I get to half standing when I feel
the tug against my butt. Get¬ting my other foot under me,
I kick off against the bottom. I'm kicking free, not
touching the concrete, but not getting to the air, either.

Still kicking water, thrashing with both arms, I'm maybe
halfway to the surface but not going higher. The heartbeat
in¬side my head getting loud and fast.

The bright sparks of light crossing and crisscrossing my
eyes, I turn and look back ... but it doesn't make sense.
This thick rope, some kind of snake, blue¬white and
braided with veins, has come up out of the pool drain and
it's holding on to my butt. Some of the veins are leaking
blood, red blood that looks black underwater and drifts
away from little rips in the pale skin of the snake. The
blood trails away, disappearing in the water, and inside
the snake's thin, blue¬white skin you can see lumps of
some half-digested meal.

That's the only way this makes sense. Some horrible sea
monster, a sea serpent, something that's never seen the
light of day, it's been hiding in the dark bottom of the
pool drain, waiting to eat me.

So ...I kick at it, at the slippery, rub¬bery knotted skin
and veins of it, and more of it seems to pull out of the
pool drain. It's maybe as long as my leg now, but still
holding tight around my butt¬hole. With another kick, I'm
an inch closer to getting another breath. Still feeling
the snake tug at my ass, I'm an inch closer to my escape.

Knotted inside the snake, you can see corn and peanuts.
You can see a long bright-orange ball. It's the kind of
horse¬pill vitamin my dad makes me take, to help put on
weight. To get a football scholarship. With extra iron and
omega¬three fatty acids.

It's seeing that vitamin pill that saves my life.

It's not a snake. It's my large intestine, my colon pulled
out of me. What doctors call prolapsed. It's my guts
sucked into the drain.

Paramedics will tell you a swimming pool pump pulls 80
gallons of water every minute. That's about 400 pounds of
pressure. The big problem is we're all connected together
inside. Your ass is just the far end of your mouth. If I
let go, the pump keeps working-unravel¬ing my insides-
until it's got my tongue. Imagine taking a 400-pound shit
and you can see how this might turn you inside out.

What I can tell you is your guts don't feel much pain. Not
the way your skin feels pain. The stuff you're digesting,
doctors call it fecal matter. Higher up is chyme, pockets
of a thin, runny mess studded with corn and peanuts and
round green peas.

That's all this soup of blood and corn, shit and sperm and
peanuts floating around me. Even with my guts unravel¬ing
out my ass, me holding on to what's left, even then my
first want is to some¬how get my swimsuit back on.

God forbid my folks see my dick.

My one hand holding a fist around my ass, my other hand
snags my yellow¬striped swim trunks and pulls them from
around my neck. Still, getting into them is impossible.

You want to feel your intestines, go buy a pack of those
lambskin condoms. Take one out and unroll it. Pack it with
peanut butter. Smear it with petroleum jelly and hold it
under water. Then try to tear it. Try to pull it in half.
It's too tough and rubbery. It's so slimy you can't hold
on.

A lambskin condom, that's just plain old intestine.

You can see what I'm up against.

You let go for a second and you're gutted.

You swim for the surface, for a breath, and you're gutted.

You don't swim and you drown.

It's a choice between being dead right now or a minute
from right now.

What my folks will find after work is a big naked fetus,
curled in on itself. Floating in the cloudy water of their
backyard pool. Tethered to the bottom by a thick rope of
veins and twisted guts. The opposite of a kid hanging
himself to death while he jacks off. This is the baby they
brought home from the hospital 13 years ago. Here's the
kid they hoped would snag a football schol¬arship and get
an MBA. Who'd care for them in their old age. Here's all
their hopes and dreams. Floating here, naked and dead. All
around him, big milky pearls of wasted sperm.

Either that or my folks will find me wrapped in a bloody
towel, collapsed halfway from the pool to the kitchen
tele¬phone, the ragged, torn scrap of my guts still
hanging out the leg of my yellow¬striped swim trunks.

What even the French won't talk about.

That big brother in the Navy, he taught us one other good
phrase. A Russian phrase. The way we say, "I need that
like I need a hole in my head...," Russian people say, "I
need that like I need teeth in my asshole......

Mne eto nado kak zuby v zadnitse.

Those stories about how animals caught in a trap will chew
off their leg, well, any coyote would tell you a couple
bites beats the hell out of being dead.

Hell ... even if you're Russian, someday you just might
want those teeth.

Otherwise, what you have to do is¬you have to twist
around. You hook one elbow behind your knee and pull that
leg up into your face. You bite and snap at your own ass.
You run out of air and you will chew through anything to
get that next breath.

It's not something you want to tell a girl on the first
date. Not if you expect a kiss good night. If I told you
how it tasted, you would never, ever again eat calamari.

It's hard to say what my parents were more disgusted by:
how I'd got in trou¬ble or how I'd saved myself. After the
hospital, my mom said, "You didn't know what you were
doing, honey. You were in shock." And she learned how to
cook poached eggs.

All those people grossed out or feeling sorry for me....

I need that like I need teeth in my asshole.

Nowadays, people always tell me I look too skinny. People
at dinner parties get all quiet and pissed off when I
don't eat the pot roast they cooked. Pot roast kills me.
Baked ham. Anything that hangs around inside my guts for
longer than a couple of hours, it comes out still food.
Home-cooked lima beans or chunk light tuna fish, I'll
stand up and find it still sitting there in the toilet.

After you have a radical bowel resec¬tioning, you don't
digest meat so great. Most people, you have five feet of
large intestine. I'm lucky to have my six inch¬es. So I
never got a football scholarship. Never got an MBA. Both
my friends, the wax kid and the carrot kid, they grew up,
got big, but I've never weighed a pound more than I did
that day when I was 13.

Another big problem was my folks paid a lot of good money
for that swim¬ming pool. In the end my dad just told the
pool guy it was a dog. The family dog fell in and drowned.
The dead body got pulled into the pump. Even when the pool
guy cracked open the filter casing and fished out a
rubbery tube, a watery hank of intestine with a big orange
vita¬min pill still inside, even then my dad just
said, "That dog was fucking nuts."

Even from my upstairs bedroom window, you could hear my
dad say, "We couldn't trust that dog alone for a
second...."

Then my sister missed her period.

Even after they changed the pool water, after they sold
the house and we moved to another state, after my sister's
abortion, even then my folks never men¬tioned it again.

Ever.

That is our invisible carrot.

You. Now you can take a good, deep breath.

I still have not.


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