Chuck Palahniuk

Fight Club

Chapter 1

TYLER GETS ME a job as a waiter, after that Tyler's 
pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to 
eternal life is you have to die. For a long time though, 
Tyler and I were best friends. People are always asking, 
did I know about Tyler Durden. 
The barrel of the gun pressed against the back of my 
throat, Tyler says "We really won't die." 
With my tongue I can feel the silencer holes we 
drilled into the barrel of the gun. Most of the noise a 
gunshot makes is expanding gases, and there's the tiny 
sonic boom a bullet makes because it travels so fast.  
To make a silencer, you just drill holes in the barrel 
of the gun, a lot of holes. This lets the gas escape and 
slows the bullet to below the speed of sound. 
You drill the holes wrong and the gun will blow off 
your hand. 
"This isn't really death," Tyler says. "We'll be 
legend. We won't grow old." 
I tongue the barrel into my cheek and say, Tyler, 
you're thinking of vampires. 
The building we're standing on won't be here in ten 
minutes. You take a 98percent concentration of fuming 
nitric acid and add the acid to three times that amount 
of sulfuric acid. Do this in an ice bath. Then add 
glycerin drop-by-drop with an eye dropper. You have 
I know this because Tyler knows this. 
Mix the nitro with sawdust, and you have a nice 
plastic explosive. A lot of folks mix their nitro with 
cotton and add Epsom salts as a sulfate. This works too. 
Some folks, they use paraffin mixed with nitro. Paraffin 
has never, ever worked for me. 
So Tyler and I are on top of the Parker-Morris 
Building with the gun stuck in my mouth, and we hear 
glass breaking. Look over the edge. It's a cloudy day, 
even this high up. This is the world's tallest building, 
and this high up the wind is always cold. It's so quiet 
this high up, the feeling you get is that you're one of 
those space monkeys. You do the little job you're 
trained to do. 
Pull a lever. 
Push a button. 
You don't understand any of it, and then you just 
One hundred and ninety-one floors up, you look over 
the edge of the roof and the street below is mottled 
with a shag carpet of people, standing, looking up. The 
breaking glass is a window right below us. A window 
blows out the side of the building, and then comes a 
file cabinet big as a black refrigerator, right below us 
a six-drawer filing cabinet drops right out of the cliff 
face of the building, and drops turning slowly, and 
drops getting smaller, and drops disappearing into the 
packed crowd. 
Somewhere in the one hundred and ninety-one floors 
under us, the space monkeys in the Mischief Committee of 
Project Mayhem are running wild, destroying every scrap 
of history. 
That old saying, how you always kill the one you 
love, well, look, it works both ways. 
With a gun stuck in your mouth and the barrel of the 
gun between your teeth, you can only talk in vowels. 
We're down to our last ten minutes. 
Another window blows out of the building, and glass 
sprays out, sparkling flock-of-pigeons style, and then a 
dark wooden desk pushed by the Mischief Committee 
emerges inch by inch from the side of the building until 
the desk tilts and slides and turns end-over-end into a 
magic flying thing lost in the crowd. 
The Parker-Morris Building won't be here in nine 
minutes. You take enough blasting gelatin and wrap the 
foundation columns of anything, you can topple any 
building in the world. You have to tamp it good and 
tight with sandbags so the blast goes against the column 
and not out into the parking garage around the column. 
This how-to stuff isn't in any history book. 
The three ways to make napalm: One, you can mix equal 
parts of gasoline and frozen orange juice concentrate. 
Two, you can mix equal parts of gasoline and diet cola. 
Three, you can dissolve crumbled cat litter in gasoline 
until the mixture is thick. 
Ask me how to make nerve gas. Oh, all those crazy car 
Nine minutes. 
The Parker-Morris Building will go over, all one 
hundred and ninety-one floors, slow as a tree falling in 
the forest. Timber. You can topple anything. It's weird 
to think the place where we're standing will only be a 
point in the sky. 
Tyler and meat the edge of the roof, the gun in my 
mouth, I'm wondering how clean this gun is. 
We just totally forget about Tyler's whole murder-
suicide thing while we watch another file cabinet slip 
out the side of the building and the drawers roll open 
midair, reams of white paper caught in the updraft and 
carried off on the wind. 
Eight minutes. 
Then the smoke, smoke starts out of the broken 
windows. The demolition team will hit the primary charge 
in maybe eight minutes. The primary charge will blow the 
base charge, the foundation columns will crumble, and 
the photo series of the Parker-Morris Building will go 
into all the history books. 
The five-picture time-lapse series. Here, the 
building's standing. Second picture, the building will 
be at an eighty-degree angle. Then a seventy-degree 
angle. The building's at a forty-five-degree angle in 
the fourth picture when the skeleton starts to give and 
the tower gets a slight arch to it. The last shot, the 
tower, all one hundred and ninety-one floors, will slam 
down on the national museum which is Tyler's real 
"This is our world, now, our world," Tyler says, "and 
those ancient people are dead." 
If I knew how this would all turn out, I'd be more 
than happy to be dead and in Heaven right now. 
Seven minutes. 
Up on top of the Parker-Morris Building with Tyler's 
gun in my mouth. While desks and filing cabinets and 
computers meteor down on the crowd around the building 
and smoke funnels up from the broken windows and three 
blocks down the street the demolition team watches the 
clock, I know all of this: the gun, the anarchy, the 
explosion is really about Marla Singer. 
Six minutes. 
We have sort of a triangle thing going here. I want 
Tyler. Tyler wants Marla. Marla wants me. 
I don't want Marla, and Tyler doesn't want me around, 
not anymore. This isn't about love as in caring. This is 
about property as in ownership. 
Without Marla, Tyler would have nothing. 

Five minutes. 
Maybe we would become a legend, maybe not. No, I say, 
but wait. 
Where would Jesus be if no one had written the 
Four minutes. 
I tongue the gun barrel into my cheek and say, you 
want to be a legend, Tyler, man, I'll make you a legend. 
I've been here from the beginning. 
I remember everything. 
Three minutes.

Chapter 2

BOB'S BIG ARMS were closed around to hold me inside, 
and I was squeezed in the dark between Bob's new 
sweating tits that hang enormous, the way we think of 
God's as big. Going around the church basement full of 
men, each night we met: this is Art, this is Paul, this 
is Bob; Bob's big shoulders made me think of the 
horizon. Bob's thick blond hair was what you get when 
hair cream calls itself sculpting mousse, so thick and 
blond and the part is so straight. 
His arms wrapped around me, Bob's hand palms my head 
against the new tits sprouted on his barrel chest. 
"It will be alright," Bob says. "You cry now." 
From my knees to my forehead, I feel chemical 
reactions within Bob burning food and oxygen. 
"Maybe they got it all early enough," Bob says. 
"Maybe it's just seminoma. With seminoma, you have 
almost a hundred percent survival rate." 
Bob's shoulders inhale themselves up in a long draw, 
then drop, drop, drop in jerking sobs. Draw themselves 
up. Drop, drop, drop. 
I've been coming here every week for two years, and 
every week Bob wraps his arms around me, and I cry. 
"You cry," Bob says and inhales and sob, sob, sobs. 
"Go on now and cry." 
The big wet face settles down on top of my head, and 
I am lost inside. This is when I'd cry. Crying is right 
at hand in the smothering dark, closed inside someone 
else, when you see how everything you can ever 
accomplish will end up as trash. 
Anything you're ever proud of will be thrown away. 
And I'm lost inside. 
This is as close as I've been to sleeping in almost a 
This is how I met Marla Singer. 
Bob cries because six months ago, his testicles were 
removed. Then hormone support therapy. Bob has tits 
because his testosterone ration is too high. Raise the 
testosterone level too much, your body ups the estrogen 
to seek a balance. 
This is when I'd cry because right now, your life 
comes down to nothing, and not even nothing, oblivion. 
Too much estrogen, and you get bitch tits. 
It's easy to cry when you realize that everyone you 
love will reject you or die. On a long enough time line, 
the survival rate for everyone will drop to zero. 
Bob loves me because he thinks my testicles were 
removed, too. 
Around us in the Trinity Episcopal basement with the 
thrift store plaid sofas are maybe twenty men and only 
one woman, all of them clung together in pairs, most of 
them crying. Some pairs lean forward, heads pressed ear-
to-ear, the way wrestlers stand, locked. The man with 
the only woman plants his elbows on her shoulders; one 
elbow on either side of her head, her head between his 
hands, and his face crying against her neck. The woman's 
face twists off to one side and her hand brings up a 
I peek out from under the armpit of Big Bob.
"All my life," Bob cries. "Why I do anything, I don't 
The only woman here at Remaining Men Together, the 
testicular cancer support group, this woman smokes her 
cigarette under the burden of a stranger, and her eyes 
come together with mine. 
Short matte black hair, big eyes the way they are in 
Japanese animation, skim milk thin, buttermilk sallow in 
her dress with a wallpaper pattern of dark roses, this 
woman was also in my tuberculosis support group Friday 
night. She was in my melanoma round table Wednesday 
night. Monday night she was in my Firm Believers 
leukemia rap group. The part down the center of her hair 
is a crooked lightning bolt of white scalp. 
When you look for these support groups, they all have 
vague upbeat names. My Thursday evening group for blood 
parasites, it's called Free and Clear.
The group I go to for brain parasites is called Above 
and Beyond.
And Sunday afternoon at Remaining Men Together in the 
basement of Trinity Episcopal, this woman is here, 
Worse than that, I can't cry with her watching.
This should be my favorite part, being held and 
crying with Big Bob without hope. We all work so hard 
all the time. This is the only place I ever really relax 
and give up.
This is my vacation.

I went to my first support group two years ago, after 
I'd gone to my doctor about my insomnia, again.
Three weeks and I hadn't slept. Three weeks without 
sleep, and everything becomes an out-of-body experience. 
My doctor said, "Insomnia is just the symptom of 
something larger. Find out what's actually wrong. Listen 
to your body." 
I just wanted to sleep. I wanted little blue Amytal 
Sodium capsules, 200milligram-sized. I wanted red-and-
blue Tuinal bullet capsules, lipstick-red Seconals. 
My doctor told me to chew valerian root and get more 
exercise. Eventually I'd fall asleep. 
The bruised, old fruit way my face had collapsed, you 
would've thought I was dead. 
My doctor said, if I wanted to see real pain, I 
should swing by First Eucharist on a Tuesday night. See 
the brain parasites. See the degenerative bone diseases. 
The organic brain dysfunctions. See the cancer patients 
getting by. 
So I went. 
The first group I went to, there were introductions: 
this is Alice, this is Brenda, this is Dover. Everyone 
smiles with that invisible gun to their head. 
I never give my real name at support groups. 
The little skeleton of a woman named Chloe with the 
seat of her pants hanging down sad and empty, Chloe 
tells me the worst thing about her brain parasites was 
no one would have sex with her. Here she was, so close 
to death that her life insurance policy had paid off 
with seventy-five thousand bucks, and all Chloe wanted 
was to get laid for the last time. Not intimacy, sex. 
What does a guy say? What can you say, I mean. 
All this dying had started with Chloe being a little 
tired, and now Chloe was too bored to go in for 
treatment. Pornographic movies, she had pornographic 
movies at home in her apartment. 
During the French Revolution, Chloe told me, the 
women in prison, the duchesses, baronesses, marquises, 
whatever, they would screw any man who'd climb on top. 
Chloe breathed against my neck. Climb on top. Pony up, 
did I know. Screwing passed the time. 
La petite mort, the French called it. 
Chloe had pornographic movies, if I was interested. 
Amyl nitrate. Lubricants. 
Normal times, I'd be sporting an erection. Our Chloe, 
however, is a skeleton dipped in yellow wax. 
Chloe looking the way she is, I am nothing. Not even 
nothing. Still, Chloe's shoulder pokes mine when we sit 
around a circle on the shag carpet. We close our eyes. 
This was Chloe's turn to lead us in guided meditation, 
and she talked us into the garden of serenity. Chloe 
talked us up the hill to the palace of seven doors. 
Inside the palace were the seven doors, the green door, 
the yellow door, the orange door, and Chloe talked us 
through opening each door, the blue door, the red door, 
the white door, and finding what was there. 
Eyes closed, we imagined our pain as a ball of white 
healing light floating around our feet and rising to our 
knees, our waist, our chest. Our chakras opening. The 
heart chakra. The head chakra. Chloe talked us into 
caves where we met our power animal. Mine was a penguin. 
Ice covered the floor of the cave, and the penguin 
said, slide. Without any effort, we slid through tunnels 
and galleries. 
Then it was time to hug. 
Open your eyes. 
This was therapeutic physical contact, Chloe said. We 
should all choose a partner. Chloe threw herself around 
my head and cried. She had strapless underwear at home, 
and cried. Chloe had oils and handcuffs, and cried as I 
watched the second hand on my watch go around eleven 
So I didn't cry at my first support group, two years 
ago. I didn't cry at my second or my third support 
group, either. I didn't cry at blood parasites or bowel 
cancers or organic brain dementia. 
This is how it is with insomnia. Everything is so far 
away, a copy of a copy of a copy. The insomnia distance 
of everything, you can't touch anything and nothing can 
touch you. 
Then there was Bob. The first time I went to 
testicular cancer, Bob the big moosie, the big 
cheesebread moved in on top of me in Remaining Men 
Together and started crying. The big moosie treed right 
across the room when it was hug time, his arms at his 
sides, his shoulders rounded. His big moosie chin on his 
chest, his eyes already shrink-wrapped in tears. 
Shuffling his feet, knees together invisible steps, Bob 
slid across the basement floor to heave himself on me. 
Bob pancaked down on me. 
Bob's big arms wrapped around me. 
Big Bob was a juicer, he said. All those salad days 
on Dianabol and then the racehorse steroid, Wistrol. His 
own gym, Big Bob owned a gym. He'd been married three 
times. He'd done product endorsements, and had I seen 
him on television, ever? The whole how-to program about 
expanding your chest was practically his invention. 
Strangers with this kind of honesty make me go a big 
rubbery one, if you know what I mean. 
Bob didn't know. Maybe only one of his huevos had 
ever descended, and he knew this was a risk factor. Bob 
told me about postoperative hormone therapy. 
A lot of bodybuilders shooting too much testosterone 
would get what they called bitch tits. 
I had to ask what Bob meant by huevos. 
Huevos, Bob said. Gonads. Nuts. Jewels. Testes. 
Balls. In Mexico, where you buy your steroids, they call 
them "eggs." 
Divorce, divorce, divorce, Bob said and showed me a 
wallet photo of himself huge and naked at first glance, 
in a posing strap at some contest. It's a stupid way to 
live, Bob said, but when you're pumped and shaved on 
stage, totally shredded with body fat down to around two 
percent and the diuretics leave you cold and hard as 
concrete to touch, You're blind from the lights, and 
deaf from the feedback rush of the sound system until 
the judge orders: "Extend your right quad, flex and 
"Extend your left arm, flex the bicep and hold." 
This is better than real life. 
Fast-forward, Bob said, to the cancer. Then he was 
bankrupt. He had two grown kids who wouldn't return his 
The cure for bitch tits was for the doctor to cut up 
under the pectorals and drain any fluid. 
This was all I remember because then Bob was closing 
in around me with his arms, and his head was folding 
down to cover me. Then I was lost inside oblivion, dark 
and silent and complete, and when I finally stepped away 
from his soft chest, the front of Bob's shirt was a wet 
mask of how I looked crying. 
That was two years ago, at my first night with 
Remaining Men Together. 
At almost every meeting since then, Big Bob has made 
me cry. 
I never went back to the doctor. I never chewed the 
valerian root. 
This was freedom. Losing all hope was freedom. If I 
didn't say anything, people in a group assumed the 
worst. They cried harder. I cried harder. Look up into 
the stars and you're gone. 
Walking home after a support group, I felt more alive 
than I'd ever felt. I wasn't host to cancer or blood 
parasites; I was the little warm center that the life of 
the world crowded around. 
And I slept. Babies don't sleep this well. 
Every evening, I died, and every evening, I was born. 
Until tonight, two years of success until tonight, 
because I can't cry with this woman watching me. Because 
I can't hit bottom, I can't be saved. My tongue thinks 
it has flocked wallpaper, I'm biting the inside of my 
mouth so much. I haven't slept in four days. 
With her watching, I'm a liar. She's a fake. She's 
the liar. At the introductions tonight, we introduced 
ourselves: I'm Bob, I'm Paul, I'm Terry, I'm David. 
I never give my real name. 
"'This is cancer, right?" she said. 
Then she said, "Well, hi, I'm Marla Singer." 
Nobody ever told Marla what kind of cancer. Then we 
were all busy cradling our inner child. 
The man still crying against her neck, Marla takes 
another drag on her cigarette. 
I watch her from between Bob's shuddering tits. 
To Marla I'm a fake. Since the second night I saw 
her, I can't sleep. Still, I was the first fake, unless, 
maybe all these people are faking with their lesions and 
their coughs and tumors, even Big Bob, the big moosie. 
The big cheesebread. 
Would you just look at his sculpted hair. 
Marla smokes and rolls her eyes now. 
In this one moment, Marla's lie reflects my lie, and 
all I can see are lies. In the middle of all their 
truth. Everyone clinging and risking to share their 
worst fear, that their death is coming head-on and the 
barrel of a gun is pressed against the back of their 
throats. Well, Marla is smoking and rolling her eyes, 
and me, I'm buried under a sobbing carpet, and all of a 
sudden even death and dying rank right down there with 
plastic flowers on video as a non-event. 
"Bob," I say, "you're crushing me." I try to whisper, 
then I don't. "Bob." I try to keep my voice down, then 
I'm yelling. "Bob, I have to go to the can." 
A mirror hangs over the sink in the bathroom. If the 
pattern holds, I'll see Marla Singer at Above and 
Beyond, the parasitic brain dysfunction group. Marla 
will be there. Of course, Marla will be there, and what 
I'll do is sit next to her. And after the introductions 
and the guided meditation, the seven doors of the 
palace, the white healing ball of light, after we open 
our chakras, when it comes time to hug, I'll grab the 
little bitch.
Her arms squeezed tight against her sides, and my 
lips pressed against her ear, I'll say, Marla, you big 
fake, you get out.
This is the one real thing in my life, and you're 
wrecking it.
You big tourist.
The next time we meet, I'll say, Marla, I can't sleep 
with you here. I need this. Get out.

Chapter 3

YOU WAKE UP at Air Harbor International.
Every takeoff and landing, when the plane banked too 
much to one side, I prayed for a crash. That moment 
cures my insomnia with narcolepsy when we might die 
helpless and packed human tobacco in the fuselage.
This is how I met Tyler Durden.
You wake up at O'Hare.
You wake up at LaGuardia.
You wake up at Logan.
Tyler worked part-time as a movie projectionist. 
Because of his nature, Tyler could only work night jobs. 
If a projectionist called in sick, the union called 
Some people are night people. Some people are day 
people. I could only work a day job.
You wake up at Dulles. 
Life insurance pays off triple if you die on a 
business trip. I prayed for wind shear effect. I prayed 
for pelicans sucked into the turbines and loose bolts 
and ice on the wings. On takeoff, as the plane pushed 
down the runway and the flaps tilted up, with our seats 
in their full upright position and our tray tables 
stowed and all personal carry-on baggage in the overhead 
compartment, as the end of the runway ran up to meet us 
with our smoking materials extinguished, I prayed for a 
You wake up at Love Field. 
In a projection booth, Tyler did changeovers if the 
theater was old enough. With changeovers, you have two 
projectors in the booth, and one projector is running. 
I know this because Tyler knows this. 
The second projector is set up with the next reel of 
film. Most movies are six or seven small reels of film 
played in a certain order. Newer theaters, they splice 
all the reels together into one five-foot reel. This 
way, you don't have to run two projectors and do 
changeovers, switch back and forth, reel one, switch, 
reel two on the other projector, switch, reel three on 
the first projector. 
You wake up at SeaTac. 
I study the people on the laminated airline seat 
card. A woman floats in the ocean, her brown hair spread 
out behind her, her seat cushion clutched to her chest. 
The eyes are wide open, but the woman doesn't smile or 
frown. In another picture, people calm as Hindu cows 
reach up from their seats toward oxygen masks sprung out 
of the ceiling. 
This must be an emergency. 
We've lost cabin pressure. 
You wake up, and you're at Willow Run. 
Old theater, new theater, to ship a movie to the next 
theater, Tyler has to break the movie back down to the 
original six or seven reels. The small reels pack into a 
pair of hexagonal steel suitcases. Each suitcase has a 
handle on top. Pick one up, and you'll dislocate a 
They weigh that much.
Tyler's a banquet waiter, waiting tables at a hotel, 
downtown, and Tyler's a projectionist with the projector 
operator's union. I don't know how long Tyler had been 
working on all those nights I couldn't sleep. 
The old theaters that run a movie with two 
projectors, a projectionist has to stand right there to 
change projectors at the exact second so the audience 
never sees the break when one reel starts and one reel 
ran out. You have to look for the white dots in the top, 
right-hand corner of the screen. This is the warning. 
Watch the movie, and you'll see two dots at the end of a 
"Cigarette burns," they're called in the business. 
The first white dot, this is the two-minute warning. 
You get the second projector started so it will be 
running up to speed. 
The second white dot is the five-second warning. 
Excitement. You're standing between the two projectors 
and the booth is sweating hot from the xenon bulbs that 
if you looked right at them you're blind. The first dot 
flashes on the screen. The sound in a movie comes from a 
big speaker behind the screen. The projectionist booth 
is soundproof because inside the booth is the racket of 
sprockets snapping film past the lens at six feet a 
second, ten frames a foot, sixty frames a second 
snapping through, clattering Gatling-gun fire. The two 
projectors running, you stand between and hold the 
shutter lever on each. On really old projectors, you 
have an alarm on the hub of the feed reel. 
Even after the movie's on television, the warning 
dots will still be there. Even on airplane movies. 
As most of the movie rolls onto the take-up reel, the 
take-up reel turns slower and the feed reel has to turn 
faster. At the end of a reel, the feed reel turns so 
fast the alarm will start ringing to warn you that a 
changeover is coming up. 
The dark is hot from the bulbs inside the projectors, 
and the alarm is ringing. Stand there between the two 
projectors with a lever in each hand, and watch the 
corner of the screen. The second dot flashes. Count to 
five. Switch one shutter closed. At the same time, open 
the other shutter. 
The movie goes on. 
Nobody in the audience has any idea. 
The alarm is on the feed reel so the movie 
projectionist can nap. A movie projectionist does a lot 
he's not supposed to. Not every projector has the alarm. 
At home, you'll sometimes wake up in your dark bed with 
the terror you've fallen asleep in the booth and missed 
a changeover. The audience will be cursing you. The 
audience, their movie dream is ruined, and the manager 
will be calling the union. 
You wake up at Krissy Field. 
The charm of traveling is everywhere I go, tiny life. 
I go to the hotel, tiny soap, tiny shampoos, single-
serving butter, tiny mouthwash and a single-use 
toothbrush. Fold into the standard airplane seat. You're 
a giant. The problem is your shoulders are too big. Your 
Alice in Wonderland legs are all of a sudden miles so 
long they touch the feet of the person in front. Dinner 
arrives, a miniature do-it-yourself Chicken Cordon Bleu 
hobby kit, sort of a put-it together project to keep you 
The pilot has turned on the seat-belt sign, and we 
would ask you to refrain from moving about the cabin. 
You wake up at Meigs Field. 
Sometimes, Tyler wakes up in the dark, buzzing with 
the terror that he's missed a reel change or the movie 
has broken or the movie has slipped just enough in the 
projector that the sprockets are punching a line of 
holes through the sound track. 
After a movie has been sprocket run, the light of the 
bulb shines through the sound track and instead of talk, 
you're blasted with the helicopter blade sound of whop 
whop whop as each burst of light comes through a 
sprocket hole.
What else a projectionist shouldn't do: Tyler makes 
slides out of the best single frames from a movie. The 
first full frontal movie anyone can remember had the 
naked actress Angle Dickinson. 
By the time a print of this movie had shipped from 
the West Coast theaters to the East Coast theaters, the 
nude scene was gone. One projectionist took a frame. 
Another projectionist took a frame. Everybody wanted to 
make a naked slide of Angle Dickinson. Porno got into 
theaters and these projectionists, some guys they built 
collections that got epic. 
You wake up at Boeing Field. 
You wake up at LAX. 
We have an almost empty flight, tonight, so feel free 
to fold the armrests up into the seatbacks and stretch 
out. You stretch out, zigzag, knees bent, waist bent, 
elbows bent across three or four seats. I set my watch 
two hours earlier or three hours later, Pacific, 
Mountain, Central, or Eastern time; lose an hour, gain 
an hour. 
This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a 
You wake up at Cleveland Hopkins.
You wake up at SeaTac, again.
You're a projectionist and you're tired and angry, 
but mostly you're bored so you start by taking a single 
frame of pornography collected by some other 
projectionist that you find stashed away in the booth, 
and you splice this frame of a lunging red penis or a 
yawning wet vagina closeup into another feature movie. 
This is one of those pet adventures, when the dog and 
cat are left behind by a traveling family and must find 
their way home. In reel three, just after the dog and 
cat, who have human voices and talk to each other, have 
eaten out of a garbage can, there's the flash of an 
Tyler does this. 
A single frame in a movie is on the screen for one-
sixtieth of a second. Divide a second into sixty equal 
parts. That's how long the erection is. Towering four 
stories tall over the popcorn auditorium, slippery red 
and terrible, and no one sees it. 
You wake up at Logan, again. 
This is a terrible way to travel. I go to meetings my 
boss doesn't want to attend. I take notes. I'll get back 
to you. 
Wherever I'm going, I'll be there to apply the 
formula. I'll keep the secret intact. 
It's simple arithmetic. 
It's a story problem. 
If a new car built by my company leaves Chicago 
traveling west at 60 miles per hour, and the rear 
differential locks up, and the car crashes and burns 
with everyone trapped inside, does my company initiate a 
You take the population of vehicles in the field (A) 
and multiply it by the probable rate of failure (B), 
then multiply the result by the average cost of an out-
of-court settlement (C). 
A times B times C equals X. This is what it will cost 
if we don't initiate a recall. 
If X is greater than the cost of a recall, we recall 
the cars and no one gets hurt. 
If X is less than the cost of a recall, then we don't 
Everywhere I go, there's the burned-up wadded-up 
shell of a car waiting for me. I know where all the 
skeletons are. Consider this my job security. 
Hotel time, restaurant food. Everywhere I go, I make 
tiny friendships with the people sitting beside me from 
Logan to Krissy to Willow Run. 
What I am is a recall campaign coordinator, I tell 
the single-serving friend sitting next to me, but I'm 
working toward a career as a dishwasher. 
You wake up at O'Hare, again. 
Tyler spliced a penis into everything after that. 
Usually, close-ups, or a Grand Canyon vagina with an 
echo, four stories tall and twitching with blood 
pressure as Cinderella danced with her Prince Charming 
and people watched. Nobody complained. People ate and 
drank, but the evening wasn't the same. People feel sick 
or start to cry and don't know why. Only a hummingbird 
could have caught Tyler at work. 
You wake up at JFK. 
I melt and swell at the moment of landing when one 
wheel thuds on the runway but the plane leans to one 
side and hangs in the decision to right itself or roll. 
For this moment, nothing matters. Look up into the stars 
and you're gone. Not your luggage. Nothing matters. Not 
your bad breath. The windows are dark outside and the 
turbine engines roar backward. The cabin hangs at the 
wrong angle under the roar of the turbines, and you will 
never have to file another expense account claim. 
Receipt required for items over twenty-five dollars. You 
will never have to get another haircut. 
A thud, and the second wheel hits the tarmac. The 
staccato of a hundred seatbelt buckles snapping open, 
and the single-use friend you almost died sitting next 
to says: 
I hope you make your connection. 
Yeah, me too. 
And this is how long your moment lasted. And life 
goes on. 
And somehow, by accident, Tyler and I met. 
It was time for a vacation. 
You wake up at LAX. 
How I met Tyler was I went to a nude beach. This was 
the very end of summer, and I was asleep. Tyler was 
naked and sweating, gritty with sand, his hair wet and 
stringy, hanging in his face. 
Tyler had been around a long time before we met. 
Tyler was pulling driftwood logs out of the surf and 
dragging them up the beach. In the wet sand, he'd 
already planted a half circle of logs so they stood a 
few inches apart and as tall as his eyes. There were 
four logs, and when I woke up, I watched Tyler pull a 
fifth log up the beach. Tyler dug a hole under one end 
of the log, then lifted the other end until the log slid 
into the hole and stood there at a slight angle. 
You wake up at the beach. 
We were the only people on the beach. 
With a stick, Tyler drew a straight line in the sand 
several feet away. Tyler went back to straighten the log 
by stamping sand around its base. 
I was the only person watching this. 
Tyler called over, "Do you know what time it is?" 
I always wear a watch. 
"Do you know what time it is?" 
I asked, where? 
"Right here," Tyler said. "Right now." 
It was 4:06 P.m. 
After a while, Tyler sat cross-legged in the shadow 
of the standing logs. Tyler sat for a few minutes, got 
up and took a swim, pulled on a T-shirt and a pair of 
sweatpants, and started to leave. I had to ask. 
I had to know what Tyler was doing while I was 
If I could wake up in a different place, at a 
different time, could I wake up as a different person? 
I asked if Tyler was an artist. 
Tyler shrugged and showed me how the five standing 
logs were wider at the base. Tyler showed me the line 
he'd drawn in the sand, and how he'd use the line to 
gauge the shadow cast by each log. 
Sometimes, you wake up and have to ask where you are. 
What Tyler had created was the shadow of a giant 
hand. Only now the fingers were Nosferatu-long and the 
thumb was too short, but he said how at exactly four-
thirty the hand was perfect. The giant shadow hand was 
perfect for one minute, and for one perfect minute Tyler 
had sat in the palm of a perfection he'd created 
You wake up, and you're nowhere. 
One minute was enough, Tyler said, a person had to 
work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth 
the effort. A moment was the most you could ever expect 
from perfection. 
You wake up, and that's enough. 
His name was Tyler Durden, and he was a movie 
projectionist with the union, and he was a banquet 
waiter at a hotel, downtown, and he gave me his phone 
And this is how we met. 
ALL THE  USUAL brain parasites are here, tonight. 
Above and Beyond always gets a big turnout. This is 
Peter. This is Aldo. This is Marcy. 
The introductions, everybody, this is Marla Singer, 
and this is her first time with us. 
Hi, Marla. 
At Above and Beyond, we start with the Catch-Up Rap. 
The group isn't called Parasitic Brain Parasites. You'll 
never hear anyone say "parasite." Everybody is always 
getting better. Oh, this new medication. Everyone's 
always just turned the corner. Still, everywhere, 
there's the squint of a five-day headache. A woman wipes 
at involuntary tears. Everyone gets a name tag, and 
people you've met every Tuesday night for a year, they 
come at you, handshake hand ready and their eyes on your 
name tag. 
I don't believe we've met. 
No one will ever say parasite. They'll say, agent. 
They don't say cure. They'll say, treatment. 
In Catch-Up Rap, someone will say how the agent has 
spread into his spinal column and now all of a sudden 
he'll have no control of his left hand. The agent, 
someone will say, has dried the lining of his brain so 
now the brain pulls away from the inside of his skull, 
causing seizures. 
The last time I was here, the woman named Chloe 
announced the only good news she had. Chloe pushed 
herself to her feet against the wooden arms of her chair 
and said she no longer had any fear of death. 
Tonight, after the introductions and Catch-Up Rap, a 
girl I don't know, with a name tag that says Glenda, 
says she's Chloe's sister and that at two in the morning 
last Tuesday, Chloe finally died. 
Oh, this should be so sweet. For two years, Chloe's 
been crying in my arms during hug time, and now she's 
dead, dead in the ground, dead in an urn, mausoleum, 
columbarium. Oh, the proof that one day you're thinking 
and hauling yourself around, and the next, you're cold 
fertilizer, worm buffet. This is the amazing miracle of 
death, and it should be so sweet if it weren't for, oh, 
that one. 
Oh, and Marla's looking at me again, singled out 
among all the brain parasites. 
Marla's the faker. You're the faker. Everyone around 
when they wince or twitch and fall down barking and the 
crotch of their jeans turns dark blue, well, it's all 
just a big act. 
Guided meditation all of a sudden won't take me 
anywhere, tonight. Behind each of the seven palace 
doors, the green door, the orange door, Marla. The blue 
door, Marla stands there. Liar. In the guided meditation 
through the cave of my power animal, my power animal is 
Marla. Smoking her cigarette, Marla, rolling her eyes. 
Liar. Black hair and pillowy French lips. Faker. Italian 
dark leather sofa lips. You can't escape. 
Chloe was the genuine article. 
Chloe was the way Joni Mitchell's skeleton would look 
if you made it smile and walk around a party being extra 
special nice to everyone. Picture Chloe's popular 
skeleton the size of an insect, running through the 
vaults and galleries of her innards at two in the 
morning. Her pulse a siren overhead, announcing: Prepare 
for death in ten, in nine, in eight seconds. Death will 
commence in seven, six... 
At night, Chloe ran around the maze of her own 
collapsing veins and burst tubes spraying hot lymph. 
Nerves surface as trip wires in the tissue. Abscesses 
swell in the tissue around her as hot white pearls. 
The overhead announcement, prepare to evacuate bowels 
in ten, in nine, eight, seven. 
Prepare to evacuate soul in ten, in nine, eight. 
Chloe's splashing through the ankle-deep backup of 
renal fluid from her failed kidneys. 
Death will commence in five. 
Five, four. 
Around her, parasitic life spray paints her heart. 
Four, three. 
Three, two. 
Chloe climbs hand-over-hand up the curdled lining of 
her own throat. 
Death to commence in three, in two. 
Moonlight shines in through the open mouth. 
Prepare for the last breath, now. 
Soul clear of body. 
Death commences. 
Oh, this should be so sweet, the remembered warm 
jumble of Chloe still in my arms and Chloe dead 
But no, I'm watched by Marla. 
In guided meditation, I open my arms to receive my 
inner child, and the child is Marla smoking her 
cigarette. No white healing ball of light. Liar. No 
chakras. Picture your chakras opening as flowers and at 
the center of each is a slow motion explosion of sweet 
My chakras stay closed. 
When meditation ends, everyone is stretching and 
twisting their heads and pulling each other to their 
feet in preparation. Therapeutic physical contact. For 
the hug, I cross in three steps to stand against Marla 
who looks up into my face as I watch everyone else for 
the cue. 
Let's all, the cue comes, embrace someone near us. 
My arms clamp around Marla. 
Pick someone special to you, tonight. 
Marla's cigarette hands are pinned to her waist. 
Tell this someone how you feel. 
Marla doesn't have testicular cancer. Marla doesn't 
have tuberculosis. She isn't dying. Okay in that brainy 
brain-food philosophy way, we're all dying, but Marla 
isn't dying the way Chloe was dying. 
The cue comes, share yourself. 
So, Marla, how do you like them apples? 
Share yourself completely. 
So, Marla, get out. Get out. Get out. 
Go ahead and cry if you have to. 
Marla stares up at me. Her eyes are brown. Her 
earlobes pucker around earring holes, no earrings. Her 
chapped lips are frosted with dead skin. 
Go ahead and cry. 
"You're not dying either," Marla says. 
Around us, couples stand sobbing, propped against 
each other. 
"You tell on me," Marla says, "and I'll tell on you." 
Then we can split the week, I say. Marla can have 
bone disease, brain parasites, and tuberculosis. I'll 
keep testicular cancer, blood parasites, and organic 
brain dementia. 
Marla says, "What about ascending bowel cancers?" 
The girl has done her homework. 
We'll split bowel cancer. She gets it the first and 
third Sunday of every month. 
"No," Marla says. No, she wants it all. The cancers, 
the parasites. Marla's eyes narrow. She never dreamed 
she could feel so marvelous. She actually felt alive. 
Her skin was clearing up. All her life, she never saw a 
dead person. There was no real sense of life because she 
had nothing to contrast it with. Oh, but now there was 
dying and death and loss and grief. Weeping and 
shuddering, terror and remorse. Now that she knows where 
we're all going, Marla feels every moment of her life. 
No, she wasn't leaving any group. 
"Not and go back to the way life felt before," Marla 
says. "I used to work in a funeral home to feel good 
about myself, just the fact I was breathing. So what if 
I couldn't get a job in my field." 
Then go back to your funeral home, I say. 
"Funerals are nothing compared to this," Marla says. 
"Funerals are all abstract ceremony. Here, you have a 
real experience of death." 
Couples around the two of us are drying their tears, 
sniffing, patting each other on the back and letting go. 
We can't both come, I tell her. 

"Then don't come." I need this. "Then go to 
funerals." Everyone else has broken apart and they're 
joining hands for the closing prayer. I let Marla go. 
"How long have you been coming here?" The closing 
prayer. Two years. A man in the prayer circle takes my 
hand. A man takes Marla's hand. These prayers start and 
usually, my breathing is blown. Oh, bless us. Oh, bless 
us in our anger and our fear. "Two years?" Marla tilts 
her head to whisper. Oh, bless us and hold us. Anyone 
who might've noticed me in two years has either died or 
recovered and never came back. Help us and help us. 
"Okay," Marla says, "okay, okay, you can have testicular 
cancer." Big Bob the big cheesebread crying all over me. 
Thanks. Bring us to our destiny. Bring us peace. "Don't 
mention it." This is how I met Marla.

Chapter 4

THE SECURITY TASK force guy explained everything to 
Baggage handlers can ignore a ticking suitcase. The 
security task force guy, he called baggage handlers 
Throwers. Modern bombs don't tick. But a suitcase that 
vibrates, the baggage handlers, the Throwers, have to 
call the police. 
How I came to live with Tyler is because most 
airlines have this policy about vibrating baggage. 
My flight back from Dulles, I had everything in that 
one bag. When you travel a lot, you learn to pack the 
same for every trip. Six white shirts. Two black 
trousers. The bare minimum you need to survive. 
Traveling alarm clock. 
Cordless electric razor. 
Six pair underwear. 
Six pair black socks. 
It turns out, my suitcase was vibrating on departure 
from Dulles, according to the security task force guy, 
so the police took it off the flight. Everything was in 
that bag. My contact lens stuff. One red tie with blue 
stripes. One blue tie with red stripes. These are 
regimental stripes, not club tie stripes. And one solid 
red tie. 
A list of all these things used to hang on the inside 
of my bedroom door at home. 
Home was a condominium on the fifteenth floor of a 
high-rise, a sort of filing cabinet for widows and young 
professionals. The marketing brochure promised a foot of 
concrete floor, ceiling, and wall between me and any 
adjacent stereo or turned-up television. A foot of 
concrete and air conditioning, you couldn't open the 
windows so even with maple flooring and dimmer switches, 
all seventeen hundred airtight feet would smell like the 
last meal you cooked or your last trip to the bathroom. 
Yeah, and there were butcher block countertops and 
low-voltage track lighting. 
Still, a foot of concrete is important when your 
next-door neighbor lets the battery on her hearing aid 
go and has to watch her game shows at full blast. Or 
when a volcanic blast of burning gas and debris that 
used to be your living-room set and personal effects 
blows out your floor-to-ceiling windows and sails down 
flaming to leave just your condo, only yours, a gutted 
charred concrete hole in the cliffside of the building. 
These things happen. 
Everything, including your set of hand-blown green 
glass dishes with the tiny bubbles and imperfections, 
little bits of sand, proof they were crafted by the 
honest, simple, hard-working indigenous aboriginal 
peoples of wherever, well, these dishes all get blown 
out by the blast. Picture the floor-to-ceiling drapes 
blown out and flaming to shreds in the hot wind. 
Fifteen floors over the city, this stuff comes 
flaming and bashing and shattering down on everyone's 
Me, while I'm heading west, asleep at Mach 0.83 or 
455 miles an hour, true airspeed, the FBI is bomb-
squading my suitcase on a vacated runway back at Dulles. 
Nine times out of ten, the security task force guy says, 
the vibration is an electric razor. This was my cordless 
electric razor. The other time, it's a vibrating dildo. 
The security task force guy told me this. This was at 
my destination, without my suitcase, where I was about 
to cab it home and find my flannel sheets shredded on 
the ground. 
Imagine, the task force guy says, telling a passenger 
on arrival that a dildo kept her baggage on the East 
Coast. Sometimes it's even a man. It's airline policy 
not to imply ownership in the event of a dildo. Use the 
indefinite article. 
A dildo. 
Never your dildo. 
Never, ever say the dildo accidentally turned itself 
A dildo activated itself and created an emergency 
situation that required evacuating your baggage. 
Rain was falling when I woke up for my connection in 
Rain was falling when I woke up on our final approach 
to home. 
An announcement told us to please take this 
opportunity to check around our seats for any personal 
belongings we might have left behind. Then the 
announcement said my name. Would I please meet with an 
airline representative waiting at the gate. 
I set my watch back three hours, and it was still 
after midnight. 
There was the airline representative at the gate, and 
there was the security task force guy to say, ha, your 
electric razor kept your checked baggage at Dulles. The 
task force guy called the baggage handlers Throwers. 
Then he called them Rampers. To prove things could be 
worse, the guy told me at least it wasn't a dildo. Then, 
maybe because I'm a guy and he's a guy and it's one 
o'clock in the morning, maybe to make me laugh, the guy 
said industry slang for flight attendant was Space 
Waitress. Or Air Mattress. It looked like the guy was 
wearing a pilot's uniform, white shirt with little 
epaulets and a blue tie. My luggage had been cleared, he 
said, and would arrive the next day. 
The security guy asked my name and address and phone 
number, and then he asked me what was the difference 
between a condom and a cockpit. 
"You can only get one prick into a condom," he said. 
I cabbed home on my last ten bucks. 
The local police had been asking a lot of questions, 
My electric razor, which wasn't a bomb, was still 
three time zones behind me. 
Something which was a bomb, a big bomb, had blasted 
my clever Njurunda coffee tables in the shape of a lime 
green yin and an orange yang that fit together to make a 
circle. Well they were splinters, now. 
My Haparanda sofa group with the orange slip covers, 
design by Erika Pekkari, it was trash, now. 
And I wasn't the only slave to my nesting instinct. 
The people I know who used to sit in the bathroom with 
pornography, now they sit in the bathroom with their 
IKEA furniture catalogue. 
We all have the same Johanneshov armchair in the 
Strinne green stripe pattern. Mine fell fifteen stories, 
burning, into a fountain. 
We all have the same Rislampa/Har paper lamps made 
from wire and environmentally friendly unbleached paper. 
Mine are confetti. 
All that sitting in the bathroom. 
The Alle cutlery service. Stainless steel. Dishwasher 
The Vild hall clock made of galvanized steel, oh, I 
had to have that. 
The Klipsk shelving unit, oh, yeah. 
Hemlig hat boxes. Yes. 
The street outside my high-rise was sparkling and 
scattered with all this. 
The Mommala quilt-cover set. Design by Tomas Harila 
and available in the following: 
Eggshell or heather. 
It took my whole life to buy this stuff. 
The easy-care textured lacquer of my Kalix occasional 
My Steg nesting tables. 
You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the 
last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, 
then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter 
what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue 
handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect 
bed. The drapes. The rug. 
Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the 
things you used to own, now they own you. 
Until I got home from the airport. 
The doorman steps out of the shadows to say, there's 
been an accident. The police, they were here and asked a 
lot of questions. 
The police think maybe it was the gas. Maybe the 
pilot light on the stove went out or a burner was left 
on, leaking gas, and the gas rose to the ceiling, and 
the gas filled the condo from ceiling to floor in every 
room. The condo was seventeen hundred square feet with 
high ceilings and for days and days, the gas must've 
leaked until every room was full. When the rooms were 
filled to the floor, the compressor at the base of the 
refrigerator clicked on. 
The floor-to-ceiling windows in their aluminum frames 
went out and the sofas and the lamps and dishes and 
sheet sets in flames, and the high school annuals and 
the diplomas and telephone. Everything blasting out from 
the fifteenth floor in a sort of solar flare. 
Oh, not my refrigerator. I'd collected shelves full 
of different mustards, some stone-ground, some English 
pub style. There were fourteen different flavors of fat-
free salad dressing, and seven kinds of capers. 
I know, I know, a house full of condiments and no 
real food. 
The doorman blew his nose and something went into his 
handkerchief with the good slap of a pitch into a 
catcher's mitt. 
You could go up to the fifteen floor, the doorman 
said, but nobody could go into the unit. Police orders. 
The police had been asking, did I have an old girlfriend 
who'd want to do this or did I make an enemy of somebody 
who had access to dynamite. 
"It wasn't worth going up," the doorman said. "All 
that's left is the concrete shell." 
The police hadn't ruled out arson. No one had smelled 
gas. The doorman raises an eyebrow. This guy spent his 
time flirting with the day maids and nurses who worked 
in the big units on the top floor and waited in the 
lobby chairs for their rides after work. Three years I 
lived here, and the doorman still sat reading his Ellery 
Queen magazine every night while I shifted packages and 
bags to unlock the front door and let myself in. 
The doorman raises an eyebrow and says how some 
people will go on a long trip and leave a candle, a 
long, long candle burning in a big puddle of gasoline. 
People with financial difficulties do this stuff. People 
who want out from under. 
I asked to use the lobby phone. 
"A lot of young people try to impress the world and 
buy too many things," the doorman said. 
I called Tyler. 
The phone rang in Tyler's rented house on Paper 
Oh, Tyler, please deliver me.
And the phone rang.
The doorman leaned into my shoulder and said, "A lot 
of young people don't know what they really want."
Oh, Tyler, please rescue me.
And the phone rang.
"Young people, they think they want the whole world."
Deliver me from Swedish furniture.
Deliver me from clever art.
And the phone rang and Tyler answered.
"If you don't know what you want," the doorman said, 
"you end up with a lot you don't."
May I never be complete.
May I never be content.
May I never be perfect.
Deliver me, Tyler, from being perfect and complete.
Tyler and I agreed to meet at a bar.
The doorman asked for a number where the police could 
reach me. It was still raining. My Audi was still parked 
in the lot, but a Dakapo halogen torchiere was speared 
through the windshield.
Tyler and I, we met and drank a lot of beer, and 
Tyler said, yes, I could move in with him, but I would 
have to do him a favor.
The next day, my suitcase would arrive with the bare 
minimum, six shirts, six pair of underwear.
There, drunk in a bar where no one was watching and 
no one would care, I asked Tyler what he wanted me to 
Tyler said, "I want you to hit me as hard as you 

Chapter 5

TWO SCREENS INTO my demo to Microsoft, I taste blood 
and have to start swallowing. My boss doesn't know the 
material, but he won't let me run the demo with a black 
eye and half my face swollen from the stitches inside my 
cheek. The stitches have come loose, and I can feel them 
with my tongue against the inside of my cheek. Picture 
snarled fishing line on the beach. I can picture them as 
the black stitches on a dog after it's been fixed, and I 
keep swallowing blood. My boss is making the 
presentation from my script, and I'm running the laptop 
projector so I'm off to one side of the room, in the 
More of my lips are sticky with blood as I try to 
lick the blood off, and when the lights come up, I will 
turn to consultants Ellen and Walter and Norbert and 
Linda from Microsoft and say, thank you for coming, my 
mouth shining with blood and blood climbing the cracks 
between my teeth. 
You can swallow about a pint of blood before you're 
Fight club is tomorrow, and I'm not going to miss 
fight club. 
Before the presentation, Walter from Microsoft smiles 
his steam shovel jaw like a marketing tool tanned the 
color of a barbecued potato chip. Walter with his signet 
ring shakes my hand, wrapped in his smooth soft hand and 
says, "I'd hate to see what happened to the other guy." 
The first rule about fight club is you don't talk 
about fight club. 
I tell Walter I fell. 
I did this to myself. 
Before the presentation, when I sat across from my 
boss, telling him where in the script each slide cues 
and when I wanted to run the video segment, my boss 
says, "What do you get yourself into every weekend?" 
I just don't want to die without a few scars, I say. 
It's nothing anymore to have a beautiful stock body. You 
see those cars that are completely stock cherry, right 
out of a dealer's showroom in 1955, I always think, what 
a waste. 
The second rule about fight club is you don't talk 
about fight club. 
Maybe at lunch, the waiter comes to your table and 
the waiter has the two black eyes of a giant panda from 
fight club last weekend when you saw him get his head 
pinched between the concrete floor and the knee of a 
two-hundred pound stock boy who kept slamming a fist 
into the bridge of the waiter's nose again and again in 
flat hard packing sounds you could hear over all the 
yelling until the waiter caught enough breath and 
sprayed blood to say, stop. 
You don't say anything because fight club exists only 
in the hours between when fight club starts and when 
fight club ends. 
You saw the kid who works in the copy center, a month 
ago you saw this kid who can't remember to three-hole-
punch an order or put colored slip sheets between the 
copy packets, but this kid was a god for ten minutes 
when you saw him kick the air out of an account 
representative twice his size then land on the man and 
pound him limp until the kid had to stop. That's the 
third rule in fight club, when someone says stop, or 
goes limp, even if he's just faking it, the fight is 
over. Every time you see this kid, you can't tell him 
what a great fight he had. 
Only two guys to a fight. One fight at a time. They 
fight without shirts or shoes. The fights go on as long 
as they have to. Those are the other rules of fight 
Who guys are in fight club is not who they are in the 
real world. Even if you told the kid in the copy center 
that he had a good fight, you wouldn't be talking to the 
same man. 
Who I am in fight club is not someone my boss knows. 
After a night in fight club, everything in the real 
world gets the volume turned down. Nothing can piss you 
off. Your word is law, and if other people break that 
law or question you, even that doesn't piss you off. 
In the real world, I'm a recall campaign coordinator 
in a shirt and tie, sitting in the dark with a mouthful 
of blood and changing the overheads and slides as my 
boss tells Microsoft how he chose a particular shade of 
pale cornflower blue for an icon. 
The first fight club was just Tyler and I pounding on 
each other. 
It used to be enough that when I came home angry and 
knowing that my life wasn't toeing my five-year plan, I 
could clean my condominium or detail my car. Someday I'd 
be dead without a scar and there would be a really nice 
condo and car. Really, really nice, until the dust 
settled or the next owner. Nothing is static. Even the 
Mona Lira is falling apart. Since fight club, I can 
wiggle half the teeth in my jaw. 
Maybe self-improvement isn't the answer. 
Tyler never knew his father. 
Maybe self-destruction is the answer. 
Tyler and I still go to fight club, together. Fight 
club is in the basement of a bar, now, after the bar 
closes on Saturday night, and every week you go and 
there's more guys there. 
Tyler gets under the one light in the middle of the 
black concrete basement and he can see that light 
flickering back out of the dark in a hundred pairs of 
eyes. First thing Tyler yells is, "The first rule about 
fight club is you don't talk about fight club. 
"The second rule about fight club," Tyler yells, "is 
you don't talk about fight club." 
Me, I knew my dad for about six years, but I don't 
remember anything. My dad, he starts a new family in a 
new town about every six years. This isn't so much like 
a family as it's like he sets up a franchise. 
What you see at fight club is a generation of men 
raised by women. 
Tyler standing under the one light in the after-
midnight blackness of a basement full of men, Tyler runs 
through the other rules: two men per fight, one fight at 
a time, no shoes no shirts, fights go on as long as they 
have to. 
"And the seventh rule," Tyler yells, "is if this is 
your first night at fight club, you have to fight." 
Fight club is not football on television. You aren't 
watching a bunch of men you don't know halfway around 
the world beating on each other live by satellite with a 
two-minute delay, commercials pitching beer every ten 
minutes, and a pause now for station identification. 
After you've been to fight club, watching football on 
television is watching pornography when you could be 
having great sex. 
Fight club gets to be your reason for going to the 
gym and keeping your hair cut short and cutting your 
nails. The gyms you go to are crowded with guys trying 
to look like men, as if being a man means looking the 
way a sculptor or an art director says. 
Like Tyler says, even a snuffle looks pumped. 
My father never went to college so it was really 
important I go to college. After college, I called him 
long distance and said, now what? 
My dad didn't know. 
When I got a job and turned twenty-five, long 
distance, I said, now what? My dad didn't know, so he 
said, get married. 
I'm a thirty-year-old boy, and I'm wondering if 
another woman is really the answer I need. 
What happens at fight club doesn't happen in words. 
Some guys need a fight every week. This week, Tyler says 
it's the first fifty guys through the door and that's 
it. No more. 
Last week, I tapped a guy and he and I got on the 
list for a fight. This guy must've had a bad week, got 
both my arms behind my head in a full nelson and rammed 
my face into the concrete floor until my teeth bit open 
the inside of my cheek and my eye was swollen shut and 
was bleeding, and after I said, stop, I could look down 
and there was a print of half my face in blood on the 
Tyler stood next to me, both of us looking down at 
the big O of my mouth with blood all around it and the 
little slit of my eye staring up at us from the floor, 
and Tyler says, "Cool." 
I shake the guy's hand and say, good fight. 
This guy, he says, "How about next week?" 
I try to smile against all the swelling, and I say, 
look at me. How about next month? 
You aren't alive anywhere like you're alive at fight 
club. When it's you and one other guy under that one 
light in the middle of all those watching. Fight club 
isn't about winning or losing fights. Fight club isn't 
about words. You see a guy come to fight club for the 
first time, and his ass is a loaf of white bread. You 
see this same guy here six months later, and he looks 
carved out of wood. This guy trusts himself to handle 
anything. There's grunting and noise at fight club like 
at the gym, but fight club isn't about looking good. 
There's hysterical shouting in tongues like at church, 
and when you wake up Sunday afternoon you feel saved. 
After my last fight, the guy who fought me mopped the 
floor while I called my insurance to pre-approve a visit 
to the emergency room. At the hospital, Tyler tells them 
I fell down. 
Sometimes, Tyler speaks for me. 
I did this to myself. 
Outside, the sun was coming up. 
You don't talk about fight club because except for 
five hours from two until seven on Sunday morning, fight 
club doesn't exist. 
When we invented fight club, Tyler and I, neither of 
us had ever been in a fight before. If you've never been 
in a fight, you wonder. About getting hurt, about what 
you're capable of doing against another man. I was the 
first guy Tyler ever felt safe enough to ask, and we 
were both drunk in a bar where no one would care so 
Tyler said, "I want you to do me a favor. I want you to 
hit me as hard as you can." 
I didn't want to, but Tyler explained it all, about 
not wanting to die without any scars, about being tired 
of watching only professionals fight, and wanting to 
know more about himself. 
About self-destruction. 
At the time, my life just seemed too complete, and 
maybe we have to break everything to make something 
better out of ourselves. 
I looked around and said, okay. Okay, I say, but 
outside in the parking lot. 
So we went outside, and I asked if Tyler wanted it in 
the face or in the stomach. 
Tyler said, "Surprise me." 
I said I had never hit anybody. 
Tyler said, "So go crazy, man." 
I said, close your eyes. 
Tyler said, "No." 
Like every guy on his first night in fight club, I 
breathed in and swung my fist in a roundhouse at Tyler's 
jaw like in every cowboy movie we'd ever seen, and me, 
my fist connected with the side of Tyler's neck. 
Shit, I said, that didn't count. I want to try it 
Tyler said, "Yeah it counted," and hit me, straight 
on, pox, just like a cartoon boxing glove on a spring on 
Saturday morning cartoons, right in the middle of my 
chest and I fell back against a car. We both stood 
there, Tyler rubbing the side of his neck and me holding 
a hand on my chest, both of us knowing we'd gotten 
somewhere we'd never been and like the cat and mouse in 
cartoons, we were still alive and wanted to see how far 
we could take this thing and still be alive. 
Tyler said, "Cool." 
I said, hit me again. 
Tyler said, "No, you hit me." 
So I hit him, a girl's wide roundhouse to right under 
his ear, and Tyler shoved me back and stomped the heel 
of his shoe in my stomach. What happened next and after 
that didn't happen in words, but the bar closed and 
people came out and shouted around us in the parking 
Instead of Tyler, I felt finally I could get my hands 
on everything in the world that didn't work, my cleaning 
that came back with the collar buttons broken, the bank 
that says I'm hundreds of dollars overdrawn. My job 
where my boss got on my computer and fiddled with my DOS 
execute commands. And Marla Singer, who stole the 
support groups from me. 
Nothing was solved when the fight was over, but 
nothing mattered. 
The first night we fought was a Sunday night, and 
Tyler hadn't shaved all weekend so my knuckles burned 
raw from his weekend beard. Lying on our backs in the 
parking lot, staring up at the one star that came 
through the streetlights, I asked Tyler what he'd been 
Tyler said, his father. 
Maybe we didn't need a father to complete ourselves. 
There's nothing personal about who you fight in fight 
club. You fight to fight. You're not supposed to talk 
about fight club, but we talked and for the next couple 
of weeks, guys met in that parking lot after the bar had 
closed, and by the time it got cold, another bar offered 
the basement where we meet now. 
When fight club meets, Tyler gives the rules he and I 
decided. "Most of you," Tyler yells in the cone of light 
in the center of the basement full of men, "you're here 
because someone broke the rules. Somebody told you about 
fight club." 
Tyler says, "Well, you better stop talking or you'd 
better start another fight club because next week you 
put your name on a list when you get here, and only the 
first fifty names on the list get in. If you get in, you 
set up your fight right away if you want a fight. If you 
don't want a fight, there are guys who do, so maybe you 
should just stay home. 
"If this is your first night at fight club," Tyler 
yells, "you have to fight." 
Most guys are at fight club because of something 
they're too scared to fight. After a few fights, you're 
afraid a lot less. 
A lot of best friends meet for the first time at 
fight club. Now I go to meetings or conferences and see 
faces at conference tables, accountants and junior 
executives or attorneys with broken noses spreading out 
like an eggplant under the edges of bandages or they 
have a couple stitches under an eye or a jaw wired shut. 
These are the quiet young men who listen until it's time 
to decide. 
We nod to each other. 
Later, my boss will ask me how I know so many of 
these guys. 
According to my boss, there are fewer and fewer 
gentlemen in business and more thugs. 
The demo goes on. 

Walter from Microsoft catches my eye. Here's a young 
guy with perfect teeth and clear skin and the kind of 
job you bother to write the alumni magazine about 
getting. You know he was too young to fight in any wars, 
and if his parents weren't divorced, his father was 
never home, and here he's looking at me with half my 
face clean shaved and half a leering bruise hidden in 
the dark. Blood shining on my lips. And maybe Walter's 
thinking about a meatless, painfree potluck he went to 
last weekend or the ozone or the Earth's desperate need 
to stop cruel product testing on animals, but probably 
he's not. 

Chapter 6

ONE MORNING, THERE'S the dead jellyfish of a used 
condom floating in the toilet.
This is how Tyler meets Marla.
I get up to take a leak, and there against the sort 
of cave paintings of dirt in the toilet bowl is this. 
You have to wonder, what do sperm think.
This is the vaginal vault? 
What's happening here? 
All night long, I dreamed I was humping Marla Singer. 
Marla Singer smoking her cigarette. Marla Singer rolling 
her eyes. I wake up alone in my own bed, and the door to 
Tyler's room is closed. The door to Tyler's room is 
never closed. All night, it was raining. The shingles on 
the roof blister, buckle, curl, and the rain comes 
through and collects on top of the ceiling plaster and 
drips down through the light fixtures. 
When it's raining, we have to pull the fuses. You 
don't dare turn on the lights. The house that Tyler 
rents, it has three stories and a basement. We carry 
around candles. It has pantries and screened sleeping 
porches and stained-glass windows on the stairway 
landing. There are bay windows with window seats in the 
parlor. The baseboard moldings are carved and varnished 
and eighteen inches high. 
The rain trickles down through the house, and 
everything wooden swells and shrinks, and the nails in 
everything wooden, the floors and baseboards and window 
casings, the nails inch out and rust. 
Everywhere there are rusted nails to step on or snag 
your elbow on, and there's only one bathroom for the 
seven bedrooms, and now there's a used condom. 
The house is waiting for something, a zoning change 
or a will to come out of probate, and then it will be 
torn down. I asked Tyler how long he's been here, and he 
said about six weeks. Before the dawn of time, there was 
an owner who collected lifetime stacks of the National 
Geographic and Reader's Digest. Big teetering stacks of 
magazines that get taller every time it rains. Tyler 
says the last tenant used to fold the glossy magazine 
pages for cocaine envelopes. There's no lock on the 
front door from when police or whoever kicked in the 
door. There's nine layers of wallpaper swelling on the 
dining-room walls, flowers under stripes under flowers 
under birds under grasscloth. 
Our only neighbors are a closed machine shop and 
across the street, a blocklong warehouse. Inside the 
house, there's a closet with sevenfoot rollers for 
rolling up damask tablecloths so they never have to be 
creased. There's a cedarlined, refrigerated fur closet. 
The tile in the bathroom is painted with little flowers 
nicer than most everybody's wedding china, and there's a 
used condom in the toilet. 
I've been living with Tyler about a month. 
I am Joe's White Knuckles. 
How could Tyler not fall for that. The night before 
last, Tyler sat up alone, splicing sex organs into Snow 
How could I compete for Tyler's attention. 
I am Joe's Enraged, Inflamed Sense of Rejection. 
What's worse is this is all my fault. After I went to 
sleep last night, Tyler tells me he came home from his 
shift as a banquet waiter, and Marla called again from 
the Regent Hotel. This was it, Marla said. The tunnel, 
the light leading her down the tunnel. The death 
experience was so cool, Marla wanted me to hear her 
describe it as she lifted out of her body and floated 
Marla didn't know if her spirit could use the 
telephone, but she wanted someone to at least hear her 
last breath. 
No, but no, Tyler answers the phone and 
misunderstands the whole situation. 
They've never met so Tyler thinks it's a bad thing 
that Marla is about to die. 
It's nothing of the kind. 
This is none of Tyler's business, but Tyler calls the 
police and Tyler races over to the Regent Hotel. 
Now, according to the ancient Chinese custom we all 
learned from television, Tyler is responsible for Marla, 
forever, because Tyler saved Marla's life. 
If I had only wasted a couple of minutes and gone 
over to watch Marla die, then none of this would have 
Tyler tells me how Marla lives in room 8G, on the top 
floor of the Regent Hotel, up eight flights of stairs 
and down a noisy hallway with canned television laughter 
coming through the doors. Every couple seconds an 
actress screams or actors die screaming in a rattle of 
bullets. Tyler gets to the end of the hallway and even 
before he knocks a thin, thin, buttermilk sallow arm 
slingshots out the door of room 8G, grabs his wrist, and 
yanks Tyler inside. 
I bury myself in a leader's Digest. 
Even as Marla yanks Tyler into her room, Tyler can 
hear brake squeals and sirens collecting out in front of 
the Regent Hotel. On the dresser, there's a dildo made 
of the same soft pink plastic as a million Barbie dolls, 
and for a moment, Tyler can picture millions of baby 
dolls and Barbie dolls and dildos injectionmolded and 
coming off the same assembly line in Taiwan. 
Marla looks at Tyler looking at her dildo, and she 
rolls her eyes and says, "Don't be afraid. It's not a 
threat to you." 
Marla shoves Tyler back out into the hallway, and she 
says she's sorry, but he shouldn't have called the 
police and that's probably the police downstairs right 
In the hallway, Marla locks the door to 8G and shoves 
Tyler toward the stairs. On the stairs, Tyler and Marla 
flatten against the wall as police and paramedics charge 
by with oxygen, asking which door will be 8G. 
Marla tells them the door at the end of the hall. 
Marla shouts to the police that the girl who lives in 
8G used to be a lovely charming girl, but the girl is a 
monster bitch monster. The girl is infectious human 
waste, and she's confused and afraid to commit to the 
wrong thing so she won't commit to anything. 
"The girl in 8G has no faith in herself," Marla 
shouts, "and she's worried that as she grows older, 
she'll have fewer and fewer options." 
Marla shouts, "Good luck." 
The police pile up at the locked door to 8G, and 
Marla and Tyler hurry down to the lobby. Behind them, a 
policeman is yelling at the door: 
"Let us help you! Miss Singer, you have every reason 
to live! Just let us in, Marla, and we can help you with 
your problems!" 
Marla and Tyler rushed out into the street. Tyler got 
Marla into a cab, and high up on the eighth floor of the 
hotel, Tyler could see shadows moving back and forth 
across the windows of Marla's room. 
Out on the freeway with all the lights and the other 
cars, six lanes of traffic racing toward the vanishing 
point, Marla tells Tyler he has to keep her up all 
night. If Marla ever falls asleep, she'll die.
A lot of people wanted Marla dead, she told Tyler. 
These people were already dead and on the other side, 
and at night they called on the telephone. Marla would 
go to bars and hear the bartender calling her name, and 
when she took the call, the line was dead. 
Tyler and Marla, they were up almost all night in the 
room next to mine. When Tyler woke up, Marla had 
disappeared back to the Regent Hotel. 
I tell Tyler, Marla Singer doesn't need a lover, she 
needs a case worker. 
Tyler says, "Don't call this love." 
Long story short, now Marla's out to ruin another 
part of my life. Ever since college, I make friends. 
They get married. I lose friends. 
Neat, I say. 
Tyler asks, is this a problem for me? 
I am Joe's Clenching Bowels. 
No, I say, it's fine. 
Put a gun to my head and paint the wall with my 
Just great, I say. Really. 

MY BOSS SENDS me home because of all the dried blood 
on my pants, and I am overjoyed. 
The hole punched through my cheek doesn't ever heal. 
I'm going to work, and my punched-out eye sockets are 
two swollen-up black bagels around the little piss holes 
I have left to see through. Until today, it really 
pissed me off that I'd become this totally centered Zen 
Master and nobody had noticed. Still, I'm doing the 
little FAX thing. I write little HAIKU things and FAX 
them around to everyone. When I pass people in the hall 
at work, I get totally ZEN right in everyone's hostile 
little FACE. 
Worker bees can leave 
Even drones can fly away
The queen is their slave

You give up all your worldly possessions and your car 
and go live in a rented house in the toxic waste part of 
town where late at night, you can hear Marla and Tyler 
in his room, calling each other hum; butt wipe.
Take it, human butt wipe.
Do it, butt wipe.
Choke it down. Keep it down, baby.
Just by contrast, this makes me the calm little 
center of the world.
Me, with my punched-out eyes and dried blood in big 
black crusty stains on my pants, I'm saying HELLO to 
everybody at work. HELLO! Look at me. HELLO! I am so 
ZEN. This is BLOOD. This is NOTHING. Hello. Everything 
is nothing, and it's so cool to be ENLIGHTENED. Like me.
Look. Outside the window. A bird.
My boss asked if the blood was my blood.
The bird flies downwind. I'm writing a little haiku 
in my head.

Without just one nest
A bird can call the world home
Life is your career

I'm counting on my fingers: five, seven, five. The 
blood, is it mine? Yeah, I say. Some of it. This is a 
wrong answer.

Like this is a big deal. I have two pair of black 
trousers. Six white shirts. Six pair of underwear. The 
bare minimum. I go to fight club. These things happen. 
"Go home," my boss says. "Get changed."
I'm starting to wonder if Tyler and Marla are the 
same person. Except for their humping, every night in 
Marla's room. 
Doing it. 
Doing it. 
Doing it. 
Tyler and Marla are never in the same room. I never 
see them together. 
Still, you never see me and Zsa Zsa Gabor together, 
and this doesn't mean we're the same person. Tyler just 
doesn't come out when Marla's around. 
So I can wash the pants, Tyler has to show me how to 
make soap. Tyler's upstairs, and the kitchen is filled 
with the smell of cloves and burnt hair. Marla's at the 
kitchen table, burning the inside of her arm with a 
clove cigarette and calling herself human butt wipe. 
"I embrace my own festering diseased corruption," 
Marla tells the cherry on the end of her cigarette. 
Marla twists the cigarette into the soft white belly of 
her arm. "Burn, witch, burn." 
Tyler's upstairs in my bedroom, looking at his teeth 
in my mirror, and says he got me a job as a banquet 
waiter, part time. 
"At the Pressman Hotel, if you can work in the 
evening," Tyler says. "The job will stoke your class 
Yeah, I say, whatever. 
"They make you wear a black bow tie," Tyler says. 
"All you need to work there is a white shirt and black 
Soap, Tyler. I say, we need soap. We need to make 
some soap. I need to wash my pants. 
I hold Tyler's feet while he does two hundred sit-
"To make soap, first we have to render fat." Tyler is 
full of useful information. 
Except for their humping, Marla and Tyler are never 
in the same room. If Tyler's around, Marla ignores him. 
This is familiar ground. 
"The big sleep, `Valley of the Dogs' style. 
"Where even if someone loves you enough to save your 
life, they still castrate you." Marla looks at me as if 
I'm the one humping her and says, "I can't win with you, 
can I?" 
Marla goes out the back door singing that creepy 
"Valley of the Dolls" song. 
I just stare at her going. 
There's one, two, three moments of silence until all 
of Marla is gone from the room. 
I turn around, and Tyler's appeared. 
Tyler says, "Did you get rid of her?" 
Not a sound, not a smell, Tyler's just appeared. 
"First," Tyler says and jumps from the kitchen 
doorway to digging in the freezer. "First, we need to 
render some fat." 
About my boss, Tyler tells me, if I'm really angry I 
should go to the post office and fill out a change-of-
address card and have all his mail forwarded to Rugby, 
North Dakota. 
Tyler starts pulling out sandwich bags of frozen 
white stuff and dropping them in the sink. Me, I'm 
supposed to put a big pan on the stove and fill it most 
of the way with water. Too little water, and the fat 
will darken as it separates into tallow. 
"This fat," Tyler says, "it has a lot of salt so the 
more water, the better." 
Put the fat in the water, and get the water boiling. 
Tyler squeezes the white mess from each sandwich bag 
into the water, and then Tyler buries the empty bags all 
the way at the bottom of the trash. 
Tyler says, "Use a little imagination. Remember all 
that pioneer shit they taught you in Boy Scouts. 
Remember your high school chemistry."
It's hard to imagine Tyler in Boy Scouts. 

Another thing I could do, Tyler tells me, is I could 
drive to my boss's house some night and hook a hose up 
to an outdoor spigot. hook the hose to a hand pump, and 
I could inject the house plumbing with a charge of 
industrial dye. Red or blue or green, and wait to see 
how my boss looks the next day. Or, I could just sit in 
the bushes and pump the hand pump until the plumbing was 
superpressurized to 110 psi. This way, when someone goes 
to flush a toilet, the toilet tank will explode. At 150 
psi, if someone turns on the shower, the water pressure 
will blow off the shower head, strip the threads, blam, 
the shower head turns into a mortar shell. 
Tyler only says this to make me feel better. The 
truth is I like my boss. Besides, I'm enlightened now. 
You know, only Buddha-style behavior. Spider 
chrysanthemums. The Diamond Sutra and the Blue Cliff 
Record. Hari Rama, you know, Krishna, Krishna. You know, 
"Sticking feathers up your butt," Tyler says, "does 
not make you a chicken." 
As the fat renders, the tallow will float to the 
surface of the boiling water. 
Oh, I say, so I'm sticking feathers up my butt. 
As if Tyler here with cigarette burns marching up his 
arms is such an evolved soul. Mister and Missus Human 
Butt Wipe. I calm my face down and turn into one of 
those Hindu cow people going to slaughter on the airline 
emergency procedure card. 
Turn down the heat under the pan. 
I stir the boiling water. 
More and more tallow will rise until the water is 
skinned over with a rainbow mother-of-pearl layer. Use a 
big spoon to skim the layer off, and set this layer 
So, I say, how is Marla? 
Tyler says, "At least Marla's trying to hit bottom." 
I stir the boiling water. 
Keep skimming until no more tallow rises. This is 
tallow we're skimming off the water. Good clean tallow. 
Tyler says I'm nowhere near hitting the bottom, yet. 
And if I don't fall all the way, I can't be saved. Jesus 
did it with his crucifixion thing. I shouldn't just 
abandon money and property and knowledge. This isn't 
just a weekend retreat. I should run from self-
improvement, and I should be running toward disaster. I 
can't just play it safe anymore. 
This isn't a seminar. 
"If you lose your nerve before you hit the bottom," 
Tyler says, "you'll never really succeed." 
Only after disaster can we be resurrected. 
"It's only after you've lost everything," Tyler says, 
"that you're free to do anything." 
What I'm feeling is premature enlightenment. 
"And keep stirring," Tyler says. 
When the fat's boiled enough that no more tallow 
rises, throw out the boiling water. Wash the pot and 
fill it with clean water. 
I ask, am I anywhere near hitting bottom? 
"Where you're at, now," Tyler says, "you can't even 
imagine what the bottom will be like." 
Repeat the process with the skimmed tallow. Boil the 
tallow in the water. Skim and keep skimming. "The fat 
we're using has a lot of salt in it," Tyler says. "Too 
much salt and your soap won't get solid." Boil and skim. 
Boil and skim. 
Marla is back. 
The second Marla opens the screen door, Tyler is 
gone, vanished, run out of the room, disappeared. 
Tyler's gone upstairs, or Tyler's gone down to the 

Marla comes in the back door with a canister of lye 
"At the store, they have one-hundred-percent-recycled 
toilet paper," Marla says. "The worst job in the whole 
world must be recycling toilet paper."
I take the canister of lye and put it on the table. I 
don't say anything.
"Can I stay over, tonight?" Marla says. 
I don't answer. I count in my head: five syllables, 
seven, five. 

A tiger can smile
A snake will say it loves you
Lies make us evil
Marla says, "What are you cooking?" 
I am Joe's Boiling Point. 
I say, go, just go, just get out. Okay? Don't you 
have a big enough chunk of my life, yet? 
Marla grabs my sleeve and holds me in one place for 
the second it takes to kiss my cheek. "Please call me," 
she says. "Please. We need to talk." 
I say, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. 
The moment Marla is out the door, Tyler appears back 
in the room. 
Fast as a magic trick. My parents did this magic act 
for five years. 
I boil and skim while Tyler makes room in the fridge. 
Steam layers the air and water drips from the kitchen 
ceiling. The forty-watt bulb hidden in the back of the 
fridge, something bright I can't see behind the empty 
ketchup bottles and jars of pickle brine or mayonnaise, 
some tiny light from inside the fridge edges Tyler's 
profile bright. 
Boil and skim. Boil and skim. Put the skimmed tallow 
into milk cartons with the tops opened all the way. 
With a chair pulled up to the open fridge, Tyler 
watches the tallow cool. In the heat of the kitchen, 
clouds of cold fog waterfall out from the bottom of the 
fridge and pool around Tyler's feet. 
As I fill the milk cartons with tallow, Tyler puts 
them in the fridge. 
I go to kneel beside Tyler in front of the fridge, 
and Tyler takes my hands and shows them to me. The life 
line. The love line. The mounds of Venus and Mars. The 
cold fog pooling around us, the dim bright light on our 
"I need you to do me another favor," Tyler says. 
This is about Marla isn't it? 
"Don't ever talk to her about me. Don't talk about me 
behind my back. Do you promise?" Tyler says. 
I promise. 
Tyler says, "If you ever mention me to her, you'll 
never see me again." 
I promise. 
I promise. 
Tyler says, "Now remember, that was three times that 
you promised." 
A layer of something thick and clear is collecting on 
top of the tallow in the fridge. 
The tallow, I say, it's separating. 
"Don't worry," Tyler says. "The clear layer is 
glycerin. You can mix the glycerin back in when you make 
soap. Or, you can skim the glycerin off." 
Tyler licks his lips, and turns my hands palm-down on 
his thigh, on the gummy flannel lap of his bathrobe... 
"You can mix the glycerin with nitric acid to make 
nitroglycerin," Tyler says. 
I breathe with my mouth open and say, nitroglycerin. 
Tyler licks his lips wet and shining and kisses the 
back of my hand. 

"You can mix the nitroglycerin with sodium nitrate 
and sawdust to make dynamite," Tyler says.
The kiss shines wet on the back of my white hand.
Dynamite, I say, and sit back on my heels.

Tyler pries the lid off the can of lye. "You can blow 
up bridges," Tyler says.
"You can mix the nitroglycerin with more nitric acid 
and paraffin and make gelatin explosives," Tyler says.
"You could blow up a building, easy," Tyler says.
Tyler tilts the can of lye an inch above the shining 
wet kiss on the back of my hand.
"This is a chemical burn," Tyler says, "and it will 
hurt worse than you've ever been burned. Worse than a 
hundred cigarettes."
The kiss shines on the back of my hand.
"You'll have a scar," Tyler says.
"With enough soap," Tyler says, "you could blow up 
the whole world. Now remember your promise."
And Tyler pours the lye.

Chapter 7

TYLER'S SALIVA DID two jobs. The wet kiss on the back 
of my hand held the flakes of lye while they burned. 
That was the first job. The second was lye only burns 
when you combine it with water. Or saliva.
"This is a chemical burn," Tyler said, "and it will 
hurt more than you've ever been burned."
You can use lye to open clogged drains.
Close your eyes.
A paste of lye and water can burn through an aluminum 
A solution of lye and water will dissolve a wooden 
Combined with water, lye heats to over two hundred 
degrees, and as it heats it burns into the back of my 
hand, and Tyler places his fingers of one hand over my 
fingers, our hands spread on the lap of my bloodstained 
pants, and Tyler says to pay attention because this is 
the greatest moment of my life.
"Because everything up to now is a story," Tyler 
says, "and everything after now is a story." 
This is the greatest moment of our life. 
The lye clinging in the exact shape of Tyler's kiss 
is a bonfire or a branding iron or an atomic pile 
meltdown on my hand at the end of a long, long road I 
picture miles away from me. Tyler tells me to come back 
and be with him. My hand is leaving, tiny and on the 
horizon at the end of the road. 
Picture the fire still burning, except now it's 
beyond the horizon. A sunset. 
"Come back to the pain," Tyler says. 
This is the kind of guided meditation they use at 
support groups. 
Don't even think of the word pain. 
Guided meditation works for cancer, it can work for 
"Look at your hand," Tyler says. 
Don't look at your hand. 
Don't think of the word searing or flesh or tissue or 
Don't hear yourself cry. 
Guided meditation. 
You're in Ireland. Close your eyes. 
You're in Ireland the summer after you left college, 
and you're drinking at a pub near the castle where every 
day busloads of English and American tourists come to 
kiss the Blarney stone. 
"Don't shut this out," Tyler says. "Soap and human 
sacrifice go hand in hand." 
You leave the pub in a stream of men, walking through 
the beaded wet car silence of streets where it's just 
rained. It's night. Until you get to the Blarneystone 
The floors in the castle are rotted away, and you 
climb the rock stairs with blackness getting deeper and 
deeper on every side with every step up. Everybody is 
quiet with the climb and the tradition of this little 
act of rebellion. 
"Listen to me," Tyler says. "Open your eyes. 
"In ancient history," Tyler says, "human sacrifices 
were made on a hill above a river. Thousands of people. 
Listen to me. The sacrifices were made and the bodies 
were burned on a pyre. 
"You can cry," Tyler says. "You can go to the sink 
and run water over your hand, but first you have to know 
that you're stupid and you will die. Look at me. 
"Someday," Tyler says, "you will die, and until you 
know that, you're useless to me." 
You're in Ireland. 
"You can cry," Tyler says, "but every tear that lands 
in the lye flakes on your skin will burn a cigarette 
burn scar." 
Guided meditation. You're in Ireland the summer after 
you left college, and maybe this is where you first 
wanted anarchy. Years before you met Tyler Durden, 
before you peed in your first creme anglaise, you 
learned about little acts of rebellion. 
In Ireland. 
You're standing on a platform at the top of the 
stairs in a castle. 
"We can use vinegar," Tyler says, "to neutralize the 
burning, but first you have to give up." 
After hundreds of people were sacrificed and burned, 
Tyler says, a thick white discharge crept from the 
altar, downhill to the river. 
First you have to hit bottom. 
You're on a platform in a castle in Ireland with 
bottomless darkness all around the edge of the platform, 
and ahead of you, across an arm's length of darkness, is 
a rock wall. 
"Rain," Tyler says, "fell on the burnt pyre year 
after year, and year after year, people were burned, and 
the rain seeped through the wood ashes to become a 
solution of lye, and the lye combined with the melted 
fat of the sacrifices, and a thick white discharge of 
soap crept out from the base of the altar and crept 
downhill toward the river." 
And the Irish men around you with their little act of 
rebellion in the darkness, they walk to the edge of the 
platform, and stand at the edge of the bottomless 
darkness and piss. 
And the men say, go ahead, piss your fancy American 
piss rich and yellow with too many vitamins. Rich and 
expensive and thrown away. 
"This is the greatest moment of your life," Tyler 
says, "and you're off somewhere missing it." 
You're in Ireland. 
Oh, and you're doing it. Oh, yeah. Yes. And you can 
smell the ammonia and the daily allowance of B vitamins. 
Where the soap fell into the river, Tyler says, after 
a thousand years of killing people and rain, the ancient 
people found their clothes got cleaner if they washed at 
that spot. 
I'm pissing on the Blarney stone. 
"Geez," Tyler says. 
I'm pissing in my black trousers with the dried 
bloodstains my boss can't stomach. 
You're in a rented house on Paper Street. 
"This means something," Tyler says. 
"This is a sign," Tyler says. Tyler is full of useful 
information. Cultures without soap, Tyler says, they 
used their urine and the urine of their dogs to wash 
their clothes and hair because of the uric acid and 
There's the smell of vinegar, and the fire on your 
hand at the end of the long road goes out. 
There's the smell of lye scalding the branched shape 
of your sinuses, and the hospital vomit smell of piss 
and vinegar. 
"It was right to kill all those people," Tyler says. 
The back of your hand is swollen red and glossy as a 
pair of lips in the exact shape of Tyler's kiss. 
Scattered around the kiss are the cigarette burn spots 
of somebody crying. 
"Open your eyes," Tyler says, and his face is shining 
with tears. "Congratulations," Tyler says. "You're a 
step closer to hitting bottom.
"You have to see," Tyler says, "how the first soap 
was made of heroes."
Think about the animals used in product testing.
Think about the monkeys shot into space.
"Without their death, their pain, without their 
sacrifice," Tyler says, "we would have nothing."
I STOP THE elevator between floors while Tyler undoes 
his belt. When the elevator stops, the soup bowls 
stacked an the buffet cart stop rattling, and steam 
mushrooms up to the elevator ceiling as Tyler takes the 
lid off the soup tureen. 
Tyler starts to take himself out and says, "Don't 
look at me, or I can't go." 
The soup's a sweet tomato bisque with cilantro and 
clams. Between the two, nobody will smell anything else 
we put in. 
I say, hurry up, and I look back over my shoulder at 
Tyler with his last half inch hanging in the soup. This 
looks in a really funny way like a tall elephant in a 
waiter's white shirt and bow tie drinking soup through 
its little trunk. 
Tyler says, "I said, `Don't look."' 
The elevator door in front of me has a little face-
sized window that lets me look out into the banquet 
service corridor. With the elevator stopped between 
floors, my view is about a cockroach above the green 
linoleum, and from here at cockroach level the green 
corridor stretches toward the vanishing point, past 
half-open doors where titans and their gigantic wives 
drink barrels of champagne and bellow at each other 
wearing diamonds bigger than I feel. 
Last week, I tell Tyler, when the Empire State 
Lawyers were here for their Christmas party, I got mine 
hard and stuck it in all their orange mousses.
Last week, Tyler says, he stopped the elevator and 
farted on a whole cart of Boccone Dolce for the Junior 
League tea. 
That Tyler knows how a meringue will absorb odor. 
At cockroach level, we can hear the captive harpist 
make music as the titans lift forks of butterflied lamb 
chop, each bite the size of a whole pig, each mouth a 
tearing Stonehenge of ivory. 
I say, go already. 
Tyler says, "I can't." 
If the soup gets cold, they'll send it back. 
The giants, they'll send something back to the 
kitchen for no reason at all. They just want to see you 
run around for their money. A dinner like this, these 
banquet parties, they know the tip is already included 
in the bill so they treat you like dirt. We don't really 
take anything back to the kitchen. Move the Pommes 
Parisienne and the Asperges Hollandaise around the plate 
a little, serve it to someone else, and all of a sudden 
it's fine. 
I say, Niagara Falls. The Nile River. In school, we 
all thought if you put somebody's hand in a bowl of warm 
water while they slept, they'd wet the bed. 
Tyler says, "Oh." Behind me, Tyler says, "Oh, yeah. 
Oh, I'm doing it. Oh, yeah. Yes." 
Past half-open doors in the ballrooms off the service 
corridor swish gold and black and red skirts as tall as 
the gold velvet curtain at the 
Old Broadway Theatre. Now and again there are pairs 
of Cadillac sedans in black leather with shoelaces where 
the windshields should be. Above the cars move a city of 
office towers in red cummerbunds. 
Not too much, I say. 
Tyler and me, we've turned into the guerrilla 
terrorists of the service industry. Dinner party 
saboteurs. The hotel caters dinner parties, and when 
somebody wants the food they get the food and the wine 
and the china and glassware and the waiters. They get 
the works, all in one bill. And because they know they 
can't threaten you with the pp, to them you're just a 
Tyler, he did a dinner party one time. This was when 
Tyler turned into a renegade waiter. That first dinner 
party, Tyler was serving the fish course in this white 
and glass cloud of a house that seemed to float over the 
city on steel legs attached to a hillside. Part of the 
way through the fish course, while Tyler's rinsing 
plates from the pasta course, the hostess comes in the 
kitchen holding a scrap of paper that flaps like a flag, 
her hand is shaking so much. Through her clenched teeth, 
Madam wants to know did the waiters see any of the 
guests go down the hallway that leads to the bedroom 
part of the house? Especially any of the women guests? 
Or the host? 
In the kitchen, it's Tyler and Albert and Len and 
Jerry rinsing and stacking the plates and a prep cook, 
Leslie, basting garlic butter on the artichoke hearts 
stuffed with shrimp and escargot. 
"We're not supposed to go in that part of the house," 
Tyler says. 
We come in through the garage. All we're supposed to 
see is the garage, the kitchen, and the dining room. 
The host comes in behind his wife in the kitchen 
doorway and takes the scrap of paper out of her shaking 
hand. "This will be alright," he says. 
"How can I face those people," Madam says, "unless I 
know who did this?" 
The host puts a flat open hand against the back of 
her silky white party dress that matches her house and 
Madam straightens up, her shoulders squared, and is all 
of a sudden quiet. "They are your guests," he says. "And 
this party is very important." 
This looks in a really funny way like a ventriloquist 
bringing his dummy to life. Madam looks at her husband, 
and with a little shove the host takes his wife back 
into the dining room. The note drops to the floor and 
the two-way swish-swish of the kitchen door sweeps the 
note against Tyler's feet. 
Albert says, "What's it say?" 
Len goes out to start clearing the fish course. 
Leslie slides the tray of artichoke hearts back into 
the oven and says, "What's it say, already?" 
Tyler looks right at Leslie and says, without even 
picking up the note, " `I have passed an amount of urine 
into at least one of your many elegant fragrances."' 
Albert smiles. "You pissed in her perfume?" 
No, Tyler says. He just left the note stuck between 
the bottles. She's got about a hundred bottles sitting 
on a mirror counter in her bathroom. 
Leslie smiles. "So you didn't, really?" 
"No," Tyler says, "but she doesn't know that." 
The whole rest of the night in that white and glass 
dinner party in the sky, Tyler kept clearing plates of 
cold artichokes, then cold veal with cold Pommes 
Duchesse, then cold Choufleur a la Polonaise from in 
front of the hostess, and Tyler kept filling her wine 
glass about a dozen times. Madam sat watching each of 
her women guests eat the food, until between clearing 
the sorbet dishes and serving the apricot gateau, 
Madam's place at the head of the table was all of a 
sudden empty. 
They were washing up after the guests had left, 
loading the coolers and the china back into the hotel 
van, when the host came in the kitchen and asked, would 
Albert please come help him with something heavy? 
Leslie says, maybe Tyler went too far. 
Loud and fast, Tyler says how they kill whales, Tyler 
says, to make that perfume that costs more than gold per 
ounce. Most people have never seen a whale. Leslie has 
two kids in an apartment next to the freeway and Madam 
hostess has more bucks than we'll make in a year in 
bottles on her bathroom counter. 
Albert comes back from helping the host and dials 9-
1-1 on the phone. Albert puts a hand over the mouth part 
and says, man, Tyler shouldn't have left that note. 
Tyler says, "So, tell the banquet manager. Get me 
fired. I'm not married to this chickenshit job." 
Everybody looks at their feet. 
"Getting fired," Tyler says, "is the best thing that 
could happen to any of us. That way, we'd quit treading 
water and do something with our lives." 
Albert says into the phone that we need an ambulance 
and the address. Waiting on the line, Albert says the 
hostess is a real mess right now. Albert had to pick her 
up from next to the toilet. The host couldn't pick her 
up because Madam says he's the one who peed in her 
perfume bottles, and she says he's trying to drive her 
crazy by having an affair with one of the women guests, 
tonight, and she's tired, tired of all the people they 
call their friends. 
The host can't pick her up because Madam's fallen 
down behind the toilet in her white dress and she's 
waving around half a broken perfume bottle. Madam says 
she'll cut his throat, he even tries to touch her. 
Tyler says, "Cool." 
And Albert stinks. Leslie says, "Albert, honey, you 
There's no way you could come out of that bathroom 
not stinking, Albert says. Every bottle of perfume is 
broken on the floor and the toilet is piled full of the 
other bottles. They look like ice, Albert says, like at 
the fanciest hotel parties where we have to fill the 
urinals with crushed ice. The bathroom stinks and the 
floor is gritty with slivers of ice that won't melt, and 
when Albert helps Madam to her feet, her white dress wet 
with yellow stains, Madam swings the broken bottle at 
the host, slips in the perfume and broken glass, and 
lands on her palms. 
She's crying and bleeding, curled against the toilet. 
Oh, and it stings, she says. "Oh, Walter, it stings. 
It's stinging," Madam says. 
The perfume, all those dead whales in the cuts in her 
hands, it stings. 
The host pulls Madam to her feet against him, Madam 
holding her hands up as if she were praying but with her 
hands an inch apart and blood running down the palms, 
down the wrists, across a diamond bracelet, and to her 
elbows where it drips. 
And the host, he says, "It will be alright, Nina." 
"My hands, Walter," Madam says. 
"It will be alright." 
Madam says, "Who would do this to me? Who could hate 
me this much?" 
The host says, to Albert, "Would you call an 
That was Tyler's first mission as a service industry 
terrorist. Guerrilla waiter. Minimum-wage despoiler. 
Tyler's been doing this for years, but he says 
everything is more fun as a shared activity. 
At the end of Albert's story, Tyler smiles and says, 
Back in the hotel, right now, in the elevator stopped 
between the kitchen and the banquet floors, I tell Tyler 
how I sneezed on the trout in aspic for the 
dermatologist convention and three people told me it was 
too salty and one person said it was delicious. 
Tyler shakes himself off over the soup tureen and 
says he's run dry.
This is easier with cold soup, vichyssoise, or when 
the chefs make a really fresh gazpacho. This is 
impossible with that onion soup that has a crust of 
melted cheese on it in ramekins. If I ever ate here, 
that's what I'd order. 
We were running out of ideas, Tyler and me. Doing 
stuff to the food sot to be boring, almost part of the 
job description. Then I hear one of the doctors, 
lawyers, whatever, say how a hepatitis bug can live on 
stainless steel for six months. You have to wonder how 
long this bug can live on Rum Custard Charlotte Russe. 
Or Salmon Timbale. 
I asked the doctor where could we get our hands on 
some of these hepatitis bugs, and he's drunk enough to 
Everything goes to the medical waste dump, he says. 
And he laughs. 
The medical waste dump sounds like hitting bottom. 
One hand on the elevator control, I ask Tyler if he's 
ready. The scar on the back of my hand is swollen red 
and glossy as a pair of lips in the exact shape of 
Tyler's kiss. 
"One second," Tyler says. 
The tomato soup must still be hot because the crooked 
thing Tyler tucks back in his pants is boiled pink as a 
jumbo prawn. 

Chapter 8

IN SOUTH AMERICA, Land of Enchantment, we could be 
wading in a river where tiny fish will swim up Tyler's 
urethra. The fish have barbed spines that flare out and 
back so once they're up Tyler, the fish set up 
housekeeping and get ready to lay their eggs. In so many 
ways, how we spent Saturday night could be worse. 
"It could've been worse," Tyler says, "what we did 
with Marla's mother." 
I say, shut up. 
Tyler says, the French government could've taken us 
to an underground complex outside of Paris where not 
even surgeons but semiskilled technicians would razor 
our eyelids off as part of toxicity testing an aerosol 
tanning spray. 
"This stuff happens," Tyler says. "Read the 
What's worse is I knew what Tyler had been up to with 
Marla's mother, but for the first time since I've known 
him, Tyler had some oval play money. Tyler was making 
real bucks. Nordstrom's called and left an order for two 
hundred bars of Tyler's brown sugar facial soap before 
Christmas. At twenty bucks a bar, suggested retail 
price, we had money to go out on Saturday night. Money 
to fix the leak in the gas line. Go dancing. Without 
money to worry about, maybe I could quit my job. 
Tyler calls himself the Paper Street Soap Company. 
People are saying it's the best soap ever. 
"What would've been worse," Tyler says, "is if you 
had accidentally eaten Marla's mother." 
Through a mouthful of Kung Pao Chicken, I say to just 
shut the hell up. 
Where we are this Saturday night is the front seat of 
a 1968 Impala sitting on two flats in the front row of a 
used-car lot. Tyler and me, we're talking, drinking beer 
out of cans, and the front seat of this Impala is bigger 
than most people's sofas. The car lots up and down this 
part of the boulevard, in the industry they call these 
lots the Pot Lots where the cars all cost around two 
hundred dollars and during the day, the gypsy guys who 
run these lots stand around in their plywood offices 
smoking long, thin cigars. 
The cars are the beater first cars kids drive in high 
school: Gremlins and Pacers, Mavericks and Hornets, 
Pintos, International Harvester pickup trucks, lowered 
Camaros and Dusters and Impalas. Cars that people loved 
and then dumped. Animals at the pound. Bridesmaid 
dresses at the Goodwill. With dents and gray or red or 
black primer quarter panels and rocker panels and lumps 
of body putty that nobody ever got around to sanding. 
Plastic wood and plastic leather and plastic chrome 
interiors. At night, the gypsy guys don't even lock the 
car doors. 
The headlights on the boulevard go by behind the 
price painted on the Impala-big wraparound Cinemascope 
windshield. See the U.S.A. The price is ninety-eight 
dollars. From the inside, this looks like eightynine 
cents. Zero, zero, decimal point, eight, nine. America 
is asking you to call. 
Most of the cars here are about a hundred dollars, 
and all the cars have an "AS IS" sales agreement hanging 
in the driver's window. 
We chose the Impala because if we have to sleep in a 
car on Saturday night, this car has the biggest seats. 
We're eating Chinese because we can't go home. It was 
either sleep here, or stay up all night at an after-
hours dance club. We don't go to dance clubs. Tyler says 
the music is so loud, especially the base tracks, that 
it screws with his biorhythm. The last time we went out, 
Tyler said the loud music made him constipated. This, 
and the club is too loud to talk, so after a couple of 
drinks, everyone feels like the center of attention but 
completely cutoff from participating with anyone else. 
You're the corpse in an English murder mystery. 
We're sleeping in a car tonight because Marla came to 
the house and threatened to call the police and have me 
arrested for cooking her mother, and then Marla slammed 
around the house, screaming that I was a ghoul and a 
cannibal and she went kicking through the piles of 
Reader's Digest and National Geographic, and then I left 
her there. In a nutshell. 
After her accidental on-purpose suicide with Xanax at 
the Regent Hotel, I can't imagine Marla calling the 
police, but Tyler thought it would be good to sleep out, 
tonight. Just in case. 
Just in case Marla burns the house down. 
Just in case Marla goes out and finds a gun. 
Just in case Marla is still in the house. 
Just in case. 
I try to get centered: 

Watching white moon face The stars never feel anger 
Blah, blah, blah, the end
Here, with the cars going by on the boulevard and a 
beer in my hand in the Impala with its cold, hard 
Bakelite steering wheel maybe three feet in diameter and 
the cracked vinyl seat pinching my ass through my jeans, 
Tyler says, "One more time. Tell me exactly what 
For weeks, I ignored what Tyler had been up to. One 
time, I went with Tyler to the Western Union office and 
watched as he sent Marla's mother a telegram. 
Tyler had showed the clerk Marla's library card and 
signed Marla's name to the telegram order, and yelled, 
yes, Marla can be a guy's name sometimes, and the clerk 
could just mind his own business. 
When we were leaving the Western Union, Tyler said if 
I loved him, I'd trust him. This wasn't something I 
needed to know about, Tyler told me and he took me to 
Garbonzo's for hummus. 
What really scared me wasn't the telegram as much as 
it was eating out with Tyler. Never, no, never had Tyler 
ever paid cash for anything. For clothes, Tyler goes to 
gyms and hotels and claims clothing out of the lost and 
found. This is better than Marla, who goes to 
Laundromats to steal jeans out of the dryers and sell 
them at twelve dollars a pair to those places that buy 
used jeans. Tyler never ate in restaurants, and Marla 
wasn't wrinkled. 
For no apparent reason, Tyler sent Marla's mother a 
fifteen-pound box of chocolates. 
Another way this Saturday night could be worse, Tyler 
tells me in the Impala, is the brown recluse spider. 
When it bites you, it injects not just a venom but a 
digestive enzyme or acid that dissolves the tissue 
around the bite, literally melting your arm or your leg 
or your face. Tyler was hiding out tonight when this all 
started. Marla showed up at the house. Without even 
knocking, Marla leans inside the front door and shouts, 
"Knock, knock." 
I'm reading Reader's Digest in the kitchen. I am 
totally nonplussed. 
Marla yells, "Tyler. Can I come in? Are you home?" 
I yell, Tyler's not home. 
Marla yells, "Don't be mean." 
By now, I'm at the front door. Marla's standing in 
the foyer with a Federal Express overnight package, and 
says, "I needed to put something in your freezer." 
I dog her heels on the way to the kitchen, saying, 
She is not going to start keeping her junk in this 
"But Pumpkin," Marla says, "I don't have a freezer at 
the hotel, and you said I could." 
No, I did not. The last thing I want is Marla moving 
in, one piece of crap at a time. 
Marla has her Federal Express package ripped open on 
the kitchen table, and she lifts something white out of 
the Styrofoam packing peanuts and shakes this white 
thing in my face. "This is not crap," she says. "This is 
my mother you're talking about so just fuck off." 
What Marla lifts out of the package, it's one of 
those sandwich bags of white stuff that Tyler rendered 
for tallow to make soap. 
"Things would've been worse," Tyler says, "if you'd 
accidentally eaten what was in one of those sandwich 
bags. If you'd got up in the middle of the night 
sometime, and squeezed out the white goo and added 
California onion soup mix and eaten it as a dip with 
potato chips. Or broccoli." 
More than anything in the world right then, while 
Marla and I were standing in the kitchen, I didn't want 
Marla to open the freezer. 
I asked, what was she going to do with the white 
"Paris lips," Marla said. "As you get older, your 
lips pull inside your mouth. I'm saving for a collagen 
lip injection. I have almost thirty pounds of collagen 
in your freezer." 
I asked, how big of lips did she want? 
Marla said it was the operation itself that scared 
The stuff in the Federal Express package, I tell 
Tyler in the Impala, that was the same stuff we made 
soap out of. Ever since silicone turned out to be 
dangerous, collagen has become the hot item to I gave 
injected to smooth out wrinkles or to puff up thin lips 
or weak chins. The way Marla had explained it, most 
collagen you get cheap from cow fat that's been 
sterilized and processed, but that kind of cheap 
collagen doesn't last very long in your body. Wherever 
you get  injected, say in your lips, your body rejects 
it and starts to poop it out. Six months later, you have 
thin lips, again. 
The best kind of collagen, Marla said, is your own 
fat, sucked out of your thighs, processed and cleaned 
and injected back into your lips, or wherever. This kind 
of collagen will last. 
This stuff in the fridge at home, it was Marla's 
collagen trust fund. Whenever her mom grew any extra 
fat, she had it sucked out and packaged. Marla says the 
process is called gleaning. If Marla's mom doesn't need 
the collagen herself, she sends the packets to Marla. 
Marla never has any fat of her own, and her mom figures 
that familial collagen would be better than Marla ever 
having to use the cheap cow kind. 
Streetlight along the boulevard comes through the 
sales agreement m the window and prints "AS IS" on 
Tyler's cheek. 
"Spiders," Tyler says, "could lay their eggs and 
larva could tunnel, under your skin. That's how bad your 
life can get." 
Right now, my Almond Chicken in its warm, creamy 
sauce tastes like something sucked out of Marla's 
mother's thighs. 
It was right then, standing in the kitchen with 
Marla, that I knew what Tyler had done. 
And I knew why he sent candy to Marla's mother.
I say, Marla, you don't want to look in the freezer.
Marla says, "Do what?"
"We never eat red meat," Tyler tells me in the 
Impala, and he can't use chicken fat or the soap won't 
harden into a bar. "The stuff," Tyler says, "is making 
us a fortune. We paid the rent with that collagen." 
I say, you should've told Marla. Now she thinks I did 
"Saponification," Tyler says, "is the chemical 
reaction you need to make good soap. Chicken fat won't 
work or any fat with too much salt. 
"Listen," Tyler says. "We have a big order to fill. 
What we'll do is send Marla's mom some chocolates and 
probably some fruitcakes." 
I don't think that will work, anymore. 
Long story short, Marla looked in the freezer. Okay, 
there was a little scuffle, first. I try to stop her, 
and the bag she's holding gets dropped and breaks open 
on the linoleum and we both slip in the greasy white 
mess and come up gagging. I have Marla around the waist 
from behind, her black hair whipping my face, her arms 
pinned to her sides, and I'm saying over and over, it 
wasn't me. It wasn't me. 
I didn't do it. 
"My mother! You're spilling her all over!" 
We needed to make soap, I say with my face pressed up 
behind her car. We needed to wash my pants, to pay the 
rent, to fix the leak in the gas line. It wasn't me. 
It was Tyler. 
Marla screams, "What are you talking about?" and 
twists out of her skirt. I'm scrambling to get up off 
the greased floor with an armful of Marla's India cotton 
print skirt, and Marla in her panties and wedgie Feels 
and peasant blouse throws open the freezer part of the 
fridge, and inside there's no collagen trust fund. 
There's two old flashlight batteries, but that's all. 
"Where is she?" 
I'm already crawling backwards, my hands slipping, my 
shoes slipping on the linoleum, and my ass wiping a 
clean path across the dirty Moor away from Marla and the 
fridge. I hold up the skirt so I don't Dave to see 
Marla's face when I tell her. 
The truth. 
We made soap out of it. Her. Marla's mother. 
Soap. You boil fat. You mix it with lye. You get 
When Marla screams, I throw the skirt in her face and 
run. I slip. I run. 
Around and around the first floor, Marla runs after 
me, skidding m the corners, pushing off against the 
window casings for momentum. Slipping. 
Leaving filthy handprints of grease and floor dirt 
among the wallpaper flowers. Falling and sliding into 
the wainscoting, getting back up, running. 
Marla screaming, "You boiled my mother!"
Tyler boiled her mother. 
Marla screaming, always one swipe of her fingernails 
behind me. 
Tyler boiled her mother. 
"You boiled my mother!" 
The front door was still open. 
And then I was out the front door with Marla 
screaming in the doorway behind me. My feet didn't slip 
against the concrete sidewalk, and I just kept running. 
Until I found Tyler or until Tyler found me, and I told 
him what happened. 
With one beer each, Tyler and I spread out on the 
front and back seats with me in the front seat. Even 
now, Marla's probably still in the house, throwing 
magazines against the walls and screaming how I'm a 
prick and a monster twofaced capitalist suck-ass 
bastard. The miles of night between Marla and me offer 
insects and melanomas and flesh-eating viruses. Where 
I'm at isn't so bad. 
"When a man is hit by lightning," Tyler says, "his 
head burns down to a smoldering baseball and his zipper 
welds itself shut." 
I say, did we hit bottom, tonight? 
Tyler lies back and asks, "If Marilyn Monroe was 
alive right now, what would she be doing?" 
I say, goodnight. 
The headliner hangs down in shreds from the ceiling, 
and Tyler says, "Clawing at the lid of her coffin." 

Chapter 9

MY BOSS STANDS too close to my desk with his little 
smile, his lips together and stretched thin, his crotch 
at my elbow. I look up from writing the cover letter for 
a recall campaign. These letters always begin the same 
"This notice is sent to you in accordance with the 
requirements of the National Motor Vehicle Safety Act. 
We have determined that a defect exists..." 
This week I ran the liability formula, and for once A 
times B times C equaled more than the cost of a recall. 
This week, it's the little plastic clip that holds 
the rubber blade on your windshield wipers. A throwaway 
item. Only two hundred vehicles affected. Next to 
nothing for the labor cost. 
Last week was more typical. Last week the issue was 
some leather cured with a known teratogenic substance, 
synthetic Nirret or something just as illegal that's 
still used in third world tanning. Something so strong 
that it could cause birth defects in the fetus of any 
pregnant woman who comes across it. Last week, nobody 
called the Department of Transportation. Nobody 
initiated a recall. 
New leather multiplied by labor cost multiplied by 
administration cost would equal more than our first-
quarter profits. If anyone ever discovers our mistake, 
we can still pay off a lot of grieving families before 
we come close to the cost of retrofitting sixty-five 
hundred leather interiors. 
But this week, we're doing a recall campaign. And 
this week the insomnia is back. Insomnia, and now the 
whole world figures to stop by and take a dump on my 
My boss is wearing his gray tie so today must be a 
My boss brings a sheet of paper to my desk and asks 
if I'm looking for something. This paper was left in the 
copy machine, he says, and begins to read: 
"The first rule of fight club is you don't talk about 
fight club." 
His eyes go side to side across the paper, and he 
"The second rule of fight club is you don't talk 
about fight club." 
I hear Tyler's words come out of my boss, Mister Boss 
with his midlife spread and family photo on his desk and 
his dreams about early retirement and winters spent at a 
trailer-park hookup in some Arizona desert. My boss, 
with his extra-starched shirts and standing appointment 
for a haircut every Tuesday after lunch, he looks at me, 
and he says: 
"I hope this isn't yours." 
I am Joe's Blood-Boiling Rage. 
Tyler asked me to type up the fight club rules and 
make him ten copies. Not nine, not eleven. Tyler says, 
ten. Still, I have the insomnia, and can't remember 
sleeping since three nights ago. This must be the 
original I typed. I made ten copies, and forgot the 
original. The paparazzi flash of the copy machine in my 
face. The insomnia distance of everything, a copy of a 
copy of a copy. You can't touch anything, and nothing 
can touch you. 
My boss reads: 
"The third rule of fight club is two men per fight." 
Neither of us blinks. 
My boss reads: 
"One fight at a time." 
I haven't slept in three days unless I'm sleeping 
now. My boss shakes the paper under my nose. What about 
it, he says. Is this some little game I'm playing on 
company time? I'm paid for my full attention, not to 
waste time with little war games. And I'm not paid to 
abuse the copy machines. 
What about it? He shakes the paper under my nose. 
What do I think, he asks, what should he do with an 
employee who spends company time in some little fantasy 
world. If I was in his shoes, what would I do? 
What would I do? 
The hole in my cheek, the blue-black swelling around 
my eyes, and the swollen red scar of Tyler's kiss on the 
back of my hand, a copy of a copy of a copy. 
Why does Tyler want ten copies of the fight club 
Hindu cow. 
What I would do, I say, is I'd be very careful who I 
talked to about this paper. 
I say, it sounds like some dangerous psychotic killer 
wrote this, and this buttoned-down schizophrenic could 
probably go over the edge at any moment in the working 
day and stalk from office to office with an Armalite AR-
180 carbine gas-operated semiautomatic. 
My boss just looks at me. 
The guy, I say, is probably at home every night with 
a little rattail file, filing a cross into the tip of 
every one of his rounds. This way, when he shows up to 
work one morning and pumps a round into his nagging, 
ineffectual, petty, whining, butt-sucking, candy-ass 
boss, that one round will split along the filed grooves 
and spread open the way a dumdum bullet flowers inside 
you to blow a bushel load of your stinking guts out 
through your spine. Picture your gut chakra opening in a 
slow-motion explosion of sausage-casing small intestine. 
My boss takes the paper out from under my nose. 
Go ahead, I say, read some more. 
No really, I say, it sounds fascinating. The work of 
a totally diseased mind. 
And I smile. The little butthole-looking edges of the 
hole in my cheek are the same blue-black as .a dog's 
gums. The skin stretched tight across the swelling 
around my eyes feels varnished. 
My boss just looks at me. 
Let me help you, I say. 
I say, the fourth rule of fight club is one fight at 
a time. 
My boss looks at the rules and then looks at me. 
I say, the fifth rule is no shoes, no shirts in the 
My boss looks at the rules and looks at me. 
Maybe, I say, this totally diseased fuck would use an 
Eagle Apache carbine because an Apache takes a thirty-
shot mag and only weighs nine pounds. The Armalite only 
takes a five-round magazine. With thirty shots, our 
totally fucked hero could go the length of mahogany row 
and take out every vice president with a cartridge left 
over for each director. 
Tyler's words coming out of my mouth. I used to be 
such a nice person. 
I just look at my boss. My boss has blue; blue, pale 
cornflower blue eyes. 
The J and R 68 semiautomatic carbine also takes a 
thirty-shot mag, and it only weighs seven pounds. 
My boss just looks at me. 
It's scary, I say. This is probably somebody he's 
known for years. Probably this guy knows all about him, 
where he lives, and where his wife works and his kids go 
to school. 
This is exhausting, and all of a sudden very, very 
And why does Tyler need ten copies of the fight club 
What I don't have to say is I know about the leather 
interiors that cause birth defects. I know about the 
counterfeit brake linings that looked good enough to 
pass the purchasing agent, but fail after two thousand 
I know about the air-conditioning rheostat that gets 
so hot it sets fire to the maps in your glove 
compartment. I know how many people burn alive because 
of fuel-injector flashback. I've seen people's legs cut 
off at the knee when turbochargers start exploding and 
send their vanes through the firewall and into the 
passenger compartment. I've been out in the field and 
seen the burned-up cars and seen the reports where CAUSE 
OF FAILURE is recorded as "unknown." 
No, I say, the paper's not mine. I take the paper 
between two fingers and jerk it out of his hand. The 
edge must slice his thumb because his hand flies to his 
mouth, and he's sucking hard, eyes wide open. I crumble 
the paper into a ball and toss it into the trash can 
next to my desk. 
Maybe, I say, you shouldn't be bringing me every 
little piece of trash you pick up. 
Sunday night, I go to Remaining Men Together and the 
basement of Trinity Episcopal is almost empty. Just Big 
Bob, and I come dragging in with every muscle bruised 
inside and out, but my heart's still racing and my 
thoughts are a tornado in my head. This is insomnia. All 
night, your thoughts are on the air. 
All night long, you're thinking: Am I asleep? Have I 
Insult to injury, Big Bob's arms come out of his T-
shirt sleeves quilted with muscle and so hard they 
shine. Big Bob smiles, he's so happy to see me. 
He thought I was dead. 
Yeah, I say, me too. 
"Well," Big Bob says, "I've got good news." 
Where is everybody? 
"That's the good news," Big Bob says. "The group's 
disbanded. I only come down here to tell any guys who 
might show up." 
I collapse with my eyes closed on one of the plaid 
thrift store couches. 
"The good news," Big Bob says, "is there's a new 
group, but the first rule about this new group is you 
aren't supposed to talk about it. 
Big Bob says, "And the second rule is you're not 
supposed to talk about it." 
Oh, shit. I open my eyes. 
"The group's called fight club," Big Bob says, "and 
it meets every Friday night in a closed garage across 
town. On Thursday nights, there's another fight club 
that meets at a garage closer by." 
I don't know either of these places. 
"The first rule about fight club," Big Bob says, "is 
you don't talk about fight club." 
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night, Tyler is a 
movie projectionist. I saw his pay stub last week. 
"The second rule about fight club," Big Bob says, "is 
you don't talk about fight club." 
Saturday night, Tyler goes to fight club with me. 
"Only two men per fight." 

Sunday morning, we come home beat up and sleep all 
afternoon. "Only one fight at a time," Big Bob says. 
Sunday and Monday night, Tyler's waiting tables. "You 
fight without shirts or shoes." Tuesday night, Tyler's 
at home making soap, wrapping it in tissue paper, 
shipping it out. The Paper Street Soap Company. "The 
fights," Big Bob says, "go on as long as they have to. 
Those are the rules invented by the guy who invented 
fight club." Big Bob asks, "Do you know him? "I've never 
seen him, myself," Big Bob says, "but the guy's name is 
Tyler Durden." The Paper Street Soap Company. Do I know 
him. I dunno, I say. Maybe.

Chapter 10

WHEN I GET to the Regent Hotel, Marla's in the lobby 
wearing a bathrobe. Marla called me at work and asked, 
would I skip the gym and the library or the laundry or 
whatever I had planned after work and come see her, 
This is why Marla called, because she hates me. 
She doesn't say a thing about her collagen trust 
What Marla says is, would I do her a favor? Marla was 
lying in bed this afternoon. Marla lives on the meals 
that Meals on Wheels delivers for her neighbors who are 
dead; Marla accepts the meals and says they're asleep. 
Long story short, this afternoon Marla was just lying in 
bed, waiting for the Meals on Wheels delivery between 
noon and two. Marla hasn't had health insurance for a 
couple years so she's stopped looking, but this morning 
she looks and there seemed to be a lump and the nodes 
under her arm near the lump were hard and tender at the 
same time and she couldn't tell anyone she loves because 
she doesn't want to scare them and she can't afford to 
see a doctor if this is nothing, but she needed to talk 
to someone and someone else needed to look. 
The color of Marla's brown eyes is like an animal 
that's been heated in a furnace and dropped into cold 
water. They call that vulcanized or galvanized or 
Marla says she'll forgive the collagen thing if I'll 
help her look. 
I figure she doesn't call Tyler because she doesn't 
want to scare him. I'm neutral in her book, I owe her. 
We go upstairs to her room, and Marla tells me how in 
the wild you don't see old animals because as soon as 
they age, animals die. If they get sick or slow down, 
something stronger kills them. Animals aren't meant to 
get old. 
Marla lies down on her bed and undoes the tie on her 
bathrobe, and says our culture has made death something 
wrong. Old animals should be an unnatural exception. 
Marla's cold and sweating while I tell her how in 
college I had a wart once. On my penis, only I say, 
dick. I went to the medical school to have it removed. 
The wart. Afterwards, I told my father. This was years 
after, and my dad laughed and told me I was a fool 
because warts like that are nature's French tickler. 
Women love them and God was doing me a favor. 
Kneeling next to Marla's bed with my hands still cold 
from outside, feeling Marla's cold skin a little at a 
time, rubbing a little of Marla between my fingers every 
inch, Marla says those warts that are God's French 
ticklers give women cervical cancer. 
So I was sitting on the paper belt in an examining 
room at the medical school while a medical student 
sprays a canister of liquid nitrogen on my dick and 
eight medical students watched. This is where you end up 
if you don't have medical insurance. Only they don't 
call it a dick, they called it a penis, and whatever you 
call it, spray it with liquid nitrogen and you might as 
well burn it with lye, it hurts so bad. 
Marla laughs at this until she sees my fingers have 
stopped. Like maybe I've found something. 
Marla stops breathing and her stomach goes like a 
drum, and her heart is like a fist pounding from inside 
the tight skin of a drum. But no, I stopped because I'm 
talking, and I stopped because, for a minute, neither of 
us was in Marla's bedroom. We were in the medical school 
years ago, sitting on the sticky paper with my dick on 
fire with liquid nitrogen when one of the medical 
students saw my bare feet and left the room fast in two 
big steps. The student came back in behind three real 
doctors, and the doctors elbowed the man with the 
canister of liquid nitrogen to one side. 
A real doctor grabbed my bare right foot and hefted 
it into the face of the other real doctors. The three 
turned it and poked it and took Polaroid pictures of the 
foot, and it was as if the rest of the person, half 
dressed with God's gift half frozen, didn't exist. Only 
the foot, and the rest of the medical students pressed 
in to see. 
"How long," a doctor asked, "have you had this red 
blotch on your foot?" 
The doctor meant my birthmark. On my right foot is a 
birthmark that my father jokes looks like a dark red 
Australia with a little New Zealand right next to it. 
This is what I told them and it let all the air out of 
everything. My dick was thawing out. Everyone except the 
student with the nitrogen left, and there was the sense 
that he would've left too, he was so disappointed he 
never met my eyes as he took the head of my dick and 
stretched it toward himself. The canister jetted a tiny 
spray on what was left of the wart. The feeling, you 
could close your eyes and imagine your dick is a hundred 
miles long, and it would still hurt. 
Marla looks down at my hand and the scar from Tyler's 
I said to the medical student, you must not see a lot 
of birthmarks around here. 
It's not that. The student said everyone thought the 
birthmark was cancer. There was this new kind of cancer 
that was getting young men. They wake up with a red spot 
on their feet or ankles. The spots don't go away, they 
spread until they cover you and then you die. 
The student said, the doctors and everyone were so 
excited because they thought you had this new cancer. 
Very few people had it, yet, but it was spreading. 
This was years and years ago. 
Cancer will be like that, I tell Marla. There will be 
mistakes, and maybe the point is not to forget the rest 
of yourself if one little part might go bad. 
Marla says, "Might." 
The student with the nitrogen finished up and told me 
the wart would drop off after a few days. On the sticky 
paper next to my bare ass was a Polaroid picture of my 
foot that no one wanted. I said, can I have the picture? 
I still have the picture in my room stuck in the 
corner of a mirror in the frame. I comb my hair in the 
mirror before work every morning and think how I once 
had cancer for ten minutes, worse than cancer. 
I tell Marla that this Thanksgiving was the first 
year when my grandfather and I did not go ice skating 
even though the ice was almost six inches thick. My 
grandmother always has these little round bandages on 
her forehead or her arms where moles she's had her whole 
life didn't look right. They spread out with fringed 
edges or the moles turned from brown to blue or black. 
When my grandmother got out of the hospital the last 
time, my grandfather was carrying her suitcase and it 
was so heavy he complained that he felt lopsided. My 
French-Canadian grandmother was so modest that she never 
wore a swimming suit in public and she always ran water 
in the sink to mask any sound she might make in the 
bathroom. Coming out of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital 
after a partial mastectomy, she says: "You feel 
For my grandfather, that sums up the whole story, my 
grandmother, cancer, their marriage, your life. He 
laughs every time he tells that story. 
Marla isn't laughing. I want to make her laugh, to 
warm her up. To make her forgive me for the collagen, I 
want to tell Marla there's nothing for me to find. If 
she found anything this morning, it was a mistake. A 
Marla has the scar from Tyler's kiss on the back of 
her hand. 
I want to make Marla laugh so I don't tell her about 
the last time I hugged Chloe, Chloe without hair, a 
skeleton dipped in yellow wax with a silk scarf tied 
around her bald head. I hugged Chloe one last time 
before she disappeared forever. I told her she looked 
like a pirate, and she laughed. Me, when I go to the 
beach, I always sit with my right foot tucked under me. 
Australia and New Zealand, or I keep it buried in the 
sand. My fear is that people will see my foot and I'll 
start to die in their minds. The cancer I don't have is 
everywhere now. I don't tell Marla that. 
There are a lot of things we don't want to know about 
the people we love. 
To warm her up, to make her laugh, I tell Marla about 
the woman in Dear Abby who married a handsome successful 
mortician and on their wedding night, he made her soak 
in a tub of ice water until her skin was freezing to the 
touch, and then he made her lie in bed completely still 
while he had intercourse with her cold inert body. 
The funny thing is this woman had done this as a 
newlywed, and gone on to do it for the next ten years of 
marriage and now she was writing to Dear Abby to ask if 
Abby thought it meant something. 

Chapter 11

THIS IS WHY I loved the support groups so much, if 
people thought you were dying, they gave you their full 
If this might be the last time they saw you, they 
really saw you. Everything else about their checkbook 
balance and radio songs and messy hair went out the 
You had their full attention.
People listened instead of just waiting for their 
turn to speak.
And when they spoke, they weren't telling you a 
story. When the two of you talked, you were building 
something, and afterward you were both different than 
Marla had started going to the support groups after 
she found the first lump.
The morning after we found her second lump, Marla 
hopped into the kitchen with both legs in one leg of her 
pantyhose and said, "Look, I'm a mermaid."
Marla said, "This isn't like when guys sit backward 
on the toilet and pretend it's a motorcycle. This is a -
genuine accident." 
Just before Marla and I met at Remaining Men 
Together, there was the first lump, and now there was a 
second lump. 
What you have to know is that Marla is still alive. 
Marla's philosophy of life, she told me, is that she can 
die at any moment. The tragedy of her life is that she 
When Marla found the first lump, she went to a clinic 
where slumped scarecrow mothers sat in plastic chairs on 
three sides of the waiting room with limp doll children 
balled in their laps or lying at their feet. The 
children were sunken and dark around their eyes the way 
or anges or bananas go bad and collapse, and the mothers 
scratched at mats of dandruff from scalp yeast 
infections out of control. The way the teeth in the 
clinic looked huge in everyone's thin face, you saw how 
teeth are just shards of bone that come through your 
skin to grind things up. 
This is where you end up if you don't have health 
Before anyone knew any better, a lot of gay guys had 
wanted children, and now the children are sick and the 
mothers are dying and the fathers are dead, and sitting 
in the hospital vomit smell of piss and vinegar while a 
nurse asks each mother how long she's been sick and how 
much weight she's lost and if her child has any living 
parent or guardian, Marla decides, no. 
If she was going to die, Marla didn't want to know 
about it. 
Marla walked around the corner from the clinic to 
City Laundry and stole all the jeans out of the dryers, 
then walked to a dealer who gave her fifteen bucks a 
pair. Then Marla bought herself some really good 
pantyhose, the kind that don't run. 
"Even the good kind that don't run," Marla says, 
"they snag." 
Nothing is static. Everything is falling apart. 
Marla started going to the support groups since it 
was easier to be around other human butt wipe. Everyone 
has something wrong. And for a while, her heart just 
sort of flatlined. 
Marla started a job doing prepaid funeral plans for a 
mortuary where sometimes great fat men, but usually fat 
women, would come out of the mortuary showroom carrying 
a crematory urn the size of an egg cup, and Marla would 
sit there at her desk in the foyer with her dark hair 
tied down and her snagged pantyhose and breast lump and 
doom, and say, "Madam, don't flatter yourself. We 
couldn't get even your burned-up head into that tiny 
thing. Go back and get an urn the size of a bowling 
Marla's heart looked the way my face was. The crap 
and the trash of the world. Post-consumer human butt 
wipe that no one would ever go to the trouble to 
Between the support groups and the clinic, Marla told 
me, she had met a lot of people who were dead. These 
people were dead and on the other side, and at night 
they called on the telephone. Marla would go to bars and 
hear the bartender calling her name, and when she took 
the call the line was dead. 
At the time, she thought this was hitting bottom. 
"When you're twenty-four," Marla says, "you have no 
idea how far you can really fall, but I was a fast 
The first time Marla filled a crematory urn, she 
didn't wear a face mask, and later she blew her nose and 
there in the tissue was a black mess of Mr. Whoever. 
In the house on Paper Street, if the phone rang only 
once and you picked it up and the line was dead, you 
knew it was someone trying to reach Marla. This happened 
more than you might think. 
In the house on Paper Street, a police detective 
stated calling about my condominium explosion, and Tyler 
stood with his chest against my shoulder, whispering 
into my ear while I held the phone to the other ear, and 
the detective asked if I knew anyone who could make 
homemade dynamite. 
"Disaster is a natural part of my evolution," Tyler 
whispered, "toward tragedy and dissolution." 
I told the detective that it was the refrigerator 
that blew up my condo. 
"I'm breaking my attachment to physical power and 
possessions,' Tyler whispered, "because only through 
destroying myself can I discover the greater power of my 
The dynamite, the detective said, there were 
impurities, a residue of ammonium oxalate and potassium 
perchloride that might mean the bomb was homemade, and 
the dead bolt on the front door was shattered. 
I said I was in Washington, D.C., that night. 
The detective on the phone explained how someone had 
sprayed a canister of Freon into the dead-bolt lock and 
then tapped the lock with a cold chisel to shatter the 
cylinder. This is the way criminals are stealing 
"The liberator who destroys my property," Tyler said, 
"is fighting to save my spirit. The teacher who clears 
all possessions from my path will set me free." 
The detective said whoever set the homemade dynamite 
could've turned on the gas and blown out the pilot 
lights on the stove days before the explosion took 
place. The gas was just the trigger. It would take days 
for the gas to fill the condo before it reached the 
compressor at the base of the refrigerator and the 
compressor's electric motor set off the explosion. 
"Tell him," Tyler whispered. "Yes, you did it. You 
blew it all up. That's what he wants to hear." 
I tell the detective, no, I did not leave the gas on 
and then leave town. I loved my life. I loved that 
condo. I loved every stick of furniture 
That was my whole life. Everything, the lamps, the 
chairs, the rugs were me. The dishes in the cabinets 
were me. The plants were me. The television was me. It 
was me that blew up. Couldn't he see that? 
The detective said not to leave town.

Chapter 12

MISTER HIS HONOR, mister chapter president of the 
local chapter of the national united projectionist and 
independent theater operators union just sat. 
Under and behind and inside everything the man took 
for granted, something horrible had been growing. 
Nothing is static. 
Everything is falling apart. 
I know this because Tyler knows this. 
For three years Tyler had been doing film buildup and 
breakdown for a chain of movie houses. A movie travels 
in six or seven small reels packed in a metal case. 
Tyler's job was to splice the small reels together into 
single fivefoot reels that self-threading and rewinding 
projectors could handle. After three years, seven 
theaters, at least three screens per theater, new shows 
every week, Tyler had handled hundreds of prints. 
Too bad, but with more self-threading and rewinding 
projectors, the union didn't need Tyler anymore. Mister 
chapter president had to call Tyler in for a little sit-
The work was boring and the pay was crap, so the 
president of the united union of united projection 
operators independent and united theaters united said it 
was doing Tyler Durden a chapter favor by giving Tyler 
the diplomatic shaft. 
Don't think of this as rejection. Think of it as 
Right up the butt mister chapter president himself 
says, "We appreciate your contribution to our success." 
Oh, that wasn't a problem, Tyler said, and grinned. 
As long as the union kept sending a paycheck, he'd keep 
his mouth shut. 
Tyler said, "Think of this as early retirement, with 
Tyler had handled hundreds of prints. 
Movies had gone back to the distributor. Movies had 
gone back out in re-release. Comedy. Drama. Musicals. 
Romance. Action adventure. 
Spliced with Tyler's single-frame flashes of 
Sodomy. Fellatio. Cunnilingus. Bondage. 
Tyler had nothing to lose. 
Tyler was the pawn of the world, everybody's trash. 
This is what Tyler rehearsed me to tell the manager 
of the Pressman Hotel, too. 
At Tyler's other job, at the Pressman Hotel, Tyler 
said he was nobody. Nobody cared if he lived or died, 
and the feeling was fucking mutual. This is what Tyler 
told me to say in the hotel manager's office with 
security guards sitting outside the door. 
Tyler and I stayed up late and traded stories after 
everything was over. 
Right after he'd gone to the projectionist union, 
Tyler had me go and confront the manager of the Pressman 
Tyler and I were looking more and more like identical 
twins. Both of us had punched-out cheekbones, and our 
skin had lost its memory, and forgot where to slide back 
to after we were hit. 
My bruises were from fight club, and Tyler's face was 
punched out of shape by the president of the 
projectionist union. After Tyler crawled out of the 
union offices, I went to see the manager of the Pressman 
I sat there, in the office of the manager of the 
Pressman Hotel. 
I am Joe's Smirking Revenge. 
The first thing the hotel manager said was I had 
three minutes. In the first thirty seconds, I told how 
I'd been peeing into soup, farting on creme brulees, 
sneezing on braised endive, and now I wanted the hotel 
to send me a check every week equivalent to my average 
week's pay plus tips. In return, I wouldn't come to work 
anymore, and I wouldn't go to the newspapers or the 
public health people with a confused, tearful 
The headlines: 
Troubled Waiter Admits Tainting Food. 
Sure, I said, I might go to prison. They could hang 
me and yank my nuts off and drag me through the streets 
and flay my skin and burn me with lye, but the Pressman 
Hotel would always be known as the hotel where the 
richest people in the world ate pee. 
Tyler's words coming out of my mouth. 
And I used to be such a nice person. 
At the projectionist union office, Tyler had laughed 
after the union president punched him. The one punch 
knocked Tyler out of his chair, and Tyler sat against 
the wall, laughing. 
"Go ahead, you can't kill me," Tyler was laughing. 
"You stupid fuck. Beat the crap out of me, but you can't 
kill me." 
You have too much to lose. 
I have nothing. 
You have everything. 
Go ahead, right in the gut. Take another shot at my 
face. Cave in my teeth, but keep those paychecks coming. 
Crack my ribs, but if you miss one week's pay, I go 
public, and you and your little union go down under 
lawsuits from every theater owner and film distributor 
and mommy whose kid maybe saw a hard-on in Bambi. 
"I am trash," Tyler said. "I am trash and shit and 
crazy to you and this whole fucking world," Tyler said 
to the union president. "You don't care where I live or 
how I feel, or what I eat or how I feed my kids or how I 
pay the doctor if I get sick, and yes I am stupid and 
bored and weak, but I am still your responsibility." 
Sitting in the office at the Pressman Hotel, my fight 
club lips were still split into about ten segments. The 
butthole in my cheek looking at the manager of the 
Pressman Hotel, it was all pretty convincing. 
Basically, I said the same stuff Tyler said.
After the union president had slugged Tyler to the 
floor, after mister president saw Tyler wasn't fighting 
back, his honor with his big Cadillac body bigger and 
stronger than he would ever really need, his honor 
hauled his wingtip back and kicked Tyler in the ribs and 
Tyler laughed. His honor shot the wingtip into Tyler's 
kidneys after Tyler curled into a ball, but Tyler was 
still laughing. 
"Get it out," Tyler said. "Trust me. You'll feel a 
lot better. You'll feel great." 
In the office of the Pressman Hotel, I asked the 
hotel manager if I could use his phone, and I dialed the 
number for the city desk at the newspaper. With the 
hotel manager watching, I said: 
Hello, I said, I've committed a terrible crime 
against humanity as part of a political protest. My 
protest is over the exploitation of workers in the 
service industry. 
If I went to prison, I wouldn't be just an unbalanced 
peon diddling in the soup. This would have heroic scale. 
Robin Hood Waiter Champions Have-Nots. 
This would be about a lot more than one hotel and one 
The manager of the Pressman Hotel very gently took 
the receiver out of my hand. The manager said he didn't 
want me working here anymore, not the way I looked now. 
I'm standing at the head of the manager's desk when I 
say, what? 
You don't like the idea of third 
And without flinching, still looking at the manager, 
I roundhouse the fist at the centrifugal force end of my 
arm and slam fresh blood out of the cracked scabs in my 
For no reason at all, I remember the night Tyler and 
I had our first fight. I want you to hit me as hard as 
you can. 
This isn't such a hard punch. I punch myself, again. 
It just looks good, all the blood, but I throw myself 
back against the wall to make a terrible noise and break 
the painting that hangs there. 
The broken glass and frame and the painting of 
flowers and blood go to the floor with me clowning 
around. I'm being such a doofus. Blood gets on the 
carpet and I reach up and grip monster handprints of 
blood on the edge of the hotel manager's desk and say, 
please, help me, but I start to giggle. 
Help me, please. 
Please don't hit me, again. 
I slip back to the floor and crawl my blood across 
the carpet. The first word I'm going to say is please. 
So I keep my lips shut. The monster drags itself across 
the lovely bouquets and garlands of the Oriental carpet. 
The blood falls out of my nose and slides down the back 
of my throat and into my mouth, hot. The monster crawls 
across the carpet, hot and picking up the lint and dust 
sticking to the blood on its claws. And it crawls close 
enough to grab the manager of the Pressman Hotel around 
his pinstriped ankle and say it. 
Say it. 
Please comes out in a bubble of blood. 
Say it. 
And the bubble pops blood all over. 
And this is how Tyler was free to start a fight club 
every night of the week. After this there were seven 
fight clubs, and after that there were fifteen fight 
clubs, and after that, there were twenty-three fight 
clubs, and Tyler wanted more. There was always money 
coming in. 
Please, I ask the manager of the Pressman Hotel, give 
me the money. And I giggle, again.
And please don't hit me, again.
You have so much, and I have nothing. And I start to 
climb my blood up the pinstriped legs of the manager of 
the Pressman Hotel who is leaning back, hard, with his 
hands on the windowsill behind him and even his thin 
lips retreating from his teeth. 
The monster hooks its bloody claw in the waistband of 
the manager's pants, and pulls itself up to clutch the 
white starched shirt, and 
I wrap my bloody hands around the manager's smooth 
Please. I smile big enough to split my lips. 
There's a struggle as the manager screams and tries 
to get his hands away from me and my blood and my 
crushed nose, the filth sticking in the blood on both of 
us, and right then at our most excellent moment, the 
security guards decide to walk in. 

Chapter 13

IT'S IN THE newspaper today how somebody broke into 
offices between the tenth and fifteenth floors of the 
Hein Tower, and climbed out the office windows, and 
painted the south side of the building with a grinning 
five story mask, and set fires so the window at the 
center of each huge eye blazed huge and alive and 
inescapable over the city at dawn. 
In the picture on the front page of the newspaper, 
the face is an angry pumpkin, Japanese demon, dragon of 
avarice hanging in the sky, and the smoke is a witch's 
eyebrows or devil's horns. And people cried with their 
heads thrown back. 
What did it mean? 
And who would do this? And even after the fires were 
out, the face was still there, and it was worse. The 
empty eyes seemed to watch everyone in the street but at 
the same time were dead. 
This stuff is in the newspaper more and more. 
Of course you read this, and you want to know right 
away if it was part of Project Mayhem. 
The newspaper says the police have no real leads. 
Youth gangs or space aliens, whoever it was could've 
died while crawling down ledges and dangling from 
windowsills with cans of black spray paint. 
Was it the Mischief Committee or the Arson Committee? 
The giant face was probably their homework assignment 
from last week. 
Tyler would know, but the first rule about Project 
Mayhem is you don't ask questions about Project Mayhem. 
In the Assault Committee of Project Mayhem, this week 
Tyler says he ran everyone through what it would take to 
shoot a gun. All a gun does is focus an explosion in one 
At the last meeting of the Assault Committee, Tyler 
brought a gun and the yellow pages of the phone book. 
They meet in the basement where fight club meets on 
Saturday night. Each committee meets on a different 
Arson meets on Monday. 
Assault on Tuesday. 
Mischief meets on Wednesday. 
And Misinformation meets on Thursday. 
Organized Chaos. The Bureaucracy of Anarchy. You 
figure it out. 
Support groups. Sort of. 
So Tuesday night, the Assault Committee proposed 
events for the upcoming week, and Tyler read the 
proposals and gave the committee its homework. 
By this time next week, each guy on the Assault 
Committee has to pick a fight where he won't come out a 
hero. And not in fight club. This is harder than it 
sounds. A man on the street will do anything not to 
The idea is to take some Joe on the street who's 
never been in a fight and recruit him. Let him 
experience winning for the first time in his life. Get 
him to explode. Give him permission to beat the crap out 
of you. 
You can take it. If you win, you screwed up. 
"What we have to do, people," Tyler told the 
committee, "is remind these guys what kind of power they 
still have." 
This is Tyler's little pep talk. Then he opened each 
of the folded squares of paper in the cardboard box in 
front of him. This is how each committee proposes events 
for the upcoming week. Write the event on the committee 
tablet. Tear off the sheet, fold it, and put it in the 
box. Tyler checks out the proposals and throws out any 
bad ideas. 
For each idea he throws out, Tyler puts a folded 
blank into the box. 
Then everyone in the committee takes a paper out of 
the box. The way Tyler explained the process to me, if 
somebody draws a blank, he only has his homework to do 
that week. 
If you draw a proposal, then you have to go to the 
import beer festival this weekend and push over a guy in 
a chemical toilet. You'll get extra favor if you get 
beat up for doing this. Or you have to attend the 
fashion show at the shopping center atrium and throw 
strawberry gelatin from the mezzanine. 
If you get arrested, you're off the Assault 
Committee. If you laugh, you're off the committee. 
Nobody knows who draws a proposal, and nobody except 
Tyler knows what all the proposals are and which are 
accepted and which proposals he throws in the trash. 
Later that week, you might read in the newspaper about 
an unidentified man, downtown, jumping the driver of a 
Jaguar convertible and steering the car into a fountain. 
You have to wonder. Was this a committee proposal you 
could've drawn? 
The next Tuesday night, you'll be looking around the 
Assault Committee meeting under the one light in the 
black fight club basement, and you're still wondering 
who forced the jag into the fountain. 
Who went to the roof of the art museum and snipered 
paint balls into the sculpture court reception? 
Who painted the blazing demon mask on the Hein Tower? 
The night of the Hein Tower assignment, you can 
picture a team of law clerks and bookkeepers or 
messengers sneaking into offices where they sat, every 
day. Maybe they were a little drunk even if it's against 
the rules in Project Mayhem, and they used passkeys 
where they could and used spray canisters of Freon to 
shatter lock cylinders w > they could dangle, rappelling 
against the tower's brick facade, dropping, trusting 
each other to hold ropes, swinging, risking quick death 
in offices where every day they felt their lives end one 
hour at a time. 
The next morning, these same, clerks and assistant 
account reps would be in the crowd with their neatly 
combed heads thrown back, rummy without sleep but sober 
and wearing ties and listening to the crowd around them 
wonder, who would do this, and the police shout I for 
everyone to please get back, now, as water ran down from 
the broken smoky center of each huge eye. 
Tyler told me in secret that there's never more than 
four good proposals at a meeting so your chances of 
drawing a real proposal and [lot just a blank are about 
four in ten. There are twenty-five guys on t Ire Assault 
Committee including Tyler. Everybody gets their 
homework: lose a fight in public; and each member draws 
for a proposal. 
This week, Tyler told them, "Go out and buy a gun." 
Tyler gave one guy the telephone-book yellow pages 
and told him to tear out an advertisement. Then pass the 
book to the next guy. No two guys should go to the same 
place to buy or shoot. 
"This," Tyler said, and he took a gun out of his coat 
pocket, "this is a gun, and in two weeks, you should 
each of you have a gun about t Isis size to bring to 
"Better you should pay for it with cash," Tyler said. 
"Next meeting, you'll all trade guns and report the gun 
you bought as stolen." 
Nobody asked anything. You don't ask questions is the 
first rule in Project Mayhem. 
Tyler handed the gun around. It was so heavy for 
something se small, as if a giant thing like a mountain 
or a sun were collapsed and melted down to make this. 
The committee guys held it by two fingers. Everyone 
wanted to ask if it was loaded, but the second rule of 
Project Mayhem is you don't ask questions. 
Maybe it was loaded, maybe not. Maybe we should 
always assume the worst. 
"A gun," Tyler said, "is simple and perfect. You just 
draw the trigger back." 
The third rule in Project Mayhem is no excuses. 
"The trigger," Tyler said, "frees the hammer, and the 
hammer strikes the powder." 
The fourth rule is no lies. 
"The explosion blasts a metal slug off the open end 
of the shell, and the barrel of the gun focuses the 
exploding powder and the rocketing slug," Tyler said, 
"like a man out of a cannon, like a missile out of a 
silo, like your jism, in one direction." 
When Tyler invented Project Mayhem, Tyler said the 
goal of Project Mayhem had nothing to do with other 
people. Tyler didn't care if other people got hurt or 
not. The goal was to teach each man in the project that 
he had the power to control history. We, each of us, can 
take control of the world. 
It was at fight club that Tyler invented Project 
I tagged a first-timer one night at fight club. That 
Saturday night, a young guy with an angel's face came to 
his first fight club, and I tagged him for a fight. 
That's the rule. If it's your first night in fight club, 
you have to fight. I knew that so I tagged him because 
the insomnia was on again, and I was in a mood to 
destroy something beautiful. 
Since most of my face never gets a chance to heal, 
I've got nothing to lose in the looks department. My 
boss, at work, he asked me what I was doing about the 
hole through my cheek that never heals. When I drink 
coffee, I told him, I put two fingers over the hole so 
it won't leak. 
There's a sleeper hold that gives somebody just 
enough air to stay awake, and that night at fight club I 
hit our first-timer and hammered that beautiful mister 
angel face, first with the bony knuckles of my fist like 
a pounding molar, and then the knotted tight butt of my 
fist after my knuckles were raw from his teeth stuck 
through his lips. Then the I, id fell through my arms in 
a heap. 
Tyler told me later that he'd never seen me destroy 
something so completely. That night, Tyler knew he had 
to take fight club up a notch or shut it down. 
Tyler said, sitting at breakfast the next morning, 
"You looked like a maniac, Psycho-Boy. Where did you 
I said I felt like crap and not relaxed at all. I 
didn't get any kind of n buzz. Maybe I'd developed a 
Jones. You can build up a tolerance to fighting, and 
maybe I needed to move on to something bigger. 
It was that morning, Tyler invented Project Mayhem. 
Tyler asked what I was really fighting. 
What Tyler says about being the crap and the slaves 
of history, that's I n >w I felt. I wanted to destroy 
everything beautiful I'd never have. Burn the Amazon 
rain forests. Pump chlorofluorocarbons straight up o > 
gobble the ozone. Open the dump valves on supertankers 
and uncap offshore oil wells. I wanted to kill all the 
fish I couldn't afford to eat, and smother the French 
beaches I'd never see. 
I wanted the whole world to hit bottom. 
Pounding that kid, I really wanted to put a bullet 
between the eyes every endangered panda that wouldn't 
screw to save its species and every whale or dolphin 
that gave up and ran itself aground. 
Don't think of this as extinction. Think of this as 
For thousands of years, human beings had screwed up 
and trashed and crapped on this planet, and now history 
expected me to clean up after everyone. I have to wash 
out and flatten my soup cans. And account for every drop 
of used motor oil. 
And I have to foot the bill for nuclear waste and 
buried gasoline tanks and landfilled toxic sludge dumped 
a generation before I was born. 
I held the face of mister angel like a baby or a 
football in the crook of my arm and bashed him with my 
knuckles, bashed him until his teeth broke through his 
lips. Bashed him with my elbow after that until he fell 
through my arms into a heap at my feet. Until the skin 
was pounded thin across his cheekbones and turned black. 
I wanted to breathe smoke. 
Birds and deer are a silly luxury, and all the fish 
should be floating. 
I wanted to burn the Louvre. I'd do the Elgin Marbles 
with a sledgehammer and wipe my ass with the Mona Lira. 
This is my world, now. 
This is my world, my world, and those ancient people 
are dead. 
It was at breakfast that morning that Tyler invented 
Project Mayhem. 
We wanted to blast the world free of history. 
We were eating breakfast in the house on Paper 
Street, and Tyler said, picture yourself planting 
radishes and seed potatoes on the fifteenth green of a 
forgotten golf course. 
You'll hunt elk through the damp canyon forests 
around the ruins of Rockefeller Center, and dig clams 
next to the skeleton of the Space Needle leaning at a 
forty-five-degree angle. We'll paint the skyscrapers 
with huge totem faces and goblin tikis, and every 
evening what's left of mankind will retreat to empty 
zoos and lock itself in cages as protection against 
bears and big cats and wolves that pace and watch us 
from outside the cage bars at night. 
"Recycling and speed limits are bullshit," Tyler 
said. "They're like someone who quits smoking on his 
It's Project Mayhem that's going to save the world. A 
cultural ice age. A prematurely induced dark age. 
Project Mayhem will force humanity to go dormant or into 
remission long enough for the Earth to recover. 
"You justify anarchy," Tyler says. "You figure it 
Like fight club does with clerks and box boys, 
Project Mayhem will break up civilization so we can, 
make something better out of the world. 
"Imagine," Tyler said, "stalking elk past department 
store windows and stinking racks of beautiful rotting 
dresses and tuxedos on hangers; you'll wear leather 
clothes that will last you the rest of your life, and 
you'll climb the wristthick kudzu vines that wrap the 
Sears Tower. Jack and the beanstalk, you'll climb up 
through the dripping forest canopy and the air will be 
so clean you'll see tiny figures pounding corn and 
laying strips of venison to dry in the empty car pool 
lane of an abandoned superhighway stretching eight-
lanes-wide and August-hot for a thousand miles." 
This was the goal of Project Mayhem, Tyler said, the 
complete and rightaway destruction of civilization. 
What comes next in Project Mayhem, nobody except 
Tyler knows. The second rule is you don't ask questions. 
"Don't get any bullets," Tyler told the Assault 
Committee. "And just so you don't worry about it, yes, 
you're going to have to kill someone. 
Arson. Assault. Mischief and Misinformation.
No questions. No questions. No excuses and no lies.
The fifth rule about Project Mayhem is you have to 
trust Tyler.
Tyler wanted me to type up and copy. A week ago, 
Tyler was pacing out the dimensions of the basement of 
the rented house on Paper Street. It's sixty-five shoe 
lengths front to back and forty shoe lengths side to 
side. Tyler was thinking out loud. Tyler asked me, "What 
is six times seven?" 
"And forty-two times three?" 
One hundred and twenty-six. 
Tyler gave me a handwritten list of notes and said to 
type it and make seventy-two copies. 
Why that many? 
"Because," Tyler said, "that's how many guys can 
sleep in the basement, if we put them in triple-decker 
army surplus bunk beds." 
I asked, what about their stuff? 
Tyler said, "They won't bring anything more than 
what's on the list, and it should all fit under a 
The list my boss finds in the copy machine, the copy 
machine counter still set for seventy-two copies, the 
list says: 
"Bringing the required items does not guarantee 
admission to training, but no applicant will be 
considered unless he arrives equipped with the following 
items and exactly five hundred dollars cash for personal 
burial money." 
" It costs at least three hundred dollars to cremate 
an indigent corpse, Tyler told me, and the price was 
going up. Anyone who dies without at least this much 
money, their body goes to an autopsy class. 
This money must always be carried in the student's 
shoe so if the student is ever killed, his death will 
not be a burden on Project Mayhem. 
In addition, the applicant has to arrive with the 
Two black shirts. 
Two black pair of trousers. 

Chapter 14

MY BOSS BRINGS another sheet of paper to my desk and 
sets it at my elbow. I don't even wear a tie anymore. My 
boss is wearing his blue tie, so it must be a Thursday. 
The door to my boss's office is always closed now, and 
we haven't traded more than two words any day since he 
found the fight club rules in the copy machine and I 
maybe implied I might gut him with a shotgun blast. Just 
me clowning around, again. 
Or, I might call the Compliance people at the 
Department of Transportation. There's a front seat 
mounting bracket that never passed collision testing 
before it went into production. 
If you know where to look, there are bodies buried 
Morning, I say. 
He says, "Morning." 
Set at my elbow is another for-my-eyes-only important 
secret document
One pair of heavy black shoes. 
Two pair of black socks and two pair of plain 
One heavy black coat. 
This includes the clothes the applicant has on his 
One white towel. 
One army surplus cot mattress. 
One white plastic mixing bowl. 
At my desk, with my boss still standing there, I pick 
up the original list and tell him, thanks. My boss goes 
into his office, and I set to work playing solitaire on 
my computer. 
After work, I give Tyler the copies, and days go by. 
I go to work. 
I come home. 
I go to work. 
I come home, and there's a guy standing on our front 
porch. The guy's at the front door with his second black 
shirt and pants in a brown paper sack and he's got the 
last three items, a white towel, an army surplus 
mattress, and a plastic bowl, set on the porch railing. 
From an upstairs window, Tyler and I peek out at the 
guy, and Tyler tells me to send the guy away. 
"He's too young," Tyler says. 
The guy on the porch is mister angel face whom I 
tried to destroy the night Tyler invented Project 
Mayhem. Even with his two black eyes and blond crew cut, 
you see his tough pretty scowl without wrinkles or 
scars. Put him in a dress and make him smile, and he'd 
be a woman. Mister angel just stands his toes against 
the front door, just looks straight ahead into the 
splintering wood with his hands at his sides, wearing 
black shoes, black shirt, black pair of trousers. 
"Get rid of him," Tyler tells me. "He's too young." 
I ask how young is too young? 
"It doesn't matter," Tyler says. "If the applicant is 
young, we tell him he's too young. If he's fat, he's too 
fat. If he's old, he's too old. 
Thin, he's too thin. White, he's too white. Black, 
he's too black." 
This is how Buddhist temples have tested applicants 
going back for bahzillion years, Tyler says. You tell 
the applicant to go away, and if his resolve is so 
strong that he waits at the entrance without food or 
shelter or encouragement for three days, then and only 
then can he enter and begin the training. 
So I tell mister angel he's too young, but at 
lunchtime he's still there. After lunch, I go out and 
beat mister angel with a broom and kick the guy's sack 
out into the street. From upstairs, Tyler watches me 
stickball the broom upside the kid's ear, the kid just 
standing there, then I kick his stuff into the gutter 
and scream. 
Go away, I'm screaming. Haven't you heard? You're too 
young. You'll never make it, I scream. Come back in a 
couple years and apply again. Just go. Just get off my 
The next day, the guy is still there, and Tyler goes 
out to go, "I'm sorry." Tyler says he's sorry he told 
the guy about training, but the guy is really too young, 
and would he please just go. 
Good cop. Bad cop. 
I scream at the poor guy, again. Then, six hours 
later, Tyler goes out and says he's sorry, but no. The 
guy has to leave. Tyler says he's going to call the 
police if the guy won't leave. 
And the guy stays. 
And his clothes are still in the gutter. The wind 
takes the torn paper sack away. 
And the guy stays. 
On the third day, another applicant is at the front 
door. Mister angel is still there, and Tyler goes down 
and just tells mister angel, "Come in. Get your stuff 
out of the street and come in." 
To the new guy, Tyler says, he's sorry but there's 
been a mistake. The new guy is too old to train here, 
and would he please leave. 
I go to work every day. I come home, and every day 
there's one or two guys waiting on the front porch. 
These new guys don't make eye contact. I shut the door 
and leave them on the porch. This happens every day for 
a while, and sometimes the applicants will leave, but 
most times, the applicants stick it out until the third 
day, until most of the seventy-two bunk beds Tyler and I 
bought and set up in the basement are full. 
One day, Tyler gives me five hundred dollars in cash 
and tells me to keep it in my shoe all the time. My 
personal burial money. This is another old Buddhist 
monastery thing. 
I come home from work now, and the house is filled 
with strangers that Tyler has accepted. All of them 
working. The whole first floor turns into a kitchen and 
a soap factory. The bathroom is never empty. Teams of 
men disappear for a few days and come home with red 
rubber bags of thin, watery fat. 
One night, Tyler comes upstairs to find me hiding in 
my room and says, "Don't bother them. They all know what 
to do. It's part of Project Mayhem. No one guy 
understands the whole plan, but each guy is trained to 
do one simple task perfectly." 
The rule in Project Mayhem is you have to trust 
Then Tyler's gone. 
Teams of Project Mayhem guys render fat all day. I'm 
not sleeping. All night I hear other teams mix the lye 
and cut the bars and bake the bars of soap on cookie 
sheets, then wrap each bar in tissue and seal it with 
the Paper Street Soap Company label. Everyone except me 
seems to know what to do, and Tyler is never home. 
I hug the walls, being a mouse trapped in this 
clockwork of silent men with the energy of trained 
monkeys, cooking and working and sleeping in teams. Pull 
a lever. Push a button. A team of space monkeys cooks 
meals all day, and all day, teams of space monkeys are 
eating out of the plastic bowls they brought with them. 
One morning I'm leaving for work and Big Bob's on the 
front porch wearing black shoes and a black shirt and 
pants. I ask, has he seen Tyler lately? Did Tyler send 
him here? 
"The first rule about Project Mayhem," Big Bob says 
with his heels together and his back ramrod straight, 
"is you don't ask questions about Project Mayhem." 
So what brainless little honor has Tyler assigned 
him, I ask. There are guys whose job is to just boil 
rice all day or washout eating bowls or clean the 
crapper. All day. Has Tyler promised Big Bob 
enlightenment if he spends sixteen hours a day wrapping 
bars of soap? 
Big Bob doesn't say anything. 
I go to work. I come home, and Big Bob's still on the 
porch. I don't sleep all night, and the next morning, 
Big Bob's out tending the garden. 
Before I leave for work, I ask Big Bob, who let him 
in? Who assigned him this task? Did he see Tyler? Was 
Tyler here last night? 
Big Bob says, "The first rule in Project Mayhem is 
you don't talk-" 
I cut him off. I say, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, 
And while I'm at work, teams of space monkeys dig up 
the muddy lawn around the house and cut the dirt with 
Epsom salts to lower the acidity, and spade in loads of 
free steer manure from the stockyards and bags of hair 
clippings from barber shops to ward off moles and mice 
and boost the protein in the soil. 
At any time of the night, space monkeys from some 
slaughterhouse come home with bags of blood meal to 
boost the iron in the soil and bone meal to boost the 
Teams of space monkeys plant basil and thyme and 
lettuce and starts of witch hazel and eucalyptus and 
mock orange and mint in a kaleidoscope knot pattern. A 
rose window in every shade of green. And other teams go 
out at night and kill the slugs and snails by 
candlelight. Another team of space monkeys picks only 
the most perfect leaves and juniper berries to boil for 
a natural dye. Comfrey because it's a natural 
disinfectant. Violet leaves because they cure headaches 
and sweet woodruff because it gives soap a cut-grass 
In the kitchen are bottles of 80-proof vodka to make 
the translucent rose geranium and brown sugar soap and 
the patchouli soap, and I steal a bottle of vodka and 
spend my personal burial money on cigarettes. Marla 
shows up. We talk about the plants. Marla and I walk on 
raked gravel paths through the kaleidoscope green 
patterns of the garden, drinking and smoking. We talk 
about her breasts. We talk about everything except Tyler 
And one day it's in the newspaper how a team of men 
wearing black had stormed through a better neighborhood 
and a luxury car dealership slamming baseball bats 
against the front bumpers of cars so the air bags inside 
would explode in a powdery mess with their car alarms 
At the Paper Street Soap Company, other teams pick 
the petals from roses or anemones and lavender and pack 
the flowers into boxes with a cake of pure tallow that 
will absorb their scent for making soap with a flower 
Marla tells me about the plants. 
The rose, Marla tells me, is a natural astringent. 
Some of the plants have obituary names: Iris, Basil, 
Rue, Rosemary, and Verbena. Some, like meadowsweet and 
cowslips, sweet flag and spikenard, are like the names 
of Shakespeare fairies. Deer tongue with its sweet 
vanilla smell. Witch hazel, another natural astringent. 
Orrisroot, the wild Spanish iris. 
Every night, Marla and I walk in the garden until I'm 
sure that Tyler's not coming home that night. Right 
behind us is always a space monkey trailing us to pick 
up the twist of balm or rue or mint Marla crushes under 
my nose. A dropped cigarette butt. The space monkey 
rakes the path behind him to erase our ever being there. 
And one night in an uptown square park, another group 
of men floured gasoline around every tree and from tree 
to tree and set a perfect little forest fire. It was in 
the newspaper, how townhouse windows across the street 
from the fire melted, and parked cars farted and settled 
on melted flat tires. 
Tyler's rented house on Paper Street is a living 
thing wet on the inside from so many people sweating and 
breathing. So many people are moving inside, the house 
Another night that Tyler didn't come home, someone 
was drilling bank machines and pay telephones and then 
screwing lube fittings into the drilled holes and using 
a grease gun to pump the bank machines and pay 
telephones full of axle grease or vanilla pudding. 
And Tyler was never at home, but after a month a few 
of the space monkeys had Tyler's kiss burned into the 
back of their hand. Then those space monkeys were gone, 
too, and new ones were on the front porch to replace 
And every day, the teams of men came and went in 
different cars. You never saw the same car twice. One 
evening, I hear Marla on the front porch, telling a 
space monkey, "I'm here to see Tyler. Tyler Durden He 
lives here. I'm his friend." 
The space monkey says, "I'm sorry, but you're 
too...," and he pauses, "you're too young to train 
Marla says, "Get screwed." 
"Besides," the space monkey says, "you haven't 
brought the required items: two black shirts, two pair 
of black pants-" 
Marla screams, "Tyler!" 
"One pair of heavy black shoes." 
"Two pair of black socks and two pair of plain 
And I hear the front door slam shut. Marla doesn't 
wait the three days. 
Most days, after work, I come home and make a peanut 
butter sandwich. 
When I come home, one space monkey is reading to the 
assembled space monkeys who sit covering the whole first 
floor. "You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. 
You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone 
else, and we are all part of the same compost pile." 
The space monkey continues, "Our culture has made us 
all the same. No one is truly white or black or rich, 
anymore. We all want the same. Individually, we are 
The reader stops when I walk in to make my sandwich, 
and all the space monkeys sit silent as if I were alone. 
I say, don't bother. I've already read it. I typed it. 
Even my boss has probably read it. 
We're all just a big bunch of crap, I say. Go ahead. 
Play your little game. Don't mind me. 
The space monkeys wait in quiet while I make my 
sandwich and take another bottle of vodka and go up the 
stairs. Behind me I hear, "You are not a beautiful and 
unique snowflake." 
I am Joe's Broken Heart because Tyler's dumped me. 
Because my father dumped me. Oh, I could go on and on. 
Some nights, after work, I go to a different fight 
club in the basement of a bar or garage, and I ask if 
anybody's seen Tyler Durden. 
In every new fight club, someone I've never met is 
standing under the one light in the center of the 
darkness, surrounded by men, and reading Tyler's words. 
The first rule about fight club is you don't talk 
about fight club. 
When the fights get started, I take the club leader 
aside and ask if he's seen Tyler. I live with Tyler, I 
say, and he hasn't been home for a while. 
The guy's eyes get big and he asks, do I really know 
Tyler Durden? 
This happens in most of the new fight clubs. Yes, I 
say, I'm best buddies with Tyler. Then, everybody all of 
a sudden wants to shake my hand. 
These new guys stare at the butthole in my cheek and 
the black skin on my face, yellow and green around the 
edges, and they call me sir. No, sir. Not hardly, sir. 
Nobody they know's ever met Tyler Durden. Friends of 
friends met Tyler Durden, and they founded this chapter 
of fight club, sir. 
Then they wink at me. 
Nobody they know has ever seen Tyler Durden. 
Is it true, everybody asks. Is Tyler Durden building 
an army? That's the word. Does Tyler Durden only sleep 
one hour a night? Rumor has it that Tyler's on the road 
starting fight clubs all over the country. What's next, 
everybody wants to know. 
The meetings for Project Mayhem have moved to bigger 
basements because each committee-Arson, Assault, 
Mischief, and Misinformation-gets bigger as more guys 
graduate out of fight club. Each committee has a leader, 
and even the leaders don't know where Tyler's at. Tyler 
calls them every week on the phone. 
Everybody on Project Mayhem wants to know what's 
Where are we going? 
What is there to look forward to? 
On Paper Street, Marla and I walk through the garden 
at night with our bare feet, every step brushing up the 
smell of sage and lemon verbena and rose geranium. Black 
shirts and black pants hunch around us with candles, 
lifting plant leaves to kill a snail or slug. Marla 
asks, what's going on here? 
Tufts of hair surface beside the dirt clods. Hair and 
shit. Bone meal and blood meal. The plants are growing 
faster than the space monkeys can cut them back. 
Marla asks, "What are you going to do?" 
What's the word? 
In the dirt is a shining spot of gold, and I kneel 
down to see. What's going to happen next, I don't know, 
I tell Marla. 
It looks like we've both been dumped. 
In the corner of my eye, the space monkeys pace 
around in black, each one hunched over his candle. The 
little spot of gold in the dirt is a molar with a gold 
filling. Next to it surface two more molars with silver 
amalgam fillings. It's a jawbone. 
I say, no, I can't say what's going to happen. And I 
push the one, two, three molars into the dirt and hair 
and shit and bone and blood where Marla won't see. 

Chapter 15

THIS FRIDAY NIGHT, I fall asleep at my desk at work. 
When I wake up with my face and my crossed arms an my 
desktop, the telephone is ringing, and everyone else is 
gone. A telephony was ringing in my dream, and it's not 
clear if reality slipped into my dream or if my dream is 
slopping over into reality. 
I answer the phone, Compliance and Liability. That's 
my department. Compliance and Liability. 
The sun is going down, and piled-up storm clouds the 
size of Wyoming and Japan are headed our way. It's not 
like I have a window at work. All the outside walls are 
floor-to-ceiling glass. Everything where I work is 
floor-to-ceiling glass. Everything is vertical blinds. 
Everything is industrial low-pile gray carpet spotted 
with little tombstone monuments where the PCs plug into 
the network. Everything is a maze of cubicles boxed in 
with fences of upholstered plywood.
A vacuum cleaner hums somewhere. 
My boss is gone on vacation. He sent me an E-mail and 
then disappeared. I'm to prepare for a formal review in 
two weeks. Reserve a conference room. Get all my ducks 
in a row. Update my resume That sort of thing. They're 
building a case against me. 
I am Joe's Complete Lack of Surprise. 
I've been behaving miserably. 
I pick up the phone, and it's Tyler, and he says, "Go 
outside, there's some guys waiting for you in the 
parking lot." 
I ask, who are they? 
"They're all waiting," Tyler says. 
I smell gasoline on my hands. 
Tyler goes, "Hit the road. They have a car, outside. 
They have a Cadillac." 
I'm still asleep. 
Here, I'm not sure if Tyler is my dream. 
Or if I am Tyler's dream. 
I sniff the gasoline on my hands. There's nobody else 
around, and I get up and walk out to the parking lot. 
A guy in fight club works on cars so he's parked at 
the curb in soma body's black Corniche, and all I can do 
is look at it, all black and gold, this huge cigarette 
case ready to drive me somewhere. This mechanic guy who 
gets out of the car tells me not to worry, he switched 
the plates with another car in the long-term parking lot 
at the airport. 
Our fight club mechanic says he can start anything. 
Two wires twist out of the steering column. Touch the 
wires to each other, you complete the circuit to the 
starter solenoid, you got a car to joyride. 
Either that, or you could hack the key code through a 
Three space monkeys are sitting in the back seat 
wearing their black shirts and black pants. See no evil. 
Hear no evil. Speak no evil. 
I ask, so where's Tyler? 
The fight club mechanic guy is holding the Cadillac 
open chauffeur style for me. The mechanic is tall and 
all bones with shoulders that remind you of a telephone 
pole crossbar. 
I ask, are we going to see Tyler? 
Waiting for me in the middle of the front seat is a 
birthday cake with candles ready to be lit. I get in. We 
start driving. 
Even a week after fight club, you've got no problem 
driving inside the speed limit. Maybe you've been 
passing black shit, internal injuries, for two days, but 
you are so cool. Other cars drive around you. Cars 
tailgate. You get the finger from other drivers. Total 
strangers hate you. It's absolutely nothing personal. 
After fight club, you're so relaxed, you just cannot 
care. You don't even turn the radio on. Maybe your ribs 
stab along a hairline fracture every time you take a 
breath. Cars behind you blink their lights. The sun is 
going down, orange and gold. 
The mechanic is there, driving. The birthday cake is 
on the seat between us. 
It's one scary fuck to see guys like our mechanic at 
fight club. Skinny guys, they never go limp. They fight 
until they're burger. White guys like skeletons dipped 
in yellow wax with tattoos, black men like dried meat, 
these guys usually hang together, the way you can 
picture them at Narcotics Anonymous. They never say, 
stop. It's like they're all energy, shaking so fast they 
blur around the edges, these guys in recovery from 
something. As if the only choice they have left is how 
they're going to die and they want to die in a fight. 
They have to fight each other, these guys. 
Nobody else will tag them for a fight, and they can't 
tag anybody except another twitching skinny, all bones 
and rush, since nobody else will register to fight them. 
Guys watching don't even yell when guys like our 
mechanic go at each other. 
All you hear is the fighters breathing through their 
teeth, hands slapping for a hold, the whistle and impact 
when fists hammer and hammer on thin hollow ribs, point-
blank in a clinch. You see tendons and muscle and veins 
under the skin of these guys jump. Their skin shines, 
sweating, corded, and wet under the one light. 
Ten, fifteen minutes disappear. Their smell, they 
sweat and these guys' smell, it reminds you of fried 
Twenty minutes of fight club will go by. Finally, one 
guy will go down. 
After a fight, two drug recovery guys will hang 
together for the rest of the night, wasted and smiling 
from fighting so hard. 
Since fight club, this mechanic guy is always hanging 
around the house on Paper Street. Wants me to hear the 
song he wrote. Wants me to see the birdhouse he built. 
The guy showed me a picture of some girl and asked me if 
she was pretty enough to marry. 
Sitting in the front seat of the Corniche, the guy 
says, "Did you see this cake I made for you? I made 
It's not my birthday. "Some oil was getting by the 
rings," the mechanic guy says, "but I changed the oil 
and the air filter. I checked the valve lash and the 
timing. It's supposed to rain, tonight, so I changed the 
I ask, what's Tyler been planning? 
The mechanic opens the ashtray and pushes the 
cigarette lighter in. He says, "Is this a test? Are you 
testing us?" 
Where's Tyler? 
"The first rule about fight club is you don't talk 
about fight club," the mechanic says. "And the last rule 
about Project Mayhem is you don't ask questions." 
So what can he tell me? 
He says, "What you have to understand, is your father 
was your model for God." 
Behind us, my job and my office are smaller, smaller, 
smaller, gone. 
I sniff the gasoline on my hands. 
The mechanic says, "If you're male and you're 
Christian and living in America, your father is your 
model for God. And if you never know your father, if 
your father bails out or dies or-is never at home, what 
do you believe about God?" 
This is all Tyler Durden dogma. Scrawled on bits of 
paper while I was asleep and given to me to type and 
photocopy at work. I've read it all. Even my boss has 
probably read it all. 
"What you end up doing," the mechanic says, "is you 
spend your life searching for a father and God." 
"What you have to consider," he says, "is the 
possibility that God doesn't like you. Could be, God 
hates us. This is not the worst thing that can happen." 
How Tyler saw it was that getting God's attention for 
being bad was better than getting no attention at all. 
Maybe because God's hate better than His indifference. 
If you could be either God's worst enemy or nothing, 
which would you choose? 
We are God's middle children, according to Tyler 
Durden, with no special place in history and no special 
Unless we get God's attention, we have no hope of 
damnation or Redemption. 
Which is worse, hell or nothing? 
Only if we're caught and punished can we be saved. 
"Burn the Louvre," the mechanic says, "and wipe your 
ass with the Mona Lira. This way at least, God would 
know our names." 
The lower you fall, the higher you'll fly. The 
farther you run, the more God wants you back. 
"If the prodigal son had never left home," the 
mechanic says, "the fitted calf would still be alive." 
It's not enough to be numbered with the grains of 
sand on the beach and the stars in the sky. 
The mechanic merges the black Corniche onto the old 
bypass highway with no passing lane, and already a line 
of trucks strings together behind us, going the legal 
speed limit. The Corniche fills up with the headlights 
behind us, and there we are, talking, reflected in the 
inside of the windshield. Driving inside the speed 
limit. As fast as the law allows. 
A law is a law, Tyler would say. Driving too fast was 
the same as setting a fire was the same as planting a 
bomb was the same as shooting a man. 
A criminal is a criminal is a criminal. 
"Last week, we could've filled another four fight 
clubs," the mechanic says. "Maybe Big Bob can take over 
running the next chapter if we find a bar." 
So next week, he'll go through the rules with Big Bob 
and give him a fight club of his own. 
From now on, when a leader starts fight club, when 
everyone is standing around the light in the center of 
the basement, waiting, the leader should walk around and 
around the outside edge of the crowd, in the dark. 
I ask, who made up the new rules? Is it Tyler? 
The mechanic smiles and says, "You know who makes up 
the rules." 
The new rule is that nobody should be the center of 
fight club, he says. Nobody's the center of fight club 
except the two men fighting. The leader's voice will 
yell, walking slowly around the crowd, out in the 
darkness. The men in the crowd will stare at other men 
across the empty center of the room: 
This is how it will be in all the fight clubs. 
Finding a bar or a garage to host a new fight club 
isn't tough; the first bar, the one where the original 
fight club still meets, they make their month's rent in 
just one fight club Saturday night. 
According to the mechanic, another new fight club 
rule is that fight club will always be free. It will 
never cost to get in. The mechanic yells out the 
driver's window into the oncoming traffic and the night 
wind pouring down the side of the car: "We want you, not 
your money." 
The mechanic yells out the window, "As long as you're 
at fight club, you're not how much money you've got in 
the bank. You're not your job. You're not your family, 
and you're not who you tell yourself." 
The mechanic yells into the wind, "You're not your 
A space monkey in the back seat picks it up: "You're 
not your problems." 
The mechanic yells, "You're not your problems." 
A space monkey shouts, "You're not your age." 
The mechanic yells, "You're not your age." 
Here, the mechanic swerves us into the oncoming lane, 
filling the car with headlights through the windshield, 
cool as ducking jabs. One car and then another comes at 
us head-on screaming its horn and the mechanic swerves 
just enough to miss each one. 
Headlights come at us, bigger and bigger, horns 
screaming, and the mechanic cranes forward into the 
glare and noise and screams, "You're not your hopes." 
No one takes up the yell. 
This time, the car coming head-on swerves in time to 
save us. 
Another car comes on, headlights blinking high, low, 
high, low, horn blaring, and the mechanic screams, "You 
will not be saved." 
The mechanic doesn't swerve, but the head-on car 
Another car, and the mechanic screams, "We are all 
going to die, someday." 
This time, the oncoming car swerves, but the mechanic 
swerves hack into its path. The car swerves, and the 
mechanic matches it, headon, again. 
You melt and swell at that moment. For that moment, 
nothing matters. Look up at the stars and you're gone. 
Not your luggage. Nothing matters. Not your bad breath. 
The windows are dark outside and the horns are blaring 
around you. The headlights are flashing high and low and 
high in your face, and you will never have to go to work 
You will never have to get another haircut. 
"Quick," the mechanic says. 
The car swerves again, and the mechanic swerves back 
into its path. 
"What," he says, "what will you wish you'd done 
before you died?" 
With the oncoming car screaming its horn and the 
mechanic so cool he even looks away to look at me beside 
him in the front seat, and he says, "Ten seconds to 
"In eight. 
"In six." 
My job, I say. I wish I'd quit my job. 
The scream goes by as the car swerves and the 
mechanic doesn't swerve to hit it. 
More lights are coming at us just ahead, and the 
mechanic turns to the three monkeys in the back seat. 
"Hey, space monkeys," he says, "you see how the game's 
played. Fess up now or we're all dead." 
A car passes us on the right with a bumper sticker 
saying, "I Drive Better When I'm Drunk." The newspaper 
says thousands of these bumper stickers just appeared on 
cars one morning. Other bumper stickers said things like 
"Make Mine Veal." 
"Drunk Drivers Against Mothers." 
"Recycle All the Animals." 
Reading the newspaper, I knew the Misinformation 
Committee had pulled this. Or the Mischief Committee. 
Sitting beside me, our clean and sober fight club 
mechanic tells me, yeah, the Drunk bumper stickers are 
part of Project Mayhem. 
The three space monkeys are quiet in the back seat. 
The Mischief Committee is printing airline pocket 
cards that show passengers fighting each other for 
oxygen masks while their jetliner flames down toward the 
rocks at a thousand miles an hour. 
Mischief and Misinformation Committees are racing 
each other to develop a computer virus that will make 
automated bank tellers sick enough to vomit storms of 
ten- and twenty-dollar bills. 
The cigarette lighter in the dash pops out hot, and 
the mechanic tells me to light the candles on the 
birthday cake. 
I light the candles, and the cake shimmers under a 
little halo of fire. 
"What will you wish you'd done before you died?" the 
mechanic says and swerves us into the path of a truck 
coming head-on. The truck hits the air horn, bellowing 
one long blast after another as the truck's headlights, 
like a sunrise, come brighter and brighter to sparkle 
off the mechanic's smile. 
"Make your wish, quick," he says to the rearview 
mirror where the three space monkeys are sitting in the 
back seat. "We've got five seconds to oblivion. 
"One," he says. 
The truck is everything in front of us, blinding 
bright and roaring. 
"Ride a horse," comes from the back seat. 
"Build a house," comes another voice. 
"Get a tattoo." 
The mechanic says, "Believe in me and you shall die, 
Too late, the truck swerves and the mechanic swerves 
but the rear of our Corniche fishtails against one end 
of the truck's front bumper. 
Not that I know this at the time, what I know is the 
lights, the truck headlights blink out into darkness and 
I'm thrown first against the passenger door and then 
against the birthday cake and the mechanic behind the 
steering wheel. 
The mechanic's lying crabbed on the wheel to keep it 
straight and the birthday candles snuff out. In one 
perfect second there's no light inside the warm black 
leather car and our shouts all hit the same deep note, 
the same low moan of the truck's air horn, and we have 
no control, no choice, no direction, and no escape and 
we're dead. 
My wish right now is for me to die. I am nothing in 
the world compared to Tyler. 
I am helpless. 
I am stupid, and all I do is want and need things. 
My tiny life. My little shit job. My Swedish 
furniture. I never, no, never told anyone this, but 
before I met Tyler, I was planning to buy a dog and name 
it "Entourage." 
This is how bad your life can get. 
Kill me. 
I grab the steering wheel and crank us back into 
Prepare to evacuate soul. 
The mechanic wrestles the wheel toward the ditch, and 
I wrestle to fucking die. 
Now. The amazing miracle of death, when one second 
you're walking and talking, and the next second, you're 
an object. 
I am nothing, and not even that. 
I smell leather. My seat belt feels twisted like a 
straitjacket around me, and when I try to sit up, I hit 
my head against the steering wheel. This hurts more than 
it should. My head is resting in the mechanic's lap, and 
as I look up, my eyes adjust to see the mechanic's face 
high over me, smiling, driving, and I can see stars 
outside the driver's window. 
My hands and face are sticky with something. 
Buttercream frosting.
The mechanic looks down. "Happy Birthday."
I smell smoke and remember the birthday cake.
"I almost broke the steering wheel with your head," 
he says.
Just nothing else, just the night air and the smell 
of smoke, and the stars and the mechanic smiling and 
driving, my head in his lap, all of a sudden I don't 
feel like I have to sit up.
Where's the cake?
The mechanic says, "On the floor."
Just the night air and the smell of smoke is heavier.
Did I get my wish?
Up above me, outlined against the stars in the 
window, the face smiles. "Those birthday candles," he 
says, "they're the kind that never go out."
In the starlight, my eyes adjust enough to see smoke 
braiding up from little fires all around us in the 

Chapter 16

THE FIGHT CLUB mechanic is standing on the gas, 
raging behind the wheel in his quiet way, and we still 
have something important to do, tonight. 
One thing I'll have to learn before the end of 
civilization is how to look at the stars and tell where 
I'm going. Things are quiet as driving a Cadillac 
through outer space. We must be off the freeway. The 
three guys in the back seat are passed out or asleep. 
"You had a near-life experience," the mechanic says. 
He takes one hand off the steering wheel and touches 
the long welt where my forehead bounced off the steering 
wheel. My forehead is swelling enough to shut both my 
eyes, and he runs a cold fingertip down the length of 
the swelling. The Corniche hits a bump and the pain 
seems to bump out over my eyes like the shadow from the 
brim of a cap. Our twisted rear springs and bumper bark 
and creak in the quiet around our rush down the night 
The mechanic says how the back bumper of the Corniche 
is hanging by its ligaments, how it was torn almost free 
when it caught an end of the truck's front bumper. 
I ask, is tonight part of his homework for Project 
"Part of it," he says. "I had to make four human 
sacrifices, and I have to pick up a load of fat." 
"For the soap." 
What is Tyler planning? 
The mechanic starts talking, and it's pure Tyler 
"I see the strongest and the smartest men who have 
ever lived," he says, his face outlined against the 
stars in the driver's window, "and these men are pumping 
gas and waiting tables." 
The drop of his forehead, his brow, the slope of his 
nose, his eyelashes and the curve of his eyes, the 
plastic profile of his mouth, talking, these are all 
outlined in black against the stars. 
"If we could put these men in training camps and 
finish raising them. 
"All a gun does is focus an explosion in one 
"You have a class of young strong men and women, and 
they want to give their lives to something. Advertising 
has these people chasing cars and clothes they don't 
need. Generations have been working in jobs they hate, 
just so they can buy what they don't really need. 
"We don't have a great war in our generation, or a 
great depression, but we do, we have a great war of the 
spirit. We have a great revolution against the culture. 
The great depression is our lives. We have a spiritual 
"We have to show these men and women freedom by 
enslaving them, and show them courage by frightening 
"Napoleon bragged that he could train men to 
sacrifice their lives for a scrap of ribbon. 
"Imagine, when we call a strike and everyone refuses 
to work until we redistribute the wealth of the world. 
"Imagine hunting elk through the damp canyon forests 
around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. 
"What you said about your job," the mechanic says, 
"did you really mean it?" 
Yeah, I meant it. 
"That's why we're on the road, tonight," he says. 
We're a hunting party, and we're hunting for fat. 
We're going to the medical waste dump. 
We're going to the medical waste incinerator, and 
there among the discarded surgical drapes and wound 
dressings, and ten-year-old tumors and intravenous tubes 
and discarded needles, scary stuff, really scary stuff, 
among the blood samples and amputated tidbits, we'll 
find more money than we can haul away in one night, even 
if we were driving a dump truck. 
We'll find enough money to load this Corniche down to 
the axle stops. 
"Fat," the mechanic says, "liposuctioned fat sucked 
out of the richest thighs in America. The richest, 
fattest thighs in the world." 
Our goal is the big red bags of liposuctioned fat 
we'll haul back to Paper Street and render and mix with 
lye and rosemary and sell back to the very people who 
paid to have it sucked out. At twenty bucks a bar, these 
are the only folks who can afford it. 
"The richest, creamiest fat in the world, the fat of 
the land," he says. "That makes tonight a kind of Robin 
Hood thing." 
The little wax fires sputter in the carpet. 
"While we're there," he says, "we're supposed to look 
for some of those hepatitis bugs, too." 

Chapter 17

THE TEARS WERE really coming now, and one fat stripe 
rolled along the barrel of the gun and down the loop 
around the trigger to burst flat against my index 
finger. Raymond Hessel closed both eyes so I pressed the 
gun hard against his temple so he would always feel it 
pressing right there and I was beside him and this was 
his life and he could be dead at any moment. 
This wasn't a cheap gun, and I wondered if salt might 
fuck it up. 
Everything had gone so easy, I wondered. I'd done 
everything the mechanic said to do. This was why we 
needed to buy a gun. This was doing my homework. 
We each had to bring Tyler twelve driver's licenses. 
This would prove we each made twelve human sacrifices. 
I parked tonight, and I waited around the block for 
Raymond Hessel to finish his shift at the all-night 
Korner Mart, and around midnight he was waiting for a 
night owl bus when I finally walked up and said, hello. 
Raymond Hessel, Raymond didn't say anything. Probably 
he figured I was after his money, his minimum wage, the 
fourteen dollars in his wallet. Oh, Raymond Hessel, all 
twenty-three years of you, when you started crying, 
tears rolling down the barrel of my gun pressed to your 
temple, no, this wasn't about money. Not everything is 
about money. 
You didn't even say, hello. 
You're not your sad little wallet. 
I said, nice night, cold but clear. 
You didn't even say, hello. 
I said, don't run, or I'll have to shoot you in the 
back. I had the gun out, and I was wearing a latex glove 
so if the gun ever became a people's exhibit A, there'd 
be nothing on it except the dried tears of Raymond 
Hessel, Caucasian, aged twenty-three with no 
distinguishing marks. 
Then I had your attention. Your eyes were big enough 
that even in the streetlight I could see they were 
antifreeze green. 
You were jerking backward and backward a little more 
every time the gun touched your face, as if the barrel 
was too hot or too cold. Until I said, don't step back, 
and then you let the gun touch you, but even then you 
rolled your head up and away from the barrel. 
You gave me your wallet like I asked. 
Your name was Raymond K. Hessel on your driver's 
license. You live at 1320 SE Benning, apartment A. That 
had to be a basement apartment. They usually give 
basement apartments letters instead of numbers. 
Raymond K. K. K. K. K. K. Hessel, I was talking to 
Your head rolled up and away from the gun, and you 
said, yeah. You said, yes, you lived in a basement. 
`You had some pictures in the wallet, too. There was 
your mother. 
This was a tough one for you, you'd have to open your 
eyes and see the picture of Mom and Dad smiling and see 
the gun at the same time, but you did, and then your 
eyes closed and you started to cry. 
You were going to cool, the amazing miracle of death. 
One minute, you're a person, the next minute, you're an 
object, and Mom and Dad would have to call old doctor 
whoever and get your dental records because there 
wouldn't be much left of your face, and Mom and Dad, 
they'd always expected so much more from you and, no, 
life wasn't fair, and now it was come to this. 
Fourteen dollars. 
This, I said, is this your mom? 
Yeah. You were crying, sniffing, crying. You 
swallowed. Yeah. 
You had a library card. You had a video movie rental 
card. A social security card. Fourteen dollars cash. I 
wanted to take the bus pass, but the mechanic said to 
only take the driver's license. An expired community 
college student card. 
You used to study something. 
You'd worked up a pretty intense cry at this point so 
I pressed the gun a little harder against your cheek, 
and you started to step back until I said, don't move or 
you're dead right here. Now, what did you study? 
In college, I said. You have a student card. 
Oh, you didn't know, sob, swallow, sniff, stuff, 
Listen, now, you're going to die, Ray-mond K. K. K. 
Hessel, tonight. You might die in one second or in one 
hour, you decide. So lie to me. Tell me the first thing 
off the top of your head. Make something up. I don't 
give a shit. I have the gun. 
Finally, you were listening and coming out of the 
little tragedy in your head. 
Fill in the blank. What does Raymond Hessel want to 
be when he grows up? 
Go home, you said you just wanted to go home, please. 
No shit, I said. But after that, how did you want to 
spend your life? If you could do anything in the world. 
Make something up. 
You didn't know. 
Then you're dead right now, I said. I said, now turn 
your head. 
Death to commence in ten, in nine, in eight. 
A vet, you said. You want to be a vet, a 
That means animals. You have to go to school for 
It means too much school, you said. 
You could be in school working your ass off, Raymond 
Hessel, or you could be dead. You choose. I stuffed your 
wallet into the back pocket of your jeans. So you really 
wanted to be an animal doctor. I took the saltwater 
muzzle of the gun off one cheek and pressed it against 
the other. Is that what you've always wanted to be, Dr. 
Raymond K. K. K. K. Hessel, a veterinarian? 
No shit? 
No. No, you meant, yeah, no shit. Yeah. 
Okay, I said, and I pressed the wet end of the muzzle 
to the tip of your chin, and then the tip of your nose, 
and everywhere I pressed the muzzle, it left a shining 
wet ring of your tears. 
So, I said, go back to school. If you wake up 
tomorrow morning, you find a way to get back into 
I pressed the wet end of the gun on each cheek, and 
then on your chin, and then against your forehead and 
left the muzzle pressed there. You might as well be dead 
right now, I said. 
I have your license. 
I know who you are. I know where you live. I'm 
keeping your license, and I'm going to check on you, 
mister Raymond K. Hessel. In three months, and then in 
six months, and then in a year, and if you aren't back 
in school on your way to being a veterinarian, you will 
be dead. 

You didn't say anything.
Get out of here, and do your little life, but 
remember I'm watching you, Raymond Hessel, and I'd 
rather kill you than see you working a shit job for just 
enough money to buy cheese and watch television.
Now, I'm going to walk away so don't turn around.
This is what Tyler wants me to do.
These are Tyler's words coming out of my mouth.
I am Tyler's mouth.
I am Tyler's hands.
Everybody in Project Mayhem is part of Tyler Durden, 
and vice versa.
Raymond K. K. Hessel, your dinner is going to taste 
better than any meal you've ever eaten, and tomorrow 
will be the most beautiful day of your entire life.

Chapter 18

YOU WAKE UP at Sky Harbor International.
Set your watch back two hours. 
The shuttle takes me to downtown Phoenix and every 
bar I go into there are guys with stitches around the 
rim of an eye socket where a good slam packed their face 
meat against its sharp edge. There are guys with 
sideways noses, and these guys at the bar see me with 
the puckered hole in my cheek and we're an instant 
Tyler hasn't been home for a while. I do my little 
job. I go airport to airport to look at the cars that 
people died in. The magic of travel. Tiny life. Tiny 
soaps. The tiny airline seats. 
Everywhere I travel, I ask about Tyler. 
In case I find him, the driver's licenses of my 
twelve human sacrifices are in my pocket. 
Every bar I walk into, every fucking bar, I see beat-
up guys. Every bar, they throw an arm around me and want 
to buy me a beer. It's like I already know which bars 
are the fight club bars. I ask, have they seen a guy 
named Tyler Durden. It's stupid to ask if they know 
about fight club. The first rule is you don't talk about 
fight club. But have they seen Tyler Durden? They say, 
never heard of him, sir. But you might find him in 
Chicago, sir. It must be the hole in my cheek, everyone 
calls me sir. And they wink. You wake up at O'Hare and 
take the shuttle into Chicago. Set your watch ahead an 

If you can wake up in a different place. If you can 
wake up in a different time. Why can't you wake up as a 
different person? Every bar you go into, punchedout guys 
want to buy you a beer. And no, sir, they've never met 
this Tyler Durden. And they wink. They've never heard 
the name before. Sir. I ask about fight club. Is there a 
fight club around here, tonight? No, sir. The second 
rule of fight club is you don't talk about fight club. 
The punched-out guys at the bar shake their heads. Never 
heard of it. Sir. But you might find this fight club of 
yours in Seattle, sir. You wake up at Meigs Field and 
call Marla to see what's happening on Paper Street. 
Marla says now all the space monkeys are shaving their 
heads. Their electric razor gets hot and now the whole 
house smells like singed hair. The space monkeys are 
using lye to burn off their fingerprints. 

You wake up at SeaTac.
Set your watch back two hours. 
The shuttle takes you to downtown Seattle, and the 
first bar you go into, the bartender is wearing a neck 
brace that tilts his head back so far he has to look 
down his purple smashed eggplant of a nose to grin at 
The bar is empty, and the bartender says, "Welcome 
back, sir." 
I've never been to this bar, ever, ever before. 
I ask if he knows the name Tyler Durden. 
The bartender grins with his chin stuck out above the 
top of the white neck brace and asks, "Is this a test?" 
Yeah, I say, it's a test. Has he ever met Tyler 
"You stopped in last week, Mr. Durden," he says. 
"Don't you remember?" 
Tyler was here. 
"You were here, sir." 
I've never been in here before tonight. 
"If you say so, sir," the bartender says, "but 
Thursday night, you came in to ask how soon the police 
were planning to shut us down." 
Last Thursday night, I was awake all night with the 
insomnia, wondering was I awake, was I sleeping. I woke 
up late Friday morning, bone tired and feeling I hadn't 
ever had my eyes closed. 
"Yes, sir," the bartender says, "Thursday night, you 
were standing right where you are now and you were 
asking me about the police crackdown, and you were 
asking me how many guys we had to turn away from the 
Wednesday night fight club." 
The bartender twists his shoulders and braced neck to 
look around the empty bar and says, "There's nobody 
that's going to hear, Mr. Durden, sir. We had a twenty-
seven-count turn-away, last night. The place is always 
empty the night after fight club." 
Every bar I've walked into this week, everybody's 
called me sir. 
Every bar I go into, the beat-up fight club guys all 
start to look alike. How can a stranger know who I am? 
"You have a birthmark, Mr. Durden," the bartender 
says. "On your foot. It's shaped like a dark red 
Australia with New Zealand next to it."
Only Marla knows this. Marla and my father. Not even 
Tyler knows this. When I go to the beach, I sit with 
that foot tucked under me.
The cancer I don't have is everywhere, now.
"Everybody in Project Mayhem knows, Mr. Durden." The 
bartender holds up his hand, the back of his hand toward 
me, a kiss burned into the back of his hand.
My kiss?
Tyler's kiss.
"Everybody knows about the birthmark," the bartender 
says. "It's part of the legend. You're turning into a 
fucking legend, man."

I call Marla from my Seattle motel room to ask if 
we've ever done it. You know. Long distance, Marla says, 
"What?" Slept together. "What!" Have I ever, you know, 
had sex with her? "Christ!" Well? "Well?" she says. Have 
we ever had sex? "You are such a piece of shit." Have we 
had sex? "I could kill you!" Is that a yes or a no? "I 
knew this would happen," Marla says. "You're such a 
flake. You love me. You ignore me. You save my life, 
then you cook my mother into soap." 
I pinch myself. 
I ask Marla how me met. 
"In that testicle cancer thing," Marla says. "Then 
you saved my life." I saved her life? 
"You saved my life." 
Tyler saved her life. 
"You saved my life." 
I stick my finger through the hole in my cheek and 
wiggle the finger around. This should be good for enough 
major league pain to wake me up. 
Marla says, "You saved my life. The Regent Hotel. I'd 
accidentally attempted suicide. Remember?" 
"That night," Marla says, "I said I wanted to have 
your abortion." We've just lost cabin pressure. 
I ask Marla what my name is. 
We're all going to die. 
Marla says, "Tyler Durden. Your name is Tyler Butt-
Wipe-for-Brains Durden. You live at 5123 NE Paper Street 
which is currently teeming with your little disciples 
shaving their heads and burning their skin off with 
I've got to get some sleep. 
"You've got to get your ass back here," Marla yells 
over the phone, "before those little trolls make soap 
out of me." 
I've got to find Tyler. 
The scar on her hand, I ask Marla, how did she get 
"You," Marla says. "You kissed my hand." 
I've got to find Tyler. 
I've got to get some sleep. 
I've got to sleep.
I've got to go to sleep.
I tell Marla goodnight, and Marla's screaming is 
smaller, smaller, smaller, gone as I reach over and hang 
up the phone.

Chapter 19

ALL NIGHT LONG, your thoughts are on the air.
Am I sleeping? Have I slept at all? This is the 
Try to relax a little more with every breath out, but 
your heart's still racing and your thoughts tornado in 
your head.
Nothing works. Not guided meditation.
You're in Ireland.
Not counting sheep.
You count up the days, hours, minutes since you can 
remember falling asleep. Your doctor laughed. Nobody 
ever died from lack of sleep. The old bruised fruit way 
your face looks, you'd think you were dead.
After three o'clock in the morning in a motel bed in 
Seattle, it's too late for you to find a cancer support 
group. Too late to find some little blue Amytal Sodium 
capsules or lipstick-red Seconals, the whole Valley of 
the Dolls playset. After three in the morning, you can't 
get into a fight club. 
You've got to find Tyler. 
You've got to get some sleep. 
Then you're awake, and Tyler's standing in the dark 
next to the bed. 
You wake up. 
The moment you were falling asleep, Tyler was 
standing there saying, "Wake up. Wake up, we solved the 
problem with the police here in Seattle. Wake up." 
The police commissioner wanted a crackdown on what he 
called gang-type activity and after-hours boxing clubs. 
"But not to worry," Tyler says. "Mister police 
commissioner shouldn't be a problem," Tyler says. "We 
have him by the balls, now." 
I ask if Tyler's been following me. 
"Funny," Tyler says, "I wanted to ask you the same 
thing. You talked about me to other people, you little 
shit. You broke your promise." 
Tyler was wondering when I'd figure him out. 
"Every time you fall asleep," Tyler says, "I run off 
and do something wild, something crazy, something 
completely out of my mind." 
Tyler kneels down next to the bed and whispers, "Last 
Thursday, you fell asleep, and I took a plane to Seattle 
for a little fight club looksee. To check the turn-away 
numbers, that sort of thing. Look for new talent. We 
have Project Mayhem in Seattle, too." 
Tyler's fingertip traces the swelling along my 
eyebrows. "We have Project Mayhem in Los Angeles and 
Detroit, a big Project Mayhem going on in Washington, 
D.C., in New York. We have Project Mayhem in Chicago 
like you would not believe." 
Tyler says, "I can't believe you broke your promise. 
The first rule is you don't talk about fight club." 
He was in Seattle last week when a bartender in a 
neck brace told him that the police were going to crack 
down on fight clubs. The police commissioner himself 
wanted it special. 
"What it is," Tyler says, "is we have police who come 
to fight at fight club and really like it. We have 
newspaper reporters and law clerks and lawyers, and we 
know everything before it's going to happen." 
We were going to be shut down. 
"At least in Seattle," Tyler says. 
I ask what did Tyler do about it. 
"What did we do about it," Tyler says. 
We called an Assault Committee meeting. 
"There isn't a me and a you, anymore," Tyler says, 
and he pinches the end of my nose. "I think you've 
figured that out." 
We both use the same body, but at different times. 
"We called a special homework assignment," Tyler 
says. "We said, `Bring me the steaming testicles of his 
esteemed honor, Seattle Police Commissioner Whoever."' 
I'm not dreaming. 
"Yes," Tyler says, "you are." 
We put together a team of fourteen space monkeys, and 
five of these space monkeys were police, and we were 
every person in the park where his honor walks his dog, 
"Don't worry," Tyler says, "the dog is alright." 
The whole attack took three minutes less than our 
best run-through. We'd projected twelve minutes. Our 
best run-through was nine minutes. 
We have five space monkeys hold him down. 
Tyler's telling me this, but somehow, I already know 
Three space monkeys were on lookout. 
One space monkey did the ether. 
One space monkey tugged down his esteemed sweatpants. 
The dog is a spaniel, and it's just barking and 
Barking and barking. 
Barking and barking. 
One space monkey wrapped the rubber band three times 
until it was tight around the top of his esteemed sack. 
"One monkey's between his legs with the knife," Tyler 
whispers with his punched-out face by my ear. "And I'm 
whispering in his most esteemed police commissioner's 
ear that he better stop the fight club crackdown, or 
we'll tell the world that his esteemed honor does not 
have any balls." 
Tyler whispers, "How far do you think you'll get, 
your honor?" 
The rubber band is cutting off any feeling down 
"How far do you think you'll get in politics if the 
voters know you have no nuts?" 
By now, his honor has lost all feeling. 
Man, his nuts are ice cold. 
If even one fight club has to close, we'll send his 
nuts east and west. One goes to the New York Tuner and 
one goes to the Los Angeles Timer. One to each. Sort of 
press release style. 
The space monkey took the ether rag off his mouth, 
and the commissioner said, don't. 
And Tyler said, "We have nothing to lose except fight 
The commissioner, he had everything. 
All we were left was the shit and the trash of the 
Tyler nodded to the space monkey with the knife 
between the commissioner's legs. 
Tyler asked, "Imagine the rest of your life with your 
bag flapping empty." 
The commissioner said, no. 
And don't. 
And the space monkey slips the knife in and only cuts 
off the rubber band. 
Six minutes, total, and we were done. 
"Remember this," Tyler said. "The people you're 
trying to step on, we're everyone you depend on. We're 
the people who do your laundry and cook your food and 
serve your dinner. We make your bed. We guard you while 
you're asleep. We drive the ambulances. We direct your 
call. We are cooks and taxi drivers and we know 
everything about you. We process your insurance claims 
and credit card charges. We control every part of your 
"We are the middle children of history, raised by 
television to believe that someday we'll be millionaires 
and movie stars and rock stars, but we won't. And we're 
just learning this fact," Tyler said. "So don't fuck 
with us." 
The space monkey had to press the ether down, hard on 
the commissioner sobbing and put him all the way out. 
Another team dressed him and took him and his dog 
home. After that, the secret was up to him to keep. And, 
no, we didn't expect any more fight club crackdown. 
His esteemed honor went home scared but intact. 
"Every time we do these little homework assignments," 
Tyler says, "these fight club men with nothing to lose 
are a little more invested in Project Mayhem." 
Tyler kneeling next to my bed says, "Close your eyes 
and give me your hand." 
I close my eyes, and Tyler takes my hand. I feel 
Tyler's lips against the scar of his kiss. 
"I said that if you talked about me behind my back, 
you'd never see me again," Tyler said. "We're not two 
separate men. Long story short, when you're awake, you 
have the control, and you can call yourself anything you 
want, but the second you fall asleep, I take over, and 
you become Tyler Durden." 
But we fought, I say. The night we invented fight 
"You weren't really fighting me," Tyler says. "You 
said so yourself. You were fighting everything you hate 
in your life." 
But I can see you. 
"You're asleep." 
But you're renting a house. You held a job. Two jobs. 
Tyler says, "Order your canceled checks from the 
bank. I rented the house in your name. I think you'll 
find the handwriting on the rent checks matches the 
notes you've been typing for me." 
Tyler's been spending my money. It's no wonder I'm 
always overdrawn. 
"And the jobs, well, why do you think you're so 
tired. Geez, it's not insomnia. As soon as you fall 
asleep, I take over and go to work or fight club or 
whatever. You're lucky I didn't get a job as a snake 
I say, but what about Marla? 
"Marla loves you." 
Marla loves you. 
"Marla doesn't know the difference between you and 
me. You gave her a fake name the night you met. You 
never gave your real name at a support group, you 
inauthentic shit. Since I saved her life, Marla thinks 
your name is Tyler Durden." 
So, now that I know about Tyler, will he just 
"No," Tyler says, still holding my hand, "I wouldn't 
be here in the first place if you didn't want me. I'll 
still live my life while you're asleep, but if you fuck 
with me, if you chain yourself to the bed at night or 
take big doses of sleeping pills, then we'll be enemies. 
And I'll get you for it." 
Oh, this is bullshit. This is a dream. Tyler is a 
projection. He's a disassociative personality disorder. 
A psychogenic fugue state. Tyler Durden is my 
"Fuck that shit," Tyler says. "Maybe you're my 
schizophrenic hallucination." 
I was here first. 
Tyler says, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, well let's just see 
who's here last." 
This isn't real. This is a dream, and I'll wake up. 
"Then wake up." 
And then the telephone's ringing, and Tyler's gone. 
Sun is coming through the curtains. 
It's my 7 A.M. wake-up call, and when I pick up the 
receiver, the fine is dead. 

Chapter 20

FAST FORWARD, fly back home to Marla and the Paper 
Street Soap Company. 
Everything is still falling apart. 
At home, I'm too scared to look in the fridge. 
Picture dozens of little plastic sandwich bags labeled 
with cities like Las Vegas and Chicago and Milwaukee 
where Tyler had to make good his threats to protect 
chapters of fight club. Inside each bag would be a pair 
of messy tidbits, frozen solid. . 
In one corner of the kitchen, a space monkey squats 
on the cracked linoleum and studies himself in a hand 
mirror. "I am the all-singing, all-dancing crap of this 
world," the space monkey tells the mirror. "I am the 
toxic waste byproduct of God's creation." 
Other space monkeys move around in the garden, 
picking things, killing things. 
With one hand on the freezer door, I take a big 
breath and try to center my enlightened spiritual 
Raindrops on roses 
Happy Disney animals
This makes my parts hurt
The freezer's open an inch when Marla peers over my 
shoulder and says, "What's for dinner?" 
The space monkey looks at himself squatting in his 
hand mirror. "I am the shit and infectious human waste 
of creation." 
Full circle. 
About a month ago, I was afraid to let Marla look in 
the fridge. Now I'm afraid to look in the fridge myself. 
Oh, God. Tyler. 
Marla loves me. Marla doesn't know the difference. 
"I'm glad you're back," Marla says. "We have to 
Oh, yeah, I say. We have to talk. 
I can't bring myself to open the freezer. 
I am Joe's Shrinking Groin. 
I tell Marla, don't touch anything in this freezer. 
Don't even open it. If you ever find anything inside it, 
don't eat them or feed them to a cat or anything. The 
space monkey with the hand mirror is eyeing us so I tell 
Marla we have to leave. We need to be someplace else to 
have this talk. 
Down the basement stairs, one space monkey is reading 
to the other space monkeys. "The three ways to make 
"One, you can mix equal parts of gasoline and frozen 
orange juice concentrate," the space monkey in the 
basement reads. "Two, you can mix equal parts of 
gasoline and diet cola. Three, you can dissolve crumbled 
cat litter in gasoline until the mixture is thick." 
Marla and I, we mass-transit from the Paper Street 
Soap Company to a window booth at the planet Denny's, 
the orange planet. 
This was something Tyler talked about, how since 
England did all the exploration and built colonies and 
made maps, most of the places in geography have those 
secondhand sort of English names. The English got to 
name everything. Or almost everything. 
Like, Ireland. 
New London, Australia. 
New London, India. 
New London, Idaho. 
New York, New York. 
Fast-forward to the future. 
This way, when deep-space exploitation ramps up, it 
will probably be the megatonic corporations that 
discover all the new planets and map them. 
The IBM Stellar Sphere. 
The Philip Morris Galaxy. 
Planet Denny's. 
Every planet will take on the corporate identity of 
whoever rapes it first. 
Budweiser World. 
Our waiter has a big goose egg on his forehead and 
stands ramrod straight, heels together. "Sir!" our 
waiter says. "Would you like to order now? Sir!" he 
says. "Anything you order is free of charge. Sir!" 
You can imagine you smell urine in everybody's soup. 
Two coffees, please. 
Marla asks, "Why is he giving us free food?" 
The waiter thinks I'm Tyler Durden, I say. 
In that case, Marla orders fried clams and clam 
chowder and a fish basket and fried chicken and a baked 
potato with everything and a chocolate chiffon pie. 
Through the pass-through window into the kitchen, 
three line cooks, one with stitches along his upper lip, 
are watching Marla and me and whispering with their 
three bruised heads together. I tell the waiter, give us 
clean food, please. Please, don't be doing any trash to 
the stuff we order. 
"In that case, sir," our waiter says, "may I advise 
against the lady, here, eating the clam chowder." 
Thank you. No clam chowder. Marla looks at me, and I 
tell her, trust me. 
The waiter turns on his heel and marches our order 
back to the kitchen. 
Through the kitchen pass-through window, the three 
line cooks give me the thumbs-up. 
Marla says, "You get some nice perks, being Tyler 
From now on, I tell Marla, she has to follow me 
everywhere at night, and write down everywhere I go. Who 
do I see. Do I castrate anyone important. That sort of 
I take out my wallet and show Marla my driver's 
license with my real name. 
Not Tyler Durden. 
"But everyone knows you're Tyler Durden," Marla says. 
Everyone but me. 
Nobody at work calls me Tyler Durden. My boss calls 
me by my real name. 
My parents know who I really am. 
"So why," Marla asks, "are you Tyler Durden to some 
people but not to everybody?" 
The first time I met Tyler, I was asleep. 
I was tired and crazy and rushed, and every time I 
boarded a plane, I wanted the plane to crash. I envied 
people dying of cancer. I hated my life. I was tired and 
bored with my job and my furniture, and I couldn't see 
any way to change things. 
Only end them. 
I felt trapped. 
I was too complete. 
I was too perfect. 
I wanted a way out of my tiny life. Single-serving 
butter and cramped airline seat role in the world. 
Swedish furniture. 
Clever art. 
I took a vacation. I fell asleep on the beach, and 
when I woke up there was Tyler Durden, naked and 
sweating, gritty with sand, his hair wet and stringy, 
hanging in his face. 
Tyler was pulling driftwood logs out of the surf and 
dragging them up the beach. 
What Tyler had created was the shadow of a giant 
hand, and Tyler was sitting in the palm of a perfection 
he'd made himself. 
And a moment was the most you could ever expect from 
Maybe I never really woke up on that beach. 
Maybe all this started when I peed on the Blarney 
When I fall asleep, I don't really sleep. 
At other tables in the Planet Denny's, I count one, 
two, three, four, five guys with black cheekbones or 
folded-down noses smiling at me. 
"No," Marla says, "you don't sleep." 
Tyler Durden is a separate personality I've created, 
and now he's threatening to take over my real life. 
"Just Eke Tony Perkins' mother in Psycho," Marla 
says. "This is so cool. Everybody has their little 
quirks. One time, I dated a guy who couldn't get enough 
body piercings." 
My point being, I say, I fall asleep and Tyler is 
running off with my body and punched-out face to commit 
some crime. The next morning, I wake up bone tired and 
beat up, and I'm sure I haven't slept at all.
The next night, I'd go to bed earlier. 
That next night, Tyler would be in charge a little 
Every night that I go to bed earlier and earlier, 
Tyler will be in charge longer and longer. 
"But you are Tyler," Marla says. 
No, I'm not. 
I love everything about Tyler Durden, his courage and 
his smarts. His nerve. Tyler is funny and charming and 
forceful and independent, and men look up to him and 
expect him to change their world. Tyler is capable and 
free, and I am not. 
I'm not Tyler Durden. 
"But you are, Tyler," Marla says. 
Tyler and I share the same body, and until now, I 
didn't know it. Whenever Tyler was having sex with 
Marla, I was asleep. Tyler was walking and talking while 
I thought I was asleep. 
Everyone in fight club and Project Mayhem knew me as 
Tyler Durden. 
And if I went to bed earlier every night and I slept 
later every morning, eventually I'd be gone altogether. 
I'd just go to sleep and never wake up. 
Marla says, "Just like the animals at the Animal 
Control place." 
Valley of the Dogs. Where even if they don't kill 
you, if someone loves you enough to take you home, they 
still castrate you. 
I would never wake up, and Tyler would take over. 
The waiter brings the coffee and clicks his heels and 
I smell my coffee. It smells like coffee. 
"So," Marla says, "even if I did believe all this, 
what do you want from me?" 
So Tyler can't take complete control, I need Marla to 
keep me awake. All the time. 
Full circle.
The night Tyler saved her life, Marla asked him to 
keep her awake all night.
The second I fall asleep, Tyler takes over and 
something terrible will happen.
And if I do fall asleep, Marla has to keep track of 
Tyler. Where he goes. What he does. So maybe during the 
day, I can rush around and undo the damage.

Chapter 21

HIS NAME IS Robert Paulson and he is forty-eight 
years old. His name is Robert Paulson, and Robert 
Paulson will be forty-eight years old, forever. 
On a long enough time line, everyone's survival rate 
drops to zero. 
Big Bob. 
The big cheesebread. The big moosie was on a 
regulation chill-and-drill homework assignment. This was 
how Tyler got into my condominium to blow it up with 
homemade dynamite. You take a spray canister of 
refrigerant, R-12 if you can still get it, what with the 
ozone hole and everything, or R-134a, and you spray it 
into the lock cylinder until the works are frozen. 
On a chill-and-drill assignment, you spray the lock 
on a pay telephone or a parking meter or a newspaper 
box. Then you use a hammer and a cold chisel to shatter 
the frozen lock cylinder. 
On a regulation drill-and-fill homework assignment, 
you drill the phone or the automatic bank teller 
machine, then you screw a lube fitting into the hole and 
use a grease gun to pump your target full of axle grease 
or vanilla pudding or plastic cement. 
It's not that Project Mayhem needed to steal a 
handful of change. The Paper Street Soap Company was 
backlogged on filling orders. God help us when the 
holidays came around. Homework is to build your nerve. 
You need some cunning. Build your investment in Project 
Instead of a cold chisel, you can use an electric 
drill on the frozen lock cylinder. This works just as 
well and it's more quiet. 
It was a cordless electric drill that the police 
thought was a gun when they blew Big Bob away. 
There was nothing to tie Big Bob to Project Mayhem or 
fight club or the soap. 
In his pocket was a wallet photo of himself huge and 
naked at first glance in a posing strap at some contest. 
It's a stupid way to live, Bob said. You're blind from 
the stage lights, and deaf from the feedback rush of the 
sound system until the judge will order, extend your 
right quad, flex and hold. 
Put your hands where we can see them. 
Extend your left arm, flex the bicep and hold. 
Drop the weapon. 
This was better than real life. 
On his hand was a scar from my kiss. From Tyler's 
kiss. Big Bob's sculpted hair had been shaved off and 
his fingerprints had been burned off with lye. And it 
was better to get hurt than get arrested, because if you 
were arrested, you were off Project Mayhem, no more 
homework assignments. 
One minute, Robert Paulson was the warm center that 
the life of the world crowded around, and the next 
moment, Robert Paulson was an object. After the police 
shot, the amazing miracle of death. 
In every fight club, tonight, the chapter leader 
walks around in the darkness outside the crowd of men 
who stare at each other across the empty center of every 
fight club basement, and this voice yells: 
"His name is Robert Paulson." 
And the crowd yells, "His name is Robert Paulson." 
The leaders yell, "He is forty-eight years old." 
And the crowd yells, "He is forty-eight years old." 
He is forty-eight years old, and he was part of fight 
He is forty-eight years old, and he was part of 
Project Mayhem. 
Only in death will we have our own names since only 
in death are we no longer part of the effort. In death 
we become heroes. 
And the crowds yell, "Robert Paulson." 
And the crowds yell, "Robert Paulson." 
And the crowds yell, "Robert Paulson." 
I go to fight club tonight to shut it down. I stand 
in the one light at the center of the room, and the club 
cheers. To everyone here, I'm Tyler Durden. Smart. 
Forceful. Gutsy. I hold up my hands for silence, and I 
suggest, why don't we all just call it a night. Go home, 
tonight, and forget about fight club. 
I think fight club has served its purpose, don't you? 
Project Mayhem is canceled. 
I hear there's a good football game on television...
One hundred men just stare at me. 
A man is dead, I say. This game is over. It's not for 
fun anymore. Then, from the darkness outside the crowd 
comes the anonymous voice of the chapter leader: "The 
first rule of fight club is you don't talk about fight 
I yell, go home! 
"The second rule of fight club is you don't talk 
about fight club."
Fight club is canceled! Project Mayhem is canceled. 
"The third rule is only two guys to a fight." 
I am Tyler Durden, I yell. And I'm ordering you to 
get out! 
And no one's looking at me. The men just stare at 
each other across the center of the room. 
The voice of the chapter leader goes slowly around 
the room. Two men to a fight. No shirts. No shoes. 
The fight goes on and on and on as long as it has to. 
Picture this happening in a hundred cities, in a 
half-dozen languages. 
The rules end, and I'm still standing in the center 
of the light. 
"Registered fight number one, take the floor," yells 
the voice out of the darkness. "Clear the center of the 
I don't move. 
"Clear the center of the club!" 
I don't move. 
The one light reflects out of the darkness in one 
hundred pairs of eyes, all of them focused on me, 
waiting. I try to see each man the way Tyler would see 
him. Choose the best fighters for training in Project 
Mayhem. Which ones would Tyler invite to work at the 
Paper Street Soap Company? 
"Clear the center of the club!" This is established 
fight club procedure. After three requests from the 
chapter leader, I will be ejected from the club. 
But I'm Tyler Durden. I invented fight club. Fight 
club is mine. I wrote those rules. None of you would be 
here if it wasn't for me. And I say it stops here! 
"Prepare to evict the member in three, two, one." 
The circle of men collapses in on top of me, and two 
hundred hands clamp around every inch of my arms and 
legs and I'm lifted spreadeagle toward the light. 
Prepare to evacuate soul in five, in four, three, 
two, one.
And I'm passed overhead, hand to hand, crowd surfing 
toward the door. I'm floating. I'm flying.
I'm yelling, fight club is mine. Project Mayhem was 
my idea. You can't throw me out. I'm in control here. Go 
The voice of the chapter leader yells, "Registered 
fight number one, please take the center of the floor. 
I'm not leaving. I'm not giving up. I can beat this. 
I'm in control here.
"Evict fight club member, now!"
Evacuate soul, now.
And I fly slowly out the door and into the night with 
the stars overhead and the cold air, and I settle to the 
parking lot concrete. All the hands retreat, and a door 
shuts behind me, and a bolt snaps it locked. In a 
hundred cities, fight club goes on without me.

FOR YEARS NOW I've wanted to fall asleep. The sort of 
slipping off, the giving up, the falling part of sleep. 
Now sleeping is the last thing I want to do. 
I'm with Marla in room 8G at the Reagent Hotel. With 
all the old people and junkies shut up in their little 
rooms, here, somehow, my pacing desperation seems sort 
of norms and expected.
"Here," Marla says while she's sitting cross-legged 
on her bed and punching a half-dozen wake-up pills out 
of their plastic blister cart "I used to date a guy who 
had terrible nightmares. He hated to sleep too."
What happened to the guy she was dating?
"Oh, he died. Heart attack. Overdose. Way too many 
amphetamines," Marls says. "He was only nineteen."
Thanks for sharing.
When we walked into the hotel, the guy at the lobby 
desk had half his hair torn out at the roots. His scalp 
raw and scabbed, he saluted me. The seniors watching 
television in the lobby all turned to see who I was when 
the guy at the desk called me sir. 
"Good evening, sir." 
Right now, I can imagine him calling some Project 
Mayhem headquarters and reporting my whereabouts. 
They'll have a wall map of the city and trace my 
movements with little pushpins. I feel tagged like a 
migrating goose on Wild Kingdom. 
They're all spying on me, keeping tabs. 
"You can take all six of these and not get sick to 
your stomach," Marla says, "but you have to take them by 
putting them up your butt." 
Oh, this is pleasant. 
Marla says, "I'm not making this up. We can get 
something stronger, later. Some real drugs like cross 
tops or black beauties or alligators." 
I'm not putting these pills up my ass. 
"Then only take two." 
Where are we going to go? 
"Bowling. It's open all night, and they won't let you 
sleep there." 
Everywhere we go, I say, guys on the street think I'm 
Tyler Durden. 
"Is that why the bus driver let us ride for free?" 
Yeah. And that's why the two guys on the bus gave us 
their seats. 
"So what's your point?" 
I don't think it's enough to just hide out. We have 
to do something to get rid of Tyler. 
"I dated a guy once who liked to wear my clothes," 
Marla says. "You know, dresses. Hats with veils. We 
could dress you up and sneak you around." 
I'm not cross-dressing, and I'm not putting pills up 
my ass. 

"It gets worse," Marla says. "I dated a guy, once, 
who wanted me to fake a lesbian scene with his blow-up 
I could imagine myself becoming one of Marla's 
I dated a guy once who was a split personality
"I dated this other guy who used one of those penis 
enlargement systems."
I ask what time is it?
"Four A.M."
In another three hours, I have to be at work.
"Take your pills," Marla says. "You being Tyler 
Durden and all, they'll probably let us bowl for free. 
Hey, before we get rid of Tyler, can we go shopping? We 
could get a nice car. Some clothes. Some CDs. There is 
an upside to all this free stuff"
"Okay, forget it."

Chapter 22

THAT OLD SAYING, about how you always kill the thing 
you love, well, it works both ways. 
And it does work both ways. 
This morning I went to work and there were police 
barricades between the building and the parking lot with 
the police at the front doors, taking statements from 
the people I work with. Everybody milling around. 
I didn't even get off the bus. 
I am Joe's Cold Sweat. 
From the bus, I can see the floor-to-ceiling windows 
on the third floor of my office building are blown out, 
and inside a fireman in a dirty yellow slicker is 
whacking at a burnt panel in the suspended ceiling. A 
smoldering desk inches out the broken window, pushed by 
two firemen, then the desk tilts and slides and falls 
the quick three stories to the sidewalk and lands with 
more of a feeling than a sound. 
Breaks open and it's still smoking.'
I am the Pit of Joe's Stomach. 
It's my desk. 
I know my boss is dead. 
The three ways to make napalm. I knew Tyler was going 
to kill my boss. The second I smelled gasoline on my 
hands, when I said I wanted out of my job, I was giving 
him permission. Be my guest. 
Kill my boss. 
Oh, Tyler. 
I know a computer blew up. 
I know this because Tyler knows this. 
I don't want to know this, but you use a jeweler's 
drill to drill a hole through the top of a computer 
monitor. All the space monkeys know this. I typed up 
Tyler's notes. This is a new version of the lightbulb 
bomb, where you drill a hole in a lightbulb and fill the 
bulb with gasoline. Plug the hole with wax or silicone, 
then screw the bulb into a socket and let someone walk 
into the room and throw the switch. 
A computer tube can hold a lot more gasoline than a 
A cathode ray tube, CRT, you either remove the 
plastic housing around the tube, this is easy enough, or 
you work through the vent panels in the top of the 
First you have to unplug the monitor from the power 
source and from the computer. 
This would also work with a television. 
Just understand, if there's a spark, even static 
electricity from the carpet, you're dead. Screaming, 
burned-alive dead. 
A cathode ray tube can hold 300 volts of passive 
electrical storage, so use a hefty screwdriver across 
the main power supply capacitor, first. If you're dead 
at this point, you didn't use an insulated screwdriver. 
There's a vacuum inside the cathode ray tube so the 
moment you drill through, the tube will suck air, sort 
of inhale a little whistle of it. 
Ream the little hole with a larger bit, then a larger 
bit, until you can put the tip of a funnel into the 
hole. Then, fill the tube with your choice of explosive. 
Homemade napalm is good. Gasoline or gasoline mixed with 
frozen orange juice concentrate or cat litter. 
A sort of fun explosive is potassium permanganate 
mixed with powdered sugar. The idea is to mix one 
ingredient that will burn very F fast with a second 
ingredient that will supply enough oxygen for that 
burning. This burns so fast, it's an explosion.
Barium peroxide and zinc dust. 
Ammonium nitrate and powdered aluminum. 
The nouvelle cuisine of anarchy. 
Barium nitrate in a sauce of sulfur and garnished 
with charcoal. That's your basic gunpowder. 
Bon appetit. 
Pack the computer monitor full of this, and when 
someone turns on the power, this is five or six pounds 
of gunpowder exploding in their face. 
The problem is, I sort of liked my boss. 
If you're male, and you're Christian and living in 
America, your father is your model for God. And 
sometimes you find your father in your career. 
Except Tyler didn't like my boss. 
The police would be looking for me. I was the last 
person out of the building last Friday night. I woke up 
at my desk with my breath condensed on the desktop and 
Tyler on the telephone, telling me, "Go outside. We have 
a car." 
We have a Cadillac. 
The gasoline was still on my hands. 
The fight club mechanic asked, what will you wish 
you'd done before you died? 
I wanted out of my job. I was giving Tyler 
permission. Be my guest. Kill my boss. 
From my exploded office, I ride the bus to the gravel 
turnaround point at the end of the line. This is where 
the subdivisions peter out to vacant lots and plowed 
fields. The driver takes out a sack lunch and a thermos 
and watches me in his overhead mirror. 
I'm trying to figure where I can go that the cops 
won't be looking for me. From the back of the bus, I can 
see maybe twenty people sitting between me and the 
driver. I count the backs of twenty heads. 
Twenty shaved heads. 
The driver twists around in his seat and calls to me 
in the back seat, "Mr. Durden, sir, I really admire what 
you're doing." 
I've never seen him before. 
"You have to forgive me for this," the driver says. 
"The committee says this is your own idea sir." 
The shaved heads turn around one after another. Then 
one by one they stand. One's got a rag in his hand, and 
you can smell the ether. The closest one has a hunting 
knife. The one with the knife is the fight club 
"You're a brave man," the bus driver says, "to make 
yourself a homework assignment." 
The mechanic tells the bus driver, "Shut up," and 
"The lookout doesn't say shit." 
You know one of the space monkeys has a rubber band 
to wrap around your nuts. They fill up the front of the 
The mechanic says, "You know the drill, Mr. Durden. 
You said it yourself. You said, if anyone ever tries to 
shut down the club, even you, then we have to get him by 
the nuts." 
Picture the best part of yourself frozen in a 
sandwich bag at the Paper Street Soap Company. 
"You know it's useless to fight us," the mechanic 
The bus driver chews his sandwich and watches us in 
the overhead mirror. 
A police siren wails, coming closer. A tractor 
rattles across a field in the distance. Birds. A window 
in the back of the bus is half open. Clouds. Weeds grow 
at the edge of the gravel turnaround. Bees or flies buzz 
around the weeds. 
"We're just after a little collateral," the fight 
club mechanic says. "This isn't just a threat, this 
time, Mr. Durden. This time, we have to cut them." 
The bus driver says, "It's cops." 
The siren arrives somewhere at the front of the bus. 
So what do I have to fight back with? 
A police car pulls up to the bus, lights flashing 
blue and red through the bus windshield, and someone 
outside the bus is shouting, "Hold up in there." 
And I'm saved. 
Sort of. 
I can tell the cops about Tyler. I'll tell them 
everything about fight club, and maybe I'll go to jail, 
and then Project Mayhem will be their problem to solve, 
and I won't be staring down a knife. 
The cops come up the bus steps, the first cop saying, 
"You cut him yet?" 
The second cop says, "Do it quick, there's a warrant 
out for his arrest." 
Then he takes off his hat, and to me he says, 
"Nothing personal, Mr. Durden. It's a pleasure to 
finally meet you." 
I say, you all are making a big mistake. 
The mechanic says, "You told us you'd probably say 
I'm not Tyler Durden. 
"You told us you'd say that, too." 
I'm changing the rules. You can still have fight 
club, but we're not going to castrate anyone, anymore. 
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," the mechanic says. He's halfway 
down the aisle holding the knife out in front of him. 
"You said you would definitely say that." 
Okay so I'm Tyler Durden. I am. I'm Tyler Durden, and 
I dictate the rules, and I say, put the knife down. 
The mechanic calls back over his shoulder, "What's 
our best time to date for a cut-and-run?" 
Somebody yells, "Four minutes." 
The mechanic yells, "Is somebody timing this?" 
Both cops have climbed up into the front of the bus 
now, and one looks at his watch and says, "Just a sec. 
Wait for the second hand to get up to the twelve." 
The cop says, "Nine." 
I dive for the open window. 
My stomach hits the thin metal windowsill, and behind 
me, the fight club mechanic yells, "Mr. Durden! You're 
going to fuck up the time." 
Hanging half out the window, I claw at the black 
rubber sidewalk of the rear tire. I grab the wheelwell 
trim and pull. Someone grabs my feet and pulls. I'm 
yelling at the little tractor in the distance, "Hey." 
And "Hey." My face swelling hot and full of blood, I'm 
hanging upside down. I pull myself out a little. Hands 
around my ankles pull me back in. My tie flops in my 
face. My belt buckle catches on the windowsill. The bees 
and the flies and weeds are inches from in front of my 
face, and I'm yelling, "Hey!" 
Hands are hooked in the back of my pants, tugging me 
in, hugging my pants and belt down over my ass. 
Somebody inside the bus yells, "One minute!" 
My shoes slip off my feet. 
My belt buckle slips inside the windowsill. 
The hands bring my legs together. The windowsill cuts 
hot from the sun into my stomach. My white shirt billows 
and drops down around my head and shoulders, my hands 
still gripping the wheelwell trim, me still yelling, 
My legs are stretched out straight and together 
behind me. My pants slip down my legs and are gone. The 
sun shines warm on my ass. 
Blood pounding in my head, my eyes bugging from the 
pressure, all I can see is the white shirt hanging 
around my face. The tractor rattles somewhere. The bees 
buzz. Somewhere. Everything is a million miles away. 
Somewhere a million miles behind me someone is yelling, 
"Two minutes!" 
And a hand slips between my legs and gropes for me. 
"Don't hurt him," someone says. 
The hands around my ankles are a million miles away. 
Picture them at the end of a long, long road. Guided 
Don't picture the windowsill as a dull hot knife 
slitting open your belly. 
Don't picture a team of men tug-of-warring your legs 
A million miles away, a bah-zillion miles away, a 
rough warm hand wraps around the base of you and pulls 
you back, and something is holding you tight, tighter, 
A rubber band. 
You're in Ireland. 
You're in fight club. 
You're at work. 
You're anywhere but here. 
"Three minutes!" 
Somebody far far away yells, "You know the speech Mr. 
Durden. Don't fuck with fight club." 

The warm hand is cupped under you. The cold tip of 
the knife. An arm wraps around your chest. Therapeutic 
physical contact. Hug time. And the ether presses your 
nose and mouth, hard. Then nothing, less than nothing. 

Chapter 23

THE EXPLODED SHELL of my burned-out condo is outer 
space black and devastated in the night above the little 
lights of the city. With the windows gone, a yellow 
ribbon of police crime scene tape twists and swings at 
the edge of the fifteen-story drop.
I wake up on the concrete subfloor. There was maple 
flooring once. There was art on the walls before the 
explosion. There was Swedish furniture. Before Tyler.
I'm dressed. I put my hand in my pocket and feel.
I'm whole.
Scared but intact.
Go to the edge of the floor, fifteen stories above 
the parking lot, and look at the city lights and the 
stars, and you're gone.
It's all so beyond us.

Up here, in the miles of night between the stars and 
the Earth, I feel just like one of those space animals. 
You just do your little job. Pull a lever. Push a 
button. You don't really understand any of it. 
The world is going crazy. My boss is dead. My home is 
gone. My job is gone. And I'm responsible for it all. 
There's nothing left. 
I'm overdrawn at the bank. 
Step over the edge.
The police tape flutters between me and oblivion. 
Step over the edge. 
What else is there? 
Step over the edge. 
There's Marla. 
Jump over the edge. 
There's Marla, and she's in the middle of everything 
and doesn't know it. 
And she loves you. 
She loves Tyler. 
She doesn't know the difference. 
Somebody has to tell her. Get out. Get out. Get out. 
Save yourself. You ride the elevator down to the 
lobby, and the doorman who never liked you, now he 
smiles at you with three teeth knocked out of his mouth 
and says, "Good evening, Mr. Durden. Can I get you a 
cab? Are you feeling alright? Do you want to use the 
You call Marla at the Regent Hotel. 
The clerk at the Regent says, "Right away, Mr. 
Then Marla comes on the line. 
The doorman is listening over your shoulder. The 
clerk at the Regent is probably listening. You say, 
Marla, we have to talk. 
Marla says, "You can suck shit." 
She might be in danger, you say. She deserves to know 
what's going on. She has to meet you. You have to talk. 
She should go to the first place we ever met. 
Remember. Think back. 
The white healing ball of light. The palace of seven 
"Got it," she says. "I can be there in twenty 
Be there. 
You hang up, and the doorman says, "I can get you a 
cab, Mr. Durden. Free of charge to anywhere you want." 
The fight club boys are tracking you. No, you say, 
it's such a nice night, I think I'll walk. 
It's Saturday night, bowel cancer night in the 
basement of First Methodist, and Marla is there when you 
Marla Singer smoking her cigarette. Marla Singer 
rolling her eyes. Marla Singer with a black eye. 
You sit on the shag carpet at opposite sides of the 
meditation circle and try to summon up your power animal 
while Marla glares at you with her black eye. You close 
your eyes and meditate to the palace of the seven doors, 
and you can still feel Marla's glare. You cradle your 
inner child. 
Marla glares. 
Then it's time to hug. 
Open your eyes. 
We should all choose a partner. 
Marla crosses the room in three quick steps and slaps 
me hard across the face. 
Share yourself completely. 
"You fucking suck-ass piece of shit," Marla says. 
Around us, everyone stands staring. 
Then both of Marla's fists are beating me from every 
direction. "You killed someone," she's screaming. "I 
called the police and they should be here any minute." 
I grab her wrists and say, maybe the police will 
come, but probably they won't. 
Marla twists and says the police are speeding over 
here to hook me up to the electric chair and bake my 
eyes out or at least give me a lethal injection. 
This will feel just like a bee sting. 
An overdose shot of sodium phenobarbital, and then 
the big sleep. Valley of the Dogs style. 
Marla says she saw me kill somebody today. 
If she means my boss, I say, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, 
I know, the police know, everyone's looking for me to 
lethally inject me, already, but it was Tyler who killed 
my boss. 
Tyler and I just happen to have the same 
fingerprints, but no one understands. 
"You can suck shit," Marla says and pushes her 
punched-out black eye at me. "Just because you and your 
little disciples like getting beat up, you touch me ever 
again, and you're dead." 
"I saw you shoot a man tonight," Marla says. 
No, it was a bomb, I say, and it happened this 
morning. Tyler drilled a computer monitor and filled it 
with gasoline or black powder. 
All the people with real bowel cancers are standing 
around watching this. 
"No," Marla says. "I followed you to the Pressman 
Hotel, and you were a waiter at one of those murder 
mystery parties." 
The murder mystery parties, rich people would come to 
the hotel for a big dinner party, and act out a sort of 
Agatha Christie story. Sometime between the Boudin of 
Gravlax arid the Saddle of Venison, the lights would go 
out for a minute and someone would fake getting killed. 
It's supposed to be a fun let's-pretend sort of death. 
The rest of the meal, the guests would get drunk and 
eat their Madeira Consomme and try to find clues to who 
among them was a psychotic killer. 
Marla yells, "You shot the mayor's special envoy on 
Tyler shot the mayor's special envoy on whatever. 
Marla says, "And you don't even have cancer!" 
It happens that fast. 
Snap your fingers. 
Everyone's looking. 
I yell, you don't have cancer either! 
"He's been coming here for two years," Marla shouts, 
"and he doesn't have anything!" 
I'm trying to save your life! 
"What? Why does my life need saving?" 
Because you've been following me. Because you 
followed me tonight, because you saw Tyler Durden kill 
someone, and Tyler will kill anybody who threatens 
Project Mayhem. 
Everybody in the room looks snapped out of their 
little tragedies. Their little cancer thing. Even the 
people on pain meds look wide-eyed and alert. 
I say to the crowd, I'm sorry. I never meant any 
harm. We should go. We should talk about this outside. 
Everybody goes, "No! Stay! What else?" 
I didn't kill anybody, I say. I'm not Tyler Durden. 
He's the other side of my split personality. I say, has 
anybody here seen the movie Sybil? 
Marla says, "So who's going to kill me?" 

Tyler, I say, but I can take care of Tyler. You just 
have to watch out for the members of Project Mayhem. 
Tyler might've given them orders to follow you or kidnap 
you or something. 
"Why should I believe any of this?" 
It happens that fast. 
I say, because I think I like you.
Marla says, "Not love?" 
This is a cheesy enough moment, I say. Don't push it. 
Everybody watching smiles. 
I have to go. I have to get out of here. I say, watch 
out for guys with shaved heads or guys who look beat up. 
Black eyes. Missing teeth. That sort of thing. 
And Marla says, "So where are you going?"
I have to take care of Tyler Durden.

Chapter 24

HIS NAME WAS Patrick Madden, and he was the mayor's 
special envoy on recycling. His name was Patrick Madden, 
and he was an enemy of Project Mayhem. 
I walk out into the night around First Methodist, and 
it's all coming back to me. 
All the things that Tyler knows are all coming back 
to me. 
Patrick Madden was compiling a list of bars where 
fight clubs met. 
All of the sudden, I know how to run a movie 
projector. I know how to break locks and how Tyler had 
rented the house on Paper Street just before he revealed 
himself to me at the beach. 
I know why Tyler had occurred. Tyler loved Marla. 
From the first night I met her, Tyler or some part of me 
had needed a way to be with Marla. 
Not that any of this matters. Not now. But all the 
details are coming back to me as I walk through the 
night to the closest fight club. 
There's a fight club in the basement of the Armory 
Bar on Saturday nights. You can probably find it on the 
list Patrick Madden was compiling, poor dead Patrick 
Tonight, I go to the Armory Bar and the crowds part 
zipper style when I walk in. To everybody there, I am 
Tyler Durden the Great and Powerful. God and father. 
All around me I hear, "Good evening, sir." 
"Welcome to fight club, sir." 
"Thank you for joining us, sir." 
Me, my monster face just starting to heal. The hole 
in my face smiling through my cheek. A frown on my real 
Because I'm Tyler Durden, and you can kiss my ass, I 
register to fight every guy in the club that night. 
Fifty fights. One fight at a time. No shoes. No shirts. 
The fights go on as long as they have to. 
And if Tyler loves Marla. 
I love Marla. 
And what happens doesn't happen in words. I want to 
smother all the French beaches I'll never see. Imagine 
stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around 
Rockefeller Center. 
The first fight I get, the guy gets me in a full 
nelson and rams my face, rams my cheek, rams the hole in 
my cheek into the concrete floor until my teeth inside 
snap off and plant their jagged roots into my tongue. 
Now I can remember Patrick Madden, dead on the floor, 
his little figurine of a wife, just a little girl with a 
chignon. His wife giggled and tried to pour champagne 
between her dead husband's lips. 
The wife said the fake blood was too, too red. Mrs. 
Patrick Madden put two fingers in the blood pooled next 
to her husband and then put the fingers in her mouth. 
The teeth planted in my tongue, I taste the blood. 
Mrs. Patrick Madden tasted the blood. 
I remember being there on the outskirts of the murder 
mystery party with the space monkey waiters standing 
bodyguard around me. Marla in her dress with a wallpaper 
pattern of dark roses watched from the other side of the 
My second fight, the guy puts a knee between my 
shoulder blades. The guy pulls both my arms together 
behind my back, and slams my chest into the concrete 
floor. My collarbone on one side, I hear it snap. 
I would do the Elgin Marbles with a sledgehammer and 
wipe my ass with the Mona Lisa. 
Mrs. Patrick Madden held her two bloody fingers up, 
the blood climbing the cracks between her teeth, and the 
blood ran down her fingers, down her wrist, across a 
diamond bracelet, and to her elbow where it dripped. 
Fight number three, I wake up and it's time for fight 
number three. There are no more names in fight club. 
You aren't your name. 
You aren't your family. 
Number three seems to know what I need and holds my 
head in the dark and the smother. There's a sleeper hold 
that gives you just enough air to stay awake. Number 
three holds my head in the crook of his arm, the way 
he'd hold a baby or a football, in the crook of his arm, 
and hammers my face with the pounding molar of his 
clenched fist. 
Until my teeth bite through the inside of my cheek. 
Until the hole in my cheek meets the corner of my 
mouth, the two run together into a ragged leer that 
opens from under my nose to under my ear. 
Number three pounds until his fist is raw. 
Until I'm crying. 
How everything you ever love will reject you or die. 
Everything you ever create will be thrown away. 
Everything you're proud of will end up as trash. 
I am Ozymandias, king of kings. 
One more punch and my teeth click shut on my tongue. 
Half of my tongue drops to the floor and gets kicked 
The little figurine of Mrs. Patrick Madden knelt on 
the floor next to the body of her husband, the rich 
people, the people they called friends, towering drunk 
around her and laughing. 
The wife, she said, "Patrick?" 
The pool of blood spreading wider and wider until it 
touches her skirt. 
She says, "Patrick, that's enough, stop being dead." 
The blood climbs the hem of her skirt, capillary 
action, thread to thread, climbing her skirt. 
Around me the men of Project Mayhem are screaming. 
Then Mrs. Patrick Madden is screaming. 
And in the basement of the Armory Bar, Tyler Durden 
slips to the floor in a warm jumble. Tyler Durden the 
great, who was perfect for one moment, and who said that 
a moment is the most you could ever expect from 
And the fight goes on and on because I want to be 
dead. Because only in death do we have names. Only in 
death are we no longer part of Project Mayhem.

Chapter 25

TYLER'S STANDING THERE, perfectly handsome and an 
angel in his everything-blond way. My will to live 
amazes me.
Me, I'm a bloody tissue sample dried on a bare 
mattress in my room at the Paper Street Soap Company.
Everything in my room is gone.
My mirror with a picture of my foot from when I had 
cancer for ten minutes. Worse than cancer. The mirror is 
gone. The closet door is open and my six white shirts, 
black pants, underwear, socks, and shoes are gone. Tyler 
says, "Get up."
Under and behind and inside everything I took for 
granted, something horrible has been growing.
Everything has fallen apart.
The space monkeys are cleared out. Everything is 
relocated, the liposuction fat, the bunk beds, the 
money, especially the money. Only the garden is left 
behind, and the rented house. 
Tyler says, "The last thing we have to do is your 
martyrdom thing. Your big death thing." 
Not like death as a sad, downer thing, this was going 
to be death as a cheery, empowering thing. 
Oh, Tyler, I hurt. Just kill me here. 
"Get up." 
Kill me, already. Kill me. Kill me. Kill me. Kill me. 
"It has to be big," Tyler says. "Picture this: you on 
top of the world's tallest building, the whole building 
taken over by Project Mayhem. Smoke rolling out the 
windows. Desks falling into the crowds on the street. A 
real opera of a death, that's what you're going to get." 
I say, no. You've used me enough. 
"If you don't cooperate, we'll go after Marla." 
I say, lead the way. 
"Now get the fuck out of bed," Tyler said, "and get 
your ass into the fucking car." 
So Tyler and I are up on top of the Parker-Morris 
Building with the gun stuck in my mouth. 
We're down to our last ten minutes. 
The Parker-Morris Building won't be here in ten 
minutes. I know this because Tyler knows this. 
The barrel of the gun pressed against the back of my 
throat, Tyler says, "We won't really die." 
I tongue the gun barrel into my surviving cheek and 
say, Tyler, you're thinking of vampires. 
We're down to our last eight minutes. 
The gun is just in case the police helicopters get 
here sooner. 
To God, this looks like one man alone, holding a gun 
in his own mouth, but it's Tyler holding the gun, and 
it's my life.
You take a 98-percent concentration of fuming nitric 
acid and add the acid to three times that amount of 
sulfuric acid. 
You have nitroglycerin. 
Seven minutes. 
Mix the vitro with sawdust, and you have a nice 
plastic explosive. A lot of the space monkeys mix their 
vitro with cotton and add Epsom salts as a sulfate. This 
works, too. Some monkeys, they use paraffin mixed with 
vitro. Paraffin has never, ever worked for me. 
Four minutes. 
Tyler and me at the edge of the roof, the gun in my 
mouth, I'm wondering how clean this gun is. 
Three minutes. 
Then somebody yells. 
"Wait," and it's Marla coming toward us across the 
Marla's coming toward me, just me because Tyler's 
gone. Poor. Tyler's my hallucination, not hers. Fast as 
a magic trick, Tyler's disappeared. And now I'm just one 
man holding a gun in my mouth. 
"We followed you," Marla yells. "All the people from 
the support group. You don't have to do this. Put the 
gun down." 
Behind Marla, all the bowel cancers, the brain 
parasites, the melanoma people, the tuberculosis people 
are walking, limping, wheelchairing toward me. 
They're saying, "Wait." 
Their voices come to me on the cold wind, saying, 
And, "We can help you." 
"Let us help you." 
Across the sky comes the whop, whop, whop of police 
I yell, go. Get out of here. This building is going 
to explode. 
Marla yells, "We know." 
This is like a total epiphany moment for me.
I'm not killing myself, I yell. I'm killing Tyler.
I am Joe's Hard Drive.
I remember everything. 
"It's not love or anything," Marla shouts, "but I 
think I like you, too." 
One minute. 
Marla likes Tyler. 
"No, I like you," Marla shouts. "I know the 
And nothing. 
Nothing explodes. 
The barrel of the gun tucked in my surviving cheek, I 
say, Tyler, you mixed the vitro with paraffin, didn't 
Paraffin never works.
I have to do this. 
The police helicopters. 
And I pull the trigger.

Chapter 26

IN MY FATHER'S house are many mansions. Of course, 
when I pulled the trigger, I died. 
And Tyler died. 
With the police helicopters thundering toward us, and 
Marla and all the support group people who couldn't save 
themselves, with all of them trying to save me, I had to 
pull the trigger. 
This was better than real life. 
And your one perfect moment won't last forever. 
Everything in heaven is white on white. 
Everything in heaven is quiet, rubber-soled shoes. 
I can sleep in heaven.
People write to me in heaven and tell me I'm 
remembered. That I'm their hero. I'll get better. 
The angels here are the Old Testament kind, legions 
and lieutenants, a heavenly host who works in shifts, 
days, swing. Graveyard. They bring you your meals on a 
tray with a paper cup of meds. The Valley of the Dolls 
I've met God across his long walnut desk with his 
diplomas hanging on the wall behind him, and God asks 
me, "Why?" 
Why did I cause so much pain? 
Didn't I realize that each of us is a sacred, unique 
snowflake of special unique specialness? 
Can't I see how we're all manifestations of love? 
I look at God behind his desk, taking notes on a pad, 
but God's got this all wrong. 
We are not special. 
We are not crap or trash, either. 
We just are. 
We just are, and what happens just happens. 
And God says, "No, that's not right." 
Yeah. Well. Whatever. You can't teach God anything. 
God asks me what I remember. 
I remember everything. 
The bullet out of Tyler's gun, it tore out my other 
cheek to give me a jagged smile from ear to ear. Yeah, 
just like an angry Halloween pumpkin. Japanese demon. 
Dragon of Avarice. 
Marla's still on Earth, and she writes to me. 
Someday, she says, they'll bring me back. 
And if there were a telephone in Heaven, I would call 
Marla from Heaven and the moment she says, "Hello," I 
wouldn't hang up. I'd say, "Hi. What's happening? Tell 
me every little thing." 
But I don't want to go back. Not yet. 
Just because.
Because every once in a while, somebody brings me my 
lunch tray and my meds and he has a black eye or his 
forehead is swollen with stitches, and he says:
"We miss you Mr. Durden."
Or somebody with a broken nose pushes a mop past me 
and whispers:
"Everything's going according to the plan.
"We're going to break up civilization so we can make 
something better out of the world."
"We look forward to getting you back."