Читать онлайн "Damned" автора Palahniuk Charles Michael «Chuck» - RuLit - Страница 1

 
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I.

Are you there, Satan? It's me, Madison. I'm just now arrived here, in Hell, but it's not my fault except for maybe dying from an overdose of marijuana. Maybe I'm in Hell because I'm fat—a Real Porker. If you can go to Hell for having low self-esteem, that's why I'm here. I wish I could lie and tell you I'm bone-thin with blond hair and big ta-tas. But, trust me, I'm fat for a really good reason.

To start with, please let me introduce myself.

 

 

How to best convey the exact sensation of being dead...

Yes, I know the word convey. I'm dead, not a mental defective.

Trust me, the being-dead part is much easier than the dying part. If you can watch much television, then being dead will be a cinch. Actually, watching television and surfing the Internet are really excellent practice for being dead.

The closest way I can describe death is to compare it to when my mom boots up her notebook computer and hacks into the surveillance system of our house in Mazatlan or Banff. "Look," she'd say, turning the screen sideways for me to see, "it's snowing." Glowing softly on the computer would be the interior of our Milan house, the sitting room, with snow falling outside the big windows, and by long distance, holding down her Control, Alt and W keys, my mom would draw open the sitting room drapes all the way. Pressing the Control and D keys, she'd dim the lights by remote control and we'd both sit, on a train or in a rented town car or aboard a leased jet, watching the pretty winter view through the windows of that empty house displayed on her computer screen. With the Control and F keys, she'd light a fire in the gas fireplace, and we'd listen to the hush of the Italian snow falling, the crackle of the flames via the audio monitors of the security system. After that, my mom would keyboard into the system for our house in Cape Town. Then log on to view our house in Brentwood. She could simultaneously be all places but no place, mooning over sunsets and foliage everywhere except where she actually was. At best, a sentry. At worst, a voyeur.

My mom will kill half a day on her notebook computer just looking at empty rooms full of our furniture. Tweaking the thermostat by remote control. Turning down the lights and choosing the right level of soft music to play in each room. "Just to keep the cat burglars guessing," she'd tell me. She'd toggle from camera to camera, watching the Somali maid clean our house in Paris. Hunched over her computer screen, she'd sigh and say, "My crocus are blooming in London...."

From behind his open business section of the Times, my dad would say, "The plural is crocuses."

Probably my mom would cackle then, hitting her Control and L keys to lock a maid inside a bathroom from three continents away because the tile didn't look adequately polished. To her this passed for way-wicked, good fun. It's affecting the environment without being physically present. Consumption in absentia. Like having a hit song you recorded decades ago still occupy the mind of a Chinese sweatshop worker you'll never meet. It's power, but a kind of pointless, impotent power.

On the computer screen a maid would place a vase filled with fresh-cut peonies on the windowsill of our house in Dubai, and my mom would spy by satellite, turning down the air-conditioning, colder and colder, with a tapping keystroke via her wireless connection, chilling that house, that one room, meat-locker cold, ski-slope cold, spending a king's ransom on Freon and electric power, trying to make some doomed ten bucks' worth of pretty pink flowers last one more day.

That's what it's like to be dead. Yes, I know the word absentia. I'm thirteen years old, not stupid—and being dead, ye gods, do I comprehend the idea of absentia.

Being dead is the very essence of traveling light.

Being dead-dead means nonstop, twenty-four/seven, three hundred sixty-five days a year... forever.

How it feels when they pump out all of your blood, you don't want me to describe. Probably I shouldn't even tell you I'm dead, because no doubt now you feel awfully superior. Even other fat people feel superior to Dead People. Nevertheless, here it is: my Hideous Admission. I'll fess up and come clean. I'm out of the closet. I'm dead. Now don't hold it against me.

Yes, we all look a little mysterious and absurd to each other, but no one looks as foreign as a dead person does. We can forgive some stranger her choice to practice Catholicism or engage in homosexual acts, but not her submission to death. We hate a backslider. Worse than alcoholism or heroin addiction, dying seems like the greatest weakness, and in a world where people say you're lazy for not shaving your legs, then being dead seems like the ultimate character flaw.

It's as if you've shirked life—simply not made enough serious effort to live up to your full potential. You quitter! Being fat and dead—let me tell you—that's the double whammy.

No, it's not fair, but even if you feel sorry for me, you're probably also feeling pretty darn smug that you're alive and no doubt chewing on a mouthful of some poor animal that had the misfortune to live below you on the food chain. I'm not telling you all of this to gain your sympathy. I'm thirteen years old, and a girl, and I'm dead. My name is Madison, and the last thing I need is your stupid condescending pity. No, it's not fair, but it's how people do. The first time we meet another person an insidious little voice in our head says, "I might wear eyeglasses or be chunky around the hips or a girl, but at least I'm not Gay or Black or a Jew." Meaning: I may be me—but at least I have the good sense not to be YOU. So I hesitate to even mention that I'm dead because everyone already feels so darned superior to dead people, even Mexicans and AIDS people. It's like when learning about Alexander the Great in our seventh-grade Influences of Western History class, what keeps running through your head is: "If Alexander was so brave and smart and . . Great... why'd he die?"

Yes, I know the word insidious.

Death is the One Big Mistake that none of us EVER plans to make. That's why the bran muffins and the colonoscopies. It's how come you take vitamins and get Pap smears. No, not you—you're never going to die—so now you feel all superior to me. Well, go ahead and think that. Keep smearing your skin with sunblock and feeling yourself for lumps. Don t let me spoil the Big Surprise.

But, to be honest, when you're dead probably not even homeless people and retarded people will want to trade you places. I mean, worms get to eat you. It's like a complete violation of all your civil rights. Death ought to be illegal but you don't see Amnesty International starting any letter-writing campaigns. You don't see any rock stars banding together to release hit singles with all the proceeds going to solve MY getting my face chewed off by worms.

My mom would tell you I'm too flip and glib about everything. My mom would say, "Madison, please don't be such a smart aleck." She'd say, "You're dead; now just calm down."

Probably me being dead is a gigantic relief to my dad; this way, at least, he won't have to worry about me embarrassing him by getting pregnant. My dad used to say, "Madison, whatever man ends up with you, he's going to have his hands full...." If my dad only knew.

When my goldfish, Mister Wiggles, died we flushed him down the toilet. When my kitten, Tiger Stripe, died I tried the same deal, and we had to call a plumber to snake the pipes. What a big mess. Poor Tiger Stripe. When I died, I won't go into the details, but let's say some Mr. Pervy McPervert mortician got to see me naked and pump out all my blood and commit God only knows what deranged carnal high jinks with my virginal thirteen-year-old body. You can call me glib, but death is about the biggest joke around. After all the permanent waves and ballet lessons my mom paid for, here I am getting a hot-spit tongue bath from some paunchy, depraved mortuary guy.

     

 

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