Excerpt from Choke by Chuck Palahniuk, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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  • First Published:
    May 2001, 304 pages
    Jun 2002, 304 pages

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And I go, "That's cool."

I say, "I could get canned for this," and roll a rubber down my dog.

She worms her wet finger up my pucker and slaps my ass with her other hand and says, "How do you think I feel?"

To keep from triggering, I'm thinking of dead rats and rotten cabbage and pit toilets, and I say, "What I mean is, latex won't be invented for another century."

With the poker, I point at the fourth-graders, and I say, "These little boys used to come out of the chimneys covered with the black soot. And the soot used to grind into their hands and knees and elbows and nobody had soap so they stayed black all the time."

This was their whole lives back then. Every day, somebody forced them up a chimney and they spent all day crawling along in the darkness with the soot getting in their mouths and noses and they never went to school and they didn't have television or video games or mango-papaya juice boxes, and they didn't have music or remote-controlled anything or shoes and every day was the same.

"These little boys," I say and wave the poker across the crowd of kids, "these were little boys just like you. They were exactly like you."

My eyes go from each kid to each kid, touching all their eyes for a moment.

"And one day, each little boy would wake up with a sore place on his private parts. And these sore places didn't heal. And then they metastasized and followed the seminal vesicles up into the abdomen of each little boy, and by then," I say, "it was too late."

Here's the flotsam and jetsam of my med school education.

And I tell how sometimes they tried to save the little boy by cutting off his scrotum, but this was before hospitals and drugs. In the eighteenth century, they still called these kind of tumors "soot warts."

"And those soot warts," I tell the kids, "were the first form of cancer ever invented."

Then I ask, does anybody know why they call it cancer?

No hands.

I say, "Don't make me call on somebody."

Back in the smokehouse, Miss Lacey was running her fingers through the clumps of her damp hair, and said, "So?" As if it's just an innocent question, she says, "You have a life outside of here?"

And wiping my armpits dry with my powdered wig, I say, "Let's not pretend, okay?"

She's bunching up her pantyhose the way women do so they can snake their legs inside, and says, "This kind of anonymous sex is a symptom of a sex addict."

I'd rather think of myself as a playboy, James Bond type of guy.

And Miss Lacey says, "Well, maybe James Bond was a sex addict."

Here, I'm supposed to tell her the truth. I admire addicts. In a world where everybody is waiting for some blind, random disaster or some sudden disease, the addict has the comfort of knowing what will most likely wait for him down the road. He's taken some control over his ultimate fate, and his addiction keeps the cause of his death from being a total surprise.

In a way, being an addict is very proactive.

A good addiction takes the guesswork out of death. There is such a thing as planning your getaway.

And for serious, it's such a chick thing to think that any human life should just go on and on.

See also: Dr. Paige Marshall.

See also: Ida Mancini.

The truth is, sex isn't sex unless you have a new partner every time. The first time is the only session when your head and body are both there. Even the second hour of that first time, your head can start to wander. You don't get the full anesthetic quality of good first-time anonymous sex.

What would Jesus NOT do?

But instead of all that, I just lied to Miss Lacey and said, "How can I reach you?"

I tell the fourth-graders that they call it cancer because when the cancer starts growing inside you, when it breaks through your skin, it looks like a big red crab. Then the crab breaks open and it's all bloody and white inside.

Excerpted from Choke by Chuck Palahniuk Copyright 2001 by Chuck Palahniuk. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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