It was just about dawn when my trembling hand turned the last leaf over and there were no words left to read. My eyes were bleary and when I saw that there was a bookmark taped to the back inside cover I almost shut the book without looking at it. But curiosity got the better of me and I pulled it off and looked at the scribbled note written across it:
“To the lucky reader who finds this: I, Chuck Palahniuk, will come to your home and give you a free pottery lesson in the style of the descended masters of the Hopi and Hualapai Indians.”
I blinked, then blinked again. Chuck Palahniuk was coming to my house. My Big House! I woke my bunkmate Snake up and showed him the bookmark. A crocodile smile spread across his face and then the both of us were dancing around the cell. At first our squeals were met with a wave of “Shut up and go back to sleep, muthafuckas!” but when the whispers of what I had found the whole wing exploded with cheers.
God bless you, Tiny Tim and all that rot.
The Warden rejected the notion, as did Chuck’s agent. And his publisher, and his accountant, and his insurance man, and maybe even his dog. Everyone was against it, except for Chuck. He kept in contact with me, he even went to the sight of my arrest, and his questions about why I robbed the bank and how I had it planned out seemed to fascinate him. I never expected him to get involved with this like he did, but he said he would do it, and damned if Chuck Palahniuk didn’t carry through on his promise.
He arrived at the Midvale branch of the Federal Union Bank at approximately 9:05 AM, just as I had done, handed the teller a note written on the same stock of paper as I had used, and then waited for the teller to trigger the alarm, just as I had failed to observe years before. He hired a team of lawyers to pigeonhole the judge into exacting the same punishment for Chuck as I had received. Chuck knew he would get a lesser sentence, perhaps 18 months, and with time off for good behavior he would be released right around the time he would be finishing his new novel. A novel which would be set in a maximum security prison.
I was there to greet him as he walked from the heavily guarded van through the barbed wire tunnel to Ellis Unit Three, where he would be housed. I extended my hand to shake his and was surprised when he quickly flashed his hand to reveal a plastic child’s toothbrush concealed in his palm. “Hard plastic, short-handled,” he whispered. “Perfect for whittling into a shank.”
“Hey rook,” I said, barely suppressing my snickering, “if you have something sharp enough to whittle with, why do you need a shank?” That puzzler always stumps the noobies. You have to break them down at first, you see what I’m sayin‘?
“You can never have too many shanks, that’s why.” He let out a hearty laugh- the veins in his neck stood out like strands of spaghetti- and then his smile sunk to the briny deep like a weighty metaphor. Reality was sinking in. The toothbrush was not just a weapon. He would be brushing his teeth with it for the next six months or so. Well, unless he bought a new one from the commissary.
The boys were more than OK with Chuck’s extended stay at the Graybar Hotel- fresh faces were always welcome here- and his presence was felt immediately. He started by teaching us how to make soap, even though we’d all seen Fight Club many times. Meatloaf was great as" Bob."
Next thing we know we are all reading up on Feng Shui, and moving furniture. It didn’t take us long to realize that Chuck was a one-man Martha Stewart. For example, did you know a little vegetable oil on your long screws can make them sink into even the hardest wood like it was warm butter? Or, conversely, something as simple as an electric juicer can be modified with an agent such as dynamite, and therefore be used to induce critical mass?
We showed Chuck how we made Pruno, and he showed us how to give it a nutty, almost smoky flavor by putting in some kernels of peanut butter Captain Crunch. The overall quality of shanks improved dramatically, and some of them were very clever. The most imaginative involved a dust jacket from a book. I still remember seeing Dirk the Jerk rolling it into a sharp pointy weapon, then plunging it into the rival skinheads eye. His cry of “Everyone bleeds Danielle Steel!” will forever be etched in my memory.