Here’s an interesting one that I’d forgotten about. When I’d returned to university in the early 00s ( the naughts? Do people call it that?), I took Introduction to English 1006, taught by John Muise. I really should write about John Muise sometime. He played a considerable role in influencing and supporting my writing. Maybe that’ll be a future Joys of Writing: the biggest influences in my writing career.
This story was my final “essay” for the class. See, John was open to any and all ideas for presenting our essays. It could be a presentation, a short homemade film, a comic book. Anything to break up the doldrums of reading and marking essay after essay.
One of the pieces of literature we studied with Chuck Palaniuk’s Fight Club. I love Palaniuk’s work and have greatly enjoyed other works by him, including Choke and Invisible Monsters. Inspired by Fight Club, I suddenly came up with an idea for my own story: continuing the story of Raymond K. Hessel, the sobbing gas station clerk that Brad Pitt threatened to shoot in order to give him a renewed lease on life. Keep in mind that the ending to the book was very different from the movie. It’s the book’s canon that I used.
I tried mimicking Palaniuk’s writing as best I could. I honestly don’t know if I succeeded. I also don’t really think the story holds up well to the tests of time. But it’s still an interesting experiment that I’m glad I tried. There are parts of it that I really like, such as having a new line for each word in the sentence, “You are going to die, Raymond.”
Really, looking back, it’s glorified fan fiction. I don’t really know if it’d be considered good fan fiction. I do know that I was awarded an A++ from John, who loved it. If you’re curious, following the story, I also included an afterword to explain the piece.
Anyway, I digress. Enjoy.
I am Jack’s Irrelevant Title
The Continuing Story of Raymond K. Hessel
Thunk, thunk, thunk. I race down the stairs, kicking my sneakers off as I rush into my apartment. Nice, safe basement apartment. 1320 SE Benning, apartment A.
I was about to be shot!
Oh, my God. He had a gun.
I scurry around my apartment, whipping the blinds closed as fast as I can.
I can feel the bruise in the back of my skull beginning to come to the surface. God that hurt! Raymond! The question!
That was how my life was going to end, in the back of a convenience store with no one to call for help. That was the end of my life right there and then.
He had a gun. Raymond, you’re going to die.
I whip my jacket off and threw it on a couch that looks like something out of the back of a Pinto. My wallet was still in my clammy hands. I flip it open and try searching through it with my hands shaking violently.
Fourteen fucking dollars to my name. My life.
I’m taking your driver’s license, Raymond K. Hessel.
Nope, no license.
He had a gun to my head!! Raymond…
I dash into the bathroom and slammed the door shut behind me. I look in the mirror and see the tears still streaming down my face…
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.
Slap! Snap out of it! You’re alive, damnit! He let you go!
Run, Forest, Run!
The tears keep rolling down my face.
I know who you are. I know where you live.
I suddenly realize that I didn’t lock the bathroom door. I press the handle in and turn it so no one will get in. I sit on the porcelain throne, my face in my hands.
Nothing left of your face.
I still have my face. But they could still get in. I have a spare chair in the bathroom. Why the hell do I need it? To protect me, of course! I jam it underneath the doorknob. There. Now they won’t get in. I’m back on my protective throne in my porcelain kingdom. All hail the fucking king.
The bathroom doesn’t have any windows, either, so I was safe. I’ll just lie down in the bathtub and sleep in here. Damnit, I should’ve brought a blanket with me before I ran in here. Shit.
I’m going to check on you, mister Raymond K. Hessel. If you aren’t back in school on your way to being a veterinarian, you will be dead.
I’ll…I’ll go to the cops tomorrow. Maybe there’s some video footage at the store. Shit, does the store have video surveillance? Forget it, they’ll find him.
I just want to sleep.
I wake up with the worst pain in the neck I’ve ever had. Thank God, I didn’t sleep with my head up by the tap. Maybe the little plunger thing (that turns on the shower) would’ve jutted into my ear and killed me.
But…I’m not dead.
I bolt out of the tub and nearly slip on the bathroom floor. My head is killing me from the attack last night. In fact, my whole head is ringing.
No wait, that’s the phone.
I push the chair out of the way and whip open the door, rushing to the phone in the kitchen.
“Raymond? What the hell are you doing at home?” It’s Jack, my boss at work. At the Korner Mart.
“The cash isn’t counted, the floor hasn’t been cleaned. Hell, the doors were still unlocked when I came in this morning!”
“You better have a good explanation for this!”
I was robbed.
He pauses. For the first time in the six months I’ve been working there, Jack Orteg was speechless.
“Are…are you okay?”
Yeah, thanks for asking, asshole, I tell him.
“Raymond, I’m sorry, I…”
Didn’t know, no shit. How much of a loss to your precious profit would I have been? Remember when I told you it wasn’t safe to have only one person working? How cutting corners wouldn’t be safe?
“But they didn’t take any money!”
They didn’t take anything out of my wallet, either! I think they were some kind of psychos looking to
“You think I believe that? Maybe you just decided to walk out! Now I have to count the entire inventory!”
Yippee. I hope you choke on your clipboard.
What the hell am I doing!?! I could lose my job! My…
So yeah, Jack. Screw you.
“You can’t just come up with some stupid story about being robbed and expect you can just quit! I have to retrain someone else now in night shifts!”
*Click.* I don’t really feel like coming back with something witty. I can just imagine Jack’s reaction as he was having a stressful hernia. I chuckle to myself at this though.
I am not Jack’s minimum wage slave. I am Jack’s new hernia.
Welcome to unemployment, population: Raymond K. Hessel, Day One, Hour One. I sit down to have a bowl of Cheerio’s to start my new day.
For the first time ever, I can taste each piece of calcium in the milk. I feel like I’m drinking straight from a cow’s udder. I can taste the farmer’s grain in the Cheerio’s as he scoops a bale of hay and tosses it onto the truck. The sun on the farm is beating down on me while I drink from the cow’s udder in the middle of the field. I’m not the guy who tells you where the creamer is, even if it’s staring you right in the face.
I take a drink of orange juice and can feel myself picking a fresh orange right off of the tree. The sun is baking my skin to a nice crisp tan. A little girl in a sun dress is flying a kite in an open area in the trees. I’m not the guy that points you to the cooler in the back to get the box of marked down juice.
Another spoonful of Cheerio’s enters my mouth. I’m the miner digging with a small pickaxe to unearth iron. I’m the blacksmith tinkering with a small hammer to make the shape of a spoon. I’m never the one on the other side of the counter selling you that spoon. I’m the one who made it.
My hands run against the edge of the small wooden table in the kitchen. I’m the woodsmen that cut it down with an axe. I’m the woodsmen that shears through the wood with a chainsaw and tosses it into the back of my truck. I am not the guy who tells you to pay for the kindling you just put in your car and thought I wouldn’t notice.
I am no longer my job. I am Raymond K. Hessel and I am alive!
Screw you, mister Gun Man! You had your shot! You’re right, I don’t want to be in a shit job for just enough money to buy cheese and watch television!
I stand up after finishing the last pristine speck of milk and walk over to the tiny television in my tiny living room. I look at my DVD collection: The complete DVD series of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Nightmare on Elm St. collection, all three of the Lord of the Rings Extended Versions, complete with special bookends and Gollum statue.
I unplug my worthless fifteen inch TV and grab my Gollum statue. Here’s your goddamn precious! Stupid, fat hobbitses this!
Gollum’s head meets with the screen of the TV and is buried in an orgy of glass and sparks. Not too many sparks since I hadn’t used the television since last night before work, but still enough.
Knock, knock, knock. Someone at my door? What the hell?
“Mister Hessel?! Are you home?”
I trounce up the stairs, feeling pretty good about myself. I open the door and there are two men in black shirts and black trousers. Their shaved heads take away all of their identity. One of them hands me a manila envelope with my name written in black marker.
“For you, sir,” the nameless man in black on the right says.
They stand in front of me with their arms behind their back like two good little soldiers. What is this?
“The first rule of Project Mayhem is you do not ask questions!” they both shout at me like some kind of monotonous computer program.
I open the envelope and pull out what looks to be forms for not only student loans, but also to different schools in this area and others. Was Gun Man actually serious?
“Everything is in order then, Mr. Hessel?” the nameless soldier on the left asks me.
Uh. Yeah. I guess so.
They turn on their heels and walk away.
I need to call my mom.
A few weeks later, I’m on a bus on my way up to Toronto, Canada. Why, I don’t know. I think I just needed a major change. Going to another country is a good start. Plus, Canadian student loans for out of country students seem to be a little better. Maybe Gun Man knew what he was talking about in the first place.
There’s a lot of school. Just as much as I expected. But then I think about being in the back of Jack’s convenience store about to die and things don’t seem as bad. No DVD’s to bring with me to distract me. Just a few pairs of clothes and a lot of supplies for university. Why were they doing this for me in the first place?
The first rule of Project Mayhem is you do not ask questions.
Something about that rings a bell. Some guys were in the store a few months ago, beat all to hell and buying some snacks. I asked them if they were in a fight.
The first rule is we can’t talk about it.
I didn’t want to push the question and rang in their bottled water and Aero bars.
Mom and Dad are proud of me. At least they don’t have to identify me by my dental work. I didn’t tell them that or about the robbery, or why I suddenly decided to go back to school. The first rule of Raymond K. Hessel’s new life is you do not talk about Raymond K. Hessel.
Okay, Gun Man. I’m on my way to being a veterinarian. Are you happy? Because you know what? I actually am.
Three months to the day, I get a knock on my new apartment door in Toronto. It’s a shitty basement apartment on Young Street below a comic book shop. It was still home. I don’t even have to open the door to know what I’m expecting.
I’m going to check on you, mister Raymond K. Hessel In three months, and then in six months, and then in a year.
“How are you doing, Mr. Hessel?” the nameless soldier on the right asks.
I’m good, I tell them.
“What are you doing in your life, Raymond?” the solider on the left asks.
I’m back in school, thanks to Gun Man.
“Gun Man, sir?”
Oh, that’s just what I call him in my head. I tell them my first rule in my new life.
“That’s a good rule, sir. Uh, Gun Man just wanted to check up on you like he said. He…can’t do it himself.”
I’m sorry to hear that. I’m not really, but it was the thing to say. If I met Gun Man again, I would probably want to be on the other end of the gun.
“Take care, Raymond K. Hessel.” They nod to me and leave without another word.
Not only do I go to all my classes, but I’m getting good marks for the first time in my entire life. That usually happens when you suddenly rethink your life.
I minded my own business and make sure that the only thing I’m doing is to be on my way to be a veterinarian.
I ask one of the Political Science professors if they have heard of anything called Project Mayhem. He shakes his head and wipes his glasses with a very clean handkerchief.
“I’ve heard of the Manhattan Project and other ‘projects.’” He even makes the little quotation signs with his fingers. “But never have I heard of Project Mayhem.”
What about clubs that you’re not supposed to talk about?
“If that’s the case, how could a club like that exist?”
I mimicked his head shaking at this question
As I’m leaving the classroom, someone approached me. He resembled the guys in Jack’s convenience store last year.
“Would you like to know?”
“The club. Would you like to see it?”
Sure. But I can’t talk about it, right?
“No, sir. That’s the first rule.”
I heard that part.
My face hits concrete. Blood spurts out of my mouth and nose and hits the floor. The very Political Science teacher that I had asked about Project Mayhem has just kicked my ass. The sweaty, bloody and battered group of men surrounding me in that dank basement cheered on Mr. Sokoloff as I try to clamber to my feet.
“I’m sorry, Raymond. But the first rule was…”
Not to talk about it, I know.
I take Sokoloff’s hand and he helps me to my feet. I’ve never been in a fight in my life. I never thought I could win a fight. I don’t on this night.
But there will be other nights. Fight Club is about finding yourself.
I try “climbing the ladder” of fighters. There’s no actual ladder except for one in my mind after watching some of them. I would stake them, claim them as my own. I win, but barely. I’m a terrible fighter, I admit.
I’m not cut out to be a fighter. I’m cut out to help animals, I know that. I want to make sick puppies better. I want to help kittens find their first meow at birth.
I do like one part of Fight Club. I like going out for drinks sometimes with the guys after a fight. I want to get tips on how to be a better fighter, but…
The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.
I have to ask, though. Who created this club? Who would possibly want to see a bunch of guys in a dark basement beating the pulp out of each other?
Mr. Sokoloff tells me over a beer one night. “We think his name was Tyler Durden. But we’ve only heard rumours of where he might be.”
You’ve never met him?
“Once, when he visited to make sure everything was tight as a drum.”
What happened to him?
“Well, that’s another club we’re not supposed to talk about.”
I don’t say the word. I all ready know it. I only say to him: P.M. He nodded.
“He apparently shot himself. That’s another rumour. That he’s at a hospital in Chicago in a coma. Other space monkeys check in on him all the time.”
“That’s what Tyler called anyone that was a part of…Pee-Em.”
You know more than you’re letting on, Mr. Sokoloff.
I’ve shocked him. He thought I was a punk kid going back to school. But he’s told more about Fight Club and Project Mayhem than he was supposed to tell me.
The first rule of Project Mayhem is you do not talk about Project Mayhem. The second rule of Project Mayhem is you do not ask questions. But I had a loophole.
“What would Tyler get people to do in Pee-Em?”
Mr. Sokoloff started to say the first and second rules. But I’m asking about Pee-Em. I’m asking about Tyler. He was dumbfounded for a moment, and then tells me.
“Random assignments depending on the department. He organizes it very well. He would assign everything from destruction of civic property to human scarifies.”
“Taking people’s drivers licenses.”
We have just lost cabin pressure.
It doesn’t take long to find out that I was a sacrifice. I don’t know what they planned for me, but I didn’t care.
I was a fucking assignment. Gun Man was one of Tyler’s space monkeys. Probably in disguise, because the one who put me to gun point wasn’t dressed all in black like the other military looking men.
I pack light and take the first flight to O’Hare International Airport. Chicago is where everything started: for me and Tyler. Without asking the wrong questions, I dwell further and further into Project Mayhem. I’ve never participated in destruction or destroying lives like mine was, but I’m the errand or gopher for Pee-Em.
I visit the old Korner Mart. I don’t go in, but I can see Jack was working the late nights. Fuck you, Jack. I gave him the finger from across the street and keep going.
One of Pee-Em’s drivers drops me off at the hospital. I say I’ll check on Mr. Durden this time for the team. Many of the other space monkeys want to attack the world. I just wanted to get this over with and go back to my life in Toronto.
Screw Fight Club. Screw Project Mayhem. The second rule of Raymond K. Hessel’s new life is not to be stepped on again. The third rule of Raymond K. Hessel’s life is never be a victim again.
What did it feel like to give the order, Tyler? How did it feel to know that there was a gun to the back of my head? That I nearly wet myself? That I was perfectly fine not being a temporary space monkey!?
I step off of the elevator and ask where Henry Singer’s room was. The nurse tells me it was room 208. I can feel the handle on my .38 pressed into my coat pocket. I keep my hands stuffed in my pocket as I politely thank her.
I walk down the hallway. I am Jack’s sweaty anticipation. I, Raymond K. Hessel, turn into room 208…
And meet the man who changed my life.
My heart jumps when I see his face.
I recognize the face the instant I see Tyler.
Tyler Durden is Gun Man. Tyler told me, not in so many words, to get a life. Tyler was the one who threw me out of the back door of the Korner Mart and onto the parking lot pavement.
Tyler Durden cost me my job. Tyler Durden gave me a headache in the back of my skull.
Raymond! The question!
What did you want to be, Tyler?
I pulled the .38 out of my pocket and pressed it against his comatose forehead. The life support machines continued to bleep. Machines didn’t care if I shot him. They would record it and move on to their next project. The whole world is a goddamn project, one after the other.
Project Tyler Durden became Project Fight Club. Project Fight Club became Project Mayhem. Project Mayhem created Project Raymond K. Hessel: veterinarian in training.
I pull back the hammer.
What did you want to be, Raymond K. Hessel?
A .38 is the same kind of gun that I stared down the barrel of that fateful night. I looked down the barrel to the end of the gun to the hand that held it. I looked past the hand and up the arm, past the shoulder, past the neck, past the chin, past the nose and to the eyes of the leader and creator of Project Mayhem.
Project Mayhem has a copy of the police report on Tyler “Henry Singer” Durden. A .38 calibre gun nearly killed him. Self inflicted.
Were you truly a God among space monkeys? Or were you just a coward, Tyler?
My hand shakes as I rub my index finger along the trigger. Just make a fist. The gun will punch him for you. This is just another Fight Club.
Run, Forest, Run!
What were you running from, Tyler? What part of yourself did you hate? Who will identify your dental records, Tyler?
Fill in the blank. What does Raymond K. Hessel want to be when he grows up?
How about making new blanks. One between your eyes?
I toss the gun on Tyler’s chest. I’m not you, Tyler.
Go home, I said I just wanted to go home, please.
Screw you, Tyler. I’m back in school, thanks to you. But I won’t be a space monkey. I am not my job, but I’m a saviour to each and every one of those animals.
I am nature’s Tyler Durden.
Run, Tyler, Run! Don’t face the world you created. I walk out of the hospital room and thank the nurse again on my way to the elevator. I’m on the bus by the time they wonder why a .38 calibre handgun is suddenly on the chest of Henry Singer.
The fourth and last rule of Raymond K. Hessel’s new life is I do not talk about Tyler Durden. I do not talk about Fight Club. I do not talk about Project Mayhem.
I am Jack’s revived lease on life.
I am Jack’s AfterWord
For my final essay to Introduction to English 1006, I wanted to end on a high note. Since first discovering that we would be studying Fight Club, the idea for this story popped into my head. Out of all the scenes in Fight Club, either the book or the movie, the scene involving Raymond K. Hessel was the most fascinating. For all of the “horrible” things that Tyler did, the one selfless act he seemed to do was the Human Sacrifice Assignment. Imagine giving someone a new lease on life by forcing them to think about death.
Using dozens of quotes from either the movie or the book, I pictured what Raymond’s new life would be like. Would he really be a blubbering idiot all the time? Or do we all transform to that state if our life is suddenly on the line?
In all honesty, I don’t think the story turned out as good as it sounded in my head. If I was to expand this further, I would look more into Raymond’s life in Toronto. I might have included Marla at the hospital room; or a scene where Mr. Sokoloff’s balls were removed for talking about Fight Club and Project Mayhem. Could’ve, should’ve, didn’t.
I also tried to follow the same writing formula that Chuck Palahniuk used in Fight Club (and possibly his other books, but I haven’t read them yet). The short lines/paragraphs as well as the general chapter set up of bolding the first couple of words of each new chapter. There are minor details I threw in such as the room number being the same number of pages in the book. Or the fake name of “Henry Singer” since I’m guessing Marla would probably still be at Tyler’s side even while in a coma.
Why would you name Raymond’s boss Jack?
You’d have to time travel twenty years back to ask me. I honestly have no idea.