This Tumblr post is going to be another random info dump because my mind isn’t functioning in any logical order at the moment (writer’s block and cold meds). In fact, that was my personal challenge for this chapter: jump in time, scatter the order of events, and somehow keep it readable – present, near past, far past, present again, a fleeting memory, near past again, etc …
The Desease and Desist
Do you even remember that? It feels like a million years ago. Also, that was the stupidest joke I have ever written, and I refuse to apologize.
Question: Would Hopper know who Mapplethorpe was?
Answer: No. Mapplethorpe’s X portfolio wasn’t even produced until 1978. *gasp*
Mapplethorpe was a photographer in the 70s who took a lot of black and white photos of the underground New York City BDSM community. There is no reason for you to know this or for me to share this info. Hopper wouldn’t know anything about him, so my #headcanon (which I suppose is just #canon) is that Hopper got a blowjob from one of Mapplethorpe’s models at a gas station in Catonsville, MD. He was a transient with a few copies of his photos from the shoot. He had a thing for latex and mouth tubes. Let’s call him NYC Joe.
We left chapter 28 with Harvey Dent/Two-Face and a feather-covered Axe. By ch. 29 (and a month later) those names have morphed into the two-faced Greek god, Janus and Fledge.
Naturally, Butcher would take this opportunity to jab Hopper by calling him a wee bird (a fledgling) and Hopper’s attempted jab at calling Butcher a villain (Two-Face) was never going to stand. Butcher basically refuses Hopper’s new name for him and starts calling himself Janus, the two-faced god of transitions and doorways. No symbolism, bro.
The door carvings.
Let me attribute all those back-and-forth carved quotes for you:
Butcher: “He was not a prisoner of fate, but a prisoner of his own mind.” —Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Hopper: “There is no heavier burden than a great potential.” — Linus (Charles M. Schultz)
Butcher: “Love feels no burden.” — Thomas a Kempis (Medieval priest and author)
Hopper: “When no one loves you, you have to pretend everyone loves you.” — Sally (Charles M. Schultz)
Butcher: “Life’s greatest happiness is to be convinced we are loved.” — Victor Hugo
Hopper: “Happiness is a warm puppy.” — Lucy (Charles M. Schultz)
So, why all the Peanuts quotes? Because canon-Will made that stupid analogy comparing the, um, situation with Abigail to “Lucy and the football,” and for some reason that says more about Will’s personality to me than anything else he does for rest of the show. “Lucy and the football” was about as jarringly unpoetic as Hannibal’s “mic-drop”.
“Augh!” —Will Graham, being emotionally and physically gutted by the death of his surrogate daughter
Old Macdonald and his big ugly wife.
I have no commentary on this. I just wanted to type it again.
This chapter isn’t that deep. I only really wanted to share the door quotes. So that’ it.
I’ll be taking a break from Unhitched for a bit. It’s draining and I have a really strong urge to do a massive pick-apart and edit to the first 28 chapters.
Sorry to leave you all hanging at THIS particular spot. The next chapter is ludicrous.
I warmly welcome all comments on the fic. I’d be eternally grateful for any and all encouragement. It’s been a rough month (for Hopper too!) and I, like everyone, am not immune to blocks. They suck in the most discouraging way.
Thank you all so very much for reading. It means a lot to me. <3
First, I promise there is a plot, like a legitimate plot with action and a point. For some reason, ch 27 was originally 1k words strapped to the beginning of a said actiony chapter. Then I was all, “You know what I want? A mind palace or something,” and then I added 5k more words and a whole new plot arc and IT’S NOT COMPLICATED THOUGH. I swear.
If you believe anything I say, you have not been reading carefully. I am a very unreliable author. *head desk*
I don’t feel like this chapter was unnecessary, but it does seem to drag. I’m sorry about that if you feel it dragging. But maybe it’s just me because I’ve read it 800 times. I feel like I lost my ability to pace in the last few months. The last two chapters were building up to this inevitability (ch 27) and I swear there will be less redundancy in the very near future.
redundant [n.] –
characterized by verbosity or unnecessary repetition in expressing ideas.
exceeding what is usual or natural.
having some unusual or extra part or feature.
characterized by superabundance or superfluity.
Oh, who am I kidding, the first definition applies too.
That said … they fuck – missionary, then doggy, teaspoons, then lotus – for reasons … probably. I’m not a fan of symbolism.
FYI, I’m not doing the lube stuff anymore, at least not for now. It’s implied. You don’t need to read about it all the time. Did the Jinn lube up in American Gods? No. (Look at me making that ridiculous comparison. I’m laugh-crying now.) And you don’t necessarily know what Butcher did while Hop was sleeping (creepy bastard). Just assume they are still slicked up from the last sexual escapade they all went on. It’s not like animal fat dries out and disappears or something …
The “no more unnecessary descriptions of lube” declaration is a blanket statement tossed over the rest of the fic because Unhitched is rapidly turning into a philosophical novel, and how much lube does Plato really talk about?
Ok, I looked that up. A little actually … in Protagoras. But he’s talking about olive oil and he basically says “USE IT IN MODERATION.” And he’s talking about eating it, not fuckin’ with it, but who am I kidding … he was Greek. I mean … we all know what he says in Symposium … ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
Men who are a section of that double nature which was once called androgynous [the man/woman beast that Zeus split to form the sexes] are lovers of women, adulterers are generally of this breed, and also adulterous women who lust after men. The women who are a section of the woman do not care for men, but have female attachments: the female companions [that is, lesbians] are of this sort. But they who are a section of the male follow the male, and while they are young, being slices of the original man, they have affection for men and embrace them [the Greek verb implies a sexual sense], and these are the best of boys and youths, because they have the most manly nature.
Plato said that the manliest men were the little gay boys … I’m kidding. Not really though; we’re talking young truckers dressed in flannel and slicked in oil … Blue? Nah. Why am I talking about Plato? I don’t even mention him in this chapter. Maybe the next though …
Hopper has a dream – a very strange dream. What is your take on the dream? I know my take on the dream, but that’s ‘cause it’s in my head.
Then it gets a little kissy. Declarations of love (to be inside each other – no rampant symbolism there) and some nipple tonguing is thrown in (for a friend) and then the bite that ruins EVERYTHING (not really though).
Hopper is such a twat. Why’s he gotta be so antagonistic? Butcher’s just doing what the good lord makes him do! *CHOMP CHOMP* (That’s all a lie.)
And then we got to his quiet stream. Readers of my Pusher/Hannibal fic, A Thousand Dreadful Things, might recognize Hop’s stream. It’s behind Will’s farmhouse in Purcellville where he likes to hide. It’s also where Tonny kicks Freddie’s ass and where Tonny gets to watch Will have a panic attack. Fun times. That was a pairing no one asked for, but you got it anyway. Huzzah!
So teeth and eyes … that was the inspiration for ch 27 in case you missed …
15 uses of teeth
11 uses of jaw
9 uses of bite
30+ uses of stares/looks/eye fucking/whathaveyou
I have this “beast with many teeth” meets “beast with many eyes” thing going, and they are doing the monstermash …
Out of curiosity, do you all lose respect for me after these long-winded posts in which I ramble and blather and divulge shit no one cares about? Because I do.
Hey, this is jewelweed:
And all that shit I said about it is true if you didn’t know.
In case you were unaware, these chapters are carefully stitched together and fawned over for weeks. I edit them daily (in many cases over 20 times by the time they are posted), painstakingly selecting everysingleword with intention and a purpose. It then goes to my anal retentive editor who I pay in sexual favors. He’s cool with it.
Not having the entire story finished is a monumental burden, because I have to keep track of over 120k words without missing one because some of you fuckers are analyzing this fic like it’s a goddamn Shakespearean play.
I love you, though, because you see beyond just the surface. You read down into the several layers of meaning, and you start to get a glimpse of just how much work has been poured into this fic. My heart goes out to all my readers for sticking with me and encouraging me thus far, despite the long update time. Much love, folks, many kisses.
And let’s not forget: it’s all FREEE!!! *whooping and hollering and crying*
In other words, support your favorite authors. And I’m not trying to make you comment on my work. I’m not your favorite. The writer with all that fluffy smut is your favorite. Go find them and comment on your favorite fic. Make that author’s day. If you get enjoyment from fic authors, pay it back a little. Writing isn’t easy.
I grew up … around [trucker] culture, where truckers love nicknames, booze (gallons) and Girl Scout Cookies. Lucky for me, I never had to sell a cookie, I gave the sheet to dad, he gave it to the truckers and they bought cases. Not boxes, cases. I can see Hopper loving him some Girl Scout Cookies and Butcher giving him shit about it.
We’re coming up on the truck stop exit when he peers over at me. “Why am I getting off the highway, Hop?”
“Because I asked nicely.” He loves it when I’m vague, but he hasn’t changed lanes yet. I’m not sure he’s enjoying it this time.
“You’ve got to give me a better reason than that or I’m staying put. Have a plan? Target? Need something?”
“We have nowhere to be, Butcher, just let me pick where we’re going for a change. Get off here and head east toward those houses back there.”
He eyes me but does exactly as asked, though he’s huffing and scoffing the whole time. He knows I’m still pissed about his incessant nit-picking about where and when we eat. I’m getting sick of his stews and dutch oven cooking. Campfires are nice when you don’t have to rely on them for every hot scrap of food you eat. I’m not saying the shit he makes isn’t good; I just want to eat something that hasn’t been smoked, covered in a wine-tinged gravy, or pressed into a three-inch square.
“Pull off,” I say, and he parks in a gravel lot by the off ramp. “I’m going for a walk.” I grab my school bag from behind my seat, dump out the books and gear, and pop open my door.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, son. What am I going to do without your pretty little face keeping me company?”
“You’ll live. I need a break. You’re driving me crazy.” I’m about to jump out when he stops me.
“Get the hell back in here. You can’t take off like that. ”
I turn to him because he’s right. I can’t just leave willy-nilly without saying goodbye. I lean over the console, grab his shirt, and pull his mouth into mine. He gasps because he was probably expecting a slap, but I like to keep the bastard on his toes.
His eyes eventually close as I pull him against me, sucking and chewing on his lips. It’s when I let go of his shirt and slip my hand down the back of his pants that he pulls away.
“What the hell are you doing, Hopper?”
I peck his cheek, steal the smokes from his breast pocket, and slide back into my seat. “Going for a walk, Sugar. Don’t leave without me.” I snicker and drop out of the cab before he says a goddamn word, and book it for the truck stop. I am getting something decent to eat. Fuck him and his murder wagon. I can’t take that goddamn food anymore.
On the other side of the underpass is the truck stop. It’s flanked by a 7-Eleven and a strip mall on one side, and a diner and a Piggly Wiggly on the other. I’ve finally found a decent civilization to explore. I’m hitting the supermarket first and then I’m grabbing a coffee, a slice of pie, and plate of food that I didn’t have to chase down and tackle.
In my hand is Butcher’s wallet. I lifted it when the bastard was getting hard with my tongue down my throat. I feel a little bad about that, but not really. I have no money and he sure as hell wasn’t going to give me any for this little jaunt.
I’m halfway to the store when a familiar and mouthwatering sight catches my eye. A couple of little girls, maybe ten, eleven, are pulling a red wagon down the sidewalk. Rosy cheeks, long brown hair on both of them – just my type. They are laughing and having a grand old time.
My plans immediately change. Fuck coffee, fuck pie. I’ve always been more of a cookie man myself, so I take off to catch up to them.
“Hey girls!” They stop and turn right when I reach them. “Whatcha got there?”
“We got sandwich cookies, chocolate mints, Shorties, and the peanut butter ones. All out of the Pecanettes. Did you want some?”
“I do indeed. They still fifty cents?”
“For the small ones, yeah. A dollar for the big boxes. They’re new.”
“How much for all of them?” I say. I’m starving.
“All of them?!” They look at each other like I’m crazy. I could have done the math in my head, but they’re the ones supposedly building life skills here.
The taller one picks through the boxes. “Twenty-three dollars for all of them.”
“Sold! You are one hell of a salesman, sweetheart.”
The girls giggle while I sift through Butcher’s wallet. He is going to be pissed. He has a twenty, a five, and a couple singles, and I should really tip these gals. Their feet have got to be killing them by now, and Butcher wouldn’t want me to be rude. I hand them the twenty and the five and I dismiss the change while they start handing me boxes.
“How many of these are chocolate mints?” I wonder, fingering the stack in the girl’s arms.
“Uh, I think three.”
“Only three?” Damn it. I was hoping more. She hands me boxes and I start filling my satchel. Have you ever had to carry thirty boxes of cookies? It’s problematic. My bag’s puking, I’ve got them stashed under each arm, and a half-dozen tucked in my coat.
The girls are giddy because they get the rest of the afternoon off, while I’m left shell-shocked about what the flying fuck I just did. It’s all the goddamn shit Butcher’s feeding me. I can’t think straight. Why the hell did I just buy thirty boxes of cookies?
The girls thank me with a couple curtsies and carry on their merry way, an empty Radio Flyer nipping at their heels. I’m now in the middle of a parking lot with a couple armloads of cookies and nowhere to go.
I grab some coffee at the 7-Eleven, still juggling boxes, and plop down under the grocery store awning with my haul. A hot cup o’ mud, a smoke, a partially crushed box of shortbreads, and no Butcher slapping food out of my hand. I am in heaven.
It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten to sit and watch people interact. I’m not picking marks, or locks, or leaves out of my teeth after diving off a porch to hide. I’m just enjoying the peace of a revving and bustling truck stop. Moms on vacation are stripping and changing their messy kids in back seats. The dads are checking tire pressure and shooting the shit with the chatty station attendants. Good buddies are meeting for a bite at the diner before the road takes them halfway across America. Deisel and chicken grease fill my nose and the warm concrete under my ass never stops rumbling. I said it was heaven and I meant it.
The shortbreads are perfect – crumbly and sweet – and I pop the lid off my coffee to let it cool. This is the life, right here and now on the ground outside of a Piggly Wiggly. This is what I can’t get Butcher to see. He has his ideas about what constitutes a good life – special meals cooked with “special” meat, a certain level of civility maintained with trimmed nails and good posture – but he misses this. He misses the sweet smiles you can give little girls when you take a silly burden off their shoulders. He misses the absurd frivolity of being a grown-ass man with thirty boxes of cookies shoved in his jacket.
Jokes and puns are fun and all, but what happened to sitting in the shade and having a smoke? What happened to just sucking each other off and going fishing one afternoon? We can eat a piece of pie in a diner without waxing on about rabbits and butterflies and fucking mongooses.
Point is: I didn’t sign up for this. I didn’t chase after him to have the joy sucked out of my life. I’m chasing him because he has a nice ass, a sharp tongue, and he fits me like a glove. He saw me in the shadows because he is a creature of the night. And I do sometimes thank him for noticing me. We all like to be seen on occasion, but just because he can see me, doesn’t mean he sees all of me.
I don’t share his opinions on God. I don’t share his opinions on happiness. And I sure as shit don’t share his opinions on what constitutes good fucking food. It pisses him off, but so be it. Let the scary man sulk.
It’s getting late when I finish the pack of cigarettes and debate opening another box of the chocolate mints. They are my favorite, but honestly, I’d rather wait and save them for a special occasion. My coffee’s gone anyway, and I realize that I now have to walk back to the truck, juggling the remnants of my shameful purchase. Maybe I can convince Butch to try one … maybe the bastard will like it?
I gather up the boxes and my bag and make my way back through the underpass. The sun’s barely setting and he’s outside the truck, watching Garm bouncing around in the weed. He sees me, and he’s already shaking his head.
“Do I have to put a goddamn leash on you, boy!?” he shouts.
“Sounds good to me,” I say back.
He’s laughing, but his jaw is clenched so tight his cheeks are bulging.
“Three strikes,” he says. “In a single go, too. What’s to be done about that?”
“What do you mean three? I bought us snacks for the road … One strike at best.”
He holds up three fingers. “One, you bought junk that neither of us is putting in our mouths. Two, you stole my wallet, you little shit. Three, you lied to me.”
“One, it’s not junk; it’s delicious. Two, I have no money so you leave me no choice but to pick your pocket. Three, I did not lie. You are insufferable, and I had to take a walk.”
“When I agreed to let you have your little walks, that agreement did not include thievery or whatever the hell this is,” he says, gesturing around my stuffed coat.
“I was peckish.”
“You are not eating that shit. It’s full of processed garbage. Your body is a temple, not a dump.”
“It’s my temple, and it wants to bask in the processed garbage.”
“Our temple, and too bad.”
“Fight me, you dick!”
He finally cracks a smile, but still motions for me to hand over the goods. I drop everything to the ground in a pile. If he’s going to be this anal-retentive, he can toss it all out himself.
I kick a couple boxes under the truck and then pat my thigh. Garm bolts out of the tall grass and joins me as I hop back in the truck. He can take my snacks like an asshole, but at least I got some peace today without him peering over my shoulder while I read or grilling me on Descartes while I’m trying to take a shit.
I pull off my boots and flop in the sleeper while Garm curls up in the driver’s seat. My pocket crinkles as I land and I realize I still have half a sleeve of shortbreads on my person. Lucky me. I can hear Butcher shuffling around the truck, chucking my treasures into the weeds. Well, fuck him. I’m going to enjoy my last bit of peace before that blackbird of unhappiness starts cawing in my face again.
I have three shorties in my mouth when I hear the door creak open. The dome light flicks on, throwing it’s shameful glow across my sorry ass, chewing on a pile of cookies like a rat. I force my jaw shut and scramble to hide the wrapper. As he steps up, I choke and blast crumbs all over myself and the bed. He stops and stares as I fight to breathe through the dry wad desiccating my mouth.
“I’m fine,” I choke.
“Hopper, what is God’s name are you doing?”
I cough and clear my throat. “You’re a joy sucker, Butch. You suck joy.”
“That’s not all–“
“Enough dick jokes!” I cough.
He holds up his hands. “Alright, Hopper, calm down,” he snickers. “I know you prefer swallowing, but you might want to consider spitting thatmouthful out.”
I glare at him and swallow as I wipe my mouth and dust the crumbs off my shirt. He chuckles and crawls into bed, flopping next to me.
“You know what your problem is?” I ask.
“Tell me what’s wrong with me, Hop. But use small words so you don’t choke again.”
“You hate happiness. You loathe it, actually.”
He snickers and unbuckles his belt. “I’m the happiest fucker who ever lived, Hop. And you know that.” He slides off his jeans and tosses them to the front seat like we aren’t having a serious discussion in which we should both remain fully clothed.
“I’m trying to talk to you,” I say, but his hand is untucking my shirt so it can slide up my belly.
“You think I stifle your happiness. You think I force you into a box, pray on your weaknesses, and trick you into feeling victimized so I can save the day.”
I pause and narrow my eyes. “No, actually. What? I wasn’t thinking any of that. Well except the happiness part … what did you just say?” He kisses my neck, completely disregarding me yet again. “The happiness part, Butcher, that’s what I’m talking about.”
He stops and pulls away. “Shit food makes you happy?”
“Well, I’m sorry you feel that way.”
He’s sorry I feel that way? What a crock of shit.
He kisses my jaw, rubbing my crumb-filled beard against his while his fingers scour my body for the snap and zipper of my jeans. He thinks it’s all about the food. He thinks if he gets rid of my desires, it solves the problem. It solves his problem, but mine is still front and center.
He sighs in my ear and I feel my body relax despite my anger. He does things to me – powerful, disturbing, anger-inducing things. He makes me seethe … but also melt, and it frustrates me to no end.
I let him unbutton my jeans and slide his hand down my pants. I let him play with me and toy with me and have his fun.
And then I let him kiss me on the mouth and he sucks my tongue, but when he pulls on my lip, I suddenly taste it. Chocolate … and mint.
I grit my teeth as I stare up at his innocent face, and a resolve suddenly washes over me: I will kill this lying, cookie thieving son of a bitch if it’s the last thing I do.
See? Hopper’s not the only liar in this dynamic duo.
So, where could you find 7-Elevens and Piggly Wigglys in 1972? Ohio, apparently. They’re in Ohio. That took forty-five minutes to confirm … all because I wanted the grocery store to be a Piggly Wiggly. (All my gas stations are 7-Elevens because they are universal … and also because Tonny and Frank bumble through a 7-Eleven in Pusher. Shut up.)
And with inflation *bangs hand on calculator*, Hopper just spent $146 on cookies.
Also, Thin Mints were not branded as such until 1973. WHAT THE HELL? They were called chocolate mints. So don’t blame me. Blame the Girl Scouts.
I didn’t grow up with cold winters. Maryland saw its fair share of snow storms, but it was nothing like this. This is bitter, unrelenting, and I die a little each time I step outside. These are not unfamiliar feelings for me, but the chill is new.
We’re standing at the side of the road, somewhere in western New York which is the worst place to be in late January. Butcher’s trying to recap the ass of the log pile before the damn thing fills with ice. The wind roars and snow whips around us – a blinding white sheet. My fingers are frozen to the axe handle, my toes are numb, and there is no good reason for us to be here. We could be in fucking Florida right now, but we aren’t. Someone wanted to go north.
I, also, could be helping him, but I don’t want to. I like watching him struggle, and those wood plugs are not easy to maneuver.
Butch shouts over the storm and his shoulder, “AXE!”
He holds out his hand. “My axe, asshole!”
How was I supposed to know? I hold out the handle and he takes it, smacking the axe butt against the logs before he grabs his shit, and we both high-tail it to back to the truck cab.
The doors slam and we sit, huffing out clouds and listening to the wheezing and moaning of the white wind haunting the entire state.
Butch tears off his soaked gloves and throws them on the dash. “Could’ve used a little help out there, Princess.”
“If you’re going to keep calling me that, then don’t expect me to do grunt work, Butcher.”
He glares at me. Yeah, I’m bringing back an oldie but goodie. And he’s not going to argue about it. He likes calling me Princess way too much to make a fuss about his name.
He tosses me a brick of dried meat, and we both sit back and finally relax, chewing on whoever this used to be.
“Why don’t you ever feed Garm?” I say. She’s out running around in this shit and it kills me.
“You feed horses. You don’t feed dogs,” he growls between bites. “They feed themselves.”
“Then why do they sell dog food?”
He stops and shakes his head. “You want that beautiful creature eating that shit? No. She’s strong – stronger than you – and can take care of herself.”
He goes back to gnawing on his pemmican like a fucking animal. He suddenly hisses and when he wipes his mouth, blood smears across the back of his hand. He looks at it and touches the corner of his mouth. Yeah, that’s right. His lips are chapped and bleeding.
He glances at me because he knows exactly what I’m thinking. I’m thinking of cackling and pointing at him, and calling him a weak little shit. He can’t even eat without his face cracking open in protest.
“If I remember correctly,” I say, “you called it lipstick.”
He scoffs and leans back in his seat rubbing his eyes.
“If I remember correctly,” I continue, “it prompted my lovely little nickname.”
He stares at me now, blood gathered in the corners of his mouth. I’ve seen that before, but it’s not typically his blood.
“What I find funny, Butcher, is that you are Mr. Prim and Proper, but it’s all an illusion. You dress me up in fancy clothes and insist that I scrub my nails–“
“You’re not sticking your grimy fingers up my ass. It’s called common courtesy.”
“But you have some bizarre thing about mouths, don’t you? Why? Is it just my mouth? Is that what you find so insulting? Are you so jealous that you can’t stand watching me put on lip balm?”
“Princess, you’re delusional.”
“You’re jealous of my Chapstick, Butch. Who here is delusional?”
I laugh at him and then I open my mouth, nice a wide – no cracks forming, no blood – and take a bite of dried meat. “It’s so good, Butcher. You should have some.”
“By all means, continue,” he says, “But you’ll find out later just how much I love your pretty little mouth. I’ll treat it with the reverence it deserves and I guarantee you won’t need your lipstick anymore.”
“It’s a balm … for your lips,” I snap. “You make all sorts of crazy shit – that poultice for my face after Vegas, and the balm when I burned my hand – so what is the big damn deal?”
“There’s no deal. This is all in you’re head, you little shit. You made this all up like you always do!”
“Your lips are cracked, Butch, so what are you going to do now?” I pull the tube out of my pocket and wave it around. “You want some? It looks mighty painful.”
“I’m not sharing it with you.”
“Is it the germs? Do the germs scare you? You know all that shit you do with your mouth – sucking on my fingers, licking my cock, the kissing – same germs.”
He bites his broken lip and tries to snatch the tube from my hand, but I pull it away. “No, no, no. We aren’t the snatchy types. You can ask nicely.”
Oh, he’s pissed now. He’s chuckling, but he’s pissed. “You’re right,” he says. “May I borrow your Chapstick?”
He doesn’t like it when I order him around so I take every goddamn opportunity to do it. “And what’s my name? I’ve forgotten already.”
“Hopper,” he sneers.
“All together now.”
“May I borrow your Chapstick, Hopper?”
He’s going to bite me later. I’ll be lucky if I keep both my ears after these shenanigans. I raise my eyebrows, still waiting.
“Hopper, may I borrow your Chapstick, please?”
I smile and nod. That was very sweet of him to say it like that. I feel respected now. “Can you borrow my Chapstick? No, Butcher. That’s fucking gross. Get your own.”
These characters are so rich and faceted… nothing about them is uninteresting. You could describe the tread pattern of Axe’s lost boot in 3-5 precise words and it would somehow be profound, meaningful, and completely in-character.
My vision is lost when thunder rolls over the sky and clouds burst with a flash.
I crouch into the brush, waiting for the downpour to stop, staring over the yard of the smoking rancher across the street. In the mud, my boot prints fill – a foot-shaped puddle with a spine flanked by islands of chevrons. Those chevrons point shamefully toward the house fire trapping Wild, but I have to wait.
I have to wait, hoping to watch his prints overlap mine.
I have to wait while that house burns, praying that he is stronger than myself.
So this chapter has a lot going on. We open with Hopper cynically ruminating on feeling optionless all his life, even though he makes a ton of decisions all the time. He is also denigrating his father, calling himself unloved and yet he can’t quite get a grip on the reality of this situation, which is understandable. He freaks out and temporarily fluctuates between denial and blameshifting, and feels like Butcher is trying to control him. The many various stages of grief are represented: denial, anger, even self-harm, but I won’t bore you with those details. We’ve all felt the clutches of grief.
I have written Hopper as an unreliable narrator to this story. There are several types of character voices to choose from when writing, but this fits the way he is portrayed in the show. From S1E1 we have no clue what Will’s doing. Some of the telltale signs of unreliable narration are having the narrator contradict himself, having gaps in his memory, or lying to other characters. Will does all of these things, just like Hopper does in Unhitched. I mean Will literally say this is S2E2.
Unreliable narration can also be achieved by contradicting the reader’s general world knowledge or pushing impossibilities (within logical boundaries). I especially did this in the last chapter when he contradicts himself and reimagines his own childhood. Now that chapter was logically explained and concluded, but it makes you wonder what else he is choosing to overexaggerate or recreate in his head. What else is he lying to the reader about?
He is also testing boundaries by challenging the reader’s literary competence. He’s questioning his own villainy in this story. He will NOT call himself the bad guy. He refuses to acknowledge his atrocities outside of his own head, though those walls will eventually crumble.
He knows he’s falling apart, but still thinks he’s the good guy in all this. He’s even referred to a known murderer a “hero” because he’s so delusional that he feels it is a strange justification to himself (yes it began as a joke, but there are no jokes in this story that aren’t almost 100% truth). The archetypical good and bad are thrown out the window when we watch Hopper slowly start justifying his own criminal activity despite his strong desire to not be a criminal. I tried to overlap all this with the show though it is difficult since Hopper has no formal police training, didn’t study forensics or psychology, and grew up in a decade that didn’t consider any mental illnesses to be legitimate problems. Neither he nor his father would have sought help for depression – no one did in the 50s and 60s. This was a hard truth to research because I have mental illness in my family and my grandmother was born the same year as Hopper, 1937. It was disturbing to hear about what they did to people suffering from depression and mental breakdowns. You were either whisked away to an asylum or drugged up and left to your own devices. If you didn’t like those options, you suffered through it alone. Both Hopper and his father suffered in silence.
Sometimes I feel like an idiot when I type all this out … Is this even interesting? Stop me if it’s not, but I’ll continue for now …
Hopper’s guilt and empathy for his father really blossom at this bit:
It’s a lie that you fall in love with your children the day they’re born. It’s a lie we tell ourselves to mask the truth – that our children are born to us as strangers, having the inherent capacity for unmitigated cruelty. We don’t like the thought of birthing the next murderer, the next psychopath, or the next Hitler, so we pretend that it’s impossible. We tell ourselves this lie for one simple, but very important reason: so we don’t grow so fearful of the unknown that we slaughter our children at birth. There is another name for this lie – a more flowery and sickeningly sweet term. It’s been coined unconditional love, though it is very conditional, and has nothing to do with love.
It kills me every time I read it. This, to me, is a prime example of Hopper’s unadulterated cynicism and also the flaw of pure empathy. He has to draw conclusions from his own bank of experiences which, in Hopper’s case – is limited. He can research and observe all he wants, but you cannot fully appreciate another point of view unless you live that experience yourself. Will finally does murder someone in Hannibal and it changes him forever. He can truly empathize with a killer and it disturbs him because he does feel a certain appreciation for killing. This happens to Hopper too and he struggles like Will, though his lack of FBI backing and there being no secrecy needed on Butcher’s side, the transition a little more rapid and open.
But as far as empathy goes, Hopper has never had a child. He’s never been a father and his father’s own guilt and cynicism is a perspective that he applies to all aspects of his own life. We are seeing that good old “unreliable narrator” here again when he calls unconditional love a lie, despite having claimed many chapters ago that he feels compelled to protect innocent children. He will flop again and again between feeling that life is simultaneously precious and also dispensable, which is, of course, an element of the show that Will also struggles with. Hopper has been so inundated with the bad parts of life that there are simply no good parts left.
Goddamn it, Butch, show him some good parts! Show him your good parts … all the parts need to be shown!
So Hop spins the wheel in his head, and this is where we get to see, in plain English, how much control Hopper has over his own life. Which road does he take? Which choices are good and which are bad? Which lead him somewhere safe and which to certain death? And how does Butcher react to each of Hopper’s decision? Does he help Hopper cope? Does he encourage particular behavior? Does he see a weakness and look to strengthen it or exploit it?
And this is where everything is up in the air, waiting to come crashing down.
First off, the idiom “ducks in a row” wasn’t popular enough to recognize until the late 70s. Shut the fucking door, did I really use it in 1972?! Damn right I did! Such a rebel.
So my friend shared Rob Cantor’s Shia LaBeouf song (below) about one-million-and-a-half years ago, and I laughed hysterically. At the time, I had no story arc for Colorado Guy nor Unhitched in general (I think I was on chapter 9), so I thought, what the fuck? How about Colorado Guy is actually Shia LaBeouf?
I’m not writing award-winning literature, here. I’m writing fanfiction (Becs writes award-winning literature). And since it’s fanfiction, I’m making this shit fun (if I don’t, I fear that I will drown in phallic symbols and metaphors for dicks).
So here’s the video:
I just followed the song, and that’s the chapter – no great mystery, but I will say: IT IS FUCKING BRILLIANT, RIGHT? I mean, come on. Butcher had set up the “Colorado Guy” shit before I even saw the damn video. It just fell in my fucking lap one day. Colorado Guy was kind of a mistake, too. I forgot Boulder was inColorado because I’m stupid. Colorado Guy was supposed to be Nevada Guy, because originally they were going to meet the Truckee River Killer in Reno and piss off the Reno 911! crew. Aren’t you glad I derailed from that arc long ago? JFC.
To top off THAT, the boys needed new names and … NIGEL. COME ON. I mean, get it!? Charlie Countryman! With Shia LeBeouf! I’m still proud of that one.
And then you have the whole Axeman and “my axe is my true love” … that was corny, but sometimes I have to bite the bullet and smash the metaphor RIGHT IN MY READER’S FACES … like a creampie.
I watch a lot of porn – don’t judge me. It’s research for that fic you like so damn much. #ColbyKeller4Life
Point is … I have no point. Oh wait, A Little Man Stands in the Forest. I did have a point. Do you know where my title came from? If you read Hannibal Rising you’d know!
It’s a German children’s song, “Ein Männlein steht im Walde”. Hannibal and Mischa sing it together. Awww, right? But really, my inclusion of the song is fucking sad as hell. From Hannibal Rising,
“No,” Mischa said. “Anniba sing ‘Das Mannlein’!” And together they sang about the mysterious little man in the woods, Nanny joining in in the swaying wagon and Mr. Jakov singing from horseback, though he preferred not to sing in German.
Ein Mannlein steht im Walde ganz still und stumm, Es hat von lauter Purpur ein Mantlein um, Sagt, wer mag das Mannlein sein Das da steht im Walde allein Mit dem purporroten Mantelein—
No, Anniba! Sing it in English!
A little man stands in the forest completely still and quiet. He wears a little, pure purple cloak. Say! Who can that little man be Who stands there alone in the forest With the little crimson cloak?
The little man stands in the forest on one leg And has on his head a little, black cap. Say! Who can that little man be Who stands there alone in the forest With the little, black cap?
The little man out there on one leg, With his little, red cloak And his little, black cap Can only be the rose hip.
Any of that imagery ring a bell? It’s about rosehips, which are the little red seed of rose bushes. Colorado has a couple native rose species and if you were perceptive, you’d have noted that Axeman was getting snagged on rose bushes on their way into the forest. From Unhitched,
I keep stumbling and snagging my jeans on thorny bushes covered in little red berries; they keep catching my attention like beady little eyes when my light swings over the ground.
Axeman’s getting snagged on ROSE BUSHES. Let’s just consult my vast knowledge of Victorian Flower meanings … *peers over glasses at giant book about roses* Ah yes, here is it … love. Oh yes, the rose is the classic symbol of love. How trite and stupid and lovely.
So, roses … foreshadowing. Also, rosehips – I’ll probably use those somewhere. And wild roses are pink and a timeless symbol of love, beauty and balance. All coming up as major themes.
And of course, I couldn’t include the little nod to the song without … giving Nigel a red shirt, describing Colorado Guy like a rosehip at the end, and of course, mentioning little Mischa.
Axe learns a bit about Nigel’s past and feels his pain when they talk about the girl. So sad. So tragic. So delicious.
Just remember that any inconsistencies in Axeman’s dialog, personality, or behavior are all totally intentional. He’s an unreliable narrator after all …
Hopper starts realizing that he only has one life, so he better suck it up and starts working towards laying to rest all the shit that’s ever bothered him. He’s letting the chips fall where they may, so to speak, which is why he puts up with Butcher’s behavior.
This is a chapter where you get to see a new angle to the boys. Hopper is cynical but agreeable, Butcher is indifferent and almost child-like in his apathy.
In the end, they work together to get the body buried all the while Hopper is finally allowing shit to roll off his back, rather than internalizing it.
Not a lot of depth to this chapter but it wasn’t supposed to be overly emotional except for Hop’s eulogy.
Butcher’s coin is his canon 20-franc from 1904.
When my indecision gets the best of me, he says, “Then Marianne decides,” and he pulls a strange gold coin from his pocket.
“What’s that?” I ask, yanking his hand to my face. It’s a twenty-franc gold coin with a woman’s face on one side and rooster on the back. He withdraws his hand and flicks it up, catching it before it hits the ground.
“Mary follows you, and the cock follows me,” he says with a smile. The goddamn dick jokes are getting old. “And we’ll let daddy pick.” His thumb tings against the coin and it flips off his finger, spinning over and over as it arcs away from us and lands in the freshly-turned dirt of my father’s grave.
Marrianne is actually the name of the woman on the coin; she’s a French symbol. The back’s the cock, of course.
There are so many ways to be a victim! This chapter focused on Hopper as he faces his victim mentality head on!
So let’s talk about what the hell victim mentality is.
Victim mentality is an acquired personality trait in which a person tends to recognize themselves as a victim of the negative actions of others and is primarily developed by family members and situations during childhood. Similarly, criminals often engage in victim thinking, believing themselves to be moral and engaging in crime only as a reaction to an immoral world and furthermore feeling that police are unfairly singling them out for persecution.
So Hopper has seen himself as a victim pretty much through the entire first half of this story. That all gets challenged in this chapter thusly:
I am a victim of my father.
I didn’t want to forget [my mother], because according to my father’s brief, drunken ramblings, she was greater than the heavens and the earth combined. She had a chair at the table that never moved. I didn’t dare use it to rummage through the higher cupboards. I feared the wrath he’d bring down on me for disturbing the dead.
What I do remember, is that he didn’t ask me once for money from the cigar-box under my bed, even though he knew it was there and was often desperate. I offered sometimes, and he took it, but he never stole a penny from my “get the hell out of Louisiana” fund.
I am a victim of my childhood circumstances.
“I guarantee they’re a hell of a lot better than any shit that’s ever graced this table,” I scoff. “Cereal, bologna, tomato soup for a decade, and the rationing – it didn’t seem bad at the time, but now –,” I trail off with a grimace. “Once a week, I’d come home from school and he’d have a stack of cans on the counter and a loaf of bread waiting for me,” I say, shaking my head at the memory. “My neighbor up the road would take pity on me and give me food from her garden in the summer.
The truth is that my father always came back to me. Sometimes he was late, or the day bled into the night and maybe the next; but he did come home. He may have been drunk, or had a split lip, or was yelling about assholes stealing his last nickel, but he was here.
I am a victim of my mind’s inability to cope.
Why can’t I cope with life? I feel lucid right now, but I also feel like I could crumble at any moment. I feel unstable, and it’s not normal.
My ego will have to find something else to worry about, because human contact is currently winning out over pride.
I am a victim of Butcher.
I grit my teeth and his eyes burrow into mine like a rat. He’s waiting for my disgusted scoff or my temper to flare so he can be right. To him I’m just a twitchy, touchy, little boy getting doted on with my favorite meal, the comfort of his warm hands, and my childhood bed.
If it wasn’t for his constant goading of me, I may actually feel bad for him. He is lonely and desperate, but he’s also a big boy, and he certainly likes to make his bed in odd places, like in my childhood room while I’m trying to come to terms with a whole host of grief-stricken realities.
This is not a time for games. This is not an appropriate situation to initiate a power struggle with me. If he’s going to start shit, I will gladly finish it.
This internal struggle is very real and very exhausting, but eventually, he overcomes the victim mentality. He may go overboard, however, when he senses Butcher “taking advantage of him.” He reacts by reaching for a weapon which sets off a chain of intense dialog between he and Hannibal where they both reveal their “distrust” in the other.
Now Hopper is still clearly feeling hesitant around Butcher – he won’t trust him, he’s nervous, he’s intimidated by him, but Butcher’s behavior isn’t really that aggressive. Hopper never questions Butcher’s motives for doing anything as being genuinely good, because he won’t stop seeing Butcher as the villain. This is all over Hannibal too, but I’m going to stay with Unhitched for now.
Butcher disarmed Hopper, and Hopper assumed it was to keep him from retaliating if attacked (he’s the victim of other’s after all). What he refuses to see is the potential for Butcher to be protecting him from himself. It’s not like Hopper isn’t on the verge of self-destruction constantly. Butcher has to talk him off the ledge every other chapter.
There is so much more, from the memories that harken back to Le Petit Prince, to Hannibal treating him like a victim by taking care of him … there is more but I’ll leave it at all this.
One thing I did want to mention was that Will, in this chapter, might be a victim of a whole new problem: a medical condition that causes blackouts.
I have already written in a couple blackout scenes of missing/lost time in previous chapters because I like writing the encephalitis into my Hannibal fics. Whether or not this becomes a plot point depends on the direction the story goes. So far the blackouts fit nicely into my “unreliable narrative” and as I am also an “unreliable author”, it’s all fitting together like square pegs and round holes. Eventually, I will fix it all with a sledgehammer, so don’t you worry.
Hopper’s first option is his natural instinct kicking in: fly or fight. He’s never been a fighter and there is no one to fight, so he flees, back to a world that used to bring him comfort. Of course, 20 years have passed and that world is now long gone.
So he hides under a desk.
There is symbolism here, but I won’t expound because I have four damn chapters to juggle right now.
So Hopper prays. The praying was interesting because he’s terrified. He is not a religious man, obviously. He calls God “the pervert above” and thinks the church is rife with hypocrisy. And yet at his darkest hour, he does what any good southern boy does, he prays. It’s not faith he’s counting on. He’s overwhelmed and has no one to call upon for help. He prays for aid, for death, for a weapon, for his mother … it’s pathetic, but it’s supposed to be. A terrified man does things he wouldn’t do under normal circumstances. When confronted with enough pain, we all do unexpected things.
So Butcher comes and talks to him. This whole conversation goes back and forth between Butcher talking to himself and to Hopper.
My head is engulfed in the flames of his stare, but my lungs feel filled with icy water that aches and burns in my chest. Then that thick, hot, mumbling blanket wicks the water from my chest, dries my back, and dampens that fire as he speaks.
“Even a strong man will run when dealt enough pain,” he says, and I finally inhale with a gulping stutter. “You’re not dead yet, Hop, so I suggest you keep breathing.”
I want to tell him that I don’t want to breathe. I don’t want to be alive any more than I want to be in the black, foggy prison inside my head.
There are these little things I keep mentioning. Butcher’s mouth is an interesting part of this story and Hannibal’s canon. Teeth, lips, chewing, breathing, etc were all parts of canon Hannibal. He was very oral in the books. It doesn’t get as explored in the show, however. The most intimate mouth scenes, for me anyway, were the obvious ortolan eating scene, but also the scene where Hannibal pricks his finger with Will’s fly. In Unhitched, Butcher’s blowing smoke, smiling, baring his teeth. He’s smelling, and tasting, and sucking on fingers and other parts … very oral is all I’m saying. Hopper hyper focuses on his mouth sometimes as he listens to Butcher’s voice and moans. He finds his sexual noises particularly intoxicating. Butcher is constantly telling Hopper to breathe and Hopper suddenly gasps when he realizes he’s holding his breath. There is this fixation on breath like the focus on eating and thriving. Hopper can barely keep breathing in tense situations (he often talks about drowning) and he passes or blacks out a lot. Its all a strange mix of Hopper both losing control of his body while simultaneously hyper-controlling it by holding his breath. It’ll all play itself out.
So we suddenly start talking about torture … this is actually the first peek into Butcher’s past.
“You are your worst enemy, Hopper – not me, and not your father. You’re not only living in a nightmare of your own making, but you torment yourself because of it. You’re a torturer, and you’ve made yourself your most cherished victim.”
“Stop psychoanalyzing me,” I snap. The last thing I need is this monster putting his own damn spin on my worthless life.
“Why? I’ve witnessed what cowards are capable of doing to other men. They are kings of flawed justification. You, however, are capable of far more than them, because you don’t have to be a coward. You have a very rare gift, friend – choice. It’s a shame that you’ve chosen to waste that gift hiding under a damn desk.”
“I don’t have a gift; I have a goddamn curse.”
“Every gift you neglect becomes a curse. It’s time you stopped neglecting it and started cultivating it. What exactly are you running from?”
Butcher’s past is a sad one but it is similar to canon. More eventually.
But here we see Butcher relishing Hopper’s beautiful gift. Hopper has the ability to choose what to do with his life and he often seems wildly spontaneous to Butcher. On the other hand, Butcher is not necessarily unpredictable, himself. He is very goal focused and likes a certain order. He enjoys each facade he carries, but they are all simply a means to an end. He is controlled ultimately, by his unquenchable desire to trick, eat men, and watch human behavior. His compulsion controls him so when he meets Hopper, a man with a uniqueness about him that mirrors his own, he is intrigued.
Don’t take this to suggest that Butcher is sad. He isn’t. He loves his life. He loves his life so much that he basks in the glory of all that is around him. But that love is suddenly upended when something more important than himself enters the picture, and he will not abide by that.
We see Hannibal stumble when he meets something he desires.
In this chapter we see the object of his desire backslide and struggle to cope with a situation that Butcher finds ridiculous.
Since all my readers want a love story and there is a compulsion to make Hannibal a softy, I give him the very human trait of compassion here, though it is brief. This compassion, however, is in the form of lightening Hopper’s overwhelming morbidity and his hatred for himself. Butcher doesn’t want Hopper to punish himself, but if he must punish something, he might as well do it constructively. So he basically lights a match and flicks it on the diesel drenched man and sees what happens.
If Hopper can control the burn, all the better. He’s betting he’ll be fine. Much like Hannibal waited out Will encephalitis to see where it went.
The hardware store scene is pretty self-explanatory, I think. It’s a bit of a mental exercise for Hopper, like a session. We get to see some of Will’s empathy peeking out but also his fascination with fear and the dastardly deeds of men.
And we wrap up the chapter with them collecting all the tools Hopper had just described being used to torture him in their mental exercise, and they leave.
If you left the chapter creeped out, worried for Hopper’s safety, confused, or slightly aroused, you are right on target.