When any image of Hannibal appears in my head, it's always sure to be that of him in Kurt Donner's garage in July of 1992. He was shooting fish in Kurt's wash bucket.
We (Henry, Paul, Shelley, Steve, Hannibal and I) were all staying the weekend at Kurt's place upstate. I woke up in the spare room to the banging. Kurt and the others weren't around; Maybe they'd gone out to the lake. No matter—I seemed to be alone and those blasts were sounding on the other end of the house.
I headed across the house and traced the noise to the garage. I was afraid. The sounds, I'd identified as gunshots.
Between shots, I heard Hannibal swearing. I opened the door to the garage with a mix of relief, anger and bewilderment.
Hannibal had a rifle and was standing on top of a step ladder. Below him on the floor was Kurt's wash bucket (so small I'm loath to call it a tub). It was full of water and some terrible splashing was going on within.
Hannibal fired into the bucket. “Sonofabitch,” he snarled, “oooh, how they move around!”
Hannibal froze and glared my way. “Jesus! You scared me.”
I laughed. I didn't find it funny, but I laughed. “Well, fachrissakes, you woke me up!”
“It's almost Noon, anyway,” he shrugged, and fired into the water again.
“That's hardly the point...what the hell are you doing?”
“Killing the fish,” said Hannibal, “if they quit moving.”
I looked in the wash bucket. Two big trout, at least one of them grazed and bleeding, swimming in circles, were in the bucket. Water was running out through a number of holes. “What's with these fish?” I asked.
“Caught 'em this morning while the rest of you were sleeping.”
“Well, why the hell are you shooting at them?”
Hannibal said nothing. He reloaded and wouldn't look at me.
“Hannibal?” He aimed once more into the draining water. “Where's Kurt? Where's everyone?”
“Fishing,” scoffed Hannibal. “Downa the lake.” He shot again.
Chunks of blasted meat and scales floated in the deepening red. “Hannibal,” I said, shaking my head, “I don't understand you, bro.”
I left and shut the door behind me. I needed some air.
That night we had a big fish fry. Kurt was playing some old Lil Feat bootlegs and he, Shelley and Henry would get up from the table and break into sporadic hippie dance jags.
Convo seesawed and overlapped like dinner conversation will. Hannibal just stared at the table and said nothing.
Steve was into the hippie music. He declared that he didn't think any good rock'n'roll had been recorded since, maybe, 1975 or so.
Shelley's brother, Cal, had come up and joined us by that time. “What about Bowie?” He asked. “Or Lou Reed?”
“Fag music,” grumbled Steve.
“You ought to check out some early '80s progressive punk stuff,” I offered, “like Husker Du, Black Flag, the Minutemen, Sonic Youth....”
“I don't want to,” said Steve.
“You should. Hey, I'll do you up a tape. It won't cost you.”
Steve was bullheaded, though. “I don't want to,” he said.
The subject of rock'n'roll was becoming a sticky one. Henry threw in some Miles Davis. Things went on amicably. Then the sound of chair legs scraping on linoleum. Hannibal got up and bolted out the screen door.
“Is he okay?” Asked Kurt.
“Apparently not,” cracked Cal.
“He's been quiet all night.”
“I don't know,” I replied. I hadn't told anyone about the fish incident.
We all headed out back. Hannibal was on his hands and knees, vomiting in the gulley. I guess the fish disagreed with him.
It was peculiar. Between retches, I thought I heard him laughing.
Copyright 1990 C.F. Roberts, 2018 Molotov Editions
“Hannibal Shooting Fish in a Bucket” is part of what I call “The Brookdale Cycle” or “The Extended Brookdale Mythos”----which is my fancy-ass way of saying it's a handful of short stories that revolve kinda loosely around my first novel, HELLO, UGLY and its setting, the fictional town of Brookdale, New Hampshire. Most of the stories center around two characters, either Old Man Delprete (who's referenced in the book but who's long-since out of the picture and faded into local legend by the time the action of the book takes place) and this story's subject, Mike Hannibal.
Hannibal is really just a peripheral character in HELLO---in a book whose main characters tend to be marginalized misfit kids, Hannibal is the kind of unpleasant worm burner that even those misfits are wary of. For whatever reason I found Hannibal to be an interesting enough character to where I revisited him in a couple of different stories. The other story, which is one of the single ugliest stories I've ever written, is relatively recent and I'm still shopping it around to potential publishers----hence you're not gonna see it in this blog anytime soon. I briefly brought “Hannibal Shooting Fish” back into circulation recently and what you're reading is a slight rewrite of the story I was peddling around in the early '90s, but hell with it---no avail----stick a fork in it----it's done.
This particular story picks up after the action in HELLO, UGLY where Hannibal is an adult. He's hanging with a gang of friends and acquaintances but as per usual, he sticks out like a sore thumb.
I think what I was getting at with the shooting of fish and then Hannibal getting sick on seafood at the end of the story was your basic stock Christ symbology---I played with a lot of religious ideas and imagery at that time and I think what I was shooting for was a picture of Hannibal's actions as a “rejection of Christ”....although “Christ”, such as it is here, is more a supernatural proxy for general morality, human decency or just good things in general. I'm not particularly religious and this is not a religious story, per se. Pretty much just a character sketch---one unsavory individual doing stupid shit. Theater of the Irrational.
THIS WEEK'S PLAYLIST:
THE S.E. APOCALYPSE KREW-"RISE" (plug, plug)