Joe Halstead: Hoppy

It’s kind of wild where I grew up. I had my own gun at six years old. Ran down rabbits with my dad and helped beat their heads against the bumper of the truck, because they weren’t dead enough, and then threw them into a pile in the bed. I drove hay bailers and trucks when I was ten. Couldn’t reach the clutch until I was twelve. It was quaint how we had our little holler, our woods, our ragged clothing—but all that’s gone. Things change in twenty years. I don’t know how, but they do.



I met Hoppy at the VFW one night and he told me he was a catch, that he could get any woman he wanted. He wasn’t a looker. He didn’t have no front teeth. He had fake teeth but he wouldn’t wear them. He did have an old Indian motorcycle that he’d just ride round and round. He used to be in the carnivals. He kept that old carnival stuff in the backyard til the day he died. You could even go get a funnel cake from him. I always did like that.

I can tell you the exact moment when things started to break apart. We got married and then he hit me. I never like tellin all the bad shit he did, but if he hit me once you can be sure it was more than that. We were all campin at the river and Hoppy started talkin shit about one of our friends who got poisoned by his brother, how he deserved it, and I said, “Hoppy, he didn’t deserve it, he was poisoned,” and then Hoppy started braggin, he said, “If you want to act like a five year ol, I’m gonna treat you like a five year ol.” And then he pulled my pants and panties down in front of everyone and spanked me. He busted my ass just like a five year ol, so I turned around and smacked him across the face. He just turned around and looked at me and then punched me right in the jaw. And boy you’re talkin the women were livid.

No, Hoppy and I weren’t a happy pair, we weren’t. After that, by the look of me, you’d think he’d taken me behind some bleachers and beat up on me. Sometimes he’d tell me how fat I was and how I couldn’t get him hard anymore. Other times how I should just have sex with him whenever he wanted instead of sometimes sayin no. Hoppy’d complain and complain and complain and make me so miserable that I’d say, “Just do it,” and cry while he did it. And he’d just roll off when he was done and then go outside and start eatin a funnel cake. He’d get on that old Indian motorcycle and ride it round and round. He’d just keep goin and goin on the motorcycle and eatin that funnel cake that he’d make himself, goin and goin and eatin.


One night, I found him when I came home from a kids’ night at Ryan’s, this big Ponderosa-type place. That was my job, waitressing. I was tired from a ten-hour day and saw him lying there on the couch. I tapped his shoulder, and said, “Hey, hey.” And then I knew. I sank down on the couch and cried. But then after about an hour something cold and sharp broke inside me, like an icepick. I couldn’t bring Hoppy back to life and maybe it was for the best. I’m not proud, but I sure as all hell know what’s good and what’s not cause I’ve been around a few times and I know Hoppy was never good.