In H3: Leo in the Library Dan goes too far. I’ve talked previously about how I’m trying to handle references to Nazis and swastikas with a sense of cultural tact, but in this section I’m deliberately transgressing those boundaries. Dan, shaken by his father’s suicide, won’t hold his tongue while Leo flaunts his swastika tattoo.
And rightly so. After Faith and Beatrice kiss in front of him, Leo says he wants to round up all the gays and shoot them. Leo’s ideology is mostly based on whatever suits him at the time rather than any actual brand of Neo-Nazism, except perhaps the modern American internet-bred alt-right. He’s more of a wannabe Neo-Nazi than anything else. (Someone in middle school once told me the “shoot the gays” line in total honesty. He always wondered why he had no friends.)
But Dan doesn’t just stand up to Leo. He says, “Anyone who admires Hitler should bite a bullet in a bunker.” Dan’s got suicide on the mind, of course, because of his father, but telling people to commit suicide is generally frowned upon. Later Leo says, and Dan replies,
“What, you want me to go full Waco?”
“You mean kill your family in a fire? Yes, please. Do the world a favor.”
which provokes Leo to clobber him in the jaw.
In 1993, in Waco, Texas, a religious group called the Branch Davidians had a search warrant issued against their compound alleging sexual abuse and illegal weapon violations, prompting a fifty-day siege by federal and state government. The siege ended in a fire which killed 76 people. The government claimed the Davidians lit the fire, but some blamed the military. The controversy was so great that some asshat blew up a preschool in a government building, killing 168.
So Dan’s retort to Leo to kill his family in a fire is a salty jab at the buttons of the domestic American terrorist. Whether the Davidians or the government lit the fire is irrelevant; Dan just wanted to provoke Leo. If I’m to let Dan go too far, he’s got to make it count with a controversial and inflammatory image which ties together the themes of my story.
Remember, Dan dies in the first section by stepping into a furnace. Dan hoards guilt for situations which aren’t his fault. I imagine he replays this conversation constantly, sometimes wondering if he should have held his tongue, sometimes mentally reaffirming his quip. But in the end, he’s the one who sets himself on fire. The thematic implication is clear: anger can consume us, even righteous anger directed at irredeemable assholes.
On the other hand, Jay maintains his composure with regard to Henry/Leo. His cool-headed snark defuses Leo at every turn. His approach still makes it clear that he disapproves of Leo, but without intentionally provoking him. Since Dan and Jay are the same person reincarnated back in time, Jay is Dan with an additional lifetime of experience. Reborn and renewed, DanJay can temper his temper.
Anyway, that’s all for this week. Keep eating your worms!