Brett Hanson. Thirty-six.
Pleading guilty to murder in the second degree.
I’m not a bad guy, your honor. Am I allowed to say that? You’re recording, right? I’m just a guy. I’m just a guy who figured no one would believe her.
Good people do bad things, sometimes – that’s what I’m trying to teach my little girl, anyway, but not much of anything I say gets through to her. I’m still just dad. I mean, not so much anymore.
Good people, sometimes, get caught up in adult situations that get out of control, and suddenly you’re watching jurors wrap their lips around your death sentence. I imagine it tastes something like that no name coffee they served us backstage – warm, cheap, and not quite right.
You know the way you describe people you hate to yourself? The way you would never describe someone to your wife, or your kids, or your boss, but the way you would to your co-worker, stoned, at eight PM on a Tuesday. That way. That’s how I see my wife – I want to put her in my mouth, just to spit her out again.
My mom called me China Shop Kid.
The show’s called Do or Die – a little on the nose, right? We’ve all seen it. It’s sick day TV. I guess, I mean, people won’t now, but that’s more their problem than mine. Can I say that? Am I still being recorded?
Got a daytime Emmy last year, yeah? They kept it in the back room to prove they’re still worth something.
I came on the show for my wife. Everything I did was for my wife.
The prize was thirty grand. Thirty grand. I hadn’t seen that kind of money my entire life – that’s the kind of money you think about when the word “terminal” doesn’t make you think about airports. The lady you love is sick; you do what you have to do! Men do anything they have to.
“What’s your name, big man?”
“Brett Hanson, yeah. With an O.”
“My mistake! What do you do, Brott?”
Good one, buddy.
“I’m a concrete man, Lionel.”
“A concrete man. How long you been a concrete man, Brett Hanson?”
I prepped for this bit. I went in front of the mirror and rehearsed the nicer facts about my life – I’ve been in concrete for seventeen years; my daughter’s beautiful, learned gymnastics real young; my dying wife and I are fine, she absolutely does not gnaw my balls off every time I step in the door.
“Seventeen years. But, I– ”
He cuts me off, “Seventeen years. That’s a long time to be a concrete man, Brett.”
“I’m good at what I do, sir.”
The rest of our small talk seems to be drowned out by the near constant hum of studio breathing – you know, I figured this shit was filmed in front of a blank wall and some reaction tapes. There are really people watching you scramble for a few extra bucks for entertainment. Live. That’s the real crime here. When an honest, hardworking guy needs to answer trivia questions about countries he’s never been to, you know the system’s fucked.
Can you describe your competition?
Do I have to?
She’s pretty. Was pretty? That’s the first thing I noticed – the way my wife used to pretty. Red head. Vibrant. Dressed well, but anyone looks done up next to me.
Her name was Ginny. Short for Virginia, I’m guessing, but I can’t call her anything else but Ginny. She made me think of those Harry Potter books I had to read to my kid – did Ginny survive? We didn’t finish the series.
I think about killing my wife in moments like this: she’s thrown her meds all over the kitchen floor, she’s screamed about how inadequate I am, reminded me of everything I’ve never done, things I’ve almost done, things I’ve done badly. I could kill her. But I won’t. She’s sick. Time will handle that for me.
“Your first question – now, this is an easy one, folks,” he laughs, dazzles an awestruck audience with bleached teeth, “– who was the 40th First Lady of our beloved United States?”
He draws out the “I” in United. His whole damn life is a bit.
I reach forward, but a relatively well-manicured hand found the buzzer first. She was pretty, then, pretty now – I mean, I’m guessing. Not to be morbid.
They asked why I was there, and I said my wife needed a bone marrow transplant. Ginny said she wanted to pay off her car. I’m not the bad guy here, right? I wasn’t going to use a fucking dime on myself! Not a dime!
“Second question. Don’t you worry, concrete man, you’re gonna get this one.”
“I sure hope so, Lionel.” I try to smile, but it’s hard to ignore the way her confidence pisses me off. It’s just like women to think they own the world with one right answer.
“When did women become peoples in Canada?”
“When they showed up there.”
Believe me, your honor, I really just went back there to congratulate her. My mother didn’t raise a sore loser. Thirty grand’s a hefty sum, and she’s – she was young. Any kid with that much money wouldn’t know what to do with it.
“And that’s another point for team blue!”
My wife always told me my greatest shortcoming was how obviously pissed I get. Well, that wasn’t my greatest one, but she never let me forget. There’s a firm hand on my shoulder, suddenly — men can read anger in each other. Pack mentality. I’m not comparing us to wolves or anything, your honor, but you know what I’m talking about, right?
Did you plan to kill her, then?
What? No! God, Jesus, no. This ain’t first degree, is it?
Then, no, I didn’t fucking plan anything. Can he even ask that?
“Last question. Ready for this, big man?”
“Born ready, Lionel.”
“That’s what I like to hear!”
She’s staring at me like I’m a goddamn meal. Back home, you see anything look at anyone the way she looked at me, and you call animal control.
So, she reminded you of an animal?
It’s a metaphor.
She knew I wasn’t going to get this one. She knew I was some backwoods hick that crawled out of the woodwork to scramble for a few extra bucks. I think that’s what pissed me off the most, your honor. She just knew. Women always think they know, and, you know, they usually do.
I heard the buzzer before I heard myself talk. Wrong before I knew the answer. She was surrounded in confetti and I was surrounded in nothing but debt.
I didn’t plan shit.
Maybe part of me was just waiting for her to die. I don’t think I was ever angry at anyone but myself.
“Congrats, kid. That’s a lot of green.”
She smiled at me the way all men pray women would – brightly, like I was the best thing that had happened all day. Most of me she couldn’t have given less of a shit about my sorry company, but she had enough to be happy about to pretend.
Did you know green rooms aren’t actually green?
“Thanks! I can finally pay my shit-mobile off. My mom bought it for me forever ago, and you always end up in debt without thinking about it, y’know?”
“Yeah, my wife’s been in chemo for three years. I get it.”
I couldn’t replicate that silence if I tried. It was just she, and I, and that lacklustre coffee. She didn’t deserve the money, your honor! I have done nothing but bust my ass backwards for someone who barely looks at me in the morning, and some sorority sunshine walks away with my money for, what? Four lokos and another car she’ll forget about? Adults suffer for things. We push, and work, and sacrifice.
How did you commit the murder?
Doesn’t everyone know?
For the sake of record.
I hit her.
“I’m really sorry to hear that.” She is only half paying attention; rather than contribute to any meaningful conversation, she is too busy staring hopelessly into the cold eyes of a broken coffee machine. Maybe if you press enough buttons it’ll start to work, she must be telling herself. Push a little harder.
“Yeah. And now we can’t afford treatment.”
She stiffens: cold water down the back mid winter stiff, caught shoplifting stiff. Stole thirty grand from a dying woman stiff.
“Shit, I’m sorry.”
I didn’t hit her that hard.
“I’m really sorry about your wife.” She is trying to leave – women always look for the easiest way to escape when they’re wrong – like trying to hold water in your hands. Her purse is over her shoulder. I wonder how much thirty grand weighs?
“Listen, Mr. Hanson –“
“She’s going to die. Soon.”
“She’s barely there, y’know. Not even the same person—“
“Stop. Okay? I’m sorry about your wife, but I don’t know you.”
There wasn’t a woman alive who didn’t know that sentence backwards and inside out. Every girl you talk to on the street, every girl on the bus, they all want to divert conversation for the obvious: I don’t know you. My wife said the same thing to me that morning. I made her coffee the way I’d been making her coffee for eight years, she took one sip, and said: it’s like I don’t even know you anymore.
Women are the ones who see us as animals.
We aren’t the animals.
“Sir, is the victim breathing?”
“I don’t know! I don’t know, I – I don’t think so.”
“And you said she has obvious head trauma?”
“She’s bleeding everywhere, and – can’t you hurry up? Where the fuck are you people?”
“You know me.”
“Mr. Hanson, I really—”
Her right hand was on the doorknob; the other was clinging maternally to a foam cup filled to the brim with an improperly mixed dark roast. She didn’t even drink the damn stuff! I suffered through it! I drank two cups because I’m goddamn polite. She was going to walk away from me! Like always, she’s just going to walk away from me when I’m fucking talking to her! So, I just hit her. First thing I found.
It was just sitting there. Staring at me. It’s just fucking coffee. Just drink your damn coffee.
What did you think then?
Maybe they’ve got better coffee in prison.
“Full name, first and last.”
“Brett. Brett Hanson. With an o. H-a-n-s-o-n.”
“And you simply found the victim bleeding? At what point did you realize she was deceased?”
“Can I have a cup of coffee?”
They’ve got the expensive Starbucks shit. Not bad. I take it black. There’s only one cop in the room, I came peacefully and what not. A woman, maybe thirty, hair pulled back in one of those painful looking ponytails. Maybe that’s why she looked so goddamn uptight.
“Mr. Hanson, can you recreate exactly how—”
“How I killed her?” I take a deep drink. “Wow, hits the spot. Did you make this? No one makes good coffee these days.”
“You from Boston?”
“You did what?”
“Has to be Boston.”
“You did what, sir?”
“Oh. I did it. I killed her. Didn’t mean to, but hey, my mom always said I had a wicked batting arm. She used to call me China Shop Kid – you know, ‘cause I’d always barrel through whatever’s in front of me. Man, this hits the spot.”
“Mr. Hanson, you do realize this counts as a legal confession.”
“I know.” I say with a smile, and another sip, “Do you think I’ll get life?”
My name is Annie Trussler, and I’m a queer journalism student studying at MacEwan. I am deeply involved with feminist activism, and the piece I have submitted closely follows the misguided cognitive processes of a man willing to commit violences for his own sense of self-righteousness. As I exist outside of the gender binary myself, the thought patterns of those who hurt women and non-binary individuals fascinate me. Let’s end gendered violence.
Instagram & Twitter: @mcsneezie