Nathaniel hated it when Herman called him “Natty.”
Which is why he called him Natty.
Herman was known to employ “Natty” as a rhetorical device during heated conversations. For example:
“Tell me, Natty, what is it that Pearl really symbolizes for you? I mean, really. I assume it’s not idle demonism, Natty, or a reminder of Hester’s misbegotten desire, or a mark—a scar, mind you—of unfettered artistry and imagination. I mean, what’s a girl to do when a man like Dimmesdale takes his trousers off? Ha. Ha ha ha ha ha. Anyway it’s the goddamned Reverend’s fault, is the thing, and Pearl belongs to him, so to speak. Natty? Hey Natty. Natty. Are you listening to me?”
Nathaniel tried to ignore him, but sometimes it was unbearable, especially when Herman drank too much, which prompted Nathaniel to drink too much, and then, of course, there was a fight, and eventually Herman ended up somewhere in the woods with his clothes off, and on occasion, he streaked through town until the police picked him up.
Natty. As in Natty Bumppo.
Both authors hated Jim Cooper, a relentless popinjay who could barely string a sentence together, in their eyes, but ultimately they couldn’t stand that Cooper had obtained pulp stardom, publishing bestseller after bestseller in multiple speculative genres while writing with the finesse, lyricism and dimensionality of plantlife. They couldn’t deny the prowess of some of Cooper’s descriptive passages, namely his “landscape paintings” of other planets. But generally they panned and disparaged and vilified his decidedly slackjaw prose as well as his dumb protagonists, above all the inveterate Natty Bumppo, antihero of the Firestocking Tales, a sort of Buck Rogers meets Moravagine character obviously patterned after Cooper himself, or at least after how Coooper perceived himself, since in reality, as Herman and Nathaniel saw it, he was a far cry from the smooth-talking, girl-getting, pec-flexing, essentially Burroughsian Bumppo. Hence Herman’s small victory vis-à-vis Nathaniel whenever he uttered the character’s forename.
Occasionally Nathaniel attempted to retaliate against Herman’s aggression by calling him Hermes, or Huckleberry, or Huey, or HAL 9000, but it always fell flat. As a friendly insult, Natty fit with Nathaniel better than anything else he could come up with. Also, whenever Nathaniel called him something, Herman just stared at him, unwilling to submit to such “puerile modalities,” as he referred to them. A fly could get a rise out of Nathaniel. But an earthquake couldn’t budge Herman. Sometimes.