Bob Dugert jogged up the path the front door, looked at hisnwatch, and for the thousandth time got ready to explain that it wasn’t his fault the bus was late. Brushing the snow off his construction helmet and overalls he pushed open the front door.
The front room was empty—his son’s books were strewn across the floor, but he wasn’t there and neither was Alice. The light wasn’t even on. Bob slipped off his boots and helmet and listened for sounds of life. Around the corner he heard soft music—the music from one of Alice’s Yoga videos. He took a deep breath and stepped around the
The TV was on showing dozens of women in the same strange contortion. Alice’s yoga mat was there, but there was no Alice. He took another few steps forward and then saw her curled up on a chair staring—somewhere.
“Hi,” Bob offered.
Bob kneeled down next to her chair. “Darling, I’m really sorry I’m late, I know you needed me home early but the bus was really late…”
Alice remained silent.
Bob looked at her eyes, but she did not stop her nowhere stare. He sighed. “I really told me boss that I needed to get off early because we had Christmas shopping to do and. . .”
“No, it's not that.”
“Are you worried about your parents this Christmas? Maybe we should look at the tickets again—maybe they’ve gone down in price since we looked and we could . . .”
Alice looked up. “Your son won’t talk to me anymore.”
Bob paused. “Our son won’t talk to you?”
“He’s not supposed to learn the silent treatment until he’s a teenager. He won’t forgive me and it’s your fault.”
“Me? What did I do?” Bob said. “What’s he upset about?”
Alice took a deep breath. “His class started singing Christmas carols today and they sang that special song and everyone is making fun of him—again.”
“He’s letting that get to him?” Bob asked. “He went through this last year.”
“And he thinks he’s going to have to go through this every year for the rest of his life—every time it’s Christmas everyone will make fun of him.”
“Oh, they’ll grow out of it—did he tell you all this while he was giving you the silent treatment?”
Alice ran her hand through her hair. “He told me why he was upset and then declared that he will not speak to me until he is eighteen, when he legally changes his name.”
Bob stood up. “Change his name? He should be proud of his name! I’ve told him time and time again how important his name—that name—is. Why, that’d be ludicrous.” He pulled over a swivel chair and sat down. “Did you ask him what he wanted to change his name to?”
“Tom or David.”
“Oh, then people would just call him Tom Thumb or David…” Bob paused, “or David and Goliath or something like that. All names can be made fun of—”
Alice cut him off. “He says that the kids named Tom or David don’t get persecuted every December.”
“I bet he didn’t say persecuted.”
“Made fun of.”
Bob looked at the TV screen for a minute. “Did you tell him they’d stop teasing him if he’d just stopped responding?”
Alice nodded. “And that he should be proud of having a unique name, and that he would learn to grow proud of it, and that his grandfather turned out just fine with the same name, and everything else we’ve ever told him when this happens.”
Bob didn’t answer for a minute. “Well, what did he say to all that?”
“That he won’t talk to me until he gets his name changed in ten and a half years.”
“Oh, he doesn’t mean that, he’ll probably bound down the stairs tomorrow as if nothing happened.”
Alice shook her head. “That’s not the point, Bob.”
Bob frowned at her. “Then what exactly is the point?”
“The point is that our son is being made fun of all the time, and I think it’s beginning to wear on him. He’s not doing well on his homework, and he’s not even going out to play with his friends anymore. It’s not healthy, Bob.”
Bob threw up his hands. “Well in that case I guess we should just go find a judge and change his name to Thomas right now and solve all his educational and social distresses permanently. It will probably only cost a hundred dollars. And when he’s tired of Thomas we’ll pay another hundred so he can change his name to David. And next Halloween when a song comes out about a pumpkin named David we’ll be
the first ones in line to change it again.”
Bob pointed at her. “You agreed to this you know. You said it was okay to keep the name in the family.”
“I wanted it to be his middle name, not his first name.”
“That’s not what I remember.”
“I told you from the very beginning it would be a bad idea!”
“Well you didn’t tell me well enough because we did it!”
They both fell silent. Alice looked at her knees. Bob let out a sigh. He glanced up at her but she didn’t move. He sighed again. She still didn’t move.
Finally he said “I’m sorry, honey, I’m sorry.”
She put her hand on his shoulder.
He put his hand on top of hers. “I really didn’t mean that, it was really all my idea, I just didn’t realize . . .”
“I know you didn’t mean it—I didn’t realize what it would be like either.”
They stayed there for a minute, his hand on top of hers, silently sitting.
“Maybe he should start going by his middle name,” Bob said, “I guess Edwin would be better than Rudolph.”