Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
First Name, Middle Name"How many names do you have?"
Startled, I looked up from my work and stared, trying to find the voice that seemed to come out of nowhere. It was Willis. He had stopped talking to me when I went back to calling him Gregory, which - by the way - is not his real name. Willis remained in a silent sulk for nearly a month, and toward the end of it I had almost forgotten he was there. Almost.
"Wh-what?" I said.
"How many names do you have?"
"Three," I said.
"First name, middle name, last name?" he continued.
"And the first name comes before the last name, and the middle name is between the other two?"
"Yes." I wondered where he was going with this questioning.
"I only have one name," Willis said.
"Sorry to hear that," I said, although I couldn't really imagine why it would matter to anyone, let alone a rock whether they had a middle name. I never used mine.
"I've decided that it's only fair for me to give myself a middle name," Willis announced.
"My middle name is...Gregory." He said it proudly, like he was announcing that he is now the Prince of Wales.
"Really?" I didn't know what else to say.
"That's right. So now when you call me Gregory, I can answer you."
"Ha!" I said, "You missed talking to me, didn't you?" I was happy that he broke down before I did. Every few days I had to resist anew the temptation to go back to calling him Willis, just so I could hear his voice again.
"Well, don't get all teary eyed on me," Willis Gregory scolded, "it's not like this is a grand male-bonding moment, or anything like that."
"This is all well and good," I said, picking my words carefully, "and I'm glad that you're talking again, but there are times when I just like to have my peace and quiet."
"Stick cotton in your ears," he suggested unhelpfully.
"How about this," I said. "When I want to talk to you, I'll call you Willis, and when I don't want to talk to you, I'll call you Gregory."
"Let me think about that for a moment," he said.
I waited patiently while Willis sat in silence on my desk for several minutes. I was surprised to discover that his answer - one way or the other - actually mattered to me more than I would have supposed.
Finally he spoke up. "Agreed. On one condition."
"Well, Douglas, when I get sick of hearing you ramble on interminably about nothing, I'm going to call you Gertrude."
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