Let’s try a short story this week. Not really a story, rather a slice out of the life of an angst-ridden sixteen-year-old obsessed with a particular girl.
I don’t exactly remember when I got the name “Bonehead,” but I recall how. One day in grade school, Margaret McAllister got fed up with me teasing her and lashed out with what she probably considered a cuss word. Bonehead. Before long, that was my moniker, and the rechristening was so thorough that hardly anyone remembered my real name was Harlsgood Rainwater. Nobody – including me – had ever liked that handle, so I was usually Harlie or Goodie, except to my maternal grandmother. That had been her birth name. All things considered, I preferred Bonehead.
The name had another advantage. Upon meeting someone new, the jasper figured I was thick-headed or stupid. That set low expectations in everyone from teachers to preachers, and I took full advantage of it until they got to know me.
That served me well all through my childhood, but when I grew up and reached sixteen, things began to backslide. That same blonde -- green-eyed Margaret McAllister -- wouldn’t have anything to do with a guy called Bonehead. And I wanted to pester her again … big time. In a totally different way, of course.
“But you’re the one who gave me the name,” I said the afternoon I finally found the courage to talk to her.
“I didn’t give you a name,” she said in a reasonable tone of voice. “I called you a name. There’s a difference.”
“I’ll go back to my own name.”
She didn’t actually say, “Ugh,” but her expression did. “You mean Harlsgood?”
“That’s a way better name,” I said.
Margaret's expression clearly read: Not really.
“Harlie,” that’s a good name, right?” I was quick to suggest.
“For a guy or a motorcycle?”
“Well, you can call me Goo …”
“Don’t even go there. I’m not going to call a guy Goodie. All my friends would ask if I’m still going with Goodie-Two-Shoes or Goodie-Goodie, or something.”
“Are you going with me or with your friends?”
She stood up from the park bench. “I’m not going with either one of you. And you better not be telling around that I am.”
I backed off. “Do you even like me?”
She twirled the small yellow parasol she carried to protect her fair skin. “You’re one of the less obnoxious boys around, Bonehead.” She drew in her breath. “But that name!”
I opened my mouth to say she’s the one who gave it to me but reconsidered. “Who do you want me to be? You named me once. Name me again.”
“Fagan. I always liked the name Fagan.”
I felt my eyebrows reach for my hairline. “Fagan! What kinda name is that?”
“Or Osgood. And that’s close to your real name. I could call you Oz.”
“Okay, from now on I’m Oz.”
And I was, but it didn’t come without a cost. I got into three fights and paid with a fat lip, a black eye, and bruised ribs. But those scrapes got my point across. I was serious. Within three months, I was Oz or “The Wizard” to almost everyone except my teachers and relatives. I was Mr. Rainwater and Harlsgood to them. But no more Bonehead. My campaign also chased away a few friends, but at least I was going with Margaret now. That is to say, we dated once in a while, but she insisted it wasn’t a commitment. Not a steady thing. Nonetheless, I had the privilege of taking her to the Junior Prom.
After that magic dance, I sensed things were beginning to go wrong. Maybe not wrong, but different. For one thing, I wasn’t so taken with Margaret once I got beyond the peaches and cream complexion and the startling green eyes and the budding breasts. Fact was, she was sort of bossy.
Her attitude changed, as well. At least in subtle ways. She didn’t sit with me as much in the cafeteria. She walked to class with her girlfriends. Finally, I asked about it.
She brushed an imaginary speck of dust from her sweater sleeve. “Maybe we weren’t supposed to get together. You don’t seem so broken up over it.”
“Over it? Over what?”
“Over our break up.”
“We’re breaking up?”
“I’m thinking of going out with Hershel Marshall. Hershel. That’s a nice name. Has a good strong sound to it.”
I sputtered. “You go out with a name? What about the guy? And what’s the matter with Oz? I thought you liked that name. Isn’t it strong enough for you?”
She flipped her blonde locks. “But everybody calls you Wizard or Wiz, and I don’t like that. So I guess we’re through.”
I had my mouth opened to remind her once again that she’d been the one to change my name, but that would just send us racing around the carousel again. Instead, I shook my head and walked away. I wasn’t about to play that game a second time with Airhead Maggie, boobs or no boobs.
Besides, there were lots of boobs around. Some nicer than Airhead’s.
I think our boy showed some maturity there at the end, don’t you agree? I remember those days, but give thanks that they’re over now. But maybe it would be better if they weren’t so far in the past.
Thanks for reading. Be happy to hear from you.
New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.