Excerpt #19 - What's In A Name?

“You can never get it right in a pandemic. You always fuck something up.”

“What do ya mean,” Dick said as he took another drink.

“You know what I mean. Germs, man, germs. The endeavor to avoid them. No matter how hard you try, you always fail. Like, I go to 7-11 the other day, probably one of the dirtiest places around, in terms of foot traffic, I mean the last time that shithole saw the better side of a mop, who the hell knows, and how many people pass through there, touch the door, debit card machine, whatever, and so I’m trying my hardest to keep the invisible little monsters off of me, doing everything, you know, wear my mask, open the door with my shirt, stand six feet apart, use only one hand so I have a clean hand for my key fob, phone and wallet, punch the debit machine with my shirt or a tissue because that dirty ass thing has to be a very attractive springboard for one of those little fucking corona virus germs, which I’m so sick of seeing, like these little balls with suction cups extending off them.”

“They look like the backdrop to a Sponge Bob cartoon,” Dick interjected.

“Yeah, totally, and I’m out of fucking gloves, so I gotta use my shirt, and then, after all that, I’m walking out and actually pretty proud of myself for mastering the art of germ avoidance, and then, then, I blast the door open with my clean hand as I would have back in the old days, with no concern whatsoever for that germs my contact with the door might transmit. Then that’s it. Failed.”

“Yep, no concern whatsoever, I miss those days. Just push the door right open.”

“Dick, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure, Karl.”

“A personal question.”

“For sure, anything,” Dick replied.

“Why don’t you go by Richard? I mean, seriously, who goes by Dick anymore?”

“Why would I go by Richard?”

“Yeah, well, in case you haven’t heard it’s long for Dick, and then people wouldn’t always snicker and laugh when they say your name, or like emphasize it when they’re patronizing you, and when I introduce you, you know, sometimes it’s awkward, like, ‘let me introduce you to my friend Dick.’ You know you could go by Rich too, same amount of letters.”

“I don’t know, I guess I like Dick better. I know both my mom and dad liked Dick, cause that’s what they always called me. Little Dickey, when I was a boy, and then just straight up Dick when I got older. Sometimes around the house, they’d just call me D.”

“Maybe they thought it sounded more masculine?” Asked Karl.

“Well I don’t know if that’s the case, because, you may not know this, but it can be a girl’s name too,” said Dick.

“Bullshit, there’s no way a girl would be called Dick. Nope. Ain’t buy’in it.”

“No, seriously, there was a song about it, like it was the corollary to a Boy Named Sue, same thing.”

“A girl named . . . no, I ain’t buy’in that. I’m not even saying it. It’s absurd.”

“Well, girls are in the boy scouts now, you know, and, in fact, some girl boy scout came to my house the other day selling popcorn, and her mom announced that she had sold the most popcorn in the entire United States for the boy scouts, and I’m like holy shit, look out boys, the most popcorn any boy scout sold was a girl.”

“They say girls are smarter than boys.”

“I’d agree with that, I mean a boy’s brain develops slower, that’s proven, so it’s no surprise she outsold all the boys.”

“Well, the Boy Scouts went bankrupt, so it’s a non-issue now.”

“Isn’t that a bitch, the girl scouts fold into the boy scouts, and then the boy scouts go bankrupt.”

“I guess it proves your theory.”

“Well why do you go by Karl? And why do you use a K instead of a C?” Dick asked.

“Well, I didn’t really have a choice, that’s what my parents named me and called me since the beginning, so it’d be really hard to change. In fact, one time I did try to go by my initials, and it was really hard to get used to. My teacher would call on me in class, and I’d just be looking around all clueless, wondering why he was yelling ‘K.J., K.J.’ and I’m just looking around like ‘whose that?’”

“What’s the J stand for?”


“Jack, no shit, that’s a weird middle name. Karl Jack, I didn’t know that was your name. You could go by John.”

“Au contraire mon frère. John isn’t derived from Jack, I don’t think, like it was John Kennedy, and they called him Jack.”

“It could never be the other way around?”

“Nope, never seen it the other way, that’s why I could never go by John.”

“Well, technically, you can go by whatever you want, you know? You could go by Dick.”

“Out of nowhere, Richard isn’t even in my name, and I go by Dick, what would people think?”

“But back to the germs when I pushed that door, I felt like a total failure, immediate, came over me like a tidal wave, like just when I was getting it right, it all fell apart on me, and all the way home I envisioned those little germs on my hand, transmitting to the car door handle, steering wheel, phone, gear shifter, the front door, in my eye, down my throat, and then I become an unsuspecting carrier and transmit it to like loved ones with underlying conditions and even people I don’t love, but who I’d feel very guilty if they died on my account, or I’d never even know if it was on my account, so I’d always have to wonder and play pretend that it was someone else who transmitted the germs.”

“Two and two equals four.”


“It’s failure, man, it’s your resolutions, your efforts, your good intentions, going up in flames, it happens all the time, pandemic or no pandemic, every day sets you up to fail, and fail you do. It’s in the human condition. To set the bar higher than you’re likely to achieve. It’s evolution. Biology. We consciously strive to become better and more successful at the things that sustain our existence.”

“You might be right, and we don’t only do it to ourselves, we do it to each other, some more than others.”

“Yeah, the ones with the highest potential get whacked the hardest, the expectations, you know they say it’s hard to be really good at something, you get pressed so hard and then everyone’s like, ‘oh he’s getting big for his britches.’”

“Yeah, and then they’re like, ‘let’s bring him down a few rungs.’”

“Ain’t that the truth, and then when they’re done with you, they’re like ‘toughen up.’”

They both finished their drinks and ordered another round.

“So why did you say you don’t go by Dick?”

7-11 Open


Excerpts For The Pandemic
by M. Christian Rossman
©publishing313, Inc. 2020