Michael Di Gesu is hosting a blogfest. The stories will be compiled in an anthology, and the funds raised will help Melissa Bradley pay her medical bills from her cancer treatments. Here’s my story for the anthology.
What's in a Name?
This story is dedicated to Abby.
I enter the all-too-freakin’ familiar hospital door ahead of Dad. Usually Mom takes me, but she’s due to have a baby soon. By the time I leave through these doors again--if I come out alive--the baby will not only be born, but they’ll be a new family of three.
I’ll be the outsider.
I rush ahead of Dad, like I’m looking forward to my stay at Camp Cancer. Instead of hikes in the woods and swimming at the beach, I’ll sit around a lot while they inject poison into my veins.
Mom calls it medicine.
Dad calls it “therapeutic.”
We all know what it is—my last chance to live.
I’m here for a clinical trial for Secret Drug #11, just like my age.
Nobody’s waiting in the lobby, for a change. I press the elevator button. The door opens like magic. I step inside and press the Doors Close button.
“Will!” Dad calls.
Too late. The doors slide shut.
He can take the next elevator. Or go home. I don’t care.
The elevator doesn’t stop until it reaches my floor. By then, I’ve recovered. If I’m going to be stuck here, I’d rather do this alone.
The familiar receptionist, Karen, greets me with her usual toothy smile. At least she doesn’t have lipstick on her teeth this time. “Hi, Will. Where’s your dad?”
I shrug. “I think he’s on his way.”
She faces her computer screen and types. “Why don’t you have a seat until he arrives.”
So much for doing this alone. I slump into a chair next to the desk. It’s only 9:00 am, but I’m ready to sleep. Not only does the cancer and all the poison they put in my body exhaust me, but I also didn’t sleep well last night. I chew on the inside of my cheek like I always do when I’m nervous. The metallic taste caused by the chemo distracts me. I wonder if food will ever taste normal again.
Dad arrives all harried a few minutes later. It satisfies me to think of him stuck on a crowded elevator that stopped on every floor while mine was empty and sailed right up. I won’t look at him and he doesn’t say anything to me as he plops my bag at my feet. It’s full of Sherlock Holmes books. Even though I’ve read them all at least ten times, I’ll go through them again. The pre-cancer me used to love to investigate, and I used to write articles for the school newspaper. When I grow up, I’ll solve mysteries just like Sherlock Holmes.
“Sorry I’m late,” Dad says to Karen.
She grins. “No problem, Walter. I just have a few more forms for you to fill out.”
I pretend to doze while my dad completes a zillion forms in a chair next to me. Leave it to a hospital to already make my dad fill out a dictionary-sized pile of paperwork and then make him do it all over again.
“Will.” Someone’s nudging my shoulder.
I guess I really did doze off. When I open my eyes, Dad’s still next to me. Standing in front of us is Dr. Abrams and Nurse Dan with a wheelchair. Maybe it’s because I haven’t completely woken up, but I forget to stay mad. “I’m not ready,” I whisper.
Dad’s brow crinkles. His eyes meet mine and he nods like he can read my thoughts. I’ve been avoiding these eyes since my parents told me I’d be stuck here. He turns to the doctor and nurse. “Give us a minute, please.”
They don’t back up all that much. Probably think I’ll bolt the first chance I get. I’ve already taken off once today, so I can’t do it again even if I want to. I really want to.
Dad takes my puffy hand in his. Everything about me is puffy from the side effects. Now I’ll have new drugs with new side effects. I’m so tired of this. Just so tired.
“You can do this,” he says.
“No, I can’t.”
He squeezes my hand. “Yes, you can.”
I look down, so he can stop reading my mind. “You’re leaving me here to… you’re moving on.”
“Will” Dad’s voice is as hard as his grip. “Don’t you ever, ever think that. We are doing this so you have a chance to live a long life. I’m sorry your mom can’t be here and the timing is bad. Your little brother is going to need a big brother.”
I lift my head. “It’s a boy?”
The crinkle in Dad’s brow switches to around his eyes from his smile. “Yep. I was going to surprise you when he arrived, but it looks like you need to know now. And,” he takes a breath. “Mom and I want you to name him.”
I stare at Dad’s strong hand on mine. “Me?”
“It’s an important job, so who else would we leave it to?”
I rest my head on his shoulder. I don’t magically feel better about everything but if I get to choose the name, it’s a sign my family isn’t trying to get rid of me. The name I choose will affect my brother’s whole life. My parents named me Will, which fits me perfectly because in some versions, William Sherlock Holmes Scott is his full name.
Maybe, besides all the doctors I’m spending too much time with, I need a Dr. Watson. The character is a good doctor and friend to Sherlock—that would be a good start for my little brother. Watson’s first name is John. But John isn’t the right name for him.
“Dad, can I borrow your phone?”
I look up Watson. It means Son of Walter. My dad ‘s name is Walter! It’s fate.
I hand Dad the phone. “I want to name him Watson.”
Watson needs to understand why I chose his name. If I’m going to explain, I have to keep fighting this disease until I’m better.
Dad nods with understanding. That’s what I like about him—he doesn’t say it’s too uncommon or not practical or that I might not like Sherlock in a few years—like other parents might do. He knows me. And he knows I can do this.
I stand. “I’m ready.”