Baby Names
A Short Story by Tim Josephs
Written using the suggestion "Lace"
Originally featured on 03-05-2007
As part of our series "Anniversaries"

“What about Eugene?”

Annie glanced at Jim. “You’re kidding, right”?” she asked. She reached down into the basinet and picked up the baby.

“What’s wrong with Eugene? I have an uncle named Eugene.”

Annie sat down next to him on the sofa.

“Look at him.” She adjusted the blue blanket to show more of the tiny pink face. “Does he look like a Eugene?”

Jim leaned down. “Seymour?”

She laughed. “You’re not even trying anymore.”

“Well, we have to name him something. Oh, how about instead of a name, a symbol? Remember that thing Prince was using for a while?”

Annie looked at him for a moment and then back at the baby. “What’s wrong with Victor? I’ve always liked that name.”

“Don’t get me started on Victor again.”

“Why, because of that kid who sat next to you in like third grade?”

“That kid always smelled weird,” Jim said. “Plus his hands were permanently stained orange because of all those cheese puffs he was always scarfing down.”

Annie rolled her eyes.

“I just can’t name my son Victor. Every time I’d look at him I’d think about that smelly orange-handed freak.”

Annie sighed. “Fine, no Victor. But we have to come up with something. Something great. Not Eugene or Seymour or Rutherford or any of your bizarre suggestions.”

She looked down at the baby again. It hardly seemed as if she had done anything but stare at him since they’d gotten home from the hospital a week ago.

“We could always go see that woman Maggie and Rick talk about,” Jim said casually.

Annie laughed suddenly and snorted a little.

“What? What’s so funny?” Jim asked.

“The famous baby-namer? The woman who supposedly knows the perfect name for every baby?”

“Hey, they swear by her. They’ve taken all their kids there.”

“That’s not surprising.” she said with a smirk.

“What does that mean?”

“Don’t get me wrong, I love Rick and Maggie, but you know as well as I do they can be a little flaky.”

“Even so, they really like that woman.”

“Wait a second. Isn’t one of their kids named Rainbow?”

“No. Her name is Stacy,” Jim said. “Her middle name is Rainbow.”

Annie raised her eyebrows.

“Okay, so maybe they’re a little flaky. Just promise me that if we haven’t come up with a name in a few days, you’ll think about going to see her.”

“Fine.” She got up and walked back over to the basinet. She gently laid the baby down again. “We’ll come up with a name for you, little guy,” she whispered. “I promise.”

“How about Elmer?” Jim asked as he reached for the remote. “I have a cousin named Elmer.”

 

“I can’t believe we’re doing this.”

Jim looked over at Annie sitting in the passenger seat. The baby, wrapped in a yellow blanket, was in her arms.

“You promised,” he said.

“What are we going to say when we get there? That we’re these terrible parents who can’t come up with a name for our own child?”

“Well, maybe not in those exact words,” Jim said with a smile. “Relax, Annie, she knows were coming. Maggie says people are always going to see her. Don’t worry.”

A short time later they turned down a dead-end street and stopped in front of a small brick house. Tendrils of ivy clung to one side and a stone gargoyle peered down from the roof.

“This must be it,” Jim said. He got out of the car and went around and opened the door for Annie. She stared up at the house skeptically.

“Are you sure about this, Jim?”

“Yeah. Why, what’s wrong?”

“It’s just…do we really need someone to name our baby? We can come up with a name, can’t we?”

“Well, we haven’t been able to so far. C’mon, Annie, we’re here now, what’s the harm in just seeing this woman?”

Annie took another look at the house and got out of the car. She slowly followed Jim up the steps. He was just about to knock on the old screen door when it opened. Standing there was a young couple. The man was carrying a baby wrapped in a blue blanket.

“Thank you, so much!” the woman called over her shoulder.

“Oh, hello,” the smiling man said, noticing Jim and Annie. “Come for a name, have you? You’ve come to the right place. She’s the best.”

They stepped past them and went down the stairs. Jim and Annie glanced at each other as the couple started walking down the sidewalk.

“So, what’s his name?” Jim called after them.

The man stopped and turned around. “Eugene! Can you believe it? It’s perfect!” He turned and started walking again.

“Jim,” Annie said nervously.

He smiled and was about to say something when a woman’s voice came from inside.

“Yes, come in, come in.”

They looked at each other again and then entered the house. They found themselves in a dimly-lit kitchen.

“This way,” the woman called. They followed the sound of the voice into another small room. The only furniture in the room was two wooden chairs and a round table. The table was covered by a lacey cloth on which a strange-looking plant was sitting. Rays of light streamed in through the large picture window creating yellowish-orange patterns on the far wall.

A woman, wearing a long, black dress was sitting in one chair. She was rather old—Jim thought she was probably around 75—but her reddish-brown hair looked natural.

“Come sit, bring the child,” she said. She had a thick accent but neither Jim nor Annie could place it. Later on they both agreed it was most likely from an Eastern European dialect.

Annie hesitated. “Hello, we’re-“ Jim started.

“Yes, I know who you are. You are Jim, you are Annie.” She looked up at Annie and squinted. “You should have been Rachel. Come sit, bring the child.”

Annie looked at Jim warily. He nudged her toward the chair and she slowly walked over and sat down. He went and stood next to her.

“Now, let me see,” the woman said. She moved forward in her chair and opened up the baby’s blanket a little. The baby stared up at her. “A boy, yes?”

Annie smiled nervously. “Yes, he was born just about two we-“

“Yes, okay,” the woman said. She continued to stare at the child. “Give him to me.”

Annie looked worried. Nobody but her, Jim, and the doctor had held her baby and she had no intention of letting this woman do so. She was about to say so when Jim answered for her.

“It’s alright, Annie.”

Annie looked up at him and frowned but before she could say anything the woman had taken the baby out of her arms. She rested him on her lap and carefully uncovered his face. She stared at him for a few moments and then quickly wrapped him up tightly again and handed him back to Annie. Annie hugged him firmly to her chest.

“Yes, it came to me very fast. I know what this child’s name is.”

Jim and Annie anxiously waited for her to continue.

“So, what is it?” Jim finally asked.

The woman looked up at him. “Ed,” she replied.

“Ed?” both Jim and Annie asked simultaneously.

“Of course. It is Ed.”

Annie looked confused. “Are you sure? I don’t think-”

“Wait, Annie, look at him,” Jim said, crouching down next to her. “Ed.”

The baby’s eyes opened wide and it appeared as if he was smiling.

“Oh, my god,” Annie said, “it looks like he’s smiling! I didn’t think two week old babies could smile!”

“I think he likes the name,” Jim said. “Ed.” The baby smiled again.

“Of course. That is his name,” the old woman said.

Annie started repeating the name and the baby reacted every time.

“So, is that short for something?” Jim asked. “Edward or Edmund?”

“No. Ed. Just Ed. You may go now.”

Annie got up and Jim followed her to the kitchen.

“Thank you,” Annie said, not taking her eyes off her newly-named baby. The old woman just waved her hand at her. Before Jim entered the kitchen he turned around.

“Oh, by the way, we never did get your name.”

“My name?” She smiled wearily and gazed out the window. “No one ever ask me that.” She hesitated for a moment. “They call me Kreva Pratlak.”

“That’s uh, interesting,” Jim said. “Does that mean something?”

The old woman sighed.

“Well, if you must know. I was one of thirteen children.”

Annie came back and stood in the doorway. She and Jim started talking softly to baby Ed.

“I was the last child,” the woman continued. “I go to school and the other children call me Krevka Pratlak. They spit at me. The teachers laugh and call me Krevka Pratlak. Soon everyone call me that, it become my name.”

Jim looked up suddenly. “But that wasn’t your real name?” he asked.

The woman sniffled; she seemed to be on the verge of tears.

“They all call me that. My parents say I am unlucky, number 13 child. There was barely enough food for everyone, barely enough anything, worse when I come along they tell me. So they refuse to name me! Krevka Pratlak means ‘girl with no name.’”

Jim was now making faces at Ed while Annie beamed.

“So, I have no name. It hurt me. All the time I am sad. One day I see baby and get thought in my head that I know its name, its true, right name. I don’t know what it is, this feeling, but I know is real. Soon I can tell what everyone should be called.”

She reached into a pocket in her dress and pulled out a tattered, gray handkerchief. She dabbed at her moist eyes and blew her nose.

“I go through life with no name. I don’t want that happen to anyone else. So now I devote my life to giving names to all who ask me.”

After a moment Jim looked up again. “Hmm? I’m sorry, I didn’t get most of that. We really have to be going. Thanks again.” They walked back into the kitchen.

“Well, I guess Maggie and Rick were right after all,” Annie said as they approached the front door. “The name’s perfect.”

“It really is,” Jim replied.

They walked down the steps and Jim opened the car door for Annie.

“So what was her name?” Annie asked, putting on her seatbelt. “I really wasn’t paying attention.”

Jim started the car and they headed back towards the main street. They passed a young couple quickly walking up the sidewalk. The woman was clutching a small pink bundle.

“Uh, Karen I think she said. Nice lady.”

As Jim and Annie drove off, the couple hurriedly went up the steps of the brick house and knocked on the door.

“Yes, come in, come in,” a woman called.

They looked at each other, opened the door, and went inside.

Read More By Tim Josephs

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Portland Fiction Project

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