It was around census time that he decided to take things into his own hands. Change the situation for good. He’d cleared the kitchen table after tea one night and was stooped over the purple form, staring at it, tormented by the very first question. The cat hopped onto the table, feigning support. Here we go again. The whole situation reminded him of school exams, when some self-appointed sadist would come around the desks with an armful of typewritten papers, pompously dispatched. At least back then you knew you’d get the biro rolling with the simplest question of all. Even the dunces could tackle that one.
What is your full name? Print in CAPITALS.
Rex never liked his name. At work he used to get T Rex or Tex or Rexona. Sometimes he’d get Lex or Max because people were lazy about names and just took a punt. Dimwits. Last time he took the Bedford in for a warrant the smart arse mechanics wrote Wrecks Mason next to Name at the top of the checklist. Paying the bill, he could see them behind the office lady’s screen, watching, cracking up and waiting for the reaction. Ha bloody ha, he yelled.
When he retired they gave him a rose called Sexy Rexy. A rose, for God’s sake. They all seemed to think it was a stroke of genius and at the farewell morning tea the blokes said things like keep up the fertiliser, Sexy Rexy. Morons. He’d have preferred something practical like a hedge trimmer or at least a decent voucher from Mitre 10.
Ngaire used to say at least it’s a simple name. She suffered the same problem. She wanted to change her spelling to Nyree, like that actress on tv years ago—a Kiwi, would you believe. Ngaire used to tell people she’d actually met Nyree Dawn Porter on her OE. Well, encountered her. She had a job in London as a barmaid in the West End, near all the theatres and shows. One afternoon in swooped Nyree and poshly asked for a Pernod and water. Rex and Ngaire were courting when she first told him the story and they ducked down to the local to try one, just for a laugh. Bloody awful, it was.
With Ngaire gone and the job gone Rex needed a focus. A refresh. Time to drop Rex for good. Make it official. But the business of going about finding a new name was tricky. By way of inspiration, he searched the house for a book someone had put together for the Mason family reunion back in 1992. Something’s bound to jump out of that. He pored over old photos of his parents and their parents, the birth dates and marriage details of his cousins, his nieces and nephews. Got a bit waylaid by it all and he made a mental note to go and look a few of them up some time. Dozens of names, some of the modern ones a bit over the top but definitely a few that kept coming up, etched onto the family tree. Rex mulled, totted up a short list, then started the cull. He’d give Citizens Advice a ring to kick things off once he’d decided.
Rex was busy. The toing and froing with Wellington officialdom was drawn out but he didn’t mind. It was costing him a few bob but it was interesting and gave him a focus, a spring in his step. He used the computers at the library and they all took an interest when he filled out the forms and whenever he had anything to report back. They said well at least you’re taking action and that so many people didn’t like their moniker. Moniker. He looked that one up while he was there. When he got home he said to the cat I’m getting a new moniker. Just to try it out. The cat released a full-blown halitotic yawn then skulked away, pausing at the door to look back at him in a sort of disbelief but without the head shake.
From the garden shed he took a spade and dug up Sexy Bloody Rexy, snipped off all the soft pink blooms and drove to the cemetery, clutching them to his chest as he had a word with Ngaire. I’m ditching Rex, he said. Hope you don’t mind.
He had to get a proper photo taken and they gave him four. Four small squares of his mug. Identical. He might as well get a passport while he was at it—never know what’s in the wind.
One day a guy in a red courier van came to the door and said sign here. Rex took the plastic envelope then had to use the meat knife to open the damn thing. There it was: Notice of Change of Name. Blow me down if it wasn’t official. He went down to the library to give them the news, saying his new name to himself with every step. One of the women who’d been helping him out quite a lot said I like your new name. Lovely. I like David. And she smiled. It went on for a bit, the smile. David had never bothered to look at her name tag but now his eye followed the blue lanyard down to just below her chest.
David left the library shaking his head at the wonder of it. What were the chances? He allowed himself a bit of a grin and a ponder. Might pop back and say hello next week. No harm.
New handle, new life.
Annabelle O’Meara is a writer of poems, fiction and history; a joyous observer of people, creatures and nature; a gardener.