Raised-Hearth Tales and Urban Legends:
A Boy Named Emory
There was a boy named Emory. He was named for a maternal forebear, after whom was also named half of a small but prestigious southern college. Of course when the family moved to a less southern place and the boy was presented in mid-year to his new fifth-grade class, the classroom brute crowed "Emily? Nice to meet you, Miss Emily," and the teacher ignored it on the theory that attention only strengthens a bully. So the boy was thereafter called Emily, Auntie Em, and Missy by his enemies and even by some of the few friends he managed to make after that introduction.
In fifth grade, when boys become cognitively capable of puns, Emory was called, for about sixty seconds, Emery, and then Nailfile, soon shortened to File, which he found close enough to the macho nickname Blade to rather enjoy. He made a few more friends and even found himself the leader of a small gang of boys and girls who were creative enough to imagine themselves as secretly tough though to outward appearances mild—Clark and Clarkine Kents all.
In seventh grade, when classmates fantasized about hacking into the most secret and dangerous hidden cyberchanbers of either the Pentagon or Playboy, File was morphed into Filename, then Document, and quickly into Dot.Doc. The boy hoped it would be shortened to Doc, as Nailfile was to File, but in perverse cruelty, classmates went the other way and it was abbreviated as Dot, then lengthened to Dotty and, for purposes of formality and ritual, Dorothy—even by friends. The girl who often defended him was nicknamed Toto, and with her perky double ponytails and terrier-like ferocity, the name stuck with her, too, for some years.
In high school, when at last tormentors as well as fellow Clarks suffered heartbreak and unfulfilled romantic longings, and when gender confusion was no longer funny but a serious possibility, and when Dorothy and Toto became and endured as a couple, the crowd forgot which was which and gradually Emory became Toto and Emily (her actual name by a marvelous coincidence) became Dorothy, Dot, or (on the lips of those who scorned her studiousness and tendency to moralize) Dodo.
Toto and Dodo, who were the sort of soft young creatures from gentle homes to whom profanity did not come naturally, adopted the Britishism "No fear," which was their secret acronym for "Noblesse Oblige, F* 'Em All Royally." They enjoyed the irony when the term became popular and the Bully, now quite handsome in spite of the requisite broken nose from football, began to use it as a brag, imitated by his followers, who populated the designation "All."
The Bully, whose name was Ross—never Hoss but sometimes Boss—also developed a smooth, deep voice and when Prom time came was selected by acclamation to be the Emcee.
The mob had separated into self-conscious factions, of which four, scheming against each other, produced a confluence with surprising consequences in the prom royalty election, which was a straight write-in affair with no nominations or campaigning, on the administration's theory that pure democracy would minimize clique-power. The Bully's bunch strategized to vote Toto and Dodo onto the prom court to provide the joke of the evening. The studious—Math Olympians, Science Fair stars, and the Latin Club—voted Emory and Emily onto the prom court to show that academics counted. The Clarks voted for their leaders as for themselves. And the nerds voted for File (they had not forgotten) and his woman to show the Boss who was boss.
So Emory finds himself and his sweetheart, be-sashed like Miss Universe contestants, standing in the darkened service corridor leading into the main dining room at the local Holiday Inn, waiting to be announced in Ross's clarion baritone over a perfectly-functioning sound system as . . .
. . . the pep band brass section executes a fanfare that is almost on key . . .
"Prince and Princess . . ."
Spotlights circle the crowd. The couple steps forward, her hand nervously on his arm. The lights pin them.
". . . Emily and Emily!"
Uneasy laughter. Uncertain clapping.
Cheryl Wood Ruggiero has spent most of her words for decades on memos and reports, in the margins of student work, and amongst discoursing academics at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. In the past few years she has begun again to write poetry and fiction. A poem is forthcoming in CALYX, and a science-fiction novel (co-authored) is being quantum-teleported onto editors' desks.
Copyright 2005 Cheryl Ruggiero.