Ben Loory

A man awakens one morning to find he has forgotten his name. He lies in bed, staring at the ceiling.

Biff? he thinks. Ted?

He looks around the room.

Harold? he thinks. Is my name Harold?

The man goes into the kitchen and pours a bowl of cereal.

Joe? he thinks. Joseph? Maybe it's Joseph.

But a moment later, he shakes his head.

Nope, he thinks. Not Joseph.

He turns and looks around.

Must be something in this house with my name on it, he says.

Hours later, and the man has searched the house from top to bottom.

His name is nowhere to be found.

The man goes next door and knocks on his neighbor's door.

What's my name? he says when his neighbor answers.

I don't know, his neighbor says. I don't think you ever told me.

Who are you? the neighbor on the other side says. I've never seen you before in my life.

The man decides to forget about it and go to work. He drives to the office and sits at his desk. He looks around at the various other employees. They all have little nameplates on their desks with their names engraved on them.

The man looks at his own desk.

He has no nameplate.

I have to get a name, the man says.

On the way home from work, the man stops at the bookstore. He buys a book of names and goes home.

Herman, reads the man. Lionel. Aloysius.

None of the names sound quite right.

Franklin, says the man. Francis. Frederick. Fernando.

He kind of likes Fernando.

The next day when the man goes to work he is whistling a little tune.

My name is Fernando, he tells the office.

Everybody looks at him, but no one says a word.

Fernando, says the man again, a little louder.


The man goes into his office and sits in his chair. He picks up his briefcase and opens it. He takes something out and puts it on his desk.

It's a brand-new nameplate that says "Fernando."

The man sits there and gazes at his nameplate. But after a little while, he frowns.

The nameplate doesn't look quite the same as everyone else's. It looks slightly different.

Cheaper, less official.

That day at lunch a problem develops. Another man from the office comes and stands over his table. This other man looks angry. Very, very angry.

Yes? says the man. What is it?

Why are you calling yourself Fernando? the angry man says.

The man thinks a moment and clears his throat.

Fernando is my name, he finally answers.

Fernando is my name! screams the angry man.

More than one person, says the man, can be named Fernando.

Fernando stares at him in fury. Then he narrows his eyes and leans forward over the table.

You don't understand anything, he hisses, do you?

Then he overturns the man's lunch table on top of him.

I have no name, the man thinks, as he lies there.

That night the man stands in his bathroom, cleaning the stains from his shirt.

How can I go on like this? he says into the mirror. I need a name, I need a name—I have to have a name.

Your name is Fernando, says a voice behind him.

No, says the man. I tried that already.

Fernando, the voice says again, your name is Fernando! Your name is Fernando—and has always been!

The man returns to work the next day with renewed strength.

My name is Fernando! he screams. Do you hear me? 

The people in the office all turn and stare.

Fernando! the man yells. Do you understand?

Sitting behind their desks, the people nod their heads.

Nodding is not good enough! screams the man. If you understand what I'm saying—that my name is Fernando—speak up! Say so! Now!

We understand! say the people. Your name is Fernando!

Fernando! says the man. Fernando!

Fernando! say the people. Fernando! Fernando!

Just then Fernando enters. He is crying.

You can't do this, he says. It is wrong! Wrong!

You are wrong, the man says. And stop crying!

But you're destroying me! Fernando wails.

So what? says the man. Who are you? Nobody! You'll get over it in time.

The unnamed Fernando collapses to the floor, and the new Fernando strides about the room. He goes from desk to desk to desk to desk, snatching up nameplates and jamming them down into his pockets.

Then he goes into his office and slams the door.

The people in the office look at each other.

Then they look at the door.

Fernando, they read there, stenciled on the glass.

Fernando, it says forevermore.

Ben Loory lives in Los Angeles. His stories have appeared in Knock, Bicycle Review and others. "Fernando" is from a recently completed collection, Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day.

To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/200909fernando.htm

Photo detail on main page courtesy of B Johnson.

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