Short Story: Doorknob

Pregnant woman in foreground, morose man in background

Photo via Visualhunt.

Once upon a time—or rather, many times—I suggested carefully chosen lists of names to my husband for our expected baby. Each time, every name was turned down flat without even five seconds of thought. The due date was approaching and I was getting frustrated. This child needed a name, and yet not only was my husband turning down every suggestion I made, he also was refusing to come up with any of his own.

I finally sat him down one night and told him we HAVE to pick a name. If he didn’t like my suggestions, he had to offer some his own. It was only fair.

“Fine,” he said. He took a quick glance around the room and said, “Picture frame, Xbox, TV, bookshelf, book, table, chair, doorknob, telephone—”

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“You wanted names, I’m giving you names.”

I raised my eyebrows. “You would seriously name our child Doorknob?”

“If it’ll get you off my case,” he said and slumped back into his chair. His look was defiant.

“Fine, his name is Doorknob,” I spat before leaving for the kitchen. He was being such a jerk.

“Glad you like it,” he called after me. I heard the TV turn on.

I stood in the kitchen for several minutes, just stewing and yelling at him in my head. After I had collected myself a bit, I breathed deeply and thought, “Okay, then. Two people can play this game.”

* * * * *

The following Sunday, a friend at church grinned and said, “So! Have you two picked a name yet?”

“Yes, actually,” I said. I noticed from the corner of my eye that my husband looked at me. “We’re naming him Doorknob.” I smiled.

Our friend’s smile froze, and her eyes darted between my face and my husband’s, trying to guess the joke.

“He suggested it, actually,” I continued calmly, “He didn’t like any of the names I came up with, so when he finally came up with a few suggestions of his own, I compromised and picked one from his list that I thought I could live with.” I intentionally avoided looking at my husband, though I could tell from my peripheral vision that he was shifting his weight and staring at his shoes.

“Doorknob,” our friend said, still not believing. “As in, the handle on a door?”

“That’s right,” I said. I finally looked at my husband. “I liked it better than Table or Chair.” When he glanced up at me, I smiled sweetly.

My friend laughed, but it died off quickly when she realized we weren’t laughing with her. “Really? Doorknob?” She looked at my husband. “You suggested ‘doorknob,’ ‘table,’ and ‘chair’ for names?”

He scratched the back of his head and avoided eye contact with her. “Uh, yeah.”

“So, that’s that,” I said cheerfully. “Now that it’s decided we can stop arguing about it.”

“Well,” she said, looking unsure. “So long as you guys are happy with it. I guess.”

* * * * *

As we were driving home, my husband suddenly said, “That whole bit with the doorknob, very funny.”

“What?” I asked and looked at him. His lips were a tight line and he was gripping the steering wheel.

“You win; you made me look stupid. That’s what you wanted, right?” He glanced at me, then back at the road. “Naming the baby Doorknob was all my idea and you’re the martyr-wife who has to put up with me. I get it. You can end the joke now.”

Keeping my tone calm, I said, “I wasn’t joking.”

“Of course you weren’t,” he said with a sneer. “After suggesting Matthew or William, you’re suddenly okay with Doorknob of all things.”

“I’m not in love with it,” I said as I looked out the side window. “But you didn’t give me much to work with.”

“That list was crap and you know it.”

“I asked you in all seriousness to please give some feedback. A list of names you’d prefer since you didn’t like any of mine. You gave me one. So, I’m doing the best I can to compromise.”

“You—” he shouted, and then clenched his jaw shut and hit the steering wheel with his fist. He drove in silence for several minutes. “Fine,” he finally said. “Tell the whole world his name is Doorknob for all I care. But I know you won’t actually name him that.”

“I will unless we come to a different agreement,” I said quietly.

“Sure you will,” he said.

* * * * *

So, over the next few weeks, I did exactly what he said to do. I told anyone who was interested that the baby was going to be named Doorknob. My husband often stood by fuming, but he never denied it was his suggestion.

We got all kinds of responses. Some laughed, some didn’t. Many were confused. I had a couple of people pull me aside with serious concern, but no one could talk me out of it. I don’t know if anyone spoke to my husband about it, but he never mentioned it.

As time passed, he grew less angry and more sullen. As the due date approached, he even gradually came to accept it. The defiance was gone. The anger was gone. Doorknob was just what the baby’s name was. I was beginning to lose hope.

Were we really going to name the baby Doorknob?

Two days after my due date, my water broke at home. Once the contractions got close enough, we drove to the hospital and checked in. I labored there for another 14 hours before the baby finally made its way into the world.

He was perfect. His head was misshapen and his nose was squashed, but he was puffy and pink and slimy and all ours. A beautiful, healthy baby boy.

The nurses and doctor were giving us some space afterwards as I nursed the baby for the first time. My husband sat on a stool near my head and just watched us. Judging from his expression, it was in awe and in gratitude. At one point he put his hand over mine, which was on the back of the baby’s head—and I thought, “We’re a real family.”

Not long after that the medical staff came back in. My husband left with a nurse and the baby for the first bath, and I was stitched and cleaned up.

Apparently they asked my husband to fill out the birth certificate at this point, because when they wheeled the baby back in, my husband pointed at the name card at the head of the bassinet and said, “What do you think?”

It said his name was William.

Before I could respond, he said gently, “We can still call him Doorknob if you want. Or DK for short.”

I nodded, unable to speak. Then the tears fell. He sat on the edge of my bed and hugged me, and I sobbed into his chest.

“I love you,” he said into my hair. I cried loudly and gripped him even harder.

I knew he knew I meant, “I love you, too.” And, “Thank you.”

* * * * *

Hope you enjoyed this bit of fiction I wrote based on a comment I saw on a baby naming site. The woman was venting about her husband who wasn’t helping at all with names, and when pressed for suggestions started naming objects around the room.

It struck me as funny and relatable, since my own husband and I had struggled with names with our children. So, I started to write about what that woman must have been feeling… and before it knew it, this little story had tumbled out of me. (But please note, I don’t condone this kind of behavior. It just makes for an amusing story.)

What about you? If you’ve had kids, did you and your partner struggle to agree on names? Did you have a name picked out before the baby was born, or wait to choose from a short list after the baby was born? Both of our kids were a few days old before we finally settled on their names, since it was so hard for us to agree. Our second child’s name didn’t even come from the list we took to the hospital!

If you don’t have kids, what’s the weirdest name of someone you’ve met? (We’ve all heard the Internet’s list of Abcde and Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii, etc.) I met a set of siblings once who were named Serenity, Roman, and Talon. And another set of siblings named Princess Raven, Princess Safari, and Prince Apollo.

True story!