Flash Fiction Friday: Growing Up Fern

I was thinking about names and what they mean, the other day. Just what is in a name. Names are important, how does a name influence people?

Warning, there is some sexual innuendo and mild cursing in this story.

Growing Up Fern

The money was spread out on a towel draped on an overturned crate. The chair teetered as she sat back with a sigh. Just twelve friggin’ dollars in tips for the whole morning.  She took a drag on her cigarette, glaring at the pitiful pile. Tossing the butt, she scooped the money up and shoved it into her jeans pocket under her apron.

What a joke. Three-fifty an hour wage and another two dollars an hour in tips. She lit another cigarette. Christ, the rent’s due this week. How’m I supposed to make a living on five bucks an hour?

Her boss yelled through the open back door of the diner. “Fern, get your lazy ass in here. Customers comin’ in.”

“Yeah, yeah, Tony. Keep yer pants on,” she yelled back.

She leaned back against the wall of the diner, careful not to rock the broken chair. Her face to the late morning summer sun, she let her cigarette smolder between her fingers. What the hell happened? I was smart in high school, book smart anyway, she corrected herself as she thought about her six-year old daughter, Elizabeth. Smarter than most. How come I’m barely scrapin’ by and they’re all makin’ the big bucks?

Tony stuck his head out the door, “Fern! Customers!”

She took a last drag on her smoke and got up, crushing the butt on the alley pavement. “I’m comin’.”

She washed her hands before going into the front of the house. Pasting on a smile she grabbed some menus and approached the table where three guys in short sleeved white dress shirts and ties were sitting.

“Mornin’ guys, coffee?” She passed the menus around and took her order book out. They came in this time every day and always ordered the same thing.

“Hey there, Fern, lookin’ good,” he leered. Coffee for everybody.”

She smiled back, “How’s your dad, Mark?” Mark was dumb as a box of rocks but he managed to graduate from college with a degree in business and was taking over his father’s car dealership. Even managed to bring home a wife.

“He’s better, comes into the office twice a week.” He closed up the menu, “I’ll have the same, two eggs over easy, hash browns, sausage.”

“White toast?”

“Yeah. Heard from Brandon lately?” He smirked at his tablemates. They all laughed. They weren’t from here, so she didn’t pay them any mind. But the dig about her old boyfriend stung.

“Brandon’s out in L.A. working for some solar company. Your mom plays Bunko with his mom every week, you should know that.”

He shrugged; winking at his crew.

She looked at the two other car salesmen. “You boys want your regular orders?”

They nodded.

“OK, coffee’s out in minute. I’ll put your orders in.”

She picked up the menus and hustled into the kitchen. Ripping the order sheet from her book she stuck it into the cook’s rack, and went out to pour the coffees. She fumed, Stupid ass, rubbing it in. I don’t know how he managed to hook a wife. What’s she see in him?

Taking the coffees to the table, Mark started in again. “How’s your parents?”

Her mind flashed to her parents, driving off in the old conversion van. “They’re fine. Out in Oregon.”

“Good, good,” he grinned.

She went back to the kitchen. Her parents were hippies; there was no other way to describe it. That’s why her name was Fern. They had lived on a now defunct commune outside of town until the year after she graduated high school. Her mother helped her through that first rough year. They set her up as best they could and took off, to a new commune outside of Eugene. She shook her head. It wasn’t their fault she and Brandon hooked up. He had the grace to man up, she got a child support check every month, but still. It wasn’t enough.

“Order up!”

She picked up a tray and the orders from the window. Maybe it’s my name. Everyone else has normal names, but Fern is so…hippie.

Setting the plates on the table she asked, “Anything else I can getcha?”

They all shook their heads as they reached for salt, pepper and catsup. “Nah, we’re good.”

Taking the tray back to the waitress stand she wondered. Maybe it IS my name, why the hell else am I’m stuck waiting tables? She scrunched her toes up in her sneakers. Her feet hurt and when she left here at 3:30 this afternoon, she had to go over to the hotel and cocktail waitress until 11pm. Serving drinks got better tips than serving in a diner but it was a race every month between her and the bills.

As she made a fresh pot of coffee, she overheard the guys talking about the local college’s business classes. The older salesman’s son was thinking of going. She had wanted to go to college but she was pregnant at her high school graduation. There was no way she could swing it with a baby in tow.

“Yeah, the damn government gives away scholarships,” she heard Mark say. “My parents had to pay the full ride, why should other people get government hand outs.”

If you weren’t so stupid, you could have had a scholarship, she thought as she started the dishwasher.

As Mark ranted she wondered, What if I could get some help? I could take business classes. Hell, I do Tony’s books now!

She filled out the check and took it to Mark. “Here you go boys. I’ll take it at the register.”

Mark smirked, “I’ll bet you will.” The three men roared, Fern shook her head as she left.

Ass. If he can run a business, I sure as hell can. She pulled the phone book out and wrote down the admissions office number for the college. Closing the phone book, she tucked the number into her jeans pocket and smiled as Mark came up to the register.

The End

997 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here:http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

Flash Fiction Friday: Names

I opened my browser up the other day and found a Yahoo news article about a couple who’d been told that the name they’d chosen for their child was not acceptable. I had to read that article of course. It turns out a lot of countries actually control the names parents are allowed to name their children. Well slap me silly! Here’s what I came up with.


Guo and Nuan Lo stood proudly in the temple. It was Naming Day for their new daughter. The priest had the sacred oil ready; the mandatory government functionary was at Guo’s left. Friends and family were standing behind the couple. Naming Day gifts were on the table at the couple’s home, ready to open after the feast.
The priest lit the incense, chanting prayers to Guo’s and Nuan’s ancestors, calling them to witness the new name of the baby girl Nuan held in her arms. Nuan adjusted the tiny red cap the baby wore, matching her red silk dress and tiny baby shoes. She worried a little that the ancestors, or the majority of them anyway, were back on Earth. There were only two generations of ancestors here on New Peking. She hoped that was enough to bring luck to the new female.
The priest struck the alter bell three times, completing the ancestor summoning. Holding the bowl of sacred oil, he approached the couple. Nuan handed the baby to Guo, it was his responsibility to name the child.
Holding his oil covered thumb over the baby’s forehead, the priest asked, “What is the girl child’s name?”
Guo pulled his shoulders back and in a clear voice said, “Ixcheu.”
Nuan stiffened at the gasp from the audience. She saw her husband point his chin higher as the mouth of government man beside him dropped open.
He turned red. “You can’t name the baby that! That’s an alien name. Only Chinese names are authorized!”
Nuan blushed at the insult to their friend, Revik, at the back of the audience.
Her husband turned to the government man, “I have worked with the aliens for years. I have made many friends among them, one of them, Revik, my best friend. It is time to do that friendship honor. The child’s name shall be Ixcheu.” He faced the priest, “Her name is as I say.”
The priest looked to the government man.
The man grew red, “It is not authorized. Priest, name the girl, Yi, meaning Suitable.”
Nervously, the priest stepped forward, dabbed the girl with sacred oil on earlobes, forehead and chin, “You are named,” and as he said, “Yi,” Guo shouted, “Ixcheu.”
The audience gasped and began murmuring with their neighbors as the priest finished the rites. The parents, priest and government man stepped to the monitor to record the name. The government man forced his way to the monitor ahead of Guo, causing more audience comments over the bad manners of the man. He typed in Yi, and hit the send button, turning triumphantly to the parents.
“It is official, her name is Yi.” He bowed a micrometer to the parents, then a little deeper to the priest; and marched out of the temple.
Five years later, Yi, called Ixcheu, by her parents, came to class for the first time. Again, the teacher, maintaining colony custom, began by calling the girl, Yi. She refused to respond until the teacher called her Ixcheu. Thus, each year, the girl had a battle of wills with her new teacher and each year she won.
Upon her graduation from college, as a lawyer, her first action was to petition the government to change the law concerning naming conventions for the colony. By now, many children were in name limbo, their parents trying to honor alien friends and mentors but the government refused to relax the naming conventions.
Using all of those people as her base, she challenged the government. The day of the trial arrived.
In her closing argument she maintained, “Your honor, the time has passed for strict adherence to an archaic policy. I certainly understand the desire to maintain our traditional culture. However, it’s time to embrace the new culture, a mixed culture of human and alien. Mandatory naming conventions don’t strengthen our culture, it weakens our ties to the multi-cultural environment that exists today. It’s an insult to our alien, and to our non-Chinese human co-workers and friends.”
The government lawyer glared at her. She froze for a moment but gathered her resolve and continued. “My esteemed colleague,” she nodded to him, “contends that our heritage would be lost if we allowed other than traditional Chinese names. That it’s an affront to our ancestors to use non-Chinese or non-human names. I insist that it’s an honor to use these non-traditional names, an honor to the friends and co-workers among us who are not of Chinese ancestry.”
The judge pounded his gavel at the noise from the audience. “Quiet in the courtroom.”
Ixcheu took that time to sip some water. Her stomach was in a knot and her hands were sweaty. Once the courtroom settled down, she continued.
“Your honor, our history reports the concern our ancestors had about our heritage when we first arrived on New Peking. So many non-Chinese and aliens were among us, they thought our culture would be lost. I can appreciate that. But that was one hundred years ago. Nothing remains static, we must make allowances for changing social structures, not remain locked in a rigid system that refuses all change and growth. Please, Your Honor, allow the law to be changed.”
She sat down, the judge glaring at her. Finally he recessed the court until the next day. He’d give his judgment then.
Ixcheu spent the night with her family and friends examining the trial from every angle, trying to guess how the judge would rule.
The next day, the judge rapped the gavel on his stand once, and Ixcheu and the government representative rose. The judge looked between them, Ixcheu couldn’t read his face. She clenched and unclenched her fists, her stomach in knots. The judge took a deep breath and stared at Ixcheu.
“I rule in favor of the petitioner, Yi Lo, henceforth to be known, officially, as Ixcheu Lo.” He rapped his gavel and the courtroom erupted in cheers.

The End
985 Words
Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here:http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html