Names by Navid Sabet
Navid Sabet is a writer of fiction, poetry, and essays. He teaches creative writing at the University of Canberra, where he is also undertaking a PhD in cultural studies.
I remember the really bad day. It was Monday and I hate Mondays and Mum asked me why I hate Mondays but I don’t know why. Dad prays on Mondays but he’s meant to pray every day I think that’s what Mum says but he doesn’t pray every day since we moved here. He doesn’t let me pray with him anymore because he says people don’t understand what praying is here and before I started school he said I could choose any name to call myself and I said I already have a name but he said I need a new one. He got me a dog from the RSPCA well he got it for my sister her name is Afareen but at school they call her Annie because that’s the name she called herself when Dad asked her and me to choose a new name. Dad doesn’t like dogs but he said Australian kids like to play with animals and we should also play with animals.
At recess Lucy said her dad’s country hated my dad’s country because they lost at soccer but I didn’t get it because her dad’s country and my dad’s country are the same things. I don’t know what she’s talking about but I think she doesn’t like me and that makes me really sad. I don’t know what soccer is but I won’t ask because I don’t think she likes me and she will think I am stupid and I think she is really pretty she has yellow hair and freckles and really shiny eyes. Sometimes I think if I had yellow hair and freckles then she would like me more. I like freckles I think they are pretty and cool they are like stars and I think Lucy should show her freckles at show and tell time. My hands get all sweaty before show and tell when I don’t have anything to show and tell or even when I do have something to show and tell they still get sweaty. If I had something cool to show and tell something cool like freckles then Lucy could not hate me so much and think I’m stupid but sometimes I think I’m stupid too. Sometimes I think I’m stupid because Mum says things to me in Persian like on the really bad day and she told me the dog died but she said it in Persian and I didn’t know what she was saying.
Dad got the dog from the RSCPA for Afareen but Afareen doesn’t like dogs because the dog bit her on the leg and now she’s scared of dogs so then the dog was mine after that. I think if I didn’t have a dog at all then the really bad day wouldn’t be really bad because if I didn’t have him then he couldn’t go away but then I get sad because I love him but when I think about him I get really really sad. Mum said dogs live for many years but my dog was only less than three years but it got sick I know that because Mum told me on the really bad day. He had big black eyes and they were shiny and I could see my face in them because they were so shiny. They were as shiny as a photo and then I remember on the really bad day in a second or less than a second they weren’t shiny anymore and they were like a poster that isn’t shiny like a photo. I couldn’t see myself in them when they were like a poster. When they were shiny like a photo I could see myself in them I was looking at someone through a window at night and then they closed up the curtains and then they were not shiny and they were really dry like a poster and I couldn’t see myself anymore because they were too dry. I don’t like that word.
Recess was over and we were on the floor and I was in the corner and there was a stapler on the floor in the corner and I picked it up and played with it behind my back even though I knew that Mrs. Drew would be angry if I was playing with the stapler when show and tell is on. I knew she would be angry and say go and see the principal but I wouldn’t care because then I wouldn’t have to do show and tell when I didn’t have anything to show and tell. She would be more angry because we’re not allowed to use the stapler even if it’s not show and tell time and even if we are doing arts and crafts. It’s a big kid stapler and most of the time it’s not on the floor it’s on her desk. Jeremy is doing show and tell and that means I’m next because he sits next to where I sit and he’s showing his Pokémon. My hands are really sweaty and the stapler is slipping around in my hands and I want to go home and ask Dad what soccer is and also ask him if his country is different to Lucy’s Dad’s country and if they are different then I want to ask him to stop beating Lucy’s Dad’s country in the soccer and then maybe she won’t hate me anymore. She’s really pretty I think the prettiest person I’ve ever seen except Mum and I think I want to marry her. She showed a doll and a necklace for show and tell. The doll was pretty it was like her but it was really small and plastic and the necklace was pretty too she got it from her grandpa.
One time last term I had a sore finger because Mum said the skin was too dry and it peeled off and it hurt but I thought I could bring it for show and tell because I never have anything to show and tell but I thought I could show my hurt dry skin. But when I got in front of the class to show and tell I saw my skin was all better and Luke said that I was lying and he said I never had any hurt dry skin and I cried in front of the whole class. That’s the only time I had dry skin like that and I still hate that word and I still hate Mondays. That word makes me thirsty and I always think about that word when I’m in bed and I have to get up and walk to the bathroom and get water from the tap that’s in there. The water tastes different from the tap in the bathroom than from the kitchen and I think that water is good for dogs because he liked that water better than his water from the bowl. His water from the bowl had biscuits in it and maybe that’s why he didn’t like it but then why did he put the biscuits in there all the time? His bowl was yellow and a bit green and it said XYLO on it but you don’t say it like that you say it like ZILO because X is a funny letter. It’s funny too because XYLO isn’t his real name his real name is XYLOPHONE but we called him XYLO because it’s shorter than XYLOPHONE and XYLOPHONE isn’t a name for a dog it’s a thing and dogs aren’t things dogs are dogs that’s why we don’t eat them. But we eat chickens and cows does that mean they are things? Dad eats bacon on his sandwich even though he’s not supposed to because it’s dirty but he says it’s good for him but I hate it and so does Mum but I don’t hate it because it’s dirty I hate it because I love pigs and I don’t think we should hurt them because pigs are not things. XYLO isn’t a thing he is a dog but I called him XYLOPHONE when I was only three and I didn’t know that dogs and things are different things. When we were finding a name for XYLO Mum says that we were looking at a book for names but it was just a normal book with words and pictures and no names and Mum said I pointed to XYLOPHONE in the book but then she said XYLOPHONE is a thing and we need a name for the dog and not a thing but then I cried and so she said yes. Now I know what things are I know that things are things like shoes and toys and keys. Dad bought me a keyring when he went back to Iran but I didn’t have any keys to put on the keyring and I lost it and I missed it for a while. Keyrings are things too and I hate Mondays and I don’t have anything for show and tell and I miss XYLO.
Jeremy is nearly finished his show and tell and that means I’m next because Jeremy sits next to me and now my hands are really sweating all over and the stapler is slippery in my hands because of the sweat. I closed the stapler on my finger and it hurt so much more than when I fell off my bike but I didn’t move because then I knew I’d be in so much trouble even though I didn’t care because I had nothing to show and tell but then I saw my finger and it was bleeding right next to the fingernail and there was a staple inside my finger and it was bleeding down into my hand. Mrs. Drew said my name and she said it was my turn and my heart was beating really fast and there was lots of blood on my finger and on my hand lots of blood and lots of sweat. I went up to the front to do my show and tell and Mrs. Drew looked at my finger and all the blood and all the sweat and she fell over onto the floor.
On Tuesday I was late to school because Mum said she wanted me to sleep in and that I would go in to school late even though she had to go to work. I missed assembly but I don’t care that I missed it because assembly is boring and the school hall is really cold in the morning. Mum dropped me off out the front because she was in a hurry but she said that I could call her from the office if my finger hurt too much but I said it was okay. The staple came out on the way home and Mum put some cold stuff on my finger that made it hurt more and then less after a little while. Then she put a bandage around it and kissed it because she does that when I hurt myself. Dad told me that Lucy’s dad went for the Australian team who isn’t the best team and he said that Lucy’s Dad needs to know that they’re not the best team but I’m not going to say that to Lucy. I walked past the office lady on my way to the classroom but she didn’t see me because I’m really short. When I got to the classroom the door was open and I could hear everyone being really loud and I knew Mrs. Drew was going to say quiet down everyone or something like that but she didn’t say anything. When I got to the classroom everyone was doing arts and crafts and I saw that Mrs. Drew wasn’t even there which is funny because she’s always in the classroom even at recess I think maybe she sleeps there too but that’s funny because there’s no toilet there. Luke saw me he was playing lego and he ran over to me and he wanted to see my finger and I showed him my finger and my bandage and he said WOW and put his arm on my shoulder like he was my friend. I sat down at my desk and then something fell over my shoulder onto the desk and I saw that it was a card and it was pink and it said I HOPE YOUR FINGER GETS BETTER SOON and then it said FROM LUCY. At recess Lucy asked me to play soccer because she wants to make a really good team and she thinks I might be really good at soccer because I’m Iranian. I told her that I didn’t know how to play soccer but she said it’s okay we can play any game I like. She told me that Lucy isn’t her real name and her real name is Lacramioara and it’s from Romania and she asked me if I could call her that instead of Lucy and I said yes.