by Than Pence
Gunther learns of his name's origin and wants to change it.
Gunther Morris grimaced but returned his wave. He hated his name. He hadn’t been aware of it until he had seen it appear frequently in syndicated episodes of Friends. And it wasn’t until he had watched an episode with his mother that she turned to him with a wide smile and said, “That’s where your name comes from. The barrister!”
“Isn’t he just a coffeeman or brewer or something?” Gunther asked.
“No, he’s a barrister. A female is a barista, so a male is a barrister.
So Gunther lived with the knowledge that his name came not from one of the famous sitcom’s mainstream character, but from one of the ancillary characters who had ridiculous hair. His fellow sixth graders weren’t aware of this, but his teachers always were.
“Gunther Morris,” Mrs. Klemlin would call out during roll. She’d then sometime giggle and say something about Gunther being needed at Central Perk. The other kids finally asked Mrs. Klemlin what she was talking about and Gunther’s awful namesake was brought to life. For the rest of that day, they called him Coffeeboy.
After getting home, Gunther cried a little to himself and then his mom got home from work. He asked her why she picked such a stupid name for him. “Well, honey. Your father and I were fans of the show and everyone always compared us to Ross and Rachel when it was clear that we were more like Monica and Chandler. And we wanted to name you after one of them—”
“Thank God you didn’t name me Chandler.”
“—but we knew we’d be ridiculed for it. So we named you Gunther. And I think it sounds like such a nice name for you. I’m sorry you don’t like it.”
Gunther considered it for a moment. “Well, you said he was a barrister or something, right?”
“Uh huh, a barrister. A woman’s a barista, so a man’s a barrister.”
“So when people call me Coffeeboy, I can correct them and say ‘I’m more than that. I’m a barrister’, right?”
His mother smiled and nodded. “You sure can, honey.”
The next day, the first kid to approach Gunther said “Hey, Coffeeboy!” very loudly. It drew everyone’s attention and Gunther knew this was his moment.
“I’m more than that. I’m a barrister!” The kids looked stunned and Gunther was proud to one-up them in the knowledge department.
Justin Peltzer stepped forward, his face screwed up. “You’re… a lawyer?”
Gunther laughed. “No, I’m a barrister. That’s someone who serves coffee.”
The other kids looks to Justin as he seemed more confident with his facts. “No. My Uncle Kenny works at Perky Business and he says he’s a barista.”
“Then your uncle’s a girl, man!” Gunther started laughing, but no one else did and it made his heart hammer.
“No, he’s my uncle, Coffeeboy. Uncles are guys. But a barrister is a lawyer. There’s one in one of my mom’s favorite movies. About a fish, or something.”
Gunther was appalled inside, but tried not showing it to the others. He also felt betrayed by his mother. How had she gotten her facts wrong? The rest of that day, Gunther was referred to by a new name: Coffeelawyer. It was humiliating.
He got home that day and cried more than the day before. His mother got home and found him crying still. “What’s wrong, honey?”
“A barrister is a lawyer, mom. A barista can be a girl or a boy!”
His mother looked stunned. “Oh, well, I’m sorry, dear. I guess I just made an assumption…” She trailed off and Gunther saw that she felt as bad as he did, and that made him feel worse.
“No, it’s okay, Mom. I guess it was just a mistake, or something.” She looked him in the eyes and he could see she was holding back tears. “Maybe… I can start going by my middle name, Mom.”
“Your middle name?”
“Yeah. Some kids do that, right?”
“Yes. Some did when I was in school.”
“So, I think I want to do that. I want to use my middle name.”
“Okay, honey. If that’s what you want.” Gunther smiled and hugged his mom.
The next day, he arrived at school and was immediately bombarded with Coffeelawyer jokes and barbs. He took his stand right away. “I’m not going to go by Gunther anymore. I’m going to use my middle name, and only respond to that.”
“What’s that?” asked Justin.
“From now on, I’ll be Fonzie.”
Word Count: 751