Call Me Stone
Tom Mahony
Break
He'd been calling me Stone for weeks, and my name isn't Stone. The first few times he said it, he sort of mumbled it and I didn't realize the misnomer until later. I'm not sure where he came up with Stone. My name sounds nothing like Stone.
At first, I scrounged for ways to tell him he'd been calling me by the wrong name, but the right moment never came. With each passing day, as our friendship grew, the prospect of revealing the truth grew more daunting. How would I explain weeks of cowardly deception? I couldn't. So I never did.
Now we were certifiable bros and I was, officially, Stone.
Once I dropped my resistance and accepted the name, everything fell strangely into place. Somehow I felt right as Stone. I changed my mannerisms, my habits, saw things through a new lens. I felt funnier. Cooler. The ladies looked at me differently.
I was, after all, Stone.
It was a fresh start at life. My old hang-ups and problems disappeared. It was magic.
But one day, while my friend and I loitered in a bar, a colleague from work approached me.
"Hey Frank," she said.
I froze in disbelief. My alternate realities were colliding. Maybe it was the shock or maybe the stiff ale swirling through my head, but for a moment I couldn't remember who I really was: Frank or Stone? Or somebody else?
I turned to my friend. He looked at me, puzzled. He looked at my coworker. She looked at me, then him, then me again. We all looked at each other. I turned away and stared at the bar and hoisted my beer in silence. As if I could make the problem go away by ignoring it.
That method seemed to work for me back in kindergarten.
A few seconds later, my coworker walked off in apparent confusion or disgust or both.
My friend studied me. "Frank?" He saw my driver's license lying atop my wallet on the bar. I'd left it there after getting carded. He picked it up and scrutinized it. Then he stared at me with a mixture of surprise and hurt. "You're not Stone."
I scrambled for a response. Not to explain my deception but to conjure up additional deception to continue as Stone. My fake world was crashing down upon me. But I came up with nothing.
Stone was dead. Stone wasn't coming back. Stone never really existed at all.
"You're right," I said reluctantly. "I'm not Stone."
Things were never the same between us after that.
Tom Mahony is a biological consultant in central California with an M.S. degree from Humboldt State University. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared or is forthcoming in Flashquake, The Rose & Thorn, Pindeldyboz, In Posse Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Verbsap, 34th Parallel, The Scruffy Dog Review, Void Magazine, SFWP, Kurungabaa, Cantaraville, The Flask Review, Foliate Oak, Decomp, The Oddville Press, Bewildering Stories, Long Story Short, Flash Forward, Six Sentences, Laughter Loaf, and Surfer Magazine. He is currently circulating a few novels for publication. Online