Clean Living and a Good Outfield

dizzy-deanI am tired. Bone tired. I’ve been on the road for a week doing book events and it is in no way as glamorous as it sounds. I got into the San Jose airport tonight only to find a major traffic jam waiting for me. So what did I do? Pull over at the nearest sports bar and watch the Warriors topple the Rockets. (Go, Warriors!) Now I’m finally home and have time to write my post which is already an hour late. Sigh.

But enough that. This week we’re talking about names. In The Moment of Eveything, I got my character names from lots of places. Hugo was named after a professor my father taught with who was always very kind to me and treated me like I was much smarter than I actually was. Mrs. Callahn is named after the landlady of a college friend who taught me how to make martinis. For Avi and Rajhit, I applied the Indian tradition of giving children nicknames. They are a shortening of names of people I’ve known.

But Dizzy’s name is the one everyone wants to know about, and it’s the one no one can guess. In the original version of the manuscript, my main character Maggie had a brother named Dizzy. The brother character melded into the childhood friend (who was originally named Trey), but I had to keep the name. It’s just so great. Here’s the part of the novel that explained the brother Dizzy’s name.

Dr. Dizzy Duprés. My brother had been born in desperate need of a nickname. His real name was Mason Beauregard Jameson Duprés III. My parents tried calling him Beau, Trip, and even Blue for his eyes, so different from the riverbed brown of my own. But none of these took. Then one day when he was eleven, he found a biography of Dizzy Dean, the pitcher for the Depression-era St. Louis Browns. Aside from his talents as a pitcher, Mr. Dean apparently was also a wiseass. And Dizzy loved a wiseass. He set a school library record for 14 book renewals. At any moment—a family barbecue, in the middle of Sunday services, over the loud speaker at school—he would bark out things like, “The secret to being a good pitcher is clean living and a good outfield,” or “It ain’t bragging if you back it up.”

It was a mortifying time for our parents, one of many to be inflicted on them by their children. Dizzy got put on restriction. No TV. But that just gave him more time to read his favorite book. “The doctors x-rayed my head and found nothing,” he announced to the clerk at Belk’s department store. “He slud into third,” he told a teacher when asked what was wrong with a math problem on the board. So my parents took away his reading privileges and made him watch TV. After that, they always seemed to be a bit suspicious of any time Dizzy or I had a book in our hands. But my brother had his nickname. He was Dizzy forever more. I heard once that one of his boyfriends in medical school tattooed “Dizzy is my world; Dizzy makes the world go round” on his backside. But I don’t believe it. Honestly, who would use a semicolon in their tattoo?

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Shelly is the author of THE MOMENT OF EVERYTHING, story of love and books in Silicon Valley. She lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains with her husband, two big dogs, and a disapproving cat.

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