Life really is, as Forrest Gump’s mother always said, like a box of chocolates. Although I disagree with her reason for suggesting the analogy. That stuff about not knowing what you’re gonna get….I mean, where did she get her chocolates? Every box I ever bought used the lid’s underside as a built-in roadmap. One look and you can see exactly where each little tasty treat is located and what to expect when you bite into it.
No, life and boxes of chocolate are related because our expectations rarely match what that roadmap leads us to believe. You scan the nifty shapes printed on the box cover and think, ‘Yeah, that gooey caramel nut fig drop looks good.’ But you pick it up, take a bite and realize they lied to you. Right away you know this ain’t no gooey caramel nut fig drop, it’s a peppered tangerine wheat thin.
What I’m trying to say is things aren’t always as they seem. Case in point: my partner Nacho Flaherty.
By the way, with or without a lid, my name is Rick Spinner. I am Nacho’s partner and we are consultants. We are PC techs, guys who wear ID badges and pretend to understand the technology you depend on.
As previously noted, things aren’t always what they seem. And Nacho is definitely not what he seems. Seriously, what kind of name is Nacho Flaherty? As fate, or whatever, would have it one day last week we caught a break in the action, and calls to the help desk dropped to zero. Oddly, I found myself with time on my hands; time and questions for one Mr. Flaherty.
I pushed away from my computer, twisted my neck to work out the kinks and spun my chair to face Nacho.
“So, how about it?” I said. “Where does Nacho Flaherty come from?
My partner didn’t answer right away. He was busy fiddling with a reverse threaded knobby thing. He screwed it down tight, dropped the T-10 screwdriver into a desk drawer and looked at me.
“Akron, Ohio,” Nacho said. Then he shrugged. “Well, not exactly Akron, a suburb. I was born in a town about eighty-five miles northwest of Akron.”
I frowned. Geography wasn’t my strong suit in school but I seemed to remember Lake Erie being the only thing north of Akron.
“Hold on,” I said, holding up my index finger. Then I clicked on an icon to start up the pirated map software installed on my PC. A few moments later I turned back to Nacho and said, “Pelee Island is eighty-five miles northwest of Akron. You were born on Pelee Island? That’s in Canada.”
“Hey,” Nacho said. “There are worse places, island life wasn’t so bad.”
Nacho shifted his weight. I could tell he was uncomfortable. “This is kind of personal, don’t you think?” He said. “I mean, jeez, why don’t we talk about the color of my underwear?” I opened my mouth to speak but Nacho interrupted. “Red,” he said. “My Jockey’s are red. Well, not quite, maybe more like fuchsia. There, are you happy?”
“Uh, to be truthful,” I said. “I don’t give a rip about your bloomers or what island you were born on, I was asking how you wound up with a name like Nacho Flaherty. I mean, talk about confusion between nationality and cuisine. You’re a combination of spicy cheese and the country of Ireland. What gives?”
He sighed then fidgeted a little. “If you must know,” Nacho said. “I’m Norwegian, on my mother’s side. My father was in government, his office managed international disputes. Dad’s specialty was borders, national territories, stuff like that.”
Nacho gave a half smile and looked at me as if what he’d just said not only answered my question, but went a long way toward explaining most anything else I could ask. I nodded. It was the only thing I could think to do.
“But your name,” I said. “Why Nacho? I assume Flaherty is a surname, but….Nacho?”
“Actually, Flaherty was the dog’s middle name. My parent’s last name is Ingebritsen.”
I stared at him, too confused to do anything else. Meanwhile, my brain was browbeating my mouth, demanding action. Eventually my lips responded by saying, “Who gives their dog a middle name? And why do you have it?”
“National security.” Nacho said then made a face. “Well, okay, island security. It’s like this: Before I was born, Norway was engaged in a border dispute with Canada over Pelee Island, something about the Vikings getting there ahead of the French, and way before the British. Anyway, my dad was on Pelee, in the NOOD, working undercover. That’s---”
I interrupted. “Wait, your dad was on Pelee Island just walking around naked?”
“Not in the nude,” Nacho said. “In the NOOD, the Norwegian Office Of Disputes.”
“I see,” I said. “Uh, okay, what then?”
“Dad was working undercover when mom got pregnant with me. Problem was, she hadn’t left Norway and dad had been out of country for six months.” Nacho shrugged. “What can I say? You do the math. Anyway, Mom claimed Immaculate Conception, swore she’d been faithful, and my dad bought it hook, line, and divine birth. Dad figured this was a sign, you know, a portent to Norway’s claim on Pelee. So he smuggled mom onto the island, figured his boy wonder ought to be born on newly acquired Norwegian soil. Interestingly enough, the day I arrived a lower Canadian appellate court upheld Norway’s claim on Pelee. Six hours later a higher court overturned the ruling. But for six hours Pelee was Norse territory. So, technically, I’m Norwegian.”
I nodded, tried to speak, words failed me.
“But the locals were angry,” Nacho continued. “No one knows exactly what they were upset about. On that particular day they lost citizenship twice, maybe the fishing was lousy or the Redwings lost to the Blackhawks and that got ‘em all jazzed up. Who knows? But sensing native unrest, mom and dad changed my last name to protect me. I guess the dog was just handy.”
Now, not even my brain could get my mouth in gear. I had something to say or ask, I was sure of it, but I was dumbfounded. “Uh…” I could hardly form a single word. My tongue seemed have rigor mortis. Then, thank god, I had the verbal equivalent of a mini-Mount Vesuvius and I said, “So, why Nacho?”
My partner blushed. “Well,” he said. “That depends. My dad claims he had another name in mind, he insists the midwife got it wrong.”
“What does your mom say?” I asked. “Did the midwife get it wrong?”
Nacho looked away. “My old man did like cheese.”