Wed | Aug 16, 2017

The Third Hogg

Published:Sunday | March 5, 2017 | 3:00 AMPaul H Williams

He lived a tormented life, for the most part. His classmates had no mercy on him, his neighbour laughed behind closed doors, and his work colleagues whispered about him, about his name.

His name was Ethelbert St Aloysius Hogg III, but he was brilliant. He was a bookworm and won a scholarship at every level of his academic life. At each graduation when his named was thundered, there would be silence, then loud laughter, but Ethelbert would collect his certificates with pride and dignity, seemingly.

Ethelbert St Aloysius Hogg II, a retired professor, too, was proud of his son. He knew Bert, as he affectionately called him, would be great, as he, Bert, and Bert's grandfather were named after Ethelbert, King of Kent, and the first Christian Anglo-Saxon monarch.

Deep down, Bert detested the names. But, more than anything else he hated being referred to as 'The Third Hogg', and he prayed for the day to come when he would change his name. That day came several times, but he could not bring himself to do it. He could not dishonour his grandfather and his father, his mentors.

Professor Hogg himself had his fair share of torture, but he was no walkover. His jovial demeanour won him many friends, and more than that, he belonged to a more genteel generation, where people did make a big ado over something as mundane as a name. He was now spending his retirement days reading of the conquests of English kings and the ill luck of vagabonds.

GATHERED HIS THOUGHTS

The last time he spoke with Bert over the phone, Bert told him he wanted to talk with him about an issue of great personal importance. Professor Hogg wanted to get right into it, but Bert insisted it would be a face-to-face talk. So, one fine Sunday evening, he visited 'The Second Hogg'.

From his living room, the widower, Professor Hogg, watched his only child drive into the yard. Bert parked in front of the veranda, exited, rushed to the passenger door and opened it excitedly. Out stepped a tall, dark-skinned young woman with the bearing of a beauty queen. He led her into the living room. Professor Hogg beamed warmly. He had met them on the veranda. The men embraced as the beauty smiled.

Bert turned to his father and said, 'This is Julianne, a good friend of mine, well, more than good."

Julianne shook hands with The Second Hogg, who invited them to refreshments.

After much chit-chat and catching up, The Third Hogg excused himself. He went to the library on the second floor to gather his thoughts once more. Fifteen minutes later, The Second Hogg joined him. Julianne had gone to the washroom.

'So when is the big day?'

'What big day?'

'The wedding!?'

'What wedding?'

'But aren't you guys getting married?'

'Well, Julianne and I met just a few months ago.'

'But, you seem to adore each other.'

'Yes, but there is no need to rush.'

'So, what was it then you wanted to tell me?'

'Dad ...'

'Dad what?'

'I have been struggling ...'

'Struggling?'

'Yes, struggling all my life with ...'

'With what?'

Bert sighed heavily before saying, 'Julianne won't be Mrs Hogg?'

'You mean she won't change her name?'

'Yes.'

'But, what are you talking about?'

'She will be Mrs Akintola Babatunde!'

'I don't understand. You mean she's going to be married to some African? So, why the big show boy, why did you bring her here?'

Another heavy sigh came.

'Dad, I am Akintola Babatunde!'

The Second Hogg gave Akintola a long, piercing look, and stormed out of the library, nearly knocking over the future Mrs Babatunde, who was eavesdropping behind the door.

Akintola, not wanting to upset Professor Hogg further, grabbed Julianne's hand, and they fled down the steps. When they reached the car, he stood and looked up at the dark, middle second-floor window, and waved goodbye. He knew his beloved father was looking down from the library. As the car slowly drove out of the yard, Akintola smiled triumphantly, and Juliane rubbed his left shoulder.

At the dark window, Professor Hogg's right hand was raised, with the thumb up, and a broad smile had taken over his face. "Finally!" he said to himself, "Somebody got the courage to get the Hogg out of the family." And he heaved, and sighed.