A cool side-benefit of spending 30 minutes engaged in the mindless exercise of trudging up and down the stairs is that it offers me ample time to allow my curious mind to wander. At first, I began counting stairs, but as my exercise increased, I moved away from counting to a timer and let my mind wander more freely.

As a fledgling writer, I have learned that if you want your readership to believe your lies, you’d better tell the truth often, and it is often uncomfortable or even painful to tell the truth. The truth is that mostly, my mind wandered to creating wonderfully engaging sexual scenarios. Now I can anticipate what some folks might wonder, but no, during strenuous exercise, this old man’s blood is otherwise occupied and there has been no difficulty or awkwardness of movement in the lower reaches as I simultaneously exercise and imagine sex. It is purely entertainment, though it is admittedly far from “pure” entertainment. Let’s just settle on ‘goal-directed’ fantasies instead.

Today as I began to exercise, I had just finished coffee and about twenty minutes of watching the sports channel’s highlight reels, complete with all the funny and absurd names and nicknames that are applied to sports celebrities by goofy, on-screen jocks, who are big boys that yammer at us as if they knew what they were talking about.

So I got to thinking about boy’s names, nicknames and how a name makes its way through various transformations to become what it is. My legal name, for instance, is James, but no one has ever called me James except my grade five teacher, Mrs. Downes. To family and friends, until my name transformed, I was Jimmy, then Jim after the diminutive began to seem inappropriate. In high school, other boys transformed my last name into Jake, I liked it and began introducing myself by that name. My name transformation was easy, agreeable, appropriate. Not everyone is so lucky.

When I was teaching, I was at a school where there was a football player named Marcus Dangler. Trouble, you sense? The first part of Mark’s name transformation began with his first name. Marcus became Mucus. He was Mucus Dangler to the boys. That lasted only a week or so until it dawned on the boys who were calling him Mucus Dangler that another name for a “mucus dangler” was snot, and the long, four-syllable name became the simple, single-syllable name, “Snot.”

“Snot, hey Snot,” they would call down the hallway to him. The disagreeable nature of the name seemed to bother the teachers more than it seemed to bother the boy. But for the time being, at least, Mark became Snot and there seemed naught to be done about it. There was one brief attempt to further transform the lad’s name into “Gob,” but the attempt failed to take hold. He was only “Gob” for a day. “Would you like to be Gob for a day?” There was once a TV program that offered women the chance to be Queen for a day, but never “Gob” for a day.

Boys will be boys, I suppose, but given the experiences of the many men I know who have, in their maturity, declared their life-long gayness, even that old saying may have to be transformed into “boys will be girls.” I find it all so mystifying.

My timer rang! Thirty minutes can pass so quickly when one is having fun.