They’d said his name would be spelled T-H-A-N-G in English. She rolled the letters around her tongue. Tang? Thang? Tong?
“Fucking gook name,” Charlie muttered. “We’ll have to change it to something American.” Melissa ignored that and called for Rodney to tell him the good news.
The day Thang arrived all the neighbors gathered at the O’Connor house to celebrate. There was great sympathy for him, conjured up by the postulated stories of a rickety boat and a terrible ordeal at sea. Never mind that Thang had actually arrived by plane from Washington, accompanied by immigration services officials and never mind that the O’Connors told everyone just that when they drove to the Atlanta airport to meet him. They made a huge sign, and hung it across the railing of the O’Connor front porch. “Welcome John!” Charlie chose the name John. Melissa agreed to it, although she remained curious as to how the boy would pronounce his given Vietnamese name.
“T’ahn,” the boy said quietly. His eyes gazed downward as his new family awkwardly hugged him and took turns getting used to his smell, aura and presence.
“Your new name is John,” Charlie announced to the boy, showing him the letters written on a Hello My Name Is sticker. He placed the sticker on Thang’s shirt.
“Meet your brother,” Melissa said. She pushed Rodney and John Thang together, as if merging the ends of an accordion. The boys retracted. But just as he had been told to do, Rodney extended his hand for shaking.
“Welcome to America,” Rodney said.