Help Me Name This Character

When I was working for Hospice in the year 2000, I had an assignment that involved delivering morphine to a guy in Hallowpaw, Florida. With a town name like that, you can imagine the characters who live there.

Hallowpaw is a little village that sits out on a swamp in the middle of nowhere about forty miles south of Orlando.

It was pouring rain that day and I drove down a long sandy road with cypress swamp on either side to get to the address. When I arrive in front of the tiny makeshift shack, I turned onto a drive that was flooded in places and wondered if my car would make it out.

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Sitting on the front porch was a huge Haitian man of about four-hundred pounds, give or take a few.

In a foot and a half of murky coffee-colored water, I took my umbrella and waded, in my three inch heels and stockings, to the front steps.

A pillar of smoke rose from his head and I noticed he was smoking a doobie the size of a Cuban cigar, the fragrance unmistakable. I stepped up onto the porch, introduced myself and took a seat across from him. It was then that I saw the two foot alligator on a leash that he held in his hand. It lay quietly on the floor a few inches from my wet feet.

He was jovial, but obviously in pain, wincing with every move. I handed him his bag and he told me a couple of swamp stories and I was on my way.

A couple of months later I was in Washington, D.C. attending a luncheon hosted by Elizabeth Dole’s  secretary, where I was asked to describe a day in the life of a Hospice nurse. Hospice was a relatively new concept in this country at that time. We were trying to get political support.

The day I met the Haitian man came to mind because it was a full day. I had to leave him, go home and shower, and be at the top of the Winter Park Towers to give a presentation to a bunch of doctors and suits on the benefits of Hospice services and the feasibility of instituting an inpatient suite of beds in their facility. Next, I had to meet with a family in their home to process an admission of their dying family member. Those appointments took me from sunrise to way after sunset. I thought that day offered a comprehensive overview of what Hospice nurses do.

First lady: Did you call the police and report the illegal drugs?

Me: No, I was there to deliver his morphine. I doubt if anything he was imbibing in was anymore detrimental to his health than his disease or his narcotics.

Second lady: Did you call the Humane Society or Animal Control about the alligator?

Me: The man was dying. If he found some pleasure in entertaining himself with an alligator while getting high, who am I to wreck his fun.

They didn’t seem at all interested in my day beyond the flaws they found in that situation. I guess those stuffy, high society ladies had never seen the real Florida.

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I told you about this man because I’m thinking of working him into this book, Naked Malice, as an ancillary character.

He was a storyteller and I’m certain he knew all the secrets the swamp could hold in his area. I need people who know secrets of the swamp for this story. I mentioned him in Red Clay and Roses, but I really want to bring him to life in this next book. I’d like the old man to be immortal. I can’t recall his name. Any suggestions?

He was Haitian, so I’m thinking something with a bit of Creole French, but also need something that suits his quirky character or swamp life.

57 thoughts on “Help Me Name This Character

  1. That is a gift for a writer to come across such a character! It should be a good read when you are finished so please keep us posted. Léa

  2. That sounds like a great story. Shame those people took it so seriously and went for those odd questions. Not really sure of French Creole names, so I had to find a list. I like Theotis out of what I found.

  3. I was thinking given names rather than nicknames. I had to google some lists. So, here’s my suggestion and it’s a completely different direction than where I think you’re headed with it. The way I see it, this character is probably in his 50s which means he was born in the mid 60s. So, his given name is Fitzgerald Kennedy Herard. Fitzgerald is apparently a common Haitian Creole first name. Kennedy because Kennedy was just assassinated and people were probably naming their kids after him all over the place, even in Haiti or in the swamps of Florida. And Fitzgerald Kennedy were the middle and last name of JFK. Herard is just a last name I picked from a list. To me, the name speaks of a dignity and a connection that belies the kind of judgments most people make of those who live in a place like he did. As for a nickname … the President. 😉 According to google in Creole it’s Prezidan. I’d like to see him have a name that doesn’t play into the common stereotypes.

    Just a thought.

    • Mark’s idea is growing on me. Less Haitian so he’s not easily stereotyped and gives him a bit of prestige. I like both the names Toussaint and Theotis. But I don’t think calling him Stump would be good. The rednecks around south Florida might do that, but it doesn’t sit right with me.

    • I’m moving away from stump in the name as it’s kinda insulting to people who have experienced such a trauma. I like Mark’s idea. It gives him a bit of prestige and power.

  4. What about Chargator or Char Gator…as one word it could be taken as the word charge with the addition of “Ator” so like a person taking charge, or separately as a person getting “charred” in the porch with a gator..not burning, but smoking. 😃

  5. I love this idea. He sounds like a great character. Names are not my strong suit. I’d probably avoid the first thing that came to mind like gator and look deeper into the swamp. Bullfrog maybe.

    • I’m liking Mark’s idea to give him a little more dignity with the obvious name of a popular president, then nickname him President. That carries with it the sort of vague humor I use in the series. His gator could be V.P.

      • I’m sure you’ll come up with something great. You probably have a year to nail it down. Some writers use a placeholder and worry about it later. (Not me, I like to know as soon as I can.)

        • I’m the same way. Sometimes the name helps me draw the character and it feels more natural to me than drawing a character and then trying to give him a name that suits.

  6. You’ve already got a lot of great suggestions on the name. I can definitely see him as a colorful character. I was also blown away by your post because 1). I didn’t realize you had worked in Hospice (I think Hospice workers are amazing) and 2). The tale of your trek into the swamp is a story worthy of fiction!

    • Oh, I could tell stories. There is a blogger who writes about her time as an employee in a health care facility. I’ve shied away from that d/t HIPPA. But I’m figuring it’s been so long since I practiced, none of the people would be identifiable anymore. Ha!

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