There were too many Seans. Searching the name on Google loaded 870,000,000 results. Page one celebrities included Big Sean, Sean Watkins, and Sean Connery—who, to add to the overpopulated insult, owned a memorial at the top of the page in the form of a featured snippet. On Wikipedia, there were 87 entries for “Sean,” each of which disambiguated into additional 87-stacked entries—none of which was himself.
His name was reduced to a membership of actors, writers, race car drivers, politicians, serial killers, and bakers. “Sean” was such a popular name he was basically anonymous. Was he supposed to resign himself like the Michaels of the world? No! But how was he ever going to take the name back for himself?
His goldfish leaned a fin on the rim of its bowl and said, Why not use your middle initial, pal?
He snapped, “Why doesn’t everyone else use their middle initial then?Why should I change my name, when it’s my name?” He picked up the can leaning against the stack of broken keyboards and swigged. His name.
At Bottle King, where the chubby cashier never remembered his name, the register monitor loaded an excel sheet of every membershipped Sean within a fourmile radius of the store. At least one hundred Seans—no, one thousand, he thought—filling out the alphabet fromA until his long awaited assonanced S. The cashier pressed enter. He leaned over the conveyor belt and studied the name above his own: “Sean Reicher, 987 Willow Place.” Then he paid $2.00 and brown bagged the tallboy.
The name’s origins were biblical: Iōánnēs in the Greek, Yohanan in the Hebrew, the mad seer John in the KJV, which all translated gaelically into “Sean” and was supposed to mean, “god is gracious.” A bit too gracious of God: Sean was the 336th most popular boys name (10,979th for girls), so that one out of every 1,916 baby boys in a nursery had a crib stapled “Sean”. Fingering an abacus he calculated that there were up to 182,000 Seans in the United States alone. Tucked under his blankie he traced the water stains above his bed and imagined a world in which he owned sean.com by birth right. A paradise on earth.
To be fair, he had never actually, physically, in person, met another Sean. He knew of their existence only at a distance like the moon, so he was quite nervous as he donned the ski mask and black turtleneck and lifted the rickety wooden frame and snuck into Sean Reicher’s living room at half past 11, and then stood above his doppleganger snoring loudly in the rocking chair. His goldfish had told him he wasn’t ready, and now that he was here, face-to-face with the possibility of vengeance, he hesitated between the scissors in his left hand and the butterknife in his right. But before making a decision, Sean Reicher awoke from his nightmare and yelled, “It’s you!” Then the imposter clutched his chest, and the name was no longer his own.
He nudged the husk with his flip flop. Then he kicked. He stole a bill for a Penthouse subscription bearing the fake’s name, and fled into the afternoon feeling giddy that God was on his side.
He thought his heroism would kick off the anti-Sean riots, Franz Ferdinand style. He watched and waited. But the newspaper was still headlining the missing white girl, and the anchors on Eyewitness News laughed at the sunshine—didn’t UPS deliver his manifesto? One murder wasn’t enough, friend, his goldfish said.
More effective methods were needed. From the Swords of the East™ website he purchased a bushido certified katana, Nippon steel folded one thousand times or your money back. The blade was dull. Naked in front of the TV he tried sharpening the edge with sandpaper and nicked his thumb, and became nauseous at the sight of blood. He threw up. Wiping his face with an oily cloth he held the blade and vowed to try again. Just like Henry Morgan had said, “If at first you don’t succeed…” Or was it W. C. Fields?
So he purchased another tallboy, and had another peak at the liquor store listicle. The cashier, this time a pregnant woman who had definitely rung him up in the past, said, “Your name is Sean? I love that name!” He grimaced and leaned. Just beneath his name was a Sean Tulathulumie who was, unfortunately, not in hospice care and an avid gun collector. And so, that afternoon, he was off running away from Sean Tulathulumie’s mansion at the first buckshot even with the katana knotted across his back.
Maybe murder wasn’t the solution.
To solve his problems he bought two more tallboys and stared at the gluesticked “Sean” obituaries on the walls of his apartment. Even if he eliminated one Sean every day for the next year that was only 365 Seans. Even at two Seans which was impossible—since his driver’s license had been lost (meaning there was some undergraduate out there masquerading as a Sean which was somehow more aggravating than being named “Sean”) that was only 730 Seans, and there were thousands, tens of thousands, in his state alone. They multiplied like flatworms: cut off the head of one Sean, and you got five more Seans, and the name’s popularity was ticking up on Google Trends. He was losing before he started and all he had done was remove one Sean whose name didn’t even make the obituary section of the Record.
There was no third attempt. He bought three tallboys, squeezing his eyes as he handed over the crinkled bills.
What he needed was a final Sean solution. A way to stop the parents of would be Seans before they got their dark idea. A tool powerful enough to be heard around the world, like a Tunguskan bomb that targeted all the fake Seans. His goldfish suggested a blog.
The blog posts were vicious, visceral, violent, and unread. He had told himself a little white lie: that the name “Sean” wasn’t gracious at all but a terrible, evil name that evoked only the worst monsters of the 20th century. “Nobody shuld name there kid ‘Sean,'” he wrote. It was a name for sneaks, thieves, cannibals, and fiends who borrow your copy of Link to the Past and don’t return it. Seans weren’t people, more like husks for the Sean-DNA wormed inside.
Like the Buddha, if you met a Sean on the road, kill him.
His nom de plume was “John.”
What he learned putting his hate online was that there were other Sean haters, not in the general way he hated, but in particular-Sean hate ways: hate for Sean O’Malley, hate for Sean Combs, hate for Sean Thor Conroe, hate for particular Seans and their particular Seany b.s. He tapped their community kegs and filled his own cup and then brought more boozy hate to their hateful group parties. He learned he could kill Seans with rumor, stipulation, speculation.
“Did you know Sean emits eight tons of carbon—every week?”
“I heard that Sean worked as a caterer on Jeffery Epstein’s island.”
“Sean shares a name with serial killer Sean Vincent Gillis. What a jerk!”
“Yes, Sean is definitely a pedophile—just like Hitler.” The sooner he invoked Godwin’s law, the better.
He cultivated a voice—sonorous and prophetic—and a following, kept blogging all day every day thanks to his imagination and disability checks from Social Security, uniting all of the internet’s Sean-hate behind his Wile E. Coyote avatar. He had real power for the first time in his life to accumulate WordPress likes, but with all of that gathering potential energy, how was he to spark the bomb that would topple the Seans, send them in droves to the county courthouse to file for a change of name?
It was his goldfish once more who made the ingenious suggestion.
A conference was in order, and held at the Jacob Javits Center. An entire weekend of anti-Sean festivities and organizing, a chance for disparate Sean-haters to unite their common cause under one banner, a very large one draped over the glass entrance that read, “Stop Hate. Stop Sean.”
He was to deliver the inaugural address as president and CEO and dictator of the revolution. In attendance were reporters from the New York Times, the Post, Highlights, and a Stanford fellow desperate to build herself into an influencer. All names were double-checked at the door.
“Comrades,” he adjusted the mic down to his bow tie, “we’re gathered here today to stop the most pressing matter our civilization has ever faced, the never ending horde of Seans.” A few cheers. “The only way we can ever ensure the end of the Sean is by uniting ourselves. Together we can wipe the Seans from history.” A red ribbon hung taut across the stage with “Sean” tessellated across its cheapness. He raised his katana, “And with the cutting of this ribbon, we usher in a new era.” He swung the blade, severing the “Se” from the “an.” Applause, cheers, hand flute whistles, fireworks.
A Q&A followed.
A reporter fired her hand towards the balloons in the rafters and shouted her question. “I don’t know what to make of all this anti-Sean hate, but isn’t it true, sir, that your name is Sean?”
He fumbled at the mic. “Absolutely not. That’s slander. How dare you!” He tapped his name tag three times. “It says ‘John’ right here, doesn’t it? What’s your name? How did you get in here? Security!”
“And isn’t it true,” she ignored his question, “that the name John, is the english translation of the name Sean?”
“No, of course not. Lies!”
“I have the evidence right here.” She held up a color printout of the Wikipedia entry for “Sean.” “All of your anti-Sean hate is a scheme. You’re a big phoney,” she shouted.
Gasps. Whispers. Someone shrieked. Another screamed, “My life is a lie!” In their anger and confusion, the various anti-Sean groups began in-fighting. A chair was thrown. A pop-up table flipped. The bouncy castle was stabbed 87 times. Riot police marched in single file and tear-gassed the crowd.
He hastily retreated through the rear exit, setting off the fire alarms as he booked down the street and leaped into the Hudson with the katana gripped between his teeth, and climbed onto a passing barge hauling empty tallboys out to sea. The captain’s name was Sean Rodgers.
He was defeated, dejected, constipated, sitting squat on the single folding chair in his apartment, the news flipped to another missing white girl—the anti-Sean movement yesterday’s yesterday story.
The revolution—his revolution—had fallen apart. For weeks after the convention marauders of particular-rival-ganged-Sean haters roamed downtown Manhattan and clashed in modern dance numbers, with knives, until enough twisted ankles forced them to disband. And then there were the new anti-anti-Sean hater groups who were hunting him. The rest returned to their digital enclaves and he was back to the liquor store, looking for solutions in the dregs of a tallboy. What he found was that too many Seans wasn’t news. It just was.
The katana was on his lap and he polished the blade with a Lysol wipe, wondering where it all went so wrong. New neighbors hauled a mattress up the concrete stairs, rocking the TV on its milk crate.
His goldfish asked, Now, that you’ve learned your lesson, buddy, how about that middle initial?
He was about to concede when through the stucco he heard, “Where do you want this, Sean?” He skipped to the door and jammed his eye in the peephole. What he saw was a Sean wearing octagonal glasses and opportunity. He finished wiping off the blade, and picked at an olive rind between his teeth. It was already late afternoon. By nightfall there would be only 869,999,998 results for “Sean.” He finished his tallboy, winked at his goldfish, raised the katana, and charged towards his name.
On that month’s rent check the new neighbor’s signature was spelled, “S-H-A-U-N.”