Countdown to Moebius Syndrome Awareness Day 2019

The Adventures of Moebius Martin
The Name of the Game

​by Gavin Fouche

“Hey you – hey weirdo!”

Martin didn’t even have to turn around and look, he knew that it was aimed at him.

“Hey, I’m talkin’ to you.” The voice said again. “Hey Star Trek, do you go home on the bus or does the Starship Enterprise just beam you up?”

Martin knew that the voice belonged to Harry Hoolihan, a boy who was in his English class.

Just then he felt a hand on his shoulder. “Just ignore him pal, he’s like that to all us ‘uncool’ types.” It was Freddie, the first new friend he had made while moving into their new house.

He looked over at Harry, who was surrounded by a group of his cronies who were laughing at his little joke.

“Y’know we should have a name for you, right Four Eyes?” He asked looking at Freddie, who always wore a pair of thick black-rimmed glasses.

“Say, how many fingers do you have their anyway – what, like two or somethin’?” Harry, sniggered. His hangers-on also laughing.

Hey, that’s actually quite good – Four Eyes and Two Fingers – what a great team you guys make!”

Martin felt a lump of sadness well-up in his throat. He was sad not because Harry had made fun of him, nor because of what he said actually mattered, as he had a good self-image, but because he was making fun of him infront of others.

“Just think of it guys – first there was Laurel and Hardy, then there was Batman and Robin, and now Ladies And Gentlemen I give to you – Four Eyes and Two Fingers!” Harry’s friends jeered, whistled and clapped mockingly as the gang moved down the school corridor.

”Now there goes the biggest bunch of creepiest creeps in all of Creepdom” Freddie said, his hand still resting on Martin’s shoulder.

For Martin this was the first time something like this had ever happened. Even though he had Moebius Syndrome and his differences were obvious to all, all of his friends and those he knew had treated him with the same respect he gave to others.

Suddenly he was struck by a pang of homesickness as he realized, just like someone had once said in the Wizard Of Oz, that he wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

“Have they always been like that?” Martin asked Freddie incredulously.

“Yes, only since the first day they were born, I’ll bet.” Freddie smiled.

A few hours after school had finished for the day, Freddie and Martin were sitting in Matt’s room shooting the breeze. Inevitably the topic of conversation turned to what had happened with Harry Hoolihan that afternoon.

“You know Martin,” Freddie said, “Somebody has to teach that guy a lesson. He has been giving me grief since MY first day of school about four yeas ago.”

“And how do you propose that, Genius?” Martin asked in a mocking tone.

“Well, I say we do what they would’ve done in the old days,” Said Freddie. “We challenge him to a fight. If we lose, the names stick. If we win the name-calling goes.”

Freddie owned an extensive movie-collection, and there wasn’t a karate kick by Bruce Lee, a fist fight with Jean-Claude Van Damme, or an explosion featuring that one-man army known as Chuck Norris that he hadn’t seen.

In fact Martin had once marveled at how much blood there was in Freddy’s movie-collection – there was First Blood, Blood Sport, In Cold Blood, Blood Feud – he had probably seen more blood than they had down at the blood-bank of the local hospital!

Freddie liked his action movies, but he was a small, skinny boy and you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that Harry and his pals would clean their clocks and wipe the smiles off their faces – not that Martin actually had one – in just a few seconds. Martin found it particularly heart-warming that Freddie wanted to stick up for him.

“I don’t really know about fighting, Freddie.” Martin said.

“Well, there’s nothing else to do is there?” Said Freddie

“Just think – if we win maybe we can call him Hairy Harry HooliGAN!” Freddie laughed.

“Or even Dirty Harry!”

They both laughed out loud at that. Yet still Martin had a feeling of uneasiness about the whole business.

That night after Martin’s family had finished their dinner, his mom washed the dishes while Martin dried them, as it was his turn.

“Martin is everything alright? His mom asked. “You’ve been so quiet this evening. And that’s very unusual considering that I made your favourite – lasagne!”

“It was great, thanks mom.” Martin said appreciatively.

“It’s really nothing.” He said as she handed him a freshly washed plate.”Just something at school.”

“Are you sure son?” Came his father’s voice from the kitchen table.

“You seemed pretty bummed out about something all the way through dinner.”

Martin had forgotten how well his parents knew him.

“Well,” He sighed. “It’s just this guy at school, Harry Hoolihan, who has started callimg me Two Fingers. He also calls Freddie Four Eyes.”

“Is this boy in your class?” His mom asked. Uh-oh, Matt thought, he could already see that glint in her eye. She was gearing up into her Seek-And-Destroy mode; a very Momly thing to do. He was just glad that he wasn’t the recipient of its twin look, the ‘You did WHAAT?’ look.

“Have you told anyone about it – a teacher or a counselor?” His Dad asked.

“No. Freddie thinks that we should have it out with him.” Martin said.

“Son, we’ve always taught you that fighting is wrong, and doesn’t solve anything.”

“I know Dad. I don’t like it either, but maybe it’s the only thing to do.”

“Well I’m going to go down to that school and I’m going to - !” His Mom said hotly.

Martin imagined a new movie in Freddie’s collection. One called Mom Draws Blood.

“Mom, dad – you always taught me to make my own decisions and to do what I think is best. Well, I think I need to deal with this in my own way. It will probably happen again, and I need to know what to do when it does.”

“Okay, but just remember we’re always here for you, son.” His dad said, while his Mom gave him a hug.

“What are you going to do?” She asked.

“I don’t know. But Freddie is right in a way – we have to do something. I’m just not too sure what.”

The following morning started off with English class in the first period. English had always been Martin’s favourite subject at school.

The new English teacher, Mrs. Eppel, was putting the class through their paces by studying a 17th century poem called Death The Leveller. She had recently introduced the class to a crazy little thing called Iambic Pentameter in which one could determine the rhythmic quality of words in a poem.

Despite the silent yawns and groans and looks of utter confusion around him a light had gone on inside Martin’s head. He always loved words and was always aware of this phenomenon, even if he didn’t know the technical term for it.

Next to him he saw Freddie counting out the metrical feet by using his hands as the poem was being read out.

‘’Death lays his icy hand on kings

sceptre and crown

must tumble down

and in the dust be equal made

with the poor crooked scythe and spade.’

“What does this mean to you?” Mrs. Eppel asked the class in general, or anyone brave enough to put up their hand.

“I think it means that no matter who you or what you are, in the end we all end up the same.” Freddie offered

“Well, it means to me Miss,” Martin found himself saying. “That I’ve run out of fingers to count the feet!”

The whole class erupted into fits of laughter, and even Mrs Eppel who always kept her composure despite finding something strange or humourous let out a good-natured laugh.

Martin liked everybody in the English class including his teacher, and so he felt it was safe to have a little fun at his own expense.

But suddenly he saw Harry glaring at him from across the room. “You chump!” He said in a menacing tone.

Just as everyone began to calm down and get back to the matter at hand, the bell rang. There was the sudden noise of shuffling chairs and of students rising to their feet.

“Okay class, don’t forget your writing assignments on a topic that inspires you, which are due tomorrow.” Mrs. Eppel half-shouted, determined not to be drowned out from the great migration to the Biology class.

As the class filed out Martin approached Mrs.Eppel who was still standing next to her desk.

“I’m sorry about that Miss, I was only joking. I couldn’t resist. Martin said in a light-hearted tone.

“It’s absolutely fine! I should’ve realized.” She said letting out a little silvery laugh.

Just then Martin felt a sharp jab in the back. “Hey chump! You think you’re funny now Two Fingers?” It was Harry Hoolihan.

Martin instinctively touched his back where Harry had punched him.

He turned around to see a concerned look on his teacher’s face.

“It’s – err – well, - it’s a long story.”

Slowly Martin elaborated the incident of the name-calling the previous day.

After he had told her she sat dead quiet and deep in thought for a moment.

“You know Martin, history is full of tales of differences and other people’s refusal to accept these differences. Wars have even been fought over it. Some people are afraid of these differences because they are scared of things that they don’t understand. Others see your difference, and to them that magnifies their own difference, their own inadequacy which they might feel inside. So therefore they feel a need to break you down, as they need to build themselves up.”

Martin stood flabbergasted. It was like listening to the Sermon on the Mount.

“You said that you’re parents were against a fight.” She continued. “Yes.” Martin said.

“There have been some great men who have also discovered that any form of violence wasn’t the answer, and that you must indeed love your fellow man, even if he hurts you a great deal.” Mrs. Eppel said.

“You should read up on them – maybe even Google them. People like Martin Luther King jnr, Ghandi, Galileo, Helen Keller, John Merrick – they have all been through what you are know facing to some degree. And all of them proved right in their beliefs and stood by their principles til the end. Their suffering for what they believed in has spread to all humankind and changed it for the better. They all turned their disadvantage into an advantage.”

Martin mulled this over.

“I’ve read of Martin Luther King, a friend gave me a book about him once.”

“Gone D - Is he a rapper or something?” Matt asked quizzically.

Mrs. Eppel smiled.

“You are very talented writer Martin, use your talents to express yourself and you may too one day change a small corner of the world.”

Martin thanked her and joined the others on their way to Biology. He might just know what to do to end this dilemma.

The next day Martin’s class filed warily into the English class. It was the last lesson of the day.

To his surprise he saw a man wearing a suit and tie sitting on a chair in the corner.

“Class, I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Henderson, he is an inspector and will be joining us in today’s lesson. Mrs. Eppel announced. There was an air of polite stiffness in the room and Martin could tell he had to be on his best behaviour. No smart-mouthing today!

“Now,” the teacher said assuming an authoritive pose in front of the blackboard, not at all like the English teacher they all had come to know and love. “Please take out your writing assignments. Would anybody like to share theirs with the rest of the class?”

There was an immediate dead silence. No-one moved a muscle as they all tried very hard not to be noticed.

“Martin, how about you?” Mrs.Eppel asked smiling at him.

“Who, me?” He asked incredulously as if there were another boy named Martin in the class.

He stood up slowly and walked from his desk to the front of the class. Immediately he felt all eyes on him as if a giant spotlight had been turned on.

He felt as if he had walked into an Idols audition, and it seemed to him that the inspector even looked a bit like Simon Cowell – or Simon Scowl – as Martin liked to call him.

He was definitely, he felt, Susan Boyle to the inspector’s Simon Cowell.

“My writing assignment is about differences and is called ‘What’s The Difference?’ He stammered as he watched everybody watching him. Mrs Eppel gave him an encouraging smile, Freddie gave him a thumbs up, and even Harry Hoolihan looked somewhat sympathetic.

“It has been written that all Men are created equal,” Martin said briefly looking up for effect. “But all Men are also created differently. Some of us have a different skin colour, some of us have a different religion; some of us have blue eyes and some of us have brown; some of us like to watch a ball game on a Saturday while some prefer to go shopping.”

He looked up briefly, feeling more at ease.

“Yet deep inside we all have a heart that beats, we all have feelings that feel, we all have a mind that thinks.

“Just because I am different to you, or you are different to me, it doesn’t make me superior to you or you superior to me.

“My name is Martin and I have Moebius Syndrome – that is my difference.” Martin pointed at Freddie. “His name is Freddie and he wears glasses – that is his difference.

Suddenly a thought flashed through his mind. “This is Mr. Henderson, he likes to wear a tie – that is his difference.” He just couldn’t resist the ad-lib.

The class burst out laughing.

“Some differences are more noticeable than others.” He continued. “My difference is on the outside but on the inside I am the same as everyone else. If I find something funny, I can’t smile – but I can laugh. If I find something sad, I can’t make a sad face – but I can cry. If I don’t like something – like broccoli – I can’t frown – but I will tell you in no uncertain terms that no way am I gonna eat that!

When you look at me I would rather not have you just see the Moebius, I would like you to see me, Martin. At the same time when I look at you I don’t want to see what you look like, but rather who you are.

It is in our differences sometimes that we find our strength. If we look at all the great human beings who have ever lived, they had one thing in common – their differences. Martin Luther King wasn’t the same as Albert Einstein; Albert Einstein wasn’t the same as Mother Theresa; Mother Theresa wasn’t the same as John Lennon; John Lennon wasn’t the same as John F. Kennedy –  even though they both shared the same first name. They all had different talents and different ideas that changed the world. Imagine if they were all the same – where would we be? Imagine if we were all the same what would life be?

Martin looked up at Mrs. Eppel. “I found a poem on a website called Can I read it?”

“Yes,” she said softly.

Martin began to read.

'We are all
different people
with different faces
and with different names
we even come in different races

I am
not like you
You are
not like me

If we were the same
with no differences to see
it would be
like listening
to The Queen
recite the English dictionary
over Sunday afternoon tea

are what make
life's living worth
on this globe
we call planet Earth'

A long silence fell over the class. Martin noticed that there were tears in Mrs. Eppel’s eyes, and a slight smile on the inspector’s face. Perhaps he wasn’t Simon Scowl after all.

“That was beautiful Martin, thank you.” Mrs. Eppel said quietly.

Just then the bell rang, ending their lesson. It seemed to Martin as if the shuffling of the chairs and students rising to their feet seemed a bit more slower, and almost a bit more respectful than usual.

As Martin walked to his desk to gather his books he felt a light tap on his shoulder. “Hey chum,” It was Harry Hoolihan.”I just want to apologise for the names I called you.” He said putting out his hand. Martin shook it. “Thank you Harry.” He said softly.

Freddie stood staring at them, his eyes almost as big as those of a frog in a Saturday morning cartoon.

“That was brilliant Martin. Well done, Two Fingers!” Freddie said smiling.

“Why, thank you Four Eyes.” Martin laughed as they left the English class.

written byGavin Fouche