Martyn has spent his life battling with Tourettes, and a gaggle of penguins hanging on his every word. A humorous look at a few hours in the life of a Tourette’s Sufferer and what happens when he goes speed dating.
After reading a review written by Mrs. Etchells, I decided to take a look at her website. While skimming through her blog and blurbs about her writing one of her short stories caught my eye. Beware The Penguins: A Short Story. The story is about Martyn who has Tourettes Syndrome (also called Tourette Syndrome or Tourette’s Syndrome depending on the source) and his night at a speed dating event. Now writing about people with disabilities is hard. I understand that. And I’m always a bit apprehensive when I see that a character in a book or movie has Tourettes because I’ve mostly seen it being used as a bit of comic relief. Well, I have Tourettes Syndrome and though every now and then there can be comical occurrences (hey if you can never laugh at yourself there is a problem) most of the time, it’s not funny, it’s not fun, and it’s a royal pain in the ass. Sometimes it can be literally painful. So when I read this was a “humorous look at a few hours in the life of a Tourette’s sufferer”, part of me rolled my eyes and almost clicked off the site, but in the end I was just too curious.
Well, turns out, I loved this story. Mrs. Etchells does an absolutely fantastic job with the inner monologue of Martyn, describing his tics, people’s reactions to his condition, and how it affects his life. I do not have the same type of vocal tics as Martyn, but I was constantly finding myself yelling in my head “THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS!” or “YES! EXACTLY!” From his thoughts on people thinking and acting as if he is just a dangerous headcase to people who act as though he is mentally deficient, Mrs. Etchells captures a small part of an outing in the life of someone with a highly active case of Tourettes so well I kept wondering if she was speaking from personal experience.
The brief flashes of anger Martyn feels, the sarcastic responses he, mostly, suppresses, the constant realization that you are being disruptive and drawing unwanted attention to yourself but unable to stop. It’s all so accurate. Then the types of people Martyn meets are again, so accurate. The ones who tell you there is nothing wrong with you, that you just want attention. The ones who do their best to pretend you don’t exist. The ones who try to ignore you but also feel they need to be as rude to you as they can first. The people who think having Tourettes means you are slow and dimwitted. The only type of person described in this story that I have personally never encountered was the woman wanting sex with Martyn because he was “different”.
Mrs. Etchells did such a good job with portraying the “dark” side of having Tourettes, that I didn’t find the comedic side of the story a Tourettes cliché or a put-down at all. I laughed out loud. As I said sometimes there can be comical occurrences, it happens. I think people are way too sensitive that any kind of comedy directed towards them in any way is offensive. Well, I didn’t feel that way at all with this story and I just can’t say enough about how well I feel the bad side and the sometimes funny side of having Tourettes (by someone with a good attitude) was written. I don’t know if I’ll ever give out a full 5 stars since I started writing reviews, but on my review website, I’m giving this a 4.5.
Use the following link to buy this story on Amazon.Beware The Penguins: A Short Story