Megan Faces Derision
“Hi, Mum, I’m home!”
“Hello, dear, how was school today?” she said as she came out of the kitchen drying her hands on a tea towel, “Whatever’s the matter, you look a bit fed up. Where’s my cheerful little Megan? Is anything the matter?”
“Nothing has changed, nothing has happened to me, if that’s what you mean, Mum, although thinking about it, I suppose something did happen, yes.”
“Look, there’s tea in the pot and I’ve a couple of fairy cakes, so why don’t just you and me sit down and you can tell me all about it, eh?
“Would you like that, Megan?” Megan nodded. “Yes, well, you spread the cloth on the table and I’ll get the tea and cakes.”
Megan was thirteen and was getting on well with her mother these days, although that had not always been the case. Suzanne, Megan’s mother had not been adverse to locking her in the coal cellar, if she didn’t do exactly as she was told, but Megan had found it difficult to find answers to her questions, despite the fear she had of being locked in the pitch-dark cellar with all those spiders for hours on end.
Megan had never blamed her mother for doing those horrible things to her, she had blamed her mother’s fear, which was a result of her unwillingness to accept what was before her very nose.
For Megan frequently talked to ghosts, had a Siberian tiger as a familiar, and a few dead people for Spirit Guides and when she had asked questions about them, her mother had become hysterical about them and locked her away as punishment.
However, they were alright now and had been for a year or more. They had a sort of truce, which meant that Megan never mentioned her ‘invisible friends’ or auras any more and her mother never locked her away in the coal cellar any more either.
It was different this time though, she knew that her mother would help her with this problem, if she could, and Megan reckoned that Suzanne had as much chance as any other parent of knowing what to do about it.
“The table’s ready, Mum, can I help you with anything in there?”
“No, it’s all right, Megan, I’m all finished, you just sit down and I’ll be there in a minute.”
Suzanne was enjoying her new-found friendship with her daughter, which had been brought on by the truce and she was praying to God that Megan was not about to say anything that would upset the status quo. The last thing that she wanted was for her husband, Robert, to find out that she had frequently locked his ‘Little Princess’ in the cellar to teach her not to tell lies about seeing and talking to ghosts.
She crossed herself, picked up the tray and mounted the few steps into the living room.
“Now then, my dear, what has upset you so today?” she asked as she poured the tea.
Megan didn’t really know where to start, but she said, “Well, I haven’t told you this before, Mum, because I have never thought that it was a problem, but since I’ve been in this new school, some of the people I’d never met before laugh at me when I read aloud before the class.
“I have always stumbled over some words occasionally, but no-one ever laughed at me in Junior School.”
“I don’t understand, why would they laugh at you when you read?”
“I mis-read words sometimes… Not the same words every time and not every time I read, but it does happen every day and I can’t stop it. The worst thing is that I can see why they find it funny. I would find it funny too, if it weren’t happening to me!”
“I’m sorry, Megan, but I still don’t understand what you are telling me. Are you saying that you need glasses or that you are a sloppy reader? Is that what you’re saying?”
“I don’t know what it all means, Mum… Maybe I am… maybe my mind wanders, but for example, today I was reading a passage out loud before the class and it was about this Roman general in Britain. I described his ‘noble helmet’ as his ‘knobbly helmet’ and everyone, including the Latin teacher himself burst out laughing.
“I knew that it didn’t sound right when I read it and I had to smile when Mr. Bryant corrected me, but still… I’d rather it didn’t happen, Mum. It doesn’t seem to happen to anyone else and when I read in my head, I don’t seem to get the same problem… no, I do sometimes, but not so often.
“What is it, Mum?”
“I don’t know, my dear, we all make mistakes reading sometimes, but I’ve never hard of this before. Still, I’m sure that it’s nothing serious. Let’s talk to your Dad when he gets in, I’m sure he’ll have an idea what to do.
“Why don’t you go upstairs now, have a shower, get changed and then maybe help me set the table for dinner?”
“OK, Mum,” and Megan clattered up the stairs feeling a little better about her predicament. She was happy that her mother hadn’t laughed at her too or called her stupid.
Megan had barely dried her hair when she heard her father close the front door behind himself, so she skipped down the stairs to greet him as she did every working day. She loved her father very much and it had never crossed her mind to tell him what her mother had used to do for fear that it would split the family up.
“How’s my darling girl today, then?” asked Robert as he hung up his jacket on its hook.
“Fine thanks, Daddy, and you?”
“Always well, Megan, it wouldn’t do to be any other way, would it, eh?” He put his hand on her shoulder and Megan led him up the narrow passageway to the living room. “Mmmm, smells like steak and kidney pudding, my favourite!”
Megan smiled, “Everything that Mum cooks is your favourite. I have never heard you say ‘Yuck, that’s horrible’!”
“Oh, that is not true, you have… when your Aunty Flo cooked us that lasagna…”
“That was when I was in Infants’ School!” and they both laughed out loud.
“Hello, dear, and what are you two laughing about, might I ask?”
“Nothing, love, just your Flo’s lasagna,” and they both laughed again, leaving Suzanne in the dark looking on.
When the meal was over, but they were still sitting at the table, Suzanne raised the question of Megan’s reading.
“Robert, love, Megan told me today that she sometimes has problems reading. Today, she was reading aloud before the class and said ‘knobbly helmet’ instead of ‘noble helmet’. Megan faces derision in school and it worries her, do you have any idea what the problem could be?”
Robert smiled at his daughter, “Did you raise a laugh, Megan?”
“Yes,” she replied looking him sadly in the eyes.
“Good for you, girl! Make ’em laugh, make ’em laugh, make ’em laugh! That’s what they say in Show Business, isn’t it?”
“Yes, Robert, perhaps it is, but this is upsetting Megan, so please try to take it seriously for her sake, will you?”
“Yes, OK, can you do anything about it, Megan, has it been going on long?”
“It has been going on for years, but try what I might, I can’t seem to do anything about it.”
“No, so why not laugh about it? You’ve got what we call the ‘Evans’ Speedy Brain Syndrome’, that’s all.”
Both mother and daughter looked at him in amazement.
“What on Earth is the ‘Evans’ Speedy Brain Syndrome’, Robert?”
“It’s an old family thing. All we Evans’s have had it for generations and now I am pleased to hear, Megan, that you are carrying on our great family tradition. I was wondering if you would, you know?”
“You’ve never told me anything about this before, Robert, what is the ‘Evans’ Speedy Brain Syndrome’ all about?”
Megan was smiling broadly.
“It is common among the best Evans’s, it’s when the brain works faster than the mouth.
“You will notice, Megan, that your eyes are a few words down the line, while your mouth is still trying to enunciate what your brain read a few seconds beforehand. Therefore, your brain is too fast, which is a good thing… like with computers… the faster the better, but your printer, or in this case, your mouth, is slow, which can also be a good thing, if it teaches you to be sure of what you say before you say it.
“There is something you can do though, once you are aware of this syndrome, and that is to keep your eyes on every word until you have finished reading it. You don’t have to read at the speed of a train, in fact it is not a good idea to do that, as some people will miss what you are saying.
“Therefore, just slow down a little and remember to keep your eyes on the word you are reading, then most of your reading problems will go away, although it may take you a while to master this new skill, because your brain wants to run on like a racehorse.
“Your job, as the jockey, is to slow the speed of your racehorse brain down, to concentrate on reading in an interesting fashion instead of making people laugh and above all, not to worry. OK, Megan? Does that make sense?”
“Yes, Dad, thanks… the ‘Evans’ Speedy Brain Syndrome’, eh? Great! May I be excused to go upstairs and do my homework now, please?”
“Sure, love, but don’t run up the stairs, walk like a lady,” said Suzanne.
When they could hear Megan clattering up the stairs, Suzanne said, “You’ve never told me about the ‘Evans’ Speedy Brain Syndrome’ before, Robert.”
“No, I couldn’t, my dear, I just made it up. Perhaps, Megan is a little dyslexic, it will need to be checked, but in the meantime, it made her feel better, didn’t it? and that trick does work, I know, because I use it every day.”
by +Owen Jones
You can read other stories by Owen Jones and the ‘Megan Series’ by Ceri Carpenter (Owen Jones) here: Owen Ceri Jones