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What's My Name?

Grade 8 | Narrative | Text-Dependent

Source Lexile®: 930L

Learning Standards



Prompt: Read the following excerpt from the novel Don’t Call Me Ishmael. Write a narrative in which you continue the story, telling how Ishmael got his name. Use the same characters from the novel in your narrative.



Don't Call Me Ishmael  by Michael Gerard Bauer


There’s no easy way to put this, so I’ll just say it straight out. It’s time I faced up to the truth. I’m fourteen years old, and I have Ishmael Leseur’s Syndrome. 

There is no cure. 

Now, as far as I know, I’m the only recorded case of Ishmael Leseur’s Syndrome in the world. In fact, the medical profession has probably never even heard of Ishmael Leseur’s Syndrome. But it’s real, believe me. The problem is, though, who would believe me? 

For a while there, I guess I was in denial, but this year the symptoms have been just too painful and horrifying to ignore. And I’m not exaggerating here. No way. I’m telling you, Ishmael Leseurs Syndrome is capable of turning an otherwise almost normal person into a walking disaster registering nine point nine on the open-ended imbecile scale. 

That’s why I have decided to write all this down. Now everyone will finally understand the truth, and instead of electing me the mayor of Loserville, they’ll simply shake their heads, smile kindly, and say, “It’s all right. We understand. The poor boy has Ishmael Leseur’s Syndrome. It’s not his fault.” 

Anyway, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here. I should really start at the beginning and go through things thoroughly-  after all, I guess this needs to be approached scientifically if I’m to convince you that what I claim is true. 

So, first things first. My name is Ishmael Leseur. 

Now wait on, I know what you’re going to say-  I have the same name as my condition! You probably think I just invented it, so I can use it as an excuse whenever I make a complete fool of myself. But you don’t get it. It’s not that simple. You have to understand that the name is the condition-  or at least part of it. I’m not absolutely sure on the precise details of how it works. After all, I am not a scientist. I’m just the victim here, but I do have my theories, and this is one of them.


THEORY ONE: Ishmael Leseur’s Syndrome is triggered by the release of a deadly virus that results from the combination of the words “Ishmael” and “Leseur.”

Now, I have thought about this a lot, so let me explain some of my conclusions. As I see it, the individual letter by themselves are harmless. The combination of letters forming the separate words “Ishmael” and “Leseur” also seem relatively harmless. To illustrate this I refer to the other members of my immediate family: namely my father, Ron Leseur, insurance salesman and co-founder of the 1980s rock group the Dugongs; my mother, Carol Leseur, local councilor and chief family organizer; and my thirteen-year-old sister, Prue Leseur. 

Now, as you can see, each of the above carries the name Leseur, yet I assure you that none of them suffers from any of the horrible symptoms you are about to hear described. In fact, I’d have to say, most of the time my mother and father seem painfully happy and content and, to rub it in my face, my sister, Prue-  according to every friend, relative, and stranger who has ever set eyes on her-  is “adorable."  She also has an IQ somewhere near genius level. If brains were cars, Prue would be a Rolls-Royce while I would be a Goggomobile up on blocks with half its engine missing. And how do you think that makes me feel? Well, I’ll tell you. Like the only person ever rejected for the job of village idiot, because he was waaaay overqualified. Or, as Prue so thoughtfully explained it to me one day, “Human beings use only ten percent of their brain, which would seem, in your case, Ishy, nowhere near enough.” 

So there you have it. The only conclusion you can possibly draw from my family’s immunity to the syndrome is that it is triggered only by the fatal combination of the words “Ishmael” and “Leseur.” 

The way I see it is, the linking of these particular sounds must result in some kind of chemical  reaction that germinates a virus, which then mutates the cells of the body, causing an increase in deadly toxins. These deadly toxins then infect the brain and nervous system, which results in the sufferer saying and doing things that would embarrass even a complete moron. I haven’t quite been able to prove this theory yet; science is not my best subject. I’m much better at English, actually, but who wouldn’t be with Miss Tarango as your teacher? But that’s another story, and as Miss often  reminds me, I have to watch my “structuring” when I write. Apparently I have a tendency to wander off the point. 

Anyway, the point is, I didn’t end up with Ishmael Leseur’s Syndrome because of any chance  combining of those two words. Oh no. I am who I am because of a deliberate act. You see, I know  the circumstances surrounding the creation of my name in excruciating detail, and I know exactly who is responsible.

Don’t Call Me Ishmael, Michael Gerard Bauer. Copyright © 2006.








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