SPOTLIGHT: ‘Poetry Podcast Murder (and other stories)’ by Harry McNabb

The Mind Gardener

The first thing I think of when I hear the word “super” is supermarkets. The aisles. The shopping carts. The fruit. The meat counter. The cheese in those coolers. The cheese. My favorite thing to do on the weekend is to go to the store, get a whole bunch of cheese, and eat it with Triscuits. I even bought myself my own special knife when I visited the city, just for cheese. Most expensive cheese-knife at Walmart.

The first thing I think of when I hear the word “hero” is my Daddy. It didn’t matter that he never made a lot of money. He could fix anything, he could shoot good, he knew the best fishing spots, and he could kick anyone’s ass. I say “could” because he’s dead. He could do all that stuff, but he smoked lots of cigarettes while he did it.

I hear about superheroes in all those movies. Marvel movies and the Justice League movies. If I had kids, I’d probably go to see them, but I don’t.

I saw Batman when it came out because I like Jack Nicholson. And I liked the Batman TV show. It was funky. It was fun. I’d say my favorite superhero is Batman, just because I’ve seen him in the most things.

Have I thought about using my powers to make money? Yeah, I’ve thought of maybe doing something with it. I don’t really know. I’ve thought of doing a youtube thing. Or, what was it that my niece told me about? Tic Tac? No, TikTok. She told me about that.

I have used it for bad before, I definitely have. Well, I used it for bad a lot. Mostly when I was a kid.

I did it so the other kids would like me. Like, we would find a person and they’d tell me to make them think of things. Like, “make them think they just saw a lightning bolt” or “make them think a train’s coming up behind them.” One time they told me to make this fat woman think she was naked at this party. It was such a shock to her that she started crying. The worst one was when they told me to make this guy whose wife died think that she was still alive and cooking dinner for him at home. I felt bad about that one. But then, around eleven or twelve, they stopped liking what I did. Made fun of me for it. So, I didn’t use it for years, which was good because if I’d made a habit of using it, someone would tell someone’s mama, who’d tell the police, who’d tell some government scientist, and I’d be locked away in a research lab. So, I guess I’m glad they made fun of me, in a way. I’ve never really sought other people’s approval since then.

So, here’s where I am. This is my parents’ house. They saved and saved for it just so we’d have a nice place to live. My sister and brother live out of state. I’m glad they figured out how to make money because I sure didn’t. It’s totally mine. It’s my sanctuary where I eat cheese! It really is true. I eat a lot of cheese. I seriously have a second superpower where I can eat ridiculous amounts of cheese.

I never liked men. I still don’t. I’m not a lesbian though. I don’t like women either. I remember my sister used to tell me about boys she liked. I thought at first that I was a late bloomer, you know, that I’d like boys later. But then, my sister was two years younger than me and she was boy-crazy. And I tried to be the cool big sister and give her advice, that I’d make up of course, but she eventually learned things herself and stopped asking me. Sure, I had boyfriends. I always had someone to go to the dance with, but I didn’t want to kiss. And later on, I didn’t want to do other stuff. I guess my way, if I had any kind of relationship with them, was to play games with them. Get them all excited and leave them hanging, which was stupid. But it kinda helped me feel better about the fact that I couldn’t make myself like them, you know?

Sometimes it involved my powers or whatever. I’d make them think about me when they were getting tired of chasing me or started liking someone else, or what-have-you. Then, there was one, this one boy, I can’t remember his name, but he had this thing about me. He was real normal except when it came to me. It’s hard to describe. He was hyper fixated on me for absolutely no reason. Like, he told people he was in love with me and I barely knew him. Every time he saw me, he’d ask me on dates. He’d leave flowers by the front door which was horrible because my family would tease me about it. It’s like, I’ve heard people talk about OCD as like this thing where you can’t stop thinking about a certain thing. That’s what he had. But, at the time he was just this really annoying guy and I used my powers on him.

It made sense that OCD was what it was because his mind held onto thoughts. Though I don’t think it was just OCD. I think he was also kinda stupid. He was like a robot. Which really scared me because I got really into it, y’know? I could control him and stuff. Is there a superhero out there in the comics and the movies who can do that? I don’t know, I could make him do whatever I wanted him to do. But it was just him, just him and that mind that was unique to him.

One time, I made him eat a dog turd when I was mad at him. Ugh. That was probably the worst thing I did. I mostly got him to buy me cheese. Haha! I wanted him to buy me something, but I couldn’t think what I wanted, so I just chose cheese because I liked it. I wasn’t into clothes or purses or nothin’. I was a tomboy. Still am.

But yeah, I decided that what I was doing with him was wrong and I made him think that he liked another girl. This girl I didn’t like. Haha! He left me alone after that.

I’ve never met anyone else who has OCD or whatever he had. If the people who have it hear about this, they’ll probably want to stay as far away from me as possible. Haha!

Basically, I can sorta, I don’t know, figure out how someone’s mind works? I guess that’s one half of it and the other half is the suggestion. I can put thoughts in your head. But I can’t control anyone’s mind. Like, it would have to be a weird, weird mind like that boy’s mind for me to be able to control it.

As far back as I can remember, I could just sense the shapes of people’s minds.

They’re like maps of tunnels and they’re wiggling all the time. And they wiggle more when the people are emotional. I remember, when I was little, whenever Mother was really excited about something, I’d say “mama, you’re wiggly!” Haha!

Yeah, like the wiggling taught me how to do it. I’d think, like, I’d think “at” someone and noticed that when I did that the minds wiggled more. I didn’t realize what I was doing until one day I made my Dad think about pizza and then he told everyone he was gonna order some. I thought that was strange so I tried it again. The next day when we were in the car and I made him think about beef jerky and then, sure enough, he stops by the store and buys a bag of beef jerky. That’s when I realized I could, you know, do what I do.

I don’t know how I’d use it for good. Like, some journalist was saying I could help vets with PTSD. I’ve actually never used it to make people feel better. I’ve just used it for tricks or if I’m mad at someone. It’s an aggressive thing. I don’t know, like I don’t know how to describe it, that part of people’s minds where they want to make everybody feel good all the time. I don’t have that. I don’t know if that makes me a bad person. I don’t know. I don’t think it’s because I’m a sociopath either, but I just don’t like making people happy with my powers. It’s fake happiness. Happiness is out here. The trees, the grass, the sky.

Now, I don’t know much about psychology, but I know from my own experience that a mind is a filter. The world goes in and we decide what to think about it. That’s what makes a person: how they decide what to think. That’s why I didn’t finish college. None of that material crap matters if you’ve got a good filter.

I never made anyone in my family feel better growing up. Not even when Daddy and Mother died.

They didn’t hold it against me. They know how I am about my powers and they respect that.

I mean, I’ve sensed sad minds and disturbed minds before. Trust me, it’s the way you think. It’s not gonna make any kind of difference sticking one new thought in there. So, for maybe half a day they think their dreams are possible, or that they can be normal. The mind is still the same shape, so they change back.

I would say that they need to stop thinking that there’s an outside cure. Also, they need to think different thoughts.

Just a whole bunch of different thoughts. For example, I like thinking about cheese. Maybe they could try thinking about that. Maybe think about nuclear physics. Maybe think about those superheroes of yours. Maybe think about trout-fishing. But they need to think different thoughts for a long time to change the shape of their mind. I’ve seen minds change. I’ve seen all my family members’ minds change for better and for worse. It is possible, it’s just hard, and I can’t help them. That’s what I want people to know.

I tell you, I tell you though, one thing I would be open to doing would be dying people in hospice. I wouldn’t mind giving them a happy feeling right when they’re dying. I’d do that.

Because their mind wouldn’t change back. It would be the last think they knew. I’m okay with that.

I was thinking of volunteering at a hospice, but I didn’t know if I should tell them about my powers or not. Though, I guess after this interview I’ll be famous and they’ll know anyway! So maybe I’ll do that. That’ll be me being a superhero, saving the world. Haha! I didn’t mean to get so weird earlier when we were talking about me giving people happy thoughts. I just get sensitive about my powers. Or, it could be that I’m hungry for cheese. Haha!

You said what? If I had my own superhero movie or comic book?

If I had both?

What I’d be called?

I guess, of course, it would have to be Cheese-Lady. Haha!

Oh, you wanted something more to do my powers. Uh. Okay. Uh. Um. Um. How about “The Mind-Gardener?” You like that? I like that. I think it’s neat. You can use that.

So, is that all?

I don’t have the Discovery Channel on my TV. Is there a way I can watch it online? Or can you send me a tape? I can play DVDs and blu-Rays. Never tried to play them before, but my neighbor said I can definitely play DVDs and blu-Rays.


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