by Channie Greenberg
In basic terms, I meant to punish the clerk who left chewing gum in the library’s aisle. I huffed and puffed at that buffoon. It’s beyond unseemly; it’s preposterous to leave that oversweet, shoe-defacing putty on a common walkway. Such behavior screams for accountability and begs for comeuppance. Despite such a pronounced need for retribution, however, my fairly recently discovered mental enchantments availed me nothing; that culprit remained unpunished.
That is, rather than vaporize or transform into a self-soiling cygnus, the object of my indignation continued to grunt and to remain busy with his girlie magazine. What’s more, despite my best attempts to latch onto mentations about the ceiling cracking over his head and splattering him with bits of plaster, he continued to smile sickeningly and to turn his pages. Even my attempt to visualize his desk drawer suddenly springing open and slamming him in his special parts actualized into nothing. Worse, the chimera my imagination called up, too, failed to rid me of that human irritant; my summoned critter refused to masticate that man’s corpus.
I don’t know why my potency botched when it came to that callous litterbug. In the past, my curses had been both less intentional and more successful. In fact, for a long time, I didn’t know my thoughts could turn into realities.
I remember, for instance, when I watched, in amazement, as a neighbor backed out of our apartment building’s crowded parking lot without bothering to turn his head to see if anyone or anything was behind his fender. Although I breathed deeply after he had driven away, I nonetheless found myself profaning him, wishing him a long life, one in which his arms would be so painfully crippled that he could never again turn a steering wheel in a way that would endanger passers-by. I hadn’t meant my blasphemy to come true, it was not my wish that he get into a wreck a few short blocks from our neighborhood.
In fact, when I realized I was thinking repulsive thoughts, I curled up into a ball and rocked until I felt solace. It wasn’t until the following morning that I learned of the man’s misfortune.
That day, though, upon uncurling, my mind was diverted toward more unpleasantness. Another of my neighbors was throwing litter into our communal flower bed. I love those poesies onto whose petals she was tapping her cigarette ashes and among whose leaves she was tossing wrappers. I adore the birds, the bugs and the occasional hedgehogs that frolic in that garden. That lady was cleaning her pocketbook, but was damaging our precious ecosystem!
In reflex, I lobbed ominous deliberations at her, not knowing that my ideas would manifest as done deeds. All I realized was that not more than five minutes after yielding to the temptation to think poorly of the careless driver, I was again guilty of harboring menacing ideas. I shook for at least a half hour. I had wished, for that hater of nature, floors that would remain sticky no matter the effort she applied to them. Later that season, she left our enclave. I heard she was so frustrated with her wretched attempts to tidy her apartment that she moved to a beach hut where a tide, twice a day, provided her with a reliable cleaning service.
These days, I know my thoughts count. As to be expected, my conjured chimera belched a little flame, causing the other library patrons to quickly scatter. Yet, the gum wrapper litterbug, upon whose head my mental blows were intended, continued to paw through his periodical unscathed. He ignored the screaming library visitors, the blinking computer screen at his work station and me.
For the greater portion of my life, I did not respond to the underbelly of humanity by calling forth cerebral gloom. Rather, when people acted rottenly, I merely sat on my sofa and cried. When, for instance, I saw certain playground parents smack their kids to the point of bloodying them, and when, for instance, someone ran over my dog and then just kept on driving, I was hysterical, but wished no one harm. Oddly, it was not until the case of the teens tossing around a grocery display that I began to risk thinking evil things.
I had witnessed those adolescents chucking a football back and forth along the ketchup and pickle avenue. They had emancipated their toy from an end cap filled with bags of chips and with jars of cheese sprinkles. Carelessly, I imaged those boys as the cleats on my ex-lover’s running shoes; kids who made merry at the cost of a store’s Super Bowl monument ought to experience, I emoted at the time, the same agony as would be experienced by the shop owner who would have to fix the display.
All I said to the boys, though, was “stop it.” They responded first by throwing the ball to me and second by disappearing. The local papers were soon flush with accounts of missing children.
Shortly thereafter, something similar happened with much younger children. Some grade school tykes were hurling stones at a dumpster occupied by stray cats. I implored them to stop, but they merely wagged their hands at me. Unexpectedly, I found myself fancying them transformed into mice.
Again, the papers were full of tales of probable abductions. Again, no bodies surfaced.
My mythical beast of enormous proportions, which had seated itself next to the litterbug’s reference desk, licked the lips of both of its heads. It looked over its two sets of shoulders at the speculative fiction section and then lifted one clawed appendage to measure me. I took two steps backward.
After the teens and tots vanished, a federal administrator and an ill-tempered bank manager followed in quick succession. I was beginning to suspect that my thoughts were tied to local events.
The government clerk claimed that certain of my triplicate records had never existed and that, consequently, I was ineligible for due benefits. When I tried to protest those facts, she turned away from me in order to examine the beads on her necklace. I was able to wall up my brimming feelings until she smirked at me. Before I could count to ten, I imagined her changed into a paper clip.
All of a sudden, her desk chair emptied. The line of people behind me thinned; most citizens understand that national employees take extended coffee breaks.
As for the assistant bank manager, despite the grocery bags full of fiduciary documents, which I had towed to his office, he refused to help me rectify my accounts. All I had needed from him was his activation of an electronic sentry for my money; a hacker, somewhere, had figured out how to siphon, on an irregular, and thus hard to trace, basis, small amounts from my holdings. Instead of helping me, however, that exemplar of corporate propriety opened his yellow pages to the listings for lawyers and urged me to copy a few of those numbers. He was late for a dental appointment and commented that it was a waste of his time for him to amend my computerized files.
I heard he’s serving time in a penitentiary that features good health care. One of his subordinates “just happened to discover” the accounts where he hid laundered money.
The chimera shook its heads from side to side in a human-like expression of pity. It scrutinized the new-books rack and then gurgled out a mealtime prayer.
Most of the time, I am able to restrain myself from forming thoughts that might poof malcontents into altered states. I ignore the wickedness of disingenuous postal workers, the nastiness of restaurant owners with fetishes for open-toed shoes, and the notoriety of aged women who care less about the consequences of their mobbing merchandise tables during clearance sales than about having spare change to buy chocolates.
I remain careful, as well, to avoid family functions since my lecherous grandfather-in-law and my drama queen cousin retain the potential to catalyze the ugly side of me. It’s hard not to fume in vivid images when they’re present.
Further, I’ve quit jobs rather than blast racists, sexists, or ageists into the next galaxy. I’ve been working hard, as well, to mentally look the other way when the newspapers laud the prowess of hunters who bag bunnies and Bambi.
Admittedly, I did intentionally think how nice it would be to reduce a terrorist, who had boarded the same airplane as me, into a wad of mucus and spittle. No one in Homeland Security tried to arrest me or to advertise my deed after that nasty man seemingly faded away. No one checked the plane for crud, and no one realized an ordinary sort, such as myself, might have had a connection to that bomb-slinger’s abrupt departure.
In fact, discounting that would-be-murderer, I was successful in staying clean of malevolent thoughts until a recent furniture delivery. Sadly, the men who conveyed my new purchases had no compunctions about dropping, dinging, and otherwise denting my costly sofa. Likewise, a neighbor, to whom I regularly loaned olive oil, dish soap, and coffee, developed an inexplicable aversion to assembling such bits.
In the end, those haulers burst into flame which, in turn, quickly reduced to ash. As for my neighbor, his apartment began to exude a bad smell. A special sort of cleaning crew had to come in to scour his place before the landlord could offer that unit on the market.
The chimera eyeballed the paperback racks before flapping its wings twice and hovering over me. It unhinged one set of its jaws and gnawed off one of my legs.
While remaining nonchalant, the man who had carelessly discarded his gluey waste on the floor between the bookshelves looked up from his blue magazine and became temporarily animated. Placing a bookmark at the centerfold, he scolded, “Lady, don’t you know when you interrupt someone who is reading they’re liable to think ill of you?”
Copyright © 2010 by Channie Greenberg