Johnny America




When I was a teenag­er, I thought it would be on­ly a mat­ter of prac­tice be­fore I could read minds, and then the world would be mine. I be­lieved this be­cause I was good at read­ing peo­ple any­way. Some­times, I caught things I was­n’t sup­posed to, or at least things oth­er peo­ple missed. A friend’s grand­moth­er might glance at an old pic­ture of her dead hus­band and I’d know, clear as Arkansas sky, that she’d nev­er loved him.

I’d had pre­cog­ni­tive dreams, too, though most­ly they in­volved the lo­ca­tion of choice park­ing spaces or up­com­ing sales, and I thought this was all part of the same men­tal fab­ric; if I could tone up my men­tal mus­cles and fo­cus, I could not on­ly read minds, but pre­dict thoughts. It was on­ly a mat­ter of practice.

Of course, I was­n’t ex­act­ly sure what I would do with this abil­i­ty. I had­n’t thought of a way to make mon­ey from it, ex­cept in a sideshow kind of way, and though it could be use­ful in get­ting laid, the girl would al­ready have to be in­ter­est­ed in me; I would just be able to cut through all the usu­al BS.

Re­al­ly, of all the ex­tra­or­di­nary abil­i­ties I could think of, telepa­thy was the worst. Walk­ing through walls would be way bet­ter. To achieve this, I had to ac­tive­ly con­trol my mol­e­cules and move them in be­tween the tiny spaces be­tween the mol­e­cules of what­ev­er I want­ed to walk through. But this re­quired a lev­el of con­cen­tra­tion I could­n’t muster. I tried go­ing on Ri­tal­in for a lit­tle while, but on­ly man­aged to stick a fin­ger through a piece of pa­per, and I was so sur­prised at my suc­cess that I in­ad­ver­tent­ly stopped con­cen­trat­ing and my fin­ger got stuck in the pa­per. It took me two hours to get it out, and I end­ed up with a pa­per cut. So that was right out.

In com­ic books and movies, telepaths can change and con­trol peo­ple’s minds. I did­n’t see that hap­pen­ing for me any time soon; it just was­n’t the way things worked. It was sort of like the dif­fer­ence be­tween lis­ten­ing to the ra­dio, and us­ing your ears to some­how con­vince the sta­tion to on­ly broad­cast Mil­li Vanili songs. What I’m say­ing is that some­times the DJ takes re­quests, but most of it is au­to­mat­ed. Peo­ple are like that too. Most of what peo­ple do, they don’t think about un­til af­ter they’ve done it. And if I pro­ject­ed my thoughts in­to their heads and thought, for ex­am­ple “Give that guy over there (the one star­ing at you strange­ly) all your mon­ey;” most peo­ple’s re­sponse would be: “That’s a stu­pid idea.”

I tried forc­ing it, but strange things hap­pened, like I’d sud­den­ly pass out be­cause I’d been con­cen­trat­ing on con­trol­ling some­one else’s thoughts so much that I for­got to breathe. And the sub­con­scious, well, it’s com­plex. It’s like a riv­er — peo­ple don’t con­trol rivers, they just chan­nel them. Now imag­ine if that riv­er was made up of a bunch of fer­rets all run­ning around in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions and most­ly try­ing to find things to eat, mate with and pee on. That’s the best way to ex­plain peo­ple’s minds. Ex­cept that fer­rets can be trained.

And what I’m not say­ing, here, is that most peo­ple’s minds are like col­lege stu­dents’ bath­rooms; dirty and evil smelling. Be­cause they don’t ex­pect any­one to see them. Even the good peo­ple; they’re worse, in some ways. The good peo­ple see an over­weight per­son and think, “She is re­al­ly fat. I bet she’s lone­ly,” then they act friend­ly. The nor­mal peo­ple just think about whether or not they’d have sex with the over­weight per­son, which is what most peo­ple think about most oth­er peo­ple, I’ve found.

At first, I thought read­ing thoughts might be use­ful in fur­ther­ing my ca­reer. For ex­am­ple, if the boss liked me or dis­liked me, I could act ac­cord­ing­ly so he’d pro­mote me. What I re­al­ized is that peo­ple don’t think in straight lines. My boss might hate me one sec­ond and love me the next. Most­ly, he just thought about whether he’d have sex with my fe­male cowork­ers if he were strand­ed with them on a desert island.

So re­al­ly, I would­n’t say my teenage years were a waste, in the same way that an Eng­lish ma­jor might not say his or her col­lege tu­ition was a waste, even though he or she now works in a to­tal­ly un­re­lat­ed field. I’m just say­ing that telepa­thy, like an Eng­lish de­gree, does­n’t pay. It’s a shame be­cause I put a lot of time in­to it and it would’ve been nice to have some in­come com­ing in. But now I have a dif­fer­ent plan: the lot­tery. They say that the chances of win­ning are two and a half bil­lion to one, but I think it’s just luck. And luck is a skill. Just like any­thing, it can be developed.

Filed under Fiction on July 10th, 2007

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Reader Comments

Hosho wrote:

As a guy with an Eng­lish de­gree who now works in a file­room, I got­ta tell you…I nev­er found a way to make any mon­ey with my de­gree or my su­per­nat­ur­al abil­i­ties either…so you’re not alone.
En­joyed the piece.

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