Mind Over Matter

By Allen Smith

   Her name was Shane. A boy’s name, you might say, but if you did she would probably slap you and tell you that it was just a bunch of sounds jumbled together and really, it did not belong to either boys or girls. The name Shane could be whoever it wanted to be and in this case, it had wanted to be her.

    Her favorite snack was trail mix, but it was really M&M’s, because that was the only part of the trail mix she actually ate. She would give the rest to her dogs or her baby brother or whoever else was interested in her sloppy seconds.

    Her favorite computer game was Blasters, a game that seemed to have no logical concept, but she understood it enough to play it for at least two hours after she had arrived home from school, fresh off the bus which was occupied by the “wild monkeys.” This was a term she had developed for the juvenile delinquents that occupied the rest of the elementary school.

    So there she sat, eating trail mix and playing Blasters. She wore a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign around her neck, which she had fondly discovered in a hotel room on her vacation to Barbados. She had realized that her mother liked to pester her about homework or dinner or something of that nature while she was immersed in Blasters, so she found that the sign was quite fitting.

    Shane shoved her hand deep into the trail mix bag, as some of the nuts and pretzels had surfaced which she did not care for. She finally was able to dig out a blue M&M. Blue wasn’t her favorite color, but the blue ones tasted the best.

    She continued to indulge herself in the world of Blasters, her beady hazel eyes glued to the computer screen. They moved slowly up and down and left and right as the different targets moved across the display.

    Shane’s mother hobbled into the kitchen with the groceries, several in both hands. She was wearing her workout clothes, but she hadn’t actually made it to the gym. She had told herself that if she bought cute workout clothes it would motivate her to workout, but instead she just ended up realizing that the clothes were too cute for perspiration. So she decided it was best to wear them to the PTA meetings and everyone could think she had been working out. Wasn’t it really the same thing?

    Shane’s mom hollered at her to help with the groceries, but the eight-year-old seemed to care more about rocket ships and aliens than her weekly allowance. Her mother groaned and walked back out the door to retrieve more of the plastic bags filled with the healthy food she couldn’t get her children to eat.

    Having completed yet another level, Shane took an extended trail mix break. She began picking out all the M&M’s she could find, but consulted her dog after realizing that all of the M&M’s were gone. Her dog was a labradoodle—hypoallergenic, because her father was allergic. Shane had named her Puppet, because she thought it would be controversial and she liked controversial.

    By the time her mother came back in, Shane was back to Blasters. Her mother groaned. She had hoped that her daughter would break out of this phase—she would just stare at the blank computer screen for hours on end, clapping her hands together at random intervals with excitement. At dinner all she could talk about was these monsters she was fighting and these games she was playing. Was it a good thing she had such a vivid imagination? The computer had been broken for years, but somehow the strange girl found enjoyment in it.

    If Shane was a normal girl, maybe she would play with dolls, brush their hair and decide what dress to put on them or maybe she would decide that the event they were attending was casual and the dolls didn’t need to wear a dress.

    But Shane was not a normal girl. Shane hated the word “normal.” She didn’t mind being called “different” or “special.” When someone told her she was weird, she would simply respond, “Thank you.”

    “Shane? Shane. Help put away the groceries,” her mother said. She placed her hand lightly on her waist and frowned. “Shane, come on.”

    Shane wasn’t listening. She was in her own world.