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National Editorials & Columns

I Blame the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man

“Ray, when someone asks if you’re a god, you say, ‘Yes’!”

In the iconic ending of “Ghostbusters,” Gozer, the Sumerian god, tells our heroic ghost-busting foursome that he will destroy the world by assuming the form of the next thing they think of.

Proton packs at the ready, Slimer’s pals try to keep their minds blank but are bested when Ray thinks of the friendly Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Before he can explain, a 100-foot demonic Marshmallow Man stomps his way through Manhattan.

As a kid, I had the living daylights scared out of me by “Ghostbusters.” Not because of the special effects. I wasn’t afraid of no ghosts. I was, however, completely frightened of having my thoughts read. The film was my first introduction to the idea of mind reading, and I was never the same.

I spent hours contemplating how I could keep my thoughts to myself. Would an iron helmet work? Or what if all my thoughts were in a language I created on my own?

Kejum dwi vawixumi.

You don’t know what I just wrote, do you? Ha-ha! Try to mind read that, fools!

My paranoia hit an all-time high the summer we moved my grandmother out of her apartment and into assisted living. An overly dramatic 10-year-old, I was consumed by the thought of never again running around in the four sandboxes and tin tunnel that made up the complex’s play area. I wrote songs of suffering about the deep loss of what used to be my playground to the tune of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”

The summer we moved my grandmother is also the summer “A League of Their Own” hit theaters. The film featured a new song by Madonna, called “This Used to Be My Playground.” Most people left the women’s baseball flick feeling nostalgic, cheerful or contented; I left absolutely terrified.

How did Madonna know about my song? How did she steal it from my brain? Is Madonna secretly the Sumerian god Gozer?

For years after, I would throw open my bedroom window shades whenever I had a scandalous thought, completely expecting to see the Material Girl crouched down on my roof, jotting down notes.

I wish I were exaggerating. Truly.

Convinced I was in direct communication with a mind-reading, song-stealing deity, I decided I would use the power of my connections for good. Instead of studying, I wrote tunes about getting straight A’s. Oddly, it didn’t work.

I gave up and opted instead to use my power for evil. After all, it had worked for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man — that is, until he got blasted to bits, coating the city in fluff and turning every Manhattanite into an instant s’more.

During computer class, I named the members of my “Oregon Trail” family after the bullies in my school, fully knowing it was only a matter of time until they fell victim to diphtheria or dysentery. But no matter how many family members I lost as I drove my wagon across the country, no kid in my class ever called out sick from a snakebite or typhoid.

Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps my thought patterns, whether used for good or evil, didn’t conjure up any reality. Somewhere along the pimple-popping woes of puberty, I abandoned this mind-driven mode of operating and completely forgot about it. Until yesterday.

Yesterday was turning into the perfect day. I played hooky from work. Slept in. Used my birthday massage gift certificate. Visited my favorite coffee shop for some quality writing time. And on my way home, my exit in view, stopped in gridlock traffic, I was thinking about the male lead in the story I’m working on. Something was missing. He needed some edge. Something defining. He needed to be a fireman. Yes, that was it. A fireman.


My car was hit in a three-vehicle crash. I was in a daze. Exchanging insurance. Taking pictures of the damage. I wondered whether karma was punishing me for playing hooky from work. Did this crash happen because I was having the perfect day?

“Miss, I need to check your vitals.”

I turned to see a dreamy fireman with green eyes, wearing a stethoscope. His name, Valentino, was written across his yellow fireman’s hat.

I can’t be sure whether my brain conjured up this reality, but I’m very glad I wasn’t thinking about marshmallows when my car was hit. Or Madonna.

Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at Check out her column at To find out more about Katiedid Langrock and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

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