The Mushroom Farmer, Chapter 6

Now there are n days remaining, in which n = days until cobweb-like material begins to extrude from the plastic-wrapped pile of dead bamboo leaves, signaling the emergence of the mushrooms that will establish the mf as a genuine mushroom farmer.

On day n-4, where four is the four days it has been since the mf impregnated the pile with spawn, golden oyster mushrooms will vindicate the mf by showing that he can indeed intentionally grow something tasty.

The mf yearns for this vindication.

Oh sure, he has grown tomatillos that have bestowed their tang upon salsas ricas y deliciosas, preparado por su esposa.

Yes, he has served as custodian to kale planted 10 years ago as it continues to offer up greeny greenness.

And certainly he has donated a solid 100 pounds of oranges and bananas to food banks within the last year.

Yet still, the mf looks out upon the seven rows of rich soil and many fruit trees besides that he obsessively cultivates and feels… less than.

Less than a good gardener. 

Less than what someone would feel who looked out upon:

Row One packed with lettuce, leaves firmly upright and extended as if expecting to fly;

Row Two, surging with new kale, proving the old kale had not been a fluke;

Row Three a stately pleasure-dome of peas;

Row Four, a palatial display case of cauliflower crowns;

Row Five, a wide Sargossa Sea of spinach;

Row Six rocking broccoli; and

Row Seven, amber waves of grain; specifically, oats, because his chickens love oats.

But NO.

Instead, the mf looked out upon a decade of planting whatever he felt like planting, whenever and wherever he felt like it, with a big ol’ lavender bush smack dab in the middle, not for any reason, just because.

You could say, well, it’s a habitat for pollinators, and his wife did say that, in the summertime especially, when butterflies fluttered, darted, swooped, soared, and so forth; often landing on an outcropping of milkweed, exactly in accordance with elementary school science lessons.

You might also say, well, whatever is out there is what has thrived.  Pineapple sage.  African basil.  Primrose.  Wild dagga.  They are the homies. 

This is in fact what the mf has been saying for the past ten years but it hasn’t been working for him since COVID-19 forced even more of his fellow citizens into food insecurity.

It was just not right to plant whatever wherever when there were upwards of two million people to feed. In Los Angeles, more than one in four people lived without knowing where their next meal was coming from.

The mf could count to four. He practiced, because he was learning how to play the drums. Oh, playing the drums was a jolly good time, a jolly good time indeed; however, even as a rank beginner you had to count not only four beats per measure but also the inner rhythm between the beats: one-e-and-a, two-e-and-a, three-e-and-a, four-e-and-a. That more than one hungry person was like one-e, probably more like one-e-and.

You couldn’t just grow whatever wherever with that many hungry people living in your town. That’s why the mf had lately been plucking grass from between lettuce leaves as though doing a forty-foot-long eyebrow manicure.

He sat on his upside-down baseball bucket and plucked, tugged, dug. He had no quarrel with the grass except that it would choke out the lettuce if left to live the life of grass, so yeah, in that sense, he did have a quarrel.

To settle the quarrel, the mf was looking for the number f. This would be the amount of food required to feed the food insecure population of his town. Four pounds sounded like a reasonable estimate. Four pounds of food for the estimated 2,000,000 food insecure people in Los Angeles comes to eight million pounds of food, per day.

That means the mf would have to grow seven million, nine hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred pounds of food over and above the hundred pounds of oranges and bananas he has already contributed to food banks from his garden.

And then, the next day, he would have to come up with another eight million pounds because he had already used his 100-pound credit.

The mf’s go-to ethical rule of thumb is that we don’t have to repair the entire world, but we have to do our part.

Is the mf doing his part?

This problem may give the mf something to work on during the approximately three weeks it will take for his mushrooms to emerge. 

It may. 

However, the mf is easily distracted.   He flutters and darts.  Drums, mushrooms, lots of things.  I hear he wants to get good at shooting free throws with a Nerf ball.  It would be good if the mf does his part or even a little extra to establish fair distribution of food in Los Angeles.

But will he?

Published by MarkGozonsky

Mark Gozonsky has been writing stories and essays since he was a music snob prodigy in early-1970's San Antonio, Texas. Since then he has written about not only music but also baseball, gardening, teaching, parenting, cycling and the... glory of love. Lit Hub and The Sun have published his work, and so has the Austin Chronicle. He lives with his wife in Los Angeles, where he teaches English to some of the nicest kids in the world at an arts-themed public high school downtown.

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