The Mushroom Farmer, Book 2, Chapter 1

The mushroom farmer has seen a light.

A glowing, warmed-up twilight after a cold day’s dim light, now hot and fresh from the sun, el sol, through 8 1/2 minutes of outer space, a little longer than “Layla” by Derek and the Dominoes; twilight fresh-baked in the center of the solar system just as since time-immemorial and delivered still fresh and hot through outer space not exactly directly but exquisitely refracted unto the mf’s kale- and broccoli-intensive parkway between the sidewalk and curb in exurban LA County.

Oh, the twilight glows all right. Invisibly, the best way, to the almost naked eye of the mf. He is wearing an eye guard, naturalmente. Nadie hace nunca en su jardin sin gafas proctectivas. Es una precautiva obviosa.

Next question.

Q: Does the mf’s protective eyewear (p.e.) blur things?

Oh yes, quite noticeably. For one thing, the p.e. spoke directly inside of the mf’s mind, saying, “What, would you rather get an eye poked out?” This blurred the distinction among sight, hearing, premonition, and loneliness. It was loneliness, perhaps, that made so much of the mf’s stuff talk with him, and him back to it.

Yet despite the mf being happy to say howdy to everyone and everything, animate or inanimate, stuff poked the mf in the eye all the time when he was gardening, especially when he had eyegear propped up on his hat or dangling from his shirt.

Chickenwire to the eye is no joke.

You could seriously lose a eye and that would seriously lower your Wins Above Replacement. Many of those brambles are vicious too. And have you looked at a lemon tree branch? Thor Knee!

The blur is necessary, writes Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. You can’t plan it, can’t predict it, all you can do is feel it. That’s how revelation works around Tinker Creek. “The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind,” Annie Dillard discovers.

The mf discovers the same sun sends twilight to exurban LA now as to rural Virginia in the Seventies. The sun now sails in a swoop from the furthest-away Canary Island date palm to the jacaranda the mf is standing under. Standing while swooping. Oh and the light is sublime, you can fly and fly with blurried eyes.

Mood does play a role in the mf’s delight. The broccoli seedlings he had put out for the taking were all taken, and so too were the carrots, gone-gone. Somebody else in the neighborhood now had a more verdant garden. That’s a huge light-attractor for the mf, and so is the vivid orange and blue combination of the few remaining oranges at the bottom of the blue plastic bucket.

The oranges promised sweet and juicy calories at the bottom of the blue bucket. Fresh orange juice would not harm anyone over the next few days of cold rain. Heck no! Orange juice, that’s liquid sunshine.

Lettuce and friends

The mf had stepped into the sun in front of his house having devoted all day long to the backyard; first teaching the best he knew how, then being good in a meeting, and only then tending to el jardin. Hay mucha que hacer atras; mienras, lo jardinero de hongas (lo jdh) tuve un plan singular. El quise arreglar un salad de lechuga, y hojas de cebollos verdes, y que col rizada tan joven y suave.

Oh yes, very much so. The mf had the singular purpose indeed to arrange a salad of lettuce, green onions and kale — so curly, so young, so tender. With a lemonito, ya un poquito verde. He also crossed two orange cosmos flowers over a single blue lavender bloom. And because the mf liked to use his degree in flower arrangement from Upstate University, he also included a blue-blue flower with tiny white flowerets. He never could remember the name of this plant but he knew it had something to do with applause and it furthermore reminded him of one particularly melancholy biography of Woodrow Wilson, When the Cheering Stopped, a purple Time-Life book that sat on his parents’ bookshelf in the plush yellow shag-carpeted living room of his boyhood home.

The mf is honestly still melancholy about Woodrow Wilson and what a racist he turned out to be after the mf had believed in him as a boy. Oh yes. The mf as a boy had a portrait of Woodrow Wilson in an oval pecan wood frame next to his poster of Elton John playing piano while sitting on the floor, legs astride the keyboard. Elton John looked insatiably musical; Woodrow Wilson looked unwaveringly brave in his pince-nez and boulder-sized jaw, the magnificent jaw of a smart person who could withstand a punch and keep on being smart.

The mf is a late bloomer in many ways. He was late to understand that he himself could throw a punch even better than he could withstand one. He was late in understanding that Woodrow Wilson was a racist. He now has no adjectives for presidential racism. All he has now is a kind of pity.

And the light. All of this happened: the broccoli being taken, carrots too; the pretty salad being laid out just so nice in a reused take-out tray with a nice plastic lid on top of which the mf wrote in black Sharpie: “Lettuce and Friends.”

He placed the shiny night-black plastic base on two torn pieces of shiny mylar wrapper that must have been packaging waste but now became wings that might sparkle at any moment.

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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