The Mushroom Farmer, Book Two, Chapter 8

The mf feels out of it. Maybe not enough coffee? This is his second cup; help is on the way. There is also the mild ache in his upper left arm from his first COVID-19 vaccination, thank God and scientists. Antibodies are doing their thing in the mf’s immune system. If this results in a certain wooziness, so be it.

Getting vaccinated yesterday morning did not stop the mf from an afternoon of garden adventure. He removed the mushroom patch. Yes. Its time had come and gone and stayed gone. The mf held onto a one percent hope that beneath the shriveling brown strips of banana tree bark, he would find the lost city of Atlantis as represented by a thriving colony of Champagne Oyster mushrooms, but no.

Instead, he found flat dirt, red spiders, and pale elongated ghosts of daikon radish sprouts. The dirt looked like a chocolate bar. Don’t eat it! The spiders had big abdomens. The truth is, the moment after the mf pulled up the last strip of banana bark, the ground appeared to be covered in a reddish glow that vanished before he had registered it, leaving just two spiders behind, up on their haunches. They scuttled away, leaving the ghost sprouts, forlorn.

Longhorn earthworm

The mf was on the verge of rhapsodizing about forlornness when along came some foot-long earthworms, stretched out to their full length but wait no, stretching out even further. These were Longhorn earthworms, plump and juicy, living and loving life to its fullest. So sorry ghost sprouts; anyway, y’all should be okay now that sunlight can reach you.

Meanwhile, what about this herd of earthworms, asserting themselves so un-self-consciously? Oh, it did the mf’s heart good to see them chugging along, like trains in the heyday of the steam engine. Thoreau is always hearing train whistles. Train whistles, bells, and every kind of bird that ever flapped a wing in Massachusetts. The mf hears traffic from the 405, but only first thing in the morning, when life is still. He has not heard a bell in a year, since school stopped. He generally hears three types of birds: crows that caw, parrots that screech, and an unknown bird chanting “bbq.” He has started to notice little green-throated sparrow-looking birdies flitting among the pittosporum, so maybe that’s them. Oh and let’s not forget the occasional keening seagulls and of course the hens with their buck-buck-bucking and egg-song.

The earthworms did not make any audible sound, but in the mf’s mind they sang “Wooly Bully.” Earthworms are the keep on trucking-est of all the beasts. They eat dirt and like it. Not that he gets to choose, but if he did, the mf would like to be reincarnated as a job share between an earthworm and a pole vaulter.

The mushroom patch is gone but it’s not like he put the bark on a pyre, set the pyre on fire, and sent it drifting out to sea. He piled all that spore-impregnated bamboo bark into the wheelbarrow, which has a flat tire that always needs to be pumped up. The mf has patience with this tire. He is not going to replace the entire wheelbarrow because its tire is tired. Oh heck no. He is also not going to inject the tire with aerosol flat-tire-begone because that stuff must be infinitely toxic. Nuh-uh. The mf tenderly pumps up the wheelbarrow tire every time he uses it and in return the tire keeps on trucking, like an earthworm.

The mf loaded it up with 100 percent mushroom-free banana tree bark and pushed it through the garden, where long brown trails of shredded coconut bark indicated lots of good stuff had recently been planted, and deposited the load near the lemon tree and secondary compost heap. This is where the miscellaneous yard waste goes. Some of it is heaped up in a cylinder of chicken wire; some slumped against the wall as if having faced a firing squad. Oh, brave garden waste! This is where the mf dumped the banana bark, in the hope that he might come back at some point in the unspecified future when he had forgotten all about it and behold a Champagne mushroom forest.

I hardly know what to say

The chances of this are less than one percent. The mf likes these odds. They remind him of the time he replanted what his students claimed was asparagus they had propagated in the classroom. This was two years ago, when there still was school. Some kids propagated peas, other kids propagated Dracula flowers. This was all part of the mf’s unspecified “growing things is good” curriculum. At the end of the year he brought all the unclaimed vegetation home and planted the so-called asparagus, although it was so wispy he thought it actually must be dill. So he planted it over in Row 7 with the other dill, near where the mushroom patch would later fail to thrive and forgot all about it until yesterday, when in the ground where the dill used to be, he found three extremely penis-looking protuberances, erect as all get-out.

Yes. Mushroom-colored plant penises. There they were; there they are. The mf thought about changing his name to asparagus farmer, which would also be cool, but then he thought “nah” as he often does and set his sights on trying again with mushrooms once the temperature starts being in the 70’s all of the time instead of just some of the time.

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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