The Mushroom Farmer, Book Three, Chapter 8

The mf got coffee with an angelic-looking woman at a Christian cafe. She gave him an idea of what to do next. He loved her idea so much he has already done it; and even though he probably did it wrong, the feeling is still love.

First of all, the coffee: the mf had an oat milk latte. Yes, this was his first foray into meeting people at cafes since his second vaccination. It is not recorded what beverage the angelic-looking woman, or alw, got because they launched right into talking about plants that remediate lead in curbside soil.

Sunflowers! Mustard greens! Just don’t eat them. I wouldn’t even put them in the green bin. Let those lead-remediating plants go to the landfill. This is the gist of their opening back-&-forth, when the mf was still getting used to the single sunbeam glinting off the alw’s short blonde hair and reflecting her calmly cheerful demeanor but not her tactfully invisible angel wings and harp.

Words, as they came out of her mouth, did have golden sparkle. For example, when she said that she volunteers at a farm down the street that trains housing insecure 19-to-25-year old’s to plant raised beds and row crops and while they’re at it, to interact professionally so they can go on job interviews this farm arranges for them.

The mf simply propped his fist under his jaw to keep it from dropping as the alw detailed with great precision how what the mf wants to do when he retires from school teaching not only already exists but is also thriving. He doesn’t have to make it up. It’s right there. The dream is real.

I would like to commend the mf for keeping the conversation going amid his astonishment. Topics included that you can grow whatever you want to whenever you want to because this is Southern California. The rules do not apply.

This includes carrots. Secretly, the mf has been yearning to replant carrots because he came so close to getting it right last time and he believes that with one more try, he could raise enough carrots to make carrot spaetzel and pierogi as he promised, to honor his ancestors and model food use as opposed to food waste, in The Mushroom Farmer, Book One, Chapter 7.

Oh, it was wide-ranging conversation within the particular category of urban farming, echoing Thoreau’s zinger about being well-traveled within Concord, which you would expect in a good sit-down conversation with someone who really does look like an angel and responded to a note on social media about farming in the parkway. Yet even wide-ranging conversations must eventually reach their conclusion, and so it came to pass that the alw asked, “What do you see as your next step?”

“Well, I think it would be cool if one other person started putting out homegrown produce out by the sidewalk for the taking by passersby,” readily asserted the mf.

The alw responded that maybe he could put out a little flyer near the salvaged coffee table by the sidewalk along with the veggies and flowers. The flyer would explain what he is doing and invite passersby to do something similar, as a nice gesture. The flyer could also tell passersby how to share their garden produce with feed-the-people organizations such as the one that the alw volunteers at when she is not working at the training farm.

It would almost go without saying that the mf at this point unfurled his own tactfully invisible wings and flew like a hen six feet straight up, the thought “I can write a newsletter” beaming out of his just-now-opened third eye, then rapidly descended amid much inaudible fluttering.

Some careful readers of these pages have suggested that the mf is perpetually tripping his balls off. I don’t see it that way. I see the mf’s dream life within reach and him practicing to live it.

And also — after a certain age, what are balls for?

*

The conversation spilled out onto the sidewalk as talk of melons and tomatoes could be heard above the wild gleam in the mf’s eye.

Then as soon as he got home he got to work on the first draft of the flyer, realizing that he had always wanted to be like Martin Luther nailing what he thought about things to the church door. And like I was just saying, bing-bang-bong, now the dream was real, except that instead of nailing them to a church door he was impaling them on agave spikes, which turned out to be a most impermanent posting as the little pieces of paper rapidly fluttered away. Oh well. First try. Next time’s the charm, like with carrots.

As for the contents of the flyer, well, you know how first drafts are. This one did not directly follow the prompt, a habit the mf has picked up from certain of his free-spirited students. Somehow instead of a simple explanation of his project and invitation to join in, as the alw suggested, the mf got it into his head that passersby would be interested in beautifying their own compost piles with his luscious yard trimmings of oats, borage, and crimson clover.

He piled these up on the agave plant near the sidewalk. Then he wrote a little homage to his yard trimmings. In English, it went like this:

Make Pretty Compost Even More Pretty

Add any flowering, fragrant green.

Crimson clover, Queen Anne’s lace,

Borage makes a beautiful bower.

Oats feed compost green nitrogen.

Everything is free,

The MF

In Ukrainian, it went like this:

Зробіть «Гарний компост» ще гарнішим

Додайте будь-який квітучий, ароматний зелений.

Малинова конюшина, мереживо королеви Анни,

Огуречник робить гарний альтанок.

Овес годує компостом зелений азот.

Все безкоштовно,

МФ

He printed it in Ukrainian because there is a group of Ukranian old-timers who walk around his block every day. He thinks it would be nice for them to see some Ukrainian on a note impaled on an agave. Also, Ukraine is former shtetl-adjacent.

This was a lot a lot of good intention to keep from bubbling over in his brainpan, and yet the mf with a mighty flapping of invisible wings also internet-translated it into Chinese and Korean, because while all this is happening between the mf’s backyard and front yard, there is also a horrendous outbreak of violence against Asian people. He wanted to demonstrate solidarity, so much so that he translated his paragraph into Yoruba for African solidarity, too, because a friend of his who knows about these things recently sent him an email emphasizing that Africa must not be a lacuna.

And so it comes that even after this wide-ranging conversation between you and me, beloved reader, the question remains, is the mf tripping his balls off?

Maybe.

It’s a nuanced question that could be answered in several different ways. I would answer thusly:

When his kind neighbor Alice, herself an extraordinary gardener, came outside early the next morning and observed the mg tending to the pristinely untouched piles of yard trimmings and hand-torn notes adorning the agave like an admittedly bizarre Christmas tree, she asked, “What are all those pieces of paper?”

He said, “Oh, they’re invitations to take these yard trimmings and use them for compost. I think the idea is to beautify compost since these trimmings all either have flowers or are interesting shapes.”

Kindly neighbor Alice said, “Great, I am going to add some.”

She gave him the thumbs up, and then said something else the mf couldn’t quite make out, but he interpreted them in retrospect as keep-on keepin’-on.

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.

One thought on “The Mushroom Farmer, Book Three, Chapter 8

  1. Tripping?
    Likely to be psilocybin. The m in mf!!!!
    Sideways BD nod: “Crimson clover, Queen Anne’s lace”….
    Purple Hair across your face.
    Perhaps alw is sgh.
    Sister Golden Hair

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