The Mushroom Farmer, Book 3, Chapter 11

Somewhere in the middle of treating the soil in his front yard with rock phosphate in order to counteract lead contamination, the mf lost his eyeglasses.

This led to considerable self-castigation, which I want to shield you from as much as possible. Yet, for us to thrill in what let’s hope is the mf’s eventual triumph, we must also reckon with his sorrows.

So here goes. First of all, he was pushing a wheelbarrow. Pushing it, pulling it. That part was good. The wheelbarrow was full of compost, also good, for intensifying phosphate’s power to render soil lead harmless.

It’s a new wheelbarrow. The mf assembled it himself, using his new handiness to replace the old wheelbarrow, whose single tire could not be unwobbled. The old wheelbarrow might make a good habitat for mushrooms. Meanwhile, the new two-wheeled wheelbarrow feels sleek yet sturdy.

We’ll see. He’s had this wheelbarrow for a week, about as long as he’s had the eyeglasses. They are black, plastic, and round but not too round. The mf has a specific thought when he sees himself in the mirror with these glasses on: “I will hear you out, and then I will beat the crap out of you.”

What is wrong with the mf these days? That is a question that comes up a lot. What happened to the holly-jolly mf?

Well, people change. That’s one thing. It’s getting close to the end of the school year, so it could be the annual End of School Year Blues, perhaps exacerbated by only four percent of students returning when school re-opened. I do think the mf has some pandemic-related unhappiness dwelling within, which would make him much like every other human being right now.

Also, maybe it is better he lost those glasses since they conjured such hostility. Except that these new glasses replaced the old glasses he recently lost at the airport. That was the second pair of glasses he lost at the airport in a row, a bad streak. There is something wrong, not right, about how the mf is seeing things. That much is clear.

He spent the second half of his three hours spreading rock phosphate feeling self-recrimination about losing his glasses, after a promising start during which he was feeling good about repairing the world. Yes! Rock phosphate turns lead in soil into pyromorphite, which is not digestible, so hah-hah on all those decades of cars putt-putting by on the mf’s street, spewing out lead gasoline emissions that came to earth and settled down in what is now the mf’s front yard.

Shiny!

Hah-hah on lead poisoning, he had been thinking. The phosphate will immobilize the lead, that’s the science word, hah-hah, stupid lead, you’re immobilized — what now? Nothing, that’s what, because now you’re pyromorphite which cannot be digested by the human intestine. The mf, triumphant, like we were talking about, having found a new way to heal the world besides being kind to people which does get boring and monotonous.

Kind, kind, kind, kind, kind, kind, kind. Enough already. Half the time, people think you’re being sarcastic. It makes you question your dedication. But now you don’t have to, because instead of tempering your remarks and using your internal filter you can just spread rock phosphate.

halleLUjah.

But no. Halfway through, in the wayback of the back yard, digging way down deep into the compost heap, the mf realized, where are my glasses? They were not on the brim of his cowboy hat nor straddling the back of his neck. They had been fogging up due to his facemask, so he put them somewhere, and now they were gone.

This was entirely foreseeable. The mf has certainly learned the lesson not to wear prescription glasses while gardening. You often lose them and it’s mortifying. Also, cheapo non-prescription eye guards are better for the foggy vision that is good for inducing nature insights, according to both Annie Dillard and Henry David Thoreau. He has learned this lesson, I know he has. So why, please tell me why, mf, would you shrug and think oh, I won’t lose them.

Because you are careless! Careless, like your dad always said you were, with math problems. Oh, his father’s disappointment, here it comes, canceling out the joy of broadcasting rock phosphate just as surely as rock phosphate cancels lead. Now the mf is pushing the wheelbarrow with his eyes on the ground. He is literally downcast. It’s sad.

Glasses! he calls to the banana tree stumps. Glasses! he calls to the bare patches between pavers where Texas Hummingbird Mint has just begun to ever-so-precariously germinate, maybe. So much stuff is not germinating ever since the mf impetuously sowed Epsom salts directly into his soil. Corn, beans, melon, all making the seed equivalent sounds of ack, ergh, oooph.

We want to grow, mf, he hears them whimpering, but we can’t because you sowed salt into the soil, you idiot.

It is sad.

The mf has attempted to fix his mistake by spreading hand shovels full of gypsum throughout the garden, making it look like it has rained ash.

How is that going?

Not super well. All the seeds he plants seem to be eyeing him skeptically from underground, waiting to see what other impetuous moves he’s going to pull. He did get some seedlings from a giant combination hardware store and nursery because, enough already with the waiting forever for things to sprout that never sprout. And those seedlings — jalapeno and poblano peppers, canteloupe, tomatillos, basil — are all hanging in there, maybe hanging in there plus.

I should note he’s got blueberries forever, the blueberries are a huge hit this spring, yum yum yum and yum! And the chickens remain all present and accounted for. So it’s not like the mf has transformed his backyard into a wasteland. Oh no. Let’s not forget the nigella, blooming dark blue and light blue and purple blue all over the place. Let’s not forget the onions and garlic, growing elegant scapes, thick curvy stems topped with a balled-up blossom.

There is also a secret outcropping of red romaine lettuce, each bunch prospering like royalty secure upon their throne: resplendent, confident, divine. I mention all this because it is just too sad to concentrate solely upon the mf pushing a wheelbarrow full of compost while he himself is full of self-recrimination for losing his glasses.

And yet, there he is, peering at tangles of nasturtium for the black plastic frames and not seeing them. How easy it will be for the eyeglasses to get covered by the compost he is now layering over the rock phosphate to accelerate its immobilization of lead. How easy it will be for the new eyeglasses to be lost and never found.

The mf thinks: well, I’ll just get another pair, that’s all — but this affords him no solace. It is just the mf buying his way out of another jam. Boooooooooo. That’s what it really comes down to. The mf is boo’ing himself relentlessly.

It is sad.

And then he finds his glasses. They are on the sidewalk near the table where he sometimes gives away produce. Yay yay yay hooray! The mf is going to harvest some red romaine lettuce and put it out on the table along with sprigs of nigella flowers as a thanks-offering for this second, third, umpteenth chance.

P.S. He does this. While he setting up the table and “Everything is Free” sign, a thin neighbor with several shades of gray curly hair comes by walking two little fluffy dogs. She takes a sprig of nigella and observes that it is related to fennel. “I took just enough horticulture classes to be dangerous,” she says. She also asks the mf his name, which he tells her, and she replies, “That’s my brother’s name.”

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.

2 thoughts on “The Mushroom Farmer, Book 3, Chapter 11

  1. “Kind, kind, kind, kind, kind, kind, kind.”
    “This was entirely foreseeable.” said the joker to the thief.
    I’m still working trying to differentiate between “what is lost” vs. “what I can’t find’.
    Thus I have recently purchased 6 pairs of glasses. Buying my way to sanity.
    Zenni.

  2. I guess “lost” means “I’ve given up looking for them.” But nothing is ever truly lost? I think there’s an e.e.cummings about losing one glove, throwing away the other, and finding the first one again. At least a “pair” of glasses (as opposed to monocles) is attached to itself. You know what I mean!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: