The Mushroom Farmer, Book 3, Chapter 14

Before the mf left, he was frantic to weed Row 6, which was choked with crabgrass.

The crabgrass in particular recalled the zig-zag stitches of Frankenstein’s monster, that lonesome and vicious brute. Row 6 altogether made the mf feel the sharp-tooth wound of raising a miscreant.

It was neither this nor that.

Yes, nigella thrived there, deep blue or purple or light blue or white & blue flowers, always something different with nigella, and always profuse, and yet not enough.

Nigella’s seed pods an oval, thick-striped crown, fit for a prince — and yet still not enough.

What would be enough? Not bunches of onions, evidently, because alongside the nigella in Row 6 grew many robust bunches of onions with leaves upright and rugged as elk antlers.

You might be thinking, “Golly, Row 6 sounds like the place to go for vegetal headgear! In fact, I would count myself happy if only I could be sporting an actual nigella and onion green crown.”

But this well-meaning enthusiasm of yours only exacerbates the mf’s hysteria. Poor guy. I think he is really unmoored, roaming around in his backyard shoving bean and corn and watermelon seed randomly into crabgrass-choked soil.

Did you hear how I just said “watermelon” seed. That is not accident or whim.

The mf ran out of pumpkin seed.

INNER VOICE OF SOMEONE VERY NEARBY: (howling to uncaring sky) Noooooooooooooooooo!

Oh, to be able to express the anguish. But the mf must keep the pain in his heart, because the secret truth is that he did not run out of pumpkin seed.

The secret truth is that someone moved his special packet of Connecticut Field pumpkin seeds.

Someone who was tidying.

Someone the mf loves even more than he loves and cherishes the notion of someday actually growing mushrooms.

This person — oh, come not too close lest ye feel the full horror of the pumpkin seeds having been moved, but also do not go. Don’t leave me here alone to reckon with the mf’s having been unpumpkinseeded.

I will get over it, I know. Someday. But right now I need for you to hear of the mf’s discombobulation. His sense of being adrift, unmoored… hey wait, didn’t we already check unmoored? If we’re saying it again, I think we’re good.

Yeah. He sure does like his pumpkin seeds, though. They must represent something. My guess is fecundity. I would bet 10 bucks on fecundity.

Make it 20.

That’s a lot in and of itself. A lot of feeling. It strikes me as raw and out of proportion to the cause. I mean, you can get perfectly nice Cinderella-stagecoach quality pumpkin seed at the hardware store.

Also, pumpkin seedlings are busting out all over the place on the mf’s farm. There will be no shortage of cucurbita pepo unless this super-drought afflicting the entire Western United States — yet somehow not the mf’s yard — corrects this oversight, sits down smack dab on top of the farm and refuses to get up.

Now that’s something to worry about, but it’s not what is agitating the mf so severely that he planted himself in the garden at six o’clock this morning to pull up crabgrass.

Oh, yes, he was in there with his bare fingers, pulling crabgrass roots from mud like an obstetrician desperate to salvage a breech birth.

And why is the soil muddy?

VOICE OF SOMEONE VERY NEARBY (muffled by the cumulative experience of teaching public school amid the pandemic): I DON’T KNOW!

That’s what I’m trying to tell you. I don’t know why the mf can’t just take proud note of the many pumpkin seedlings coming up, the many corn shoots besides, and did I tell you I saw at least one tomato plant that’s from seed too?

Oh heck yeah. Fecundity or near-fecundity. This last-minute planting on the second-to-last-day of school before summer vacation, graduation day for seniors the mf will be seeing for the first time when they cross the stage — it definitely has more than a whiff of desperation, a particular kind of literary desperation, the old “Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to” from The Ambassadors by Henry James.

Oh, the poor mf. Trying to live life to the fullest. It’s too much. He’s not even planting pumpkins this morning, did I mention? Cucumbers, watermelon, anything vine-y. And he is not sticking markers into the soil to help him remember what he planted.

He is in full panic and probably ought not be stopped, like a sleepwalker or Lear on the Heath. Let the madness run its course. Let us take shelter, meanwhile. We must first save ourselves.

PS He feels better now. One of those students he was meeting for the first time at graduation said to him, “Say, Mr. mf, you’ve mentioned that this time of year before you go on summer vacation is often fraught for you in terms of gardening; I’m curious to know how it’s going.”

Yup. Did I mention that his students’ reading level from beginning to end of the school year averaged an increase of over two years? They sure did. But this particular kid came to him talking from the get-go about the comparative merits of various buckwheats; so it’s not like the mf extruded this kid from his forehead.

Anyway, the mf just gave the kid a slightly condensed version of what you have already read here, adding only that he always wanted his garden before he left for vacation to be “pre-Edenic, with everything except the snake in the tree.”

To which the kid nodded as if he understood, exactly.

Even though I’m pretty sure what the mf meant was not “pre-Edenic” but rather “prelapsarian.”

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 3, Chapter 14

  1. I’m thinking the missing pumpkin seeds were:
    Bashert (or beshert; Yiddish: באַשערט) means “destiny”. It is often used to refer to one’s divinely foreordained spouse or soulmate, who is called one’s basherte (female) or basherter (male).
    Watermelon is a good call.
    Well deserved time. Seek out the path of the Horseshoe Crab.

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