Saturday, May 15, 1999

My friend, Poison Pie, was feeling blue last weekend so I took him to the National Park, early early on a Saturday morning. We hiked a bit up into the mountains, where there were mushrooms all over the place. I thought the presence of the mushrooms would cheer up Poison Pie, since he is a man of the mushroom people.

The mountains were all greenery in the second week of May; the rhododendrons that dominated the mountainside displayed the first pink-green buds still two weeks shy of blooming. The dew had fallen and the ground was wet. The air was damp but already warming. I said, "Cheer up, Poison Pie," but Poison Pie would not cheer up. I lay down in the wet, decaying mat of detritus, and rolled around until I was pasted with half-rotten leaves and specks of fertile soil. I said, "Look at me, look at me, Poison Pie. I am a man of the mushroom people."

I knew Poison Pie could not resist. He eyed me and, no sooner had he seen some kind of larvae stuck to my forehead, than he was rolling around in the leaves himself. We got damp. We got good and cold and damp. We could have caught pneumonia had it been in the air.

Poison Pie got so excited, he started eating dirt. He started cupping it by the handfuls into his mouth.

I took a step back and said, "There, there, Poison Pie, that's enough."

But Poison Pie let me know that I was mistaken, that, in fact, it was not enough.

Poison Pie dug a hole into the ground of the National Park.

I sat down beside the hole for so long that the dank of the earth seeped into the seat of my pants and got my butt all wet. There were mushrooms everywhere. I asked Poison Pie to tell me their names. I wanted to here the roll call song of the mushroom people, hear the matins entoloma sinuatum sung, the lauds peniophora rufa sung, and the vespers amanita phalloides sung. But Poison Pie lifted his head out of the hole he was digging, pointed at the mushrooms one at a time, and said, "That's Maryanne. That's Pretty Polly. Those are Sancy and Sue-sue."

"No their real names," I said, picking up a clump of soil and tossing it back in his hole.

Poison Pie curled into a tight fetal position and crawled down into the hole he had dug. From inside he called, "That's corpse finder, that's the dung-loving psilocybe, and those sisters are destroying angels."

"They are not," I told Poison Pie. "You're lying."

Poison Pie pouted and would not come out of the hole until I said I was sorry for calling him a liar, and asked him to forgive me.

Poison Pie, man of the mushroom people, stood eight and a half feet tall and had hands like moist catcher's mitts. He sank those giant squishy paws on each of my shoulders and gave me the mushroom people's absolution. After that, Poison Pie gave me a hug and we continued through the woods.

mushroom behind mushroom ahead