Literature 5-12-2008

miniStories: “A Plan for Mushrooms” by David Bengtson

Read "A Plan for Mushrooms" by David Bengtson, the flash fiction entry which earned the author the miniStories Grand Prize. Look for a longer short story by this winning author to be published on in June 2008.


A Plan for Mushrooms
(Selected as a winning miniStories entry by Stephanie Wilbur Ash)

     As he backs out of the driveway, he sees that the front yard is covered with huge mushrooms. They have been here before. During the night the humidity and heat and rain must have brought them to the surface again. The tops are the size of luncheon plates, the color of butternut squash, with patches that seem darker, as though burned slightly. They are soft so they must be handled gently or his fingers will puncture the flesh. And there is such a wretched stench released when the covering is broken. When he gets home tonight, he’ll have to grab a large plastic lawn bag, and he’ll probably fill it with those just in the front yard.

     He knows nothing about these mushrooms. Oh, he read somewhere that they grow out of the decaying roots of trees. But he can’t tell the difference between edible and poisonous mushrooms. He doesn’t even know the difference between a mushroom and a toadstool. Maybe these things are good for him. Maybe he should let them grow. Maybe he should pick them and save them. Maybe he should ask someone about them. Who knows? There could be nourishment here, a miracle cure, a work of art, a prize-winning photo, a lawn like no one else has seen before. A front yard completely covered with mushrooms, golden and brown.

     But how long would they last? Could they be preserved? He’ll find out, maybe at the paint store downtown, exactly what to do. He won’t explain the whole plan. He’ll say he has a few mushrooms he wants to preserve. He’ll leave with a sprayer that he’ll carry on his back, with a long rubber hose and a nozzle that will send out a gentle spray. And when the mushrooms reach their perfect moment, he’ll carefully step between them, spraying some kind of shellac to cover the smooth top, the thin skin that stretches over the spongy underside, the stubby stem.

     At first, the neighbors will think he has found a way to get rid of these pests once and for all. But he’ll do this until no grass, no weeds are left. Until mushrooms of all heights and sizes cover the yard like an outdoor cafe in Mendocino with its tables and chairs and umbrellas, with its crowds of people chatting and sipping, a waiter offering a fine Pinot Noir to a man whose hands have an unusual sheen.

About the author: David Bengtson lives in Long Prairie, Minnesota, where he taught English at the high school from 1968-2002. His most recent book is Broken Lines: Prose Poems from Juniper Press in St. Paul.