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The Mushroom Culture

Mushroom culture picture

T

he trouble with bloody fairies is the look that comes into people’s eyes when you tell them, that, not only have they been discoing down the bottom of your garden in Costa Del Toadstool-os, next to Barry the broken garden gnome, but they’ve been in your home too. There it is, that look of shiny eyed disinterest and an, “Oh, you have?” expressed in one tone removed from the ‘koochie koo’ noises designed for babies and the clinically insane. “Fairies? You’ve seen fairies?”

Yeah, I’ve seen the little bastards – they’re so goddamn cute, I want to pound them with a mallet. You get me? Strap ‘em into a Black and Decker Workmate and go to town with a hacksaw. You ever peel the wings off a blue bottle as a kid? Peeling a fairy is just like that, only more satisfying.

I almost appreciate the disbelief, rather than the koochie koo fairy eyes. At least disbelievers have some kind of informed opinion: they thought about it carefully, went through the pros-and-cons and, ‘we’re so sorry Brenda, but believing in fairies means you’re whacko, pure and simple.’ It’s as if it were an infallible test for the ‘fringe community’ exams.

Well, for my money, crop circles are tornadoes, UFO’s are marsh gas, crystals are rocks, psychic powers are wishful thinking, and bloody fairies are really, fucking good at avoiding fairy cake in mouse traps.

The cat got a couple yesterday, but I’ve already had to rescue him twice from the fairy ring next to the compost heap – you know what they say, ‘step in a ring and stay forever’. Now I’m trying to train him to avoid pouncing while the little buggers are dancing in amongst the polka dot, red-and-white toadstools, but unfortunately the cat has real instincts involving small, twitchy things, and I did spend quite a few hours bobbing a ‘My Little Fairy Friend’ toy in front of his nose, splutched all over in ‘Go Cat.’ At least I’m generally on hand in the middle of the night – you know, kicking in small toadstool housing estates with a stout pair of steel-toe-capped Doc Martin boots, and brushing down spider web picket fences with the aid of a flashlight – to rescue Mackerel prior to an extended knees-up with the Seeley Court at sunrise.

My reputation as ‘Brenda the madwoman spiritualist type’ has been made all the more infuriating by the fact that the winged vermin can choose who gets to see them. They quickly figured out I wasn’t going to take any of the ‘twee dancing around in tights,’ bullshit, or ‘bathing in moonbeams,’ malarkey and set up camp.

When my friends come to visit, somewhat unwillingly these days, it must be said, they see only the wild, sleep-haunted look in my eyes, teeth bared, white-knuckles gripping the armrest in rigid indignation, rather then the Tiller-Girl-style dancing rings amongst the Digestive Biscuits or, even worse, the synchronized swimming routines in the toilet. The only nightmare that most people have to put up with in there is the cat taking an occasional drink…

Trying to deny the fairy madness in hand, I once – up to my arse in kicked-in shroom houses –  tried a piece of a particularly striking, yellow toadstool with a small outdoor pool attached. I recognised it from my Collins Guide to Fungi under the Shamanic Culture in Northern Siberia section (apparently, the pool was an optional extra). For three or four blissful hours, wild hallucinations ensued. I didn’t see a single, maniacally dancing figure in the fridge, bread bin or washing machine – it was amazing. Of course, they came back in droves when the fungus wore off…

After that, the only thing that kept me from a midnight run with the rotovator was the shop assistant in the Tool Pigeon who caught me browsing the poisons and animal-maiming devices…

What are ‘mole bombs?’ Sound promising…

“Want some help?”

Sure I have fucking fairies – yup, the morris-dancing, twice-round-a-hill-top, don’t-eat-the-cheese-dip-in-fairyland, kind. Can I have a No 6 Brownie trap, please?

“Yeah… I’m looking for a steel-sprung trap, one of those heavy ones for… mice…maybe… a rat?”

“Have you thought about humane traps? You catch one, you can release it after.”

People want to release them after? I just call the cat…

He held up a brown, cardboard box for me to look at. Printed on the outside was a picture of a housewife with a big smile, arm-in-arm with her benevolent, moustachioed husband, as their kid happily released a mouse into the grass. Even the mouse had a little smile. Behind them was the happy family home with a revolving wash-line; this was the ‘Mouse Master’ from Humanitek.

Damn. I felt guilty about the Paraquat…

He made the mistake of asking me if I wanted some bait.

“Let me see: given the shortage of virgin school girls, a small saucer of Carlsberg Special Brew usually does the trick – especially the draught stuff – or a couple of spoons of Pillsbury Vindaloo mix on a poppadom, freshly prepared at around 3:00 am. That does it every time. Everybody has an opinion about bait. But I know what works.”

For the next few weeks I laid humane traps for the local fairy population. I even tried to keep Mackerel in my room at nights, cutting down on the number of dismembered corpses he usually left under his favourite chair in the kitchen. Apparently, fairies can talk to animals, but this is probably limited to: ‘Hey, did you see a bloody big – arrrgh!’ when chatting with Mackerel, and predominantly this would be said to his lower intestine.

Mackerel had also mastered the art of bringing them back alive, but was definitely getting suspicious of my now ‘benevolent’ motives for calling him over to show me what he’d got, then pouncing on his jaws as the cat yowled and struggled, clawing my hands and arms, while the fairy swore blue-bloody murder and cursed the TV remote again. Ever channel, sporting bloody highlights…

The other night, I spotted a nixie running along the skirting-board while I was watching Casualty, and another – which I’d already rescued from Mackerel’s jaws by levering open his teeth, much to the cats disgust – made an unfortunate and extremely slim reappearance the next morning under the sheepskin rug in the lounge.

Traps or no traps, this was going to have to stop.

Each day I’d come downstairs to find twenty or thirty so-called ‘fair folk’ in each Mouse Master penitentiary, hands on bars, unwashed and reeking of booze. Most of them had the look of terminal alcoholics, or were out of their minds on Moonbeams and Duneberry Dew. Hangovers and vomit stains were in profusion.

I tossed them into the back of the car – followed by a persistent Mackerel – and drove the twenty or thirty miles out of town to a very nice country copse. There were plenty of toadstool rings, one or two outstanding oaks to bond with – even the local spider population was fairy friendly (I checked with a library book and a bit of hands-and-knees work in the hedgerow). So I let them out there, shaking out the cans on a log or a mossy stone. Mostly, the fairies just tumble out in a groaning heap, far too hung-over from dancing and drinking the night before. A couple might have looked around, wondering where the fuck I’d brought them, but mostly they just wanted to throw up in the nearest patch of ground elder, or blink at the bright light through tortured eyeballs, like little red rowan berries.

Three months of this, and the catch wasn’t going down. Repeat offences were becoming the norm and my band of fantastical delinquents was actually increasing in number.

I should have gotten suspicious when I found two of them trying to get into a trap one morning and had to pop them inside as Mackerel tried to pick off stragglers. By that point, I was getting a lot less bothered about trying to restrain his killer instinct.

Every night till 7:00AM (sunrise) the sound of a succession of Hard-Ass Techno Trance Beats from the Mushroom Culture could be heard while they raved it up in the rhubarb patch. Another week of the ‘ooom cha, ooom cha, ooom cha, ooom cha …’ super-bass reverberating the foundations, and I was going to snap in a very folklore-unfriendly manner.

Straight after, on the next car run to the distant copse, I found a whole spread of holiday-condo ‘Wizard’s Knob’ bracket fungi and self-catering ‘Crete-os Agaric’ death-cap parasols with ‘river’ view, and a great many more under construction, with en-suit nutshell and candygrass plumbing.

So much for humanitarian traps – I was running a weekend break cum package tour to the countryside!

I began to retrain Mackerel to kill, kill, kill!

Now I’ve limbered up with a variety of kitchen implements they’d never let me use on Master Chef because they are far too well weighted for throwing – and the use I’ve found for a meat tenderizer definitely extends beyond whacking rump-steak.

I’ve got it in for the little bastards now, and the next coffee shop owner that offers me a chocolate brownie gets stabbed in the eye with an extremely in-humane melon-baller.

Mythology is hell – it’s fucking folklore out there…

2 comments

1 Joan { 12.12.10 at 8:01 pm }

Good to see some lack of sentimentality with regard to fairies – ‘peeling a fairy’. Also – Brenda – good to see she is not afraid to use her Black and Decker.

Love the paragraph where the fairies are so good at avoiding fairy cake in mousetraps. Liked the rescue of the cat – good name for the cat – Mackerel.

Interesting that they can choose who gets to see them – a good structural detail of the story – I mean this fact helps maintain the status quo within the story – ie Brenda must be nuts and this is why she looks so awful.

It’s funny what Brenda is thinking as opposed to what she’s saying when she’s in the shop.

It all hangs together this story – maybe there should be more reason for her change of heart and decision she’ll try to be humane.

But very good. Funny. Good ending.

2 Stephen Hewitt { 12.13.10 at 9:02 pm }

Hi Joan – yes, I’m afraid that needless fairy cruelty may be part of my sense of humour.

Brenda definitely knows her way around a Black and Decker. Probably some other tools.

The selective visibility was a happy ‘stumble upon’ and once I thought it up, I saw there was some humorous potential.

You have spotted the fatal flaw with the current version of the story: there isn’t a clear enough reason/motivation for why she decides to become benevolent for a while. I’ll probably redraft at some point to fix that bit.

Glad you found it funny and enjoyed it.

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