We have a tree in our front side yard. More accurately, we used to have a tree in that front yard, until Paul paid one of the neighbor kids to chop it down. So really, we now have a stump.
This stump has succumbed to nature's chilly hand and has become overrun with mushrooms. It's feral, it's relentless, and it chills me to the core.
Whenever I look at it, I recall the lines of Sylvia Plath. I'm an English major, so I'm occasionally allowed to do such things. She writes in the voice of mushrooms,
"Nudgers and shovers/ In spite of ourselves/Our kind multiplies:/ We shall by morning/ Inherit the earth./ Our foot's in the door."
In other words: I need to watch my back, because someday, somehow, this stump will kill me in my sleep.
Occasionally, I will venture over and gingerly kick the mushrooms. They, devoted to cause, do not budge. Then, of course, I think about how my shoe is now infected with the mushrooms'...venom. A picture pops in my mind of dear little Joely, who loves more than almost anything...to eat shoes. I retreat from the mushrooms with a small yelp, and boil my shoes, giving them the full Silkwood-style scrubbing. Such is the power of fungus.
Owen and I go on mushroom hunts in the back yard. I don't let him touch the mushrooms with his hands, but he is allowed to poke them with sticks, and stomp them to small bits (I later boil his shoes). I tell Owen that mushrooms are nature's acne, and they must be stopped. "Okay, Mommy," he responds, as his eyes scan the yard for more mushrooms to poke and obliterate.
My friend and I were discussing the book/film Into the Wild a few months back. My friend described it like this, "This rich kid from Bethesda had parents that fought a lot and got divorced. Boo-hoo. Rather than suck it up like the rest of us, he burnt his money and eventually lived in a bus in the middle of Alaska. What a dumbass." My friend comes from the "tough-love" school of thought.
Anyway, the guy in the movie/book managed to survive Arctic chill, grizzly bears, and all sorts of other things only to be killed by...wait for it...poisonous mushrooms. Bastards! Mushrooms are not, contrary to the cheesy joke, "fun-guys." Mushrooms are the street kids of the natural world. They'll cut a bitch and laugh while doing it.
You can imagine the confusion in Owen's world when we place nature's acne on our pizza or eat them in our salad. I'm cool with those mushrooms.
But, make no mistake. I'm cool with nature as long as it isn't creepy and unspeakably evil. Mushrooms are both. I would tell the stump that its days are numbered, but I'm too terrified to touch it, and Paul, of course, thinks this is all totally hysterical.
In the meantime, the stump and its mushroom minions sits. Plotting. Preparing. Waiting for the perfect moment. Their foot is in the door.
And, oh, if this isn't disturbing enough, check out this video from my friend Josh. It further displays the evils of fungus.