Existential Mushrooms


by Tabatha Parker

Do you believe in God, sir?”

A tiny voice drew Eden’s attention away from the book in his lap and he blinked down towards his bare feet.

“Well, do you, sir?”

Eyeing a small white mushroom, he reached out with one toe and nudged it. Nothing unusual there.  The top was an ugly mottled color and its head drooped heavy on the small stem. But Eden could have sworn that the voice had come from it.

“Um, no? Not particularly,” he offered.

“Well, why not, sir?”

There was no mistaking it this time; the voice came from the fungus. And it wanted to debate religion with him. Resting back against the tree and keeping his eyes fixed on the small white head, he shrugged his shoulders. “Just never have. No proof or anything.”

“You’re proof of God though. Life is all so wonderfully complex, only an omnipotent being could have created it,” the mushroom huffed. “What do you believe in if not a divine being?”

“Nothing much really,” Eden admitted. “Science mostly. Occasional flights of fancy. But mostly solid facts. Things like the big bang, evolution—” He trailed off.

There was silence for a moment and then, with a quiver that might have been the wind the mushroom said, “Well, fuck you, sir,” and didn’t speak again.

Getting the silent treatment from a fungus was a bit awkward, so he grabbed his book and stepped over it, heading back into the house.  He’d almost convinced himself that the mushroom was a waking dream when his attention was drawn from his book again.

“Can you help me?” asked a quiet voice that sounded distant and muffled.

Eden eyed the small silver and black speckled fish in the tank near the window. It swam up to the glass, turning its body and staring at him with one eye. “Please?”

“All right, all right,” he sighed, closing his book again. “What do you want?”

The fish asked politely enough, so he supposed doing a reasonable favor wouldn’t harm him any. He went over to the tank, crouching down to get nearer to eye level with the silvery creature.

Bubbles poured from the fish’s mouth and it turned tail and swam over, rubbing against one of the bright red plastic plants swaying in a corner. “This is all wrong,” the fish said. “It should be over near the large rock.”

“Why?” Eden asked, reaching down into the tank and tugging it up by the tip.

“Because, it’s messing with the feng shui. It’s not right. It’s messing with the ch’i where it is.”

Eden rolled his eyes but bit his tongue. For ten minutes the fish swam around, directing the order of the props in its tank until it felt that everything flowed in the proper manner. With a few words of thanks, Eden was dismissed as the fish nestled into his fake cave.

Giving up his reading and starting to wonder if maybe he shouldn’t be considering therapy and x-rays, he returned his novel to the bookshelf in his bedroom. There were several chess pieces, both red and white together, from a long misplaced chess set scattered over the shelf serving as cheap decoration.  As he pushed them around to make room for his book the huffing Queen in his hand made a clicking sound and muttered about his mistreatment of royalty.

Throughout the evening, various objects engaged him in conversation. His left shoe offered a passionate argument for communism while his right vehemently opposed. The spoon he chose to stir his coffee with admitted its preference for tea while his sugar jar recited Socrates.

It was a busy day. He was more than happy to settle down for his supper; a nice fresh salad and a rather tall sandwich. His stomach did somersaults with excitement at the prospect of it.

“That shirt looks lovely on you.”

His fork halted midair and he looked down at his salad. “Excuse me?”

“That shirt, it looks nice on you. It really brings out the color of your eyes,” one voice proclaimed while several chorused agreement. “And your hair is smashing today.”

Well, Eden couldn’t eat something that had complimented him. He picked the salad up, which was now praising the cut of his hair, and set it back in the fridge before pulling the sandwich to him. He hoped the mayonnaise would stick the bread together to quiet it. It looked so good and it was very hard to eat food that was so flattering. The bread was fresh and soft as his fingers sunk into it.

“Please don’t eat me,” a small voice whimpered.


Tabatha Parker lives in Memphis where she likes to wish she was cleverer and imagine she is a cat.
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