The Cafe Irreal: International Imagination 

Issue Fourteen

The Santa Fe by Terry Dartnall
Butterflies by W.B. Keckler
Tableau by Jake Elliot
The Accordion by Cat Rambo
Watches by Pavel Řezníček
surd person circular by Brian E. Turner
Black Belt Karate Master (1988) by Ethan Bernard
The Room at the End of the World by Brian Biswas
The Mushroom Incident by Olivia V. Ambrogio
A Call to Arms by A.D. MacDonald
Almost Mythological and Duty by James Grinwis
It Works Differently on Writers by Jeremy Tavares
Running by Sarah Bailyn
Of Forests and Trees and Never Met a Fish Taco I Didn't Like by Robert Leach
A Man Of Many Doppelgangers by Jeff Tannen


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The Mushroom Incident
by Olivia V. Ambrogio


Giant mushrooms fell from the ceiling and landed gently on the rug. They were approximately the size of doilies or small pillows, the decorative kind given at Christmas or on birthdays. They were a pale, inoffensive beige, very similar to the ceiling, with odd patterns of black speckles. They did clash with the carpet, however. I decided they would have to be removed. But in the time it took me to go down to the basement and reemerge with a broom and dustpan, the mushrooms had rooted themselves firmly in the carpet and refused to be budged, even with the most violent broom-sweep. I even went so far as to attempt to dislodge one with my hand--expecting the mushroom to devour it at any moment--but to no effect. Eventually I gave up, although I did repaint the ceiling.

It was a bit tricky vacuuming around them, and they took a while to explain to guests, but after about a year I got used to them. I even forgot that for a while I'd never had them. And they were very polite, really: no spores on the furniture, no smells of decomposition, no strange noises of decay in the evenings. They began to blend in with the rug, and their glow was certainly an advantage late at night. After a year and a half I even started to appreciate them, and I did my best to protect them from my friends' scrutiny or disapprobation.

But he kept at me--at them: Where did they come from? When did I first notice them? Had they changed at all in size or shape? Suppose I took up the carpet and displaced them?

At first I was patient. He was my sister's husband, after all, and family quarrels are best avoided. I explained that I hadn't happened to notice the mushrooms before their descent from my ceiling to the carpet, and that I had no idea of their origin prior to their life on my ceiling. I told him they had changed to a slightly more tasteful color after they had comfortably settled themselves, but that their size seemed stable--as he had surely noticed for himself. As for taking up the carpet, I had no intention of paying for a new carpet or wood-floor finishing, and saw no reason to disturb the lives of so thoughtful a species. When he persisted, I suggested that perhaps he spend more time studying his own ceiling in case any growths appeared there. I wished him the best of luck.

This didn't seem to satisfy him, however. He continued to pester the mushrooms--my mushrooms, as I affectionately began to think of them. After spending hours crouched in the living room inspecting the rug, he at first professed disbelief at my story of their appearance and then--gradually--implied that only a disturbed person would treat such an occurrence with so little concern. At which point I told him that only a disturbed person would find fungi more stimulating than his wife, and added that if he felt such a division of his attentions he should free my poor sister to find a more normal and attentive mate. He then attempted to hit me, but tripped over the mushrooms. Family quarrels are indeed best avoided, but when one's mushrooms and mental state are insulted, there are few other options.

Apparently my insinuations were closer to the truth than I had known; within two months of the incident my sister divorced him, and my obligation to show him my mushrooms was dissolved. I believe he entered the business of pesticide development, but neither my sister nor I have heard from him in some time.

My mushrooms are still on the carpet, and flourishing, I think. They've covered a good portion of it by now, which is just as well --they're more cushioning than the rug used to be, and they've reproduced its pattern admirably. I feel obliged to keep the house, to protect the interests of my fungi, but it's not an unpleasant task; I like the area, after all, and the glow is very helpful late at night.




Olivia V. Ambrogio's work has been published in Red Cedar Review, The Herbal Network, Yemassee, Onionhead, Controlled Burn, Fugue, Yuan Yang, The Bathyspheric Review, and Abandon Automobile: An Anthology of Detroit Poets (Wayne State University Press). She is also the editor of (and main contributor to) a political commentary newsletter called The Weekly Grudge. She is currently pursuing a PhD in marine biology.


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