Tag Archives: Shirley Jackson

Our Friend Sonja gave us a Mushroom Kit…

Jack loves mushrooms. I don’t mind them one way or the other. Recently our friend Sonja got a BOGO (that’s buy one get one free) deal on an oyster mushroom kit, and offered us one.

The kit arrives….

We know several groups of mushroom hunters. When I mentioned kit mushrooms to our friend Shawn, he said, “That is definitely safest for you and Jack.” Uh, thanks, I think? But fair. Shawn was right when he said, “there are old mushroom hunters, and there are daring mushroom hunters, but there are no old and daring mushroom hunters.”

Sure, but that doesn’t factor in world domination plans. I have read that Ray Bradbury short story about mushrooms, y’all.

The mushroom kit box was blue and about the size of a cinderblock, but not near as heavy. Not at first. I wasn’t eager to get started, but my friend Laura messaged, “You have to let them out. They want out right away.”

Not exactly anxiety-reduction, but perhaps if I treated them kindly, when world domination came, they would be nice to me. Cut an x in the plastic window and water log the brick of spore dust and wait, said the instructions.

Do mushrooms eat your brain first? When would we know?

After three days of watering the spore dust block, tiny little pin-like things appeared. I called then tentacles. Jack called them brainsuckers. We kept watering (perhaps against our better judgment).

Three days of watering was also when we discovered that putting the directions underneath the block was a bad idea. Nothing left but soggy bits of turquoise paper. We were on our own. Fortunately, the Internet is full of advice on kit mushrooms. None of it includes what to do once they take up arms.

Day five, the pins definitely looked like mushrooms, tiny ones with dark brown caps, like a child’s drawing. I looked for faces. When I fired up my laptop, someone had been surfing weapons manufacturers and made a call to a deli.

Day seven, the mushroom hats (okay, caps, they’re officially called) were going from tan to grey, and they looked a lot like sea coral to me–except, grey with white stems and on my kitchen counter.

This is when my friend Shannon said I should the novel Mexican Gothic. I read the synopsis on Goodreads, and yeah, no. Shirley Jackson with mushrooms for Merricat kinda thing going on there.

The day of harvest–or open warfare

We planned to harvest some mushrooms on day eight. That morning, I found a waterlogged copy of The Art of War hidden in the box, and one of the mushrooms snagged my finger. We harvested that afternoon, and ate the first round in full view of the rest of the box. Afterward I said, “That’ll show ’em!”

Jack belched and asked, “What if that was the plan all along? We eat them and they eat us from the inside out?”

If there’s gonna be war, shrooms, bring it. We have forks, frying pans, and garlic. And I’m locking my laptop up at night so you can’t order any more flame throwers.

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Filed under humor, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE by Shirley Jackson

WeHaveAlwaysLivedInTheCastle“A pretty sight, a lady with a book.” –Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle

The problem with being a big reader in school is that by the time you get to classes where the teacher is passing out big books (or even big concept stories) you’ve seen that theme/archetype/trope/chestnut already in something else.

Our high school English teacher made us read “The Lottery,” by Shirley Jackson, for Halloween. Lame. And old hat. Ursula LeGuin in “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” or even Tam Lin and the sacrifice to Hell were better deals.

So when I picked up Jackson’s Castle, I wasn’t expecting much.

That’s how the best things happen.

Aside from first learning of the wonderful name MerriCat for Mary Katherine, this is the book that teaches many writers about untrustworthy narrators. The story is basically two sisters, MerriCat and Constance, living alone in an old house, young girls, and slowly but surely you come to find out why. And then everything goes to Hell on the point of a knife, but it’s a good ride. Here’s another quote, just to give you an idea:

“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all, I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in our family is dead.”

Yeah, she’s a beaut, that Merricat. Jackson’s writing style is so cheerfully prosaic as she pushes out lines of such blood-curdling creepiness, you think, “Who WRITES like this?” For instance, when MerriCat idly comments: “I wonder if I could eat a child if I had the chance.’ ‘I doubt if I could cook one,’ said Constance.”

If you want a post-Halloween scare, read this atmospheric, quirky, Poe-as-a-woman-with-a-semblance-of-feminine-understanding masterpiece.

If you read it before bed, you might want to leave the light on. And stop taking sugar in your tea.

Why this book this week: I read this book years ago, and picked it up again when some bookseller friends and I were discussing online what we were currently reading.


Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, Downton Abbey, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Sarah Nelson, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing