I walked the foggy woods early, the moisture making pearls on every spider web that stretches across the shrubby undergrowth and anchors foliage to the ground. You didn’t know I’d left the cottage. I didn’t ask if I could go.
It was the perfect time for mushroom picking in the damp and coldly-humid air with its suspension of early-morning scents: rotting leaves, growth and decay. You went out later with your basket. I took care, so you wouldn’t know you weren’t the first to pick today.
I hadn’t understood, until I found your book, how a mushroom is just the flower of the sentient mycelium that lives underground and pushes its fingers through the crust of soil. And yet, you like to eat the things. You ridicule me because I won’t.
Our ancient kitchen has an earthy smell – cold limestone underfoot, wooden shelves set into the faded red-brick walls holding my cookery books and your treasured mushroom-hunting tome. It’s open to the page on Amanita. So many different types. So easy to get confused. I pick the book up in my oven-gloved hand and replace it on the shelf.
I’ve been paying close attention. I have nothing else to do now, since I left my family, my friends, my life. Since I swapped working, and earning, and living – for a cottage too far from a town, too close to the woods. I can’t have another conversation about permission, about what I’m allowed to do. You slam the back door and drop your basket on the table.
If only you’d let me keep my phone, I could call an ambulance.
Everyone will know it was an accident. I’ll be so distraught. I slide cold butter into the hot cast-iron pan your grandmother left you.
It won’t be long now.
Fiona McKay lives beside the sea, in Dublin. Flash pieces in lovely places, including Janus Literary, Books Ireland, Bath Flash, Reflex Fiction. Also revising a novel. Saved from a life of not writing by Writers’HQ. Supported by Arts Council Ireland. Tweets about writing @fionaemckayryan
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