I wrote the following story during a collaboration project (SPARK) with Jane Souza Hulstrunk who provided me with this photograph taken near her home in Vermont. It inspired a whopping 1,300 words, this is my “response” to the above photograph.
The Three Musketeers
I want to write about my neighbors. My neighbors down the lane. The ones that live behind the boxwood hedge on that property with the purple house, the green house, and the yellow house. They live in the smallest house, the purple one. The other houses are for pet birds, antiques, and a blond mannequin named Suzanne. Oh, and they have one large space dedicated solely to dancing, which is larger than their living space. Its walls are covered with hand-painted murals–murals of Welsh goddesses, tropical scenery, and deceased K-9′s.
Known as the Three Musketeers, my kooky (and I say that with love) neighbors consist of two sisters and one boyfriend. The three of them share a modest single room living space as well as the same bottle of auburn hair dye. At some point, their hair will fade to a rusty autumn orange and then simultaneously, they will all be rocking the deep auburn color again. The boyfriend has long hair, of course.
I want to write about Saturdays.
On Saturdays, I give the Three Musketeers a ride into town. At least I did for all of summer and fall. I haven’t seen them since the snow hit. Our other neighbor, Ember, told me “Oh, the Three Musketeers don’t go out in Winter.”
I want to write about one Saturday in warm, early September.
I was driving the Three Musketeers to town on route to work. They wanted to be dropped off at a friend’s house downtown–we were deep in conversation (they are all excellent conversationalists) about alternative education, raw food dieting, and reincarnation. No one had told me exactly where I was supposed to be driving, I just knew to go “downtown”. Well, I drove several blocks before interrupting Leeza, the sister-Musketeer without the boyfriend (I think, though someone mentioned that the three have an “odd” relationship), I said to her, “I’m sorry I don’t really know where I’m supposed to go…” and I made a slow left turn onto 12th Street, turning off of the busy four-lane street I was on, onto a side street. I want to write about how I saw a man standing on the sidewalk on the corner in front of a pale yellow and white house and the Three Musketeers all hollered “This is it! That is our friend!” just as I intuitively slowed to a stop in front of our destination.
I want to write about mushrooms and rock and roll.
I want to write about chanterelles, morels, hedgehogs, yellow feet, shaggy manes. I want to write about The Doors.
In the year 2000, my father quit his job as a road-construction worker and opted for seasonal work: mushrooming in the fall, Harry & David of Medford, Oregon in the winter and landscaping in the summer…if lucky. Without a doubt, my father enjoyed mushrooming the most. He studied Mushrooms Demystified, the bible of mycology, took an identification workshop at the local community college, and began tagging along with avid mushroomers every chance he got, tromping through the wet and wild Forest Service and BLM lands of Washington, Oregon, and California. And sometimes, scouring peoples’ backyards. My father hated crabbing, a popular local trade, “too sad” he’d say, shaking his head. He chopped his fingers off at twenty working in a saw mill. Though he never said why, he doesn’t prefer to do that work anymore. But mushrooming, mushrooming was something my father could get behind. He became obsessed, often picking alone but sometimes making hundreds and hundreds of dollars a season, maybe even a thousand, which in my father’s world is considered lucrative.
I want to write about all the times I tromped along with him. In the fall of 2009 and 2010, I was working just up the highway from him at the Oregon Caves National Monument. I was spending a lot of the time crawling around the “back” parts of the cave: the places with no paved trail, no light bulbs, and no head space. Crawling up the mountain sides, looking underneath the manzanita shrubs and alder trees reminded me of caving, and I told him that.
I want to write about mushrooming with the Three Musketeers. I want to write about Linn wearing her Mary Janes and me teasing her for it. I was wearing gators over my jeans and hiking boots. I want to write about Linn some more. Linn, the sister-Musketeer with the boyfriend (perhaps the most loving couple I have ever met) religiously wears dresses. If she wears pants they are tights or leggings, and always with a dress. When we went mushrooming she wore a flowery summer dress with her Mary Janes and nylons. She looked like me going to church when I was nine. It was fifty degrees out. It had just rained and the land was soaked like a sponge.
I want to write about the long-haired boyfriend, Thea, like Theo with an ‘a’. When I arrived, Thea was busy wrestling with a boom box the size of a pit-bull. He had it hoisted over his shoulder and was covering it with a poncho” ‘case it should rain”. It was already sprinkling, but there would be tree cover where we were headed.
“Love hikin’ with a stereo,” Thea said to me with a nod.
“Oh, I’ve never done that,” I replied.
“Oh yeah, keeps the cats away.” he said, alluding to the mountain lions.
Thea wasn’t bringing a bucket. Said he wasn’t any good at spotting mushrooms, “my eyes”, he explained, one eye pointing toward outward and one eye aiming somewhere around my third eye or hairline.
I want to write about how our property borders BLM land and our landlord posting “No Hunting” signs all over so that when we hike we can be sure we’re safe. I want to write about the single-trek dirt trail and crawling over the wire fence and Linn’s summer dress getting snagged on it.
I want to write about Leeza spotting the first chanterelle, of course, and us seeing all sorts of different fungi while listening to Riders on the Storm and Plastic Fantastic Lover and Mr. Tambourine Man. I want to write about the long silver radio antenna snapping off its base and Thea holding the radio together for two full hours, giving up on the hunting and focusing only on providing us with all the groovy tunes, which is not to say he didn’t bitch about the broken antenna the whole time.
I want to write about the pound and a half of orange chanterelles I plucked with my pocket knife and placed carefully into my white plastic bucket, the bucket my father gave me. I want to write about how I keep mushrooms cleaner than anyone I know and when it comes time to cook, the specimens are already free of fir needles, mud, and lichen. I want to write about the meal I prepared for myself after the hike, using store-bought tomatoes from some far-off, sunny place. I want to write about the thyme, the sea salt, and the rosemary. I want to write about the chanterelles. I want to write about eating alone. I want to write about writing. I want to write about it all. Radio. Rain. Lovers and fall. I want to write.