The Mushroom Man

An oldie. Back when I had aspirations for poetry. I was young…

The Mushroom Man: A Fairytale

1

“Take it slow, Joe. Don’t overflow that load.” He’s back and attacking the senses, but Tommyboy listens to the wisdom and cuts down the size. Breathing slow, out it goes, circling round and round.

“Got that feeling, Tommyboy?”

“How the hell should I know?” Tommyboy laughs as the Mushroom Man begins his dance and the show goes to hell as the music swells. He still falls off the booth.

“The Mushroom man can cancan and if you’re good, he’ll pop the hood and let you breathe his juice.” The song goes on and Tommyboy breathes and blackness comes, but it’s good.

“Tommyboy tell me, how goes the life.” The Mushroom Man sits besides the boy and brings the bottle low.

“Man, if I could get out of here, I’d let you know.” He laughs the shallow empty laugh that usually comes when the Mushroom Man is done.

“Tommyboy, it’s you and me and the J.O.B. How much you got in the bank? Or do you keep it in the pillowcase?”

“They say the depression’s off, but who really knows? I’d rather keep my pillowcase than trust a bank that ends up closed. Man, I talk in rhyme when I’m with you.”

“You talk in sense when you’re with me.” He laughs again, aware of the neon grass beneath his ass, and the cough starts up too early. Recovered slightly, he sighs aloud.

“Man it’s too soon to suck this cloud.”

“Soon, noon, what’s the difference,” the Mushroom Man smiles. “It’s mileage, man. Experience comes, learning is dumb, but money makes the world go round. So how goes that world, Tommyboy? Spinning fast, or too early to ask?”

“Man, it never spins fast enough. No matter how hard God kicks, it never spins fast enough.”

2

He’s back again and just when Tommyboy was done. “I thought you’d left.” He says through breaths of trickling silver snow. The world is spinning fast at last. The Mushroom Man has resumed his dance, and the people know how it goes.

“It’s Mushroomville where we do our deals, and the sky turns red at night. Beware the light that shines too bright, for here we love the cold.” Mushroom Man smiles slow, and the world turns bright as city nights where shady people go. Tommyboy knows this dance; he knows this place; he knows this feeling; he knows, he knows, he knows.

“I heard the J.O.B. is finally making money.” The Mushroom man sings.

“God must have had some power drinks cause the world ain’t turning slow. No, Joe. The world will never turn slow again, not with you, my friend.”

“We’ll be together forever; we’ll frolic on cloudy days; we’ll dance with diamonds in the sky, and watch the world turn on by. Tommyboy, ain’t this the news.” But the Mushroom Man knows what’s really in Tommyboy’s head. Besides that ice and uncommon spice, a doubt starts to grow. It isn’t another Mushroom Man, to dance with the first. It’s a little girl who cries, “Tommy, I’m hurt.”

3

“The world’s gone to shit and we’re wading through it, waiting for the planes. But the planes are flew by those select few whom the police see fit to reign. Dang. What am I doing? What the fuck am I doing?” The Mushroom Man knows the questions as well as he knows the answer. He’s a professional bullshitter, as well as dancer. But he sees that Tommyboy’s fees are fast amassing.

“You, silly Tommyboy, are fighting for your rights. Fighting those incapable suited men who condemn the pipe. What are you if you give in, just letting the pensioned assholes win? You’re nothing without the Mushroom Dance and Mushroomville and Mushroom Land. You’re nothing but a subservient punk who flunks outta jail without a bail, to find the shit keeps on rising. And then you’re dying, Tommyboy, and there’s no one there to help you, because society fears you. And that little voice that screams in pain is also afraid. But, Tommyboy, you’re all set, because although you’re wet, you’ve got an umbrella. That’s right, Tommyboy, I’m your cover and we help one another.”

“Best friends for life.” Tommyboy sucks in deep and goes to sleep on the neon grass. The Mushroom Man watches him fall, but what can he do after all?

4

The pain’s been gone for so long, he forgets that it keeps growing. The Mushroom Man remembers, but plans to keep on going.

“Just keep flowing till you’re numb. What fun the times have been.” Tommyboy laughs the laugh and falls on the neon grass. He looks up at the reddened sky, tears of laughter running around his eyes and wonders where they go. The Mushroom Man will know.

“Tears make an excellent read, when rolled up and mixed with weed, but they also do well with speed and LSD. Acid, baby, let it burn. It’s Tommyboy’s turn.” Tommyboy smiles the smile, and suddenly he’s just a child. There’s the baby, weak and mild. Mother’s eyes, crazed and wild. Anger rising, criticizing. Couldn’t comply, why, Tommy, why?

“What a boy I would be, if I wasn’t me. If I wasn’t me.” But the Mushroom Man sends mom away.

“Leave that past for a sunny day. Today the clouds are nice and low, blow Tommyboy, blow.” He’s the wind and he catches the storm and it makes him warm, but not too warm. So he turns to the Mushroom Man.

“I love you, man. You’re my best friend.” The Mushroom Man just does his dance.

“I’m your only friend. Your only friend.”

5

The pressure eases as the Mushroom Man comes to pieces and starts to sing once more. “Life got you singing the blues? You know that problems come in twos, so let’s get on those dancing shoes and two-left-feet them away.” But Tommyboy is now aware of that growing pain ensnared, and he can’t forget the feeling that forced him to start dealing with the shit that he deals with now. And for some reason he can’t stop shaking and the ground keeps quaking and the Mushroom Man is taking too long to make him laugh.

“They’ll be writing your epitaph with a face like that.” The Mushroom Man is dancing, but it’s not as entrancing as it was last time. “Nickels and Dimes, Tommyboy, they stealing your feelings? Only I can do that.” The chat feels better and the sky gets redder and Tommyboy knows how to silence the pain. He’s gained quite a bit of tricks on the subject of trips and he practices his exercises daily.

“I just need to numb.” The Mushroom Man smiles.

“No one ever said you were dumb. They said you were a bum, they said you’d get caught, but dumb was never thought.” Tommyboy falls off his bed and he sees red, but it’s a good red. He breathes until he can’t feel the chill, and then the growth screams from beneath, “Don’t get dead. Don’t get dead.”

6

He’s not sure if he wants to be here. The pain is searing and the screaming leering, and the voice is too familiar to forget. Tommy, I’m hurt. Don’t get dead. And if it’s not to drown in red, he’s come to forget what she said, but he finds he hears only her. The Mushroom Man hears her too and the plans he drew just won’t do, because she’s screaming. The Mushroom Man sings his song, but Tommyboy can’t sing along. He’s seeing the failure and he’s in the green, dreaming the bitter dream. Suddenly the red sky becomes blood in his eyes and the neon grass stabs into his ass like broken glass.

“Broken Glass!” And now he’s back to her face, to the place where he became what he would be, and the Mushroom Man cannot see. The Mushroom Man was there that day, but far away, far away. Who was to blame?

“You say you’d save me if I drowned, but what if I turned around? What if flashing lights came screeching and metal beneath me started lurching? What if cars started crashing, and the broken shards slashing? What if she was slipping, all the while I was tripping? Would you stop the burning? Or are you the burn? And what about her, what about her?” The Mushroom man stops his dance to serenely observe.

“Let it flow, Joe,” he smiles sadly, and the bleeding slows. “Just wait it out, Tommyboy. Soon you’ll be back home.”

7

He’s only come to say goodbye. More grand times will fly without the Mushroom Man. The Mushroom Man cannot dance. He’s too angry to cancan.

“After all the dreams I saw come true, all the shit I’ve been through with you, all the terror learned through error, you dare to leave me! Tommyboy, can’t you see, you don’t have cover, we need one another! And God don’t kick the world as quick as me.” He’s fuming now, and the clouds spur thunder under the blood red sky. But Tommyboy knows this place as sure as he knows the Mushroom’s face.

“Take a dip in your own deep poison. Tell me I don’t have my reasons. Enough have died in this red season. Let it go. Let it go.”

“No!” The Mushroom man is angrier now, and he reaches forward toward the clouds and the lightning strikes through diamond fields and the neon grass slyly yields. For the Mushroom Man wins the hand. The Mushroom Man made the dance. The Mushroom Man doesn’t lose his friends. Not till the end, and this isn’t the end. The end comes when the fun is done and the needles are coated and the joints bloated and the world exploded and the client devoted. Not till the Mushroom Man leads the way, dancing to a higher place, higher than the clouds in space, higher than the shit and waste. But Tommyboy knows the drill. He was the sergeant until today, and now he’s going away. There’s a voice in his head, wise and full of dread, and it tells him to leave the red skies behind. It tells him he can be exactly what he was going to be and the mushroom doesn’t have room in the plans. His dead sister says he’s forgiven, though he had driven that day. She sends the Mushroom Man away and takes his hands, leading him back home. And then, when he’s safely nestled, crying slow, she leaves him alone.

Epilogue

On the road that slowly winds. The Mushroom Man pulls down the neon blinds. He’ll hit some twit on his way. No need to say jump in. They always know the way to swim, because the blood red skies of the Mushroom Man’s eyes shine through the shit. And then there’ll be another friend, another trip, another end, and the story will go on and on. Will you come along?

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