Death by Mushrooms Galore

cut-by-wolfgang-puck

I haven’t been a nice person for a really long time. I’ve come to accept this too late of course, as is the case with many who come to the end of their lives before they have the opportunity to learn what life is about or how to enjoy it. Being youngish, you seldom have the opportunity to realize that every moment is precious and that what you do and how you treat people accounts a lot for how life progresses.

It had been a very busy morning, and as usual, I was hustling and bustling from one area of activity to another oblivious of how I was interacting with the world around me. If I bumped into someone or invaded their personal space, I was not accustomed to apologizing or for that matter even acknowledging that I had committed such an offense at all.

On this particular morning however I made the mistake of bumping into an Asian girl, I was not certain of what nationality, as with most other ethnicities I had not taken the time to learn the differences and fell into stereotyping that all Asians were the same. Furthermore, I generalized that they were rude as a culture and that me being concerned with her discomfort was a waste of effort.

She sneered at me and asked, “Aren’t you even going to excuse yourself.”

“For what?” I asked. “Didn’t you see me standing there? You could just have easily gone around or for that matter waited until I had passed by. That’s how you do most of the time.”

“For your information, I was carrying all this stuff and did not see you coming. Are you going to apologize or not?”

“Mostly not ,” I said nastily.

The girl picked up her upset parcels and went about her day.

If this had been an isolated incident, others watching that had seen me before might have chalked it up to a bad day, or one where the bed had moved and I had gotten up on the wrong side of it.  But this was my usual demeanor.  Some people shook their heads, others cursed under their breaths, and some just ignored it, especially those as stupid as me. What did they care if I was nasty to others so long as I checked myself when I interacted with them?

Don’t get me wrong, I could be syrupy sweet when I wanted something, or I thought there was a situation that might benefit me in some way, but mostly I was just rude and obnoxious unnecessarily.

That evening, after a day of bruising the hearts and egos of others all day, I felt especially inclined to pamper myself. A guy I had grown especially fond of invited me out to eat and I thought it might be gratifying to patronize one of the new restaurants that had popped up in my neighborhood. He was game and itemized my choices. We chose a Thai restaurant and walked the short distance from my apartment to a block of brand new shops and restaurants that had not yet been investigated by me.

Our waitress came over and handed us the menu. While flirting with my friend who ordered some spicy dish I couldn’t pronounce let alone handle the heat of, I ordered a noodle dish, some type of spring roll, and an inviting dish called mushrooms galore.

When the dishes began to arrive I tucked in. The food was great and I had nothing to complain about. But near the middle of the meal a steaming plate was brought to the table. It was piled high with all colors of bell pepper, jalapeno, and mounds and mounds of mushrooms. There must have been at least 20 or more varieties on the plate. There were lots of different ones I had never seen and I joked to my friend, “Some of these must be poison for them to be able to serve a dish with such a variety,” and I laughed.

My friend joined the joke, “If that were the case, a person would have to know exactly who they were serving, good thing you don’t have any enemies.” He continued to laugh.

I laughed too, that is until I suddenly felt like I had indigestion and burped. I covered my mouth and glanced over at the waitress serving a family with their all too obnoxious children and I wondered how their parents could tolerate the behavior of such offspring. As I looked at her face, a feeling of familiarity crept over me.  It didn’t register right away, in fact it didn’t until the second burp occurred, and with it I began to feel light-headed.

The next was accompanied by a feeling of euphoria, and I knew at that point that something was definitely wrong. I looked over as the waitress stooped to pick up a spoon one of the children had dropped and realized just where I had seen her. My heart was racing and I wasn’t certain whether it was the circumstances or the food.

“So I guess it might have been a good idea to apologize. Look, I get it, but it’s too late to take it back.” I said looking at her.

“Yes, I suppose that is true, but it is never too late to acknowledge that we are wrong and to be sorry. We all live in this life with one life and how we interact with others may often add or take away from their existence. As difficult as life can be it is always best to try to affect others in a way that brings them some small measure of comfort or joy. If we cannot do this, maybe we are better off dead.” The girl answered and smiled.

I understood what she meant. Like my earlier mistake it was too late for her to take back what I had already eaten.   “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

“It’s best to cherish every moment we have in life,” she added and smiled again.

I figured if I was going to die I should at least enjoy it. I whispered obscene invitations in the ear of my friend thinking to give him the best night of his life, then looked up at the waitress again.

“In that case,” I responded as we rose to leave, “I‘d like my mushrooms galore to go.”

 

Death by Mushrooms Galore  © DJuna Blackmon 2015, All Rights Reserved

 

The Devil’s Property

deadlynightshade

In nature everything has a color. Many times the more dangerous things are colored so beautifully one might assume that they are harmless thinking that nature would make them unattractive in order to protect other living things, but in many cases that is not the truth. Belladonna or deadly nightshade has some of the most inviting berries found on a poisonous plant. It is said that the plant is the property of the Devil so anyone picking the berries had better be prepared to meet him face to face.

Well on a not too dark night in old Europe, a young witch dared to sneak into a grove filled with the plants and waited to pick the most succulent of these berries. She watched in fear as she began picking and placing them into a basket she had buried under her cloak. In moments she had nearly filled half of the basket and was delighted she had gotten away clean. But as the basket neared three quarters of the way full she heard a noise behind her.

“What might you be planning to do with those?” asked a male voice behind her. “You do know that those are deadly poisonous, and you might come to harm if you decide to use them in any untoward way. Not to mention the price you have to pay for simply picking them.”

“Are you the devil? I’m told that this is his province and that those who venture to pick it should be prepared to meet him, but how does one prepare to meet the devil?” she said to stall for time.

“I do not know I am sure, I have never met the man myself. Never the less I am required by the owner of this land to say thus to those who would pick the berries and risk inviting his presence that they must pay for the berries by the piece, by the pound, and by the parcel. For each piece you must endure a pain, for each pound you owe a service, and for each parcel you must provide a bounty of the type it normally holds.

“Couldn’t I just give you money for the berries and pretend I was never here?” She asked.

“Not if I am to live to tell the next young woman who ventures here to gather the beautiful ladies.” he said.

“Then what would you ask of me?” she asked.

“Let me see what you have.” he said.

The young witch withdrew the small basket from her cloak. The man poured the berries into a handkerchief and counted them into the basket, there were forty all told.

“What do you normally carry in the basket?” he asked.

“Bread and butter, wine and cheese.” she answered.

“Then for the parcel you must bring the master of the house a good wine, a loaf of bread with butter, and beautiful cheese.” he said first.

He weighed the basket and with the berries inside it weighed two pounds.

“For the master of the house you must kneel and service his manhood two times until he is satisfied.” he said.

The young woman started in horror. “That is an awful price to request of a young virgin girl.” she said

“Ah then you will hate the price per piece. Your choice, a strap, a whip, or a stroke.” he said.

“But I don’t know what that means!” she shouted.

“Never the less you must choose.” he said. “All you get is the choice, I have no further information than that.” he said.

The young witch said, “Fine I choose the stroke. It cannot be much more painful than either the strap or the whip.”

“As you wish, you must go there to the house to make your payment before you can remove the berries from the premises or risk the devil himself.” said the man.

The young witch thought to leave and not come back but she could not leave without the berries. After thinking loosely of a plan she agreed. She plotted to poison the master of the house and leave free after having obtained the berries. She placed several poisons into the wine and put it in the basket with the bread, butter, and cheese. She would encourage him to eat and drink first, to avoid the other payments and after he was sick or sleep which ever worked first she would then leave with her basket.

But when she arrived the master of the house came to the door with whip in hand.

“But I did not ask for the whip, I requested the stroke.” she said.

“And so you shall have it,” he said and tied her hands from behind and lifted her skirts. He stroked her nakedness until he reached twenty and penetrated her for the last twenty reaching climax just at forty. He then put her on her knees and positioned himself between her lips, reminding her it was death to bite. When he had climaxed twice he set her free. She was thirsty and tired and he offered a drink which she swallowed with gusto to wash out the taste. He handed her the basket and opened the door for her. She was beginning to feel sick.

“I’m sorry I ever came here,” she said to the young servant as she passed him in the courtyard.

He replied,” Never count on which seed the devil will sow first, no matter which instrument of punishment you choose it will almost always be the most painful, and if you dare to offer the devil fare containing poison make certain it was not intended for you.”

As she approached the outside gate she stumbled and fell lying in a forgetful sleep the berries lying beneath her. When she woke they lay nearly crushed upon the ground. She recovered those that were left intact and left the village never to return.

The Devil’s Property © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved

 

written-for-30 (3) copy

Choose Your Own Poison

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Choose your own poison was something people said to you when you were out and about doing things you probably shouldn’t, partaking of substances, or foods, or drinks that might have consequences. The people who said this often knew of the consequences and wanted to remove responsibility from themselves. I wasn’t certain where the saying came from, but I was certain if I had to partake of a poison I at least wanted to be the one choosing it. I noticed when I drank, or when I ordered dessert, and even when I was gambling with friends, this phrase was repeated often.

So what if I didn’t want a poison, I thought to myself in a room full of people who claimed to be my friends. I stared at each one of them. Lonnie was a banker. He had worked at the bank for twelve years. His wife was a glorified secretary, though she called herself an executive assistant. If she was assisting her boss with anything it was head on a regular basis. We all knew she was fucking him. That is everybody but Lonnie. She flounced in every day with her overdone make up and kissed him on his banker’s cheek asking what he wanted for dinner. And he’d say some outlandish shit like duck la ronge, and she would cook it.

But everybody didn’t have a wife with those kinds of skills. Gary’s wife could barely put a meal on the table. I mean she could cook, but between what they made financially, they barely had money for bills let alone food. His wife was a capricious sort, whether or not there was food on the table depended on how she felt when she came home. Thank goodness they hadn’t had any kids yet.

Roberta, Tony’s wife was a different sort of bitch from an affluent family who claimed she didn’t need him or his money and she could do what she wanted. Tony was henpecked, and mostly just happy to get out of the house four nights a week so he could get away from her.

My own wife had characteristics of her own. She was smart and resourceful. She didn’t bug me but she had moments when she probably wanted to take me out back and shoot me. If I wasn’t the only person she could trust to hide a body she might have done so long ago. Our twelve year old twin boys were old enough to hold their own without burning the house down so on the nights I went out with the boys, she made them pizza or something quick, made certain their chores and homework were done and found things she wanted to do for herself. I appreciated the way she didn’t give me grief about spending time with my friends. She liked Gary’s wife and sometimes they would do things together if she had a little extra and she knew Gary’s wife would enjoy having an outing. She didn’t care for Roberta and after hearing that Lonnie’s wife was cheating she didn’t want to have guilt by association. It didn’t take long for stuff like to get around the neighborhood. She didn’t think it would be long before Lonnie knew. She wasn’t certain how things would turn out once he accepted that it was true. On the nights we were out we were certain Lonnie’s wife used the time to rendezvous with her lover boss, and Roberta was out wasting Tony’s money that she claimed she didn’t need.

On Saturday the boys would come over to my house to play cards. We didn’t even like cards, we just wanted to drink and spend time together. We had a day at each house so we could give our own wives a night of respite away from our daily madness. My wife normally took a long bath and waited for me to come upstairs drunk so she could take advantage of me. As we sat down to the card table one of the fellas would say it, “Okay choose your poison and unpack a bag of liquor with everything from beer to whiskey.

I wasn’t a real drinker but it was fun having the opportunity to try a variety of different things in the comfort of my own home just in case I didn’t respond well. A couple of those times I woke sick as a dog and my wife just walked over me and shook her head.

But on this particular Saturday, Lonnie seemed strange. “If you were gonna kill yourself, what poison would you chose?”

That wasn’t the standard way the prompt was usually made. The others jumped right in and outlined their morbid death wishes. But I didn’t feel like playing this game. Lonnie looked serious and I wasn’t certain I wanted to buy into my own death just yet. He emptied a bag which appeared to contain a variety of different shaped bottles with labels I had never seen. Each of my friends grabbed a bottle and poured the odd-looking liquors into their glass.

“You been telling us for months to choose our poison I’m giving you the opportunity to actually do so.” Lonnie laughed, but the look on his face didn’t seem to look like humor I thought.

Tony tossed back his glass and immediately poured another. Gary was reluctant seeing my hesitance and looked at his drink more closely. He read the bottle. It was a sleeping drought which stated more than a glass might cause a deathlike sleep, but in small amounts could induce a sleep like euphoria that could last for hours. Gary poured a tiny bit into the glass and tossed it back to taste. I looked at the bottles and decided I would try one if I could find one that didn’t seem as if it would really kill me. The bottle that Tony drank from was marked Curare Infusion, though he had taken his third shot it was not a straight version of the poison. In its natural form it caused paralysis and death due to immobilizing the diaphragm, but in its present form the quantity necessary to cause death would have taken the entire bottle. There was no risk of Tony finishing the entire bottle, he was having difficulty moving and was out of breath. In moments he lay sprawled out in the chair unable to move anything at all except his eyes and breathing like he had run a marathon and was having difficulty catching his breath.

I loved my life and loved my wife, if I wanted anything it was just an opportunity for things to be lively every now and then, you know for life not to be predictable. Lonnie handed me a bottle. It was said to be an aphrodisiac, but it also said in small print in too large a quantity it could stop the heart. I literally took a drop. I didn’t mind rocking my wife’s world later if everyone else lived to go home. If not I would spend the night masturbating and trying to revive my stupid friends.

Lonnie had a bottle of Jack Daniels, only a bottle I had never seen. It must have cost a fortune. Into it he put two drops from a black bottle marked nightshade and returned the top.

“All of you are stupid selfish morons. The poison you chose is indicative of the type of lives you lead. Tony here is paralyzed in the same way he is in his daily life, allowing his bitch of a wife to spend every cent he makes, talk to him crazy and treat him like shit. All he really needs to do is grow a fucking spine and tell that bitch how it ‘s going to be and if she doesn’t need him or his money she can go,” said Lonnie.

Tony had tears in his eyes, he couldn’t move but we could tell that what Lonnie had said had hurt his feelings, all the more because it was the truth.

He looked over at Gary who was now hallucinating strange ideas about how to increase his financial success. He was wandering around the room sounding like an inventor on an idea high. They may have been things he had thought of in his waking hours but he was too settled into the job he had and was afraid in this current economy to take any risks.

Lonnie shook his head again. “You gonna sit around and think about it for the rest of your life, while your pretty wife either works herself to death, loses her mind from the stress, or leaves you for some dude more capable of taking care of her. Or you gonna get up and try some of those ideas you keep having that you don’t do nothing about? You sitting around scared to live, watching your relationship die a day at a time, that’s just plain stupid.”

He was on a roll, and he did not stop when he got to me. “Don’t think you’re getting off the hook because this is your house. You got a good life, a good wife, two beautiful boys, and all you do is sit around and complain about how you wish things could be more interesting. That must mean that you’re a boring fuck cause if it was me I would be the one keeping it interesting. You don’t need no alcohol or no spirited elixir to give your wife a run for her money. She’s a beautiful girl. If she was my wife and I had gotten bored, I’d be somewhere thinking up shit to excite her, and there’s plenty you can do to make life fun for your sons. But if you want to sit there and let the time pass, by all means, go ahead.” he said a tear in his eye.

He wiped his eye and stood to leave. He cleared the bottles from the table. Y’all don’t need these, all you need to do is take control of the lives you have and make them what you want them to be. I’m the only one got some shit I can’t fix. That was the first thing that he had said this evening that had given me a clue that he had somehow discovered the truth about his wife. But he did not confirm this only left by my patio door. I tried to follow but that tonic was taking affect and I was not going to be able to do anything else but obey my own body tonight. I corralled Gary the “walking dreamer” and made him help me get Tony into the car to take them both home. My next door neighbor Dan agreed to ride with me, “Looks like you guys had a harder night than usual,” he said, “he’s breathing kind of funny, he gonna be okay.”

“Yeah, he’s just upset and he had too much to drink. He’ll be okay in the morning. ” I said.

“Gary seems kind of out of it too but not in a bad way.” Dan said.

“Some sleep should improve his current state.” I said uncertain.

Tony’s wife had not yet arrived home. We put him to bed and then dropped Gary at his house.

His wife looked at him funny, “What’s wrong with him?” she asked.

“Nothing a good night sleep won’t fix, help him take a bath and relax and put him to bed tomorrow he’ll be himself again.” I told her but I was wrong.

I drove back to my house and spent the rest of my evening quietly and contentedly seducing my wife. She was amazed at my attention to her every detail and fell asleep beside me smiling. She had done that before, but it had been awhile. I sat up afterward; the effects of the elixir were wearing off. I wondered what it would have been like if I had taken more. I hoped the guys would be okay. I was trying not to allow my attention to wander to Lonnie. I did not know what he had put in the Jack Daniels or why and he sounded like he had decided to do something drastic. I didn’t want to imagine what, especially since I had allowed him to leave in that state.

I woke the next morning to a wonderful breakfast. My sons were at the table ready to eat and anticipating some outdoor activity. My wife smiled and sang as she moved about the kitchen. My sons giggled and said, “Whatever happened to mom yesterday needs to happen more often, we like her this way.”

I laughed with them, I liked her this way too.

At noon, Tony’s wife called. “I’m sorry to bother you on Sunday,” she apologized, “Tony seemed to think I owed you and your wife an apology and would not let it wait until tomorrow so I was calling to say I’m sorry that I’ve been so terrible, I hope you’ll forgive me.”

I stood frozen at the end of the phone with my wife asking, “Who is it?” in the background.

“It’s okay, Roberta we’ve been up awhile, Tony okay?”

“Well he’s not himself, but he’s not sick or anything if that’s what you mean.”

That morning Tony had risen, packed his wife’s belongings and told her he was tired of her mistreating him and if she wanted someone else she was welcome to find him but he was no longer taking her shit or wasting his money. She was free to leave and go back to her father’s house whenever she was ready. She had looked at him in disbelief at first, and attempted to utilize her previous tactics, to which Tony replied, “Let me call you a cab.”

By the time the taxi arrived she realized it was not a joke. He put her bags into the trunk and gave the driver her father’s address. He handed her a piece of paper. “You’ve been nasty to my friends, if you decide you have anything you want to say to me ever again then maybe you should call and apologized to him and his wife. They’ve never been anything but nice to you.” He closed the taxi door and sent it on his way and turned and went back into the house. He cleaned it from top to bottom, fixed himself some breakfast, and laid down for a nap.

Gary too had woken in a different state. He discussed getting a better job, suggested his wife cut her schedule to part-time, and consider going back to school so she could work somewhere she earned better pay doing something she liked. In the meantime he had some ideas he had been working over in his mind that might generate some extra financial support until he could get a better job. She stood like I had, mesmerized at first waiting for him to laugh or let her know it was a joke or in some way she had been dreaming. That never happened.

It was a week before we found out what happened to Lonnie. I had called to make sure he hadn’t killed himself and was ecstatic to hear his voice when he answered the phone. But he sounded serious and said, “I’m in the middle of something important, I’ll have to call you back.”

A week later having skipped all of our regular outings, Lonnie showed up at the door, bag in hand. Gary and Tony arrived half an hour later. Lonnie put the bag on the table. We all sat quietly staring at the bag, and wondering if Lonnie was going to share with us what happened. He looked down at his feet for a long time.

When he looked up he said, “Sometimes for people to admit they’ve done wrong they have to get caught first. My wife had gotten that expensive bottle of liquor from her boss. I know she tasted it because it was open when I found it. I didn’t ask her about it and she didn’t say anything about it. I simply gave her an opportunity to come clean. I wiped it off and put it back where she left it. When she went to find it I followed her and asked her what she had. She tried to lie at first, saying it was a surprise, but when I asked where she got it she fumbled and stuttered until finally she admitted it was a gift from her boss. I told her she had to give it back, that it wasn’t appropriate for a man to be buying such expensive gifts for someone else’s wife. She tried to behave as if it was the first time and that she didn’t know I would get upset about it and agreed to return it.

But since it was one of our nights out she decided they would get together and drink it. They were in an expensive suite at a downtown hotel and had probably just started to have sex because when the paramedics found them they were still naked joined convulsing lying on the hotel room floor with the room door wide open. How the door got opened no one was certain but many people had passed the room and seemed to think they were in the throes of passion. A concerned visitor notified the front desk. The manager went to the room and when he found them he called the paramedics and the police. When the police called me to the hospital, I had no idea where she had gone and was genuinely surprised to learn they had found her in the middle of a sex act having convulsions. I asked why she would be having convulsions. The police suggested according to accounts that they had been sneaking around for some time and they had been given information to suggest that she was going to call it off. A coworker had said they’d had a loud argument about her husband having discovered her hiding a gift and made her return it. Apparently he was angry but was later overheard asking her to meet him at the hotel. The police think he tried to kill her to avoid having his wife find out. They found an empty bottle from some expensive liquor, it had residue of deadly nightshade. Both were very ill and hospitalized. The police want to know who put the nightshade into the liquor. Both claim they did not, but suspect the other. However neither is pressing charges against the other. Also some scandalous photos have surfaced. Our family lawyer says the bank president’s behavior is actionable. I am waiting to see what my wife will do.”

“So fellas choose your poison,” he said and took several bottles of beer from the bag.

Happy to see it was just beer, everyone took a bottle and said nothing. I was the only one who had seen Lonnie put something into the Jack Daniels bottle but even I didn’t know what. He had never mentioned to his wife knowing that the bottle was open, and she had not told him she had tasted it.

The following week, the bank settled out of court. Though she was completely at fault Lonnie’s wife asked for a divorce, he requested half the settlement for his pain and suffering, his wife and the judge agreed.

On Saturday Lonnie showed up at our door the same as always carrying a bag of liquor which I emptied onto the table. My happy singing wife had made snacks for our card game and gone to the show with Roberta and Gary’s wife. My sons sat on the floor playing Monopoly with Uncle Gary and Uncle Tony making bets on who’d win.

Roberta and Tony were seeing a marriage counselor and he had not let her come home but she had been told by her father that she had chosen her husband and she would have to work it out, she wasn’t a little girl and she couldn’t come running home every time she made a mistake.

“Choose your poison,” I said loudly.

“Gladly,” said Lonnie picking up a bottle, “as long as I can choose the consequences that go with it, I’m okay with that.”

That was the last time I remember saying or hearing that, until my sons graduated from college and were having friends over to celebrate. I stood at the patio door, and through the screen I heard them say together, “Choose your poison.”

Choose Your Own Poison © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved

written-for-30 (3) copy

 

Back to Nature

native-american-415757223021

He was the winner.

I watched as he cracked the creature’s spine and prepared it for the flame already crackling in the fire pit. We had watched this done many times, but this was the first time he had ever won. I was happy for him. Meat was hard to come by in the desert if you weren’t fast or skilled. It was certainly a luxury we would not have every day.

My father had said he would be a fine hunter as he grew older and though he had not lived to see it, I was certain that he had known what he would be like just watching as he learned. My husband could have been mistaken for my brother. He had lived with my family since I was born. It was not known if he had been abandoned by his family or if they had come to a bad end. In these times both things were possible. We had abandoned the cities long ago in search of water that was not contaminated. It was just as easy to die from the chemicals being used to treat what was left of the city’s water supply as it was to be killed in the wild. We figured we would take our chances.

Out here people did like they used to do and dug until they hit water and then a town sprouted up around the well. It was not like the Wild West however, everybody had a gun and knew how to use it. The bad-asses of the Wild West past would not have dared to go up against the fire power we now sported. It was all civil like too, if you wanted to commit a crime they wasted no time on juries and judges, they shot you right there in the process of the crime, looted your body, skinned, filleted and sold your meat to cannibals for supplies, and burned what was left to keep down disease. It was best to just behave and avoid such incidences.

The contest was just to choose your weapon and down the wild game type of sport. My family did it every month to keep their skills up. Because we chose not to live in the townships, it was always possible to have unexpected circumstances arise. Things had long past the original crisis point where people stole water from wherever they could get it, especially after someone died drinking the water discovered in an abandoned well. Being a master of science, my father made it his life’s work to discover what had poisoned the water and determine if it were possible to turn the well back to being drinkable.

The natives who’s land this had been reported deaths associated with that well from the day it had been dug. My father poured over old books and accessed the internet, when it was up, to see if he could find anyplace were poisoned water existed that had not been contaminated. He found that in many places near sacred native lands similar things had occurred.

He learned much about the wells. It did not kill to touch the water and it was clean to bathe with, but no living creature could survive having ingested even a drop of it. For this reason no one risked the bath. It did not however hurt plants, but you could not eat plants that had been watered with it. It was a good defense for prowlers and predators alike. We left signs at our gate to let everyone know that the penalty for eating the vegetables from our garden was death. Some people tried it and thought because they had gotten away with the vegetables that they were safe, only to die at the eating of them.

My father on the other hand risked a bath in the water every day. He said that it encouraged him to feel clean in water that was not contaminated no matter how poisonous. When he finished his bath he would towel dry quickly and then rub unguents and emollients onto his skin. My mother said he was beginning to look better every day despite his illness. He had lasted much longer than she had thought he would after leaving the city. Our homestead was little more than two rock walls at a ninety degree angle with welded steel plates spaced for security and defense, as well as for circulation of air and generation of heat and electricity. The solar panels on the roof accumulated enough energy during the day to provide power to all the homesteads in the area.

Water was the only real issue. We had taken a truck load of supplies from the city. Medicine, can goods, dry goods, building supplies, electronics, fuel, and lots of other staples. They kept well in our cave-like storehouse where they were safe from vermin and inaccessible to varmints both human and the animal kind. But despite all of its contents, it contained not a single drop of water. My mother drank canned soda when she could get it, but our water was generated from a gathering system. Any type of precipitation, in any weather especially winter, generated water. It was funneled through my father’s natural filtration system and stored in tanks above the storage cave. It was enough drinking water for our family and for emergencies, but could not quench the thirst of an entire township. That was the reason the well was so important to my father. In quantity it was enough for a small city.

My mother had been bathing herself and all of her children in this water since we came here thinking if it was good enough for my dad it wouldn’t hurt us, just the same we kept our mouths shut until the bath was done. By the time I turned fifteen we all began to notice keener sight, resistance to bugs and creature bites including snakes, and a resistance to natural poisons in general. My father, whose illness was in remission theorized that the water had somehow altered our systems but the only way to be certain was to drink the water itself. My mother begged him not to do so, and cried fiercely until he agreed. But the idea did not leave him.

Several years passed and his research had gotten no nearer to clearing the poison from the well. Our skin had turned ruddy from the water and weather. Anyone looking at us might have mistaken us for the original natives of the land. My father’s illness had resurfaced and he knew he did not have much time left. He begged his wife to let him test the water. Still she declined.

On his deathbed he whispered to me, “The water in the well is like the earth, it holds the secret to survival. First you must embrace it, become a part of it and it makes you a part of nature. For us to be a part of nature it must be also a part of us.”

He asked me to bring him a glass of water from the well. I brought it to him. Nothing could change what was happening to him now. I brought him the glass. I was nineteen then. My mother was angry and walked away saying that I was killing him. He turned up the glass and finished every drop, then sat back against the pillow and breathed easily. He lived for twelve days afterward, ordering things, instructing my brothers and giving his consent for our marriages.

“No one who is unwilling to bathe in the water could ever drink it.” he said to me on his last day and closed his eyes for the last time.

My mother said she did not blame me, she knew it was not the water that killed him and wished she had allowed him to drink it back when he had originally asked. On the day we buried him, my mother, each of my five brothers, my husband and myself drew a ladle of water from the stainless steel bucket my father used to draw his water and drank from it.

That was twelve years ago, now not only could we drink from the well but eat of every plant on the land. For those who came looking for an escape from the pollution and contamination of what was once civilization, we taught them how to cleanse themselves in the poison water, and for those unafraid we made them a part of a tribe and sent them to live in the places where the wells existed.

We are the natives of this land, and we are a part of nature.

Back To Nature © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved

 

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Moxi

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Moxi was a faun that lived in the temple of the Goddess of witchcraft.

He stood only a head above her kneecap and she fancied he was as adorable as a kitten but a great deal more useful. He would grow eventually to be manly and beautiful, but for now he was a useful pet only. With his magic he could calm angry patrons, quiet restless babies, sooth the anxieties of forlorn women, or entertain bored dignitaries. They often came to worship her and make their requests for magic and power. But many of them knew nothing of her temperament.

It was widely known that she would give you what you came for if you had the proper tribute. She had a fondness for delicacies and often entertained simply to share some new delight she had discovered. Many felt that if they could bring her a new treat she would be theirs to command. Others thought that she would give them gifts of secret magic that would be proof against their enemies. But no one believed that they would be disappointed or leave empty-handed.

Of her Moxi knew many other things. She was neither good nor evil, but decided which course she would take depending on the circumstance. On some occasions it was necessary for her to use her powerful magic to bring about the death of some ruler, or enslave to love some man unwilling to marry. She gave power to both good witches and evil witches alike. In her eyes it was important to preserve the balance of power in the mortal world. It also made it clear to others that she would incline to neither side and outcomes of requests could not be assured by relying on her judgment.

This made it easy for her to remain impartial especially when it came to mortal beings. They prayed, they wished, they asked her directly for things, but they never seemed to consider the consequences. She was slow to anger even when she was displeased, which was well since she was also impatient with insolence and despised contempt. She did not care for trickery or deceit, she believed no matter which way you decided to go you should at least have backbone enough to be honest about it.

A small faun like Moxi sometimes went unnoticed in the court due to his size, so often he heard many things that may not have been intended for his ears. On one such occasion he overheard a group of jealous witches plotting to use foods which had poisonous properties to disrupt the proceeding at her next party. Though they worshiped her they deemed it unfair that all the suitors that came only expressed interest in power and her.

During the introduction to dinner he whispered to her that the food would be poison and she looked at the dishes to see only potato dishes, tomato dishes, green salads, fruits and nuts, and other normal fare. She was displeased, there was nothing here she had not seen before so she called to her chef.

“Tonight I invite the suitors to petition marriage to the witches of my court. Along with it I offer to honor one request. Each suitor must first choose a bride.” she said and waited.

The suitors each selected a young witch, among them one of the jealous ones, and then waited for her next command.

“Now they must serve you from the foods at the table. To win my favor for the marriage you must eat the food and live, knowing which ordinary foods can sometimes be poison. Know too that the foods were prepared at the request of some of the witches here with the express desire to ruin my party. I have therefore asked my chef to prepare a special tray of delicacies for each bride to try. Those that truly know my taste will know which ones are deadly and which are merely delicacies. Eat hearty my friends.” she said.

The young witches looked at each other in horror. The jealous one wondered if she had known which witches had requested the food.

The young suitors were nervous but assumed each of their betrothed would know which were the dangerous foods and not serve them. But all had not requested the foods and none had prepared them. How were they to know which caused how much difficulty.

The first knew that tomatoes and potatoes were related to nightshade and the green color on potatoes designated how much poison was present. Only the leaves and stems of tomatoes were toxic. So she heaped up tomatoes, gave only a small amount of potatoes avoiding any that appeared particularly green, and she stayed away from the salads. Instead she piled grapes upon his dessert plate and poured him a glass of wine.

Moxi looked upon the meal and reported to the goddess that it would neither make him sick nor kill him. This witch was knowledgeable about poison and had not participated in the jealous plot.

The second was afraid of the tomatoes, but knew also about nightshade and selected the correct color of potatoes and piled them generously. The salad had leaves from rhubarb and the stalk as well as other greens, and was sprinkle with kidney beans and nuts. This she gave him as well.

Moxi notified the goddess that the foods he had eaten might cause him some difficulty and after three hours symptoms would begin to occur. She was not as educated about poison, but also had not participated in the plot.

The goddess would arrange with the chef to begin antidotes.

The third gave small quantities of everything on the table not certain which items had what amount of toxicity. She also gave small quantities of fruit and nuts, and gave him only soda to drink.

Moxi informed the goddess that this witch had been among those who requested the food. Her suitor had been exposed to all the poisons in small maybe insignificant quantities. He might become ill, but it would likely not kill him.

The final bride in tears had not been in the group of plotting witches and did not know what to feed her suitor. So she poured him a drink and said. “Forgive me, tell me what poison you wish and I will serve it in the hopes that you live long enough to allow me to chance myself for your hand.”

The young suitor looked at her and pointed to tomatoes which he loved and ate at home, a few potatoes, a small amount of apple salad from which he requested she remove the seeds, he avoided the green salad and took bread and butter. He drank wine. He was accustomed to eating small amounts of food so he did not complain but thanked her.

Moxi whispered to the goddess, “She was not involved but bid her young man to choose his own poison, and in allowing him to do so has given him no poison.”

They ate and talked for hours. At the third hour the goddess ordered the delicacies be brought. Each couple was lined up in front of the court.

The first was offered the tray. She chose a toffee truffle covered in cinnamon and raw nutmeg. She tasted it and ate the entire piece with relish.

The goddess laughed and moved to the second and offered the tray.

She chose a tiny rhubarb pie made from the rhubarb stalks, it was tart and savory. It was unlike other pies but not unpleasant. But before the goddess was able to move on the second suitor had to excuse himself. She requested the second witch to accompany him to a guest suite and have her wait staff prepare accommodations and when she was done to return.

She turned to the third witch. Her suitor was also beginning to exhibit various symptoms but she was not certain which to treat having been given everything she was concerned that attempting to offer antidotes might complicate the problem so he would have to ride it out. She requested preparation be made for his accommodations but did not know how long he would need to stay.

She now made her offer to the third witch. There were several items left to choose from on the tray. Of the delicacies chosen, none so far had been lethal, though the first witch had begun to experience some hallucinations and feelings of euphoria. She would take her selection but wait to eat it until the fourth witch had eaten hers.

On the tray there was a stuffed apple topped with caramel and shaved nuts, it looked very much like a caramel apple. There was also what appeared to be a minced pie, a tart with what appeared to be berries and a heavenly smelling warm drink.

The goddess allowed her to wait but reminded her, this would not guarantee the correct choice. The fourth witch was in a state. She had not been able to choose her suitors foods, but he had been able to choose correctly and experienced no difficulty. She looked at him but knew he could not choose for her.

“Pick one you would choose for your lady.” He said.

All the remaining selections seemed to be quite ordinary. In fact all of those selected seemed ordinary except for their ingredients. The toffee had contained raw nutmeg, the tart rhubarb. Of the remaining items she could not determine what the ingredients were.

The fourth witch chose the stuffed apple and bit into it. She gasped and held her hand to her throat. The third believing the apple had been the poisoned item quickly tossed back the steamy liquid. It was the only item that seemed to have a unique quality.

But just then the fourth witch said, “The apple was stuffed with creamy chiffon like cheese it was so hot it burned my mouth. I could hardly speak it was so delightful, but it was much too hot to swallow.”

“What made you choose the apple?” asked the goddess.

“I could not make a choice from looks. At first glance everything seemed ordinary. The tart was too plain and unattractive, but the apple was dressed quite pleasingly, the minced pie did not seem to have an aroma, and though the drink had a heavenly smell it didn’t make me think of something to eat. The apple was the only thing that was inviting, and in stories witches always used apples to lure their prey.”

“I would think that would be a reason not to choose It.” said the goddess.

“And that is precisely why I chose it, that made it intriguing above all the others.” the young witch answered.

“Congratulations……” she said, but before she could continue the third witch fell down quite dead.

The others stood in shock, and did not understand what had happened.

The goddess explained that she had been warned about the food too late to save her evening but not too late to save the suitors at least from death.

“But this witch was filled with hubris and believed she could outwit even a goddess. Not knowing me well like the young witch who chose the apple, she believed that once a poison item was chosen the rest would be safe when in actuality all of the final items contained………”

She leaned over and whispered to the faun.

“It is certain that she has died because I have something she does not.” said the Goddess.

“What might that be my Lady?” asked the young witch.

“Moxy” answered the Goddess and smiled.

The faun whisper “deadly nightshade” and inconspicuously faded into the background near the foot of the goddesses’ chair where he continued to be daily, unnoticed.

Moxi © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved

 

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