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  • Writer's pictureLizzy Shannon

Magic Mushroom Baroness

My penultimate day in Northern Ireland before heading back to the States. Yesterday we had much excitement at Robin Hill. I was out in the back yard, gathering an assortment of Dad’s garden statues that he wants painted. He was wandering around the edge of the lawn, pulling stray weeds here and there from the dense soil beds along the wall. Several grayish stalks dangled from his hand as I passed him, a stone eagle clasped in my arms. He tossed them into a nearby bucket and I stopped in my tracks. If I weren’t mistaken, that was a clump of Liberty Caps he’d just discarded.

I carefully set the eagle down in the grass and hurried over. Grumbling, Dad had found a host more behind the bushes against the wall. They soon joined the others in the bucket. There appeared to be hundreds of them.

“My God,” I breathed, “where did all these come from?”

“Don’t know,” he muttered. “They keep coming up and I keep pulling them out.”

I had a distinct memory from a few years ago. Mum and Dad were off on a cruise. I’d come over from the States for an extended stay and remained in their house while they were away, to look after Sam, their Labrador. I’d walk him in all the various forest parks hereabouts. In Castlewellan I'd come across what I thought might be the famous Liberty Caps, Psilocybe semilanceata. I’d brought them home and checked them against the picture and description in one of Dad’s nature books. Sure enough, they were what I thought, but I was too chicken to try them. I’d tossed them on the compost heap, which was… well, pretty much where the most dense clump of the mushrooms grew now. Oops!

“Do you know what they are?” I asked Dad, and then told him what had happened.

He fired a suspicious glance at me. “What do they do?”

“They’re supposed to have psychedelic effects,” I admitted, although, I’ve never actually experienced it for myself. A friend talked me into trying them once, a few years ago, but they had precisely zero effect on me.

Great possibilities flooded my mind. With a regular crop like this, I could take over from where Coca Cola left off, when they abandoned using cocaine in their drinks. I could make… what? Omelets? Open up a specialized omelet café? Or can you make fudge with mushrooms? I imagined lobbying to make magic mushrooms legal like marijuana is in many states in America. I could export them there, start a distributing business… get the monopoly and grow an empire. I could be the great mushroom baroness, living in a mansion… people would write books about me. I’d be the godmother of the Irish mushroom mafia….

I shook myself. A fanciful, dramatic daydream, but in reality? All drugs seem to cause more suffering and despair than anything else.

A smoky scent brought me out of my reverie. Dad had started a bonfire. He'd yanked all the mushrooms from the earth and dumped them into the pyre.

“What are you doing?” I asked stupidly.

“Can’t have illegal substances around here,” he retorted, throwing in a few dry twigs to get the fire going.

Quite right. We can’t. As the last of my empire shriveled up in the flames, I helped Dad put down some noxious-smelling powder to prevent the mushrooms from growing back. (sigh)


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