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Published: 23 November 2023.

by Gerry Gaffney

This story contains swearing, drug use and nudity.

Line drawing of a magic mushroom

Irish Danny came back from Aberystwyth with a sports bag full of magic mushrooms. I arrived home from work on Friday to find him sitting in the kitchen chatting with Ellen and Colin the Gray. As usual the rest of the house was freezing, but the oven was on full with the door open, and the kitchen was nice and toasty.

Irish Danny was looking pretty dishevelled. He hadn’t shaved for quite a while, but that wasn’t unusual. He looked like he hadn’t combed or washed his long brown hair. I was glad he didn’t try to hug me or get in close proximity. Instead he made a little nod with his beer bottle towards me and said “Howya.”

“Hello yourself. Welcome back. How were the country cousins? How was the festival?”

“The festival.” He sipped. “Was great. However, I was a fairly brief attendant at the festival. I met some people.”

He paused. “Have you ever had magic mushrooms?”

“Magic mushrooms?”

“Magic mushrooms. Is there an echo here? Is there an echo here?”

“No, there is no echo. Nor have I ever had magic mushrooms. Although I have heard good things about them. Would those good things be true?”

“In my recent and extended experience, yes. They would be true. There is a very nice high. Very trippy and mellow.”

He paused.

“Legally, however, they are in the same class as everything else our reptilian overlords want to keep us from. So naturally I cannot suggest you partake in any of the mushrooms I happen to have here in my travelling bag.”

He kicked the sports bag on the ground before him. It budged slightly.

“That would be your clothing, toiletries, lotions and the like, plus a small amount of the aforesaid?”

“Incorrect,” said Irish Danny. “In the interest of maximising the potential profitability of my visit to our Welsh friends, I abandoned all unnecessary accoutrements. This bag contains only mushrooms.”

“There wasn’t much room for anything else?” I hazarded.

He smiled. “A lame jape. But true.”

“You two are very annoying,” said Ellen. “With your in-jokes and your Paddy banter, it’s very difficult to understand you both.”

“That’s harsh,” said Irish Danny. “Patrick here and I were simply speaking the language your forefathers foisted upon ours. Anyway, will ye mind my stuff while I have a shower?”

“That’s a great idea,” said Ellen. “I don’t think you smelled good even when you left.”

Irish Danny sauntered off, yawning and scratching his head, and shortly we heard running water and singing.

Colin the Gray hefted the bag up onto the kitchen table.

“15 kilos or so, I’d guess.”

He unzipped the bag. As Irish Danny had said, it was full of mushrooms, packed and compressed into several plastic shopping bags - Tesco, Morrisons, Lidl - the whole encased in turn in a large transparent plastic wrapping.

Colin the Gray peeled back a small edge of the outer wrap. A powerful mushroomy smell emerged.

“I’m not normally a big fan of mushrooms,” said Colin, “but this smells rather promising, wouldn’t you say?”

He looked at us quizzically.

“What on earth is he going to do with so many mushrooms?” asked Ellen.

“Given his reference to maximising profit, I imagine he plans to sell them,” said Colin.

Colin the Gray was known to indulge in various substances, although never to the point of appearing intoxicated or out of control. Ellen on the other hand was an enthusiastic proponent of any sort of drugs, though only from Friday evening until Sunday night, as she had a real job as an SAP analyst. Whatever that was. Work was important to Ellen.

She was saving up, she said, to buy a flat in Kensington or Notting Hill. This was an aspiration so alien to the rest of us as to make Work Ellen a creature we could never hope to understand.

Party Ellen was a different story. She led us into temptation, and we trooped along in her wake.

“Clearly,” she said now, “we can’t allow Irish Danny to begin selling his product until we’ve done some quality control. Due diligence. I’ll talk to him.”

She marched off purposefully. A moment later we heard a shriek from Irish Danny as Ellen accosted him into the bathroom.

“I’m naked!” he shouted.

“Yes, I can see that.” The door closed and we heard nothing else.

Colin the Gray is not much of a talker, so we sat in peaceable silence awaiting Ellen’s return. Colin used to have a beard, apparently, that made him look like a wizard. So he ended up with the nickname “Colin the Gray” that stuck even when the beard did not.

I was always a bit envious of good nicknames. “Colin the Gray” had an air of mystery. Even “Irish Danny” was pretty good. I don’t know why everyone called him “Irish Danny” since there were no other Dannys in our social circle. I was stuck with just “Paddy.” Occasionally Ellen would call me “Patrick,” particularly if she wanted to upbraid me for neglecting to attend to some allocated task. And Ellen of course needed no nickname. She was beyond nicknames.

After a few minutes, Danny and Ellen returned. He’d changed into fresh clothes and was bordering on respectable.

“I explained to Irish Danny,” said Ellen, “that we need to do some QA before we can allow him to sell his product.”

Danny nodded. Ellen delved into his bag and pulled out a handful of the small mushrooms. She made four piles, approximately equal. There were probably 7 or 8 mushrooms in each.

“Irish Danny gets a little extra, because he’s habituated. Okay, that’s it.”

“Wait!” I said. “You mean we should take these now?”

This was all happening very quickly, I felt.

“What is it, Patrick? Do you have a pressing engagement this fine Friday evening? A girl, perhaps? Whom we haven’t vetted?”

“No,” I stammered. “I just thought…”

“Less thinking, more doing,” she said. “Colin, any concerns about our plan?”

Colin the Gray grinned. “No, let’s go.”

Ellen looked back at me. I shrugged. “Okay. I just thought, you know, maybe we could start with a micro-dose.”

Ellen looked aghast. “Micro-dose! Next you’ll be recommending homeopathy or zero-alcohol wine. No, let’s leave micro-dosing to the effete Americans.”

“Okay, okay. Just a thought. I’m in.”

“Good,” said Ellen. “Colin, put on some toast if you would. I think these fungi will be a bit more palatable with toast and marmalade. Once we’ve partaken, let’s go for a wander into the Smoke.”

Shortly thereafter we found ourselves sitting upstairs at the back on the Number 94 bus. For a time we were quiet, observing the passing streetscape. Passengers came and went as our bus made its way through the early evening traffic. Daylight was fading and the city lights took on an ephemeral appearance, seeming to change in time with the noise of the diesel engine. Soon the diesels would be gone forever, I thought. I felt a little nostalgic.

Colin the Gray brought my thoughts back to the moment when he said, in a slightly worried voice, “I hope these mushrooms work. It doesn’t feel like anything is happening.”

Irish Danny looked at him. “Sure, don’t worry,” he said, “there’s another few thousand at home.”

Colin sniggered. Then Ellen began to laugh. It was contagious, and soon all four of us were laughing aloud. “Another few thousand,” said Ellen. “Oh yes indeed.” She snorted in a very un-Ellen-like fashion, and this set the rest of us into paroxysms.

I noticed that other passengers were turning to look at what was going on.

“Shh!” I said, “People are looking at us askance.”

“Askance!” said Ellen. “Yes indeed, laughing on the bus is frowned upon. But look, we have arrived!”

We left the bus and became submerged in the evening crowds, our merry group of four pinging around the West End.

Later that evening we went home by tube. We let ourselves into the house and sat in the warm kitchen. We’d seen a rerun of “Toy Story” and had a pizza. Now we were all tired. Colin the Gray seemed glum.

“What’s wrong, Oh Wise One?” asked Ellen.

“Buzz Lightyear lost his arm.”

“Colin, look at me. Buzz Lightyear is a character in a film. The film is over now. Do you understand?”

“Oh,” said Colin, “I thought we were still in it.”

Irish Danny laughed. “I think that confirms that we have a quality product,” he said.

“Indeed,” said Ellen, but your next step is to dry and package it. That could be something of an undertaking, especially given the lack of heating opportunities in this kip.”

“I had an idea,” said Danny.

“Ideas are good, if they’re good,” said Ellen. “Spit it out.”

“Wrap the mushrooms in a bed sheet. Put them in the dryer at the launderette on low heat for, say, two hours.”

“Well that certainly is an idea,” said Ellen. “You’d have to make sure it was well tied up.”

“Yeah, of course. But I’m too tired now. I’ll do it in the morning.

By they time I got up the next day, still feeling slightly spaced out from our mushroom adventure, Irish Danny was arriving back at the house.

“I turfed it into the machine nearest the door. Fed it a few two pound coins. Need to go back at eleven just before it stops.”

He looked very self-satisfied. I had a slight sense of unease. The plan was typical of Danny’s many plans, clever and subversive and probably doomed to failure because of some unforeseen complication.

Just before 11 o’clock in the morning the four of us strolled around to the launderette. There was a considerable commotion outside. I’d forgotten that the launderette was next door to the police station. I’m sure if I’d been in Danny’s place I would have noticed the police station and modified my plans accordingly. But once Irish Danny had set a plan in motion, he liked to see it through. The laddy’s not for turning. Ellen was looking equal parts horrified and amused, seeming to swing between the two expressions without settling for long on either. Colin the Gray just looked horrified.

The police station had been evacuated. Coppers, detectives and admin staff were standing across the road smoking and chatting. Two people in hazmat suits were emerging from the launderette. They carried Danny’s bed sheet between them. It was torn, and dusty desiccated mushrooms fell from it as they took it to their van.

As we strolled past the launderette among the evacuees, trying to look no more than curious, we noticed the strong smell of mushrooms. Several of the people standing around were grinning. I wondered if they’d been affected by the fumes. Can you smoke mushrooms, I wondered.

On the next street corner we stopped into the Chiff & Fipple. It was a little early in the day for drinking but we felt that the drama justified a steadying ale.

I bought the drinks and brought them to our table.

“Cheers, Irish Danny, and thanks for the trip,” I said.

“Second that,” said Colin the Gray.

“Cheers,” said Ellen. “So. What’s the plan?”

Irish Danny took a contemplative sip.

“Back to Aberystwyth,” he said. “Post haste.”

Copyright © Gerry Gaffney 2023