It’s been more than a whole 24-hour day since I relied on what has to be some powerful Honest-To-God trust. Karla and I had hiked up to check the level in our water tank and to gather a few of the empty Crystalyx drums to return them for the deposit. On the way I spotted a really big puffball, a ground-growing fungus that grows all over the ranch. It was the size of a medium orange, and heavy. I wondered if it was something we could eat, and Karla said “Audrey said yes.” Audrey is our organic/holistic/young friend who studies local Indian lore and has spent time in Alaska counting migrating whales and is heading to Ethiopia in order to teach prenatal care to women. She’s a nutritionist and yoga instructor and is beautiful besides. We trust Audrey.
I took the puffball home. I planned to make it part of a really exciting gourmet breakfast—fresh wild mushroom and eggs. Karla demurred, deciding to have Grape-Nuts cereal instead.
Slicing into the puffball was delightful, its texture firm and smooth like a young banana. The first slice I consumed raw. The rest was cut into rounds and sautéed in butter. Then I fried a couple of free-range vegetarian-diet-hens’ eggs and flipped them in the pan without a spatula, a skill which I am always willing to demonstrate to anyone within eye-shot.
I laid out the tender golden puffball slices, overlapping them in a C-shaped curve along the plate’s edge, then slipped the skillfully-flipped eggs into the C’s negative space. As I sat down at the dining table next to Karla and her Grape-Nuts with milk and Greek yogurt and locally-produced honey, I felt like gloating. What a prize! What a brave guy! I was actually going to consume a wild mushroom after only hearing an anecdotal “sure, you can eat them” from Audrey through Karla. What if Karla had mis-heard? What if Audrey had actually said the Indians had used them to kill people, not fill them? After all, the local natives had done some pretty potent things with wormwood leaves and crushed buckeye nuts and mistletoe berries.
As it turned out, this meal wouldn’t top my list of requests for a last meal that I’d submit to the executioner, but it was good. I had a lot of attention on my liver as I swallowed each bite. Once during the meal I felt a gas bubble stab my abdomen but dismissed it as mere coincidence. After all, how often does that happen even during a perfectly safe federally-approved meal? Often, I assured myself. The twinge of pain I felt in my big toe was something I had experienced before, the result of stubbing it on a rock during our hike. Nothing to do with this meal. I assured myself that the slightly giddy feeling I was becoming acutely aware of had to be caused by my recently-consumed cup of strong black coffee. The entire dining experience consisted of me assuring myself that everything was just fine, and there was nothing, absolutely nothing that was going to keep me from really enjoying and relishing this wonderful natural organic meal. Nothing!
Hours later I was mildly pleased that I felt no bad after-effects. But it could take time, I thought; not every poison is fast-acting. Sometimes the effects can take hours, even days to manifest. Decades in the case of radium salts or mercuric oxide or fibrous asbestos or bad booze. Millennia in the case of bad karma.
But that was yesterday. This is today. And I’m still here, proving that putative puffball poison is at least very slow-acting. I even went out this morning and plucked a few more of them. This time they’ll be used in tonight’s salad.
Karla says she’s also going to try something new for dinner—Grape-Nuts.