The boy crossed his arms and walked away from his mother. His fury burned inside him. He did not want to wear his jacket. Jackets get in the way, sweaters are silly, and layers made him feel all squished. He missed the t-shirts of summer, he hated his jacket, and resented his mom for making him wear it.
A breeze blew past and he shivered. He glanced at his mom to make sure she didn’t notice. She was busy inspecting a half-rotten leaf.
The boy sat down on a log and noticed some mushrooms growing along its edge. No. It couldn’t be. He looked closer. It was. Even the mushrooms were wearing an extra, fuzzy layer! Were their mothers mean too?
He reached out to poke one, right in the fuzz. His fingers felt like ice, reddened from the cold. How could it be mitten season already? There wasn’t even any snow yet! The thought didn’t warm up his fingers at all. He brought them up to his mouth and breathed on them. That sometimes worked.
“Want your mittens after all?” asked his mom, holding out his blue mittens.
He shrugged. Of course not, but he put them on anyway. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings.
The little mushroom peeked around his big brother’s leg. “Is that it?”
“Yep. This is the Surface. It’s a weird place, lots of light and space, but most of it is empty because nobody likes leaving the ground. Kind of like us.”
The little mushroom sucked in his breath as a shadow flew over the sky. “What is that?”
“That’s a bird. They leave the ground whenever they like, and go soaring through all that empty space.”
“Someday I’m gonna do that,” said the little mushroom.
The eldest said nothing, hearing something in his little brother’s voice that made him think the boy might.
“Raining again, ” said the salamanders, and they all popped open their umbrellas.
Before him lay the finest sort of goblin feast: a pocketful of chanterelles in a bed of sweetfern. He drooled with delight, but he hesitated. It could be a trap. After all, who left feasts just sitting around, waiting for random goblins?
His stomach rumbled its displeasure. “Quiet, you.” He peeked under every leaf, checked beneath every stone, and even looked behind the farthest tree. Nothing and no one. He slurped up his drool. Well, maybe just one tiny nibble on the smallest of the chanterelles…
On the other side of a state-of-the-art, suspended blind, a grad student put his face in his hands. “No one’s ever going to believe this.”
A second one groaned. “Our careers are over.”
“Mom was right, I should’ve been a writer,” said a third. “Maybe there’s still time.”
With a tiny grunt, the mushroom pushed back the plant. There was need to hog all the space, after all. “Oh, sorry,” said the lavender, picking up her leaves and shuffling to the side. The mushroom gave her a curt nod and went back to work.
The pixie left detailed directions to her den written atop a mushroom. This was often how the pixies shared their secrets, knowing there would only be an hour or two before the notes rotted away and were lost forever. They never did realize the greater fungus down below kept careful notes of all these writings and shared them far and wide.
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