www.barrowvoice.co.uk First Publised 1975
Barrow Voice
3,175 copies published quarterly and delivered FREE to all households in Barrow upon Soar

Paxillus Involutus

“Aaagh” yawned Sergei to his neighbour Klaus as he awoke from a deep sleep, “Did you hear the wind in the night?” “Yeah”, was the reply from Klaus, “quite something wasn’t it.”
“I’ll be glad when the weather warms up a bit.” “Yeah, be nice to do a bit of sunbathing instead of hiding under cover all the time”.
Slowly the days lengthened, with the change from winter to spring, warmer sunny days intermixed with cooler rainy days, even the occasional shower of snow, although it didn’t affect Sergei and Klaus and their families too much.
All around their abode the signs of spring were everywhere, with grass growing fresh new blades, trees bursting into leaf with the blossoms on the blackthorns as usual preceding its leaves.
Due to their location deep in the forest, Sergei, Klaus and their relatives never saw many visitors, as they were off the beaten tracks, only the occasional naturalist, studying the particular species of flora and fauna to be found there.
Most days Sergei and Klaus had a chat, generally about the weather as most people in Britain find the weather and its vagaries a principal source of conversation.
The animals were of course ever present, rabbits hopping by in the twilight, stopping to have a nibble at various plants and trees, their noses always twitching as if they were ladies suddenly smelling something odious, field mice with their amazing climbing abilities to reach the seeds they live on, sometimes foxes would trot by, often with their cubs as if their parents were taking them sightseeing, even the odd badger.
However, one afternoon a family arrived in the dell, two adults and two children, the adults immediately sitting down in a cool shady spot, while the children roamed around, looking at the plants and flowers, the lichens on the trees and any animals, birds or insects that still remained after the loud laughter and calling between the children.
From their secluded spot, Sergei and Klaus and families waited with apprehension, hoping that the children wouldn’t come too near, but their parents called them back shouting “Time for tea” and after eating slowly, wending their way out of the forest. “Phew, that was close!” said Klaus, “they were getting a bit close”.
“Mmm, you’re right,” replied Sergei, “thought I might have to try the old trick to get rid of them.”
Peace reigned for a while, the summer days passing with the droning of insects fluttering of fledgling wings as they left their nests, predators prowling afoot or pawing, when stealthily without warning, a man arrived in the dell, a basket over his arm as he looked cautiously about, peering into the bushes and undergrowth.
Seeing Klaus and Sergei, he stopped dead looking almost bemused at them, then peering closer for a better look. Both Klaus and Sergei tried to hide away but it was too late, the stranger had seen them so they just stood saying nothing, until the stranger moved towards Klaus and tried to pick him up from the ground.
“Help, help, I’m being murdered” yelled Klaus, “get off me, help”. With an incredulous gasp, the man let go, and forgetting his basket with its contents dashed off out of the forest.
Coming to the next village, he dashed into the first shop he came to, and without any explanation blurted out “Mushroom talking, I’ve just heard some mushrooms talking”.
“There, there, m’dear,” replied the lady shop keeper,” you just sit down and take it easy, you‘ve probably overdone it a bit”. “I did, I did, I heard them talking,” said the stranger, “down in the forest just a few minutes ago.”
“What were these mushrooms like then?” asked the shopkeeper. “Browny red with lots of black spots, about four or five inches across.”
You should get a guide to fungi” said the shopkeeper, “they’re renowned for being highly toxic, even touching them causing hallucinations. People think they’ve heard them talking, I’d forget all about them if I were you.”
Back in the forest, Sergei and Klaus settled down for another spot of sunbathing, secure in the knowledge they were safe for another few weeks at least.

William M Haynes
This story was placed third in our short story competition.