- Ellen King Rice
"How a Fairy Ring is Made" for Naked Came A Fungus
It takes an Army . . .
“We have four in position, sir.” Private First Class Inkycap was visibly wilting under the morning sun. He and his fellow squad members had been working since dawn, doing their best to install mushrooms in a perfect circle for General Fairy’s fall soiree.
Sergeant Suillus swore. Second Lieutenant Lactarius sighed. At this rate the circle wouldn’t be done in time.
“It’s the ground, sir,” the sergeant said. “We’ll do fine once we’re on the soft needle duff, but this first stretch is too rocky.”
The Lieutenant inhaled. This was it. A leadership moment when he was supposed to pull some dazzling solution out of thin air. His mind was blank. Totally empty.
“First things first,” he said. “Inkycap's squad needs a break. Then let’s move the work over into the needle duff. Let’s get as much of the circle built as we can.”
The sergeant nodded his approval. “It’s shadier there too.” He frowned. “Too bad it has to be a perfect circle. If we could be a few feet to the outside, we’d be fine.”
A spark of an idea blew up into a full plan within the space of three heartbeats. The lieutenant grinned. “Sarge, you are brilliant!”
“I don’t hear that every day,” the sergeant said.
“You work on the circle in the needle duff, I’ll work on approving irregularities,” Lt. Lactarius said. He was already thumbing his smart phone, calling his little sister, Calvatia.
His sister was not only the president of her sorority, she was also an Instagram fashion influencer.
She quickly grasped his dilemma. “You can’t make the mushroom circle perfectly round – at least not in the time you have – so you need irregular circles to be fashionable. You’re wanting a Salvador Dali melted-watch look?”
The young lieutenant had no idea who Dali was, so he said, “A distorted circle. Can you help me?”
“Let me think. I’ve got a biochem exam at two. Zeta council at four. But if I skip my mani-pedi hour this morning, I could squeeze it in.”
“Thanks. I owe you.” The lieutenant hung up, thought a moment, then tapped FaceTime to connect to his best friend from high school, good ol’ Cortinarius Perplexus.
“Hey, Cort” he said as the scruffy computer programmer came on. “I’ve got a challenge.”
Cort yawned. “Good. My ennui is deadly today. What gives?”
“Every year the fairy generals and admirals are wanting perfect mushroom circles for their spring parties.”
Cort yawned again. “Walpurgis Night is not news.”
“Well, it makes the troops nuts. What if there was a way for the mushrooms themselves to build a circle?”
Cort’s eyes gleamed. “Easy, peasy. Start with one spore. Have it grow a mycelium at the same rate in all directions. Have the fruiting of the mushrooms be triggered by a specific event. Boom. You’ve got a circle of mushrooms.”
“Can you engineer this for me?”
“What are you paying”
“A cold beer and my eternal thanks.” Lieutenant Lactarius added, “I’ve got some troops that are just melting away. The brass doesn’t understand how hard it is to get these circles in. We’re never given much notice.”
His friend nodded. “Yeah. And I’ll bet last year’s circle won’t do.”
“No. It has to be fresh.”
Cort’s eyes took on a wicked light. “So, what if we built in a feature so that every year we had a bigger circle growing? This year’s circle seeds next year’s circle?”
“That would be amazing.”
“I’ll get on it.” Cort looked off into space. “We’ll want to only share a piece of the coding. Other lieutenants can borrow the backbone of the code, but not the whole show. That way we don’t have circles everywhere. Once that happens, the generals will be hollering for squares or spirals.”
"Sergeant Suillus does not want to be building spirals," Lactarius said. "That I can promise. He's already shades of red with this project."
An hour later, Calvatia’s Instagram post was up and trending. She’d started with black jeans and a black jacket. She’d glued on rhinestones to make irregular circles of blue, green and deep red. She took the motif up into her tightly curled dark hair with further irregular circles of color. The circles of reflective crystals caught the light as she danced across her dorm room to a fast beat, layering color and music with her exuberant beauty.
By lunch time “Calvatia’s Circles” were on design boards in Los Angeles, Milan and Paris.
When the aide-de-camp to fairy General Pholiota stopped by for a site review at three p.m., Lieutenant Lactarius was ready.
With a broad smile, he welcomed the haughty aide, saying, “We built a Calvatia Circle. It came out just fantastic.”
“We’ll see,” the aide said.
Sergeant Suillus had a good poker face as they showed the aide around. Private Inkycap and his squad lay collapsed in the shade, clearly exhausted by the efforts of the day.
The mushrooms looked regal and inviting. The wobble in the circle had a lovely, vibrant charm.
The aide’s head dipped in acknowledgement. “Well done, sir. Well done. I imagine you’ll be doing circles for the Chiefs of Staff next fall.”
“Thank you, sir. We’ll be ready for the job.”
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Photo of fairy ring of Clitocybe nebularis by Daniel Ullrich, Creative Commons
Inkycap photo via Pixabay.
Other photos by Ellen King Rice