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I hadn’t seen Dave in a while and was probably due a visit. I tried not to play along with the older/younger brother trope. He was the one with fewer years of our parents. I’d had the full childhood plus extra time, whereas he’d still been in early high school when they crashed into a wall on the freeway. It was an accident. A one-off. Yet every time I drove or was a passenger in someone else’s car after that, I thought about their final moments.

Metal, concrete, fin.  

Metal, concrete, fin.  

Metal, concrete, fin.  

Dave was living down south. He surfed a lot. He’d never had a fear of the open water or the waves, despite the sharks and the power of the ocean.  

He worked at a restaurant. A nice one with a famous chef, on the grounds of a well-established winery. They looked after the staff, he said. It gave him time to surf and enjoy other pursuits.  

Like what? I asked.  

Come and I’ll show you, he said.  

And so I packed an overnight bag, kissed Katie goodbye and drove down. It took about three hours. I did it all in one go, without stopping. I thought of my parents on the freeway.  

Metal, concrete, fin.  

Metal, concrete, fin.  

Metal, concrete, fin.  


Dave’s house was, as I’d expected, a faded weatherboard cottage with a tangled native garden, surrounded by forest. 

‘So, how are you?’ he asked as I unpacked my car. ‘You didn’t want to bring Katie?’  

‘No, Katie has stuff on this weekend. Her friend’s getting married next week.  There’s some afternoon tea or something.’  

‘Oh,’ he said. ‘OK.’  

He opened the front door. My immediate thought: Katie would not live here. She wouldn’t even stay the night.  

‘Are you still in the same place?’ he asked.  

‘Actually, we’re renovating,’ I said. ‘Just got a new driveway.’  

‘Oh,’ he said. ‘What was wrong with your old one?’  

‘Well, I think it’s nice to renovate.’  


‘Yeah,’ I said, shrugging. 

I’d brought some cheese and bread down with me, along with some chocolate and a six-pack of beer.  ‘Make sure you take something,’ Katie had said, thrusting a full shopping bag into my hands. 

Dave led me to his kitchen. It smelled like the earth. Mossy, damp, fungal.  

And when I opened the fridge to put the cheese and beer inside, the smell was even stronger. There was a selection of mushrooms of all shapes and sizes.  

‘So,’ I said.  

‘It’s a great spot for foraging. I’ve been reading all about fungi and the natural world,’ he said.  

‘Right,’ I said, closing the fridge door.  

‘Do you know what the largest living organism is on the planet?’  

‘A blue whale?’  

‘No, it’s an underground fungus in Oregon,’ he said. ‘It’s huge.’  

I didn’t know much about fungi, but Dave had started up now, rattling off the facts he’d read in a new book he’d ordered from Amazon. He was morally opposed to Amazon, he added, but wow did that book arrive quickly. Dave said that he’d been foraging in the bush behind his house and so far he’d found eleven different types of fungi, including a super expensive mushroom he sold to the chef at the restaurant for $650 per kilo.  

‘That’s impressive.’  

‘The thing is - I could get more if I sold it to somewhere bigger,’ he said. ‘But I like the chef. He’s a nice guy.’  

‘I wasn’t expecting it to be so lucrative.’  

‘Fungi are amazing, you know,’ he said. ‘Scientists are only beginning to understand them. They’re connected with the natural environment and with each other, they communicate in ways we can’t understand. They can even break through concrete.’  

I nodded, but it seemed rather farcical. I’m not sure how reliable the book he’d been reading was. Perhaps he’d been eating too many mushrooms with psychedelic powers.  

‘And is that what you wanted to show me?’ I asked.  

‘Yes, and I saw Mum,’ he said.  


‘I saw her.’  


‘I know you don’t believe me,’ he said, shrugging. ‘I’ll make us some lunch and then we can go for a walk.’  

I sat at the kitchen table while Dave scrambled around with pots and pans, boiling water, sautéing mushrooms, pouring olive oil. In fifteen minutes, he’d whipped up an impressive mushroom spaghetti that I’d never be able to cook.  

It was delicious.  

I told him so.  


The bush behind his house was thick and fragrant, dotted with all kinds of wildflowers I didn’t know the names of. There was a path that led to a hiking track. It was the kind of place that our parents would have liked.  

‘Here, look,’ he said and pointed to a tree, its bark rough and dark with fluorescent yellow rubbery steps poking out of it. How did they do that?  

I followed him again and he pointed out another fungus - a glowing red trail sprouting out of a dead log. Then, a group of mushrooms in a circle on the forest floor.  ‘Are they the expensive ones?’ I asked.  

‘No,’ he said. ‘They’re deeper in. This is too close to the path.’  

‘How do you know they’re OK to eat and not poisonous?’ I asked.  

‘Well, I look them up in my book before I eat them,’ he said, turning to me. 

‘The mushrooms in the pasta ...’ I was beginning to feel sick.  

‘Relax,’ he said. ‘You always think the worst of me. You really think I cooked you lunch with poisonous mushrooms?’  

‘Of course not,’ I said in the most confident voice I owned.  

‘Besides,’ he said. ‘The poison doesn’t kill you straight away. The toxins release slowly. And your liver shuts down. It would be a terrible way to die.’  

He stopped and looked at me.  

I offered up a smile. He was my younger brother. I’d always looked out for him. Hadn’t I? I still felt a little ill but put it down to the power of suggestion. It had been excellent spaghetti.  

I followed Dave for a while longer and got my phone out, but there was no reception. I waved it around in the air, trying to pick up a signal. 

‘It won’t work,’ he smiled. ‘Too remote.’  

I thought of Katie and how I meant to text her when I arrived.  

We moved through a thick patch of eucalyptus trees. Did he know where he was going? Was this part of his plan? Is he acting more unusual than normal? 

We reached a clearing with a series of mossy stones and a smattering of freesias. The sun peeked through, and the low grey sky cleared. ‘This is where I saw Mum,’ he said. ‘I ate a magic mushroom while I was lying here in this spot.’  

I was right.  

‘What did she say?’ I asked.  

‘She didn’t say anything. I just felt her here. Her energy. She’s OK, you know,’ he said. He looked at me and I could tell in his eyes that he wasn’t lying. He truly believed he’d seen her there, amongst the trees and birds and flowers and fungi. A psychedelic mushroom trip had connected him to our long-dead mother somehow.  

I nodded and put my hand on his arm.  

‘Do you want to take some? You might see her too?’  

I hesitated and then shook my head, even though I was tempted. I didn’t want to have to explain or lie about it to Katie or somehow compromise being back at my desk for 9am Monday.  

He didn’t ask me again. Perhaps he was embarrassed to have asked me at all.

I followed him further, deeper, into the bush where the trees huddled closer together, and there was less light filtering in. He poked around for a bit and then called out that he’d found something.  

‘These are the expensive ones,’ he said, showing me the mushrooms living in a dark, dank patch near a running stream.  

Dave unfolded a cloth tote bag from the back pocket of his jeans. I helped him fill the bag with the dirt-flecked mushrooms that smelt like the earth.  

Then I felt something on the back of my neck, like a prickly kind of warmth from the sun, and heard a whisper of leaves. I turned, expecting to see a small animal - a bird or rabbit. But it was just a nub of yellow fungus poking out from a tree trunk.  

It took a while to get back to the house. A couple of times Dave glanced up at the sky as if he was lost but I knew better than to ask him. We arrived as the light was fading, and I got phone reception as I stood close to the main road. I texted Katie. She wrote back with lots of exclamation marks.  

That night Dave made pizza and we drank the beers I’d bought. I thought he might sneak a magic mushroom into my food or beer at some point, but he didn’t. I think some part of me kind of hoped he would, but I felt pretty normal the whole night.  We didn’t stay up late.  

I slept on Dave’s couch that smelled pretty bad, although I’d probably slept on worse couches in my time. I’d brought my own sleeping bag and I changed into my pyjamas. I brushed my teeth. We said good night. I thought about how many nights we did that routine together as children, when we still had parents.  

I thought I might dream about my mother that night, but I didn’t. I dreamed of the bush behind the house. Faceless children squatting in the dirt, scribbling with bright crayons, drawing red and white spotted mushrooms onto a backdrop of black and white forest. In my dream I could smell the earth.  


In the thin golden light of morning, Dave whipped eggs and ricotta with a meagre dusting of the expensive fungi. It was remarkable to me that he’d learned to cook like this, although I tried not to overdo the praise. I made black plunger coffee, like our parents used to. It tasted different. Perhaps the water, or Dave’s coffee beans that had been in the freezer too long.  

Dave apologised that he’d been called into work that morning. They were short staffed. I said I had to be getting back anyway.  

He’d bought a bottle of chardonnay from the winery where he worked, as a gift for me to take home to Katie. It was on the table in a paper gift bag with the name of the winery stamped across it in italics.  

‘Say hi to Katie from me,’ he said, handing me the bottle.  

‘Thanks Dave,’ I said. ‘It was great to see you.’  

Our goodbyes are always awkward, and this one was no exception. We embraced in the briefest of hugs and then I patted him twice on the back.  

He left for work, and I drove back up to Perth with the soundtrack of my constant internal monologue.  

Metal, concrete, fin.  

Metal, concrete, fin.  

Metal, concrete, fin.  

When I pulled into the driveway three hours later, Katie was there, arms crossed and frowning. I exhaled and prepared myself. I hadn’t yet decided which  part of the story I was going to edit for her consumption.  

Stepping out of the car, I stretched out my arms towards her.  

‘Hi K - ’  

‘Look! Something’s hit the ground, it’s broken the driveway,’ she said without a proper greeting, grabbing my shirt and pointing.  ‘Look!’  

But it wasn’t that at all. Something had made a hole, but it hadn’t come from above. I knelt down and held my breath as I touched the rubbery top of a yellow mushroom head, sprouting out of the freshly poured concrete.