Monthly SimLit Short Story Challenge – May 2019

Veteran Participant - May 2019 SimLit Short Story Challenge

This short story was written as part of the Monthly SimLit Short Story Challenge, organized by LisaBee at the Sims Forums. Readers are invited to read all the entries, and vote for their top three choices in both categories (novice and veteran), for a total of six votes. Any vote that doesn’t contain three for each category (six total) will not be counted–so if you want to vote, please be sure to read all the stories and vote for three Novice and three Veteran stories! This month’s theme: ” Mother … motherhood … mothering.”

Into Green Arms

“Tree-head!”

Kids were being kids again. That’s what Mom would say. But Sela thought they weren’t “being kids”; they were being mean.

“Who knows other ways forest ecosystems interconnect?” her teacher had asked.

Count to five. No one said anything. Six. Still silence. So before she could count one more, Sela jumped in.

“And so, you see,” she continued, minutes deep into her explanation of forest-system communications, “the mycelium acts as a type of network through which electronic and chemical signals can pass, much like the Internet, or even like the human brain. In fact, in many ways, the synapses in our brain are very similar to the fungus web of mycelium.”

“Did you say fungus?”

“There’s a fungus among us!”

“Mushroom brain!”

The teacher, who couldn’t quiet the students’ raucous laughter, let the class out early for recess. Sela stayed behind at her desk, nose in book.

The rest of the day passed in spitwads, snickers, and sneers. The lonely walk home brought, at least, the relief of quiet and the anticipation of finally being with the one who would understand, her mother.

It could be any day, Sela told herself, for days like this were more common than not, and on days like this, there was only one place where Sela found comfort, in the quiet shelter of her mother’s wide arms.

When she felt alone and misunderstood, her mother let her be herself. She didn’t have to talk. She could sit and listen to soothing whispers.

Her earliest memories held this quiet presence, nestled happily in the shelter of her mother’s shade.

Sela felt, sometimes, that it was remembering her mother’s stillness that got her through the toughest days.

She found the house empty when she got home.

“At a meeting,” Mom’s yellow post-it note said. “Snack in fridge. Back for supper.”

Sela felt relieved. She’d have had to listen to lectures again, if Mom had been home. “Kids will be kids. Besides, should you expect them to sit still and listen while you rattle on? What have we talked about before? Just say the first fact, not all 101 of them.”

At least 122 facts about mycelium branched in her brain, each as significant as the other, and if she left out one, it might turn out that that was possibly the exact fact that people needed to know. Anyway, once she got started, she couldn’t stop, and if she’d sat quietly, she would have gotten into trouble, at least with her conscience.

“Look at this,” Mom had said one day, showing her two pictures of what looked like white strings of mycelium on a black piece of cardboard. One of them looked like all the branches had been snipped off, and the other looked like fairy lace.

Mom pointed to the snipped-off one. “This is what the synapses in most people’s brains look like,” she said. Then she pointed to the fairy-lace one. “This is what the synapses in the brains of people like you look like.”

“Did you know that the word dendrite means tree?” Sela had replied.

Mom gazed back with her common blank stare. “What even goes on in that head of yours? The doctor said they’re working on drugs to snip off the extra synapses. You know, to make you more normal.”

Sela didn’t want to be normal. She liked her fairy-lace brain, with its white connections stretching across both hemispheres, picking up the whispers of ferns, of spiderwebs, of dendrite branches, sparkling in the light and shimmering in the wind.

Mom was out! And not back until supper? That gave her all afternoon to be with the one whose company she loved the most!

“I’m off to the woods,” she scrawled in the note she left. “Back by sunset.”

And off she ran, past the meadow, through the forest, across the creek and up to the glen where, in the center of a clearing, with wide green arms open in welcome, stood her one true mother, with a thousand whispers of comfort from the one who understood her fairy-lace brain and spoke in a language that also traversed wide broad fields.


CathyTea’s Bonus Shorts

Wonder 47

4701

“I’ve got a dinner date tonight,” said my patient Bria Louis, “and I really want to go. Will I be well enough?”

“I think so,” I replied. “It’s just the early stage of a virus, and our herbal remedy seems to kick it out in an hour or two. See how you feel, and if you feel great, that means that the reishi and shiitake did their job, so you’d be good-to-go! If you feel a little tired or still have a sore throat, which is unlikely, then I’d suggest you rest up and postpone your date for another day.”

“I really hope the stuff works,” Bria said. “It’s not like it’s a romantic date–it’s just with a friend. But still. She’s an important friend, and you never know when a friend turns into something more.”

4702

I thought about what she said while I was on break. I don’t really get what more there is than friendship. To me, it seems like everything.

4703

The day went well, but I still felt a little stressed and tired when I got home. I turned on some music and danced before I even showered.

4704

Then, I heard some static from the living room and I noticed that the stereo was broken.

4705

After fixing it, I showered and headed out back to the pool. There’s nothing more relaxing than a quick dip at sunset.

4706

When I got out of the pool, my phone rang. It was Sonia Burgos, whom I’d met at the café the day before.

“I can’t stop thinking about you,” she said. “Want to go out to eat?”

I was hungry, and Sonia seemed like a nice, friendly person, so I said sure. I kept wondering what she meant that she couldn’t stop thinking about me. I finally figured that she was probably interested in my research.

I wore my “remember-not-to-take-myself-too-seriously” outfit. I didn’t want to bore her by going into more details about applanoxidic acid A than she really wanted to hear. When I’ve got my blue glasses on, I remember to toss in a joke now and then, rather than just rattle on as fast as my brain will take me.

4707

In the restaurant, I saw Bria. So she’d made it to her dinner date, after all, and her date was Yuki. They seemed to be having a good time. I didn’t even know they knew each other!

4708

“Look, there’s mushrooms on the menu!” Sonia said.

I laughed. “Nothing like bringing the office to dinner!”

4709

“Mushrooms are fascinating,” Sonia said. “And I mean not just mushrooms, but all types of fungi, especially the mycelium.”

4710

“Are you ready to order?” said the waitress. “The special tonight is smoked chanterelles on a bed of braised kale with pureed fig compote.”

“We’re skipping the mushrooms,” said Sonia.”I got a feeling that’s all we’re gonna be talking about tonight, and I don’t want us to be eating our words.”

4711

We did talk about mushrooms all night. Sonia explained that the mycelium form a network of underground threads connecting all the plants in a forest community, and along those pathways travel chemicals which allow the plants to share information with each other. In other words, mushrooms facilitate plant communication.

Talking with Sonia reminded me of talking with Tia Berry. We could talk for hours and hours, exploring a subject from all different sides and angles.

I think I could be great friends with Sonia–and, after all, what is better than friendship?

4712

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Wonder 44

4401

I woke early. I love the predawn hours. A mockingbird sings from the pine at the edge of the meadow, and my thoughts feel as clear as the tones of his song.

This morning, I decided to finally write my acceptance speech for the Edgar Evans Award. Pay it forward, right? Then it doesn’t feel so awkward to accept.

4403

I had so many people I wanted to nominate. I finally settled on Rose Hatcher, a widow who moved through grief by adopting a kitten that needed a home. She’s been a big inspiration for Tia Berry and me. It’s hard to think of grief as being part of my life–death is still something very abstract to me. But I’ve lost meus avós and Pai‘s roommate/whatever Marcus Fletch. Tia Berry’s getting older. So’s Pai. And, in my career as a doctor, I’m sure I’m going to have plenty of experiences with mortality, even though, right now, I still feel that death can’t touch us. We’re immortal, every one.

Nonetheless, nominating Rose serves as a reminder to me: when grief comes, you can move through it. And you can move through it with kindness.

4402

I felt like a huge responsibility had been lifted when I submitted my acceptance and nomination. Oh, man. I hope I didn’t go overboard. Sometimes, I’ve noticed, when I express myself genuinely, other people look at me like I’m a nut.

Oh, well. I guess I am a bit of a nut! At least, I’m a cracked, happy nut!

4404

My boss greeted me with good news when I arrived at the clinic.

“The Medical Board is impressed,” he said. “Full speed ahead.”

I checked the email they’d sent us. We not only had clearance to administer the remedy to adults but also to children. And they had sponsored a research grant for the project.

4407

The news came just in time for my first client of the day. Oscar complained of sore throat and chills.

I explained that we had just the thing for him, and that it used mushroom power.

“Mushroom power?” he said. “Like toadstools?”

“Not toadstools. These are edible mushrooms. The real power comes from the mycelium, which is the thready network of roots below the soil surface.”

“Whatever.”

4405

I gave him a small dose. We still haven’t figured out the best dosages, for children or adults, but I remember how much I took when I was little kid. Three fingers full.

“I wanna go play!” Oscar said when I went back to check on him an hour later.

“All well?”

“Radically!”

4406

The day passed quickly. Not every client needed the remedy, but those who did reported that their symptoms improved within an hour.

“What’s in this stuff?” asked my last client.

“Mushroom compounds,” I said.

“Ick,” she replied.

“But it works, right?”

She couldn’t argue with that.

4408

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