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Mushrooms and Moonbeams

By Kelly Kepner

Year after year, crumbling root clumps of pansies were lowered into the ground behind my house. My mom and I filled the edges of the holes and she called it “Kelly’s Garden.” The petals smiled up at me in their perfect simplicity, flat and shiny and ready to love, but that garden was never mine.

     I was a child of rot. I loved soft mosscovered logs, the wet stink of leaves decaying in cool forest shadows. In the nursery aisles my mother tried to entice me with pink and purple blooms, but to everyone’s dismay I was drawn to the darker side of nature.

     There was the dying bird in the mulch behind our house, how it fell from its perch on the honey-stained railing as I read. The suede of its breast was tan and grey, colors I wouldn’t find in a pansy. And the duck egg left in the hostas—its mother must have sensed it was stunted somehow. I found it, tucked it in a blanket-stuffed shoebox, protected it from neighborhood cats until the stink grew too strong and the off-white shell collapsed into the internal goop of unrealized beak and feathers.

     I loved to collect the potato shavings from the bottom of the sink and toss them in the bucket my father kept out back. I begged him to let me turn the compost drum, so I could find the rhythm in my shoulder as the contents sloshed. We put in cantaloupe rinds and onion skins, apple cores and egg shells. And fistfuls of glorious steaming soil emerged. Into the garden boxes we’d layer the dirt, poke fingertips and drop in seeds. We’d smooth the soil over, gentle and loving as a hand closing eyelids for the final time, and we’d wait.

     The miniature curls of vibrant green that slowly pushed through damp dark brown, those infant buds were the purpose of our efforts, and we were pleased when they rose like tiny verdant trophies. But secretly, I most loved the mushrooms. They’d pop up early and fill the mounds of soil. They seemed familiar, somehow happy in their dirt-flecked translucent hats.


About the Author

Kelly Kepner writes creative nonfiction as well as fiction for young adults. She earned her MFA from Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Currently, Kelly serves as the managing editor of The Fourth River, marketing director of The Crawl Space Journal, and is the founding editor of Winding Path Publications. Her work has appeared in Three Rivers Review, and Coal Hill Review. For more information, visit