Contest #122 shortlist ⭐️

Mushroom Jam

Submitted into Contest #122 in response to: Start your story in the middle of a traffic jam.... view prompt

4 comments

American Fiction Funny

This story contains sensitive content

Note - Substance abuse, mental health trigger warnings

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If I was still in High School, this would be forgivable.  If I was in College one might say I was experimenting with new states of mind...like taking on an internship with Terence McKenna or hanging out in a Grateful Dead parking lot before Jerry Garcia died.

Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Clemente at dusk, the horizon bursts with orange and purple, and you feel connected.  With the weekend in front of you, anything you're doing feels like it has purpose, even if you're just going to a party. 

They played it up to be more than just a fun time, this was going to be "An Awakened Experience".

It's funny how, as drugs become mainstream, they elevate their marketing approach to match the wine industry.  

When you read the Merlot has "forest floor and cherry notes" with a blend of "coffee, blackberry, and plum overtones" you can just imagine a bunch of stiff suits around a mahogany table taking turns pulling these artifices out of their velvety-oaked asses.

"Can you imagine these suckers buying this for $45?" they guffaw, red-faced and grinning.

I drive by a Cannabis billboard that shows a woman in a sunhat riding a beach cruiser bicycle straight into the ocean, feet up in the air, with the words "Wellness" and "Holistic" in neon cursive font.

...But this wasn't a wine party I was driving to.  It wasn't a bud-smoking shindig, either.

Jump several miles back to the big white jugs, the twin nuclear boobies, those infamous grand ol' titties of San Onofre that mark the way down Highway 5 southbound towards Oceanside, that's when I ate them, straight outta the bag. 

Some like to eat 'em on pizza.  Others prefer to boil them down and drink it as a tea.   

Of course, looking back I should have waited until I got to the house.  It would have been the safe, responsible thing to do. 

For fuck's sake, this was the age my dad had his mid-life crisis and bought his Black and Gold '77 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.  What the hell was I doing?! 

I rolled my grip onto the steering wheel to get a sense of myself, the brake lights before me assembling into a smirking parade of robots.

I wasn't expecting a traffic jam.  For fucks sake!  Not here.  Not now. 

Gas, brake, gas, brake.  

The plan was to arrive just as they were kicking in. 

I thought I timed it perfect.  

Eric and Tony would be there, greeting me with a Hazy IPA on the porch, pupils dilated, miming with their hands and laughing at the tracers, Electric Light Orchestra creating visible waves of music traveling throughout the house.  

We’d party.  We’d laugh.  We’d trip out. 

...and we'd be safe.  

That's all I wanted.  A safe, holistic, psilocybin trip.  A joyful, awakened experience with friends to remind me I was alive again.  Wellness. 

Then I could go back to my work week and not feel so trapped.  I could be around my kids and not snap at them so easily.  That’s not the dad I wanted to be.  I could look at my wife, this time with new eyes, and I could see her again. 

Gloria.

The way her knees turned in when she laughed.  Her hot sexy wrists, when she gave me a “come ‘ere my handsome man”.  It didn’t matter if she wanted me to do the dishes, take out the trash, or join her in bed, it was that she was my girl, and she wanted to be with me, and I with her, even after we surpassed the seven-year itch. 

I imagined her sitting next to me.  It felt real. We locked fingers over the top of the center console shifter.  Her squeeze on my hand let me know I was the only person on Earth for her. 

Sure we slept in separate rooms now, but that’s what love is after you’ve been married for long enough. 

Separate rooms, separate schedules, separate beds, separate lives. 

She was back at home with the kids.  I told her I was going to hang with the boys and have a poker night at Tony's.  She had no reason to think I would be doing anything this dumb.  Hey, it's not like I was cheating on her...I would've told her...she just wouldn't understand.  Easier to just keep it simple. To lie.

"Thanks Hon!  I promise I'll return the favor when you go out with the girls next week!"  

“You’d better!”  She smiled and waved me out the front driveway. 

Who knew the quid pro quo would ultimately become the defacto linchpin of our marriage.

Gas, brake, gas, brake. 

The red light robots, now pulsating their yellow blasters, seemed as if they were getting ready to attack.  Charging their cannons, there was no turning back now.    

The Camp Pendleton mountains opposite the ocean had turned to monstrous, rolling lobsters pinching and waving.  The electricity towers were gargantuan soldiers, bending and throwing lassos at each other into the sky. 

A baby piglet with dove wings flew out towards the ocean.  I’d have kept staring but nobody likes a rubbernecker, especially in stop-and-go 

traffic like this. 

With a sweaty brow and sticky cheeks, I sipped my Kombucha. I felt some slimy chunks. I swallowed them down.

Gas, brake, gas, brake.  

Who was behind me?  Cops?  Immigration police?  The entirety of the Martian civilization was upon me.

“Fucking MOVE!” I shook the steering wheel like it was a screaming baby.  

Lights melted into drifting particles.

Borons, leptons, quarks...the freeway was shifting.  I was inside a giant particle accelerator with nothing to do but maintain. 

“Maintain I say!”  I felt my mind slipping.

"Just maintain...just breathe." I coaxed to myself.  The sound of my own voice rang into my bones like the bell of a Taoist monastery. 

I tried settling into the seat, exhaled slowly, and turned on “The End”, by the Doors.  If anyone could get me safely to Tony's, Jim Morrison could.

My grip wrenched more tightly into the steering wheel, my shoulders lifted up to my ears.  "I've got to land this plane!" I shouted into the SUV, to my Captain's crew of empty seats, half expecting someone at the ready to take orders.

“Can you picture… what we’ll be, so li-mit-less a-and free.”  Jim Morrison sang out from the back seat.  Our eyes met briefly in the rear view mirror, his hair like a glowing God. 

Gloria disappeared from the passenger seat.  In her place the pig, wings clipped and bleeding.  Goopy droplets of pigs blood floated by my face in the lava lampy, dense car air. They squished and splatted in slow motion like bugs hitting the windshield, but from the inside where you could hear it go - SQUISH.

“Hang in there, we’ll be there soon.”  His eyes, I could tell, were holding back tears. 

I took refuge in the pigs words, and as they pierced my soul I cried out.  “They’ll need more than an army of giant lobsters and laser-shooting robots to stop us!!”

I pulled at the wheel, dragging us onto the shoulder of the highway.  We skid against  the side rail, are those sparks even real?  The train going past was a Doppler effect but backwards, like a vinyl record in reverse.  

Was that even a train?

“Get ahold of yourself, man!” Pig slapped me clean across the face.  He snorted his little piggie nose.  I regained myself but just long enough to know my mind was slipping further and further away, out towards the ocean. 

Would it slip away forever?  Who was I without my mind?

The dawn was falling upon us.  All we had to do was maintain.  Me, Pig, and Jim Morrison, as long as we could get to Oceanside before the sun vanished over the western horizon we knew we had a chance.  

What was I so afraid of?  Well duh, do I have to explain everything?

How about getting pulled over?  How about going to jail?  How about losing my job?  My wife?  My kids?  What if I lost it all?!

Who would I be without the endless string of emails, without “forest floor and chocolate notes” descriptions of Merlot, without the other tie-wearing stiffs, without my wife telling me to take out the trash, without my kids asking me why mommy and I don’t sleep in the same room anymore.  

“There’s danger on the edge of town…”

NO SHIT, Jim!! Look, I’m having a bad trip, I don’t need any lip from you!

“Ride the Kings Highway, baby”

Yeah…yeah, you’re right…yes!!  I’m sorry, Jim…I shouldn’t of…

Jim always knew exactly what to say.

“Weird scenes inside the gold mine” Jim drones on, putting us all in a trance, the red light robots begin to back away, one of them beckons a curved finger to follow. 

Pig lights up a cigarette and puts his hooves up on the dash.  We all resist a little less.  My hands let loose of the wheel.  I don’t let go, but I don’t hold on to it either.  A light touch, giving me a sense of the road, all it’s little bumps and imperfections, and I get a clear sense of myself albeit through the lens of someone else…a stranger.  

The monstrous lobsters roll out in rows and submerge, bubbling into the ocean.  The robots fade to the edges of the highway turned tarmac and guide us into the far end of the particle accelerator tunnel, the giant soldiers lasso us, teather us, hold us together, keep us from getting torn apart, ripped to shreds.  

Pig flies out in front, leading the charge.  His new hawk wings send him like a javelin, like a bullet straight to the Heavens, ear-to-ear he grins under his little piggie nose, ears pinned back from his warped speed.   

Lights cascade in a keleidescope of Black Mirror nonosecond eternity, the SUV, a rocket shooting past Sun, Moon, and stars.  

Here we pass galaxy after expanding galaxy, we witness the birth and death of celestial beings, the cosmos tearing itself apart and being reborn, faster than sound, faster than light, everything simultaneously moving so unalterably fast yet standing so perfectly still and looking inward and through mirrors and mirrors of a million-gazillion souls all laughing, crying, dying, being born, loving, fighting, starving, annihilation in all it’s heavenly glory right here as the Sun disappears, arching over the Ocean, sucking the orange and purple sky right down with it.  

Inseparable, I go with it, too.  

“This is the end, my only friend, the End” Jim floats out West on a Blue Bus, immaculate, into the infinite sky like the true Lizard King that he is.  

For an eternal Black Mirror moment, everything’s gone dark.  

Non-existent existence.  Nothing.  The nothing before there was nothing.  No space, no time.  Eternal.  Absolute.  

I feel myself coming back into myself. 

I’m exiting onto the 76 now.  I’m almost there.  I inexplicably begin to feel safe.  A shivering warmth washes over me.  I squeeze the center console shifter.  I can’t see the Ocean anymore, but I can smell her salty breeze when I roll down the window.  Pure joy.  Simple.   Like the time between pagers and smart phones.

For a second I think of the endless string of emails waiting for me, waiting for Monday to lasso me in, the tie-wearing stiffs, just all of it.  

An ear-to-ear smile grows across my face.  The weight of everything…I remember it, but when I look, when I search, I don’t feel it anymore.  Not even if I try.  

Unburdened, I start heading back home.  

Gloria. 

December 02, 2021 21:13

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4 comments

Cathryn V
00:02 Dec 11, 2021

Interesting; I felt the trip and the mc's insight coming over him. Good story! Congratulations on making the shortlist!

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Shea West
16:26 Dec 10, 2021

Ha! This was great. I almost cringed the moment he took them all while driving. It's like "What comes up must come down" sort of thing....of course there's going to be a traffic jam promptly after consuming shrooms. I also forecasted that there'd be a character in this story named Tony.....don't all stoner friends have a designated Tony amongst them?? I love how this piece incorporated the parts of the MC's life, the dynamic of his family, and how much he loves Gloria even if things are weird now. I live in Oregon where this is all legal ...

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Karen Mc Dermott
14:34 Dec 04, 2021

What a trip. A really entertaining read! Thanks for sharing.

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Forrest Folen
00:06 Dec 05, 2021

Thanks Karen!

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