“I don’t need advice,” Everett was complaining. “And I don’t need advice from a mushroom.”
“Sure you don’t,” Delores agreed, too easily, too readily. “And I’m sure the Wise Mushroom wouldn’t want to be bothered. It’s a pretty small problem, and he’s got better things to do.”
“Better things? He’s as bad as the teachers, then. Don’t complain, don’t tattle…”
“Well, technically, Mr. Barton just said he didn’t want to hear it. And it can’t really be tattling if you tell a mushroom, can it?”
“I don’t know, does the mushroom teach at Hamilton Elementary?” Everett sighed. “‘Cause if he does, I’m sure he doesn’t want to hear it.”
“And I might not, but I am hearing it.” The Wise Mushroom took a long drag of its pipe. “Now. Do you want a permanent solution, a wide-covering solution, or a spot solution?”
“Per—” Everett began, before Delores slapped a hand over his mouth. “Ow! All right, then what’s the difference between the other two?”
“A spot solution will deal with your immediate problem: somebody is hitting you, from the looks of things. A wide solution,” the mushroom drew on his pipe again and blew smoke rings out at the two children, “will deal with the teachers that will not hear, the child hitting you, and the underlying problem — cheating, I think?”
“You told him!” Everett glared at Delores.
She shook her head and held up her hands. “No, no. He’s just really good.”
“All right.” He clearly didn’t believe her, but talking mushrooms inspired a bit of trust. “So… if I want a wide solution?”
“Then pick three of the mushrooms there by my feet.” The mushroom gestured with his pipe. “The ones with the green spots. Slice two of them very thinly into your sandwich and — and this is important — squeeze the third all over your apple. Be very careful not to eat anything, and, if you can, use gloves.”
“What will that do?”
The mushroom smiled broadly around the stem of his pipe. “That, my dear Everett, will solve your problems in a broad but not, shall we say, distressing manner. The green-spotted ones, mind you, and no, they’re not actually my grandchildren. Not all mushrooms talk, and not all fungi are related.”
Three days later, Everett hurried back into the park, Delores following behind in distress. “What did you do?” he shouted at the mushroom.
The mushroom, sans pipe today, waggled an eyebrow — or what stood in lieu of one, a ridge of craggy fungus — and chuckled. “I did nothing. You made a sandwich that would have given you lovely visions, but, because Tommy is quite the bully, he got the visions instead. They may have given him a change of heart…”
“They gave him a heart attack!”
“But he lived?” the mushroom insisted.
“Well, yeah, but that’s not what I wanted.”
“You wanted a solution.” The mushroom was no longer smiling, and it seemed to have gotten larger. “You wanted the bullying to stop, and it has.”
“But what about Mr. Barton? I mean, he got suspended! Was that because of me, too?”
“You wanted the teachers to stop ignoring you, and the teacher that was guilty has been punished.” The mushroom was even larger now, his voice rumbling and loud. “I give solutions, boy. I never said I gave easy answers or cute, tidy ones. I never said I gave what you wanted.
“Besides—” and now the mushroom was smaller again, smiling around his pipe. “You said permanent. This is permanent. And yet not as bad as your friend Delores — who is wiser than you, by the by — might have feared. Take your solution, young Everett. Take it and go, before you, in turn, become a problem.”