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Life is great as a mushroom. I live in a forest, in mountains of Tibet. Each day starts with the chirping of the early birds, ready to start off our morning on a good note. All across the steep valleys, red pandas, musk deer, and takins are awakening from a night slumber. I live under my own personal blanket of moss, and I listen to the sounds of nature as my body absorbs nutrients from the roots of a thousand year old tree. What a relaxed, laid back life. Nothing could be better.

One day, I heard the sound of voices in the forest. They grew louder and louder, until suddenly, a blinding light came upon me as my moss was lifted from my head. A human peered down at me. I was gently eased out of the ground. A soft hand held me to be examined by shining, brown eyes. Black hair frames them on a face that is much tanned. Her cheeks are such dark red that it looked as if the sun had pinched her on both cheeks. Her eyes crinkle at the edges as she smiles. “Mom, I found one! I found another mushroom!” she exclaimed.

Her mother, standing not too far away, also smiles. “Good work, Tashi, put them in the basket.” Tashi skipped over and put me in gently, as if she were afraid to break me. In the basket were about ten other mushrooms. Tashi walked away.

I don’t know how long I lay in the basket, listening to their talk. Once in a while, another mushroom was put into the basket I was in. After a long time, we eventually came out of the borders of the forest, to a small house. The house seemed old, built with painted white material that looked like stone. The shingles on the roof were made of wood. The sun was settling down behind a nearby hill, as the girl and her mother entered the small house. Inside, sat an old man, tending to the blazing fire in the middle of the little room. Two other rooms could be seen from there. They each had lumpy beds, a bucket for washing, and some clothes. It was all very clean and tidy, or at least, as much as it will get. A pot and a pan hung from the wall. On a peg were two cloth hats, and a table was under them, against the wall. There was a small cabinet for cooking supplies, and there were some jars for food.

“Hi, grandpa, not so many mushrooms today,” Tashi addressed her grandfather with a long face. He handed her two bowls of butter tea, with two lumps of roasted barley flour. She handed one of each to her mother.

“It seems that my goal will never come true,” Tashi’s mom sighed.

“The motorcycle?” asked the grandfather.

“Yes. It will make us so efficient, getting to the forest and market; it will boost our income considerably, with the added time to pick mushrooms.”

Tashi looked up from her food. “Used motorcycles aren’t a hopelessly high price. I think if we save up, we’ll be able to get one in no time.”

“Oh, Tashi,” her mother said, “you always know how to cheer me up.”

The next morning, they ate a meal of yesterday’s meager leftovers. “We have to go now, grandpa,” Tashi reminded him. He smiled, and bade them a swift journey. Tashi and her mother set out to the market. After about an hour of walking, we approached a line of tents. Stopping at a green one, Tashi’s mother unloaded us onto the table. The man behind the desk sorted us into piles and counted each. He handed her something, and piled us into a crate. I was able to see through a hole in the crate, as the same man put us in a truck and took us to some kind of facility. There, once again, they unloaded us onto a table, but this time, masked people were all around us. One of them lifted me up, examined me and gave me a gentle bath. It felt very nice, as the person’s fingers rubbed my grubbiness away, turning me to a flawless model of a mushroom. He dried me off, and wrapped clear plastic all over me. Then, I was whisked into a bin, which was tightly sealed, then hauled onto a plane.

When we were off of the plane, I heard a man say, “New York.” Huh. I wonder what that is. I was transported to a refrigerated truck, full of other produce. The icy air was comforting. It reminded me of my forest back on the mountain in Tibet. I was transported to another market that was much bigger, cleaner, and more modern. It has white tile floors and bright lights. It was so air conditioned that it didn’t feel much warmer than the truck. We were put on display, in a bed of ice. Nestled next to me was a bundle of carrots, also clean and shiny, mirroring how grand I looked. I felt proud to be looking so delectable.

Not minutes after I was placed in the ice, a looming face came out of nowhere and looked at me. It reminded me of Tashi, when she picked me up. However, this girl could not be more different. Her skin was a soft peach color, and her golden hair was held back by a silver clip. She seemed a little younger than Tashi, too. Her big eyes stared at me. They were a soft blue, like water. “Oh, dad, could we get this one? It’s so beautiful and delicate.” Her dad, with brown and silver hair, leaned over her shoulder. “These are a special mushroom called matsutake. They come from Tibet. I’ve heard they are very good grilled with steak.” I was shocked. Grilled? The girl shook her head. “Couldn’t I just plant it? Somewhere I can see it? Please, dad?” After a moment of hesitation, he agreed. The girl hugged him, and he said, “Now, now, Claire. Don’t get too worked up. I still need to do some research on where and how to plant mushrooms.”

After he had paid for me, Claire’s dad handed me to her. I saw Tashi in her smile, and saw the masked person’s careful hands. Claire carried me to her private car, and we soon arrived at Claire’s house. Her dwelling was big, with two floors. Going up the stairs and through a hall, Claire brought me to her room. It was all pink and white. There was a TV on her dresser, facing her bed. On the left side of the dresser was a white desk, and on the right was a book shelf. Dozens of stuffed animals inhabited the room. Claire conjured a violin from the mess of books and clothes on her bed. She played such a beautiful but simple melody that I couldn’t help but think of the birds in Tibet. What were they doing now? Her music made me want to go home, back to my moss and my tree.

The next day, Claire and her dad took me to a forest. This forest is not much like Tibet. It does not have takins or red pandas, but it has many new animals, like rabbits and squirrels. Of course, it also has lovely moss and trees. Claire carefully planted me under an old pine tree, covered me up with a thin layer of moss, whispered goodbye to me, and then told me that she will visit me. She walked away, leaving me to anticipate her visits. In my new perfect life, I await my next journey.

The Journey of a Mushroom Alicia Xin
Alicia Xin, 12
Scarsdale, NY