L’ Esprit D’Escalier: Part nineteen.

by | Dec 18, 2023 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

Mushrooms! Lucien’s brain kicked its way through his somnolent state at the mention of the word.

Lucien logged out and closed the laptop. He was enveloped by a huge yawn which subsided into a smile of self satisfaction. The doctor was tired, good tired, for the first time in as long as he could remember. His evening ritual was calm and peaceful, the perfect prequel to a good night’s sleep. However, it never worked like that in Lucien’s beleaguered existence.

Sleep welcomed him with soft whispering tones and, as with an intense state of rest, time ceased to exist. He could have been dormant all night; or it could have been a matter of moments from closing his eyes, when it happened.


The door slammed behind him, leaving Lucien in pitch darkness. Gradually, his eyes adjusted to the limited light that penetrated the depth of the ship’s hold. However, his sense of smell was ahead of this visual transition as the stench of death and human suffering pervaded his nostrils.

Stifling a gag, Lucien sought to breathe through his mouth, in an attempt to alleviate this olfactory assault. The same stale, rancid air flooded his mouth and attacked his taste buds as he gasped to escape the foul smell, leaving a coating inside it matching that which lingered in his nostrils.

As Lucien’s sense of sight caught up with his immediate faculties, he began to take in the cause of the havoc. Spread out before him, lay a black, glistening mass that writhed like a million snakes. This entity emitted a low humming sound akin to a swarm of giant bees.

Every now and then, the sights and sounds of this creature were punctuated by a thrust limb and a deep moan, respectively. Lucien covered his gagging mouth and flaring nostrils with both hands and turned back to the door. He began to beat on the wooden barrier so that his fists and palms ached, completing a quintet of sensory derision.

Just as his desperation peaked, with these overwhelming sensations, he suddenly opened his eyes to a silent bedroom. A faint aroma lingered in his nostrils, or was it his mind? Lucien’s mouth was dry and scaly and he tried to swallow, his arid throat clicked in protest. This triggered a dry cough which brought tears to his eyes. His hands were still banging on an imaginary door, the sound of which was curiously still evident. On waking fully from his semi-hypnagogic state, Lucien realised that the thudding was not of his making but coming from the front door.


Lucien swung his legs out of bed, stubbing his toe on the bedside table. The pain shot up his arthritic leg in an arc of electricity. He hobbled to the door in his pyjamas, recalling yesterday’s crisis. He couldn’t deal with another. Filling the open doorway stood Abdulaye, a gleaming ear to ear grin splitting his ebony features. Recalling his dream, Lucien almost fainted at the sight before him.

“Doctor Lucien, I’m glad you’re awake. Here.” Abs shot out a huge forearm, on the end of which a shovel-like hand crushed an unfortunate baguette. Crumbs fell from the squashed loaf onto the carpet.

“Oh, Abs. Erm, thank you. To what do I owe this pleasure?” He gingerly rescued the ill-fated baton from the man’s grasp, trying not to spread more crumbs. The pain radiated from his battered toe, as far as his groin.

“”I want to apologise for my behaviour yesterday, both in the surgery and the foyer. I brought that and wondered if you would like anything from the park garden. Asparagus is in season and we have a lovely selection of mushrooms,” Abs replied, wiping the traces of bread from his hand and nodding at the half dead loaf.

Mushrooms! Lucien’s brain kicked its way through his somnolent state at the mention of the word. His dream was pushed to the back of his mind, replaced by the thought of fungi. 

“Please, big fella. Don’t mention it. In fact come in, have some coffee and, erm, bread. I have a question for you.” He waved Abs in with the bread, which promptly broke in half. Abs’ eyes lit up and the grin reprised. He crouched through the door and made for the kitchen. “Please, the lounge, Abs.” Lucien was conscious that the giant’s presence in his kitchen would render it unusable. He prepared coffee and rescued the baguette, slicing the remaining pieces and placing them on a tray with the beverage, jam and butter. Entering the lounge, he observed the other man curled up on his favourite chair like a hibernating bear.

“So, doctor. What can Abdulaye do to make amends for his indiscretions.” Abs’ use of the word made Lucien smile inwardly.

“Mushrooms Abs, mushrooms. I am conducting research about the effect of certain species of mushrooms on, erm, cancer patients.” He pulled the last words out like a gunslinger. Lucien was on a roll. “The project is top secret and only involves the toxic forms of the fungus.”Abs’ face took on another level of illumination and he nodded eagerly.

“Yes! Yes! I know where all of the poison mushrooms grow in the city. I could eliminate the whole population of the eighteenth, should I have a mind to.” Abs’ words brought the dream back to the fore of Lucien’s mind and he winced. “I’m sorry doctor. I didn’t mean to offend. I understand that this experiment will be for medicinal reasons.”

“Yes indeed Abs, and your contribution could be crucial to its success. I will make sure that you, and your discretion are rewarded.” Reunion receded further but Lucien comforted himself with a vision of the evil trio gracing Pere Lachaise cemetery. The pair tucked into the bread as the big man offloaded his proportionately huge knowledge of Basidiomycota.

1 Comment

  1. Kenneth Childs



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