It began close to home when Daisy discovered the mushroom.
She spied it on a tree root in the parkland forest bordering the river
“Papa, Papa, look, look,” she cried placing it in her woolly beanie.
Kori turned his gaze from dreams of wakas on the broad river to his young daughter.
“Show me Sweetie,” he smiled, kneeling beside her.
“Eyes closed first.” she ordered. “It’s the biggest mushroom ever.” Then she opened her warm hat and awaited his reaction.
“Aaw, aaw. Ai Sweetie, wait till Mama sees this. Just wait.”
Cheryl had tasty kai nui prepared for the duo after their Saturday morning walk, but Daisy couldn’t wait. She placed the beanie on the kitchen table.
“For you,” she beamed.
Koori’s eyes met his wife’s but gave nothing away
“Wow, I should be so lucky,” said Cheryl opening the hat. “Oh, Oh,” she managed as Kori put fingers to his lips. Then after a pause, “Oh Sweetie do you know what you’ve got here?”
“Yep, biggest harore ever,” came the smug reply, Daisy proudly used the kupu (word) she learnt walking home. Her parents locked eyes struggling for direction. Kori gave his ‘over to you’ look and turned away. Cheryl took up the challenge –but gently.
“No darling. Just look… this mushroom…your magic mushroom is alive...It’s a new baby possum a pepe joey so small he must have fallen out of his mother’s pouch.” Silence.
“Auw, auw, Well pepe’s in my beanie so he’s mine,” was Daisy’s reaction. “He must need me.”
Over her head Kori had his ‘this isn’t good’ look.
Later when Daisy and her ‘Mushy’ napped Kori suggested a phone call to authorities for advice. He knew the blue-eyed love of his life from a city over the oceans wouldn’t take his advice. Cheryl kept talking about protected red squirrels in England and possums protected in Australia.
Kori was Maori enough to know full well that possums were noxious animals in Aotearoa and why the laws stood to protect the forests. He had shot, skinned and dried enough pelts in younger days. He related vivid stories about his own possum pets and the hiding he got when they ripped the family’s best curtains to bits. He tried to reason with Cheryl but each day she procrastinated always promising to phone the council.
Within days Daisy and Mushy were truly bonded. But the stressful domestic conflict continued until the day Cheryl made the call.
Kori arrived home from the freezing works to be greeted by a tearful and furious wife.
“Kati…kati…stop, stop crying. Haere mai.” He pulled Cheryl to him and stroked her hair. “Calm down..Whakarongo… listen to me. Forget what he said honey. Just let it all ride for a time I’ll sort it out. I promise you.”
‘Somehow,’ he muttered to himself
It was two months later that Kori told Daisy and Mushy his own Maori bedtime story. It was about a possum chatter-screeching all night long about her missing baby.
“Tane-mahuta the God of Nature was upset because the trees, the birds and all the animals were losing sleep. He asked the Wind God Tawhiri-matea to send breezes out to find that pepe or bring her a new one. I know it’s true a breeze whispered in my ear.” said Kori.
Daisy was wide-eyed and thoughtful before she fell asleep.
When she awoke the puppy was on her bed beside a new beanie and Mushy was on his journey.
It was dusk when Kori returned and Cheryl baled him up again.
“They’re asleep…exhausted after playing in the garden all day. She says he doesn’t smell like Mushy…so his name is Tink.”
“So,” she continued “where did you get a pup like a plump piglet?”
“Friend at the pound.”
“So. Where is Mushy?”
“He’s settled way up the river in a pine possum paradise.”
“So. You left at daybreak!”
“ I called in the pa, and had a beer with the olds.
Kori pulled her on his knee.
“Honey…a beautiful hippy trippy backpacking woman like you must know that a magic mushroom trip can take you far, far away from home.”
“Porangi,” she yelled, kissing his nose.