The Pick 2004

Death Angels

by Rusty Barnes

Mathis. Amanita Virosa springs from the soil after days of heavy rain. You have to be careful your dog doesn’t eat it. You have to be careful your kids don’t eat it. It’s very tempting, this lily-white shroom with a dark underside. It will kill you dead, and thus you may want to have a party, an after-rain soiree that includes close examination of the ground, just for this purpose, and you should invite all the people in the world that you hate.

Mathis, your death angels are springing forth from the ground even as we speak. The rain falls from the sky, travels in runnels down the leaves of the huge spreading oak in your yard, drops onto the acidic soil, and grows. Overnight it will become as big as a garden rock, but right now it is a tiny fillip of fiber, so small you will need a flashlight and tweezers to find it. Your wife says the same thing about you when she yaks with her friends. She is the first person you invite.

The second person you invite is Matty, your best friend, your wife’s lover. You imagine that Matty and Mathis are close enough in the ear-breathy sex-syllabics that when your wife moans in pleasure under one or the other of you, whatever name she mutters is okay by whomever.

Matty likes cars and psilocybin and women, not necessarily in that order, so he is unpleasantly tight when he arrives late, pupils dilated—dreamy and fulsome and annoying—chattering in his Carlos-Castaneda-used-car-salesman way about his ’69 Camaro. It shines redly in the slick of water pouring from the sky. Matty goes over and takes your wife by the elbow and leads her to the corner of your deck, where the rain drips down onto her neck. She squeals all girly-like and you wish you had two of her to introduce to more friends, so that they all could know how good you have it.

The third person you invite is your mother, and the last your father, so as to get the Oedipals out of the way.

Three is a magic number, says the children’s ditty. You’ve included one to grow on.

Death is not the end, Mathis, but it’s a good start, you think, and it is time now to search the lawn for these puffballs of doom, these little white shrooms, and you are on your knees in the deep wet of your unmowed lawn, the smell of grass and dirt in your nostrils, and your own fate in the trowel you hold, digging.

© 2004 Rusty Barnes



While rummaging through the issues ascribed to me for a good pick of the year, I came across Death Angels, by Rusty Barns. The title had a cliché sound to it, sort of, but the author’s name pulled me in for the sake of curiosity, and boy I was in for a ride!

What made me decided that this was definitely my designated pick was the point of view used, and this thrilling, satirical narrative voice. While not many appreciate the second person point of view, I found it perfect for this particular story about “white deathly shrooms.” The all-knowing god-like voice is usually reserved for the third-person omniscient point of view, but the second-person p.o.v took over this role when the narrator addressed the supposed reader, who is also the protagonist. We have a scenario of the perfect revenge plotted in detail, and a murder party suggested, including the murder weapon and the targeted victims/guests. In the end it’s all hypothetical, like I said: a suggestion by this maleficent vengeful voice. The “Death Angels” are ready; it’s all up to him. The witty characterization of each of the supposed targets, and the perfect pace in this compact piece of flash, made this story hard to miss. A recommended read indeed if you are looking for a snarky and interesting read.

By Riham Adly

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