The Poison Pie Publishing House presents:

Hebeloma's Lament in a Dozen Denials
Hebeloma Crustuliniforme
(link to main page of novel)


February 1, 2024
Growler tensed at the juxtaposition of threats—the flight of the goatherd, the shadow of the eagle and the approach of a stranger. He made an effort to control his nerves, signaling only vigilance to his charges, lest they panic and scatter. Perhaps because the woman held the staff or, more likely, because she smelled of the valley, the goats paid her no heed. When Growler investigated, she crouched and buried her face in the soft fur between his neck and shoulder, holding him against her. How could anyone, no matter how fierce his reputation, reject a greeting so full of unrestrained want?

written while listening to:  Alexandra Grimal & Benjamin Lévy - The Monkey In The Abstract Garden: Over Mountains, tracks 13-25 (Nunc., NUNC.032, 2022, France, digital files,

February 2, 2024
Once Growler had given his approval, the billy goat urged the herd toward her. Kids rubbed against her legs, while their mothers observed nonchalantly. Soon Europe was surrounded by the haphazard movement and odor of goats. She could have imagined no more fitting welcome in her return to the world of the living. The bleating bustle, only mildly concerned with her person, signified the irrevocable end to her incarceration in the underworld. A weight fell from her shoulders. In starts, she allowed the sun to graze her face. She must reaccustom herself for she would not be going back.

written while listening to:  Ramon Moro & Emanuele Maniscalco - Dreams (self-released, no catalog #, 2019, Italy, digital files,

February 3, 2024
The silhouette of the eagle glided beneath a patchwork of retreating clouds and blue sky. The bird of prey recognized that it had drawn the steady attention of both dog and interim goatherd. In spring, food was plentiful. It need not risk engaging the protectors of the herd when hares and martens roved the next valley over. As a result, the scene in Europe's imagination, where she swung the staff wildly to hold off the eagle while Growler harassed it from behind, did not materialize. Instead, once the threat had departed, the whole group settled down to a lazy afternoon.

written while listening to:  Anna Webber - Percussive Mechanics (Pirouet, PIT3069, 2013, Germany, cd,

February 4, 2024
Upon arriving in the village, the goatherd unfortunately encountered his father before his mama, who may have been more understanding. As it was, the boy was berated for abandoning the herd and belittled for his childish fears. "Better for the witch to turn you into a stump than for you to give up the whole herd!" sneered his father. Ordered to return immediately, he obeyed and, with tears in his eyes and a stitch in his side, hurried back to the valley. There, in the piercing dejection of youth, he resolved to give up his life in defense of the goats, so as to restore his father's faith.

written while listening to:  Derek Bailey - Ballads (Tzadik, TZ 7607, 2002, United States, cd,

February 5, 2024
To the boy's dismay, the sorceress had bewitched Growler and taken possession of both staff and herd. He trudged the distance between them with the resignation of a failed mutineer being led to the gallows. He pulled his cloak tight to fend off her piercing gaze, which he felt boring through his chest. Growler greeted his return with ecstatic barks but maintained his discipline, waiting until his friend reached the edge of the herd to lick his face. Of the eagle he saw no sign; a quick count of the goats reassured him that none had been lost in his absence.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - Soul's True Love, disc 2 (Purple Trap, PT-002, 1995 (rec. 1969-1972), Japan, cdx4,

February 6, 2024
The pair faced off with goats milling between them. Europe supposed the boy was ten or eleven. His clothes and cloak told of a simple, rural upbringing. His face had not yet shed the roundness of childhood nor had his gangly arms acquired a man's strength. By the red in his eyes and the expression of abandonment captured in his posture, she guessed some of what had transpired during his brief retreat. His fear of her was evident, though she did not know its cause. Growler dashed between the two of them, panting plaintively in a canine attempt to broker peace.

written while listening to:  The Art Ensemble of Chicago - Bap-tizum (Atlantic Records, SD 1639, 1973, United States, lp,

February 7, 2024
From this distance, the goatherd cautiously inspected the witch. Neither her excessive height nor her sunken cheeks had diminished, though she tolerated the sunlight somewhat better. She was dressed in a fancy, white gown that exposed her collarbone and sternum and reached to her ankles. The boy concluded that she was a runaway bride. He pictured her fleeing the wedding to avoid marriage to a fat, old merchant. She had wandered long, he could tell, through forest and remote hills, surviving only by diabolic arts. Her sharp teeth would crack his bones to suck the marrow from within.

written while listening to:  Daunik Lazro & Joëlle Léandre - Hasparren (NoBusiness Records, NBCD 62, 2013, Lithuania, cd,

February 8, 2024
The sun climbed the sky as an uneasy truce held between them. The boy grew hungry and located the sack he had set down upon arriving in the valley. He withdrew victuals intended for lunch. He fed the dog first, who gulped down his meal. According to their routine, the boy remained with the goats, while Growler raced to the creek, disappearing briefly beneath trees to drink. Upon his rejoining the herd, it was the boy's turn to eat. He removed bread, cheese and a cucumber. Very clearly did he perceive the witch's covetous gaze.

written while listening to:  Matthew Shipp & Mark Helias - The New Syntax (RogueArt, ROG-0124, 2022, France, cd,

February 9, 2024
He attributed the generosity, which prompted him to offer to share his lunch, to the witch's arcane influence. He broke the bread in half and held it at arm's length. She drifted over to claim it. They ate in silence, first the bread, then the cheese, then the cucumber. He led her to the stream where he knelt and drank. She knelt beside him, partaking deeply of the pure, cold water. Struck by the wildness of her reflection, she acknowledged that the boy's wary reaction to her was not entirely misplaced. She proceeded to wash the grime from her face.

written while listening to:  Kyle Jessen - Primitive (Relative Pitch Records, RPRSS019, 2023, United States, cd,

February 10, 2024
They did not exchange words that afternoon; the boy spoke only to the dog. Europe was reticent to act in a way that spooked him. Should he flee again, she would have to rely on Growler to lead the goats home in the evening, with her in tow, for she had resolved to reveal herself to the local villagers. She began to prepare an explanation for her abrupt appearance. Certainly, she could not admit the truth but neither could she deny it too strongly lest she arouse suspicion. Each tale she concocted was more improbable than the last. Perhaps, it was easiest to confess that she was a witch.

written while listening to:  Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense - Moving Still (Pi Recordings, PI67, 2016, United States, cd,

February 11, 2024
Ere the sun began to set, goatherd and dog ushered their charges through the gap in the hills and back along a winding path to the village. With the goats securely penned, he made directly for home, passing only two villagers, who stared at his guest with unconcealed curiosity. Some luck was on his side, for his father was absent when he arrived. Surrounded by his younger siblings, his mother prepared dinner. Growler darted past to greet the children while the boy remained just outside the front door, waiting to be seen. He dared not invite the witch inside their house.

written while listening to:  Susie Ibarra - Flower After Flower (Tzadik, TZ 7057, 2000, United States, cd,

February 12, 2024
Eventually, the presence of Europe came to the attention of the woman of the house. While issuing instructions to her daughter, all of nine, to tend to the baby who had begun to cry, the woman stirred the stew hanging above the fire. At the same time, she scrutinized the visitor whom her eldest son had delivered to the door. She would have instantly dismissed the disheveled newcomer as a beggar, likely a runaway from a brothel in the city, save for the superlative quality of the embroidery on the white gown, which drew her peasant's eye.

written while listening to:  Don Pullen - Healing Force (Black Saint, BSR 0010, 1976, Italy, lp,

February 13, 2024
"Priskos, who's this?" she asked her son in a tone that, while not especially harried, admitted no nonsense. The boy shrugged and remained silent. To her credit, his mother did not immediately succumb to exasperation. "What? Did you just find a girl in the pasture and she followed you home?" Priskos nodded. The woman shook her head in mock defeat. "What's your name, girl?" she asked as she lopped pieces of carrot into the pot. "Europe." "Come inside, Europe, and tell me your sad story while I feed this lot." Thus was the witch invited into their home.

written while listening to:  Arild Andersen - Selected Recordings (ECM Records, :rarum XIX, 2004 (orig. 1975-2000), Germany, cd,

February 14, 2024
The mother found that even so simple a question as "Where are you from?" elicited no answer. To make her houseguest useful, she passed the infant from her daughter to Europe with instructions to soothe her. Europe cuddled and cooed to the babe with modest success. When the father shortly arrived, his greeting was interrupted by the sight of the strange young woman with a distinctly unhealthy aspect. Gears turned in his head and he looked incredulously at his son. "You brought the witch home," he said. Growler rubbed against his master's leg and whimpered in an attempt to passivate him and prevent a beating.

written while listening to:  Guillaume Gargaud & Eero Savela - Syyspimee (Ramble Records, RAM 159, 2024, Australia, digital files,

February 15, 2024
An interrogation proceeded, though not initially of Europe. Priskos assured his father that none of the goats had been lost and all had been returned safely to the pen. He then shifted his attention to the witch. "You'll find the truth does not part easily from her," offered his wife. "I got naught but a name." The father surmised from the hard expression on the face of the young woman that she was accustomed to misfortune. "We don't need her," he announced. He had his daughter retrieve the baby. "Take her back where you found her," he ordered his son.

written while listening to:  Chet Baker and the Lighthouse All-Stars - Witch Doctor (Contemporary Records, C-7649, 1985 (rec. 1953), United States, lp,

February 16, 2024
The mother protested; it was too late to send the boy out and she had prepared enough dinner for an unannounced guest. On certain matters her husband tolerated no arguments, while on others he might yield. Having no precedent for a witch in the house, his wife was unable to predict his reaction beforehand. Growler worked his canine calming charms until his master settled into a chair at the table. His gaze scrutinized Europe's tangled hair, her gaunt face and collarbone, the fine white gown that hung the length of her frame. His silence was interpreted as assent.

written while listening to:  Sonny Rollins - Newk's Time (Blue Note, BLP 4001, 1959, United States, lp,

February 17, 2024
Europe was allowed to stay for the meal, during which she offered few details of her appearance, though enough words were spoken to reveal her Athenian dialect. After her hosts' poorly concealed reaction to the revelation of her homeland, she said no more. She slept on the floor of the one-room home, beside the children. A drawn curtain separated them from the sight of the parents though not from their voices. "How did a girl from Athens wind up in the valley?" asked the wife. "Did you see her gown? You don't think..." The husband cut her off, "Tomorrow she must go."

written while listening to:  Miles Davis - Birth of the Cool (Capitol Records, T-762, 1957, United States, cd,

February 18, 2024
The following morning, however, Europe did not accompany Priskos and Growler to the valley pasture. Instead, the mother bade her stay to help with housework. Secretly, she suspected that Europe was on the brink of collapse. After tending to breakfast for the three remaining children, the mother brought out a comb and a bucket of water and began to assiduously remove the tangles in Europe's hair. She sat behind her and enlisted the aid of her daughter. As they worked, the pair chatted of village news and gossip. The daughter tittered when her mother called a timid neighbor who shied from Growler a milksop.

written while listening to:  Michihiro Sato & John Zorn - Ganryu Island (Tzadik, TZ 7319, 1998 (rec. 1984), United States, cd,

February 19, 2024
When finished, they had Europe stand so as to admire their handiwork. The daughter called Europe "a lovely brunette", a generous sentiment of which her mother approved. "But the gown needs washing." She had Europe strip and don her spare garment, a sleeveless wool peplos. Owing to their difference in height, the hem reached just to her knees. Running the white gown through her fingers, the mother muttered aloud, "I have rarely seen embroidery so fine. How did you come by this?" Europe reached for it, as if to stash it away in a cupboard, but the mother pulled it back.

written while listening to:  Oren Ambarchi, Jim O'Rourke & Keiji Haino - With pats on the head..., sides C & D (Black Truffle/Medama Records, BT113/mr12, 2024, Australia/Japan, lpx3,

February 20, 2024
The husband came home for lunch to find the witch still in his house. He refrained from berating his wife for the cleaned-up visitor was now softer on his eyes. As he ate, his wife showed him the details of the gown. "I think it can only be the work of palace seamstresses. Who would be given such finery only to flee?" Her husband refused to indulge her curiosity, so she continued. "It reminds me of the gowns used for festivals and for tribute." Before the husband returned to work, he ordered his wife, "Burn it."

written while listening to:  Spill (Magda Mayas & Tony Buck) - Stereo (Corvo Records, core 015, 2018, Germany, lp,

February 21, 2024
Despite her husband's warning, she was captivated by the fine linen and the exquisite handiwork. The mother gently washed the gown then hung it to dry outside, where it was seen by many women of the village. With her brood in tow, she took her guest to the small farmer's market where she purchased groceries. Europe was introduced to acquaintances as a distant cousin come to visit. This ruse was largely met with skepticism. Europe remained silent lest she betray her Athenian origin more broadly. Before her husband returned, the mother folded the gown neatly and concealed it beneath a blanket.

written while listening to:  Roscoe Mitchell - L-R-G, sides A & B (Nessa Records, N-14, 1978, United States, lpx2,

February 22, 2024
That night the curtain, hung to provide privacy for the married couple, again failed to mute their conversation. Europe listened intently as the wife spoke of caves in the valley that led to the abandoned mine from which copper and tin had once been hauled. Her husband irritably dismissed the notion that someone who entered the subterranean labyrinth in Knossos could survive long enough to find their way into the mines far out in the hills. She did not persist in her argument lest she drive her husband to demand the immediate eviction of their witch-guest.

written while listening to:  Four Gentlemen of the Guitar - Cloud, disc 1 (Erstwhile Records, erstwhile 046-2, 2005, United States, cdx2,

February 23, 2024
When both son and husband had departed the following morning, the mother asked Europe, "Were you living in the mine?" Unwilling to answer, Europe stared petulantly at her feet. With babe suckling at her breast, the mother whispered, "Did you escape from the labyrinth?" In the long silence that followed, Europe had no choice then but to reply. "I did not come from the labyrinth. I have never been in that maze. I am not one of the virgins taken from Athens as tribute and offered to the minotaur." This denial sat poorly with both guest and host since, of course, every word of it was a lie.

written while listening to:  Hans Reichel & Kazuhisa Uchihashi - King Pawns: Live in Berlin (Innocent Records, icr-020, 2012 (rec. 2006), Japan, cd,

February 24, 2024
Later in the same day, Europe emerged with the mother and family to draw water from the nearby stream. The sky was clear and the sun warmed the back of their necks and arms as they walked. On the bank, she was acutely aware that she drew the attention of the other village women, collecting water, washing clothes and admonishing their children to stay close. One opined in a volume intended to be overhead, "She's a fool, I say. It's sure trouble to keep a second woman in the house." At this remark, Europe and the mother exchanged uneasy looks.

written while listening to:  Charles Mingus - Live at the Bohemia (Debut Records, DEB-123, 1956, United States, lp,

February 25, 2024
That night the husband stopped at the tavern before returning home. He intended to limit himself to one drink. While seated at a table, a man commented on the white gown seen hanging from the clothesline outside his home. "Spent more than a few coins on that, did you?" he ribbed good-naturedly. The husband frowned and finished his wine. He marched home swiftly. His wife calmed him saying, "Don't worry. It's nothing. She promised me that she didn't come from the labyrinth." Europe bowed her head and said nothing until the husband grabbed her by the arms and shook her, demanding the truth.

written while listening to:  Company - Trios, sides A & B (Honest Jon's Records, HJRLP214, 2019 (rec. 1983), United Kingdom, lpx2,

February 26, 2024
"I swear to you," she said to the man, "I did not escape from the labyrinth. I never entered that maze. I doubt such a maze even exists." He released her from his grasp but asked, "How is it that a woman from Athens comes alone to the Cretan countryside?" She refused to say more, though he threatened to throw her out on the street that very moment. In the end, he relented, only to soothe the children who, in two short days, had become attached to Europe and had begun to cry.

written while listening to:  Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus & Max Roach - Hot House, disc 2 (Craft Recordings, 0888072530768, 2023 (rec. 1953), United States, cdx2,

February 27, 2024
The husband left for work early in the morning. He returned almost immediately because a patrol of king's soldiers had entered the village. Their presence in itself was not unusual; soldiers occasionally appeared to shake down the residents so as to supplement their meager pay. However, he had heard the cobbler offer information in lieu of silver—a fine gown had been seen hanging at the other end of town. The husband raced home. "Soldiers!" he said to his wife. "If they come, she left and I've taken the goats to pasture." To Europe he ordered, "We go now."

written while listening to:  Amidea Clotet & Agustí Fernández - Spontaneous Combustions (Sirulita, SR 2102, 2021, Spain, cd,

February 28, 2024
Europe followed the man as if they were headed to the pasture, then doubled back through the woods around the village, eventually coming to the road leading east. Trailing a few steps behind him, she asked, "Where do you take me?" "Knossos," he replied. She stopped in the road. "I can't go to Knossos!" she declared. The man spared little time mincing words. "It's a big city. Pull the hood of your peplos up over your face. No one will recognize you." He added, "Hunch down so you don't stick out." With no further advice, he resumed walking.

written while listening to:  Steve Lehman Quintet - On Meaning (Pi Recordings, PI25, 2007, United States, cd,

February 29, 2024
As the pair walked the road to Knossos, Europe contemplated her choices. She could allow herself to be led to the capital of King Minos or she could flee into the wilderness. She had already observed how she endangered those whose kindness bade them take her in. It seemed immoral to place another family in similar jeopardy. Thus she mentally prepared herself for encounters in the city. "I did not come from the labyrinth," she repeated silently, so that the words would spring naturally from her lips, should be accosted and pressed on this point.

written while listening to:  Dave Rempis - Lattice (Aerophonic Records, AR015, 2017, United States, cd,

previous month

next month

This work is made available to the public, free of charge and on an anonymous basis. However, copyright remains with the author. Reproduction and distribution without the publisher's consent is prohibited. Links to the work should be made to the main page of the novel.