On October 1st, the beloved Keith Waxcap unfortunately passed due to their landlord’s murderous intent. A funeral was held in William’s Park in which many wept over his shrivelled, stinking body. But who was Keith? And what did he mean to a small community of Lancaster University students?
I interviewed his best friend, Joe Simpkins, to elaborate on Keith’s character and impact on his life.
“I was going through a crisis at the time,” Joe replied upon being asked when he first met Keith. “It was a few days after my housemates had all mysteriously disappeared. The only thing left of them was a single almond left in each of their rooms.
“I was alone and crying into my framed photo of my lost housemates. I stumbled down the basement to get another beverage to drown my sorrows when there he was – a mushroom growing out of my basement wall, and his name was Keith Waxcap. He comforted me in my moment of crisis, and I decided I had to spread his love to everyone in Lancaster.”
It was during this moment that Joe decided to spread his joy by allowing Lancaster University students to see Keith in his basement. An advertisement was put on Joe’s Instagram story, to which many replied. The next day, roughly a dozen people turned up to the Keith tours at different times, all shaking and weeping with excitement and anticipation.
I am fortunate to announce that I was among the lucky many attending the tours. I must confess, an hour before meeting Keith, I was throwing about the clothes in my wardrobe willy-nilly, looking for something nice to wear. For rumour had it that Keith Waxcap was the most beautiful and famous mycelium in the North, and I intended to seduce him.
The tour was a double date. My partner had no indication of my desire for Keith (if you’re reading this, my darling, forgive me: you know how mushrooms are a weakness of mine and, besides, Keith is dead now anyway). When Joe Simpkins opened the door to Keith’s home, I was, like others before me and those who would follow, jumping up and down with enthusiasm.
Joe took us to his basement. The stairs swayed from side to side and the air was putrid with the smell of onions. I wasn’t sure if my shivering was my lust or the cold, yet I was sure of one thing when I saw Keith: he was, in fact, the most handsome of all mushrooms in the North.
He stuck out of the crumbling wall like a tibia snapped clean in half, pale and sweaty, hugging the floor in his flaccid state. We crowded around him one at a time, daring ourselves to approach the celebrity for photos.
Those who had visited earlier in the day had left offerings for Keith: an acorn, a banana skin, a collection of The Godfather films on DVD, to name a few. I had nothing to give Keith but myself, so I performed the entire first act of Hamilton for him, which I’d like to believe was one of the things that soothed him during his final moments before being murdered by his landlord.
I left the tour feeling enlightened, and I know for sure that I’m not the only one. In the visitor book, those who were fortunate to meet Keith before his passing sang his praises:
“This made my decade. Keith Waxcap was a surprisingly charismatic character considering he’s a mushroom,” claimed Gideon Flemming, whereas Sky Fong wrote: “Brilliant for families, group events or whoever loves some mushrooms. Joe is an amazing tour guide and it was an unforgettable experience. Mushrooms for life.”
Keith impacted many lives, for better or worse, yet he lives on in the hearts of everyone he spiritually touched. I would like to end this article with a few more words from Keith’s best friend, Joe Simpkins:
“Keith has taught me how to be a fungi. But he’s also taught me to value the people in my life. Every person who came to see Keith contributed something unique. I saw people I hadn’t seen in ages make the journey to see Keith.
“I also met new people through Keith. Each person had so much to offer, and it was an honour and a pleasure to be their tour guide. We’ve gotta protect our bonds with people, in this world that isolates us from our fellow human-animals and increasingly is moving our experiences online. We’ve gotta see each other and hang out, even if that is going to a basement and looking at a peculiar fellow growing out of a wall…”