"What she wants now, more than anything, is a placeholder, someone to keep her life intact while she goes on a little reconnaissance trip." Well, she gets her wish and trades places with a mushroom, a fungus, the Mushroom Queen, and obtains the ability to travel the earth underground. The Mushroom Queen takes the original woman's place being careful not to encounter neighbors whose names she won't know. One of the themes, for me, is "The small dog knows there's nothing more dangerous in the world than desire." The husband, after 9.3 years of marriage, welcomes the doppelgänger, and doesn't even know his original wife is gone. He's happy that she, the new woman, the Mushroom Queen, doesn't talk much and is much more respondent to his desires. "He knows and he does not miss her [original woman] at all." The Mushroom Queen poisons the yard so that the original woman cannot come back. Original woman has been moving across the continent from the Hudson River Valley to southern California but was not able to emerge from the jade plant in her original garden, "She's never coming back, his [the dog's] beloved mistress; he'll never see her again. No one misses her but him."
The story is told in a realistic style and in 3rd person point of view, and present tense. The point of view is either an omniscient one or, really, more of a shifting in each section, some from the small brown dog's viewpoint. Interspersed are facts about mushrooms. It's quite a wonderful story and so much could have gone wrong with such a premise, but it works. Another theme, more obvious, is that often after someone wishes to leave home, they wish to return.
"The Mushroom Queen" was first published in Tin House and then included in the 2017 Pushcart Prize XLI: Best of the Small Presses. In the contributors notes to the Pushcart volume, Ziemska "describes herself as 'a writer of slightly strange fiction.'" Kudos to her, well done.