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Author Topic: Pseudopod 138: Come to My Arms, My Beamish Boy  (Read 6801 times)

Bdoomed

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on: April 17, 2009, 06:29:15 PM
Pseudopod Pseudopod 138: Come to My Arms, My Beamish Boy

By Douglas F. Warrick

Read by Phil Rossi whose novel, Crescent Station is published this June.


Most of Cotton’s memories were gone. Like the name of the ship he had served on. Like the name of his commanding officer. His daughters’ names, which husband went with which daughter, which grandchildren came from which marriage, which fiancé held hands with which granddaughter. That had mostly melted away. His head felt like an icebox, like someone had opened the door, maybe just to grab a beer or to check the expiration date on the milk, and let all the cold air out, filled it up with thick stagnant heat. Alzheimer’s was a muggy goddamned country, the airless stomach of a huge beast that takes its sweet time digesting old useless machinery like him.

He could hold Audrey’s hand, like he was doing now, and he could remember her name and he could see the wedding ring he had given her all those years ago, could run his trembling fingers over it and feel its coldness, its sharpness, and for a couple of moments these things were all he needed.

But he couldn’t remember the wedding, not a goddamned thing about it. He’d reach as far as he could into that broken old icebox, strain to stretch a little further and try to find the little details, what did her dress look like? How did she wear her hair? Was she smiling? Was she crying? It was gone. Melted. And he’d panic because he knew it was there, knew that if he could just reach a little further… And he’d look around and realize he wasn’t at home. He was in a hospital bed. And he’d look up at her and try to say, Audrey, I’m scared, dammit, I’m scared and I want to go home! And all he could ever say was, “Audrey… where’s the cat?” or “Audrey… I don’t know…”

And Audrey said, like she always said, “Hush, Cotton.” And he could see himself in her eyes, a useless old man, or not even a man but a reminder of the husband she ought to have. And he could see how tired she was, could see the part of her that wished the whole mess would just end. The part that wanted a period on the end of this awkward run-on sentence, not that he could blame her. It would be a period, too. Not an exclamation point like he’d always kind of wanted in his Navy days, a smile on his face and the devil at his heels, a man’s sort of death. It—no—he would end quietly with a mushy melted head and a single dark period.



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


Listener

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Reply #1 on: April 20, 2009, 01:03:15 PM
The phrase "my beamish boy" should evoke some connection for me, but it didn't. So that didn't work.

The story, to me, was your standard "I hate having alzheimer's and not being able to remember stuff, oh, and hey, there are these monsters that eat memory who are controlled by my old college professor" piece. Well-written, but I feel like I've heard it before.

Reading was good.

"Farts are a hug you can smell." -Wil Wheaton

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Sgarre1

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Reply #2 on: April 20, 2009, 11:15:35 PM
Lewis Carrol - "The Jabberwock" - referencing the memory of putting on a show for his granddaughter, also referencing the use of "snicker snack" for the memories being snatched (re: "his vorpal blade went snicker-snack").

Wow, I've read A LOT of stuff and the concept didn't seem familiar to me at all.  A touching, beautiful story, thought I.

“(memory is) A strange echo, which stores its replicas according to some other acoustic than consciousness or expectation.”
Julio Cortazar, “About Going from Athens to Cape Sounion” in AROUND THE DAY IN EIGHTY WORLDS



MacArthurBug

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Reply #3 on: April 21, 2009, 02:28:16 PM
Horror- to me, is like having a missing tooth. You poke at it, to discover it's absence, to comfort yourself that it's not there. Horror is a discovery, an itch that sometimes I can't help but scratch with enthusiastic mad glee. I like (and revisit, and revile) stories that touch at something within me, something that scares me, something that disturbs me. So, for me, this story had "it." I am truly desperately deeply afraid of having Alzheimer's. I've been a caretaker, among other odd jobs- and elderly with Alzheimer's and/or dementia are truly awful, sad, sweet, and always the ones who needed me the most. I don't want to watch while my brain leaches away in bits and gasps. And this story touched hard on that fear- prodded it deeply and thoroughly. Well told. Well read.  I.. "liked" this oneand plan on revisiting it. After all, sometimes exploring the things that are scary makes them less fearsone.

Oh, great and mighty Alasdair, Orator Maleficent, He of the Silvered Tongue, guide this humble fangirl past jumping up and down and squeeing upon hearing the greatness of Thy voice.
Oh mighty Mur the Magnificent. I am not worthy.


Portrait in Flesh

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Reply #4 on: April 21, 2009, 05:50:01 PM
An exclamation point instead of a period...very nice touch.

I've started in on a short anthology of stories based on Alice in Wonderland...this would have been a perfect inclusion, methinks.

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DKT

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Reply #5 on: April 23, 2009, 03:44:05 PM
My God.

I remember being blown away by this story when I read it back in Murky Depths #1 and was thrilled when I saw it drop into the PP feed. Two years later, I could still remember the last line vividly. Listening to this morning, though, wow - it just about brought tears to my eyes. Everything worked so well, all the emotions bubbling to the surface, the way the character unravelled before us, the sheer terror of not being able to remember. I just can't say enough good things about this one.

Phil Rossi's reading was perfect. I hope we get some more Douglas Warrick soon.

Excellent Excellent Excellent. An exclamation point, indeed.


goatkeeper

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Reply #6 on: April 29, 2009, 02:10:13 AM
This was a great piece of fiction.  I listened twice today, am still reeling from it.  The writing was very nice, the author was  effective at pulling me into an Alzheimer victim's brain, the realizations and losses horrific.  Just loved this story.  Reading was fantastic too.



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Reply #7 on: April 30, 2009, 04:57:36 AM
I enjoyed this story, but it frankly kind of pissed me off when I was listening to it.

I had my nerd hat on, rather than my story listener hat.  So - natural selection isn't about death, goddammit, it's about SEX and REPRODUCTION.  Death is incidental.  Natural selection doesn't care about you dying when you're old and can no longer reproduce.  That's why we HAVE things like Alzheimer's that aren't selected against - it hits you after you're old enough to be unlikely to have children, anyway.

Also.  Lampreys don't just suck on elderly, useless fish.  They attach to all kinds of fish, young or old or whatever.  Though I've been told that sometimes they'll try to bite SCUBA divers.  Bet they're glad to have that 7mm neoprene suit then, eh?



But, even with the nerd gripes - the ending of this story blew me away, and redeemed the frustrating bits.

Formerly Ignoranus - now too big for my britches, literally and figuratively.


wakela

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Reply #8 on: June 13, 2009, 01:20:42 PM
the author seemed very sure of himself that I would be horrified that nature does not subscribe to human values.  Nature isn't cruel or merciful.  It just is.  I don't see anything scary about it.

There is definitely something scary about Alzheimer's , though.   I've never had it, but I don't think the experience would be akin to having everyone turn to corpses when trying to retrieve a memory.   Maybe it was supposed to be metaphorical or something.  But Alzheimer's is horrifying enough without making stuff up.



Sgarre1

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Reply #9 on: June 14, 2009, 10:35:21 PM
Death is horrible enough as well...but we still make stuff up about it (and we didn't, there wouldn't be a pseudopod)



DarkKnightJRK

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Reply #10 on: July 17, 2009, 08:08:23 PM
The more I think about it, the more I realize that there really isn't a "good" way to go out. One of the worst is probably Alzheimer's--where all your memories, good and bad, everything that really makes you "you" is slowly but surely ripped away. This story does a damn good job at expressing this horror.

So yeah--Note to self: Don't get Alzheimer's.



Unblinking

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Reply #11 on: August 27, 2009, 08:50:38 PM
This one hit me hard.  I've been terrified of Alzheimer's ever since seeing my grandma die in its clutches, and have written a horror story about it myself, and the author grabbed onto that fear and didn't let go.  Well done!



Fenrix

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Reply #12 on: February 03, 2010, 10:13:05 PM
The phrase "my beamish boy" should evoke some connection for me, but it didn't. So that didn't work.

Quote from: Louis Carrol
"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

The Jabberwock: a bit of classic children's literature.

Old age and its effects are only going to get more horrific for our generation as the life span continues to be extended through better chemistry. Good story. This reminded me of how old age was dealt with in Water for Elephants, but with horror as the focus rather than depression-era circus. I found that the parts where he was fighting the loss of specific memories was particularly strong.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


Unblinking

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Reply #13 on: February 04, 2010, 02:38:45 PM

Quote from: Louis Carrol
"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.


Thanks for the quote--I hadn't realized that's straight from the Jabberwocky.  I must go dig out my Lewis Carrol collection book again...



Millenium_King

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Reply #14 on: June 16, 2010, 07:40:51 PM
the author seemed very sure of himself that I would be horrified that nature does not subscribe to human values.  Nature isn't cruel or merciful.  It just is.  I don't see anything scary about it.

Right on right on.  That part fell a little flat for me too.

I think this story should convince us all to fear death a little less.  There are certainly worse things.

That being said, these sort of slow, character-pieces do not do much for me in general.

This one did not incite much in me.  Cotton's fight to retain his memories did not create sufficient tension for me.  It seemed like someone in such a horrible position would rather die before he lost himself.  He never displays a fear of death, so his constant clinging to a life which has become a torment does not make much sense to me.  In the end, he lets the "suckerfish" win - for a man who wants so much to fight, why didn't he defy them and choose death early?  He feared an ending that came slow and black, but not death itself - so why not just die?

Visit my blog atop the black ziggurat of Ankor Sabat, including my list of Top 10 Pseudopod episodes.