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Author Topic: PC058: Nine-Fingered Maria  (Read 4485 times)
Heradel
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« on: June 24, 2009, 11:07:56 PM »

PodCastle 58: Nine-Fingered Maria

by Hilary Moon Murphy.
Read by Christopher Reynaga.

…this girl appeared from behind a door and caught my ball.  She was probably my age: several inches taller than I am, with long straight black hair pulled back in a ponytail, plain white t-shirt, denim jacket and jeans with a hole worn in the knee.  She stared at me with intense dark eyes and said, “What are you doing here?”

“I was just getting my ball,” I said, stepping out of the way of two movers carrying a large red bureau with multi-colored wax stains all over it.

“No, you weren’t.”  She cocked her head to the side, and raised her eyebrow.  ”You were spying.”

“I wasn’t!”

“That’s okay, I like spies.”  She gave me back my ball and showed me her hands.  ”I have nine fingers.  I’m a witch.”

Rated PG. Contains boyhood, and witchcraft, and jars full of preserved things.
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Void Munashii
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« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2009, 09:50:50 AM »

  Another enjoyable story from Ms. Murphy. I never quite understood why the boy's family spied on the neighborhood though, I thought there would be more to that; still, everyone has to have a hobby I guess.

  I found the ending to be a really effective way of demonstrating that Maria's abilities really were gone, with her no longer being able to tell when she was being watched.
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Ocicat
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« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2009, 06:19:01 PM »

I got a big smile when I saw it was a HMM story, and it did not disappoint.  Very well painted picture of an odd family life.  And after all, who didn't have an odd family?  Mine was a lot more like Maria's, but some of my friends places were more like the sterile household.  Minus the spying... I think. 

Great emotional scenes.  The mother and son ambulance ride was touching.  The kid's friendship rang true.

And while the magic wasn't a huge part of the story, it was nice.  Childhood does have magic.  I don't know if it usually lets you listen to police bands, but why not?
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2009, 12:44:56 PM »

Loved this story, even with the bittersweet ending.

I like stories set in San Francisco, my favourite city in my second-favourite state (after Oregon, if anyone cares).

There were a few times when I felt the reader might've separated words a little better (e.g. "Mariapproached me" which probably isn't a phrase that actually occurs in the story, but is indicative of the sort of thing I mean) but other than that, I liked the reading.

I liked the depiction of the allergic mom from the outside point of view.  It's easy for those of us without allergies - or perhaps even without severe ones - to dismiss people with potentially life-threatening allergies (and even non-lethal but annoying ones) as alarmists or whiners.  I have a friend who was such a dismisser ... until she developed food allergies herself, which she sees as some kind of karma.

Even though it was never stated, to me it was obvious that Kevin found his mom's allergies inconvenient, irritating, even embarrassing, but then we got to see the mom's perspective and the realization that however true all that is for him, it's ten times truer for her.  Well done!

(Full disclosure: I've never been an allergy sufferer and so I probably don't really have any right to be commenting on the subject.)

I found the ending to be a really effective way of demonstrating that Maria's abilities really were gone, with her no longer being able to tell when she was being watched.

Actually, I felt (and liked!) that it was left ambiguous as to whether she was no longer able to tell, or just didn't react, if she could.  "But she never looks up at me."  Devastating.
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« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2009, 01:37:05 PM »

It was a good story, but I thought it felt rushed. Maybe it had to do with the reading. I just didn't really get the sense they were building a strong relationship between Maria and Kevin; I didn't feel the sacrifice at the end.

I did find myself feeling bad for Kevin; poor kid was doomed never to have a normal life whatever happened.
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« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2009, 01:51:47 PM »

Enjoyed this one quite a bit.  Don't have much else to say.
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eytanz
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« Reply #6 on: June 28, 2009, 11:59:59 AM »

I really liked this story, though I do agree with Anarquistador that it felt like it gave a bit of a short shrift to the developing friendship between Maria and Kevin. For a story that was very good at being subtle about everything else, most of the friendship was described in simple exposition; told but not shown. A good story nonetheless, but it missed out on being a masterpiece.
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eytanz
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« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2009, 02:05:51 PM »

Oh, and minor nitpick/question - is it normal for 12 year olds to start 5th grade in California? I was in the US for my fifth grade, in Maryland, and I was 10 when I started it - and I never skipped a grade. Starting 5th grade at 12 means they'll be 20 by the time they finish 12th grade...
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Portrait in Flesh
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« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2009, 02:32:45 PM »

Oh, and minor nitpick/question - is it normal for 12 year olds to start 5th grade in California? I was in the US for my fifth grade, in Maryland, and I was 10 when I started it - and I never skipped a grade. Starting 5th grade at 12 means they'll be 20 by the time they finish 12th grade...

Mostly 10 and 11 years olds when I was in the 5th grade in the California Public School System many many many years ago.  Not sure if the age range had anything to do with the then-recent transition from a traditional school year to a year-round school year, at least for the school district in the southern part of the state I was in.

As an aside, I could've been a 9 year old in the 6th grade (intermediate as opposed to grade school), but my mother wouldn't let me, being afraid I'd be around 12 year olds (and, heaven forbid, actual teenagers) with all those ready-to-burst hormones.  So, yeah, 12 in the 5th grade would've been a little old.

Liked the story (I've always had a soft spot for stories set in SF).
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« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2009, 07:51:54 AM »

Generally good.

Don't have much else to say. Sorry.
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« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2009, 11:58:57 PM »

I really liked this story. Enjoyed the bittersweet ending, felt a bit nit-picky over a few bits. Over all this was gorgously written and delivered. Really captured the pure magic of childhood for me too.
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« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2009, 11:44:26 AM »

I liked the story, but the ending was really sad  Sad
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thomasowenm
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« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2009, 05:32:33 PM »

Pretty much enjoyed the story, except for the Voyeur family.   I can't believe an entire family could be engaged in spying and recording their neighbors activities.  Do they work for Obama? or are they serial killers or thieves tracking their victims? 

The explanation of the magic of youth was quick and concise even if it did not quite explain how Maria was able to utilize and understand it. 

As far as the discussion of whether 12 year olds are in 5th grade.  It was my understanding, (correct me if I's wrong) that considerable time had passed in their relationship even as much as two years.  They met as fifth graders, got close, and started a long term friendship albeit at her house, until the instigating incident at the age of 12.  I can't give any examples to support my opinion, it was just the conclusion my feable mind drew.

One crazy theory was that maybe the fingers did not hold her magic at all, but she was still able to maintain the youth magic by nurturing and encouragement of her parents.  When Kevin violently broke the jar he snapped her out of her childhood mentality, and set her on the path towards being an adult.  Violence will usually, especially from someone you care about, tend to make you more jaded, cynical, and angry, where the magic of youth is quickly forgotten.  Sad Sad Sad Sad
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JoeFitz
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« Reply #13 on: July 27, 2009, 02:19:30 PM »

A charming little story in places, but a little too saccharin in way too many places.

The climax also felt pretty hollow - if I understand the story correctly, Maria lost the ability to tweak some electronics (and perhaps her telepathy/keen observation), and her best friend's mom didn't die and his grandmother recovered a bit from her stroke. The remark "I've paid enough for it" fell flat. What did she "pay"? Sure, it was not his to take, but still.

I'm also suspicious that there's something else here: boy takes away girl's childhood by violence. She says no. There's blood, strange liquids AND rainbows, and shattering?! And then they break up.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2009, 02:21:36 PM by JoeFitz » Logged
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« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2009, 07:53:07 AM »

Wow! Excellent story! So many details which made the characters come alive.
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veganvampire
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« Reply #15 on: August 01, 2009, 03:06:47 PM »

This story was beautifully written!
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izzardfan
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« Reply #16 on: August 02, 2009, 03:59:46 AM »

Cute story, hated the ending.
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faeriedreamz
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« Reply #17 on: September 08, 2009, 01:01:30 PM »

I listened to this story, and loved it. I usually enjoy this author. I was so disappointed with Maria's reaction to Kevin's destruction of her magic.  I know that the magic wasn't his to take; but she reacted in such a negative way - when it seems like she was such a kind giving person... (I loved the illustration of her family, and how welcoming and loving they were, especially when Kevin slipped into the study, and Maria's father was willing to give him the grand tour.)

I also wondered why Maria didn't just touch Kevin's mom. Clearly, she did not think that her magic was strong enough to do anything for his mom - yet when the jar was broken it was enough to heal his mother and grandmother. I don't think that it is a point of contention, I think it further illustrates a rather sad point... Maria was incredibly selfish. Perhaps she worried that by helping his family, her magic would be altogether lessened?

Her reaction to Kevin's actions were justifiable in the immediate moment, but after seeing the good her magic did, you would think that she would forgive Kevin, yet, instead she stays angry and we are given the impression that she will never speak to Kevin again.

I wonder if I am reading too much into the story, or if that was the intention of the author. I know that I was a selfish pre-teen/teenager, but would I have been angry if my mini-magics could have healed someone else?
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Unblinking
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« Reply #18 on: December 29, 2009, 01:09:20 PM »

I wonder if I am reading too much into the story, or if that was the intention of the author. I know that I was a selfish pre-teen/teenager, but would I have been angry if my mini-magics could have healed someone else?

You're not alone in that reaction.  I can understand how she would be angry in the immediate moment, but for goodness' sakes, she cured his ill family!  How can that not be a fair trade!  So I'd agree that she is extremely selfish.  He is wrong for taking her magic, so there's plenty of gray there, but the end result was worthwhile.

And for those who wondered about his spy family and why they were spying:  I got the impression they are following the grand tradition of suburbanites spying on their neighbors.  They're not literally spies by profession, but they spy for the purpose of their own entertainment and for gossip and leverage against neighbors.  Sort of like the neighbors on Bewitches who are always taking note of odd things that happen across the street.

Anyway, good story!  Not much else to say about it, really.  Smiley
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