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Author Topic: PC176: Middle Aged Weirdo in a Cadillac  (Read 5197 times)
Talia
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« on: September 27, 2011, 11:23:27 AM »

PodCastle 176: Middle Aged Weirdo in a Cadillac

by George R. Galuschak

Read by Norm Sherman (of the Drabblecast)

Originally published in Strange Horizons. Read it here!

He’s driven this way five times already, watching the same banks and donut shops and car washes fly past in a never-ending reel. Got the front windows open, taking in the night air. And then he sees her—sitting on the curb, cradling her head in her arms, going boo hoo. Hodgepodge of girl and woman: miniskirt; halter top, no bra; friendship bracelet on wrist; hair pulled back with cherry scrunchy; Hello Kitty stick-on tattoo on her left shoulder, mushy from the heat.

“Hello.” He cruises to a stop. “I’m lost and I need to get to the Interstate.”

She raises her head and looks at him: middle-aged weirdo in a Cadillac. Tom Cruise shades; charcoal suit; porkpie hat; looks about 40, like her dad. Probably smokes; a hint of ash about him.

“I’ll give you directions.” When he shakes his head, she says: “It’s simple. Even a moron could do it.”

“I’m afraid I’m not a moron,” he tells her. “The last three people I asked gave me directions and I ended up getting more lost. So it would be easier if you just got into the car and showed me.”

She snorts: “Are you for real?” She’d be stupid to get in, she surely would.


Rated R: Thematic Material
« Last Edit: October 18, 2011, 12:09:22 PM by Talia » Logged
ToooooMuchCoffeeMan
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« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2011, 02:11:37 AM »

Nice story, although every story in this genre suffers by comparison to John Varley's canonical "The Pusher". Smiley

I'm glad it DIDN'T turn out that the girl was the actual predator.
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LaHaine
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« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2011, 03:11:42 AM »

Great fresh story, very good reading, I liked it and have nothing to criticise at all.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2011, 10:09:04 AM »

I'm glad it DIDN'T turn out that the girl was the actual predator.
This, so many times.

I liked this story.  It amused me.  The end.
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brlteach
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« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2011, 03:00:29 PM »

It was entertaining and well read.  I'm not sure how a little vignette about a demon harvesting souls can be light and fluffy, but it is.  I guess that evidences the skill of the writer.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2011, 03:41:47 PM »

And by the way, I was *seriously* getting "The girl is the predator!" vibes from this, ranging from putting the guy in the title to the erratic POV at the beginning to her apparent attempts to lure her benefactor into thoughts of rape by slowly ramping up the details she provided about her experience at the party, which in turn had that overly-specific-but-not-specific-enough feeling that many falsehoods tend to have.  (Adding details makes it feel more real, see, but people shy away from names and such for fear of not remembering them correctly if challenged.  It's a thing.)

So I was glad it wasn't one of those stories. 
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« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2011, 08:34:13 AM »

Yeah, for a while I too thought the girl would turn out to be evil.

I think the story needed less whining from her and more fish-out-of-water from the demon.

The "reach down the throat" thing was suitably gross.
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Spindaddy
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« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2011, 03:26:22 PM »

Loved the story... it had me laughing.

I didn't get the girl as a predator vibe. I was actually waiting for the guy to stop her and say "look, your desperate cries for help are annoying, get out." The demon being completely clueless as to how to drive the car was actually kind of annoying, but amusing. The two "Hell Mouth" locations were predictable, but hey, when it comes to Jersey and Hell, why mess with the classics.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2011, 09:22:40 PM »

It was an amusing little demon story, which I'm glad did not end badly for the hitchhiker. And I'm glad it was read by Escape Artists' own middle-aged weirdo, Norm Sherman.

BTW, Dave - your opening comments about an "Anti-Lucas prequel agenda" vis-a-vis the "Parable of the Shower" comments? Very clever. I see what you did there.  Wink
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danooli
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« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2011, 05:59:11 AM »

The "reach down the throat" thing was suitably gross.

Yeah, that part was pretty cool.

I'm glad I don't own a car rental center!  Whew!

I found this one to be entertaining, but in the end, I don't think this will be a story that sticks with me.  The girl and the demon both seemed...I guess a bit mild.  It's hard to take a demon seriously if he gets lost on the way to the interstate.  Repeatedly.  And what girl would really get into a Cadillac driven by a middle aged weirdo?
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Kaa
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« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2011, 08:08:52 AM »

I liked this story for some of the reasons a few of you have commented on as a reason to DISlike it.

At the beginning, it could have gone either way, easily. The weirdo could have been the predator (cruising streets it seemed he knew well, immediately spotting the girl's vulnerability, "pretending" to be lost...) or the girl (practically throwing her "vulnerability" to the weirdo, all but saying, "Hey, I'm someone no one would miss if I were to disappear, suddenly."). And I liked that duality. I kept waffling back and forth over who I thought would end up being the predator.

I enjoyed how the author conveyed that I was wrong on both counts, but made me enjoy the reality of the story even more by not going along either expected pathway.

I did, however, fully expect to hear that the Ouroboros the demon pulled out of the girl and destroyed was actually her soul. Has he just created a soulless monstrosity wandering the streets of the city?

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« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2011, 04:47:00 AM »

Well Kaa pretty much said just what I was going to say except for...

I did, however, fully expect to hear that the Ouroboros the demon pulled out of the girl and destroyed was actually her soul. Has he just created a soulless monstrosity wandering the streets of the city?


I never thought of that and it  would have been a really nice touch to just give it the dark turn the story needed at the end. After all he's a demon and maybe he needed to be just a little more opportunistically evil.

Even without this end it was an enjoyable story with great atmosphere and of course a great reading that added a lot to that.
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Rain
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« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2011, 10:09:23 AM »

Nice story, i really liked it. And of course a great reading by Norm Sherman as always.
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« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2011, 09:40:11 PM »

And I liked that duality. I kept waffling back and forth over who I thought would end up being the predator.

It's likely a function of how jaded one is.  As someone who has read literally thousands of stories, many of them not very good at all, I have seen the Surprise Twist Ending that the seeming innocent is actually luring in the predator so friggin' many times that it has ceased to be a surprise or a twist and has nearly ceased to qualify as an ending at all.  Many times, well-intentioned and even quite talented authors create such a story thinking that it is fun and dramatic to do a Surprise Twist Ending of this nature.  This causes me terrible sadness.

Thus, when I catch a whiff of it - ominous foreshadowing of the man in the car, oddly provocative behavior on the part of the girl, unsteady POV that seems to shift between them - I do not go, "Ooh, delightful ambiguity."  I go, "Oh, sweet merciful God, please kill me before I have to read the Surprise Twist Ending again."
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Sgarre1
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« Reply #14 on: October 05, 2011, 10:03:39 AM »

Quote
It's likely a function of how jaded one is.  As someone who has read literally thousands of stories, many of them not very good at all, I have seen the Surprise Twist Ending that the seeming innocent is actually luring in the predator so friggin' many times that it has ceased to be a surprise or a twist and has nearly ceased to qualify as an ending at all.  Many times, well-intentioned and even quite talented authors create such a story thinking that it is fun and dramatic to do a Surprise Twist Ending of this nature.  This causes me terrible sadness.

And yet, we read the ending of "Blue Eyes" in completely opposite ways - which at the time I also chalked up to a function of how jaded the individual reader was.  No kidding, I was actually shocked that anyone - which was 2 posters, you being one -  could read the ending of that story as a dunh-dunh-DUNH! ominous implication that the girl would kill again, as opposed to a sad, poignant parroting of her mother's self-serving and shallow worldview and thus indicative that she's just pathetically confused as an 11 year old exposed to things she shouldn't have been in a hopeless milieu of despair and poverty (and not the standard "born monster" the media likes to assign to these situations - although there may actually be some of those).

Although I actually don't have a problem with familiar plots reappearing if there are stylistic, character, setting or just general writing differences that make for a fun and interesting read (see the Poe pastiche we recently ran over in Pseudopod - I was happy some picked up that it wasn't about "the story", per se, but the approach) - that is to say, I really don't need everything to be original and surprising and am more likely to reject and original and surprising but poorly written story over a well-written and somewhat inventive reinterpretation of a familiar story.  On the other hand the "predator is the prey" story is so limited (since it just turns on the twist) that I can't really see any way of changing it that could make it worthwhile (and yet, we still get them submitted about 3-5 times a month, I swear...).  Although thinking further on that, it occurs to me that it could be argued that Oates "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been" (which the title of this story reminded me of) could be interpreted as an expansion of that central concept, reassigned to youth and maturity in sexual knowledge as opposed to actual "predator"/"prey" roles and smart enough to realize that the expansion complicates the easy duality of the model (and then plays with that complication).

Uh - sorry, didn't mean to derail the thread.  Continue...
« Last Edit: October 05, 2011, 10:37:25 AM by Sgarre1 » Logged
Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #15 on: October 05, 2011, 12:48:16 PM »

I liked this story a lot, because I am a big fan of "classical" demons showing up in the modern world.
I loved the befuddled old school demon not knowing how to work the gadgets in the car, including the door latch.
The only two complaints I have are:
1. So what if it's a rental?! You need to return it as you got it or pay damages!
2. The biggest entrance to hell is in New Jersey? Are you kidding?! Everybody knows that it's in New York!
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Devoted135
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« Reply #16 on: October 06, 2011, 08:52:44 AM »

This was so much fun! I briefly worried about why the girl was acting out so much, but it never crossed my mind that she could be the predator. I thought there was a nice tension between the rational "a demon and a girl in a car cannot possibly be good" and the complete lack of anything actually sinister in the story.


I did, however, fully expect to hear that the Ouroboros the demon pulled out of the girl and destroyed was actually her soul. Has he just created a soulless monstrosity wandering the streets of the city?

I had a similar thought. The way she was so disoriented and couldn't open the door made me think that she might now be as clueless and lost as the demon was!


2. The biggest entrance to hell is in New Jersey? Are you kidding?! Everybody knows that it's in New York!

Nuh uh! Everybody knows it's in Sunnydale, CA! Tongue
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eytanz
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« Reply #17 on: October 06, 2011, 09:03:36 AM »

I really enjoyed this one. The thing about this story is it doesn't attempt to end on a moral message - the girl very clearly is making really bad decisions, but it turns out that in the end she profits from them (assuming she's better off without the Ouroboros). And that's how it is, sometimes. A small story of a very human interaction between two characters, one of which just happens to be non-human.
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stePH
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« Reply #18 on: October 13, 2011, 09:53:08 PM »

Meh. This wasn't a story; this was a vignette.
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« Reply #19 on: October 14, 2011, 01:10:40 AM »

It has a beginning (girl is troubled), a middle (girl takes a risk, uncertainty and ambiguity about the outcome of said risk), and an end (girl's ouroboros, the source of her troubles, is removed, girl moves on.)  It has two characters following different paths who alter each other's courses (girl directs demon home, demon removes girl's infection).  It has character arcs.  It doesn't have a lot of action, this is true, but neither is it a vignette, which focuses solely on conveying an impression of an object, character, or scene.

If you're going to criticize, at least use words meaningfully.
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