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Author Topic: EP335: The Water Man  (Read 12771 times)

eytanz

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on: March 09, 2012, 06:07:07 PM
EP335: The Water Man

By Ursula Pflug

Read by Christiana Ellis

First published in Anthology Series: Tesseracts # 3, 1991

---

The water man came today. I waited all morning, and then all afternoon, painting plastic soldiers to pass the time. Red paint too in the sky when he finally showed; I turned the outside lights on for him and held the door while he carried the big bottles in. He set them all in a row just inside the storm door; there wasn’t any other place to put them. When he was done he stood catching his breath, stamping his big boots to warm his feet. Melting snow made little muddy lakes on the linoleum. I dug in my jeans for money to tip him with, knowing I wouldn’t find any. Finally I just offered him water.

We drank together. It was cool and clean and good, running down our throats in the dimness of the store. It made me feel wide and quiet, and I watched his big eyes poke around Synapses, checking us out, and while they did, mine snuck a peek at him. He was big and round, and all his layers of puffy clothes made him seem rounder still, like a black version of the Michelin man. He unzipped his parka and I could see a name, Gary, stitched in red over the pocket of his blue coverall. I still didn’t have a light on; usually I work in the dark, save the light bill for Deb. But I switched it on when he coughed and he smiled at that, like we’d shared a joke. He had a way of not looking right at you or saying much, but somehow you still knew what he was thinking. Like I knew that he liked secrets, and talking without making sounds. It was neat.

Seemed to me it was looking water–a weird thought out of nowhere–unless it came from him. He seemed to generate them; like he could stand in the middle of a room and in everyone’s minds, all around him, weird little thoughts would start cropping up–like that one. My tummy sloshing I looked too, and seemed to see through his eyes and not just mine. Through his I wasn’t sure how to take it: a big dim room haunted by dinosaurs. All the junk of this century comes to rest at Synapses; it gets piled to the ceilings and covered with dust. If it’s lucky it makes a Head; weird Heads are going to be the thing for Carnival this year, just as they were last, and Debbie’s are the best. Her finished products are grotesque, but if you call that beautiful then they are; the one she just finished dangles phone cords like Medusa’s hair, gears like jangling medals. Shelves of visors glint under the ceiling fixture; inlaid with chips and broken bits of circuitry, they hum like artifacts from some Byzantium that isn’t yet. Two faced Janus masks, their round doll eyes removed; you can wear them either way, male or female, to look in or out.

Gary was staring at them, a strange expression on his face. Like he wanted to throw up.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
« Last Edit: March 09, 2012, 07:32:19 PM by Talia »



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #1 on: March 09, 2012, 06:47:56 PM
I am the King Under the Mountain, and this is the first post on this thread!

I loved this story. It was deeply strange, strangely beautiful, and inexplicably weird. I can't claim to understand it, but basically everything about it was neat. This was a story about art, beauty, and survival - and really, isn't that all a story needs? I guess you could potentially cram romance in there, but no story should have everything.

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Rembrandt

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Reply #2 on: March 10, 2012, 05:25:26 PM
This was a sushi story.

Nothing wrong with sushi but when you're in the mood for a hamburger even the best sushi still leaves you with an appetite for tomato sauce an small brown crumbly bits.
Much like sushi itself, the story felt like a small bite on a big platter.
I kind of missed the lettuce, the salt and that mushy stuff falling on your clean shirt.
There was just too little context for the story in my taste.
Mind you, I have absolutely no clue how to eat with chopsticks...



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #3 on: March 11, 2012, 12:51:03 PM
Not done listening yet, but I just need to jump in here and say this:

YAY! I love hearing Christiana read. She is so talented, both as a writer and a voice actress.
Editors (of all three 'casts): you need to get her to read more things.

EDIT
Finished listening, and.... I didn't like it that much.
It left a sort of sweet feeling in my mind, but nothing that will remain for more than a few hours.
It was nice, but not memorable.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2012, 07:44:15 PM by Max e^{i pi} »

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Listener

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Reply #4 on: March 12, 2012, 03:34:08 PM
This was kind of a strange, surreal story that, while I didn't dislike it, I didn't really like it either. It had a lot of ideas, a lot of characterization, and a lot of found objects. But it didn't really strike me so much as a "sci-fi" story* as a literary story that takes place in the future as seen in 1990, and maybe that's why I didn't care too much for it one way or the other.

* Yes, I know, SF is what we point to and call SF, but what I mean is, it doesn't have the FEEL of a SF story.

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Unblinking

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Reply #5 on: March 12, 2012, 04:20:21 PM
What was this story about?  The title implies it was about the man who delivers water, but he was barely onscreen.  Perhaps it's about the water itself.  I was never sure throughout it whether the town water or the delivered water had perception-altering properties.  I didn't understand why she disliked grunts so much, there ought be no shame in wage work, though I got the impression she disliked them because she had no skills that would qualify her for wage work. 

I never got a clear picture of the setting, or whether it was drugged water.  I kept waiting for it to come together in some kind of meaningful fashion and for me it never did.



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #6 on: March 12, 2012, 04:31:06 PM
What was this story about?  The title implies it was about the man who delivers water, but he was barely onscreen.  Perhaps it's about the water itself.  I was never sure throughout it whether the town water or the delivered water had perception-altering properties.  I didn't understand why she disliked grunts so much, there ought be no shame in wage work, though I got the impression she disliked them because she had no skills that would qualify her for wage work. 

I never got a clear picture of the setting, or whether it was drugged water.  I kept waiting for it to come together in some kind of meaningful fashion and for me it never did.

The implication for me was that "town water" was drugged, but because practically everyone was drinking it, the drugged state had become normal, while the "natural" state was mistaken for outrageous artistic fancy. When the POV character stopped drinking town water and started drinking undrugged water, she began to explore her own art.

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Cattfish

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Reply #7 on: March 13, 2012, 08:20:05 PM
What was that?  It's like the author threw a bunch of words against the wall and saw what stuck...  I don't like these surreal type stories where I can't feel grounded in the world being described.  Just my $0.02.



Devoted135

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Reply #8 on: March 13, 2012, 08:33:15 PM
I don't normally appreciate surrealism, but this story worked fairly well for me. I still had a lot of questions about why she hated the grunts and how selling masks for a carnival sustained the two of them. However, I liked the process of discover that the MC went through, and I particularly appreciated the scene where they sat in the window as a part of their art piece.



Talia

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Reply #9 on: March 13, 2012, 08:48:00 PM
What was that?  It's like the author threw a bunch of words against the wall and saw what stuck...  I don't like these surreal type stories where I can't feel grounded in the world being described.  Just my $0.02.

So you kind of felt like a fish out of...

;)



Devoted135

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Reply #10 on: March 14, 2012, 02:25:42 PM
What was that?  It's like the author threw a bunch of words against the wall and saw what stuck...  I don't like these surreal type stories where I can't feel grounded in the world being described.  Just my $0.02.

So you kind of felt like a cattfish out of...

;)

fixed that for you :D



tpi

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Reply #11 on: March 15, 2012, 08:07:10 PM
Description, description, description, a tiny bit of plot, description, description, description, yawn, press stop.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2012, 08:09:20 PM by tpi »



Gamercow

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Reply #12 on: March 16, 2012, 01:06:14 PM
I think I liked this story, but I'm not sure why.  It wasn't overly complex, but it was surreal.  The characters weren't all that deep, but I did sympathize with them.  The plot wasn't very thick, but I found it enjoyable.  The story itself was a little "Hortlak-y", but not nearly as memorable. 

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kibitzer

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Reply #13 on: March 17, 2012, 06:57:34 AM
Sorry folks, really did not like this one. It's a nice character piece but only extremely tangentially sci-fi. I know, I know, that's a whole can of worms we've opened many times before. I don't believe I've weighed in with a "this isn't sci-fi!" comment before but really, this was very tenuous indeed.


Fenrix

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Reply #14 on: March 17, 2012, 03:14:50 PM
This was a sushi story.

Nothing wrong with sushi but when you're in the mood for a hamburger even the best sushi still leaves you with an appetite for tomato sauce an small brown crumbly bits.
Much like sushi itself, the story felt like a small bite on a big platter.
I kind of missed the lettuce, the salt and that mushy stuff falling on your clean shirt.
There was just too little context for the story in my taste.
Mind you, I have absolutely no clue how to eat with chopsticks...

For what it's worth, it's acceptable to eat sushi with your hands.

This post made me understand much better about the point of the story. I think I will head out now to eat dead fish on small patties of rice like packed snow.

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


childoftyranny

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Reply #15 on: March 17, 2012, 10:35:59 PM
I see this as a case of an unreliable narrator. She has a problem with the wage slave grunts but what she does is essentialy put things together as well. Apparently she doesn't get paid, but there doesn't really seem to be much else to her life.

The older world is decried for its obsession with junk...but the future is even more obsessed with those same thing but putting them to a different use, it seems like a terrible case of the "things never change".

On the third account I suspect that the imported water is the drugged water, her creativity, for what it was, flowed out of the water, but deeper into the same obession she as only tiptoeing around in the beginning.

All of that stems from the surreal feel, it feels like there is a lot going on and so much more to know but she has basically no curiosity even under the influence of "imported water" about the outside world, she just sinks deeper into her own little world, her own little store...I think is much more to know but she doesn't understand it, or even want to understand it!



jdarksun

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Reply #16 on: March 19, 2012, 04:39:20 PM
I did not like this one.  The narration was great (as always), but I found the story utterly unapproachable.  Every time I thought I had a toe-hold, the focus would shift and I was left wondering if the new concept was the point.

At the end, I feel like I was left with a half dozen unlinked ideas instead of a coherent story.



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Reply #17 on: March 20, 2012, 02:01:36 PM
At the end, I feel like I was left with a half dozen unlinked ideas instead of a coherent story.

Seems like a reasonable descriptor of this story to me.



Makefile

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Reply #18 on: March 21, 2012, 08:40:38 PM
At first I didn't like this one. I've been mulling it over since I listened to it, and it's growing on me. I'ts certainly not the most coherent story, but that's not the point. This is an unreliable narrator giving us a brief glimpse into her world. It's just not important whether the water is drugged, why she hates the grunts, or what the deal is with the carnival.



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #19 on: March 21, 2012, 10:48:06 PM
I wouldn't say there was NO story here ... just not a very plot-heavy one. Life on the long slow slide down the hill after the wealth of our current era.




childoftyranny

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Reply #20 on: March 22, 2012, 09:54:08 PM
The plot fell through my hands like water.  ;D



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #21 on: March 22, 2012, 10:04:18 PM
The plot fell through my hands like water.  ;D

I'm surprised no one's checked "like tears in rain"



eytanz

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Reply #22 on: March 27, 2012, 10:56:55 AM
I had a real hard time figuring out the nature of the society in which this took place, which took me out of the story entirely. It was really hard to assess the narrator's views of the world when the world itself was so vague - there was no clear reference point to figure out how unreliable she was. We know there's apparently not much production, and there's a carnival, and there are plenty of hair salons. There's a class system where everyone but the narrator, her boss/partner, and the water guy are grunts. Water seems to be a commodity, but there is free water available which is of lower quality, and water salesmen offer a "first order free" policy. I can't see how these threads combine to make a coherent view of the world. I certainly did not get the sense of water shortages of the type Mur describes - growing up in Israel, even though water was always available, there was always an impending sense of how limited a resource it was. I did not get that sense here.

Overall, then, this one fell flat for me.



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Reply #23 on: March 27, 2012, 01:59:02 PM
I had a real hard time figuring out the nature of the society in which this took place, which took me out of the story entirely. It was really hard to assess the narrator's views of the world when the world itself was so vague - there was no clear reference point to figure out how unreliable she was. We know there's apparently not much production, and there's a carnival, and there are plenty of hair salons. There's a class system where everyone but the narrator, her boss/partner, and the water guy are grunts. Water seems to be a commodity, but there is free water available which is of lower quality, and water salesmen offer a "first order free" policy. I can't see how these threads combine to make a coherent view of the world. I certainly did not get the sense of water shortages of the type Mur describes - growing up in Israel, even though water was always available, there was always an impending sense of how limited a resource it was. I did not get that sense here.

Overall, then, this one fell flat for me.

Well said.  I think that was one of the things that I found difficult about this story but couldn't put a thumb on it til you said it.  It had the feel of a lot of my story rough drafts do--of existing in a kind of null setting (I have to work very hard to add that in before submitting it).



CryptoMe

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Reply #24 on: March 29, 2012, 08:40:16 PM
Huh???

This felt like one of those avant-garde pieces where the artist is just too full of their own cleverness. The result was something completely unintelligible to me.

It's a shame, really, because there were aspects of this world that I would have liked to know more about; like what's in the free vs bought water and the meaning of Carnival (as other forumites have already noted).