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Author Topic: Pseudopod 283: Dust Bunny  (Read 1698 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: May 26, 2012, 01:53:47 AM »

Pseudopod 283: Dust Bunny

By Matthew C. Dampier.
Translated by Edward Gauvin

Dust Bunny makes its first appearance on Pseudopod. This story is based on Matthew’s greatest fear.

Matthew Dampier lives in Kansas City, Missouri where both he and his wife teach English. They are parents to a small and mischievous child who they often find in places she’s not allowed.

Your reader this week is Big Anklevich whose blog, “Big Anklevich Explains Everything” can be found by clicking the link under his name. And, of course, make some time for The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine as well.

“”So you have a handle on it?’

‘She won’t be dropped. You have my word.’

‘I’ll be here until tomorrow morning. You remember how to make a bottle, right?’

When she hung up, I took a bag of breast milk from the fridge and ran it under hot water. I filled a bottle and put it outside the hole in the hope that she would come to her senses for a nice hot meal. I laid the bait and prepared for a stakeout, dimming the lights and moving my chair back to where she wouldn’t be able to see it. I drank quietly and cracked each new can under a towel to muffle any noise that might startle her back into the walls.”




Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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zoanon
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« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2012, 02:50:07 AM »

THE HORROR! THE INCOMPETENT PARENTING! THE STEREOTYPES!
I liked this, mostly. seemed fairly light hearted... until it wasn't.
I have to admit the twist totally got me, I was horrified, didn't help that I listened to this first thing in the morning after a dream that featured a very cute baby.

two things though, the stereotypes in this story (the incompetent father who isn't fit to babysit his own child, and the the foolish woman who thinks she can have a natural child birth but then begs for painkillers) should go die in a well.
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lisavilisa
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« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2012, 08:31:22 AM »

I kept feeling like there was some other underlying theme going on that was never explicitly mentioned.

-The family, especially the baby, is immune to most germs that hurt people? How does that work?
-The baby has a 98th percentile head size.
-The mother of the narrator somehow sleeps through the entire sheet rock episode.
-Why did a previous tenet being obsessed with security mean that there were damaged pipes and that a plumber had knocked many wholes into the wall?
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« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2012, 03:15:45 PM »

Well, that was...

Wait, what? I don't...

o.O
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« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2012, 09:53:07 AM »

Well, that was interesting.  I think I generally liked most of it.  I enjoyed the unreliable narrator aspect of it, that he claims that there is no evidence for him being a poor guardian, but then on his first opportunity he shows himself to be terrible at it.  Especially the moment where the baby disappears into the drywall and he is not even slightly concerned because he figures she'll come out when she's bored, and so he grabs a beer.

The ending didn't really seem to fit with the rest of the story for me, which I guess was the point to be a stark contrast to the odd comedy of what came before to the realization of a baby corpse.  To me I guess it was too much of a contrast and I felt that it just didn't really fit the rest of it at all, and so the rest of it is what sticks in my head.

I didn't mind the stereotypes.  Stereotypes can be offensive, but at least sometimes they can be based on people who actually have those characteristics, in which case I don't see a problem with using them.  I have a co-worker who, when asked to watch his own children while his wife has the rare evening away from the house, refers to this as "babysitting".  I wouldn't be terribly surprised if this story had actually happened with him.  Likewise I know women who have said that they will have a natural childbirth but then ended up going back on that in the moment--that's just a very real possibility when one makes an ideological decision without really knowing what the consequences will be for you, in the actual moment you have to make the choice between your ideology and your potentially torturous present moment.
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« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2012, 09:05:56 AM »

I liked the farcical nature of the story. When I try and write this is my default setting.
I really liked the description of the neighbour and the scene where he's invited in to help retrieve the baby. Good narration too, although this is one I could hear in Ben's voice as well.

It kind of jumped around really quick when explaining the creature from africa and I didn't quite get it. Maybe a little extra time could be spent explaining or fleshing that bit out.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2012, 09:07:38 AM by yaksox » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2012, 07:33:40 PM »

-The family, especially the baby, is immune to most germs that hurt people? How does that work?
-The baby has a 98th percentile head size.
-The mother of the narrator somehow sleeps through the entire sheet rock episode.
-Why did a previous tenet being obsessed with security mean that there were damaged pipes and that a plumber had knocked many wholes into the wall?

- It's more that most people don't have much issue with basic cold/flu bugs, but newborns are at risk the more they're exposed to outside disease vectors.
- My son has a 98th percentile head, too.  He's 99th percentile for height, also, actually.  It just means she's a big baby.
- I don't think the narrator's mother was asleep in the same house; she had to be called on the phone when the spouse left, after all.
- I don't think the security was ever explicitly connected to bad plumbing.

---

I liked this one a lot, myself.  It was slightly off-kilter all the way through, not quite funny, not quite scary.  I thought the explanation of the monster felt a little abrupt and shoehorned in, but the ending scene was hilariously creepy, with all the mundane and bizarre elements intermingled without care or discretion.  I won't say top marks, but definitely quite high, definitely Dean's List.
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lisavilisa
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« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2012, 10:35:59 PM »

-The family, especially the baby, is immune to most germs that hurt people? How does that work?

- It's more that most people don't have much issue with basic cold/flu bugs, but newborns are at risk the more they're exposed to outside disease vectors.
- My son has a 98th percentile head, too.  He's 99th percentile for height, also, actually.  It just means she's a big baby.
- I don't think the narrator's mother was asleep in the same house; she had to be called on the phone when the spouse left, after all.
- I don't think the security was ever explicitly connected to bad plumbing.

---

Thanks for answering, I'll give you everything but the 98th stuff. I think that detail was just too special to be nothing. On further reflection I'm thinking the dust bunny had already replaced the baby and the head size was the only thing showing the baby was unusual.
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« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2012, 08:33:02 AM »

-The family, especially the baby, is immune to most germs that hurt people? How does that work?

- It's more that most people don't have much issue with basic cold/flu bugs, but newborns are at risk the more they're exposed to outside disease vectors.
- My son has a 98th percentile head, too.  He's 99th percentile for height, also, actually.  It just means she's a big baby.
- I don't think the narrator's mother was asleep in the same house; she had to be called on the phone when the spouse left, after all.
- I don't think the security was ever explicitly connected to bad plumbing.

---

Thanks for answering, I'll give you everything but the 98th stuff. I think that detail was just too special to be nothing. On further reflection I'm thinking the dust bunny had already replaced the baby and the head size was the only thing showing the baby was unusual.


My niece was 99th percentile in body weight.  I got 99th percentile in some standardized testing.  The thing about percentiles is that they don't mean that you are GREATER THAN 99 percent, but GREATER THAN OR EQUAL TO 99 percent.  Presumably there is some rounding of the measurement as well, to the nearest centimeter or something.

I'd bet that I have a 99th percentile head for adults.  I can very rarely find hats that fit.  My head does not appear disproportionate on my body; people are often surprised when they find out my head's so large.  Which... isn't all that relevant to the discussion at hand.  Tongue
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Red Dog 344
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« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2012, 10:09:54 AM »

... the stereotypes in this story (the incompetent father who isn't fit to babysit his own child, and the the foolish woman who thinks she can have a natural child birth but then begs for painkillers) should go die in a well.

I think the stereotyping of fathers here is a gentle joke aimed at the author's own wife, mother, etc.  "Do you think I am really so incompetent that I would drink myself into a stupor... bring in the neighbor with a chainsaw..." etc.  I loved the chainsaw bit.  I am cutting slowly, so the baby has time to move away from the noise.  Priceless.

I agree there are some bits that don't quite fit--the neighbor's reproach at the end didn't ring true, if he seriously thought he had found another baby, the real baby, how credible is it that he'd go dispose of it, actually kill it--even if the shell-shocked father waved him off?

But this works well as a tall tale, starting with the baby's adventure through the drywall and just escalating from there, isn't it fun how far the author can take this.  I had just read Lisa Tuttle's story "Replacements"--I think her skinny, ambiguous critters must be relatives of the African baby-stealers.  Too bad Edward Gorey isn't around to illustrate both of these stories.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2012, 04:51:33 PM by Red Dog 344 » Logged
lisavilisa
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« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2012, 10:46:14 AM »


My niece was 99th percentile in body weight.  I got 99th percentile in some standardized testing.  The thing about percentiles is that they don't mean that you are GREATER THAN 99 percent, but GREATER THAN OR EQUAL TO 99 percent.  Presumably there is some rounding of the measurement as well, to the nearest centimeter or something.

I'd bet that I have a 99th percentile head for adults.  I can very rarely find hats that fit.  My head does not appear disproportionate on my body; people are often surprised when they find out my head's so large.  Which... isn't all that relevant to the discussion at hand.  Tongue


Even if the baby was at 98th percentile, that's still two standard deviations away from the mean. It might not signify anything in real life, but in the context of this story where everything was just a little bit off 'normal', I wonder if it means anything.
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« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2012, 11:06:57 AM »

Even if the baby was at 98th percentile, that's still two standard deviations away from the mean. It might not signify anything in real life, but in the context of this story where everything was just a little bit off 'normal', I wonder if it means anything.

You could be right about it meaning something in the context of the story.  It just didn't stand out to be me as being improbable enough to trigger that reaction in myself.  Smiley
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eytanz
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« Reply #12 on: June 16, 2012, 01:30:33 PM »

This one was a bit too off-kilter to work for me. I found it interesting and an entertaining listen, but it was hard for me to take it seriously enough to be affected by the horror it was trying to impart.
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Umbrageofsnow
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« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2012, 11:28:38 AM »

Chainsaw bit was hilarious. I really liked the neighbor in general, and the stereotypes seemed played for comedy more than serious prejudice against fathers.  I think this story is a question of whether you can find things funny if they end with a dead infant.  I, for one, haven't lost that ability since 5th grade.

There was some very real tension in the story, reminded me of the entirely serious "Little Girl Lost" by Richard Matheson. I recommend that story to anyone who liked the serious part of this one.
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