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Author Topic: PC210: Sittin' Round the Stewpot  (Read 1649 times)
Talia
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« on: May 30, 2012, 08:31:44 AM »

PodCastle 210: Sittin' Round the Stewpot

by Patricia Russo (Check out her new short story collection Shiny Thing!)

Read by Cian MacMahon

Originally published in Electric Velocipede.

This is a true real story, granda said, stirring the mush that we weregonna have to eat that night, and the next night, and the next too, probably.  He coughed for a full minute, then finally spit out a plug of gunk.  He scuffed his mess into the dirt.  This is a true real story, not like the shit you hear from them liars down by Blue Street.  He looked at me when he said shit.  I just looked back at him.  Stupid old man still thought I was a boy.  This is a story about the old days, he went on.  The ancestor time.  Do you know what ancestor means?  I sighed and took the spoon away from him and started stirring the mush myself, because the old man was like to let it burn.  Granda, I said, I’m the one that reads you them old storybooks, when you say you can’t find your good glasses.  He said, this is about the old days, when we had dogs.

Not dogs again, I said, but granda had no mind to heed me.  He was staring out the window at the last red edge of the sun easing under the earth.  Ever since they burned down the warehouses ‘long river side, we got a real nice view of the sunsets.  You don’t remember, he murmured, and I wanted to spit myself.  Sure I remembered.  I used to play in the warehouses when I was little, me and a bunch of other kids.  We’d look for stuff.  Nails and screws, bits of plastic not yet so brittle they couldn’t be shaped.  It was dangerous, cause of the big buckled gaps in the floors, the fallen stairs, the crumbling walls, and the rats.  And sometimes men worse than rats.  Only granda was still jawing about dogs, not the warehouses.  Time was, he said, long ago, people and dogs had a real sweet deal going.  We was like partners.  Lived together in the same house.  Ate together.  Worked together, played together.  Slept together.  Didn’t hardly need no blankets in winter, with a couple dogs up on the bed with you.  Not that it was all sweet, I ain’t gonna lie.  Dogs, they had a mind to sprawl, and fart in their sleep.  Fleas.  That was a pain in the ass.  Oh, and their breath. The stink?  Boy, you have no idea.  You think this mush here smells bad?

No, granda, I said, but he wasn’t heeding me at all. Just wait till you been licked all over your face by a woof-woof with tartar teeth and gums red as fire.  Whew, you like to die.  He took the spoon from me and dipped up a ittle mush, looked at it, then let it fall back into the pot.  You never will, though, will you.  Get licked in the face by a dog.  Play ball with a dog.  Hunt with a dog.  Some folks still got pictures.  You know, the flat kind.  Photos.  Snaps.  You seen them?

Sure, granda, I said.  I seen them.


Rated R: Contains strong language and adult themes


Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: June 21, 2012, 10:36:10 AM by Talia » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2012, 08:19:28 AM »

I'm not sure I really got the point the of this one.

My biggest problem with it was that it was structured in such a way that I had no real feel for what the actual setting was.  Yes, Grandpa goes on and on about what a mess we've made of the world and the dogs leaving us and all that, but there's so little response from the narrator that for most of it I assumed the old man was making it all up and that this had little relation to the real world.  Even in the end I'm not certain otherwise.

I would've liked some clue to what actually happened in the world, whether the dogs actually left mankind like the possibly senile old man said or whether they just left the island, what happened in general, why these people don't just make a bridge across the river.

It seemed like it could be an interesting world, but all of the parts that might be interesting were told from a distance without me actually getting to see it, and without being entirely sure if the narrator was rational enough to tell a real story.  In the end the title was very accurate--all that happened onscreen was people sitting around the stewpot.  I just didn't find it interesting.
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« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2012, 03:42:32 PM »

Hi people!

Just checking in - I was the narrator for this piece. I really enjoyed reading it, even if I had to do it over a period of 5 days because my "grandpa voice" kicked my throat in the ass. By day 3, I had a mug of lemon-honey tea sitting next to me at all times.

I just thought that I'd chip in a bit on how I felt about the story. While it was a fairly long time ago that I narrated it (and I don't really want to re-listen to my narration... again...), I feel that since I read the whole thing problem 4 or 5 times, I know it quite well.

I'd agree with Unblinking when he said that we really have no idea what happened in the world, but I viewed this more of a story about the kid stepping up and living his own life. How the world got this way didn't matter to me, I just spent the entire story shouting for the narrater to leave home, go out into the world and prove himself right about seeing the dogs. I thought that while the grandpa was clearly unreliable in his memories, or exaggerating to make himself seem more important than the narrator, I felt the narrater was dependable enough.

That's enough rambling for me - I enjoyed reading this story, and hope that Podcastle listeners enjoyed my reading!
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lisavilisa
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« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2012, 03:56:46 PM »

Did anyone get the impression that the narrator had a big secret that was being hinted at the whole time? That they were keeping from the grandfather and trying hard not to just yell out?
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« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2012, 07:49:59 AM »

Did anyone get the impression that the narrator had a big secret that was being hinted at the whole time? That they were keeping from the grandfather and trying hard not to just yell out?

I believe he said he'd already become a woman, or was a woman pretending to be a man, or some such thing. I honestly had trouble following what was going on because I was trying to figure out WHY I should be listening to this story. I don't know that it was fantasy so much as non-technological SF taking place sometime in the faaaaaaar future, and as such I was trying to find the fantastical element in all of it. Mostly it was just a kid and his (her?) grandfather having an argument and the grandfather thinking too much about the fact that dogs are now gone (or so he thinks).

On the bright side, it was short enough that I didn't feel cheated spending an hour listening to something that I ended up not enjoying. It was more like "hmm... don't really get it... moving on."
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« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2012, 09:17:39 AM »

Honestly, I didn't enjoy this story. It felt like nothing happened, while an old man and a young man sat around not talking about things that had possibly happened in the past, or were possibly happening in the present. Keeping your cards close to your chest is one thing, but I felt this story took it too far. Anyway, the narration was great and it was short, so it had those two things going for it at least.
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« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2012, 12:41:22 PM »

Guys, she's totally a girl. The dogs won't have anything to do with the menfolk anymore, but they still like the women. Dogs and women, always working for the men, but they got fed up with it after a while and left--like she's going to do now, tired of listening to her old grandpa. The truth is, the men don't even recognize the dogs anymore, think they're wolves and foxes--maybe because they're free like wolves and foxes and not servile anymore.

I liked their back-and-forth in this story--I liked the language. Even though the grandpa was a miserable old coot, he was pretty funny, and I even felt sorry for him, a little. I thought the reading was excellent, too.
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lisavilisa
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« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2012, 10:39:10 PM »

I think she was a girl too.

I also think that when the dogs left they used the women to do the same work. Then the women left to go join the dogs, including the protagonists mother. The servants were tired of their masters and were running off.

So, did the uncle of the narrator want to keep a woman for himself?
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« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2012, 01:12:38 PM »

The main character was a woman - a girl, really - disguising herself as a boy. Her cousin Mace new, but no one else did.

I, personally, found this story so bleak as to overshadow all its other virtues. There is no hope or redemption in this story. The dogs have gone, and soon they will take the women with them. The men - even the ones who are trying to figure out how to be decent, like Mace - will be left alone. And then they will die, alone. There's no hope for redemption for the wider human race, and the men who have been damned by the choices of their ancestors will remain damned. I know that this kind of story - allegory, myth, whatever - works for a lot of people, but it's never done it for me.

I guess the only tiny gem of hope is the idea that there are "free people" somewhere for the main character to join. However, I'm not clear if this means that there are some men somewhere who have been judged worthy of redemption, or if she just means the women and the dogs.
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« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2012, 02:12:58 PM »

Okay, enough people said the MC was a girl that I went back and re-listened. I'm now convinced that is the correct interpretation, though it's subtle enough that even the narrator referred to the MC as "him" in his comment above.

So, I amend my earlier comment to say "an old man and a young woman sat around...." but stand by my opinion of the story.
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« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2012, 07:15:12 PM »

I saw the "narrator-is-really-a-girl-thing" coming after a few little hints dropped early on and I was glad to see that the author did not make a big show of it at the end. I can see what everyone is saying about how nothing really happened, that it was somewhat vague and we don't know why the men were condemned. However, I think that this is part of the beauty of it.

As Dave alluded to, it is easy to take dogs for granted. This however doesn't seem like a strong enough reason for their turning- they are dogs! It is almost like they were bred to put up with being taken for granted and more. We must have really fucked up for them to turn their tails on us.

In the back of my mind I have this kernal of information regarding "play" in canids and how it is crucially important in how the animals otherwise behave. I will have to go back to the source to find out exactly what is known so forgive me for being a little vague with the details. Essentially, it has hypothesised that "play" was a critical factor in the domestication of the dog. It is absolutely known that play is critical for all canids during development. Our dogs never really lose this tendency to play even as they get older. Wolves and other wild-dogs however, comparatively dampen this tendency when they mature and become an integral part of a hunting pack. I would be interested to read into this further to see what happens when a dog is raised with "play" actively forbidden when they reach maturity. What kind of dog would this be? Would it even resemble our "best friends" any longer? It may be that they revert to a more ancestral behaviour and turn their backs on us. What is the state of this world where men have eradicated all play with their pets? 

I realise that the story is allegorical (and maybe more of a feminist piece than a "we-are-losing-touch-with-our-best-friends" piece) and that the above meanderings were probably not in the authors mind but I thought it a good time to spew it forth!

The truth is, the men don't even recognize the dogs anymore, think they're wolves and foxes
This was a beautiful and haunting idea. I loved this!
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« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2012, 08:13:29 AM »

This was not one of my favorites. Frankly I didn't get it. It just seemed like listening to a horrible old man say horrible things, and then it just...ended. It almost reminded me of my college days, and the Angry Womyn poetry I had to sit through during creative writing class.

The "narrator-is-really-a-girl" thing was in the background, and I kind of thought that as well, but it was never really revealed. And it didn't seem like the narrator even KNEW s/he was a girl. And maybe THAT was an important plot point - that maybe humans have degenerated morally so much that they don't recognize each other any more - but it went by too quickly. None of the interesting ideas of the story were developed that well. If less time had been devoted to Grandpa yelling and the nasty stew, and more to the universe of the story, I think I would have liked it more.
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« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2012, 06:30:24 PM »

No offense, but...seriously, you guys couldn't find an american who can either speak ebonics, or do a caucasian southern accent? The reading was okay, but the narrator makes it sound like it takes place in Manchester or some other place in the uk and I'm sure it takes place in rural North America. Again, no offense, and good story.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2012, 06:33:09 PM by Rhio2k » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2012, 07:23:15 PM »

No offense, but...seriously, you guys couldn't find an american who can either speak ebonics, or do a caucasian southern accent? The reading was okay, but the narrator makes it sound like it takes place in Manchester or some other place in the uk and I'm sure it takes place in rural North America. Again, no offense, and good story.

Are you clear that that was the intention? I didn't detect any particular location in the text of the story, so the UK interpretation was as valid as any other.
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« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2012, 08:11:31 PM »

No offense, but...seriously, you guys couldn't find an american who can either speak ebonics, or do a caucasian southern accent? The reading was okay, but the narrator makes it sound like it takes place in Manchester or some other place in the uk and I'm sure it takes place in rural North America. Again, no offense, and good story.

Are you clear that that was the intention? I didn't detect any particular location in the text of the story, so the UK interpretation was as valid as any other.

I would have to agree. There was something nice about the Irish spin; it being something a little different. In retrospect, I would have found a southern US accent a little banal.
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Rhio2k
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« Reply #15 on: June 09, 2012, 07:29:38 PM »

No offense, but...seriously, you guys couldn't find an american who can either speak ebonics, or do a caucasian southern accent? The reading was okay, but the narrator makes it sound like it takes place in Manchester or some other place in the uk and I'm sure it takes place in rural North America. Again, no offense, and good story.

Are you clear that that was the intention? I didn't detect any particular location in the text of the story, so the UK interpretation was as valid as any other.

It's all in the lingo. I've never heard a brit call a penis a "pecker". Down here in the south, yeah, pretty common slang for penis. There's more, but that was one of the dead giveaways. The only pecker the british refer to is one's nose, eg the british phrase "Keep your pecker up" which means keep your head up/keep in high spirits/don't worry. Secondly, grandpa refers to some guys near Blue Street as "yappers". In america, we call a person who blathers or talks WAY too much a "yapper". In the uk, "yapper" is slang for mouth, not a person who can't keep theirs shut. Lastly, a british person will say they're not putting you on, not pissing about, or they're bloody serious, but "I ain't playin'" is a rather common southern phrase, not a uk thing.
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« Reply #16 on: June 10, 2012, 03:39:06 AM »

So the protag was... not the gender I expected? Huh. How 'bout that. Makes more sense now.

Loved this story.
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« Reply #17 on: June 10, 2012, 01:12:23 PM »

So the protag was... not the gender I expected? Huh. How 'bout that. Makes more sense now.

Loved this story.

Right there in the first minute "Still thinks I'm a boy.".
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« Reply #18 on: June 10, 2012, 02:36:11 PM »

So the protag was... not the gender I expected? Huh. How 'bout that. Makes more sense now.

Loved this story.

Right there in the first minute "Still thinks I'm a boy.".

That sentence could end "instead of a man" just as easily as "instead of a girl."
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« Reply #19 on: June 12, 2012, 11:09:41 AM »

Three words grandpa: respect begets respect.

Now as for the gender question of the MC...
Honestly, it never even occurred to me.
It sounded like a a kid in his early teens, maybe 14 or 15 years old, growing a pair.
It was a question of interpretation. Grandpa saw the world as a man's world, where dogs did all the work, and then when the dogs got smart enough to bugger off, man forced woman to do the work, and they followed the dogs' fine example. So what's left? Some teenage boys to push around and verbally abuse until you get what you want.
The narrator on the other hand, sees the same events, but interprets them differently. He saw the previous generation as a villainous and exploitative bunch of self-centered old farts who screwed up the world. The only way out of this is to just up and leave. And he finally worked up the courage to do it. The women and dogs waiting for him on the opposite shore weren't waiting for him because he's really a girl, but because he has the common sense to break out of the vicious world of the old timers. After he meets them and grows up in their society, presumably with other young boys like himself, it's just a matter of waiting for the old generation to die out, while he and his generation receive a proper education and prepare to forge a brave new world.

And kudos Cian for the excellent reading. Don't take this the wrong way, but your grandpa voice added a whole new dimension to the story, and made me hate him even more.
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