PC011: Fourteen Experiments in Postal Delivery

By John Schoffstall
Read by Heather Lindsley
Introduction by Rachel Swirsky
First appeared in Strange Horizons (full text at link.)

Featured intro Link: Postal Experiments


I received a letter from you today, expressing contrition for your past bad behavior and requesting a reconciliation with me. It was written in blue felt-tip pen, with big blurry spots that I think you intended to be taken as the marks of tears. However, when I burned the letter those spots did not produce the characteristic yellow flame that indicates the presence of sodium. I conclude that you made those stains with water drops, or some other aqueous liquid. Definitely not tears. Therefore, I am unconvinced of your sorrow, but reassured as to your guile, insincerity, and general incompetence.

Still hating you,


P.S.: All further tear-stained letters will go directly into the In-Sink-Erator.

Rated R. Contains surrealism and wandering body parts of the naughty variety.

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47 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    yicheng said,

    June 10, 2008 @ 10:25 am

    I admit that after the first 5 minutes, I was rolling my eyes and getting ready to pass this off as another feminist “man-did-me-wrong” chick story. However, I was very pleasantly surprised to find it cute and funny, with a sweet after-taste. The humor helped soften some of the sharp edges, and for once, there’s a female-male relationship that’s actually at least multi-dimensional, if not realistic (guess it depends on who you’ve dated). Excellent read by Heather Lindsley!

  2. 2

    Tyson of the NW said,

    June 10, 2008 @ 2:21 pm

    I loved the artistic surrealism. And the fixating on the single ski. As someone who has, on occasion, sent odd packages through the USPS enjoyed the characterization of the be-shorted parcel handlers and their reactions to the missives.

    As for the characterization I agree with yicheng that the “______-did-me-wrong” theme has been played out, and gets kind of self flagellating after a while. But John took it in an interesting direction of using the surreal to shine a light on the complexity of the main character’s feeling for Christopher.

    Rachel’s voice was perfect and her rendition of the drunken e-mail had me giggling profusely. I could perfectly visualize the end result, which is rare when a story tries to describe computer use.

  3. 3

    The Blow Leprechaun said,

    June 10, 2008 @ 7:02 pm

    I enjoyed this one, although it’s much more surrealistic than fantastic, I think. Some of the vulgar elements threw me off, not because I’m just a sensitive soul, but because they really just didn’t seem to contribute anything to the story and came out of nowhere.

    The reading was excellent, as well.

  4. 4

    DaveNJ said,

    June 10, 2008 @ 10:39 pm

    Excellent surreal-style story. The character interactions were particularly terrific. Also, it’s so well-read. Rachel gets the inflection in different parts down perfectly. I really enjoy the surreal stories being published on Podcastle. They may not be traditional, but sometimes hearing something new or different is preferable to something a bit formulaic. I like having no idea where a story is going as long as it ends well.

  5. 5

    George said,

    June 11, 2008 @ 1:44 am

    Ewwww … Tasteless!

    Worst story I ever heard anywhere. Kept listening hoping it would get better. it didn’t. Blech!

  6. 6

    Stephen Middleton said,

    June 11, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

    Not a great fantasy fan, but this one was imaginative and amusing. Brilliant stuff. Will keep trying with this podcast. All characters well-drawn from a single perspective.

  7. 7

    DaveQat said,

    June 11, 2008 @ 2:24 pm

    I think this is one of the best PodCastle stories yet. Amusing, touching, fantastic, surreal… It was a knockout. This had me giggling, grinning, and even sniffling a bit on my morning commute. Great job!

  8. 8

    Eric said,

    June 11, 2008 @ 2:45 pm

    In some ways this is one of my all-time favorite stories among the whole EP/PC/PP library. It is masterfully written, engagingly read, and enjoyably unpredictable. Heather was a perfect match for the reading, and she did an exceptional job. The story reminded me of Spirited Away in that it came from a place so dreamy and foreign that I wasn’t able to anticipate what was coming next.

    I very much wish that the crudeness had been avoided. I felt I was able to overlook it personally and enjoy the story, but its presence prevented me from sharing this story with others and that’s a shame.

  9. 9

    thomasowenm said,

    June 11, 2008 @ 4:24 pm

    I have to agree with George, what a disgusting piece of work. This story was painful to listen to. whereas I am not averse to strong language or imagery, I felt it was done more for shock value then furthering the story. Also on a side note, why Spain? Christopher must not of thought much of Jessica. He could of at least sent her Saudi Arabia and saved her some money on gas.

  10. 10

    Luisa said,

    June 11, 2008 @ 8:24 pm

    This one has been my favourite so far. I cried, laughed and stuck with it until the end. The surrealism was brilliant, the characters were funny and touching and the reading was perfect for it.

  11. 11

    Caroline said,

    June 11, 2008 @ 8:35 pm

    I thought it was very funny, and I think it’s been my favorite so far. I liked the surrealism and the randomness of the gifts. And the reading was perfect for it.

  12. 12

    Zergonapal said,

    June 12, 2008 @ 4:35 am

    The cock and balls was ok and so was Spain, but the surrealist Bosch experience is what finally broke the story for me.
    Still altogether it was quite enjoyable and this is up their with my other short story favourites.
    Keep up the great work. Z

  13. 13

    Tim said,

    June 12, 2008 @ 8:16 am

    Definitely one of my favorite Podcastles so far, and the only one I’ve listened to twice. Someone should nominate Heather for a Parsec for her reading of this one. Loved the sing-songy way she said, “Still hating you…”

  14. 14

    Schreiber said,

    June 12, 2008 @ 4:35 pm


  15. 15

    Audita Sum said,

    June 12, 2008 @ 10:05 pm

    A great story and a great reading. I didn’t think that the absurdity was taken too far, although I didn’t realize until the near-end that her sister was Heather.

    The drunken email was great.

  16. 16

    Stephanie said,

    June 12, 2008 @ 11:32 pm

    I wish this would have had a warning at the beginning like all the explicit Escape Pod episodes. I know there’s the warning on the website, but when I’m just listening on my iPod, it’s helpful to have that audio at the beginning to let me know the story is rated R. Also, the description “Contains surrealism and wandering body parts of the naughty variety” does sum up most of the offensive stuff, but neglects to mention the plethora of obscenities in this episode. I liked the idea of this story, so I endured through the crudeness, but I agree with others that it didn’t really add anything to the story.

  17. 17

    CelticGoddess said,

    June 13, 2008 @ 1:43 am

    This was a great story! I listened to it twice in a row (I NEVER do that), but I just had to hear it again after the first listening. I think the format is very clever, and the narrator’s voice is very distinct.

    The only negative thing I can think to say is that I had to wait awhile for the fantasy elements, but I was so engrossed in the story at the time that I didn’t even notice it until I was describing the story to someone else.

    This was my first PodCastle story, and I was very impressed. Keep up the great work!

  18. 18

    Patrick Pricken said,

    June 13, 2008 @ 2:39 am

    I totally disliked the story. It just didn’t work, neither as a character piece nor as something else. The letters (emails?) didn’t work as such from the beginning, because the writer always told the guy what he had sent her (which he should have known), then there’s the drunken letter which makes me think of it as an email, and then there’s the “letter” where it turns into a normal short story format with description, she said-I said, etc. And then the sister comes and tells us, no hits us over the head with a frying pan as to what it’s all about. And suddenly, without real motivation or such, the narrator/writer changes her mind, because sis laid it out so clearly even a chimp would understand.

    And it didn’t even work as a truly postmodern gobbledygook, because you do get the impression the story is supposed to be somewhat strcutred and following a format. Really not up my alley at all.

  19. 19

    Mr. Tweedy said,

    June 13, 2008 @ 4:13 pm

    All of the characters are smug, immature, self-centered, amoral idle-rich brats. I hated them. I hated them so much that the idea of them experiencing the inevitable “happy” ending was disgusting. I stopped listening after Spain was delivered because my antipathy for Chris and Jessica had grown so that I was actively interested in NOT hearing what happened to them.

    This story takes characters who are utterly petty and shallow and gives them magical powers to compensate for their lack of character. I guess that’s supposed to be cute (or something).

    In the running for worst story ever.

  20. 20

    Zergonapal said,

    June 13, 2008 @ 9:43 pm

    The story is essentially a collection of letters from Jessica to Chris.
    If you were in correspondance with someone who really, really got under your skin , don’t you think your letters would be full of profanity too?
    Yes there should have been a better profanity warning but the swearing is by no means inappropiate in my honest opinion.

  21. 21

    Mark said,

    June 13, 2008 @ 11:21 pm

    Sexy, funny, literally fantastic. Exceptional vocal work.

  22. 22

    Jake said,

    June 14, 2008 @ 6:11 pm

    Again, for me, these stories are not fantasy stories. Maybe better labeled as “fanciful” stories. Anyway, I really enjoyed this one. One that I’ll remember with a smile for many months to come.

  23. 23

    the Nestorian said,

    June 15, 2008 @ 2:39 pm

    this has been the best story I have heard on here or Escape Pod.
    I smiled the whole time. The irreverent homoousios and homoiousios
    section is amazing. Mixing sexual innuendo with early Christiological
    controversy makes the recovering catholic school boy in me very happy.

  24. 24

    Richard said,

    June 15, 2008 @ 11:35 pm

    Hmmmmmm…..I really liked the first part but got lost towards the end where her friend turned her inside out…and then they drove home? Huh? I don’t know. Thumbs up for the first part and thumbs down for the second part.

  25. 25

    Ogion The Ski-napper said,

    June 18, 2008 @ 4:08 am

    Absolutely brilliant. Who cares if it counts as fantasy when it has you pissing yourself laughing on the bus to work? The vulgarity was wonderfully done and wonderfully read.

    “Fuck you, you ski-napper!”

  26. 26

    Giermo the Wise said,

    June 18, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

    What a piece of trash. I wish I had a genie so I could purge memory of this awful story from my mind or better yet wish myself back in time and delete it before listening. I was just hoping the story would end so I could be done with the thing. I should have just deleted the thing outright. The use of language and vulgarity was just too idiotic. I feel if an author needs to use such language and imagery then their creativity is somewhat lacking. Please stick with more pg and g rated stories in the future!

  27. 27

    Jennifer said,

    June 20, 2008 @ 3:29 pm

    I would have liked this better withOUT the fantasy elements. The wandering cock and the Bosch gut-pulling just…it was weird. Thought it was more interesting before it went surreal.

  28. 28

    The Uncredible Hallq said,

    June 20, 2008 @ 5:27 pm

    I just want to register my vote: More please. Possibly the best short story I’ve read since I last picked up a Neil Gaiman anthology.

  29. 29

    Janice in GA said,

    June 20, 2008 @ 9:12 pm

    Loved it, LOVED it. I laughed out loud several times. The idea of the post office delivering Spain (e.g.) totally cracked me up. I suppose it’s not conventional fantasy, but the fantastical elements slip in stealthily.

    Wonderful stuff.

  30. 30

    Mike said,

    June 20, 2008 @ 9:40 pm

    Wow. Wowie wowie wow! Amazingly well done all around. That story was brilliantly paced, hysterically funny, a little bit touching, and wonderfully surreal. I just loved it. The reading was inspired.

    I totally disagree with the people who said it was “vulgar” or “too weird”. I react strongly and negatively to gratuitous sex, especially when it’s poorly written. The sex in this story was neither gratuitous nor poorly written. Adults can use words like “cock” when they write. You know why? Because real people use the word cock! Geez!

    As for the weirdness of the story, well, not everyone has a taste for magical realism (which is what I’m going to say this was). I was really disappointed when Podcastle started off so well with Come Lady Death and then started airing extremely cliched stories about dragons and horsies. Is that what people actually want to read or hear? Really? This story was much, much more to my taste.

    I had to go look up “The Garden of Earthly Delights” on Wikipedia and follow along with the author’s descriptions. That was fun!

    Loved it. If you decide not to run more stories like this in the future because they’re “too weird”, I will have to start oddpod.org and hire Mr. Schoffstall as the editor.

  31. 31

    Sandi said,

    June 21, 2008 @ 3:17 pm

    I was quite surprised that this story didn’t have a disclaimer about the sexual content and the language. I thought is was very well done. The narrator was perfect. But, it did go a little (no, a lot) over the top by the end.

  32. 32

    Martin R said,

    June 23, 2008 @ 1:24 pm

    Loved it! Best Podcastle story yet! And the reading was superb. I see at Heather Lindsley’s site that she’s a dramaturg and a playwright. She clearly has awesome acting skills as well.

  33. 33

    Bookman 12pt said,

    June 24, 2008 @ 7:49 pm

    I felt this piece started slow, but once the voice gained momentum, it wound into a intense believable character that I both was repulsed by and could relate to.

    The message was as concrete as the metropolis surounding and coursing within the “arty” B&*%$ MC. The fantasy element was creative and new. Overall the story was very modern.

    There was much to love and hate about this story. I am still doing both.

  34. 34

    VBG said,

    June 24, 2008 @ 10:20 pm

    Oh, Mr. Schoffstall! You had me at “Scott McCloud”!

    I hope to hear more of your work at Podcastle/Escape Pod. I loved this story.

  35. 35

    Bookman 12pt said,

    June 25, 2008 @ 11:17 pm

    I forgot to give Kudos to the reader. Spot on emotion, especially in the drunk letter. It couldn’t have been done better.

  36. 36

    Dave said,

    June 28, 2008 @ 8:28 pm

    Great story, well read. She shouldn’t have forgiven him.

  37. 37

    Spork said,

    July 1, 2008 @ 8:19 pm

    The intro was nearly its own podcast in length.

    The story was irritating. I hate letter/e-mail based stories. Just tell me a damned story, already!

    The reading was excellent, particularly the drunk bit. At first, I thought she was just taking a nose dive in quality, and then I picked up on it with the caps-lock thing. Nicely done.

    Overall, though, I just thought it was kinda…dumb. You want me to suspend my disbelief that he can send a bar, or an entire day, or Spain through the mail? Fine. I can do that.

    You want me to suspend disbelief about how many times the post office will deliver things they’re not supposed to deliver? Sorry, not a chance. 😉

  38. 38

    Travis said,

    July 2, 2008 @ 12:52 pm

    I really don’t understand how people can dislike this story so much. It was thoroughly enjoyable. I loved how it started out in a fairly mundane way but got progressively more surreal. I loved the blending of realistic characters with the surreal events of the story. I loved Jessica’s obsessive personality and how she obviously still cares for Christopher otherwise she wouldn’t bother responding to his efforts… and yet she stubbornly clings to her spite like some kind of emotional shield. I loved Heather’s reading, especially. It really brought the story to life. She did a wonderful job of reading the letters with a note of condescension which fit perfectly. Jessica obviously thought it should be obvious to anyone with half a brain why she was so hateful towards Christopher, and the fact that she was having to explain it to him was insulting to her, so of course she would come back with an attitude. The humor was wonderful, and the vulgarity helped Jessica seem that much more like a real person, because real people talk like that. While not the classic “fantasy” I was hoping/expecting to hear when I found podcastle, this has been my favorite podcastle story so far, I’ve listened to it 3 times and will no doubt listen to it again many times in the future.

  39. 39

    Frostfire said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

    I didn’t like this story at all, i too, found the main character to be vulgar and unlikable. Sorry, but this story didn’t feel like a fantasy to me.

  40. 40

    The Fix | From the Podosphere: June 2008 said,

    July 16, 2008 @ 7:32 am

    […] and enjoyable, “Fourteen Experiments in Postal Delivery” by John Schoffstall is a modern fantasy detailing the ups and downs of a relationship. […]

  41. 41

    LaShawn said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 12:50 pm

    What a weird, wonderful story! I love all the things that were sent. I wish someone would send me a Saturday (particularly Saturday, August 23, 1997). However, I think it went a little too long. I got lost somewhere around Hell (would’ve loved to stay in the Garden of Earthly Delights a bit longer). Her sister pulling her guts out seemed a bit…much. But the ending was spot on.

    Rachel’s voice was wonderful. I promise I won’t send her Spain.

  42. 42

    LaShawn said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 12:51 pm

    Oops! I meant “Heather”. Though Rachel’s intro was just as good.

  43. 43

    What’s on LaShawn’s iPod? Well, nothing since I don’t have an iPod…but I do have a reasonable enough facsimile… « The Cafe in the Woods said,

    July 30, 2008 @ 10:25 pm

    […] stories and interesting topics. For instance, I just listened to a short story on Podcastle called “Fourteen Experiments in Postal Delivery” by John Schoffstall, a surrealistic tale of a woman receiving ‘notes’ from her […]

  44. 44

    scatterbrain said,

    November 25, 2008 @ 5:45 pm

    I first avoided this for reasons I cannot remember, but I cannot believe that I did so and miss out for so long on such an excellent and passionate post-modern masterpiece.

  45. 45

    Nuptials and Naughty Bits-- Random Jane said,

    January 28, 2009 @ 8:34 am

    […] is up at Podcastle now — I was lured in by the opportunity to read John Schoffstall’s “Fourteen Experiments in Postal Delivery”, which is funny as all get out and gives me an opportunity to say “cooter” outside a […]

  46. 46

    Genrens inre gränser « Mythotopes said,

    January 5, 2010 @ 6:07 am

    […] i fantasygenren. Bland de mindre typiska alstren som de inkluderade hittar man John Schoffstalls ”Fourteen Experiments in Postal Delivery” i en suverän läsning av Heather Lindsley [1]. Faktum är att Schoffstalls berättelse är den […]

  47. 47

    “Fourteen Experiments in Postal Delivery” « moonlitworld said,

    August 3, 2010 @ 2:28 am

    […] she never does get her second ski back, either. John Schoffstall’s website link to text link to audio [story does not appear to be available in print] Categories: Recommendations Tags: audio, […]

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