Archive for Rated PG

PodCastle logo

PodCastle 610: Charlemagne and Florent

Show Notes

Rated PG.


Charlemagne and Florent

By Ranylt Richildis

This is what happened to les deux bretons before I met them, back in the 70s when they were boys in Vannes. One was abandoned at nineteen months (no one knows why, or by whom), the other orphaned by a car wreck at age three. I should say he was orphaned in a car wreck, strapped to a safety seat in the car in question. The fact of the child safety seat indicates the degree of his late parents’ love for him; baby seats were indulgences in 1971. He was brought to the same agency as the foundling, where someone had the kindness to put them together in the same bassinet. Or — it might just as easily be said — someone made the mistake of placing them together.

The fair boy was registered under the unlikely name of Charlemagne Kermorgant, the dark one attached to the much less remarkable Florent Edig. Florent remembers the occasion of their meeting, just as he remembers the car wreck that erased his alternate life. He sees, when he tries, a characterless room, a lurking nurse, a dreary olive drape, and a toddler with matted white hair crawling up to peer at his eyes. A scent, one part applesauce, one part diaper. Children’s squeaks and squalls. A pain in his left leg and another on the right side of his head. A rather stunning absence, quickly filled.

Charlemagne was so named by at least one of his derelict parents. The name was inscribed on a note taped to his wrist. There was no family name, of course, so Kermorgant became his surname, as it became the surname of all the ciphers left on the steps of the eponymous hospice. An interim label, it stuck to him through to the age of majority and sticks to him still. (Continue Reading…)

PodCastle logo

PodCastle 606: River’s Giving

Show Notes

Rated PG for jolly old beasts of terror.


River’s Giving

Heather Shaw, River Shaw, and Tim Pratt

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Alexander who lived in a village by a river in a valley in the shadow of a mountain. Every year when the days grew short and the air grew cold and the snow fell, the village would hold a celebration called River’s Giving. The festival kept spirits bright as darkness grew, and the people there looked forward to the cold of the longest night as much as they did the warmth of the longest day. At least they did until the year it all went wrong.

The young adults spent all summer tending sheep and spinning thread, and the older children spent the fall knitting long nets to string across the river. They decorated the nets with bright green sharp-edged leaves and sprigs of white and red berries that were no good for eating but beautiful for seeing. They also hung tiny bells all over the nets, and these jingled in the water, a sound that always meant joy to Alexander.

In the week before the festival, those adults who were so inclined would wield their slings and bows and stones and arrows to display their hunting prowess, or toss logs and heavy stones in shows of strength, all in friendly competition, with cheers for the winners and consolation drinks for the losers. Alexander’s mother usually came in second or third with the bow these days, after winning five straight years in a row. Some people said she was losing her touch, but Alexander’s father whispered that she just thought it was nice to let other people win sometimes. Life in the village was like that; people shared everything, even victory. (Continue Reading…)

PodCastle logo

PodCastle 594: The Deliverers of Their Country

Show Notes

Rated PG.


The Deliverers of Their Country

By E. Nesbit

It all began with Effie’s getting something in her eye. It hurt very much indeed, and it felt something like a red-hot spark — only it seemed to have legs as well, and wings like a fly. Effie rubbed and cried— not real crying, but the kind your eye does all by itself without your being miserable inside your mind — and then she went to her father to have the thing in her eye taken out. Effie’s father was a doctor, so of course he knew how to take things out of eyes — he did it very cleverly with a soft paintbrush dipped in castor oil.

When he had gotten the thing out, he said: “This is very curious.” Effie had often got things in her eye before, and her father had always seemed to think it was natural — rather tiresome and naughty perhaps, but still natural. He had never before thought it curious.

Effie stood holding her handkerchief to her eye, and said: “I don’t believe it’s out.” People always say this when they have had something in their eyes.

“Oh, yes — it’s out,” said the doctor. “Here it is, on the brush. This is very interesting.”

Effie had never heard her father say that about anything that she had any share in. She said: “What?” (Continue Reading…)

PodCastle logo

PodCastle 593: Balloon Man

Show Notes

Rated PG.


Balloon Man

By Shiv Ramdas

If it hadn’t been for the camel, Mithun might never have noticed the old balloon seller at all. He almost didn’t notice the camel either. If he’d been looking for it, he probably wouldn’t have.

Like so many other parts of Northern India, Qaisarbagh Bazaar wasn’t so much a place that time forgot as much as it was a place that had forgotten time, or at the very least, had pointedly refused to acknowledge its existence. To Mithun’s left, men in pathani kurtas herded goats past cellphone towers, never looking up. To his right, vendors pushed carts piled high with sweet-smelling fruit, bright clothes and trinkets under dangling electricity lines, ignoring the half-buried cables underfoot as they called out to passers-by as a steady stream of cars, bicycles and cycle-rickshaws swerved and cursed their way down the narrow cobbled streets. All in all, it was an explosion of sights, sounds and smells, a patchwork of colour and chaos of the sort that is so much more appealing on Exotic India postcards than when experienced in the flesh. Partly because it makes a lot of things rather difficult, such as the mundane yet surprisingly useful exercise that is finding things just by looking for them.

As Mithun stood there, he found the camel staring back at him, unblinking. Then slowly, deliberately, it jerked its head sideways, at the old man with the bent back and straggly grey beard, standing there between the paan-seller with bad teeth and the cigarette-vendor shouting discounts at schoolchildren, half-hidden in the shadow of the crumbling clock-tower. And that was when Mithun noticed the balloons.

Indeed, he couldn’t help but notice them, for these were no ordinary balloons. No, they were massive, lustrous, the most wondrous balloons you ever saw. Above the spotless white Gandhi topi on the old man’s head, a beautiful blue-green globe, the earth itself, or perhaps not quite, floating right there. Beside it, much larger, the fiery citrus glow of the reluctant red of the setting sun giving way to a soothing orange. Next to that, a small one, half translucent, half black, the moon being eaten by Rahu, just like in the myths the teacher read out every Friday.

Mithun looked at his mother, but she failed to notice him, being still engrossed in the vital task of securing an extra half kilo of lentils at no additional cost. An additional half kilo that he already knew it would be his destiny to spend the evening carrying around the bazaar. He looked back at the balloons, and as he watched, one of them, an impossibly radiant five pointed star, floated heavenwards, and then exploded in a shower of iridescence, each fragment now a star in its own right. This was the first thing Mithun noticed.

The second was that he seemed to be the only person who had noticed it.

“Come here, boy.” (Continue Reading…)