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PodCastle 629: Though She Be But Little

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.

A statement from PodCastle on the ongoing protests against police brutality and anti-Black racism (included in audio at the start of the episode): As you know, protests are happening all over the U.S. to draw attention to police brutality and the ongoing injustice Black Americans are forced to endure. Make no mistake, PodCastle supports Black Lives Matter and we demand justice George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery & all victims of police violence. If you want to help and don’t know where to start, please donate to your local bail fund and the National Bail Fund Network. When everything looks bleak, and you don’t know what to do, look outward to your community. We help ourselves by helping others. Solidarity.

Though She Be But Little

By C.S.E. Cooney

Emma Anne had a tin can attached by a string to her belt. Lots of things on strings bounced and banged from it: some useful (like the pocket knife), some decorative (a length of red ribbon longer than herself, looped up), some that simply seemed interesting enough to warrant a permanent yo-yoing to her person (a silver hand bell, a long blue plume, the cameo of an elephant head wearing a Victorian bonnet).

“Emma Anne’s Heavy Weight Stacked Plate Championship Wrestling Belt,” Captain Howard called it. Captain Howard often capitalized the first letters of words she spoke out loud.

The belt was leather and embossed bronze, like a python wrapped twice about Emma Anne’s torso. It had appeared along with Captious and Bumptious the night the sky turned silver. So had the tin can. They were all part of Emma Anne’s endowments. (“Endowments” was the pirate word for objects or traits materializing Post-Argentum. “Post-Argentum,” another phrase of their design. Pirates had words for everything. But pirates were liars.)

Emma Anne hadn’t known how to use any of her endowments at first. Nothing was obvious until it was.

She brought the tin can up to her mouth and spoke into its cavity as clearly as she could. Endowments obeyed intent.

“Emma Anne to Margaret Howard. Come in please, Captain Howard.”

Captain Margaret Howard, Way Pirate of Route 1, did not deal in tin cans. What she had was her parrot, George Sand. George Sand got reception.

“Rrrawk,” Emma Anne’s tin can blatted back at her. “Whaddya want?”

“What do you want, over,” Emma Anne corrected.

She wouldn’t have corrected Captain Howard to her face, but George Sand never failed to get on Emma’s nerves.

“Rrrawk! Take it and rrawk yourself,” said George Sand. “Over.”

There was a pause while Emma Anne’s chest tightened.

The tin can blatted: “Cap’n Howard makes her apologies for her rude bird, over. Please continue, kid, over.”

She took a deep breath and decided not, after all, to cry.

“Captain, I’ve had a second visitation. It’s the Loping Man for sure. I think he’s coming for me tonight. Can you please meet me at Potter Hill preserve? He’s been showing up around eight o’ clock, so if you could come before that, I’d be really . . . But I understand if you’ll be out, out . . .”

Emma Anne knew the word she wanted to say, or knew that she had known it not too long ago. It dissolved at the back of her throat like a Vitamin C tablet. Left a tang.

George Sand provided.

“Carousing!” it squawked. “Roistering. Wassailing. Possibly pillaging. Pirate Banquet tonight up at The Grill. Starts at seven. Mandatory.” Another pause, wherein (Emma Anne surmised) Captain Howard related something to her parrot even it would not repeat. “Er . . . over.”

“Bye,” said Emma Anne in a much smaller voice. She let the tin can fall. It bonged hollowly against her knee.

Captious sighed. “Well. That went about the way we thought.” (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 628: Vincent’s Penny

Show Notes

Rated PG.

Vincent’s Penny

By Chris Barnham 

May 1941

I’m a child this time. Five or six years old.

Fully clothed under a bed, on a wooden floor. I touch a hand to my throat, but there is nothing there. I examine my hands and arms, astonished by the smoothness of the skin. At last, I crawl out from beneath the bed and leave the room.

Light from a jagged hole in the roof, blue sky beyond, streaked with horsetails of cloud.  The floor is dusted with splinters of wood and brick. The window at the end of the hall has daggers of glass clinging to the frame.

Over the banister, more rubble and destruction below. Some of the stairs are broken, but I pick my way downstairs, helped by the fact that I am so light now, in this child’s frame. I could skip across a field of grass and barely disturb the dew. There is a door at the foot of the stairs. I turn the handle and push, but at first it does not move. Maybe the wall has shifted in the raid. I try again, ramming my tiny shoulder against the wood.

The door releases its grip and tumbles me outside.    (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 627: We Are the Flower

Show Notes

Rated PG-13. Includes copious F-bombs.

We Are the Flower

By Claire Humphrey

I didn’t clue in until I saw the ghost bike chained to a signpost on Adelaide, near a corner. I was stopped up close, and I looked down and the angles of the frame were familiar. A Cannondale CAAD 5, just like mine. You could even see flashes of the same red and yellow logo underneath the white spray paint.

It’s, like, a pretty iconic bike, and you see them around a lot. So nothing too weird, right? Only then I noticed the luggage tag dangling from the handlebar. The neon green stood out against the white spray paint, and where you’d write the address someone had written, in silver marker, MISS YOU, MC.

Which is my name, or at least what I’m called.

I paused there a moment, one shoe clipped in, the other out and braced on the curb, then I looked at the rest of the bike again and saw, under the paint, the shape of my Trogdor sticker on the top tube.

Just like the one on the top tube of the red and yellow CAAD 5 I was currently riding.

Got to say, it shook me. I knew in my feelings even though I didn’t quite know in my mind. So what did I do?

Well, honestly, I turned into a bird. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 626: DOUBLE FEATURE! A Sharp Breath of Birds; A Guide to Birds by Song (After Death)

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.

“A Sharp Breath of Birds” is a companion piece to Laura Christensen’s artwork “Swan Dive.”

A Sharp Breath of Birds

By Tina Connolly

You are two on the day you see your first personal bird. It is the sort of thing you barely remember later, at six, seven, twenty. And yet you cling to it as your first memory: a sleek black penguin waddling through your nursery, it in black, you in white lace, mended and re-mended because you will not stop pulling off the threads to suck. You remember, later, a surprising softness to its feathers. You remember that it went right on past, even though you lunged for it. Your two-year-old images end like this: dark, warm, comforting, gone.

At seven, you see the birds regularly. You incorporate them into all your pretends; there is always some princess carried off by a bird to a nest made of raven feathers and filigreed spoons and shiny bits of silvered foil. Alice from next door easily accepts all the bird imagery as a fact of life; surely everybody plays games with birds in them, and she finds you books with more; the seven sparrows, and the dove maiden, and the nightingale at sea. Sometimes the princess is rescued by Alice, or Alice by the princess, and sometimes both girls rescue themselves, and sometimes nobody rescues anybody and they settle down as gainfully employed bird-bandits and bring more spoons and candlesticks and hand mirrors to the nest until your mother puts a stop to that and the bandits have to put all the things back.

At twelve you swear to keep playing princess-bandits forever, swear it under a double moon with a flock of geese flying past.

At fifteen you, drunk, try to remind her of this. (Continue Reading…)