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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…)

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PodCastle 625: Salt and Iron

Show Notes

Rated R.


Salt and Iron

By Gem Isherwood

There’s a gash across her cheekbone, glass in her arm and her lower lip is twice the size it should be, but Dagna Müller is hardly a stranger to pain.

She slumps on the steps outside the tavern, feeling her nose to check if it’s broken again. Without sensation in her fingertips it’s hard to tell. She can’t bring herself to care much either way.

Her muscles ache from the weight as well as the fight: a dull hurt that courses along her shoulders and down her arms, turning to a chafing burn where the skin of her wrists meets the solid metal of her hands.

That pain never fades. At least the injuries provide some variety.

The tavern stands on the seafront, where barques and schooners are berthed like horses stabled for the night. The tide is low and the air reeks worse than an undine’s armpit; between that and the cheap gin in her belly it takes all of Dagna’s willpower not to retch.

Six months ago, she wouldn’t have lost a fight. If she hadn’t drunk herself halfway into oblivion she could have knocked all three of them out inside of a minute. Or at least noticed the bastards were cheating before they’d taken every last coin in her purse.

“Here,” a voice says from above her. “You’re a damn poor advertisement for my business.”

She looks up to see the landlord – an old mariner, face wrinkled from the sun and sea air – offering her an almost-clean rag. She takes it and dabs at her bloody face.

“I’ll pay for the damage,” she says, busted lip muffling the words.

“Oh yeah? With what?” He leans against the doorframe and folds his arms. “Them’s good hands for throwing a punch. Strong arms for throwing weight behind it too.”

“Four years on the merchant ships’ll do that.”

The glass splinters in her left bicep are leaking spots of blood like freckles. She’ll have to dig them out with a penknife later. It’s times like these she misses fingernails. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 624: TALES FROM THE VAULTS — Crickets Sing for Naomi

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.


Crickets Sing for Naomi

By Eden Royce

“If these danggone crickets don’t stop following me,” Naomi grumbled as the insect bounded out of the path of her wedge heel. Another of the bugs scuttled across the top of her foot, its spiny legs pricking her exposed skin. Under the streetlight, moths danced in the circle of brightness on the otherwise dim road. Heat ebbed from the asphalt, making her wish she’d worn flip-flops.

For months, the insects had followed her around. At her parents’ house, one had even jumped out of  her pocketbook onto the hardwood floor. While her mother screamed and leapt onto a chair, her father had chuckled, scooped up the invader, and placed it outside.

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 623: Caring For Dragons and Growing a Flower

Show Notes

Rated PG-13, for found footage and lost loves.

Author’s dedication

I dedicate this story to my grandfather and father: one who I’ve never met and one I’ve known since I was born, yet both are men in my family who have my eternal respect and admiration.


Caring for Dragons and Growing a Flower

By Allison Thai

31 October, 1974

Dear Thi,

Sleep easy tonight, darling. I’m well and alive at the barracks the Party had seized in Sóc Trăng. Because I had sided with the enemy, I expected to be shot, or be assigned to clear the mines. Instead, the commander told me that medical training is like imperial jade: a precious resource and hard to come by. It would be wasted, with a bullet to my head. So I renounced the treacherous ways of the enemy, and I was given the honor of caring for the dragons of the People’s Army. They’ll be the key to winning the war and driving out the American invaders. Every day we inch closer to victory and uniting our country. Every day I thank the Party for my spared life. I will henceforth contribute my efforts to the glory and prosperity of the Party.

How are things back home in Hà Nội? Have you been taking care of the seed I gave you on our wedding day?

Sincerely, Cương (Continue Reading…)