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Hurst, James

The Scarlet Ibis

A Listener (you know who you are) wrote to me recently requesting that I laugh hysterically for fifteen minutes into my microphone and post this as a short story for you. Now, while I agree that this would be a particularly amusing johncagey experiment, I have not, unfortunately, seen hyenaic laughter transcribed this way, and have no idea what it might look like on the page.As always, if you can send the story, though, I’ll see what I can do. Thankfully, Denise (you also know who you are) offered an alternate recommendation, which I happily oblige.

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Goodman, Paul

The Joke

Does the title of today’s story affect you in such a way that the person nearest you is now asking what you’re sighing about? Or maybe you rolled your eyes so far to the side that you now have a stress headache and need to refocus before reading the rest of this blurb? (If so, please, take a moment. The next few words aren’t -that- important, and I won’t be accountable for repeated stress injuries. I just won’t.) Because it had that effect on me, typing it just now. I mean, there’s Kunder’s The Joke, and the Monty Python bit about the world’s funniest joke, and a recent study concerning the same. There’s the wildly not funny Freud essay, and from all this, we might think we’re taking a right turn onto Hackneyed Street.

But I promise you, my dears, if this The Joke was a bag of prepackaged organic baby spinach, you’d all be sick, not from bacteria, but from overindulging on its goodness. Enjoy.

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Barrett, William E.

Señor Payroll

There is a bottling facility close to where I live, and while “bottling facility” might look like elusive high-security stuff to the random passerby, between you and I, it’s best described as a warehouse for bottled beers.

This morning, while walking my dog past the top-secret bottling facility, a man driving a forklift full of cases of red stripe beer had evidently just taken a too-sharp turn, or landed in a pothole, or had been drinking too much of his cargo, because his forklift was parked and in front of it was a river of freshly flowing beer from freshly broken bottles. And while this might seem a good dream to many people, myself included sometimes, actually, it wasn’t the most satisfying pool to wade in at nine in the morning. I share this with you now only so that, in this regard at least, you might better separate the dream from the reality. So remember: a river of beer by any other name… isn’t easy on the olfactories.

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Mahfouz, Naguib

The Conjurer Made Off with the Dish

If this podcast was Miette’s Themetime Story Podcast, the theme of today’s story might be ‘coming-of-age,’ or it might be ‘how to make beans in Egypt,’ or maybe it’s ‘reverence,’ or perhaps it might be nothing more than ‘how to charm the socks right off of both feet of Miette.’ Outstanding questions, answers, and requests to come, but this first for evident reasons.

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Huxley, Aldous

Fard

Because I am a good, supportive, helpful sort, I took a friend recently to purchase a new pair of running trainers. Which isn’t a very exciting way to begin a pre-podcastal anecdote, but don’t go away yet! You see, it wasn’t at all what I’d come to expect from my Friendly Local Sneaker Salesperson. No! My friend was placed on the pedestal of a treadmill and told to run, a treadmill attached to video camera equipment and analytics software and a multi-screen view of his feet in action, from which the decision of the Perfect Trainer For Him had become a no-brainer. It was all very sci-fi and ultrasensory and cool, in an admittedly unhuman sort of way (and let’s face it, we can ruminate all day, but we’re just talking about sneakers).

And it gave me an idea. Indulge me a minute. Place your left thumb on the icon at the top of one of those ear-buds (either one is fine). (Come on, please? It’d make me so very happy.)

(Did you do it? Come on, just for a second)

This is where I was going to make a joke about determining the perfect podcast for you today based on some thumb-in-earbud analytics software that I whipped up in Javascript, but I think you probably get it by now. Either because you’re brilliant, or because I can’t compose a joke. In any event, tonight’s story fits all.

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Renard, Jules

The Dark Lantern

As you know, there’s not much room on these pages for political soapboxing, both because there are already plenty of internet playgrounds for that sort of thing, and because I’d rather freestyle on such endlessly gripping topics as the weather or this podcast’s sound quality. However. I have an opinion that must be voiced. You know the centenarian who sits in the corner of your office, who doesn’t do much, but who’s generally innocuous, whose very presence is as critical to your environment as the cracks on the walls or the location of your printers? Or the old curmudgeon at your local bar, who’s never bothered to buy you a drink and wouldn’t dare shove over a stool to free up a space for you and your friends, but without whom you’d probably never go to that bar at all?

I’m sure by now you know what I’m talking about. And I’ll say this: I’m not going anywhere near that solar system again until you bring Pluto back. I mean it.

Until then, here is today’s story if you want to read it in French.

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Anderson, Sherwood

Sophistication

Today’s bedtime story has been requested by Patrick (as for the O’Connor, I will do, yes, but for now, have you heard this one?), and I looked all over town but couldn’t find a more appropriate selection for today, so you should all join me now in thanking him.

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Twain, Mark

The Five Boons of Life

My friends and compeers and heroes at Librivox are celebrating their first birthday right now, and so I felt it necessary to add my kudos to their basic first-year achivements:

— cutting teeth on Conrad and Dostoevsky
— picking up the necessities of verbal communication with Wilde and Wodehouse
— and now, sleeping in Big Kids Bed and breaking themselves from thumbsucking thanks to Descartes and Machiavelli.

Really, they do what I do here, only without so much swearing, and with a little more patience. Go wish them the best birthday to-date, as I do, from this humble squat of senescence. Here’s to toddling!

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Palma, Ricardo

How the Devil Lost His Poncho

A question too often asked of me: how is a specific story or specific author on a specific day selected?

Rather than answer the question directly (because what’s the use of renting one’s own outdoor space if not to desultorily blather around or plant cobwebbish morning glories around it?), I thought I would instead give you insight into the metrics, processes, and rationale behind today’s selection. Steel yourselves:

I had been thinking about Peru. For no other reason than thinking about most places lately is just too depressing; it was a random thought. Peru. Nothing special, and nothing more than that. I then decided that I fancied reading to you, and since Peru was freshly ground on my bean, a Peruvian (also purveyors of mightyfine beans, to extend the metaphor) would do. Palma came to mind, and I naturally reached for Peruvian Traditions, which is magnificent. But then instead remembered this story, a story so great and with a title so clever that had it not been a work of fiction, it might be an urban children’s toy or an instant indy rock classic. And so it was decided.

Does that answer the question? Enjoy!

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De La Mare, Walter

The Riddle

The plot of tonight’s story involves a gaggle of young children who go to stay with their frail old grandmother, and who, more or less, are swallowed up by a house that I imagine to be uniformly mothballish and denture-gluey in nature. And I’m disclosing this to you now not so that I might spoil it for you (because I’m sure you’re all remarkably brilliant listeners who are after more than rote high-concept plot anyhow), BUT! If anyone has any advice on how to return the hairs on my neck to their natural supine state, which they haven’t been since reading this, I’d appreciate it. Not that I have many hairs on my neck, because that’s unsightly. But just because today’s is a frightly one. So prepare yourselves.

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