PseudoPod 602: A Learned Man

Show Notes

I based the story loosely on an El Salvadorian folk tale I read in a book while I was traveling there.  It was a collections of local legends, oral tales, etc. retold by different people from the area. The one I based “A Learned Man” on was about a page and a half and very spare.

Here’s the reference:  

“La Leyenda de Bolsa Salgado.” El Salvadorian Folktale from Ozatlán, Usulután, El Salvador. Retold by Maria Irene Rivera. Espíritus Mitológicos de El Salvador. Ed. Gloria Mejía Gutierrez and Refugio Duarte de Romero. San Salvador: Concultura, 1997.    

Here’s what I wrote about it in my story notes:  

I’d been travelling on a shoestring through Central America for quite a while. One day in a small town in El Salvador, tired of sight-seeing and ready for something “normal,” I found a little library where signs warned in no uncertain terms that you must not touch the books. After I explained what I was looking for, the librarian warily found me a collection of local folk tales, which I quickly devoured. My favorite was “La Leyenda de Bolsa Salgado” from Ozatlán, Usulután, retold in one bare page and a half that sparked my imagination.

When the librarian kicked me out for siesta, I sat in the town square and wrote about three quarters of the rough draft of “A Learned Man”–one of the fastest first drafts I’ve ever written.

I’d like to thank Maria Irene Rivera, who retold the local legend, and Gloria Mejía Gutierrez and Refugio Duarte de Romero, the editors of the collection Espíritus Mitológicos de El Salvador ( San Salvador: Concultura, 1997). I’m also glad the librarian let me touch the books.


A Learned Man

by Melinda Brasher


I hated her father. It wasn’t fair, really, because he’d been nothing but kindness to me. When my hens all sickened one afternoon and died together at midnight, he hitched up his wagon and brought me half of his own brood so I could start again. With them he brought an amulet Lottie’s mother had made to ward off the curses of the old lady who lived down among the reeds behind the mill.

“The Marsh Witch” everyone called her, as they tiptoed around trying not to offend her, letting her steal cabbages and herbs from their gardens. I worked too hard to let a lazy woman who’d never done a lick of good for anyone take what was not hers. The night I caught her stealing carrots, I picked her up by her scruffy collar, threw her out onto the street, and warned her never to come back. All the neighbors crossed themselves when they heard and pressed me to go ask forgiveness before she called on all her dark powers.

“What powers?” I scoffed, to everyone’s horror. She was no witch. Witches didn’t exist.

But a week later, at the full moon, all my hens died, and that confirmed the villagers’ fears of her dark powers. (Continue Reading…)

PseudoPod 601: Flash On The Borderlands XLIII: The Grinding of Gears

Show Notes

stick my hands thru the cage of this endless routine

just some flesh caught in this big broken machine


Suicide Vending Machine: “I was in the crisp white gleam of the car showroom with a coffee machine and a stopped clock, and I couldn’t imagine anyone ever being allowed to leave.”


Suicide Vending Machine

by Thomas Welsh


Good morning sir. I see from my paperwork that you have a budget of ten thousand dollars, but I’m pleased to announce that you can benefit from our “recommend a friend” discount scheme. Yes sir, it’s another three thousand, and you should certainly thank them the next time you see them. Or perhaps allow us to send them a message of thanks  on your behalf?

I am glad you asked! You absolutely can make a referral too. Don’t worry; I’ll remind you when we finalize our documentation. Just the name and location is all we need, we will pick them up.

Alright then, let’s begin! (Continue Reading…)

PseudoPod 600: The Graveyard Rats


The Graveyard Rats

by Henry Kuttner


Old Masson, the caretaker of one of Salem’s oldest and most neglected cemeteries, had a feud with the rats. Generations ago they had come up from the wharves and settled in the graveyard, a colony of abnormally large rats, and when Masson had taken charge after the inexplicable disappearance of the former caretaker, he decided that they must go. At first he set traps for them and put poisoned food by their burrows, and later he tried to shoot them, but it did no good. The rats stayed, multiplying and overrunning the graveyard with their ravenous hordes. (Continue Reading…)

PseudoPod 599: The Boy with the Glass Eyes


The Boy With The Glass Eyes

By J.L. Flannery


My son arrived in a brown cardboard package, no bigger than a shoebox.

I lifted the lid to see him lying there flat on his back, eyes closed, as though he were asleep.

‘Go on,’ my Boss said, ‘lift him up.’

Nervously, I lifted him up out of the box and cradled him in my arms. His skin was velvet. His smell; pure talcum powder. I looked down at his sleeping face and put on a smile, pretending the nausea that was rising in my throat didn’t exist.

My Boss, Mr Yamamoto, stood staring, waiting for me to react.

‘It’s incredibly lifelike,’ I said in Japanese.

He nodded, ‘Just like a real baby. Go ahead. Power it up.’

I hesitated a moment. What on earth would Alice say when I bought this thing home with me?

‘It’s a great privilege to be chosen,’ Mr Yamamoto said smiling, as if he could sense my unease.

I nodded, ‘Yes, I know. Thank you. I’m very grateful about it, honest I am. It’s just…’

‘It’s just what?’

‘Nothing,’ I said, ‘it’s nothing,’ and I held down the button on the base of its spine and the baby woke up.

Slowly, his eyes opened and he turned his head to look at me with his blue eyes made of glass. (Continue Reading…)