EP079: Mountain, Man

By Heather Shaw.
Read by Stephen Eley.
Discuss on our forums.
All stories by Heather Shaw
All stories read by Stephen Eley

“Look, miss, I’m going to have to cut your hair to do this. Is that all right?”

She smiled at him from her upside-down, bent-over position, so he took that as a yes. He found an old pair of garden shears and took a hunk of her hair, gathered it into a rough ponytail, and hacked it off.

A pair of mountain bluebirds flew out from where the nest of hair had been.

Rated PG. Contains non-explicit sex, accidental assault, and geological scatology.

Comments (23)

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  1. Janice in GA says:

    I really enjoy magic realism stories like this. I thought the ending was a little weaker than the first part, but I liked it on the whole. I was trying to infer the punctuation of the title from the way it was said. πŸ™‚ I did wonder why it was “Mountain, MAN” for a while, but on the whole, I think it works. And Mountain, Woman, wouldn’t have made much sense. πŸ™‚

  2. slic says:

    The story was nice – a good fantasy story. Unfortunately for me, after last week, I have a real hankering for some more space sci-fi.

    So I went googling and really couldn’t make sense of the return list. FYI the search string “sci-fi” podcast “short stories” brings back EscapePod as #1!
    I’ve been to podiobooks and got some good stuff there (Different Point of View, Brave Men Run, Voices) but it’s mostly novels. So I’m hoping some of the other listeners here can tell me about a podcast or two that will scratch my itch.
    One good sci-fi podcast is Tales from the ‘Verse (Firefly/Serenity fan fiction) http://talesfromtheverse.libsyn.com/rss

    One fun comicbook type, very much in the style of “Union Dues” but from the villian pov, is How to Succeed in Evil http://succeedinevil.com/?feed=rss2&cat=6

  3. Luke says:

    Actually, it is “Geek Dad Intro” Number 4

    Don’t worry Steve i had the same thing when i was a toddler…and i turned out alright

    How does he like the Toddler room?

  4. I really enjoyed this story as well. I wondr what would’ve happened if she’d had the man’s baby. Makes me think of the GAIA theory and stories I’ve heard over the years.

    Any space based thrillers in the pipeline?

    Maybe your toddler has developed his own language, a sophisticated phonetic language with certain high pitched sounds inaudible to most adults and isn’t quite ready to degrade his abilities to use our grownup-speak.

  5. Loz says:

    I enjoyed this story, much more than Heather Shaw’s previous story which just didn’t grab me. Very descriptive language.

  6. I liked this one, but in my opinion, the mountain man stayed ignorant of the true nature (hah!) of the dryad (opr whatever she was) for far too long. The woman’s hair and flesh contain the equivalent of a petting zoo, and the mountain man only seems to realize she’s a little…different, about 3/4 of the way through the tale. That wasn’t very believable or not, and the attempt at explaining why (ole’ Aunt Bessie, et. al.) didn’t smooth that over enough.

    But it was still very enjoyable, and the descriptions of the “dryad” were top-notch. I also like the reference to her being so wrapped up in love that the seasons went awry.

  7. David says:

    Hey Steve –
    I have a son with a similar “delay”. He’s 6 now. We’ve tried some things to help him, and they probably have, but more than anything I’ve developed a deep love for who he is, quirks and all. It’s easy to worry about how the world will treat my kid if I don’t do just the “right” thing raising him. At the same time, I don’t want to be the one to send a message that something is wrong with him and he should try to be like everyone else. It’s a complicated issue… there’s a fine line to be found, and I wish you wisdom. But whenever it gets a little too heavy, just look at your son and enjoy loving him and his unique character.

  8. Eric says:

    I really enjoyed this story. The language was very detailed and full of great imagery. Living in the mid-west and with winter fast approaching I don’t think I could resist the temptation of keeping the woman for myself. Ah, to live in love and a constant spring season…

    My thoughts are with you concerning your toddler. Sometimes I think Children who don’t speak as soon as us adults would like them to, do so simply because they choose not too. I think they hold on to something that adults are sometimes too quick to forget: how wonderful and awe inspiring it is to be a child. Once they get their full enjoyment out of this time of their lives they will decide when they are ready to move to the next step. Thatβ€šΓ„Γ΄s when the questions you won’t know how to answer will start. πŸ™‚

    Good luck and, again, my thoughts are with you.

  9. Simon says:

    Heather Shaw is rapidly making it clear she is the worst writer escape pod has published.

    The reduction by almost an order of magnitude in the number of comments this week suggests i’m not the only one who finds her sentimentality brings them out in hives.

    Steve – You’ve been blazing a high quality trail lately mate, Pseudopod is also maturing nicely… Good stuff and good luck with your son.

  10. Colin F says:


    I think you’re being too quick to assume that everyone else shares your view of the story.

    I think that the lack of comments is more indicative of the fact that the story didn’t stir up many strong feelings – either for OR against. You know, people didn’t love it enough to say so or hate it enough to complain about it.

    Fair comment?

  11. Simon says:

    Colin: Oh absolutely, I was a little heavy handed last night. I’m not going to stand up and try to make that sort of generalisation scientifically justified, but I still think it’s true.

    I think there are several ways to dislike a story, and sometimes (as I did) you force yourself to listen through to prove something to yourself (probably not a good indicator for my sanity) then comment, and sometimes you just turn it off and never think on it again.

    I had a strong gut reaction to Single White Farmhouse, and forced myself through this one in order to evaluate it – I had exactly the same reaction to the sicklyness and lack of any new ideas – It’s like listening to an album by Enya when you’ve got a hankering for Neil Young.

    I would lay fair money that a sizeable proportion of listeners just stopped this one after the “and then they made love” tedium – whereas a story like Nano Comes To Clifford Falls engaged people enough that they had to finish it and were often driven to comment negatively.

    I stand by what I said – bad, bad writer.

  12. Earl Newton says:

    If I may say:

    There are no bad writers, only bad execution.

    Furthermore, there have been several accounts in history of bad executions of bad writers.

  13. Brewhaha says:

    This story didn’t do anything for me. I suppose it’s because it was so far beyond the realm of reality that I couldn’t relate to it. It’s funny, I can enjoy stories with such far out concepts as magic, time travel, and even an intelligent, living house, but I just can’t appreciate a story about a woman who cries turtles and poops lava.

    To enjoy scifi/fantasy you have to extend your imagination, but I think there is a limit (probably different for everyone) to how far you are willing to extend before things are too bizarre. This story crossed that line for me.

    Nevertheless, keep up the good work.

  14. shaved_goat says:

    Ahhh children. They are a fantastic source of joy and worry. I hope things are OK Steve. That geek Dad into has been the highlight for this DAD since I first listened to Escape Pod.

    In this last intro you gave us listeners a lot of you and Anna. I feel honored and special for knowing about your sons development, both joyful and concerned.

    The fact that you did in a Podcast for all to hear amazes me. I could not even tell my closest family about my daughters slow reading development. Again I feel honoured.

    My daughters reading is fine now though. Letting her listen to Escape Pod sure has peaked her interest in fantastic stories like yours as well.

    I liked your words about Escape Pod CDs and in particular: Daikaiju CDs!!! at the end….

    I’m now on your $5.00/month list

  15. J.D. Harper says:

    Brewhaha nailed my opinion on this piece. This is the literary equivalent of abstract art.

    Some folks really like abstract art, but it’s not my cup of tea. So I was very glad to hear this week’s episode was one of the Union Dues series, which most certainly _is_ my cup of tea.

  16. justJ0e says:

    I don’t really like to post unless I have more to add then “I liked it as well,” but since Simon disliked it so much I figured I ought to speak up in the other category.
    So, “I liked this one” …. in a sort of an abstract, cross breeding, Deliverance sort of way.

    The ending did seem a little weak but that might have been exacerbated by the rest of the story keeping me wondering what in the heck was going to happen next!

    BTW: On the “kid speaking” front. According to family lore, my mom didn’t say a word until she was almost 5. Then out of the blue she walked up to her mom in the kitchen and began voicing her opinion on something in complete sentences and paragraphs. Nearly startled her mom to death.

    Kids … apparently one size does NOT fit all.

  17. Pete Butler says:

    I loved it.

    I loved how early-on Heather kept ramping up the absurdity if The Girl’s “infestation” from the completely mundane insect parasites, up through the improbable wildlife, until finally we got to the Volcanic Diarhea when even our completely down-to-earth protagonist had to admit something very strange was going on.

    I loved how the story kept me guessing. I never expected that it would be his neighbors who would pay the price for this strange relationship. I never expected her to take the dog with her.

    And a screeching case of poison oak, fleas, and wood ticks followed by getting buried to your neck in snow feel like appropriate consequences for dumping a nature spirit.

    Both of the stories by Heather Shaw run in Escape Pod have been inventive, unpredictable, wonderfully executed and wildly imaginative. I’d be glad to hear anything else she’s written.

  18. WOW! What a story! Amazing! But haven’t you read this story before? It feels like I have heard this story before.

    It will take a couple of time of listens to analyze this story and the symbolics. Great story and great reading!

  19. Janni says:

    I’d been behind on my Escape Pod listening for a bit; this was a nice story to come back to; I enjoyed it.

  20. GTD Wannabe says:

    @slic: Try out the silent universe http://www.silentuniverse.com/ I’ve only listened to the first one, but it’s a rip roaring fun so far. Of course, it’s not really short fiction, and it’s not narrated, but it is spacey. πŸ™‚

    Re this story. I too am a bit behind, but I liked it well enough. I think I preferred her Single White Farmhouse better though.

  21. Jakob says:

    This is exactly what I expected to find out after reading the title EP079: Mountain, Man. Thanks for informative article

  22. scatterbrain says:

    Now that is fantasy! I’ve been having a fantastic time the past few days, listening to some of the best podcasts I’ve ever encountered and let me tell you, a good story to listen to after this is ‘The Fabulous Junkyard’ at Steam pod. It blew my mind!