EP135: Stu

By Bruce McAllister.
Read by Stephen Eley.
Appears in The Girl Who Loved Animals and Other Stories, from Golden Gryphon Press.

The first time I met Stu, I was just a kid and there weren’t any lights hovering over his house. The last time I saw him, when I was grown and we both knew what life could be if you let it, there were. That’s the best way to start, I guess.

That first time, our dad piled us into our old Chevy wagon–the kind you took to drive-in movies with sheets on the seats and your kids in pajamas–and drove us to the north county, saying only, “Stu is an inventor. He’ll never see any royalties from his inventions because the Navy owns them, but he’s an inventor, the kind that made America great.”

How had he first met Stu? How does anyone in the Navy get to know a wide-eyed, crazy-haired inventor who wasn’t at all “strack,” who shouldn’t have been anywhere near the military but somehow was? On a Secret Project, of course. My brother and I‚Äîwho were 10 and 6 at the time–were sure of it. Our dad and Stu had to be working on a Secret Project together.

Rated G. Contains military bureaucracy, but nothing more disturbing.

Comments (13)

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  1. Great story, and one of the nicest reading’s I think you’ve done yet, Steve. Not much happened, really, but it really painted a nice picture of the characters, and what they’re doing, and have done. A rather poetic way to sum up someone’s life in a short story. Nice!

  2. T.K. says:

    very nice. Great short short and i loved the simple nature of it.

  3. Yeah, this one was really good! Thanks!

  4. aranya says:

    Simple and stunning. I really enjoyed the mad scientist vein McAllister used here, and especially liked the warm, fuzziness that ensues in the home strech of the story. I appreciate the cheeky jabs at military technology and the gratuitous Einstein references, but the only thing I didn’t like was the lack of action. Otherwise, a truly good story.

  5. Jacob says:


  6. Gab says:

    This was a good story.
    Very well written and said.

  7. Have to agree with Jonathan Addleman, one of Steve’s best reading. Really suited your voice.

    Sure, not much action but that doesn’t mean nothing much happened. It takes the narrator from naieve young boy to a grown man who has learnt a strong moral lesson. Thats quite a thing to show in a short story.

  8. Will SK says:

    Thank You

  9. b says:

    A fun story.

  10. Motti says:

    Looks like I’m in a minority here. Putting aside the complete and utter lack of anything going on I don’t think the story was any good. For one thing the term “Of course I knew what he meant” was hideously abused, if memory serves it was used to infer different things in different parts of the story. All in all the story was entirely too arbitrary for my taste with aliens popping up at the last moment with no coherent reason.

    All in all this is one of my least favourite EPs ever.

  11. Sayeth says:

    The author obviously knows something about science and engineering. Rather than trying to dazzle us with bleeding-edge leaps in vastly different fields, each invention seemed realistic and related, so I felt like they came from someone’s actual expertise. The plausibility of the earlier inventions made the final jump feel more natural.

  12. flameel says:

    Agreed. There was a natural flow to this story, one which profoundly resonated with me. At a bare minimum, it gives a wonderful template of what it means to be a mentor. The story also reminds us that small things can have a large and lasting impact, whether for good or bad, depending on application. Thanks, Steve, for bringing this story to us.

  13. Bastette says:

    I had the same reaction as Motti – definitely my least favorite EscapePod experience so far (and note that I’m writing this in 2010 – that’s right, I’m from the future :)). It just seemed to build up to nothing. I didn’t need to be “dazzled”, but I would have liked a little more action and drama. Sounds like the scenario as it was resonated with many listeners, but it didn’t with me.

    Of course, saying something is my least favorite EscapePod story doesn’t tell you much about the story’s quality, because most of them are so wonderful!