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The Thing on The Fourble Board questions
Confused about the story

Comments on The Thing on The Fourble Board questions
ReynardMuldrake
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Posted Nov 05, 2005 - 1:20 PM:

I don't know if anyone's still around here, or if anyone can clear this up, but I've recently started to listen to old time radio plays and yesterday I heard The Thing on The Fourble Board for the first time. It was certainly creepy, but I'm kind of confused about what happened.

So, there's this race of creatures that live below the earth that have the faces of children, skin like living cement, and the lower bodies of spiders? The narrator (Porky?) didn't come right out and say she had the body of a spider, but that's all I could assume. These creatures are hard of hearing and are blind (above ground at least) and invisible except when something coats their skin, at which point they can be seen and they somehow become capable of seeing. This is one trippy story.

Ok, if she has the body of a spider, how could he cover that up with a dress?

And was she really a little girl, or did she just look and sound like a little girl? When did he marry her? Why did he find her attractive, seeing as how she 1. was some sort of bizarre under earth unknown species, 2. couldn't communicate, 3. Had the face of a little girl, 4. Had the body of a spider, which is not only disturbing but especially unpleasant for Porky since he's afraid of spiders? There's no indication in the story that Porky is insane except that he "marries" this creature.

Here's something else I'm not clear about. The missing fingers. Whose finger with the ring did they find in the earth? What did it signify? Why did the creature take the ring back? Why was SHE missing a finger? Wait a second, it just occured to me... was it supposed to be HER finger? It just came off her and got buried in stone? And what about the guy whose neck was broken? She took his finger off just to get the ring back? Did she kill him, or did he just fall?

And how did he see anything up on the fourble board if she was invisible?

And what did she like to eat? I don't remember her ever eating anyone. Unless I missed something, she didn't eat the guy whose neck was broken. At the end of the story, Porky apparently has someone held captive and I can only assume the creature is going to eat him. But when did it become clear that she likes eating human flesh? And surely that couldn't have been her diet underground.

Sorry for all these rambling questions, but the story is just confusing to me.
Paul
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Posted Nov 06, 2005 - 2:40 AM:

So, there's this race of creatures that live below the earth

I don't think so, I think it's just her. She's the emodiment of the ancient depths, you might say, and has no need to reproduce. Who knows when she formed -- perhaps she only formed in the process of the oil drilling, perhaps she only became conscious on the surface.

that have the faces of children, skin like living cement, and the lower bodies of spiders?

I wouldn't take it all literally, it's more suggestive. If it were TV, you'd have to see something (though in this case she's invisible so perhaps not), but on radio it's up to your imagination to come up with the sort of monster that works for you. Given that she's invisible, the characters in Fourble are kind of in the same position as the radio audience in that they're creating their own monster.

These creatures are hard of hearing and are blind

Well, there's not much point to seeing and hearing when you're stuck inside miles of solid rock. wink There's no point in being able to move either, without any room, which leads to my theory that she formed from the drilling process.

And was she really a little girl, or did she just look and sound like a little girl?

Since she's invisible until you paint her, she's whatever you see her as. Porky sees her as a little girl because that's what he's looking for, that's what he paints her as.

When did he marry her? Why did he find her attractive

Porky is terrified of her, he describes her accordingly -- he's afraid of spiders, so to him she's a spider. This doesn't explain why at the very same time he says she has the face of a little girl, unless it's a little girl he really hated growing up, and only later transforms into a girl he liked. Okay, I'm grasping at straws here. Still, he learns in the end that beauty is created by the beholder. He learns to paint her in ways that he likes.

couldn't communicate

Plenty of men have wanted a wife who couldn't talk back to them. sticking out tongue She can communicate in a way though. Porky calls her and he says she likes to be called Mike, so they've apparently talked in some way. She makes noises, perhaps he's learned to understand them.

Whose finger with the ring did they find in the earth? What did it signify? Why did the creature take the ring back? Why was SHE missing a finger? Wait a second, it just occured to me... was it supposed to be HER finger? It just came off her and got buried in stone?

I've always taken it to be her finger. She's a construct of rock and oil and everything else down deep in the earth. It didn't get buried in stone, it just is stone. "Its hand was stone... living, moving stone."

And what about the guy whose neck was broken? She took his finger off just to get the ring back? Did she kill him, or did he just fall?

I'd say his terror of her killed him.

And how did he see anything up on the fourble board if she was invisible?

He didn't (or does the story say he did? I don't recall that). He felt the presense, he became terrified of the shadows. Something you can't see is more terrifying than something you can.

And what did she like to eat?

My guess would be oil. That would explain why she came up along with it. wink

At the end of the story, Porky apparently has someone held captive and I can only assume the creature is going to eat him.

It's rather strongly implied that she's going to eat you, the listener (like in many Quiet Please stories, you are a character who the story is being told to), but it's not outright stated, which allows a certain author to get away with not explaining things.

That's the beauty of implication. You don't know what will happen, you just know it doesn't feel like it's going to be good. Could take the projection route again here and say she wants to eat you because you're afraid of her eating you... she is what you, the listener, imagine.

The ending is much like "Whence Came You?", which concludes with Chappell sitting trying to decide whether to open the lid to reveal the half-woman half-hawk who could kill him, yet we don't know. Leaving it at the impossible decision, the no-win scenario, is more powerful than mere death.

I'll agree that the plot is a little shaky in spots, yes, though I don't think it concerned Cooper much as he wasn't writing a realistic story. Note I've always felt that Fourble is a bit overrated, it wouldn't make my top five list of QP episodes.

I've recently started to listen to old time radio plays

Enjoy. You've probably already found a lot of suggestions, but I can't miss the chance to suggest some of my favorite series by genre.

Action/adventure: Escape, Suspense, The Six Shooter (western)
Horror - Quiet Please*, Lights Out, Nightfall
Sci-fi - X-Minus One*, Star Wars, Alien Worlds
Mystery/crime - Whitehall 1212 (also by Wyllis Cooper)
Other/mixed - CBS Radio Workshop*, Destination Freedom, NBC University Theater, The Damon Runyon Theater*, CBS Radio Mystery Theater

* denotes very favorites

There's also some good modern radio drama on BBC 4 and BBC 7 streaming over the web, though whenever I see something scheduled I'd like to hear I inevitably forget to listen.

Edited by Paul on Nov 06, 2005 - 3:06 AM
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Posted Nov 06, 2005 - 2:41 PM:

> This is one trippy story.

Wait till you get to "Northern Lights."

> Ok, if she has the body of a spider, how could he cover that up with a dress?

Maybe it's a hoop skirt.

> And was she really a little girl, or did she just look and sound like a little girl?

She was a creature with "The face of a little girl, frightened. Crying with hunger and terror. Hands like a human being. And a finger... missing from the left hand. And a body... Well, I'll tell you about that. I told you how I'm scared of spiders." And she mewed like a kitten.

> When did he marry her?

Sometime in the past twenty years. "And... as far as I know, the abandoned derrick is still there. And that was twenty years ago."

> Why did he find her attractive, seeing as how she 1. was some sort of bizarre under earth unknown species, 2. couldn't communicate, 3. Had the face of a little girl, 4. Had the body of a spider, which is not only disturbing but especially unpleasant for Porky since he's afraid of spiders? There's no indication in the story that Porky is insane except that he "marries" this creature.

"And, believe me, I didn't want to see its body -- I can see that in my nightmares. But its face... I can't help wanting to see that pathetic, little girl face. I'm afraid maybe I've fallen-- Ah, but it's very beautiful. And when it's well made-up, it's... But making it up, rubbing greasepaint on a stone face that looks at ya and smiles and it makes sounds like a lost kitten yet. I can disguise the body in long dresses."

> Here's something else I'm not clear about. The missing fingers. Whose finger with the ring did they find in the earth? What did it signify? Why did the creature take the ring back? Why was SHE missing a finger? Wait a second, it just occured to me... was it supposed to be HER finger? It just came off her and got buried in stone?

"Well, you see, uh, a core drill is hollow. And, as the bit digs down, it stuffs the drillings up inside it so, when you pull it out, you've got a sample of the kind of stuff you're going through." "That was embedded in the core.... a gold ring. And it was all carved and filigreed just like jewelry." So perhaps she lost her finger when her hand was snagged by the drill core.

> And what about the guy whose neck was broken? She took his finger off just to get the ring back? Did she kill him, or did he just fall?

If somebody cut off your finger and stole your wedding ring and then you bumped into him in the dark and found him wearing YOUR ring, what would YOU do? Try to get the ring back (and, in the process, maybe accidentally push the guy off the fourble board)?

> And how did he see anything up on the fourble board if she was invisible?

Billy didn't see anything. But he and Porky heard something:

SOUND: (Somewhere above, a piece of metal SCRAPES.)

PORKY: What's eatin' you?

BILLY (off): You know, I'd've sworn there's somebody up there on that fourble board.

PORKY: Aw, you're crazy. There's nobody up there.

BILLY (off): Standin' against those stands of drill pipe.

PORKY: Ah, they're just racked crooked. One of 'em slipped. Come on back and eat your pork chop.

And, later, Porky says: "The last thing I remember was I heard some kind of noise that seemed to be coming out from, well, the fourble board, eighty feet above us."

> And what did she like to eat? I don't remember her ever eating anyone. Unless I missed something, she didn't eat the guy whose neck was broken. At the end of the story, Porky apparently has someone held captive and I can only assume the creature is going to eat him. But when did it become clear that she likes eating human flesh? And surely that couldn't have been her diet underground.

Well, he had two decades to figure out all the gruesome details. "Twenty years ago. I discovered many things about it: what it used for food; ... and when she's hungry, I have to stay out of her way. I found out what she likes to eat, remember?" Porky has to stay out of her way because she would presumably eat him when she's hungry. Maybe human flesh is one of those delicacies you just can't get underground but when you try it, you like it. Like Americans who, late in life, get hip to sushi. "I want you to meet my wife. Or rather... my wife wants to meet you." Yeah, she wants to eat the captive, all right.

> But when did it become clear that she likes eating human flesh?

On their first date, when, instead of pork chops, she ate the waitress.

Paul
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Posted Nov 07, 2005 - 9:36 PM:

He wouldn't have married her if she'd shown an aversion to pork chops. She must've eaten both.

He would've had a hard time supplying her with a human a day for 20 years without authorities noticing anyhow, so she must eat lots of stuff and humans are just a rare delicacy as an anniversary present.

PORKY: What's eatin' you?

BILLY (off): You know, I'd've sworn there's somebody up there on that fourble board.


That line would've worked so much better if she had eaten Billy.

Edited by Paul on Nov 07, 2005 - 9:39 PM
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