Friday, August 25, 2023

“Of Myths, Legends, and Parenthood” • by Carol Scheina


The Bunyan children all talked about breaking out of the realm of myth and fables, but then Joel Bunyan went and did it.

“M-o-o-o-m!” Mabel called. Of the five, she was always the first child to tattle. “Joel’s gone through the barrier!”

“Oh, for the love of pancakes!” Lucette Bunyan’s shout shook the walls as she walked out the kitchen door. “Just because your father is a big-shot tall tale hero… How many times do I have to say it: Earth is off limits!”

The kids shuffled their feet. It was tough being Paul Bunyan’s kids.

“Now, when and where on Earth did Joel go?”


“No one saw where he was going? He could pop up at any point in Earth’s history. What if he messes up a tall tale or a myth?” Lucette’s voice rose.

No response.

Lucette rubbed her temples. “Looks like I’m going to have to go see the Fates.” She waved her children off. “Go! And don’t do anything to test me!”

Her words were punctuated with a foot stomp that rattled the foundations of nearby homes and sent Humpty Dumpty rolling a bit closer to the edge of his wall. “Hey!” the egg shouted.

“Sorry!” Lucette cringed.

She could see the old woman inside her shoe-house next door had obviously been listening to every word with a gleeful smile. Lucette’s face flushed as she walked down the streets.

In this part of town, the tall tales and nursery rhymes dwelled between evenly mowed green lawns and straight white sidewalks. Johnny Appleseed made sure every yard had at least one apple tree growing strong in the sunlight. (More than one god watched over the sun. It was a rather powerful light as a result.)

The mythological side of town was her destination, specifically Bacchus’s bar, where Lucette spotted the three Greek Fates in a smoky corner.

“Lucette,” Lachesis said without looking. Clotho giggled. Atropos inhaled from a long, thin cigarette and exhaled toward the wall.

“Somebody’s lost a baby,” Clotho said in a sing-song voice.

Framing a smile on her face, Lucette dragged up a chair, her knees pushing against her chest as she sat. There were downsides to being so tall. “You know I need your help. Where’s my son?”

Lachesis shrugged. “It was his fate to escape. He will have his part to play.”

Clotho sang, “Part to play! Play to part! Someone’s lost a piece of her heart!”

Lucette kept the smile frozen on her face. “And my part is to get him back before trouble’s made.”

Trouble like the last time one of the kids got out. Lucette still remembered how upset Paul was when he accidentally cut a huge gash in the American Midwest. He was just trying to use his axe to move a rock, trying to find little Mikey. Luckily, Anansi the spider-god had a flair for weaving new stories out of thin air. Paul Bunyan went from being the pancake guy to being the guy who carved the Grand Canyon.

In the silence, Atropos blew more smoke and finally spoke. “Death will come to us all. It is inevitable. All we can ask for is a good death, a powerful, true end that shows a man’s character is strong, and that he will be sung of for millennia to come.”

No one replied. It was well known that Atropos had an on-off thing going with Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and endings. During the off times, Atropos exhaled death proverbs along with her smoke, which drifted about her hunched form in a depressed mist.

Lucette shifted away from the heavy air and brought out the bribes. “We’ll give you unlimited pancakes.” Always pancakes. Frankly, she was starting to tire of the smell, but they were the family specialty.

Lachesis grinned at her sisters. “Told you we’d get them. Look in Bluff Creek, California, October 20, 1967.”

Lucette nodded and unfolded her large body from the chair.

“His fate will be fulfilled. And you’ll use extra maple syrup.”

“Fate, fate, fate,” Clotho sang.

Lucette rolled her eyes.


Back home, she calmed her mind and focused on Bluff Creek, California, 1967. Then she opened the barrier between the story realm and Earth, pulling back an invisible layer of air as easily as one peels a banana. Where her hands moved, a new scene appeared with mountainous terrain far different from the orderly suburban world behind her.

She spotted Joel trying to sneak between the trees. Though young, he took after his parents in height. There weren’t many places such a tall boy could hide.

“Joel Bunyan! You get in here right now!”

The boy flinched as he scurried through the barrier, his brown knit sweater poked over with sticks and burrs. “I’m sorry, Mama, I couldn’t get back through the barrier, and—”

“Did anyone see you?”


Sigh. Lucette pinched the barrier shut then peeled open a new, smaller door overlooking a newspaper stand. On the cover of a November 1967 paper was a blurry picture that Lucette recognized as her son. She pulled it through the barrier.

“It says they got you on videotape?”


“Oh, blue bull balls. Joel Bunyan is not supposed to appear in any stories. If I ever hear about you breaking out and going to Earth again…” Her voice trailed off threateningly.

Yet how could she stay mad at him? Especially now that he was back safe and sound. Lucette looked at the hunched shoulders of her youngest son. “Go join your brothers and sisters. I’ve got to go see Anansi and clean up this mess.” She rubbed her forehead.

By the next day, word had spread of Joel’s adventure, and how Anansi’s quick-thinking had created a new legend that would begin to circulate the Earth-realm from 1967 on. The Bunyan kids already knew about it.

“Bigfoot, Bigfoot, Joel is a Bigfoot.”

“M-o-o-o-m! They’re calling Joel names!” Mabel yelled.

“Oh, for the love of pancakes.”


Carol Scheina is a deaf speculative fiction author whose stories appeared in publications such as Diabolical Plots, Flash Fiction Online, Escape Pod, and more, including of course Stupefying Stories. You can find more of her work at, or most recently in STUPEFYING STORIES 24.


Made in DNA said...

Haha, love it, and now I've got a new phrase for when I'm exasperated.

Anonymous said...

Lovely tasty story! Rich work building, memorable characters.