Typing a story for Radio FreeWrite

by | Nov 11, 2022 | podcast | 2 comments

Radio FreeWrite is a simple and brilliant concept for a podcast: a group of friends write flash fiction based on a new prompt in each episode, and listeners are invited to do the same. Then we hear the stories.

This podcast is a typewriter-positive endeavor, and one of the crew, WebEater, has an extensive collection. Here’s his account of how the project got started.

WebEater invited me to join the crew for a recent episode. The prompt was “the grateful dead.” I had never known that the famous band got its name from 

the motif of a very widespread group of folktales, which typically begin with the hero, as he starts on a journey, coming upon a group of people ill-treating or refusing to bury the corpse of a dead man who had died before paying his debts.  The hero gives his last penny, either to pay the man’s debts or to give him a decent burial, and goes on his way.  Within a few hours a traveling companion joins him (occasionally in the form of a horse or other animal, but usually in human form), who aids him in some impossible task (or a series of tasks and adventures), gets him a fortune, saves his life, marries him to a princess, etc.  Sometimes the companion helps the hero on the condition that they divide all winnings.  Sometimes this proves to be half the princess, or a first-born child.  But he relents and relinquishes his half when the other is about to fulfil the promise.  The story ends with the companion’s disclosing himself as the man whose corpse the other had befriended.

The Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend, 1949 ed.

These sure sound like classic folktales, but I’m not sure I had ever actually heard or read such a story. The motif got me thinking about generosity, debts, and justice, until I came up with the following tale that is (in my mind, at least) a bit of a tribute to Flannery O’Connor.


I used a 1960s Hermes 3000 with an appealing flat typeface, which I then sold to benefit WordPlay Cincy.

You can hear the whole episode, where we talk typewriters and read our stories, at this link.

And yes, there is a Buttercup Valley in Cincinnati, a beautiful wooded oasis adjacent to gritty Northside.


  1. Doug Freeman

    What a rich blog entry, Richard, I’m surprised to be the first to comment on it more than two weeks later. I had no idea where “the grateful dead" came from, never thought to investigate. That is some fascinating folklore. And your story is poignant, deep, and moving—I can hardly imagine writing and typing so beautifully on the spot. It’s daunting, really, for those of us who often struggle to type much beyond, “Well, how’s this old Corona I worked on last night until 2:00 in the morning typing today? Still skipping, dammit!”

  2. Richard P

    Thank you, Doug. Although I typed up the story in about an hour, I had gotten the prompt a couple of weeks earlier in consideration of my busy schedule, so I had some time to ruminate on it.


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