Title: Source Decay


the Mountain Goats. "Jenny." All Hail West Texas, Emperor Jones, 2002. 

The Mountain Goats Wiki. "Jenny." Accessed November 6, 2020.


the Mountain Goats. "Source Decay." All Hail West Texas, Emperor Jones, 2002.

The Mountain Goats Wiki. “Source Decay.” Accessed November 6, 2020. https://themountaingoats.fandom.com/wiki/Source_Decay.


This story is framed as a letter by our narrator, A., to her ex-girlfriend Jenny. They lived in a run-down house in Austin, Texas around 3 years ago. We begin with A. describing their past relationship: They're punks who don't live very far from their hometowns and struggle with whether they should leave Texas and if that would help them escape things from their pasts. One day Jenny arrives home with a new motorcycle and its uncertain where she got the money for it since a lot of things in the house are stolen, both working multiple minimum wage jobs. A. and Jenny go for a ride on the motorcycle, feeling for the first time in a while. This is a high point in their relationship, going out to a diner and talking for hours about the places they want to travel together. We then flash forward to the present, A. is living in her hometown to take care of her sick mother and drives 2 hours once a week into Austin and pick up postcards sent by Jenny. They have been broken up for a while yet Jenny continues to try to maintain a connection with A. who never responds to the postcards. A. goes back home and walks through her apartment, looking at all the mail and some items she took from the house when they broke up. She wonders whether either of them achieved what they wanted, Jenny by continuously traveling in escape of herself and A. by going back home and confronting her past there. The story ends with A. thinking about the last time they saw each other which was at a train station in Bangkok where Jenny left her (the only trip they ever took together).

Cultural Origins

John Darnielle, the lead singer/lyricist of the Mountain Goats, has said in interviews and concerts that some of his songs share the same narrator and that he very rarely is the narrator of the songs himself. Each song functions like a short story. In an episode of the "I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats" podcast Darnielle mentioned that the narrator of "Source Decay" is talking about Jenny (who appears in an earlier song on the same album) when they mention a past relationship. the Mountain Goats wiki also has notes on information that Darnielle has said about both of these songs, usually the emotional background of the narrator and the hopes they have making this message. Whenever talking about the main character of both songs Darnielle uses he/him pronouns, most likely because he sees male characters as a default for when gender isn’t specified in his songs (there are other examples of him doing this and I think he has referred to this habit in an interview).


I picture teenagers to adults being my main audience because of the particular portrayal of a romantic relationship that has become emotionally abusive. Reactions tend to be the strongest from audience members who have experienced the end of a romantic relationship and the difficulties that are attached to them. If told to an audience that has some knowledge about the Mountain Goats and the album “All Hail West Texas” I might include certain references that appear in other songs, further grounding the story in that fictional world.

Adaptation ideas

It is important that the story starts with a happy tone that changes after the diner scene when we flash forward to the present. Taking your time to fill in the details of the memories at the beginning will show how necessary they are to A. even after the relationship has ended. The tone shifts to frustration, slowing down. I’d be interested in telling this story on a stage where I could walk around while looking at postcards to give more of an impression of the physical spaces A. explores. This would also give some moments of silence in the story that could further impress how A. wants to be done with Jenny. This story is important to me because I have seen the effects of emotional abuse on close friends of mine and I think that comes across with the way that A. gets more frustrated near the end.