A Rob Hunter Reader

A Rob Hunter Reader

The Sitemap

What happens to a Sci-Fi or Fantasy story after it has been published—the remainder pile, a sporadic reprint, oblivion? Not quite the half-life of linoleum. And what of the loves, lives, hopes and aspirations of its citizens? Must they float forever in a shimmering noösphere watching the flights of eidolons? Boring. Hence To misquote Walt Kelly’s Pogo: “We have seen the future and it’s not yet...” The call, dear reader, is yours; welcome to the catalog.

Feel free to copy these tales as much as you want; pass ’em around. All I ask is that you don’t alter a story or sell it. Many of the stories have audio versions, too. To download these to your computer have a look at the User’s Manual. Click this link or the header image; you’ll be directed to the latest MP3s in the inventory. (M4b audiobooks are here.)

The Ninepatch Variation—the 1st tale of the Libby the Quilter quintet.
Libby Pease remembers her girlhood as a litany of lost callers. Now a visitor: William Powell has misplaced Myrna Loy.

The Red Sneaker Zones—the 2nd tale of the Libby the Quilter quintet.
Libby Pease accepts having her own personal shaman as an article of faith, which faith she could not tell. The dead Indian smells rank, but not unpleasantly so—fresh earth clinging to over-wintering vegetables, plug-cut tobacco and molasses.

Chimaera Constant—the 3rd tale of the Libby the Quilter quintet.
"Sweet Jesus!" Libby Pease has—for just a moment, a split second—the queer idea that there is an eyeball in her teacup. “Uh... hello, eye.” The eye does not speak. She takes a swallow of Dr. Pomeroy’s straight from the bottle and shakes her head to clear it. She squints; the eye in her teacup squints back—it is her mother’s eye.

Blue as in an Early Frost—the 4th tale of the Libby the Quilter quintet.
The closed library smells of cluster flies, old books, hardly strange in a library, and an indefinable something—funerary linen from some millennial boneyard, perhaps. Elizabeth Profitt Pease strains to open the window. Shut. Tight. “What have I done for myself lately?” Libby Pease asks no one in particular. “Not much,” she answers, “have I?” Libby regards the pottery jar that contains her father’s ashes.

Grasshopper Dreams—the 5th tale of the Libby the Quilter quintet.
“Oh, the poor, dear man,” said Dicey Pease. As they undid the corpse’s nightshirt, a smell issued forth. Noses were crinkled, then relaxed. “The Milos,” said Libby’s mother. Pansy Graham’s sanitary habits had been well-defined. In death as in life he was preceded by a not unpleasant smell which Dicey identified as the yellow bar soap provided by the Daughters of Milo.

Saint Velcrotm and the Swan
It had been, by the saint’s count, a thousand years or more since the last tour passed through—Attila and his Hunnic Horde, their hardy ponies pulling an endless cavalcade of Airstream trailers that stretched to the sunrise.

The Queen’s Head
The heart-breaking beauty—the original of the flesh and blood face with the moondrop eyes—resided, a carved and painted sandstone effigy, in the Bureau of Antiquities, the face of an ancient queen. The Sender of Dreams had sent him either a true dream or a false dream. It was for him to find out which.

Mark Twain in Milan
A woman popped out of thin air beside me. She was swinging a serious looking cavalry saber; she gave me the once-over and attacked. I ducked. Her pale gray eyes grew huge. “Oh, terribly sorry, old chap. I thought you were someone else,” she said. “Are you still alive?” I said yes. “I say, good fun, what?” she remarked. A bullet zinged past and we dived under the desk.

Magnetic Betty
Magnetic Betty explained the problem. “And so you see, things fly through the air and stick to me when I walk by. None of my friends’ mothers will let them play with me.” “A tricky business,” replied Dolby Jenks, World’s Number One Champion Detective. “Not my field, I’m afraid, Betty. I would suggest that you find different friends with different mothers.”

The Beewolf
A tall insect with feathery antennae and a nervous tic paused before the mirror of a machine plastered with multicolored blurbs announcing it as a dispenser of a popular brand of chewing gum. The walking nightmare spoke to his human companion. “Harry, you wait with the bags, there’s a good fellow.” Evenly modulated tones carried the force of a command.

The Diplodocus Effect
I covered my eyes. The face on the phone was cloaked in a halo of light. “You are very bright,” I said.
“Transcendence. You’ll get used to it,” said Teaberry Balcom.
“Then how come you have to use FedEx to deliver your miracles?”
“Competitive bidding.”

The Tirewoman Gabriel
Twice a year and regular as clockwork, when Barbara’s School of the Dance trots in the latest corps of majorettes and ballerinas, the classic backdrop—Mediterranean hillsides with Raphaelite shepherds and shepherdesses discreetly about their distant businesses—was always requested. In addition to shepherdesses on their backs in the grass under fluffy clouds, there is a backdrop of a convent garden at dusk. Giant bumblebees prowl thick wisteria, vines knot to frame a lovers’ bower. Before the foreground, hogging the floor, lies a toppled faun, his lips curled in a sneer of passion. I could not bear to throw the stuff out. Some day someone would want to be immortalized with a leering, panting satyr.

The Missingest Man in America
“I am Joseph Force Crater; I am a judge of the New York State Supreme Court. I am not the Adversary. Your chastity is safe with me; I am a Democrat.”

Cherokee Purple
Thelma Wagstaff blew herself away as she sat on her high red upholstered stool supervising the cash box at the White Street Billiards and Snooker. Thelma hit the floor like she had fallen out of an airplane, no parachute, and her pistol went bouncing toward Ed Seitz and me. Ed and I were absorbed in the cushion shot he was negotiating. We did not look up; there was a fiver riding on Ed’s shot.

The Moose in the Noösphere
The moose had dropped antlers before and anticipated the loss with regret. His antlers amplified the fall of snow, the separation of a dry leaf from its stem, the impact of a pine needle on the padded forest floor. To go antlerless was to imitate the solitude of starvation and withdraw into himself as into a heavy, windless snowfall.

The Last Teddy Bear
“Where is the bear when the bear is not where the bear should be?” asked Frankie Jelinek’s husband with sweet reasonableness. “Ever think about that?”
“No,” said Frankie, “I don’t. Wherever teddy bears go. Maybe a picnic.” Steve gave his wife a sleepy kiss and rolled over. Supernatural phenomena were not in the baby care books. Yet...

The Francher
Dr. Ann Mari Buitrago y Francher approached the paddock at General Motors Organics in Flint, Michigan. This close to the former factory sites toxic residue in the soil precluded food use for humans even after fifty years. Harvesting parties came, carrying weapons and riding armored threshers and combines. The crops were destined for the fermentation vats to feed the Organics.

The Year They Invented Frozen Lemonade
“I am midtown. Manhattan?” Linda Winkelman speaks her question out loud in the middle of the rush hour push; no one takes notice. Linda is standing in the middle of a street. She can not recall who she is or why she is here. “I remember lemonade,” says Linda. Buildings disappeared, people disappeared. Now it is her turn. Linda Winkelman was born the year they invented frozen lemonade.

Scope Virgin
The woman at the far end of the kaleidoscope had not been there last week, of this Simon was sure. She was naked or near enough, thinly dressed in a diaphanous veil. “Holy shit!” Simon Alexander breathed on the lens and gave it a wipe with his sleeve. “I see that I have your attention...” said the woman, “...finally.”

McMuckle Makes a Minyan
The ineffable, unnamable God of Hosts stood with a burly, bearded personage who held a bar towel draped over one arm, a symbol of his trade. The golem toyed nervously with an ear. “My people should quake at My unutterable Name, not fall on their tukhes,” God sighed. The ear came off. “Bim... this is not about you. Try to stay on topic.”

It was a real nice laying-out—tasteful. Well, maybe not so much tasteful particularly, but neat. They’d got Ed’s left arm attached to his head and not his shoulder. And they had the remaining right arm attached on the left side. To look like them, I supposed.

Daphne Longhandle’s Last Flight
“See that, Franklin?” said Eleanor Roosevelt. “That’s O’Brien.” Franklin observed a line of stars on the eastern horizon. There were four. “Oops, sorry.” Eleanor nodded at her new constellation, O’Brien, and the fourth star blinked out.

The Walking Lesson
“The damned town looks like a trailer park,” said Simon Alexander. There was only one tree left of the elm-canopied streets of their childhood; Carpelli Construction was wrestling it down. An older man appeared to be in command. He stood ramrod straight in a corduroy suit with leather elbow patches. Ten men with yellow hard hats tucked under their arms waited expectantly.

The Song of the Rice Barge Coolie
“My sister, is she dead? Go and give her a poke, would you?” The great white presence that was the Lady Mother of the Long Walkers indicated the row of captive queens on their dais beneath her, deferentially lower.

The Runaway Bungalow
“Arrgh! See me neck, lad?” The pirate’s head hung at a grotesque angle from where the long executioner’s knot had settled at the base of his skull. Theophrastus Bigelow was a big man—the weight of his fall through the executioner’s trap had broken his neck, but had not killed him immediately. He lifted a ten-kilo strand of gold chains to reveal his scars. “Admirable, what-oh?” The mark of the hangman was stamped on Bigelow’s throat.

E Pluribus Human
“YO, BABE!” a man’s voice blared at Grenadine McKenzie, “SURPRISE, YOU’RE PREGNANT.” A craggy male face bloomed before her. The face was a hero’s face, Lance Davenport from Rights of Spring. There was an odor of patchouli.

A Pass on the Tabouli
A remake of Kipling’s Kim is in the offing—it will be a musical. Meanwhile the salad choice at the studio commissary is suspect in a series of weird happenings. Gloria Swanson, Marcia Harding, Errol Flynn and Rudolph Valentino team up to fight the forces of disorder.

Boys’ Night Out
Hillary pushed the platter of cookies across the center line back to Sally’s side. “We went the Lysistrata route—Aristophanes? Withholding sex, that got their attention. First we tried threats and confrontations about those things they will keep on dragging home to bury in the yard—the boys can’t recall anything of their midnight rambles or so they say. Dear, please don’t let your mouth hang open like that.”

The Death of James A. Garfield
Did I tell you I went to James A. Garfield Elementary? Probably not. We had cheerleaders and a losing basketball team for them to cheer for—Bobo skewatten-daddle, get it right! James A. Garfield gonna win tonite! I missed out on World War Two because I was pigeon-toed. School spirit saw to it that I was more or less informed about the late president.

I Want to Share Your Wheat
Prosper Epilegomenes is a mouse demon in service to Sminthian Apollo. He blows up a car dealership and kills a troublesome neighbor.

Klein, the Clone
Twins play which kid’s got the papers. Originally published as The Flags of All Nations Hors D’eouvre Toothpick Caper.

The Prophet Harry (from The Return of the Orange Virgin)
The smell of fresh cut grass with the roar of a two stroke engine said Harry was doing the library lawn. He must have been at it for hours and that meant he was drinking. Riding circles and massaging the turf till the beer or the gas gave out.

A Special Providence
“I thought there was a special providence that looked out after these things,” said Gerry. A ten-dollar jackpot dropped into the takeout drawer. “There is,” said a voice. “And don’t whack the machine—the lottery corporation doesn’t favor muscleheads abusing church property.”

Two of Swords
Capt. Futvoye Halfnight, D.D.S, popped his dropped eye into its socket. “Ahh...” What he saw ahead was not reassuring. “Ohh...” A great gnarly man was leaning against a tree and staring at him. He was naked but for the skin of a tiger which he wore nonchalantly over one shoulder. “You pilgrims should carry rearview mirrors. You leave an inventory of lost lesions and dropped appendages all over the landscape,” said the man.

His great green eyes invited her to share a secret knowledge, intimating she was trusted, but not yet ready for a full revelation. Her species would have to mature.

Dead Man in the Yard
There was a dead man in the yard this morning. I checked in my wallet for my latest picture of the front yard. I have a collection of yard pictures that goes back for years but I usually carry only one photo at a time. No, he was a new arrival. I called Sheila. Sheila is my ex-wife.

Lord Zorgon of Sulunia sighed, a great exhalation redolent of smoldering carpets. “Where was I? Facelifts, yes. Women, whatever their ages, never wish for sensible things like orthotics or a tonsillectomy.”

Sylvie’s Suitcase
“The power is in you...” From between guardian gates of veneered mahogany, dead center in the television’s tiny screen, a lacquered, pomaded TV preacher leered out from behind a fence of scan lines. Fr. Coughlin gave the TV a kick. The picture rolled over, the screen went dark, then popped back on minus the lines but with the sound full throttle. “JESUS IS WAITING,” boomed the preacher.

Sylvester and Beany
The year the monarch butterflies didn’t return to Maine, I went home to Brooklyn. “Something in the milkweed,” they said. With a cold winter and no milkweed to browse to keep up their strength on the long flight from Mexico, the butterflies weakened and froze, dying in their millions.

In Print and Audio

Return of the Orange Virgin   
the complete audiobook on the Internet Archive

A tale of the Fata Morgana, Lady of the Wild Things—first published online as monthly installments over three years, now rewritten and available here (Platterland—Nine Stories and a Novella, the trade paperback print version. Also Kindle (Mobipocket), Adobe .pdf and m4b audiobook compilations.

With your eBook delivery choice of Torrent, Daisy, textfile, ePub, .mobi for Kindle: the complete Orange Virgin is live at the Internet Archive as are electronic versions of the short story print collections: Platterland, Lost In Willipaq, and The Quilter Who Went To Hell. And if you are inspired to help defray the cost of keeping aloft a website that gives stuff away, buy a book; it’s as easy as that.

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