The Moon-calf and Other Tales

from Martin Luther's Monk Calf pamphlet

available in all major eBook formats in 2016:


• “Trade Surplus” A cheap source of durable goods is a real boon in this global market— unless there are hidden costs.

We threw it all out. The streets were littered with indestructible, immaculately wrought objects generating overlapping fields of complementary and increasingly deadly ‘unexpected functional anomalies.’ The goods did not rot or rust or fade, and no one collected them. The sanitation workers had been issued the new cell phones.
We learned to hit the dirt at the sound of that cutesy warbling ringtone.

• “The Delinquent” Juvenile curfew sweeps bring in such strange children that even the caseworkers would be lucky to get out of this police station alive. Lucky lucky lucky …

That horrible wound of a mouth was centimeters from my jugular, the cracked and lifeless lips brushing my throat. Lilly whispered to me with a voice like rushing wind, a voice that stank of the grave: “Good job, crazy lady.”

• “Box Girl” A beautiful ghost is trapped in a glass box, and only one man can release her: the failed actor suspected of causing her suicide.

Ahead, The Box dwarfed workers who readied it for the next showing. The glass required cleaning, of course. Along with flower pollen and candle wax, the fans left handprints and face prints. Sometimes semen. Sometimes blood. Even dead, she still drives ’em crazy.

• “Next to Dogliness” You’d think lycanthropy would be a werewolf’s biggest problem.

Never again, I told myself. Never in the daytime. You’ll do your shopping a week in advance, always at late-night pharmacies, always with the junkies and weirdos. That’s where you belong. You’ll never get your supplies in the daytime again.
I walked down the street in broad daylight for the first time in weeks, trying not to cry. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know where to turn. I did what they say in the support group.
I went to my happy place.
She was there waiting for me.

• “The Professor Gets Lucky” There’s nothing like a young woman’s scorn to stir an old academic to action, and this nasty old emeritus takes nothing for granted.

During fall semester, he examined the fruits of his labors in the most critical light. He stood very close and spoke very directly to undergraduate girls, the people with the keenest noses available. He did not bother to flirt, as it had been almost two decades since he had felt the need to trouble students for their flesh, but he did examine them minutely for the effects of his breath in their faces.
His odor, it appeared, was not at issue.
He was almost ready.

• “Yet Another Modest Proposal” Ol’ Uncle Zagnut pitches his solution to the pesky zombie apocalypse. Bring your own hot sauce.

I just can’t tell you how great it is to have Internet back. I believe it’s the thing I’ve missed the very most during this whole undead holocaust, except of course for my dear, departed Velda, whose scrambled and zombified brains I spattered on the linoleum of our very own motor home, and even so, she lives on in my heart, if you know what I mean.
I’m sure that you do.
Not that anyone is answering my email suggestions, or certainly not in what I would call a friendly and civilized fashion. We all have our own struggles in these uncertain times, and we all get tense, what with hordes of the infected shambling after us every time we go foraging for a Slim Jim or a can of tuna. I sympathize, but don’t go snapping at me when I suggest a solution.

• “Tracy-Baby Tells a Ghost Story” Jersey girl meets phantom suicide in old Kyoto, and every word of it is true.

I had just slipped off my sandals and I was headed for the room when we first heard the moaning.
I snickered, because I thought it was other travelers getting it on. Probably the French guys. But here’s the deal. It wasn’t a human voice. At the end of one long moan, the sound turned into a rush of air, like when you pull the stem off a bicycle tire. We froze. My eyes were bugging out, trying to see what the hell was out there. When the moaning began again, I knew it wasn’t a human voice. It sounded like a trick with a saxophone or a bagpipe or something. I got goosebumps, and not the good ones.


• “In The Red” A prudish minister follows a road winding through the unseen world of dark worship, taking him on a descent into madness that leads from the Chattahoochee River valley to Damacus to Carcosa itself.

…unwittingly, we contribute daily to the great, unseen marketplace of the true universal commerce, a system older and more exacting in its give-and-take than the Laws of Thermodynamics, a raging current in constant flow to which all the wars, mayhem, and chaos on our insignificant little world have contributed scarcely a drop. On the rare occasions when the ancient and terrible governors of this commerce notice our meager contributions, we inevitably are found in arrears, and creditors rapacious beyond our reckoning come to take their due. Death is a blessing in such a case.

• “The Moon-calf” Just when a Victorian country gentleman thinks he has bred monstrosity out of his cattle, he finds that his own offspring are tainted with the curse of the Outer Darkness.

The answers lie not only deep in the chalk upon which Haversleigh was built but high among the cold stars glittering in the empty vault above. Simply digging into the calcified past has brought the influence of malign celestial bodies upon my house, influence that destroyed my poor Alice’s mind, raddled the warp and woof of my business, and ruined my family unto the third generation, all of this in a way that is utterly inexplicable by way of natural philosophy.

• “Blind Spot” In the far future, an ancient warrior is estranged from her companion, a mighty sentient spacecraft, but she realizes that something more sinister than simple distrust has come between them as the ship slowly transforms into a habitat for creatures from the Outer Darkness. New for this collection.

A luminous, gelid monstrosity filled the gangway floor to ceiling. It was slightly larger in diameter than the gangway was wide; it bulged into the passageway, the opening edges of which squeegeed slick, stinking gel from its flesh as it writhed past. She pressed herself into the shadows and watched it—a shapeless mass of luminous bubbles forming and re-forming eyes and bud-like limbs, all of it faintly illuminated from within by a sickly greenish light, all of it squirming with the constant energy of nervous becoming, all of it intensely foul. Her sweat-slicked fingers slid on the spear haft…

Family Matters

• “The Man Who Murdered Poetry” Reading grandfather’s twisted rhymes doesn’t just ruin appreciation of fine verse. It ruins your life.

Coolie Tales warped my poetic sensibilities, but Boyles was a great storyteller.  In “Lee Po’s Washbucket Bride,” a doggerel ballad of a boy with unnatural desires for inanimate objects, Boyles was wry and restrained; the poem was oddly touching and funny as hell.  In “The Goose-Necked Ghost,” a chilling tale of a murdered wife’s vengeance, he gradually piled horror upon horror in stilted hexameters and specious imitations of Chinese honorific speech, building up to a bloody climax and a vague, haunting denouement.  In the last poem, “Shanghai Mornings,” he described dawn breaking over the harbor and the first stirrings in the bustling city.  It was wildly romanticized, and his topography was so far off that it was clear he had never been there, but the poem betrayed his sense of wonder, a yearning for the unknown.

• “Dry Wash” A young man goes to the desert to hide family secrets, and he finds that no amount of clean-up can erase the stain from his own heart.

The door came off the hinges so easily I almost lost my balance as it cartwheeled past, and I stood staring in. Swirling motes rode the afternoon sun blazing in through the northwest window. Beyond, a jagged green-and-gray horizon divided desert from sky. Below, the table was set just as we had left it: a chewed, rotted bridle, a child’s double handful of arrowheads (left in the desert by Apache, Maricopa, or others, I’ll never know), a tin plate of dust that may have been piñole, a half-flattened mini ball, two rifle slugs, a white porcelain pitcher, scattered Mexican coppers, Uncle’s rum distilled to a black ring at the bottom of the bottle, and the skull staring past me shocked and cheekless at the land that had stripped it of flesh.

Most still life compositions evoke the unseen hands that left the objects and will take them up again, like the fat, red hands of the scullery maid who’s laid aside fruit and fowl while she kneads dough, or like the blue-veined hands of the maestro who’ll come along presently, collect his scattered sheet music, and pack away his violin. This was a different sort of still life altogether, a surreal arrangement of apocalyptic portent. There was no imagining human hands placing these things there, even though I had put half of them on the table myself. These objects were charged and luminous, as if they had gathered there under their own power.


…including poetry, flash and micro interstitial pieces, and selected essays.
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