Story: “The Rabbit Catcher of Kingdom Come” by Kellie Wells
One sudden spring, when trees and flowers, bamboozled by warmth, began budding in January, the prematurely honeyed air flatly refusing to chill again until late December, the town of Kingdom Come, Kansas, was beset by a plague of black-tailed jack rabbits that were not only many but jumbo, bigger than great danes they were, gargantuan rabbits, suspiciously well-fed, slavering over the zoysia, plump middles heaving, back feet long and brawny as a sailor’s forearm and ears you could fan a fainting princess with. And not at all timid, never darting under privet or disappearing behind fences at the last minute, but glaring tauntingly at cats and hobbled crones, whom the town feared would be dragged away to an unspeakable end in the riparian thickets whence these strapping rabbits multiplied, their numbers seeming to double each week. They licked their paws and stroked their ears and whiskers while leveling a menacing eye and leering toothily at any passerby bold enough to look them in their flea-bitten mugs. They stood up on their whopping hoppers and waggled their ears, as though receiving a communiqué from jack rabbit HQ, the air crackling with animal electricity, and then they’d charge a neighbor’s chihuahua, the javelin of their ears at a determined tilt, and the runt mutt would leap with a shriek through its doggy door. They hopped defiantly into busy intersections, and station wagons and pick-up trucks, afraid a collision with one of these sturdy lagomorphs would surely cause their vehicles to crumple like beer cans against an obdurate forehead, hit one another and rolled in ditches instead, coming to rest tires-up among the cattails. At night the rabbits drummed their feet so rhythmically the earth seemed to growl and the sleepless citizens of Kingdom Come locked and relocked their doors and windows until the thumping ceased at sunrise. The town was in a pickle, had a big-eared crisis on its hands, fast multiplying pestilence, cotton-tailed epizootic, and, well, it feared for its safety and solitude.
Which is why when the man in the parti-colored coat appeared and claimed he could, for a nominal, one-time fee, rid the town of this nuisance forever, the drowsy burghers fell gratefully at his feet.
Kellie Wells is the author of a collection of short fiction Compression Scars (winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award) and the novels Compression Scars, Skin, and the Paterson Prize finalist Fat Girl, Terrestrial. She’s the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and the GLCA New Writers Award for Fiction. “Rabbit Catcher of Kingdom Come” was chosen by Kevin Brockmeier for inclusion in the 2010 Best American Fantasy anthology. She teaches in the MFA Programs at the University of Alabama and Pacific University.
About the Narrator:
Martin Reyto is an educator, writer, and musician. He has worked in an eclectic variety of fields, including 18 years as a technical writer and software developer, 16 years as a teacher of creative writing, computer science, and business communication, and shorter stints as a symphony musician and audiobook narrator. He has published short fiction and two collections of his poetry.
The Audio Fantasy Fiction Magazine