Tag Archives: Bob Thurber

‘Simple Decoration’ by Bob Thurber

Forget your last minute shopping and enjoy this timeless Christmas story offering from the reknowned Bob Thurber.

Simple Decoration

by Bob Thurber

It was all Jack that Christmas.

On the drive across town I thought of nothing else. Not my ex-wife, whose car I had begged to borrow, or my daughter experiencing her first Christmas without me.

My headlights carved tunnels in the slanting snow. I found a clear spot in a tow zone and bumped up onto the curb. I left the engine running, headlights on, not caring if I ever saw that car again.

My key still fit. I let myself in, stomping snow from my boots. It was late. I was embarrassed. All the real work had been done.

Phil was there. Arthur, too. They had repositioned the bed, set its angle, laid Jack out neat and cozy. On a pedestal table, dead center of the carpet, stood a two-foot tree, some of its branches dripping wet snow.

“The roads are treacherous,” I told the room.

Someone coughed. Arthur, I think.

He was huddled by the bed, holding Jack’s hand as though it were a tiny bird. Phil was behind him, sipping from a mug with my name on it.

“So what’s the word?” I said. “What do they say?”

I reached under my scarf and fingered the collar of my coat.

“They? They don’t know anything,” Arthur said.

Phil rocked, and shrugged. “Tonight. Tomorrow. Who knows?”

“I do. I know,” Arthur said. “He’ll die in the morning. He’ll die on the day Christ was born.”

My nerves burned cold as I approached the bed. Someone, probably Arthur, had stacked Jack’s prescription bottles into a useless pyramid. I had to tuck my elbow to avoid knocking them over. No one said anything as I kissed Jack on the forehead and slowly backed away.

“That’s new,” I said, nodding at the tree.

“Fifteen minutes old,” said Phil, tilting his watch to catch the light.

“Phil stole it from the side yard.” Arthur said.

“Roots and all,” Phil said.

I started to smile, then thought better of it. I leaned my face into the tree. I touched a pine needle with my nose.

“Tell me,” I said. “Either one of you uncomfortable with my being here?”

Phil shrugged. “You have a right,” he said. “I guess.”

He was staring at Arthur, at Arthur’s back.

“I don’t care,” Arthur said. He was studying Jack’s hand as though something were written there. “Though I used to. I used to care very much. Enough to hate you both.” He turned his head a little; his eyes were closed. “I suppose none of that makes a bit of difference now.”

I shrugged out of my coat.

“Let me help you with that,” Phil said.

* * *
It was in a hallway closet, a closet meant for coats, that we found the wicker basket full of garland and tinted-glass ornaments, and some embroidered things Jack’s mother had made.
Hers was a story we’d forgotten to remember.

She’d been dead almost forever but in her last days had crocheted tiny stockings, little candy canes, macramé angels, a few fat-faced Santas with cotton balls strategically placed.

Fine needlework!

All with a loop of yarn so you didn’t need hooks. Just snatch up a branch and slip the thing on, easy as a ring.

Like fools we used it all.

We emptied that basket, crowding everything in, overlapping when we had to. Then we settled back, sipping cocoa and admiring our handiwork.

The air grew hot with our breathing and the thick smell of pine.

I sunk into a fat chair, closed my eyes and fell asleep — for a minute or an hour.

When I woke the windows were full of light, and the tree looked gaudy and cheap — far too flashy for our friend who hated glitz.

I complained out loud. And first Phil, then Arthur, agreed.

And with fresh cups of cocoa in one hand we stripped that tree bare, except for the garland and a single yellowed angel whose yarn had snarled.

God, we were tired. Each of us needed a shave. The three of us yawned like lions as we circled that tree, planning to start again, to keep it dignified and simple.

But then Jack fluttered an eye, turned his head on the pillow:

“Perfect,” he whispered.

So we left it that way.

 

Bob Thurber is our judge for Pulp Literature’s annual Bumblebee Contest, which opens in January.  His short stories can be read in Pulp Literature Issues 3, 6, and 12, and are available on Amazon. And yeah, we like his latest look. The eye patch is totally bad-ass, like his stories. This Firebox Fiction’ originally appeared in Night Train Magazine in 2003 and was performed on U.S. National Public Radio (KRCB) in December 2004.

Want Bob to read your story?  Enter the Bumblebee Flash Fiction Contest …

The Bumblebee Contest Shortlist

Drumroll, please.

Writers and readers and other good folk, it is with great pleasure that we announce the shortlist for the Bumblebee Flash Fiction Contest.  Choosing between so many excellent stories was a challenge, but at last we narrowed the entries down to ten.

Here are the authors and stories, listed alphabetically by author’s first name:

  • Charity Tahmaseb, “Lucky”
  • Ingrid Jendrzejewski, “Crushed Velvet”
  • Jay Allisan, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”
  • Katie Gray, “The Pit”
  • Laura Taylor, “A Royal Institution”
  • Leslie Wibberley, “The Weight of Time”
  • Melanie Cossey, “Even Steven”
  • Soramimi Hanarejima, “The Utility of Mandatory Hilarity”
  • Tristan Marajh, “Roshan”
  • William Kaufmann, “Bedside”

Congratulations to these three authors!  The winner chosen by our judge the brilliant Bob Thurber will be announced tomorrow …

PS:  Poets, don’t forget that the earlybird entry fee rate for the Magpie Award for Poetry ends tomorrow too!

 

 

North Pole Blue

A Story by Bob Thurber

This Christmas tale comes with a bite, as all Bob Thurber stories do.  For more, go to bobthurber.net, and look for some of his short sharp stories in Pulp Literature issues 3, 6, & 12.

The first time I saw Santa’s eyes they were the same pale green as the plastic holly my mother hung on the door on a hook she left up all year, and the rawness of the flesh around them was the same blood-shot red as actual holly berries, which are technically ‘drupes’ and contain the plant’s seeds.  The second time I saw his eyes (a year later, same store, after waiting in a line for nearly an hour) they seemed larger, but less round, and their color had cooled to the crystal blue you find in glacier ice — which, at the time, I called North Pole Blue — and this made sense, even though I was only six, still too young to understand the density and compactness of anything so old as a glacier.  That was the year Santa asked my name, and, when I stammered Bobby, he said, “Ah. Bobby. Of course.”  As though we were old friends.

The third time I sat on Santa’s lap and looked up into the old man’s eyes they had changed dramatically, become far less wrinkly and slightly almond-shaped, with pupils the burnt brown of old acorns.  I got a good long view because Santa was focused on the camera the whole time, fidgeting like he had someplace better to be, and he repeatedly scratched the same spot of his beard; in a faint and tired voice he asked what ‘big gift’ I wanted for Christmas, and though I don’t remember what I said, I do recall that he didn’t acknowledge the request, or in any way signal that he had heard, so when I climbed off his lap I felt less sure of everything.  Oddly, my mother always liked that picture the best because of the shy, inquisitive, almost contemplative expression on my face, plus the camera’s flash put a dot of sparkle in my left eye, so there is, I will admit, a dreamy magical quality, but it’s purely an illusion, a trick of light, because my absorption at that moment was really my gut-wrenching disturbance at the weariness I saw on the man’s face, and my utter confusion at his not remembering me.

Years and Christmases and more photos went by.  Santa took to wearing glasses with wire frames made of gold or silver, which I liked.  Though, whether I looked through their lenses or above them, I’d be lying if I said I glimpsed anything other than vagueness.

The last time I had an up-close, personal view of Santa’s face I avoided his eyes entirely, focusing on his nose, which had not only widened and flattened but now contained tiny broken veins like intersecting highways on a roadmap.  He asked how old I was and I said ten.  He asked what I wanted for Christmas and I said, “A pocket knife.”

He shifted me slightly on his lap.  “You a Boy Scout?”

I wasn’t, though I wanted to be.  But I felt he didn’t need to know that.

His breath rolled out the smell of coffee and cigarette smoke.  I turned my head, found my mother behind the elfish-looking girl working the camera.  Mom was waving, trying to get me to smile.  She’d painted her nails a garish Christmas green, and I didn’t like the color.

Right before the flash went off Santa pulled me closer and I felt his beard brush against the top of my ear.  “You know,” he said, “you’re a little too old for this crap.”

And that man, I’m certain, was the real deal.

Nothing but troubleBob Thurber’s short story collection Nothing But Trouble is now available at bookstores everywhere.

Pulp Literature’s Pushcart Nominees

We love all the stories in our magazine, and choosing which ones to submit for prizes is like choosing between one’s children.  But we only get to nominate six pieces for the Pushcart Prize, and this year’s nominees are:

  • ‘Stalk’ by George McWhirter (Issue 9)
  • ‘Taraxicum Officinale’ by Mary H Auerbach Rykov (Issue 9)
  • ‘Uncanonical Murder’ by Carol Berg (Issue 10)
  • ‘Vellum’ by Andrea Lewis (Issue 10)
  • ‘How to Write a Successful Obituary for a Superhero’ by Matthew Hooton (Issue 11)
  • ‘If You’d Like to Make a Call, Please Hang Up’ by Bob Thurber (Issue 12)

We have our fingers crossed and we wish these authors all the best of luck as we send their stories off.

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To read these fine stories you can purchase all four digital versions of the 2016 issues for only $15 on the Something Novel Kickstarter (select the Digital Sampler).  But hurry — only until 11pm today!

The Affirmative Action Submissions Opening

The recent US elections revealed an ugly underbelly of fear and bigotry that surprised the world and has terrified many marginalized groups across the country.  We here at Pulp Literature feel for our American friends, most of whom are not racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, or anti-immigration.  And while we can’t open Canada’s borders for you, we can open submissions.

To balance the rhetoric coming from south of the border, we are calling specifically for stories that give voice to the rest: to queers, women, immigrants, indigenous people, disabled people, and people of colour.  We want stories by and about humans of all shapes and sizes: feminist, LGBTQIA, people of colour, Métis, First Nations, differently-abled … any and all segments of the population historically lacking representation in the mainstream.

12-issue-spiralBut what if you happen to be a straight white dude?  We’ll still read your stuff, but it will help to have a character with at least one of the above attributes, and who is convincingly portrayed.  Don’t think it can be done?  Read Bob Thurber’s ‘Wager’, PE Bolivar’s ‘The Lament for iCarus’ and Rob Taylor’s ‘Here I Lay Down My Heart’.  They’re all astoundingly beautiful stories by white North American men writing outside their own experiences.

Submissions will be open from November 15th – 30th.  Writers, poets, artists, send us your best and most diverse works.  We invite you to self-identify if you like.  We’ll look forward to your voices!

Submissions Guidelines here.

To read a sample issue, back our Kickstarter campaign at the $5 level.  We’ll send you your choice of back issue right away, no money down.

 

 

The Brilliant Hummingbirds

We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2016 Hummingbird Prize for Flash Fiction, as chosen by the master of flash himself, Bob Thurber.  Here is what Bob has to say about the finalists:

hummingbirdissue7Nice job, all of you. A superior batch of finalists. I enjoyed so many of them.  Here are my final selections

Winner:
‘Xuefei and his Heart’ by Rebecca Wurtz
for its solid writing and wonderfully intriguing surreality

First Runner-up:
‘Painted Nails’ by Jenna Park
for its painful voice and understatement

Second Runner-up:
‘Scathed’ by Holly Woodward
for its wild energy and insistence

As always with these contests the senior editors indulge themselves by honouring an additional story that caught their eyes.  This year the Editor’s Pick is ‘Better Watch Out’ by Anna Belkine.

The winner and first runner-up will be published in Pulp Literature Issue 13, Winter 2017, and we hope to find space for the second runner-up and Editor’s Pick in that or future issues.

Thanks once more to Bob Thurber for taking on the judging, and congratulations to these brilliant writers!

Jen, Mel & Sue
Pulp Literature Press

 

 

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The Hummingbird Longlist

Thank you to all the wonderful storytellers who submitted to this years’ Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize.  Every year the number of quality stories grows, making our jobs as first judges ever more difficult.  This year we brought in a fourth prelimary judge, Katherine Howard, who helped us narrow our longlist down to 30 excellent pieces.  In no particular order the top thirty are:

  • Saturday in the Penthousehummingbirdissue7
  • Xuefei and his heart
  • Harmless
  • Silk
  • Arabesque
  • Golden Snowflake
  • Painted Nails
  • Neighborhood Watch
  • Funerals
  • Looking East from Heckethorn
  • My Brother’s Therapist
  • Texture of the Sea
  • In My Drawer
  • Scathed
  • Refugee Circus
  • Now You See It
  • Animal Eyes
  • Still Your Mother’s House
  • In the Valley of the Sun
  • Fall on Your Knees
  • Better Watch Out
  • Chameleons
  • Hell in Paradise
  • Whale in the Park
  • Them Bones, Them Bones
  • Ford
  • Button
  • The Deathbed
  • Venetian Blind
  • Ascending
  • A Mailman Drinking a Milkshake
  • Early Harvest
  • Waiting
  • The Yellow Blanket
  • The Wedding of the Junk Dealer’s Daughter

Congratulations to these authors who will remain anonymous until our final judge, Bob Thurber, has finished his deliberations, and to all the writers who submitted stories that made our job so difficult, yet enjoyable.

Stay tuned — we will be publishing the shortlist and the winners on July 15th!

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Meet the Judge: Bob Thurber

Pulp Literature invites short story writers from around the globe to enter our Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize.  It’s a humdinger of a contest,  judged by one of the sharpest pens on the planet, Bob Thurber.

Nothing But TroubleBob’s a short story writer’s short story writer, yet his works could be printed on the backs of beer cans to make you laugh. (Hey, now there’s a good marketing idea…) His flash fiction frequently wins online kudos at 50-Word Stories and his story collections are available on Amazon. His gritty novel Paperboy is being re-released this month by popular demand.  Bob’s stories have been printed in issue 3 and issue 6 of Pulp Literature, and he’s agreed to be our feature author for Issue 12.  (Yeah, we’re fans.)

Bob has blogged advice about the “Anatomy of a MicroFiction” on his website, but we thought it better advertising to just give you a taste of his own medicine:

Guillotine Guys
The guillotine guys handed out silk neckties and scarfs to the men and jeweled necklaces to the women. These items had belonged to previous prisoners. To the families they sold Band-Aids and iodine, steel needles and surgical thread, all in a boxed set with a pamphlet full of bad advice.hummingbird5

Think you can do better? Don’t let Bob have the last word! Get those contest entries in to us ASAP.  $300 goes to the best short fiction we can find, up to 1000 words. The deadline is June 15th, but entries are limited to 300, so get yours in now.  Enter the Contest Here!

Bumblebee Brilliance!

bumblebee1Congratulations to our Bumblebee Micro-fiction Award winner, John Meyers! We had a swarm of entries, but final judge Bob Thurber was able to pick the story that carried the most weight per word count. Thank you to all our entrants for the hours of entertaining stories. To view John’s story in final form, in either print or digital version, order your copy of Issue 11 now! But because we aren’t so cruel as to make everyone wait that long, here’s the winning entry in all its glory.

Motorbike, by John Meyers

Fingers crossed, heart fluttering, you’re waiting for a redneck Hercules named Chuck to kick start his dusty Harley. Finally the motor catches, sending vibrations up the back of your baby chick neck, confirming in your seven-year old mind that this greasy-haired teenager with blood on his cowboy boots is god.  

What’s the Buzz?

bumblebee1Microfiction is the grey zone between poetry and prose, in my books. It all depends on how you read your words.  Do you memorize the lines and slam them from a stage?  Then it’s poetry.  If you write with your own blood and slip the page under the door of your ex-wife?  Then it’s flash fiction, or micro if you’ve restrained yourself (or run out of blood).

Microfiction is ambivalent, is cross-genre, is both/and.  It’s like the fuzzy cuddly bumblebee that could, of course, sting you and kill you if you are allergic.  Bumblebees usually don’t, but they could; they are built better than honey bees, and don’t die after they sting.  So humans have the option of killing the poor insect first, squishing it to mushed proteins on a sidewalk.  Or you can do what my local librarian has done, and tattoo the little critter on your arm. Bob Thurber

All this is to say, we’re open for entries for our Bumblebee Microfiction Contest until February 1, 2016. If you want to brush up on the jewels of the genre, look no further; our final judge Bob Thurber is an acknowledged master of the craft, and you can see his delicate gems in Pulp Literature Issue 6, online at 50 Word Stories, and through his Amazon books.

Th51UBPQnoHgL._AC_UL115_is contest is free. In addition to a full year print subscription of Pulp Literature, the winner will receive a personally signed copy of Nickel Fictions by Bob Thurber.  It that doesn’t sound like honey for the soul, not sure what will.