“Santa Claus Goes Hunting in the Off-Season” By Eric Barnes

Blogger: Gretchen Addis

From Hobart Magazine: http://www.hobartpulp.com/web_features/santa-claus-goes-hunting-in-the-off-season

The thing that first attracted me to this story was the title. It’s a premise that you could almost see in some kind of sit-com television show or family comedy movie. As it turned out the story itself could still fit into either of those categories, but not for the reasons I’d expected. It’s the story of two men who combat the mundanely of their lives by sending goofy texts to one another in a battle of comedic wit. The interaction we readers observe is one in which a Santa Claus-lookalike is chatting up the narrator’s neighbor/texting buddy. They banter over text to see who can crack first.

The story makes clever use of character voice to tell you more about the speaker. The narrator of the story is speaking in first person, so we get an intimate view into his mind. Texting, which to us is a fairly pedestrian use of a cellphone, is transformed into a tense, do or die situation through the narrator. This weird and often crude texts to his friend are the most exciting thing to happen to him in a long time. He sneaks and skulks about during the texting conversation to avoid being spotted, while also trying to spot his friend fumbling over the text he just received.

Knowing this, it might seem slightly inappropriate to call this piece “Santa Claus Goes Hunting in the Off-Season”, but when you consider it there’s not a more appropriate title to use. The reaction a reader has to a fairly mundane story with a very odd title would be the same that any observer would have if they saw these two grown men behaving the way they do. The absurd exchanges they have seem exciting to them, but deep down they know that what they’re doing is rather absurd and pedestrian.

As far as the structure of the short story goes, I noticed that the font for the text exchanges is different. Instead of the standard Time New Romanesque font, it’s a typewriter one. The text exchanges also lack quotation marks. The font change clearly distinguishes text content from the rest of the paragraphs, and perhaps that’s necessary without the quotation marks. The lack of quotation marks is interesting in its own right. It makes some measure of sense; you’re not speaking aloud when you’re sending a text, though we still seem to use quotes to show that with written exchanges. Is there perhaps a better way to convey text-message exchanges, like what is used here?

Another interesting thing about these text-messages is how well-written they are. What I mean by that is they’re grammatically-sound. When you text quickly, or communicate fast over the internet, you have a tendency to stop capitalizing or use shorthand more often. That might be due to the age of the two speakers; adults who are adjusting to text-messages might be less likely to use shorthand or allow grammar errors (though in my experience they tend to be even worse about them). These messages are all very carefully-written. The narrator and his friend obviously spent some time writing them out, pouring over them even. That’s a lot of work to be put into a text message, and clearly these exchanges are important enough to the two men to put that effort in.


“ Elliptical” by Ross Mcmeekin

Blogger: M. Ramirez
Journal/Magazine: Hobart (online)

Ross Mcmeekin’s flash fiction story “Elliptical” is an interesting read because it takes an ordinary setting of a gym and turns it into a nostalgic memories of childhood heroes.  The Author in this flash fiction is exploring the individuals that exercise at the local gym he goes to.  The story begins in a middle of an action, which is the elliptical.  The elliptical serves as concrete setting while the experience takes place.  The experience is that he learns about the regular old man that he has been exercising with for a while and finds out that he is a legend in wrestling.

The main image that grabs my attention was the mechanical braces that the old man exercising was wearing. These braces are used to help with the mobility of the elderly.  This was an automatic clue that the writer gave in order to imply that the man was in fact older. Some other images that strike me the most was towards the end when the story began to slow down.  One image that Mcmeekin threw in the story were the intricate details of the monitor that appears on every elliptical.  Mcmeekin’s flash fiction begins with the attention of detail of the physical presence of the elliptical and then visits again with another detail description.

The writer’s diction contributes to the meaning of the story by keeping the dialogue very distant between the older aged man and himself. The main character shows to us his age when he describes the young people running up and down the basketball court while acknowledging how good of “shit” they still have.  This reveals to us the way that he is beginning to pass his prime physical appearance.  The writer probably wanted to invoke these feelings to focus on the difference between the ages of the people presented in the flash fiction.  It also draws out the issue of the different stages of the human body deteriorating.

The writer for this specific flash fiction had little to no rhyme.  The flash fiction does start off the with the action verb “Lugging”.  Lugging sounds very similar to luggage, which entails that the old aged man, was struggling.  Struggling and lugging do sound similar and can have meaning to the way in which he was portrayed.

This piece inspired me that people are far more important that the physical realities of the world.  The gym is a common place where physical fitness is achieved for cosmetic purposes.  “Elliptical” goes beyond the cosmetics of a gym and dives into the history of the people that go to gyms.  I would like to think about this story in terms of that its a not necessarily  about the gym but way more about the people