Tom Pellman

 Tom Pellman lives in Beijing and is fiction editor of the Anthill

Posts by Tom Pellman

Tiger Suit

An ostrich on the loose in Shijiazhuang – fiction by Tom Pellman


Ed: This story was read out at Scotch & Stories night at the Beijing Bookworm, accompanied by a tasty Glenfiddich 12. We'll be drip feeding the stories onto the site over the coming weeks

The tiger suit stinks. It smells like dried sweat and grass clippings. They make me wear it when we practice catching escaped animals at the Shijiazhuang zoo. The last time, two weeks ago, they chased me for almost twenty minutes straight, waving their snares, until I fell into some bushes. I tore a small hole in the leg and now I have to remember to stay on Director Wang’s right side so he doesn’t see it. He says rules are rules. If the suit gets ruined when I’m wearing it, I have to pay for it. That’s a rule. Another one is: last person who joined the team wears the suit.


Summer Shorts: Frogs at Dusk

Flash fiction and drinking games – by Tom Pellman


Roll up all, the Anthill is launching a "Summer Shorts" season, with a new flash fiction story published every Sunday for the next twelve weeks. This is in partnership with Beijing Cream and their Flash Fiction for Charity competition, which is today at 2.30pm at Great Leap Brewing's original no. 6 Doujiao hutong pub.

Out of thirty submissions, five finalists were picked by the judges (of whom I was one), a winner will be decided today, and you can read those stories over at Beijing Cream in time. But there were so many other great submissions that just didn't make the final five – or did, but the writer isn't in Beijing and so can't join the event – that we've picked a further dozen to publish here.


'Tis the season to be lonely

A Christmas gone wrong in Shanghai – by Tom Pellman


I realised I wasn’t ready to handle Christmas alone around 5pm Christmas Eve. It was 2007, and I was sitting in the Shanghai office of the media company I worked for at the time. Ricky and Pang Pang from design were two of the few people still hanging around. Most of my foreign colleagues had left days ago, including my boss. I had a mountain of work to get done, but I wasn’t working on Christmas Eve because of my deadlines. I was still at the office because I didn’t have anywhere else to be.


Chinese Tuesdays: Old man one ball


Cancer is no joke, but don't tell that to my friend Bai Heng. We were walking together on Friday night when he dropped a bombshell on me.

"Actually, my friend just found out he has cancer."

"OK, wow. How old is he?"

"He's thirty. It's 睾丸癌症." (gāowánáizhèng – testicular cancer)

"Damn, that's terrible!" I said.

"It's not so bad." A smile crept across his lips. "They had to remove one testicle. But hey, he's still got one left."

I nodded and Bai Heng paused for comedic effect.

"Now we all just call him 剩蛋老人." (shèngdànlǎorén – literally, "leftover ball old man", and an exact homophone for Santa Claus, 圣诞老人)


Neighbourhood Problems

A hutong community meeting goes awry


The neighbourhood meeting was scheduled for Saturday morning and promised to tackle the Five Great Problems plaguing our housing community, No. 19 Ju’er hutong, Beijing. Separate flyers for the event — one English, one Chinese — appeared a few days prior, lodged in the cracks of our front doors. The Chinese version was printed on pink paper and offered a bit of helpful context. It summarised the Five Great Problems agreed upon in the March 20th meeting — broad categories like “environment problems” and “problems with new arrivals”. The English flyer was more perfunctory, a short welcome letter to an unexplained gathering, really. There were only a few sentences and one of them promised lunch and a tea break.