Author Archives: LitMag Press

February 1, 2024


Share this:

For years we have brought you LitMag, a beautiful print magazine open to unpublished and award-winning writers. We will continue to bring you LitMag. And today we want to tell you about a sister project.

We have wanted to bring the LitMag spirit to book publishing. And today we are excited to announce the launch of a new independent book publisher.

Bard Books has launched!

Bard Books will publish its first two book this spring. The first will be To Have Written a Book by Gordon Lish.

Bard Books is now open for submissions. No need for an agent. Like Litmag, Bard Books will show love to the slush pile and dig for gems.

We will let Bard Books tell you all about it. Visit Bard Books.

December 18, 2023

Monologue in a Room with the Portrait of My Dead Father

Share this:

Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto


for Dad



Dad, I’ve safe in my chest those bright years of spring flowers.

I’m listening to Wayne, Burnaboy, Yeezy, Kendrick and Rozay,

and writing this piece in-between. I carry every memory of you

everywhere I go. I am a piece of you that is whole.

I see you in everything I see.

I see you in each of my prayers and dreams.

And somewhere I read that when one prays for

long, silence becomes a prayer too.

I see you in my silence.


I bear your thin legs. Two radiant poles.

One afternoon, I was in one of your striped shirts.

Mum saw me from behind and let out your name.

It took me months to realize how much I look like you.

I bear your oval face. There are no claws in this truth.


Dad, a picture of you is in my wallet.

I carry it like a passport. Of course, it is.

You’re half of my entry into this world.


Dad, people tell me so much about birth and maps.

But I just want to live, travel, love, make love and art

and live, travel, love, make love and art.


I know the taste of iron because the earth is so familiar.

But is this world and everything inside of it not meant to marvel?

If not, Dad, how else will I make peace with the things I am yet to lose?


Dad, everything il-legit here is the new legit.

I’ve been meaning to tell you this in my dreams for long now.

And some boys here first experience sex as rape, so I gathered.

And it takes them years to know this.


I want to understand what I do not understand, Dad.

I think of the skies and wonder about its burning breath.

I remember my losses and imagine home drifting through my loneliness.

I read about the nights and feel sad for things robbed from me, from us.


Mum says a lot of sunrises and sunsets about you.

I wish you had enough time to teach me certain things.

Now I have to learn a lot by myself.

But tell me, Dad, if I search well enough, will I find everything I seek?



Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto’s poems appear in The Common, Malahat Review, Massachusetts Review, Ruminate, Salamander, and elsewhere. He lives in Lincoln, Nebrasa, where he is pursuing a PhD in English.

August 18, 2023


Share this:

We get a lot of submissions, and we thank all of you for trusting us with your work. We still love our slush pile, and always will. But we need to manage it differently.

For years we have been open for regular submissions from October through December and February through May for most categories, about nine months a year. With the closing of other literary magazines such as Tin House and the narrowing of submission windows at other venues (in some cases to as short as one month), LitMag’s response time for regular submissions has continued to lengthen, and we think it has gotten too long.

We need to adjust. But first we need to catch up. We will be closed for regular submission this fall. Our next reading period for regular submissions will be February 1, 2024 to May 31, 2024.

Our two fiction contests are important parts of the magazine that bring to our attention wonderful new writers. The reading periods for both LitMag’s Virginia Woolf Award for Short Fiction and LitMag’s Anton Chekhov Award for Flash Fiction will remain unchanged.


June 5, 2023

helen of troy on the affair (vii)

Share this:

Maria Zoccola

       Musée National Gustave Moreau: Helen at the Scaean Gate, Gustave Moreau


on the night i knew was our last, we sat down to a feast
in the smoking section of the perkins beside the city walls,
which differed from the perkins in my town only in the number
of dead men who ate there. the air con was running pretty good,
stiffing up the hair on my shins and souping the windows
thick enough to hide what the sky was doing outside,
a mean mess of clouds tinting themselves yellow and gray
and yellow again, galloping above a world pre-flinched
for its next bruising. he lit a cigarette and passed it to me,
which was a new thing i was doing, another small light
flashing frenetically in the background. i was so hungry
in my body. i wanted more than the glut on the laminated menu,
identical in every offering to the one at the perkins back home,
the same meals exhumed from a walk-in’s dark freeze.
columns of smoke rose from every table. the booth heaved
with plates of grease and blood. when the hail began
at last to hurl itself downward, it struck against
the wood paneling with a hollow call i felt in my belly,
a pounding that signaled the end of what we were eating,
whatever it was we were putting in our mouths.

Maria Zoccola is author of Helen of Troy, forthcoming from Scribner in 2025. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, The Iowa Review, and ZYZZYVA.
October 24, 2022

LitMag at Five

Share this:

LitMag #5 is in production, and it marks five years of publishing a journal that has done most of what we hoped back when we conceived it. It’s actually six years, or close to seven. But does one count the gestation period when computing the birthday of an elephant? So it’s five years, and we’re excited about publishing issue #5. It should be at your Barnes & Noble in a few weeks.

During those five years, we lost Tin House, and other literary notable magazines have also closed. Many of the big ones that remain have narrowed their submission windows, to three months a year, or two months, or even only one month. We can understand why they do that, but we remain open about eight months a year. And there have been consequences: we used to take two months to reply with a decision; now we generally need six months.

We remain dedicated to giving unpublished and emerging writers a good look and a rare opportunity, publishing exciting debuts next to award-winning writers.

LitMag is all about print—the long painstaking labor of luscious print. We try to make every issue the kind of object that book lovers will love, a beautiful journal that feels good to hold and ogle.

We hope you will all keep spreading the words we publish. You can celebrate LitMag by buying five copies of issue #5 for five friends. And you can celebrate LitMag by continuing to send us your gems.

We thank all of you who take time to send us your good wishes. We thank all of you who read, subscribe, and submit. We are nothing without all of you. And now we are five. Cheers!

March 10, 2022

The Future of Literary Magazines

Share this:

First Tin House, then The Believer, and today Conjunctions. Bard College will no longer fund Conjunctions. Confirmation by Bradford Morrow, Conjunctions editor for three decades, was this morning’s sad literary news. Universities have always been places of fads and trends. Well, there’s a new trend of universities defunding their literary magazines.

“Long-standing literary magazines are struggling to stay afloat,” a recent CNN Style article recounts, asking: “Where do they go from here?” Electric Literature offers an answer: “Rather than waiting for benefactors to fund, defund, and then ‘save’ our favorite publications, we must support them now.” Must? Well, readers and writers certainly should support their favorite literary magazines. One can simply buy a copy. Or buy a few copies and give them to friends.

Whether one is solely a reader or mainly a submitter, there are facts to be concerned about. For instance, the submissions windows at many of the leading literary magazines have been shrinking—for some down to three months, two months, or even just one month.

The future of literary magazines is no doubt parlous. And now is a good time for one to act.

March 3, 2022


Share this:

Olivia Clare Friedman

Never had my mother wanted to live so much as when she was dying. What she made me promise was that she wouldn’t be cremated, that she would be buried with a gravestone in our own yard.

“If I can’t be in a cemetery,” she said, “the yard’s the one place I want to be.”

I told her I would do everything I could.

She said, “I mean it. Complete the circle.”

Just as she died within it, she’d been born in our house. My grandmother was in labor on the living room floor, the midwife guiding, sliding, coaxing my mother’s slick newborn body. For ten whole minutes, my mother did not let forth her first scream. When she finally opened her mouth, opened her eyes, the scream she let out would not stop.

Countless times while my mother was alive, I’d thought about her wish, about not reporting her death. About doing as she wanted, digging a hole in the backyard beside my grandfather’s bench, finding a makeshift grave marker. I’d even dug a bit of earth in the yard before she died, hacking at the ground with a rusted spade. I made no progress. The earth would not give, and I made no hole or dent.

I’d heard on the news about people doing it, burying their loved ones in their own yards, getting caught—one way or another, reported by a neighbor when the rainwater would wash a body up from its shallow plot. It was a federal offense, $50,000 in fines if you were caught, up to 5 years jail time, and government seizure of the body.

Jail wasn’t what scared me. In the end, I couldn’t think of it—my mother’s dead body intact, lying in the ground outside our house, so near to me. My mother’s physical flesh and blood, her blood not moving. It was her physical body I was afraid of. Her corpse so near to me in the yard. I couldn’t think of her body lying there in the ground, her hair, her toes, disintegrating. And when I woke up—her body still there, when I watched TV, ate supper. What if her body came up in a storm? I couldn’t think of looking out the window, seeing her hand or foot emerging from the earth, not quite buried enough, coming back up through the ground.

With me, the only person in the world knowing she was there.

I never wanted to lose my mother’s body, to surrender her. But I didn’t know how to live with her buried in the yard, or how to dig a grave for my own mother.

On the day she died, I couldn’t even touch her. I’d woken in the chair next to her bed. Her eyes were closed, she was no longer breathing. All I could do was sit, watch for a while, struck dumb with grief, stay in her company.

I thought for just a minute—almost struck up the courage—of carrying her body to the yard, wrapped in a sheet, her limbs draped over me. Folding her body up, sealing it in the ground, watching her face disappear. I couldn’t do it. I made the phone call, reported my own mother’s death. Me, the dolty-dolt, sorry-hearted Alma Lee.


On the morning of the fourth day Bordelon stayed with me, we drank beer, watched TV. Perky women on the shopping channel sold caftans made in fabrics in bright colors. Two easy payments of $19.99. We watched infomercials on synthetic diet pills and 7-in-1 insta-cookers. Then a game show with people rolling large dice for big money.

“Come on, big money!” I yelled.

“They have to pay taxes on that,” Bordelon said, when one of the women rolled right, won $26,000. The TV woman jumped up and down, cried right into the camera. I liked seeing other people cry on TV. I could feel my own tears coming, tears of simultaneous happiness and sadness for this woman who exclaimed she’d never had so much money in her life. I cried a lot when watching TV. Soaps and game shows and medical dramas and lawyer shows. Re-runs of Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons on during the day, then Matlock and Perry Mason. Even I knew what I was crying about was much more than fiction.

“How much are the taxes?” I said.

“At least a third,” said Bordelon. “And she doesn’t get it all at once. Bet they give it to her in tiny checks, little pieces at a time. You ever read about lottery winners?” She had her dress hiked up in the heat. She held her beer between her knees.

There was talk of the government officially making gatherings for public mourning illegal.

“Well,” I said, staring into the woman’s eyes, “she’s happy now. That’s something.” I never had near so much money in my life. At the moment, $362 was sitting in my bank account. Soon but not soon enough, an unemployment check would come, or one from the state from the account my mother had set up. The checks were always different amounts, and I didn’t know why. I applied to what few jobs there were in St. Gen, and I never heard one peep back.

We watched the woman crying into the camera, her eyes clear and lit with happiness.

“She’ll find out later,” said Bordelon. “She’ll find out later how it really is.”

Then the news started. A couple neighborhoods in New Orleans were being shut down for good. In a few years, the land would be unlivable from too many floods. We were coming up on the 37th anniversary of Katrina. A newscaster was telling us all this from behind his desk in the studio, a large graphic of the Louisiana coastline projected beside his face.

Then a segment on protests. There was talk of the government officially making gatherings for public mourning illegal. Religious groups in our state, all over the country, were protesting. They were some of the angriest. There were rallies being organized, people holding up posters. THE DEAD HAVE RIGHTS TOO and GOD IS WATCHING and JESUS WEPT. Whenever I watched protestors on the news, I felt my own sadness come alive. Whole families were there. Children on the shoulders of their parents, holding signs. I thought of what we were doing to children.

As it was, each state stored the urns of the ashes. What would they want with the ashes of our dead? To take away our memory. To take away our mourning.

Now, they wanted to take funeral rites. Any public gatherings of mourning, where three or more were gathered.

The pope prayed for America. The ACLU brought together their lawyers, started petitions, just as they’d done with mandated cremation. I’d signed a few of them last year, but now I was inside the new normal, a slow sink to the bottom of an ocean. When a change first happened, no one could believe it, and then, impossibly, we did.

I took the remote, punched a button, turned the whole thing off. Bordelon tipped back her head and closed her eyes. She wasn’t asleep, just still, holding her beer between her knees.

“Sometimes I think I’m already dead,” she said.

“Sometimes me too,” I said.

Sometimes I thought I could hear it all vanish. Even the edges of the earth.


The automated email from the Government Death Site came that afternoon. They wanted to see me at the parish office in Alexandria. It would be a 30-minute interview. I needed to bring the applicant’s (a) certified, state-issued long form birth certificate, (b) license or state-issued ID, (c) original Social Security card, (d) utility bills (lights, water, gas) and three other identifiers from column E, such as a bank statement or lease. For the decedent I needed to bring (a) a certified, state-issued long form birth certificate, (b) an original Social Security card, (c) $107 for application fee paid to the Parish Clerk, and (d) all of the following: any life insurance policy (she had none), marriage or divorce certificate (she had none), the last five years of tax returns, the last three years of bank statements, any of the decedent’s canceled checks, any will or testament.

The final thing they requested was a personal item. The best thing, the email said, was to bring a photograph. If you had one—“if available to the applicant”—a print photograph. I clicked to the page that would allow me to make an appointment. I’d thought I’d wait weeks, but there was a slot for early the next morning. I checked the box, clicked Submit. Went to my email for the confirmation link. I confirmed.

I’d kept everything about my mother, every form and scrap of paper. Every piece of mail that came. All of it was folded and scrambled, some of it unopened, stored in a battered filing cabinet I kept in the closet. All that afternoon and evening I hid myself away—Bordelon watching afternoon talk shows and dozing beneath the diamonded quilt on the couch, snoring, waking herself up, then back to dozing—searching through each box, finding what I needed, willing myself not to look too hard at what I didn’t. If I let myself look, if I let myself read everything, I’d be lost to it, drowning in the objects of my mother, unable to emerge or lift my eyes away.


On the road to Alexandria, we passed thick curtains of wild grasses and philodendron. I wrote about flowers, even drew them in my late-night time alone. I knew so many by their names. Bordelon put her feet up on the dash, stared out the window. She wore her Jackie O sunglasses like a star.

She’d been the one to ask to come with me. The night before she’d found me with the filing cabinet, surrounded by my mother’s papers. She’d wanted to keep me company and take a drive, and also she didn’t feel like being alone.

Hydrangeas rotted in front yards. Wild azaleas grew in packs. You could smell their rankness, the air brimming with sweet, candied stink. If my mother had a headstone, I would bring her azaleas. I’d pick each one—a quick snap of the stem from the ground—and fill my arms, my purse, my car to bursting. Yes, I could take these flowers’ souls.

The Office of the Parish Clerk was a standalone building with a dented metal roof, a large frayed American flag out front, the rope dinging the flagpole in the wind. Two people sat in the waiting room, the size of a high school classroom. A man and woman, both silver-haired, seated separate and silent, their hands in their laps. The front desk was vacant. I was carrying a large leather portfolio my mother had once given me for my drawings. In there were all the forms, birth and death certificates, policies and paperwork they’d asked for. I had also carefully placed a photo of my mother inside a manila envelope. It was my favorite photograph, the one that stayed tucked at the back of a drawer, only for my eyes. When I looked at it, even for a moment, my body ached.

Bordelon and I sat in a corner, all to ourselves. A sign hung above our heads: MARRIAGE LICENSES. But we didn’t see young couples there. One of the walls had a white line painted a few feet high, right on the brick. I’d seen those white lines before, meant to show the highest place the floodwater had risen to.

I looked to my right—the older woman sniffed, used a worn tissue to wipe a drop trembling from her nostril. There were Bibles, thin and thick, abridged and unabridged, on the scarred table. An industrial sized bottle of hand sanitizer with a grungy pump, a tabloid with a cover featuring British royalty in trouble with the law. Bordelon picked up the magazine and began thumbing her way through, her bag between her knees, her sunglasses propped on her head like two bug eyes.

“These assholes,” she said. She shook her head, looked right into the faces of a film star couple. I recognized them. The man had gotten in trouble for having an affair with the nanny.

A large man with a bald head came out from a hidden room in the back of the county clerk’s office and sighed and looked at a computer screen. Then he called out my mother’s Urn Identification Number. I stood, picked up my leather portfolio. Bordelon looked up at me from her magazine and squeezed her eyes with a long blink. We’d agreed earlier—I’d go in alone.

The bald man called the Urn Number again, and I walked up. He opened a thigh-high swinging door, led me to a smaller desk, told me to sit. He sat behind it, in front of what looked like a new computer. A small placard was posted: URN CLAIMS.

“What’s the State Death Number?” His hands were over the keyboard, ready for me to start talking. He wore a Saints tee shirt and bright blue braces. The Saints hadn’t played in a few years. There was talk of moving the team to another state entirely.

Her number,” I said, “is BROUS440931.”

“That’s the Urn ID,” he said. “What’s the State Death Number?” He looked at the screen, not at me, his fingers ready to type.

I took each page from my portfolio, delicately handed over each one, one by one by one, as though they were heirlooms.

I took the death certificate from my portfolio and searched for the number. He sighed and looked over.

“Give that to me,” he said.

He scanned the quick response code, then asked me a series of questions to confirm information on the screen. Full name? I told him. Address? Social security number? Weight? Age? Cause of death? I gave my mother’s full name, my grandparents’ full names, as best I knew them.

He stuck out his hand. “Are you paying with cash or card?” he said. “No checks. There’s a five-dollar fee for cards, credit or debit.”

I put my poor little credit card in his palm. $112. He had a card reader on his desk and scanned my card through. He printed out a receipt and handed that to me. Screen, scan, swipe was all I or my mother was to him.

Then he asked me for every single piece of paperwork I had brought. I took each page from my portfolio, delicately handed over each one, one by one by one, as though they were heirlooms. In some ways, that was just what they were. He snatched them from me, began to scan them through a scanner on his desk. His braces flashed in the fluorescent light.

After ten minutes passed, I said, “When’s the interview?”

“This is it,” he said.

“What’s it?”

“You’re in it,” he said. “We’re doing it right now.”

When the scans were done, he punched on the keyboard, looking from the scanned papers to the screen—up, down, up down. The sound of him punching the keys—something about how slight the sound was against the mass of what we were doing—made me dizzy.

He handed me a piece of paper with instructions.

“Read it,” he said.

I was to write out a formal letter, with specific guidelines for each paragraph, saying formally my relationship to the decedent, saying formally I had no other family. I was to sign the letter with a closing statement. I was to have it notarized. I had three days.

“In three days,” the man said. “You come back. You bring the letter, and you come back right here.”

“How do I notarize?”

“Hold on,” he said. He was looking right at me now. “Let me finish. If you are allowed to have the decedent’s urn,” he said. “You cannot bury it. You must keep it, in your own dwelling. Ashes stay in the urn. Read the bottom.” He leaned over, sharply tapped the paper with his pen. “See there? Read that there.”

Ashes must be kept in the urn. They may not float in the sea. They may not rise in the air. You may not scatter. You may not bury.

“Okay,” I said. “Y’all notarize the letter here?”

He turned back to his screen, smacked his mouth over his braces. “You go to a notary,” he said.

“Where’s that?”

“You find one yourself,” he said. “They charge you.”

“How much?” I said.
“Ask them, not me.”

“Where do I find one?”

He didn’t answer. Instead he took my stack of papers to a back room to make copies. When he came back, he had a can of Mountain Dew and my mother’s papers. He put the copies he’d made in an orange file folder. He handed my originals back to me, moist from the can’s condensation. I didn’t know what I was doing, or what got into me, but I had to say something. I said just what came into my head, letting the words leave my mouth before I could chase them back.

“Anyone else in this office think this is crazy?” I said.

He did not look at me. He put the folder in a metal stand on his desk of other orange and blue and white file folders.

“We can’t comment,” he said.

I couldn’t stop myself. “You can’t comment,” I said. “And we’re all just doing it. Saying nothing like this. Going about our business. My god.”

“It’s my job,” he said.

“I get that.”

“And sure. God’s involved too.”

“You think this is something God wants?” I said. “You pretend to know it?”

He sat there, looked stiffly into my eyes. “We can’t comment,” he said.

He cracked open his can of Mountain Dew and went back to his work. That was all, he told me. We were done. Later, I remembered: he never asked for the picture of my mother.


Driving back to St. Genevieve, I rolled down the windows for the green smell of life, the rotting overbloom. I told Bordelon I didn’t want any music on, didn’t want to talk. She just stared out, watched the wild roadside green scroll by.

“Just tell me what’s wrong,” I said.

My leather portfolio sat on the back seat. The applicant. The deceased. The decedent. Here lies. Here lies paper. What I wanted was just her ashes, a simple thing to want. I could throw all the papers to the wind. None of these things was my mother.

“Hold on,” Bordelon said. She took off her sunglasses and looked out the window, sat up in the seat. “Pull over.”

“What?” I said. “Stray dog?”

“Pull over.”

We were on a two-lane highway, a few other lonely cars and a truck tugging a camper behind us.

“Just tell me what’s wrong,” I said.


“Right here?” I said.

“Pull over, pull over, pull over.”

I skidded to the soft, grassy side of the road, stopped the car. The truck with the camper took off ahead of us.

“Over there.” She looked back behind us, pointed out the window. “A ways back now. You wouldn’t pull over.”

In the middle of a small field, a few hundred feet from us, was a tree. A bold crepe myrtle, stark against the weeds, blooming alive with fuchsia.

I turned off the engine. We got out of the car, and all we could do was stare at the myrtle. It was all on its own, and not tall, and not not tall, but strong and rising, brimming with limbs and bright blossoms.

“I feel like we should do something,” said Bordelon.

“Like what, exactly?” I said. But I knew what she meant.

“I don’t know. Meditate, make a wish, throw a penny.”

As if by instinct, by some magnetic pull, we walked side-by-side to the tree. We had no explanation, no reason it should be there, but there it was, here, here, like a rising flame, a flowering sword.

Olivia Clare Friedman is the author of the story collection Disasters in the First World and the poetry collection The 26-Hour Day. Her fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, The O. Henry Prize Stories, Granta, and McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, among other publications. Raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she teaches Creative Writing at the University of Southern Mississippi, where she holds the title of Nina Bell Suggs Endowed Professor. “Myrtle” is an excerpt from Here Lies, her first novel, forthcoming from Grove Press.
January 27, 2022

The Garbage Dump Veteran Museum and Gallery

Share this:

J. G. Parisi

Johnny Fabulous stood at the white glossy podium, stationed at the front of The Garbage Dump Veteran Museum and Gallery. He was dressed in all white. The gallery was a mammoth warehouse painted in shiny black paint. Everything reflected off everything. Lining the walls, were garbage dumpsters with lids in various states. Some opened. Some closed. “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey played from the Super-Fi speakers in the gallery, echoing off the mirror-like walls.

Today was Friday, June 13th 2042, one day before Halloween that year. Several buyers were stopping by that afternoon, which was why Johnny Fabulous had adjusted the calendar to accommodate the myriad of eclectic characters. An artist. A marketer. A president. A senator. A cause. Johnny Fabulous, a weary 62-year-old, waited patiently as the buyers filtered in.

“Keeping them half-dead keeps them palatable.”

“I need a veteran for the plot of my next novel,” the beret said.

Johnny Fabulous stepped to the side and held out his arm to the left side of the gallery.

The beret stroked his goatee. “I want him to be strong.”

“Don’t we all.”

“And broken. Pensive. Rage.” The beret took out his mole-skin notebook.

“I’ve got just the one.” Johnny opened the lid of the closest dumpster.

Inside, rested a set of wiry bones—twisted in circles. The veteran was alone. Afraid.

“He’s perfect!” The beret scribbled something. “Here’s an IOU. When I get rich, I’ll give back to the veterans.” The beret loaded the wiry bones into an alligator-leather side-satchel, next to his $10,000 laptop.

The dumpster was empty now. The lid was left open. Striding back to the front, Johnny Fabulous checked the sold-box on his clipboard. He was a shooting star through deep space. A white paint drop on a black canvas. A white dot in a hall of black mirrors.

“Good day, sir,” A woman with a cell phone said. “I need a commercial veteran.”

Johnny Fabulous flipped through sheets of paper. “For commercials?”

The cell-phone-woman punched buttons. “For, and mass-society acceptable.”

“Those are rare. Veterans are the worst.” Johnny led her to a dark corner in the back.

A shiver caught the cell-phone-woman. “It’s so cold back here.”

“Has to be. Keeping them half-dead makes them palatable.” Johnny Fabulous brushed back his wavy black hair and put on a pair of mirrored Ray-Ban sunglasses.

The cell-phone-woman saw herself staring back at herself. “I see.”

“Here she is.” Johnny lifted the lid.

A veteran sold for someone else’s cause, Johnny Fabulous thought, as he checked another box.

Lying in the fetal position, a woman trembled. She was fighter-pilot sized.

The cell-phone-woman gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. She shook her head.

“Bring in the billboard,” she said into her cell phone.

Four people ran in. The fighter-pilot-sized veteran was laid upon the billboard like a wounded warrior being placed on a stretcher. She was carried out.

The dumpster lid was left open. A veteran sold for someone else’s cause, Johnny Fabulous thought, as he checked another box. Back at the front, he waited for the politicians. They always came in groups. Retrieving a lint roller from under the podium, he ran the sticky tape over his white three-piece suit while he waited. The son of a Sicilian chess champion and French Olympian, he had made a name for himself as a showman on the stamp collecting circuit. He had been introduced to the world in 1980 when his mother heard the breaking news that Reinhold Messner of Italy had solo climbed Mt. Everest in three days, ending her eighteen hours in labor. He listened to Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” playing in the gallery.

The president, senator, congressperson, governor, and Super-Pac all arrived at the same time. “Give us a story,” they said in unison.

“We’ve got many veteran stories. What kind?” Johnny adjusted his sunglasses.

The politicians saw themselves staring back at themselves. “No. Not a story story.”

“I must have misunderstood. You don’t want a book about a veteran.”

“Why would anyone want that?” The politicians rubbed their heads.

“And not a book written by a veteran.” Johnny Fabulous took off his mirrored sunglasses.

The politicians became rowdy. “Who would read that?”

Johnny Fabulous stared at them with his abalone-shell eyes that shimmered in the dark-light like kaleidoscopes. “Even if it was fiction?”
“Even if it was fiction?” The politicians punched each other in the shoulders. “Especially if it was fiction!” The rowdy rancorous representatives roared in uncontrollable heaves. “A veteran writing fiction!” Everyone guffawed.

Britney Spears “Till the World Ends (Twister Remix)” played in the gallery.

Johnny Fabulous straightened out his all-white three-piece suit. “You want a veteran with a backstory.” He led the politicians to the rear, past the ice-cold dark corner, came to an elephant-sized bank vault, turned the silver dial this way, turned the dial that way, yanked the titanium door when the safe clicked, entered, held it open for the politicians to follow him through, let the door close as they followed the hovering bomber-group of lightning bugs that lit the path forward into a cement tunnel, dust crunched under rubber soles, trudging forward the tunnel-diameter shrank gradually, and lightning bugs grew bigger in size. The light grew brighter. Sitting cross-legged in the back, eyes closed, dreaming in color, was the rarest of veterans: an Omaha Beach H-Hour D-Day Veteran, a captain in the army—the greatest generation. A velvet sunflower.

J.G. Parisi was raised on 12 acres in a mobile home in rural California by two public school teachers. After high school, he enlisted in the Marines and deployed to Afghanistan two months after 9/11. His great uncle was an Omaha Beach H-Hour D-Day survivor, an Army Captain, and the inspiration for J.G.’s service in the Marines. He holds a BA in Philosophy of Language with a minor in Communication Theory and an MFA in Fiction. He has lived in his truck three times, worked on a rice farm, delivered pizzas, washed golf carts, and worked with at-risk high-school youth. This story, his first publication, appeared in LitMag #4. It was the winner of LitMag’s Anton Chekhov Award for Flash Fiction.
January 27, 2022

Of Seasons

Share this:

Jill Talbot

Long past August in Texas, the heat hangs on, a stubborn guest. Outside, the trees—their branches heavy with green—sweep in the wind. No signs of autumn, no ochre-butterscotch-rust, no sounds of onion-skin crunch, only sweat and swelter, a suffocation. I lean against the doorframe to my porch, weary. A year ago, I stood here talking on the phone with my mother, the two of us misunderstanding each other.

Virginia Woolf described autumn this way: “The nights now are full of wind and destruction; the trees plunge and bend and their leaves fly helter skelter until the lawn is plastered with them and they lie packed in gutters and choke rain-pipes and scatter damp paths.”

There is no light in my closet, no switch, no bulb, no chain.

“Once, in a letter, Woolf realized: “I meant to write about death, only life came breaking in as usual.”

I am tired of the movements I make and make again, how I take the left turn on Hickory, how I come home to find that I forgot to start the dishwasher, how I pour a glass of wine at six, how I sort through the mail and throw most of it away, how I exchange the paper towel tube with a new roll, how I leap over the swelling stream of water in the parking lot outside my apartment as it storms, how I turn the comforter back on my bed hours before I get into it, and how I finger the soil of the hanging baskets on the porch, their pink periwinkles still cascading in October. Tonight, another obligation to check off the calendar. I set my wine glass on the end table and walk to my room, open the closet.

Once, in a letter, Woolf realized: “I meant to write about death, only life came breaking in as usual.”

A black dress, sleeveless, a dry cleaner tag pinned to the inside of its collar. I pull it from its slot between a pair of jeans and a gray skirt. The dress slips and drops to the floor. My fingers find it among the shoes.

“I bend toward the back of my closet for the black pumps and pull them from the dark.”

Last week I hesitated before taking the dress into the cleaners. I sat in my car, counting the months back to April (pressing the heavy fabric to my face, taking a deep breath), remembering how spring had drawn a sudden curtain of gray and drizzle and cold, how I teetered on the damp path toward a silver casket, how every mourner, including the preacher, offered a coat to my quiet refusals. My father already in the ground.

Grief lingers, a stubborn guest.

I bend toward the back of my closet for the black pumps and pull them from the dark. When I stand, I notice a crust of caked mud on the first inch of each heel.


The shoes like wilted flowers in my hands, and I remember the way my sharp heels sunk into the ground with each step I took toward my mother’s casket.

At the kitchen sink, I run the water. I wipe the mud away with a paper towel. Each sweep of my hand, each removal a betrayal.

Jill Talbot is the author of The Way We Weren’t: A Memoir and Loaded: Women and Addiction, as well as the editor of Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in AGNI, Brevity, Colorado Review, DIAGRAM, Longreads, The Normal School, The Paris Review Daily, River Teeth, and Slice Magazine and has been recognized by The Best American Essays. She teaches in the creative writing program at the University of North Texas.
October 15, 2021

Thank you for the love

Share this:

We hear so much from so many of you about how much you appreciate what we do — giving voices attention, putting them in our pages, which are really your pages after all.

LitMag #4 is in production — the stories, the poems, that wonderful cover. It will be out soon.

We thank you for the love.