TOBY WAS JUST TRYING to be helpful.

He said, “Your stories have no gravity.”

“All I want,” I said, “is to be published in a print journal with more than 5,000 readers.”

Toby shook his head.

“I don’t see it happening.”

“Just once.”

“The first time is the most impossible.”

“All I want,” I countered, “is to receive a personal rejection letter from the Glimmer Sisters.”

“Not likely.”

“One Glimmer Sister.”

“Even less likely.”

“You’re starting to get me down.”

“I do what I can.”

“You say I have no gravity.”


“What does gravity even mean?”

“Your stories are too funny.”

“I can’t help it. It’s the way my mind works.”

“You need a damp, drizzling November in your soul.”

“What for?”

“You may be hopeless.”

A soft sound of thunder gets my attention. I look out the window. The slow rain that’s been coming down all day isn’t letting up. I like days like this—they cheer me up. Inexplicably, two birds light on the birdbath at the same time. They look at each other and one of them says, What the hell are we doing here? They fly away. Or something like that.

“All I want,” I say, “is fame and fortune. And a book tour.”

“You may be incorrigible.”

“Spell that.”

Toby stands up.

I say, “Are you leaving?”

“My work is done, here.”

“All I want is fame and poverty.”

Toby sits back down.

“I know what your problem is,” he says.

“Tell me.”

“You can always see your reflection in the water.”

“What does that even mean?”

“I’m alluding.”

“Well, don’t do it around me.”

I look back out the window. The same two birds light on the birdbath again.

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Reddit
Pin It

About Larry Blumen

In a former life, I worked as a Syphilis Investigator. What else do you want to know?
  26 months ago
A wonderful poem. Of course I can relate to this, and like Mr. Blumen and Mr. Burnett mention, rejection letters can be useful or make me cringe. For what it's worth, the only editor named Toby I submitted to is no longer an editor. He's working at Google, doing computer work. I have more to submit without expectations. This makes an acceptance when it does come all the better. I have had some very helpful criticism, some that has made me want to go back to being a secretary.
  28 months ago
Jefferson: Thank you. And let me show you some of my scars at the hands of editors, although I regard them all as self-inflicted. Actually, the rejection I remember most was a kindness. The editor (whom I picture in my mind as a sympathetic older lady) added a couple of lines of encouragement to more form letter that made the rejection go down much easier. Like that first taste of bourbon which bites, but leaves a mellow aftertaste behind.
  28 months ago
A story with which most of us can relate. Glimmer Train, Tin House, the New Yorker or dare I say, the Paris Review. Merritt Tierce was first published in Southwest Review. Of course she did go to the Iowa Workshop but doesn't write like a stuffy MFA. More than that though, in this brief piece, more decisions are being contemplated. Should the writer leave the writing world. I believe that Toby represents that decision or indecision. In this light, Faking It is a great one actor but two characters play. As Leo[old wrote - Poignant. Well done Larry. Back to the submission world for a moment, rejection letters can be useful. I had two editors for me on a fairly recent submission to Red Fez, but they were outvoted by the person that counts. That person was correct, the story was superficial as a short story and in the form in it was written. I took the criticism to heart and the premise is now the basis for a short novel on which I am working.
  28 months ago
actually I apologize for my language just some frustration on my part . don't think it was a form letter it was the lack of emotion thing that got to me...oh well, again, if I have I offended anyone please forgive me. this is a wonderful piece and it triggered part of the old airborne soldier more me
  28 months ago · in response to Dan Jacoby

    Haha. I'm sure there's a market for super harsh rejections. On some level, that might feel better than well intentioned advice that clearly missed the point or makes little sense.
  28 months ago
i was recently told in a rejection that to place my scribbles in their lit mag they wanted "more concrete images and emotional investment......." A simple fuck you would have sufficed
  28 months ago
Ha! Nice. Both funny AND poignant, if you've ever tried to get published somewhere.

People who liked this also liked

Elixir of Life

Poem of the Week

Dumb as a Box

Story of the Week

Bottom of the Ninth

Poem of the Week

Dumb as a Box

Story of the Week

Bottom of the Ninth