Christopher Notarnicola

Micro Lit Contest - 2nd Place

Christopher Notarnicola is a US Marine Corps veteran and an MFA graduate of Florida Atlantic University. His work has been published with American Short Fiction, Bellevue Literary Review, Best American Essays, Chicago Quarterly Review, Epiphany, Image, The Southampton Review, and elsewhere. Find him in Pompano Beach, Florida, and at


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They press to your chest a half-jacket—just the part of the dress uniform that the camera needs to convince your friends and family of your newfound commitment to country—the front. You stand in line with the unphotographed. They call you without your name. They focus on your image. Look this way, they say, and they dare you to smile. You do not smile. They take the picture and take back the half-jacket before the flash haze fades. Your mother will keep a two-by-three in the visor of her car for the eight months you spend overseas. Her mother will pin a four-by-six to the prayer board in the vestibule of her church where it will collect blessings long after your return. They will say you take a handsome picture. How strange, this centering of attentions. They will praise your development from a curious child into this—this marine in their hands—so you will thank them, and they will lower their chins and lift their smiles and insist. No, they’ll say, thank you. You struggle to refocus your vision. They hang the half-jacket and shove you off and call for the next in line. You stand in line with the photographed. One in front turns to ask if you think there will be more pictures or if the one is all. You imagine one is all, whisper one is all, but you tell yourself there will be more, at least as many as have come before, and you think back to the point-and-shoot camera in the backseat of your truck, pixels waiting in the dark like a future, like your four-by-six past cross-sectioned in a stack at the bottom of your footlocker. They take another picture, and another joins the line. He leans over your shoulder to ask if you imagine real dress blues sit that way—tight at the throat—and you ask why your imagination would be any sharper than his. He stifles a laugh, then asks if you smiled for your picture. You ask through your teeth if he’s serious. They shout for stillness and silence and more, and he breaks out in nervous laughter behind. They pull him out of line, and he laughs and laughs as they march him away. You fight the sudden urge to join him as another flash brightens the room.