December 1st, 2017 Issue
With Penultimate Peanut's second edition, we're excited to bring you more work by Virginians, and yes, some honorary Virginias as well. In this issue, you can look forward to pieces about winter weather, death, and rebirth. Take a perilous commute in David Charpentier's "Morning drive" and contemplate the confusion within a blast of cold winter air in Timothy's Hudenburg's "Salon des Refuses". It's the perfect light read for cozying up to the fire with your fuzzy slippers, your cup of hot chocolate, and your deep searching questions about why you exist in this world. Happy Holidays!
- Abigail Putnam, Editor-in-chief
Table of Contents
Salon des Refuses
Poetry by Timothy Hudenburg
Fiction by David Charpentier
Poetry by Bill Garten
Before all That
Flash Fiction by Sylvie Bertrand
Like the Skins of Great Beasts
Flash Fiction by Eric Rampson
Cottage by the Lake
Artwork by Sean Putnam
Flash Fiction by Alcy Leyva
Poetry by John Murphy
In the End
Poetry by Bred Cortelletti
Poetry by Jessica Simpkiss
Flash Fiction by Tori Walters
Color of the Strom
Artwork by Tara Cameron
Artwork by Sean Putnam
Poems to an Unborn Daughter - One
Poetry by Morgan Stroyeck
Salon des Refuses
By Timothy Hudenburg
some fragmentary verse
all in collapse
beginning of the end or in rebirth
deeply accelerated meaning
the Old Ezra as the first engine
expansive pieces torn off
ruthlessness brings me back again
words and current meanings
even that is—
tired personal uniform separatist
boring new/old structured worlds
then you notice the exquisite winter landscape
a painted black crow turns to squawk
neither private nor profane
en plein air made new again
Timothy Hudenburg is a poet who resides in Northern Virginia
By Sylvie Bertrand
Before we buried our father in the family plot of a family we barely knew, the tombstone already so crowded his name had to be written sideways on the stone’s curved edge; before we stood in a chapel among strangers—his brothers, our uncles— for a memorial service our mother, his ex-wife, organized and paid for; before we held our mother by the elbows when she almost collapsed after resting her hand on the wooden box that held his ashes; before we learned that he had died eight months earlier; before my brother went to the city office to reclaim the ashes; before our uncle called our mother to say he’d seen our father’s name listed in the “unclaimed succession” section of the local paper; before my brother and I signed away our rights to a succession we quickly figured consisted of unpaid taxes and unknown debts; before my mother called the woman who ran the welfare hotel where he last lived; before that woman told my mother: I had no idea he even had a family; before my mother went through his possessions, which were stored in the hotel’s damp basement; before my mother told us she’d found nothing of any value, no personal objects, no family pictures, no letters, no souvenirs; before we scrutinized the death certificate for the exact cause of death but couldn’t find any; before we learned that he was treated for tuberculosis for an entire year before he died; before we read that he wrote “unmarried, no children” on the admission form of the hospital; before my mother showed me a picture of him on a welfare document she’d found; before I tried to remember what he looked like; before I told my mother I was no longer sure of the image I held in my mind; before I wondered, once every couple of years, whether he was still alive or already dead; before all those annual family reunions when his name was never mentioned; before I decided to act as if he had never existed; before that one time we saw him after the divorce, when he came to our new apartment for a visit and left crying after hitting my brother; before we moved out of the old apartment, leaving him behind with his shirts and ties and cuffs randomly thrown into a single suitcase; before he finally dragged that suitcase into his old Pontiac Grand Am 1977;
Before my uncle came to pick me up that same day to take me to summer camp, my mother asked me, do you want to say goodbye to your father, and I, not knowing what would come after, said no.
Sylvie Bertrand writes short stories and is working on her first novel. In 2017 she was nominated for the Pen /Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers and a Pushcart Prize. A native French-speaker, she was born in Montreal. She has degrees in Media and Literature, Political Sciences, and a MA in Anthropology from Princeton University. She is an alum from the Writers Studio's Master Class in NYC and is currently the assistant fiction editor for Epiphany Magazine, a literary journal.
I was leaning up against the train door, writing, minding my own business, when all of sudden, a man’s back bumped into my iPod. He was wearing a plaid shirt and dark sunglasses and rocked a short haircut that looked like someone had deflated a quiche on his skull. He backed up again. He bumped me again.
This is common on the train. As common as delays and rats and kids selling candies, not for their basketball teams, but because it keeps them off the streets. But this particular invasion was coupled with a sense of dread and finality. This intrusion had teeth. He was large and looming so I lost all sense of where I was and who I was supposed to be. I was just there, caught between a door and a guy’s back, running out of air and light and water.
One more step.
And then it happened. I knew his name. Just like that. Just like an infinite thought happening at finite intervals, it just shot up into my brain.
Raymond, the thought said, and he turned around.
We faced each other and he looked right into my eyes as if he had heard me. But he had heard me.
Alcy? the thought said in my mind. It was his voice.
Y-yeah, Raymond? Ray his mother called him, with the running Rrrrrrr. Rrrrrrrray.
What just happened?
He tried to step back but couldn’t. Something had us locked into each other’s orbit.
Let me try.
I tried sliding over but couldn’t. Tried planting my foot on his back and knuckles in his chest. No one on the train saw us struggle.
A week later, Ray moved in. It was tough at first, as you can imagine, but after a week, we slowly came to understand the lot we had drawn. After a year, we both stopped being two and became one. A guy named Larry. Larry stayed home but ate out almost every night. That was fine with Ray, but I found it excessive. Other than that, I really liked Larry. When he went out, he ate veal and smoked hookah, but only to impress his friends at work. We were all satisfied with the way the earth was spinning and how blue the sky was when it was blue.
Until one day, Larry was leaning up against the train door, writing, minding his own business…
Alcy Leyva is a writer out of New York. His work has been published in The Rumpus, Points in Case, SeventhWave Mag, and The Millions, as well as a monthly column on Everything for Dads. Follow him on Twitter @SmilingDarkly
Jessica lives and works in Virginia Beach, Virginia with her husband and five-year-old daughter. She has a degree in Art History from George Mason University. While she has always loved writing, she is returning to the art form after a 10-year hiatus in hopes of finding her voice again. Her work has most recently been published or is forthcoming in FishFood Magazine, Beautiful Losers, The Bookends Review and Feast.
By David Charpentier
The man on the news said the snow would not start until seven, but by five-thirty large white flakes had already blanketed the ground.
Angel was the only soul on the road. He was certain of it. The city was expecting two feet of snow to come in hard and fast. The governor had declared a precautionary state of emergency. Drivers were ordered to stay off the road. Only essential personnel were to report to their jobs.
He was essential.
His wife disagreed. She had begged him not to leave. The children’s school was cancelled, she said. Their neighbors were staying tucked inside. He should do the same.
Angel would not be dissuaded. He had risen up from a janitor cleaning the shit filled toilets to an important position in the mailroom. If Angel called out, no one would get their mail and the workings of the whole building would suffer and his boss would not be happy. And if that were the case, then he might possibly get fired.
Thus was the manner in which he had rationalized his pre-dawn journey.
Wind and ice blasted against the Chevy, and its tires slipped through the snow. A wooden rosary swung from the rearview mirror as Angel held fast to the wheel. He had been driving since he was thirteen and had navigated through all sorts of conditions, but he did not like the snow. It required him to drive cautiously and he had always been a man on the go. It pained him to restrain himself, to curb his speed while his truck skated through stop sign after stop sign. He should have replaced the tires and the brakes long before winter arrived, but there had been no time. He was always busy working side jobs or picking up extra shifts in the mailroom. To take time out for repairs was to lose money and perhaps be unable to afford the rent on their little apartment in the nice suburban neighborhood with the good schools and clean parks.
Angel rolled to a stop at the red light and accelerated out onto the main avenue. The Chevy’s rear tires fishtailed in the unplowed slush, but he righted its course. A series of green traffic lights hung over the unplowed road ahead, marking the long slick miles that led toward the financial district.
He curbed the truck’s speed at thirty-five, drifting through one green light after another, never touching the brakes. Snowflakes rushed and whipped through the dismal beams of the truck’s headlamps. Large flecks of wet powder splattered the windshield like dead bugs along the desert freeway. The wipers scarcely kept his field of vision clear.
It was only a little snow, he told himself. He could handle it. No one else was on the road. He may even get in early. He could finish his work and head home before things got too bad.
But the blizzard grew wilder by the minute and his wife’s worries nagged him. If he continued onward, he might not be able to make it back.
But in that case, he would get more than all his work done and his boss would be duly impressed. The kids would have a better snow day without him grumbling about the whole time.
But maybe they could have gone sledding; that might have been fun.
A pair of headlights preceded a vehicle pulling up to the next intersection: a snowplow, finally out doing its job. The traffic signal switched from green to yellow. Angel knew there was not enough time to stop. He gunned the engine and the tires spun as the light turned red and the truck tobogganed through the intersection clear and free, careening across the icy pavement until he released the gas pedal and the tires once again found their footing.
It could have been a nasty situation if the plow’s driver had decided to jump the light, but instead, the rush of losing control had been exhilarating. The lights ahead still showed green-green-green. He was feeling lucky and it wasn’t even six A.M. Despite the storm, this may end up being his best commute time yet.
A burst of wind pushed the truck from the right and the threadbare tires slid through the slush toward the concrete median. Angel smashed the brakes and yanked the wheel to the left, but the back end fishtailed and the whole vehicle twirled about its front axle. He released the brakes then slammed them again as he torqued the wheel and the truck skidded to a stop.
He laughed then, in the face of death, an emergency vehicle passing him going the opposite direction. Foolish, yes. But he’d won. It was his lucky day. He touched the swaying rosary and mumbled a prayer of thanks.
The flashing lights of the ambulance vanished in the rearview mirror as he gassed the truck back up to a conservative twenty miles an hour. He decided he had been reckless enough for one day and took his leisure driving the next eight miles.
He pulled into the dark void of the parking garage a little after six-thirty. More than thankful to get out from behind the wheel, he promised himself to get new tires as soon as possible, even as he was certain that he wouldn’t be able to drive home anytime soon.
The financial district was a ghost town. He couldn’t see more than a few yards in front of him, the world a foggy, swirling mess. Rising snow filled the deep wells of his footprints within seconds. Shivering in his wet clothes, he dusted off the sign by the service entrance to make certain he had arrived at his correct destination.
The outside door was locked and it appeared that even his boss, the building manager, had taken the day off. For the first time ever he used his keycard to gain entry, and while doing so, he felt vindicated in his decision to drive to work: the fact that he even had a keycard meant that he was important, that he was essential, and he was doing right by being there.
The mailroom was dark and the storm’s torrential winds rattled the steel and concrete structure around him. There was no mail, but he waited for it, certain it would come like it always did. He sat there alone, eager to get started on the job, to finish, to make the most of this opportunity, wishing he had stayed home, wondering when he would be able to return.
David Charpentier is an educational media producer and visual artist who has written for online magazines such as Popmatters.com and had pop-culture essays appear in a variety of textbooks (most recently, "Reading Pop Culture," by Bedford St. Martins). An independent film producer, his most recent feature, "Money," premiered this past summer in theaters and on Netflix this fall.
Like the Skins of Great Beasts
By Eric Rampson
I hunt them. I go to where they are and I wait for them. I glimpse them. A rustling, they move through the periphery. They glide and shift. I never see them in full, only flashes and hints, suggestions, and a certain dread.
I hunt them inelegantly. There is no smooth take-down. There is no whisper-soft kill. There is blunt force trauma. There is blood and noise. There is wrestling with jaws, claws, and all manner of horns, spikes, razor-sharp plates. I kill a shadow and drain it of the darkness inside it and the light that defines it. I make my food from it and my shelter, I bleach the bones and tan the hide.
And when the pages are finally laid out, like the skins of great beasts, they never do the real thing justice. Like pelts made into clothes or rugs, they imply the thing without being the thing, and so I hunt again.
Eric Rampson is a Chicago-based writer who spent almost 20 years studying, performing, and teaching improv comedy before getting his MFA in Fiction from The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. His comic book work is published by Lonely Robot Comics and Markosia. His fiction has been published in The Logan Square Literary Review, Trembles, Change Seven Magazine, and The Matador Review. Although Eric has no connection to Virginia, but he thinks Hampton Roads sounds like a place where cool, dangerous, sexy things happen to cool dangerous, sexy kids. You can follow him on Twitter @ericrampson.
John Murphy lives in Virginia. He has published fiction at The Vignette Review, Ad Hoc Fiction, Ruminate Magazine and 101 Words. In his free time, he is usually reading books, watching movies or listening to music.
By Tori Walters
“Mom, can you keep it down? I can’t hear what Dipsy is saying, with you screaming like that!” I command. Quite eloquently, might I add, for a two-year-old. My mom’s labor screams overpower the TV plastered tummies of the rainbow aliens that dance across the screen. My dad comes and places a bowl of popcorn in my lap.
“Here, sweetie. Your mom should be done any minute now, then we can go home,” my dad says. After delivering the popcorn, he returns to my mom’s side to help her deliver my brother.
A purple alien covered in flakes of placenta and dripping with blood emerges from the mothership. His cries are even louder than my mom’s, so I place my buttered popcorn on the linoleum hospital floor to go and give him a piece of my mind.
“Now listen here, if you can keep your mouth shut, I’ll have to close it for you!” I announce as I charge towards the crisp white bed.
When I reach the hospital bed, the baby has changed colors, like a chameleon, and is now a blush pink. He is still the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen, but I knight him my little brother. Hopefully, Mom and Dad will notice my good behavior and give me a sister alien next time.
Victoria Walters is a graduate of Hendrix College, with a double major in English—Creative Writing and Spanish. She currently lives with her family in Austin, TX where she passionately plays ultimate frisbee, takes care of her plants, and writes whenever her two energetic golden retrievers give her the chance to sit down. She is eager to get out into the literary world and see where her writing can take her.
Poems to an Unborn Daughter — One
By Morgan Stroyeck
We will light a wildfire inside of her
And feed it, fearsome, fearless, unstoppable,
So strong, the origins forgotten,
Its existence indeterminate, forever,
Not beginning, nor ending, only searing
And we won’t know what to call it,
So all - consuming, the light we gave our girl,
We won’t know how to name it,
But we know it — it’s ours, hers, shared
And shown in the ever - bright blaze,
A fire so hot and uncontrolled,
We call it what it is
We call it love
Morgan Stroyeck is a native of Virginia Beach, Virginia, having spent nearly a quarter of a century learning in and exploring the Hampton Roads area. When she’s not at the beach or spending time with her family, her favorite pursuit is traveling and dreaming about people she hasn’t yet met.
"The Color of the Storm"
Artwork by Tara Cameron
"Cottage by the Lake"
Artwork by Sean Putnam
Bill has published poetry in Rattle, Interim, Asheville Poetry Review, California State Poetry Quarterly, Portland Review, Wisconsin Review, Antietam Review, The Comstock Review, The Chaffey Review, Hawaii Review, Portland Review, The Main Street Rag, Poet Lore and others. He is a graduate student in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Ashland University. He also has been anthologized in Wild Sweet Notes, And Now The Magpie and What The Mountains Yield. He once lived in Virginia.
I lived on the Maury River for two years in a cabin.
Wood burning stove.
Where certain nights I found my fingers reaching
for the dials just to hear civilization again.
I read. I wrote. I thought.
I hunted and fished for my own food.
Sunny days I would tube down the river,
a cold six pack dragging behind in the cool waters.
There were seven ways in and seven ways out
to my cabin, but only one wooden bridge
to cross to get finally onto my property.
That was before the flood in 1995.
That’s when property had no lines anymore.
It wasn’t owned anymore.
The water held the deed now.
My writings for two years flushed downstream like toilet paper.
Now part of the landscape they were written about.
All of it was lost. Read by no one, except me.
My own apocalypse.
Making me question, if the big meteor smashes into the earth
or some country goes nuclear
and we are not here anymore,
then who is famous?
Does the Pulitzer winning book of poetry help change the world?
For that matter did anything ever written change the world?
Losing my writings changed mine.
“It’s nice up here,” said the serial killer to St. Peter as a tear rolled down his cheek, “makes me wish that I had been kinder.” The sympathetic hands of his victims rested on his shoulder as one spoke up and said, “we all could have done better.”
In the End
"Color of the Storm"
By Tara Cameron
Brett Cortelletti is a Junior at Malone University majoring in English Language Arts. He has served as an editor for The Quaker, Malone's online literary journal. In addition to being a reader and a writer, he is also a competitive long distance runner. Most recently, his work has appeared in Panoply: A Literary Zine and The Tulane Review.
Tara Cameron was born an odd duck and has been such her entire life. At 35-years-old, this odd duck has three daughters and a partner, a cat, a dog, three rats and a house that is way too large. She has struggled with mental illness and being an odd duck since childhood, having never fit into any of the neatly labeled human boxes. She has only recently started attempting to let the world see her oddness, after years of hiding it away. Her photography was just recently showcased in a publication of Rascal in September and will be used for a poetry postcard in November.
Thanks again to all of our authors, poets, and artists. We think you're pretty awesome and we're thankful to have the opportunity to publish so many talented individuals. Please, continue to write, and create, and send your work out into the world. Also, thanks to the rest of our staff, our social media manager, may her finals go well, and of course, our readers. You've stuck with us since the beginning, since PPM Issue #1, and that means a lot to us. Feel free to drop us a line about the most excellent stories and poems listed above and it will warm our cold little hearts all winter long.
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Hail Santa!
The Editors of Penultimate Peanut Magazine