July, 2020 Issue
PPM has always fashioned itself as a geographical literary experience. We like to say we offer you the flavor of Hampton Roads. The times have found us in a place where we have had to reflect on the poisonous taste of some of the local produce. “White Sheets” is a good start and a way to air the dirty laundry. Realize as well that all discovery takes us on a journey to better places, even if those better places are just the wanderings of a writer in front of the lit up screen on their laptop. The pieces in this issue give us a chance to pause, process and ponder - to be taken out of ourselves if only for a short while. Here you’ll find a stay-cation for your summer, with the lush garden imaginings of “Musings in Good Company, About Modern Winters,” “Don’t,” “Secret Garden,” and “You Char.” Two very different works, “After” and “Almost Heaven,” give you a chance to consider the "other side." To borrow the words of our writers, whether you find yourself fighting for something or simply looking for the cooler grapes of forgiveness you are wished a folded blessing an future where you can claim to be the child of a joyous day.
Table of Contents
Poetry by Emily Williams
Fiction by Anna Kaye-Rogers
Fiction by Dominic DeAngio
Poetry by Paula Kaufman
Artwork by Jeff Binkly
Flash Fiction by Autumn Riley
Artwork by Sherri Harvey
By Emily Williams
Musings, in Good Company, Almost Modern Winters
Spring is an envy of mine.
Nothing is greener than its pasture:
Verdant blades coated in the pungent
Swell of wet inches left to go,
Dew like love letters
From frost’s melting squeeze.
Ode to the chewers,
Lighting bug enthusiasts,
Who lean back-to-back after dark.
Who might, if the straw bites just right and
They know, slip a folded blessing beneath
Time’s grinding stone for you or I to find
In our less enchanted places.
Emily Williams-McElroy is an Appalachian aspiring writer with a Master's in Teaching. Her work has appeared in the Moonpark Review and in East Tennessee State's Mockingbird.
By Anna Kaye-Rogers
It was supposed to be a barbeque, but Steve is ignoring the grill and using the tongs to
prove his point. He flails them in the air and his face is red, but he’s right. It was supposed to be
a nice family dinner, but that was before.
“...At a certain point, you’re just being racist,” Steve wants to say he cannot believe they
have to have this conversation here, now, again, but he can’t quite bring himself to. They have
already had this conversation. They probably will again. He can believe it; he just doesn’t want
“It’s a redneck flag, everybody had it growing up. You can’t say rednecks are racist.”
He could, if he really wanted to, but it wouldn’t be helpful, and he tries to bite it down
before it bursts out of him. They’re certainly okay with the association. But that’s not what his
mother wants to hear and so it continues, around and around, and he cannot get through to her
that the Confederate flag she did not seem to care about until last month is not a hill she should
die on. Enough people have already died from it.
His shoulder aches from the gunshot wound years before—and he’s tried bringing that up,
that the U.S. Army is the Union Army, and she’s disrespecting her own son. But his heart aches
too, because he’s never felt disappointed in her before. Eventually, he grills the food and they eat
mostly in silence.
In the moment, he feels more anger than anything. His ears burn and his throat aches and
he thinks only about the things worth fighting for. He can’t let himself think about anything else,
because the issues have to come first. It’s afterwards, when he steps away, that he really starts to
feel. He has the privilege to say someone is a little racist, but, to hold them being good and them
being bigoted as two separate facts, and the process of retangling is complicated and hard. He
wants her to want to put in the work, to want to educate herself and be better, but she cannot
admit that anything is wrong, and so he wonders instead how long they will go along in the
oppressive silence. It is not the educating and fighting that exhausts him, but the brick wall he
finds himself up against, where no matter how much truth backed up by sources he presents the
next day it is as though he never said anything at all. She lets others speak the points he corrected
her on the night before and does not correct them, does not say anything, just goes along. She’s
not a bad person, but, and the thought hangs in the air. He heads back to his room and hears her
at the kitchen table with a friend, defending themselves. “Everyone’s a little bit racist,” so it must
be okay not to try. Her friends say there’s trash on both sides, and then the normal people in the
middle, and Steve cannot fathom why anyone would want to stay in the middle of this.
It’s a clear warm day and she’s hanging sheets on the line, white sheets, and Steve lets
himself laugh once, bitterly. They’re just bedding. In school they learn about the racists, the
people burning crosses wearing white, beating black men in black and white photographs for
sitting at lunch counters. But they don’t learn about being racist, about all the tiny little actions
that poke like needles everyday, and they never talk about them in all-white houses where police
killings don’t affect them. Steve doesn’t know how to handle this space, where racism is a
political opinion one can disagree on, and not a moral value he thought he’d learned from her.
But he moves outside to help her anyway, because she’s his mom, and that’s what love is. They
hang them on clothespins together, all the way down the line. The silence is less oppressive,
almost back to normal. It feels nice on his skin, like the heat from the sun. But his brain keeps
going, and he wonders if things are okay only as long as he’s not speaking up. He doesn’t want
things to go back to normal in the outside world, not when so much needs to change. But here in
the yard it doesn’t feel like the world is coming down all around them. There’s only a few birds,
and a slight breeze. Home was a sanctuary; but Steve doesn’t want to sit and hide and wait until
it all blows over.
He carefully prints each letter of his protest sign, and after his mom says no the first few
times he invites her he doesn’t bother anymore, he just gets in his car and goes. There’s a
familiarity in the routine of prepping. He slides on black shirts when it used to be military issue,
but the solemnity that comes as he tightens the straps on his gloves feels the same. This is what
fighting for something feels like, to believe and act on it. He flexes the fingers inside the gloves,
testing the feel. He’s never needed to use them, but he wants to be prepared. Doing anything
feels better than sitting at home, in the thick air that he can’t protest his way out of.
It bothers him most she doesn’t trust him, that he pushes back on so little and it’s still not
enough. Things were easier before they had ever talked about, when Steve hadn’t realized there
were things that needed to be said. And he could talk more; he wants to talk more, but now it is
his turn to wait until she is ready, the way she used to wait for him. But now they cannot go back
and so they sit outside, in an uneasy silence on both sides, while the white sheets blow in the
A writer in the Illinois Valley, Anna has been previously published in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. She can be found sitting awkwardly on floors avoiding writing anywhere animals are found, fighting with someone on social media.
By Ashley Rebhun
If in the turret of the attic
I played until dark, building
a home out of faded
and filled it with handmade figures
who would remain in their place.
If in the morning I whispered “this is my family
this is my mother, here
this is my father, next to me!”
exhaling my own pulse into them, hoping
then who shall question if I was not
a loved child of a joyous every day?
Ashley Rebhun is pursuing a degree in writing at the University of Virginia. She is editor of MOSAIC, UVA's adult student literary publication. Through her pen-to-paper journey, she has found her voice in an ear-splitting world and utilizes her studies to fully understand how writing can assist with trauma. Ashley lives in Norfolk Virginia with her husband, two children, and an exhibition of furry friends.
By Dominic DeAngio
The killer took their eyes and replaced them with moss.
The headlines had a field day. Coverage was widespread. Though many clever names
were suggested, the masses settled on Moss Man for its simplicity.
Moss Man killed hikers along trails throughout the Pacific Northwest. The bodies were
left virtually untouched, except for, you know, the thing with the eyes.
The victims of the Moss Man were not of a particular age, race, gender, or background.
He seemed so blatantly and unapologetically apolitical that many scrutinized him for
purposefully selecting diverse victims. Others believed Moss Man was overcompensating to hide
some more sinister bias.
Mossy manifestos emerged as op-eds and morning talk show hosts pondered the killer’s
motives. Documentaries explored the case and podcasts prodded all parties tangentially involved.
Towns were dissected, families diagnosed, experts consulted. Trails were shut down and scoured
for clues. Paparazzi dangled in trees, desperate for the best angle.
The falsely accused park ranger who found the first body wrote a tell-all that gripped
readers nationwide. The movie rights were snatched up by the highest bidder, along with the
corresponding novelization and its ebook format and audio dramatization. A series of graphic
novels that reimagined Moss Man as a tree hugging vigilante was also in the works.
The police stopped finding new bodies until copycat killers sprouted up. The Wisconsin
Witch. The Bonsai Banshee. The Mulcher. The Mortician. That last one wasn’t quite a killer, per
se. He stole his “victims” from work and may never have been caught, if one family hadn’t opted
for an open casket at the eleventh hour.
Without fresh corpses, many feared the Moss Man had retired. Maybe he had been
caught. Maybe he had stage fright. Conspiracy theorists pointed fingers, claiming he was an alien
or a Hollywood fabrication or a scare tactic created by the government. A popular theory
suggested there was a network of killers collaborating toward some ulterior agenda. The hashtag
“#wearemossmen” emerged. One actor quit social media and a mayor lost her re-election.
Silicon Valley startups eagerly capitalized on moss mania. Hedge funds hurled money at
anything green. Every app, page, store, site, brand, gadget, gizmo, robot, and ride-sharing service
The adult film industry was not unaffected.
Moss Man was spoofed on late night television. Kids dressed up as victims for
Halloween. Street artists slathered moss over the eyes of prominent politicians. Green contact
lenses were all the rage. Lawns of fake grass were replaced by perfectly maintained moss, if you
could afford the sprinkler fees.
Leather was out and moss was in. Textured faux gloves, jackets, and even pants were
crafted to resemble healthy patches of damp moss. Wearing authentic moss from the Pacific
Northwest became a status symbol. Models sauntered down the street, spritzing themselves with
travel sized water bottles so their clothes wouldn’t die.
Moss was the number one baby name that year, for both genders.
Moss Murder tanked at the box office. Moss apparel reached the sales rack. Investors
cashed out. Memes became memory. Tattoos became regrets. Teens scoffed at parents who still
watered mossy lawns. Knock-off versions of Moss Man games polluted the app store. The artists
returned to their self-portraits and the media went back to their politics and the internet turned its
attention to the latest viral video of a dog screaming like a human.
Copycat killers got lazy - The Dumper plopped his victims on patches of moss and called
it a day. Investigative journalists scraped the bottom of the barrel, interviewing celebrity chefs in
Europe about the influence of moss on their menus. Street art subsided and shrines shriveled.
Trails were reopened, suspects were cleared, files were filed. Victims were mourned,
forgotten. In a greenhouse somewhere, the killer preserved their eyes in jars
Dominic DeAngio graduated from the College of William and Mary, where he was Editor-in-Chief of The Gallery literary magazine. He is now the Senior Director of Marketing and Communications for the Virginia Law Foundation. His work has been published previously by Teen Ink Magazine.
By Paula Kaufman
I’m waiting on peonies to open,
for ants to crawl over my knuckles for honey,
hands squeezed tight as buds.
All waiting to open.
I read ants do not actually speed up
time it takes peonies to unfurl.
But, I like to think they do,
flick tiny tongues undoing a sugar seal
white petals flap in rain like tired wings.
In the garden everything blossoms,
whether I am in pain or not.
Today, I saw a beaver, a fox and a deer on
my night cycle. A shooting star. A raccoon.
There is nothing I have experienced
that someone else has not felt, too.
Just as the man sleeping on the sidewalk is me.
His pain is mine. Is yours. Is ours.
We are all there, too.
Waiting on gardens.
"Malantha" By Jeff Binkley
Jeff is a writer, musician, and educator from Huntsville, AL. He enjoys time alone to think and pursue creative projects, but not as much as he enjoys a good cup of coffee with his wife, Amy.
Paula Kaufman hails from WV and lives in Washington, DC where she works as a nanny, paints and writes poetry. Her independently published chapbook, "Asking the Stars Advice," was published in 2018. Her work has appeared in Gyroscope, Snapdragon, and West Trade Review among other publications.
"Love Me Tender" By Sherri Harvey
By Autumn Riley
When I woke up after, my arms were numb. Pale. Bloodless.
Raspy laughter echoed. A wrinkled woman slumped on the tile floor, half propped
against the vanity, her hips twisted from a fall.
“Hello, stupid,” she grinned. “Didn’t know you’d have an audience waiting, eh? You can
walk about, I suppose.”
I could. I rose from my slouch in the bathtub, leaving behind pinkened, lukewarm water.
On the mold-spotted bathroom windowsill crawled a colony of flies, ladybugs, wasps. A
mosquito buzzed, wings free, body squashed into the glass. Through the door lurched an ancient
beagle, belly pregnant with tumors. He sniffed my knees, tail wagging sluggishly. The growths
He followed me through the rest of the house. Corners crawled with spiders whose webs
were long gone. A morning dove hopped outside the kitchen bay window, slapping its head and
beak, recreating the crack in the glass each time. At the corner of the stove, a wrinkle of linoleum
curled like the bunched comforter on a bed. A mouse spun in perpetual circles, hind legs
smashed from a trap that was no longer there.
A man with liver-spotted arms tilted in a floral recliner. He scoffed when he saw me. “Of
course you did.”
I didn’t keep track of how many families came and went.
The boy who moved into my old room had a gerbil. Long after he had grown and gone to
college, it continued to run in the spot where its wheel had been. Halfway up a wall, tiny feet
scampering surreally in midair.
The next young couple’s puppy ran off. By the time it came back, its whines and
scratches at the back door went unheard. Sometimes it howled. The beagle would join in.
Once, a gaggle of not-yet-teens settled themselves cross-legged in the garage. They
chalked a crooked pentagram on the concrete and lit a cookie scented candle, half burned down
in its jar. In whispered giggles they questioned their Ouija board, wanting to know if anyone was
listening, if Ashley would pass the geometry quiz, if Brady would date Marlene.
Only when they asked what it was like did I place my fingertips on the planchette.
C-r-o-w-d-e-d, I spelled.
Sherri Harvey a freelance writer, photographer and educator based in Silicon Valley. With an MA in fiction and an MFA in Nonfiction, she believes every person has a story worth sharing. She has been a traveler all her life, and believes in the power of stories to unite cultures, share communion and promote eco-change. She has published a plethora of essays, stories and photographs in Ragazine, Wanderlust, Literary Traveler, Cargo Lit Mag, Reed Magazine, World Nomad, Dime Show Review, and many more. Please see www.sunsherphotography or www.sherriharvey.com for more info.
Riley lives on the seacoast of New Hampshire and has spent fifteen years as a musician, specializing in performance and teaching the string instruments violin, viola, and cello.
fruit of the vine
cooler grapes of forgiveness
waiting for you
"Seahorse" By Julie Gallagher
MistyRose poetry is published in 4 hard-cover anthology books at the United States Library of Congress and in academic journals. She is the only accepted "Spoken Word Artist" in the state of Oklahoma on the Poets & Writer's Directory. She was the Featured Guest Poet in Houston Texas in 2014. MistyRose™ poem “Tulsa Sky” was competitively selected and then displayed in 2018 in a Brooklyn New York art gallery. Other published poems viewable via Facebook.
By Harlan Yarbrough
Leroy had mixed feelings: he didn’t like seeing the countryside torn up, but he wanted
a job. He needed a job. He had a wife and three kids to feed, mortgage payments to meet,
payments and gas and maintenance on his pickup and his wife’s car—Leroy needed an
income. He picked up a few dollars now and then doing odd jobs, but there wasn’t much
work and there were a lot of guys needing the money.
Word came out that some corporation wanted to open a big coal mine in the area.
Thousands of jobs, they said. That sounded good to Leroy—sounded good to all his pals,
too. All of ’em hard-workin’ guys, willing to bust their butts all day, if they just got a regular
paycheck. The mine couldn’t open too soon for Leroy and his buddies. Most of ’em had
been out of work for a year or more and were down to running on the smell of an oily rag,
ready to do almost anything to make a few bucks.
Ten thousand jobs! With that many people getting hired and Leroy’s work experience,
he could probably get on as a foreman, maybe even a supervisor. That’d bring in real money
for a few years—how long? maybe ten years? Fifteen? He could buy a new pickup, maybe
even a motorhome for their vacations. Leroy wanted to see that mine open, and the sooner,
Joan liked the idea of Leroy getting regular work. She liked having the money
coming in and also knew Leroy felt better when he had a regular job. She had some concerns
about the mine, though. For example, what about the huge long trains that would roll past
their house day and night, hauling the coal to the coast to get loaded on ships for India or
China or somewhere? Some of those trains would block the road crossing over the railroad
tracks for an hour or more. What if she needed to go shopping? What if, God forbid, she
needed to take one of the kids to the doctor? What about the noise and the dust?
Leroy said, “Yeah, sweetheart, you’re right—but we gotta take what we can get. We
need the money. You said so yourself.”
He was right: she had. Still, she worried. He’s right, she thought, we do need the money. But what if one of the children needs medical attention? I wouldn’t be able to get there. She didn’t pester Leroy with her concerns. She knew he wanted what was best for the family. Sometimes, when the kids were asleep or busy playing, she thought, All that dust, that can’t be good for them. And the noise of the trains day and night, but she rarely said anything about that to her husband.
The approaching election generated a few discussions, but Joan made scant mention
of her concerns. She listened patiently to Leroy and nodded at all the right times, but she still
worried and wondered if the mine really was in the best interests of their children. After the
election, Joan and Leroy never talked about how they voted. If Joan voted for the Democrats,
Leroy knew he’d throw that back in her face if she ever once said a word about needing more
money. She knew how he voted, but he figured maybe not knowing how she voted kept
things more peaceful. Anyway, it worked out OK, ’cause Leroy’s side won the election.
Some of the stupid politicians wanted to stop the mine because of some little lizard,
f’r crissakes! A lizard! When people were hungry! After the Republicans won the election,
they got the EPA to re-classify the lizard as not threatened, so the mine could go ahead. Even
the Dems in the state government stopped trying to block the mine, so the company would
soon be hiring—or so Leroy thought.
For no apparent reason, opening the mine seemed to drag on and on. Engineers and
technicians from the cities—and a few all the way from India—came and spent time in the
area, but the company didn’t hire any locals. After a few months of that, rumours began
circulating that there wouldn’t be as many jobs. The big city newspapers began reporting the
mine might generate only eight hundred jobs, which worried everyone in the district.
So much for a supervisor’s job, thought Leroy. He worried that they might not even take him on as a foreman. Screw it! he thought, drivin’ a belly-dump is better’n no job at all, and waited for the company to begin hiring.
“Maybe we should just move to the coast,” Joan said. “You could get a job there
“Not much mining there,” Leroy replied in an exceptional burst of understated wit.
“No, but they use diggers and things in construction. You could get a job in
construction, no problem. There’s heaps of building going on over there on the coast. My
sister says there’s new subdivisions popping up like mushrooms after the first rain.”
Joan’s sister Gloria worked as a nurse at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center and
frequently regaled Joan with tales of the prosperity on both sides of Hampton Roads. Joan
liked the Appalachian environment and the life she shared there with Leroy, but sometimes
she wondered if life wouldn’t be easier near the coast.
“Yeah, maybe,” Leroy said, as he returned his attention to the television.
Joan listened to the network news and occasionally watched the TV news with Leroy,
when the kids would let her, so she stayed fairly current. One evening she said, “Hon’, they
say there are sixteen hundred fellows out of work in this region. What is eight hundred jobs
gonna do for them?”
Leroy, who still felt fairly confident of getting at least some sort of job at the mine just
grunted and made a noise that sounded like, “Yeah.”
Joan thought about the news they’d been hearing for a year or more. She’d figured
that, with so many jobs coming on-line, they could at least sell their place for a profit if they
decided not to stay. Now that the papers were talking eight hundred jobs instead of
thousands, she worried that they might not be able to sell their place for what they had in it—
or maybe not at all.
Financial worries left both Leroy and Joan on edge, so they argued more. Their
arguments got the kids more upset, and the kids’ fussing heaped more stress on the parents.
That stress initiated a viscious cycle, because they both then became less able to enjoy the
physical intimacy that had helped them through difficult times in the past.
One day, Joan said, “Look, dammit, are you my husband or not? You never come to
bed before I’m asleep. Do you have a new girlfriend or something?”
Leroy hurried to reassure her. “No, sweetheart. It’s just this mine thing. I worry
about it all the time. I wish they’d hurry up and start hiring. I just need to be workin’.”
They effected a rapprochement with some mutually enjoyed cuddles, and everything
seemed better for a few weeks. A month later, word leaked out that the company was
engaged in negotiations with both state and federal governments to waive the minimum
wage, workers’ anxiety jumped again. The company said they couldn’t sell the coal for what
it would cost them to mine and ship it under the existing wage regime. The state government
refused to waive the minimum wage. The company said that meant no jobs at all.
Leroy felt both worried and confused. Most of his pals at the tavern said the
minimum wage was low enough and nobody should have to work for less than that. Others
insisted that any pay was better than none at all. At home, Joan said cutting the minimum
wage undermined everything workers had fought for in the past hundred years and moving to
the coast would be better, even if they had to walk away from their property in the country.
Leroy felt inclined to agree with her—and also his buddies—but also thought just having a
job at all would be good.
He didn’t argue much at the bar, but he did argue some with Joan at home, where he
felt he had more authority. One of his arguments with Joan prompted her to say, “Look,
Leroy, let’s just drive over there for a few days and see what kind of work you can find.”
That argument didn’t end immediately, but Joan’s suggestion took on a weight of its
own. Not sure how he would pay off his credit card bill when they returned, Leroy agreed to
mount an expedition to the city to explore work opportunities there. As they drove from their
home toward the coast, they listened to the car radio. They had passed Lynchburg and were
passing south of Richmond whent they heard the news bulletin reporting that the company
had decided to scrap the mine project altogether.
A mathematician graduate, Harlan Yarbrough has been a full-time professional entertainer most of her life. Harlan’s attempts to escape the entertainment industry brought work as a librarian, physics teacher, syndicated newspaper columnist, and city planner, among other occupations. One of her short stories won the 2019 Fair Australia Prize.
By Esther Sadoff
The day is a hollow city of crowded air.
The trampled growth of green fibers
is shooting back. Look at the doddering
pink hats, giant peonies whose pallor
quickens as they reach the ground.
The world is still wrapped in mist,
muffling the slow and sturdy heart.
Giant leaves wetly plaster the world,
their fronds spreading like giant hands.
Bright moss seeps from battered stones.
A silver spider web creases the wind.
The birds wash my eyes with pearls of dew.
The exfoliating bark sheds my skin.
If I knock at the door, please don’t let me in.
Thank you to all our contributing writers, artists, and poets. And thanks to our submission readers and editors far and wide. We don't know what we would do without you.
Sincerely, Penultimate Peanut Magazine
Esther Sadoff currently lives in Columbus, Ohio, where she teaches English to gifted and talented middle school students. She has a bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College where she studied literature as well as a Master of Education from The Ohio State University. Her poems have been featured or are forthcoming in The 2River View, The Bookends Review, River River, SWIMM, Marathon Literary Review, Sunspot Literary Journal, and West Trade Review.