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

Musings, in Good Company, Almost Modern Winters

Poetry by Emily Williams

White Sheets

Fiction by Anna Kaye-Rogers

Playhouse

Ashley Rebhun

Moss

Fiction by Dominic DeAngio

Secret Garden

Poetry by Paula Kaufman 

Melantha

Artwork by Jeff Binkly

After 

Flash Fiction by Autumn Riley 

Love Me Tender

Artwork by Sherri Harvey

You Char

Poetry by MistyRose Bosworth

Seahorse

Artwork by Julie Gallagher

Almost Heaven?

Fiction by Harlan Yarbrough

Don't

Poetry by Esther Sadoff

ACS_0044.jpg

By Emily Williams

Musings, in Good Company, Almost Modern Winters

Spring is an envy of mine.

Nothing is greener than its pasture:

Fresh provocation,

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,

Twig snappers,

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

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. 

 
IMG_2753.PNG
IMG_2755.PNG

White Sheets

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

to.

            “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

breeze.

Anna Kaye-Rogers

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.

ACS_0045.jpg

Playhouse

By Ashley Rebhun

 

If in the turret of the attic

I played until dark, building

a home out of faded

safety-yellow-colored-blocks

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

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.

IMG_2027.JPG

Moss

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

got involved.

            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

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. 

01_BinkleyJeff.jpg

Secret Garden

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 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

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

 
9FE77ED6-E5E2-4ACB-A605-0606DD1F9643.jpe
 

After

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

jiggled.

            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

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.

Autumn Riley

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.

seahorse.jpg

You Char 

By MistyRose 

fruit of the vine

cooler grapes of forgiveness

waiting for you

 

"Seahorse" By Julie Gallagher

MistyRose

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.

Almost Heaven?

By Harlan Yarbrough

Chimney and Sky
 

            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,

the better.

            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

easy.”

            “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.

Harlan Yarbrough

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.

Don't

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

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. 

© 2023 by The Book Lover. Proudly created with Wix.com

  • Grey Twitter Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon