September 1st, 2017 Issue
Welcome to the first ever issue of Penultimate Peanut Magazine, a Hampton Roads based literary ezine that tries to capture the flavor of our area. In this issue, look forward to pieces about life, death, and grocery stores. Dive below the waves in Laura Hoffman's poem "Caisson Disease" and get stuck canoeing in Michael Pesant's flash fiction "Bent Creek to Hominy". We hope you enjoy.
— Abigail Putnam, Editor-in-chief
Table of Contents
Artwork by John Chavers
Artwork by Sean Putnam
Poetry by Brandon Marlon
Flash Fiction by Michael Pesant
Fiction by Jeff Binkley
Poetry by Laura Hoffman
Artwork by Sebastian Jerome Conti
Artwork by Daniel Ableev
Poetry by Robert Hilles
Flash Fiction by Audrey Wick
Artwork by John Chavers
Artwork by Sean Putnam
Fiction by J. D. Graves
Poetry by Salvatore Sodano
Poetry by Gerard Sarnat
With a sudden and insane sermon on "the Creator"
she announces to startled shoppers her lunacy,
inarguable and unabashed,
defying any and all to call the police even as security
and management attempt to escort her doorward
while accosted with expletives of the four-letter variety
and the deranged ravings of a creature
under the influence of madness, illicit drugs, or both,
a being at once pitiable and perilous,
her purchase on reality ungripped
and her mood menacing in the extreme,
an adamant termagant animated
by a litany of grievances actual or perceived,
her shrieks alarming staid bargain hunters
innocently seeking low-sodium wraps among baked goods
and certified organic produce locally harvested.
Predictably, perhaps, when she inquires,
"Do you want to hear all the voices in my head???"
none delights in her inclination to share.
Doubtless they resent being made unwilling spectators
and as a principle prefer their drama
strictly onstage and onscreen, not arbitrarily unleashed
amid aisles seven through nine until her humorless captors
finally pinion and frogmarch her with celerity
through sliding portals, launching her headlong
onto the pavement where her face is painted
by pigeon droppings only lately discharged,
giving her fresh grudges to nurse and cause
to shriek banshee-like across the half-empty parking lot
at life's injustices visited on her forbearing self.
Yet her impromptu display has been something
of an unqualified success.
Previously she alone was disturbed, now are we all.
Those once oblivious have been rendered alert,
those insensate sensitive.
by Brandon Marlon
Artwork by John Chavers
Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. in Drama and English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry was awarded the Harry Hoyt Lacey Prize in Poetry (Fall 2015), and his writing has been published in 200+ publications in 27 countries. You can read more about him at his website.
John Chavers enjoys working as a writer, artist, photographer, and general creator. Most recently, his writing and artwork have been accepted at The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library - So It Goes 2016 Annual Literary Journal, Cream City Review, Blueline Magazine, The William and Mary Review, Camas Magazine, and The Ogham Stone, among others. He has a fascination for the diminutive, works of art on paper, and the desert. This September he will be the artist in residence at Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.
by Jeff Binkley
Small clusters of supposed relatives stand around the yard and pass the time until lunch is served. They sway and kick at the ground. Stories of past accomplishments share the same air as boastful predictions of the future. This occasion, like so many others, is filled with men who wish they were boys and boys who wish they were men.
My mother and sister are inside, organizing the kitchen and preparing the food, so I walk the grounds to avoid engaging with strangers. If I'm not careful, someone will notice me and I'm not in the mood to interact.
There are fewer people around the back of the house where trees shade most of the yard. A light breeze has moved in and is quite a bit cooler here – much more to my liking.
Then I see what I've been looking for. Off to the side, next to a bed of colorful irises and forgotten over many years, is the rickety wooden swing of my childhood. It was once painted a dull green color but that has mostly crackled and chipped away over the years. A rickety rusted frame holds the swing mostly out of habit, yet still somehow holds my weight as I take a seat.
I lazily push from my toes to my heels and listen to the gentle creak of the swing as I take in the array of colors around me. It's easy to pick out my favorite: a deep purple iris so dark that it borders on black. My mother used to leave one of these for me on significant days, saying that purple is a royal color, a special color, and that I was a special person.
But these flowers are better, I think to myself. The ground allows them to endure. The ones that my mother left only lasted a few days before drying up, shriveling, and turning to dust.
People begin shuffling towards the farmhouse doors, rousing me from my thoughts. Time to eat. I sit a moment longer, giving everyone an opportunity to squeeze into the available space, before taking up a spot on the periphery.
From inside, someone offers a few words of welcome, then a prayer. When he's finished the people resume their idle conversations and reconstitute themselves into a loosely formed line. It feels like a lot more people now that they're all crammed together.
Dad was right. This is too many people.
If I can just...get their attention, let them know I was here. After all, it hadn't been easy to rise and come down here. Who knows when I'll get to see them again like this.
All the heads and hair and hats aimlessly bob up and down, blocking my view of the kitchen. Everyone who had hustled to be first is now moving back up the line, like motorists driving the wrong way up a one way street, only now they are balancing plates filled with baked beans, broccoli casserole, fried chicken, and colorful gelatinous desserts.
A few finally exit with their food and the line lurches forward, giving me a view into the kitchen. My mother is there, working with pace and dedication. Behind her, I catch a glimpse of my sister, feverishly trying to keep up with my mother.
I wave and call out to them, but my words are lost among the din. My place along the back wall is too far away, too concealed, so I step around an elderly couple and move forward until I am blocked by a sofa in the middle of the room. As I turn to look for a way around, I notice the portrait on the wall directly behind me. I haven't looked like that in so long. It feels like a lifetime ago. But some of the memories it stirs up are ones that I'd prefer to leave undisturbed.
Yeah, I should just go. There's no place for me here anymore.
Turning, I take a last look toward the kitchen. A gap in the line, a break in the noise, and I call out some parting words. This time my mother looks up. She stops her work and straightens. There's a look on her face, a sad expression that I can't place. Reminiscence, perhaps. Her eyes see straight through me to the portrait on the wall and the child that I once was. She bites her lower lip and stands motionless until a guest rouses her from the trance. She takes a long deep breath. Then she nods and gives a heartbroken smile that sends me on my way.
People sometimes make their way to the hill where I reside. They all move a little slower here. They carry flowers and walk tentatively among the stones until they find the one they have to come to visit.
My dad and I are in the back. It's a newer section that we have to ourselves.
One day, my mother and sister will join us and we will finally be reunited.
But until that time, I will rest and await the next purple iris.
Jeff is a musician, writer, and educator from Athens, 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.
On the Half Hour
by Robert Hilles
At High tide
We sail for Crofton
And then drive to Nanaimo
Your hands on your lap
As I drive
And you sleep
We go deeper into love
Where at times the light is iffy
But everywhere we arrive
Is already a completed place
The sides of hills
Catch the late morning sun
Teem with a smoky heat
Whatever we hurry towards.
Your hands shift in your lap
But stay joined
And I admire how smoothly
You slip through air
With a lightness
That makes you deeply here
Settled in ways I am not
And wish to be
It is possible for
Someone to be sunk
"Solnedgång I Löttorp"
Artwork by Sebastian Jerome Conti
Into every moment
As you are
You teach me how everything
Means whether I make it so or not
You open your eyes
I keep focused on the road
But notice all this
For love is acuteness
That can't be slipped off
You smile in a way
That parts the air
Light is suddenly porous
My foot on the gas pedal
Is all it takes
To keep us moving
Sebastian Jerome Conti
Sebastian Conti was raised on a small island around a US naval base. He takes pictures of what appeals to him with no real rhyme or reason, and he believes that art is an expression of one's self. He ascribes his expression of art t be filled with awe and wonder, be it flower, building, or sunset.
Robert has published twenty books, including two novels and one short story collection. Over the years, his short stories and poetry have appeared in numerous journals throughout North America. Most recently, his poems have appeared or will appear in The Malahat Review, Canadian Literature, and Carousel.
Artwork by John Chavers
Picture the sound of a clock. Can you hear it or see it? The delicate pulse of tiny gears flawlessly synced Can you hear it? Can you see it? The tick-tock—tick-tock of the biological heart piece keeping time in your chest.
If you're like me, until today, you haven't really paid much attention. If you're like me, you ate a whole basket of fries and a diet soda for lunch. If you're like me, this morning you put on fresh lipstick but forgot to brush your teeth.
The line at Peterson's Grocery is longer than Santa's naughty list. They've only got two registers open and nobody's checking out express. The Grandma behind my register is in way over her head—either that, or she gets paid by the minute. One gal ahead of me, barely wearing cutoffs, only has two boxes: one of toilet tissue and the other of wine. She gets so fed up with the wait that she asks to see the manager. Who turns out to be a very nice wage slave named Todd. This tall pudgy dude wears a monogrammed smock and a smile.
"I'm sorry if you're inconvenienced," Todd said, "but Peterson's has a strict non-discrimination policy. Mrs. Dunn has as much right to work as anyone else."
Todd looks back at Mrs. Dunn and then lowers his voice, "I can't do that. We only have two people scheduled for this shift, always. If I open another register then—" Todd looks
plaintively at the rest of us in line and adds, "I hope you all understand this is not my position but it's the position of Peterson's and our affiliates."
The gal ahead of me isn't buying it. "Listen Todd," she let's her contempt sizzle on the "T" sound, "I got places to be. How long do you expect us to wait for little Miss Gold Years to finish the talent potion of the pageant?"
Todd takes a furtive glance into the gal's basket. I don't know if she notices or not, but Todd's mouth parts and says, "Well, ma'am, if you are unhappy with your present position, we do have another lane open if you'd prefer moving."
I look over and the queue of baskets goes all the way back into the cereal aisle and beyond. The gal must've seen it too since she groans, "It's longer than the one I'm in."
"Like I said," Todd said, "We at Peterson's cherish and respect all of our elder employees. They are the backbone of society as well as our biggest generation."
The ole gal slams both hands on the buggy, "This ain't worth it. I'm goin where I can check myself out, and won't be coming back neither."
The entire grocery store sighs for relief after she storms out. A lady behind me spoke up, "I just wanna say Todd, you handled that person professionally."
Todd sorta blushes, as if he hadn't been complimented since getting the promotion. He thanks her, removes the abandoned basket, and I fill the vacancy. I'm four away from checking out myself. I've forgotten how many came before, but now it doesn't matter. I can see the end of the tunnel and it's got Salisbury steak two-for-one painted on it.
The woman behind me says to everyone, "Ever since the laws changes, I've seen more blow ups like this in public. Some people were taught no manners."
Behind me I hear a few disembodied agreements with her. A moment later, it dies off and we are all stuck again with our heartbeats and internal monologues.
My basket's full of food.
I know that I'll probably throw half of it away. Well, not the delicious parts, just my good intentions. Most likely to go into the trash is the bag of kale. I cooked it three months ago with coconut oil, but I've bought it every two weeks since. Let's just say it's greeted the Hefty bag unopened every time.
If you're like me, you know the guilt associated with wasting food. You know that there are people starving on this planet. Here you are in the Land O'Plenty and children go hungry every day. I tell myself they could probably eat some of the food I'll throw out. Then I hear another voice. It's frantic and loud, "If they eat something and get sick you'll be liable."
I shudder at the thought of paying someone else's medical bills. I knew a guy who's dad got sued when a tree fell on the sidewalk and crushed some jogger. Except that he weren't just some jogger—by a lawyer. The judge found my friend's dad liable and now he pays that lawyer around four hundred thousand a year. That's after he paid all the medical expenses too. Now that lawyer never went for another job in his life, but I mean hell, he'd just won the lottery. That tree and that colostomy bag were the two best things that ever happened to him. I wonder what I'd do if fortune suddenly smiled on me like that—yep, probably not worth it.
I remind myself to buy a lottery ticket.
Mrs. Dunn finally prints a receipt and the line moves up one. I'm only three away now so I glance behind me. I don't know what happened to everyone before they arrived here in purgatory, but it reminds me of some romantic comedy set in Poland after the war. Gray faced people unable to enjoy their lives, interrupted by the beautiful young couple who fall in love. Mazel tove.
If you're like me, you're not sure if that movie exists either, but maybe it should. I'd go see it, as long as it had someone young and handsome. Or maybe old and handsome. I mean the movies are the only place where two beautiful people can fall in love with each other and survive Everyone knows that women with handsome husbands are miserable. That's why I like Dale. He compliments me. He's strong where I am weak. I tell myself this marriage is a commitment for people who should be committed...to an asylum. I'll have to tell Dale that one when I get home.
If I get home, that is.
I look around again and realize that with this many people in one place, it would be the perfect target for a mass casualty event.
"Oh dear Lord," I say to myself. "Is this the state of the world we live in now?" I can't even go grocery shopping without the idea of some terrorist attack blowing up my mind.
Everyone at the Lady's Auxiliary knows to avoid situations like the ones here at Peterson's. I glance backwards thinking I'd seen our group's president earlier. Surely she of all people knows better than to come here.
If you're like me, you're probably wondering exactly how a terrorist would attack Peterson's. I glance over at the floor to ceiling windows, with their sales shoe-polished across the glass, enticing foot traffic and shielding the parking lot.
I immediately picture a van. It's blue.
The glass sparkling off the hood like iced confetti when the blue van plows through. I wonder if the sound of the shattering glass and revving motor will register for poor Mrs. Dunn. Because it goes without saying the blue van finally comes to a stop on her register.
Great, I tell myself, that's all we need. Another thing causing this line to stand still. Would the terrorist detonate a bomb in the van to clear it or would they get out and start stalking every one with an assault rifle?
Hunting us down one by one, until the police, or SWAT, or Todd can end them.
If you're like me, you've noticed that it's only young people doing the suicide attacks. Because everyone our age and above knows better. We were all taught manners, as the woman behind me said earlier. Some were just taught a different form of them or whatever. At least we were taught to filter information and not believe everything we read. But still.
I wonder if the terrorist would suddenly experience a change of heart as he or she filled the place with holes. Would the complete stupidity of their actions rush into focus at the very moment of death? When they realized that God's some old man wearing the universe as a face—not some plant covered maiden or whatever the hell those psychopaths believe.
I remind myself I was supposed to buy Swiss cheese. I mean, I'm not getting out of this line now. Dale will just have to make his lunches with American cheese. I know he hates it, says the only thing that's American about that cheese is that it's highly processed.
I hear the slow beeping of Mrs. Dunn's register and realize, miraculously, I'm next in line. I glance at the impulse rack and read the headlines.
I look away.
I mean, everyone's path is hard enough already. Why put such terrible things in your head? You never know when a tree will fall.
I keep thinking about it as I unload my basket. Unload the kale. Unload the fat free yogurt, and the skim milk, and the American cheese, and you never know when a tree will fall.
Mrs. Dunn slowly rings me up, "How are you today, dearie?"
"Fine," I mutter. Because of course, I am.
If you're anything like me, you know the only way to make it through a day is to pay as little attention as possible. If you don't, you could go crazy trying to process everything terrible that's happened—and what kind of world would that be to live in?
J. D. Graves
His short fiction has appeared in the UK's Near2thKnuckle, Intrinsick Magazine, Noise City Zine, and is set to appear in the Unpublishable Anthology. He holds a BFA in Theatre from Texas State. When he's not writing, he's teaching History. When he's not doing either, he's begging complete strangers to read his work. You can follow him on Twitter.
Bodhisattva Spilt Milk Etcetera: it's Time to Submit Poetry
exception that proves the rule of awakened good judgment?
for the first occasion in septuagenarian (dimmer than dimmer)
memory I ride-shared instead of driving home after traditional
smoking with a son-in-law before the family's Shabbes dinner.
back home – not as much fun as a half century ago smashing
a goblet with my right foot when we celebrated our marriage –
one of us dropped what forever, through myriads of grandkids
and their parents, had been on of those unbreakable drinking glasses
Impossible to imagine cleaning the wide-spread mess, we simply
left the keys on the kitchen island, limped out of the house we'd
survived ups and downs for thirty-five years, checked into a nearby motel,
told ourselves, in the morning let's look for a spotless place to live
Gerard is the author of four collections: "Homeless Chronicles from Abraham to Burning Man", "Disputes", "17's", and "Melting the Ice King". He has work published in Gargoyle and Lowestoft Chronicle, The American Journal of Poetry and many more. For more info, you can visit his website.
Bent Creek to Hominy
by Michael Pesant
How did the canoe stay stuck, while he kept slipping downstream? Ryan thought he must be the first paddler ever to lose a boat on class zero whitewater.
They’d flipped just before the bridge, and the hull collided with the piling’s exact midpoint, so rather than push it onwards from either side, the river held it in place.
A miracle, he thought, or the opposite of one.
Per the guidebook, this section was “leisurely paced, its few obstructions easily missed with little training.” The Diamond Brand salesman, who upsold him on the now missing carbon fiber paddles, described it as a “six-pack sipper.”
“Biggest hazard’s the sun,” he’d said, easily missed with a Kavu hat, also missing downstream.
No one mentioned the water levels, up after a weeklong rain. Kaya, in her defense, noted the high waves lapping at an empty parking lot. But the trip was a first date, and despite his inexperience, Ryan looked adept in his neon PFD, with the space age paddles and boat covered in stickers.
From the bridge, they’d followed the railroad tracks back to town: she barefoot, his feet protected by another impulse buy. He felt guilty, but her bare feet outperformed his eighty-dollar sandals.
After, he declined her invite to the Wedge. Her friends, tattooed and river savvy, would mock his incompetence, or worse, chastise his carelessness. Besides, his drowning finances couldn’t survive another five-dollar pint.
The water had receded some when he returned alone the next day. While he struggled to recover his boat under the bridge, a group passed on inner tubes, enjoying a lazy Sunday. He remembered crossing this bridge when he moved here, spotting tubers from the window of his U-Haul.
This town looked so easy from the outside. Low risk. He’d thought anyone could get by in a place like this.
Ryan walked past the bridge, and then floated back to it, catching himself on the canoe’s bow. He wedged his feet under the boat, determined now not to slip. With all his strength, he pulled the stern away from the piling, sliding it sideways, centimeters at a time.
He made progress, but each pull moved his torso farther from his feet, and head closer to the water. Tiring, he tried to extract his feet but couldn’t. He ducked under, and grabbed an ankle, working to free a leg as the current pounded him into the boat. Stuck, he reached down and grasped his foot.
Though he strained, nothing budged. He raised his head to breathe, but the current pushed it back against the piling. He couldn’t believe he’d made a dumber mistake.
Ryan opened his eyes underwater. He’d jammed his feet under the canoe’s gunnels, but now, with surprising clarity, he made out another boat underneath it. Beyond that, he couldn’t see the bottom, just an unending row of trapped boats stacked onto one another, canoes all the way down.
He gripped his boat above his feet and heaved, awaiting the feeling, for everything to come loose.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina by the narrowest of margins, Michael Pesant lives, works, and writes in Asheville.
"Canoe Black and White"
Artwork by Sean Putnam
by Laura Hoffman
I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It’s easy. Just click “Edit Text” or double click me to add your own content and make changes to the font.
as I make
my black descent
toward the ocean floor
of an old
my waist bends
and I am empty
the new sea wife
in the lost world
Laura Hoffman is a United States Marine Corps veteran currently pursuing her undergraduate degree in English at The University of North Florida. Hoffman's most recent work is appearing or forthcoming in Bop Dead City, The Bangalore Review, Clear Poetry, Twisted Sister Lit Mag, Pouch, Lady Blue Literary Magazine, and WOWsdom: the Girl's Guide to the Positive and the Possible.
Memory of Her
by Audrey Wick
Artwork by Daniel Ableev
Pajama clad feet padded down the hall at fever-break pace. The boy couldn't reach his
drawing paper and pencil fast enough that morning.
His mother stood before the stove flipping bacon. “Good morning,” she greeted the five-year-old between sizzles emanating from the skillet.
He didn’t reply.
In the den, he crouched and slid open the bottom drawer of the entertainment console to retrieve what he needed. Criss-crossing his legs, he laid the pad on his lap as he eagerly drew dots in squared patterns, connected by lines between each.
His mother’s view was obstructed. “Want eggs this morning?” She turned in automation to pick two from the carton in the refrigerator door before the boy could answer.
“Luke?” she inquired when there was again no reply.
The pencil tore across the page, dotting and dashing in a rhythm he found that comfortably matched what he had seen just moments earlier before he awoke.
She placed the eggs on a towel so they wouldn’t roll off the counter before she peered around the corner. “What are you doing?”
The pattern held him transfixed, and he was proud he could recreate it. He didn’t break focus as he answered, “Drawing my dream.”
The drawing was filed by his mother in a box that held other tangible paper mementos of his childhood: report cards and elementary achievement certificates, coloring pages and contest posters, academic reports and final projects. He knew the box was in the attic, and it was one of the first things he retrieved after his mother’s funeral.
Rediscovering the art transported him back twenty years to that morning. He still couldn’t shake the feeling. The image. And there it was before him, again.
He held the paper gingerly, its edges a bit worn with age. Every dot and line was as he remembered, the ink having held through the passage of time.
Now, he had a more permanent idea for the ink.
Turning his shoulder inward to expose bare triceps, he held the paper near his skin. Yes, if the artist could wrap the image, it would fit.
The tattoo artist asked him about the pattern. “Never inked one quite like this before.”
Luke simply nodded.
“What is it?”
This time he responded. “A dream. One I had once.”
The tattoo artist didn’t falter. Neither did Luke flinch with each prick of the needle.
At the end of the session, Vaseline and a thick bandage covered the art. In the morning, he could remove it and again feel five.
And see his mother.
Audrey is a full-time English professor at Blinn College in Texas. Her first women's fiction book releases from Tule publishing in 2018 and her writing has appeared in college textbooks published by Cengage Learning and W. W. Norton. She has journeyed to over twenty countries--and sipped coffee at everyone. You can find out more about her at her website or follow her on Twitter.
Daniel Ableev, born in Novosibirsk, Russia, is a certified strangeologist from Bonn, Germany; he has studied law and comparative literature, writes for the metal magazine “Legacy”, composes avantsounds for “Freuynde + Gaesdte” and co-edits “DIE NOVELLE – Zeitschrift für Experimentelles”; ∞ publications in German & English, print & online (“Born to Fear: Interviews with Thomas Ligotti”, “Jahrbuch der Lyrik 2009”, Ann & Jeff VanderMeer’s “The Big Book of Science Fiction”, “Alu” etc.).
by Salvatore Sodano
Sand between my feet and the rock beneath
like small ball bearings
I cannot feel myself balancing
but I am
Creeping toward the edge
The rolling macro rocks under my shoes crunch and shuffle
The abysmal sublimis like an empty ocean
I am a bird that cannot fly
I creep and slowly leaning forward at the edge
No more inches will be used to spectate
Nights can no longer become days
Time isn't fleeting; it has fled
Just an unimaginable nothingness lurks behind me
Not a tree branch whispers
Or a creature moves or speaks
Just the sun setting
The warmth on the back of my neck retreats
I am standing on one foot now
Those small macro rocks whining again
I toss my keys up to catch them
They reach the apex then a gust of wind
Salvatore Sodano is a New York City Firefighter and he is finishing an undergrad for English concentrated in creative writing. He generally writes short stories of a literary fiction with a subtle touch of darkness in it. This poem is inspired by a visit to the Grand Canyon. The word “sublimis” is a nod to a painting by Barnett Newman, Vir heroicus sublimis.
Artwork by Sean Putnam
Special thanks to all of our contributors, writers, poets, and artists alike. We would be nothing without you. Also, thanks to our readers, our tireless social media manager, Starbucks, and any others who contributed to this magazine and or to the sanity of the magazine staff. We can't even begin to say how much we appreciate you all. Thanks for being a part of the official first issue of the Penultimate Peanut Magazine.
The Editors of Penultimate Peanut Magazine