March 1st, 2018 Issue
It's finally here, the much anticipated spring issue of PPM.We have been busy distilling the essense of Hampton Roads to bring you great stories, poetry, and art that reflect our area. In this issue, you can look forward to reading about what it means to grow up in the South in Miriam Elisabeth Moore's poem "Cherokee Rose", contemplate the clutter of your home in Eric Martin's flash fiction "Because you Will be Full of Pee", and wittness the touching tale of a sweet pup in Kelly Ann Gonzales' "A Shaggy, Shaggy Dog Story".
- Abigail Putnam, Editor-in-chief
Table of Contents
Artwork by Michelle Brooks
The Human Policy
Poetry by R Madison Haymore
Untittled Document (Mother)
Poetry by Mary Katherine West
Because You Will be Full of Pee
Flash Fiction by Eric Martin
Poetry by Paul Reyns
Flash Fiction by Melynda Sorrels
Artwork by Esther Rogers
So wield compassion as a symphony
for apathy enlists more woes.
You’ll find more friends in reverie
so, wield compassion as a symphony
since your heart’s the heavy cavalry.
Music fosters healing as it flows –
so, wield compassion as a symphony
for apathy enlists more woes
By R Madison Haymore
Artwork by Michelle Brooks
R Madison Haymore
R Madison Haymore was born in Mt. Airy, North Carolina — just below Cana, Virginia. He is an extravagant minimalist who's obsessed with wine, nature, poetry, clearance racks, and sharing our stories. He is also a columnist for The QSaltLake Magazine, has six poetry publications and one short story publication.
Michelle Brooks has published a collection of poetry, Make Yourself Small, (Backwaters Press), and a novella, Dead Girl, Live Boy, (Storylandia Press). A native Texan, she has spent much of her adult life in Detroit.
Things I'll Miss
By John Murphy
Coming home on the freeway and evening sky’s palette is hanging right over the road so it seems as though you were driving into a rainbow. The laughter of my children in the morning outside my room. Forest creeks. The smell of burning leaves, or sticking your head into the Rutger Farm smokehouse and inhaling.
I don’t know. I feel as though I’m being very random about this. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say to be entirely honest.
Saddie came downstairs one Sunday morning and asked me, “Daddy, what are trees?” And I said, “Well, trees are plants, big plants; you’ve seen trees, honey.” She shook her head fiercely, her curls flapping over her face, and she replied, “No, no, no; what are they?” “What do you mean?” I asked. But with an exasperated, emotive sigh, she turned and headed back upstairs to her room.
I’ll miss questions like that. I find them profound. Maybe others don’t.
Old leather. Sticking your hand in a bowl of dry rice. Eating wild chives straight from the ground. Slow, sad jazz. The way my wife will fake a sneeze to get somebody’s attention without seeming rude—and how realistic the sneeze is. Watching her shave her legs. Her grimace when she hears somebody crack their knuckles.
There was a time when we were out walking in the neighborhood. It was evening, a summer evening, and we had walked far enough away from our house that we didn’t really know where we were anymore. We decided to walk down this road. On one side were houses and on the other was a forest. It was quiet, and our conversation had lapsed into comfortable silence, and she held my hand as we walked. Our footsteps were the only sound. Then, out of the forest came this deer, and it ambled into the road in front of us—not ten feet away. We stopped. It stared at us. It was magnificent, had a huge crown of antlers. I felt as if I was looking at something ancient. After a minute it turned, slowly, not rushing, and ambled back into the woods.
There’s lots of things I’ll miss. The more I write, the more details keep flooding in. I wish I wasn’t going so soon. I feel as though I’m going to miss the whole world. I feel like I could live a thousand years and not experience everything as much as I want. Bored people are crazy. Everything vibrates with life.
I’ll say goodbye now. This will probably be the last thing I write. I don’t expect to have much more free time in the days ahead. So, goodbye.
Trees are guardians, by the way.
John Murphy is recently graduated and living in Virginia. He has published fiction at Ad Hoc Fiction and 101 Words, and has forthcoming stories in The Vignette Review and Ruminate Magazine. In his free time, he is usually reading books, watching movies or listening to music.
A Shaggy, Shaggy Dog Story
By Kelly Ann Gonzales
"Some Kind of Thing Going On"
Artwork by Benjamin Pierce
My mother doesn’t understand my writing. She says that there’s an uneven distribution between contemporary chick lit, throbbing members and the like, and the real deal shit I should be writing. Another story about an ex-boyfriend? Heartbreak? Whoop de doo. Get in line.
“Come on, iha, what you should be writing about is Loki.”
Loki was our dog. Not Thor. Not Hel because Loki was a Good Boy. Loki because he was a trickster, the best darn chocolate lab this side of Center Boulevard. Even if he ate our vacuums from time to time.
Our dog was the renegade son my parents never had. If he walked on two legs, he would be a black haired Adonis, giving me major Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker carnal tension. Although I could imagine his alternate ego, I only had the real Loki before me to play with. Loki with the sweet face and bottomless belly for bacon strips.
When he wasn’t stuck in our childhood home in suburban land, I’d steal him away for a week or two to stay with me in the city. We’d stroll around Little Odessa by Brighton Beach. He barked at the little, old ladies in their wraparound scarves, all hunched over from the weight of a difficult life, and I’d tell him to stop barking, to be polite, but I didn’t mind all that much if he barked, and the little, old ladies didn’t seem to care all that much, either.
We rented cars together. Careless about the extra cleanup fee and his incessant shedding. I’d wear plaid sweaters and strap a plaid vest onto Loki. On a cloudy day, I’d put sunglasses on him when we went apple picking, as if it would disguise that there was a hairy dog ambling along the tree-lined paths.
Loki sauntered about former spa towns. He gave life to upstate sleepy villages, his woofs echoing in cobblestoned alleys. I pointed at the consignment shops on Main Street and looked through the glass, asked him,
“Hey Loki, what do you think of that black and white motivational poster? It says ‘enjoy the little things.’”
To which he would respond, “Bauuuuuu?”
My parents were amused that I enjoyed taking Loki on these adventures. We had Loki since I was in middle school. Back then he’d be the background plaything in sleepovers with my best friend, Clara Jones with the brown pigtails. He was my guardian trickster in the backyard against foes, namely that Kandice Kitchen, 4th grade floozy.
She hated me ever since she found out that Dennis Merton kissed me before he ever kissed her in the 3rd grade. He did it on a dare from his group of rambunctious, diminutive friends. Dennis rambled up to me in the cafeteria as I was reading Because of Winn-Dixie by my lonesome and he gave me a peck on the cheek. I just looked at him, unmoved, and continued rifling through the library hardcover copy of Because of Winn-Dixie by my lonesome.
Clara couldn’t believe how unaffected I seemed by Dennis Merton’s surprise kiss. I didn’t feel like it was a big deal at the time. She was worried about my cold silence over the smooch. She told her mom who told my mom.
Mom didn’t tell Dad, fearful that he would find out where that Dennis Merton lived on Lilac Lane and sock it to him. I didn’t have an older brother to protect me. I just had myself and Loki. Even if Loki ate our vacuums from time to time, he would never actually bite a human out of spite. He was a Good Boy.
Mom didn’t even want Loki at first. She hated dogs for two reasons. The first was that she was bitten by a wiener dog when she was a child. The other was because of that shaggy dog story I used to tell when I was a kid.
I went around telling that story to anyone who would listen. Classmates and next door neighbors. Friends like my best friend, Clara Jones with the brown pigtails, and foes, namely that Kandice Kitchen, 4th grade smoochin’ merry-go-round. The boys called her cruel and inappropriate words which, for the sake of your sensitive constitution, I’d rather not repeat.
In the shaggy dog story, there is an unreasonably shaggy dog. Said dog enters the equally unreasonable shaggy dog contest. There is one contest in The Town where the Shaggy Dog is crowned the Champion.
Then there is the county contest followed by the state contest. He goes from state to state, all along the eastern seaboard. He wins each and every one of them. The irritating factor of the story which caused Clara to stop talking to me for a week and drove my mother further into her animosity of dogs is the story’s unrelenting repetitiveness.
At every contest, and the narrator must ensure that they repeat the same format, there are three judges. The first judge says,
“Hm, that is a shaggy dog.”
The second judge says, “Hm, that is a shaggy dog.”
The third judge says, “Hm, that is a shaggy dog.”
The three judges at all of the contests come to the same conclusion of award winning shagginess—until the last contest. At the Ultimate Shaggy Dog Competition of Planet Earth, there are three judges. The first judge says,
“Hm, that is a shaggy dog.”
The second judge says, “Hm, that is a shaggy dog.”
The third judge says, “Hm, you know, he’s really not all that shaggy.”
So the shaggy dog loses the last contest. Story over. At this point, the narrator must remain poised. Take a long sip of water from a tall glass if you must. Composure is key.
Kandice Kitchen was pleasantly patient from beginning to end. I thought she was going to walk away after the shaggy dog made it to the next continent’s contests, but she saw it through to the finish.
“God, Sylvia,” she smacked her Chiclet, “I may be the class floozy, but you’re the class moron.”
I’m still not sure why a 4th grader knew the word “floozy”, but I’m guessing it was her mother. Just like my mother tells me,“ano ba yan?!” and I’m like, “OKAY, MOM.”
She didn’t care if I was in the 4th grade or if I was already a grown and working woman with student loans looming over my head. For years, I eagerly slurped up dinuguan with rice. The insalubrious Filipino dish with a one-way ticket to hypertension, full of nothing but pork offal and pig’s blood disguised as thick gravy.
I became a pescatarian after Loki died. I didn’t even want to make a lifestyle change at first. I did it for two reasons. The first was that my gynecologist threatened to stop prescribing me pills if I didn’t get my systolic blood pressure below 140. The other was because of that bird carcass I stepped in.
I was walking across Vernon Boulevard, wearing a fantastic pair of Dorateymur boots, by the way, and fwoop! I nearly busted my ass on pigeon cadaver. Sticky bile rose in my mouth.
The bird was no longer a bird. It was a miniature Loki, all shriveled and dismembered. When I sat down for dinner, the plate of leftover pork chops and garlic fried rice before me, I couldn’t touch the chops anymore. I just picked at the rice.
Now I couldn’t go full-on vegetarian. A girl needed some kind of meat. Fish was the frontrunner. Scaly and slithering critters, mildly fleshy, that I could handle.
I guess the worst part would be that I wasn’t there when Loki passed. I was watching Black Mirror in my apartment, a fantastic high rise overlooking the East River, by the way, and crrrrng! Mom called me,
“Loki died in my arms this morning at 8:52 AM.”
My dad, a lover of all walks of life and avid furry friend collector—interpret that as you wish—had cared for nearly a dozen dogs in his lifetime. He was accustomed to the loss. This was my mother’s first dog, the only furry friend she swore she’d ever love.
For days after his death, she would text me three times a day. It’d be the same picture. A puke stain on our shaggy carpet, courtesy of Loki, the last vomit before his passing.
The first time she sent a text, she had asked me in the morning,
“Doesn’t the stain look like Loki?”
The stain just looked like a bleached mess in our shaggy carpet, so I told her,
“Hm, that is a bleached mess.”
She texted me again at noon, “Come on, look harder. That part is the snout. You can see his ears.”
“Hm, going to have to call this one a bleached mess. Sorry, Mom.”
On a Friday night, I was drinking a gin and tonic at a standing bar on Vernon Boulevard. The lifeless fowl’s remains were gradually peeling off the asphalt. I poked at the free bread from the bartender. Mom texted me again and I told her,
“Hm, you know, it kind of looks like Loki in the carpet.”
Benjamin Norman Pierce is a professional dishwasher with BA's in Philosophy, History, and English. He paints in tempera and draws in chalk or pastels, and does some work in purely digital media as well, and has had graphics published in Ancient Heart, Convergence, Moebius and 99 Pine Street. He self-published a novel, "Snuck Past Death and Sleep." and has an album of Lovecraft-inspired ambient music,"Al-Azif", available on BandCamp and SoundCloud. He has published poetry in Lilliput Review, Poesy, Dragonfly, Raintown Review, and more.
Kelly Ann Gonzales
Born in the Philippines, raised in New Jersey, and currently living in New York City, Kelly Ann Gonzales works in the hotel industry. She is also the Editor-In-Chief of ALPHA FEMALE SOCIETY. She has an insatiable passion for travel, hospitality, and all things written and to be read.
Untittled Document (Mother)
By Mary Katherine West
On this blank, white page
You, the cursor, blink
Waiting for me to conceive
Some eloquent phrase
One that my sorry heart is not yet ready to reveal
And when I look at you
Afraid to mar
The hopeful goodness of the pristine page
With my dripping black ink
But you will be there
Still waiting and blinking and hoping
Of the words I’ll weave
When I am willing
Mary Katherine West
She is a senior in high school and living in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia. She is seeking new challenges and growth through writing and art. The West End has fostered a culture that has created a divide in the relationship between her mother and herself, which is the subject of this poem.
Every time you bring a new table into the house or a new desk, you have to be careful.
It comes with a perfectly clear surface, clean and open. If you aren’t careful that clear space will disappear. Clutter materializes on that table top like a wind picking up – at first you don’t even notice. At first it comes like relief into a summer room. But soon it’s a blasting gale and you’re wrestling to shut the door against it. This has happened to you before, so you know.
The table top is meant as a place to set things. It is meant as a resting place for your pens and papers, your books and knick-knacks, your phone. You are supposed to put things there.
But there are few moments as frustrating as coming home with your hands full of groceries, needing to go to the bathroom or answer the phone, and there is no where to set down your armload. The tables are filled with wind – clutter that is – and you’re out in the proverbial cold. You’re left holding the bag. And there is no one to blame but yourself.
You have to be careful. You have to think about your future self arriving home full of pee. You have to pause today to consider how important a phone call might be after you’ve sent out your resume and made up your mind to change your life, switch jobs, move to a bigger place, find a space where you can fit another table in the living room.
You have to carefully leave room for the future.
Eric Martin is a writer, community college teacher and small business owner living in the southern reaches of the Mojave Desert. His work has appeared at PopMatters, Steinbeck Now, Medium and in It’s Not Only Rock’n’Roll.
Which was my secret choice from the
start – cool and confined, this padded stretch
Where my body would awake in fresh dew
long after Hampton lights had all gone down.
Paul Reyns is an aspiring writer from New Hampshire. He enjoys skiing, birdwatching, and other outdoor activities. Every summer when he was a kid, he would drive to Virginia to meet his aunt and uncle, who kept a sailboat in Hampton. This poem is about those experiences sailing, and — now that some time has passed since his last visit — about the interplay of nostalgia and rebirth.
By Paul Reyns
De Mortuis Nil Nisi Bonum
By Melynda Sorrels
A dent in the linoleum marked the spot where she once stood. Like an “X” used to mark pirate treasure, but devoid of the hope or promise of anything good. Worn out platitudes and hyperbolic condolences for no one mingled with the smell of burnt coffee, microwave popcorn, and industrial grade bleach. The obligation to address the recent tragedy hung like a tarp over everyone who entered the break room. “She was truly one of a kind,” said the man from accounting who shared an elevator with her once as he stirred too much sugar into his coffee. “She will truly be missed,” said the woman who only learned her name posthumously. “That girl would have given you the coat off her back,” mused the intern who she once stepped aside at the copier for. Jack pushed a few tomato pieces around his plate and thought about the fact he’d never seen a shark.
It took the combined strength of Jack and three guys from Shipping and Receiving to lift the vending machine back up off the ground. Broken glass and demolished snacks crunched under his shoes as he tried not to look at Erin. The pool of blood that seeped out doubled in size as though it were fleeing the scene. Horrified onlookers crowded the doorway. Some had come from different departments to get a look as the drama unfolded on the second floor; they all wanted to feel like they were a part of something, but only superficially. Not in any sense that mattered. Later that night they would tell their friends or family over dinner or drinks of the tragedy that touched their lives that day and made them somehow special for it. Death had entered their workplace and strolled right past them.
“Did you know you are more likely to be killed by a vending machine than a shark?” Erin said as she dropped a quarter into the dusty old vending machine in the back of the company break room.
“Bullshit.” Jack said. He watched as Erin scrounged in her purse for a nickel.
“That’s what I read. Makes sense. We encounter vending machines considerably more often than sharks. Have you ever even seen a shark?”
“That’s ridiculous. Sharks eat people. They target us. It seems like they’d have a higher success rate than an inanimate object.”
“I don’t know,” Erin said as she punched A2 into the keypad and watched as the bag of chips moved towards the ledge and stopped, unwilling to make the jump. “I just read it. Could be wrong.”
Melynda is an award winning freelance writer, student, reckless blogger, dreamer and an aficionado of all things funny or caffeinated. She does not live in Virginia, but she has a sister who does, and she visits her sister often.
Artwork by Esther Rogers
By Miriam Elisabeth Moore
My great, great, more greats, grandmother
buried the family silver in the pig sty
and pushed the surrey into the woods
when Sherman’s army came through,
she watched the flames tickle the sky,
staining clouds to fire and blackness.
My mother says she was
a strong, independent woman.
My father’s stepmother is related to Sherman
and he asks her not to say that so loudly
in public and out to dinner because
people slow motion around
and spit flames from their eyes,
like my ancestors’ burning plantations.
My great grandfather wrote letters to his
“Preciosísima,” my bisabuela, from his
havana sala to her Georgia front porch while
a woman named Elmena cooked his supper.
There is a confederate monument
a mile from my front door but all I remember
from third grade Georgia history is that
the state flower is a Cherokee Rose.
She is originally from Kalamazoo, MI. She currently resides in a small town in Idaho near Twin Falls. All of her mom's side of the family is from Virginia. Her best childhood memories are from the Blue Ridge Mountains. She primarily works with acrylic paints but she does use a variety of other mediums as well. She is inspired by the beauty of women and of nature and she believes they go well hand in hand
Miriam Elizabeth Moore
Originally from Atlanta, GA, Miriam Elisabeth Moore now lives in St. Paul, MN, where she studies English at Macalester College and drinks a lot of tea. Her first book, Seeds, is a collection of poetry and is available for purchase and reading pleasure. Or displeasure, for that matter.
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.
By Daniel Drylie
Commence the dying now
A ball tied down
Start from nothing till the string
Calls me back to nothing again
Join my bones with sinew
Line my arms, arterial branches,
I’m a forest fed to grow with scarlet streams
Until the thicket knows
It is filled with trees, alive and being
Circuits dash across the air
Separating what is there
From things perceived
Cannot see the in-betweens
Leave unseens unsaid
Lie in air with sparks
Shared among the them s and me s
Vines grow in time to rob the branches
Cut the flow, I know of clocks
That tick with axes at the trunk
Gold retains its glow but
My chips are joined with copper
Sunken, green, corroded
Plastic preened of adolescent dreams
The string is taut, I’m at the top
Pull me back and bring the fall
The ball is nearly there
End of rope is not the end
But middle, little deaths, still not dead
Let us die, dust to dust
Half-way, just begun, now heading back
Someday trees will feed
Off dirt that once was me
Daniel is a the typical southeast Virginian. His family moved here when his father was in the Marine Corps, and he spent his summers at Western Branch High School, where he taught math. Daniel is currently a student at Tidewater Community College, and will major in linguistics. You can follow him on Twitter or Tumblr.
The Ghosts of Composers
By Amy Ballard
After the wedding, Lief could not bring himself to sit down to the piano as he used to do every day. It would be devastating if Rebecca saw what happened to him when he played. When he was home alone, he could practice. Then she would not know that his eyes cried a torrent of tears or that his heart stopped and started twenty thousand times instead of merely beating. She would not be frightened by the ghosts of the composers that circled the baby grand piano as he conjured them with his fingers. Chopin was his favorite.
They discussed getting rid of the piano. It took up valuable space in the house, and soon there would be children running around. A fine piano was not practical. Lief did not object. He could find some other means of catharsis—going to the opera or watching Mexican soaps, perhaps.
The day when he came home from work and found the piano gone, he stopped, staring at the empty place on the floor. The movers had removed the piano at Rebecca’s direction. Sunset glowing through the window illuminated the place on the hardwood where the instrument had stood.
That night Lief could not sleep. After eating a sandwich, he found himself standing in the middle of the empty room. His itching fingers played the air. He hummed a nocturne.
Chopin and Liszt appeared at his elbows. As he continued to play, they were joined by Mozart, Bach, and even Rachmaninoff, although Lief had never mastered anything of his. They smiled tenderly, exchanging looks of pride and love as he played. When he could play no longer, his throat choked with sobs so he could not hum a note, the ghosts of the composers offered him handkerchiefs as thin as bridal veils. He could not accept: his hand passed right through.
“I’m sorry,” he said, looking each spirit in the eye for perhaps the first time. “It was my wife’s decision to get rid of the piano.”
“We forgive her,” the ghosts said in their various languages. He understood.
Chopin began to cough, and Liszt held to his mouth one of the diaphanous handkerchiefs. Chopin had died of consumption.
“Can I get you anything?” Lief asked.
The coughing fit continued, blood spots freckling the handkerchief. The spots were black, the blood already dried. Finally, Chopin could speak. “Thank you for your kindness. There is only one thing we require. You are not the only one who needs catharsis.”
Rebecca got up when she heard the TV. Her husband was sniffling while watching a Mexican soap in the den. Someone was in a coma and a beautiful young woman was spending an inordinate amount of time crying about it in high-def. “May I join you?” Rebecca asked. She did not wait for a response, but sat down right in Rachmaninoff’s lap. Rachmaninoff was sniffling, too, holding a filmy white handkerchief to his eyes.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Lief said.
Amy Ballard teaches English at a small high school in southern Idaho. Her flash fiction has been long-listed in a contest by BRILLIANT Flash Fiction, and her poetry appeared most recently in the online GNU Journal. You can find more about Amy on her website.
Sitting on the gunwale of a derelict old boat
left to the elements at the base of the dunes,
I gaze across the yellow sands
to the blue water beyond.
The warm air chilled by a stiff ocean breeze.
Rolling combers crash against the shore,
punctuated by the shrill cries of gulls and pipers.
The air heavy with ocean salt,
In the distance, children fly kites.
The blue sky peppered with papered points of reds
The wind carries their laughter
to where I sit
By Gregory Ashe
Gregory Ashe is a father of three, husband to one, government consumer protection lawyer, and observer of life. When not protecting consumers, Greg enjoys camping, reading, listening to music, and competing in marathons, ultramarathons, and triathlons. Originally from Virginia Beach, he lives with his family in the Washington, D.C. suburbs.
This issue of Penultimate Peanut has been one of our most fun issues yet. We received such a plethora of stories, so many different flavors, that putting it together was a challenge. But of course, we here at PPM love a challenge. We want to thank all of our artists for contributing absolutely stunning work. And of course, thanks to all of our writers and poets as well. You are the lifeblood of this magazine and we wish you a lifetime supply of chocolate peanuts and happiness.
The Editors of Penultimate Peanut Magazine