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Volume 1, Issue 7

You’re in for a treat this week! This issue is devoted to creative nonfiction that packs a punch, and includes an original piece by Jerome Charyn. We (along with the likes of Michael Chabon and Joyce Carol Oates) have been fans of his for years, and we’re honored to have him in the pages of Penny.

And not to be outdone, this week’s illustrators have done some truly spectacular work, too. Don’t miss Jago’s time-lapse video of his illustration process at the bottom of your e-mail. Magic.

 You can read this issue here in your email, or:
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written by Kelly Dulaney
—for my brother
illustrated by Christopher Park

Lonely tantrums. Eyelids. Adhesive bandages. Mother says that you have taken a course. Mother says that you can intubate a man and shake his stomach back into its sac. You sent her a copy of your stamped certificate.

But your eyelid. I rapped it with a little stone. It broke and you bled. 

Before the roads were paved, before Animal Control seized the running dogs and feral cats, you came barefoot and laughing from out of our house and stepped on pinecones. You smelled faintly, as always in those days, of urine and watermelon rinds. You hit the swing with a stick and then the birdbath. Kelly, you said, and Kelly, Kelly. What are you doing?


I cracked a clod of dirt on a flagstone and picked out a worm from its wet center. I lay the wriggling thing out for a bird. You picked strawberries from their spoiling vine and put them over it. 

Go away, I said.

Our mother in our house poured brown beer for our father and for her own father and laughed. Their three faces moved behind the window screens. I pointed at them.

You don’t want to go in?

I can stay, Kelly.

Tasseled Kaibab above us chattered at nuthatch and broke bark from the tree branches. They dropped it down on our heads and chuckled. 

Hit it, I said.


Small basins of stones and clods spotted our yard. My fingers moved through soft thistle and wild violets and I picked up clots of them. Hit it, I said again. I aimed a little thing—a little clod—at your face and threw. You swung the thickest part of your stick and broke the matted dirt in midair. 


I threw another and you broke it, and then another. I got bored. I threw a stone. This you did not break. 

You turned—the stone snapped open your sniping eyelid and your eyebrow, and you put your filthy fingers to these things and said, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy. Your cheek pinkened. Your middle finger curled into your palm. Your opening hands rolled over like whitecaps. 

Our mother came out of our house for you. Don’t tell, I said, and I hid myself from her. But you ran into her frenzy and stained her shirt and she took you in to care for you.

I stayed out and away: ashamed, collecting the bodies of dead bees and june bugs. 

Summers leeched into sleeping. You writhed in your skin and grew upwards so fast that your heart fell into your foot and fluttered on the floor. I can’t forget: you asleep and shaking when I tickled you—what was the dream from which you would not wake?

Here is my own: you, naked, eat an Afghani bullet, and teeth and tongue drop out from your smile. Your feet, each already fractured in four places, fill with shrapnel. Your lungs accordion ever outwards. You gave to friends your vest and boots. Both your hands open and give to the acres a gesture that I have known. There is no mother to butterfly your brow. There are no spare rags to put to your face. Precautionary paramedical training does not pack your organs back in. 

You die and leave us an inadequate ceremony: limbers and caissons; gunshot in three-volley; bugle song; lilies, white and few and funerary; a folded flag; post-mortem medals. Barracks are cramped; they put you three feet deep over top of another.

Grave keepers pat down the clods and clumsy sod. I take the shape of a bone and lay myself over you. Your face in your casket turns ever away, as if from a thrown stone.

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About the Artists:

Christopher Park is a multi-media, interactive illustrator living in Los Angeles. While classically trained in traditional illustration, his combined knowledge of art and front-end code have breathed life and movement into his work and allowed it to become unique, interactive and dynamic. 

Kelly Dulaney’s writing has appeared ​​in​ the Best Experimental Writing Anthology (BAX)​ 2015​,​​ the Collagist, Caketrain​, and ​​elsewhere. ​Her novel Ash is available from Urban Farmhouse Press. She lives in Colorado and co-edits the Cupboard Pamphlet.

April, Quakes in Kathmandu

written by Anuja Ghimire
illustrated by Jia Sung

You announced you were coming with the roar of a supersonic motorbike revving. You had us at your first knock. The billows of dust clung to the windows, which had unlocked themselves. Still, the curtains danced, and the glass cracked. I remembered what I held. We were arrested without the cuffs. You clanked the plates together; we tumbled. Flowerpots on the balconies jumped to their deaths on the street. As the doors swung, the hinges clattered, and the floor crept away from our feet, we swung with the walls that shook. Our bones wouldn’t turn into shields just because we wished. Even the children’s fates were sealed with slabs of concrete. Cement would stay hardened where it would hit. Beaded saris and creased hats tangled under the fallen beams. We couldn’t move that which broke us. You took what you didn’t need. What we leave behind remained. What you left untouched was odd. The couches were velveteen and pristine, but the guesthouses were slanted. The chandeliers still hung from the ceiling, but one story disappeared from the building. That one suede shoe slid from the slit with its unstained heel. The house smashed like a toppled vanilla cake, and the golden bangles on her supple wrist and jeweled fingers sparkled in the afternoon sun but no longer clawed their way out of the wall. The undoing came in jolts. I held my two little girls with rosy cheeks, trembling hearts, and throbbing temples. We huddled under the April sky. I kept remembering them with my cramped wrists near my ribcage. We stampeded in flocks. We moved with everything that rocked. I didn’t know if all the ones I loved were still whole. The wires were jammed; the poles were bent. The blood in our throbbing veins was already spent. You were everywhere, even in the words that had broken the air. You had punctured the ecosphere. Even the crows stopped their flights. The dogs suspended their howls. The roosters broke their songs and paused the clocks. The word came in crashing bursts. Not too far, the hills shed their amorphous rocks. The highways fractured with open jaws. When the roofs kissed the ground folding in, so many of us were late just around the block. We heard you plucked and crushed the domes, steeples, statues, temples, and stupa where we housed gods. Like a stale cracker, you broke Dharahara tower. The warrant was centuries old. You were in every brick we cemented, every log we carved, and every metal we engraved. You were in every fall that we had planted blueprint after blueprint. We heard, with each aftershock, each loss we lost count of. We rattled; we swayed. We rattled; we prayed. The path to escape the ground was nowhere to be found. We embraced the earth you were cracking because her doors were still open. I kept remembering the life I held in my palms near my ribcage. I remembered why I held. 

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About the artists:

Jia Sung is a painter and illustrator, born in Minnesota, bred in Singapore, now based in Brooklyn. In her spare time, she is a professional cephalophore, chronic complainer, whinger extraordinaire, velocipedestrienne, flâneur, domestic sensualist, and bon vivant.

Anuja Ghimire is from Kathmandu, Nepal. A Pushcart-nominee in 2015, she is published in over 30 journals. She lives in Dallas, TX with her husband and two little girls. 

Ting's Tale

written by Jerome Charyn
illustrated by Jago

I hate cats.  At least I thought I did.  I was in the midst of a whirlwind a couple of years ago, writing a book about Emily Dickinson, who also hated cats.  Seems her kid sister, Lavinia, had a whole kingdom of cats, and the poet found Lavinia and her cats as vindictive as King Saul.  I had other reasons to look at cats a little aslant.  I disliked the idea of litter boxes, of living around a little island of filthy sand.  And then my companion, Lenore, who had her own small kingdom of cats in her downtown office-apartment, had to bring a litter box uptown together with Ting, a pure-bred charcoal gray Abyssinian, to board with us awhile, since she had boarders of her own—and one cat too many.

Lenore tried to reassure me.  I would never catch a glimpse of Ting, who was a loner and would hide from me as best she could.  And she did.  Ting shot through my front door in a great blur and found a secret hideaway behind an unopened box of my own books.  She hid there for three days, coming out for food and water after midnight, I suppose.

Ting and I existed in some neutral no-man’s land.  It was Lenore who emptied the litter box.  And then, one afternoon, this Abyssinian queen appeared in her silky gray coat, with her luminous yellow eyes.  She caught me working at my desk, stared at me as if I was the intruder in her domain.  And she disappeared with the same majesty.  This went on for a week.

Then I woke one morning and discovered Ting lying in a pinch of space between my body and the border of the bed.  I was troubled at first, until I realized that the Abyssinian loner had decided to adopt me.  She would sit dutifully near my desk while I worked on Emily Dickinson.  Without rhyme or reason, I now had a pet—a queen who was devoted to me.  She’d found a male consort.  She must have been thirteen at the time, a very old age for an Abyssinian.  But we found our contours together, and I fell in love with Ting, I who had been indifferent to cats and their mysterious ways all my life.  

Love didn’t last.  One afternoon, I heard a crashing sound from the kitchen.  Then Ting appeared.  She couldn’t catch her breath.  She must have had an “attack”—a cerebral hemorrhage of some sort—and had tumbled off the window ledge.  She kept gasping for air.  There was fright and confusion in her royal yellow eyes.  I called Lenore.  It was near midnight.  Ting sat near us, with that terrible wheeze.  I cradled her in my arms, and the wheezing stopped.  I knew she wouldn’t survive.  But somehow I had calmed her.  And at least for a few moments, the queen’s fright was gone.  

© 2016 by Jerome Charyn

Watch Jago bring the story to life!
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About the artists:

Jerome Charyn’s most recent book is A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century.

Jago has produced illustrations for over 40 books, a couple of TV shows and a few magazines. He has recently finished a book called Always Remember by Cece Meng published by Philomel Books (an imprint of Penguin Random House).

© 2016 by Sixpenny & Co. Publishing, LLC (of the collection)

Copyright of each work belongs to the respective author or artist.

Copyright © 2016 Sixpenny & Co., All rights reserved.

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