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International Women's Day Edition

Happy International Women’s Day! This week’s issue is a celebration of the female perspective and its variety. Not only are all the writers, illustrators, and editors that brought you this issue women, but so are the subjects of all of the illustrated shorts. This issue does not encompass every aspect of every woman’s life—that would be impossible—but it does explore three distinctive journeys of womanhood that shed light on their expectations, their wildness, and the lenses through which they view their lives. 

We also have an opportunity this week to highlight a bit of the magic we’ve tried to create here at Penny. In honor of our theme of perspective, one of the shorts has been illustrated by two different artists, to give you a concrete example of how one piece can inspire two artists in entirely different ways. Enjoy!

You can read this issue here in your email, or:
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written by Stephanie Renae Johnson
illustrated by Jia Sung

Premarital Counseling

Sophie dropped the sentence into the room like flour. It formed a thick, white cloud that, once spoken, she could not wipe from the table. There was an empty chair where Robbie should have sat. While the ice machine crunched in the corner, Sophie’s hands grew into the table. People getting their morning coffee didn’t notice her.

“Sometimes,” the Reverend said, “you must protect your marriage from other people. Sometimes you’re fighting yourself.”  Elsewhere in the cafe, a couple on their first date squirmed through conversation. He touched her hand, and her cheeks became fondant pink, like a cupcake still in the bakery case.



Sophie tried to tuck her feet in as he carried her over the threshold, but her open-toe slingbacks still smacked the sides of the door frame. White shoes met wood—thwack! It echoed in her nerves. The wine smacked the bottom of two hotel room glasses—thwack! Her head bumped the headboard—thwack! His hand slapped her ass, her cheeks growing red gloves, the fingers pointing out towards her hips. Thwack, his lips on hers before he fell asleep. Thwack, thwack, thwack, all through the night. Thwackthwackthwack went her fake eyelashes against the pillowcase.



Divorce was an outbreak surrounding Sophie. The streets were littered with the custody battles and court dates. Every week, there were new whispers. Just this Tuesday, Margaret Anderson had found a bra that wasn’t hers, a shrapnel ballet of cups and hooks. Margaret’s voice when she called Sophie was an atomic bomb siren: shrill, meant for the neighbors to hear. Sophie and Robbie kept quarantined behind their veranda and lawn devoid of tricycles.

Sophie had never considered what to do if Robbie took a mistress. Not while signing her name to his bank account, not while sewing hydrangeas into her hair before promenading down the white silk mile. Her crinkled mother had hung her own bristly marriage to her father on the inside of the pantry door. Sophie knew how men looked after aging—bulging potatoes, content with their own tumors and bruises. Women sunk inward, bananas gone bad, fruit flies of the always younger flying about their heads.

There had only been glances, hot and wet, but nothing more. Nothing strong enough to build a trench. Enough only for Sophie to remember that she was not a castrated stump, enough for her to recall that she was a woman with arms beyond her elbows, legs beyond her knees. Marriage had not amputated her from desire. But Sophie was determined she would not declare battle with a new man.


Post Partum

The baby was pulled from the woman like the two of them had been playing tug of war. She finally lost. When they saw him, Sophie and Robbie marveled at his black hair that belonged to neither of them. The room was an orchestra of beeping machines. The mother was wheeled out; her small hands clutching the armrests of the chair. A tattoo on her left shoulder peeked out from the edge of a hospital gown, the name of a boy that hadn’t been there.

That night, while Robbie slept, Sophie pretended her breasts held milk. She undressed, draping the balloon skin of her bra over the rocking chair. The child’s face was warm on her nipples. It felt like holding a stranger.

“I promise I will always—” Sophie whispered, but couldn’t find the words to finish the sentence.

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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.

Stephanie Renae Johnson is a freelance writer living in Asheville, North Carolina. Her work has been published by Danse Macabre and Parenthetical. She is also the editor-in-chief of The Passed Note

Music Our Mothers Made

written by Ani King
illustrated by Haejin Park

Our mothers were wolves. They roamed the great, cold northern night in a pack, electric purple van screaming down county roads from party to party, where they caught boys named Jesse and Jason and James with their abundant thighs and sharp eyes and clever tongues.

Our mothers were never afraid of anything. They teased their hair up in the bathroom and smoked cigarettes and lined their eyes in shades of blue as if preparing for battle, while Metallica or Quiet Riot or Joan Jett poured out of their tinny radio speakers.

Our mothers were never careful. They drank Mohawk vodka and the Beast and Boone’s Farm out of plastic cups. They danced until dawn, howling their names at the moon: Tall One, Heartless One, Pretty One. They knew the music and the boys and the trouble would follow them, and they bared their teeth at the darkness, ready to bite out chunks and swallow it mouthful by meaty mouthful.

Our mothers were ferocious. They carried us in their round, swollen bodies and listened to Boston or Chicago or Journey while they built our cribs from the bones and fur of their enemies at KMart. They snapped and snarled and ate their meals bloody and raw. 

Our mothers hunted together. They roamed the untrustworthy streets of daylight in Tall One’s tan minivan, or Heartless One’s wood-paneled station wagon, but rarely in Pretty One’s beefy black Chevelle, because it was too loud and we would wake up and howl with the engine.

Our mothers worried that we were too wild. They watched us jump from great heights, and bare our teeth at boys named Logan, Hunter, Chad. They chased us, afraid, when we ran through the night, windows open to the chill wind that called their names and ours: Dark One, Loud One, Vicious One.

Our mothers grew careful. They drank decaf coffee and pale chablis and went to bed at reasonable hours, with men named Dan and Roger and Will, caught with their good sense and generous smiles. They cut their hair and combed it down and washed their faces. They tucked their teeth away. Tall, wooden speakers stood silent.

We watch our mothers sleep, our mothers who were wolves, who never gave caution a sidelong glance. We see them twitch and dream in their sleep. We hear the usually silent howl escape in the dark after they’ve been out, and we know that we are our mothers’ daughters, and the night waits for us to travel the great, cold north in a pack, screaming down county roads, blaring the music our wolf mothers listened to.

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About the artists:

Haejin Park is a New York based freelance illustrator. She graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a B.F.A. Illustration in 2015.

Ani King lives in Lansing, Michigan. She has work published at Every Day FictionRose Red ReviewStrange Horizons, and other really marvelous places. 

Preschool Remembered in Hashtags

written by Alina Stefanescu
illustrated by Rachel Lesser and Aki Neumann

Adults spoke through hissed genealogies, the early tantra of tongues disguised by complicated trigonometries settling in the corners made by angled remarks rather than traveling the vistas of straight lines. Realizing perhaps to be considered smart like my brother Jonah involved mastering pointed comments, the art of pricking people with words.


My mother weighed fruits in the slippery linoleum store as I watched from the cold steel comfort of a moving cart—what are you doing? Oh, I’m trying to get a good value for my money, she said, I’m looking for the best deal, sweetie.


She and her friends kept charts with how many pounds each one had, and playing with blocks I overheard the complaints about having too many pounds—got to lose some of these pesky pounds—I figured no mother wants too much value and maybe we are all like fruits or maybe even fruits of some sort, in which case I was a kiwi. They were tasty.


In school we drew pictures about gases, liquids, and solids. Three states of matter defied by orange or red jello, the jiggly gel that went gooey in the sun and slithered through plastic white fork blades. After the pool closed, our eyes dazzled by sunlight and jello, the wiggle of female thighs uncovered, we learned to expect jello. Learned to eat it fast.


A compartment that smelled of moth balls, where belts were tightened and shirts tucked in tight, taut across the chest, special days when shoes scowled for lack of scuff. Dressy days and afternoons, family portraits, cheap pink Easter baskets, I barely moved against the alarm signal of Mom’s raised eyebrow. Girls wore pouty dresses, picked dandelion bouquets. The terror of grass stains, the glare of dressy days.



Crouched quiet, a mollusk drawn into its shell, I took my timeouts in the kitchen corner near the back porch door. Air conditioning escaped under the slat. Wrong had been done, the punishment grave as Babylonian idols, my lips stayed straight, a serious line, a chunk of time aimless as still-life. I’d do better next time and not get caught.

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About the artists:

Rachel Lesser is an illustrator, painter & graphic designer in the Jersey/NYC area. She loves comics, pizza and getting free stuff. She graduated from UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS and is currently continuing her studies at SVA in Illustration.

Aki Neumann is a multimedia illustrator currently based in Texas. She graduated with a BFA from the California College of the Arts in 2015. She enjoys bonsai, set design, humidity, and TV.

Alina Stefanescu lives in Tuscaloosa with her partner and three small native species. Her story, “White Tennis Shoes,” won the Ryan R. Gibbs Flash Fiction Award from New Delta Review this year. She wants to imagine you reading it. 

© 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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