Travis is a Real Peach.

In the Spring of 2o18, an edited version of Travis is a Real Peach was published in Gone Lawn issue #28.

Travis Ramekin was put out after his laundered shirts had been sent back creased at the seams. He drove downtown and really let them have it. When he arrived home the pasta was boiling over and James was nowhere in sight.

Travis placed his keys and wallet on the kitchen counter. “James?” A faint light emanated out from under the pantry door. He peeked in and there was James, curled up tight and rocking under the pale glow of an Edison bulb. James picked his head up and looked at Travis. “My parents are coming to visit.”

A few days later, a taxicab dropped Mr. and Mrs. Del Buenos off in front of Travis’ and James’ charming brownstone. Mr. Del Buenos tipped the cabby a fiver and helped his wife safely avoid the potholes to the curb. When James met his parents at the door his mother lavished him with kisses and held his face. His father patted him on the back and tousled his hair. “You’re too thin and you have circles under your eyes.” Mrs. Del Buenos didn’t stop talking from the moment she greeted her son outside until they had reached the fourth floor and stood in front of the door to the apartment. Before he opened the door, James turned to his parents. “There is something I should probably tell you about Travis.”

The door opened. Travis took a formal, low bow, graciously grabbed the coats off the gaping couple and whisked them through a labyrinth of topiaries, climbing vines, white birch, tulips and birdsong. The furniture was draped with Virginia Creeper and moss grew up the William Morris wallpaper on the North side of the sitting room. Mirrors (there were several) reflected a vast, canopied forest. Two Turtle Doves carrying a flowing banner in their delicate beaks swooped low enough for the Del Buenos’ to read the inscription, Welcome D & M!  The banner was abbreviated because the doves could not have handled the weight of a full, embroidered sentence.

Overhead, a honking flock of Canada Geese appeared. Mr. Del Buenos ducked and Travis said, “I apologize for the geese. My supplier was out of swans. Not the same, is it?” In a clearing in the woods stood a thick mahogany table dressed with four impeccable settings. “James and I thought we should all get to know each other over lunch. Hungry?” He walked to the table, pulled one of the chairs out and invited Mrs. Del Buenos over by patting the cushion. Travis then began ladling an extremely fragrant soup out of an immense terrain. The consommé was gorgeous to look at; a bubbly paste with a slick of translucent purples and blues, poured over seared scallops and succulent, glossy mussels. Dollops of sour cream bobbed in the center of each bowl, frothing over like clouds. Travis had paired the meal with crusty artisan bread and a sweet young wine from Portugal.

“How did you two ever meet?” Mrs. Del Buenos was beginning to feel the yummy effects of the wine. She batted her eyes and splayed her arms across the table. James and Travis told the story of how they first met and Mrs. Del Buenos shared a story of how James acted as a baby. The pink sky melted to lavender. When Travis jumped up to replace the spent beeswax candles in the candelabras, Mrs. Del Buenos turned to her son and said, “I really love his nose ring, James. It reminds me of my bracelets.” She shook her wrist and the bangles pinged like chimes. His father leaned in. “I’ve noticed his teeth are pretty big.” His mother exclaimed, “James! He is so talented! There are trees in here! I can’t get over how beautiful everything looks. How does he do that?”

“Travis can do anything.”

Mrs. Del Buenos dabbed her eyes with a napkin. “Travis, I adore him. You have my blessing.” 

“Danae, he’s half of a cow.”

“Shut up, Maurice! Every time we leave the house you ruin everything!”

“Excuse me?” Travis’ backlit silhouette cast a massive shadow across the table. “Did you just refer to me as a..” He paused for dramatic effect, “..cow?”  Carefully and with the agility of a prima ballerina, Travis navigated his great frame around the carnage of feathers and goose poop. He opened the drawer of a breakfront, withdrew several linen napkins and in the blink of an eye sculpted eight origami linen swans surrounding an origami linen monkey sitting in an origami linen basket that was being held up by the trunks of four origami linen elephants. Several origami linen clouds billowed past an origami linen hot air balloon and an origami linen sun rose and set behind the table, followed by an origami linen moon with, lo and behold, and origami linen cow jumping over it.

“HA!” Travis glared defiantly at Mr. Del Buenos. “Could a cow do that?” Mrs. Del Buenos started clapping. Mr. Del Buenos blanched. 

“Boy! That..that was quite a feat Mr. Travis!” Mr. Del Buenos tapped the trunk of an elephant with his finger and his wife slapped his hand away. “Where would you ever see something like that happen, I mean, typically?”

Travis sighed. “Minotaurs are exemplary kinetic sculptors. I guess you didn’t know that, most humans don’t.” Mr. Del Buenos’ eyes grew as round as saucers. “I did not know that!”

“We have a bad rap. All we’re known for in this world and several others is  causing chaos. We’re very good at it, of course.” As he spoke, Travis whittled a sprig of parsley out from behind an incisor with his claw. “It’s our defining feature.” Mr. Del Buenos maniacally nodded his head in agreement. “Of course it is!” and for the rest of the evening, love croaks from amorous frogs, besotted by a cobalt sky pin-pricked with stars, serenaded the jovial foursome over dessert wines, port and french pastries.

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The following Spring and right before Equinox, Travis and James were married on a Celebrity cruise ship under a full, pink moon in a civil ceremony officiated by the Captain. There was a small reception on the promenade deck afterward and only James’ parents, some close friends and a few thousand passengers were in attendance.

Although domestic life was sometimes a chore and James would usually over-react when life served up a minor set back, it was something of a lucky turn that he had chosen to share his life with someone who was practically addicted to hysteria. It worked out perfectly for everyone involved.

It was a match made in heaven.

Spider Rider

A Cherokee Nation creation story, Grandmother Spider Catches the Sun, was an inspiration for this series, but another influence came about after a trip to Louisiana. Spider webs as big as quilts were draped over the Bayou and in the middle of each was an orb weaver the size of my hand. They looped through those webs with graceful, tapered legs, one more gorgeous than the next. I’ve been hooked ever since.

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Perspective, watercolor on cold press paper
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Spider Rider, watercolor on cold press paper
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The Spider Whisperer, watercolor on cold press paper
Spidey Sense
Spidey Sense, watercolor on cold press paper
Spider Bite
Sneaky Pete, watercolor on coldpress paper

Fear

I’ll write this as my personal truth; there is fear and then there is becoming a parent.

We were hosting a holiday party when my daughter choked. Someone had served her a slice of American cheese and paired it with a fruit roll up. After I’d fished the goop out with the hook of my finger and performed the Heimlich she finally breathed deep, but it is beyond me how anyone thought it was a good idea to feed that combination to a toddler (and walk away). Each edible sheet was so securely adhered to her plate a metal spatula with a serrated edge was required to scrape off the remains. Within a few weeks my hair line revealed a solid strip of gray and it occurred to me then that we are usually defined by what we fear most.

The Harpy

JenGioePeper_MissRobin

In 2017, The Harpy, A Suburban Fable was published in Vol. II of Woven Tale Press.

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 Once Upon A Time, there was a Harpy who lived on a hill in a beautiful circa 1882 Victorian nest in the suburbs. She was mean and drank too much. A quick word on Harpies; They are vain, cruel and self-involved creatures. It’s best if you can manage to avoid them entirely.

One day after she’d really tied one on, the Harpy stepped outside the hole-in-the-wall she’d spent half a day in and stood blinking at the sun. As she staggered along the sidewalk, she caught a glimpse of her startling reflection in a storefront window and hesitated a bit to fluff her feathers. When an unsuspecting woman walked past and accentually brushed against her wing, the Harpy reacted by screeching into her face, “Watch where you’re going, you leathery handbag or I’ll pluck your ancient eyes out!” The poor woman toppled to the curb. This outburst and others like it were the reasons people didn’t like her; the half-bird thing was something they would have eventually come to terms with.

Every year, the Harpy traveled with friends to the State Fair at the edge of town. She decided to get all dolled up for the occasion. First, she rouged her cheeks and then applied a long, thick black line around her eyes so that she resembled an Egyptian queen. From her extensive wardrobe, the Harpy chose a reflective bodice embroidered with festive, sequined flowers and for the finishing touch, pinned a flouncy hat to her sea of auburn curls. As she added the last touches to her deplorable catastrophe of a make-up application, she thought to herself, “I’ll be the best thing those meat sticks have ever laid their pathetic little eyes on!”

The Harpy flew across the harbor to the next town over and landed on the front step of a friend’s house. Janice was a founding member and level-three priestess of the Our Lady of the North East Coven. When she wasn’t casting spells upon her neighbors, Janice taught piano lessons to a steady stream of local children and a handful of adults. Her saltbox shanty sat on a dilapidated dock that jutted out into a sheltered cove.

The Sea Witch opened the door and beamed a smile at the Harpy, who in turn squinched up her shellacked face in an expression of disgust. “Gad, Janice! Smells like mothballs and armpits. What are you making?”

“Cabbage soup, would you like a bowl?”

“I’ve already eaten, thanks. Twice. Once before I left home and after smelling your colossal mess of a soup, that last meal has come back up for a visit.”

The Sea Witch drove a 1985 Volvo down a poorly lit gravel road. A pebble was kicked up by a tire and met with the Harpy’s eye, but her fake lashes folded over the stray like a venus fly trap.

“Why must we always take my car, Bertie? Why can’t you fly every now and then?”

“I like to be driven around and I like to drink, Janice. I do not like smashing into things, which is typical when I drink and fly.” The Harpy preened her downy undercarriage and a stream of tangled fuzz trailed out the back windows. A half an hour later, they were parked in front of the Sunset Retirement Community Center.

The Oracle had lived through several great wars, the Crusades and had once mentioned something about a Great Pyramid debacle, but as she was as old as dirt her commentary was barely decipherable. She sat in the foyer of the community center with an aide next to her wheelchair. “Load her in the back. Janice, pull your chair up. There we are.” The Harpy adjusted her seatbelt so it didn’t catch her feathers. “Janice, how long is this going to take? My gentleman friend is meeting me in front of the Gravitron.”

The Sea Witch drove in a gigantic circle for the next twenty minutes and in doing so, unintentionally retraced their route over half the county. They also managed to defy the laws of physics when the Harpy became impatient, jammed her immense wings out the back windows of the Volvo and flew the car up into a tree. The Oracle’s magnified eyes gazed imploringly over the upholstered car seat and the Harpy panicked.  “This plan needs some magic mojo, Janice! Let’s have it!”

“Honestly, I would feel more comfortable if I had my book with me so that I could prepare and review.”

“Janice, I’m telling you right now that if you don’t cast some mother load of a spell in a jiffy, we are going to resemble that horrific excuse of a soup you tried to feed me back at the house.” As if to drive the point home, the car began to sway. There wasn’t a minute to lose. The Sea Witch snatched her wand out from the glove compartment and in hushed tones, began to recite the spell.

“Oh Pine tree, dripping with motor oil brew,

Fill our fenders with sap for some super strong glue.

We will tread down your sinewy trunk where it grew,

And arrive at your bottom feeling good as new.”

The Harpy and her cohorts landed quite plainly in an open field, matted with pine needles and sap. The car engine wouldn’t start so they left it behind, along with a written note in cursive wedged between the window and the dashboard explaining to whomever read it that the owner would be back in the morning. They didn’t bother taking the wheelchair from the trunk because no one wanted the trouble of unfolding it, but the only way to transport the Oracle was for her to ride on the Harpy’s back. Although she was as light as a feather, the Harpy was still put out by the inconvenience. After twenty minutes of walking, they found themselves in front of a local watering hole.

“Guess what? You two peons may join me in a celebratory drink in honor of being in my presence. This evening has been nothing short of a complete and utter waste of my precious time!” The Harpy wailed. “This outfit is saturated in sap, completely ruined, you can’t get this stuff out of anything. Unbelievable! I need to unwind, girls, so let’s hustle!” She plucked the Oracle off her haunches and shoved the elderly pair into the musky den. Once inside, the Sea Witch escorted the Oracle to the bathroom, leaving the Harpy to perch on her favorite stool and brood. She spotted the bartender hiding behind the beer taps.

“Barkeep! I’ll have a triple quadruple on the double! Make it snappy, hayseed!” She frequented the bar so often that the poor man knew the drill. He lined up five long stemmed glasses and proceeded to pour five dirty martinis with fistfuls of olives in each.

As the Oracle and and the Sea Witch shuffled back from the restroom, a thin man with a hollow face rose up from his seat at the back of a bar. He sported a black leather jacket embellished with thick, metal spikes and on the back was a primitive rendering of a 1980’s hair band.

Janice and the Oracle sat down next to the Harpy. The Sea Witch waved down the bartender while he was frantically mixing another batch of martinis. “Young man, I’d like a Diet Coke and my friend will have a club soda with lemon. Thanks very much.”

“What are you supposed to be?” The question was posed by the man in the leather jacket. The bartender left his post and slowly walked toward the exit sign. A smattering of intoxicated locals scuttled underneath tables and the Harpy looked up from her drinks. “The Andrew Sisters.”

The man made a sound like a chainsaw that could have been interpreted as a laugh.

“Maybe seventy years ago. Now I’m looking at the local mutant barfly, a librarian and a wrinkled up strip of beef jerky.” He smelled like cigarettes and hard liquor.

The two old souls pulled away from the bar and retired to the back with their carbonated beverages. Bertrudence, the name she’d been known as for the last few hundred years, turned to face the stranger behind her. She dramatically flexed her talons, arched her back and fanned out her wings. “I’m not supposed to be anything. You’re probably supposed to be employed, sober and relevant, but you aren’t.” She sucked down a fourth martini and whistled through her teeth. “Life sure is funny.”

The interior of the bar was illuminated by the sickly glow of neon beer advertisements. The Harpy couldn’t tell if the man was actually beginning to swell in height and girth, and his skin, originally a blotchy ochre, was darkening to a moldy green. He pulled back  and swung, caught her throat and launched her toward the back of the bar. The Harpy smashed into a wall and nearly went through it, but instead remained suspended in a hole, upside down, encased in faux wood paneling and plaster.

“Bertie!” The Sea Witch called out from underneath the pool table. “You’re stuck in the wall!”

The Harpy coughed out some plaster dust. “I am well aware of that, Janice.”

The man was now a monster. He snaked through barstools and patrons, deliberately kicking people with the silver tips of his boots. Just before he reached the Harpy, the Oracle put down her club soda and moved to block his path. She levitated off the floor, just a little.

“A mighty spell will land upon thou cheese block noggin’ to dissuade thee of untimely infantilizing!” The Oracle looked exactly like what she was; a seven-hundred-year-old partially mummified floating woman who was howling her latest vision.

The Harpy’s attacker had morphed into something that looked more like a gargoyle than a man, and removing the Oracle was as easy as flicking a beetle from his sleeve. The Oracle landed in a crumpled heap on the far side of the room. As he grabbed the Harpy by the neck and peeled her out of the wall, she managed a gargled moan toward the Sea Witch.

“This is unprecedented! I’m out of hooch and about to get plucked by this psychotic redneck! Please get out your wand and get us the #$@% home!” The man tightened his grip and shook her so violently that it looked as if a comforter had exploded. She resigned herself to sinking into a silent abyss.

When the Harpy opened her eyes, she found herself suspended in a great rolling skyscape. Towers of billowing clouds illuminated searing gold and brilliant red so fantastical that nothing on this earthbound plane could compare. She was majestic, regal and absolute in fearless, angelic perfection. Somewhere in the distance she heard a shrill siren, but she was so distracted by her happiness that she ignored it. The ends of her wings radiated a pure, unadulterated light. The noise fired up again, becoming louder and louder, a horrible, grating sound and something hard and gritty was mashed up against her face. It took a few beats before she realized she was on the floor and the horrible noise was coming out of her own mouth, so she closed it.

The Harpy gingerly raised her head and caught sight of overturned tables and splintered wood. A sharp pain ceased her movement as she tried to turn her head and she began to cry.

“Bertie?”

The Sea Witch was sitting on the floor of the bar holding a pack of ice against the Oracle’s head.

“What happened? I thought I died. It was nice.” She sniffed and started to sit up again.

“Everything happened so quickly. I ran over to Agnes and assumed the worst, but look- she’s very pliable. Then I turned to you and that whatever it was, honestly, I wish you would exercise some restraint in choosing who you spend your time with. He said he was an old boyfriend.”

“How did it end?”

“I turned him into a bug. We were going to put him in a glass and save him for you, but he was accidentally trampled by someone on the way out.”

Tears ran down the Harpy’s caked on foundation in channels. The pasty flecks pooled together with the eye shadow and gave her a garish, yet wistful, expression. “Maybe it isn’t worth going through this world alone. I don’t know. I’ve always been something of a loner.” She peeled off one fake eyelash, balled it up and dispensed it into an ashtray. “Maybe I need to soften my edges a bit. After all, what’s the point of inflicting misery upon the masses if there isn’t anybody around to enjoy it with? Isn’t that the fun of a shared experience, having witnesses around to watch the carnage unfold?”

The Oracle took a sip of her club soda. It had, remarkably, stayed upright.

“Thou unholy coupling with yonder allegorical green beast is haunting to mine own senses! Thee has’t causes great cataclysmic upheaval of odiferous drinking establishment.”

The future was bright for these magical, supernatural gals. Finally, after so many centuries, they had the perfect opportunity to band together and get down to the business of unleashing their collective fury upon the world of mortals. They promised each other they would do just that, as soon as they learned how to play bridge. The End.

 Jennifer G. Peper is an artist and a writer.  Since 2016, her essays and short stories have been included in Knee-Jerk, Gone Lawn Magazine and Woven Tale Press. She has collaborated in several art exhibitions, including the traveling literary/visual art exhibit, A Book About Death and most recently, her illustrations were showcased in Taxicab magazine. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taxicab Publications

The editors of Taxicab Magazine have accepted some of my illustrations for their upcoming issue. Highly Receptive was painted in 2016 and graced our kitchen wall until it was purchased by a nice couple at the Rattgirl and Ripe Art Vendor’s Circus. So long, Highly Receptive. You make me proud. Free-Wheelin’ Mojo is a visual response to the North American creation stories I’ve been reading and a nod to my husband’s perceived animal spirit guide.

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Highly Receptive 8″ x 10″, gesso, dx Martin watercolor and acrylic. 2016

Free Wheelin' Mojo
Free Wheelin’ Mojo 10″x 10″ gesso, dx Martin watercolor and acrylic. 2017

Personal Growth

There’s a garden on our property and we just let the wildness in. That wildness has inspired me over the years and some of the works shown here were made with the thought in mind of designing a seed packet. I still like the idea, so every spring I’m motivated to do more work like this.

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‘Carrot Top’, 8″ x 10″ watercolor and inks on hot-press paper, published in Wiggswelter Press #17, 2019
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‘Seeds of Love’ 10″ x 12″ acrylic and gesso on canvas
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‘It Takes a Radish Village’ 10″ x 12″ acrylic and ink on canvas

Free-Floating Work

These illustrations are grouped together because each one shares with the next a common, ‘free-floating’ theme. Anything that’s off the ground lands in this category. The works are all made the same way; dx Martin watercolor on cold-press paper, and nearly every one was made to accompany a short story or an essay.

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‘I’ll Fly Away’  8″ x 10″ dx Martin inks and paper cut out on cold-press paper

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‘Moving Day’ ‘4″ x 6″ watercolor on sketch pad

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‘Somewhere in Maine’ 4″ x 5″ ball point pen, gesso and water on paper

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‘The House is a Ghost’ 8″x 10″ dx Martin inks and gesso on canvas

Middle-Aged Yoga; A Review

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As Scary As It Looks dx Martin inks and gesso on paper 2016

published in Knee-Jerk Magazine, January 2016

     I’m staring at my reflection in the mirror of a relatively new yoga studio, The Funky Om. The name is inviting and implies all kinds of edgy coolness, more so than the other yoga studio down the road and to the left of this one, The Essence. The Essence is crunchier than Funky Om, but it’s friendlier than Awakening Inner Spirit Yoga, because Awakening Inner Spirit Yoga discourages speaking of any kind. That’s asking a lot of me.

     I plant myself on my brand-new turquoise blue mat, purchased solely for this new yoga studio experience from an extremely organic local food store. The lighting is dim and encouraging. A thin, cursive line of Nag Champa wafts through the haze, a strong, woody/sweet aroma of incense that is supposed to help guide everyone into a collective, connected state of Oneness any minute now. Somewhere in the distance, I hear a gong.

     It’s SO me, yoga. I went to school in Vermont. I wore Birkenstocks at a very liberal, environmentally progressive college, earning a bachelor’s degree in fine art. The back of my Honda Element is plastered with holistically conscious stickers urging everyone to buy food from LOCAL ORGANIC FARMS. One sticker says NO GMOs with a giant red slash through it.

     I am Yoga. I sit very patiently and feel the beads of perspiration start to form underneath the latex yoga garb that I’ve stuffed myself into. Someone has evidently turned the heat up, and it’s fantastic because I can feel all of the toxins leaving my body from all kinds of places. I’m also very aware of the crisscross applesauce position I’m trying to conquer and how it’s really more like a wishbone position with my knees pointing aggressively skyward.

     I AM yoga. I was a twenty-year old, once. Before I had my children and was launched into my forties, I was just like this gal in front of me, the one who isn’t breaking a sweat despite the fact that she’s balancing everything she owns on one forearm and the temperature has been spiked to 104 degrees. She strikes a perfect profile of grace and thinness-even her nose ring reflects a kind of etherial shine.

     My gaze now lands on our instructor, a woman who is just as physically fit as the gal in front of me and is obviously trying to get my heart to seize up. In between all of my conscious breaths, I look over a contorted thigh and notice that she’s sending a worried vibe in my direction, possibly because my flailing free limbs have become a source of concern. Could I please, she frantically gestures, settle back down into child’s pose? I know what she’s thinking; I can’t hurt anyone curled up on the floor like that.

     Perhaps it would be a good time to reevaluate any preconceived notions I have about myself. After all these years have I settled into a flexible, bendable level 3 Master? I have not. Then why do I keep signing up for level 3 classes? Good question. If I were to give myself the gift of self-knowledge or even self-preservation, it would be kinder to my ego, my hips and to the people sitting on yoga mats close by. How refreshing it is to finally reach an age of knowing and acceptance. Like the chapters in a book, my Yoga Goddess chapter has ended, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe it’s time for kickboxing. Jen G. Peper