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New BE Prompt: Willful Bad Decisions

by Treehouse Editors

The new writing prompt for our next round of Brief Encounters submissions is: Willful Bad Decisions!

Ever done something that you knew was a bad idea, but went ahead and did anyway? The text you shouldn’t have sent, the job you shouldn’t have quit, or the hornets’ nest you shouldn’t have kicked? Send us your super-short (400 words or less) pieces on the theme of red flags deliberately ignored. For more information about Brief Encounters, see our submission guidelines. We can’t wait to read your good, short writing!


Brief Encounter: Jenny’s Dead

by Treehouse Editors

Eugene Schottenfeld

Jenny’s death was the best thing that ever happened to me. I even threw a party with my few remaining friends to celebrate it. I was grateful for them, but it was hard seeing how many people had abandoned me because they preferred Jenny. Even my own parents hated me for killing her, their precious daughter.

I tried to explain to them that Jenny was the one who’d been killing me first. How Jenny had controlled my every movement, how she had made me feel broken and ashamed and so very alone. For years, I cried myself to sleep, just from picturing her long blonde hair and perfect makeup and bodycon dresses. One night, I’d decided it had to be me or her, and, well, what person wouldn’t put himself first?

So I planned how to kill her, bit by bit, so nobody would notice until it was too late. I started with the makeup and the tight-fitting dresses; easy enough, with boyfriend jeans and hipster flannel shirts in style. Next I attacked her hair with scissors, chopping it off in huge heavy chunks. My roommate got mad at me for clogging the sink, but she was pretty supportive otherwise. Then came the injections and the knife, the long cuts hacking away pieces of her flesh, beautiful scars replacing her ugly breasts.

After that, just the courthouse remained. It was the scariest day of my life; what if the judge thought the same way my parents did, and punished me for killing Jenny? But my lawyer convinced him to declare Jenny dead and me alive. The judge even wished me luck.

Now I just needed to get rid of the last traces of her. I stood under the big “Goodbye Jenny” banner my girlfriend had put up, and got a small bonfire going. Watching her makeup and clothes burn made me feel bad for a moment. Jenny had made my life a living hell, but part of me still missed her. She’d been with me so long, after all.
I pulled out her license from my wallet. My eyes lingered on her picture and her name before I threw it in. As it turned to ash, my nostalgia did too, replaced with relief.

My girlfriend hugged me and handed me my new license.
“Congratulations on your transition, James.”

Eugene Schottenfeld is an emerging writer, recent law school graduate, and classically trained musician. He currently lives in Brooklyn with his fiancé.


by Treehouse Editors

Alle C. Hall

She was eight and at the beach and she felt like a movie star. Her jumper was as bright as a Lifesaver, falling well above her knees, with inch-wide shoulder straps that she loved the color of, crisp white. She played catch with her sister but she was the movie star. Her straps slid pleasantly back and forth as she dove for the ball. Before the beach, they bought it at the drugstore, the ball, along with things like her father’s film and the Juicyfruit gum that would slide out of the pack and to the bottom of her mother’s purse. She was sure that her mother knew when she snuck the flat, foil-wrapped sticks from between the pennies and loose cigarettes. The gum never tasted only sweet. It always had tobacco flakes in it.

The sand between her toes felt scratchy, a grown-up feeling, like painful, like magazines intimated it would feel when an older she would do something called fix those unsightly heels. She felt beautiful. The air smelled exactly the way air should, like salty ocean water. Like waves crashing. The air held just a touch of suntan lotion. Only little kids wore sunscreen back then. The sunscreen smelled like sunshine. Her father’s fancy camera was focused only on her; she loved the attention, she was beautiful, a movie star, she was sunshine, she was mirth, she was everything they wanted her to be. Her shoulder straps had a round button on them, a big round button. A button. On her thirty-sixth birthday, he called. That was when she let it in, what he would do with the pictures, once he developed them, would do to his body, and then her hands would tremble, would tremble when she brought back the button and the ocean water and those waves. Those waves, crashing.

Alle C. Hall is a semi-finalist in Screencraft’s Cinematic Short Story Contest (Finalists announced on March 14th, 2018. Send her good vibes). She is also a semifinalist in Hippocampus Magazine‘s “Remember in November” Creative Nonfiction Contest; a Best of the Net nominee; and First Place winner in The Richard Hugo House New Works competition. Favorite publications include Creative Nonfiction, Brevity (blog), The Citron Review, Crack the Spine, jmww, Bust, Literary Mama, Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, and The Stranger (Contributing Writer), among others. Claim to fame: interviewed Leonard Nimoy. “He was a bit of a pill. Disappointing.”

Brief Encounter: Shake the Pollen Free

by Treehouse Editors

Sophia Hyland-Wolzak

Beatrice’s oldest impulse is the need to be as physically close to Donovan as he’ll allow. They met in their cul-de-sac: he, with his brother’s hand-me-downs, and she, with her brother’s hand-me-downs.

“Want to build a mud float?” Beatrice asked. Donovan looked around and shrugged.

Gathering reeds, twigs, and pinecones, they set up their scaffolding on her front lawn. Her mother chased them off and they fled to the woods. Knees stained, they peeped through the punctures of life between the leaves.

“Your mom’s intense,” Donovan said. Beatrice nodded.

They led each other into dares neither one wanted to be in. As they progressed in life, risks went from kick-pushing the swing to the water tower to toking a joint out the window of his stepdad’s car.

Donovan is sewn into the textiles of Beatrice’s character—a connection more profound than any other relationship she understands to be hers.

However, Beatrice encourages herself to forget him. The plasticine doll of Donovan sits on a small stool next to candle light, in a windowless room, at the very back of her mind.

Years past puberty, minutes before midnight on a Thursday in Autumn, Beatrice and her colleagues roll up their sleeves to soak their fingers in a bucket of fried chicken. Their day felt below sea level and fast food propped them up on a skyscraper for an hour.

A hand rests on her shoulder and Beatrice jerks away. Donovan stands over her with the imposition of his denture-perfect teeth and down jacket.

Her lips and chin are glossy with a vaseline of fryer grease.

They leave to a bar close by. She fantasises about their future, listening intermittently to their conversation. The same tree sap that smoothed them together at the cul-de-sac envelops the two. Beatrice is dewy with nostalgia, pouring herself into the feeling with her beer. She kisses him and he stops.

Both hands on her shoulders, Donovan gently presses Beatrice off of him.

“Huh,” she says.


When Beatrice stumbles home and shakes herself free from her clogs, she tucks herself behind her partner and kisses him on his temple.

She separates the oil of the night from this moment and it leaks into the narrow spaces between the files of trivia and family birthdays.

As Beatrice exhales, the toy Donovan takes his final breath and the candle blows out.

Sophia Hyland-Wolzak is an American expat that lives and works in Adelaide, Australia. She is currently a contributing writer and editor for a national caravanning and camping travel magazine, G’DAY Magazine.

Somewhere Near the Bowery

by Treehouse Editors

Jennifer Juneau

2 am and it’s so cold out my face is about to fall off

I empty pennies into the hand of a drifter

Humans will evolve into mythological creatures, he yells after me

E walks home, taking her accent with her

A swan, smack in the middle of New York City,

With one gold eye

Follows me to the 24-hour Rite Aid for a Kit Kat and a Coke

To the Second Avenue subway

To the last drag of a cigarette before it’s out

Your name in lights

(Jesus it’s cold)

(But there’s nothing he could do)

The weather is planning us

Let’s solve it together

Jennifer Juneau’s work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice, for the Million Writers Award, and a Sundress Best of the Net and has appeared in Cincinnati Review, Columbia Journal, Evergreen Review, Pank, Live Mag!, Sensitive Skin Magazine, Seattle Review, and elsewhere. She has a novel, UberChef USA, due out this year by Spork Press, as well as a poetry collection by Is A Rose Press. She lives in New York City where she is active in prose/poetry readings on the lower east side and Brooklyn, namely La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club and KGB Bar.

This Week in Words – March 3

by Treehouse Editors

Rachel Bondurant

AWP 2018 is gearing up to start in a week. Oh, how I long to be there. Are you going to Tampa? If so, Barrelhouse has a list of things to do and not do at their table. As a side note, if you’re not following Barrelhouse on Twitter, what are you doing with your life?

You know what the world needs? More subscription boxes. Wait, allow me to be more specific. What does the world need? More subscription boxes for writers. I don’t know about you, but I love getting mail. And I especially love getting mail pertaining to this magical, insufferable craft. Scribbler is the one I’ve subscribed to. It’s brand new, brought to you by actual published authors, and full of all sorts of delightful writerly crap. Real talk: I’ve done no research in this area, so if you know of other boxes for writers, stop hoarding the treasure and share with us.

The other day, someone I know casually presented me with a fantastically terrible piece of writing a published author friend of hers wrote. It was a short little sample chapter beginning about a woman, so obviously written by a man that it should have been a joke. It reminded me of this Twitter hall-of-famer. And that led me to discover this. Don’t get me wrong; I’d love for sexism to get solved, but then…who would we laugh at for being terrible?

Update on my almost-a-book-club project: Lolita. If you haven’t read this book, you must. It’s so well-written, and it’s actually funny. Most importantly, it will make you feel all kinds of things that you don’t want to feel. I hate myself for loving it so far, and I’m not sorry about any of it. My friends are thoroughly enjoying the audiobook version, by the way, which is narrated by Jeremy Irons. He played H.H. in the 1997 movie adaptation, so that’s why, but it’s still impossible not to imagine the story being told by Scar from The Lion King.

Brief Encounter: Conceit of Reincarnation

by Treehouse Editors

A.C. Bohleber

The grasshopper needs a home but

Not an afterlife. It is content

It drowns in the rain, falls under the boot of a man


Under the claws of a cat, possum, bird

It becomes dirt.

It did such a good job being a grasshopper


Perhaps it will become a worm

Then an atom

Then free.

A.C. Bohleber is a recent college graduate located in Louisville, Kentucky. Originally from the South, she attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where she won the Ken Smith Fiction Award. She now works a day job, so she can spend money on books, travel, and, of course, rent. In the chaos she makes time to write prose and occasionally poetry.