Treehouse

online magazine for short, good writing

5 Writing Prompts from My iPhone Notes

by Treehouse Editors

from David S. Osgood, author of McGovern’s Motors

When ideas come to me, I try to capture them–sometimes on a napkin, other times in a voice memo–but most times in my iPhone Notes. Here are five ideas for short stories which have not yet come to fruition (the third one is nonfiction!):

1. In 1972, my mother and father, both teenagers then, made love at the top of a broken Ferris wheel and created me. The rescuer on the ladder could not understand why they refused to come out from the capsule. When they emerged, they were wearing each other’s pants.

2. There’s a place we go when no one is looking, underneath the train tracks and below the earth, where we congregate like burrowed animals to share the brutality of life.

3. Nana lived in Massachusetts in a stone cottage that looked like an amalgamation of a gingerbread house and birdseed. Her chocolate chip cookies were so hard I had to bite with the gummy space where my wisdom teeth used to be. When she greeted us, her hyper lordotic posture corrected itself. Her smile was a gurn of dentures and overbite, her hug strong and endless.

4. Life span changes to 25 years. How do we change the world of growing up if we know it will only last this long?

5. A man driving down the highway passes an electronic sign announcing an amber alert for a missing person. It is his name, the description of his vehicle, and his license plate.


David S. Osgood is a short story writer. He resides in Holly Springs, North Carolina, where rural and suburban collide among crepe myrtles. David has a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of Southern California and a Master’s from Babson College.

A Farewell to Treehouse

by Treehouse Editors

To our wonderful readers, writers, and supporters,

Recently, we made the sad and difficult but ultimately necessary decision to shut down Treehouse permanently, after a majority of the editors voted to do so. We have closed submissions and will be putting out our final issue shortly, so if you’ve submitted something already, don’t worry; it will still be considered. This website will remain active so that our past publications can still be enjoyed.

There are a variety of reasons why we’ve made this decision. One is that some of the editors, myself included, are going through periods of transition in our lives and all of the difficulties and uncertainties that come with that. Since all of our staff are volunteers, I could not in good conscience expect them to keep working on Treehouse without pay. This leads to another reason, the fact that it’s challenging to sustain something like Treehouse in the beginning without financial investors. All of the submission fees have gone directly toward paying for our Submittable account and website expenses, and when the fees aren’t enough to cover these expenses, I pay for them myself, which is no longer affordable for me.

We’re grateful for having the opportunity to read, publish, and share the work of so many incredible writers in the years since Treehouse’s inception at UNC-Wilmington in 2012, and we sincerely thank all of our contributors and readers, as well as the founding editors of Treehouse who came before us. This especially includes Johannes Lichtman, the “mother goose to the Treehouse gaggle” who, as an MFA student at UNCW, got together a bunch of us scrappy undergrads to start an online magazine that took off in ways I never imagined. He has a novel out right now that you should read.

Once we’ve finished going through our backlog of submissions, we’ll begin posting content for the final issue, and one last farewell post after we’ve published our last piece. Again, thank you to everyone who helped make us a success while we lasted.

                                                                                                       –Laura Casteel, Managing Editor 

 

 

 

Brief Encounter: McGovern’s Motors

by Treehouse Editors

David S. Osgood

The vehicles returned to the dealership in furious fashion; some were even on fire when they reached the service entrance. Peter watched, horrified, as irate customers he had shook hands with days before were exiting cars and SUVs and minivans with the intent of ruining him. He had given each of them his word that these were the best of the fleet, that McGovern’s was the most reputable dealership in the county, and that he would never sell anything he wouldn’t drive off the lot himself. He visually ransacked the sales floor; it was barren. The angry mob descended upon him with crumpled bills of sale and eyes so wide they could swallow the earth.

He had to think fast. Mr. McGovern was probably in Belize by now, starting up a car dealership with a fleet of new lemons disguised as mangoes. Seeing as Peter was recently appointed General Manager, he was the fall guy. The crowd would need answers. They will demand their money back. They will kick and fight and have his head. His accountability training screamed at him in glorious irony.

He came outside with his hands up. The tumultuous sea of new car owners, surrounded by faulty steel and glass, rose to a quiet which halted the wind.

“Everyone, please listen closely. You all have been the result of a test group. You will be handsomely rewarded for your participation. Our control group is happily driving around in McGovern’s best-made vehicles, while you, unfortunately, were chosen to test the limits of customer satisfaction. It’s cruel, I know, but you will gain in monumental recompense. If you will please follow me into the showroom, slowly and without pushing, I will set each of you up with a new car of your choice and a big fat check for your troubles. You did it, brave souls, you survived and you have won!”

Some balked and guffawed. Others ran quietly to the showroom doors and shuffled in against the windows. After some coaxing, every disgruntled customer sardined into the shiny showroom with the expertly waxed floors to await payout. Peter closed the door behind the last rejecter and locked it tight. He mouthed “I’m sorry” to them and ran frantically to his vehicle. He jumped in, locked the doors, and put the keys in the ignition.

The car wouldn’t start. It was a McGovern.


David S. Osgood is a short story writer. He resides in Holly Springs, North Carolina, where rural and suburban collide among crepe myrtles. David has a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of Southern California and a Master’s from Babson College.

5 Memories of Growing Up in West Texas

by Treehouse Editors

from Karan Parrack, author of Keeping Mum

1. Swimming holes. Tanks or stock ponds. Simply called ponds back East. Mud-colored water that offered no visibility. Respite from the summer heat. We couldn’t ride past them on some granddaddy’s cattle ranch or drive past in a public park without finding a reason to strip off shoes and socks and wade in, at times unable to reach the bottom no matter how deeply we dove into the dark, cool depths, ignoring fleeting thoughts of what might lurk beneath.

2. Halloween and trick-or-treating. Running from house to house, sweating behind cheap plastic masks and flimsy store-bought costumes because the heat hadn’t yet loosened its grip and allowed in the fall. Accepting homemade candy apples and popcorn balls untainted by rumors of malice hidden in their goodness. Knowing the rare households inhabited by rich people because of the full-sized candy bars they handed out.

3. Friday night lights. Pep rallies and homecoming mums and parades. Cross-town rivalries. White shoe polish boasting victory on car windows. Proudly wearing your boyfriend’s football jersey bearing his number. Adhering to the coach’s strict rules: 1) Exhibit good sportsmanship at all times. 2) No PDA (Public Displays of Affection) in the halls at school. Yellow school buses traveling hours to away games and returning to school parking lots at two in the morning with hoarse, sleepy passengers stumbling off. Playoff games all the way into December…if you were lucky.

4. The West Texas State Fair and Rodeo. A night or two of the week-long event sometimes gifting “sweater-weather,” the first break from the brutal summer heat. Livestock exhibits accompanied by the warm earthy smells of hay and dust and manure, the crunch of shavings and gravel underfoot. Sweet, ethereal cotton candy and mustard-dipped corny dogs. Brightly colored lights blinking along with loud, raucous music. Thrilling carnival rides. Screams of fear or excitement. Ritual of fall.

5. Life with horses. Wearing shorts and tennis shoes while riding bareback in the
summertime, backs of legs covered in horse hair and sweat. Parading on horseback through the streets of downtown Abilene. Shopping for Wranglers at Luskey’s Western Wear but buying saddles at Sears. Competing in Play Days: barrel racing, pole bending, Western pleasure classes. Winding and circling in the Grand Entry at the Hardin Simmons Rodeo. Falling off in cactus or on dirt roads yet purposefully sliding off crossing a creek before the horse dropped to his knees and rolled. Riding through the drive-thru window at Dairy Queen or tying up at a gas station, buying an ice-cold bottle drink out of the machine, and sharing it with your horse.


Karan Parrack is a native Texan who has taught high school English and English as a Second Language for more than 30 years.

Brief Encounter: Keeping Mum

by Treehouse Editors

Karan Parrack

The summer my husband and I moved to the Texas Hill Country and bought
a house on two sloping, rocky acres west of Austin, we had just added to our
family an astonishingly large yellow lab puppy named Mason. Unfortunately, the acreage was not fenced. While Mason bounded and romped across the spacious land, chasing but never quite catching the rabbits and deer that roamed freely, we had to tether him to a stake in the side yard whenever we left the house. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it worked for the time.

By mid-October, the weather turned to more fall-like temperatures and the Hill Country became absolutely gorgeous. Our house had a fantastic wooden front porch with five steps leading up to it. I pictured how beautiful my country home would look with colorful pots of mums arranged artfully on the steps, much like some picture out of Southern Living. I bought multiple pots and placed them along the front steps. However, the neighbors had warned me about the futility of planting any flowers due to the large deer population. They ate almost anything that bloomed, that year in particular due to a severe drought. It dawned on me that I could use Mason, by now a strapping, lanky ten-month old, to scare away any deer that dared to approach the flowers. I planned to move his tether to the shady area at the base of the porch, and if any deer came near, Mason’s exuberant barking and jumping would scare them away. The next morning, with total confidence, I left Mason by the porch while I went to work.

Late in the afternoon I arrived back home. As I drove up the winding driveway, I peered past the trees to enjoy the beauty of fall flowers lining my front steps. To my dismay, I couldn’t make out any spots of color. Running to the front porch, I discovered that Mason, the guard dog, had proceeded to eat and destroy the flowers himself! Slobbery pots indented with teeth marks lay fallen in the dirt, and the flowers themselves had been shaken and shredded. A few limp bits of greenery remained littered around the steps, and as for Mason, his nose was crusted with dirt. I sank down on a step and shared a good laugh with Mason, clueless and contented, over how my plan had backfired.


Karan Parrack is a native Texan who has taught high school English and English as a Second Language for more than 30 years.

5 Things about an Easel

by Treehouse Editors

from Linda Conroy, author of The Way of Neighbors

1. Twice I’ve owned one, twice have given it away.

2. I thought I wanted lushness of another life, modest help for my intentions, a guarantee of restful nights. I thought I wanted mystery, a way to find true artistry without the grind of too much work so I bought an easel, strong of back, and plain of face, its three feet still on earth.

3. In art class sometimes, feeling shy, I can’t cope with the paint. It doesn’t go the way I want. I hide behind the easel, though it trips me with its legs spread out, or leers, leaning on grey walls, with paint still wet, the brushes needing to be rinsed, put back into the jar beside the sink. The canvas, though, is steady, twenty degrees from vertical, suggesting life propped open, waiting. A framework, tripod, a tall support, a wooden form upon the desk or standing on the floor, asking “am I something you could use? Would you rest your half-formed collage on this ledge, edge of the artist you’re beginning to become?”

4. In winter when snow forms banks and drifts, and squirrels, groundhogs, hibernate, I see evergreens dot steep-sloped mountain sides, and the sun slides quickly, leaving blue shadows longer than the trees, like fingers pointing in a landscape of mixed media on nature’s easel, murmuring “paint.”

5. The Dutch word for donkey, ezel, meant to carry weight.


Linda Conroy is a retired social worker who likes to observe the simplicity and complexity of the human connections which inform and foreshadow the art of writing poetry. Her poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Third Wednesday, Shot Glass, The Penwood Review, Washington 129, The Poeming Pigeon, Clover – A Literary Rag, and Raven Chronicles.

The Way of Neighbors

by Treehouse Editors

Linda Conroy

With rain from empty sky, fall came fast, unexpected, even after all this time. Strange to be dark again at seven, then at six, time to tuck in, close the curtains, cushion coming doubt. Harsh division day from night, in from out, splits liveliness from sleep, unless, as is the threat, the good game changer, snow. It will be a brighter place here then, pulling us outside with shovels, brooms and salt, bringing neighbors, dogs and children out, and Mary next door with her red coat says, wait, after we have dug and swept, I have some apple cider, let’s make punch. Macs and boots stack in her hall. The kitchen fills and long-told stories creep from dusty shelves. Remember when Clement broke his leg the day the barn came down, and Silas married Sarah in three feet of snow. The minister was booked, so Silas said we had to go ahead and others stamped their feet and dug a path. Good thing we only had to come from here, someone said.


Linda Conroy is a retired social worker who likes to observe the simplicity and complexity of the human connections which inform and foreshadow the art of writing poetry. Her poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Third Wednesday, Shot Glass, The Penwood Review, Washington 129, The Poeming Pigeon, Clover – A Literary Rag, and Raven Chronicles.