Treehouse

online magazine for short, good writing

5 Things We Love by Female Authors

by Treehouse Editors

1. Bodies That Hum by Beth Gylys (Silverfish Review Press, 1999)

“The first chapbook of Beth Gylys sparked my interest, but her first full-length work, Bodies that Hum, really excited me with her formal dexterity (especially the villanelle), as well as free verse, showing me that poetry could be deep, poignant, and entertaining. Gylys, above all others, started me on this path of writing and taking the poetic craft seriously.” — Joanna Davidson, Poetry Editor

2. A Burst of Light: Essays by Audre Lorde (Firebrand Books, 1988)

“‘I make, demand, translate satisfactions out of every ray of sunlight, scrap of bright cloth, beautiful sound, delicious smell that comes my way, out of every sincere smile and good wish. They are discreet bits of ammunition in my arsenal against despair.’–Audre Lorde. To be black, female, and queer, all at once, is to know great despair. But to be black, female, and queer, all at once, is to grow brilliant.” — Bella Hugo, Genre Bender/Brief Encounters Editor

3. Social Studies by Fran Lebowitz (Random House, 1981)

“Women have been accused of being the ‘sensitivity police,’ unable to appreciate or utilize humor without injecting sentimentality or political correctness. Having been expelled from high school for ‘nonspecific surliness,’ unapologetic New Yorker Fran Lebowitz delightfully defies this stereotype. ‘People (a group that in my opinion has always attracted an undue amount of attention),’ she writes in the opening essay from Social Studies, ‘have often been likened to snowflakes…their only similarity to snowflakes resides in their invariable and lamentable tendency to turn, after a few warm days, to slush.'” — Laura Casteel, Managing Editor

4. “Of the Empire,” from Red Bird by Mary Oliver (Beacon Press, 2008)

“As Americans stand face-to-face with the consequences of rabid consumerism, imperialism, and estrangement from nature in the twenty-first century, the timeliness of this poem stings. ‘We will be known as a culture that feared death
and adored power,’ Oliver writes. ‘All the world, in our eyes, they will say, was a
commodity.'”–Laura Casteel, Managing Editor

5. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (Harper Perennial Modern Classics Edition, 2006)

“This novel serves as a compass in my own writing journey, a reminder that the best literature strikes our deepest senses with details as small as the leg of a bee. It also proves the versatility of female writers. We can be sardonic and romantic, critical and sensual–in other words, we’re human.

‘[Janie] was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage!'” — Laura Casteel, Managing Editor

5 Things a Survivor Needs to Learn

by Treehouse Editors

from Alle C. Hall, author of Crashing

It was cherry blossom season. I sat on hard grass in the cold March sun and read the survivor’s Bible, The Courage to Heal. Tears, when I read what I had felt between my teeth since the abuse started but could never find words for: I was not a victim. I was a survivor. As Courage says, I earned that title. To move to an entirely new level of surviving, however, into thriving, there were five things I needed to internalize.

  1. The facts of the abuse, the details, are important for only as long as they are important. It was everything to name them. Over time, the facts blurred into two thoughts: I was raped. A lot.
  2. The facts can be so dramatic. They seem like the hard stuff to heal from. But the facts don’t have lasting impact. What lasts is the need for approbation from the wrong sources, the reliance on the addictions. Saying the right thing at the wrong time, being too loud or too quiet; feeling perfect until we tumble; not knowing how to do simple things that to others seem innate: being honest on a resume; saying, “You’re cute.”
  3. It is possible to learn how to love and be loved.
  4. There is no need to confront an abuser. Abusers don’t cop to it, such as: “I never thought that raping you would make you feel bad.” Do we imagine that a confrontation will change them? “Let’s go to counseling together.” “Let’s be family again.”
  5. I wanted an apology. I don’t need an apology. I don’t need them to change, to tell me they believe me.

I believe me.

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.

Crashing

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.” allehall.wordpress.com

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.