Treehouse

online magazine for short, good writing

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.

5 Ways of Seeing the Moon (Who is Also My Grandfather)

by Treehouse Editors

from Finola McDonald, author of Denial

1. Against all the darkness of the small, city–suburb that was my home. Curious how
something so big could be so small against the night. Also wondering
if I could ever look as magnificent
under the same circumstances.

2. Getting off the bus at dusk a few blocks from our tired, green, house.
Surprised to see him out at this time, still carrying faint stains
on his whiteness that time so graciously lent him.

3. At midnight, still up, peering through the kitchen window
at the blue walls, and the land line,
shining a faint light
on the pantry.

4. Through the rearview mirror while I rush to leave,
catching him for a moment, imagining he is saying
goodbye, don’t forget to fill the tank
before returning to his present atmosphere that I
am moving further from.

5. Looking for him through the cracks
in bedroom doors, or by the meat market,
greeting strangers, asking my grandmother who says:

“He’ll be up soon, love, he’s just down for a nap.”


Finola McDonald is a Bronx native and coffee enthusiast with a thing for writing. She is currently completing her undergraduate studies at SUNY Purchase in Westchester, NY.

Denial

by Treehouse Editors

Finola McDonald

the last time
I went into town
there were bodies in the convenience store

strangled with garlands
of their own
misfortune.

I knelt beside them,
thanked them as I plucked
rubies
from their eye sockets

           and continued on
to the milk aisle.


Finola McDonald is a Bronx native and coffee enthusiast with a thing for writing. She is currently completing her undergraduate studies at SUNY Purchase in Westchester, NY.

KIT

by Treehouse Editors

D. Marquel

              She always did
              like
              seeing him
hang

on

her

ellipses –

              on a leash
long enough
to leave
              the illusion of freedom.

              When he whistled
her way,
              she faded away,
melting,

and
bleeding
              indiscernibly
              into color.

              She had an appetite,
              apparently,
              for the semi-sweet,
              and after all,

              grains of salt
              and sugar ​do
              feel the same
at 3 am.

              Word is,
              she still gets a rush
              at imaginary glances –

              at the chance to drag him
              all the way to the edge,
expectant,
unsheathed
              stalactites
              salivating,
smeared
              in burnt cork,

              and would,
              too,
              if not for the tugging
              at her own choke chain
              designed to keep her
in tow.


D. Marquel was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. His work has been featured in Chaleur Magazine (July 2018), San Diego Writers, Ink: A Year in Ink Anthology (Vol. 11), City Works Journal (Vols. 23 and 25), and by So Say We All’s VAMP reading series. You can find his work-in-progress at www.instagram.com/d.marquel. He currently resides in San Diego, CA.