Treehouse

online magazine for short, good writing

Category: 5 Things

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.

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.

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.

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.

5 Ideas about an Afterlife

by Treehouse Editors

from Bailey Bridgewater, author of The Congregation

I’m an atheist, and one of the best things about being non-religious is that it allows a person to evaluate different religious ideas pretty objectively, without any commitment.  It’s like if your friend handed you her phone and asked you to do her Tinder swiping for her.  It’s entertaining, and you can evaluate the choices brutally, curiously, without having to directly deal with the consequences. I believe that when we die, you, me, and all those people on Tinder are simply dead–nothing more, nothing less.  Yet ideas about the afterlife captivate me, so I share with you here five ideas my good friends and questionable family members hold about the afterlife.

1. We re-live the same life in perpetuity. This theory is held by a good friend who has a graduate degree in Mathematics, which gives him some level of credibility–not because graduate students are trustworthy, but because anyone who can deal with numbers at that level has access to mysteries of the universe that most of us can’t or simply don’t want to understand. He believes that not just the individual, but the entire universe participates in an endless cycle of creation and destruction that goes the same way every single time, and thus we all live the same exact life over, and over, and over, never able to correct our mistakes or even remember that we made them. You’ll always lose that key, always miss your boat, always say the wrong thing, always realize a little too late. Always. It’s the most depressing of the theories I’ve heard. There’s no justice in it.

2. We are reincarnated on down the food chain. My great-grandmother lived by far the longest of anyone in my family, which is its own argument for some sort of God–surely nothing that’s out there would have wanted her back. What she lacked in overall goodness, she made up for in fanciful ideas.  Despite her Methodist upbringing, she believed that we’re all reincarnated–a not uncommon idea worldwide. But her reincarnation was ruthless. You only come back as a human if you were pure as the driven snow and right as the unpolluted rain.  Screw up a couple times, and you might come back as a donkey.  Screw up a lot, maybe you’ll be a possum. Manage to mess it up so badly that your kids don’t come to your deathbed, and you’ve got a good shot at cockroach–which means, ironically, a reward of near immortality. There’s a chance you might kill a cockroach that is my great-grandmother.

3. We live again, this time as someone close to us.  All right, so this was my idea, and I don’t actually believe it. I thought it up as a comforting punishment after divorcing an abusive ex.  What if my great-grandmother’s reincarnation idea was on track, but instead of a wolf or a goat, we came back as someone who had an impact on our life, for better or worse? We would feel the pain we caused that person, or the joy, and we would see what had been ourselves from this new perspective.  It could be a strange form of heaven or hell, depending on how much of an ass you were.

4. There’s totally a dog heaven. Totally. One common denominator among both the religious and non-religious folks I know is that they all sincerely want to believe in a pet heaven. One acquaintance of mine is so looking forward to seeing his deceased pets again that he has a tattoo of himself running out of the void and down the rainbow bridge, where his animals are all running to greet him. If there is any justice in the afterlife, there is a place where we can be reunited with our animal companions, or at least where they can eternally play with one another. If there’s not, it’s just further proof that there is no higher being.

5. All is forgiven, if you remember to repent right before the ax falls. My grandmother, a devout Catholic who was apparently so religious that she almost never had to go to church, firmly believed that no matter what you did in life, if you repented on your deathbed, lucidly, honestly, then all was forgiven. (She also believed in curses and ghosts, and would sit on the sofa to talk to her deceased sister well before she developed dementia and Alzheimer’s. I don’t know where all this fit in with her religion.) It didn’t matter if you were a murderer, a rapist, a pedophile–so long as you repented, God would allow you into heaven. I often wonder if, given that she died not knowing where, when, or sometimes who she was, she remembered to say her “my bad’s” in time.

5 Ways in Which My Ideas Are Like My Garden

by Treehouse Editors

from Karen Collier, author of The Gift

1. Sometimes my ideas are like clematis. They are so dawdling I forget I planted them until the day I notice they’ve overrun the trellis.

2. Sometimes my ideas are like coreopsis. They leap their boundaries, and I must rip them out by their roots.

3. Sometimes my ideas are like flame acanthus. They immediately perish but then pop up the next year in the most unexpected places.

4. Sometimes my ideas are like pigeonberry. As soon as I plant them, they are stolen, not surprisingly, by the pigeons.

5. Sometimes my ideas are like mealy blue sage. They grow tall and strong in exactly the place I planted them.

5 of My Favorite Emojis

by Treehouse Editors

from Darren Higgins, author of Wapiti

🍯

Nothing drips quite like honey, so slow and sweet. Nothing shines. Nothing stays. The stickiness comes as a surprise but then I like it. Does honey wrap around your tongue? It does. Around and around. It does. Honey is liquid time. Honey remembers us, that’s what we want to believe. Honey tastes like.

🐞

I once sat in an awful patch of grass, more dirt than grass, really; it was sharp and unevenly cut, at odds with itself, poking my palm. Then I felt a tickle at my fingers. A ladybug. I watched her climb my arm, then returned her to the grass many ladybug-miles from me. But she returned. She found me. She kept coming back. She preferred me to the grass.

🗝

I have never had a tattoo nor really even considered it, but if I do ever get a tattoo then let it be a fancy old key right there on the inside of my left wrist, near the delta of my veins, near the tendons that rise like cables when I make a fist, floating upon the twitch of my pulse. What is a key? What is it really? I think the key is desire.

🥝

No one suspects the kiwi. Who would? No one suspects that it is my favorite fruit, more favorite than even the strawberry (though I do like to bite strawberries, I won’t mislead you). The unassuming kiwi. What are you hiding? But I know! I already know.

🚂

The rhythm of the train is the rhythm of the masquerade. I am never myself on a train. I am a performer, to be seen, to be looked over. But that’s all right. You are never yourself either. You take me by the hand and push me into my seat. You smile. I turn my eyes toward the window, watching the golden fields pass slow and sweet as honey.