online magazine for short, good writing

Category: Brief Encounters

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.

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.

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.

Brief Encounter: Resolution

by Treehouse Editors

Elizabeth Poreba

The trick is
tight focus.

Look down. Stay

The dropped
stitch, the spot,
the knick, the note,
the knot, the twist—
small things
can be fixed.

When Jesus
at the Jordan
looked up,
all he saw
was heaven
torn apart.

Staying busy
is better.

When wading,
keep your eyes
on the river.

Elizabeth Poreba taught English in New York City high schools for 35 years and now volunteers for environmental groups. Her poems have appeared in, Feminist Studies in Religion, and Commonweal, among others. She has published a chapbook, The Family Calling (Finishing Line Press), and two collections of poems, Vexed and Self Help (Wipf and Stock).

Brief Encounter: Refrigerator Magnets

by a contributor

Donna Vorreyer

All alphabet and apostle,
baby, I believe best.

I bite back, black and blue,
my body a brick. I dance

the dark day different.
Eight elements of geometry

and gender – get it, girl.
High, hot and hungry,

I invite inside a just king:
kiss me, lichen – I mean,

liebschen – your luscious
limbs looking magic.

I miss the mountains,
the music, my name. Napkin,

newspaper next to me at night:
no notebook. Once I raced

the rain. I remember,
I said. I saw, I say. I see

seven summers. I take.
I tell that your truths are

under used. I want what
water will – wind, windows,

and wings. I wish. You yell.
Yes, yesterday. You.

Donna Vorreyer is the author of A House of Many Windows (Sundress Publications, 2013). Her work has appeared in many journals including Rhino, Linebreak, Cider Press Review, Stirring, Sweet, wicked alice, and Weave. Her fifth chapbook, We Build Houses of Our Bodies was released in late 2013 by Dancing Girl Press, and her second poetry collection is forthcoming from Sundress Publications in 2016.

See Donna’s list of “5 Reasons You Should Read Billy Bud, Sailor by Herman Melville” in our ongoing contributors’ series.

Brief Encounter: Refrigerator Magnets

by Treehouse Editors

 CALL | FOR | SUBMISSIONS | SEND | US | YOUR | BEST | REFRIGERATOR | INSPIRED | POETRY | FICTION | NON-FICTION | GENRE-BENDER | <400 words | .doc file | deadline AUGUST 1 | treehouse[dot]editors[at]gmail[dot]com

45 | 50 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | & | ? | a | | a | about | above | airplane
all | alphabet | am | and | and | and | animal |apostle| answer | anyone | 
anything | amphibian | adamant | are | are | asparagus | astronomy | at
aunt | autumn | baby | bad | ball | ballerina | balloon | barn | base 
basket | bathroom | because | begin | believe | best | big | bike | bird
birthday | bite | bite | black | blue | body | book | bored | born | 
bottom | box | box | boy | breakfast | bring | bricks | Bronx |
brother | brown | beam | bug | but | butterfly | by | candy | can’t
car | castle | cat | cat | chair | child | chocolate | close | cloud | 
Dad | dance | dark | day | day | did | different | dinner | dream | do 
do | does | dog | don’t | door | down | draw | disappear | dug | dull | 
ear | easy | eat | ed | eight | elements | elephant | er | exercise | ed
fall | family | far | fast | fat | favorite | favorite | fed | feet | for
fight | fish | flow | five | flower | fly | fly | for | four | France| 
friend | from | full | funny | gentle | geometry | gown | gender |grant|go
get | girl | give | glow | good | graffiti | gasp | greed | green | 
her | here | hid | hide | high | him | hit | hold | home | homework | hot 
hug | hungry | I | I | I | invite | if | imagine | important | in | ing 
ing | inside | is | is | Japan | jump | junior  | just| kind | king | kiss
lichen | laugh | leave | luscious | light | like | like | little | listen
live | limb | look | looking | loud | love | lunch | ly | astronaut | mad
magic | man | many | me | midnight | miss | Mom | monkey | monkey |
monster | more | morning | mountain | moss | mud | music | my | name | 
napkin | near | nest | never | New York | newspaper | next | next | night 
nine | no | noon | nose | not | notebook | of | once | once | one | one | 
or | or | over | over | paint | peace | peanut butter | photograph | pink 
pumpkin | purple | queen | Queens | quiet | race | rain | raft | ran | 
read | real | remember | ride | ring | room round | round | rude | s | s | 
solid | said | sail | saw | say | school | see | seven | share | she |safe
spring | square | start | stop | storm | story | strawberry | swaying | 
summer | swim | take | teacher | telephone | television | tell | that |
that | their | them | there | think | three | tiger | time | to | to | 
told | too | tool | top | town | truth | tree | TV | US | utter | under | 
used | vacation | very | video | want | warm | was | what | withdraw|water
whatever | when | where | who | why | whisper | white | wild | will | will 
wind | window | wing | winter | wish | with | with | woman | won’t | world 
you | yell | yellow | yes | yesterday | you | you | young | your | zebra