Treehouse

online magazine for short, good writing

Category: Brief Encounters

Up North

by a contributor

a brief encounter by Richard N. Bentley

He’d come to Northern Michigan, and the lake gulls were shrieking at him. He’d been on vacation only two days, but he sat around the cabin, springing up now and then to go to the window and back. It was too chilly to go out onto the beach. The sky looked like rumpled tinfoil and the wind was strong and cold. Lake Superior came rolling up to the beach with thundering splashes.

He would go to the door, then return and slump by the fire. I also heard him last night, walking around upstairs in the night, mumbling swear words in the darkness.

This morning he fidgeted around the cabin for an hour, not eating anything.

“Demon,” he said. “No, that’s not it.”

Lucy, my sister, had wrapped a blanket around herself. She shivered and looked out the window. “Demeanor,” our father said. He laughed quickly and without humor. “No, that’s not the word.”

“Don’t worry about it, Dad,” I said. “The word isn’t important.”

Lucy said, “Dad, I can tell you the word.”

“No, no,” our father said. He held up his hand. “I’ve almost got it.”

“Demeanor,” he said. He shook his head.

We first noticed it last year when we drove up here. We stopped at a gas station. He put his wallet on the roof of the car while he filled the tank. Later, he said, “It was the credit card.” The words on the gas pump flustered him—remove card rapidly.

We drove off with the wallet still on the roof and didn’t discover the loss until we arrived here three hours later.

“Debilitate,” he says. “Dyslexia.”

“Dad, cut it out,” Lucy says, “you’re making us crazy.”

“Crazy,” he says.

The waves sweep along the shore.

“Dementia!” he says suddenly. “That’s it! Dementia. That’s the word the doctor used. Comes just before Alzheimer’s. Remember? Do you remember?”

“Dad,” I say, “don’t worry. The doctor said it could be a long way off. It doesn’t happen right away.”

“A long way off,” he says.

Our father straightens himself before the window, watching the waves.

He says, “Please keep helping me to remember. Help me to keep remembering, the word.”

Brief Encounter: Lost Things

by Treehouse Editors

Supposedly the average person spends at least 16 minutes a day looking for lost items. This could end up being almost a year of your lifetime looking for all those mismatched socks, keys, phones, debit cards, or glasses (good luck with that one). What were you looking for in that year?

As always, Brief Encounters should be no longer than 400 words. BE’s should be labeled as such in a Word .doc to distinguish from general submissions. Feel free to send more than one. Deadline is October 10th.

Brief Encounter: Advertisement for a Nuclear Family

by Treehouse Editors

The next Brief Encounter theme is “Advertisement for a Nuclear Family.” As always, Brief Encounters should be no longer than 400 words. BE’s should be labeled as such in a Word .doc to distinguish from general submissions. Feel free to send more than one in the same document. Deadline has been extended to August 22.

Codetta

by Treehouse Editors

a brief encounter by Maria Flores

“How much longer? Are we almost to Heaven?” Javier gazed up at the tiled ceiling of the crystal box, the speed of their ascent rising with each new articulation of Isabel’s pattering heart. The next measure: staccato. She took her brother’s hand. Prestissimo. His dough-soft palm was surprisingly dry and warm against her fingers. She inhaled deeply.

“Almost.”

Her throat throbbed, the meat of her heart snug against her tonsils as each fleshy beat pulsed in her mouth. Almost. Almost there. Javier’s curls bounced as the gleaming elevator shook with the effort of bearing them skyward. Isabel shut her eyes, but the insides of her eyelids, rather than presenting her with red-dappled relief from the cold glow of the rattling cage she shared with her brother, were painted with her final visions. A tableau of swirling sand and pale gray froth, strascicante: her vision blurred, her eardrums beat with the pressure of the sea. Javier? Where was Javier? Bodiless, senseless, buffeted through uncharted space, she opened her mouth to scream–

At the piano bench, her mother had demonstrated acciaccato: Isabel saw each note tossed against the next like dominos tack-tacking one another with increasing, frightening speed as the whole design slowly collapses. Silence falls with the last domino, the last note clinging to the air like a breath of salt breeze. The elevator shuddered to a stop. Isabel opened her eyes, but saw nothing. Too breathless to scream, she gripped Javier’s plump hand tighter as she felt her heart burst with fright. A door opened where there had not been one before.

“We made it.”


Haphazardly homeschooled for about a decade, Maria Flores was raised on Egyptian mythology, Aztec ghost stories, and Tolkien in a house of cultish Catholicism. She has been writing fiction since she discovered how at age 11.

Brief Encounter: Longest Elevator Ride

by Treehouse Editors

The next Brief Encounter theme is “The Longest Elevator Ride.” As always, Brief Encounters should be no longer than 400 words. BE’s should be labeled as such in a Word .doc to distinguish from general submissions. Feel free to send more than one in the same document. Deadline is June 20th.

Thirst

by a contributor

a brief encounter by A. D Lin

She is picking lazily at the scab on her knee, lifting the edges, trying to glimpse healing. I am caught holding a romaine lettuce shell, patting its veins dry as I have done with ninety-seven pieces previously. When she looks up it is at me. The Jesus prayer is throbbing through me and I cannot remember when or how it began. I shut my eyes against the bright morning light turning her into shadow. When I open them everything is blue-green and she has gone outside. One hundred and one. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner. One hundred and two. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner. I do not believe in God. I did not choose to pray. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner. She is bringing wild daisies into the house, dirt moons beneath her fingernails. One hundred and three. I have not been remade by good news. No grasping breath after my death. The thirst she has as she greedily swallows water, some droplets dampening down her shirt. The prayer, pulsing hot, burning like the eye of the sun I used to look directly into as a child. I will die thirsty.


A. D Lin is a writer, teacher, and lactose intolerant turophile.

Brief Encounters: The Most Useless Invention

by Treehouse Editors

The next Brief Encounter theme is “The most useless invention.” As always, Brief Encounters should be no longer than 400 words. BE’s should be labeled as such in a Word .doc to distinguish from general submissions. Feel free to send more than one in the same document. Deadline is May 18th.