Treehouse

online magazine for short, good writing

Tag: fiction

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.

A Letter to Whoever is Wearing My Boots

by Treehouse Editors

Yael Hacochen

Each year in Ramat Hagolan, at least 1,200 cattle produce milk, feed on grain and oats, give birth, and die when their time comes. When the cows were under Syrian control they were spoken to in Arabic, and after Israel took control of the land in 1973, in the war of Yom Kipor, the cows of that region were spoken to in Hebrew, or Arabic. Depending on the farmer.

In the year 1997 a calf was born. She was the second-born heifer of a prize-winning cow and died by stepping on a mine. This could be where the story ended, if not for a change in the family business. It was exactly the month that the family that owned the calf decided its skin would be used for leather.

They called in a specialist, who was missing half a pinky from his days as an apprentice. The specialist stood in the middle of the green field and produced a sheathed knife. The knife was curved like a quarter moon. He worked with the utmost care so as not to leave a scratch. The skin came off in a single thin sheet, like the parting of red petals.

The leather was loaded onto a truck. It was removed and spread in a large metal container by the two agile hands of the craftsman. He noted that the skin was small in size and heavy in weight: perfect for a small woman’s combat boots.

The leather was laid out on a black rubber cutting mat, and a pattern was drawn. Using a trimming knife, the craftsman traced the leather as one would trace a lover’s back, until four symmetrical pieces lay detached.

The pieces were handed over to a young shoemaker who worked the leather into shape and attached it to a rubber sole. The letter “צ” was stamped at the top, where it was closest to God. A small pocket for dog-tags was added into the strip. Finally, they were shipped to a base in HaKiryaa.

It happened that in the year 2006, a bushy-browed Nagad chose them off the shelf, tied the shoelaces together in a timely manner and threw them in the back of his truck. Fate called me in to see the Nagad, who whispered like a boy with a crush: “I have a surprise for you”.

Friends died in that time. But they wore different shoes. My boots were never shot, never punctured, were never crushed. They only lifted one foot after the other, or both at once.


Yael Hacohen is a PhD student at UC Berkeley. She has an MFA in Poetry from New York University, where she was an ‎NYU Veterans Workshop Fellow, International Editor at Washington Square Literary ‎Review, and Editor-in-Chief at Nine Lines Literary Review. Her poems appear or forthcoming in The Poetry Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Every Day ‎Poets Magazine, Nine Lines, and many more. She was a finalist in the 2015 Glimmer Train Very Short Story Competition, the 2015 ‎Consequence Prize in Poetry, and the 2013 MSLexia Poetry Prize for Women.‎

 

Moon Men

by a contributor

Erik Doughty

Hi, Ms. Paley. This is Jimmy Chang, calling on behalf of my son, Kevin. It seems he never received Julie’s RSVP for his birthday. The party just ended, but what if I told you he planned his whole kickball-themed day around Julie being here, yet he is terrible at all things requiring foot-eye coordination—even walking? What if none of the other booger-snacking overbiters in attendance even mattered, because only your daughter gives his heart a brain freeze?

Kevin’s been courting Julie since third grade, keeping track of how many teeth she’s lost and her favorite crayon color, which is somewhere between Pumpkin and Snazzy Sunburst. From what I understand, he said “hi” to her once by accident.

Sure, Kevin is not the ideal fourth grade boyfriend. He doesn’t know the secret handshake or not to share his chicken nuggets with the class pet iguana. But that’s on me: me failing him, not the other way around. See, he has this “eject” button on his belt loop that he presses whenever he gets stuck inside someone else’s joke. It was cute at first, but knowing what I know now, it’s like who can I ask about this? What words do good parents keep in their pockets?

Sometimes, I take him out on the roof with a telescope and a cookie dough bucket; we talk about buying a condo on the moon after we sell our lucky stars. I tell him, “I don’t know how much those go for on craigslist.” He chews with understanding.

Then, we talk superpowers: telekinesis or teleportation, the pros and cons of secret identities. Kevin would change one of his arms into a bazooka that shoots pterodactyls made of fire into the sky where they breathe rainbows and poop clouds. I thought that was weird but totally badass.

This is how I know the kickball thing is about Julie, because with the right genetic mutation, Kevin would use mind control on her friends so they’d always pick her for their team; that way, her face would never get rainy underneath the playground slide. When he asks about my powers, I claim superhuman strength and an unbreakable heart.

Ms. Paley, our kids are at the best age right now—before middle school, which just plain sucks because everyone outgrows you and your corduroys overnight. In high school, they’ll never be appreciated in their own time, learning too young to text their prayers and autocorrect their love. One or the other’s marriage will end in divorce. And it nukes my gut to think I might not be around to tell him not to fight if his wife leaves the light on in empty rooms, skyrocketing the electricity bill. Because it’s worth it—all that light in your life.

For now though, they still scamper to us when we pick them up from school. It’s the tail end of the scampering era. And the way they look at us, as if we became everything we once saw in ourselves: that’s the closest we’ll come to stadium lights.

Now, I know it’s late, Ms. Paley, and Sunday nights are school nights too. But if you and Julie would consider stopping by, we still have a decorate-your-own-cupcake station. We have videogames and pizza bagels and Kevin is saving the good controller for her. And while they play, maybe we can talk about superpowers too: about TiVo’ing real life and living without commercial interruption—about turning any water fountain into a tap with your favorite beer. What if we could save up time like it was money, and blow it all on those rare perfect moments, stretching them out for decades? Like when a spring day gets lost in January and you’re driving with the windows down, your kid and his dog in the backseat with their heads out the window—ice cream on both their noses.


Erik Doughty is an Asian American writer living in Boston, whose work has been published in The Drum, Corium Magazine, and Annalemma, among others. He is almost a lawyer and carries a notebook, air guitar, and inhaler with him wherever he goes. More of his stories can be found at erikdoughty.wordpress.com.

See Erik’s list of 5 Things later this week in our ongoing contributors’ series.