Treehouse

online magazine for short, good writing

Tag: literature

On the Move

by Treehouse Editors

Anita Haas

“No problem.” I assured him on the phone. “Stay as long as you need to. Those bastards.”

How was I going to explain this to my wife?

Not two hours later he was at my door.

“Need some cash to pay the driver?” I looked past him for the cab.

“Came on the subway.”

“And your bags? You bringing them later?” I eyed his beloved trumpet case.

He pushed past me into the sitting room where we had jammed together so often over the years; playing music, drinking, smoking, toking, detoxing, retoxing, re-detoxing.

Over.

The years.

He staggered to the couch next to my piano, brushed aside some of my kid’s Legoes, collapsed onto it, and gave the trumpet case an affectionate pat.

“Got all I need right here.”


Anita Haas is a Canadian writer based in Madrid, Spain. She has published books on film, as well as two novelettes, a short story collection, and articles, poems and fiction in both English and Spanish. In 2015, three of her flash stories won prizes. Her free time is spent listening to flamenco with her husband and two cats.

Dear Gram

by Treehouse Editors

Chelsea Catherine

Dear Gram,

It’s Pride season again. The last Pride I went to, I was living in Vermont and after the parade, I broke up with a girl, even though we were barely dating. We watched the parade and then I took her out to our final meal together. We sat outside in the sun with the lake just down the street. I drank a beer and ordered mac and cheese. I don’t remember what she got. I don’t even remember what she was wearing or what I was talking about when it happened.

I think I was mentioning my new place, and how she would never see it. Maybe I was referring to the ugly brown carpeting, or the pasty off-white walls. I didn’t have enough of your paintings to cover them. I hung three in the living room, one in the bathroom, and two in the bedroom, but it still felt bare. That apartment in Vermont was never really right. None of that year in Vermont was ever right, no matter how hard I tried to make it. I couldn’t understand how you can go back to a place that’s your home – the place where you were born and raised – and after ten years away everything was unrecognizable. All my friends were different. They had babies and husband and new houses to live in. The buildings downtown had all changed, and the roads didn’t feel like mine anymore.

I like my new apartment in Florida better, even though it’s so small. It’s all one room, thesame size as the living room I had in Vermont. The walls are still white, but the tile is orange and blue here. It gives the space this spark. Your paintings all fit where I can see them. One of the wood frames is broken – it cracked apart at the crease in one corner – and I haven’t figured out how to fix it. I don’t have the tools. I left everything in Vermont except three suitcases, and even though I’ve been here for almost five months now, I keep expecting to have my old stuff. I keep reaching for things that aren’t there anymore. Ghost hammers and screwdrivers, old clothes and blankets I always had with me.

It’s been like that a lot here. I keep reaching out to people, too, but it’s all new and the trust isn’t there yet. I’m not close to people like I used to be. When I’ve had a really bad day, I’ll run down to the beach and watch how the colors of the sunset blend across the bay. I’m proud of living on my own down here, but at the same time there’s still something so unsettled in me.

I miss you, Gram. I wish you were down the street so I could stop by after work when thedays are really long. I wish I could sit in the kitchen with you like we used to and read the newspaper and you could tell me that things were going to be okay. Money is going to even out. I’m not going to get my heart broken by girls anymore. I wish you were here to hug me.

Now, when it’s nighttime and the heat bugs are chirping outside, and I’m crying or sadover something, all I want is one of your stupid tuna salad sandwiches and the smell of your house. I miss the basement with your stacks of soup and sauce and beans. I miss the kitchen table and the ugly shag carpeting in your living room. Your pantry stock is all gone now. The shag carpeting, too. Dad ripped it all up about a year ago and found wood floors underneath it. Dad has gotten rid of a lot of things, and he’s painting the kitchen over, too. It doesn’t smell like you anymore. It doesn’t feel like your house. Now whenever I’m visiting him and we stop by, I find trinkets of yours that have been left – teapots, pictures, old mason jars. I keep collecting them, these tiny pieces of you.

Soon it’ll be the four-year anniversary of your death. They say it gets easier with time,but you came to me in a dream two months ago. You were standing right there next to the bed with your old brown smock and your hair combed out like for church, so tangible it almost felt like you were really there.

Xoxo

Chels


Chelsea Catherine won the Mary C Mohr nonfiction award through the Southern Indiana Review in 2018. Her novella Blindsided won the Clay Reynolds competition and was published in October of 2018. Her novel Summer of the Cicadas won the Quill Prose Award and will be published in 2020. Find her at chelseacatherinewriter.com.

Breakfast with Marge

by Treehouse Editors

Deborah Thompson

she was hard-shelled and brittle
a soft-boiled smooth oval of
silk gloss and rich sulfur paste
thick enough to stick to the roof of
your mouth, your tongue, your teeth
clinging and hard to swallow.

she left persistent flicks of jelly-glue
that dried like shredded snake skin
on the cold surface of the kitchen table
and jaw-jarring hidden grit bits
opaque and sharp as glass, to remain
embedded in soft gum tissue
for hours, days, years.

care must be taken.
one slip could send her hurtling
through the air, a bursting mass
of slippery-hot goo and
stinging shell shards to the back
of your unsuspecting head
viscous drippings down your bare neck.

turn quickly to see her
once again polished, intact.
think it was imagined, think
it must have been.
then notice you have taken to
tip-toeing around her, not to feel
the scattered fragments as
they cut into your feet.


Deborah Thompson writes mostly short, memoir-themed poetry. Her hope is that her poetry will ring true to the experience of her readers, and that they will feel accompanied and empowered to speak their own truth. She has previously been published in the 16th edition of PoemMemoirStory, a literary journal of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Impression-Management Consultant

by Treehouse Editors

Jim Richards

A homeless man wearing a black overcoat, standing before a shop window, looks through his reflection to a leather jacket hanging on a headless mannequin. A rat peeks at him from the gutter grate, watching for crumbs to fall from bread the man keeps in his holey pockets. The man and the rat are on intimate terms since they share this corner of sidewalk. Between them, rushes a stream of people, each with a phone in hand, except for one young woman who is carrying a book. As the rain comes on, the people rush faster, and the sound of their shoes on wet cement increases the city’s treble. The rain comes harder, and the rat ducks into his crack, the homeless man wanders off, and the woman, who is wearing heels, hurries down the sidewalk holding the book above her head.


Jim Richards’ poems have been nominated for Best New Poets, two Pushcart Prizes, and have appeared recently in Sugar House Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Southern Poetry Review, South Carolina Review, Juked, Comstock Review, Cumberland River Review and others. He lives in eastern Idaho’s Snake River valley and has received a fellowship from the Idaho Commission on the Arts. jim-richards.com

50

by Treehouse Editors

Jim Richards

It’s a crowbar someone left on the side
of the freeway after changing a flat tire
at two a.m. No one knows how that bar
worked its way to the middle of the lane
where you are speeding,
   distracted by an old song.

It’s a canoe someone dragged ashore
well beyond the water, or maybe
the water has receded; either way
you cannot launch the boat alone
where you want it to rock
   on a surface between two skies.

It’s the mattress you were hauling in your pickup
that flew out and is spinning on the highway
like a fallen skater in your rearview mirror,
opposed to what you used to behold
through a clean windshield:
   limitless highway, with exits.


Jim Richards’ poems have been nominated for Best New Poets, two Pushcart Prizes, and have appeared recently in Sugar House Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Southern Poetry Review, South Carolina Review, Juked, Comstock Review, Cumberland River Review and others. He lives in eastern Idaho’s Snake River valley and has received a fellowship from the Idaho Commission on the Arts. jim-richards.com

A Simile for His Voice

by Treehouse Editors

Sara Pirkle

Like the compass in a bat’s brain
guiding it through glassy nights
to light on damp grass and worry mice
from their hushed hiding spots,
his voice inhabits my head, scrambles
the channels so that my thoughts
keep returning to evenings in his bed,
when we tenderly troubled back
the spread and dismantled
each other with trembling hands,
pleasure lurking like landmines.


Sara Pirkle is the author of The Disappearing Act, which won the 2016 Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry. Her poems have been published in Rattle, Reed, Entropy, TAB, The Raintown Review, Emrys, and Atticus Review, among others. Sara has received writing fellowships from The Anderson Center, I-Park Foundation, and The Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences. She is the Assistant Director of Creative Writing at The University of Alabama, where she also hosts the Pure Products Reading & Lecture Series.

Grow Your Own

by Treehouse Editors

Peter Amos

“Hey’all got’dem garden-maters?”​  The sun sank and his wind-cut chin followed the line of my finger to a table full of Better Boys, Beefsteaks, and Lifters heaped in shoddy pyramids on plastic trays.

Hours ago I threw the wheel of a rusty Chevy and lurched off Montford Rd in a cloud of rusty dust. Jimmy looked up from a low, bushy mass of cucumber tendrils and grimaced as I parked the truck alongside an unruly forsythia bush.

Stakes over my bare shoulder, hammer in hand, I waded into the rows. Sun scorched my back and sandpaper stems scraped hot pink lines over my dirty arms. I lifted the hammer high and brought it down with a thud. Again and again, metal drove bleached wood deep into the mulch where thistles gathered in bunches.

Twine crisscrossed the row, one stake to the next, searing a line into the crook of my neck as I tugged. I smeared wet clay on my face, embraced three sticky tomato vines, and lifted the fruit clear of the fetid puddles on the ground. I yanked the coarse string tight, wringing a drop of blood, and the plants jerked to attention.

In the next field, Jimmy walked with an armload of tiny light green plants; three or four leaves each and a curl from the sun. We’d cover them from the heat and weed ceaselessly in the coming weeks. By September we’d be dragging twine again, bent double in the sweltering air.

We slowly filled dusty black crates, plucking green fruit from the vine at the first hint of color. Smart shoppers buy that way, ripen three or four in a brown bag on a window sill, and eat when they’re ripe. Sliced thick with salt and pepper on white bread. With the flat-bed loaded, we bounced onto the pavement and drove carefully back to town. Jimmy leaned out the open window and grinned a watermelon slice in the highway air. We were scarred by sun, bloodied by thistles, and covered in mud with two hundred pounds of produce in tow. The only way to be.

The heat rose off the blacktop in waves, blurring the potted verbena and delicate vinca that wilted in the soggy air. I rested one hand on my hip and the other on the side of the dusty table in the tangerine light of the sinking sun. He evaluated the day’s haul, holding each fruit close to his scornful eye.

“Ya’ll pick ‘em too early.”​ He spat through a mouthful of dip.

I rolled my eyes from behind the ancient register. Good thing Jimmy left for the day.

His nose pointed and brow arched as he inspected a limey pink variegated Better Boy in the shade of the tent.

“​2.49 a pound? Shit boy, ya’ll robbin’ me.”


Peter Amos is a native of rural Virginia. The son of an English teacher and a librarian, he studied music in college and moved to New York where he works, performs, and writes. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Brevity, The Museum of Americana, Bitter Southerner, and others.