online magazine for short, good writing

Month: July, 2013

Five Limericks Your Uterus Only Recites After Her Second Glass of Chardonnay

by a contributor

from Alexis Larkin, author of A Message from Your Womb:


There once was a man from Eatontown
Who ate his meals with a hound dog frown.
With each mouthful he groaned
Until his poor wife moaned:
If it’s that bad, you can Eatontown!

No, I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine. Here’s another.

There once was a lady from Hardwick
Who needed to be lit up right quick.
She found a small candle,
Not too fun to handle,
But at least it had a nice Hardwick.

I’m not . . . they’re not funny if I explain them.

There once was a lass from Hackensack
Who fell hard for a guy named Big Mac.
When he didn’t feel well,
She said, oh what the hell
As long as you do not Hackensack.

Is anyone else hot in here? I mean, it’s hot right?

There once was a gal from Ho-Ho-Kus
Whose evening stroll caused a ruckus.
Asked why do the night crawl
If it makes us all bawl?
Her profound response: a Ho-Ho-Kus.

Wait was that one a limerick? Hold on, hold on, hold on, I got one.

There once was a real cad from Haysworth
Who just thought of merry, fun, and mirth.
Soon enough he will learn:
Nine months on a wee bairn
Costs more than a roll in the Haysworth.

I think it is time to go home now.

A Message from Your Womb

by a contributor

Alexis Larkin


DATE: APRIL 11, 2013


Summer is coming! You are going to look fabulous in that canary sundress, and we are going to have so much fun at the beach. I’m sure we’ll also go to a bunch of BBQs and maybe that week at the lake if you can’t get out of it this year. That is my reason for writing.

I know there’s no better place for your family and friends to hide away and beat the heat than grabbing a cold brew and pulling up a seat in me – your rad uterus. Trust me, I get it. It’s great in here. And as Aunt Millie told you at Christmas, you’re not doing much with me anyway.

But I have to tell you, it’s getting a little crowded in here. I’m still trying to clear out your tax documents (way to go on the bank interest by the way) and there’s that Miss Marple Mystery Marathon we’re planning for August (I still think the living room makes more sense). When people start wandering in my direction, if you could try to move the conversation back out of your womb – I mean if it’s not too much trouble – that would be awesome. I’ve thought through a couple of scenarios to help (you’ve totally converted me to outlining!):


  1. Complete strangers who ask about what comes out of your vagina
    1. I have had it with these people. I don’t know if they’re uncomfortable and don’t know what to say, and this is their knee-jerk reaction to anyone in her 30s who isn’t wearing a nursing bra, but I really don’t care.
    2. My Proposal? The Conversation Ender. The next time we’re in the grill line and someone asks when I’m going to make some space for a fetus, please try: I am waiting for my Lord Satan to tell me it is time to bring forth the Spawn. Who would respond to that? Plus it may get us to cheeseburger faster.
  2. Mom
    1. This is the woman who has been talking to people in checkout lines about your “heavy flow” for 20 years. A little Dark Prince quip is not going to shut her down. Don’t bother saying you don’t know if you want a baby. Your sister tried that, and Mom told her she didn’t know what she wanted, of course she wanted a baby, and the conversation moved quickly to “cervical mucus.” Letting her in on your fertility issues would be a mistake too. She may be comforting at first, but it will likely turn out she knows someone who knows someone whose cousin went to a retreat in the Adirondacks and then her husband just looked at her and she was pregnant. And by all means don’t tell her you’re trying, that will only move the conversation further up here. I would not be surprised if she set up some sort of management desk in the left fallopian tube.
    2. My Proposal? The Throw Back. It’s probably too harsh, but she is a force to be reckoned with: Why? So I can make the baby as miserable as you made me? Just make sure you slur the words and have a whiskey in your hand so she can blame it on the drink. I’m pretty sure that’s how Dad has gotten out of most arguments for the last decade.
  3. Old friends who just had a baby
    1. I thought about leaving your friends off because there is really nothing to stop them from thinking anyone without a baby is leading a barren, meaningless existence even though it was their lot last summer. Remember when you guys would all get together, laugh all night, and talk about the big questions in life? They don’t.
    2. My Proposal? The False Flatter. Turn the conversation to their kid, that’s really what they want to talk about anyway: Why would I try? You’ve already had the perfect baby. Look at that. Did he vomit on your shirt in the shape of the Virgin Mary? Smart and devout. Either way, they’ll need to leave soon to get back to the sitter.


Please try for me; it would mean a lot. I’ll keep working my proposals and get you some “zingers.” I’ll also get the endometrium in order just in case. God, I hope Aunt Millie doesn’t wear heels again.

Alexis Larkin lives and writes in northern New Jersey. Her uterus prefers Malibu. Alexis’s poetry has been selected for publication in The Barnstormer, Fat City Review, and Pea River Journal.

5 Parts of the Body I Notice in Summer

by a contributor

from Sam Martone, author of Coyote Girl:

  1. Feet, when wading into the rain-swollen creek, when sinking ankle-deep into silt. Lightning cackles from the sky as soon as we get back in the car, as though we summoned it, and my gritty toes feel along the labyrinth of the brake pedal.
  2. Nose, when plagued by a summer cold, when rubbed raw, when blown bruised. It feels like butter at every touch, soft, like it could melt away against my thumb. I hear her sniffling across the room.
  3. Palm, when read beneath a blue umbrella used as shade against the sun. There is a moment of confusion, of crossing lifelines and loveliness. No one can see who it is under here unless they lean over to look.
  4. Hips, when skinny-dipping in a moon-clear pond. She swims over to me, her hair wet and glistening like a ski slope. I can feel the weight of our waists, the heaviness of hips that weigh nothing at all, the parts of our bodies that have between them only just enough water to drown.
  5. Ear, when I whisper into hers even though I should be looking up. The fog will muffle my voice so she won’t have to hear me when I say I can’t tell the difference between the star-strewn sky and the spiraling galaxy of her tiny ear.

Coyote Girl

by a contributor

Sam Martone

She says her spirit animal is a coyote. She says, “Don’t mistake me for a wolf.” She has a grin that bites her bottom lip.

I tell her about the time I was in my garage, door open to the brief autumn. I was putting laundry in the dryer when I heard blown-in leaves crunch behind me.

She has canine teeth dangling from her earlobes. An inky pawprint stamped just above the lowing of her hip.

When I turned, there was a coyote standing beside my car, looking right at me. “I didn’t know they came into the city alone,” I say.

She pinches my butt. She says that I’m a bag of bones. She says, “I’d like to eat you up.”

“That was me,” she says. “Just paying you a visit.” I don’t know how to respond when she tells me things like this.

In the dark, her eyes look yellow. When she climbs on top of me, she leaves her pink socks on.

I’ve read about packs making their way into neighborhoods. Jawing small dogs away from owners, leash and all. Stalking morning joggers.

She loves to rub her feet on the carpet, then crawl back in bed, put her fingers to my lips, to my nipples, see me feel the shock, that worm of static drilling into darkness.

But never a lone coyote getting so close. “I wish I’d had my camera,” I say. “I was scared.”

I take pictures of her in the dark. Before she shaved her head, the flash made her hair sunburst. Some strands silked away from the rest, gravity’s pull ghosted by static.

“I know,” she says. “It was me. The dryer was rattling around like fucking. I wanted to gnaw your arm off.” She says she wanted her teeth to touch bone.

She shaved her haybale of hair off a few weeks ago, buzzed to the horizon of her scalp. I liked that hair. I liked when she mussed it into pigtails, asked me to pull.

I was holding a pair of jeans, heavy from the wet. “You smelled like detergent that night,” she says, “and sandpaper and day-old chewing gum.”

Don’t get me wrong: I like to touch the smoothness of her head now, press my whole palm to it. I want to be there when it turns prickly, then downy soft. When it gets long enough again to tug.

“Why didn’t you just visit me as you?” I ask. She metronomes a finger right in front of my eyes, says, “It doesn’t work that way.”

She tells me coyotes aren’t scavengers. A common misconception. “Opportunists, maybe,” she says. “But we prefer meat that’s fresh.”

I was stuck, staring at the coyote, worried the garage light would time out, terrified of what teeth could sink into—she’d shown me pictures. But it lost interest in me, slipped out into the dark.

Sometimes, we hear the bellow of a train in the night, or fire engines screaming, or the tattooed couple arguing in her apartment complex. “No,” she says. “Shhh. It’s the coyotes.”

“Sorry I couldn’t stay,” she says, leaning back and grabbing me by the ankles. “Sorry I couldn’t puncture the soft spot on your heel.” I wonder where it was she had to go.

All the mechanical clanking of the city, she says it’s coyote bones clattering together. A plane overhead is the ragged lightning of raised hackles. “Listen,” she says, her finger in my mouth.

I stood there, even after it had gone, holding the sopping jeans to my chest. The garage light timed out. I disappeared. I was only the clumsy tumble of feral heartbeats.

The whir and snap of the shutter is the baring of teeth. Now, when I take pictures, her hairless head glares round and bulbous, like the skull of the moon, like it could punch out the sky.

Sam Martone lives in Tempe, Arizona. He has not yet seen coyotes there.

See Sam’s list of 5 Things in our ongoing contributors’ series.

This Week in Words – Jul 20

by Treehouse Editors

compiled by Rachel Bondurant

Tim Kreider has a great essay in The New Yorker Page Turner about the growing insignificance – and mediocrity – of book covers. Being a cartoonist, Kreider included visual aids with the piece. Sadly, though, no cartoons.

Somewhere, a book nerd is planning her dream vacation. I don’t mean me. (I might mean me.)

Here’s a brief note about the grammar-centric tomes that DFW had in his own library, many of which you can now view at UT-Austin’s Harry Ransom Center (should you want to add that to the list you’re compiling from the previous link).

And for reading fun, a couple of short pieces from McSweeney’s Internet Tendency:

This one is almost exactly what I expect takes place anytime there’s construction in or around a building in which I am trying to sleep.

And this one goes out to fellow fans of Star Wars and funny things. (But not racism.)

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.

5 Signs that Your Future Self is Tinkering With Your Timeline

by a contributor

from Stephanie Lynn Devine, author of Womb: