online magazine for short, good writing

Month: August, 2013

This Week in Words – Aug 31

by Treehouse Editors

compiled by Rachel Bondurant

First off, a hearty thanks to Michael Chaney for mentioning us on his blog. We published his piece “Futility Company” last winter and immediately followed it with his highly unique addition to our 5 Things series, which he goes out of his way to praise.

Slate just blogged about introverts and why they’re so awesome (according to the Internet, at least). I’m including this almost exclusively so I can also mention the hilarious and not-at-all uncharacteristic response in defense of extroverts.

Equally hilarious are these notes from William T. Vollmann’s FBI file, amassed during the time period he was suspected of being the Unabomber. To be fair, the FBI had this overwhelmingly compelling evidence from which to draw their conclusions: both Vollmann and the Unabomber counted their written works by word (Hey, they both write and that’s a writer thing!); they both dislike the idea of editing their work (Such unconscionable hubris – only these two individuals could have the gall to think such things!); and Vollmann may or may not own a flamethrower (Oh, well, um, fair point, FBI). I’m sold. I think we can call this one.

This is probably the best argument for the humanities I’ve heard yet.

This week I’m recommending you read the work of a former contributor of ours: Michael Landweber. He has a novel coming out September 1st called We that, sight unseen, looks completely worthy of reading and recommending (I’ll be ordering it from Amazon). And if you don’t believe me, read his story “Climate Change” which we published with pleasure this past February. We were right about that one, weren’t we?

5 “Back to School” Rituals to Keep in Adulthood

by a contributor

from JJ Lynne, author of Footnotes to Family Recipes:

  1. Purchase fresh pens and notebooks. That bulk of blank pages glaring up at you accusingly as you write out your grocery list will make you feel guilty of neglect. Soon, you will be grabbing one of your virgin pens and staining those pure, white sheets with it.
  2. Reinvent and restock your wardrobe. Slipping into a new skin every now and then will act as a reminder that we all wear some sort of mask – the one that you put on each day should be one that you’ve carefully chosen.
  3. Adopt a gung-ho approach to all work-related tasks for the first two weeks of September. Remember that initial burst of creativity and that ambitious will to outshine your peers that you felt back at the start of kindergarten? Give that a try again. This go-getter spirit will survive briefly before it becomes exhausting, and like your five year old self, you will soon be coloring outside of the lines and throwing tantrums again. Enjoy the self-satisfaction while it lasts.
  4. Adhere to a syllabus of reading and writing assignments. This self-prescribed list does not need to be as stringent as the meticulously outlined course designed by your college physics professor, but having an outline for the year ahead will make you accountable for giving yourself time to learn and create. This should keep your brain lubricated until Christmas, when the holidays will dissolve your determination in fizzy glasses of spiked cider and champagne.
  5. Cultivate the craft of brown-bag lunches. Let’s face it, writers and artists don’t have day jobs because we are breaking bank by fulfilling our passions. Fall back on that good ol’ PB&J sandwich and save that lunch money for a spring break trip to anywhere but here.

Footnotes to Family Recipes

by a contributor

JJ Lynne

1. Separation is natural.

Ever since I moved out, the batch of groceries that she leaves for me repeats like an untreated case of acid reflux. The contents in the single brown paper bag are always the same, but the frequency changes. For the first month it was weekly, because my old room was ripe with the smell of me – reminding her consistently that somewhere outside of the newly whitewashed womb there was a funhouse mirror of her. That month, the groceries were accompanied by quick talks over burnt coffee about me going for my GED and shedding my anxiety like dead cabbage leaves.

2. No substitutions.

Eventually, the food cropped up on the kitchen table every other week like a lukewarm lover slowly pulling the perforated edge of that damn paper bag away from the zipper-toothed seam, removing the stability of the united paper ream. By the middle of the third month, Aunt Alma had to call her with an assault of accusations, a parade of faults pounding through the hall – an entire procession headed into a single boiling pot. The bag would arrive on the apartment steps two days later: sorry I missed you. Without looking in I can name every imperishable that is pulled from the bag like a white rabbit from a black hat – predictable, without room for grey area:

two jars of crunchy peanut butter, tar-thick with the sound of static as I chew,
two loaves of market brand bread (because Hostess folded like a paper fan and left me without Wonder),
one gallon of raspberry ginger ale: mild astringent,
one box of Cheez-Its,
a gallon of whole milk – pasteurized and virgin pure,
a value pack of instant Mac ’n’ Cheese,
a box of Oreos to keep the theme: our black tie affair, bleached bondage,
and lastly, a few rolls of toilet paper to wipe everything clean.

That ought to sustain me for two days, perhaps three. Doesn’t she remember what it’s like to be nineteen and ravenous, hungering for everything that can be consumed, orally and otherwise? The nourishment that she gives is processed and preserved, salt-soaked and sprinkled with traces of formaldehyde. Perhaps if I were emulsified like the peanut spread in those plastic jars, she would be my mother again. She must be tired of my body being a question mark, neck bent to avoid hitting my head on the low doorframes, a dick drooping where I thought a period should sit.

3. No preservatives added.
I’ve stopped eating all of that shit and am spending my nights pressing her paper bags into origami fortune tellers. Aunt Alma is afraid that I am becoming one of them, collapsing in on myself again. Last time it took five firemen and three paramedics to get me out of my clementine crate, bedroom doors and windows boarded to keep me fresh and safe from pressure, exposure to the elements. All I wanted was to taste a bit of citrus, to feel what organic means: without any masking tape over my crotch or black finger paint tire-tracked under my lids. In the two weeks at the hospital they pulled back my pleated layers and saw every omen written on my skin. I was telling my own fortune then.

4. Stirring of contents may be necessary.
Hers are like conjugal visits. They serve one purpose: to fulfill her need for self-satisfaction, some thinly sliced version of what she calls love. The only things that we share are twin eyes and a pack of cigarettes. When she says Ethan, I say I prefer Collette. That’s the catalyst that forces Gemini irises to collide like meteors, ashes slipping from cigarette butts, lashes dripping with mascara slag. You know I can’t handle this. I am not sure which one of us said it, but I know we both feel its residue in our mouths like morning breath. Alcohol will burn it out. Mom orders hers shaken, not stirred. I am wondering how to say that in me there is a girl like her, grinding against a grate, her chafed image falling into a glass where she will conglomerate with a hard cock, a baritone echo – anything that operates like a man. My hands are saying more than lips, like oracles pulling meaning from the tabletop’s Ouija placemats. Tonight each limb is a tarot card waiting to be turned over, and before I let go of her, I will show mother every card in the deck.

JJ Lynne is a recent graduate of Merrimack College and recipient of the Bishop Markham Medal. Her poems have won first and second prizes in the Rev. John R. Aherne Poetry Contest and her writing has appeared in Common Ground Review and Meat for Tea. JJ currently works as a library assistant and looks forward to seeing her work in forthcoming issues of Mock Orange Magazine and PANK’s online edition.

This Week in Words – Aug 24

by Treehouse Editors

compiled by Rachel Bondurant

Crime novelist Elmore Leonard died this week at the age of 87. Here’s his obit in The New York Times.

Speaking of crime (if only a little), this article in The New Yorker caught my eye both as a former student of criminology and as a leftie. Fortunately for me and my left-handed brethren, the criminal theory is largely debunked. Also on the plus side, though we may have a hard time finding a pair of scissors or a spiral notebook we can use easily (not to mention keeping the ink from smearing on the page!), we could be president! Also, we’re very smart. Color me surprised.

Here Junot Diaz talks about his process and other assorted things, like male strippers and the zombie apocalypse.

I’m recommending you read something Roxane Gay recommended you read a few weeks ago for Electric Lit’s Recommended Reading series. If you think that’s a sentence, take a deep breath, hold it, and marvel at these sentences in Lindsay Hunter’s “Three Things You Should Know about Peggy Paula.” Just when I think I’ve made up my mind about the rules of the English language and how they mustn’t be broken, I find a story like this.

Excerpts from “The Diary of Noah’s Wife”

by a contributor

Angel Zapata

Day One:

Sealed within this ark, we are shadows amid swine and wild feathers. My tongue rehearses raven shrieks. Noah grunts, shivers beside me; strong arms lasso my shoulders. We’d run barefoot through sky tears hours ago. Now mud between my toes is cold.

Day Three:

The songbirds nudge me awake. They perch on crossbeams, knit nests of straw; plucked human hair. I rub my scalp. Noah smoothes his gray beard. Wings lash air, spawn dust storms. I rise, tear the fabric of my hem, offer bright spun thread to the first brave beak.

Day Seven:

I feed more anonymous beasts today. My hands are a whetstone for black hirsute splinters. One gold brute lumbers close, nuzzles my thigh and hip; baptizes with whiskers and purrs. The bittersweet stink of earth and fur anoints my skin.

Day Twelve:

The constant creak of wood spurns a cruel voice. Noah drops his feed pail, cocks an ear—listens. He holds his scarred hands over torch flame and translates. The sun, he says, is a woman I fail to recall the moment she leaves the room.

Day Sixteen:

Noah dreamt of drowning again; his body, bloated—ocean creatures of the deep snapped their teeth. I dab his eyes with lamb’s wool. Our three sons, he says, were bent over the ship rails, dripping salt into an already swollen sea. My neck filters his screams.

Day Twenty:

Muted laughter: my eldest son, his wife. I spy below the stable wall. He kneels before her, cheek to bulging belly. She stands above him, rubs his hair. The foal beside me blinks. We’ll call him Noah, she says. I know joy floats high above the ruined Earth.

Day Twenty-Seven:

The army of ants and honeybees that interrupt the moon and stars burrow holes in Noah’s mind. He battles insomnia, builds a cradle for an unborn grandchild. Imagine, he says, we’re swaddled within it. Our eyes close. The ark sways as the animals shift their weight.

Day Thirty-one:

I bleed again. Earth clings to the body like grass blades. The waters shake their hips and tease. You are a tarnished cup, they sing. But this clever loam mocks them with seed. Seeing color between these legs restores the garden. Oh, how I’ve missed these red blooms.

Day Thirty-Eight:

Sometimes the donkeys kick at stall planks, ache for the open fields of yesterday. Noah shields his ears. The unnerving noise reminds him too much of that last day on dry land. He hears those fists pound again and again against the ark’s closed door.

Day Forty:

At midnight, my husband stirs me from fitful sleep, whispers my name with burning kisses. He presses his flesh against mine, enters me from behind. We become wolves howling in the darkness.


Angel Zapata is the recipient of the 2012 Mariner Award for Bewildering Stories’ most outstanding flash fiction work of the year, “Carrion Folk.” His first poetry chapbook collection, “An Offering of Ink and Feathers,” was just published. Visit him at

This Week in Words – Aug 17

by Treehouse Editors

compiled by Rachel Bondurant

The new school year is upon us! I can already hear the petulant adolescent grumbling. But for you older folks, wise enough to appreciate being in school while you can, I have a list for you. Well, actually Flavorwire does, but you get my point. It’s literary colleges! Twenty-five of them!

Ron Burgundy is publishing a book about how brilliant and classy he is. You heard me.

Read this: “A Short Story Written with Thought-to-Text Technology” by Jesse Eisenberg in The New Yorker. If thought-to-text technology were a thing, this wouldn’t be too far from what my own resultant work would look like. Minus all the stuff about the girl.

Five of the Best Inanimate Object Cuddlers for When You’re Feeling Alone and Ignored

by a contributor

from Diana Mumford, author of Lullaby:

  1. Layers of week-old newspapers warmed by the sun.
  2. Persian wool rugs purchased from estate sales (little to no stains, if possible).
  3. Floor length white curtains, preferably softly billowing.
  4. Seatbelts with hand-knitted cozies.
  5. Furry sleeved blankets from the bottom shelf of the impulse aisle at the local grocery store.