online magazine for short, good writing

Month: July, 2014

5 Bodies of Water I’m Obsessed With

by a contributor

from Caroline Kessler, author of A Conversation in the Columbarium

  1. Lake Temescal in Oakland, California: a man-made lake tucked in between two highways (the 24 and 13), encrusted with trees, a beach of rock-sand, sun-facing and you can be so warm and sweater-less until late evening, even in winter
  2. The Pacific Ocean: an obvious one but there is so much nuance to it, how it feels in southern California (warm, soothing, sun-drenched) and the northern part of the same state (bone-cutting cold, echoing with fog horns, slippery)
  3. The water around Point State Park in Pittsburgh: the point of confluence of the Allegheny and Monogahela rivers, where they form the Ohio River, the West End bridge arching yellow in the background
  4. The Laccadive Sea: or Lakshadweep Sea, where I swam fully-clothed, chanting a song to welcome the last of the whales that season, bordering India (including the Lakshadweep islands), the Maldives, and Sri Lanka
  5. Ship Bay: a U-shape of saltwater marsh alongside Orcas Island, Washington, where the pink and violet starfish taunt you from your kayak with their ability to hang on to the sliming rocks

A Conversation in the Columbarium

by a contributor

Caroline Kessler

In the country of us, no one speaks the local language.
        We catalog the comings of the day, the goings
of the night with a few gestures. In our old country, I tried
        to be the flourish, a gold-sheen self that went out dancing every night,
tripped home every morning with whisky-hair and cottonhead, repeating
          the filthy things I muttered under sheets, outside a bar,
between cigarettes / I used them the next night
          and the next, because I could.

I did this again and again, spinning myself
          into something so unrecognizable, even to you.

When you ask me, which part of your body feels most neglected?
my answers come days apart, stilted:
          a nest of tapioca pearls I hold in my mouth
          legs straight, bending over in ragdoll pose, shaking my head
          a squeegee (wet from the shower) that I slide along my ribs

Caroline Kessler is a writer, editor, and facilitator currently living in south Berkeley. Her poetry and prose has been published in The Susquehanna Review, Sundog Lit, sparkle&blink, Superstition Review, Anderbo, and elsewhere. Stalk her online at

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

Notice about Submissions

by Treehouse Editors

Hi everybody!!

We’re very excited to announce that beginning August 16, 2014, we will only be accepting submissions via Submittable.  (Don’t worry: it’s still free to submit!)

As of today, July 24, 2014, we ask that you please hold off on sending us submissions until that time.  This gives us adequate time to seamlessly make the switch without the risk of new incoming submissions getting lost in the fray.  If you have recently sent a submission via e-mail, please know it is still being reviewed and will not be neglected as a result of the submission manager change.

We hope moving to Submittable will make it easier for you to submit your pieces to us for review.  We also intend for the switch to help cut down on the delay in response time.

The link to our Submittable site is already on our submissions page, but again, you will not be able to submit until August 16, 2014.  Submissions sent to the e-mail address previously listed on our submissions page after this date will not receive consideration.

All of the same guidelines for submitting creative material remain the same.  The only change is where you’ll send it.

Please note: Submissions for the currently active Brief Encounter prompt are not affected by this change.  You may continue to send Brief Encounter submissions for review to treehouse[dot]editors[at]gmail[dot]com. 

Brief Encounter: Refrigerator Magnets

by Treehouse Editors

 CALL | FOR | SUBMISSIONS | SEND | US | YOUR | BEST | REFRIGERATOR | INSPIRED | POETRY | FICTION | NON-FICTION | GENRE-BENDER | <400 words | .doc file | deadline AUGUST 1 | treehouse[dot]editors[at]gmail[dot]com

45 | 50 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | & | ? | a | | a | about | above | airplane
all | alphabet | am | and | and | and | animal |apostle| answer | anyone | 
anything | amphibian | adamant | are | are | asparagus | astronomy | at
aunt | autumn | baby | bad | ball | ballerina | balloon | barn | base 
basket | bathroom | because | begin | believe | best | big | bike | bird
birthday | bite | bite | black | blue | body | book | bored | born | 
bottom | box | box | boy | breakfast | bring | bricks | Bronx |
brother | brown | beam | bug | but | butterfly | by | candy | can’t
car | castle | cat | cat | chair | child | chocolate | close | cloud | 
Dad | dance | dark | day | day | did | different | dinner | dream | do 
do | does | dog | don’t | door | down | draw | disappear | dug | dull | 
ear | easy | eat | ed | eight | elements | elephant | er | exercise | ed
fall | family | far | fast | fat | favorite | favorite | fed | feet | for
fight | fish | flow | five | flower | fly | fly | for | four | France| 
friend | from | full | funny | gentle | geometry | gown | gender |grant|go
get | girl | give | glow | good | graffiti | gasp | greed | green | 
her | here | hid | hide | high | him | hit | hold | home | homework | hot 
hug | hungry | I | I | I | invite | if | imagine | important | in | ing 
ing | inside | is | is | Japan | jump | junior  | just| kind | king | kiss
lichen | laugh | leave | luscious | light | like | like | little | listen
live | limb | look | looking | loud | love | lunch | ly | astronaut | mad
magic | man | many | me | midnight | miss | Mom | monkey | monkey |
monster | more | morning | mountain | moss | mud | music | my | name | 
napkin | near | nest | never | New York | newspaper | next | next | night 
nine | no | noon | nose | not | notebook | of | once | once | one | one | 
or | or | over | over | paint | peace | peanut butter | photograph | pink 
pumpkin | purple | queen | Queens | quiet | race | rain | raft | ran | 
read | real | remember | ride | ring | room round | round | rude | s | s | 
solid | said | sail | saw | say | school | see | seven | share | she |safe
spring | square | start | stop | storm | story | strawberry | swaying | 
summer | swim | take | teacher | telephone | television | tell | that |
that | their | them | there | think | three | tiger | time | to | to | 
told | too | tool | top | town | truth | tree | TV | US | utter | under | 
used | vacation | very | video | want | warm | was | what | withdraw|water
whatever | when | where | who | why | whisper | white | wild | will | will 
wind | window | wing | winter | wish | with | with | woman | won’t | world 
you | yell | yellow | yes | yesterday | you | you | young | your | zebra

5 Things I Would Eat Every Day If Doing So Wouldn’t Harm Me or My Wallet

by a contributor

from Eric Howerton, author of  Scientists Confirm the Physical Properties of Negative Emotions and The Decree:

  1. Mushrooms

    While growing your own mushrooms at home isn’t as difficult as you might think (I’ve had luck with king oysters, shiitakes, and pioppinos), the most delicious species are still the priciest and hardest to cultivate. Temperamental truffles, morels, and chanterelles are largely foraged from the wild, and these fungi fetch a pretty penny at the grocer’s. Even though you might think Utah is too dry for mushrooms, I found a medium-size morel growing behind my shed the morning I was to drive out of state for a friend’s wedding. Rather than letting it go to waste, I brought the mushroom with me and cooked it in a shallow pool of butter on the hot plate of my hotel room coffee machine. As I chomped down on the earthy delicacy I thought, “I do.” And every time I check behind the shed for morels that never appear, I wish I could do it all over again.

  2. Foie Gras

    Let’s get one thing straight: geese are jerks. One of my earliest childhood memories is being attacked by geese on the banks of a lake in Minnesota, and a woman I once dated became the target of a pursuing honker at an eco-resort in Costa Rica. Bottom line, most animals deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. But not geese. They’re crotchety, cantankerous, and downright mean. If you ask me, they’re asking for it. So go ahead and force-feed a goose until its liver swells with fat. Then pan fry that liver and serve it to me with some fruit compote. I’ll gobble it down and feel vindicated every time.

  3. Food Truck Tacos 

    After a few years living in Pennsylvania (where a certain chain of Mexican restaurants serves Southern-style corn bread with your meal—what’s up with that?) I moved to Houston, TX and was excited by the city’s food culture. But the Tex-Mex restaurants quickly proved disappointing—a mix of lightly sautéed tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos is not a proper sauce for someone raised on the majesty of New Mexico red and green chile. However, Houston’s taco trucks were a revelation. The mobile taquerias, of which there are dozens, if not hundreds, serve some of the best pastor, fajita, and pollo tacos I’ve ever had. And on handmade tortillas to boot. But the real treats were the “specialty” meats, the bits most people discard or make faces at: tripas (intestines; order them extra crispy), lengua (braised beef tongue that could easily pass for lean pot roast), mollejas (creamy, slippery sweetbreads) and barbacoa (shredded beef cheeks). In the first year alone I insulated my own tripas with a ten-pound spare tire that kept me rolling from truck to truck to truck with a smile plastered on my salsa-scorched lips.

  4. Beer 

    No doubt about it, alcohol is poison. But beer tastes great. What a dilemma. I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill American lager. I’m talking about West Coast IPAs where mingling malts and hops produce citrus, mango and pineapple flavors. I’m talking about Belgian gueuzes, a blend of barrel-aged beers soured by natural fermentation that lends a vinegary bite. I’m talking about wild ales whose aromas are reminiscent (in a good way) of trips to the petting zoo. The spectrum of flavors you can coax out of boiled malt, water, and yeast is one of the world’s many wonders. But to indulge in such a delight will rot you from the inside out. I guess it’s a kind of gastronomic karma that if you consume something in excess it will eventually about-face and consume you right back. 

  5. A Pound of Cheese 

    My grandfather passed away from a heart attack before his 60th birthday. My grandmother had high cholesterol, as does my mother. During my last physical, my doctor said my lipids were a wee bit high and I should keep an eye on them. I took his advice and headed straight to the market, gazing longingly at imported goat- and sheep-milk rounds. If ever I was forced to choose between meat and cheese, I’d give meat free range to take a hike while I sat in the shade of a tree and scooped the insides of a Camembert wheel with a crusty loaf of bread, consoling myself with every unctuous bite.


The Decree

by a contributor

Eric Howerton

Because we’d lost our sense of value, the day came when the animals voted us out of our cities and towns and homesteads. Their spokesman—a giraffe in a cashmere suit—stood before a horned and winged mob. He made a case we couldn’t contest without looking like undignified jerks. And what, if not for our dignity, separated us from the beasts? From fauna who eviscerated their young and creatures wallowing in filth?

“If you truly embrace the spirit of democracy,” the giraffe said eloquently, hoofs pressed against one another in quiet majesty. “If you truly believe that the vote of every sentient creature is equal in respect to the vote of every other sentient creature, then we ask that you vacate your residences at once.”

“What about our votes?” our president objected, scrambling so that we might remain in the ranch-style houses and luxury condos we delighted in filling with catalogs and circulars and baubles containing trace poisons and food gone sour. “We haven’t even had a chance to run a campaign.”

“Irrelevant!” the giraffe said with unequivocal force. The mob behind him rose and stirred. “We outnumber you by a wide margin. And everyone, with the exception of the badgers, who are old and tiresome and would rather stay rooted in their dens, wants you to leave.”

It was hard not to take the giraffe seriously. With such a neck, his tie was the longest we’d ever seen.

“I see,” our president said, biting his lip. He conferred with his delegation. “Can we at least come back and visit?”

“Do you not understand the meaning of exile?” the giraffe asked in consternation. 

“But we’ve grown accustomed to a certain standard of living,” one of the pillars of business grumbled. 

“Too bad,” the giraffe said. A brigade of pachyderms stepped forward. Vultures and pigeons circled menacingly overhead. “You’ve grown accustomed to television and clean clothes and Snickers bars.” The giraffe licked his lips: “They’re our Snickers bars now.”


The following day we packed our bags and left city life behind. From the rolling hills we watched in despair as the animals moved into our former homes, assuming the roles we’d abandoned. We found flat patches of arable land and sowed seed and built lean-tos from thatch and twig. Some expired from eating noxious weeds, which was sad, but no sadder than the many who expired each day from electrical failures and plummeting elevators and the reckless behaviors guiding the wheel.

Thankfully, nobody has tried to construct a new city or resurrect the old ways. Once habituated to the chill of the public bath—a small pool fed by a breathtaking cataract—there isn’t much to be missed. Each day begins with the sun and ends with the stars. I no longer dread the workweek or fantasize of hurling my boss out the window because there is no workweek and there are no bosses. In the wild, everyone is equal. Some days our former leader—who I call Nate now instead of President Rutherford—brings me a handful of berries. Some days I bring Nate a blistered potato hot from the coals. Together we sit on the bluffs and crack jokes about an impatient turtle cursing the creeping drive-thru, a coyote howling at the indifferent customer service rep, a confused bat being asked, “Which is clearer—A? Or B?” We laugh and laugh. We die in different and occasionally gruesome ways out here, but we laugh all the same.

Eric Howerton is a graduate in Fiction from the University of Houston’s PhD in Creative Writing and Literature and from the Pennsylvania State University’s now-defunct MFA program. He lives and teaches in Ogden, UT where he spends his days skiing, hiking, writing, gardening, and seeking out native mushrooms. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK, Revolver, The Masters Review, Driftwood Press, Foliate Oak, and others. 

See Eric’s list of 5 Things tomorrow.

Scientists Confirm the Physical Properties of Negative Emotions

by a contributor

Eric Howerton

Freeing himself from envy, gravity no longer held him. Below, he saw dots that used to be people. Smaller and smaller each one. Every new breath buoyed him toward space, distancing him from the world of bonds, securities and insecurities, gabled roofs, prized possessions. Gold chains. Above, the great nothing. Above, the possibility of never falling down. The clouds were his company now. And soon, the stars.

Eric Howerton is a graduate in Fiction from the University of Houston’s PhD in Creative Writing and Literature and from the Pennsylvania State University’s now-defunct MFA program. He lives and teaches in Ogden, UT where he spends his days skiing, hiking, writing, gardening, and seeking out native mushrooms. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK, Revolver, The Masters Review, Driftwood Press, Foliate Oak, and others. 

See more from Eric tomorrow.