Treehouse

online magazine for short, good writing

Month: February, 2013

1/2 Carat Princess Cut

by Treehouse Editors

a brief encounter by Mary Grace Hammond

It’s been weeks since you caught me on the bathroom floor
soundlessly touching myself, my expression lit

up by the glow of my laptop. I don’t know how
you got the door unlocked, or how bizarre I must

have looked with legs sprawled out and my nose nearly
touching the screen. I guess I can understand how

it hurt your feelings, and why you went through my web
history afterwards, exposing what a true

connoisseur I was and why you hadn’t been touched
in weeks, maybe months. During the fight that ensued

I took off my engagement ring and buried it
in the backyard under my grandmother’s rose bush;

I guess I thought it was a symbolic gesture
or something, only now I’m just pissed that I can’t

find it and pawn it for rent money. But still,
when I’m browsing my favorite online smut,

the screen margins are filled with ads from obscure
jewelry retailers, their diamonds on display at

the most enticing angles, promising pleasure,
urging me to come find the perfect ring.

Brief Encounters: Speed Dating Disaster

by Treehouse Editors

Grab your nametag, scorecard and dazzling personality because the next Brief Encounter is “Speed Dating Disaster.” Efficiency is the name of the game, so think fast because we’re timing you.

Brief Encounters should not be any longer than 400 words. BEs 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 is March 7th.

5 Great New York Times Corrections I Gchatted my Sister About

by a contributor

from Ben Hoffman, author of Next Time They Will Wow Them With The Shiny Stuff:

1. Correction: August 3, 2012

“An obituary on Gore Vidal on Wednesday included several errors. Mr. Vidal called William F. Buckley Jr. a crypto-Nazi, not a crypto-fascist, in a television appearance during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. While Mr. Vidal frequently joked that Vice President Al Gore was his cousin, genealogists have been unable to confirm that they were related. And according to Mr. Vidal’s memoir ‘Palimpsest,’ he and his longtime live-in companion, Howard Austen, had sex the night they met, but did not sleep together after they began living together. It is not the case that they never had sex.”

2. Correction: August 9, 2009

“An article last Sunday about older alumni who have been helped by university career counselors referred imprecisely to David Munson, a 1990 graduate of Lehigh University. Mr. Munson, who lost a job in February when his company was downsized, was speaking generally— not about himself specifically — when he said that newly unemployed people sometimes mope around the house in sweatpants.”

Correction: August 16, 2009 (same article!)

“An article on Aug. 2 about older alumni who have been helped by university career counselors referred imprecisely to comments by a 1990 graduate of Lehigh University who lost his job in February when his company was downsized, and a correction in this space last Sunday misspelled his surname. As the article correctly noted, he is David Monson, not Munson, and he was speaking generally — not about himself — when he said that newly unemployed people sometimes mope around the house in sweatpants.”

3. Correction:

An earlier version of this post mistakenly referred to the Secret Service agents on Mr. Romney’s team as the defensive line. They were acting as the offensive line as Ann Romney threw a touchdown pass.”

4. Correction: January 31, 2013

“An earlier version of this post stated incorrectly that a service hedgehog would be allowed in a store that sells food in New York. Dogs are the only species of service animal allowed in food establishments, according to the city health department. (Hedgehogs are sometimes used as therapy animals.)”

5. Correction: May 1, 1992

“An article in The Living Section on April 15 about luxurious topless clubs misstated the number of topless bars in the United States aimed at a white-collar clientele. It is 50 to 60; the total number of topless bars is 1,100.”

(You are wondering how my Internet travels led me to a 20-year-old article on strip clubs. Honestly, I was writing about the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa.)

Next Time They Will Wow Them With The Shiny Stuff

by a contributor

Ben Hoffman

Luckily, the Indians see them coming. They see the sails. They are picnicking, the Indians. They have spread their blankets up on the rocks, where there is a sea breeze that goes well with their Pinot Blanc. From up there, they see the sails, and then the ships bouncing in the waves.

So: They put away the good stuff. They hide their iPods. They haul their TVs up trees, bind them to the highest branches. They bury their DVD collections deep in the dirt. They sink their SUVS in the lake (they have to roll up their sleeves, lean out of their canoes, and hold the vehicles down until they stay down). They eat all the junk food, gorge themselves on fruit snacks and chocolate chip cookies until they feel they will burst and their chins are stained (wild berry juice, they will tell the strangers). They burn all the receipts. They disguise their lawnmowers as deer. They send their most beautiful women west. Don’t ever turn back, they tell them. Take the Xboxes. Take the Xanax.

When the strangers land, when they come sick and tired off the ships, the Indians offer them their very best: gourds, pumpkins, spoiled corn. The strangers have no manners. They could use some sunscreen. They could use some floss. Their belt buckles remind the Indians of their fine silverware, packed safely away.

What are you about, the strangers ask. They point and wave their arms in giant circles so the Indians will understand. The Indians tell them (tell them with straight faces, no less – only a few children giggle: what a great joke this is!) that they worship the sun and the moon. Also the rain and the trees. The wolf. The earth, which glistens, as if packed with jewels.


Ben Hoffman’s fiction is forthcoming in REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, Dogwood, and Revolution House, where he won third place in the 2012 Flash Fiction contest. He is a contributing writer for Construction Literary Magazine. He lives in Wilmington, North Carolina and Ann Arbor, Michigan, and he tweets @benrhoffman.

See Ben’s list of 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series.

This Week in Words – Feb 9

by Treehouse Editors

compiled by Rachel Bondurant

Hey, writers: We’re extending the deadline for our Brief Encounters “Internet Ads” theme until February 14th. Run through the guidelines again and send us your best work!

Publisher’s Lunch has put together a free ebook of samples of more than 25 upcoming titles. The ebook features some of the more highly anticipated fiction, nonfiction, and award-winning releases expected this Spring and Summer.

A few things I read this week that are worth noting:

Jared Yates Sexton’s fiction piece “Behold I Come as a Thief” in the latest issue of Split Lip Magazine. Earthquakes. Sex. Nudity. What’s not to like?

Avi Steinberg talks about the glorious torture that is a life of writing in The New Yorker.

Usually I find it patronizing when people say, “That’s life.” This piece by Seth Reiss in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency is the exception.

The Eldritch Creation: A monthly column on cult films and great literature

by Treehouse Editors

 Volume 1: Barton Fink and The Trial

by Caleb Andrew Ward

Eldritch: adjective \ˈel-drich\: weird, sinister, ghostly.

The Toxic Avenger (1984), This Island Earth (1955), and Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977) are all films devoid of cinematic merit in eyes of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Cahiers du Cinéma, and, really, most people who watch movies. But they are not at all devoid of entertainment or pure gory joy. These are the films of B-lists, Razzies, bottom shelves, dark rooms, and secret screenings across America. On the other side of the spectrum are cult films—what J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum call “midnight movies”—which have been whispered about in coffeehouses and lauded in Variety. Films like The Holy Mountain (1973), Eraserhead (1977), and Night of the Living Dead (1968) are more popular and acceptable among the upper crusty cult film lists. Relevant as they are, there is a much bigger world of B-movie culture to dive into.

Barton Fink

Like Barton Fink (1991), directed by The Coen Brothers. In Barton Fink (the title character being played by John Turturro) our protagonist’s initial integration into the world of Hollywood is a strange one. He enters the Hotel Earle to be greeted by Chet (Steve Buscemi) who rises from a mysteriously fire red basement. The hotel is completely empty and Barton looks like the only tenant in the Hotel Earle, where their motto is “A day or a lifetime.” Fink’s isolation is quite reminiscent of Josef K’s entry and initial visit to the courts in Kafka’s The Trial. Josef K walks down a peculiar part of town in which he has never been. Kafka writes: “when he stood at the street’s entrance it consisted on each side of almost nothing but monotonous, grey constructions, tall blocks of flats oc­cupied by poor people.” The stark contrast of greys and blacks compared to the vastness and repetitive patterns of the Hotel Earle poses the question: Are Barton Fink and Josef K. already dead? Are they in purgatory?

Both characters struggle to get answers throughout their respective journeys, and when they find some normalcy, it is only a moment before either they discover a dead body or are told a parable about a man standing before a giant door. Their inability to move forward is reflective of the artist’s struggle. Whether it’s Fink’s “writer’s block” or K’s inability to fight the judicial system of Prague in the 1920s, both characters are stuck in a nightmarish purgatory.

The Trial

Waiting is a theme in both works. Barton and Josef always seem to be waiting for something to happen to them rather than making something happen themselves. It takes a brutal murder to force Barton to write his script, and Josef needs an ambiguous parable from a priest to push his drive to understand what his crime is and why the courts are throwing him around. Both protagonists teach a valuable lesson on waiting. It’s bullshit. Action allows for the possibility of growth rather than just “Sitting and wishing and hoping and praying,” as Dusty Springfield once sang.

Barton constantly tells the studio executives, “Well, to tell you the truth, I’m having some trouble getting started.” Josef is constantly told, “That is not allowed.” Both are unable to move forward. Josef and Barton have been put into a bubble where the god that controls them decides where they can go, what they can do, and if they’re allowed to live on at all.

In both Barton Fink and The Trial the protagonist is a bit of a pushover who must first be taken completely out of his element and then forced to make a decision how their end will be determined. This quote from The Trial applies to both: “Logic may indeed be unshakeable, but it cannot withstand a man who is determined to live.”

Breaking up with My Sidebar Ads

by a contributor

a brief encounter by Lucy Huber

Around the 2nd or 3rd year I had been listed as “In a Relationship” on Facebook, the website started to get impatient about my marital status. I imagined a man sitting behind a giant switchboard, because that’s my understanding of the internet, carefully selecting all the wedding dresses and engagement rings I might be interested in. There were ads for antique wedding dresses, custom made jewelry, linked silver wedding bands. When my relationship status never changed, the man behind the switchboard started trying to tempt me with babies. He thought I wanted to see as many ads as possible featuring little cherub cheeked things. Sometimes they were normal babies, sometimes they were strangely tiny babies, propped in the palm of someone’s hand, sometimes they were lifelike ultrasounds of not yet born babies. But one thing was for sure: the man behind the Facebook switchboard was sure my boyfriend and I were going to get married, settle down, and produce newborns.

When my boyfriend and I broke up two months ago, all the wedding dress ads disappeared. There were no more sparkling engagement rings sprinkled on the right-hand corner of my newsfeed, no more palm-sized babies. The imaginary man who once had so much confidence in my relationship, started to run pictures of good looking men in flannel shirts, perched on barstools with captions that said things like, “Looking for Wilmington singles?” I was glad the he wasn’t too disappointed, he had faith that I could start anew. But I wasn’t so sure. When you break up with someone you imagined a future with, you lose so many little things you took for granted. That red pie pan we bought together, someone to sing Johnny Cash to my June Carter in karaoke, reasons to go out for a fancy dinner on a Tuesday. I missed the wedding dress ads. It was always nice to think, even though my boyfriend and I had barely talked about marriage, that somewhere out there someone was imagining that life for us. An imaginary man was watching our relationship grow and rooting for us to succeed. Now we had let him down. Of course, there was no man, only a series of logarithms based on my age, my status, the secret times I browsed for wedding dresses online. And now just me, my new single men on barstools, and all the little things I lost.


Lucy Huber is a third year MFA candidate and teaching assistant at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is studying Creative Nonfiction.