Exquisite Duet (formerly Exquisite Quartet) is not so much a composition between two writers, but rather something created within the murky midlands of each author’s mind, yet set off by the same first sentence. Meg Tuite chooses two writers each month and gives them a first sentence to start with and a 250-word limit to finish an exquisitely mesmerizing story or poem. These duet-dueling writers will craft two completely different cosmos that have rotated, pitched, and blasted from the depths of their cerebral cortex to the twitching nerve endings of their digits onto dueling keyboards and separate screens until their sublime duet is prepared to see the light of an audience.
The Seven-Year Itch
by Randall Brown
Was it me or her that had something twitching in the head? This is what happens when parents smoke the powder from their 17-year-old son’s confiscated marijuana grinder. Twenty-one years ago, they’d come home from their Caribbean honeymoon infested with burrowing mites, and they both became certain they could see them ticking under the other’s skin. They both see such ticking now—the ventral tegmental area, the hypothalamus, the nucleus accumbens—lighting up as on brain scans. It’s gotten more powerful, she says. Rapid breaths. Accelerated heart rate. He reaches for another drag. You sure? she asks him. They’d had sex going down a water slide. My lights are brighter, he says. She studies the illuminated mid-brain. Lite-Brite, she answers, making things with light. What a sight, he follows, making things with Lite-Brite. This turns into a chant, then a dance, each one swinging the other onto and around the leather couch, the ottoman, a love seat. Their brains ignite. Who had the twitching head? Both their heads flicker, nictate. That’s a crazy word, he says, nictate. Sarah Palin—The Nictator. A parade. Nudge, nudge. Silly walks. To another seven years! Yes, she Yes! It’s a date!
Song With No Lyrics for Legion
by Rusty Barnes
Was it me or her that had something twitching in the head?
A long time ago the rats had eaten the inside of my skull
and exited out my ear and all the bad things I’d ever said
about someone/anyone were out in the zeitgeist for people
to glom onto in their own sweet relationships and relative
des faux pas and I wanted to be sad enough to crawl into
a drainage ditch and wait for a roaring rain but I wasn’t so
I ended up in a donut shop that everyone would recognize
if I said it so I won’t but it was orange decor and made me
want to vomit but the chubby girl in the back said everyone
attack; I had nothing but my two fists and Legion to help
me so I reached behind the counter and slapped the decaf
pot with the leaded pot and broke both of them. I wasn’t
surprised I was asked to leave but Legion led me toward
other folks who claimed to be in the same circles of hell
but Legion led me toward the dark horizon and Legion
led me to claim that they’d possessed me and what can
you do with news like that except report it so I got a phone
and did a selfie report I talked into the mic but what recorded
were not my words but Legion’s in the argle-bargle of demon
speak and what could I say. Friends I am possessed by Legion
and thus do the voices speak and flow through me and soon
I will live in your drain and drink rain and eat your garbage while
all around the saints whirl and desolate the world without knowing
while Legion laughs and says thing in the temper of bears
and trees and one lonely oak with an inveigled noose.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Randall Brown is on the faculty of Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. He has been published widely, both online and in print. He earned his MFA at Vermont College.
Rusty Barnes lives and works in Revere MA with his family. His latest book is the novel Reckoning, and he is currently working on a collection of poems and a short crime novel.