Exquisite Duet: Kristine Ong Muslim and Thaddeus Rutkowski

the-duetExquisite 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.

Dear Protégé

by Kristine Ong Muslim

Crouch in a kennel and you’ll fit in my life. See how quickly you can grow when bound and constricted. So, are you still thinking of ways to mend what you categorize as “this world’s utter disarray,” or have you finally understood the guttural sound that was once let loose as white noise mingling with the low-frequency band, where television channels stream their clichéd signals for their faraway flock? During your nightly forays in perfumed foyers, where socialites lounge as they twiddle with their pricey wares, are you enjoying the flavor of torture—foie gras rolling across your tongue, foie gras from fowls force-fed to death—while tinkling your sleek wine glass with those held by the self-appointed patrons of the arts, the same well-dressed middle-aged people whose unnaturally smooth foreheads and contoured cheeks regularly appear on the society pages? How are you? Did you find at last what you were looking for, what you believe was missing?


Cramped Quarters

by Thaddeus Rutkowski

Crouch in a kennel and you’ll fit in my life. Not that I want you be my dog, or that I want to be yours. And not to say that crouching is better than any other activity, such as tail wagging or tongue panting. But you might have to get down on all fours to fit into the kennel of my existence—to fit without hitting your head. Once you’ve entered, however, you’ll find the accommodations comfy. There’s plenty of food and water, and there’s a roof over our heads. No rain will reach us here. The problem is, while we can see out, we can’t get out. This situation, really, is not satisfactory. It’s nice having you here and all. It’s nice to have someone to chase tail and howl at the moon with. But this feeling of being on the inside, looking out, is not all right. I think we are going to have to break free. The next time the door opens, we will bolt. We will fly, tongues out and tails spinning, across the open ground; we will run too fast to be caught. And if someone blocks our way, we will fight our way out.



Kristine Ong Muslim is the author of three books, most recently We Bury the Landscape (Queen’s Ferry Press, 2012) and Grim Series (Popcorn Press, 2012). Her poems and short stories were published in the likes of Confrontation Magazine, New Welsh Review, Sou’wester, Southword, and The State. She lives in a small farming town in the Philippines. Website: http://kristinemuslim.weebly.com/

Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of the novels Haywire, Tetched, and Roughhouse. He teaches at Medgar Evers College and the Writer’s Voice of the West Side YMCA in New York. He received a fiction fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.





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