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.
by Jack Cooper
Memory attempted to share a childhood
of not liking grownups
and not wanting to be one
because they smelled like soap or cigars
and laughed like crows
and were gross and busy
and talked at you too much
without answering important questions
like why frogs never tried to bite you
or why chickens seemed so happy
why grandpa lived alone in the basement
or why your mom and dad never held hands
Parents attempted to sell a childhood
when they put the old homestead up for auction
pennies on the dollar
a pittance for their parenthood
their century of sentience
What is an earnest life worth?
How much for that sled?
Do I hear one? Two? How about three?
Three children bouncing over snow spilling laughter
careening into grass drawing blood
And this old birdcage
four parakeets a-screeching
five snakes a-writhing
six grasshoppers a-hopping?
How much for all these pale moments of panic
these small forgotten deaths
The old fishing gear?
Dried bait dried dreams of a simpler life
hooked in the gills by boredom rebellion and goodbyes
Shells from places that used to be
books from friends no longer alive
furniture of a thousand voices a thousand tears
A childhood attempted to share a memory
of looking for tall grasses to crawl through
and big roots to sit on
to tell yourself stories you forgot you made up
a childhood of unresolved recollection
going once going twice
gone without your knowing
like small change lost in the corners of cushions
Me Versus You
by Margaret Malone
Memory: attempted to share a childhood game of Battleship with my invisible friend Shep. Right away he sank my submarine. It’s like he knew exactly where it was cruising in my flat blue plastic water. Then he launched right into the rest of the vessels, one by one, the red pegs filling up each grey ship’s hull. A-12. B-7. E-6. He didn’t get a single miss. Also, he kept eating all the Oreos my mom put out for our snack. I mean, Oreos were my favorite. He knew that. I know it’s been a long time, but man, I’m still a little mad about the whole thing. That stinky, good-for-nothing, freckle-faced Shep. What a jerk! Even if he wasn’t invisible, I don’t think we would have kept in touch. Shep really wasn’t a very good friend.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Jack Cooper’s first poetry collection, Across My Silence, was published by World Audience, Inc., 2007. His work has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize. His poetry and microfiction have appeared in many publications, including Santa Fe Literary Review, Connecticut River Review, The South Dakota Review, The Evansville Review, North American Review, and KYSO Flash.
Margaret Malone’s work can be found in The Missouri Review, Oregon Humanities, Swink, Coal City Review, latimes.com, and elsewhere, most recently in Propeller Magazine and forthcoming in the Timberline Review. A recipient of an Oregon Literary Fellowship and an Oregon Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship, Margaret lives in SE Portland where she is a co-host of the artist and literary gathering SHARE. Her debut book, a story collection titled PEOPLE LIKE YOU, is forthcoming from Atelier26 Books in November 2015.