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.
Demented Racist Grandma
by Brian Alan Ellis
Much was implied, but little was said whenever Jerry’s grandmother, Athena, was being racist, except for the time Jerry and I drove Athena to Walgreens to get her dementia pills and the friendly, African-American pharmacist gave her a red lollipop, and on the way back, sucking that red lollipop till the white stick started to show, she said, “They’re more hospitable here. They don’t have a chip on their shoulder like the blacks in other places,” and Jerry said, “Jesus Christ! Grandma, what the hell?” and Athena said, “What? They’re not as ignorant, is all I’m saying,” and especially the time the three of us watched American History X while eating Hamburger Helper on Athena’s couch—Luther, her Irish Terrier, was yelping for scraps as we ate and watched—and Athena asked if the swastika was an official German symbol, like something they put on their flag, and I told her no, that it was a symbol used by Nazis, and she said, “Well, that’s nice,” and I told her that Nazis weren’t nice at all and she said, “Oh, how come?” and Jerry said, “Grandma, the Nazis killed a shit-ton of Jews! That’s how come,” and Athena said, “Well, that’s because the Jews killed so many Nazis,” and Jerry and I looked at each other and I shrugged and he shook his head and we finished the movie without saying anything, though Athena kept scolding Luther, calling him a “greedy, begging Mick” for wanting our Hamburger Helper.
by Oliver Knudsen
“Much was implied, little was said,” Allison reported out loud to the burnt shell of her living room. Her roommate, still in full body lavender bunny outfit was in all likelihood unconscious, sprawled on her back in the middle of the room – giant bunny feet akimbo, the absurd buck tooth smile of her bunny helmet beaming straight to the charred ceiling. She clutched in her warmly fuzzy-mitted hand, a small potted cactus with the name ‘Angry Todd’ written on the chipped terra-cotta.
“I lied, you know, to the police,” Allison said, wiping her grime-stained hands on the pant-legs of her budget khakis, blouse, and jacket. “They have no idea.” She smiled. Behind her, the remnants of the Lazy-Boy she inherited from her dad still smelled like Camel cigarettes and Tiger Balm. Her phone vibrated in a fluff of post-it notes and the shredded carcass of her weekly planner. It vibrated again for a few seconds. Allison reached for the .38 in her lap, aimed carefully, and shot it. Her roommate’s huge foot twitched once as the report punched into the ruined walls of the room and the phone evaporated in a haze of plastic shards. Allison spun open the cylinder of the gun and dropped the empty shells. She threw it into the smoldering remains of the area rug.
In the distance she heard sirens. An echo’s echo.
“Shit,” she said.
“Don’t let them touch my goddamn cactus,” her roommate said.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Brian Alan Ellis runs House of Vlad Productions, co-edits the literary journal Tables Without Chairs (with Bud Smith), and is the author of Something To Do With Self-Hate (forthcoming), The Mustache He’s Always Wanted but Could Never Grow, 33 Fragments of Sick-Sad Living, King Shit (with Waylon Thornton), A Series of Pained Facial Expression Made While Shredding Air Guitar (forthcoming), and Something Good, Something Bad, Something Dirty. His writing has appeared at Juked, Hobart, Crossed Out, Zygote in My Coffee, Monkeybicycle, DOGZPLOT, Heavy Feather Review, Connotation Press, Electric Literature, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Revolution John, Out of the Gutter, People Holding, NAP, The Next Best Book Blog, and Atticus Review, among other places. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida.
Oliver Knudsen was born in lovely and exciting Salt Lake City, Utah. Her currently lives, writes, and works in Santa Fe. He has been published in The Santa Fe Literary Review, Connotation Press and other literary magazines.