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.
A Pure, Hydrogenated Love Story
by Kathy Fish
True, my plight is Crisco. That pure, white, greasy substance. One day, I licked a spoonful, thinking it was frosting. It coated my tongue, the roof of my mouth, like balm. I wanted to spit but I closed my eyes and swallowed.
Now I keep a vat of the stuff in my pantry. I close the door behind me and sit with the Crisco between my legs. I scoop handfuls into my mouth, smear it all over my face like a toddler. I rub it into my décolletage.
(That’s a lie. I’m a B cup. I don’t have décolletage. I just like to say it.)
At first it made me nauseous. But the body quickly adapts. The body learns to crave.
My lover has caught me. She sits next to me on the pantry floor, a true, shining concern in her eyes. She mentions pica. Those people who eat paint chips, paper clips, soap.
I’m not like those people.
It’s so nice on the skin, I tell her, and rub some into her kneecap. I can’t give it up. I’m in too deep.
She dips her pinky in and smells it.
Crisco has always been pure and odor-free, I tell her.
She swipes it creamily across my quivering lip. We Crisco kiss, Crisco taste and touch and lick. We Crisco slither and slather. We become each other’s Crisco Slip n Slide.
She says, this shit’s amazing. Now? Crisco is our plight.
Send This Tip to Heloise Over at Good Housekeeping
by Charles Rafferty
True, my plight is Crisco, but my pleasure is pinot noir. This is how it goes. I have a glass too many at my brother’s wake, and it’s hard to keep the oily salad on my fork. A clump of it falls off and touches my tie. The tie belonged to my brother.
I wave off the club soda of the grieving and ask for another wine. I won’t take off the tie because it’s hiding an even worse stain from last year’s Christmas party, and by the time I get home, the new stain has settled into the outline of a tiny Ireland. It looks like that country is casting a shadow across a paisley wall. I open another bottle of pinot noir and try everything —friction, hot water, Shout. The faint shadow of Ireland persists.
A tie clip could hide it. But that would make me seem old, older than my brother will ever be.
In the morning, the sparrows are singing in their shit-filled nest beneath the eaves when the answer arrives. I take down a bottle of Crisco and fill a bowl. I stick the whole tie in and stir it with my hand. I leave it there all day to stain the whole thing evenly.
After I wash my hands in scalding water, I am able to get the cap off the next bottle of pinot noir. The tie I wear to my next funeral will be a shade darker than it used to be.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Kathy Fish teaches flash fiction for the Mile High MFA program at Regis University in Denver. She has published four collections of short fiction: a chapbook in the Rose Metal Press collective, A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women (2008); Wild Life (Matter Press, 2011); Together We Can Bury It (The Lit Pub, 2012); and Rift, co-authored with Robert Vaughan (Unknown Press, 2015). Her story, “A Room with Many Small Beds” was chosen by Stuart Dybek for inclusion in Best Small Fictions 2016 (Queen’s Ferry Press). She blogs at http://www.kathy-fish.com/.
Charles Rafferty’s tenth book of poetry is The Unleashable Dog (2014, Steel Toe Books). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Oprah Magazine, The Southern Review, and Prairie Schooner. His stories have been accepted at Sonora Review, Cortland Review, and The Southern Review. A collection of prose poems is forthcoming from BOA Editions in 2017 — called The Smoke of Horses. His collection of short fiction is Saturday Night at Magellan’s (2013, Fomite Press). Currently, he directs the MFA program at Albertus Magnus College.