Mix n’ Match

Note: One or more of the characters described in the story exhibits or possesses one or more of the attributes in the list. The list is non-exhaustive – items can appear more than once or not at all.

The List:

  1. Biological Woman
  2. Biological Man
  3. 26 years old
  4. 23 years old
  5. Queer
  6. Sibling
  7. A recently filled tooth from a dentist appointment 57 minutes ago
  8. Per a dentist’s suggestion, an inability to eat food until the anesthesia from a dentist appointment 57 minutes ago wears off
  9. Lactose Intolerant
  10. 4 year long relationship
  11. Ability to speak English

The Story:

“This is a terrible story” ⌂ says, re-arranging the pages and placing the manuscript on the polished wooden counter of the coffee table ⌂ looks disapprovingly at ⌂’s cup of water and ᴚ’s mug of black coffee, each without coasters. At least the leather recliner is comfortable.⌂ glances back toward the aspiring author, ᴚ.  The two are seated perpendicular to one another, on the recliner and couch in the living room of  ⃝’s apartment.  

ᴚ is in shock. “What do you mean?” ᴚ picks up the papers and waves them emphatically.  “I spent a really long time on this!”

“Well, there’s just no structure to it. I’m not sure where you’re going, I can’t sympathize with the characters when I don’t know anything about them and, to be honest, it’s a bit gimmicky.” ⌂ picks up the cup of water and takes a sip. To avoid damaging the wood any further the cup remains on ⌂’s lap. “And furthermore, I don’t believe spending more time on something necessarily makes it better.”

There’s a pause in conversation.  ᴚ struggles to find an acceptable rebuttal while ⌂ looks up at the analog clock hanging on the fuchsia wall with hand-painted yellow flowers. ᴚ’s object of contention aside, it was hard for either of the two to concentrate with these aggressive colors in the background. Their host [and self-proclaimed interior designer] had been admirably bold though not entirely successful at creating a welcoming space.

The silence is broken when  ⃝ returns from the kitchen skillfully wielding two large glasses of Oreo milkshakes topped with whipped cream.

“I hope the two of you are feeling better! I’ve only made a couple of milkshakes, since you both know I can’t have them myself…oh and apologies! I forgot the coasters”  ⃝ smiles with mock diffidence, producing a handful of coasters from various pockets and setting them on the table. Like the living room,  ⃝ is pleased with this self-made creation and places the afternoon desserts down. Unfortunately, when neither  ⌂ nor ᴚ take a glass and instead give looks of grateful pity,  ⃝ realizes that a terrible mistake must have been made.

“Thanks very much but I can’t have this either” the two recipients say simultaneously, in a rare act of synchronization. An exchange of blunt re-assurances and claims of unhurt feelings follows briefly before the conversation resumes its original topic.

” ⃝, ⌂ doesn’t like the story I’ve written.”

“Really, why’s that?”  ⃝ asks, though the answer is obvious.  ⃝ had the privilege of reading ᴚ’s work before it was deigned worthy enough for ⌂’s eyes.  While  ⃝ had personally found it enjoyable, or at the very least interesting, the text’s current reviewer was notorious for having high standards, particularly against peers, and there was no way the writing would’ve been up to par.

As ᴚ is about to answer, ⌂ interjects.

“Come on, neither of you can possibly think this is any good! It’s unfocused and could use some work.”

“Well think that you’re unfocused and you’re just ignoring your own incompetence to interpret what I have to say.”

“No need to get testy.”

“You know how hard I’ve worked on this, and how much this means to me.”

“Which is why I’m trying to be honest!”

“I’m going to make something that we can all eat!”  ⃝ proclaims, jumping up and heading toward the kitchen for the second time today. It was no use trying to get in between  ⌂ and ᴚ when the two of them were fighting. Today it’s about ᴚ’s book. Last week it was about ⌂’s sudden interest in photography.  ⃝’s home was apparently the perfect battlefield.

From the kitchen, ⃝ can hear voices gradually being raised — there’s even an almost tangible rise in temperature. Based on previous experience, this may take a while, the two have a history and no past indiscretion is safe from re-appropriation. With a sigh,  ⃝ pulls out a cookbook and begins skimming the pages. Maybe this spaghetti with slow-roasted tomatoes. Estimated time to prepare: 2 hours. Appropriate. It was going to be a long night.

Gray

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