by Caleb Echterling

A scratching warble, like an electric goose patched through a banged-up amp, raked Duluth’s ears. A grimace spread over her face. “Shouldn’t we look for a storm cellar? Or, failing that, a first floor bathroom with no windows?”

“What’s the matter?” Aberdeen asked. “Your profile said you like island rhythms. Scotland’s the best part of the ninth largest island on earth. And nothing says Scotland more than bagpipes.”

Duluth leaned away from her date. “Those are bagpipes? I thought it was a tornado siren.”

A spider-web of cracks fractured Aberdeen’s propped-up smile. “How about another tropical beverage?”

“You mean another Tennent’s?” Duluth stood up and brushed down her slacks. “Listen Aberdeen, I don’t think it’s going to work out. I’m looking for something different in a sister city.”

“But we have so much in common. Natural resource extraction. Cold wind off the water. International shipping. No one gets your international shipping like I do, baby.” Duluth shook her head. Aberdeen sagged. “Aye. You gonna finish that pint?”


Duluth and Thunder Bay huddled around a micro-table, with caffeine-sugar bombs to lubricate the conversation. “Don’t give up, hon,” Thunder Bay said. “You’ll find the right sister city. Just be yourself.”

Duluth reached over the table, which wobbled on its un-level legs. Chocolate caramel mocha buzzachino flopped over the gunwales of the lifeboat-sized mugs. She clutched Thunder Bay’s hand between hers. “Why can’t we be sister cities? We have so much in common, we’re practically twins, except for the dopey birds on your coins.”

“Sweetie, we are sister cities. We’ll always be there for each other. But you need to expand your horizons. See the world. You want to send your exchange students to boring old Ontario? Besides, if you keep swimming in Lake Superior, you’re liable to catch a gene mutation.”


Sweat drained down Duluth’s temples, and converged into class 3 rapids over the juncture of her neck and sternum. Her arms and nose glowed beet red. An elbow nudged her ribs. “Care for another glass of lovely South Australia white? Best grape-growing climate in the world.” Adelaide jangled a bottle of chardonnay slick from condensation.

Duluth took a long pull straight from the bottle. “What are you talking about? Your climate doesn’t even know it’s supposed to be cold in February. This is crazy. How hot is it today?”

“Dinky-di, it’s heaps hot. Forty degrees, easy.”

Duluth jammed the bottle into Adelaide’s chest. “You lying sack of crap. This is how Minnesotans dress when it’s forty degrees in February, but we don’t sweat like a Baptist minister at an all-you-can-drink, topless discotheque. If it’s forty degrees, then I’m the Lake Superior Monster. There’s one thing I won’t tolerate in a sister city, and that’s dishonesty. Good bye.”


Duluth popped another butter-drenched snail into her mouth, and washed it down with a rowdy Bordeaux. A salty breeze caressed a forest of sailboat masts. “Oh, Marigot, it’s wonderful here. You have an ocean and a lagoon. That’s two of my three favorite bodies of water. Can we be sister cities?”

Marigot pushed the plate aside. “Of course. Now put away the escargot, dear sister city. It is only for gullible tourists.”