Four Hundredth Forty-fourth Night, Give or Take

Michael Martone

She has lost count. She hopes someone is taking notes. All the stories are beginning to run together. This hero with that one. Her catalogues of beauty almost spent. The twists and turns turned and twisted inside out. She sifts through dregs of descriptions to describe nether parts and novel regions. She is coming close to exhausting the metaphors for coming. Yet it is not the close approximation of repetitive renditions that sends him to sleep. There he is. The he of him, across the bed. He is at his peak, peeking at her through the veils of his shuttered, buttered-up bedroom lids, projecting tonight’s innovative variation, a critical interpolation, his own story, this nightly news. All these nights and no two nights are alike. Unique. She continues her new new nightly tale. He commands her to present her tail. This night it will be, for both, a feinting action, a pincer move, encircling. He arranges, once again, a permutation of the hundreds of pillows to correspond with the incremental perturbation of her rising action. This, too, this this tonight is something new, is something new, there is always this new something in it, an element, in it, always, that is, there is this variation, this slight surprise. Each night, she narrates through each night’s newly conceived physical articulation of his desire, as he places her right arm just so, chocks a knee here, shims and levels. She is inside her story as he is inside her, nearing the end, not the end end of the story but the stopping place for this one night as he nears, at her other end, his end, the mechanical winching of the plot, the appearance of the goddamn Allah ex machina. Even now, she narrates this completely new and surprising sequence of imaginary events. He says again and again and again — don’t stop, don’t, stop don’t, stop — behind her in a pitch and with a rhythm that is, yes, unexpected, unanticipated, unprecedented. She digresses, commences the nightly wind-up, the ululation of dramatic action as he, as he, as he — what is the word, what is the, what is the word — as he... She fills his silence after the after with a side bar, a foil, a foreshadowing, a plot point that has, just now, occurred to her, a peg to hang her habit on. She continues to tell the telling of this night’s new story until its sigh of suspension, continues until it will, it will be continued, and she, she is always restless as he wrests from her, she already spooled and spun almost out even as he begins, as he falls, as he falls asleep and enters again the narrative of his nightly dream, another harem where he has his way with an encyclopedic parade of silent virgins, one after another, and then without distraction, double-take, or flashback kills her, then her, then her and the very same her again and again again.

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