The Seventh Wife

by Sabrina Orah Mark
The Seventh Wife by Sabrina Orah Mark

Listen to Sabrina Orah Mark read her piece:

When the husband’s seventh wife is sad because she was not his first wife or his second or even his third wife the husband brings her fish. He brings her Cod and Sole. He brings her Mackerel, Herring, Eel, Bonnetmouth, Trout, and Bleak. He brings her Barb, Ghost Carp and Ghoul. The husband does not want his seventh wife to be sad and so he brings her Flounder. He brings her Mullet, Snook, Pickerel, Salmon, and Perch. He brings her Grunt. He brings her Bitterling and Milkfish. He brings her Tuna.

He doesn’t even ask her to gut them. He guts them himself.

She doesn’t want all this fish, but fish is what he brings her. Her face is puffy from crying. She opens her whitish melancholy mouth. A little like a fish the seventh wife looks, but the husband has not realized this yet. “Did you know…Osbert?” begins the seventh wife. She takes a few bites of Trout. “Did you know sixteenth-century natural historians classified seals, whales, amphibians, crocodiles, even hippopotamuses as fish?” She chews a little Mackerel. “Where’s my Hippopotamus, Osbert? What were you thinking, Osbert?” Osbert is forever in the soup for touching and kissing and marrying those women. For all the fish he brings her there is always too much fish and there is fish missing. The seventh wife pushes some Bleak around her plate. “Where’s my Seal,” mutters the seventh wife grimly.

And where are ex-wives one through six now? Where are Amy and Carol and Amy, and Amy, and Carol, and Bernadette now? They are peering in through the window. They have arrived with a side dish of yams. They clutch one another and demand their fish be boiled and fried and baked and poached. They look furrier than Osbert remembers. Wilder. The seventh wife pushes her Snook away. She has lost her appetite. As usual, Osbert is filled with remorse. He wishes his seventh wife were a duck. The only duck swimming around in his duck pond. But he doesn’t have a duck pond. And he doesn’t know the first thing about acquiring one.

Sabrina Orah Mark is the author of The Babies (2004) and Tsim Tsum (2009). Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in many journals and in the anthologies Legitimate Dangers, The Best American Poetry 2007, and My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales.