In the morning, before she goes to Italian cooking class, I tell my wife that I need to leave her and the kids for a while so that I can marry all of the other women I've ever had sex with.
"Both of them?" she asks. "Is this the road not taken, et cetera?"
"Call it an experiment," I say. "Please have the courtesy not to turn me in."
"Could you get the trash on the back porch before you go?"
First up is Nora, a college sweetheart, small hands, large breasts. She does not seem surprised to see me. "I'm already married," she says. "Will that be a problem?"
I shrug. "So am I."
Her husband Bill is a nice guy, at first anyway, and I am pleased because he is fatter than me. The three of us drive to Utah and find an old-school Mormon to tie the knot. He anoints me "Spouse 1A."
None of us has much money, so we honeymoon at home and it is during this time that Bill takes up sulking. He doesn't say anything, but I see he spends hours building model airplanes. Nora and I are stepping over X-15s, Spruce Geese and World War II-era Spitfires on our way to the bathroom. We make love and lie in bed afterwards, woozy from the glue fumes. In the middle of the night, I collect my things and scamper down the fire escape, a shiny yellow Cessna seaplane in my bag as a memento.
Lee Ann is married, too. She and her husband Doug act like they need cajoling, so I cajole. They are both attorneys; they bring me papers delineating my responsibilities, including childcare, upkeep of the house and whatnot. "We may have to impose a curfew, too," she says. She is laughing when she says it, but her eyes mean business.
One day I am cleaning the garage while the baby is in the swing when I wrench my back so bad that I cannot stand. When Lee Ann and Doug get home I click off the heating pad and tell them I'm sorry but this is too much like being married. For a moment they appear crestfallen, but agree to void the contract for a nominal fee.
Kelly Marie I knew as a teenager; we used to call her "Calamari." She is petite and freckled and works with computers.
"Thank God you're not married, Cal," I say and give her my schpiel.
"I was married once," she says. "Incidentally, I hope you remember that you and I never had sex."
"Oral's not sex? What are you, the former President?" I say. I realize that I will have to loosen the criteria--I need to enlarge the pool of wives if this thing is going to work. "I hereby declare that past penetration is not necessary."
She makes an exasperated motion with her hands. "You can't suddenly change things." She sighs and speaks to me as though I were a child. "Look, you're free to marry me, but it's with the understanding that I consider your algorithm flawed."
"Aw, forget it," I say.
When I get home my wife lifts her head from the stove and glances at the calendar. "Ah, Dr. Casanova. You were gone a semi-long time. How did it go?"
"I fear I tainted the data," I say.
"It happens," she says. She stirs with constant fervor. "Wash your hands. Risotto's almost ready."
About the author:
Misha Angrist works as a science editor at Duke University in Durham, NC. His fiction has appeared in The Michigan Quarterly Review and the Best New American Voices anthology, among other places.