Sûrah XXXIV
SABA
"How intense then was My abhorrence of them!"

34
SABA NIGIRI

DENISE

Just think of it as pussy, Franchone, and chew.

He chews.

DENISE

Now swallow

He swallows—raw fish, rice, and a dollop of wasabi crawl the length of his traumatized throat (a toad ingested by a garter snake is Franchone's mental image) inch by gag-inducing inch, while vapors rise, pervade his sinuses (blitzed as by a Vicks inhaler), eyes grown glassy and leaking uncontrollably as are both his wing-nut nostrils. He buries his face in a napkin to absorb the snot and tears.

DENISE

Have some ginger. Clears the palate.

Instead, he chug-a-lugs dilute tea, then blinks at the tidy rows of sushi—swimming in a sundry school through the turbulence of his nausea.

DENISE

That was tuna. Called "maguru." Yum; this tako is divine!

Franchone regards the octopus with a look of sheer repugnance, its tentacles well beyond what he considers 'edible.' Shipping oars, he trades-in lacquered chopsticks for a spoon to investigate the soup—tofu cubes afloat in a sea of submarine unmentionables. Haltingly, he slurps at the uninviting gruel.

DENISE

Miso.

Misinterpreting the word as Japanese for a salutation, Franchone lifts his bowl in a toast to his retch-resistant dinner date, notes her lips protruding to devour an uncooked prey (another undertow of queasiness trawling his upset innards), her teeth (by "Pucker Pink" lipstick framed) sink, sever, rip and munch, masticating the carnage with unfathomable satisfaction.

DENISE

You're not hungry?

Speechless, Franchone shuts his eyes and breathes... concentrates on breathing... blots out all except the puke-suppressing cadence of respiration... desperate to make it through this mandatory meal—"You turn me down, I'll kill you"—Niecy's blatant threat less rhetorical than sincere; for Franchone has declared their contract null and void; in other words, reneged. She will not have it! She will have him—fixed on his twenty-two chromosomes, tenacious as a leech. From scores of likely applicants, methodically distilled, one and only one matched specs to a T: tall, dark, heart-throb handsome, with a Masters from UC Berkeley (not to mention Mr. Pinkney's  'pending' Ph.D.), and though his father is diabetic, hers, contrarily, is hypoglycemic, each thus cancelling the other (or such is Niecy's slant on heredity), besides which Franchone is a "hunk," an ardent, indefatigable lover, who, on more than one occasion, actually made her come.

DENISE

One more piece and I'm at risk of sprouting gills.

This pronouncement hardly serves to settle Franchone's stomach; worse than ill, he feels immobilized—seized by a paralytic grip, an ever-escalating "thar-she-blows" catharsis; the point of life, its existential purpose is to keep his 'cookies' down (would that cookies were the mash he struggles to retain).

DENISE

Now; about our agreement.

Second only to food, on Franchone's list of Sickening Subjects, is discourse bearing on intercourse; he is loathe to speak of sex. Yet this is Niecy's single-minded aim, hence inevasible.

DENISE

I was perfectly willing to collect your sperm in a turkey baster, you'll recall. It was you who insisted we achieve insemination by "ergonomic" means.

Franchone pleads for mercy, not with his voice (which seems occluded by the undigested seafood), rather with his eyes (which do a slow-roll unambiguous in their roundly criticized stigma, all the more discomfiting for being charged in public).

DENISE

I only agreed if you would come (no pun intended) whenever I called. No fuss, no muss. No false affection, no paternal strings attached. We'd fuck. You'd leave. And you were flattered. You remember? "Studs 'R Us," you quipped. How vain.

Were Franchone able to object (or even to excuse himself without vomiting) he would end this persecution. He has belched, however. Yuck! A taste of decomposing scales—exhumed—reinstates his urge to upchuck.

DENISE

Why the change?

Gastronomic tumult slaps a lien on his reply, his sole defense a gone-green tableau of plaintive acquiescence.

DENISE

Then I'll tell you. Because you're weak; you've got no purpose, no integrity, no direction. You just flit from dead-end job to dead-end job, from tail to tail, no sense of who you are or what you want beyond your crude machismo. You're an All But Dissertation grad-school dropout, okay stud, and I DON'T WANT YOU ANYMORE to sire my child!

Her chopsticks "SNAP," the sound a blatant exclamation mark annulling their relations. She, Denise, feels vindication. He, Franchone, feels unrelieved... but is anticipating, counting seconds, gauging Niecy's actions as she stands, adjusts her scarf and blazer, rifles through her purse, extracts some bills, discards them haughtily, pivots, marches toward the door, and, through a waiting queue of customers, makes her regal exit. Up he springs; his headlong rush into the restroom bent on alleviation.