“The Calculus” (William Matthews)

There is a culture which counts like this: “one, two, many.” It is sufficient. They don’t use numbers to measure. There are so many women your wife gets pushed out of bed. Everyone knows without a name for it how many dead men a camel can carry. There is so little light the dark part of each eye grows knuckle-size.

The invention of zero will end their life. They don’t say “no moon tonight”; they say “the moon is gone.” We can add this egg of absence to anything—then we are richer.

—William Matthews
—from Sleek for the Long Flight

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