by Matthew Sanborn Smith
The homes of that late gilded age were built twelve-hundred layers thick and a man like Daiquiri had to spend a fortune like his father’s in order to be able to properly house his bride. She was a monstrous, toad-like creature, but she was all that was left after the bridal rush of sixty-eight. His horse had melted in the equatorial heat and while all the other young men strode in to swoop up brides on their wet-weasels (not otters, mind you, but wet-weasels), he had arrived on foot, days later with a choice between some maggoty looking things and his soon to be bride. Just as well, for once he’d made his choice, his fiancée slurped up her competition with her fleshy straw-like tongue. He’d gotten a two-for-one deal.
Now in their new home, she was all over the walls, all of the time, tearing through layer after layer until Daiquiri became sick to his stomach. The paisley had been swept clean of the walls almost before he saw it, then the striped blue, the multi-colored polka-dots and dozens more. He was aghast. At this rate he’d be penniless inside of a week. Her sticky, super-tactile toes, it seems, found something unbearable about each and every paper, whether it was to be blamed on the color or the surface. This one burned and that one itched and how could she ever walk on her own walls in comfort? Paper after paper hit the floor as fast as the servants could gather it up and dispose of it.
“Not to worry,” Daiquiri told himself between heavy, dry breaths. “I’ll be dead before I’m bankrupt. My heart will stop any moment now, I’m certain of it.” But it didn’t stop. He even pounded on his chest once or twice to help it along, but to no avail.
“Sir, if I may?” his manservant, Hoeltag, ventured.
“What is it, Hoeltag?”
“Well, sir, if I’m not mistaken, the lady’s love was won outside her native tire caves on the edge of the far eastern desert.”
“Yes, what of it?”
“Would the lady not be more allowing of a surface not unlike that to which she was accustomed?”
After a sudden intake of breath, Daiquiri clapped his hands. “Excellent, Hoeltag! Give yourself a pat on the back, but not before you strip the tires from every last rubberlad in the barrows!”
“Very good, sir!”
The word went out and hill-dwelling rubberlads from near and far were rounded up and flayed, their treaded skins applied to the walls of Daiquiri’s home. His blushing (or maybe that was a fungus) bride calmed immediately and fell asleep on the drawing room wall. Daiquiri collapsed with relief and exhaustion. A sizable fraction of his inheritance had been saved. Now he could settle down to the life of a country gentleman with his remarkably ugly wife.
“I’ve changed my mind. Strip the walls.”
“Very good, sir.”
Daiquiri pounded upon his chest with renewed vigor.