Acerbity

by Pierce Nahigyan

Eric the stoat had always wanted to eat a cucumber sandwich. He didn’t know what it was, but it sounded quite – that is to say, very – dignified. Madame Mariam ate hers in the garden and because the table obstructed his view, but moreover because Mariam was fat, he never got a decent look at the confection.

“Surely a weasel has the mind to nab one,” he said one night in his burrow.

“Eric,” said his wife, a fat stoat herself, “you must put this foolishness to rest. You shall not have a cucumber sandwich.” She rolled over their latest blind and naked brood and idly munched on some crippled crickets they’d taken from the garden. “It sounds dreadful to me.”

Eric had a mind to tell his wife (who did not have a name and thought it unbecoming a stoat to have one, but whom Eric often called Mariam), “Mariam, by now I have made up my mind that I shall have one. Even if it tastes like dry fertilizer I am committed. Every stoat shall have his day. Why not I?” He did not wish to voice so tender a conviction to his wife, so he scratched his stomach and looked about their dank home.

“Nothing to say?” she said. She picked some chaff from her teeth.

“Only what I have said,” said Eric. “By hook or by crook I will have it.”

“The humans will have you,” she said. “You’re not clever enough to eat their dainty cucumby samiches.”

“Cu-cum-ber,” he said, “sand-wiches.”

“Cumber sanditches,” she mumbled into a pile of antennae.

It was his wife’s careless acerbity that prompted Eric the stoat to leap up into Madame Mariam’s lap the following Sunday and scamper up her thick jowls and onto the table. She screamed bloody murder, and was joined by the gentleman seated across from her. The two carried on screeching and wailing as Eric searched over the table’s heaps of foods and cutlery for what might be a cucumber sandwich. He snapped at the frosting on a piece of cake, and a plum, and nicked two croutons while he sniffed and snuffled his way under the tablecloth. He got tangled in a dinner roll and freed himself just as the gardener swung at him with a short-handled shovel. Eric dashed off the tabletop and across the meadow, only returning that night when all was still on the grounds.

When he slipped sleepily into his burrow, his wife was sitting up with the brood awaiting him. “Did you have yourself some fancy cumby samich then?”

He curled up on his side of the burrow and laid his tail underneath his head. “I did,” he said. And they spoke no more of it.