Henry Weller stood facing a huge three-dimensional picture on the wall of his dining room.
“Can’t we get rid of it?” he asked, turning to his wife. “I mean, with all due respect, of course.”
No man enjoys coming into his dining room and having to sit at meals and look at a full-sized picture of his wife’s first husband arriving on Venus. Fair’s fair, but such a set-up is ridiculous.
“No,” Phoebe shook her blonde head. “Don Manton loved me and he was famous. I like to be reminded of the days when my picture was in all the telepapers and my face on so many telescreens.”
She might just as well have called him a tattered nonentity, though Henry was doing pretty well as a foreman in the local humandroid factory. He was stopped from reminding her by Phoebe’s saying that she’d leave for a bit of shopping. She left abruptly.
Henry watched her takeoff from the roof of their two-story fibroid house and went back to the dining room. Now, even his warmest admirers would give in that he had a streak of stubbornness in him a mile wide and six miles deep. Henry took the three-dimensional monstrosity off the wall, holding it hard by thumb and forefinger on its luminex frame, and prepared to say good-by to the picture of Don Manton.
A foreman at one of the humandroid shops has to be able to consider alternatives and Henry had done this. If he only hid the picture there’d be a domestic crisis and the picture would sooner or later be back on the wall; if he destroyed it there’d also be a crisis, but one that would eventually blow over.
Unluckily for him, these three-dimensional wall pictures were made out of glaseine, and when he tried setting fire to it he nearly burned down the house. Upon feeding it to the old-fashioned fireplace nothing grew hot except his temper. Ripping the picture to shreds would have been the next step, but you can’t rip glaseine.
For maybe the six millionth time he cursed out Don Manton, the well-known explorer in the realm of outer space. Henry understood in a general way that Don Manton had been among the first to chart the cities of Mars and Venus, and had accidentally died on a planet named Immel; but Henry had no intention of living in Don Manton’s shadow.
The picture, which showed the late explorer talking with three Venusians, had been hung up again when Phoebe came through the ceiling door along the extension stairway which flicked up to meet her.
“You’ve been trying to get rid of Don’s picture!”
He’d hung it crookedly, and a diagonal slash of white wallpaper had given him away.
“Just this one. You’ve got cans of telefilm in the cellar, but them I don’t mind. This,” he flicked it with a thumbnail, “I do mind.”
“As long as I stay,” Phoebe said quietly, “my darling Don’s picture stays.”
“But what about your darling Henry? Am I just a humandroid who looks and behaves and talks like a human being? Haven’t I got feelings?” Henry strode around the room, hitting the fibroid floor like a prehistoric monster on a sandpaper bridge. “Either that picture goes,” he said finally, definitely, “or I go!”
Phoebe shook out her blonde hair, letting it fall about her shoulders. “Too bad.”
Inside of an hour he had packed his suitcases. Phoebe cried bitterly, but wouldn’t budge about the picture. Henry took the plane. He put up at his club, went to the bar, and was gobbling down something called pressurized scotch, when he heard a noise back of him.