As Midas-like curses go, this one is pretty cruel. After insulting a water gnome while out fishing, Greenberg is cursed with the inability to touch water. Part of the fun of this story comes from all of the entertaining ways this curse is applied: he goes to enormous lengths just to shave, his entering a bathtub forces all of the water on the floor, and he discovers with horror that the only liquid that he can drink or touch is beer.
But what really sells the story is the cast of characters involved. Greenberg’s wife is the classic harridan, complaining about everything he does even before the curse happens. Greenberg is no better, bad tempered and unlikeable until the sheer number of woes caused by the curse make him a pathetic figure. Between them they play up the circumstances of the story, giving a real comic edge and rendering the aforementioned scenes hilarious.
Trouble with Water by Horace L. Gold
Availability: Print only
Word count: 7,800
First published: Unknown magazine, March 1939
Where to find it: A Treasury of Modern Fantasy, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Terry Carr, 1981,Avon
Smart Dragons, Foolish Elves, edited by Alan Dean Foster and Martin H. Greenberg, 1991, Ace
Modern Classics of Fantasy, edited by Gardner Dozois, 1997, St Martin’s Press
The Fantasy Hall of Fame, edited by Robert Silverberg, 1998, Harper Prism