Of course, an animal can’t be naked in the same way as people, since they typically don’t wear clothes (excepting the toads, which are considered peculiar by the other animals). What Peeps meant was that Old King Fisher didn’t have any fur. There was not a hair on him, but he looked like he ought to have fur, and he was as wrinkly as an old prune. The longer she looked at him, the more repulsed she became. The toad observed her expression of revulsion and immediately tried to make her look away. The poor little toad knew something that she did not. Old King Fisher, sensitive about his lack of fur, did not tolerate staring. Peeps was so entranced by the king’s ugliness that she didn’t notice the toad speaking to her, or pulling her fur, or hitting her in the side.
When all else failed, the toad grabbed Peeps’s tail with both hands and yanked it as hard as he could.
“Youch!” shrieked Peeps, jumping off the ground in shock and pain. She turned midair and landed with a hiss, ready to smash the toad into the mud.
“My lady,” squeaked the toad, who had fallen on his backside. He cringed away from her, barely daring to peek at her with one eye, but his other eye popped open in surprise as he realized that the party had stopped and everyone was looking at him. “My lady, I did not wish to cause you any pain, or indeed a scene. It’s simply that . . .”
He was interrupted by a high-pitched voice. “What is this thing at my party?” whined the old king, pointing a skeletal paw in Peeps’s direction. “I do not recall inviting it.” The crowd of animals parted so that Peeps and the toad now had an unobstructed view of the king, and he of they.
“Your Majesty,” said the toad, trying to regain his composure. “I am so pleased to see you well.” The toad flipped himself onto his feet and promptly threw himself on his belly to grovel.
“Why is it here?” croaked the king, rising from his cushion and limping toward the pair. He appeared ghostlike in the pale firefly light. Rolls of his old, dry skin swayed from side to side as he walked. Even the insects overhead stopped buzzing as everyone watched. The only sounds were the king’s rasping breath and the scrape of his claws on the ground.