“Arthur,” said Ford.
“Hello? Yes?” said Arthur.
“Just believe everything I tell you, and it will all be very, very simple.”
“Ah, well I’m not sure I believe that.”
A tall figure appeared silhouetted in the hatchway. It walked down the ramp and stood in front of Arthur.
“You’re a jerk, Dent,” it said simply.
“The Guide says there is an art to flying,” said Ford, “or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.” He smiled weakly. He pointed at the knees of his trousers and held his arms up to show the elbows. They were all torn and worn through.
“I could hardly help it, could I?” he bellowed, “when the same thing kept happening, over and over and over again! Every life I ever lived, I got killed by Arthur Dent. Any world, any body, any time, I’m just getting settled down, along comes Arthur Dent – pow, he kills me.”
After nearly four years of total isolation he was so pleased and relieved to see Ford that he could almost cry. Ford was, on the other hand, an almost immediately annoying person.
“I don’t want to know, I don’t want to see, I don’t want to hear,” he yelled as he ran, “this is not my planet, I didn’t choose to be here, I don’t want to get involved, just get me out of here, and get me to a party, with people I can relate to!”
Smoke and flame billowed from the pitch. “Well, the supernatural brigade certainly seems to be out in force here today …” burbled a radio happily to itself.
“What I need,” shouted Ford, by way of clarifying his previous remarks, “is a strong drink and a peer-group.”
Arthur had adopted his normal crisis role, which was to stand with his mouth hanging open and let it all wash over him.
“I want to hear your speech,” said the mattress.
“This is what I said. I said, ‘I would like to say that it is a very great pleasure, honor and privilege for me to open this bridge, but I can’t because my lying circuits are all out of commission. I hate and despise you all. I now declare this hapless cyberstructure open to the unthinkable abuse of all who wantonly cross her.’ And I plugged myself into the opening circuits.”
Marvin paused, remembering the moment.
Arthur lay in startled stillness on the acceleration couch. He wasn’t certain whether he had just got space-sickness or religion.
“I would like you to shut up about your towel,” said Ford.
“It isn’t my towel,” insisted Arthur, “that is the point I am trying to …”
“And the time at which I would like you to shut up about it,” continued Ford in a low growl, “is now.”
Ford and Arthur decided just to relax and be harrowed.
“I’d love to stay and help you save the Galaxy,” insisted Zaphod, rising himself up on to his shoulders, “but I have the mother and father of a pair of headaches, and I feel a lot of little headaches coming on.”
Ford was practicing being sullen and getting quite good at it.
“My planet was blown up one morning,” said Arthur, who had found himself quite unexpectedly telling the little man his life story or, at least, edited highlights of it, “that’s why I’m dressed like this, in my dressing gown. My planet was blown up with all my clothes in it, you see. I didn’t realize I’d be coming to a party.”
It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.
“Now the world has gone to bed,”
“Darkness won’t engulf my head,
I can see by infra-red,
How I hate the night.”
He paused to gather the artistic and emotional strength to tackle the next verse.
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
Try to count electric sheep,
Sweet dream wishes you can keep,
How I hate the night.”
She didn’t even programme any coordinates, she hadn’t the faintest idea where she was going, she just went – a random row of dots flowing through the Universe. “Anything,” she said to herself as she left, “is better than this.”
“One thing,” he further added, “has suddenly ceased to lead to another” – in contradiction of which he had another drink and slid gracelessly off his chair.
The lights were off so that his heads could avoid looking at each other, because neither of them was currently a particularly engaging sight, and nor had they been since he had made the error of looking into his soul.
It had indeed been an error. It had been late one night – of course. It had been a difficult day – of course. There had been soulful music playing on the ship’s sound system – of course. And he had, of course, been slightly drunk.
In other words, all the usual conditions which bring on a bout of soul-searching had applied, but it had, nevertheless, clearly been an error.
“That young girl,” he added unexpectedly, “is one of the least benightedly unintelligent life forms it has been my profound lack of pleasure not to be able to avoid meeting.”
The regular early morning yell of horror was the sound of Arthur Dent waking up and suddenly remembering where he was.
“The point is, you see,” said Ford, “that there is no point driving yourself mad trying to stop yourself from going mad. You might just as well give in and save your sanity for later.”
The robot stopped and looked at the mattress. It looked at it quizzically. It was clearly a very stupid mattress. It looked back at him with wide eyes. After what it had calculated to ten significant decimal places as being the precise length of pause most likely to convey a general contempt for all things mattressy, the robot continued to walk round in tight circles.
“Trillian?” he said. “She’s just a kid. Cute, yeah, but temperamental. You know how it is with women. Or perhaps you don’t. I assume you don’t. If you do I don’t want to hear about it. Plug us in.”
Arthur shook his head and sat down. He looked up. “I thought you must be dead …” he said simply.
“So did I for a while,” said Ford, “and then I decided I was a lemon for a couple of weeks. A kept myself amused all that time jumping in and out of a gin and tonic.”