“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 air was clear and scented, the breeze flitted lightly through the tall grass around his cave, the birds were chirruping at each other, the butterflies were flitting about prettily, and the whole of nature seemed to be conspiring to be as pleasant as it possibly could.
It wasn’t all the pastoral delights that were making Arthur feel so cheery, though. He had just had a wonderful idea about how to cope with the terrible lonely isolation, the nightmares, the failure of all his attempts at horticulture, and the sheer futurelessness and futility of his life here on prehistoric Earth, which was that he would go mad.
“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 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.
“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 regular early morning yell of horror was the sound of Arthur Dent waking up and suddenly remembering where he was.
“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.”
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.
“We would love to stay and help,” shouted Ford, picking his way over the mangled debris, “only we’re not going to.”
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.”
“What was that?” hissed Arthur.
“Something red,” hissed Ford back at him.
“Where are we?”
“Er, somewhere green.”
“Shapes,” muttered Arthur. “I need shapes.”
In the end, it was the Sunday afternoons he couldn’t cope with, and that terrible listlessness which starts to set in at about 2:55, when you know that you’ve had all the baths you can usefully have that day, that however hard you stare at any given paragraph in the papers you will never actually read it, or use the revolutionary new pruning technique it describes, and that as you stare at the clock the hands will move relentlessly on to four o’clock, and you will enter the long dark teatime of the soul.
A glummer look replaced the already glum look on Arthur Dent’s face. “So we’re not home and dry,” he said.
“We could not even be said,” replied Ford, “to be home and vigorously toweling ourselves off.”
Arthur’s consciousness approached his body as from a great distance, and reluctantly. It had had some bad times in there. Slowly, nervously, it entered and settled down in to its accustomed position.
He hoped and prayed that there wasn’t an afterlife. Then he realized there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn’t an afterlife.
A magician wandered along the beach, but no one needed him.
Ford looked angrily at him.
“Will you listen?” he snapped.
“I have been listening,” said Arthur, “but I’m not sure it’s helped.”