When it had enjoyed its little spin and had calmed down a bit, Arthur reached out for the bedside light, not expecting it to come on. To his surprise it did. This appealed to Arthur’s sense of logic. Since the Electricity Board cut him off without fail every time he paid his bill, it seemed only reasonable that they should leave him connected when he didn’t. Sending them money obviously only drew attention to yourself.

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More from So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish

“But you don’t understand,” said Ford, his expression slowly ripening from a little taken abackness into rank incredulity. “This is the American Express Card. It is the finest way of settling bills known to man. Haven’t you read their junk mail?”

Indeed there were no casual observers in the Old Pink Dog Bar on the lower South Side of Han Dold City because it wasn’t the sort of place you could afford to do things casually in if you wanted to stay alive. Any observers in the place would have been mean hawklike observers, heavily armed, with painful throbbings in their heads which caused them to do crazy things when they observed things they didn’t like.

“I was being perfectly serious,” said Arthur. “It’s just the Universe I’m never quite sure about.”

Suddenly he realized what the answer to the problem was, and it was this, that something very weird was happening; and if something very weird was happening, he thought, he wanted it to be happening to him.

It’s all right. There’s nothing to see, it’s all over. None of this is actually happening.