Disclaimer: Characters created by Douglas Adams. Almost certainly then,
owned by Douglas Adams.
But isn't it flattering when characters you've created get transformed into folk icons. Like Robin Hood and King Arthur and some other people -
but I might get accused of heresy and blasphemy if I mentioned them.
Ford and Arthur walked away from the cavemen.
The results of the scrabble bag test had been disappointing. Six times nine
did not make 42. Six by nine was 54.
"Six and nine eh?" Ford grinned, "who'd have thought it."
Arthur bridled, "I don't know what you mean Ford."
"Well Arthur - we may not know what the ultimate question is but at least we've got some idea of what's going on in your subconscious mind."
"You can be very perplexing sometimes, Ford."
"Think about it Arthur. Multiplication. Six and nine. What does six and nine make apart from 54?"
"Well if you add them you get 15 if that's what you mean. And subtraction gets you three. Look, you'll have to help me out, I never was much good at connundrums."
Ford sighed, Arthur was sometimes incredibly dense. "Six and nine. What does that mean to you Arthur. Think," Ford tapped his own head and looked gnomically at his earth friend.
Understanding suddenly started to dawn. The look on Arthur's face went from confusion through horror to embarrassment, "Oh," he said, and "Oh!"
"Oh, as you say, indeed." Ford smiled and carried on walking, leaving Arthur standing there looking very uncomfortable.
Later. Arthur was still bemused and confused about the little exchange he'd had with Ford. If he understood what Ford was saying that would be...oh. And then again if he had completely misunderstood...very oh.
The Earthman, technically a Golgafrinchan now it seemed, poked at the tiny fire he'd managed to create. He looked up to see Ford smiling at him enigmatically.
"What? What is it?" Arthur asked,
"No. Nothing. Just thinking," Ford continued to smile.
"Yes but what. What were you thinking?"
"Well Arthur, I think if you take another dive into your subconscious mind you'll probably find exactly what I'm thinking."
Arthur did, and did. This was not on. All these years he'd known Ford, and not only was he not from Guildford, but now it seemed he was psychic as well.
"How do you know what I'm thinking?" Arthur said. This was not on.
"Because Arthur - I'm thinking it as well."
"Yes, well. What am I thinking?"
"Yes, I think you do."
"But how do you know?" Arthur yelled. This was going nowhere. One of them was going to have to say what they were thinking soon. Arthur was determined it wasn't going to be him.
"Keep calm Arthur," Ford said serenely.
"Don't Panic you mean?" Arthur said.
Ford continued to smile, "If you like."
"I have panicked all my life and I can't see any rational reason for me to stop now. It seems to me that panicking would be by far the best option given the myriad of strange and unusual circumstances lately."
"But you're still here. Talking to me. Alive. Not harmed in any significant way. And I can think of a lot of things you could do apart from panicking."
Arthur knew he was going to regret this. "Like what?" He said.
"Ah ha! The ultimate question." Ford's enigmatic smile turned to a grin.
"Ford what are you wittering on about?"
"it makes perfect sense when you think about it. Alone in a godless universe - what's the answer? eh? eh?" Ford raised his eyebrows suggestively and began to giggle.
Arthur shifted uncomfortably. He knew exactly what was happening. he wasn't sure he could cope. But then. Yes, why not. He suddely began to smile himself. The more he thought about it the more sense it made. Perfect sense. Yes, maybe it wasn't the question. But it was definitely the answer.
"Ford?" He suddenly said, "Do you still have those towels?"