Adams, Douglas – Hitchhiker’s Trilogy 4 – So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. Chapter 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15
His house was still there.
How or why, he had no idea. He had decided to go and have a look while he was waiting for the pub to empty, so that he could go and ask the landlord for a bed for the night when everyone else had gone. And there it was.
He hurriedly let himself in with the key he kept under a stone frog in the garden, because, astoundingly, the phone was ringing.
He had heard it faintly all the way up the lane and had started to run as soon as he realized where the sound was coming from.
The door had to be forced open because of the astonishing accumulation of junk mail on the doormat. It jammed itself stuck on what he would later discover were fourteen identical, personally addressed invitations to apply for a credit card he already had, seventeen identical threatening letters for non- payment of bills on a credit card he didn’t have, thirty-three identical letters saying that he personally had been specially selected as a man of taste and discrimination who knew what he wanted and where he was going in today’s sophisticated jet- setting world and would he therefore like to buy some grotty wallet, and also a dead tabby kitten.
He rammed himself through the relatively narrow opening afforded by all this, stumbled through a pile of wine offers that no discriminating connoisseur would want to miss, slithered over a heap of beach villa holidays, blundered up the dark stairs to his bedroom and got to the phone just as it stopped ringing.
He collapsed, panting, on to his cold, musty-smelling bed and for a few minutes stopped trying to prevent the world from spinning round his head in the way it obviously wanted to.
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.
The room was much as he had left it, i.e. festeringly untidy, though the effect was muted a little by a thick layer of dust. Half-read books and magazines nestled amongst piles of half-used towels. Half pairs of socks reclined in half-drunk cups of coffee. What was once a half-eaten sandwich had now half-turned into something that Arthur entirely didn’t want to know about. Bung a fork of lightning through this lot, he thought to himself, and you’d start the evolution of life all over again.
There was only one thing in the room that was different.
For a moment or so he couldn’t see what the one thing that was different was, because it too was covered in a film of disgusting dust. Then his eyes caught it and stopped.
It was next to a battered old television on which it was only possible to watch Open University Study Courses, because if it tried to show anything more exciting it would break down.
It was a box.
Arthur pushed himself up on his elbows and peered at it.
It was a grey box, with a kind of dull lustre to it. It was a cubic grey box, just over a foot on a side. It was tied with a single grey ribbon, knotted into a neat bow on the top.
He got up, walked over and touched it in surprise. Whatever it was was clearly gift-wrapped, neatly and beautifully, and was waiting for him to open it.
Cautiously, he picked it up and carried it back to the bed. He brushed the dust off the top and loosened the ribbon. The top of the box was a lid, with a flap tucked into the body of the box.
He untucked it and looked into the box. In it was a glass globe, nestling in fine grey tissue paper. He drew it out, carefully. It wasn’t a proper globe because it was open at the bottom, or, as Arthur realized turning it over, at the top, with a thick rim. It was a bowl. A fish bowl.