– it seems just a silly story (page 2).

‘Six pints of bitter,’ said Ford to the barman of the Horse and Groom. ‘And quickly, please, the world´s about to end.’

The barman of the Horse and Groom didn´t deserve this sort of treatment, he was a dignified old man. He pushed his glasses up his nose and blinked at Ford. Ford ignored him and stared out of the window, so the barman looked instead at Arthur, who shrugged helpessly and said nothing. So the barman said, ‘Oh yes, sir? Nice weather for it,’ and started pulling pints. He tried again. ‘Going to watch the match this afternoon, then?’  ‘No, no point, the world´s about to end.’ ‘Oh yes sir, so you said,’ said the barman looking over his glasses this time at Arthur. ‘Lucky escape  for Arsenal if it did.’  ‘No, not really,’ he said. He frowned. The barman breathed in heavily. ‘There you are, sir, six pints,’ he said. Arthur smiled at him wanly and shrugged again. He turned and smiled wanly at the rest of the pub just in case any of then had heard what was going on. None of them had, and none of them could understand what he was smiling at them for. Ford salpped a five-pound note on the bar. He said, ‘Keep the change.’ ‘You´ve got ten minutes left to spend it.’ 

‘Ford, would you please tell me what the hell is going on?’ said Arthur. ‘Drink up, you´ve got three pints to get through.’ ‘Three pints? at lunchtime?’  ‘Time is an illusion. Luchtime doubly so.’ ‘Drink up.’ ‘Why three pints all of a sudden?’ ‘Muscle relaxant, you´ll need it.’ ‘Did I do anything wrong today,’ said Arthur, ‘or has the world always been like this and I´ve been too wrapped up in myself to notice?’ ‘All right,’ said Ford, ‘I´ll try to explain. How long have we known each other?’ ‘How long?’ Arthur thought. ‘Er, about five years, maybe six,’ he said. ‘Most of it seemed to make some kind of sense at the time.’  ‘How would you react if I said that I´m not from Guilford after all, but from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse?’ ‘I don´t know.’ said Arthur. Ford gave up. ‘Drink up. The world´s about to end.’ Arthur gave the rest of the pub another wan smile. The rest of the pub frowned at him. A man waved at him to stop miling at them and mind his own business. ‘This must be Thursday, I never could get the hang of Thursdays.’

 

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