THE ADVENTURE OF THE RAMPANT SEMI-COLON
"It's really quite simple, old boy. Once you have dealt with the possible, all that remains is bullshit."
Thus my friend explained his easy dismissal of the two little monographs he was preparing.
"But, Kan!" I expostulated, "Have you no respect for your audience?"
Much to my chagrin, I observed him sluice rather an excessive quantity of malt into a glass he had unearthed from beneath the disorder of his research material. He slumped heavily into his armchair and busied himself with his smoking accoutrements. Whether it was as a result of the alcohol or the nicotine, I cannot say; but the brown study that he had so recently fallen into seemed to abate somewhat and I was able to discern some small trace of a smile playing about his lips. I hesitated to engage him immediately in conversation; the memory of the wounds I had incurred on the last such occasion remained ever fresh in my mind.
"Even your limited powers of observation should allow you to notice the fact that besides this rather heavy cut-glass beaker, which could without doubt be the cause of a rather unseemly contusion were it not that its being outside of a good few fingers of Scotland's finest tends to mitigate against my using it as a projectile, I remain at this present moment entirely unarmed. Out with it, man!"
I considered, but only for the briefest of moments, subjecting this utterance to keen grammatical analysis but to risk losing the fleshy components of my other ear would have been foolhardy in the extreme.
"Well, far be it from me to..."
"Oh, let distance be no object. The further, the infinitely more preferable."
"Surely it cannot have escaped your attention that..."
"There are, fortunately, quite a sufficiency of items which escape my attention for the very good reason that they are entirely unworthy of receiving it. Pray continue, but only after you have lobbed me that bottle of Caol Ila. Thank you."
"Well, it seems to me that the very facts that you are to be handsomely remunerated for your services and that those wishing to attend your expositions are to be charged a registration fee, should lead towards your treating the situation with considerably more gravity."
"As ever, you are hidebound in your thinking. You have allowed yourself to be cowed by convention. Your vision is sorely limited; your reasoning, bobbins of the highest order."
He sank back even further into the upholstery and it was with no small sense of foreboding that I noticed he had dispensed with the glass and was drawing sustenance directly from the bottle.
"Surely their ready acceptance of my outrageous fee would indicate a rather unseemly desperation on their part, would it not? And as for my audience; well, we can discount that proportion whose limited grasp of the language would automatically dispose them to nod their heads in sage agreement with whatever utterance I might care to make, planned or otherwise; so too may we ignore those whose sole motivation for attending is to avail themselves of the opportunity of visiting the, shall we say less salubrious dens of the capital. They will be all too preoccupied with the fine tuning of the numerous inventions necessary for the apparently adventitious completion of their expenses forms."
The beaker had fallen off the arm of the chair and was thus, out of his reach.
"Not in the sense of accidental, I admit but rather in the sense of unplanned, you tit."
I could see him weighing the equation in his mind. The effort that should be expended in retrieving the beaker measured against the pleasure of scoring a direct hit upon my person. Lethargy prevailed.
"And the remainder?"
I sensed that his train had been momentarily de-railed by my interjection and was desirous of trammelling his thoughts to the matter in hand. His predilection for committing acts of random brutality when unfocussed was uppermost in my mind.
"You appear, in your haste to find fault with my reasoning, to have overlooked the fact that my grasp of the subject matter is so complete as to allow me to make of even the most banal observation a scintillating gem of science and convolution. They will be impressed even if they do not wholly follow. Your gainsaying and constant pessimism disgust me. Pray excuse me whilst I expectorate."
And so I took my leave. The relief I felt was not entirely due to my having escaped without physical injury but more because it always pained me to witness the gradual descent into shameless depravity which inevitably resulted from his submission to the temptation of the malt. Besides, another few fingers and he would start misquoting Aeschylus. I knew from bitter experience that my desire to correct him would get the better of me and I had no wish to reacquaint myself with the prosthetics so soon after the last occasion. I donned my nightdress and retired for the night.