The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams

  Luckily, because of the time at which the inexplicable disaster had occurred, the roads were almost deserted, and apart from massive damage to property, the only fatalities to have occurred were the as yet unidentified occupants of a car which was thought to have been possibly a BMW and possibly blue, though because of the rather extreme nature of the accident it was rather hard to tell.

  He was very, very tired and did not want to think about it, did not want to think about last night, did not want to think of anything other than linen sheets and how wonderful it was when Sister Bailey patted them down around him as she had just now, just five minutes ago, and again just ten minutes before that.

  The American girl, Kate something, came into his room. He wished she would just let him sleep. She was going on about something being all fixed up. She congratulated him on having extremely high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and a very dicky heart, as a consequence of which the hospital would be very glad to accept him as a lifelong patient in return for his entire estate. They didn't even care to know what his estate was worth, because it would clearly be sufficient to cover a stay as brief as his was likely to be.

  She seemed to expect him to be pleased, so he nodded amiably, thanked her vaguely and drifted, drifted happily off to sleep.


  * * *

  The same afternoon Dirk Gently awake, also in hospital, suffering from mild concussion, scrapes and bruises and a broken leg. He had had the greatest difficulty in explaining, on admittance, that most of his injuries had been caused by a small boy and an eagle, and that really, being run over by a motorcycle courier was a relatively restful experience since it mostly involved lying down a lot and not being swooped on every two minutes.

  He was kept under sedation--in other words, he slept--for most of the morning, suffering terrible dreams in which Toe Rag and a green-eyed, scythe-bearing giant made their escape to the north-east from Valhalla, where they were unexpectedly accosted and consumed by a newly created, immense Guilt God which had finally escaped from what looked suspiciously like an upturned refrigerator on a skip.

  He was relieved to be woken at last from this by a cheery, "Oh it's you, is it? You nicked my book."

  He opened his eyes and was greeted by the sight of Sally Mills, the girl he had been violently accosted by the previous day in the cafe, for no better reason than that he had, prior to nicking her book, nicked her coffee.

  "Well, I'm glad to see you took my advice and came in to have your nose properly attended to," she said as she fussed around him. "Pretty roundabout way you seem to have taken but you're here and that's the main thing. You caught up with the girl you were interested in did you? Oddly enough, you're in the very bed that she was in. If you see her again, perhaps you could give her this pizza which she arranged to have delivered before checking herself out. It's all cold now, but the courier did insist that she was very adamant it should be delivered.

  "I don't mind you nicking the book, really, though. I don't know why I buy them really, they're not very good, only everyone always does, don't they? Somebody told me there's a rumour he had entered into a pact with the devil or something. I think that's nonsense, though I did hear another story about him which I much preferred. Apparently he's always having these mysterious deliveries of chickens to his hotel rooms, and no one dares to ask why or even guess what it is he wants them for, because nobody ever sees a single scrap of them again. Well, I met somebody who knows exactly what he wants them for. The somebody I met once had the job of secretly smuggling the chickens straight back out of his rooms again. What Howard Belt gets out of it is a reputation for being a very strange and demonic man and everybody buys his books. Nice work if you can get it is what I say. Anyway, I expect you don't want to have me nattering to you alt afternoon, and even if you do I've got better things to do. Sister says you'll probably be discharged this evening so you can go to your own home and sleep in your own bed, which I'm sure you'll much prefer. Anyway, hope you feel better, here's a couple of newspapers."

  Dirk took the papers, glad to be left alone at last.

  He first turned to see what The Great Zaganza had to say about his day. The Great Zaganza said, "You are very fat and stupid and persistently wear a ridiculous hat which you should be ashamed of."

  He grunted slightly to himself about this, and turned to the horoscope in the other paper.

  It said, "Today is a day to enjoy home comforts."

  Yes, he thought, he would be glad to get back home. He was still strangely relieved about getting rid of his old fridge looked forward to enjoying a new phase of fridge ownership with the spanking new model currently sitting in his kitchen at home.

  Then was the eagle to think about, but he would worry about that later, when he got home.

  He turned to the front page to see if there was any interesting news.



  Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

  (Series: Dirk Gently # 2)




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