“No,” said Ford firmly. “We must go to the party in order to drink a lot and dance with girls.”
“But haven’t you understood everything I …?”
“Yes,” said Ford, with a sudden and unexpected fierceness, “I’ve understood it all perfectly well. That’s why I want to have as many drinks and dance with as many girls as possible while there are still any left. If everything you’ve shown us is true…”
“True? Of course it’s true.”
“…then we don’t stand a whelk’s chance in a supernova.”
“A what?” said Arthur sharply again. He had been following the conversation doggedly up to this point, and was keen not to lose the thread now.
“A whelk’s chance in a supernova,” repeated Ford without losing momentum. “The…”
“What’s a whelk got to do with a supernova?” said Arthur.
“It doesn’t,” said Ford levelly, “stand a chance in one.”
He paused to see if the matter was now cleared up. The freshly puzzled looks clambering across Arthur’s face told him that it wasn’t.
“A supernova,” said Ford as quickly and as clearly as he could, “is a star which explodes at almost half the speed of light and burns with the brightness of a billion suns and then collapses as a super-heavy neutron star. It’s a star which burns up other stars, got it? Nothing stands a chance in a supernova.”
“I see,” said Arthur.
“So why a whelk particularly?”
“Why not a whelk? Doesn’t matter.”
Arthur accepted this, and Ford continued, picking up his early fierce momentum as best he could.
“The point is,” he said, “that people like you and me, Slartibartfast, and Arthur — particularly and especially Arthur — are just dilletantes, eccentrics, layabouts, fartarounds, if you like.”
Slartibartfast frowned, partly in puzzlement and partly in umbrage. He started to speak.
“— …” is as far as he got.
“We’re not obsessed by anything, you see,” insisted Ford.
“And that’s the deciding factor. We can’t win against obsession. They care, we don’t. They win.”
“I care about lots of things,” said Slartibartfast, his voice trembling partly with annoyance, but partly also with uncertainty.
“Well,” said the old man, “life, the Universe. Everything, really. Fjords.”
“Would you die for them?”
“Fjords?” blinked Slartibartfast in surprise. “No.”
“Wouldn’t see the point, to be honest.”
“And I still can’t see the connection,” said Arthur, “with whelks.”
Ford could feel the conversation slipping out of his control, and refused to be sidetracked by anything at this point.
“The point is,” he hissed, “that we are not obsessive people, and we don’t stand a chance against …”
“Except for your sudden obsession with whelks,” pursued Arthur, “which I still haven’t understood.”
“Will you please leave whelks out of it?”
“I will if you will,” said Arthur. “You brought the subject up.”
“It was an error,” said Ford, “forget them. The point is this.”
He leant forward and rested his forehead on the tips of his fingers.