She had to go out for the day, so Arthur settled down for a day of telephoning.
Murray Bost Henson was a journalist on one of the papers with small pages and big print. It would be pleasant to be able to say that he was none the worse for it, but sadly, this was not the case. He happened to be the only journalist that Arthur knew, so Arthur phoned him anyway.
``Arthur my old soup spoon, my old silver turreen, how particularly stunning to hear from you. Someone told me you'd gone off into space or something.''
Murray had his own special kind of conversation language which he had invented for his own use, and which no one else was able to speak or even to follow. Hardly any of it meant anything at all. The bits which did mean anything were often so wonderfully buried that no one could ever spot them slipping past in the avalance of nonsense. The time when you did find out, later, which bits he did mean, was often a bad time for all concerned.
``What?'' said Arthur.
``Just a rumour my old elephant tusk, my little green baize card table, just a rumour. Probably means nothing at all, but I may need a quote from you.''
``Nothing to say, just pub talk.''
``We thrive on it, my old prosthetic limb, we thrive on it. Plus it would fit like a whatsit in one of those other things with the other stories of the week, so it could be just to have you denying it. Excuse me, something has just fallen out of my ear.''
There was a slight pause, at the end of which Murray Bost Henson came back on the line sounding genuinely shaken.
``Just remembered,'' he said, ``what an odd evening I had last night. Anyway my old, I won't say what, how do you feel about having ridden on Halley's Comet?''
``I haven't,'' said Arthur with a suppressed sigh, ``ridden on Halley's Comet.''
``OK, How do you feel about not having ridden on Halley's Comet?''
``Pretty relaxed, Murray.''
There was a pause while Murray wrote this down.
``Good enough for me, Arthur, good enough for Ethel and me and the chickens. Fits in with the general weirdness of the week. Week of the Weirdos, we're thinking of calling it. Good, eh?''
``Got a ring to it. First we have this man it always rains on.''
``It's the absolute stocking top truth. All documented in his little black book, it all checks out at every single funloving level. The Met Office is going ice cold thick banana whips, and funny little men in white coats are flying in from all over the world with their little rulers and boxes and drip feeds. This man is the bee's knees, Arthur, he is the wasp's nipples. He is, I would go so far as to say, the entire set of erogenous zones of every major flying insect of the Western world. We're calling him the Rain God. Nice, eh?''
``I think I've met him.''
``Good ring to it. What did you say?''
``I may have met him. Complains all the time, yes?''
``Incredible! You met the Rain God?''
``If it's the same guy. I told him to stop complaining and show someone his book.''
There was an impressed pause from Murray Bost Henson's end of the phone.
``Well, you did a bundle. An absolute bundle has absolutely been done by you. Listen, do you know how much a tour operator is paying that guy not to go to Malaga this year? I mean forget irrigating the Sahara and boring stuff like that, this guy has a whole new career ahead of him, just avoiding places for money. The man's turning into a monster, Arthur, we might even have to make him win the bingo.
``Listen, we may want to do a feature on you, Arthur, the Man Who Made the Rain God Rain. Got a ring to it, eh?''
``A nice one, but ...''
``We may need to photograph you under a garden shower, but that'll be OK. Where are you?''
``Er, I'm in Islington. Listen, Murray ...''
``Well, what about the real weirdness of the week, the real seriously loopy stuff. You know anything about these flying people?''
``You must have. This is the real seethingly crazy one. This is the real meatballs in the batter. Locals are phoning in all the time to say there's this couple who go flying nights. We've got guys down in our photo labs working through the night to put together a genuine photograph. You must have heard.''
``Arthur, where have you been? Oh, space, right, I got your quote. But that was months ago. Listen, it's night after night this week, my old cheesegrater, right on your patch. This couple just fly around the sky and start doing all kinds of stuff. And I don't mean looking through walls or pretending to be box girder bridges. You don't know anything?''
``Arthur, it's been almost inexpressibly delicious conversing with you, chumbum, but I have to go. I'll send the guy with the camera and the hose. Give me the address, I'm ready and writing.''
``Listen, Murray, I called to ask you something.''
``I have a lot to do.''
``I just wanted to find out something about the dolphins.''
``No story. Last year's news. Forget 'em. They're gone.''
``Listen, no one will touch it. You can't sustain a story, you know, when the only news is the continuing absence of whatever the story's about. Not our territory anyway, try the Sundays. Maybe they'll run a little `Whatever Happened to ''Whatever Happened to the Dolphins``' story in a couple of years, around August. But what's anybody going to do now? `Dolphins still gone'? `Continuing Dolphin Absence'? `Dolphins --- Further Days Without Them'? The story dies, Arthur. It lies down and kicks its little feet in the air and presently goes to the great golden spike in the sky, my old fruitbat.``
``Murray, I'm not interested in whether it's a story. I just want to find out how I can get in touch with that guy in California who claims to know something about it. I thought you might know.''