I went and told Latirail that Sinture would dedicate his book whether he liked it or not. Ninette came to the door. She wasn’t dressed yet though it was eleven o’clock. Usually she’s up at seven. She looked rather odd so I asked her what was the matter. She said: "All morning I’ve been battling with my husband. He’s got a headache and won’t get dressed. I’m afraid he’ll catch a cold. You’ve come at the right time, I’m exhausted. Come in and see him and tell him that if he doesn’t get dressed he won’t have any ideas. Perhaps that’ll make up his mind for him. Will you?"
I went into Latirail’s bedroom. He was sitting in the middle of the room with only his underpants on.
"What do you want?"
"I’ve come to say that Sinture is going to … "
"Please, don’t talk to me about Sinture. Don’t mention that turd to me. I’ve got a headache, I’ve lost the thread. Don’t bother me."
"Listen, Sinture says that when he dedicates your book he’ll get his own back on everybody. Couldn’t you … "
"That’s enough. I couldn’t care less about Sinture. He’s nothing but a self-important nonentity. He’s jealous of my novel."
"He knows … "
"He knows nothing. Do you think he can help me with my Lice Seekers? Wait, I’ve an idea … I could arrange things so that they find Sinture. Sinture’s lice, Sinture’s filth. That’s right, Sinture is a louse. That’s exactly what he is, a louse. Oh, yes! We’ll fix him, you’ll see … "
"It’s a bad idea. If you let Sinture get mixed up with your novel you’ll never be able to get rid of him. He’ll know about it straight away and he’ll mess everything up even more. No, you haven’t any ideas, or you’re just saying the first thing that comes into your head. You can’t write like that. These seekers of yours, do you want them to find anything or not? You’ve got to think ahead. You’re not me. When I think ahead I become dumb. But you, with your novel, you’ve got to know what’s going to happen. And you won’t do it by picking up just any old idea. What do you want them to find?"
"Treasure. Under a heap of old clothes, one day, in Spain, after travelling throughout Europe in search of different kinds of lice, which they sell to lice trainers, because lice as well as fleas can be trained, they become rich and travel for pleasure and one day, in a market-place, one of them stumbles over a pile of old clothes. He bends down and out of habit pokes around among them and he finds the golden bowl … "
"There you are! You knew all along!"
"Perhaps not a market-place, because that would mean that someone had hidden the bowl on purpose. Theft would only complicate matters. In a cave. I can fill in the details later. Anyway, treasure discovered by chance."
"That’s a marvellous idea!"
"Yes, but that’s only the end. At present, I’m still at the time when they’re looking for lice. And I’ve run out of ideas. I could quite easily make them meet up with Sinture … "
"I wouldn’t if I were you. Perhaps you’ve run out of ideas because you’ve got a headache. Perhaps if you got dressed … "
"Do you think so? Ninette has been making a scene all morning … She told you to say that, didn’t she ?"
"No, I thought of it because you don’t seem to be on form … "
"You never are on form when you’ve got a headache. Putting on a shirt won’t get rid of it."
"Try all the same."
"All right, then … I put on my shirt. I button it up. I put on my trousers. I put on my sweater. Satisfied? Well, I feel worse then I did before."
"It’ll go. Oh, I’ve got an idea for your novel! You say that the Lice Seekers . . . What are they called?"
"Fio, Fian and Fion."
"Er, well, Fio, for example, you say how one day he was out walking in Fontoine. Fontoine is where I go for my holidays. He’s out walking when suddenly he meets a certain gentleman. This gentleman asks him his name and he replies: ‘Fio. And you?’ ‘My name is; Louse. You wouldn’t think so, would you? Yes, I’m a real louse. It’s a case of transformation. By sucking people’s blood I’ve grown enormous and now I wear a hat and shoes. I’m on holiday here. I itch all over.’ Fio is delighted. He’ll be able to sell this fat louse to a trainer. He’ll fetch a big price. So he asks him: ‘Would you like to be trained? You’d be a real attraction. I could find a special trainer. In a circus for example …’ ‘And how would I be paid for these shows ?’ ‘You could ask for a percentage of the takings. Of course, you wouldn’t be your own boss, but I’m sure a percentage could be agreed on. What do you say? Is it a deal?’ ‘All right.’ So they catch a tram, which takes them to Agapa-la-Ville. They get off. But Fio has forgotten the way to the circus. He asks a policeman. The policeman says: ‘Why do you want to know?’ ‘We want to find a louse-trainer.’ ‘But I’m a louse-trainer.’ So Fio introduces Louse. The policeman says he’s got a good style. Louse thinks he’ll pull off a deal. What a stroke of-luck-he’s always so bored on holiday. And he does pull it off. The policeman buys Louse for one thousand francs. Fio takes the money. He shakes hands with Louse and says: ‘Good luck, many thanks, hope to see you again.’ He catches the tram back to Fontoine. Fian and Fion are waiting for him at the hotel. He tells them everything that has happened. They look very surprised. And when he has finished his story they say: ‘We too have found some big lice. They are ladies who were once lice. They are quite magnificent. We’re going to sell them. Here they are!’ They open the bathroom door and there they are waiting quietly."
"No, it’s no good."
"Because it’s completely crazy. I don’t write about crazy things, I write about real things. God, my head!"
"I really don’t understand you. Your head aches because you overwork it. I never have a headache."