‘What about Philippe Bezar?’ said Mr. B——
‘What about him?’ I asked, with needlessly casual scorn. Despite the success of his 1991 novel, Monkey See, Monkey Do (winner of the coveted Satin Glove for Gay Fiction), Bezar had never convinced me as a writer. There was something – I don’t know – artificial about his prose. ‘Too much pose, not enough prose’, as I think I wrote at the time.
‘He had no pet as such,’ said my drinking companion, ‘but he yearned for one nonetheless. Oh, how he yearned!’
‘Go on,’ said I.
‘What I know is this: Bezar’s most precious dream was to hand-rear a chick. To mother a little baby hen – this was all he asked. Unfortunately, the fellow had an extraordinarily elementary grasp of basic science, which led him to believe that shop-bought eggs would do the trick just as well as any other. For several years he dutifully sat on a dozen eggs purchased from the supermarket, keeping a tragic diary of his progress – or should I say, lack of progress? For of course, none of the eggs ever hatched. No chick was ever born. Bezar never achieved his hand-rearing dream. The only thing he ever mothered was this melancholy tale.’
‘Sad story,’ said I: ‘but can it really be true?’
My source looked offended. ‘Oh, I’m sure of it,’ he said, unconvincingly.
I pondered a little more. There were three options. First, the story was indeed true. Second, it had been invented by Bezar’s enemies, to convince the world of his idiocy. Third, it had been invented by Bezar, to convince the world of…. what? His winning ignorance of the way the world works? His powerful mothering instinct? His pure, unalloyed eccentricity?