A starting point was needed. Just one word would do.
‘Try The Times for a change,’ said Arnold. ‘For example, take the fifteenth word on page 6.’
At the newspaper shop I picked up The Times. A fleeting image of the paper’s proprietor flashed across my brain. No, I couldn’t bring myself to buy it. Trying to look casual I turned to page 6 and counted. The sixth word was ‘in’. Folding the paper quietly I slid it back on to the shelf and picked up a box of chocolate truffles instead.
Trying to feel Parisian I wandered down to the local bistro. Last night, after finishing ‘The Most Beautiful Walk in the World’ by John Baxter I had stayed up until two o’clock buying a Eurostar ticket to Paris and booking an AirB&B flat in my favourite arrondissement. The glorious word flâneur came to mind as I sipped my coffee. Is there a word flâneuse I wondered, or is that another designation mistakenly thought to belong entirely to men – like ‘cuckold’. Then I tried to think creatively about the word ‘in’.
A young woman slipped between the tables and stuffed a copy of The Guardian into the wall-rack. I sidled over and took it back to my table. Would it be cheating to look at page six, word fifteen, in the preferred paper? Would Arnold mind? Would he know? No, but I would know I’d cheated. Hmmm.
The fifteenth word on page six of The Guardian was ‘in’.
Yet again the cosmic network was trying to tell me something (via Arnold of course).