Bob still insists that my reply to this question was my finest moment. I was barely conscious of replying at all. I was that shaken by the realization that I was about to be rumbled. But as we watched it on Bob's video the next day, I had to admire my own composure, as I leaned forward with a powerful mixture of Celtic mysticism and intensity in my expression and said softly: "It's whatever you want it to be, Frank. Whatever you want it to be."
"You know, Billy," Bob said as he cracked open another can. "I actually cheered when you said that. Right here in my own sitting room. By myself. I thought you were a bloody Houdini. I never expected the bastard to keep on at you like that."
We rewound the tape to where the bastard kept on at me.
"Mr. McGregor, I don't think you even know what a glirt is. Or a flookie, or a bochle. In fact I think you're a complete fraud. A bottle of fake Scotch."
"That's it," I sighed.
"Bastard!" muttered Bob.
"Have we got time for one more before your plane leaves?"
I looked at my watch. "I think we can squeeze in one more." I ordered the whiskies and we clinked glasses.
"Be sure to lay it on thick for those Yanks, Billy. They'll expect it, having paid for your ticket and everything."
I grinned. "I'll whooch my flurnie for them, Bob. Now they can't ask more than that."
"On the contrary, Billy. I think as guest speaker for such an august body as The European Literature Faculty of the University of South Dakota, you might at least go the extra mile, as they say over there, and blurn your ochles."
We grinned at each other and clinked our glasses again.
"You know," I said, "I really thought it was over after that bloody interview in London."
"Never underestimate your Uncle Bob, my boy, never underestimate your brilliant Uncle Bob."
"I have to admit, it was your greatest stroke of genius yet. The way you wrote that letter it should be you that's flying over to America to give them their lecture on Scottish fiction."
"Can't stand flying, Billy. Anyway, there's no fiction about it. Charlatans have the same feelings as anyone else. You should know that, being the biggest charlatan of them all. Are you not proud of your country? Do you like to see some bloody supercilious Englishman looking down his nose at Scotland's finest young writer and making him look like a complete dick? Damned arrogance. Home Counties provincialism. Cultural imperialism. Someone had to take a stand, Billy-boy."
I let the "complete dick" remark pass. I would have preferred "discomfited", but I was in too good a mood to argue. "Aye, and they weren't slow to rally to your standard. I've never seen the arts pages so rampant. You could smell the thistles from across the room."
"Thistles don't smell, Billy. Try porridge. But, you know, that bastard Speeking made it easy for me when he called you Scotch."
We drained our glasses and clinked them one last time.
"Jings, is that the time?" I said. "Must wheech!"