In an antique shop, I dithered over the purchase of a bo’sun’s wig. It had been powdered once, with talc or something like it, white, so white, and flecks still clung to the horsehair. At least, I think it was horsehair. It was known to be the wig of a bo’sun because, as if it were a great work of art rather than a topper for a bo’sun’s pate, there was a card of provenance. One could follow the ownership of the wig through three centuries. Think of that! I am no chemist, but I wondered, if the wig were subjected to tests, whether one would discover flecks not only of talc but of sea salt and other briny particulars. They say that in those days the hard tack ship’s biscuits fed to the crew were sometimes rife with weevils. Perhaps within the strands of horeshair lay hidden weevils’ eggs and crumbs of ship’s biscuit too. If I made purchase, would I feel compelled to take the bo’sun’s wig to a chemist, for tests? And would the chemist comply? The only chemist I know is as bald as a coot. He might inveigle me to let him keep the bo’sun’s wig, and have it disinfected with borax and then wear it on his chemist’s noggin. Winter is approaching, after all, and his head must get a-chilly at such a season. He is not a hat-owning man, as he has told me more than once, in the smoking room anent his lab, where we sit, the two of us, puffing on fags and talking of everything but chemistry. His eyes are those of a moonstruck calf, and I cannot imagine, were he to cast them upon me and plead to keep the bo’sun’s wig, that I could ever refuse him. I am not made that way. Thus my dithering, in the antique shop. If I bought the bo’sun’s wig, I would want it for the wooden head, so smoothly carved, I keep upon my Kakovangi cabinet. That, the wooden head, has been tested, and I know it to be free of woodworm and other tiny creeping things that would munch it to ruination. The cabinet itself I am not so sure about. In the night, it creaks. In the night, and also in the day, I creak too, repeatedly, jarringly, for I am ancient, like Methuselah.