If Lisbon Bester had known that a single four-minute egg was to be the reason for his downfall, he probably would have ordered the quick and efficient killing of every single laying hen known to man. The thing is, Bester had no idea that a four-minute egg, nor the woman who would cook it, nor the girl who would eat it, for that matter, had any significance at all. In fact, Lisbon Bester–if asked, of course–probably would never have mentioned four-minute eggs as being on The List. The List, of course, referred to the great number of cataclysmic things that could possibly be his undoing, including Firing Squad, which was number six hundred and forty-three, as well as Nuclear Squirrel, which was twelve hundred and seven. And if you think twelve hundred and seven is a rather large number of things by which you might be done in, then you haven’t thought all that hard of the circumstances surrounding your own eventual demise — which isn’t all that odd, really, considering it’s a thought not many people choose to ponder for any significant length.
As far as The List went, however, Lisbon Bester had comprised a number so great that he wasn’t certain his original goal could be achieved — a notion too distressing to hold to, and so he kept with it, and ignored the number as best he could, which was generally easy, save for the days his butler would awaken him with a start by snagging the pulls of the window shades and snapping them up so fast they spun on their rollers, asking, “Figure out a way to beat number three hundred and seventeen, yet?”
Number three hundred and seventeen was the one number standing immediately in the way of Lisbon’s Original Goal, which was To Live Forever in Perpetual Youth, Wit, and Beauty, and the butler bringing it up in the morning made it not at all a lovely way to be waked.
He imagined, not for the first time, that he should get himself a new butler, but if he fired this one, he would be setting himself up for number one hundred and four, Shot By Disgruntled Former Employee.