At that moment my uncle stormed in. Gesturing furiously at the cigarette I was holding he inquired,
– Is that what I think it is?
– That is an interesting problem in epistemic ontology, I replied. I am inclined to say that objects in the world exist in a different plane from our mental representations of them, and that to conflate the two is a category error. But some would counter that the fallacy consists rather in postulating the objective existence of things independently of our perception of them, as we can never have empirical grounds for so doing; in which case to answer your question in the affirmative would be merely to state a truism.
– All right, mister smart alec, said my uncle. Give it here.
– Certainly, I said, perceiving that it would be foolish to oppose him in his present nervous condition. It is not of the highest quality but you are always welcome to what humble hospitality I can afford. There are matches on the dresser.
– Damn your impudence, he said.
Snatching the proffered cigarette from my hand he sniffed at it gingerly, then held it up at a roughly equal distance from my face and his, in the manner of a barrister displaying a forensic exhibit.
– You’re in some very hot water, he said. You won’t be wearing that smirk for much longer, let me tell you that. Now then, mister smarty pants. Where’d you get this from?
– It was a present from Mr Connolly, I said.
– Connolly, is it? Is that the pimply little bugger who was here just now?
– It is very ill bred of you to call him that, I said. I don’t make derogatory comments about the appearance of your friends.
Though God knows it’s tempting, I thought, but decided not to give voice to this further observation.
– Well, he continued, I never liked the look of that ugly little bastard and now I know why.