Feeling the need of increased stature among his peers, Pepkin decided to grow a beard, like those of the great philosophers, or Tolstoy or Brahms, and so he stopped shaving. When his beard came in, though, it came not as many hairs but one enormous whisker. It grew just above the jawline of his right cheek and resembled a tree trunk. Since it lacked the look of a conventional beard, he thought about shaving it off, but decided to give it some time and see how it developed.
As it grew longer, it continued to thicken and soon grew quite heavy. He found himself tilting his head to the right most of the time, and people thought it gave him a contemplative air. In fact, he found himself being given considerations he never had before. Friends would listen attentively as he spoke. Strangers would ask his opinion on the matters of the day. Clergy sought his advice on matters both theological and lay. Pepkin noticed other men adopting what had come to be called the Pepkin Tilt.
He worried this imitation might dilute his uniqueness, but it was about this time his enormous whisker began to sprout fruit. At first they were just small green nuts clustered at the end of the whisker, but over time they blanched until they looked like pulpy white berries. The weight of the fruit and the still-growing whisker itself caused it to bend down, and the fruit would sway and slap against Pepkin’s chest as he walked. While some men tried to mimic this look as well, with beaded scarves or lengths of pasta, the consensus was that Pepkin had taken his innovation too far. He found himself shunned.
So, he stayed in his apartment more and more, then retreated even farther, rarely leaving his bedroom. Finding the open space of the vast room vertiginous, he constructed a canopy over his bed and brooded inside. After several weeks within this crib, his fleshy berries began to split and ooze a viscous liquid. From within, little baby snakes emerged, each with a face identical to Pepkin’s. When all the snakes had hatched, he took a razor and shaved off his enormous whisker. He built a boat from its fine-grained substance, and he and the snakes sailed it out to sea. The snakes sunned themselves on the deck while Pepkin steered the wheel.
Those who saw them go tried to tell the story of their departure, but few would believe them. So, the storytellers formed their own clubs and societies. They would take turns retelling the tale of Pepkin. They called it “tilting.”