The Caveman's Valentine
Warner BooksCopyright © 1995 George Dawes Green
All right reserved.ISBN: 9780446671514
You figure now you got me in your clutches, you going to read me,like a book, right? going to look right into my brain and yougoing to read it page by page, like I was some cheap-jack midnightentertainment to make you forget the mess you're in right? Getyou chuckling, get your greasy thumbprints all over my thoughts, get youthrough another miserable lonely night, right, Stuyvesant?"
"I'm not Stuyvesant."
"No, you're a zit on Stuyvesant's ass. But you're Stuyvesant just thesame. You're all Stuyvesant."
"I just want to take you to the shelter, Mr. Ledbetter."
"But watch out when you're in my skull, because I gotlegions of angels in there, and they're going to beat the shitout of you with their little wings, and pick your limbs apart and spinyou around and slide you on out of there. Oh, I'm going to crapyou out and be free of you. You hear me? I'M GOING TO CRAP YOUOUT, STUYVESANT!"
"It's the coldest night of the year, Mr. Ledbetter."
"It is cold."
"If you stay in this cave, you'll freeze. You'll die out here."
"I might. The world turns, it takes some of us with it. But if I swallowyour con, if I go to your damn smelter"
"Shelter, Mr. Ledbetter."
"Then I would die for sure."
"Oh, the shelter's ... well, it's not a hundred percent safe,but ... at least it's warm."
"Damn right it's warm. You know why it's warm? Because you burn thebodies in the furnace! That's why it's warm. Our livers you servefor breakfast, and our hearts you sacrifice to Stuyvesant, and the restyou cook up in the furnace! To keep everybody toasty."
"Mr. Ledbetter, I'm freezing out here."
"Your daughter asked me to come looking for you."
Romulus Ledbetter glared at his visitor.
Then he sloughed off his blankets and came out of his cave and rose upto his full height. Rose up before the social worker the way in anightmare a grizzly will rise on its hind legs and it's too late to run.His hat was a Teflon saucepan lined with the furs of squirrels killed onthe Henry Hudson Parkway. His stink was enormous. For a scarf he worethe "Week in Review" section of the Sunday New York Times.
There was a wheeze in his voice, and the big eyes in his black facelooked off somewhere.
"She's worried about you. She says tomorrow's Valentine's Day. She sayshow's her old man going to be her valentine if he freezes to death?"
"Well, you tell her not to worry. You tell her for me, tell hermaybe I'm low, maybe they knocked me low, but I'm still a freeman."
He stood there and simply loomed. Until at last the social workershrugged and went away.