The Caveman's Valentine

The Caveman's Valentine

by George Dawes Green


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Romulus Ledbetter wasn't always homeless. He once was a devoted husband, father, and musician with a bright future. He now forages for food in the trash cans of the city's better neighborhoods and wages a strenuous one-man war against Cornelius Gould Stuyvesant, an evil — and imaginary — power broker who is responsible for society's ills, as well as the sinister Y- and Z-rays that are corrupting humankind. Then one wintry night, Rom finds a corpse at the mouth of his cave that rouses his well-defined sense of ethics and launches him on an obsessive quest for answers. Forced to reconnect with society, Rom leaves his world and journeys through a spiraling web of clues and hunches, straight into a sinister den of money, temptation, and murder—otherwise known as the "civilized" world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446671514
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 06/24/2009
Series: Fresh Voices Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

George Dawes Green is a higly acclaimed novelist and poet. He currently divides his time between Georgia and New York.

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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 you going to read it page by page, like I was some cheap-jack midnight entertainment to make you forget the mess you're in — right? Get you chuckling, get your greasy thumbprints all over my thoughts, get you through another miserable lonely night, right, Stuyvesant?"

"Who's Stuyvesant?"

"You're Stuyvesant."

"I'm not Stuyvesant."

"No, you're a zit on Stuyvesant's ass. But you're Stuyvesant just the same. 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 got legions of angels in there, and they're going to beat the shit out of you with their little wings, and pick your limbs apart and spin you around and slide you on out of there. Oh, I'm going to crap you out and be free of you. You hear me? I'M GOING TO CRAP YOU OUT, 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 swallow your 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 the bodies in the furnace! That's why it's warm. Our livers you serve for breakfast, and our hearts you sacrifice to Stuyvesant, and the rest you cook up in the furnace! To keep everybody toasty."

"Mr. Ledbetter, I'm freezing out here."

"Then go."

"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 up to his full height. Rose up before the social worker the way in a nightmare 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 on the Henry Hudson Parkway. His stink was enormous. For a scarf he wore the "Week in Review" section of the Sunday New York Times.

"My daughter."

There was a wheeze in his voice, and the big eyes in his black face looked off somewhere.

"She's worried about you. She says tomorrow's Valentine's Day. She says how'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 her maybe I'm low, maybe they knocked me low, but I'm still a free man."

He stood there and simply loomed. Until at last the social worker shrugged and went away.

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