The Unlikely Dates of Nicholas Burrows
His first date.
Reservations were hard to get, but on hearing his name they instantly created a table for two. Outside the restaurant he waited with a picture, and a text message, which described a white summer dress with red flowers, dark hair, pink bag, nervous.
He paced around, examining the message.
"Ann?" he asked, when she floated into view. The girl was far too beautiful for the likes of Nick Burrows.
"Oh my God, I can't believe this! Yes! Yes I'm Ann. You are obviously Nick."
"I am. Shall we?"
People stared as they negotiated a route to their table. Heads slid together in furtive whispers, eyes dropped to forgotten food then flicked up again as they passed.
The head waiter rushed over and pulled out chairs, wine was discussed, cloth-covered bread brought out. Other staff stood off, watching from afar.
"Honestly, me here with you!" Ann said.
"Could we, you know, calm down a little? You are my first date."
"Seriously? Oh my God!"
"Well, I never had much luck before. My profile wasn't that interesting."
The girl shook her head. "Well that changed, didn't it."
A sommelier brought wine and offered Nick a taste before pouring. Eyes closed in from all corners of the room because what would a man like Nicholas Burrows know about such things? Escape was impossible, so he sipped and swirled and tried to fake knowledge. With a nod, the flushed waiter filled their glasses and backed away.
"To your health, Mister Burrows," Ann said. He was glad she didn't say, 'To us.'
"I'm dying to ask," she said, eyes wide. "You don't have to answer but, I'm just dying to ask!"
Nick perused the crowded restaurant. The number of gawkers had diminished but there were still pockets of unbridled fascination. "It's okay, I expected it."
"I'm just dying to ask! Where did you come from?"
"Absolutely no idea."
"Seriously? Even now you don't know where you were born?"
"No. Not a clue."
She ran her eyes over his features like it was a party game. The nose too broad, no doubt. The forehead too flat. Or did women just see what they wanted to see?
A different waiter arrived and topped up their wine. Nick thought they might all get a shot at visiting the table, maître d' first, then down on through the ranks.
"Is it true that you had nothing before all this? All pretty terrible?"
"Oh yes, as terrible as it could get. Firstly, my boss tried to fire me."
"No! A supermarket wasn't it?"
"Yeah. Nasty little guy called Greg with a smidgen of power. I'm strong, he isn't. He wielded what he had."
"They fired him after I became famous."
"Good! Serves him right. So...almost lost your job, and there was a tax thing and a house thing too, right?"
The first course arrived, wheeled along on a trolley that required only one waiter but was driven by two. After a confusion of plates and cutlery, the first date reached the antipasto stage.
"Yes. They left me money and stuff and I got bogged down in taxes and threats and scary red letters, you know the drill."
The food was excellent despite him not being a cold-course man. She had a way of tucking her hair behind an ear that Nick found fascinating.
"And the house?"
"The landlord wanted rent, apparently."
She laughed. "Yeah, why is that?"
He liked her laugh.
"Yet still, after all this, you don't know where you came from? That seems incredible considering how much has gone into it. A fortune spent already."
Nick shrugged. "I guess. Aren't I supposed to be asking questions about you? I've heard it's what men should do on first dates."
"Yes. Men are. I'm more interested in you!"
That comment sealed the evening, and after declining coffee they left the restaurant and its soup of curious faces.
In the taxi home, Nick stared out of the window at a world that made little sense.
"A good night?" the driver asked.
"A first online date."
"Oh, right. You? No offence."
The car turned a hard right but Nick's low centre of gravity kept him stable in the back seat.
"How'd it go?"
He gave a small snort. "Not sure I'll do another. I went for the goodnight kiss."
"Oh. Was that wise?"
"I've heard it's always a tricky moment. She said she wasn't ready."
"Considering everything, Mister Burrows... Still, multiple murderers get lots of marriage offers. Not saying you're a..."
The evening had not gone well.
* * *
His second date.
Nick thought he might do better with a French restaurant, and Polly, an undergraduate studying History and economics, claimed it was a perfect choice.
"This is so exciting, Mister Burrows!" she said.
"It's Nick. Not that exciting, is it? Better for me than for you, I promise."
"Awww, what a lovely thing to say." She resembled a meerkat as she peered around the restaurant. "I expected burgers or a steak house."
The girl went red and he felt bad. "I'm sorry Polly, this is only my second date. Ever."
"Ever? But hasn't it been months since it all blew up? Haven't you been inundated with marriage proposals?" When she laughed, Nick ventured a smile back.
"The taxi driver said something similar. I should be married ten times over by now, according to him, not panicking over a second date."
"No need to panic... Nick. I'm amazed you said yes. I'm honoured."
"I'm not sure that 'honoured' is how I want you to feel."
"Sorry, flattered. I'm flattered. But why French? Don't they have Portuguese restaurants?"
"I'm not Portuguese, I was just found there."
The clientele of this restaurant were subtle about their interest, as befitting the French. They managed to stare without intruding and that eased his nerves a little. Polly had mud-coloured hair and glasses perched on an origami nose. She was thin and angular which seemed to suit her, and Nick studied her face while she ate.
"Sorry," she said.
"For the glasses. I can't stomach putting contacts in. I've tried."
"No I like them."
"Yes. There was a time when they said that men don't make advances to women wearing glasses, but things are different now. They're quite the fashion."
"Not for me, I'm blind without them. What about you? Are your eyes okay? I read somewhere that—"
"—They're fine. I've never had a problem."
"Do you have problems with anything? Oh, God, that sounds awful doesn't it. Sorry to pry, but it's not every day that one meets an, a, um..."
She laughed into her plate and quickly covered her mouth. "You're funny. I like that."
Yes, he thought. Suddenly I'm a real comedy act. "It's true. I'm a celebrity. I was once a poor, almost homeless, almost jobless, almost tax-evading felon, but hey, who isn't."
Her smile almost twinkled. "Anyway, I like dark skin and a broad face. Very manly."
"Now you're making fun of me."
"I'm not. But didn't you suspect? All along?"
A team of waiters scurried to the table to ask if all was okay, and appeared reluctant to leave. When they finally went, Polly studied the departure over the top of her glasses. "They want an autograph."
"They want a tip."
"No, I've seen how these people behave with celebrities, and they want more than filthy lucre. They want something to hand down to their grandchildren. Did you ever think this would happen, when you first tried to track down your family?"
"Of course not. I just wanted to know who my real parents were."
"Where did you go? Ancestry or something?"
"Yourpast. The kit was cheapest."
"Neat. Blood, I guess."
"Spit in a tube. Not the best dinner topic. They repeated the test three times of course, with lots of apologies and no extra charge."
"Wow, the result must have been one hell of an email. Or was it a letter?"
"A phone call."
"From their HQ."
"What a celeb!"
"Yes Polly, I'm quite something. It was hilarious, actually. I was standing at the door of my house fighting with the landlord, who, so he claimed, had found someone else for the house. The house I was still living in."
"Due, presumably, to not paying your rent."
"I was a bit short."
Polly burst out laughing. "A bit short! Oh, sorry."
"I've learned to embrace my shape."
"It's okay! A little vertically challenged maybe, but look at Danny DeVito. A very successful man."
"I'm not that short."
"No. With quite the chest, may I say."
"And long arms."
The girl went pink again. "All the better for wrapping a girl up."
Nick turned away into the room of faces, some of them looking over, some of them deep in conversation.
"A penny for them?"
"I don't really understand people," he said.
"Me neither. I've never had a steady boyfriend. My mother thinks I'll never marry and prays for me by her bedside every night."
"Only when it comes to me dating. You? Do your... I mean, do you believe in God?"
Was she going to ask if his kind believe in God. He deflected it with a wave of his hand.
"The jury's out on that one," he said. "For instance, why make animals that go extinct? If he's all-knowing, wouldn't he have known they wouldn't make the cut?"
"Maybe he's like me in the kitchen. I try things and some taste awful. Oh, I've put my foot in it again, haven't I."
"No, of course not. For my part Polly, this second date is so much better than the first."
She prodded her food. "I didn't think you'd be so nice."
"No, silly. You. It just goes to show, you can't trust everything you read. Like the jungle story. There aren't any jungles in Portugal, but that doesn't stop the stupid stories."
"No, it doesn't. But it could have been a jungle."
"I don't know how I got there, remember? Nobody does. Simply cuddled by nuns from one year old, then bounced around until my parents adopted me. I could have been born in the Arctic.
The meal crept on for another hour before they got up to leave. As Nick pulled out Polly's chair he knocked the table behind him with a long misplaced elbow, causing a crash of wine and tiny forks. The restaurant exploded into silence and everyone turned now that a delicate opportunity to stare presented itself.
"I'm so sorry!" he said to the flustered family and Polly stood awkwardly, not knowing whether to help or run away. A team of waiters materialized and in the confusion, the disturbed diners took a dozen pictures with their phones.
On the street, he avoided the terror of a goodnight kiss. Instead, he shook her hand, and she told him it had been a pleasure.
"The pleasure was all mine. I would like to see you again, if that suits you."
What would be her brush-off?
"I'll call you sometime," she said.
* * *
His third date.
Elizabeth worked in the city doing a job that made no sense to Nick. She tried to explain the nature of it, but so far his employment experience demanded nothing more than moving food from trucks to shelves in a supermarket. Futures and commodities sounded like nonsense. He wondered why she was single but after half an hour he guessed it was because she was as unfathomable as her job. The short dark hair was fashioned more for practicality than for show, as were her expensive but drab clothes. The date resembled an interview.
"Why didn't you pay your rent?"
They were walking by the river, not arm in arm, after a group of drunk wine-bar youths had prodded him in the chest, following it up with verbal abuse. The manager intervened and apologized by tearing up Nick's bill. Elizabeth asked why he hadn't defended himself – he was certainly strong enough – and Nick had responded with a shrug.
"Why didn't I pay my rent? I had no money."
"But still. You must pay rent or you're homeless, especially with no family members offering a spare couch. Is that not a simple equation for you? Also, the tax problem. That too could have been easily solved by communicating with them. They only get upset when you don't communicate."
Nick hoped the date would end soon. He wanted solitude in the house so generously provided for him. Everything now was generously provided. He didn't even need to work, he just floated on the mercurial nature of celebrity.
"It overwhelmed me. All of it. I was friendless, without family, without any kind of support system. Everything spiralled away from me."
"Okay. Fair enough. Things moved pretty quickly though, didn't they. Some people think it's all a fake. Is it?"
They walked under a bridge, the only moment in the evening that felt close.
"It must have been a shock," she said. "I heard you were taken there in a limo. You, in a limo!"
"Not a limo. But yes, it was a shock, that part's true. I was arguing with my landlord who had already found another tenant. There I was, claiming poverty on the doorstep, when a long, sleek Mercedes rolled up and a chauffeur climbed out. I didn't know if the landlord was impressed or more angry, I just ran inside, got cleaned up, and enjoyed the ride to London."
"Did you think they'd found your family? DNA for ancestry purposes is, I believe, a growing business and quite successful. I imagine you thought you were heir to the Romanov dynasty or some such."
"That would have been fun, wouldn't it? Do you think my online persona would've blown up so quickly if I'd said I was a missing Czar?"
"I doubt it. I wouldn't believe such a thing. Nobody would."
"So why? Why, after three years of zero interest do I now get a thousand requests a week? I still look the same. I still have a weird shape and fat head! What do women see in a man, if it isn't looks and connections?"
"We don't like lies, but we do like the unusual," she said. "And let's face it, your updated profile was certainly unusual."
They parted near a tube station without a goodnight kiss, and while in hindsight a taxi home would have been a sensible idea, he chose to walk back to the bar. Later he would not recall what hit him, except it was something hard. The perpetrators were, no doubt, the same drunks from earlier, and he barely recalled the ambulance. He woke in the stiff white sheets of a hospital bed.
* * *
Not a date.
Her badge said Tina, and she was mid-twenties, or thereabouts. Nick wasn't great at ages and no man, not even he, would ask a girl her age. She had an upside-down watch and slightly cool hands.
"The doctor will be here in a minute, Mister Burrows. You had a nasty bump on the head and I think the police will be back. Up for questions?"
"It's all I get these days," Nick said. He tried to move but pain shot from the back of his head to the front, so he eased himself back to where his body had been settled for, how long?"
"How long have I been here?"
"You came in about ten last night. It's eleven in the morning now. You had a good night."
"It was a terrible date."
"No, Mister Burrows, I mean you had a good night here. It's a medical expression we use when we can't be bothered to give details." She smiled, and it suited her.
"Can I call you Tina?"
"You, Mister Burrows, can indeed call me Tina. You've caused a stir on the ward: The whole hospital, in fact. The District General Manager, no less, had a press conference."
"Did he tell them I was dead?"
The nurse moved some tubes and lifted things and moved things, seemingly as a way of remaining in the room. None of her actions appeared vital.
"She, by the way, did not. She said that you're stable and expected to be released some time today. More's the pity."
"Yes. I can tell my mum I'm treating the famous Mister Burrows. I can tell my teachers at training college that I'm treating the famous Mister Burrows. Actually, I can tell everyone I've ever met that I'm treating the famous Mister Burrows. Fancy developing something else? Stay a while longer?"
"That'll do," she said. "Better go. Less interesting people with incurable diseases need me, but ring the buzzer if you need anything. The others can die, you can't."
"Will do. Tina."
With a parting smile she squeaked out of the room, leaving him to his thoughts.
Yourpast had felt like a promising idea at the time. All he knew was that he was adopted by two wonderful people who died and left him alone in a world that didn't want him. He'd been a pass-the-parcel from age one until age five. Then that magical childless couple had said yes. They had protected him, loved him, and finally left him by means of a car accident.
Where had he been for the first year of his life? It was still a mystery. Born, presumably to parents who looked like him, in a place the subject of much conjecture. As his second dinner companion had mused, there are no jungles in Portugal, but that's where the nuns scooped him up and bounced him on their Catholic knees. The jungle idea was ridiculous internettery. He could have been born anywhere.
Following his three tests – where one was normally sufficient – he didn't get the standard email from Yourpast. He got a phone call. Then a car ride, followed by a glass building and countless offers of coffee by gawking underlings.
"Could I ask why I'm here?" he had asked a particularly inquisitive employee.
"If you could just wait a while, Mister Burrows, they'll be out to see you shortly. More coffee?"
"No thank you." Perhaps they had been testing his resilience to stimulants.
Tina the nurse came back in, and he stopped reminiscing. It gave him a headache anyway.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
"Yes. Just thinking about life."
"Your life? Or life in general? By the way, I'm taking your temperature." She waved an electronic wand and moved one of his arms up and out of the way, a manoeuvre she wrestled with.
"Muscle mass could be other than what you're used to."
"Oh, I don't know. I had a body builder. You're not that strange."
"I didn't mean that you're strange! Oh dear, can we ignore the complexities of language? I'm a nurse and you're a patient like any other. Oh, actually, you're not are you. What's your normal body temperature? Shoot! I never thought of that."
Nick laughed and the pain ran around his skull like a wall of death motorcyclist. "I'm kidding! I think it's the same as yours."
"I need to look it up."
"God knows. Which university are you with?"
"You know, affiliated to, or some such?"
"They like me at the Natural History Museum. Is that any good?"
"No. Are you always this much of a pain?"
"Only in the presence of beautiful girls."
"Steady on, Mister Burrows, whatever your normal blood pressure is I think it might be going up."
"Noted," he said.
"I will be back."
"I'm looking forward to it. And it's Oxford, by the way. Professor Carl Emerson. Give him a call."
"Ooh, phoning Oxford. How posh."
"And please call me Nick."
"Get some rest, Nick. Buzz me."
* * *
Still not a date.
He slept for most of the day and when he woke, it was dark on the other side of the window. Some shuffling sounds had disturbed him at some point, but he hadn't known what they were. The water in the plastic jug by the bed tasted stale, so he hit the call button. Almost instantly, Tina arrived.
"What is it, Nick?"
"Any chance of fresh water?"
"It's dark. I thought I was going home."
"Not today. It seems there are five other hospitals who want to take care of your bumped head and the DGM fought to keep you here. There's even a policeman outside the door."
"You are precious, and he's taking his job very seriously. He'll only let me in, and maybe a doctor if they ask nicely."
"Yes. I had to bribe him, of course."
Nick laughed. "Are you married?"
"Boyfriend? Girlfriend? Whatever we have to ask these days?"
"No, to all the above."
"Will you marry me?"
"No. I will, however, give you fresh water."
"Are you always so romantic after getting beaten up?"
"I don't know. It's my first beating."
"Then how's a girl to know she won't be left at the altar?"
"Just stall the vicar. I'm bound to get thirsty at some point."
She took the plastic jug to a small sink and returned with it full. When she held a glass to his lips he thought of a jungle pool.
"I'm off duty now. I thought I'd hang around in case you got thirsty."
"Tina, that's. I mean. Thank you. I appreciate it."
"No problem. Can I sit a while?"
"Of course. Not too many questions though. I get so many."
"I understand. I'm not studying you, I promise. You're a big deal and I'm not. I only want to bask a little."
"Bask away, Florence Nightingale, no need to be so hard on yourself. You've trained for a profession. All I did was try to find my family."
Tina sat on the visitor's chair and Nick realized that she had been its only occupant. Had she considered that?
"I don't need pity," he said.
"I know. I'm not pitying you Nick, I'm keeping you company because I want to. Okay?"
"Sorry. I was lonely, you know? Before all this. Now I'm lonely because of it. I'm not sure which is worse."
"No. Three years I was on a dating site with a picture that resembled the Incredible Hulk and blurb that admitted I worked in a supermarket. Offers did not flood in."
"Shed-loads. All shapes and sizes. I've been on three dates this week."
"Wow. Any prospects?"
"I liked a girl called Polly."
"As in parrot?"
"Did she have a beak?"
"Yes. Plus a strange habit of repeating everything I said."
"She's a keeper."
"I think so. She said she might call but I doubt she will. I think they just want to stare or tell their real friends they met me. I'm merely a story to them. A chance for a selfie."
"I don't think so, Nick. You're handsome in a short, stocky, flat-faced way. And funny. That helps. I bet you have skills no other man has. Perhaps they want to find out what they are."
She folded her hands in her lap. "I'd go on a date with you."
She shrugged. "Women like a little something different in a man."
"You know what I mean, you irritating person. I'd love to know..."
"Questions? I thought we weren't doing that."
"Yes, you're right. I'm sorry."
"It's okay. What did you want to know?"
The girl shifted her head like she was struggling with something.
"When they told you, how did it feel? I didn't know I was adopted until I was thirteen and it wrecked my teenage years. I can't imagine what it must have been like for you, now that you're the most infamous adoptee on the planet. I'm still dealing with it, truth be known. It felt like I'd been thrown away and recycled. Not fair at all, but you can't help how you feel."
He turned his head and saw a tight-lipped smile. He reckoned it meant she was serious.
"Well," he said, "I remember sitting in the reception of the DNA testing place, being force-fed coffee until they were ready to tell me what the hell it was all about. Eventually a man came out with an awkward hand stuck out in front of him like he was trying to keep as far away from me as possible. It was weird."
She didn't move. The room was dark, the only sounds coming from two people breathing. It felt like a cave with a story to keep the wolves at bay. He had an urge to light a fire and see it dance around the walls. With closed eyes, his deep voice resonated in the telling of it. An ancient art revived in a healing place.
He had sat in that reception area for twenty minutes before someone came out to meet him. A tall man in an expensive suit. He was accustomed to full-body glances but this was academic-level scrutiny. "Mister Burrows. So good to meet you. Andrew Clark, CEO of Yourpast. So sorry to keep you waiting."
"What's this all about?"
"Please. We'll be more comfortable in my office," and the man led him through an overly warm building to a room overlooking the park. Three people stood when they entered, offering hand shakes and blatant stares.
"No, thank you. What's this all about? Have you found my heritage, lineage, whatever the term is?"
The four people smiled and exchanged those infuriating looks. The CEO offered him a seat.
"Mister Burrows, would you be okay with us taking a sample of your blood? Here, today? No charge."
"Um, yes, I suppose so, if you'll tell me what's going on."
"Of course. Would you mind?" And so came the fourth of his tests, this one a needle in the arm and not a pot full of spit. The technician disappeared with it.
"—Please, call me Nick."
"Nick. You're looking for your family, which is what we do here. Try to do. Do you know about DNA? Do you know how it all works?"
He had some idea, and related what he knew.
"Quite so," Clark said, and for some reason the others looked impressed. "We found your story very interesting. Unknown birth place, cared-for by nuns in Portugal and then adopted in England. It's quite a life you've led."
"And the chances of matching you with someone on our extensive database was always a long-shot."
"So you've found nothing."
"I wouldn't say that. Um...DNA is a strange beast. As you say, it dictates hair colour, body shape, all kinds of things. We share large portions with parents and siblings which is why we look like them, less so with cousins etcetera. The only people who have identical DNA are identical twins. The police like DNA for solving crimes, and we like it for solving ancestral links."
"I know all this."
"Yes, yes. Quite. Another puzzle about DNA is, um..."
The woman on the couch took Clark's hesitation as a chance to bring some much-needed clarity. "Hello Nick, I'm Doctor Lewis."
"Am I sick?"
"No! Not at all. I'm not that sort of doctor. Have you ever heard of Australopithecus? Homo habilis? Homo erectus? Lucy?"
"They were pre-human creatures that died out a million or more years ago. We have nothing but fossils. Of all the various human-like attempts, Homo Sapiens is the only one left. It's us. We succeeded where all the others failed."
"One strain lasted until forty thousand years ago and co-existed with modern humans. Neanderthals. Heard of them?"
"Yes. They were like cave men."
The room chuckled. "Right. Hulking brutes who survived the ice-age but died out when modern man appeared. Actually, we're discovering more and more about them. They were certainly bulky creatures, great for withstanding the cold, but they made art, buried their dead, probably used language. We're looking at them with new eyes."
"What does this have to do with me?"
Clark spoke up again. "Human DNA contains about three percent Neanderthal DNA. Modern humans bred with them."
"Yes, indeed. You, however, are different to the rest of us."
"You've got more Neanderthal."
"Oh. How much?"
"Um...well...all of it."
* * *
Absolutely not a date.
She put her hand on his forehead. "Just being a nurse, Nick. You look a little warm."
"I am. I have a body for cold weather, remember? Not comfy private rooms."
"Got it. Did you believe them?"
"No, of course not. Would you? The Neanderthals are gone. There's only one species of human on the planet and its Homo Sapiens. Would you like to be told you aren't human?"
"No. Me neither. My parents weren't Neanderthals. Those things are just fossils."
Tina put a hand on his. "Remember the coelacanth? It went extinct 65 million years ago and then someone dragged a live one out of the ocean. You're a very rare fish, Mister Burrows."
"So I'm told."
"So stop feeling sorry for yourself. You had parents who loved you but they had, you know, Neanderthal stuff to do."
He didn't answer, and they sat in the dimly-lit room with their own thoughts. Eventually, she asked if there was any hope of finding them.
"I don't think so. The whole Geographic Society is out there thrashing through the grass with sticks."
"See? People care. I shall bring you a present tomorrow. A panda."
"A real one?"
"No, but I bet it comes from China."
"I'm not a child, Tina, but thanks for the thought."
"Shut up, Nick. I'm a nurse, remember? I give hope and succour, etcetera. When a man came stumbling out of the trees in China telling tales of a black and white vegetarian bear, people laughed but set off to find one. It took thirty-five years of thrashing through the grass with sticks before they spotted another. Nobody thinks twice about pandas now, but then it was a crazy story told by a lunatic. You'll find your family. And a girl."
He gave out a dismissive blast of air. "I only got requests on the dating site when I changed my description from 'Supermarket Employee' to 'Not Human'. I only escaped imprisonment for tax evasion when I successfully explained that they can only tax Homo Sapiens. They can't take dog food from guide dogs, working farm animals or one out of three fish from clapping sea-lions. I only have a home because the university gives me all I need. I'm a sea-lion doing tricks for fish."
He squeezed her hand. "Do you have anything else to cheer me up?"
"Yes. I do. You and I are both adopted, but you, Nick the Neanderthal, have been adopted by the entire planet. Don't knock it. People love you."
"I'm a mascot."
"So are pandas. Did you know that in Greek, panda means 'everything'? Spooky, eh?"
"Would you date me?"
"Because I'm not human?"
"What if they had taken me to a vet?"
"Ah, now that would be different. I would have adopted you immediately and called you Chuckles."
"Yes. Now stop complaining about being unique and tell me more stories."
"You won't leave?"
"I won't leave. I promise."
"Tomorrow, Mister Neanderthal, I might invite you to my home. The freezer needs defrosting."
He smiled. "I'd be good at that. My people did it for millions of years. It's a date then?"
"Okay, but the slightest hint of you painting bison on my walls and I'm throwing you out. Got it?"
"Meanwhile, I'll get a blanket and sleep on this chair. I want to sit by your camp-fire. I've never sat in the dark with a cave-man before. Will you keep the wolves away from me?"
"I will," he said, and finally he'd found something worth protecting.