Halvorsen debated with himself about what he could say in reply:
An S.P.G. operator spends a week learning his skill and I spend a lifetime learning mine.
An S.P.G. operator makes a mechanical copy of a human form distorted by formulae mechanically arrived at from psychotests of population samples. I take full responsibility for my work; it is mine, though I use what I see fit from Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Middle
Ages, the Renaissance, the Augustan and Romantic and Modern
An S.P.G. operator works in soft, homogeneous plastic; I work in
bronze that is more complicated than you dream, that is cast and
acid-dipped today so it will slowly take on rich and subtle coloring
many years from today.
An S.P.G. operator could not make an Orpheus Fountain-He mumbled, “Orpheus,” and keeled over.
Halvorsen awoke in his bed on the second floor of the building. His fingers and toes buzzed electrically and he felt very clear-headed. The girl and a man, unmistakably a doctor, were watching him.
“You don’t seem to belong to any Medical Plans, Halvorsen,” the doctor said irritably. “There weren’t any cards on you at all. No Red, no Blue, no Green, no Brown.”
“I used to be on the Green Plan, but I let it lapse,” the artist said defensively.
“And look what happened!”
“Stop nagging him!” the girl said. “I’ll pay you your fee.”
“It’s supposed to come through a Plan,” the doctor fretted.
“We won’t tell anybody,” the girl promised. “Here’s five dollars. Just stop nagging him.”
“Malnutrition,” said the doctor. “Normally I’d send him to a hospital, but I don’t see how I could manage it. He isn’t on any Plan at all. Look, I’ll take the money and leave some vitamins. That’s what he needs—vitamins. And food.”
“I’ll see that he eats,” the girl said, and the doctor left.
“How long since you’ve had anything?” she asked Halvorsen.
“I had some coffee today,” he answered, thinking back. “I’d been working on detail drawings for a commission and it fell through. I told you that. It was a shock.”
“I’m Lucretia Grumman,” she said, and went out.
He dozed until she came back with an armful of groceries.
“It’s hard to get around down here,” she complained.
“It was Labuerre’s studio,” he told her defiantly. “He left it to me when he died. Things weren’t so rundown in his time. I studied under him; he was one of the last. He had a joke—’They don’t really want my stuff, but they’re ashamed to let me starve.’ He warned me that
they wouldn’t be ashamed to let me starve, but I insisted and he took me in.”
Halvorsen drank some milk and ate some bread. He thought of the change from the ten dollars in his pocket and decided not to mention it. Then he remembered that the doctor had gone through his pockets.
“I can pay you for this,” he said. “It’s very kind of you, but you mustn’t think I’m penniless. I’ve just been too preoccupied to take care of myself.”
“Sure,” said the girl. “But we can call this an advance. I want to sign up for some classes.”
“Be happy to have you.”
“Am I bothering you?” asked the girl. “You said something odd when you fainted—’Orpheus.'”
“Did I say that? I must have been thinking of Milles’s Orpheus Fountain in Copenhagen. I’ve seen photos, but I’ve never been there.”
“Germany? But there’s nothing left of Germany.”
“Copenhagen’s in Denmark. There’s quite a lot of Denmark left. It was only on the fringes. Heavily radiated, but still there.”
“I want to travel too,” she said. “I work at LaGuardia and I’ve never been off, except for an orbiting excursion. I want to go to the Moon on my vacation. They give us a bonus in travel vouchers. It must be wonderful dancing under the low gravity.”
Spaceport? Off? Low gravity? Terms belonging to the detested electronic world of the stereopantograph in which he had no place.
“Be very interesting,” he said, closing his eyes to conceal disgust.
“I am bothering you. I’ll go away now, but I’ll be back Tuesday night for the class. What time do I come and what should I bring?”