(continued from The King of King’s Road)
At first no one seemed to notice. Early morning commuters walked briskly towards the tube with their eyes down. Yummy mummies pushed their prams purposefully and glanced away. Slender ladies laden with designer shopping bags chatted on their cell phones as they hurried from boutique to boutique. Members of the London Fire Brigade arrived for their regular shifts at the Chelsea Fire Station and left several hours later. The red number 11 bus made it’s regular stops. Black cabs passed, sometimes stopping to drop a passenger. No one took note of the incongruous presence that had settled in their neighborhood.
The homeless man had been sleeping rough on the streets of London for several months before he found shelter from the damp under the overhang next to the fire station on The King’s Road. He slept there one night to avoid the rain. Then another night. And another. Before long, the homeless man had found a home. He laid down his sleeping bag and a pillow each night on a foam pad he kept rolled and strapped to the side of his Tesco shopping cart, which overflowed with the things he had collected, warm clothing and blankets wrapped tightly in plastic trash bags, several cardboard boxes folded and tied to the cart, four liter-sized plastic bottles of water, a coffee can filled with coins, a battery-operated radio with live batteries and a Rubik’s cube.
One morning after about 10 days, one of the firemen offered the homeless man a cup of hot coffee and a breakfast muffin. He asked the homeless man if he was hungry, but the man just gazed back fearfully and did not respond. The fireman left the coffee and muffin and went about his business. The homeless man ate the muffin and slowly sipped the coffee until it was finished. The next day the fireman came again with coffee and a muffin and again tried to engage the homeless man in conversation. Again, no response. After about a week of the same routine, the homeless man nodded and said thank you. Thereafter, each morning one of the firemen brought the homeless man some coffee and something to eat, and the homeless man said thank you. To be continued…