The King of King’s Road (8)

(continued from The King of King’s Road (7))

Each day after finishing their chores, a group of the firemen at the Chelsea Fire Station gathered around a communal table in their locker room and played poker. On most days as the homeless man swept the fire station, he watched the men slowly gather for their daily poker game, until finally one day his curiosity drew him into the locker room to watch them play. The firemen paid little attention to their spectator as he stared intently at their cards and followed each player with his eyes as the bets moved around the table.

As each card was dealt face up, its picture registered immediately in the homeless man’s memory. He could easily keep track of the cards that were showing on the table and, by deduction, which cards were held in the players’ hands or yet to be dealt. The probabilities raced through his mind as he watched the firemen play hand after hand. He stood and watched without saying a word. After about an hour, one of the firemen opened a fresh deck of cards and handed the used deck to the homeless man and told him to keep them. The homeless man smiled, nodded and began to shuffle the deck. He shuffled the cards quickly with the sharp crack of an experienced player. He manipulated the cards in just one hand and rolled half the deck from top to bottom through his fingers. The firemen noticed and smiled, recognizing that they had an experienced card player in their midst.

The homeless man took his new deck of cards and went back out to his spot next to the fire station on The King’s Road. He set out his coffee can and cardboard sign and began to play with his cards, shuffling, manipulating them through the fingers of a single hand and spreading the full deck in the same hand. Before long, passersby began to notice the homeless man and his deck of cards. A few people stopped to watch. The homeless man spread the deck and held it out to one of the bystanders and nodded at the cards. The bystander understood and drew one card from the deck and held it closely without letting anyone see which card it was. The homeless man nodded and held out the spread deck again. The bystander replaced the card and the homeless man thoroughly shuffled the deck several times. He then flipped over the top card from the deck and showed it to the group. The bystander smiled broadly and acknowledged to the others that the homeless man had correctly identified the card he had selected. One of the other bystanders asked the homeless man to repeat the trick, which he did over and over again well into the afternoon while people stopped to watch and drop coins in the homeless man’s can as a sign of appreciation of the smiles he had brought to their faces.

To be continued… 

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