(continued from The King of King’s Road (12))
For the next two days the minister arrived every morning to visit the homeless man in the hospital and stayed all day playing blackjack with him. From time to time, the firemen would visit and join in the card games. The homeless man never spoke, but he smiled and never tired of dealing the cards.
After he had been awake and off the breathing tube for a full three days, the homeless man was released from the hospital in the care of the minister, who brought him back to the church’s homeless shelter. There, the homeless man was given some new clothing and a cot to sleep on. The firemen had previously brought over his shopping cart with the rest of his belongings, which had already been placed nearby. The homeless man sat on the cot and surveyed the room, eyeing the other men in the shelter suspiciously. The minister assured him that he would be safe and that his belongings would be secure. The minister knew that many homeless people had refused shelter because they feared being robbed. That night the homeless man laid still in his cot, but never slept, in fear of the others sleeping nearby.
The next day, the minister introduced the homeless man to a case worker with the hope that they could begin to help find his identity and get him some mental health care. The homeless man refused to answer any questions or cooperate in any way. Having been briefed by the minister, the case worker began to shuffle a deck of cards and deal. The homeless man picked up the dealt hand and took the deck from the case worker. He shuffled and dealt a new hand. They played blackjack for almost an hour, at which point the case worker got up and left the room, only to return shortly with a large jigsaw puzzle. He sat down on the floor next to the homeless man’s cot and spread the pieces on the floor and began to work on the puzzle.
Soon the homeless man joined the case worker on the floor and began to work on the puzzle, quickly putting together groups of matching pieces, assembling the corners and the border, and beginning to fill the space in between. Some of the other homeless men gathered to watch. A couple of the other men joined them on the floor and began to work on the puzzle. None were as quick as the homeless man, but their collaborative effort contributed to a finished puzzle showing Big Ben and Parliament on River Thames. The homeless man promptly scrambled the puzzle. They began the puzzle again, finishing it even more quickly this time.
That night the homeless man slept.