There is no plot change here, but the first scene and the last one are both new.
The weeks of therapy and study got long and hard sometimes for the displaced westerner. He wasn’t used to spending so many hours indoors. He also wasn’t used to be bossed around that much. On Saturdays and Sundays, between reading, studying, and practicing new words on Jim, Heyes got far outside his rented room in one of the most notorious slums in the world. On days when it wasn’t terribly cold or rainy, or sometimes even it was, he would take long walks on the city streets and through the parks. Along with exercise, he was gaining knowledge of the city. The map of Manhattan and even some of the outlying boroughs was starting to become familiar to him.
One crisp, sunny late autumn day he took a rapid walk up town from his home on the lower east side to Central Park. The distance even before he got to the park was more than 60 city blocks. The hurrying Heyes easily passed the gentler walkers: the strolling elderly men, straw-hatted dandies with their girls, and young mothers pushing strollers on a pretty autumn day. A good, fast, long walk made Heyes’ blood pump. He finally felt good and strong again.
Heyes was learning his way around the city and picking up city habits that might have startled his partner. His long walk had given him an appetite. So the reformed outline strolled past the sheep meadow and stood in line for one of his favorite city treats – a hot dog. Heyes had his hands in his coat pockets. Now that he was standing still, the wind was chilly. Heyes got to the front of the line for the little cart. The vendor was a skinny bearded man he hadn’t met before. Heyes tried not to tense up. He hated talking – or trying to talk - to strangers. Vendors he had met before were easier to deal with – they knew how limited his practical vocabulary was.
Heyes pointed to the grill where the hot dogs were cooking and held up one finger. He pointed at the sauerkraut and the mustard. And he held out a quarter.
“You look American,” said the vendor as he put the hotdog on the bun and added mustard and sauerkraut. “So why don’t you say nothing?”
The vendor handed Heyes back his dime change. “Can’t you talk English?”
“A . . . little,” answered Heyes uneasily, with a decided pause between the words as he took his hot dog.
“What, are you some kinda’ dummy?” the curious vendor asked contemptuously.
“No!” said Heyes, turning away furiously. The angry ex-outlaw walked away and found a park bench where he could sit to eat. He took a couple of deep breaths to let go of some of his anger before he settled in to eat his hot dog. This was hardly the first time he had faced this kind of humiliation. But being used to it didn’t make it much easier to take.
A tall young man walked up beside Heyes with a hotdog of his own in hand. “That guy’s a total ass,” the stranger said. “I hope you didn’t tip him.”
Heyes shook his head and let out a brief bark of laughter.
“Good! Offensive creep. Nobody out in Texas where I’m from would treat a customer like that. Where you from?”
Heyes gathered himself. Even somebody who was trying to be nice posed a problem. “West,” said Heyes, struggling to get out even that single word.
“Where out West?” asked the blonde stranger.
Heyes gaped and shook his head. He didn’t have the words yet to say more on that subject. Finally, he said, with painful pauses between the words, “Can’t . . . talk . . . much. Sorry.”
“You don’t have to be sorry. It’s not your fault,” said the man from Texas. “I didn’t mean to bother you.”
“It’s . . . alright,” said Heyes. He pushed back the hair from his left temple and pointed to the still very dark diagonal scar from his bullet wound. He mimed a gun.
“Oh! How did you get shot so bad? Sorry - I apologize for being nosy. You probably can’t tell me anyhow.”
“No,” said Heyes. He felt miserable to have his handicapped so mercilessly exposed, but at least there was no pity in the young Texan’s blue eyes. Most people either ignored the wounded man entirely or treated him like some unfortunate child. It was a relief to be treated like a competent adult by someone he didn’t know.
“Well, you seem to get along alright, considering.”
“Thanks,” said Heyes. “Better . . . slow.”
“How long ago?”
“Two . . . months.”
“I had a friend who had what you have – aphasia. Old con hit him too hard. He didn’t do nearly as well as you have. He was a policeman – like me.”
Suddenly Heyes was sweating. He had had no idea that his Texan acquaintance was with the law, since he wasn’t in uniform. Since the lawman had a friend with aphasia, he almost certainly knew about the Leutze clinic. Suddenly, there was nothing Heyes could do to keep himself from being traceable by the law. When he had had his silver tongue, Heyes would have been able to talk himself out of almost any trouble like this. Now, he felt helpless and exposed. But even as he was, he acted on his old instincts. He had to direct this strange, limping conversation away from himself.
“Friend . . . what did?” Heyes struggled manfully to get his meaning across with almost no words at his command.
Now it was the Texas policeman who was upset and unable to say what he wanted to. “He . . . he . . . um . . . died.”
“Sorry,” said Heyes compassionately, looking up into the policeman’s eyes. He could see the pain there. Heyes could guess all too easily what must have happened. At the clinic where they were dealt in healing, they tried not to bring up the many suicides among sufferers from aphasia, but it was a hard thing to hide.
“I’d better go,” said the off-duty policeman. “See you another time.”
Heyes hid his relief. As soon as he had finished his hotdog, he set off to walk back to his room. When he had set off, he had wanted to spend some time among the trees and the park goers. Now he just wanted to be alone.
When Heyes got to the clinic on Monday morning, he was lucky enough to have a session with Dr. Leutze himself. “How are you, Heyes?” the doctor asked, since they were behind a closed door. Heyes shrugged. He didn’t want to complain. What he faced was perfectly ordinary for a patient here.
“You’re getting back more words every day. I’m very proud of the work you’re doing,” said the doctor.
“Thank you,” said Heyes slowly. “I try.”
“But I know it’s not easy. Sometimes having a few words back is almost harder than having none, isn’t it? Silence is easier sometimes.”
Heyes nodded. It was too true.
“But honestly, you are making great progress. You won’t believe how soon you’ll be able to get along better in this city. Just stick with it, Heyes. Just keep working.
Heyes nodded. What else could he do? This hard, hard work of therapy was his life now. But he did look forward to studying math and history and a growing variety of subjects with Miss Warren in the afternoons. She always made him feel better.
When Heyes and Jim got back to their room after therapy and study one day in November, Heyes pulled a deck of cards out of his saddlebags. On Jim's small table he shuffled them several times expertly with both hands, and with each hand alone in turn. Heyes' every move was perfectly precise as the cards moved back and forth in a steady, rippling stream. The New York boy looked on with interest, recognizing a master at work. Jim appreciated the fact that Joshua was exposing his expertise to him so they could work together, rather than keeping it from Jim so he could have skinned his own roommate. Heyes demonstrated to Jim the same signs that he had used with the Kid when playing poker at Christy's place, although he could actually say a couple of the words, now. Jim figured it out quickly and grinned to think of how much fun they could have together. Heyes showed Jim his gun and where he would carry it tucked under his jacket if they went to rough bars to play. "Y-you any g-g-good with that?" asked Jim, knowing that a poker game like he often played in could turn dangerous very quickly. He was disappointed when Heyes shook his head dismissively.
Jim and the man he knew as Joshua went down to the harbor late one Sunday afternoon. It was cold where the wind came off the open water, but Joshua walked up and down the harbor riveted by the row of ships. This harbor was vastly larger than the one in San Francisco, the only ocean harbor he had ever seen before. Heyes loved walking along the docks with the lines of schooners and other large sailing ships towering above him. The ships leaned back and forth with the waves, their timbers and rigging creaking and straining in the wind. The ships came from everywhere around the world and their crews swarmed around the bars and dives nearby. There were Englishmen, Irishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, Spaniards, Portuguese, Dutchmen, West Indians, and many others.
Jim led his new roommate to a filthy dive set just behind the warehouses around the docks. Rough Dutch and Irish sailors and longshoremen greeted the stuttering young man gladly and a dark haired beauty of a bar girl flashed him a welcoming smile. The men greeted the nearly silent new player with gruff understanding. Soon Jim and Heyes sat down with a few sailors to start a game of five card draw. Since they all spoke different languages, they were used to communicating mostly by gestures. Heyes’ array of gestures fit in easily in this setting. Heyes was careful to watch and learn about how they played around here, and not to win too much. But he did walk out with a little handful of bills stuffed into his pocket.
As Jim and Heyes were headed back to Hester Street in the blackness after midnight, Heyes realized that someone was following them. He tensed and looked behind them, drawing Jim's gaze to make sure he knew what was happening. As a looming form emerged from around the grimy wooden corner of a warehouse, Heyes drew his gun and swiftly cocked it. Their pursuer was a burly longshoreman who hadn't been in the poker game, but had been in the dive watching. He gave Heyes a look of respect and melted back into the dockside shadows. Jim starred at Joshua and said, "I thought you said you weren't any good with that thing! That's the fastest draw I've ever seen." Heyes shrugged his shoulders modestly, keeping the gun in his hand just in case. Jim said admiringly, "I'm g-g-glad you're on m-m-my side!"
Jim and Heyes soon got to be regulars around the docks where they could play the sailors at poker and black jack, and enjoy a few lovely girls when they won enough to buy them drinks. There was one pretty blonde named Fiona with whom Heyes got on particularly well, especially when he was winning and could afford to treat her lavishly. Heyes, even with few words, knew how to establish his authority with the dock side crowd. Mostly, his confident eyes and stance, and his winning ways did it. But his swift work with his Colt and his knife came in handy more often than he would have liked.
Heyes was glad to be able to win fairly consistently at the tables down by the docks. With his new supply of pocket money he went to a printer’s and bought a beautiful Christmas card chromolithographed with a snow scene and sent it to Louisville as the holiday approached.
Back in Louisville, Cat opened the card, she saw that it was signed with the lone initial "J" in labored pencil. Cat burst into tears.
“What is it honey?” asked Jed Curry.
“Oh, Jed, it’s so pitiful to see how hard writing is for Heyes. Such a smart man, so cut off! I did hope that Heyes could come and be home with us for Christmas. But then we got that letter from Dr. Leutze that he couldn’t come on his own this soon. I miss him awfully. Don’t you?”
“We have spent a lot of time together,” grumbled Curry, trying to avoid being maudlin.
“But it’s Heyes I’m thinking of, sweetie,” said Cat through her sobs. “We’ve got each other and the folks here. Think how lonely he must be, not even able to talk hardly at all.”
A few days later, packages arrived from Heyes. On Christmas morning, Cat opened a slender box from New York. “What a beautiful scarf! Chinese silk. However did Heyes afford it? You don’t think he’s stealing again, do you, Jed?”
Curry looked at his own present from his partner – a handsomely ornamented holster. “Nope, honey. I don’t think so. I kinda’ suspect Heyes is back to playing a little poker. Merry Christmas!” The Kid’s eyes were sparkling to think that his partner was coming along that well. Heyes was finally able to do one of the many things he had used to be so very good at.