usa wasn’t in the dirah. He wasn’t in the tunnel either, or at their daily camping spot near the entrance to the Central Bus Station. Where was he? It was more than a day since they’d last seen him.

“Maybe he died the other night, when we left him here on his own…” Guilt and worry gnawed at at Bugi.

“I doubt it,” said Lulu with authority. Apparently he’d seen his share of Musas. “I’d give him another year or two.”

“Maybe somebody took him to the hospital?” Bugi suggested.

That was a dumb idea. No sane person would come strolling into this abandoned ruin, so who could have found Musa coughing there in his corner and taken him to the hospital?

“Maybe he went out to the street,” Bugi went on hesitantly, “and an ambulance picked him up from there?”

“An ambulance wouldn’t pick up a homeless shicker,” Lulu countered. “Even if someone saw him sprawled on the street and called an ambulance, I can’t believe the medics would take him. That’s their policy for drunks.”

“Even that, we don’t get?” Bugi knew that as a homeless person he had no rights… but not to take a poor, deathly ill man to the hospital when he desperately needed medical care?  How cruel could people be?

“You have to understand, Bugi. The hospitals have no money to spare, and there’s nothing they can do for all these shickers who check themselves in just to get a free bowl of soup.”

Bugi grimaced. “Hospital soup tastes like sand. I remember that stuff from when my mother was hospitalized, and I was sitting by her. At least she wasn’t homeless, so she qualified for medical care...”

Lulu sat beside him on a low stone fence, his brow furrowed in thought. Suddenly he spoke. “You’re right,” he said.

“About what? The soup they give in hospitals?”

Lulu snorted. “About Musa. It could be he got to the hospital somehow. Let’s say he staggered out to the street, wanting to buy some liquor, and he collapsed on the way. Somebody might have taken him to the hospital.”

“So what do we do now? Go looking for him in every hospital in the city?”

“Let’s make some phone calls first.”

They called from a pay phone and tracked him down on the first try. Yes, they were told, an anonymous patient, apparently homeless, had been brought in the other night, unconscious. He’d been treated with medication and undergone a surgical procedure to remove scar tissue from his liver. He was now recovering in the internal medicine ward.

“So they did take him in,” Bugi said, jubilant. “And they even gave him an operation.” He felt a bit of his basic faith in humanity returning.

“You want to go see him now?” Lulu suggested.

“I hate hospitals… but yeah, let’s go.”

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 763)