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George Callaham woke up this morning and made breakfast for himself and his daughter. The presentation featured eggs, scrapple, and croissants. But he didn’t eat any, because he was upset with his fiancee for having stayed out late last night, clubbing. “As long as my daughter eats, I’m happy,” says the 32-year-old Callaham.

He ought to be feeling mighty hungry around now, because he’s stuck in the ER waiting room at the Washington Hospital Center. This morning, one of Callaham’s neighbors in their Columbia Heights transitional housing knocked on his door. It was Big Norman, 42.

Callaham says he had become friends with Big Norman last November at the family shelter at D.C. General. They bonded because they were among the few fathers at the shelter with kids. Now, Big Norman was at his door, complaining of a swollen hand and high blood pressure. He needed help, because he had to go to the ER and there was no one to look after his 2-year-old, Norman Jr., while Senior got medical attention.

So Callaham and the two Normans—-big and small versions—-trekked from the 1400 block of Park Road to the Washington Hospital Center on foot.

After waiting than more than an hour and a half, Callaham got himself some water in a Styrofoam cup. He pronounced the drink “good.” “I wanted a coffee but I didn’t have no money,” says Callaham. “Water’s free.”

The cup was now filled with shredded newspaper and resting on the seat next to Callahan. Despite the empty stomach, his spirits were still high. A lot of that had to do with watching Norman Jr. pretend reading a Spanish-language paper.

Callahan says that every morning, Norman Jr. can be found pretend reading the newspaper.

Reporting by Jason Cherkis