Be Well, My Friend

Together Willy and I visited the bank. Cash was withdrawn from my account and deposited directly into his; his passbook was updated.

 

We drove to Immigration Canada.

 

Immigration staff grilled him on his performance, behaviour and future within Canada. After 30 minutes they fell upon his necessary "proof of funds". Unsmiling, he produced the bank passbook.

 

The bureaucrat was furious. She accused me of giving Willy the money so he could continue to reside and study in Canada without funds of his own. How could I disagree? I made no apology and explained that it was my business what I did with my money. She called her supervisor and went through the questions again. Reluctantly, she stamped the student visa.

 

The next day, Willy returned the $5,000. Astonished, I asked how he would live without money. "Watch," he said.

 

Within weeks of our meeting with Immigration and Willy's having returned my cash, we ran into each other on the university campus. He was gaunt and pale, a walking corpse. I asked about his health and he explained, "...cannot eat". I offered him cash for food. To my astonishment he pulled out a large roll of cash from his pocket. He explained that he had "no hunger".

 

When I asked if he had seen a doctor he told me there was no need. Unwillingly, he explained that he needed to work for cash and had found it on the killing floor of the local stockyard slaughter house. The task was so unsightly that most men were unwilling to take the job. Because of this experience, he had lost his appetite.

 

Willy graduated from university and married Josie. I was the master of ceremonies at their wedding in the Park Plaza Hotel. I told jokes in English which were translated to both Mandarin and Cantonese - but the laugh often preceded the translation.

 

Each Christmas a bottle of Crown Royale whiskey was delivered to my home. There was no note; only a card signed with his name. Then one day Willy called. He had heard I was buying a new house and asked if I needed money. I began to reply that this was unnecessary then caught myself. Yes, actually I did need help, I said. Willy asked how much. "Twenty thousand dollars," I said.

 

"Look in your mailbox tomorrow morning," Willy said. At 8:00 the next morning I found $20,000 cash in my mailbox. I didn't need it but he did. In Chinese custom, face was saved.

 

I kept the cash for three weeks then returned it. Christmas deliveries of Crown Royale whiskey stopped. Willy and I have lost touch.

 

My son's idea about his generation's sheltered life is correct.

 

Be well, my friend Willy Cheng.

 

Be Well, My Friend

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