Bill’s sister kept her eye on the young cop who seemed so upset and when he asked if he might keep Bill’s old wheelbarrow as a memento she asked gently, “Did you know my brother?”
“As well as anyone here,” he answered. “If you tell me when the memorial service is to be, I’ll pass the word.”
“Memorial service? But he lived alone. He was a bit, well, not good around people. You know?”
“I think there would be some people here who would like a service, or something.”
The sister looked doubtful. Her husband pulled a face, “The old guy was crazy. Hardly ever spoke to anyone. Hated people.”
“Maybe just a little get-together at the Legion,” the cop said “I’ll phone you if that’s okay.”
The sister shrugged.
“We can’t afford much,” her husband said.
The cop nodded and went upstairs to talk to the landlord.
A few days later the cop phoned Bill’s sister. “We’d like to hold a little get-together, a wake, for Bill in the Legion.”
“Don’t worry, they’ll be no cost to you. We’d just like you to be there.”
She could not contain herself.
“But no one could get near Bill. Bill wouldn’t know anyone. It makes no sense… They’ll be no one there. He’s always hated people. He thought he didn’t belong, specially when they wouldn’t let him vote after he had served in the army – because of being Chinese.”
“I’m Chinese,” said Deyan. “I belong. I think you’ll find Bill belonged too, whether he wanted to or not.”
So Bill’s sister’s husband, mindful that it was the police who were making the request, drove her across the city to the Legion in the suburb that had once been a village.
They found about sixty people in the Legion, with Bill’s wheelbarrow and his old padded jacket up on the stage, surrounded by flowers. On a table was an enlarged, framed copy of his precious picture of him and his tank crew. Legionnaires in their uniforms stood stiffly while their wives served coffee and sandwiches. Teenagers mingled with old guys from the diner and with the Starbucks crowd.
Four cops were present in dress uniform, along with a couple of firefighters.
The bank manager said a few words, followed by the lady from the thrift shop.
“Bill was like the thread that held us together,” she said. “We all live our separate lives, too busy to bother with other people. But Bill was always there, rain or shine. You could count on him. It won’t be the same here without him. He was truly one of us.”