Killer Instinct

Jim Adams

Over 800 people attended the funeral, according to the local
newspaper\'s estimate.....

The cloudless day, lit by an early morning sun that cast soft shadows
among the mourners, was disturbed only by the gentle murmur of the
preacher\'s voice and the distant hum of traffic racing past on Hwy 401.

Off-duty Durham Regional Police officers received an unexpected bonus that
morning, when they were called in to handle parking problems around the
cemetery and direct the seemingly endless flow of floral tributes.

"Black Billy" he\'d called himself. He\'d appeared in Pickering one
unremarkable day, just as suddenly as he\'d departed this life. No fanfare
of trumpets, no grandiose announcements, no pre-fight publicity. He simply
showed up at Mulligan\'s Bar one Sunday afternoon when the regulars were
discussing the merits of the Tyson/Doakes fight, and settled in the far
corner next to the miniscule stage, nursing a half-pint of beer. Mulligan\'s
being the type of place it is, he wasn\'t alone too long.

"Useta call me Black Billy," he growled, lumbering to his feet. His
head ducked and dodged, body swayed, as he danced on his toes, shooting
lefts and rights at an imaginary opponent. His scarred face looked troubled
for a moment. "Coulda been the Champ. Didn\' get a chance. Said I don\' got
the killer instinct. I know I got it. Jus\' need a chance." His audience
nodded appreciatively and exchanged understanding glances. Billy shuffled
to a stop and shook his big head as a huge grin split his battered face.

"No use cryin\' over spilt milk. That was a long time ago. Yeah man, a long
time ago. He extended a large paw and shook each person\'s hand solemnly.

"Jus\' call me Black Billy," he said, the infectious, innocent
grinencompassing the entire group, like a warming beam of sunlight after a
rain-storm. It was hard not to like him.

Before too long, someone who knew someone who had a friend, had
arranged a job for Billy, in the Marina at the foot of Liverpool Rd. A
small housetrailer - "It was just rusting away, sitting up at the cottage,"
according to the owner - was procured and installed in a corner, near the
parking lot. Billy spent a few days cleaning it up and airing it out, then
he moved his meagre belongings from his temporary home in the small motel
on Hwy #2. Pillows, blankets, drapes, cutlery and all of the things needed
to make a house a home were donated with quiet mutters of, "Here, Billy.

Maybe you can use this. Wife was gonna throw it out anyway, so you\'re
welcome to it."

He became a fixture in Pickering. If he\'d lived in some quaint country
village, he\'d have been known as "a character." When he wasn\'t scraping
hulls, or painting the underside of yachts in the marina, he could be seen,
trotting around in a jogging suit, surprisingly light on his feet, as most
big men are, his sneakers gently slap-slap-slapping the sidewalk in a
steady, unbroken rythym. Occasionally, he\'d drop into Mulligan\'s to nurse a
half- pint of beer, and despite repeated offers, was never seen to drink
more than one. "No, man. Gotta stay in shape," he\'d grin. "Too much o\' this
stuff slows the reflexes. Thanks anyway." He was a quiet man, keeping
himself very much to himself, unless invited to join a group, which he
invariably was.

All attempts to extract information about his past life were met by
the same big grin, and the same stock answer. "Long time ago, man. Useta be
a fighter, long time ago....." In a moment of weakness, he confided to
someone that he hailed from Nova Scotia, and that he had no living

Initially, the more cautious parents in the neighbourhood instructed
their offspring not to talk to Billy, but as time progressed he became a
familiar figure. And he\'d happily interrupt one of his endless jogging
trips to help a flustered young mother trying to cope with two kids and
armfuls of groceries, or lend a hand with a pile of lumber destined to
become a garden shed. He became accepted by everyone.

He had a special affinity with little kids, though. They hung around
the marina, peering through the chainlink fence, watching Billy scrape
hulls, his huge, muscled body stripped to the waist in the summer sunshine,
the sweat beading, glistening and forming rivulets to soak his trackpants.

"You a boxer, Billy?", some third-grader would squeak, initiating
the ritual that had been performed hundreds of times before.

"Yup! Useta be a fighter, long time ago.

"Could you beat up Mike