Gilbert Funeral liked to collect. Of a morning you’d likely find him in town walking hands-behind-his-back, head tilted down and nose pushed forward, his thin moustache quivering as if sniffing out his next piece of wonderful rubbish.
Gilbert collected many things. Often it was buttons, brooches and pin-badges, other times it was matchbooks, football cards or train tickets. Sometimes he collected phrases, although recently he’d been drawn to collective nouns almost exclusively: a blush of boys, a bench of bishops, an observance of hermits and a congregation of magpies. The latter had made him consider collecting birds, but something more interesting came along and he had collected that instead. One time, Gilbert had even tried to collect himself a wife, but he found that wives didn’t seem to like being collected.
People in town had a lot of time for Gilbert, until he had tried to collect them.
‘Do you enjoy it?’ one of the townsfolk once queried, since no-one had ever understood why Gilberthad to collect things.
‘It’s just something I’ve always done,’ Gilbert responded, in that high, shrill way of speaking he had. The truth was Gilbert had no idea why he collected. He couldn’t remember when or how it had started - he just knew he had to collect.
Despite all of his efforts, Gilbert had never been very good at collecting friends. He’d tried to join in with the games at school but would always end up collecting all of the balls, hockey sticks or jerseys in before the games even began. ‘Gilbert Funeral,’ his P.E teacher would cry, pointing to the edge of the playing field, ‘go and take a seat now’. So Gilbert would sit and collect his thoughts.
When he left school his mother had suggested a career as a debt-collector, ‘It’s hard work, but you get to collect all day,’ she told him. In truth she wanted him out of the house, and his uncle’s collection firm seemed the perfect place to accommodate his foibles. Gilbert would leave the house before 6am, collect himself a newspaper and begin his rounds. On his travels he’d collect all kinds of cash and assets. After collecting more than his fair share of insults, threats and black eyes however, he decided to call it a day and settled back in with his mother.
Recently though, Gilbert’s mother had been ill and relocated to a nursing home. When the call came that she wouldn’t make it through the night Gilbert sat by her bed-side. Together they recollected her favourite memories as a child and Gilbert put them all down in a notebook he’d collected from the front desk.
Weeks later Gilbert collected her ashes. On the train home he fell asleep and missed his stop. He didn’t know where he was and wandered into the waiting room. Here, he noticed a large sign reading ‘Collection Point’. Beneath the sign was an uncomfortable looking metal-framed chair. Gilbert walked over, and took a seat. Waiting to be collected.