A lit­tle theatre shin­ing onto the side­walk

Geist - - Contents - Henry Doyle

HARM RE­DUC­TION It’s 6 a.m. when the lights turn on in a white-washed drug­store, as if it were a lit­tle theatre shin­ing out onto the side­walk.

The reg­u­lars are there walk­ing around in tight cir­cles like chick­ens on hot plates wait­ing for their next gov­ern­ment fix.

Just be­fore work, I al­ways get hit up for a smoke by Freddy Fri­days.

He’s from Toronto like me but a few years older, re­mem­ber­ing T.O. at its best when it comes to sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll.

He’s 6´1Ý and looks like a to­bacco farmer from Till­son­burg with his John Deere ball cap, worn-out jeans and Levi’s jacket.

A face wrapped in skin on bone, long black hair, coal eyes, teeth rot­ten and stained with twenty years on the crack pipe, arms full of the nee­dle and the dam­age done, a voice like smoky wind spit­ting out dust about the good ole days of Toronta. I give him a smoke. His nerves light it right away as he stares at that lit­tle lit stage, wait­ing for his Methadone juice and the next act.

I light an­other smoke my­self and watch the store next door un­load a dolly full of boxes with big blue let­ters spell­ing LISTERINE. SHOT­GUNS IN THE SKY “The rot­ting of a heart…” Charles Bukowski, from “Prac­tice” in The Room­ing­house Madri­gals The bus from Mon­treal is late

I turn my pock­ets in­side out in the rain dream­ing of shot­guns in the sky

My rot­ting heart sings in the down­pour Alice’s big white rab­bit comes on by

and gives me a gram of magic mush­rooms to res­cue me from your world

WEL­FARE WED­NES­DAYS KILL MORE PEO­PLE THAN BOMBS Hast­ings is closed off from Main Street all the way down to Pi­geon Park.

Cops, fire trucks, flood­lights mak­ing night into day.

The crowds grow, hop­ing for a show. Peo­ple set up lawn chairs in the mid­dle of Hast­ings as if at a drive-in. Skate­board­ers fly down the empti­ness like flies skim­ming a pond, zigzag­ging around every­thing.

It’s like a street party or the gath­er­ing for a town hang­ing.

A twenty-year-old jumper in debt to his dealer has climbed over the rail­ing on the roof across the street.

I sit at my win­dow drink­ing a beer, think­ing about wild horses run­ning in the rain.

Cops roam around telling the shouters to shut up. The cop­per on the bull­horn bel­lows

“Please stop telling the poor man to jump!”

Fi­nally they talk the young dude down. We all cheer as if the Canucks have just scored the game-win­ning goal. UN­DER­GROUND ROOM I head out in steel-toed boots into the dark rains of Jan­uary to the slave labour pool.

I walk into the stale air of the of­fice to put my mark on the


The place is as packed as a can of rot­ten sar­dines.

An old man sleep­ing in his work­boots has pissed him­self. Mov­ing seats, I watch the scrawny drug ad­dicts get all the jobs.

I end up on a con­struc­tion site mak­ing $8 an hour work­ing be­side some kid half my age. Con­tempt in his eyes, he tells me he’s mak­ing $22.50 an hour.

So­ci­ety has tried to stop me from be­com­ing a loser, but my des­tiny hangs its heavy sign on me

as I march through rush hour head­ing to the DTES to pick up a cheque for $52 mi­nus the $12 gov­ern­ment fee.

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