One day in August, Joe’s story

Published by Victor Barr on

Joe sat on the blistering sidewalk, the afternoon sun beat down with 35-degree temperatures. Despite the heat, he was ready for the 4 p.m. rush.

The liquor store was the best spot to hang out in the afternoon heat. There were sure to be lots of people getting beverages. After a long day working in the sweltering temperatures, there were bound to be a lot of guys stopping for a six-pack. A six-pack usually meant at least a twoonie being tossed Joe’s way. 

Ten of those and Joe could get his next fix.

His sign read, No escape from the heat, anything helps. Joe had his friend write the message on the cardboard. His own handwriting was pretty unstable at the best of times. But it had been a while since his last fix and it was all he could do not to start twitching.

His hand vibrated as he took a drag on the cigarette he’d bummed from the biker who went in a little while ago.

What was the time anyway?

It’d been a while since his last hit of crack. It didn’t matter that much, smack or crack, he needed something to get through the day. Except for meth, he tried to stay away from the meth. His last girlfriend got hooked on that shit. It got bad when her teeth started to fall out. 

Joe looked across the parking lot and saw the most giant fucking boat he’d ever seen park on the other side of the lot. This guy should have a buck or two…

He sat up a bit straighter. He looked over at his buddy, Wade, “see that fuckin boat man. She’s pretty cool. What’s it say on the side?”

“Wade squinted into the beaming sunshine. “Luxury Lake Tours. Ya, that’s what it says, Luxury eh? Bet that guy’s loaded.”

“K, well look smart and a little lonely, maybe he can shoot us a few bucks. I’m tired of sitting on this sidewalk in the sun. I want to head back to the woods,” Joe said.

“Luigi should be there for a bit longer. I need to get some more stuff man. I’m jonesin, we need a few more bucks yet though.” Wade sat a bit straighter as the man from the boat walked by.

“How ya doing?” Joe smiled at the stranger.

“Good,” came a mumbled reply.

“Asshole…” muttered Wade under his breath as the door to the liquor store closed behind the boat guy.

Joe sighed, he was tired of it all. How he wished he could go back to his previous life. His life before he got hooked on pain killers, his life before the accident.

But he couldn’t. 

No more than he could quit the drugs. He wanted to get out of the vicious cycle he was living. He wanted to be able to have a home again.

But none of that mattered anymore. All that mattered was his next fix.

The guy with the boat came out of the store and looked over at Joe. With a sudden movement, he reached into his pocket and tossed him a twoonie. No warning at all.

Joe reached up and caught it on instinct.

He laughed,” Hey, I caught it! Thanks.”

The stranger grinned back, “take care of yourself.”

“I do my best,” he shrugged and sighed, a fucking twoonie, how much is that boat worth anyway? He thought to himself.

The heat took a lot out of Wade and Joe as they sat on the sidewalk in front of the Angry Otter liquor store. Who the heck names a liquor store, the Angry Otter anyway? If Joe still had his money he would never have named it Angry anything… If…

The afternoon slid into the evening and they had enough money – it was time to go. They even had enough to buy water and a bag of chips.  

The next couple of hours were a drug addled fog after they met with Luigi.

They somehow ended up beside the entrance to Superstore. It was such a blur, he was so wasted…

Joe saw the stranger again, he was in a daze. Where is your boat buddy? Wade laughed and then he groaned. He stood up for a minute and fell back down again. What the, oh ya Luigi came to them in the parking lot at Superstore. Jesse was there too. Now Jessie was lying on his face. “Jesse, get up man that kid is trying to put away the shopping carts.”

Must be some pretty good shit man.

Joe sat back down behind the shopping carts. He hung his head in his hands and heard the voices in the distance.

“I can’t put the rest of the carts away,” the young kid’s voice bounced into his brain.

“Is it because of the guys doing drugs behind the carts? I get it, I wouldn’t either. Why do they have to do it beside Superstore, couldn’t they like go somewhere else?” The girl’s voice was so annoying.

“Ya, too bad they are doing them at all.”

The kid’s right thought Joe. Too bad…

Why is the boat guy looking at me like that? Does he know his cash went toward drugs? Bet he has lots more…

Joe looked over the shopping carts, his eyes fluttered and his brain wandered. I hope that kid never ends up like me. Joe’s gaze stopped on the guy pushing the shopping carts into the parking lot. He laughed, I hope I never end up like me.

I’m so tired.

Joe teetered on the edge of exhaustion, his brain was no longer racing and his body was running on empty. Wade slid sideways down the wall and their new friend was still passed out on his face. If ya can’t beat ’em, Joe giggled, Join ’em.

With that, he laid back on the pavement, closed his eyes, and went in search of temporary peace.


The above story is a fictional account. I saw these two guys panhandling in front of the liquor store in the afternoon and later that night they were joined by someone else and passed out beside the Superstore.

Addiction and homelessness is the real epidemic we are faced with. The number of people living on the streets of Kelowna has risen by forty percent since covid began. And that is only the number they can count, that doesn’t include West Kelowna. 

Never mind the crisis going on in Vancouver and other big cities across North America. Housing is becoming more and more unaffordable and people are being forced onto the streets. The mentally ill no longer have access to support like they used to and the government has closed many of the facilities designed to help these people that are on the fringe of society.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, the boy wonder PM calls regular people who were frustrated and fed up with the pandemic, the “fringe”…

There needs to be something done to dial back the cost of housing so more people don’t get driven onto the streets. More resources are needed to help those who can’t help themselves. It is past time that our government starts to solve problems instead of throwing money at them.

It’s way past time. 


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