January 18, 2024 It’s Cold Outside

Published by Victor Barr on

Stumpy staggered toward the alley in the middle of the town. His legs were numb, snow whirled through the air and he rubbed his hands trying to find warmth. He rubbed his legs trying to feel them.

Cold, so cold.

The snow started in the middle of the night, he lay under his cardboard shelter trying to find some peace. Find some sleep.

Sleep escaped him when the freeze hit. There was so much wind, and it howled down the laneway. The gusts blew away his cardboard and pierced right through his coat. The coat he got at the thrift shop for free. It was Stumpy’s tenth winter living rough. Every year he dreaded these days.

At least he wasn’t in Alberta anymore. 

But maybe if he were still in Calgary he would find a spot in the shelter. The shelter here was full, besides he would rather be on the street than worry about how he would be treated in the shelter in this town. 

So cold.

But now he couldn’t feel his legs. It was with every force of will that he pushed himself up and started to walk. He had to move. If he lay down again he wasn’t sure if he’d ever get back up. 

Hours, passed or was it minutes? He didn’t know. The wind just kept pushing on him. So he kept moving. The woods in front of him were welcoming. Maybe he could find a warm spot to rest. Some shelter in the bushes.

How did he end up on the street? 

He tried to remember while he staggered into the forest. He couldn’t pay his rent, so they kicked him out. He tried to find another place to stay but no one wanted him. 

So cold.

Stumpy thought back to the man he once was. He had a sister, but she lost herself to drugs and overdosed a long time ago. Why did she have to leave him? His tears froze on his face as he stared through the bushes at the passing cars. Maybe he should try the shelter again. But the last time he was there they stole his last cigarettes. And they laughed at him.

Was it his fault he had one leg shorter than the other? It was the accident and the stupid doctor who misdiagnosed his injury. He stumbled and fell in the snow. It was deeper now. 

So cold.

He tried to stand back up. But his legs no longer worked. The pain had stopped pulsing through his hands. That made him wonder. He was losing all his feelings.

He brushed the snow from his beard and ran his hand through his unkempt hair. Stumpy pushed up again, come on, stand man, there has got to be a way to stand, he thought to himself.

But he couldn’t get up, the snow held him in its grasp, like a frozen vice gripping his body. He was bitterly cold. Yet the feeling was fading now.

Maybe if I just close my eyes it will all be over and I will wake up in a warm bed. The thought pulsed into the echo of his mind. Images of his sister floated into view. Then he saw his mother, she reached out to him. He ran into her arms and felt her warm embrace. 

A last vapour of breath floated above the still body lying in the trees less than ten metres from the highway. They found his body half buried in the snow three days later.

No one missed him and he became another number in a sad statistic for January 2024: In the first sixteen days of 2024, thirty-six people living on the streets of BC have died outdoors. 

In a province as rich as ours, in a country that is filled with wealth, why have thirty-six people died in sixteen days? The homeless epidemic is getting worse as the cost of living skyrockets and governments cut back to save money. 

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, the most expensive city in Canada, The Rolling Stones will play in BC Place and people will pay over $ 1400.00 per ticket to be on the floor at the show. And then there’s Taylor Swift…

Behind BC Place a group of people seek warmth and stare at a lone figure stumbling toward the front. Another lost soul wanders the street into the coming storm.

Categories: Daily Journal


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