from the Archive

Sirens sometimes and screams, always. Warbling squalls of screams, gusts of them, scream fronts, the ambiguous kind that could mean something very good or something very bad. When it’s men screaming it’s that much more intense, whatever else it is. The worst thing is, you can’t see a thing. There’s nothing there, not by the time you get your courage up and your shoes out of the hall closet. Fifteen syringes between the corner and the first driveway, piles of torn bread scattered across the grass like abandoned snowdrifts, and a plastic bag skydancing in the warm exhaust from a cop car as it rolls down the alleyway. The ghosts look at you funny, and the buildings seem to sigh and close their eyes in exhaustion. And there is no-one there.

Then the screaming starts again, just a little way over, and by the time you get there, there is nothing. It could be aliens trying to abduct Downtown EastSiders, using the sound like a turkey call; that would explain the lack of…well…any thing. They’ve all been beamed up. But then wouldn’t there be fewer from day to day? And there are more, or at least plenty, thank you very much. Maybe they put them back after the anal probe; I can see why they scream.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the Astoria now sells hard liquor. Junkies are usually nice and quiet, just sort of slumped there, but booze makes you publicly loud; check out any Earl’s after nine at night, or just take a walk around Yaletown. It’s good for a laugh; they say all the same things, just really, really loudly. “Bob, how was London? Great, great. Did you recover your investment there? Great, great.” Good for Bob, you think. And who the hell is Bob.

Maybe the screaming is related to the new supersupply of crystal meth. This is the stuff OJ used to take; not sure if he can afford it now. In Asia it’s called Yah Bah and the clubkids get whacked on it and rumble. It’s infamous for the violence it causes, so maybe the screaming is a secondhand effect.

The other day a 74-year-old man stabbed a middle-aged man to death over an old debt. They were both in line at the soup kitchen, just around the corner from my house. There were probably a hundred witnesses, on which there were probably 175 outstanding warrants.

Sometimes I feel like screaming myself.

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