Kurt Vonnegut was reading Journey to the End of the Night when he wrote Slaughterhouse-Five. I’m on the bed, watching baseball. I think I have throat cancer. I shined a light on the back of my throat and there’s a yellow bump back there and I don’t know what it could be. All of the blood vessels look inflamed. I’m not a doctor. I work at a pharmacy but I’m a cashier. I don’t know anything about medicine. Today, a woman couldn’t pay for her medicine, so the pharmacist told me to give it to her and have her sign a piece of paper saying that she picked up her medicine on April 30th and she’ll come back and pay for it on Friday. This happens a lot. All the time. People need help. I need help with my throat. Yesterday, a man demanded the “real Viagra.” He didn’t want the generic brand. He said last time there were a couple of duds, it didn’t get the job done. But we don’t carry the name brand. It’s too expensive. He wouldn’t be able to afford it. The pharmacist asked him when he was taking his blood pressure medicine. She told him not to take it at the same time as the other pill. They’d cancel each other out. Céline was a Nazi. I’m a Jew. I’m reading Journey to the End of the Night but I’m also watching baseball and it’s difficult to do both at the same time. Someone strikes out. Someone hits a home run. Someone flees World War I on a boat to Africa. My team is losing. By a lot now. I turn off the game. Céline was a doctor. I’m a cashier at a pharmacy. Most of his patients were poor. Most of my customers are poor. I need a doctor to look at my throat. I don’t want to pay a doctor to look at my throat and tell me what I already know. I talk too much. My throat’s worn out because I talk too much. I put the book on the nightstand and get up off the bed and go into the kitchen and cut up an apple and put the pieces of the apple onto a small plate and then I take the peanut butter out of the cupboard and I open the jar of peanut butter and jab the knife into the peanut butter and plop a glob of it onto the small plate next to the pieces of the apple. I screw the lid back onto the jar of peanut butter and put the jar back into the cupboard. I toss the knife into the sink. Today, a woman came into the pharmacy and set her forearms onto the cerulean counter and told me that she went to go visit her sisters in a nursing home and when she got there the nurse told her that one of her sisters was in a coma and the other had had a leg amputated. It’d been a week since she’d last visited them. The nursing home didn’t bother calling her. They waited for her to show up again. They figured she would. And when I asked her if she was here to pick up medicine, she sighed and stood up straight and said yes. But she couldn’t remember what it was that she needed. She was thinking about her sisters. I dip a slice of apple into the glob of peanut butter. My dad taught me how to figure out if an apple is crisp or not. Flick it, and listen to the sound. You want it to sound hollow.
Joseph Grantham is the author of TOM SAWYER (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2018) and Raking Leaves (Holler Presents, 2019). He is the editor-in-chief of The Nervous Breakdown and runs Disorder Press with his sister. He lives in rural North Carolina where he works at a pharmacy.