Joseph Grantham ~ Pharmacy

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.