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.