the best medicine

Image: Pharmacy sign by Mike Mozart via flickrI can’t keep up with the new medications because their names all sound alike. I woke up this morning with a runny nose and phoned my doctor – Dr. Bram – to call in a prescription for me. I thought I had an allergy.

“Runny nose? Does it run clear—or nasty looking?”

“Uh… Clear.” I had a sore throat, too, but didn’t mention it. He’d want me to go by his office so he could charge me.

“Okay, but you don’t need a prescription. Just buy some Allegra: a-l-l-e-g-r-a. It’s OTC.”

“What’s OTC,” I asked?

“It means ‘over-the-counter’.”

“Oh.” I should have known that. I looked on my desk for some paper to write it on and found an old valentine envelope. My wife usually did the shopping, but fresh air would do me good.

The mall had only a few parking slots, and most of them were already taken. I decided to use one marked “Handicapped.” I didn’t have a sticker yet but Dr. Bram was going to help me get one if I took him the forms. I have arthritis.

I went to the “PRESCRIPTIONS-IN” window, and couldn’t find the envelope. I knew I had put it in my shirt pocket, but it was gone.

The lady asked, “May I help you?” I was the only customer.

I stared at her, trying to think of the name of it. Then I remembered it had a “V” in it, like valentine.

“Yes, I have an allergy and my doctor told me to get some…Viagra.” But that didn’t sound right.

Her eyes narrowed. “You have ED and an allergy?”

Did she say VD? No, I don’t have VD,” I snapped. “What makes you think…?” I almost choked, and started coughing.

“Then why do you need Viagra?”

“Because everything’s all runny,” I said, still coughing and dabbing my nose with a handkerchief.

Her eyes got even narrower. “All runny? Sir, do you have an STD?”

I got confused, thinking she meant STP. “I might have a little bit, somewhere. Why?”

“A little bit? There’s no such thing as a little bit.” I wondered what she was talking about. “Have you seen your doctor?” She was almost hissing by then.

“No, but I called him.” I said it softly, almost whispering. That’s supposed to calm people down. “He sent me here. He doesn’t need to call it in. It’s OTC. ‘Over-the-counter,’” I added, smugly.

There was a pause; then, “And why did he send you here?”

“He didn’t exactly send me here,” I answered. We just always shop here.” By then I was feeling insulted and didn’t want to talk about it anymore. “I just came here for some Viagra,” I said, standing my ground. After a few seconds I tried again: “That’s all I want.” Then, again: “I thought I told you.” I knew something was going wrong, and I was trying to figure it out.

“Good grief,” she said, testily. “Let’s see your script.” She wiggled her fingers, wanting me to hand her something. “But wait a minute.” She’s reached and got a plastic zip bag and handed it to me. “Put it in here. And don’t touch anything. You haven’t touched anything, have you?” She started wiping the counter top nearest me with paper towels and something in a brown bottle that stunk.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “But…?”

“And here. Put these on.” She handed me some plastic gloves; the kind they use at crime scenes. “You’re very contagious,” she said, through clenched teeth. “And you’re in a place where lots of other people come. Good people. They might get infected, too.”

“Good grief!” Now I was saying it. I tried to protest, but my mouth went dry and I was having trouble swallowing. “Are you sure? How can you be sure?” I was hurrying, trying to get the gloves on. They were too small.

‘I’m not sure about anything anymore,” she shot back, watching me stretch the gloves. “What kind do you have?”

“What kind? It’s just the regular kind.” I thought she was talking about STP again.

“Regular? Describe it for me.”

Why does she keep going on about it? I thought. Is she a mechanic? “It’s about this long, and that big around,” I squeaked, describing the can with my thumb and fingers. The gloves didn’t help.

“Good lord!” she yelped, causing my right knee to buckle. “Listen to me. You have a problem!

“It’s not all that bad,” I babbled, trying to reassure her and straighten my knee. “My doctor said that if it’s not nasty-looking, all I need is…”

Not nasty looking? Is he crazy?” She was almost shouting. There were two or three other people waiting in line by then, and I tried to smile at them, like everything was okay. But every time I tried, my top lip started jerking with spasms. I was confused, and trying to tear the gloves off so I could leave.

“You do have a script from your physician, don’t you?” she snapped.

Script! Again! For an actor? A speech? She’s was staring and her voice had a cold edge to it. “Maybe so,” I said, and started poking at my pockets, trying to find it. I had lost the plastic bag, and didn’t even know what I was looking for.

“What does it look like?” I finally asked, giving up.

“What does what look like, ” she probed, suspiciously. Her eyes narrowed again, and she was glaring at me. Then, “Oh, the script.” She relaxed a little. “It’s a piece of paper from your doctor. It has the name of the medication on it and some other crap. Do you have it?”

I guessed she meant prescription. Why didn’t she say so? “Oh, you mean ‘prescription.’ My doctor told me I didn’t need one. It’s OTC. That’s over-the-counter,” I reminded her, again.

A threatening snarl started to form around her mouth. “I know what it means, mister. And you keep saying it. But Viagra is not over-the-counter.” She was getting upset again and I was trying to be helpful. “What’s your doctor’s name? You do know his name?”

I noticed the sarcasm, but ignored it and told her anyway. She phoned him and everything was cleared up in seconds. It’s Allegra, and not Viagra. And I still didn’t know how VD and STP got into the conversation. But I didn’t ask her, because she was still edgy. And I didn’t want to make her mad at me. I almost had, already.

I paid and walked outside using an “Entrance Only” door, because everybody else was coming in through those marked “Exit.” Then I noticed a small group inspecting my truck. They were pointing at the “HANDICAPPED ONLY” sign, making tsk-tsk sounds, and shaking their heads in disapproval. I looked the other way and skulked past them; and pretended to be looking at a display of some bird feeders. They finally left.

Then I couldn’t find my keys. I needed to call my wife to bring me the other set because they were locked in the truck, with my cell phone.

I went back to the store to use theirs, but made a wide arc around the prescription window. I didn’t look that way, but I could feel her watching me.

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Image: Pharmacy sign by Mike Mozart via flickr and used under a Creative Commons license.

Donnie Register

I am a substitute teacher for the Colquitt County school system and live in Moultrie GA.