My boss, Duncan, smells like pipe tobacco and moth balls. And though forbidden to smoke, he does.
If I were dying, I’d break the rules too. This is certainly his attitude, and I respect it.
Across the street from Duncan’s pharmacy is a fancy new organic food market. I try not to shop there, but I’ll admit to being taken with a long-haired cashier who can’t remember my name.
‘You go and have some goddamned fun tonight, young lady,’ Duncan instructs. But I don’t like leaving the shop before he does these days. Sometimes he forgets to lock up.
‘I’ll bet you don’t remember my name again,’ I say, standing in front of Dylan the cashier – holding my red tuna sushi.
‘How do you know?’ Dylan says, hands on hips.
‘Okay, then. What is it?’
‘Busted! But my whole family is this way with names,’ he says, flipping his long, shiny hair behind his shoulders.
‘No worries,’ I say.
I remind him that I’m Polly and I work across the street, at the antiquated pharmacy. I tell him that my boss has lung cancer and that soon the pharmacy will be sold.
‘Someone will probably turn the pharmacy into a doggie nail parlor,’ I say. Dylan does not seem to find this amusing. Maybe he has no sense of humor.
I look at the bracelet hanging loose around my wrist. I’ve been losing weight, nearly down to a size-zero. I never want to work anywhere else.
It will soon be my birthday, and to celebrate, I will talk to the cashier about the purported health-benefits of krill oil capsules.
‘I am not a whale,’ I’ll say. ‘I don’t understand why krill oil would be good for me.’ Maybe this will amuse him.
I’ll shock him when he sees me buying two slices of tofu chocolate pie.
At the window, which faces the market, I see him in the parking area talking to a pretty new employee. She reminds me of a Labradoodle, bred to be hypoallergenic and good natured. Her blond hair looks angelic and light, but false. It doesn’t even create a shadow on the asphalt.
From here I can see that Dylan’s cheeks have turned-pink. Perhaps he’s shy around women he really likes. I tell myself that when he ages, he'll look like a rooster.
He’ll continue checking out women’s balanced meals and herbal cures. He’ll smile and say, ‘excellent choice’. If they’re pretty, he’ll remember their names.
Someday this period of time when I worked for a dying pharmacist will be a weird memory. It will have little significance to me, but I’ll remember the way my boss cared about me, and how young the cashier across the street made me feel. A feeling like that is hard to replicate. Nobody really knows how people disappear.
MEG POKRASS has published stories in McSweeney's, Five Points, Wigleaf, Smokelong, and many magazines online and in print. Her work has been internationally anthologized, most recently in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton, 2015) and the upcoming anthology, New Microfiction (W.W. Norton, 2018).