Medicine Boy

written by Tom Owens

Selling this stuff made him feel important. The others sold shoes and clothes, or stacked shelves full of cupcake holders and beef jerky imports and other useful items every shopper needs. He didn’t sell that though. He sold help. He sold advice. He sold relief. Illness and bodily annoyances were his enemies, and paracetamol his trusty sidearm.

He had to do a course, he had to learn. ‘I earned my place here’, he thought to himself each day. The others simply walked up, handed in a piece of self-proclaiming paper, maybe spoke to the management about how good they can be, then got the job. Not him. He was the only applicant. Arriving in the nick of time and saving the branch from closure, most likely. They needed that Saturday-lad and he made sure they got one. They got a good one.

“A mouth ulcer? No problem. Try this Liquid Anbesol. It’s far better than Bonjela.”

He always used that one. ‘Now they know that’, he thought, ‘thanks to me. I passed it on. No more ulcer, way more knowledge.’

Most days though he would not be on the front lines, meeting the needs of the many souls who popped in for a needed pack of plasters. Most days he was working in the background, where the magic happened, in the fabled dispensary. Customers only get a glimpse of this fabled land, where medicines are sorted, filed and placed into their most convenient positions. He remembered being this sort of virgin; how quaint. Now, the big green delivery boxes gleamed as the middle-man brought them in (quite carelessly lumbered atop a trolley) and placed them on the dispensary floor. Sorting the boxes’ contents were like a dance:

He would grab the lids and throw them off before grabbing a handful of meds. The fastmovers went on the neatly stacked shelves and to the back went the Cetraben (steds). CDs no longer meant music, that abbreviation had changed for him, ‘C’ meant Controlled, ‘D’ meant Drug, and they rested near the Insulin.

Oh! What a joy his civic duty was, to ensure that this place of healing remained neat and clean. When a patient rolled in, waving that green paper in his face like a written plea for help, he could go straight to the back and have their bag of gold, frankincense and/or myrrh ready within a record time of 2 minutes, 33 seconds. Though, of course, the boss man had to check first – sign the boxes and give a pharmacist’s stamp of approval, but this was not really necessary: he knew he had chosen wisely.

Except for that one time he dispensed modified release Metformin instead of regular Metformin, but we don’t talk about that.

Yeah, he quite liked his job. It paid the phone tariff, the Netflix bill, the days out with the other guys. And he was pretty good at it, he supposed.

Except now he had to leave. He wasn’t going to be living here anymore. Things in his life were changing, the world around him moving on. He had done his course here, was a qualified assistant now, and was enjoying being the locals’ favourite medicine boy. He remembers the last person he served: a simple case, just a woman with bad corns. He told her she should try her GP. He remembers saying goodbye to co-worker Pam, locking the door, handing her the key. He promised a text before she hurried off. Must want to get home quickly. He remembers grabbing those grubby shutters and pulling them down.

Let them try and find someone else.


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