Beverly stood picking her nails behind the druggist counter, watching a pair of giddy high school girls
at the end of the counter, chattering, as she waited for the right second to slide her hand below the counter and snatch her
daily ration of Oxy, which she would take back to her apartment when her shift was over, crush it slowly down to a rocky powder
on her coffee table, and brush the grind into a tall glass of Georgie Dickel No. 12.
Sometimes, when the concoction didn’t do the trick, she’d lean over in a fit and lick the
area where the pill had been crushed, probing for forgotten traces with her tongue. Beverly paused for a moment to pick at the waistband of
her panties, goading the flab cusped around her hips as the cotton frayed along the elastic and she tried to recall if there
was any whisky left back at her place. She couldn’t recollect and decided she would have to pick up another fifth on
the way home just to be safe, knowing it would come in handy eventually.
An old man with a bald, blotchy head wandered up to the counter for his prescription, causing the high
school girls to break from their conversation and assist him. They both smiled widely at the man, bearing their brightly-bleached
incisors as his shaky hands rested on the counter, glumly, for support.
As the man took notice, he stopped for a moment as if to remember where he was and, once the epiphany
hit him, he seemed unconcerned with his location as he tried to focus his tired eyes from behind the bulky black frames of
his glasses. The girls beamed at him cheerfully, asking how they could be of assistance and the man wobbled as he dug into
his pocket for his prescription ticket.
Beverly looked up coyly from her fingers, gave her underpants a rest, then wiped the saliva from her
wet cuticle on her denim uniform blouse that rode up around her plump haunches as she watched the girls fill the man’s
order, laughing on the inside and relieved that she had not been called into service.
One of the girls turned and walked down to the end of the counter where Beverly stood, dropping to
a squat as she sifted through the tray of filled prescriptions waiting to be picked up and retrieved the old man’s medicine.
She rose and walked back over to the register and handed the bag to the other girl, who asked the man
if he had any questions about his prescription as she rang him up. The old man made a face as if he didn’t understand
and the girl explained more slowly, over-annunciating each word so that he might be able to hear better. The expression on
the man’s face was weary and revealed that he still did not fully comprehend, but he nodded just the same.
Beverly giggled as she watched the scene, seeing the two girls bemused by someone unwilling and unable to exhibit
the energy and attention they themselves offered to any and every passing stranger. She didn’t hate the girls, but rather
hated being around them. When she looked into their soft, young faces, she was somehow taken back to a place in her past,
when her own face was soft, and to the lost memories which returned to her from a cerebral depth, reminding Beverly of what
she used to be, what she could have been, what she isn’t, and—thus—what she would and could never be.
As the old man hobbled away like a wounded soldier, the girls resumed their conversation and Beverly made an offhanded swipe for the bottle of Oxy before either
girl remembered that she had been standing there.
The capsules rattled softly inside the plastic container as her fingers dove in, pitching frenetically
at the tablets before clutching one successfully. She dropped it into the hip
pocket of her blouse and ran her palm down the front of the fabric to smooth its wrinkled fibers. The store was empty and
the weak tune of the radio played behind the muted groan of the air conditioner mumbling from the ceiling.
Beverly told the girls she was going for a cigarette before Moose, the manager, got back from lunch. She spoke in
the alpha-female tone she used only when speaking to the girls, impressing her seniority upon them. She knew she intimidated them and enjoyed the modest dose of power they afforded her, not knowing why.
Neither of the girls said a word but nodded at Beverly
reverentially as she walked around to the other side of the counter towards the back door, passing an aisle of blank VHS tapes,
tampons, and a rack of muffins.
Beverly pushed open the door with a shovel. On it hung a sign swinging crooked that read “EMERGENCY EXIT ONLY,”
and she kicked an empty milk crate into the lip of the frame so the door would not close completely and lock her out.
Out back sat a parking lot scattered with litter and empty bottles and past it a barbed-wire fence
that stood waist-high which dissolved into the thorny brush of overgrown grass rising wildly in the humid southern summer.
Beverly picked up an empty bucket of pickles and poured out the brown dew molding inside it and flipped it over as
she lit a cigarette. She sat on the bucket, making motor-like inhalations as she picked at the scabs on her legs, holding
up each fleck between her fingers to examine from several different angles before flicking them onto the asphalt. She sat
calmly watching the outlines of cars and semi-trucks through the brush as they flew along the highway, catching the abbreviated
glimpses of the automobiles moving west, staring enviously as she imagined their destinations, knowing that in an hour or
so they’d be driving upon the cozy Nashville skyline, the twin peaks of the Batman building gazing down on the valley
below, the streets filled with the smoky tune of all the boot-scoots along Broadway, the ripple of guitar saturating the muggy
Dixie air as the sun went down and the volume inside the barrooms rose.
She remembered those nights when she lived there, when she would stay out hours after all the bars
had closed and the music had stopped. She recalled all the friends she once had there and wondered what cities they were in
right now and what venues they were playing. This recollection evoked a memory inside Beverly
of her own nights behind the microphone and how those few memories—she convinced herself—were enough to fill a
lifetime. But she relented sadly in this denial, knowing that she would trade all she had for just one more night on stage.
She finished her cigarette, then tossed it out across the pavement and watched it roll across the parking
lot and disappear beneath the dented green dumpster. She sat for a few moments, counting down the hours still to go on her
shift, dreading the time ahead to be spent with the high school girls behind the counter. She lazily reached inside her pocket
for the pill she had stolen and played with it in her hand for a few moments before placing it on her tongue, swallowing it
down, thinking that she would have to sneak another before the end of her shift, knowing that she could.
Just then, one of the girls peeked through the crack in the door. Moose
is back, said the girl.
said Beverly, shooting the girl a falsetto smile. She didn’t
want Moose to see that she’d clearly not been working while he was out, aware
that it would mean an earful if he did.
Inside, the air conditioning felt cool on Beverly’s
skin, and a shiver ran up her spine as goose pimples smirked up from the pores of her bruised thighs. Moose’s tubby body stood behind the counter as he spoke with the girls in a hushed manner and attempted
to suck in his gut roll in a nonchalant pose while playing with his belt buckle.
When Beverly came around the corner,
they stopped talking momentarily and stared back at her as she turned and walked down the aisle where the pantyhose and toys
She picked the pricing gun up off a stack of magazines where she had left it earlier after Moose had
gone out and resumed the humdrum task of stapling price tags to the bags of children’s toys. Every toy was wrapped in
cheap cellophane that crinkled in Beverly’s hands as
she proceeded to hang each bag on the metal hooks protruding out from the particle board shelving. Her shoulders slouched down and gave her chest a concave appearance and her saggy tits drooped towards
her navel as she careened along the empty aisle.
The radio played softly from the speakers concealed in the ceiling and Beverly found herself unintentionally swaying back and forth to the honey-coated rhythm of
a slide-guitar and a voice of a man crooning to some country song she recognized but could not place. The music drifted down
from above her as she closed her eyes and began to feel the drowsy waves of the Oxy take hold and cradle her mind. Her mouth
grew dry and she licked her lips as she tip-toed along the shelving, inattentively stapling price tags to every toy bag while
slaloming deafly to the tune of the song. Everything began to feel much better and more enjoyable for her as she drifted deeper
and deeper into the music.
She had always been one to insert herself into the plot of the songs she liked. If there was a man
singing about heartbreak, she imagined herself as his muse. If a song was performed by a woman, she imagined herself the voice.
And she danced, festooning clumsily with her price gun and the bags of cellophane, thinking how useless this particular job
was as she recalled that no one buys toys from the drugstore and if anyone did—surely—no child would want them.
A half-gallon bag of plastic Civil War soldiers, a miniature set of NASCAR racers, a pair of wooden dolls— these were
the toys that no one ever wanted, Beverly thought. She felt
silly, unable to remember if she had been stamping the correct price tag on the appropriate toy, but giggled to herself, thinking
that it didn’t matter.
Moose’s squatty frame waddled up the aisle from where the greeting cards were shelved and Beverly stood upright, pulling her shoulder blades back when she heard
his footsteps shuffling across the floor.
He fiddled with his glasses then palmed his bald scalp to flatten what remnant hairs there were. Hey Beverly—Almost finished here?
Good—Listen—when you’re through here I need
to talk to you.
About what do you
You tell me, Moose.
Hell, just come out with it then, Bev.
Come out with what?
Oh, don’t even try to tell me you don’t know nothing
bout the fucking Percocet again, girl—I’m sick and tired of your cheatin’ pill-headed ass weaseling away
with the fucking stock.
Well, maybe I’m sick and tired of hearing you blab on
about nothing, Moose.
Don’t give me that shpeal again, don’t think I won’t
make the call to your parole officer about what you’ve been up to.
You tell’em whatever the hell you want.
I’m serious here, girl.
I bet you are.
Okay then, have
it your way, Bev, but remember, one of these days they’re gonna ask me to report on some order and when the shit comes
around, it’s your head that’s gonna roll—Not mine.
Oh, I’m so scared—Why dontcha just shut-up Moose,
and let me finish my work?
Just let me catch you one more time, girl—One more time
and be ready to pay back your debts or be ready to parole yourself on outta here.
he talked, his flabby jowls wiggled from his meaty jaw and he glared at the back of Beverly’s
head as she resumed her stapling.
You done then, Moose? She spoke over her shoulder and he ignored her as he turned in a huff
to walk away.
When he disappeared, Beverly tossed
the price gun back on the stack of magazines and went for a cigarette, laughing on the inside and humming to the music.
The high school girls’ shifts had ended and they had gone home, leaving Beverly and Moose alone in the drugstore for the final hours before closing.
She sat behind the counter, gumming her cuticles and counting the minutes as they passed. The last
customer had come and gone half an hour ago and she didn’t expect any others this late in the evening. It was dark outside
now and the florescent light fixtures inside glowed more intensely, permeating their synthetic glow throughout the building.
She heard Moose talking on the phone somewhere in the back of the store, making small pauses while he listened to the other
end of the line, attempting to interject his dopey voice into whatever conversation was taking place. Beverly imagined how annoying it must be to have to talk to Moose on the telephone and she
rolled her eyes back in admonishment of the idea.
Leaning her elbows on the counter, she dropped her head into her palms and ran her fingers through
her tangled hair tiredly, wanting to be someplace else more than anything, to be sprawled out across her couch with a fresh
glass of drink, drifting off into another gentle coma where she could finally feel elegant again. This made her remember that
she had already taken her only pill and she cursed herself with this realization for not showing restraint earlier by saving
the dose. She tried to tell herself that she could probably do without another today, thinking—after all—it wasn’t
that good for her to begin with and that she could always drink the difference if she needed to.
Yes, she thought
and decided that would be her course of action, though still angry with herself for not taking two—as she did the day
before— when she had the chance. She remembered what Moose had told her earlier but sighed as she schemed, knowing he
was nothing but a loudmouth idiot with no balls anyway, who didn’t have the guts to give her the sack if it came to
Beverly raised her head and yawned, stretching her arms out before falling back down on the counter. She slid her
fingers through her hair again, playing with her spilt ends carelessly, coiling each strand around the tips of her fingers
over and over. The radio was off and the entire store was still with an eerie silence.
Then she heard the fat patter of Moose’s feet as they came toddling up from one of the aisles
and, when he appeared at the end of the row, Beverly leaned off the counter and stood with a hand resting cheaply on her hip,
looking drained and bothered by being left alone in the same room with him.
My cell is dead
again, the damn thing – try not to burn the place down while I go charge
Beverly did not reply and instead only raised an eyebrow to confirm that she had heard him.
Moose said as he wandered past her to the front door and vanished in the blackness outside.
Beverly stood gazing at the door through which Moose had gone and she found herself calculating the chances of such
luck. The seconds surged by as she tried to muster the courage to run down to the other end of the counter where the medicine
was stored, but she was wary of how quickly Moose could return and how pissed she would be at herself if he caught her in
the act. She stood rigidly in her hesitancy, knowing that it would be now or never, but she could not help but remain frozen
as she eyeballed the end of the counter, her mouth practically watering at the image of all the Oxy piled innocently inside
The stress of deliberation made Beverly’s
thirst worse and she began to lose track of how long Moose had been gone. She
tried to imagine where he would have parked his car but couldn’t, all the while involuntarily sliding along the counter,
closer and closer to the end, until she found herself halfway to the pharmaceutical station, then a fourth, and before she
could realize it, her fingers were squirming frantically through the round orifice of the bottle. She had her fingers on ten—
twenty!—capsules, but couldn’t manage to dig a single one out so she turned the jug upside down and the whole
of the contents slid out in an avalanche into her shaky palm!
She snatched her hand closed in a rush and, as the lid snapped shut, she turned to replace the container
and looked up to find Moose staring back at her from behind the milky glass, smiling a devilish grin, tickled by what a predictable
ditz she was.
Beverly stood pale-faced and anxious, staring back at Moose as he opened the door, locked it behind him, and sauntered
back inside, beaming brutishly at her through his crooked teeth. He didn’t say anything and she watched him, grimacing
more and more as he drew near. He had set her up and she knew it.
What’cha got there, girl?
She didn’t reply and could only exhale with a quiver through her nostrils.
You hear me, girl?—I said what’cha got there?—You remember
what I told ya don’t ya?— Well? He walked up from behind her, coming closer from the rear and stepped around her back so that he was standing
face to face with her.
Well? He slowly
reached down and took Beverly’s wrist as she stood still,
cringing. He worked his hand down her arm towards her handful of pills. His skin felt sticky against hers and she shivered
as Moose leaned in so close she could smell the limey perspiration dried to his peppery skin.
As his hand slid down to where her fingers were, he stopped and slowly took Beverly’s hand, lifting it upwards and positioning it between their chests. Well, now—what could ya possibly be holding in this hand, girl?
Beverly did not move and only cowered as she felt the wetness of Moose’s breath as it coalesced around her knuckles.
Well, why don’t’cha show Moose
whatcha got here?
Beverly was beginning to grow sick of the whole charade and moved from fear to irritation in a flash, ripping her
arm away from Moose’s grip and spread her hand wide revealing the small mound of pills stuck to her moist palm. What you think I got, Moose?—You know what I got, ya prick.
Well, I’ll be—you know that stuffs bad for ya, girl—you
shouldn’t be messing with that stuff—‘specially cause you know that it’s a violation of the law and
what not—you in big, big trouble, girl—gonna be going back to lock-up when I call this in, don’t ya know.
The thought of this detail pressed upon Beverly who began to feel faint, freshly aware of the villainous
power Moose had over her and it made her feel fragile and alone. Come on, Moose—you’re
just talking now—you’ve looked the other way before, so why not again—you know I ain’t hurting no
one—just lemmie off— please?—See?—I’m giving’em all back.— Alright?—Here,
Moose smirked wickedly as he sucked a breath of air though his teeth that hissed through his gums,
momentarily pausing as he looked Beverly up and down. Now, now, go on ahead, girl—I don’t mean to frighten ya— toss’em back—if you want them
things so bad, just toss’em back. He licked his teeth—Fuck back that
hillbilly heroin like ya do, girl.
Beverly felt alarmed and confused, alert to the peculiar tinge in Moose’s voice.
It’s gonna cost ya though, ya cunt—And you know what.
Beverly shrank and felt a quake inside her that filled her with the grief and relief that only someone in her situation
She looked down at her palm and eyeballed the pile of tablets. With her other hand she reached over
and pinched up a cluster of Ox, then slowly placed what she had selected into her mouth, swallowing it all at once, heavily,
with excruciating force.
Yea, that’s right, swallow it all—swallow all that
shit down, ya cunt—
now it’s time pay up so turn that ass around.
Not again, Moose—Come on, now—don’t be cruel.
You bet your ass again—don’t
give me no cruel bullshit—Now grab that counter or it’s back to the slammer
with ya, cunt.
And she did, unbuttoning the bottom of her blouse and lifting the edge of the skirt upon her goosey
hips traced with the jagged stretch-marks of accelerated weight-gain. She did not know what else she could do but somehow
believed it was the only way and she prepared herself, listening to the impish tinkle of Moose’s belt buckle jingling
in the air.
A cankerous void swelled up inside of her, then, after a few seconds, so did Moose, plugging in his
pudgy little cock early and Beverly clinched her teeth as Moose spat out his stale breath onto her back and began rocking
behind her like a busted ratchet wheel scraping against a gravel road.
She broke into a cold sweat, cursing herself for not taking more Oxy when she had the chance, pressing
her palms against the counter, her knuckles flaring white as she rose lightly on her toes to keep Moose from wiggling in deeper.
His prickly bush felt like hog-briar as it scraped and scraped against her spotted skin and her brow cramped with strain.
He growled and hiccupped then coughed alongside Beverly’s
hips, filling the air with his clammy dark miasma as he let his head fall down onto her crooked spine and he reached up to
grope her flaccid tits. He wormed around and around as Beverly let out a faux moan in an effort to accelerate the process
and soon Moose released, wheezing wildly, seizing abruptly like a choking rodent, slowing the row of his uneven pace with
Beverly could feel him pulsing inside awkwardly before he unplugged, brushed the excreta off his slacks and landed
a charity slap on her spacey thigh. He coughed again as he pulled out a handkerchief to dab the sweat from his hairless scalp
and, once he stepped back, Beverly rose and rearranged her
blouse, shamefully straightening the cloth across her tender pelvis and wiping the grease from the back of her neck, smelling
the noxious aroma of Moose’s spittle drying to her clothes.
The two stood slouching for a moment, holding the counter for support,
catching their wind and waiting for their shriveled bodies to redeploy their oxygen as they mellowed. Moose stood straight
and Beverly could hear him re-buckling from her skewed posture,
trembling meekly below the neon hum of the florescent light fixtures. Moose cleared his throat one last time as he tucked
his shirt back into his trousers, scratching his rump in the process, looking down at Beverly’s
Finish up with the price gun like I asked ya this mornin’ and get
the fuck outta here.
gradually rose off the panel, stood, and swept the remaining Oxy from the counter into the tattered hip pocket of her blouse.
She turned and walked slowly along the counter to the aisle of the
drugstore where she had left the price gun. She picked it up and began stapling the few remaining cellophane bags vacantly,
miming the words of some country tune she knew but could not place as she idled along the row of particle board shelving with
a watery glaze, hanging up the toys that no one ever wanted.
Adam's writing has appeared or is
forthcoming in Soon Quarterly, decomP,
Red Fez, Poor Mojo's Almanac(k) and
Farmhouse Magazine. He is also a contributor
to the Nashville Scene and the Huffington Post.
He lives in Brooklyn and works in publishing. Find him here: firstname.lastname@example.org