Pharmacy Phire

You know

they burned down the pharmacy.

Cops said it was bad wiring, but you could smell gasoline a block away.

Nobody went to the pharmacy anymore. Not since the Wallmart moved in across town. It was brighter, cleaner, and it didn’t have that chemical smell. So there was nobody home when the fire started.

No one knows what the building next to the pharmacy is for. It has no windows, and the only door sits five feet above ground. It’s solid concrete, so whoever wants to burn it down will need a lot more than gasoline. The pharmacy was mostly wood. The sprinklers never went off, not once. Someone said they saw the fire truck do three laps around the block before parking–on the side of the street that didn’t have a hydrant. Don’t ask about insurance, nobody came out to investigate the ruins.

The lot that the pharmacy was built on used to be solid olive trees. Like an orchard remnant.  This town was built around a railroad depot, so what the hell were olive trees doing here?

The street the pharmacy was on was named after a famous philosopher, the one that said “monsters cannot come unannounced.” There are two other businesses on the street, used to be three but Southland Glass shuttered its front some months ago. Left no forwarding address.

Used to be you could walk your dog down the sidewalk. Now there’s glass and garbage and all sorts of junk. We never saw a junky until that pharmacy moved in. Now you can see them come out after dark, their eyes reflecting your headlights like urban deer. They stay behind the gas station, talking until someone walks up, so one knows if they speak English.

The pharmacy sold carbolic acid and things like that. Things that you might think were regulated out of public hands. You could buy a quart of strong acid for less than the price of a dog. Does anyone need carbolic acid in this day and age? You had to watch everyone who went in that pharmacy, even if they just came out carrying cotton swabs.

This town has been folding for years. First the plant closed down, then that big department store moved five miles down the road. People are moving out, and the ones moving in are uglier. The kids don’t play double-dutch and mark up the street with chalk, they toss bottles like they’re going to bounce and take up half the lane. Honking won’t move them. They won’t even look at you if you threaten to run them down.

The kids didn’t burn down the pharmacy, you can be sure of that. This kind of thing takes planning to pull off, connections. The cops were in on it, they cordoned off the whole street and then stood laughing into their hats as god-knows-what burned into everyone’s lungs. No one was ever arrested, and we never saw those cops again.

The place where the building was is just a black skeleton now, no one’s going to build on it. The ashes stank when it rained, but no one noticed because of the other thing that happened. The water washed away the ashes and we found the foundation bricks were all stamped with one word: Tubal-cain. That was it. No eye of providence, no compass and square, no other clue as to what the hell was going on.

The other day someone popped their head out of the building next to the pharmacy. They had an apron on and a paper respirator and asked a kid nearby if they had a spare hammer handy. Then they said “oh,” as if they made a mistake and closed it again. The donut place down the street keeps having dust on all their donuts, like the ash was falling indoors, too. You can smell hot metal if you stand on the corner of Derrida and Descartes, but only if you’re waiting for the light. We’ve seen the cops around town in other uniforms. Right now most of them are in construction, sit over a concrete hole on Renault and laugh at nothing. Olive oil has gotten exorbitantly expensive all the sudden. Can a fire still burn after it’s put out? Someone’s taken chalk to the street, marking it up like a hog for slaughter. The ruins of the pharmacy sit on the chops. The ashes crinkle in the breeze, like they’re laughing. If you put a radio on your windowsill, it picks up a noise like electric crickets trying to play Mozart. That’s all that comes in, day after day. The cops say it’s because of interference, all the metal in the ash. What metal? And why weren’t there any pill bottles or scales or pestles recovered from the ashes? Sift through the stuff at midnight, all you’ll find is dirty hands and disappointment.

Some people say that there was never a pharmacy there to begin with, but come on

………that’s just crazy.

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2 Comments

Filed under fiction

2 responses to “Pharmacy Phire

  1. Hate to say this, but I could use some help sorting through all the symbolism on this one… Check out my recent story “Forgiveness” and let me know if you can savvy all the signs that reveal where the two characters are….

    • It’s pretty much a loveletter to deconstructivism/the concept of unreliable narrator. I’m a pretty firm believer in death of the author, so I’ll just leave it at that.

      I will go ahead and look…

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