(Sometime in November, 2010)
The week that Phil started working in the Eastborough Pharmacy, Frances warned him about what it would be like to work with Roy.
-“Something is wrong with his mind”, Frances said, “Ever since he got back from the war.”
-“The war?”, Phil asked.
-“Yeah, he told me he served in Viet Nam. He must have been traumatized over there. Now, most of the day he just walks up and down Main Street, writing in his note book and talking to himself.”
Corporate had always suspected that Roy would be a problem when they purchased the pharmacy from Frank and Lou four years back. Roy had been hired by Lou, the more difficult partner, years ago. Before that, Roy had held a steady restaurant job and lived with his father in a rented room on Main Street. His mother had taken off when he was just a toddler. After two years of working for the restaraunt, his father died unexpectedly, and Roy shut down mentally. From that day on, he started to wander around Eastborough, writing in a notebook and eventually he was fired from the restaurant.
Lou had known Roy’s dad from the prescriptions he filled for him every month. So he felt obliged to help Roy and gave him a job in the pharmacy. Stocking and dusting the shelves. This was fine with Lou’s partner, Frank. They owned the store and they could hire and fire whoever they pleased. As long as Roy didn’t have to speak to customers, his job in the pharmacy was secure.
But Frank and Lou left soon after the corporation bought their pharmacy. The new company told Roy was he would have to work at a cash register in the prescription department if he wanted to keep his job. The district manager was certain that the cash register would overwhelm Roy and he would eventually quit. Roy was a strange guy anyway, the district manager thought, and his quitting would be for the best.
Phil’s first night working with Roy was like a suicide mission. Before the night even began, a shift supervisor came into the pharmacy to warn him. This supervisor was Phil’s age, but he had wider hips and thinner hair. His name was Luis. None of the employees trusted Luis. Corporate had bought him in from another store owned by the company and everyone in the store thought he was a kiss-ass for the district manager.
-“You will be getting a pharmacy student to help with the prescriptions”, Luis said to Phil, “his name is Nathan. I wouldn’t let him count. And do you know about Roy?”
Phil turned around and asked, “What about him?”
-“Hey man, that war really screwed up his brains. He isn’t very much help in the store. It’s a big shame that we are stuck with him on our payroll.”
On their first night together, Phil, Roy, and Nathan got ambushed. Phil could not figure out where he was needed the most. Nathan couldn’t type, but Roy couldn’t talk. Roy was frozen behind the cash register as though he was hiding behind the wall of a bunker. Prescriptions kept getting dropped on him like incoming shrapnel. The pharmacy didn’t have a separate prescription drop-zone and pick-up-zone, and all the casualties came to Roy.
At 6pm Luis had to stop his work in the aisles and come to the back and help Roy at the register. Luis loudly complained about him the entire time, but Roy never said a word. When Roy left the pharmacy to empty the trash in the store bathroom, Luis muttered about how happy the store would be if Roy would finally quit.
When they were outside after the store closed, Phil stopped Roy in the parking lot and asked if he wanted a ride home.
-“No. I always walk”, Roy said, and he was already taking his notebook out.
-“Hey Roy”, Phil asked, “What did you used to do before you started working in drug stores?”
-“I used to serve Viet Nam.”
-“You were in the Viet Nam War?”
Roy laughed and started to walk down the quiet street in the dark.
-“Are you crazy Phil?”, he asked, “I would have been just a baby back then. No, I used to be a waiter in a restaurant that served Vietnamese food.”
Phil had all night, and the following day to think about his conversation with Roy. First, he was worried about repeating the same battles with the prescriptions for the next two nights. He aslo thought about the fact that the entire store thought that Roy was a war veteran. And then Phil considered that Roy was once a waiter in a restaraunt. If he had been able to successfully handle that job for two years, he should be able to work a cash register.
Before their next shift started, Phil gathered his team of Nathan and Roy.
-“Roy, do you have the notebook that you always walk around with?”, Phil asked.
-“Take it out, and when you get any orders tonight, write them down on the pad just like when you were a waiter.”
Then Phil turned to Nathan.
-“Nathan, you’re on the counting tray. I’ll be on the work station expediting the prescription processing.”
-“I don’t understand, does that mean you’re typing? What the hell is expediting?”
Phil grabbed Nathan’s tie and pulled his face close to his.
-“Nathan, if we want to get through the dinner rush, you must listen and do exactly what I say. Now say back to me “yes chemist”.”
-“I can’t hear that.”
-“Yes, chemist!”, Nathan shouted.
Phil gave Roy a slight pat on the shoulder.
-“Roy, go out to the front of the house and get us some scripts!”
Roy walked out to the line of customers waiting at the cash register. The first person in line was holding a blue prescription paper. Roy approached him holding a pen to the pad. He looked the customer in the face and said,
-“Good evening. How many prescriptions do you have in your party?”
-“Uh…two”, he answered, somewhat confused.
-“Ok, we’re looking at 20 minutes right now. Would you like any readings from the blood pressure machine?”
Roy placed the two prescriptions on a little barrier that separated the prescription department from the cashier’s station, looked at what he had written on the pad, and called out,
“Two tickets in the pass and they’re traveling!”
Phil picked up the prescriptions.
“Nathan! I need one synthroid, the 88’s for a month, make them generic, and I need one tenormin, also generic, 50’s for a month. Yes, please?!”
“Say the order back, Nathan!”
-“ Yes, Chem’, one synthroid, the 88’s for a month, and I need one tenormin, 50’s for a month, the cheap stuff on both.”
-“How long on that Nathan?”
-“I need ten minutes, Chem.”
-“Yes chem’, the cotton is stuck in the Synthroid!”
-“Oh come on Nathan!”
Roy came up to the pass. When he spoke, Phil noticed that he had developed a subtle French accent.
-“Chemist, dis guy over by da vitameens ‘as been waiting for the poison ahvey special for da half hour. ‘e’s starting to rub hees crotch against the aloe display.”
Phil picked up the poison ivy basket from the QA station. He pressed two fingers against a tube of cream that was in the basket.
-“Oh god, Nathan come up here.”
-“This betamethasone is supposed to be a full tube. Touch that tube. Does it feel like a full tube to you? Roy, come back here and touch this tube, please.”
The crowd of customers standing near the cash register stopped their conversations. The watched as the pharmacy technician and the cashier touched a tube of steroidal cream that was sitting in a basket held out by the pharmacist.
-“Eet is an open tube, chem.”, Roy said, disgracefully looking at Nathan.
Phil dumped the tube to the floor and kicked it to the other side of the pharmacy.
-“You gave me an open tube”, Phil screamed, suddenly using a British accent, “Give me a full tube you lazy cow!”
Nathan looked ready to cry. He stumbled towards the syrups, then turned the other way and headed for the topicals.
“Chem, I ‘ave two new tickets in the pass.”
Along with a french accent, Roy had developed enough confidence to shout the prescription orders to Nathan as Phil typed the labels.
-“Two amox 400 leequid, one flavored wit da grape, they’re waiting, and one’s a crier”, Roy called out.
-“Nathan, that’s a VIP order”, Phil said, as Nathan dropped off the synthroid and tenormin at the QA station.
-“VIPs. Two amox 400, make one a merlot, I need 15 minutes”, Nathan repeated the order to Phil.
-“Nathan. Nathan!,” Phil had a disgusted look on his face. He had opened the synthroid and was looking at the tablets.
-“Nathan, does this synthroid look green to you?”
Nathan sniffed and wiped away some water forming in the corner of his eye.
-“Oh God, you’re not gonna start crying. You can’t handle pharmacy? Look at me, do you want to leave?”
Nathan sniffed and stood up straight.
-“No chem. I don’t want to quit, chem. It’s my dream to count for you in Hell’s Pharmacy!”
-“What color are these Synthroid 88’s?”
-“They’re blue, chem.”
-“They are ‘[bleep]-in’ blue. You ‘[bleep]-in’ cow. ‘[Bleep]‘ off with ya, and get the ‘[bleep]‘ out of my pharmacy!’
Roy turned to the customers and announced,
-“Ok, people, dats eeet. Da countin’ is closed. Come back tomorrow night.”
This confused the customers of Eastborough and some of them even drove their prescriptions to a 24-hour diner in Westborough.
By the third night, Nathan understood exactly what Phil’s strategy was, and got into the spirit of the “line-cook concept” for filling prescriptions during the dinner rush. It was all about maximizing the effectiveness of Roy. Prior to starting, Nathan went into the break room and returned with Emily’s coffee maker. He plugged it in near the cash register. Nathan figured that the sound of the brewing coffee might create more of a restaurant atmosphere. As Phil entered he noticed that Nathan had tied a large white head-band, containing Japanese graphics, around his forehead and was using a pen to sharpen his pill-counting spatula.
-“Nathan, you do know you’re Korean and not Japanese.”
-“Just work with me , chem.”
The pharmacy crew had an amazing night. Roy arrived wearing a white dress shirt and black pants with a white linen towel tucked into the front. His wiry hair was slicked straight back and he had somehow grown a pencil-thin mustache in the time between the second and the third day. He juggled all the customers with ease. He called out each order for the other two guys working the line. He bought glasses of water and little dishes of bread for the customers who started to show impatience. At the peak of production Nathan started making chopping sounds with the spatula by whacking it against the counting tray and sometimes he would shout something in Korean.
After all the customers were served, and the little drug store was quiet, Luis took a broom to the sales floor. He came to a sudden halt when he got to the pharmacy cash register. Roy was leaning against Emily’s coffee maker and speaking into a cell-phone in fluent French. He paused his conversation, looked at Luis, and said,
-“What? I’m on a break!”
Later that night, the three of them hung out in the parking lot after the store had closed. Phil sent Nathan across Main Street, to the liquor store, and told him to get the crew a six pack of Red Stripe. In the cold November night, the three of them laughed about their shift, drinking beer and smoking some cigarettes that they had swiped from Emily’s stash in the break room. Inside the store, Luis was on a phone in the manager’s office. During their shift he had been using his cell phone camera to record the non-kosher style of pharmacy that Roy, Nathan, and Phil had been practicing in the Eastborough store. At that moment he was describing it to someone over the phone.
Seven days later, Phil and Craft were enjoying a steady day in the pharmacy. It was busy enough to make the time passed quickly, but they easily kept up with the prescription volume. Sometime in the afternoon, Craft noticed that the district manager and the Loss Prevention manager had entered the store. They both were dressed like Men In Black. The district people disappeared into the manager’s office and when they emerged an hour later, they were escorting Roy to the front door.
-“Roy?, what’s going on?”, Phil yelled over.
Roy pulled away from the Loss Prevention manager and ran up to the barrier where he been passing prescriptions to Phil during the week they worked together.
-“They canned me, Chem. They said I stole from the shelf.”
-“Roy, did you defend yourself?”
-“It’s Ok. I don’t fit in.”
The Loss Prevention manager caught up with him and said, -“Roy, come on, don’t make us call the police.”
Roy took out his notebook and handed it to Phil.
-“You hold on to this, Chem. You seem to work a lot more organized when my notebook is around.”
Then Roy left the store, with Loss Prevention closely walking behind him.
The next day Frances was scheduled to work and the district manager called her, to explain why one of her pharmacy cashiers had been fired the day before. Apparently, they had Roy on a video tape entering the store bathroom. Afterwards, Luis had checked the bathroom trash and found a tube of Vagisil that Roy must have put there and was going to smuggle out of the store later.
“Wait a minute”, Frances asked, “You mean Roy was really a woman?”