as a four year old,
purse your lips tight and
try not to look at her.
pretend she’s not even there.
will the spoon away from your mouth-
you don’t care if the medicine tastes like bubblegum!
your mom just smiles…
Have I ever told you about the alligators that live under the pharmacy?
you glance back as she tells you about
the dinosaurs that once roamed the small town in
northern North Carolina
and how they got smaller and smaller and eventually
became reptiles living underground.
The man at the pharmacy knows you hate this stuff
so he gave me this special spoon.
the light green, semi-transparent alligator smiles back at you.
you cough but trust her
(and the man at the pharmacy).
a few days later,
walk into preschool and tell your class
about the gators that live under the asphalt uptown.
the teacher just looks at you and says
Now…there are no crocodiles or dinosaurs or any type of reptile living under the ground in our little town.
but you smirk because you know better
and have the spoon to prove it.
Wander back into the same pharmacy years later
during a break from work to grab
something for your grandpa so he doesn’t have to drive uptown.
the same man behind the counter asks.
with the same smile.
the green, grinning spoons still sit on the counter beside the blood pressure cuffs.
tell him you are going to be a writer.
I’m sure you’ll be great.
then try writing…
and quickly get discouraged after a few weeks and stop.
however, eventually sign up for a class or workshop
and not have a clue what to write about…
shamelessly copy your favorite writer(s).
write about small, fake mom and pops filled with
even faker characters named Elia or was it Aliea?
use phrases like “Gawd.”
try fake southern accents that are just…
quit writing again because…
in between love and heartache and love and loss
and kissing grandma’s hand one last time and love
and more loss
but even more love….
wander back into the pharmacy for a quick prescription refill
but take a moment and breathe in
the sweet perfume of the hotdogs-
mustard, chili, and onions (no slaw).
roll the orangeade around in your mouth
to find the individual pieces of pulp.
chew the ice (and the wax edge of the cup).
sit in the front window on the iron chairs
or maybe snag a booth-
but not from 11:45 to 12:30
(by the way, they must’ve painted over
where you carved your initials).
close your eyes and experience the band playing
that old bluegrass music like grandpa would play
that you used to hate
but DAMN you love it now!
grab your guitar out of the back of the Jeep
because your pop taught you to strum
and I know you can sing.
raise a child that refuses to take her medicine…
but you remember a trick and a story.
shake Mr. Carver’s hand, tell him thanks, and exchange a smile.
You be you and do what you think is right. That’s all anyone can ask.
that’s all any of us can do.
-for a friend who was always more than just
the man behind the counter
Learn more about the author at https://ncvamedia.com/authors/phillip-gillis/