As he had for more years than he cared to count, the elderly gentleman dressed in a three-pieced, dark-grey suit with white shirt; striped, grey-and-red tie; and black, wing-tipped shoes pushed through the revolving door to the old-style drugstore at the corner of Main and Grove. He removed a light-grey fedora from a head still covered with once-blonde, now silver-white hair parted neatly on the left. Clear, blue eyes surveyed a scene from generations before, a scene in which he had participated since opening his medical practice, a scene refusing to die.
The hour still was early. Slivers of first light were appearing. The soon-to-be bright Sun barely illuminated the dark nighttime sky.
Being a widower, Doctor Rufus Jenkins preferred not to breakfast alone. Years before, youthful passion had overcome prudence waiting to mature. Still a student, he could not afford to marry his sweetheart from high school.
Passion, however, screamed, Yes!”
Prudence murmured, “No.”
Passion ruled. Three months later, Emma fell ill. Acute leukemia. Weeks later, she died. In those days, effective treatments remained hidden beyond the medical horizon.
Grief never departed. Romance never returned. Marriage died with Emma.
Instead, he dedicated his life to his chosen calling, medicine. Medicine, not a job. Medicine, not an occupation. Medicine, not even a profession. For “Doc” Jenkins, medicine represented a calling like the clergy.
In an age of “healthcare” instead of medicine, “healthcare-plans” instead of insurance, and “providers” instead of physicians, such a man had become an historical relic.
Another historical relic was Parson’s Drug Store & Luncheonette. It clung to life, a symbol of a previous era, alone in a modern smorgasbord of homogenized, self-service “fast food” from cookie-cutter outlets filled with uncomfortable seating limiting long stays — factory-food served in an atmosphere of depersonalizing anonymity by human robots with empty minds expecting you, the unthinking customer, to fill their jars labelled “TIPS”. Reminder: Don’t forget to bus your own table, leaving your droppings for the next customer as the previous one did for you — droppings that rarely are cleaned. The sign on the trash will thank you for feeding it.
The town itself still existed only as a consequence of a former native-son’s having returned to buy a building left vacant by its previous owner, a manufacturing firm that had fled to China then to Viet Nam with headquarters relocated to Ireland. Revolutionary robotics of today instead of traditional textiles of yesterday. With the change, the once dismal future of the town suddenly seemed secure, at least for the moment. Chance and change would tell the tale.
As for the pharmacy, Abraham Parson had opened his apothecary in an age of bromides and enemas. His son, Ben, succeeded him. His grandson, Adam, maintained the now-profitless pharmacy still closed on Sundays with its luncheonette still open for breakfast and lunch. An old-fashion “phosphate”? Still available at Parson’s!
Yes, “chain-stores” selling everything from medicines to motor-oils had challenged the old-time pharmaceutical tradition. They offered longer hours and lower prices with the ubiquitous depersonalizing anonymity and sense of isolation increasingly prevalent in a society firmly ensnared electro-magnetically in a man-made web of radio-waves.
Alas, the independent pharmacy was receding into the past as was the traditional practice of medicine. Even the local supermarket offered not only a pharmacy but a “walk-in clinic” staffed by “Dr. Nurse”. Why should anyone want a physician in a medical office, anyway, when he can have a nurse in a supermarket? Quicker? Yes. Cheaper? Yes. Better?
Fortunately for those few customers who still preferred amiable social intercourse with a knowledgeable staff that knows you by name, Adam Parson had made a tidy sum trading foreign currencies via the Internet. Had he not done so, Parson’s Drug Store & Luncheonette would have become a distant memory among only the elderly losing theirs. Even so, many of his long-standing, loyal customers were departing for their final voyage. Destination? Unknown.
To be continued …
© Gene Richard Moss (2017)