The Last Pharmacist

by Nicky Drayden

Elkin Rathers would give his right arm for a nice malaria outbreak. Or a stomach flu epidemic. Or while he was dreaming big ... the Plague.

Nothing exciting like that ever happened anymore, not when all ailments could be cured with the Divine. In fact, it'd been a whole three days since his last customer had come into the pharmacy for a refill. Only little grey-haired ladies stuck in their routines insisted on doing things the old-fashioned way, though Elkin suspected that counting out their pills for the week was the only thrill they had left in life.

Like he was one to talk.

Elkin recognized Marcy MacAdams and her silver bouffant from across the drugstore. He watched closely as she meandered through the under-stocked aisles. Usually, she clutched a red basket under one arm, filled with denture creams and ointments of all sorts, but today
she shuffled straight up to Elkin's counter. He greeted her with a warm smile.

"Why, you're looking especially lovely today, Mrs. MacAdams. Come to refill your Lansoprazole? Moexipril? Amitriptyline?" Elkin asked, trying not to salivate. He'd turned and was about to grab an empty pill bottle when her delicate voice interrupted him.

"That won't be necessary, dear."

"Is something new ailing you?" Elkin lifted a concerned eyebrow. Mrs. MacAdams loved to complain about her arthritis and cataracts and loose bowels. They'd become sort of a soothing chorus, a melody of maladies, sweet to his ears.

"I'm feeling fine, Mr. Rathers. More fine than I've felt since I was about your age."

Then Elkin looked at her. She seemed years younger, if not a whole decade. Grinning ear to ear. Of all the people in this world, Mrs. MacAdams was the last one he imagined being cured with the Divine. She detested the Altruarians and their "slimy-faced, stalk-eyed sacrilegious mystic mumbo-jumbo" as she'd said in her own heated
words. She was born before their trans-dimensional ships had landed on Earth. Back then, pharmacies were in their heyday and people couldn't have enough ailments, so they started diagnosing every sneeze, yawn, ache or twitch, just to have more pills to take.

"I thought it would be proper to give you notice," Mrs. MacAdams said, "that I won't be in need of your services any longer. I've been coming to this pharmacy since your daddy was nothing but a gleam in his daddy's eye, and you've been mighty kind to me."

"But Mrs. MacAdams, I thought you didn't trust the sluggers. How'd you work up the nerve to take part in the Divine?"

"I'd tired of seeing everyone around me so happy. I don't have much longer on this Earth, and I want to enjoy what's left of my life. Now that my blood pressure's under control, I'm taking that getaway to Paris I've always dreamed of."

"You'll be needing Dramamine for the flight then?" Elkin said, hopeful.

Mrs. MacAdams shook her head slowly. "No, dear. I'm saving so much on medicine costs that I can afford to slide the slick, first class round-trip."

"Calcium for the bones? How 'bout a nice multivitamin? We've got chewables, half off."

"Mr. Rathers, I can't express to you how perfectly fine I feel. Perfectly happy. Perfectly perfect!"

Elkin's best customer was about to slip right through his fingers, and with it, all remnants of the career he loved. He'd deluded himself into keeping the drugstore running this long, thinking things would change. Maybe the Altruarians' cures would turn out to be hoaxes or
devious plots, and once that trust was broken, people would flock back to his raised counter for their medical needs.

But that never happened.

All was not lost, however. If there was one thing Elkin learned in this profession, it was that half of curing people came down to making them _think_ they were feeling better. It was perfectly likely that this worked in reverse as well. Mrs. MacAdams needed to be uncured,
and Elkin had only seconds to act.

"Ahhh ..." Elkin said, tapping his chin as if he were in deep thought. "Perfectly perfect. That's peculiar."

"What's peculiar?" asked Mrs. MacAdams.

"It's probably nothing, but ..." He bit his lip, waiting until she was hanging off his words. "Prolonged euphoria. Constantly high levels of endorphins. Chronic smiling. Classic symptoms of _Manicus Laughititis_. The happiness disease."

"I've never heard of it."

"That's because it often goes misdiagnosed and untreated." Elkin shifted his eyes as if someone in the otherwise vacant store might overhear. "I'm not really allowed to say this, but I'm concerned for you. If you leave the country, you'll risk dealing with doctors
overseas, and who knows the quality of those hospitals. And the happiness disease, if not treated promptly ..." Elkin slowly drug his index finger across his neck.

Mrs. MacAdams pressed her hand to her chest. "My goodness! I had no idea."

"Most people don't. But the body just can't handle this kind of sustained bliss. It's not natural, and sooner or later, it'll catch up to you." Elkin's lies were bitter on his tongue, but he wasn't about to let the sluggers' generosity ruin his livelihood.  "Fortunately, you're still in the early stages. It can be treated with an over-the-counter, non-prescription."

"You've always looked out for my health."

"What can I say, Mrs. MacAdams. You're my favorite customer." Elkin stepped to the side, printed up a label, slapped it on an orange bottle, then proceeded to count out a month's worth of vitamin C. _The Happiness Disease_. With some planning and targeted marketing, he just might be able to carve out a new niche for his pharmacy. He raised the bottle up to Mrs. MacAdams, already flushing, crooked over to one side, her lips caught somewhere between a smile and a frown. "Don't
worry," he said, voice smooth and reassuring. "I'll have you feeling worse in no time."

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