Wilburn turned his attention to the store. It was right where he needed to be at the moment, he thought. He stood in front of the doors, and they instantly parted with a mechanical swish. He stepped inside. It smelled like a newly built house dipped in medicine. A yellow-white glow poured from the multitude of ceiling lights. It stung his eyes and bleached his skin. So unhealthy, he thought. So unnatural. And the incessant low buzzing was like orgiastic hornets trapped in a box. Although probably subtle to most, anyone with a sensitive soul and system could pick up on it.
The floors were like hospital tiles. The walls were painted wedding-gown white except for flowing bright yellow and red directional script to help dumb bunnies find the items they were looking for. The aisles were narrow and ran long toward the back of the store. Hypnotic electronica new age music played overhead. The shelves were perfectly neat and organized. There was not an empty space or single item askew.
He found the restroom in the back and used it. It was exceptionally clean. When he came back out, he noticed there was an elevated glassed-in counter in the far corner and there was a man just standing there staring at him, watching him, thick arms folded. He seemed oddly short, and he must have been standing on a stepstool, Wilburn assumed. The man had sun-worn brown skin and hair black as night that flowed down upon his shoulders. He wore a neatly pressed white dress shirt and over that a yellow vest with Pharm Farm stitched into it with red thread. There was a large microphone looking device in front of him – silver colored with an adjustable crane’s neck. The man suddenly leaned forward and spoke into it.
“Can I help you, sir?”
The voice was loud and distorted. He tapped at the microphone, stepped back a bit and tried again. “Can I help you sir?”
Wilburn’s nerves fluctuated inside his skin. He moved closer to the counter and looked at him. He was so strange looking.
The clerk had a plastic nametag pinned onto the other side of the vest and it read: Uncas.
“Why is this place here?” Wilburn asked.
And even though Wilburn was right there at the counter, the clerk once again leaned into the microphone when he spoke.
“Welcome to Pharm Farm, sir. Do you have a prescription that needs to be filled? Are you in pain? Do you feel sick to your stomach? Are you lonely? Do you have a broken heart?”
“I just want to know why this glittering box is here.”
“In the middle of nowhere?”
“This is Pharm Farm, a modern leader in retail pharmaceuticals and everyday items that contribute to a happy and fulfilling life. We aim to meet all your needs — day and night, wherever that may be. My name is Uncas, by the way, and I’m a proud member of the Pharm Farm family. So again, how may I help you?”
Wilburn dug into his pack and pulled out an orange prescription bottle and slid it through a small opening. “I need more of these.”
Uncas picked up the bottle, read it over carefully and looked back at Wilburn.
“I can’t,” the strange man behind the counter said, pushing the mic out of his way, and he slid the bottle back through to him.
“You are out of refills and a doctor must order more. I’m sorry.”
“But I need them.”
“And I need a longer pair of legs.”
“But it’s obvious I need them. I have the bottle. I can show you my ID if you don’t trust me.”
“It’s not a matter of trust sir, it’s a matter of cumbersome law and the fact that insurance companies dictate your healthcare. There is nothing I can do. You will have to contact your doctor’s office.”
“Look, I’m not from around here. You can’t just help me out?”
“I cannot just help you out, sir. I would lose my job. Perhaps you should have managed your prescriptions better before going on vacation. Have you heard of personal responsibility?”
“I’m not on vacation and my condition in this world is none of your business.” Wilburn looked around, lost, unsure what to do. “I’m sorry. I’m just frustrated with the system again.”
Uncas sighed and stepped away from behind the counter. A hidden door opened, and he came twaddling out. “Follow me.”
Wilburn followed behind the strange, little man to the supplement section. Uncas stood on his tiptoes and reached a small hand up and retrieved a bottle of Pharm Farm brand chamomile flower capsules from among a sea of other bottles and boxes. “Here. Try this. It’s not your prescription, but it could help you out until you can talk to your doctor.”
Wilburn looked the bottle over. “You want me to eat some flowers?”
“Chamomile is known to produce a soothing and calming effect.”
Wilburn was desperate. “Okay. I’ll try it. Thanks for your help.”
Uncas smiled up at him strangely. “Customer satisfaction is our number one priority here at Pharm Farm. It’s what our associates live for, it truly is. It’s all I think about when I go home.” Uncas sighed and rolled his eyes. “I can complete your transaction back here if you would like.”
“Do you know of a decent motel in the area?”
Uncas ignored him while he slowly concentrated on ringing up the sale. “Sorry. I’m new to this,” he said as his short, thick and brown fingers punched at the register keys. “$15.43.”
“That’s pretty expensive.”
“Our prices are very competitive here at Pharm Farm. If you have legitimate proof of an unexpired lower price offered somewhere else, I would be happy to match it — after you have it professionally copied and notarized of course.”
“That seems like an obscenely huge hassle,” Wilburn complained.
“Of course, it is.”
“Would the clerk up front know about a motel?”
Uncas shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m getting around to that. Just wait. Modern white man so impatient.”
“I’m not impatient. I’m tired.”
“Go toward Giza, that’s the city here. The motel is called the Crane Valley something or another. It’s on the right. It will be the first motel you see. It’s one of those old ones. Not bad. It’s cheap, but decent. There’s a diner right next door. I’ve had to spend a few nights there myself because of my bitch of a wife.”
“You look so surprised.”
“It’s just that…”
“What? Because I’m a little person? Or because I’m an Indian?”
“No. Of course not. Isn’t it Native American?”
“To you, not to me. I can call myself whatever I want. I can call myself a little Indian all day long, but you can’t. I’m in charge of my title, not you or any other rapist of our culture. Sure, I’m a little person, but just as capable as you are. Probably more. Look at me, I’m employed. Hell, you probably don’t even have a job or a wife.”
“No. And I don’t have a car either.”
“I knew you were some kind of loser, but then how did you…?”
“Hey.” Then Wilburn struggled. “I don’t know.”
Uncas eyed him strangely and then submissively sighed. “I’m sorry. I should have not gone off on you. You are a guest of Pharm Farm. My district manager will probably beat the shit out of me if she gets wind of this.”
“I’m not going to say anything to anyone.”
Uncas gave him an appreciative smile. “Look. I’m about to go on break. You seem like a nice enough guy and being that I am a nice guy, I’ll drive you over to the hotel.”
“Wait. You can drive?”
Uncas shot him a stern look and then he grabbed the neck of the microphone at his station. “Hey Doug, I’m going to go on break.”
Then another voice pierced the air.
“Hey Uncas, how many times have I told you not to use the mic system for personal business. Pick up the phone and call me if you’re going on break. It’s distracting to the customers and unprofessional.”
Uncas slapped a hand against his strangely large forehead and shook his face. He yanked the microphone toward him once more.
“Sorry Doug. It will never happen again.”
You can read the previous excerpt from this novel HERE.