NOTE: I recently came across an old disc containing about 20 pieces of short fiction I wrote when I was a young, naive reporter. Right of college, the writing is a bit rough, but I like looking back at these stories and will share them sometime under the headline ‘Fiction from a Decade Ago:’ followed by the story name. Enjoy, or don’t. Cheers – CJH
Mike Hubble held the door for a little, though not old, woman and then scooted passed her in the breezeway to repeat the chivalrous act. He let the second door close automatically behind him and paused for a moment next to the display of sales circulars for a full breath of the familiar air. Every drug store smells the same, an antiseptic mix of floor cleaner and stale perfume. The aroma appealed to him.
He did not need a basket, though he took one and handed it to the woman from the doorway, whom the sales clerk had greeted as Helen. Their paths then diverged as Mike went right toward the pharmacy and Helen turned left toward the display of half-price Halloween candy in front of the cash registers.
Ordinarily, it’s a five to six second walk from the front of the store to the back corner where the pharmacy is, but Mike made it in four flat. He was in a hurry.
“How can I help you?” the girl behind the counter said. Mike had seen her before and believed that she was a pharmacy student at the University of Toledo, located just eight blocks up the street. She must be working here for college credit and to pay bills, he thought.
“I’m here to pick up my prescriptions,” he said. “The name is Hubble. Mike Hubble.”
“Okay, I’ll check on that,” Sarah said, pounding the keys on the computer in front of her and staring strangely at the screen. He knew her name from the tag on her white smock, which was decorated with smiley face stickers.
“Mister Hubble, it’s going to be just a few minutes,” Sarah said politely. “Feel free to look around the store and we’ll bring them out to you.”
Perfect, Mike thought, he had some shopping to do anyway. Well, actually there was only one other item on his list. He made his way to the men’s grooming isle and planted his feet in front of the display marked ‘Shaving Needs.’
Mike had sensitive skin and needed a new razor. The disposable type he was accustomed to often left a great deal of razor burn on his neck that had the tendency of becoming infected. Gangrene was always a concern of his and he was not confident that medical science had advanced far enough to provide quality and inexpensive head transplants or throat amputations.
There were so many choices: One blade? Two blades? Three? Four even? Comfort strip? Easy grip? Straight blade? Refillable? Disposable?
And all of them seemed a bit pricey to Mike. He perused fro five minutes and was no closer to making up his mind when a boy of 16 or 17 approached him wearing a rather official looking vest, replete with name tag.
“Mister Hubble?” the boy asked.
“Here are your prescriptions, sir,” his voice cracked on ‘sir.’
“Thank you very much,” Mike said taking the blue and white sack from the boy. He hoped he did not expect a tip as he turned back to the razors.
“I’m sorry Mister Hubble,” the boy sheeped. “You probably are asked this all the time. But, are you related to the telescope guy?”
“What?” Mike was distracted. “Oh… yeah, he’s my uncle.”
“Wow!!” the boy’s voice raised 100 decibels. “Really? This is quite an honor! Can I have your autograph?”
“What for?” Mike said quizzically. He was suddenly aware that the boy, Bill from his name tag, had nearly shouted the autograph request and people were beginning to gather in the isle. At first, it was just shoppers, but then Mike started to notice a blue and white smocks and vests, each one with a name tag attached to it, gather tightly around him.
“But, I’m not famous,” Mike tried.
“Sure you are!” Bill said enthusiastically. “You’re a Hubble!”
“How does that make me famous?” Mike tried to protest, but was blinded by flash bulbs and the focus light mounted to the top of a television news camera. A reporter pulled Bill aside and began asking him questions as Mike tried to fend off hugs and autograph books.
“I can’t believe it!” Bill said to the reporter. “There’s a Hubble in my store!”
“How did you know it was him?” the man with television hair asked.
“I asked him when I gave him his prescription.”
“What medications could such an astounding man need?” the reporter asked.
“Well, I’m not sure he’d want me to say,” Bill returned.
A tabloid photographer handed the boy a hundred dollar bill, which Bill looked at and then pocketed. Smiling, he looked back at the camera.
“Viagra,” Bill said. “And Zoloft and Percoset and Viccodin and, oh yeah, Propecia!”
Mike heard this and tried to argue back.
“No I’m not!” he attempted to yell over the crowd. “It’s antibiotics and medicine for athlete’s foot. I have a cold!”
Mike broke free of the crowd and ran towards the front counter. There was no one there, so he laid money next to the register and pushed his way out through the double doors, chased the whole way by people young and old.
“I touched him!” a teenage girl said.
Someone pulled the jacket off his back and the mass began to pat Bill on the back as Mike pulled away.
“Yup, oh yeah,” Bill said glowingly. “We’ve been friends for years. Best friends! Me and the Hubb-meister!”
The next morning, Mike opened the newspaper left on his porch to see his picture blared across four columns.
Hubble On Drugs! the headline read. Mike read the story and found his only quote toward the bottom.
“When asked why he was visiting the store, Hubble told this reporter, ‘I’m just looking for an affordable razor.’
“The combination of the razor and the prescription drugs has some law enforcement authorities concerned and police officers say they have Hubble on a suicide watch.”