March 5, 2002

Lie

When I was kid, just six or seven, I used to work in my father’s pharmacy on Sunday afternoons. This arrangement only lasted a short time because my father’s pharmacy failed. Later he bought another pharmacy, and that one failed too. I believe he owned four pharmacies in all, each of which failed.

One of my jobs at my father’s pharmacy was to dust the empty prescription bottles. My father had hundreds and hundreds of such bottles, in various sizes and shapes, arranged in rows under the counter where he prepared prescriptions.

Another one of my jobs was counting pills for prescriptions. It was illegal for me to do this – you have to be a pharmacist to count pills – so I could only do it when my father and I were alone. Looking back, I see it as the pharmacy equivalent of sitting in my father’s lap and steering his car as he drove.

Pill counting required a special plastic pill-counting tray. The tray was blue and had an alley on one side into which you slid the counted pills. Since you couldn’t touch pills with your fingers, you glided them into the alley with an implement much like a butter knife. The alley had a clear plastic flap that closed over it. After counting the pills, you shut the flap and poured the pills into the appropriate bottle or vial. My father let me do the pouring, but I wasn’t allowed to type the label. That’s where he drew the line. You have to be a pharmacist to type a label.

My father’s pharmacy had a back room where he liked to sleep in the afternoon. Another one of my jobs was to wake him every half-hour and have him tell me to wake him in another half-hour. With the exception of these periodic attempts to wake my father, I wasn’t permitted in the back room.

But then one day while dusting empty prescription bottles, I said something to my father that compelled him to take me to the back room and shut the door behind us. I don’t remember what I said, but it must have been pretty interesting, because as soon as we got to the back room, he sat me on the cot and told me the craziest thing. He said that sometimes he and my mother want to be close, as close as they can be, so what happens is that he puts his penis inside her vagina, and then some stuff that isn’t pee comes out of his penis and goes into my mother, and somehow this stuff finds an egg and makes it into a baby.

My father asked me if I understood, and I said that I did, and then we went back to what we were doing before my father decided to tell me all this.

Naturally I knew my father was lying. I may have been only six or seven, but I wasn’t so easily fooled. The question, though, was why my father had lied to me. Or more to the point, what his lie was meant to conceal.