The Dishwasher Saints of the Brady Street Pharmacy
Note, this was written about 11 years ago, when I was working as the cashier at a unique cafe/convenience store/ pharmacy/ uh…theater, called the Brady Street Pharmacy.
There were three ex-dishwashers of the café who have died of alcohol related conditions over the last year and a half. They drank themselves to death. All three were somewhere in their fifties. Here they’ll be called “Saint Peter,” “Saint Paul,” and “Saint Joseph.”
Saint Joseph had thin, greasy hair combed over his scaly, pock marked head. He had a vulgar looking mustache and was missing a tooth, most likely from falling off a barstool. He had the looks of an evil landlord, a Snidley Whiplash character who would twirl his mustache hair with glee as he’d try to goose the rent out of the poor widowed farm wife.
Despite this, I got along with the guy alright. We weren’t BFFs or anything, but we always said ‘hi’ and engaged in some type of small talk every day. You know, sports, weather, how much work sucks, etc, etc, so on and so forth.
He was unpopular with the waitresses, which is a bad bad bad place for a dishwasher to be. Those waitresses will conspire silently, wait patiently, and then sabotage your very soul. They’ll tell you they left a birthday present for you in the garage, and you’ll go out there, touched by their generosity. Then you’ll discover the garage door locks behind you and that the room is filled with rabid mountain lions and the walls are lined with mousetraps.
Such was the case with Saint Joseph. As soon as he slouched through the door, you could see the back hair of the waitresses starting to stand on end, their postures clenched and uncomfortable. He came to work sometimes noticeably drunk. He sometimes snuck off to a side room to catch a few Zs. The waitresses were convinced he had a bottle hidden somewhere on the premises and the flipped the place more thoroughly than the vice squad. No stone was left unturned in the search for the stash in a desperate attempt to find hard alcohol hard evidence. They even had me search the tank of the men’s room toilet on three different occasions. Now that you mention it, that is a pretty good place to hide it.
One day I walked in, and my co-worker Mo was smirking at me through a haze of cigarette smoke.
“Wait’ll you see Joseph today.” She said, exhaling smoke. “He’s turned yellow.”
“Sure, Mo.” I said, dismissing it. I thought she was implying something like “he’s a little green around the gills.” Then he walked in.
“He’s….YELLOW!” I shout whispered to Mo.
“I told you.” She said.
“No, no…he’s yellllllll-ow!”
“I told you.”
“I mean, he looks like he walked out of an episode of The Simpsons! Mo, he’s yellow!” I’m still kind of in shock. I’ve never seen anyone Crayola yellow before.
“I told you.” Mo said again.
As you can probably guess, it’s not a good sign when you turn as yellow as yield sign. It means you are dying. And a few months later, Saint Joseph was dead.
Saint Paul had a drinking problem, too.
His doctor said “Saint Paul, if you continue to drink, you will drop over dead as a fucking doornail.”
Saint Paul said, “Thanks for the advice, doc.” Then he headed straight for the Roman Coin and bought a pitcher of beer and asked for one glass.
Saint Paul was a nice, jolly guy. He loved to laugh and joke around. Sure, he was in a goddamn grouchy mood sometimes, but who isn’t? I can’t remember now if he quit or was fired for being drunk on the job, which happened on a regular basis. The booze made him happy. The waitresses were split on their decision on Paul. Most agreed he had “gotten worse.”
He started losing weight. Like I said, he was jolly. Jolly to me implies a little fat, which Paul was. He started to lose weight, rapidly, and it wasn’t from dieting or exercise. The weight loss looked unnatural. His skin tone was changing, too, it was yellowish greenish grayish. That’s the best way I can describe it. It was like he was shriveling up and dying. It was depressing to see. I remember seeing him, gray looking, soaking wet, walking in the rain with his XXL t-shirt hanging off his now L body, heading to the Roman Coin. Things got worse and he checked into the hospital. He didn’t check out.
It was kind of a surprise. I knew Saint Peter drank too much, and popped a lot of pain pills, which is a no no, but I didn’t think much on it. He didn’t look great, but he didn’t look like he was going to drop over.
Peter had a bushy beard and long hair and a wild look in his eyes, like Rasputin. He was always dressed in the same beat up flannel and beat ups jeans, chain smoking Old Golds and looking around him wildly. Initially the dude freaked me out a little bit, with all the staring and teeth grinding and mumbling to himself. Soon I realized that this was the pain pills talking and that he was an ok guy. He had miserable things happen in his life and I felt bad for him. I do remember thinking that he looked a bit worse than usual last week. He wasn’t making sense and seemed angry about it. I swear his beard looked much grayer than it had been days before, but maybe my mind has invented it.
The last time I saw him, he took a drag from his cigarette, squinted and scanned the layout of the Pharmacy. “Fuck this place,” he said, stubbed out his cigarette, left.
He disappeared for a few days, then one evening his mother walked in. His mother is like three hundred years old, slouched over a walker, dressed in an ancient floor length fur coat, a mess of white hair on her head.
The boss and I were at the front counter. Jim had his arms folded in front of him, and was blabbing on and on. He was wearing a humorous tie with King Kong on it. I was drinking weak coffee and staring off into space in front of me, daydreaming, ignoring the stream of consciousness flowing out of my boss.
Saint Peter’s mom walked through the door with much effort, and stared down at us, leaning on her walker.
“Peter is dead.” She said.
My boss stared at her, blinking. He wasn’t any good in situations like this.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. When?”
“Yesterday.” She said, then turned and pushed her way back out the doors.
Later I was at the bar having a drink. I stared down into my glass. “Shit, man,” I thought, “this shit will kill you.”