Extract from Pharmacology, a novel by Christopher Herz

Chapter Two, Part 3

Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal

Guru’s Jazzamataz played over and over again. Everyone was listening. Even the old Beats who sat across the street from City Lights at Café Trieste thinking about how the days have moved past them and they were never included in the same category of the glorious three. Or glorious four- however you want to look at it.

Through the scratched-over windows of the bus, the old Victorians passed by us, large-scale dollhouses that required the souls of those who built the city to stay in the carved-out wood and perfectly painted exteriors.

We got off the bus and reached the edge of the city, with only the Great Highway separating us from where the Cliff House stood glorious against the Pacific. Inside was a restaurant serving decent Irish coffee and good food, but we weren’t there for that. We came for the Arcade.

The Museé  Mechanique was an old-style arcade with machines from the twenties and thirties that used to take a nickel or a penny and allow for escape from your world. You’d glance down and look at an old flip-book or see what passed as pornography sixty years ago. My favourites were the old baseball card machines that only cost a quarter to get a replica of an old Jackie Robinson card.

There were glass-enclosed opium dens, vampires that came out of coffins, and carnivals that sprang into action when you dropped a coin. Kept smelling the ocean crashing around the cliffs the whole place was built on, so I stepped outside and gave my pops a call and shared the moment with him.

Dialed up from the payphone and waited for his voice to join the breeze.

‘Hey Pops, how you feeling?’

‘Better now that you’re on the other end. Where you calling me from today?’

‘Looking out over the Pacific, Pops,’ I told him, trying to let him hear the waves, the seals on the rock just in front of me, and my voice all at the same time. ‘Wanted to share this with you. Something other than the money, you know?’

‘My baby girl,’ he said, trying not to let me hear his cough.

‘The money is helping more than you know. Even the little bit of it. You’re doing all this from a café?’

‘You need more, Pops?’

There was a quick silence before the voices switched and my mother came on the line.

;Sarah – your father got a little too excited. You hear what it’s doing to him in the background, no?’

He started in pretty good again.

‘Mom – tell me the truth. Is the money I’m sending home helping at all?’

I heard her walk out of his earshot.

‘Sarah, the money you are sending is helping, but the bills are getting to be too much. There’s only so many extra shifts I can take. The trials they are running now are helping, but the side effects from the drugs are causing other problems and the insurance company won’t cover these because they say they won’t cover experimental procedures.  Can you ask your boss for a raise?’

I didn’t know what to say, but I knew I couldn’t ask for a raise. Those guys were putting money up their nose. I’d have to make a switch.

‘No problem, Moms. I’ll take care of it. Give him a kiss for me and let him know there’s magic inside of it’.

My time ran out before I could ask anything about her and how she was dealing with everything.

Colin rolled out with his book sketching an old baseball game played with a metal ball and a bat activated by pinball flippers. Each of the men on the field were reciting different Wu Tang lyrics.


Pharmacology at Amazon.


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