There is a drugstore on a corner in a large city in California. Okay, so I’ll let you in on the place, it’s in L.A. There is a man who owns and operates the drugstore; he’s always there. He reminds you of an aged nerd, remember the nerds in your high school? Well this guy grew up and has a few more wrinkles and a few more pounds but he looks like he did when folks like you and I went to school with him. Nerds were never all that tall in my high school and neither is he. (They may have been tall in your high school, but this isn’t about you!) So lets say he is about 5 foot six or seven.

He sells his share of drugs in his little store. Well, we had better be careful with usage of words here, yes he sells drugs, but they are the legal kind, approved by all those government agencies that do all that approving and marketed by all those distributors approved by all those agencies which are approved by all those government people who do all that approving. So in other words, this guy is legitimate. At least with pharmaceuticals he is.

He also sells soda pop and candy and gum and magazines. He’s kind of and independent 7-11. His place is not franchised or part of any Midwestern corporation, but he does all right.

There are lots of people in L.A., and that gives our drugstore owner a good customer base. But this customer base is diminishing at a rapid rate.

This is where my story begins.

Our nerdy looking shopkeeper carries a generic brand of school supplies. Generic brands are popular among the locals in this particular L.A. neighborhood because they don’t cost as much as name brands but they are made by the same people as the “good stuff.” They may be popular in your neighborhood, too, so read on. As all of us who have bought generic know, you don’t get the fancy looking label to impress all your friends when they look into your medicine cabinet, refrigerator, office desk or pantry.

People in L.A. are into impressing their friends but not when it comes to medicines, office supplies, canned tuna or frozen green beans. Oh, and he carries pomegranate juice, too.

This is where my story really begins.

On one of his store shelves is a generic brand of liquid paper called “Brush Away.” I bought a bottle of the stuff. “White Out” is the name brand version, and it is also known as “liquid paper.” Secretaries used to use it to cover blunders made while typing, back when they actually used mechanical typewriters, and it looked like real paper. Well, it almost looked like real paper. A secretary even developed liquid paper. Her son was a Sixties rock star. He and his band had their own television show. They were famous. I think they were evolutionists, because they named their band after some jungle creatures. They never really said if they were evolutionists in any of their songs, and they never mentioned Darwin, but then I never played any of their records backwards, either. Anyway, this secretary’s son makes liquid paper now. He leaves the singing to other rock stars.

People come into this mans store and buy this form of paper in a bottle on his shelves. But then you would have figured that out by now. On the label is says not to sniff it, and that sniffing it could be fatal.

But it is more fatal if used in the way that it was made to be used. Consumers are faced with this problem every day. Someone somewhere goofs up and sells something with a flaw and it ends up hurting someone. I brushed away an ex-girlfriend of mine with this product. No one has seen her for months. I took the little brush that comes in the bottle and in moments she was gone from my appointment book. And now it seems she has disappeared from the face of the earth.

I don’t know how many bottles are out there. On the news they reported that a desert town out by Palm Springs, one of those towns where people go to retire in mobile homes scattered everywhere, had vanished without a trace at midnight. The reporter was right there, live on camera and standing in what seemed to be in the middle of the desert, but then again it was. There were five commercials in between and the anchors in the studio kept asking questions like, “Uh, have you seen anyone yet, Harry?” Now there is a town of people, who will, like one of the commercials sang, never “dream a little dream” or have “millions find them” by playing the lottery nor will they ever have another “Miller Time.” There was a guy in the middle of a big lot full of cars with a donkey that he thought was a dog pitching used cars and two eggs frying in a pan but they were supposed to be the brains of a drug user and probably were and some other commercial but I was still thinking about the eggs frying and about all those people out there taking drugs and frying their brains.

Then the anchors came back on for a few seconds before they switched to the guy in the desert but he was still alone so one of the anchors said they would take a look at the weather and then go back to see if those people showed up yet. They never did. Rumor has it that someone in a tract developer’s office was working late and spilled some “Brush Away” on a map. I guess that bottle should have been labeled “Spill Away.” At least that developer does not have to tow all those mobile homes away in order to build a bunch of stucco houses.

I spoke to the man at the drugstore. He doesn’t want any trouble so he agreed to take his stock of “Brush Away” off the shelves. But the people who distribute it are harder to contact. They only have an answering service and a P.O. Box. They never return their calls. It’s back to brand names for me.

A girl across the hall from me shops at that little drugstore. I used to see her in there so one night I asked her out. She put me down in her appointment book but I forgot about our date. I hope she is not too upse….

The End

Copyright 2012 Chris Plante. All rights reserved.

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