Vitamin B12

Something was obviously wrong when Heather walked into the house. She felt it, underfoot: the crunch of a disk of something chalky crumbling into powder. That shouldn’t happen on a welcome mat.

The floor of the entryway was dotted with medicine—pale blue circles that looked larger than a person would be able to swallow. They almost looked trendy set against the deep brown carpet.

The trail of pills led through the living room and into the kitchen. There were a lot of them. Mrs. Dupont was reaching into the giant bottle and hurling discs against the wall and the floor. Despite how thoroughly she’d already distributed them, the container was only half-empty.

“Mom!” Heather barked. “What’s wrong?”

“Look at these,” she whimpered, as she tossed a handful at Heather. Mrs. Dupont at least had the presence of mind to arc the missiles rather than chucking them the way she had been when the walls were her target. Heather decided to consider this an act of supreme thoughtfulness.

It didn’t get her any closer to understanding her mother’s aggravation, though. “What are they?” she inquired in her most tender voice, hoping to calm the woman down.

It didn’t work. “I asked the woman at the drugstore for vitamin B12 pills without that vitamin smell!” Mrs. Dupont exploded. “That stupid, lazy bitch! I called her a stupid lazy bitch to her face, too!”

Heather sniffed one of the pills that had managed to balance itself on her left shoulder. “I don’t really smell anything,” she confessed.

“Yeah, but they’re huge!” Mrs. Dupont held up a sample to demonstrate. “How am I going to swallow one of these?”

“You could cut it up,” Heather offered.

This at least broke Mrs. Dupont’s rage, as she had to consider the feasibility of such a radical plan. The calm didn’t last, though. “You’re a smart-ass, little girl! Clean up this mess!”

Heather gave her mother a small, sad smile. She took the bottle of pills and left wordlessly to find a dustpan.

*****

I wrote this on the lengthy public transit ride to the radio station this weekend. (I live in mid-north Chicago; it’s in mid-to-far south Chicago.) It’s based on a woman who had a loud and absurdist phone conversation about the various ways she had been recently wronged, including buying vitamin B12 pills that were too large and smelled too much like vitamins.

I wrote it as an exchange between Heather and Mrs. Dupont in Clean Hippie Murders, but that’s clearly a mistake. Mrs. Dupont is, frankly, much smarter than this. She would take the pills back to the drugstore and scatter them around the floor there, rather than in her own home where she’d have to clean them up. She might, inadvertently I’m sure, take the pills back to a different pharmacy than the one that she bought them from and wreak havoc there, but she definitely would make sure that the effects of her actions were felt by someone other than her. That’s just the way she rolls.

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