Jonny B and RMP Ritchie are in a pharmacy on Christmas Eve. It’s the part of the day where everyone else has escaped home to avoid traffic and very few drift in. It’s the most boring afternoon in pharmacy….
“Did that clock move backwards? I’m sure it said 3.15, now it says 2.20!” RMP Ritchie started to observe the most usual phenomenon. Of time moving backwards in the pharmacy. Jonny B nods in agreement, and looks longingly out the window. “Counted rx, and the girls have worked so hard we’re ahead of ourselves for once. Know any good games?” Ritchie looks off in the distance, but comes back with “not games you could play in a pharmacy….but you make up stories to tell the kids….fancy having a go?” .
And so it begins.
It’s London, 2012. Mr Dispenser Scrooge is a pharmacist in a small chemist shop. It’s Christmas Eve. He works in the back of the shop, alone, and has only one assistant. Her name is Roberta, but he calls her Bob for some weird reason. She’s a nice lady, a single mum who works hard for Scrooge for minimum wage. Every year she hopes for a nice bonus, but even though she will never get one, she will wish him a Merry Christmas all the same. The clock starts to strike 5. The world outside has all gone home to cosy firesides and families with open arms. In the freezing cold shop, Roberta longs for home.
A young man runs into the shop. It’s Roberta’s son, Tim. He’s a pharmacy student, but because of having to work to pay his fees this year, he has failed his second year. Despite this Roberta is very proud of him.
“Hi Mum, Merry Christmas! How are you?” “Fine son, just can’t wait to get home and put my feet up!When did you get here?” “Just off the train! Have you had a chance to speak to Mr Scrooge yet?”.
Roberta bites her lip and looks towards the back of the shop. “Not yet son. Mr Scrooge has been, well, very busy you see. Business isn’t what it used to be, and he’s been struggling”. Tim smiles ” Don’t worry mum, we’ll ask him now! No-one can say no on Christmas!”. Roberta winces, but admiringly looks on as her son approaches the miser in the back.
“Mr Dispenser Scrooge?” “Yes, who are you? You’re not allowed back here. BOB!!”
Roberta moves to them “it’s my son Tim. He wants to ask if you would give him some work this summer. He’s very good, and he’s got some good customer experience”. Scrooge looked up from his piles of rx and scrutinised the youngling. “Humpf. So it’s work experience then. Fine. All summer, no pay”.
“But Mr Scrooge, he’s paying his own way through university to be a pharmacist! Can’t you pay him minimum wage?”
“If you would like to keep YOUR job, Bob, I would suggest that you accept my generous offer and close up tonight….”
“But it’s Christmas Eve!”
“And it pays your wages”.
Roberta sighs and turns away. Her son hugs her “chin up mum, only an hour to go. I’ll get a start on dinner.” Smiling Tim leaves the shop.
Scrooge emerges from the back and throws his keys at Roberta. “I’m off.”
“You can’t leave me here on my own without a pharmacist!!That’s illegal.”
“Make sure my money and rx are in the safe; I know exactly how much is there.”
Scrooge snorts in derision, leaves the shop, and drives off home in his car.
Scrooge isn’t much to look at. Scruffy, cheap and alone; he’s reminiscent of Brad Pitt in the Chanel ads. For all that money, you’d think he’d look the part.
At home no-one waits for him, all he has is his own company. After a Chinese takeaway (no tip) and wine, he’s ready for bed. It’s not a restful sleep. The clock turns to 12.
The door flies open, Scrooge wakes up and sees his former pre-reg tutor Bob Marley at the foot of his bed. “Marley? But you’re dead”. The ghost of Marley is a portly man, dressed in his golf outfit, a golf club jammed in the side of his skull. “Well that’s what they told me. Funny how I might see you there soon.”
“Hah, same old Scrooge. Full of questions, full of crap. I fear I may have led you astray. Don’t suffer the same fate I did. Three ghosts will visit you. Don’t let me down boy. Now, where’s my 9 iron?”….. Marley shuffles off, his 9 iron lodged in his head 9 years ago by a very angry ex-wife.
Scrooge, feeling like he’d heard this all before, drank some Gaviscon to soothe his stomach. “Dodgy Chinese”.
Crawling back into bed, Scrooge tried to sleep, but sleep was denied. The clock struck one.
“Hello Mr Dispenser Scrooge.” Scrooge stuck his face out from under the covers. It was a familiar face, the former RPSGB inspector for the area. “I’m here to remind you of the reasons you became a pharmacist. I’m the ghost of pharmacy past. Walk with me”.
The face held out a hand, and Scrooge walked with him through the door, into 1999. It was a pharmacy Scrooge worked in as a student. He was handsome, smiling and chatting with the girls in the shop. A customer came to the counter, out of breath. Scrooge watched his younger self assist the lady and helped the pharmacist stop her asthma attack. “I remember this!!” Scrooge cried “of course! This was the reason I became a pharmacist; it felt so good helping someone who couldn’t help being ill.” Scrooge went to grab the lady, but his hand flew right through her arm. “Oh yeah, they can’t see or hear you”, said the ghost of pharmacy past ” and I remember how you were when you started as a pre-reg; just the same. So what happened?” Scrooge turned to the ghost. “I don’t remember”. “Hmmm. Money is dangerous; it changes hands too quickly. Many people sell their soul for an easy life. Manners and ethics cost nothing; but they are priceless. Think about what made you sell out. Well, look at the time! The ghost of pharmacy present will be here soon. Take care as you move onwards Scrooge.”
Scrooge was standing in the hall. The big hand moved to 6. “Responsible Pharmacist sign….not in view. Mr Dispenser Scrooge, I am the ghost of pharmacy present”. Scrooge looks at a person he does not recognise, but they wear a badge: GPhC inspector. “Hello?” ” You have another ghost to see before the responsible pharmacist absence time is up. Lets move quickly. I need to see what you’ve been up to recently.” With a click of the fingers, they are in the street where the pharmacy is. “Hmmmm. Exterior needs refreshing. Pharmacist dressed like he is taking dog for a walk….” Scrooge looks at the ghost “Why are we here?” “Just passing, we have another appointment”.
They move on, to Roberta’s small apartment. In a small but warm room, Roberta watches her son dozing in front of the telly, with a concerned expression. “What’s the matter with Bob?” The ghost sighs and says “ROBERTA is concerned for her son” “why? He’s a smart lad, he’ll be ok” “Tim failed his second year because he has been working to put himself through pharmacy school. You remember what that was like, but it’s more expensive in 2012. Tim sacrificed his study to make money. Admirable at this point, but not if he continues in this way. You know this already.”
“But even if I pay him for work experience he won’t be able to afford to stay in university”. The ghost looked at Scrooge. “It’s 1.45. He’ll be here NOW”.
With a clap of thunder, Scrooge found himself in his sitting room. A chill crept up his spine. He looked up into a dark cloak with even darker holes where they eyes would have been. A thin bony hand emerged, and a deep voice growled “I am Pharmakeus. I will show you the future of pharmacy. By the way, don’t step on my cloak. It’s not a good idea, trust me.” Scrooge looked at the hood in terror. The figure leaned in “get off your arse and come with me. I don’t do telekinesis”. “o…k”.
The bony finger clicked ahead one week-figures down, ahead a month-desperate Scrooge thinking of other solutions, ahead 6 months-and Scrooge is selling medicines without prescriptions…. “No! I wouldn’t! I…I couldn’t”
“Yeah you will. You don’t care about anyone. Profit over people. The Donald Trump of pharmacy.”
“No, no, no….” “Oh come on,the best part is still to come”. Pharmakeus clicked his bony fingers….
A register is open. On it is written; E Scrooge, removed from register. Found guilty of negligence. “NOOOO!” ” why are you surprised Scrooge? Did you think your “friends” would help you? Hah! You’re as popular as Jeremy Kyle. Ah well, can’t waste this opportunity” Pharmakeus cracked his bony fingers and spun Scrooge round pointing out events in the future; “vending machines” “NOOOO” “FIJIAN parallel imports” “NOOOO” “HOMEOPATHY IN INTENSIVE CARE!!!” “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!”
“Ooh look its 5 already!”
“No, wait, you’re telling the story!”
“Ritchie, the missus is going to kill me”
“But how does it end? Does he change his ways?”
“Don’t know, it’s still Christmas Eve. Guess we will have to wait and see”