by | Jun 8, 2021 | Fiction, Issue Twenty One

When the drug first goes to market people think it’s twee, at best.

            “Maudlin medication contends to give us all the answers,” The New York Times writes. “But clever marketing begets major questions of efficacy.”

            “I’ve been struggling with depression,” the lady in the advertisement says, reading her lines with just the right mix of fear and hope. “Should I ask my doctor?”

            The drug becomes more popular as more people begin to experience its effects.

            A man named Garret Stanley gives a compliment to his wife of thirty-two years. She asks him if he’s okay. “I don’t know,” he says. “I just wanted to see you smile.”

            Dina Vlahos decides to stop smoking. She takes up volunteering at the local dog shelter. “You’re a good boy,” she says to a terrier named Dobson, and she means it.

            Fred Roberts, realizing he’s been stingy these last few decades, decides to give everyone at his company a raise. He cuts his own salary. “You all deserve it,” he writes in a long-overdue email. “You work so hard.”

            “You matter,” Dan Friedman says to his son. “Always remember that.”

            Carla Menendez plants a tree in an abandoned lot. “Imagine if everyone did that,” she tells her friend over the phone. “We’d have a whole park in no time.”

            Phoebe Lee knocks on her neighbor’s door. They’ve lived next to each other for years, but never really introduced themselves. “Hey, would you want to come over for tea?”

            “Look,” Pat says to his brother. “I just wanted to say, I’m sorry,” They haven’t talked since the blow-up at Thanksgiving. “I was being selfish. I can see that now.”

            Tamara Jackson, at thirty-five, really listens to her mother after so many years of pretending. She isn’t doing the laundry or scrolling through her phone.

            “I love you, Ma,” she says.

            “I love you.” That’s the mantra of those taking the drug. It appears to be working.

            Various opioid manufacturers hold an emergency meeting.

            “It’s impacting our bottom line,” one scion of a pharmaceutical fortune says. “We can’t have that.” They hire a private investigation firm to find something that will get the drug recalled. But there’s nothing to be found.

            Despite her patent, the inventor of the drug decides to publicly release the formula.

            The media has a field day. 

            The inventor of the drug sits down for an exclusive interview with 60 Minutes.

            She smiles. “Are you going to ask me the question?”

            But the interviewer doesn’t bother. The answer is self-evident.

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