BROTHERHOOD
My wife asked me to go down to Walgreens and pick something up for her;
I forget what exactly…iron or vitamin D or something like that. So, I slipped
down the street and made my way into Walgreens and over to the vitamin
section only to discover that I could have anything in that store, anything at
all—just pluck it off the shelf and take it to the check-out counter—except
the single item I was there for. They had every vitamin and mineral on
earth, and several different brands of each; they were all lined up, nicely,
neatly on display, surrounding the gaping emptiness where the one I was
after should have been.

So, I just stood there for a while and looked things over carefully,
deliberately, systematically, just to be sure.

As I was standing there a man—maybe a little younger than me, maybe a
little heavier, but every bit as tired, with a Walgreens badge—passed by. I
collared him.

“I’m looking for (iron or vitamin D or whatever it was),” I told him, “there’s
none on the shelf…”
“If it’s not on the shelf we don’t have it,” he said with a careless
indifference, and started moving things around on the shelf in front of him.
“Do you think you might have some in the back, in stock?” I asked.
He sighed, straightened up and looked at me. “If it’s not on the shelf we
don’t have it,” he said with maybe a bit more dramatic emphasis than was
really necessary.

We looked at each other for a while.

“Are you a married man?” I asked.

His face softened. He nodded his head and smiled a crooked little smile
despite himself. Without another word he went past me and through the
doors, into the back. He emerged a couple moments later carrying a bottle
of the stuff I was after, and placed it in my hand.
"There y' go," he said.
“Thank you,” I said.
“You’re welcome, brother,” he said.

This time the smile was genuine.