The sun bounced off the license plate screwed onto the car ahead of me. It was something about the way the metallic light caught my eye, maybe the quickness it skipped from silver to grey. I smiled as I put on my sunglasses, and I let the lingered glare take me there: Tapo Pharmacy, circa 1985.
My parents worked next door, at my Dad’s medical office. We’d go to the Office after school and flip through the magazines in the waiting room until we’d found all ten differences on the back cover of the newest Highlights. Then we’d say, We’re going next door. We had an account, you see. There was a little machine that the lady used to capture our purchases. I could almost piece together the machine in my mind. We found what we wanted, the lady wrote it down. Then we walked out. Yes. A gold mine.
Carbon copy, I said. Out loud, in my car. Alone.
Then I said it again, and laughed at the irony.
I sunk in my seat when I realized the women in the car next to me was shaking her head (another nut in the city, eh?).
I could almost picture the lady that controlled the counter at Tapo Pharmacy. Her hair looked like sugar, and croakies bounced off well-established wrinkles high on her reddened cheeks. I loved Tapo Pharmacy, I was never sure she felt the same way. Don’t be fooled, they had much more than narcotics. They had medicine for all ages: candy. She’d hear the bell chime on our way through the glass door. She’d grin as we walked past the out-dated holiday cards to the candy isle, and then she’d pull out the metal case from under the counter. She’d grunt as she set it down. Maybe it was her arthritis. Maybe it was her concern. We were about to buy us some candy. On account.
It was a carbon copy machine. Beautiful in its simplicity, vintage – even then.
I’d like to say we were reasonable kids: a few Jolly Ranchers, Big League chews, maybe a ring pop, or if we were really feeling it, a Dip Stick backed with a Jaw Breaker. We’d plop our loot down on the counter with anticipation only a salivating kid could understand.
She’d flip down a piece of cardboard and crank the metal case so a new invoice sat squarely in the middle of the dented metal casing. With slow, jagged, strokes of deep blue ink, she captured our purchase. One by one. To some, torture. To me, a beautiful thing. A list of my wares. Proof of my restraint. And best of all, in carbon copy. I can remember the sound, it matched her maternal apprehension: it was a constrained scrape against the metal casing, like she used an exacto knife to scrape off a thin layer of paint from a hallow surface.
She’d punch the white copy through a spike and hand us the pink one. Her head would shake with the bell as we walked out. Short straw handed the bill to Dad. I don’t think he ever bounced one back.
I pulled into work this morning and thought, God what a lucky kid. To think somewhere out there, there just might be proof that I was that kid in a candy store. The best part about it? The proof, it’s in freaking carbon copy.