Because my asthma is a permanent, high-maintenance condition, I’m practically on a first-name basis with the entire pharmacy staff at the local Long’s Drugs. At least once a month I’ll come in; the pharmacist — or one of the staff — will greet me, saying, "Welcome back, Richard! What will it be today, the usual? How about some Serevent, that will really open up those ol’ bronchial tubes like nobody’s business!"
Well, okay, it isn’t quite like that. But sometimes I really feel like it is. When I call up to place a refill on a prescription, the staff member who answers the phone almost always knows my voice, and frequently can guess what medication I need.
Yesterday I went in to pick up some of the usual meds: two inhalers, an antihistamine, a painkiller for my shoulder. One of the staff members who knows me by name — and who also happens to be a part-time bartender at one of my favorite local music venues, The Palms Playhouse — was there as well. She wasn’t actually working at the time; instead she was picking up some medicine for someone else in her family: Rupert, the bearded dragon.
I had never thought that you could pick up some veterinary medications at Long’s Drugs (on the other hand, it’s probably good information to have, since when I marry Jennifer I’ll essentially be marrying her seven cats as well). Of course, I had never really thought of a bearded dragon as an animal that you would take to the veterinarian either; then again, where else would you take it when it got sick?
"Amanda" (not her real name, but I need to call her something) had brought Rupert with her, so I got to look at this creature. He was about fourteen inches long, from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail. I’m guessing fourteen inches; he was in a Tupperware box, and his tail had to bend a little for him to fit into it. He was a mottled dark brownish-green color, with rough skin and sharp, beady eyes. Along his chin were lots of tiny spines, which is why he’s called a "bearded dragon". Looking at this animal, who was waiting with his owner for some antibiotics to help heal up an abscess for which he had just had surgery, my first thought was that he was emaciated and sickly. It turns out that yes, he was a bit thin, but bearded dragons have a tendency to flatten themselves out in order to capture more heat in certain environments.
Don’t you think that it’s amazing that there are such things in this world? It seems like every time I turn around, there’s something curious or strange waiting to be seen, and such things sometimes appear in the strangest places. A pharmacy is not a place I would expect to find a creature called a bearded dragon, any more than a Dungeons and Dragons game was a place where I would expect to meet my soulmate. But this sort of thing happens; strange and wonderful things pop up in unexpected places — and, furthermore, I’m convinced that this sort of thing happens all the time.
I know that when I was a kid, my mom sometimes got frustrated with me when she took my sister and I on walks. While my sister would run on ahead, I would constantly fall behind, caught up in some insect or rock or bug or piece of litter that caught my attention. I think I might have acquired this trait from my grandfather, who would frequently frighten the passengers in his car with his ability to say exactly how many cows were in the field beside the road, but not necessarily what was on the road ahead of him. I like to think that I’m a bit more attentive to the road than that, but I still find myself drawn to the world around me and all of the wonderful things that crawl, ooze, climb, and slime.
"Here There Be Dragons", the old cartographers used to warn, on maps that were necessarily incomplete: "Sail beyond the known boundaries of the world, and you will encounter deadly monsters." But the world around us is always incomplete, isn’t it? Keep your eyes focused on what’s directly ahead, and you’ll miss everything that’s going on beside you, where there are some pretty astounding things from time to time. And dragons aren’t necessarily bad things; dragons can also represent the strange and delightful oddities that populate this world like sprinkles on a cake.
Keep an eye out for that sort of thing. You’ll see exactly what I mean.