Bitter Pills

Based upon evidence obtained in archeological digs — mostly through old shops — we can now make certain irrefutable conclusions about the early printers of Baltimore:

They were flatulent and had bad breath, suffered from severe headaches and had agita, and bled … a lot, inside and out. Oh, and they had — yikes! — very lousy eyesight. Now you may ask, “So, what makes them any different from today’s printers?” Well, that’s exactly what worries me. When I look into the bottom drawer of our imposing stone cabinet — filled with ancient pill bottles, medicine tins, bandages and the like — am I gazing into my own future? Oops, excuse me.

See, we acquired the old stone and its cabinet of drawers, wooden trays and racks of wood furniture from Reese Press, a longtime Baltimore printing outfit that was moving to a new building and wanted the old stuff gone. There it sat, under thick dust turned to a vile paste by decades of humid Baltimore summers. The thick bifocals of its “stoneman,” who by all appearances was simply snatched by aliens one day, sat abandoned there, his lab coat still on its hook.

But the most fascinating discoveries were in the cabinet’s drawers. Oh, lots of lead bits, odd dies, nuts and bolts and strange improvised tools, pencils, gauges, quoins and keys … and medicine, the old prescriptions and directions inscribed on the side of what seemed to be countless containers. The aliens beamed themselves up one internally challenged customer.

We’ve kept the medicine drawer as it was, save for a few additions like Barbie Band-Aids (not mine, I swear) and Advil — It’s happening already!!!! — as a shrine to the old soul. His spectacles are mounted on the stone’s steel framework. Our lab coats sit on its hooks. It’s like, if the aliens some day decide he’s just not worth anything without his meds, they can just beam him down again.

He’ll fit right in. Um, whoops. Sorry.

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