:: Article

Plan B

By Debbie Ann Eis

I am waiting in line at the pharmacy, staring at the man behind the cash register. He is twenty-one, twenty-four, twenty-eight? He could be thirty-something, but he has that way of talking–the eyes not quite on anything–that say he needs to get more scars, more life, a long-term lay, a child maybe. He is not a father.

The lady two bodies ahead of me says, “Attington.” He turns, retrieves a white paper bag, peeks inside, pulls out the plastic container, regards it briefly, drops it back and hands it over. Easy.

I will say, “Morganstern.” He will retrieve the bag, look inside. Then what? Will he pull my plastic pill bottle out, stare at the inscription, glance back at me, my body, my face, my drooping breasts? Will he think, dear God what in the world, she’s as old as my mother? Well, excuse me, asshole, I have fucked younger things than you.

I will take my bag and wink, make him blush. I will say are you sure this is Plan B? Because, this is important. I do not have time for another one. This was a mistake, just a quickie, in the kitchen with Arlene’s husband. And it could happen again. I don’t want to lose her again.

I paged my gynecologist right afterwards, still a bit out of breath. How long do I have? I asked. Twenty-four, forty-eight hours? I am mid-cycle.

He will take my money fast, punch the register keys, give me change. Next in line, he will say. Next in line. Move on. Get her out of here.

Get her out of here.

I am before him now, and I say “Morganstern.” He hunts through all the white paper bags and cannot find mine. He asks me to spell my name, which I do. He says what is it?

A man coughs behind me; someone at the counter over to the right jiggles a bottle of pills. The clack of medicine against container sounds satisfying.

You can write it down, he says, pushing a pen and paper towards me. He looks over my shoulder to the next body, an older man who wheezes.

I write down “birth control.” I cross through it. He stands. The man coughs. The pills clack.

I write down Plan B. Then cross that out too. I write down morning after… I crumple the paper and toss it on the floor.

I reach into my purse, pull out my checkbook and peel off a deposit slip. I turn the slip over and try again. I made a mistake, I write. I fucked Arlene’s husband in an unprotected way. And it could happen. It can happen to women like us too, you know.

I got pregnant the first try on each of my four children.

He stands like a sentinel. I don’t hear anything, but can smell her sweet oatmeal, milky breath. I smelled it ten years ago when I lost her. I smell it now as she tries to come back.

I am completing my essay when he says, oh here it is by the register. He holds up the bag, opens it, pulls out the container, and, with no expression, not even a glance my way, drops it back and takes my money.

Debbie Ann Eis’s work has appeared online and in small print, most recently in Word Riot, Elimae, Salome, Madhatter’s Review and others. Work is forthcoming soon in Ghoti. She lives in Connecticut with her two boys, English bulldog and husband and writes, reads and builds snowmen.


First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, March 12th, 2007.