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2 Hawthorne Literature- A to Z

The Pharmacist's Mate: A Tale of Birth, Death, Guitars, and Goldfish


The Pharmacist's Mate: A Tale of Birth, Death, Guitars, and Goldfish Cover





Frank came with me this morning to the insemination. He had to come, ha. He had to come in a sterile plastic container at 8:30 a.m., and then they took his sperm and "washed" it, as they say, to make it more motile, to make it supersperm. It takes them an hour to wash it. So my insemination was scheduled for 9:30 a.m.

And Frank has done this insemination thing before, so he knows the routine. We go there, and they give him the sterile plastic cup, and he writes my name and his name all over it, and then he goes into the collection room, which is basically a closet, only furnished with a VCR, porn magazines, and a chair with a diaper spread across the seat.

And last time I asked him which one he looked at, the magazine or the video, and he said the video. And I asked him what it was called and he said he wasn't sure, he just pressed play and went with it.

So this time I said, you have to get the title for me. And so I was sitting in the waiting room when he came back in and took my pen and paper from me and wrote this down:


And I laughed out loud.

And then he had to go to work, so I sat in the waiting room and drew ladies' feet until it was time to go pick up his supersperm in the test tube. Now here is your quiz: do you know what color washed semen is?

It is pink. Bright pink. And it is thin. It shakes around in the test tube like a tiny sip of diet grapefruit drink.

And I take the test tube (asking the technician again, as I always do, are you sure this is mine, ha ha?), and I swaddle it in my STP motor oil windbreaker, and as I do so, I remember the time I wore this windbreaker on Astor Place and some guy looked at me and said, "STP! Stop Teen Pregnancy!"

And then I go back to the waiting room, and sit awhile longer, until my name is called, my name and another woman's name. Two names at the same time. And we look at each other and smile and follow the resident to the exam rooms. And the woman turns to me right before she goes into her room and says, "We have the same clothes on, did you notice?"

And I look. And it's true. We are both wearing white shirts and black pants.

"It's our lucky outfit," I say.

And then we go through our separate doors, and close them behind us, and as we do I am remembering the psychic I go to see once a year, in January, right after my birthday. I like her for many reasons, one of the foremost being that if you try to go more than once a year, she won't let you. And I asked her then, last January, will I be pregnant? And she said she saw two little heads pop up. And at the time I thought, oh, that's my two children, because Frank and I had decided that was how many we wanted. But then later I thought, maybe it's twins.

And in the exam room I am alone again with my pants off and the ultrasound machine. And I stand there and study the probe. It is naked, without a condom, without jelly. It is very long. It is longer than any penis I have ever, personally, sat on.

And then the resident comes in, this one a blonde in burgundy leather high heels. And I hand her the tiny pink drink and she looks at it and then shows me the names on it and asks, "Is this yours?" And I say, "I hope so," and climb on the table and assume the position and wince as she puts the speculum in.

Have you ever been inseminated? It is not like lying back on the red velvet divan. It is painful. They use a plunger attached to a long pipette, and they stick the pipette through your cervix, into your uterus, and then they plunge. And if you, like me, have never had any children, then most likely you have never had anything that was not microscopic going into or out of your cervix. Did I mention that the pipette inside your cervix feels like a tiny knife? A tiny knife stabbing you farther inside than you ever knew anything could go?

And you feel the knife stabs for about fifteen seconds, which can seem like quite a long time. And then the resident takes the pipette out and the speculum out and goes away, click, click, there's no place like home.

And I am not supposed to move for fifteen more minutes. "To rest," she said.



3/12/46: I had quite a talk with the Chief Engineer last night, and find him to be a most amazing person. In his spare time, he is a writer of short stories or anecdotes. His mastery of the English language is good, but his style of writing is rather poor, for I have perused a few of his literary attempts. His sense of morals?if such a sense is even present?is sadly wanting. His wife must truly be a very understanding person, and her love for him very deep, because he has been involved in the most scandalous predicaments involving women. He has "wronged" more women?and been caught at it?than are "wronged" in an entire year's publication of True Confessions magazine. He is wrapped up in the doings of his two sons, both of whom are in their early teens, although his wife is twenty-eight. I can't help liking the fellow, for all his shortcomings.

Fairly heavy seas today. Will soon enter bonus area at the ninth meridian, because of floating mines. Make $2.50 extra a day, and get an added $10 a month for carrying dangerous cargo.

Product Details

Fusselman, Amy
Penguin Books
New York
Personal Memoirs
General Biography
Edition Number:
1st paperback ed.
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
October 2002
Grade Level:
7.78x5.06x.32 in. .22 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Biography » Women
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Health and Self-Help » Self-Help » Memoirs

The Pharmacist's Mate: A Tale of Birth, Death, Guitars, and Goldfish Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$5.50 In Stock
Product details 112 pages Penguin Books - English 9780142002353 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A brief miracle of a book."
"Review" by , "Fusselman's background in zines...is evident in her direct, mildly wry prose style and the book's many fine digressions....It takes a stony heart not to appreciate Fusselman's tiny but profound epiphanies about life, family, memory and the physical space we take up while we're on the planet."
"Review" by , "Instead of being a navel-gazing exercise in recollecting one's personal moments...The Pharmacist's Mate is a book that refreshingly calls into question the entire idea of memoir....Fusselman leaves many things lurking and unexplained, and in that way, at least, her book reads like good fiction (something it has in common with A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius)."
"Review" by , "A weird, quirky, wonderful novel about love and loss. It's a book that makes no sense on the surface because it's all about how you feel when your father dies, how you feel when you can't get pregnant, how you feel when your life is stalled. But if you have Amy Fusselman's heart and sense of humor, it feels wonderful, too."
"Review" by , "As a rule, I am not scared of fish or individuals who stand less than five feet in their stockinged feet; this is because I do not expect small things to deliver a hefty punch. And yet Ms. Fusselman's book, brief as it is, affected me deeply. Not only that, the talent displayed therein was somewhat unnerving. In only eighty-six pages we find death, and birth and rebirth and other profundities. I cannot understand how this happened. It runs contrary to all human sense."
"Review" by , "In clean, simple prose that is as powerful as it is spare, The Pharmacist's Mate weaves together life and loss, the story of a wanted pregnancy, and a mourned father. It's impossible not to surrender to Amy Fusselman's lovely haunting voice and strange meditations."
"Synopsis" by , Named "It" Discovery Writer of the Year by Entertainment Weekly, Amy Fusselman took readers and critics alike by storm when McSweeney's published this powerful little book. In The Pharmacist's Mate, she writes of her father's death and her own attempts to become pregnant, weaving in excerpts from her father's World War II journal-written while he was a pharmacist's mate on the Liberty ship George E. Pickett. Fusselman creates a work both startlingly real and deeply funny-all wrapped up in writing so clever and warm it will leave you feeling that everything will be okay.
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