Monday, June 2, 2014

Idea For a Short Story

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I sat on the venipuncturist’s table in the hematologist’s office. I am an actress, which made it impossible for me to tell whether I was nervous about having my blood drawn or acting as though I were, because there is no difference. I have that disorder – 15% of the population has it – the one where you faint at the sight of blood. I had told the hematologist that immediately, as an ice breaker. I am funny and not as nervous as I seem.

I have anemia. The doctor had photos of his children and his wife covering his wall like an art gallery and he told me I should not feel pressured to rush through my history, as he had all the time in the world. He chatted about children’s shows, freely admitting he was trying to calm me down and I told him I knew that and it wasn't working because although I also have a child, hence the topic of children’s shows, I dislike most children’s shows. He tried to one-up. (Parents love to one-up each other by competing over how much they disdain children's entertainment.) 

"No Yo Gabba Gabba in our house," he said. “Does your daughter like Lori Berkner?” I  said, “I don't.” “Really?” he asked. “I found her one of the tolerable ones." I told him about an Australian rock group for kids that featured a baritone opera singer, a ballet dancer and a jazz pianist. The Wiggles, version 2.0. The ball kept passing over the net and no one was trying to make the other person lose contact with it. We weren't competing anymore, we were just talking shop. Parent shop.

When he took me to the lab, his two beautiful assistants prepared the vials. I entertained myself with the idea of a hematologist's decorating his office with depictions of Count Dracula. Or maybe just the Transylvanian countryside and a bit of the Count's castle at the edge. (The vampire himself, that would be putting it over the top.) Would patients find it funny? I would.

The doctor’s last name could be of any origin. It probably wasn't Romanian but wouldn't it be great if it were? I had told him that I had fainted on the subway reading Dracula. I was reading the scene in which Dracula punctures his own chest vein when visiting Mina. True, it was a hot and humid summer’s day and the downtown 1 was a study in faulty air conditioning and herds of restless sweating bodies swaying as the train snaked along its curvy path. I hadn't eaten much breakfast,either. Still,  it was the blood in the story. I heard music in my ears swell and developed tunnel vision and nausea and the last thing I remembered before my blood pressure dropped enough to throw me to the floor of the car was wishing that the subway could just get to 18th Street before I vomited. We were at 28th Street and then I heard the conductor announcing a delay at 23rd and I thought, “Crap, I was so close to getting there without being sick.” And then I realized I was on the floor of the subway. And then I was being ushered off  by some EMTs and I realized that I was the sick passenger. There are signs all over the subway: “In the event of a sick passenger, the train will be halted. If you are the sick passenger, you will not be ignored.” I was the reason I had not made it to 18th Street.

 I told this story to the doctor who had all the time in the world, but a condensed version. No one has that much time. I had also also fainted once when my father had handed me the bloody eyeglasses of a woman he'd helped up after she'd tumbled on the sidewalk. I saw a single drop of blood on the glasses and I fell backward into my sister’s arms. I have that thing --what is it called--that thing where you faint at the sight or mention of blood.*

The doctor didn't want to take any chances. He had apple juice on stand-by and he asked the venipuncturist to lay me down on the table. I persuaded them it wouldn't be necessary. I have a technique: I look away and pretend a bee is stinging me.The needle isn't upsetting, it is only the blood. Bees don’t draw blood. Not that you can see, anyway.

I stared at the wall and giggled, imagining Playbills of old productions of Dracula lining the wall of a hematologist’s lab. Wouldn't patients love that? Would they? I would. The needle went in. Damn, that hurts. They took the blood vials away. I never saw where they went. Down the corridor somewhere. Initial results were printed and more results were promised by the week’s end.

I wonder what they do with all the blood after they test it.

The doctor had shown me his screensaver: his two teen-aged boys, one of whom was blond and had, in the doctor's words, “the icy smile of a psychopath.”  He was holding his brother in a hammerlock. The other boy was a red head. Grinning, cheeky, ginger and spice. He was colorful next to his white blond brother. 

“Does everyone say they look like William and Harry?” I asked the doctor. “Yes,” he said. “And they are. The older one is very serious and the younger is much more lighthearted.” I decided not to mention that Harry was rumored to be the son of Diana’s riding instructor as he was his spit and image of the equestrian with whom Diana had acknowledged an affair at just the right time to conceive the spare heir. William looks just like Charles, of course, so thank goodness it came out in that order. But I didn't say that to the doctor. Obviously. 

“The older one is more like me,” the doctor said. I was surprised. He was a jovial guy. He liked putting his patients at ease. He was a family guy. He loved people. He had cushions on a couch in his office and all the time in the world.  I looked over at the screensaver and the pale blond with the icy eyes and the gingery goofball of a brother in the elder's violent clutch. I would have guessed the younger brother to be more like his father. Maybe his Dad had another side. Or maybe the older son did. 

Wouldn't it be funny, I thought, if the doctor were a vampire and he’d converted only the first of his sons as yet?

What do they do with all that blood once they test it for Ferritin and Hemaglobin?

Why did a Manhattan doctor have all the time in the world? Who on Earth has all the time in the world, much less a Manhattan doctor?

What a great idea for a short story, I thought. I have to write it down.

It wouldn't be the story of a bad vampire, for goodness' sake. This man was an angel who was about to infuse me with iron. He could be a Joshua York* kind of vampire. 

The co-pay was thirty five dollars. And five vials of blood. 

*The name of the disorder is "vasovagal response." 

*Joshua York is a vampire in George R.R. Martin's "Fevre Dream."

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