Howard watched the plum-colored liquid drip into the bag. Slowly. Slowly.
He’d seen hourglasses drain more quickly. At this rate his blood would be obsolete before it even left his body. What was most infuriating about the tedious process of waiting for the bag to fill with his blood was knowing that it would still be several minutes before that sensuous angel of a nurse would once again touch his arm.
“Squeeze every five seconds,” she had told him.
“Come closer,” he had said teasingly, “and I will.”
She hadn’t even acknowledged that remark with a smile; she’d just turned from him and started shuffling papers on a small table.
Well, he guessed he couldn’t blame her for not smiling. She was so pretty she most likely was tired of guys teasing. Or maybe she had no sense of humor. Or maybe she was tempted by his charm and didn’t want to take a chance on what might happen if he let him carry through on his proposition.
He often wished he didn’t have Type 0 Negative blood. He must be the only person in town with Type 0 Negative, else why would the Red Cross call him every few months and say, “Could you please come out today and give us a pint of blood? We’re in desperate need of Type 0 Negative.”
They always talked as if his blood alone would save humanity. He imagined rows of hospital beds with dying people calling out, “Where the hell is Howard Pentock? I need his Type 0 Negative right now!”
But what the hell, it was nice to be needed. Those Type As and Bs and ABs and whatever else there was were probably not as much in demand as he was. Every once in a while—not all the time, unfortunately—he’d have a pretty nurse like this one to touch his arm.
“Your blood’s running slow,” Pretty Nurse said.
He winked at her. “Just make sure you mark the bag so it doesn’t go to some poor slob who’s planning to run in the next Boston Marathon.” He still didn’t get a smile from her. Pretty Nurse had been watching the bag and so probably missed his wink. Or maybe she didn’t know what the Boston Marathon was. Maybe she didn’t have a sense of humor.
Then again, maybe she was like all the other stupid people who didn’t think he was funny. Society as a whole seemed to share that belief. Nobody seemed to want to laugh or even smile at the clever things he said. He’d gone three times to amateur comedy night shows and tried out a little five minute act. Nobody laughed. Not once. He’d had some funny stuff, too. That hurt, to have to sit back down after not getting a single laugh. A couple people applauded, though. Not loud. It almost seemed they were clapping from pity.
What the hell. He tried to give society his soul, his wit. All it ever seemed to want from him was his blood.
“You’re new here, aren’t you?” he asked.
“I’ve been working here three weeks,” Pretty Nurse said.
“You like it here?” Howard asked. “Sticking people with needles?”
She smiled for the first time. “I like it a lot,” she said. “Do you like being stuck?”
“Only by you,” Howard said.
“Mr. Pentock,” she said, hands on her shapely hips in apparent indignation, “you devil, you. I know why your bag isn’t filling up very quickly.”
He felt weak. Maybe he’d lost too much blood. But it wasn’t that. He knew it wasn’t. What made him feel so weak was Pretty Nurse with her hands on her hips, and her smile. She was smiling at him. At Howard Pentock. He tried to catch his breath.
“Why?” he asked.
She touched his forehead. Kept her fingers there for two or three seconds. Long time. She stood close to him, close enough that he sensed an almost erotic aura emanating from her. It swept against him with the gentleness of an artist’s brush against an almost-completed canvas.
He met her gaze; her eyes seemed to twinkle. At him. At Howard Pentock.
Her uniform grazed his bare arm.
She smiled. “It’s because all your blood has gone to your head.” Then she giggled. Out loud. As if what she’d said was actually funny. She stood there grinning a silly grin as if she was impressed with what she apparently considered high humor.
He jerked his head to the side. He no longer could even bear to look at her. The warmth he’d felt a moment ago turned cold. He hoped she noticed his scowl, one worthy of her lack of cleverness. He longed for the blood to hurry out of him, but for a different reason than before. Now, he wished only to get away from this empty-headed nurse. Just minutes ago, when she had touched his arm to insert the needle and tape the tubing, he’d been temporarily blinded by her superficial beauty; he hadn’t realized then that she had no sense of wit.
“Because all your blood has gone to your head,” she had said. There was nothing witty about that.
He lay tight-lipped and hurriedly squeezed the last drop into the pint bag. Pretty Nurse jerked the needle out, none too gently either, it seemed to him. He felt no thrill of excitement when she touched his arm to tape the wound. He sulked out, ignoring the command of a Red Cross worker to have some refreshments, and when the one-time Pretty Nurse called a tentative “goodbye,” the word dropped bloodlessly behind him like an empty tube.