The latex tourniquet was tight on his right arm, the veins bulging against his skin. Arnold Pine had large, thick veins that swelled magnificently as the blood stopped up in them. The phlebotomist tapped the “elbow pit”, which the literature described as the “cubital fossa” that housed the veins in the preferred location for taking blood. The woman, a feisty older woman named Emily, rolled her fingers around on it for a moment to try to find just the right spot. She worked the vein around and it moved under her touch, reacting to it.
“Ah,” she mumbled, “there it is.”
“There what is?” Arnold asked her, confused. He had his cell phone in his left hand, flipping around various social media sites.
“You’ve got a hell of a bulger here,” she muttered. “Should drain pretty quickly, we could probably have you out of here in ten minutes.”
He smiled up at her, putting away his phone. “That sounds fine to me,” He said. “After the questions and the poking and prodding and you all asking about who I’ve slept with and where…”
“Easy boy,” she said with a wink. “We gotta ask, ya know? You don’t have to volunteer.”
“Nah,” he said, “I think you’re hittin’ on me.”
“Not a chance in hell, you doofus,” Emily said. She rolled her eyes and got out the swab. “You allergic to iodine?” He shook his head – no. Twisting it on his arm, she coated his elbow pit with the brown substance. He shuddered as she applied it, the cold of it tingling against his skin. “Wuss,” she chuckled as he writhed a bit beneath the liquid. “Gotta sanitize or else you can’t give bloody, honey.”
He sighed and lay back, trying not to struggle further. The needle would be enough, he had no desire to be this much of a nancy-boy. ARnold grit his teeth till it was over. The cold was not all that uncomfortable, it was the anticipation of what came next. No matter what, he could see the sterile spear in its’ plastic case next to him on the little rolling table.
They were in the conference hall of the car rental company he worked for. The tables had been pushed off to the side so the machines could be wheeled in to take blood for the American Red Cross. This was tradition, a bi-annual event at the company that so many participated in. Arnold had bled twice, the red-head with the freckles that organized it for the company usually suckered him into it with no opposition always came to him early on in the sign-up process to make sure he participated.
“Any room for one more?” Arnold and Emily glanced up. Cal Borden stood in the doorway. “I have an appointment for five minutes ago, I’m running behind and I’m sorry about that.”
“No problem, Mr Borden,” Emily said. “See Sally quick so she can get you through the questions and we can sit you down next to Arnold here.”
“Arnold’s here?” Borden asked.
“Yup, right here.” She moved so Borden could see and he smiled. At the last encounter Borden, president of the local company “Alstair-Borden Rent-a-Car”, had beaten Arnold to the finish line by a whopping fifteen seconds. This was considered a wild margin in the company and everyone had teased about it since, the relentless jokes over such a pointless issue commonplace amongst the people who spent most of their professional lives together. Arnold, though, was still a quick bleeder. The controlled geyser in his arm was a point of pride for him, always had been. Blood flow had been a thing of ego since college and his plasma donation days, and he had held onto it as though some badge of honor.
“We racin’ again?” Arnold asked.
“Sure, why not?” Borden agreed.
“Wanna make it interesting?”
A smile spread across Borden’s face. “What did you have in mind?” he asked.
“Not much, just a fin. A Ulysses, that’s all.” Arnold said
Borden reached into his pocket, pulling out his wallet. Flipping through the credit cards and small stack of cash to find a fifty dollar bill, pulling it out and laying it on the table. He strode over to the big board, tapping the box next to Arnold’s name. “Let’s get yours on the board, then we’ll get mine. Then, after that, I can take home my money and you can suck it.”
Arnold laughed. “Game on.”
The phlebotomist stuck his arm with the needle, rigging the tubes into the collection bag and removing the cinch that held it closed. Arnold squeezed the ball over and over again, tightening his grip on it just a little more each time. The blood flowed out and filled the bag quickly, he filled it in a whopping five minutes and three seconds. Borden sat off to the side, nodding appreciatively and chatting with others who were trickling in to donate and out to get back to work. The trickle, however, had slowed. News of the bet began to spread among the swarm, sparking interest in watching the goofy president of the company compete for speed. Soon the employee betting pool had started and before it closed had reached well over one thousand.
Borden lounged on the donating couch next to Arnold as the nurse took the needle out of his arm. As she pulled she moved slightly and the tip scraped against the inside of the vein wall. Arnold moaned in pain. “Stop being a little bitch,” Emily told him as she removed it completely. She clamped a wad of gauze over the puncture and wrapped it in tight-bandage.
Arnold sat up, tried to flex his elbow, and decided not to. He looked at Borden, at the smile on the man’s face. The president was happy as could be, the smile on his face genuine and full of pride. He was stuck and they were off.
It was all over quickly. The man might as well have been a human can of spray paint, the blood practically flew out of him. When it was all said and done Arnold stood in front of the board, watching in disbelief as the numbers were written. He looked at Borden, who had beaten him by twenty seconds instead of fifteen like the last time. The man was sitting, sipping apple juice from a cardboard box and snacking on a cookie like it was a thing he did every day. It might have been for all Arnold knew.
Arnold picked up the two fifties, pocketed them, and began to walk away. Arnold, frustrated, raised his right fist and hit the seat. He felt a pop on his arm, a stinging pain, and a warm sensation. He looked down.
The bandage had come looks and popped off, the wad of gauze unable to hold anything in alone. The was slid down his arm slowly in the cascading blood, the thick liquid running down his arm to get on the seat. “Well,” he thought, “I’m actually dizzy now” They had just reached him as he fell, backward, to the floor.