Last night was my second night at my new job. I showed up knowing that I was the only closing driver, but what no one had told me was that I was the only driver from five until close.
So I started off easy, but then it got a little busier. I took a single run, then a double, then a triple, then another triple with another triple waiting to be cooked.
When I pulled up at my eighth delivery, I got out and started to trot up to the front door. I heard someone calling, but they weren’t near enough for me to make out what they were saying. I looked around, and I didn’t see anyone. I ignored it, because jeez, I’m in a good sized neighborhood around dinnertime. There’s all kinds of hollering going on.
I hopped up the steps and knocked on the door, and I heard it again. It sounded like they were possibly talking to me; I heard a woman’s voice calling ma’am, ma’am. My customer hadn’t answered the door yet, so I turned in a circle, scanning up and down the street.
Half a block away and across the street, nearly hidden behind a blossoming tree, I finally caught a glimpse of someone in a dress, outside with a dog. Help me. Was she struggling with the dog? I couldn’t see very well, since the tree was in the way. She started walking, slowly.
I watched the girl stagger out into the street, and I could see that she was splashed with red stains. She was holding her left arm out in front of her body, and there was a large dark stain near her wrist. It felt like I was watching the scene unfold on a screen before me; I mean, who hurts themselves inside and then comes outside for help? Phones are inside. She wasn’t running; she wasn’t acting at all like a person had hurt her. She wasn’t afraid of someone catching up to her and doing worse to her.
None of this was making sense.
My customer, an old woman walking with a cane, opened her door as the girl began calling again. Ma’am. I asked if she had her phone with her, as I had left mine in my car. I said it looked like the girl was covered in blood, and that I thought calling 911 would be a good idea. My customer shuffled out onto her porch and peered around the corner.
“No, I didn’t bring my phone with me to the door but–” Her eyes widened when she saw the girl. “I’ll get it.”
I was still standing there, holding the pizza like an asshole.
The girl was coming closer, the dog with her. She paused every few steps to call the dog back to her. When the girl was on the sidewalk next door, the dog broke away and ran up to me, on the porch, and tried to get into my customer’s house. She shooed it away with her cane, and I blocked it from the doorway while she talked to the emergency services dispatcher.
The girl was now in front of the house, pacing back and forth, talking more, shifting her complaints in rotation. It hurts. I can’t feel my hand. Please, my dogs are killing each other. I’m moving. It hurts. My dogs.
My customer and I encouraged her to sit down right where she was, as she was beginning to sway. Another neighbor from across the street came outside and I reassured her that my customer was on the phone with 911. The girl was begging someone to call her dad, and the neighbor ran to get her phone and call the girl’s father.
I opened my trunk to see if I had any towels, old shirts, anything to apply pressure to her wounds. I found a small dishtowel, but I estimated that it was large enough.
I was finally able to get a good enough look at the girl; she was definitely in shock. She’d been bitten quite badly on her left forearm, at least twice, but the bleeding on one had stopped long enough to have dried, and the other was oozing slowly. Her palms were both the dark maroon of dry blood and gray and white bits of fur were plastered to them. Her dress was bloody and furry. She was crying again that her dogs were killing each other inside her house and would someone please go stop them.
Obviously none of us were willing to go deal with those dogs, seeing what they’d done to her.
My customer was still on her porch, leaning on her cane, hollering advice, trying to calm the girl down, and pointing out that she’d ordered a Dr Pepper with her pizza. I’d forgotten her Dr Pepper in my car, so I brought it to her. She put it inside the door and slowly made her way down the sidewalk.
I stepped back out into the street to see if anyone was coming yet. A police officer had just turned onto the street, so I waved to let him know where we were. I told the girl that he was coming. When he pulled up and got out, her dog ran straight up to him, and I felt a moment of panic when he reached for his gun.
The girl screamed no, the dog turned to run back to her, and the cop relaxed. The neighbor took the girl’s dog and dragged it back towards her own home, to keep it out of the way.
Sirens sounded nearby, so I looked back up the street and the fire truck was turning our way. They slowed at a corner a couple blocks up, checking for addresses, so I waved to them as well.
The cop asked what happened, and she told him that her dogs were fighting. The fire truck pulled up and the EMTs rushed to surround her. The cop took a step back so I grabbed the opportunity and asked him if I needed to stay, because I was at work. He took in my hat and shirt and nametag, furrowed his brow, and asked, “You’re at work?”
I told him yes, that I was delivering here, and pointed at the house. I continued my synopsis: while I was at the door, this girl came out bleeding, and I asked my customer to call you since my phone was in my car, but you’re all here now, and well, I actually have another delivery in my car that I’ll need to call the store about if I need to stay.
Since I hadn’t made the 911 call, he agreed that there was no need for me to stay. He wrote down my name, birth date, and phone number and thanked me.
I hope the girl is okay.
At my next stop, my customer made a joke that they hoped I hadn’t gotten in an accident with their pizza; they’d heard the sirens. Yeah, ha-ha. Good one.
Ah, yes, more training days. I’ve got a million of ’em, folks!
Shortly after I moved back here to be with my sweetie, I got a job at the blood center as a mobile phlebotomist. My future mother-in-law was the trainer, and when I was hired, we were a class of two, plus her.
It was such a coincidence that my co-worker and I ended up in training together. We’d both been patient registration clerks in the ER. And her (now former) brother-in-law was my best friend’s ex-husband. And we both struggled with infertility. We’d even gone to high school together. We just hadn’t met before.
To get the job, you didn’t need any special certifications or training, because the training program there was all-inclusive. We were told over and over that after a year there, you could get a job as a phlebotomist anywhere. A lot of people did just that, but I would have liked to stay, had the politics been a little more bearable.
Before we even got to the sticking part, we had to learn about screening to donors. When I was there, ten years ago, we had 48 questions on the questionnaire; I don’t know how many they have now. It was a constantly changing process for some of the questions, though, depending on where malaria was reported, or mad cow disease.
And we stuck fingers and learned to read a hematocrit. Took blood pressures, took temperatures. Learned the limits of those stats for approval for blood donation.
Then we stuck the fake arm and the fake slab of flesh. They were both so old and used and abused, full of holes. You couldn’t actually fill the slab thing with liquid anymore, but sticking a piece of rubber isn’t remotely the same as sticking a real live arm anyway.
Finally, we were ready to do it for real.
For your first stick, you have to ask the donor if it’s okay with them. Ours both agreed, and we each got a whole unit on our first try. I got my vein, but she struggled a bit.
So, one down, forty-nine to go. Before you’re set free to stick as you please, you have to keep up with your little sheet of paper that has fifty spots to be initialed by experienced donor techs who watched you stick fifty times.
I got a little behind on this. I was about seventeen into my fifty when I fell on a blood drive and sprained my left wrist and elbow. I’m left-handed, so the sling and brace meant I didn’t have enough mobility in my dominant hand to stick. I was assigned to screening for a few weeks until I was freed from my brace.
Since donor blood is the safest blood, we weren’t required to wear gloves for sticking, but during screening, it’s mandatory. Have you ever tried to slip a nitrile glove over a wrist brace? It takes at least two people. Everyone was happy when I was all healed up and could get back to gloving myself and sticking donors.
I still had to wear gloves, because I was still less than fifty sticks in, but at least I could put them on myself. I had the hang of it way before fifty, but even two years later, I’d still get shorts now and then. You never know what’s going to happen.
I could still stick someone like a pro. What’s your name? Affix the barcode sticker from the bag on the donor sheet and test tubes, three red top and one purple top. Tourniquet on. Squeeze the ball. Find a vein. Are you allergic to iodine? Scrub for thirty seconds. Tear two strips of tape. Open gauze. Uncap the needle. Make a fist and hold it for me. Stick. Tape the needle down. Tape the tubing down. Cover the site with gauze. Loosen the tourniquet slightly. Relax your fist and squeeze the ball every now and then. Clamp off the sample bag and break the cannula in the line to the bag. Fill the tubes. Gently mix the blood and anticoagulant. Wait for the scale to tip. Clamp the line. Take the ball. Remove the tourniquet. Pull the tape. Hold gauze over the site. Slide the needle out of the vein until it clicks in the safety cover. Hold pressure here for me. Seal the tubing and drop the needle in the sharps container. Wrap the arm while giving post donation instructions. Point the way to snacks and tee shirts. Strip the tubing and mix with the unit three times. Wrap it up and drop it in the cooler.
Yep, I could still do it.
Have a good night and make your next meal a good one.
The day was long; the road was longer. When Karen scanned the horizon, she though to herself maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. Her hair was blowing in the hot desert wind, but a chill went down her spine nonetheless.
Anyone could be out there. Anyone at all. Waiting. Watching.
She pulled her feet back into the car.
Timothy white knuckled the steering wheel, keeping his eyes on the road just ahead of them. He briefly let go to reach for the radio dial, but a news story stopped him.
“Anyone on Highway 51 should be aware of the escaped convict last seen in the area. Don’t stop for anyone. This man is highly dangerous, and has murdered–”
Timothy turned the radio off.
Karen looked to him, fear in her eyes. “We’re on 51, aren’t we?”
Timothy gave a slight nod. “We are, but we’ll have no need to stop, so nothing to worry about.”
They should have finished listening to the bulletin. Timothy struggled with his grip on the wheel as the car veered suddenly to the left, as a tire had just burst and given them a reason to stop.
He tried to reassure Karen that he could change it in minutes, but she gasped and put her hand to her mouth when he pulled the spare from the trunk. It was flat.
“How could this happen? Why didn’t you check the spare?” Karen screamed, her eyes flitting back and forth across the empty plain, searching in vain for something to focus on.
Timothy closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then reached out a hand to steady his girl.
“We’ll be fine. If there’s a wanted man on the loose, the sheriff will be by shortly. We’ll be fine.” He may have been reassuring himself more than Karen.
She caught the uneasy look in his eye as they re-entered their car, locking the doors behind them.
When the sheriff pulled over behind the car, twenty-three minutes later, her blood was still dripping from her outstretched fingers.
Timothy was never found.