My sweetie was reading a health magazine article one day. “Maxwell,” she said to me, “do you know what the number one cause of death is for men?”
“Don’t get smart with me,” she snapped. “It’s heart attacks. And this article says that the major cause of heart attacks is too much homosysteins. I think you might be a homosteitic.”
“What did you call me?”
“Oh, don’t be so sensitive. That means you have too much iron in your blood, which is very bad for men. And the article says the best way to lower those levels is to let them take blood from you.”
“Yeah, well, they take plenty of blood from me at the card casinos.”
“No, dummy. I mean literally giving blood. Why don’t you go donate some blood. It’s good for you.”
“You mean like stick a needle in my veins and suck out blood? No, thank you,” I said, turning pale.
“It’s not just for your health, Maxwell. You’re also doing a good deed. Your blood goes to very sick people. You could be saving someone’s life. Maybe even a little child’s.”
Tears were streaming down my cheeks. She had me. So, the next day I got up bright and early, drove off and donated a pint of blood. Two hours later I returned. “I did like you told me,” I said, beaming. “I donated a pint of blood.”
“Good. Where’s the money?”
“Money?” I replied, puzzled. What money? The Red Cross doesn’t pay you.”
“WHAT!?” my sweetie screamed. “You gave my blood away for free?
“Your blood?” I don’t see a bandage on your arm.”
“My blood, your blood, what’s the difference? Why did you give it away?”
“Well, it wasn’t completely free. They gave me orange juice and a cookie.”
“Orange juice and a cookie? You idiot. Do you know how much you could have gotten for it at a commercial blood bank? A hundred bucks! It would have paid for the new pair of shoes I need for my friend Allayne’s wedding.”
“You’ve got plenty of money. Why don’t you spend some of that?”
Are you crazy? Use my bankroll for shoes? You better find a blood bank today, Buster, and sell some of your blood for more than cookies! Of course,” she added sweetly, “I was only thinking of your homostein levels, darling.”
Yeah, I was sure she was. Glumly, I looked in the yellow pages, found a place where they bought blood, and drove down. It was located downtown, right in the heart of skid row on a block lined with bars, pawn shops, and flop houses. As I pulled to the curb, three derelicts ran up with dirty cloths, begging me to let them wipe my windshield. I fought them off, stepped over several comatose bodies on the sidewalk, and entered the blood bank. The place was jammed, and most of the customers were poker players. I saw a noted player from Britain sitting on a bench, waiting to be called. “How are you doing?” I greeted him.
“No bloody good,” he replied glumly.
For years I’ve been hearing that expression, and now I finally knew what it meant Down the hall, I heard someone whimpering like a baby. It was the formidable Big Denny.
“Oh, please, don’t hurt me,” he begged. I’m kinda scared of needles.”
I recognized a World Series ligaz11 champion standing at the payout window, arguing that he deserved more money than the other donors. “I should get a lot more money than these people,” he said, waving his arm dismissively. “Do you know how many bracelets I have?”
I went to the registration desk, signed in, and sat down. About a half hour later I was called and directed to a cubicle. Manning the equipment was some bozo in a soiled undershirt and dirty pants. He had a week-long growth of beard and was chewing on the stub of a cigar. “Hi, he said, “my name is Sluggo and I’ll be your nurse today. How many, please?”
“How many what?”
“How many quarts are we donating today?”
“How many!? Just one, of course.”
“Are you sure? We have a special today. Donate three quarts and we throw in a six-pack of beer.”
He seemed disappointed when I emphasized that one was my absolute limit. “Oh, very well, he said petulantly. But first I have to ask you: Do you have any diseases that might contaminate your blood?”
At last, a way out of this nonsense. “Well, I replied, “I have hepatitis A and B, malaria, jungle fever, dengue, and I think I’m HIV positive.
“OK, no big deal. Let’s get going.” With that, he pulled out a tube with a filthy-looking needle on the end.
“Hold it!” I screamed. “Aren’t you going to clean that thing?”
Sluggo made a face. “Oh, another fussy one,” he complained, wiping the needle on his pants. “How’s that, grandma? OK, let’s see if I can find a vein now.”
He began jabbing me in the arm, looking for the proper spot as I screamed in agony. Finally, mostly by sheer luck, after a dozen tries he found a vein and started drawing out my blood. As much of my blood spilled onto the floor as in the bottle, but he finally managed to fill it up, about ten seconds before I passed out. He helped me to my feet, gave me a voucher and directed me to a pay window. I handed the slip of paper to an attendant, and he counted out $20. “Hey, I complained,” the sign says you pay $100 for a quart of blood.
“That’s for healthy blood,” he answered. “With all the crap you told us you had in your blood, you’re lucky we pay you anything. Take it or leave it.”
I took it and walked outside and discovered that two of my tires were stolen. After calling the Auto Club and getting replacements, I drove back and handed over my payment to my sweetie.
“Twenty bucks!?” she yelled, smacking me on my aching, needle-punctured arm. “What kind of shoes to you expect me to get for 20 bucks? You march right back, give them another donation, and get the full $100 this time.”
I was starting to get faint, but I knew that my sweetie could do a lot more damage to me than Sluggo could, so I drove back to the blood bank, being careful to park several blocks away this time. I went through the same routine, except that Sluggo seemed to be getting better, only jabbing my arm a half-dozen times I collected the money and somehow, woozy and semi-delirious, managed to find my way home.
“Now, that’s more like it,” my sweetie smiled. “Say,.there’s a big tournament tomorrow, and I could use a little money for the buy-in. Do you think you could go another quart?”
“Let me get some sleep, and I’ll let you know tomorrow,” I promised.
I collapsed on a couch and fell asleep, dreaming that I was being attacked by a colony of vampire bats. The next day I awoke with a splitting headache and noticed that my skin had turned two shades of yellow. “I don’t think I can do it,” I told her.
“Oh, don’t be such a wuss,” she chided me. “Of course you can. Now hop on down there like a good little boy and get your mommy a buy-in.”
Obediently, I went back a third time It was hard getting out a full quart this time. Sluggo had to sit on my chest and squeeze my arm with a tourniquet, but he finally managed to fill the container. I somehow managed to find my way home, handed over the Franklin, and fell over unconscious. An hour later my sweetie shook me awake. “I just remembered that it’s a rebuy tournament,” she said. Do you think …?”
Too groggy to argue, I got into the car and gave myself over to the tender mercies of Sluggo. It was no use. All he could get out of me this time was a couple of ounces. Once again I passed out, and this time I awoke in the emergency room of a hospital. A doctor stood over me, shaking his head. “That was a close one,” he said. Do you know the number one cause of death in men?”
“Too much homosysteins,” I mumbled.
“No,” he said. “It’s anemia. “I’m going to have to prescribe megadoses of iron tablets to get your homostein levels back to normal.”
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