Night Shift
Kim Chinquee

While I was busy doing blood types, my boyfriend called. He asked if I could come over after my shift. He said things to me that made me shiver. It was an hour drive, and I wouldn't be off till seven in the morning, but he'd leave his door unlocked. He was a bouncer at a bar and sounded kind of soupy.

After we hung up, I thought of crawling in next to him. It wasn't unfamiliar. There were only two of us on night-shift, me and a guy named Bob. We'd sit in the break room when there was nothing, watching infomercials, and he'd talk about computer games. He was in his sixties, and had lived alone most of his life. He wore a shaggy beard and glasses, was tall and walked with a slouch. He switched channels using the remote and we would cheer and sing to Bobbie what's-her-name, who tried to sell us oldies.

My boyfriend was a lot younger, but I liked that and he called our sex phenomenal. I thought about that. I might have been glowing and I pretended to listen to Bob's computer-game talk, waking from my daze then thinking he could probably see right through me, then probably not, because he just kept rambling about some character who wore a helmet and broke barriers. I was wired from coffee.

Then some nurse called and said she was sending a sample and there was a bleeder. It was my turn for blood bank, so I crossmatched blood, thawed tons of frozen plasma, pooled platelets, then called the Red Cross, asking for more. Bob did the other stuff, mostly from the ER, and he went down for a trauma. He moved slow, but got stuff done. Nothing surprised him.

At four a.m., that same nurse called, telling me it was over. I never saw the patient's face, but had her name and number memorized, her date of birth and blood type. I put her tubes away. The nurse came up with a stillborn. She didn't say anything, just delivered like UPS. I left it for day shift.

I sat down for a little, before five a.m. checks. I started thinking of my boyfriend again, surprised I'd almost forgotten. I pictured him passed out. He probably was sleeping. Bob worked another section and every two minutes he came around. I didn't have room to say much.

By six a.m., day shift started filing in, and to the woman who asked how night was, I pointed, and she started processing paperwork. I wrapped things up and washed my hands and met Bob in the break room and we walked out together. I had an hour drive. I thought about the last time with my boyfriend, how he'd touched me, waking me. I drove fast, weaving. The highway was loaded.

Kim Chinquee's collection of flash fiction, Oh Baby, is out now from Ravenna Press. Her story "Formation" won a 2007 Pushcart Prize.

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Photo detail on main page courtesy of Esther Simpson.

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