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.
To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/200804nightshift.htm
Photo detail on main page courtesy
of Esther Simpson.
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