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THE BITE "Bull shit," said Big Betty as she snatched the remains of the roll-up from Richard's smoke stained fingers. "If bull shit was an Olympic event I'm sure you'd make everyone real proud of you." "No, it's true. People don't see what's really happening," Richard said each word slowly like it was important. He got back to struggling with the buttons of his ill-fitting brown warehouse coat before continuing. "People only see what they expect to see. Just watch me. I'll walk right through the main door. I'll go anywhere I want to and carry our next pay packet back out with me. No one will see me. They'll only see a workman in a brown coat. Nobody ever pays any attention to a workman in a brown coat. They're all far too important for that." Good luck, loser, though Betty. But she waved as she watched Richard stride confidently up the steps of the Nursing College. He was soon in a long corridor eyeing the doors like a hunter stalking an unsuspecting prey. One looked like a kitchen. Perhaps a nice microwave, he thought as he swung the door open. He strode quickly inside, careful to act as if he owned the place to avoid attracting attention. But he did attract attention. The sign on the door of the girl's toilet still lay where it had fallen off, weeks before. No one had been in a hurry to put it back up. After all, everyone knew what it was. The catcalls he got from the girls were quite enough to cause Richard to lose the cool that was the camouflage that kept him safe. He found himself running back down the corridor. "Stop him," someone shouted as he turned a corner and ran into an old lecturer. As he tried to push past the old man, he found himself in a choke hold, expertly applied from behind. Struggling for breath he used all his strength to loosen the arm across his throat just long enough to sink his teeth into the wrist. He drew blood, salty and warm. It was about the last thing he noticed for a while for the hold was on again and his airway was blocked. Richard came round coughing on the floor. "We could give him a good kicking," said one of the girls as they crowded around enthusiastically. Richard quickly curled himself up into a defensive huddle on the ground. He knew well enough what a good kicking was and this was a big girl with big boots and lots of friends. "No," said the old lecturer. "Let's just wait for the police to come and take him away. They'll know what to do." Big Betty watched from a discrete distance as Richard was led to the police van. She then went back to wait alone in the cheap apartment they shared. Richard knew what to expect at the police station. He had been there before and could put on a good show of taking it all in his stride. It was the waiting he did not like, the waiting and not knowing. There were about half a dozen in the holding cell. Time passed as new arrivals were brought in and others were taken down the hall for photographing, fingerprinting, paperwork, the usual. Richard watched a spider working on its web high in the corner. When it finally caught an insect he went over and squashed it. Daylight disappeared in the little window high up on the end wall. Still no one came for Richard. He reckoned he hadn't done anything he could actually be charged with. He could easily talk his way out of being in the college by saying something about checking out what courses were available. It wasn't a crime to go through an unmarked door. What's more, the old lecturer had grabbed him and not the other way round. So why was he being held so long? Richard now mostly watched the cell door like there was something on the other side, something that shouldn't be there. Finally, the sergeant himself came for Richard. But, they didn't go down the hall where the others went. They went instead to a cold little room with a red cross on the door and a smell of old disinfectant about it. A man in a white coat and rubber gloves was waiting with a stainless steel dish, part covered with a white cloth. "House rules," said the sergeant. "You need an HIV test on account of the blood when you bit the old guy." "It's OK," said Richard with a grin. "Please tell the old guy it's OK. I don't do drugs or anything like that. I'm clean. Tell the old guy not to worry." The sergeant and his colleague looked at each other and shuffled uncomfortably. "I'm really sorry," said the sergeant. "But it's you we're worried about. The old guy is an AIDS patient. Apparently he got it overseas. Something to do with a bad blood transfusion." After taking and testing a urine sample, they explained it was negative but inconclusive. Richard would have to sign himself into any local clinic for a follow up HIV blood test in six months time. That's how long he would have to wait to be sure if the antibodies were present, or not, in his bloodstream. "The good news is you're not being charged," said the sergeant with a big smile. Richard went home and told Big Betty who left him the next day. She went on to tell all their friends that Richard probably had AIDS. Throughout every long day of the six months that Richard waited for his follow-up HIV test, he never did discover that the lecturer he bit was in perfect health. Or that the old man had a son with a wicked sense of humour who worked as a police sergeant in the local station. end
The Bite was published in The Straitjackets Magazine Summer 2010.
THE BITE "Bull shit," said Big Betty as she snatched the remains of the roll- up from Richard's smoke stained fingers. "If bull shit was an Olympic event I'm sure you'd make everyone real proud of you." "No, it's true. People don't see what's really happening," Richard said each word slowly like it was important. He got back to struggling with the buttons of his ill-fitting brown warehouse coat before continuing. "People only see what they expect to see. Just watch me. I'll walk right through the main door. I'll go anywhere I want to and carry our next pay packet back out with me. No one will see me. They'll only see a workman in a brown coat. Nobody ever pays any attention to a workman in a brown coat. They're all far too important for that." Good luck, loser, though Betty. But she waved as she watched Richard stride confidently up the steps of the Nursing College. He was soon in a long corridor eyeing the doors like a hunter stalking an unsuspecting prey. One looked like a kitchen. Perhaps a nice microwave, he thought as he swung the door open. He strode quickly inside, careful to act as if he owned the place to avoid attracting attention. But he did attract attention. The sign on the door of the girl's toilet still lay where it had fallen off, weeks before. No one had been in a hurry to put it back up. After all, everyone knew what it was. The catcalls he got from the girls were quite enough to cause Richard to lose the cool that was the camouflage that kept him safe. He found himself running back down the corridor. "Stop him," someone shouted as he turned a corner and ran into an old lecturer. As he tried to push past the old man, he found himself in a choke hold, expertly applied from behind. Struggling for breath he used all his strength to loosen the arm across his throat just long enough to sink his teeth into the wrist. He drew blood, salty and warm. It was about the last thing he noticed for a while for the hold was on again and his airway was blocked. Richard came round coughing on the floor. "We could give him a good kicking," said one of the girls as they crowded around enthusiastically. Richard quickly curled himself up into a defensive huddle on the ground. He knew well enough what a good kicking was and this was a big girl with big boots and lots of friends. "No," said the old lecturer. "Let's just wait for the police to come and take him away. They'll know what to do." Big Betty watched from a discrete distance as Richard was led to the police van. She then went back to wait alone in the cheap apartment they shared. Richard knew what to expect at the police station. He had been there before and could put on a good show of taking it all in his stride. It was the waiting he did not like, the waiting and not knowing. There were about half a dozen in the holding cell. Time passed as new arrivals were brought in and others were taken down the hall for photographing, fingerprinting, paperwork, the usual. Richard watched a spider working on its web high in the corner. When it finally caught an insect he went over and squashed it. Daylight disappeared in the little window high up on the end wall. Still no one came for Richard. He reckoned he hadn't done anything he could actually be charged with. He could easily talk his way out of being in the college by saying something about checking out what courses were available. It wasn't a crime to go through an unmarked door. What's more, the old lecturer had grabbed him and not the other way round. So why was he being held so long? Richard now mostly watched the cell door like there was something on the other side, something that shouldn't be there. Finally, the sergeant himself came for Richard. But, they didn't go down the hall where the others went. They went instead to a cold little room with a red cross on the door and a smell of old disinfectant about it. A man in a white coat and rubber gloves was waiting with a stainless steel dish, part covered with a white cloth. "House rules," said the sergeant. "You need an HIV test on account of the blood when you bit the old guy." "It's OK," said Richard with a grin. "Please tell the old guy it's OK. I don't do drugs or anything like that. I'm clean. Tell the old guy not to worry." The sergeant and his colleague looked at each other and shuffled uncomfortably. "I'm really sorry," said the sergeant. "But it's you we're worried about. The old guy is an AIDS patient. Apparently he got it overseas. Something to do with a bad blood transfusion." After taking and testing a urine sample, they explained it was negative but inconclusive. Richard would have to sign himself into any local clinic for a follow up HIV blood test in six months time. That's how long he would have to wait to be sure if the antibodies were present, or not, in his bloodstream. "The good news is you're not being charged," said the sergeant with a big smile. Richard went home and told Big Betty who left him the next day. She went on to tell all their friends that Richard probably had AIDS. Throughout every long day of the six months that Richard waited for his follow-up HIV test, he never did discover that the lecturer he bit was in perfect health. Or that the old man had a son with a wicked sense of humour who worked as a police sergeant in the local station. end The Bite was published in The Straitjackets Magazine, Summer 2010.
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