'No. What is that?'

'Just a little rubbing alcohol, honey. I have to prick your finger to test your blood. Do you now use or have you ever used intravenous drugs?'

The other woman by the beds pinched off the boy’s tube, removed the needle, then pressed cotton to the wound and told him to hold it there with his arm straight up.

A voice called out from the private room where Jay had gone.

'Kendra? Can you…Kendra, can you come here?'

'Just a sec,' said Kendra as she removed the full blood bag from the bed and placed it on a nearby counter, right next to another bag.


Here we go, thought Doug.

'All right, all right,' Kendra answered, and turned to the boy. 'You just lie there a minute till I get back.'

She passed Doug and joined Jay and Muppet scrubs in the little room. 'He’s a fainter, help me lift him,' said Muppet scrubs, and Doug had to admire Jay’s dedication to the role. If he’d only thrown himself into last spring’s My Fair Lady auditions like that, he could have played Henry Higgins for sure.

The door closed and Doug was alone with the blood and the boy with his arm in the air. He leaped from the chair to the counter, paused for a reverent moment over the plump red bags, considered biting into one right then and there. Instead, he tucked a bag under each arm and turned.

The boy on the bed studied him. 'Hey…that’s my blood,' he said.

Doug hadn’t intended to hiss just then, couldn’t remember thinking it was a good idea, but then suddenly he was hissing, with an itch in his gum line that told him his fangs were bared.

'Shit,' said the boy.

Doug bolted for the door of the bloodmobile but found his way blocked by the two women and a drowsy- looking Jay. Again he showed his teeth.

'Don’t you hiss at me,' said Kendra. 'What you doin’ with blood that don’t belong to you?'

Doug froze, then closed his mouth. He wondered briefly if anyone in the history of the world had ever been asked that question before. There didn’t seem to be a right answer. He hissed again, but his heart wasn’t in it.

'I aks you a question. You better put that blood down and stop your hissin’. And take those Dracula teeth out your mouth.'

Jay began inching toward the door. The other woman leaned into Kendra.

'He’s trying to steal the blood.'

'I know he is,' said Kendra.

'He thinks he’s a vampire maybe.'

'I’ve taken blood from a stormtrooper and a Superman and at least three cartoon characters today,' said Kendra. 'He can think he’s whatever he want, long as he TURNS HIS ASSFERATU AROUND AND PUTS BACK THAT BLOOD.'

Jay made a run for it. He threw himself down the steps at the school bus door, and Doug thought, School bus.

'Okay,' he said, returning to the counter. 'I’m just putting it back.'

Kendra nodded. Doug hesitated. The boy on the bed gaped at him.

Then Doug ran for the back of the bus, and his heart lifted when he saw it — the emergency exit. He didn’t know a student who hadn’t thought of using it at least once on the way to school, at a stoplight…maybe the stoplight right by the miniature golf place on Route 30.

'Oh no you don’t,' said Kendra, behind him.

Doug fumbled with the latch on the door, trying not to lose his armpit grip on the fat red tubers that were getting slick with sweat. He could feel heavy footsteps through the floor behind him, but then the door swung free — and he fell, like a turd out of the ass of the bus, to freedom.


American indian

FOR THE THIRD TIME since the plane landed Sejal fished the curling photograph out of her backpack and studied it. She walked as she looked at her host family, posed and smiling before a softly blotchy blue backdrop. Everyone wore a different kind of sweater. The father was tall with large-framed glasses and a tawny sweater vest the color of chinaberries. The mother’s wide frame was seated below him, pink skinned and in a pink-on-pink cardigan and sweater ensemble — so round and bright that Sejal’s father had taken to calling her 'gum ball woman' when Sejal’s mother needed cheering. The photo family’s oldest daughter, who was now away at college, wore a lavender sweater. Sejal panicked briefly as she realized she could not remember the girl’s name. She went to a college out of state, and wasn’t expected to be around much during Sejal’s stay, so her name hadn’t been important enough to stick. At least she remembered Catherine’s — the other daughter, the daughter who was Sejal’s own age, wore a black-and-white striped sweater two sizes too large for her. The tips of her fingers looked like tiny pink tongues, barely emerging from the gaping mouth of her sleeve to taste the cotton candy fuzz of her mother’s shoulder. Her face was pale, no makeup. Her dark blond hair was long in front and shaved on the sides in a style Sejal had never seen before.

'She does not want to be there,' Sejal’s father had said, with what would prove to be his characteristic insight. 'Look at her hand. I don’t think she even touches her mother’s shoulder.'

'Felu, stop,' her mother said then. 'You want to turn Sejal against them before they even have a chance.'

'Did I arrange this photo?' he protested. 'The evidence is all there. I’m not the one who killed this poor girl and stuffed her and posed her in this clearly unrepresentative manner. Look at her.'

Mother laughed. Sejal looked. Catherine’s tight smile seemed suddenly like rigor mortis compared to her family’s sunny grins.

Now, in the airport, Sejal walked out past security and looked up from the same photo, expecting at least three of its four subjects to be standing there smiling and half smiling, perhaps with the softly blotchy blue backdrop somehow behind them, and Catherine posed awkwardly like she’d been placed in the wrong exhibit. A crow among canaries.

There were families here, but none of them the right family. There was a strangely madeup teenage girl who appeared to have already found the passenger she was meeting, and a group of blond girls in matching sorority sweatshirts holding a handmade sign that read WELCOME BACK, CASSIE!

Sejal stood still as fellow passengers streamed past her, pressed too close, their swinging arms and hot breath fanning a guttering panic in her chest. She had been traveling for eighteen hours and she felt worn and thin. What now? Would they be waiting in the baggage claim instead? But her host father, Mr. Brown, had been so insistent. Weirdly, overcautiously insistent. In his email, and in all caps, he’d assured her that they would BE WAITING JUST OUTSIDE SECURITY, IN A-WEST TERMINAL, RIGHT NEXT TO THE CASH MACHINE NEXT TO THE VIDEO SCREENS THAT SAY 'ARRIVALS,' and that they would LOOK LIKE THE PEOPLE IN THE PHOTO. There were two people standing by the cash machine, but they were only the teenager and a female passenger from Sejal’s flight. Sejal approached.

Both girls turned. One was a fellow Indian, the other a girl with dangerous-looking bottle-black hair and thick eyeliner. Blue lips. Pale skin. Black everything else.

'Oh, thank goodness,' said the Indian girl in Hindi. 'Do you speak English? This very odd Amrikan girl will not leave me alone — do you know how to tell her that I don’t want any pamphlets or whatever it is she’s selling?'

Sejal turned to the American girl. 'Are you…Catherine?' she asked.

Catherine glanced at the other passenger in confusion, then back to Sejal.

'Oh, shit,' she said.

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