I’m told that in Japan, the standard pick-up line is “What’s your blood type?” This seems sensible. Rather than inquire about a whimsical alignment of the heavens at the time of your birth, the folks want to know if you can be counted on for a kidney. I might struggle socially in Japan, because I don’t even know my blood type. All of a sudden I am fearful of my ignorance—if I were to wreck my car on the way to work, with what will paramedics infuse me? I have been tracking carefully the exact retreat of my hairline, but have no idea about my blood’s compatibility.
Maybe I would learn more about my personality. Blood can be “positive” or “negative,” based on something called the Rh factor, proteins that may or may not be present on the surface of red blood cells. My negative blood could be fucking with me, jamming my attempts at positivity. My attitude is not my fault. It’s my blood that does not want to try your eggplant dish.
When we are drawn to something, too, we say, “It’s in my blood.” I imagine all through my body little guitars and baseball gloves and bits of language somersaulting each other and I feel a bit more positive about my blood. We don’t seem to say the people we love are in there, though. We have to hold them in our arms, instead, and press as close to capillaries as we can.
In grade school, I loved how the black kids called each other, “Blood.” Passing each other in the hall, they’d say, “What up, Blood?” They tolerated some white kids, including me, saying it because African-American culture dominated the schools, and most of us just wanted to be cool. But when the black kids said it, they seemed to all be a family. White people are not a family. White people are more like a corporation. Or a fief.
Blood is family. From what I can tell, you can get all the transfusions you want, but your blood remains fundamentally the same. Families follow suit. Many of us make valiant efforts to break from the insanity of our blood relatives. Good luck.
My own flesh and blood, my daughter Sofia, has quite the relationship with her blood. She likes it just fine as long as it stays on the inside. Sofia moves through the world at a high rate of speed, and as a result, wipes out fairly often and sometimes in spectacular fashion. Like most kids, she can brush off a fall with a slap on the back, and it’s back to truckin.’ But if she so much as glimpses some of the red stuff on her knee, holy shit.
We should never leave the house without Band-Aids.
When it comes to the sight of blood, I’m with Sofia. I would rather not see it. Not my blood. Not yours. Really, I can’t believe how well it stays put, considering our flimsy containers and what with all the pointy shit everywhere.
Of course, it’s ok to lose some here and there. People fucking give it away! Which is great, of course, and besides the great medical need, I love the idea of Republicans receiving gay blood or an anti-semitic the blood of Israel. I’m happy with the thought of my blood entering the stream of another’s—I thought becoming “blood brothers” as a kid by joining pricked fingers an honorable practice, but I couldn’t bring myself to draw blood on purpose then, and I can’t willfully submit to an IV now. I hate an IV. When I have to have one, I ask the nurse to tape it over so I can’t see.
The medical community used to drain people’s blood on purpose to heal them, a practice that stretches back to ancient times. Considering that without blood, you die, bloodletting seems good proof that people are idiots, that even our smart people have their heads, almost collectively, crammed part way up their ass. The practice of bloodletting, with or without leeches, continued into the 20th century. You can bet our smart people are currently fucking up something else that will seem obvious in retrospect. I can’t wait to find out what that is.
A hundred years ago, maybe I would have tried bloodletting on my dog, Charlie. I don’t know if pets were lucky enough to receive this treatment, but nothing, not even legitimate medicine, will reverse the passing of his fifteen years that have left him unable to control his bowels or his irritation with my children. He has shrunk to half his previous weight, a once-powerful Frisbee chaser reduced to mostly spine and teeth. I will have Charlie’s blood on my hands after Wednesday, 9:30 a.m., three days from now, less than twenty-four hours after this issue goes live. Parenthood focuses one’s loyalties on a small herd.
So weird to have a time scheduled for his life to end—that I am responsible for blotting out whatever might have come after that time. Mostly sleeping and snapping at kids, but still, the two of us face a notable milestone. Assuming reasonable numbers, we can’t forget the people we’ve kissed and the things we’ve killed. Charlie, not quite a memory, lies by my feet, snoring a little and twitching in his sleep, his blood, thick with milkbones and turds and Frisbees and me, still surging, still red as a sunset. Forgive me, buddy.
Our “Blood” issue begins with Abigail Welhouse’s compelling poem, “The Naming of Eve.” Welhouse offers a new take on an elemental story to remind us of the sinister nature of desire and ownership, the bloodiness of liberation. The tight, twelve-line construction in tercets feels timeless as the Old Testament while the intense imagery guides us toward a new understanding.
J.B. Fredkin’s poem, “Empathy for the Bees,” a daring juxtaposition of death and pollination, keeps the blood barely offstage. His short, muscular stanzas swagger with passion.
“Dreams the Taxidermist Could Not Extract,” a poem by Janeen Rastall, burrows its way from a beautifully sleepy start (“They do not stir/at light’s last rhombus/on the rug”) and everyday details to the residual and resistant spirits of dead game, from chatter to joyful violence.
We do our best to care for our family members, our blood, as they age and change. The sometimes-bizarre encounters between generations that result lies at the heart of Dominic Stabile’s unforgettable flash piece, “Teeny.” The Granddaddy in question’s voice sears off the page, and Stabile accomplishes much in under five hundred darkly comic words.
“On Watch” by Dylan Pyles is a kind of companion flash piece to “Teeny,” deeply felt, the heaviness of impending death balanced by an awkwardly funny trip to the drug store. The store trip cleverly reshapes the traditional coming-of-age drugstore scene, and Pyles captures the strange state of suspension (and the resulting independence kids experience) created by a family death in process.
Stephanie Devine romps through a husband’s bloodstream in “My Husband’s Chest Cavity,” a lyric flash piece that dazzles with playful musical runs (“Finger scissors to sternum: snip, snip.”). Devine’s piece is a riot of diction made resonant by the human craving for deep connectivity.
Teresa Stores’ unique flash story, “One-Hundred Ones,” exhibits the ever-changing contemporary family and the heartbreaking optimism of young love. Her prose also shows off great energy, momentum gathered in a series of awesome lists that, braided with a fertility theme, bind the piece together.
“Pop Fly,” short fiction by Nathan Blanchard, is a lovely mix of baseball, magical realism, and astute psychology. Blanchard introduces a wistful, elegant voice that we root for even in sure defeat and cheer on through a stunning scene of dream-like wish fulfillment. This character could easily sustain a novel.
The “Blood” issue concludes with Sidney Thompson’s short story, “Parking with Plato,” a fabulous and surprisingly tender mix of humor and sex and philosophy. If Graham Greene, Woody Allen, and Henry Miller co-wrote a story, this might be it. Enjoy.
Photo By: Peter Almay