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BLOOD! by Oliver Zarandi

The elderly lady bleeds every day in my favourite cafe. The owner accommodates this and surrounds her with buckets. He mops it up. Sometimes he puts her in a bathtub, right there in the centre of the café, and she fills it up, laughing and bleeding. People applaud and remark on her unique nature.

I hate her, I tell my husband, I hate her with all my heart.

He says nothing because he’s a coward. He carries on reading his newspaper and ignores me. He has beady eyes and untrustworthy hands. He has the bony toes of a medieval Jesus.

I tell him don’t you ignore me. Don’t you remember my life?

I remember, he says. Your life is one filled with tragedies. I may order another soup.

My parents were two torso-less lugs who beat me silly with rolled up newspapers. They made me eat sharp foods and made me sleep in difficult spaces, cramming me in suitcases, washing machines, dog houses. Of course, my parents were taller than me, so I only remembered their feet. Mother and her painted toenails, father and his cracked ones.

But I grew up. I grew taller, taller than my parents and I came to know them only by the tops of their heads, two dumb scalps that got smaller with time until they both died of a cancer I didn’t care to know more about.

I demanded to know why this old lady was allowed to bleed so freely in the café.

I click my fingers at the owner. Why, I ask, why can she bleed everywhere?

I’m sorry, but she’s a regular.

Everybody was afraid of the old lady, I thought. Today, for example, she bled so hard that it came out of her ears, her mouth and eyes and made several toddlers vomit over their eggs.

I turn to my husband and pity him. He’s smaller than I am. His hair is a badly formed birds nest on his head, a whirl of thin twigs. To carry on the bird comparisons, may I add that he has a pigeon chest?

We do not get along much anymore. He’s a pint sized intellectual and like most men, he doesn’t say he knows more than me, but his eyes do the talking. I sit there and look at him and he can feel me seething at this bleeding old lady and he glances up and blinks twice, slowly, and his lips purse as if to say shush shush my darling wife of mine, don’t cause a scene.

Don’t cause a scene, I say to him. Don’t you know what I’ve been through in my life?

He says he does, but the old lady is old and she’s rich, richer than us, and there are certain times when we have to allow certain things, times when we must concede and just let it happen.

We go home that evening and I look at our house with scorn. Everything in that house was his decision. The bookshelves, the carpets, the sofas, the ottoman and the paintings, the spice racks and kitchen island, everything. Maybe because my wonderful husband is so small, so miniature, the house is an extension of his body. We go to bed inside his body and I sleep thinking of the bleeding lady and how she is celebrated.

The next morning, I decide to see what my own blood looks like, so I take a butter knife and drive it into my arm and twist it this way and that. I’m screaming, but the scream seems so dramatic, so utterly ridiculous that even my husband laughs.

Ha ha! What a terribly witch-like sound, my darling wife, he says as he take the knife and butters a croissant. I realise how ridiculous I’m being and sit down with him at the breakfast table and read the morning news.

A terrorist attack has killed thirteen people at a metro station in Paris.

My bleeding stops but my anger doesn’t. I sit there at the table as my tiny husband wears tiny Trotsky glasses, as he reads and his brain gets fat with facts and there I am, ignored, thinking of those people dead at the metro station, all their blood pooling into some huge jar somewhere in my mind. I feel an agitation in my body and I start shaking. The breakfast table starts to rattle with my convulsions and the toast rack falls down, the eggs on my husband’s plate wobble and jump, the tea pot jerks and the croissants shed their skin entirely.

My husband laughs and shakes his head and says thirteen dead! Trust the French to moan about such a low number! Try a hundred! Try two hundred! Now that’s really dead.

We return to the café for lunch. We order sausages and hash browns, coffee and tea and we sit there and glut ourselves on everything in an attempt, I believe, to fill the void that is our lives.

The waiter today looks like a rat with good clothing.

I’m unhappy with our marriage and I’ve been masturbating next to your face for thirteen years, I say over the sausage to my husband.

That’s just great, he says. I’m happy for you. But he’s engrossed in the bleeding lady. Everybody is. Chairs are positioned to look at her and people even start to touch her.

The more the merrier, she says in a bathtub of blood. She slams her chubby gout hand on the side of the tub. Bring me a mug, friends! The waiter brings her one and she scoops out a mug full of blood and passes it to my husband.

Drink up little leathery man, she says and he does. She repeats this for everybody in the café and there they all are, drinking this fat wenches blood, the centre of attention, finally validated.

I stand up and leave the café.  

I’m in the car and I pass other cars, beeping my horn the entire way. Out of way you bastards, I say and my voice is swallowed in the sound of traffic, the sounds of screaming and talking.

I arrive at the top of the mountain that surrounds the city and I think of that fat bleeding bitch and scream loud and hard, hard enough that I feel my chest go raw and for the first time in a while I feel like I’m being heard, even if it is just the wind listening.

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