BLUE COLLAR BOYS • by Aaron Polson

The MedService van squealed to a halt in front of 2113 Rosebud Court five minutes after receiving the call. Two men climbed out, both wearing the company coveralls in navy blue — third shift navy blue. Name tags were stitched on the left breast of each: Rick and Tony.

“’Right, Tony. What’s the deal here?”

Tony scratched his four-day stubble and read from his pocket MedMate. “Male… age 55… apparent overdose… not sure on what. Wife wants the works. Blood type,” he paused, “get this: B-.”

Rick shook his head.“B-? Really? I can’t remember the last B-.”

“Yep. Look’s like another oil change.”

They unloaded the machines from the back of the van. Rick, shorter and stouter than Tony, towed the larger device, the black box with tiny wheels and a long, coiling tube. Tony hoisted the briefcase sized apparatus and casually tucked it under his shoulder; he also grabbed a canister with “B NEG” stenciled on the side in red. The wheels of the big machine rattled across the asphalt as Rick pulled.

A woman answered the door — pinched face, mousy hair. Her eyes were wide and nervous.

“Ma’am… you put in a call?”

“Oh — yes — oh.” Her voice was high-pitched, grating. She fumbled with the doorknob. “Harold. He’s in the bedroom.”

Tony wiped his feet on the mat, but Rick didn’t bother. He had the big machine, and pulling it up even a single step was a chore. They followed the mousy woman through the hall. In the bedroom at the end, a man lay on the bed, pale as skim milk. He wasn’t moving.

“Just be a few minutes.”

The woman stared at the wall for a moment, and then, as though zapped with a small current, startled. “Yes… thanks… is he going to be okay? I’m sorry I don’t know what he, you know…” She made a gesture like popping pills into her mouth.

Rick pried open Harold’s blue-tinted lips and began to feed the black tube into his mouth. “We see this all the time,” he said.

She nodded, leaning against the doorway. “I just… I don’t know why he did this. I mean, he takes pills for his back. Pain meds, that’s all. We have the prescription. But I found all of those. I counted.”

Trying to ignore the chatter, Tony pressed his MedMate to Harold’s exposed arm. He squinted at the tiny screen. “Oh man. Gotta get different blood,” he muttered.

Rick looked up from the panel on the big machine. He had flipped the engage switch, and the device made a low humming sound, occasionally sucking and popping as fluid and semi-solid matter rode the snake-like hose out of Harold’s mouth.

“What?” he asked over the sound.

“He’s a tamp.”

Harold’s wife frowned. “What… what’s a tamp?”

“A tampered record. Somebody wanted us to pump him with the wrong blood.”

She put her hands to her mouth. “How’s that… I mean… who could do such a thing?” she asked through her fingers.

“Anybody with central records clearance.” Tony opened the small case. “Your husband got any enemies, lady?”

She shook her head. “No… no. But Harold works at city services… he’s level four. God… does it always smell like this?”

Tony and Rick exchanged a look.

“Ma’am? How about making yourself a cup of tea? We’ll just be a few more minutes.” Tony tried a friendly smile.

Harold’s wife hesitated. “Is he going to be—”

“Everything’s going to be fine.”

She took a step toward the door. “Are you sure?”

“Sure,” Tony cracked his grin even wider.

She turned and faded into the hallway.

“Just about done here, buddy.” Rick tapped a gauge on the big machine.

“Look, you think we should let him go?”

“You nuts?”

Tony nodded toward the hallway. “No. But the guy obviously wanted out of this situation.”

Rick switched off the big machine, and the room fell silent. “Personally, I don’t want to fill out the paperwork,” he whispered.

“True. It’s just that, well… never mind.” Tony stepped toward the door with the blood canister. “I’ll be back.”

By the time Tony returned with the O- cylinder, Rick had retrieved his hose, repacked the big machine, and lit a cigarette.

“Smoking’s bad for your health, buddy.”

Rick shrugged. “Have you met my old lady? You think I want to live forever?”

Aaron Polson was born on the Ides of March: a good day for him, unlucky for Julius Caesar. He currently lives and writes in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife, two sons, and a tattooed rabbit. To pay the bills, Aaron attempts to teach high school students the difference between irony and coincidence. His stories have featured magic goldfish, monstrous beetles, and even a book of lullabies for baby vampires.

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