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Two Poems
by Bill Tope


I sat on a cold plastic chair with a little
arm rest on either side, awaiting my
med tech. Into the small white room
stepped a twenty-something woman
in burgundy scrubs and with a long
brown ponytail.  On her arm was a
plastic tote containing filled and
unfilled test tubes, labels, markers
and the like.
“Mr. Raines,” she said, not looking at me,
“I’m Sam, and I’m here to draw blood for
your lab work. Do you faint at the sight of
blood?” I blinked.
“Not yet,” I replied. Next she fished
around in her tote and turned up a large
plastic syringe topped with the biggest
needle I have ever seen.  My eyes grew
“Wh....what size needle do you use?”
I asked. Still not looking at me, she
replied, “It’s only a 21-gauge. Don’t
worry, it won’t hurt.”  I saw her smile,
or was it a smirk?  “Did you used to
work at a veterinary?” I asked next. 
She narrowed her eyes at me.  “Who
told you that?” she demanded. “That
was supposed to kept secret.” I must
have blanched, because at last she
smiled, said, “gotcha!”
Sam couldn’t seem to find a viable
blood vessel; every time she plunged
that huge needle into my right forearm,
it turned up dry. “You’ve got teensy
little veins,” she remarked after the
fourth attempt. “Let’s try your other
arm,” she said, moving around to the
left side.
When I asked pompously whether she
had ever done this before, she slowly
shook her head no, her ponytail flicking
back and forth. “No,” she said. “I didn’t
even finish my training. The hospitals
were so in need of staff that they hired
me ahead of graduation.” I closed my
and sighed, but she smiled again, at my
expense. Another gotcha.
While she drilled holes in my left arm, I
glanced at my other arm and saw that my
right forearm had assumed the color
of red wine spilled on a white table cloth.
She paused the torture for a moment to
remark off-handedly that I had maybe
experienced “a little bruising.”  When I
made a face she added, “You’re not a
fashion model or anything, are you? I
mean, this won’t put you out of work,
will it?”  I shook my head in resignation.
Finally she succeeded in getting her ccs
of blood and wiped my arm with alcohol
and began getting her things together.
I shook my misused arms and asked,
rather unkindly, “Was it good for you?”
Her lips formed a tight pink line, but she
said nothing.
As I rolled down my sleeves and
prepared to depart, she turned back
and said, “I don’t know anything about
your personal habits, Mr. Raines, but if
you have marijuana in your system it will
throw off the blood tests and I’ll have to
take more blood.  When I blanched a
second time, she pointed at finger at my
chest and said again, “Gotcha!” and 
walked out.

I Hate Girls!

“I hate girls!” growled little Tommy who,
at eight years old, was perhaps too young
to render such a scathing opinion.
“What’re you, queer?” pounced Malcolm,
his main rival in all things on the playground. 
“I’m not queer!” said the first boy, now
shouting.  He paused a beat, then asked,
“What do you mean?” The word was a new
one to him.  “Queer is when a boy likes
another boy,” explained Malcolm.  Tommy
turned this over in his mind for a moment.
“Well,” he said slowly, “I do like boys better
than girls....” But even as he said this he
sensed that something was amiss.
Malcolm smirked. “Then you’re a ‘faggot!’”
he said spitefully.  “I ain’t no faggot!” said his
companion fiercely. This was another word
with which Tommy was unfamiliar.  But it was
apt to be bad, if his enemy was using it.
How did Malcolm know what these strange
words meant? he wondered, connecting them
not at all with sex.  Malcolm had older brothers,
remembered Tommy, answering his own
question.  Malcolm was also a year older, he
reminded himself, and was bound to be more
“You’re the one ‘said you hate girls,” Malcolm
reminded him.  “Well, I don’t hate ‘em all the
time,” Tommy conceded.  “Just when they try
and kiss me!” He scowled, remembering. This
awakened the other boy somewhat: Tommy
was actually kissing girls? That was a feat that
Malcolm himself was yet to accomplish. This
opened his eyes and he saw the younger boy
in a whole new light.  Perhaps there was
something to be learned here.
“Say, Tom, maybe I could, you know, hang around
with you some, and you know, you could give me
some pointers, you know, the way it, you
know....”  Tommy blinked.  This was different, he
thought.  Malcolm had never wanted to hang with
him before.  Well, maybe he could give him a few
suggestions.... He nodded. ”Thanks, Tom, I’ll talk
at you later; and listen, man: I really do want to be
more like you--pal.”
The recess bell rang and Malcolm sprinted back to
school, leaving Tommy by himself on the playground.
As he set off to his own class, he was joined by a
girl, Paula, who was from Malcolm’s class.  Known
at school as one of the “cute girls,” she asked
him, “Wasn’t that Malcolm Macbeth you were talking
to, Tommy?”  Paula, he knew, had been the subject
of Malcolm’s amorous pursuits for the past year. She
had never evinced an interest in her classmate
“Yeah,” agreed Tommy.  “That was him. Why, what do
you care?”
“Well,” she explained, “he’s gotten a lot cuter now that
he’s older....” Tommy only shrugged.  “Did he mention
me at all?” she inquired.  He shook his head.  “No, you
never came up,” he replied.  “Then what did you two talk
about?” she persisted.  “Well,” said Tommy, now willing
to do his former nemesis a good turn, “Malcolm
wanted to know how to be queer.” She startled. “What!”
“That’s right,” he went on. “He wanted to know how to go
about being a faggot--like me.”  Eyes wide with alarm
and disappointment, Paula shook her head, blew out a
breath.  As she walked quickly away, Tommy shouted
after her, “And he hates girls, especially the ones who
try to kiss him!.”