phlebotomagic

Craig is a heavy-set young guy with even heavier-set eyes. He’s sitting in an armchair almost completely walled-in with books, some open, some being used as improvised tables for his bottles of Dr Pepper and No Sugar Sprite. Books on the occult, alien conspiracy theories, tarot. Books on the history of the horror film, on special effects, Warcraft, sorcery, sex magic. Books on PHP, C#, Javascript. And weirdly, a book on rabbits.
‘I’ve come to take your blood,’ I say.
‘Whatever,’ he says.
He’s extraordinary. A long, black pencil moustache trailing down either side of an equally long goatee, giving him the look of a sleepy catfish – except a catfish that had spent as much time in the piercing and tattoo parlours as the mud at the bottom of the lake. His tattoos are amazing. Full sleeve canvases of skulls and roses and ivy leaves, swords, flames, goblins, and here and there a portentous Latin phrase in gothic print.
‘Good luck finding a vein,’ he says, extending his right arm and resting it on the top of a book.
He’s right. It’s going to be tricky. Normally if a patient is large and you can’t see the veins, you can work by feel. In Craig’s case, the intricate lines of ink have raised the skin, so what feels like a vein is actually the stem of a rose or the ribbed hilt of a dagger. I’m prodding around for quite a while. To pass the time we talk about tattoos. I show him mine, the Tree of Life I had done on the top of my left arm. He’s polite about it but doesn’t seem that impressed.
‘There’s a lot of people doing it,’ he says. ‘Most studios can sort you out with that kind of thing.’
‘I went for hand-poked,’ I tell him. ‘I don’t know why particularly. I suppose I liked the idea that’s how people tattooed themselves before electricity.’
‘Yeah,’ he says. ‘The whole primitive thing.’
‘I want to get another one, a bit lower down. It’s quite addictive.’
‘Tell me about it,’ he says.
‘There! What about there? That feels like something.’
He shrugs. ‘If you think. I’m okay with it.’
Amazingly, the blood flows immediately.
‘I can’t believe it!’ I tell him when I’m done, withdrawing the needle and taping on some gauze. ‘I wasn’t at all confident with that one.’
‘It’s the book I was leaning on,’ he says, holding it up so I can read the cover.
Divination for Beginners.
Then slowly strokes his feelers, like that was his plan all along.

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