Thicker than water

My tastes are such that I perk up with interest at the mention of a documentary with the description “Excellent cadavers” (10pm on SBS tonight). I skimmed through Marquis de Sade for the shocking bits, devoured every page of Poppy Z. Brite’s ‘Exquisite Corpse’, and was deeply disappointed at having missed the Amazing Body* exhibition when it came to town. Yet today at the checkout, when faced with a tiny bit of blood, I felt my pulse slow and discomfort settle in.

It all started when an elderly woman greeted me with the words, ‘I think there’s a sharp bit on this trolley that I’ve knicked my finger on…’

I eyed her trolley as she searched for that which maimed her and watched as she roughly swabbed at her right thumb with a handkerchief. ‘Oh, that’s no good,’ I said sympathetically, but absently. Cuts on hands happen all the time. By the end of a working week, I often have a few of my own to show for.

One by one she dropped her items down on the counter. Dutifully, I scanned and typed in the appropriate commands. Three items in, she plonked down a plastic bag containing bananas. I paused and almost reeled in disgust. Smeared here and there on the bag, all over the bag, were small red markings.

The bananas may have been sheathed in plastic so that she didn’t have to touch them, but what was I going to use to not touch the bloodied bag? I hesitated for a moment, but with her eyes on me again I lifted the bag up, touching as little of the plastic as possible, and placed it on the scale.

As I keyed “bananas” into the system, I mentally shuddered at the thought of making contact with the woman’s bodily fluids. I considered jokingly asking whether she had any blood-borne diseases but thought better of it.

Feeling positively green, I picked up the bananas again and put them down in front of her. She swiftly transferred them from the counter back into her trolley. Wiping her finger again (the cut kept oozing blood – she must have a high Omega 3 intake), she passed me her EFTPOS card.
When she left, I gave her a shaky smile and said, ‘I hope your thumb stops bleeding soon!’

She dismissed the comment with a wave of her hand and replied, ‘Oh, it’s just a little cut.’

I nodded, but thought secretly that I should lobby the service desk to supply the checkouts with surgeon’s gloves.
*The Amazing Body exhibition featured the preserved corpses of Chinese prisoners in various forms – whole, dissected, in slivers


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