By Larry O. Grand

Chapter Five

PERSONALLY, I think that people suck.

Usually I don't ponder such things, mainly because they are so obvious, 
but when my brain is numb and there's nothing to occupy it, like right 
now, when I'm lying in this curved chair that's supposed to be 
comfortable (and it's not) with a needle in my arm and I can see my 
blood circulating through the plastic tubing and through the plasma-
extracting machine before shooting out another tube and back into my 
body, then I sometimes stop and think about stuff like that.

That is, people don't suck physically (although some do).  Ever since 
elementary school, when I first noticed how people automatically become 
divided into little clichˇs, that's when I realized how little I cared 
for people.  And how people would stay in these little groups as they 
grew up, through high school, through college, through life.  The group 
of athletic males, who would become jocks and then frat boys and 
eventually assholes, or the girls who would gather together primarily 
due to their social status, and the ones who were higher up became 
cheerleaders and beauty queens and sorority girls and eventually 
bitches.  Or even the groups of weirdos, the ones who dressed in darker 
colors and you knew as early as first grade that they were just a little 
strange, and they would play D&D and smoke at an early age behind the 
cafeteria and would listen to alternative music before anyone else 
decided that it was hip, and they would eventually become unemployed and 
ended up sleeping in parking garages, or they were gay or lesbian or 
transsexual, in which they probably turned out better than the rest of 
us.  What I think really sucks is how people could be classified in 
these groups at such an early age, and always remain in that group as 
long as they lived.

In my case, I was my own group.

Ever since I could remember, I was always one of those weirdos.  I was 
never muscular, always a little pale, and the parents have always been 
after my hair.  I was never really part of a team.  In middle school gym 
class they'd always pick me last for kickball or Red Rover or whatever 
asinine games they make little kids play, and they would never call me 
over or give me a good team position; I'd always be playing outfield in 
softball.  Not that I cared.  I didn't care when I heard them 
whispering, saying "God, who's that gross guy sitting on the bench over 
there?" "Man, what's with that Kevin anyway?"  But even then, the other 
weird kids would have nothing to do with me.  Not that I tried to hang 
out with them anyway.  I'd see them smoking behind the cafeteria, which 
they weren't supposed to anyway, and Dr. Harris would try and catch 
them and I would be watching and would always get blamed, even though I 
never touched cigarettes until last year, when I came to the realization 
that my parents were completely insane.  I always never really thought 
that my dad, who I affectionately refer to as Dumbass, was cool, which 
was something that everyone else thought because of what he did, and 
still does, today.  My mother, who I affectionately refer to as Helen, 
because that's her name, has always been a little loopy, but for some 
reason I realized last year that she had gone past the point of no 

That's what I did and that's what I do: Just sit around, watch the world 
go by; the was my role, that of observer.  Everyone usually ignored me 
anyway, so I saw a lot of shit go down and no one even knew that I was 
there.  And in my observations, I came upon the conclusion that I didn't 
give a fuck, because I knew then, as I do now, that people are complete 

Like last Thursday.  I had gone over to the Biological and Medical 
Reserve, that place where you give blood plasma or other biological 
parts of your body, like ear wax, and they pay you.  That's where I 
usually get my cigarette money anyway, by giving plasma for twenty-five 
bucks once a week.  It's a pretty nice place, because they have 
individual cubicles where you donate and so you don't have to look at 
the other idiots who are there; some of them getting their grocery money 
by donating.  I've never been queasy about needles, not even the big 
five inch stickers they plug into your arm over here, but I've seen some 
desperate, homeless people run screaming from the B.M.R. because they 
couldn't stand the needle, even to get a stinking twenty-five bucks.

So I'm sitting there, in a cubicle just facing the entrance to the 
plasma-giving room, where they have about fifty of these blood-sucking 
machines and couches.  Usually I get a cubicle in the back, because that 
way I can avoid even making contact with people, but on that day they 
were all full and so I had to sit and watch all the potential donors 
come in.

Most of them were the usual crowd: homeless or very-low income families, 
a lot of them overweight women dragging two or three kids and making 
them sit still in the waiting room while mommy goes to have her life's 
fluid sucked out for an hour.  A bunch of other college students and 
frat boys making an extra buck, which is always amusing because I've 
seen many big, strapping, macho frat boys come in to give plasma and 
then pass out after the needle's been removed, since you have to eat and 
drink "sufficiently" and have at least four quarts of water in you 
because that's how much fluid they remove, and these boneheads think 
that the rules don't apply to them because, hey, they're tough men, 
I was sitting there, the butterfly needle firmly entrenched in my arm, 
and then I see them: The Van der Poole family.  One of the richest 
families in town, they live up there in that neighborhood with thirty-
acre front lawns and a neighborhood surrounded by a huge brick wall 
patrolled by a security guard who sits twenty-four hours a day in a 
little cubicle at the entrance.  Supposedly their money has been in 
their family for generations, passed on from the colonial days when the 
Van der Pooles were coffee merchants or something.  Mr. Van der Poole 
makes a killing in the stock market, too, since after all, he owns the 
biggest bank in town, right?  As far as I know, they do nothing but sit 
in their house all day, count their money and attend charity functions.  
They have three daughters, all of which are stuck-up bitches who don't 
have more than three brain cells between them: Cassandra, the oldest, 
was in my anthropology class two semesters ago, and I can say with some 
degree of authority, from countless stories that I've overheard, that in 
addition to being a vacuum-head, she is a world class slut, dressing to 
tease and sleeping with anything that has a penis, except maybe their 
champion greyhounds that she's always posing with in the paper.  Then 
there are the two twin daughters, Cindy and Cathy, who are in training 
to be their sister, but then again, who am I to say?  I see the three 
everywhere: at the mall or the food court, in the parking lot of the 
McDonalds, or even driving by the t.v. station in Cassandra's Ford 
convertible, with the top down, their sandy brown hair tied back with 
ribbons, buffeting wildly in the wind.

The whole family disgusts me.

The entire Van der Poole clan comes waltzing into the plasma room, 
dressed the way they normally are: Mr. Van der Poole in his blue-black 
suits with the crispy creases, Mrs. Van der Poole in her white 
pantsuits, and the three bitches in miniskirts, tights and mock 
turtlenecks, because even though winter is only a month old, they can't 
possibly dress for the weather, now can they?  They're all carrying 
their sipper bottles and charts; I can tell by the wet ink that it is 
the first time for all five.

"Come along now, girls," says Mr. Van der Poole, "it's time to do our 
good for the community."

"But DA-ddy," whines Cathy Van der Poole, "this is just SO GAH-ross."

"Yeah," whines Cindy Van der Poole, "like, I don't like needles anyway.  
That woman who pricked my finger almost broke my nail.  Do I hafta sit 
here for a WHOLE hour?"

"Yeah," whines Cathy, "like, can't they just GIVE us the twenty-five 
dollars without us having to, like, be here."

"Now girls," chimes in Mrs. Van der Poole, "we have to do our part.  
After all, we MUST give something back to the people!"

"That's right!" declares Mr. Van der Poole, in a triumphant tone of 
voice as if he was reading off election results, "Where are those 
television reporters?  I TOLD them to be here five minutes ago?"

"Oh my Gawd," says Cassandra Van der Poole, looking around, "look at all 
the people here.  They're, like, so DIRTY!"

"Now, now, Cass." says Mr. Van der Poole, "Be nice to those not as 
fortunate as you."

"Oh GAWD!" screeches Cindy, "That man is MISSING some teeth!"

Eventually, the television newsreporters did show up, with full 
complement of camera crew, and shot plenty of footage of the Van der 
Pooles nestling into their chairs and getting needles poked in their 
arms, with Mr. Van der Poole slipping the producer an extra fifty to 
make sure it got in the 7 o'clock edition rather than the lower-rated 11 
o'clock.  The girls yowled in pain when the needle inserted into their 
forearms, and complained for the next forty minutes (which was when I 
was disconnected after giving my four pints worth) about how the iodine 
on their arms clashed with their outfits, how their skirts were riding 
up and how some of the men were peeking at their undies, about how the 
man next to Cathy smelled like garbage, and about how bored they were, 
all while Mr. Van der Poole rattled on about the good that they were 
doing for the community, and Mrs. Van der Poole sat quietly, shushing 
the girls occasionally, but spent most of the time reading an issue of 
Modern Bride.

I found out later, because I asked George, the guy behind the counter, 
that the Van der Pooles took their twenty-five dollar checks and danced 
out the door.

So today I'm sitting here, three days later (because you have to wait 
for your plasma to regenerate itself), and it's a Sunday, and there's 
not a whole lot of people here, and I feel like a complete loser because 
I always mean to bring a magazine or a paperback or something to read 
because all they ever have to entertain you while you bleed are several 
fuzzy t.v. screens, either showing bad movies from the late seventies to 
early eighties (today it's "Breaking Away") or they have it tuned in to 
the 24-hour wrestling channel, and it's just one of those moments when 
your brain is too numb to do anything else but ponder nothing in 
particular, when who should come in the door but Cassandra Van der 
Poole, clutching her sipper bottle and anticoagulant pack and chart, but 
without the rest of the clan.  She's wearing tan shorts and white tights 
her usual mock turtleneck and she's led to the cubicle two spaces away 
from mine, and she looks in my direction and says "Hey," even though I 
don't think she remembers me from Amberlin's anthropology, but I nod in 
her direction and she sits down, and then I start to wonder what she's 
doing there, by herself, and why she would even bother to stop and say 
hello to me in any form of communication, and this situation proceeds to 
cloud my mind for the rest of the twenty minutes that I'm there, and so 
I end up having a horribly nauseating time.

Then I pick up my check and leave.

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All contents copyright (c) 1997 Larry O. Grand
Please do not repost or reprint without permission from Larry O. Grand, except for review purposes.

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