Making a blood smear – an extract from ‘Farther from the Sun’.

I was teaching about blood to one of my High School classes in the Spring of 1980. I had gathered them all around me. We were going to make slides of blood smears – a popular lesson. This was the bit they loved. This was when the teacher fearlessly jabbed himself in the finger with a sterile lancet to demonstrate how it was done, and how easy and painless it was.

“Hey man, I missed that! Do it again.”

You had to do it nonchalantly as if it was nothing. You had to produce loads of blood. It hurt.

The kids were always attentive. They were nervous about making their own slides and pricking themselves, but they just loved to see the teacher jabbing himself and bleeding. You usually had one who could not cope with the sight of blood and passed out. It was a chance for the macho ones to show how it was done, but ironically, most of them were the ones most nervous.

I had all the class sit down, so that if anyone passed out they didn’t crash to the floor and smack their head, and applied the alcohol to sterilise the area on my index finger. I played to the house. You swung your arm round to get centrifugal force working. The blood built up in your fingers. You theatrically took the lancet and demonstrated where you were going to jab on the pad of your index finger. The back of the finger at the base of the nail was for cissies, besides it didn’t bleed so much. The forefinger produced a lot of blood.

This was the moment where all the eager eyes were feverishly focussed on you. You dragged it out before jabbing the lancet hard into your finger and squeezing a big dollop of blood out. It really hurt, inflicting pain on yourself is not pleasurable, but you smiled and told them it was nothing.

I could sense that the class were excited as I went through the act, but then I became aware that they were not really watching me. Their eyes were focussed on something behind me.

I looked around. There was Ruben ‘El Gangster’ Alvarado standing behind my ear holding a slide in one hand and a long stiletto flick knife in the other. He had not merely jabbed his finger he had sliced it to the bone. Blood was dripping freely on to the slide and pooling over to trickle on to the floor.

Ruben grinned at me.

I turned back to the class. ‘If anybody has any trouble getting sufficient blood for their smear, they should ask Ruben. I think he has some to spare.’



I am changing the world!



“Hey man, lend me your eraser.”

“No. Get your own.”

“If you don’t lend me your eraser I won’t let you use the machine gun tonight!”


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