Elizabeth Morton

How to Tame a Bleeder

The blood made a smile—an impudent rictus of parabola set on the Formica. The blood was a Thursday. The blood said Let’s go to the leisure centre or How about we see the latest Mamma Mia film. The blood preferred apples over nectarines. The blood liked a good clean murder mystery, would rather dog-ear a book than split a spine. The blood would like two sugars in her coffee, thank you kindly. The blood likes chop suey over chow mein, and would rather you didn’t stack the dishwasher, because the blood will do it later. Go and watch the telly, said the blood. Change the channel if you like.

I guess that’s why I was watching Jeremy Kyle when the Council drainage consultant knocked at the door. The blood and I stayed very quiet. We put the telly on mute, and watched vexed Mancunians gesticulate at each other. The drainage consultant stood at the door for a while, adjusting his name brooch and clicking his biro. He would be subpoenaed, later, by a Crown Prosecutor. Was the television on or off, he would be asked, but, for the time being, the blood grinned, and I watched the panel van reverse back up the driveway, apprehended by my external camera. In court, they would play nine hours of the spooling footage. The jurors would consider each frame earnestly, their rectums nearing prolapse with the sheer solemnity. The blood had gone to lurk on swabs and transport tubes and drying boxes. It was a lonely feeling. 

The blood was blood group O-. The blood was a philanthropist. The blood baked lolly cake for school fundraisers, and made lamingtons for the Hospice’s “Last Supper” programme. The blood was a serial giver. The prosecution would ask me why I waited —all that while, bunked down with the blood, overdue library books, and an axolotl in a green-rimmed tank. Why did I wait with the blood under my fingernails, the blood on the lanyard I wore over my dressing-gown, the blood worked into the crook of my elbow? I guess it was love, I’d say. I guess it was my turn to give back. My blood group is AB+. I’m a barnacle, a lamprey, a deep sea sponge. Suck-it-up, buttercup, folks would say, and yes yes I did. 

The day the blood arrived was humid as Cambodia. What do you remember, the prosecution would say. I could see the Norfolk pine trees tussling on the beachfront. I could see a grunge of dogs. Salt teeth. Grit eyes. I remember it was the day Prince carked it. I remember the elevator at the local mall malfunctioned, and we thumped up the stairwell swinging supermarket bags. I remember it was we, and not me and the blood. We, in the kitchen. We, carrying laundry baskets. We, mopping the patio mosaic like it was okay. There was no gore in the grouting, no erythrocytes bunging up the fine spaces between one tile and the next. What do you remember, said the prosecution, and I said All of it.

I sat with the blood for eight days. I became a couch, a chair, the stoop of a table. The axolotl moved so slowly, in its tankweed. Locusts amassed on windowsills. The Norfolk pine treetops played out Punch and Judy, through the panes. Coupon brochures and lawn mowing flyers clogged the letterbox. The blood browned on the Formica. I picked at it with my thumbnail—so close to requited love.

When the sixth juror picked at his left nostril I could feel my blood boil. When the prosecution leaned over his pew and asked Did you not have better things to do on that 21 April 2016? my blood ran cold; my heart thumped in the cleft my tonsils made. I rolled up my shirt sleeves, my armskin a shock of red grooves, like weatherboard. It was a happy home, I said. We had a magnolia tree in the yard, an axolotl, and red cedar cladding. I held my arms over my head. A juror unfurled a toffee from its wrapping, and sucked. The blood was Exhibit E. The blood tightened on the synthetic swabs, like a fist. The blood was premeditated, and knew how to swing a breadknife. The blood loved me the way I loved myself. The blood had insight, and when the blood was read the Miranda Rights, the blood smiled patiently like a small god. 

This is like getting plasma from a stone, said the lawyer, looking out the courthouse window at the yellow afternoon light falling on a park rotunda. He would buy sushi with pickled ginger on his route home; he would take his old lady a bushel of oranges; he would walk the dog in small circles about the carpark. The moon would rise, the alley cats would mewl for metalwire, rodents and everything that bleeds.


Auckland writer Elizabeth Morton is published in places like Rattle, The Moth, Narrative, Poetry New Zealand, and PRISM International. Her poetry collection, Wolf, was published with Mākaro Press in 2017. She twice came second in the Sunday Star-Times Short Story Competition, and was included in Best Small Fictions 2016. When she thinks nobody is watching, she writes bad rap, and lip-syncs to The Talking Heads.