The child bled…
Onto his books and his desk, the upholstery of his mother’s tan Camry, and onto anyone who would listen. He bled from his fingernails, his eyes like Mother Mary, his ears, and his mouth. He bled: slow, measurable trickles of red life.
The trickles were slow enough that a few floral boxes of tissue kept in class would keep him learning. They’d tested the blood for shameful diseases: negative. Just a matter of wiping the trickle with a tissue: wadded inside a caretaker’s palm.
Stiff-haired teachers took turns at it (smiling affectionately) and mothers, and helpful students. Everyone had a hand in the child and his bleeding.
He was fond of horses and feared the turning out of lights as much as other boys his age. Still, he kissed his mother goodnight and closed his eyes in earnest. Some nights his parents would peek into his room with cellphone light to make sure he hadn’t been abducted: that he wasn’t afflicted by some folksy demon: all clear in that category.
Sometimes in the school halls, he would turn too quickly toward a student’s voice and a gathering pool would flick onto a locker or a poster about friendship. They didn’t always catch this (the mothers, teachers, and helpful students) so, eventually, the bleeding child had decorated his school with the quiet rivers inside of himself. New students would point to these splotches reverently: “he walked here, he turned there.”
Came to pass they needed his blood. Its small pities floated them through the day. The more they looked on him with affectionate sighs, the more he bled.
A girl once loved him. When his chest stuck out enough to catch drops of unchecked blood, a girl with bubblegum breath and a large jean jacket asked him to go to the arcade.
The arcade refused him of course. They knew the blood would gunk up their many buttons so the boy retreated home with a towel to his nose: leaving the girl to wait in the dark parking lot in her oversized jean-jacket. Her parents came to pick her up hours later and she never asked the boy out again.
Its misdiagnosis disbarred no doctors involved, but the bleeding of the child turned out to be contagious. Many associates, sympathizers, and acquaintances caught the disease.
Being ground zero of the pandemic, the child’s school wrote manuals on the proper care for bleeding children. These described the right pressure to apply when wiping, which people may wipe, and the conditions for compensation when infected while wiping etc., Administrators penned bestsellers, went on speaking tours, leveraged his blood into superintendent posts.
The bleeding boy graduated, maybe going on to fix small town cars. Another theory claims that he started a minor congregation, that cups were passed and the faithful waited for the arrival of one terrible night. Some still search for him in large cities: running reverent fingers over patches of what may have been his blood.