Blood Money, Blood Oath!

Dominion Post short tale competition, 2021

In the summer of 1970, my friend, James and I, as students, travelled from Edinburgh to Rhodes via Athens. We didn’t have much money, so when we saw a street sign outside a clinic saying “Money for Your Blood”, our Scots blood was fairly pumping. It would finance more cups of coffee, more plates of tasty fetta, tomatoes and olives, called “mezes” in Greek, also quite a few glasses of the pine-flavoured Retsina wine. We discussed if it was wise to donate blood in a country that we suspected would perhaps not have the same medical ways as Scotland. My friend, James a 5th year medical student assured me the promise of money should allay all my hypochondriacal fears. We were ushered into a waiting room and sat recounting comedian Tony Hancock’s brilliant and fear-filled sketch “The Blood Donor”. After 10 minutes a nurse beckoned us into a big airy room with beds, all of them occupied by people giving blood or having a short rest after “leeching”. We lay down for the insertion of the necessary needles. The amount they were taking was more than the usual pint of blood, probably nearer two pints. We were worried about the after-effects but thoughts of the money staved off all fears! As the blood jars began to fill, James noticed how quickly the levels were rising. He grunted a profanity beginning with “F” (we later joked that it was his blood oath), and his wide eyes exhorted me to look at the flood tide, the blood tide! We managed only just to remain conscious. Others around us had flaked out. After the bloodletting we were given small glasses of orange juice. James said we should rest for at least 20 minutes before going back into the mid-30-degrees heat of Athens streets. We were pleased with ourselves, having “earned” 315 drachmas, more in an hour than we received in three days of our summer jobs as grass cutters and grave diggers in country cemeteries. Actually, I am not sure if the money was really worth the dizziness and fatigue after donating, but the extra Retsina and mezes that night surely tasted better than usual.