Bubba and the Phlebotomist
o tell you the truth, I cannot remember why I was in a shopping center in Sarasota not so long ago. It could have been to buy some china or cooking utensils or hardware. The reason escapes me. On the other hand, running into Tripwire, one of the regulars at The Blue Moon bar, I can still remember. He was standing outside a Victoria’s Secret store looking at the display in the store’s window. What I immediately noticed is that Tripwire was drooling. The drool kind of gathered at the right hand corner of his mouth and ran down to his chin to drip upon the pavement. I was standing on his right side when I stopped, so I cannot vouch for what he was excreting from the left side. “Hi, Tripwire,” I said. He didn’t hear me, so lost was he in an apparent dream—it could have been a hallucination—that involved the display of lingerie of various types. I repeated myself, louder this time. It broke the spell. “God, you scared the hell out of me,” Tripwire snapped. Tripwire, a Vietnam vet with an aversion to loud noises and, apparently, surprises, wears cammies all the time, good days or bad. On the good days, the cammies are pressed and starched. On bad days they appear to have been slept in for days on end. Tripwire is inconsistent in the best of times, but he is never dull. “What’s going down, Tripwire?” I asked. “I would,” he replied, still caught amongst the fringes of the reverie he had been having. “Have you seen Bubba?” I questioned the vet. The last several times I had been in The Blue Moon Bar, the liveaboard, live-alone skipper of the ferro-cement sloop Right Guard had not been in evidence, and the bartenderette, Doobie, was of no help in telling me where he might be. She said she had no idea whatsoever of where Bubba Whartz was. “The last I heard from Bubba,” Tripwire responded, “he was going to sail down to Key West to see if he could race Right Guard in the races. He said they probably didn’t already have a ferro-cement class and that he might qualify for a trophy if he could get in the races. However, I don’t know if he made it down there. Right Guard needed to have its bottom cleaned before he raced it, as you can imagine.
And there was another reason he wanted to be out of town for a while. The heat was on in Sarasota and Bubba didn’t want anyone asking him questions.” “What do you mean ‘the heat was on in Sarasota?’ ” I queried Tripwire. “There were a couple of big guys looking for him in The Blue Moon on several occasions,” Tripwire responded. “They did not look friendly. In fact, they made me think fondly of the M-16 I carried in Vietnam, because it gave me a feeling of security.” “Sounds like the guys were heavies,” I commented. “I think they were,” said Tripwire. “Bubba is like Aeschylus. Sometimes he flies too close to the sun.” “What happened this time?” “It involved a phlebotomist Bubba had chatted up someplace, and she did some work for Bubba” Tripwire informed me. “A what?” “A phlebotomist,” Tripwire repeated. “ Tripwire, what is a—that word you said?” “It’s a person who takes your blood, usually in a hospital, but I have had blood taken at the VA clinic here in Sarasota, too. Some people, usually women, are good at it. Others, usually men, are awful at it,” Tripwire explained with patience. “So how did Bubba get involved with a lobotomist?” “Phlebotomist,” Tripwire corrected. “Phlebotomist,” I repeated correctly. “That’s the way,” Tripwire encouraged. “You are getting educated. You don’t sound like a manure salesman with a mouth full of samples.” “How did Bubba get involved with this woman?” “I was with him that night, and she was sitting next to us. Bubba got to talking to her and found that she took blood as a profession. She worked in a hospital, mostly, but sometimes did some freelance work for doctors. She wasn’t bad-looking, and she was animated in her explanations, told funny stories about how some people reacted. My guess she was a tad overserved. “Anyway,” Tripwire continued, “she told Bubba that
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