The whole of that Friday, Joe smelled blood.

In the morning, as he laboured to get himself off the bed, he smelled the raw, nauseating smell of platelets and haemoglobin. He patted the large shock of coarse black hair that covered his head and (thankfully) didn’t feel any fluids. He showered slowly, scrubbing every inch of his skin like he was prepping for surgery. Then he poured the cold water from the yellow, plastic bucket over himself and watched the soap drain into the opening in his bathroom. Still, the smell of blood refused to leave.

At lunch, he opened his dish and cold rice and fried beans stared sadly back at him. He didn’t borrow water next door when he chewed on a piece of chilli that had escaped the fire that had made the rest of the chili less potent. He had his eyes fixed ahead, staring into nothing. Mr. Scholl, the affable, elderly Canadian man had to call him twice, and even when he left him two hundred, instead of the usual fifty, the smile on Joe’s face looked drawn, like it could have been wiped off with a Kleenex.

In the afternoon, he probably thought the smell came from the wound on his knee. He had fallen on the staircase as he came back from the stationery shop with the girl that had sweet-smelling perfume but an arsenic breath. She smiled too much but didn’t work fast enough. The wound was too small though, and he knew he was just making excuses.

In the evening, Joe bought a large soda and a small loaf. He left his change at the shop because he didn’t want to keep getting pressed by the crowd that wanted cigarettes and low-denomination airtime. Later, the bread untouched and the soda bottle almost empty, he knew what he needed to do to get the smell off his head..he got a blue pail, filled it up with water, threw in his briefs, and doused it in that flowery-smelling bleach. Then he made a phone call, picked up some loose coins on the table, sprayed the house with a lot of that cheap air freshener he picked up last month at the store, and locked the house.       

Later that night, his door was open and he was stretched out on the couch. Ashes littered his grey and white carpet, the stench filled the room, and he was lucky officers didn’t make random house searches. He had drool all over his face, and at twelve minutes past midnight, Joe smiled dazedly and knew he wouldn’t smell blood that Saturday.



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