Bleeding Out

David Dinkins | Flash Fiction

It was a big deal when Jerry’s house got robbed, because he cared a great deal for what little he had. I picked Max up from his job at the hospital and we drove up to Jerry’s together. When we got there, he was sitting in the middle of his barren, ransacked living room. “I’m done fucking around,” he said. There, among the dirty square outlines of furniture, cut cords dangling from the walls, he told us that Danny the paperboy had robbed his house. Jerry had trusted him enough to show him the little hollow place in the door frame where he kept a spare key to the front door. Just in case it rained, in case he needed to use the bathroom mid-route, in case he was in trouble, Danny could get inside.

“This is my final display of generosity,” Jerry said, and we prepared for a knife fight with Danny and whoever we might find him with. We dug through the back seats of our cars and loaded up our jackets with cigarettes and sterile gauze pads, books of matches, knives, and lucky trinkets. We circled in the driveway like sharks and pressed each other’s shoulders, swore oaths and shadow stabbed, until dusk.

Max knew a way to get to the back of the trailer park where Danny lived. He led us single file on an old bike path through fields of waist-high prairie grass. Cicada song rose and fell, the waves of sound both ominous and calming. The path ended at a chain-link fence topped with razor wire. On the other side was a long vacant lot with light poles down the middle. There was something beautifully desolate about it, old busted up concrete, wild grass growing up through the cracks. The ruins of a dead civilization, abandoned, derelict, but still sacrosanct enough to be illuminated at night.

Max pointed to a gap in the razor wire. “The trailer park is just a couple minutes past this lot.” Max and I made it to the other side, but Jerry got his leg caught in a loop of the razor wire on his way over. He dangled there for a moment, caught in the glare of the halogen lights, his face a wide-eyed snarl of terror and fury. I slid in the loose grit rushing back to him and managed to get up under his shoulders to support his weight. He was breathing fast and balling up his fists, fighting his urge to thrash around. Max cussed and fidgeted with the wire.

“Pull,” he yelled, and I hauled Jerry out and dragged him under the nearest light.

“Put pressure on it,” Jerry said through his teeth, “put some goddam pressure on it.”

“Keep still.” Max sat down cross-legged with Jerry’s foot cradled in his lap and pulled up his pant leg. Blood rolled off Jerry’s leg. Max cleared the blood away with his sleeve so he could see the cuts. He pulled his water bottle and poured it out over the leg. One deep furrow ran across his shin to the calf and was by far the worst. I took off my jacket and started emptying out the pockets.

“Gauze,” said Max, his face bent close to the deepest cut. I pulled all the little CVS gauze pads out of my coat pockets and started tearing them open. I palmed them into Max’s hand. He stuffed gauze into the wound with one hand and held it down with the thumb of his other. One by one I watched the little white squares disappear into the wound, but the blood kept running and pooled on the concrete beneath us. Max called for more gauze and I started tearing my T-shirt into a long strip.

“Should have seen the barbed wire.” Jerry fished a cigarette out of his pocket. “Soon as we’re done here, that kid is dead meat.”

Max balled the leftover sleeves and collar up against the wad of gauze and together we wrapped it tight. Together we laid hands on it and pressed. Together we waited.


“Ain’t this some real pretty shit.” Jerry’s cigarette shook between his fingers. “I mean, what is the state of this bullshit karma. It’s my house gets robbed, and I’m the one bleeding out in bufu nowhere. Fucking bullshit.”

Under our hands, the wads of cotton turned wet and sticky. I looked at Max and he shook his head. Jerry’s face was pale but alert. “We can’t stay here,” I said.

“You got needle and thread?” Max shifted his legs. We searched our pockets and found a roll of medical tape in Jerry’s jacket.

Max pulled out the soggy gauze. Fresh blood ran out past the tacky clots. He ran the last of his water over the wound and patted it dry. I pushed the edges of the cut together and Max taped up the seam with butterfly stitches. Then he taped down the tape. When I let go, the cut stayed mostly closed.

“Good enough.” Jerry rolled to the side, stood up on his good leg.

“Jerry, that tape isn’t gonna hold,” I said. “Please, we can fuck him up tomorrow.”

“Stay if you want. Or go back. But this is fucking happening.” Jerry limped across the lot. Max brushed the gravel from his backside and followed. I pulled my jacket over my bare shoulders. It was a helluva mess, wrappers and butts and bloody lumps, and Jerry’s blood running into the cracks of the broken concrete, where tufts of prairie grass reached high for the ersatz sunlight of the lamps.

I don’t remember who told me that love grows through adversity. Some asshole preacher, probably, or a Disney movie. But sometimes love degrades with use, like the brakes on a car, and one day you go sailing over a cliff, and in the moments before flying becomes falling it doesn’t really matter. Sometimes I want to remember that I let them go on without me. But I stayed with them, for the love we had left. I caught up with Jerry and put my arm around his waist. He propped himself up on my shoulder and together we tottered across the field to the trailer park.


We found Danny pissing outside his double wide. Max ran at a full sprint and bounced him against the wall of his trailer before he could turn around. Jerry held onto me and we hobbled over.

“Can you believe this kid?” said Jerry. “And to think I gave this fucker a Christmas card.”

Danny gasped for air on the ground next to Max’s feet. He looked small, all curled up clutching the front of his drawers.

“Dude, how old is he?”

Jerry lit a cigarette and pulled a long knife from inside his jacket.

“He’s old enough,” he said. “I’m done fucking around.”

Danny looked up and saw the knife. “Please don’t,” he said as he scrambled around in his own piss. “Please don’t,” over and over, like a magic spell that grows in power the more it’s repeated. But that isn’t how it works, no matter how much we’d like it to.