by Cadence Mandybura

“Just the blood today, ma’am?”

Marybeth blinked, still distracted by how she’d hung up on her daughter to make this appointment in time. “No, I’ve signed up for the whole regimen, as usual,” she said. “Compassion, patience, tolerance—the works.”

“Oh,” said the nurse—Prashant, according to his nametag—confusion fluttering across his face. “I wasn’t given the extended forms. Wait here, please . . .” He stepped out, leaving Marybeth in the consulting room. She fanned herself with an aftercare brochure as she waited.

One of the benefits of being retired was organizing her activities into the optimal times of day. She always scheduled her donations at 2:30 p.m. so she could buy pastries on the way to her Rotary meeting at four. She normally avoided sweets, but she deserved the sugar after giving up a pint of goodwill.

Prashant must be new. Marybeth had been donating for years and recognized most of the staff. Trying to get a glimpse of his progress, she wondered if he was a regular donor himself. Her working theory was that nurses exhausted their kindness too quickly for it to build up in their bloodstream, but maybe Prashant wasn’t burnt out yet. He did seem far too young to be a qualified professional.

Prashant returned with fresh printouts and an apologetic smile. He sat and laid the forms between them.

“I’m sorry for the delay, ma’am. You’re not eligible to donate today—your anger levels are too high.”

“Excuse me?” Heat trickled down Marybeth’s arms. She wasn’t an angry person. Frustrated, sometimes, but she knew how to channel that into action. Like with Luna. All Marybeth had wanted was to offer her daughter a bit of a boost—it was certainly more than Marybeth had received when striking out on her own.

“That can’t be right,” she said, keeping her voice reasonable, kind, inarguable. “Could you run the tests again?”

“We have every confidence in our equipment, ma’am,” said Prashant. “It’s against our policy to rerun tests.”

“Surely there’s time . . .” said Marybeth, glancing at the empty chairs in the waiting area.

“It’s the policy,” he repeated. “It’s to protect donors’ health and ensure our supply meets medical standards.”

“I understand that, but I donate every quarter, and I’ve never had an issue before,” said Marybeth. “You’re about my daughter’s age, you know,” she continued. “Technicalities over practicalities, that’s her.”

Prashant adjusted the donation forms between them, squaring them millimetre-perfect. “Does your daughter have anything to do with your donation today, ma’am?”

“Of course not,” said Marybeth, wiping away the mention of Luna with a dismissive gesture. “But there must be some mistake. I am not an angry person!”

Prashant didn’t answer right away, giving her space to hear the sharp corners of her statement. She flushed. He was doing the same thing Luna did when she thought Marybeth was being pushy. Deadening his tone, leaving brittle silences.

Never mind. Marybeth pressed onward. “I suppose I might have been a little frustrated with the . . . traffic earlier, but I’m much calmer now. I’m sure if you redo the test, you’ll find that you can use my full donation after all.”

“You can come back in twenty-one days,” said Prashant, checking the calendar and writing the date on a card for Marybeth.

“Twenty-one—? Young man, do you have any idea how long I’ve been donating?”

He slid the card over to her. “Booking options are on the reverse side.”

Marybeth took the card, white-knuckling her grip to keep from tearing it in half. “I’m going to issue a formal complaint about you, Prashant,” she said. “You’re throwing away a perfectly good donation.”

“We’ll be happy to see you after the mandatory waiting period,” said Prashant, unfazed. “You’re always welcome to book an appointment as a recipient, too. Perhaps a little tranquility would do you good.”

That was simply too much. Marybeth stood, trembling. “I have always been a donor—longer than you’ve been alive, I’ll have you know. Not once have I been prescribed an emotional supplement.”

Marybeth threw the reminder card back at the table, her aggression translating poorly to the flap of paper. It landed on her donation forms with a small pat. “Your supervisor will be hearing from me,” she said. “My donating days are done.”

Without waiting for his response, Marybeth left, shouldering through the glassy clinic doors before marching through the parking lot and landing in the driver’s seat of her Prius. She didn’t start her car right away, taking a slow breath and resting her hands on the steering wheel. Tranquility, indeed.

Marybeth flipped her hands over, examining the blue map lines on her arms. Nurses usually praised Marybeth’s veins, which were more prominent, apparently, than average. Prashant must have run the tests wrong. But even if—if—anger had tainted her blood, that didn’t mean she was all out of compassion, did it?

With the donation scuttled, she had a spare forty-five minutes before the pastry run for her board meeting. She could call Luna back. In her hurry, Marybeth had tossed her phone into the general mess of her bag instead of tucking it into its normal place. As she groped past hand sanitizer, tissues, sunglasses, and her emergency flashlight, she wondered if Luna had tried calling her back or texted an apology. Maybe Luna had realized she was being stubborn and would accept her mother’s help after all.

Marybeth’s fingers closed around her phone, and she pulsed the dark brick to life. No new messages on the lock screen, just the stale reminder for her donation.

Her thumb hovered over the unlock button.

Perhaps a little tranquility would do you good.

With a tut, Marybeth released a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. She put the phone back in her bag, in the right spot this time, and jabbed the car’s ignition. An extra forty-five minutes was a gift, she told herself as she peeled out of the parking lot. There was still plenty she could accomplish today.

Cadence Mandybura

Cadence Mandybura’s fiction has been published or is forthcoming in MetaphorosisOrcaPulp LiteratureFreeFall, and Tales & Feathers. 
Cadence is a graduate of the Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University, the associate producer of The Truth podcast, a freelance editor, and an avid drummer. Learn more at