Word Count 500
Wigglers in West Hills
By Mike Cecconi
There’s a million things to be said about picking up a semen analysis specimen as a medical courier, only a handful that could be shared in polite company. Most of the time, it was not as gross as you might believe, it was usually more just weird and/or unnerving. It wasn’t my usual job, I mostly picked up rush-job blood or urine samples but on occasion, time to time, my radio would chirp at me “Mike, there’s wigglers in West Hills!” and I knew what to do.
These were not for sperm banks, you see, they were tests for infertile couples, to eliminate if the trouble was on the man’s end, so to speak, before moving onto more invasive and expensive tests involving the woman. The complication was how quickly the “wigglers” as Dispatch called them died and would no longer be viable for testing. Around a half an hour before they’d degrade, in a liminal state between fresh and worthless, so they needed to be drawn (so to speak) in the office nearest to the main lab, a twelve-minute drive for someone sane, six or seven if psychotic.
Due to the time constraints, these were tightly scheduled with the phlebotomists, we were sent to West Hills before the task was even started, in a one-stall restroom shared with the dentist next door on the seventh floor of an office complex. Around half the time, I’d sit in the waiting room for twenty minutes, write haiku on subscription cards for Golf Illustrated, be told the man either could not produce or didn’t show, chalk it up as a break and then Dispatch would reassign me elsewhere.
But when he could do his business there, when you saw him hand the cup over to the nurse, to be double-bagged with a heating pad and put into the insulated pack you carried on your shoulder, that was where the weird would begin because… this was on the seventh floor, as I said.
This was on the seventh floor in a one-elevator building and with the clock already ticking on the wigglers’ short lives, there was no time for the stairs. There being just the one elevator, the man who just made his deposit was going to have to use that elevator too.
It’s difficult to express the awkwardness those rides down would entail, the man knowing his life-seed was in a cup inside a bag inside another bag in my Styrofoam pack and myself knowing that he knew. There was nothing to say as floors dinged downward, heaven help us if others got in too along the way, to wonder what the tension was between the tall guy with the insulated bag and that other fellow.
I couldn’t just tell them “well, you see, there were wigglers in West Hills, I can’t just let them die!” as much as I wanted to. You have no idea how much I wanted to let them in on the mess into which they had stumbled.