The Masters Review Blog

Aug 14

New Voices: “The Blood Hustle” by Alice Hatcher

At long last, we’re proud to present “The Blood Hustle,” by Alice Hatcher, honorable mention in our 2022 Novel Excerpt Contest! “The Blood Hustle” introduces us to April, a woman stretched to her limits accepting gig after gig on JackRabbit, donating blood and participating in research studies. But still, it’s not enough. Hatcher’s excerpt represents the first chapter of her in-progress novel, which tackles gig culture head on.

The challenge—the opportunity—that day was to make up for lost time by “upselling and cross-selling to maximize revenue streams at every point of sale,” to quote the Econ professor who taught The Psychology of Nonessential Consumption. Upselling and cross-selling was the core of my business philosophy. Back then, time spent driving to JackRabbit gigs was dead time, so I always tried to parlay any gig advertised on the app into several jobs. The task I accepted on the JackRabbit app just got me in the door. Once I crossed the threshold, the goal was to make my clients aware of needs, wants, and insecurities they didn’t know they had.

Most people would agree that, if a thirty-year-old woman is selling her own blood in a seedy highway motel in Tucson, just to chip away at the interest on student loans she took out for a General Studies degree, she’s probably made some bad choices. I’ll admit, I made some bad choices, but they had nothing to do with getting a General Studies degree or selling blood. Even when I was sitting on a sagging bed at the Stardust Motel, sucking down second-hand smoke while blood destined for the black market in antibodies and recycled drugs drained from my arm, I never thought my education was a waste. As my dad used to say—even after he lost his medical license—no one can take away a person’s education. And, if I sold blood well in excess of Red Cross recommendations for donors and suffered occasional episodes of tachycardia, my choices made sense. With the money I made selling blood, I paid off the interest on my student loans almost as quickly as it accrued, carried a mortgage, and made every payment on the pre-owned Camry I used for Uber, Instacart, and JackRabbit gigs. Bank of America should have given me a gold medal.

The people making bad choices are the ones who sell plasma to corporate chains like Vita Biologicals, the company that runs ads featuring people hugging above the caption “Join the Vita Family and Save a Life” and offers a vanilla crème cookie to every “ordinary hero” siphoned at one of its collection centers. Vita’s ‘social relationship marketing’ and ‘values-based branding’ are strictly textbook—the professor who taught my Consumer Sciences class at the University of Arizona actually used Vita Biologicals as a case study—and they’re a complete joke. The vanilla crème cookies with the scalloped edges cost $2.39 for a pack of forty-eight at Food City. That fuzzy feeling of being appreciated for doing the right thing won’t pay the bills. If the CEO of Vita Biologicals isn’t inviting you over for Thanksgiving, he’s not family. Vita Biologicals is traded on the NASDAQ and has a market cap of 1.2 billion dollars because it buys plasma at rock-bottom prices and sells it at a 500% mark-up. I got paid almost full market value at the Stardust Motel. That’s why I went there. Besides, junkies make the best phlebotomists.

Admittedly, there are exceptions. So much depends on the distractions and dopamine levels at work on the brain of the person doing the blood draw. The day I now consider the beginning of the end, Amber was an obvious exception. She seemed agitated from the minute I walked into Room 208. She kept muttering about the TV’s spotty reception and the clutter on the nightstand as she searched for her lighter. She lit a cigarette while another was still burning in the overflowing ashtray. She could barely keep her hands steady when she knotted a worn tourniquet around my arm and slid a needle from its plastic sleeve. In hindsight, I should have cut my losses and left, but I’d invested fifteen minutes driving to the Stardust, so I kept my arm upturned and tried to focus on the traces of a tattoo—“Javier” in cursive script—lasered from Amber’s wrist two months earlier.

To continue reading “The Blood Hustle” click here.

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