Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Tattoo

Things are FANTASTIC. I haven't written in like... two weeks now, I guess. Other than a bunch of ideas for my next book. I can't stop thinking about it.
Audrey's doing some really exciting gymnastic maneuvers, and she's also jabbering a LOT. It feels like she's pretty much a kid now, instead of a terrible screamy thing. That's good news, too.
Here's the really bad news: this is not a great story. I think I remember writing it in my mid-20s just because I haven't written anything in months and I wanted to prove... something. I think, somehow, I did.

            Steve wondered later if it was perhaps destiny that led himself to accidentally jam his ballpoint pen into the palm of his left hand. Had The Fates, maybe an ancient Hindu deity, conspired to come down to his work area, had watched as he attempted to sign his own name on an office supply sheet, had surreptitiously maneuvered his writing utensil so that the bright blue Bic in his right hand moved a few quavering inches to the left, then plunged into his palm with fury? He was unsure, nor could he ever be fully certain. But he did notice two things immediately afterwards: first, how badass it looked to see the deep blue pen against the bright red dot slowly burgeoning on his palm, and second, it looked like a tattoo of a really awesome blueberry.
            A blueberry! He had always wanted a tattoo of a piece of fruit on his hand, and yet every time Steve walked into the tattoo parlor, he was intimidated by the needles, the smelly bearded tattoo artists in their wife-beaters, the shocking prices listed behind the counter. And so he would walk out, head down, shoulders hunched, sure that his dreams of tattoos would always die out as painfully as his goldfish Trixie had died, gasping on the carpet as Steve shrieked and tossed his hands in the air in horrified wonder.
            Steve stood up, carefully examined his hand, wiped the dab of blood on his khakis, and walked into the next room. There was a beautiful young intern – well, a 53 year old temp named Dorothy – and he had been dying to impress her for weeks. Steve made a beeline, noticing that she was carefully averting her eyes to avoid his gaze, and decided that from here on out, she was HIS woman. This tattoo would be his reigning glory, the spark that set their love aflame, and as he shoved his damaged hand in front of her bespectacled face, he nearly shouted at her, “LOOK, LOOK, LOOK AT ME!!” Steve knew from experience that women did not always respond well to this opening gambit, and so merely said, “I got a tattoo.”
            “Jesus, Steve!” Dorothy shouted, recoiling in horror. “Oh, what did you do to your hand?”
            “It’s a tattoo,” Steve said modestly, waving his hand around like a week old tuna sandwich. “Check it. A blueberry.”     
            “That looks pretty bad,” Dorothy said in disgust, studying the mark. “Who did this to you? I think you should see a doctor.”
            “I did it myself,” Steve said, and then unsure as to why, he added awkwardly, “I’m training to be a tattoo artist. Maybe I could… give you a tattoo one day.”
            Dorothy stared at him a while, and then turned back to her computer. Typing mercilessly into her data entry program, it seemed she’d dismissed him entirely. What had he done wrong, Steve wondered. How had he failed to win the heart of his woman so fair and true? Had he not gotten what his friend Ed had called “a bitchin’ tattoo”? Wasn’t that supposed to “drive the bitches wild”? Steve felt hurt and a little confused, and his hand was starting to get a little sore, and he wanted to cry a little bit.
            “Do you think it would look cooler if I got maybe some other kinds of fruit in there?” Steve asked finally. Dorothy pursed her lips, pinching them tightly until they were as pale and thin as a Swedish model. Steve pondered. Maybe a cantaloupe? Or a bunch of grapes? The grapes, he decided, because they would look super cool next to the blueberry.
            “Do you think we have a green or a purple pen in the supply cabinet?” Steve finally asked. Dorothy, again, sat silently at her computer. “You really need to go to a doctor,” she finally repeated, and turned her head to signal that the conversation was finished.
            Rifling through the supply cabinet, Steve was reminded of his first day on the job, and how he was reprimanded for slyly sliding three staplers and a box of rubber bands into his pockets on the way out the door. How was he to know that the management would frown upon simply borrowing a few tools? And what would lead them to become so angry when he told them that he needed them for ‘a really bad-ass staple and rubber band war that I’m trying to organize’? The powers that be, he decided, were complete fuckwads, and did not deserve the supplies that they already owned. And as he peeked over his shoulder to make sure no one was looking, he though, “My god, once I have my tattoos and look like a total badass, they will sorely regret putting a limitation of five rubber bands out at any given time.”
            Steve’s plan was nearly put on hold for a time by the supply cabinet’s utter lack of a green pen. What the hell was this? Did no one ever need to draw grass on their pictures of houses? Did no one ever need to draw Gumby on their forearms? “Jen,” he shouted up front to the secretary. “Jen, do we have any green pens?”
            A long sigh, and then: “Yeah, third shelf down.”
            Steve searched frantically with his eyes. “No, these are highlighters. I need, like, a green ink pen.”
            A long sigh again, and then a silence. Jen apparently did not feel like answering his questions, did not feel like doing the job she was paid to do. Steve swore under his breath, and then looked at the ink pens again. Red. Black. Blue. That was it. That was it? What the hell could you draw, other than an assaulted mime or a squished zebra? This was complete bullshit, and he was fed up with the working conditions.
            He sighed loudly, trying his best to emulate the smartass receptionist, and selected the red and black ink pens. His plans of a bunch of grapes were completely blown by now, and so he figured that he would have to improvise. A pair of cherries, he decided, and maybe a really cool blackberry. Once he finished the tattoos, maybe he would get a motorcycle or a moped and cruise around, shouting to the girls on the side of the road, smoking Marlboros and just generally looking awesome. He gave himself a mental high five so hard that it made his mental hand turn bright red. He winced, gave himself two punches for wincing, and walked slickly back to his desk just like the Fonz.
            Steve uncapped the black pen and tentatively poked his skin hard. It wasn’t hard enough, because instead of poking through his flesh and giving him an awesome tattoo, it just made a big speck on his hand. Steve though about it and decided it kind of looked like a puppy’s nose. He drew two big, floppy ears and a long tail, and then made the puppy have large droopy eyes. He laughed delightedly. It was the cutest puppy he’d ever seen.
            Steve hurredly finished the sketch and ran back to show Dorothy. “Dorothy, Dorothy!” he yelled, shoving his hand in front of her face for the second time today.
            “Jesus, Steve,” she shouted, “you need to go see a doctor already! I have got to get these payables out by the end of the day, you know that, right?”
            “But I got a new tattoo,” he said, hurt, waving his hand like a six year old know it all who’s got the answer to the math question that’s been busting your balls for the last three minutes.
            “Yeah, what is that, sweetie, a truck?” she asked, turning away and typing furiously into her computer again.
            “It’s a puppy,” he said, and waited for her reaction. She sat silently at her desk. “A puppy,” he repeated, thinking maybe she hadn’t heard. 
            But Dorothy never answered. Furiously typing away, she was as distant from him as Papa Smurf was to Donatello, the coolest ninja turtle in the whole gang. Two characters who would never meet, doomed to spend their entire lives in separate cartoons. He let out a choked, half-contained sob, ran out of Dorothy’s office, and kept on going.
            Steve ran out of the building at full-speed and did not stop until he was home, which was two blocks away. Gasping and panting, he let himself in, and then stared into the mirror in his living room. Slowly, he raised his hand to his face, looking at the badass tattoo on his hand and feeling how awesome it made him feel. Perhaps he would go to the store tonight and get himself a tall beer and drink it all. Perhaps he would take up smoking, the way he’d planned to since he was twenty seven. Either way, his tattoos made him special, and – at least until they washed off – he would take joy in their complete awesomeness. And, he thought to himself, smiling fondly, I bet they will really get me some bitches.

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