He was a regular customer. He always chose us to get his new tattoos. He was covered in them from neck to feet. Sleeves on his arms, images of his mom and grandma on his chest along with Jesus on the cross in-between them. He was starting a big project on his left leg only a few months after finishing a huge project on his right leg. One of the only parts of his body untouched by ink was his neck, at least up until a year ago when he came in, first thing in the morning, right after we opened, and got a line.
It was just a line. |. It was thicker than just a line, I still had to fill it in after creating an outline. The line was just a bit smaller than my pinky. I showed him the result in a mirror. He seemed pleased, paid, and thanked me. The whole job took about ten from him coming in to him leaving. About three months later, he came in again. First thing in the morning, and got a second line right next to the first one. Nearly four months after that, he came in for his third line. I often wondered what the lines meant but it's not our job to question what somebody wants on their body.
Two months later, I had just opened. He came into the shop. "Hey. Your appointment isn't until tomorrow," I said, referring to the continuing work on his left leg.
"Yeah, I know. You know why I'm here," he said.
"Already? It seems like I just did the third line yesterday," I joked.
"A couple months ago," he got into a chair with the back of his neck to me. "Time for another one."
I got prepared and grabbed the needle and the same black color he used for the last three lines. "Same distance from the last one? Same height?"
"Same as the others," he said.
"All right," I got to work. The buzzing of the needle broke the sudden silence. I drew a skinny oval-shaped outline just like how the other lines started out. I then filled in the empty space and finished up. "All done."
He stood up, quickly looked at it in a mirror and we went over to the counter. "Good work as always," he said.
"The lines are pretty simple compared to everything else you have," I said. "Still see you tomorrow?"
"Oh, yeah. We only have, what? Two more appointments to get my leg done?"
"I believe so."
"I'm also working on something to add to my back," he revealed. "So I'll be throwing that business to you as well."
"You can throw whatever business you want at us," I laughed.
"Thanks for letting me get this done without an appointment."
"It's quick work. No problem."
"I'll see you tomorrow," he raised his hand in a wave and headed out the door.
I stood at the counter for a couple of minutes thinking about those lines. What could they mean? What were they for? I told coworkers and other customers about it, even a couple of friends and they all give the standard answers--kills, exes, divorces, all the normal stuff you would keep track of on your body.
My attention was finally broken by someone coming into the store. "Are you available to do a tattoo?" she asked.
"Depends on how complicated. My first appointment is in an hour and a second person doesn't come in until 9:30," I answered.
"It's this," she showed me a picture of a dolphin on her phone. A simple drawing. Easy to do quickly.
"Yeah. Hop in that chair," I motioned at the chair the guy with the lines on his neck had just gotten out of a few minutes ago. "How's your day going?"
"I just woke up but so far it's okay," she answered.
I kept the phone propped up on the table with the dolphin on the screen. I verified the colors she wanted and grabbed the bottles off the shelf nearby. I got the needle ready, double checked the look of the dolphin, and spoke. "Where do you want this?" ⏹
For fans of physical media, my first novel Harter Union is now available in paperback from Amazon. Go check it out or you can still purchase a copy for your Kindle. Heck, get both if you are some kind of masochist. If you would like to support my writing or my research, you can buy me a cup of coffee on Ko-Fi.