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For people who spend the day saying and writing things that others accept, while thinking things that are infinitely more interesting.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Tattoo Parlor

A Sunday afternoon in the Big Easy. The French Quarter was napping just after lunch, the streets and sidewalks casual with traffic.

Brendan and I were roaming under the guise of exploring. He’d been displaying his inventory at a comic book convention at some hotel and I’d tagged along to meet Scotty. I had, pleased to discover that James (he insisted) was as big a fan of “Star Trek” as the rest of us, a man genuinely pleased to be remembered and recognized for playing a TV character.

Brendan had left his dozen or so boxes to the custody of his best friend and since he knew I was familiar with New Orleans, asked me to join him. We’d wandered down Bourbon Street, encountered some biker bars, visited a dingy museum, had joshed a fortune teller, laughed long and hard at the “I bet I can tell you where you got those shoes” gambit and, feeling thirsty, had stepped into a bar for a beer.

Now I seldom drink beer or hard liquor, but I was a lush compared to Brendan. A few years older than me, he stayed away from anything with alcohol. But, when in Party Town, do as the Party Townies do. So beer it was, a tall, tall glass of beer.

To my surprise, Brendan drained his. “I was thirsty,” he said sheepishly. I finished mine and we walked on. We hadn’t covered two blocks before he tells me he’s feeling a little woozy, but waves off my offer to stop and sit. Spying a tattoo parlor, I figure it would be a good place to stop for a few minutes, so we went in.

The walls and even the ceiling were covered with tattoo designs. The array of colors, swirls, jagged lines, stark monochrome and glittery neons almost floored Brendan. Then we saw who was behind the counter and we both swayed.

Petite. Long black hair framing an olive-tinged oval face with almond-shaped eyes. Full lips. A serene expression that, unless she moved, made you think she was a mannequin. She was drawing, leaning forward over the counter, the tip of her tongue just peeking between her lips, her eyes darting up and down, from us to her drawing and back.

Brendan staggered forward, an iron filling dragged by a magnet. His eyes bugged out and he slumped against the wall, entranced. I stepped forward to see the drawing. No, really, to see the drawing.

It was a dragon-butterfly, or a lizard-moth. I couldn’t tell as I caught a glimpse of what had stunned Brendan: the young lady had a blouse opened low, no bra and the view inspired a moment of silence. Or two. Two long moments of silence.

She kept drawing.

“Are you here for tattoos?” Her voice was honey. Brendan actually sighed.

“I don’t know about him,” I replied, flipping a thumb in Brendan’s direction, “But I have too many marks already.”

She smiled. Very white teeth. “You can always have more marks.”

I shook my head. “Nah. Mine are scars and if the FBI were after me, a tattoo would just make it easier to track me down.”

She cocked her head slightly to look at the lump that used to be Brendan. “And what about you?”

He babbled. Brendan was a cool guy and my good friend, but at that moment, I’d be a stone-cold liar if I described his sounds as anything except “babbling.”

A behemoth emerged from a back room, parting a curtain and sticking a head the size and shape of a buffalo’s butt into our suddenly-smaller room. He grunted and she shook her head. Three hundred pounds of grunting disappeared behind the curtain.

“My husband.”


“Are you sure you don’t want a tattoo?” she asked me. “It doesn’t have to be visible, you know.”

Yeah, like I wanted BeastMan to puncture some intimate skin. “True. How many tattoos do you have?”

She smiled. “Seven. All over my body.”

I pointed at her chest, possibly a Freudian gesture. “You don’t have one there.”

Brendan groaned.

Slowly, very slowly, the lady sat up, the drawing paused, the view gone. “No. I don’t.” Her eyes held mine. I held hers.

“Not yet?” I said. Brendan groaned again.

She didn’t blink. “Maybe.” Her smile was somewhere deep.

“Then I’ll wait until that happens.” I turned, started to walk out, then turned to pull Brendan off the wall. She smiled at me like it was the funniest thing she’d ever seen.

Brendan started arguing with me the moment we hit the sidewalk and he didn’t stop for three weeks. I had ruined his view!


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