Trouble Tattoos

What kind of story would you write, if you were just given two random words from which to spawn a thought that could grow into a short story?

Today, Tom has provided a great example on how to do just that.

Trouble Tattoos 1/2009

I work at the coffee shop next door to the ‘Ink and Pain’ tattoo shop, and every workday is like working next to a circus. Our store is fairly ordinary in comparison; we have our regular patrons with their regular orders and the occasional foreigner that is only fluent in their commercialized jargon and try to order a ‘venti triple shot extra foamy caramel macchiato with whip’ then are confused when we hand them a large cup of coffee. Compared to next door, we are tamer than tame.

When they first opened, they had a lot of inexperienced artists, but I’ll never forget the one they called “Tiger” McGee. Tiger was a good tattooist when it came to scary skulls or vicious vampires, but not so skilled at words; he was dyslexic. I’m sure Tiger’s employer had no idea of his condition, and since he was home schooled, I don’t know if Tiger did either. However, by the end of his first week, the whole town knew. His career as a tattooist ended with the proverbial bang, a lawsuit, and his sudden disappearance.

It all started, or I should say ended, when a tough biker lady with a green Mohawk and gold bars in her nose entered the ‘Ink and Pain’ boutique. She strode in, clad in leather and chains, in and sat down at Tiger’s chair and requested a tattoo to be put on her back proclaiming her allegiance to a certain biker gang. He immediately set to work on the intricate flaming pitchfork and gothic lettering she requested. After 6 hours of dabbing, poking, inking, and re-inking, Tiger was finished. The tough biker clapped him hard on the back, paid for her tattoo and left.

The next day, she stormed into the parlor red faced and swearing. She sauntered over to Tiger, grabbed him by the collar and proceeded to yell down his throat, her rage forcing him to bend over backwards over his chair. She screamed until her voice went out and everyone in sight was ducking behind trashcans and benches to avoid her wrath. She left after what seemed to be an eternity, upturning chairs and toppling old magazines on her way out.

I spoke to the shop owner after the verbal onslaught ceased, and the patrons and workers had come out of hiding. According to him, the biker’s rave was somewhat justifiable, if not just insane. Tiger’s condition had made itself know to everyone in the form of a miss-spelled name; apparently the biker was not a member of the infamous gang, ‘The Brides of Santa.’

As part of the biker’s settlement, besides an exorbitant amount of money, Tiger was forced to resign and publicly apologize to the biker and her gang. He resigned immediately after his verbal onslaught out of fear for his back, but no one from the coffee shop or the tattoo parlor saw Tiger give the apology. When confronted, with proper law enforcement professionals present, the biker and her gang claimed that Tiger gave his apology at their local hangout before leaving town the night before.
With no eyewitness testimonies besides the Brides’, we had to believe them, and when we asked if Tiger left a forwarding address, they said, with chuckles and grins, that he moved away and got a job as a valet at the Machus Red Fox Restaurant, and suggested we start our search there. The parlor’s owner decided not to follow up with Tiger, saying something about dead ends and mysteries, so we all decided to leave it at that. I’m sure Tiger is fine, wherever he is.

I suppose we’ll never really know what happened to Tiger, and from that day, no one mentioned his name at the parlor without shaking their head and dismissing it quickly. We never saw another member of the Brides again, nor any other biker gang member for that matter; presumably they have some clandestine correspondence between themselves, and spread the word of the mishap amongst their community.

Business resumed its normal flow at the parlor within weeks, and Tiger’s position was vacant for a long time. Potential artists came and went as the owner conducted interviews. Most of them were fresh out of tattoo school, some didn’t seem to be all together, and one even had the shakes; none of them were skilled enough to take Tiger’s place. However, just as the owner was about to give in to one of the students, a heavyset man in a red and yellow jumpsuit who went by the name of Chuck “Gray Eyes” Smith came in and presented his profile. The owner was impressed with what he called ‘vivid and unique use of color’ and he hired the man on the spot.

I learned a few weeks later from one of the tattooists that “Gray Eyes” earned his name because of his inability to distinguish colors, and when he worked he picked whatever shade seemed appropriate at the time. I told the shop’s owner of his condition, and all he could reply was “Well, what’s the worst that could happen.”

Deciding it was best to mind my own business, I shook my head and went back to pouring my large cups of coffee, but I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard a man at the shop ask for the Blue Angel’s logo. He walked out later that day with a bright green plane emblazoned on his chest; I suppose it could’ve been worse, right?

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