Fort Hook is a stopping point for seafaring knaves of all stripes, so naturally we have about one million tattoo parlors. Some bodegas will even give you free ink if you spend over $25. More than once I’ve seen a burly guy with an infected chest tattoo that said: Ace’s Emporium • Open til 2AM • Limes Lengua Loosies.
My favorite parlor is called the Pinprick. Not that I get tattoos (aside from this stupid question mark I got on my shoulder when I was a lad, now so blurry it looks like a collapsing dirigible) but I enjoy the calming presence of its owner, Madame Sunshower, who tolerates my chatter while doing her work. She has a deep well of wisdom but isn’t annoying about it.
I went in there last night and she was using the old stick-and-poke method to tattoo a comely demon in a cocktail glass upon the buttocks of a local schoolmarm. We made small talk for a bit (topics included the shitty wind, her shitty son) and then there was some quiet poking time, and then I said, “You think there’s a perfect tattoo for each person? Like, the perfect match? I do. I believe what I just said.”
Sunshower said, “There is a special technique—a forbidden technique—called blood anima. With it, the artist can create…not the perfect tattoo, but rather one that perfectly embodies the client. Not how others see them, or how they want to be seen, but their true selves. A depiction of their very soul.”
I said that sounded like a terrific pile of hooey.
“Indeed. The process takes weeks. Months. It’s a very macabre ritual. Excruciatingly painful for everyone involved. The artist’s hand is moved by a spectral force. She has no control over the ink, or even where it goes on the client’s body. She is just a vessel for, you know, spiritus mundi.”
“Balderdash,” I said. “I demand you teach me this technique immediately.”
She put down her needle and used the buttocks as an armrest. “I taught it to a dummy like yourself, long ago. It took years. He first had to become a master tattooist and ink-maker, of course, but he also needed to know the ins and outs of the vascular and lymphatic systems, plus some neuroscience. And pharmacology. Then we took a detour into ontology, oneirology, parapsychology. And a deep dive into cleromancy and the tarot and the zodiac. Some guided meditation, a few seances, many drug-fueled mind-journeys.”
“Sounds great, let’s hop to it.”
“Afraid not. I regretted teaching it to this kid, he regretted learning it. And most of the time, his clients regretted getting it.”
“Tell me, Jimmy—”
“Tell me, Josh, would you really want to know what your soul looks like?”
“Yeah! I think?”
She gestured at her work in progress. “What if it was, say, a devil resting her heaving crimson bosom on the salty rim of a margarita?”
“I’d be pleasantly surprised!”
“Well, I’ve learned most folks find the surprise to be deeply unpleasant. I reckon it’s the sort of thing best kept buried inside, not emblazoned across one’s cheeks.” And then she wiped the blood from her needle and got back to stabbing.
Not into the idea of getting a tattoo, so doubt I'll find out what my soul tattoo is. Probably something warthog related. It's neat that we're seeing the logos of places in Fort Hook now.
My soul looks like a big red heart with the name Josh inside it.