My story Tattoo made it to the shortlist of the CreativeWritingMatters WoW! 2014 Short Story Competition, but didn’t place. Which means I can share it here. I wonder what my old maths teacher might say.
“That looks amazing.”
“Thanks, I think it really suits you.”
The girl picked herself off the table, still staring at her arm. The dragon stared back at her, and occasionally flicked its tail.
“How long will it do that for?”
“Well it uses your own muscle power to change the colours in the inks, so as long as you have the tattoo. Guaranteed for life.”
She paid and then carefully put on her jacket, suffering only a brief wince of pain. Georgy watched her, satisfied in another job done well. Things were finally going his way.
There were no bookings for the rest of the day, so he decided to take it off. He deserved a break after all the hard work he’d been putting in.
In the old days he’d have headed straight for the pub, but that wasn’t an option now. He went home and changed into his running gear. A nice run would be great, and then he could maybe get his head down studying for his tattooing degree. There was so much more theory he needed to get properly sorted in his head.
As he ran around the park, marvelling at how much fitter he felt, and just generally enjoying the autumnal air he forgot to focus on the path and nearly knocked an old man over into the pond. He caught him just in time.
“I’m so sorry.”
“Hmph. Well, at least you apologised.”
“Erm, Mr Aster?”
“Yes, I am,” The old man peered closely at him. “Is that Kevin Bailey?”
“Ah yes sir, but I call myself Georgy now.”
“Hmph…. Well as we’re not in school any more you should probably call me Tony.”
It felt really odd talking to his old maths teacher like this, but maybe it was fate.
“Ah, thanks, ah, Tony. How are you? Are you still teaching?”
“Retired this year. That’s why I’m spending the day walking round the park. Not much else to do and the wife complains I get under her feet.”
Slightly awkward silence, and then the old man said, “So, what are you doing now? Still avoiding an honest living?”
Georgy’s face reddened. The old man followed hurriedly, “Sorry Kev… Georgy, I didn’t mean to imply you were doing anything illegal. It’s just that you were always one to try and find the easy way.”
“No, no you were right. I used to hang with the wrong crowd. Always convinced working was a mug’s game. We did a few stupid things. But I’m clean now.”
Georgy showed the tattoo of a date on his arm.
“The last time I took any drugs or drank.”
“Nearly a year. That’s great, good work. So what do you do now?”
“I’ve got a real job. I’m a tattoo artist.”
Mr Aster looked a little askance.
“I know what you’re thinking sir, ah Tony, but it’s not just tats for drunk lads or hen nights. I did a chef’s hands yesterday.”
“Oh, why would he want them covered in, er, art.”
“Not art, no not at all, well, not solely art anyway. It’s one of these new smart tattoos, it tells you when you’re hands are completely clean. Let me show you.”
Georgy turned his left hand over and on the back was a small area which looked like a faint spider’s web.
“This is my example tat. So normally it’s almost invisible.” They were still standing next to the duck pond, and so Georgy dipped his hand into it. He pulled it out and the web was bright, almost pulsing fuchsia.
“It tells me that it’s got both bacteria on it, the red, and some dirt, the bluer end, hence fuchsia and there’s a lot which is why it is so bright.”
He then wiped off the tattoo, and it went mostly red.
“Now it’s saying that although it looks clean, there’s still some bacteria on it, and I really should wash it properly.”
“That’s amazing. Didn’t have anything like that when I got my tattoo. What’s it for?”
“The chef is a sushi chef, and is out on display in the middle of the restaurant. Given some of the recent scares he thought it would be a good way of reassuring his customers.”
They lapsed into a more comfortable silence, when Georgy suddenly said, “You have a tattoo?”
Tony smiled, and rolled up his sleeve. On his arm was a heart with a date and initials.
“It’s the date I met my Betty. I was so in love with her. It really hurt. Does it still hurt like the proverbial?”
“A bit. We often put a little local anaesthetic on these days to reduce the pain. It cuts down on the number of people who insist on having their tattoo while drunk.”
“Ha, I think I was perhaps a little worse for wear when I got this one done.”
“Actually Tony I have a tattoo in honour of you.”
“Really?” The old man looked sceptical.
“Yes, I remember you telling me that I had to know my times-tables, that I couldn’t assume I’d always have my phone or other calculating device with me, whereas I’d always have my brain if I cared to use it. So I had this done.”
Georgy rolled up his right arm, and on the inside just near the elbow was a calculator tattoo, the set of buttons and a screen which was showing blank. Georgy then pressed the buttons, and the screen blinked and showed twenty-two.
“That’s simply incredible! How does it work?”
“Yeah it is. I don’t really know. The ink is kind of smart, and forms a mini-computer. All the lines have to be drawn when doing the tattoo, and it just changes the colours to give the result. Just like the chef’s hands.”
“And an old style calculator. I almost take back what I said all those years ago. Except, well, there’s just one thing?”
“What is it?”
“Three times seven is twenty-one….”