Wet Ink

Neon Dragon

“Nearly done, darlin’.” Her makeup-lined lips pursed over prominent, yellowed teeth; a purpled tongue-stub protruded in concentration.

“Sue’s the best,” they’d said, in town. “Just ask for Sue.”

I flinched, involuntarily. “I wouldn’t do that,” she warned. Her potato-skin face never changed expression. Cataract-blue globes never strayed from the machined needle beneath her age-veined fingers.

“Just don’ get the snake,” an old-timer warned. “You’re not gettin’ a snake, are ya?”

A stool creak, a whoosh of compressed vinyl stooltop, and Sue was done. I peeked, tentatively, and gasped in amazement. Slowly, I shifted my shoulder and neck-view forward and backward to see the deep golds, reds, and blues of the dragon’s ink-birthed scales.

“Tommy got the snake,” the diner owner supplied, not looking up from her countertop rag-wiping circles. The group all shuddered and returned to their lunches. Morbidly determined, I’d headed out the door and down the single-lane road to the flicker-light neon of the town’s only tattoo parlor.

Sue looked …the same. Her shriveled glare-stare blinked once or twice as she methodically cleaned the tip of the needle. “Don’t you forget to let ‘im dry,” she scolded, wagging the tool my direction.

Who was Tommy? Why did it matter that he’d picked the snake?

I nodded to Sue, paid, and left through the tinkle-ting of the chipped-paint shop door. A light snow was beginning to fall. Absentmindedly, I slipped on my jacket. It was cold, everywhere except my still-wet arm…

 

This is my fuller-length version of Wait for It to Dry.

Photo credit: Mendar Bouchali on Unsplash

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