Rut

You find it a bore most days. Fifteen years in an indelible ink rut. You keep your head down and get on with it: tramp-stamping nineteen year olds, piercing the folds of chubby bodies, asking drunken longshoremen if they want it spelled M-o-m or M-u-m. You grind your teeth every time one of the morbidly tattooed requests another skull.

You’re thinking of that and you’re thinking of nothing as you clean the machines in the back, when the bell clangs purposefully against the shop’s front door. You step through the strings of beads to check out who’s come in.

You see him waiting by the poster of Janis Joplin. A waifish sort. Pale with red flushed cheeks. Black hair that makes him look paler. You’re about to tell him you don’t tat minors, when he reads your mind and produces photo identification. He wants a tattoo before he enlists. Not only has he got i.d. but he’s also got cash.

You walk him to the client room and ask him if he knows what he wants. He pauses, then pulls a piece of notepaper from his pocket. It’s folded into precise eighths and he takes his time revealing the image he’s drawn. At first you think he’s kidding. It’s hardly an appropriate brand for an army recruit. But he’s not kidding and he won’t be deterred, even after you tell him it will be three hours and five hundred bucks.

By the time you’ve finished, you’re perspiring and feeling light-headed. You pretend it’s from the ink fumes. You take his money and say goodbye.

As he heads out the door, you thank him for lifting you up out of your rut today. Then a cry catches in your throat. And as you watch him disappear down the street, you silently plead to whoever is listening that if that boy gets stuck in a rut, in whatever land he’s bound for, those full-size angel wings now so delicately inscribed on his pale freckled back will lift him up and bring him home.

***********

This piece was written about 5 years ago. The only time I’ve tried second person point of view. A shout out to my friend Edward Lorn for reminding me about the power of second person and how darn difficult it is to get right. Edward is doing a series on his Youtube channel called ‘From the Desk‘ that provides extremely valuable insights for fledgling writers like me, you, us.

 

Place

When the car turned off the smooth highway pavement, its tires met dry dirt and sun-heated gravel: a winding, country, almost-road with bumps, lumps and potholes. Necessarily, her uncle had to brake, gear down, and slow the station wagon’s speed. In the trunk, luggage and boxed groceries rattled in anticipation of tipping.

This was Jane’s favourite part of the annual journey to the lake. The smell of dusty red earth billowed up to her as she turned to face the view out the open side window. At this leisurely speed, Jane could see the surroundings crystal clearly. She saw every speckled rock, every brightly coloured flower tipping towards the sun, every tall, toasted grass in movement with the breeze caused by their wagon driving past.

What if they hadn’t ventured up to the cabin this late August, Jane wondered. What if those flowers and grasses had been given time and room to just be still? Would nature in all its forms have waited another summer for Jane and her family? Or would the dried and crumbly flora have wandered off, in search of water and adventure in the nearby mossy forest?

dirt road

Save

Particulate

It takes all my strength to close the bedroom window with a dignified, deliberate movement. I want to make noise. I want to slam the window shut, shatter the glass, scream through the fractured pane, shove my arm into the opening and watch as jagged edges slice into my skin and draw bright red blood.

“I’ve got to go now, babe. He’s expecting me to be home at five-thirty so we can take the kids to the movies.”

“Call me on Friday, Susan? I miss you when we go too long without …” I can’t finish my sentence. And anyway, she knows what I want. She knows far too well that her presence in my paper bag life has replaced the bumps of coke that used to push me through these endless nights.

She leaves me again, her shadow disappears down the hall and out the door. I’m left alone in bed to wonder why I wait for her return. What part of me cannot exist without wanting someone this much? Is it my heart, my brain, my DNA?

I light a cigarette. The first heady drag of biting smoke burns deep into my lungs but I continue to puff until my throat feels as ragged and itchy as the thoughts in my head.

smoke

Save

Save