Technically we only have to hire three new people. Niles has handled all the piercing appointments and walk-ins we’ve gotten since Daily left so if we were to hire another piercer it would be an apprentice to Niles. The formal world of tattooing really doesn’t exist, there is no place but conventions to find employees, and the only kind of list in this industry is the black list. All kinds of assholes don’t have jobs for all the right reasons.
I called Michaels to see if he had turned anybody away recently he told me no and wished me good luck on dealing with Crystal Needle across the street. Next I called Tupac to see if he had any of the graduation class’s contact information. He put me in contact with their career center they put me on their contact page. This way people who just graduated could send me their work. He tells me that all is going well.
The classes are going great. I’m in month five of the classes and I read a sentence the other day. “This door is to remain unlocked while building is occupied.” Martha Jo and I were walking into a coffee shop and I went to open the door for her and I looked at the words. I had realized that I read them, I had put the puzzle together instead of organizing the pieces. I went to the bathroom while Martha Jo ordered and I cried for a while.
Martha had finished reading The Illustrated Man to me and I really enjoyed it. When I told Alfred that we finished reading the book he gave me a novel titled Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis. Alfred told me that the main character refers to himself as a shit-magnet, which I reply by saying, “This guy wrote my biography before I could get to it.” When I brought it to Martha Jo she told me that it was my turn to read to her. I was nervous about reading out loud, my stuttering pace and how I skipped over words I cannot pronounce. Alfred told me to keep a sheet of paper and a pencil with my books so I can look up the words I don’t know.
Everything has changed since I’ve learned how to read. The world is brighter and darker at the same time. I just have to figure out which side I want to focus on. The darkness is all around, the faintest shadow can become an unending darkness, yet the light can blind you as well. Trying to find the middle is difficult, before I had just shut my eyes denied myself from making a choice. Now my eyes are open and I’m peeking through the veil unable to step from behind it completely. What keeps me from behind the veil is the fact that I will always be ignorant.
It’s not as if the things I learned were wrong but more to the fact that they must be applied in a new manner. These lessons are what kept me alive for so long and now they may not apply to the now in the same context but they still are effective. I hate to think about how so many people believe that the why is not necessary. The reason is just as important as the practiced method. I told myself, “Don’t be anywhere you don’t have to be.” When I realized it was time to leave Fingers house.
My parents are meth heads and are most likely dead. I haven’t seen them since I stopped going back to the home we squatted in. Even with everything that Fingers ever did even to what I’m about to talk about right now can’t match up to seeing people who you trusted first become hollow. The high comes before anything else. Which is why I went into dealing, promised money, the pleasure industry, the it sells itself industry. You don’t need to promote pussy, drugs, and fun, things need to look as if it’s taking a drug, hard as a cock, and will always be an everlasting memory.
It was a normal day, the temperature mild, overcast, which didn’t matter because we were always in the house. I still can’t stand people who complain about the weather, once you’re inside you’re in control of it. Such mild discomfort weather is to human life. I hadn’t seen Fingers that whole day, I did four tattoos that day and three of them were tattoos that Fingers was supposed to do. When I got done with the last one I went around the house looking for anybody. The house was empty for the first time.
I explored the entire house again just to make sure, when I got to the kitchen I had saw through the window above the sink that there were people outside. I made my way out of the house to find everyone standing out there watching a kid no older than seventeen trying to hit a piñata. I was surprised that I couldn’t hear the laughter at first. I look over to see who is holding the string and see its Fingers. He was wearing gloves which I found strange. The piñata a colorful donkey, red, green, purple, maybe I really can’t remember which parts of the piñata were those colors. The kid keep calling out,
“Come on guys give me a hint.”
I walked over to Fingers to ask him what he was doing.
“Go back into the house.” He said.
“What’s going on?”
“I’m trying to teach a lesson.”
“Why are you wearing gloves? You have hands like bricks.”
“Just go back inside. You already know this lesson, these kids have to learn it. You’ll ruin the lesson if you’re here.”
“What is going on?”
Fingers points to the kid with his eyes and I turn to see. As I turn the piñata drops in front of the kid and the crowd tells him to swing to the right. The kid gets in his best batter stance and swings for the fences. He connects with the wire holding the piñata, he stands there his entire body shaking, he’s gripping the pipe intensely, with smoke flowing out of him as if it was sweat. The electric hum makes it feel that the world is silent, everyone is just staring unable to move or think. I look around the area and I find a convenient wooden stick. I pick it up and push the kid away from the piñata, he falls as if there is a bed behind him. He hits the ground still holding the pipe in both hands.
I try to pry the pipe away from his hands with the wooden stick but his skin has melted to the pipe. I put my ear to his mouth I do not feel breath on my face. I scream out, “Does anybody know CPR?” No one says a thing. Everyone is standing there as if they’re turned off, unable to speak, unable to think, unable to comprehend what has happened and what is happening now. Strangely enough I know what to do because of Fingers. I start to push on the kid’s chest as if I’m trying to consolidate trash to the bottom of the can. With each compression the crowd gets closer and closer until there is a circle of people around me.
The kid shoots up screaming. Some days when I think about this moment I laugh because it would have been funny in a movie, seeing him pop up with the pipe stuck to his hand. He looks around as if the last place he was in was completely different than the last.
“What in the world was that?” He asks.
I look around and I do not find Fingers anywhere. I rush into the house and run up the stairs I burst into his room and he is sitting there as if nothing had happen.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“You ruined the lesson.” He said.
“That kid would have died.”
“He was supposed to but you ruined it.”
“Have you seen these kids? They choose not to know anything. There is a well of knowledge here and they choose not to drink from it unlike you. The first thing you asked me was could I teach you, you didn’t ask for a tattoo you wanted to learn the secret…”
I interrupt Fingers.
“You were going to kill someone. Telling you that I’m leaving would signify that you have some kind of power over me but you don’t and you never had. You’re a means to an end, a textbook.”
“What sick shit are you laughing at now?”
“That you called me a textbook. You can’t read Elwin. You push doors when it says pull, you order the same meal as others. You get others to read for you. Which is crazy because you’re not dumb, just broken I guess.”
I turn from him and walk down the stairs and as I get to the bottom of the stairs I pass by a group of homeless kids. I left the house that day and I never even walked passed it since then.
It’s lunch time at the shop, Martha Jo picked up Orion’s Pizza as we are talking shop the front door opens. Veronica has walked in. We make eye-contact and the room goes silent. She stands at the entranceway and talks to me.
“Fingers found me.” She said.
I stand up and use my hand to motion her toward me. I walk back to the office assuming that she is following me. I turn around and tell her to grab a slice if she wants, she shakes her head no and we continue to the office. Once inside she shuts the door.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“I’m fine, he didn’t hurt me, he was just different. His energy has changed, he’s like a rehabilitated rabid dog. A tornado in a bottle.”
“Why are you here?”
“I don’t know what to do. Fingers is back, the owner of the Franchise is in town and he’s a horrible person.”
“You didn’t claw his eyes out and take a ball away from him?”
Veronica looks down at the ground and tweaks her lips.
“When I was like that I was a homeless fourteen year old scared out of my mind. I assumed everyone wanted to rape and murder me. Now I know better and know that isn’t how the world works hell, it never worked that way. I wish like hell I it could have been that easy.”
“Fingers came to my place, which is why I won’t ask you to stay at my place, but my place in Omaha is empty. It has a bed, and everything you need.”
“Why didn’t you stay in Omaha?”
“I wanted a change.”
“Who’s running the shop?”
“We close early until we can get this place fully staffed. Martha Jo and I bought the building a few years back to save on rent. Let me give you the key and address to the house.”
I leave the office and go to Martha Jo and ask for the keys to the house in Omaha. She slips it off the key ring and hands it to me without giving me a look or saying a word. When I turn around Veronica is standing there.
“Fingers cornered me in my car, he slept in my truck, so I haven’t been driving. Could you give me a ride to the bus station?”
“I can take you to Omaha.” Sally said.
“You sure Sally?” I asked.
“Yeah, I’m going down there to see some friends anyway, if you don’t mind kickin’ it at the shop until close you can roll with me.”
With no words being said after that we all take that as an end to that conversation. The front door opens, we look at the door. The light beaming through makes the figure featureless, as he gets closer I can make him out more. When he gets to me he sticks out his hand.
“Joseph John Ruckle, owner of The Crystal Needle and inventor of the Iron press.”
I give him my hand to shake.
“Elwin Aliano. Why is it called an Iron press?”
“The first series of the Iron press was that. We would put a paste on the skin in the shape and color of whatever image the person would want. We’d put this lamp close to the skin and the heat would burn the ink into the dermis. The bars which conducted the heat were iron, which is why the technique is called and Iron press.”
“Why not change the name?” I asked.
“I liked the first name I gave my invention. I don’t have to change it. The reason for me being here is because I will be taking the entire street up for my event and I wanted you to know that I will be using your front parking. I hope this doesn’t put you out.”
“You didn’t ask me if you can you just told me. It’s not that I care but what is your event?”
“I’m getting a tattoo.”
I looked over Ruckle and he as just as many tattoos as most people in the business.
“Why do you need the whole street for that?”
“People are still skeptical about the Iron press, I will be getting a tattoo by the method, and will be filming it to show people how quick and easy it is. It will be a red carpet event.”
“I’ll rent you the space. I own this building and you will be using my property without my consent and you know how legalities go. I can have Martha Jo draw something up if you like.”
“Sure, whatever makes you feel better. Fax it over, walk it over I don’t care. Thank you for your time.”
Ruckle turns around and leaves the shop. The shop is silent until a customer comes into the shop and everything goes back to normal.