I just got off the phone with Daily and everything is going great for her. Her grandchildren are dealing with the death of their mother as best as they can. I tell her that we all miss her and we hope to meet her grandchildren soon. The shop is slow because Ruckle has his event going. He’s blocked off the street but people are lining the streets. The street before the shop has red carpet lining it. A has band set up next to The Crystal Needle. He has the pompadour kid outside handing out appointment application sheets to whoever takes them.
As the night takes the skies the event builds up more and more, the music fills the air, the chatter of folk slices through the tail end and the beginning of a song. There are two spotlight at the entrance to the Crystal Needle. The lights twirl in the sky, the lights connect and separate over and over again. The media has shown up and not just local but one national outlet. We are watching from the inside of the shop. We closed down early and put up chairs in front of the big window to the shop and watch the world before us as if it’s a television.
A limo pulls up before The Crystal Needle and a man steps out and the flashes of camera pop out like the fizz of soda. The limo pulls away from the shop and the flashing lights continue on. Ruckle waves to the crowd as he is getting closer to the door. Ruckle stops to talk to a reporter. I look over and see Fingers walking toward Ruckle slowly. I get up and go to the door and I forgot that I locked the door and I’m spinning the level and when the bolt snaps back I look up to see Fingers pointing a gun to the back of Ruckle’s head. The crack of the gunshot isn’t covered up by the screams of the crowd. The reporter and the camera has been painted with Ruckle’s blood and meat.
The crowd is running away in all directions. Fingers is sitting down in the lotus position staring straight at my shop. The police were there for security already so it didn’t take them long to arrest Fingers. He went without struggle, we didn’t stay to watch them pick up Ruckle’s body or clean up the blood and the sinew. We all went by to my house. All of us unable to process what just happened. Sally hasn’t stopped crying, Niles hasn’t spoken since he asked if he could crash at my place. I called Veronica and told her what had happened. After I did she just hung up the phone.
Two detectives came to my home the next day. When I invited them inside they declined. We spoke at the entrance to my home.
“Mr. Grimmond told us that he will plead guilty to his crime to avoid the trial, if only he can talk to you.” The detectives with sunglasses said.
“Why can’t you just send him to prison? You have him killing someone on video tape.”
The detective wearing prescription glasses clears his throat. “The bullet that killed Mr. Ruckle went through the camera and broken apart inside of it destroying it. We have gunpowder residue on his hand and countless eye witnesses. The gun he used has the serial number shaved off. We have him dead to rights but he can still drag this all out with a trail. He said if he can just talk to you he will plead guilty and go to prison without any struggle.”
“When can we do this?”
“Right now if you want.” The sunglasses detective said.
That was the first time I was ever in a cop car just for a ride, the first time I was ever in a police station without being processed, and the first time police were nice to me. I’m waiting in the most stereotypical waiting room. The prescription glasses cop comes to me and tells me that Fingers is ready to meet.
I’m brought to the interrogation room, I never thought they actually had the double mirrors in the room but they actually do. Seeing Fingers in the orange jumpsuit is disgustingly correct, like he should have been wearing one years ago. I sit down at the table he is chained to and we make eye contact.
“Why do you want to talk to me?” I asked.
Boyd “Fingers” Grimmond
I was only in the Army for three month went I was shipped to Korea. I was standing in front of a judge a few months back and he told me that I could go to war or go to jail. They pay you in the military so I chose that. I also wanted to kill somebody legally, killing anybody anywhere else is murder but when at war its patriotic, it’s your duty. Basic wasn’t bad, I can handle being held at but that only last if you’re a fuck up. The best lesson to learn in life is knowing when to shut the fuck up and the Army is the place to always shut the fuck up.
My M.O.S. was infantry, eleven bang, bang, why kid myself, the enemy shoots at your because of your uniform not your job so no matter what you’re going to die, which was the plan. Everyone will respect a man in dead who died in another man’s country. I never really had anything until I join the Army. I had people who cared about me, people who feed me, people who taught me things. That was the first time in my life that people realized and saw potential in me.
As soon as we got in country we got our orders to move to a defensive position in Osan, I was in the 24th infantry division. We had a few small arms, some 2.36-in rocket launchers, and two 105mm howitzers in our unit. There was four hundred of us marching and a few on motor move going toward our position. Once we got there we set up and waited. It was until 0730 that shit popped off.
Eight T-34/85 soviet tanks in a column came down a valley, there were some south Koreans retreating from the and this unit was pursuing them. Once we made visual contact our artillery sent heat their way. As the tanks got closer the unit had sent up each howitzer in a position and starting raining down on the advancing North Korean army. As the tanks got closer we saw that everything we had fired at them did nothing. We got orders to use the 2.36-in Rocket launchers I remember the excitement of the soldier was trained on how to use one. He got in position, took aim and fired at the tank. The round hit the tank on it hull right under the tank barrel. The round did not ignite.
I was peering over the berm form the trench to watch the rocket destroy the tank, which it did not. I saw a large flame spray out of the tank barrel the ground below the round was being carved by the force of the round. I didn’t hear the boom of the tank round being fired, but I did hit the tank round explode behind me. I duck down into the trench putting my back against the dirt. A crater of smoke and pulverized dirt is before me I see pieces of man, smeared cooked blood, parts of a uniform, broken weapons and when I’m trying to make more stuff out another round hits a truck. I look into the sky and see the soldiers who were in the truck be tossed into the in air as if rice at a wedding. There is one in the air trying to run. I look away as soon as he starts to fall.
A question enters my mind, “Why am I here?” I somehow thought that this would be a great idea. I thought that this would never happen. It isn’t fun when the rabbit’s got the gun true, but we’re Americans, we don’t lose wars we win them, but this isn’t the entire war this is just a battle. I see a soldier running toward me with his head down. He gets to me and puts his back against the dirt like me.
“We have to advance on them.” He yelled.
“What are you talking about?”
“There is no other reason for you to be here. This is your task, the enemy is approaching and you want them to roll over you.”
“We’re in their country, they can’t get to us unless they use planes and we can shoot those down before they get to us. I don’t know why we are here.”
“Well if you’re done with pissing yourself we have to advance on them.”
“I’m getting the hell out of here.”
The soldier pops up and leaps over the trench and fall down landing on his back. I see that he has been hit in the chest by a round, a rifle bullet. I grab his ankle and pull him to me. I get close to hear what he has to say but blood is already leaking out of his mouth and tears are falling from the sides of his eyes. He goes to his sidearm and puts it in my hands and puts it to his head. I pull the trigger as if it was hitting the button to call an elevator. A bullet to the brain is as close to seeing the word instant you’ll ever get. The eyes turn grey in record time, the color of skin goes blue in seconds, that’s how you pull the brakes on life.
The tank rounds are crashing down on us with no sign of stopping. Another soldier comes to me.
“Are you crying? Stop that shit right now and get the fuck up. We’re retreating.”
The soldier takes off in a furious sprint and I take off with him. He’s too fast for me to be neck and neck with him but I’m able to keep up. The sounds of the battlefield are copious, you can hear the fire burning the trees and grass, the ordnance popping off all around us and the shouting of men who think they can still turn this around. It feels like everything that could kill me is missing me. Each bullet is passing me, each tank round curves around me hitting someone else. We are very close to the tree line and once we’re in there we should be safe. Just as I’m ready to feel safe to the left of me I see a tree explode when it is hit by a tank round. The splintering of the tree is beautiful, like watching it construction in reverse and how the weight above the tree brings it down. Then I realize that the fragments of the tree are coming toward me. I believe that I could out run them I don’t shield myself and I don’t stop. Multiple sharp pains sting me everywhere on my body and the world goes black.
I wake up in spurs from being dragged from the battlefield. I can hear pieces of conversation and men crying. A man standing over me says, “He’s got pieces of tree stuck in his face and torso get the doc to place him in triage correctly.” I fade in and out, the forest is replaced by the camp and then the camp is replaced by 8076th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital Division. I can hear people I can never see them. After four surgeries later I’m kind of out of my trance. I wake up but I don’t want to get up, it’s not that I can’t it more to that point that I don’t want or need to. I’m going to be sent back out there once I’m up to snuff.
As I sleep and wake I can’t stop thinking about my life. What is it? What have I built for myself? Everything that was around me was built by someone’s idea and I now started to realize that I haven’t done that. I’m a gear in someone else’s machine and I had put myself there because I was unable think ahead. I didn’t think that I would ever want to do anything else especially live my life. My burst of cognizance overflowed out of me I didn’t know how to handle these simple yet complex thoughts. How does someone life, what is truly right and wrong, why is the world the way it is? Everyday these idea bounced around my mind. I thought I was going crazy, why would these thoughts be reoccurring if I wasn’t crazy.
I had been crying at nights unable to handle what my life had become and I guess I reached the man next to me threshold.
“Did you get your dick shot off?” A voice from the dark.
“The last guy that was next to me got his dick blow off. He cried all day and night. I told him that he would never use it as much as he thought he would. At least he still had his hands.”
“Is that what happened to you?”
“No I got my hands.”
“What’s wrong then?” I asked.
“That I’m not getting any sleep with you crying all the time. So if you could take that shit to a different room that would be great.”
I calmed my mind and tried my best to go to sleep that night. When I awoke the next day I looked over to where I heard the voice and the bed was empty. I got up and explored the med bay and I found a nurse. I asked her who was next to me. She told me a sergeant, they didn’t have his name. He didn’t have his blouse on when he was injured and wasn’t wearing his dog tags. He keep mumbling sergeant when he was brought in and we’ve been calling him that ever since.
I waited at my bed for him to show up. I watch a black nurse pushing a wheel chair with a man sitting in it who had no legs from the thigh down. The nurse rolled him to the bed help him into the bed and left without words. He sat on the edge of the bed, if he had legs they would be dangling off the bed.
“Don’t tell me you’re the crier.” He said.
“Yes, I was the one crying last night.”
“This is it for me. I know nothing else. Even if I make it out of Korea I will most likely come back to the army because I don’t know anything else. I can’t go back into the world with this being my only skill. I don’t know how to make sense of the world, I never did, but I now know my future and it is a horrible death in something that I have no control over.”
“Follow me. Which means help me into that wheelchair.”
I put the sergeant into the wheelchair and he directs me to the elevators. We go to the bottom floor where mortuary affairs is. We go in and talk at the metal slab where they clean bodies.
“I can teach you a skill if you help me in here. It takes me awhile to get work done without my legs, if you can be a gopher I can teach you something that will take you far.”
“What is that?”
“Have you ever seen a tattoo?”
Fingers had stopped talking and that is a sign that he is done. I get up from the table and he asked me to sit back down. I stand at the door and tell him to finish up.
“You know the sergeant killed himself right?”
“Yeah I know. What of it?”
“That was the cherry on top and the cream of the crop, proof to me that everything is meaningless.”
“Enough of the bullshit. Yes, this is all meaningless. You have a choice to make and you made yours. You don’t care and you think that your cruel way of dealing with the world can inspire people to think. You can’t put anybody on the path, you can only show people by doing what you think the world should be. Are we done here?”
Fingers stares at the double mirror and a detective comes into the room and I leave the room.
The Crystal Needle and all of Joseph John Ruckle assets were left to Veronica. She didn’t want to be the C.E.O. so she sold it to the next four in line and kept all of Ruckle’s assets. After she got the news of his death she disappeared. The Crystal Needle across the street from us has been closed off and shut down. We’ve gotten more business than we can handle we have to hired more people or we won’t be able to keep up. Sally and I are doing a group job, a father and daughter.
The daughter is going off to college and they are getting a tattoo together. The father doesn’t look like the type of guy who wouldn’t let his daughter get a tattoo let alone get a tattoo with her. She is the typical hippie twenty-something ready to go off to college and see the world. The Father is getting a pond with a trail of water from a koi fish leaping out of the pond on his left arm. The daughter is getting the koi fish about to land into the ocean on her right arm. I will be tattooing the girl while Sally is working on the father.
“What are you studying?” I asked.
“I’m going to being studying literature.” She said.
“Off to be a writer?” I asked.
“No, I just love the written word and want nothing more than to spread around as much as I can. What’s your favorite book?”
“I just finished The Illustrated Man and that changed my life.”
“Ray Bradbury isn’t even in the family of the sci-fi world, okay I was a bit harsh, maybe the little brother of sci-fi.” The dad said.
“My dad isn’t the biggest sci-fi fan, he believes there is enough magic in the real world without having to pile in any kind super scientist.”
“Where are you going to school?” I asked.
“Georgia. They have a Flannery O’Connor program and she’s one of the best.”
“I have a friend that I’ll have to ask to get me some of her writings.”
“A Good Man is Hard to Find is her most famous, but there are so many others that you can look into.” She said.
The father and daughter are looking at their glossy tattoos in our mirrors. They are standing side by side marveling at their tattoos. They both drop a tear out of their right eye and hung each other. They thank Sally and me and give us both a hundred dollar tip. We try to give them back but they decline and say that they aren’t trying to spoil this with money but there are only so many ways to show gratitude. We take the money and the father and daughter leave the shop.