Happy Tuesday! Please welcome this week’s guest judge for 5 Minute Fiction, Jocelynn Drake, a writer with about a dozen novels to her name. Here are the finalists Jocelynn picked for tonight:
- H.L. Pauff, @hlpauff
- Michael D. Hansen, @buzzynutkins
- Rebekah Postupak, @postupak
- J.M. Filipowicz, @jmfilipowicz
- Betsy Streeter
And now…the finalists’ entries:
“Are you sure this is what you want?” Dagger held the piece of paper under the light to be sure he knew what he was looking at. “Are you positive? Once I start, I’m not going to stop.”
Beads of sweat were forming on the young man’s forehead. “I am totally positive, bro.”
Dagger shrugged and taped the sketch to his light fixture. The crudely drawn, naked monkey with exaggerated anatomy stared at Dagger with a smile.
The young man lifted his shirt. The armrest rattled against the chair from nervous elbows. Dagger took an alcoholic wipe and cleaned off the man’s stomach. His screams of pain could be heard outside of the parlor.
“I didn’t do anything yet,” Dagger said.
“Sorry,” the young man said. “Please keep going.” His legs bounced against the rubber chair and his eyes were clenched closed.
Dagger took another look at the monkey whose smile had turned morphed into an angry grimace. “I think you should reconsider this tattoo,” he said.
Michael D. Hansen
Ben stood next to my chair in the waiting room of the tattoo parlor. Our relative positions led to a feeling that he was judging me, and the look he gave me – the seething look – did little to suggest otherwise. “Why the hell would you get-” He cut off as they called my name.
“It’s personal,” I responded for the dozenth time, meeting his gray eyes. I waited for the young woman to walk past, a freshly-inked Tribal tattoo on her palely caucasian skin, and then went around the corner into the sound of needles, gasps and beautiful scars.
“No, it’s not. There’s nothing personal about it. You aren’t some young Jew getting their grandparent’s concentration camp number tattooed on your arm. Instead,” he put a hand on my shoulder, “You’re trying to get the least personal thing you can. Who the hell would get a tattoo of-”
“Ben, just drop it. I have my reasons. And it’s not like every piece of ink on you has some deep personal meaning. Want to explain the symbolism of Howard the Duck wearing Superman’s costume?” He stared at me, wounded.
“That’s not Howard the Duck… That’s me. See how well your skin holds up four decades from now.”
“Well, you have You the Duck, and I have a Spongebob Squarepants lighting his farts on fire. I’d say we’ll be a well-matched set.”
“Does it hurt?”
“Pain means different things to different people, dear.” The woman’s stretched, leathery hands matched the hardness of her face, and she did not look up as she answered.
“What does it mean to most people, then? Can you tell me that?”
At this the woman lifted the needle and looked across the table at the girl. “Fine. It hurts. People cry, girls, brawny men, old ladies, all weep like babies. There. Are you afraid now?”
“N-no.” The girl inched closer. “Why does it have to hurt to make such beautiful things?”
“Pain and beauty are friends, love. Didn’t your mother teach you that?” The older woman grinned a little this time, but it was not a nice grin. “Anyway, what are you doing hanging out here, with us disreputable folk? Did you want a little something yourself? A dove, maybe, on your shoulder? Or a little heart on your ankle?”
The girl shook her head. “No. No, thank you, ma’am, I don’t want anything. I just… I was just curious, that’s all. Your work is so beautiful. But I–I don’t like needles so much.”
“Ah. We are at an impasse, then. You want beauty but refuse the pain.”
This time the girl remained silent, her sad, blue eyes watching for a long moment, before she heaved a deep sigh and headed back out into the darkness of the street.
The grin fluttered lightly at the edges of the woman’s lips. “Ahh, little princess,” she murmured. “Perhaps there is hope for us yet.”
She cast a glance across the room into the shadows, where no one ever thought to look. Spare needles, yes. Ink, oh yes, plenty in all colors.
And a spinning wheel.
J M Filipowicz
His eyes held her in their turquoise glow. The tattooed snake coiled around his features, reptilian scales trying desperately to hide the artist’s chiseled good looks. They almost succeeded. Eve would have passed the tattoo parlor by entirely if not for those eyes. Now she was inside, embarrassed by the chime announcing her presence. She didn’t like tattoos. She didn’t want a tattoo. What was she doing here.
“Can I help you?” Asked the girl at the front desk, her make-up permanently etched on her face.
Eve didn’t hear her, instead her eyes remained locked with the blue-eyed tattoo artist. She knew he felt it too, a connection. He set down his inking needle and walked towards her.
“She wants an apple,” he said, voice smooth as chocolate. “Right here.” He touched the exposed skin of her low cut top.
“It’s…. a duck.”
“No it isn’t, it’s an eagle! A mighty eagle, with its wings spread. Look.”
“But look at the beak. An eagle beak curves down, doesn’t it?”
Doug leans in and peers at the duck/eagle. “You’re right, the beak goes the wrong way,” he says.
“Oh my god oh my god oh my god…” says Cindy. “Oh, my god.” She paces back and forth, hand on her forehead.
“I’m leaving,” Cindy says.
“No, no you’re not,” says Doug. “You’re staying here, with me, until he wakes up.”
“Maybe it’s a raven,” says Cindy. “Can you make it black, a black bird? Like a raven?”
“No,” says Doug, “I can’t make it into a raven. I’ll end up with a black blob.”
“So, we’ve got a duck. A freaking duck,” says Cindy.
“Well we don’t have a duck, he has a duck,” says Doug.
“And we’re gonna have a broken face,” says Cindy. “When he’s done with us, we will look like ducks, also.”
“Look,” says Doug. “He broke in here, he asked me to do this, I told him I didn’t know what the hell an eagle looked like or even how to work this stupid equipment. I told him! He didn’t care. He said he’d kick my ass if I didn’t get busy. So I did. End of story.”
“Right,” says Cindy. “Right. Until he wakes up and kills us both.”
“Tell you what,” says Doug. “We tell him it’s a mythical creature.”
“A really stupid looking mythical creature,” says Cindy.
“Yeah, but with special powers. It bestows powers on its owner. He might just go for it.”
“He was stupid enough to tell you to put an eagle on there before he passed out,” says Cindy.
“Okay. So that’s our plan. Okay? Got it?” says Doug.
“Got it,” says Cindy.
They sit on the floor and pop open two beers, settling in to wait for him to wake up and ask what happened.
Congratulations to the finalists! The prize du jour: the winner gets a copy of Jocelynn Drake’s novel Angel’s Ink:
Buyer beware . . .
Looking for a tattoo—and maybe a little something extra: a burst of good luck, a dollop of true love, or even a hex on an ex? Head to the quiet and mysterious Gage, the best skin artist in town. Using unique potions—a blend of extraordinary ingredients and special inks—to etch the right symbol, he can fulfill any heart’s desire. But in a place like Low Town, where elves, faeries, trolls, werewolves, and vampires happily walk among humanity, everything has its price.
No one knows that better than Gage. Turning his back on his own kind, he left the magical Ivory Tower where cruel witches and warlocks rule, a decision that cost him the right to practice magic. And if he disobeys, his punishment—execution—will be swift.
Though he’s tried to fly under the radar, Gage can’t hide from powerful warlocks who want him dead—or the secrets of his own past. But with the help of his friends, Trixie, a gorgeous elf who hides her true identity, and a hulking troll named Bronx, Gage might just make it through this enchanted world alive.
I’m such a sucker for tattoos, but that’s a different story. Hah! Back to 5 Minute Fiction…it’s time to vote for your favorite finalist entry…