Writing Prompt- Tattoo Artist

Tattoo artist

Ignores all the signs


“Dude look at my tattoo!” my client said. “What the hell happened?”

“ Man, calm down.  We can look at it and see  what happened.” Jose answered.   Bizarre things were happening today.

Jose led his client down the hallway of rooms to his client room.

“I took the bandage off this morning, took one look and put the bandage back on.  I got here sa soon as I could.”

“Okay, let’s see what we have got.”  He gently pulled on the bandage off the skin.  There was his tattoo art.  “Ummm, what’s wrong with it?”

The client yelled: “What do you mean, what’s wrong?  Do you not see the hair all in the tattoo?”

“Uh huh.  I see it” Jose answered.  “When you got the tattoo, did I not tell you there might be unusual healing?  After all the lion tattoo is a special tattoo only I do.”

“But the hair!” he exclaimed.  “In the tattoo….I don’t think it should be there!”

Jose put a clean bandage back over the tattoo.  “Like I told you already, this tattoo is a new technique.  Relax and let it heal.  Keep the bandage on for three more days, then come see me again.”  Jose led his customer up front to the cashier area and ushered him out.

“No charge today” Jose told him. 

“Better not be.” aas muttered and the client left the shop.

Jose and the cashier’s eyes met. Jose shook his head.

“My special technique seems to be surprising people.”  Jose said.  The cashier shrugged.

Jose headed down the hallway to the living area.  He debated between beer, cola or water as he opened the fridge.  HE took a cola, popped the top, and found a seat in the room.  Bossman walked in.

“Hey Jose.  I heard your client today.  Did you keep him happy?”

Yeah, I think so. Rebandaged and reminded him it was healing.”

“Great, I would hate for your special technique to bomb.”

“Yeah, me too.”  Cola finished, Jose went back to his office next to the client room. 

He sat thinking about the three tattoos he had done with his new technique.  The first one healed up and looked good.   The second time, there were a few glitched, but he managed to get it right for the client.  This third one, he did not know what was going to happen.

The hair had not been as thick in the first tow he had do0ne.  This third one looked like a real lion with a mane.  He looked over at the new ink and machine he had bought cheaply in Tijuana.   He call and have a chat with the old woman who had sold him the equipment.  She had said something to him about the equipment, but he did not listen.

He found the card that came with the equipment.  He dialed the number.

“Hello, Tijuana Mane. Can I help you?” said a voice with no Spanish accent.  Jose thought this was strange.

“Hello, may I speak to Marie?”

“May I ask who is calling?”

“Tell her I bought some tattoo equipment from her last month.”

“Okay, hang on”

Jose heard the girl yell for Marie.  She told her what he wanted.  Marie came on the phone.

“Oh, I am so glad you called, that equipment I sold you was the wrong equipment.  Tell me you have not used it yet.”

“Only three times.  Why?” Jose was puzzled.

“I will bring you new equipment, better equipment today.  Whatever you do, do not use the stuff you bought from me.”

“Okay, okay.” Jose said reacting to the panic he heard in Marie’s voice. “What time you think you will be here?”

“About three.  Again, put the stuff away and do not use it again. Lock it up if you have to, but do not use it.”

Jose hung up the phone.  It was two hours until three.  He took the equipment down off the shelves.  He managed to find all the ink he had bought from her.  He noticed skulls on the jars that he had not seen before.  He was getting worried as he gathered everything together.  He liked this tattoo machine.  It fit his hand perfectly.  Even the ink was smooth, gliding out of it perfectly.  Jose placed the equipment and ink into a box and closed the lid.  It was hard to walk away from it.

He went up to the front of the store at a quarter to three to wait on Marie.  When Marie finally walked in a half hour late, Jose was shocked.  She was not the lady he had bought the equipment from in Tijuana.  She was carrying a box and was grateful when he took it.

“As promised, new equipment for the old equipment.  Can I have it back please?”  Marie said.

“Sure, let me go get it.” Jose answered.  He walked to his office and retrieved the box.  Marie looked relieved to have it.  She checked the contents very carefully. 

“Good it is all here.  Thanks.”  She turned to go.

“Hey. Don’t I get an explanation?” Jose queried.

“Let me put this in the car where it will be safe.  I will comeback and tell you a story.”

Marie walked out the door to the parking lot. She opened the trunk of a white car, put the box in. and slammed the trunk lid own.  She walked back over to where Jose stood watching her.

“Got a drink?” She asked.

“Oh sure. Beer, cola, or water?” he asked.


They both had cold beers in hand when they sat in Jose’s office.

“Tell me the story you promised.”

“Okay, okay.” Marie said.” Let me get a drink and my thoughts straight.”  She stared off into space as she drank a few gulps of beer.  She finally looked at Jose.

“That equipment belonged to my grandfather.  It was never meant to be sold.  My mother has tried several times to get rid of it, but it belongs to our family now.  I have had to track it down each time.  This is the last time, I am going to lock it up and bury it tonight.”

“But it is great equipment. It works great and..”

Marie interrupted him. “Have you noticed anything weird about the tattoos you did int hat ink with the equipment?”

“Well, yes.  I have had the three customers heal differently than normal.” 

“Lucky you only did three.  My grandfather did ten tattoos with it.  By the fifth tattoo things got weird. At first we thought it was the new technique he was doing, but it was the equipment combined with the strange ink.  The tattoos healed funny at first, then there was hair inside the tattoo as it healed, then the tattoos started to move.”

Jose laughed uneasily. “Tattoos do not move.”

“These did.  They would move up and down arms and legs restlessly.  We could do nothing for the clients.  It drove a few of them to suicide.  One went to get laser surgery and died from it.  Grandfather decided that the equipment was cursed and put it away.  But he could not stop using it.  I found it in his office one day and asked him what he was doing with it.  He told me he could not help it, he had to tattoo with it.  He showed me the little tattoos that were moving all over his skin.  He had tattooed himself, rather than use his clients.  He was a great tattoo artist for years before the equipment came.  Afterward he withered away into his tattoos.

Jose listened to the story with disbelief.  “Marie that sounds crazy.  But, I have seen my three client tattoos do exactly what you described.  They healed strangely.  The third one had hair growing in it.”

“I told you.” Marie said. “It’s the equipment.”  She rose off the chair she had been sitting on.  “Do not buy strange old tattoo equipment.  Most of it carries a curse.” 

Jose watched Marie leave the store, get into the big white car in the parking lot, and drive off

.Written by Katherine Soto February 2019