Oil & Ink is an original fiction piece written by Holly A. Phillips in 2007. Every part of this story i based on a very vivid dream. Read part 1, here.
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Charlie shook his head. He wondered how well a tattoo shop did out there. He wondered what kind of ink a tourist wished for after a round of drinks on The Strip. He thought about the skin on a stripper. He knew a shop in Vegas would charge more than $75 for a biker’s eagle.
After the bikers left, Charlie was done for the day. Four hours of drawing eagles made his blue eyes tired. No one was going to come in after 8pm on a Tuesday. He dropped his tool tray in the sterilizer, gathered his unpaid bills, along with the money he made that day: nearly $400. Charlie sat in his ’89 Corolla and shuffled through the envelopes, deciding which bill needed to be paid first. The biker money would help some.
Charlie lived in a duplex just a few exits down from Tucker’s. Once he was home, he immediately searched the fridge for his leftover takeout carton of noodles. He popped it in the microwave when his phone rang. Before looking at his phone, he knew it was his dad calling.
“Hi dad,” he answered. “What’s goin’ on?”
“How come you weren’t at the opening tonight?”
“Well, I ended up having a busy day today… so I couldn’t leave work,” Charlie explained.
“What does that even mean?”
“It means I did four tattoos and that’s okay money,” Charlie said, trying not to get annoyed.
“It might be okay, but you need to look ahead, and look beyond this hobby.”
“Sure, dad,” Charlie said. “Well I’m going to go eat some dinner before I call it a night.”
Charlie hung up. His dad would never change. He always think Charlie wasn’t good enough, even if Charlie was simply happy.
The remainder of the week brought travelers and young girls into the shop for Charlie to draw on. The weather was nice, so the nearby campgrounds were filling up. The tourists wanted small, Asian symbols on their backs and the girls wanted butterflies on their hips. They all left tips.
“Why do you let those girls get tattoos?” Sara asked from the register.
“Why not? They’re 18.”
“Well you know they still live at home. Their moms will shit,” Sara said.
“It’s not my problem,” Charlie said. “I don’t have to ask their moms.”
Sara shrugged her shoulders and popped her gum. The truth was, Charlie wasn’t thrilled to ink up a young girl’s clean skin. But it was money. He knew the better artists had rules about tattooing — no tongue tattoos, no ink on the fingers or toes, no names, etc. — but Charlie couldn’t confine himself to those limits. He needed all the work he could get. He knew the young girls wouldn’t appreciate the talent he had; they just wanted to show their friends. They didn’t realize that Charlie reset his gun to make up for their thin skin, that he’d used breakable pigments in case they had it removed in 20 years, or that he’d studied popular tattoo designs for years, prior to their arrival.
That week had been good for Charlie. Things were slowly looking up; his stack of unpaid bills was dwindling. He’d paid one each day; tourist season was a big help. When Friday night came around, he stayed at Tucker’s until midnight tattooing a hooker. Her voice was raspy and she wore shiny, red high heels. She paid him in twenties and she tipped well.
The next morning, Charlie’s neighbor was moving out of the other half of the duplex.
“Man, what’s going on?” Charlie asked.
“I got a new position at my job.”
“Oh wow,” Charlie said. “Where ya movin’ to?”
“Oh, just a few counties over to another small house. How’s Tucker’s?”
“It’s been a good few weeks. But I’m about to look for a shop of my own, I think.”
“Really? That’s great, Charlie. Your dad finally come around and give you some money?”
“Yeah right, man. That’ll never happen,” Charlie said. “I’ve been saving. Putting a little here and there. Adds up, I guess.”
“Sure it does. Well, keep it up kid. You’re doing well.”
“Thanks, man. And let me know how the new place is.”
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Read the third, and final, part of Oil & Ink right here, Friday, August 14.