Spider dotted away small drops of blood as he manipulated the tattoo gun across one of the few ink-free spots on Tex’s back. Buddha had drawn the picture, which incorporated the ancient symbols of fire, water, earth, and air with a heart with wings. He had drawn the picture in reverse and then applied deodorant to Tex’s back. After patting the picture on the skin, then pulling the paper away, it leaves an ink impression of the tattoo.
The boys turned as little Max came through the door with his black hair perfectly parted still wearing his school uniform. He didn’t knock.
“Sure, Fish, come on in,” Spider said sarcastically.
“Yeah, that was considerate of you not to knock so we wouldn’t have to get up and open the door,” Tex added.
Max ignored the older boys and said, “I thought Country Mike was gonna do that tattoo.”
“He’s in jail,” Buddha said sadly.
“Oh, more bad news. Sorry, Buddha. What did he do?”
“Don’t sweat it, Fish. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s an old charge. He had an old probation over in Mississippi, so while he was locked up in Concordia, he filled out the paperwork to have it run concurrent and get his detainer lifted. Well, Mississippi lifted the hold on him, but they never squashed the charge. So, Mississippi had a bench warrant. Well, Mackey, who owns the tattoo shop, opened a shop over in Bay St. Louis and Country Mike went to help set it up. Of course, he didn’t know about the warrant, so he got pulled over and arrested.”
“Man, that sucks.”
“Good thing about it is, he went to work release immediately and he’ll be home in six months. He’s somewhere in North Mississippi around Batesville.”
Max’s face changed shape as an idea hit him. “Hey, aren’t ya’ll worried about Mrs. Cara finding out about ya’ll doing new tattoos?”
“Nope. Her tattoo reign of terror is over,” Buddha replied while drawing at the table.
“Yeah, I don’t think she’ll be mentioning tattoos for a while.” Spidey, who seemed a little sensitive about the conversation quit tattooing, wiped up the blood, applied A&D ointment to prevent scabbing, and covered it with saran wrap. He pulled off his latex gloves and threw them in the trash. “I’m going to the store. Ya’ll want anything?”
“Big Shot Rootbeer.”
“A&W,” said Max.
“I’m not buying and A&W! That’s like using Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise. You’re getting a Big Shot. I’ll be back.” Spider slammed the door and walked out.
“OK, now that Spider’s gone, we’ll tell you, but you have to swear never to discuss this with Spider. As you can see, it’s a sensitive subject.” Buddha looked sternly at Max.
“I swear I won’t’ say a word.”
Buddha began to tell the story as Boogie had told the story to him. Keep in mind, my narrative skills exceed the young knight’s, so allow me to proceed.
After the doctors had used the paddles to restart Bobby’s heart, he had become stable again but still not awake. Mrs. Cara, who had barely left his side, was asleep next to the bed holding his hand. He brushed back a strand of her hair from her face and said, “What is the one currency for which you would trade your immortal soul?”
She stirred sleepily, trying to free the cobwebs from her mind, “What?” she asked dreamily.
“That’s what the black swan asked me.”
Finally, she came fully awake, “Boogie, you’re awake!” She jumped up to try to embrace him but was hindered by a protuberance of tubes and IVs and machines.
“It’s alright, “ he consoled her. “I know you were worried.”
Tears filled her eyes as she said, “Jesi.”
He stopped her. “I know. I saw her.”
“In my apartment?”
“No, beside the lake. Mr. Curtis was with her.” He licked his dry lips. “She cried and she held me and I told her not to cry, it was my fault. I should have been there. She told me no. The lake was as far as the eye could see and still as glass. In the distance, I could see the lights of a brilliant city. ‘I always loved you’ she said, ‘but it’s like I got on the wrong streetcar and it only goes one way.’ A tall, lean, bearded man with old sailor tats on his arms rowed slowly up to us in a black gondola. She kissed me goodbye and Mr. Curtis lifted her into the gondola. Then the swan glided over to me and asked me, ‘What’s the one currency for which you would trade your immortal soul?’ I said, ‘Love’ and she told me, ‘go find it’. The world we walked back through was filled with horrors. Just off the path were horrible creatures, mixed and matched, like bird beaks on tiger’s bodies, and these huge three-headed dogs that howled and snarled. Had Mr. Curtis not been there, I think they would have devoured me. But he didn’t look like he normally does with the old tweed suit and hat. He was dressed like a Roman soldier with brilliant shining armor. He had a huge scabbard for a sword but I thought it strange that there was no sword in it. He didn’t need it, though. One mean look and all the creatures cowered away. We finally came to a hospital bed on a lone hill at the end of the path. He motioned for me to climb in. I felt sleepy and couldn’t keep my eyes open, so I fell asleep. When I woke up, you were here.”
Tears streamed down Cara’s face as she listened to Bobby’s story. Bobby turned over the hand she was holding and said, “I guess I wasn’t the only one who whispered deals with the devil in the dark.” He pointed to a huge spider tattoo on her hand that was the exact replica of Buddha’s. Fear came into her big blue eyes and she snatched her hand away, running for the water at the bedside sink. Bobby tried to stop her, and for the first time realized his hand was cuffed to the bedrail.
When the water hit the tattoo, the two-tone tarantula changed from a docile drawing to a highly animated arachnid. The spider’s terrifying tendrils latched onto the screaming woman’s arm and began to grow in size as it then vanished under her blouse. She swatted hysterically, back peddling and ripping her blouse open. An enormous black and red spider perched between her breasts. The trembling spider covered her entire chest with only the bottom half of its legs hidden beneath her skimpy black lace brassiere, the only thing between her and full frontal nudity.
Bobby yelled, “CARA MARIE!” and she froze. Bobby remembered what he had learned a decade ago as the Prince’s apprentice. He dumped out a container of salt on the lid of a dining tray. He pulled a smoke out of Mrs. Cara’s pack and lit it. With his left hand, he drew a symbol in the salt and blew the salt and smoke toward the woe begotten woman. As the mixture hit her skin, the spider became a tattoo again.
When her heart rate dropped to normal, she looked up and saw Bobby smiling at her half-naked torso. She scowled and tried to cover herself as the sprinkler system went off and the guard who was posted out in the hall came in the room.