Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Blind Tattooist: Flash Fiction submission

Another Submission, this title jumped out at me. I love tattoos. I love the idea of personalizing your body, and I find the entire process relaxing. The studio that I go to is one of the most respected in our area of north Texas, and it has some of the friendliest artists. Of course I go there so often I am greeted with "You again? Now what?"

I also work with people with disabilities, and have friends who are blind. One of which spend her last days with the limited vision she had (degenerative condition, she knew it would only get worse) pouring over her favorite artwork. I made her a 3D painting (puff paint and clay on a wooden board) based off of her description of one of them, and liked the idea of having someone do the exact opposite, describe something and allow a Blind artist to show their rendition.

She drummed her fingers against the top of the glass display case, letting her hips sway along to the smoky voice of the blues singer drifting out of the sound system. She could hear the rumble of her business partner in the back of the studio, prepping his piercing station. Tuesdays were notoriously slow.

“I still say that we shouldn’t open until 5 during the week. Unless they want an appointment. I’m going out of my mind Donny!” Reaching back with her foot she steadied the computer chair before flinging herself into it and allowing the momentum to send her sliding across the narrow entryway and into her workstation.

“Mak, we have been open for 3 years. You say the same damn thing every week. If you don’t want to work on Tuesdays…..don’t schedule yourself.” The smooth baritone voice rolled down the hallway. She heard his footsteps heading towards the reception desk just as the front door chimed.

“Got it!” Mak yelled, launching herself out of the chair. “Welcome to ThirdEye Modifications, How can we…” The rest of her overly cheerful and well rehearsed speech was cut off by the crash of the chair bouncing off the wall and her own not-so-graceful trip to the tile. Luckily her pained and embarrassed groan was covered up by Donny’s hysterical laughter.

“Oh, God, are you ok?” The new client’s voice was as careful as his hands when he helped her from her very dignified heap on the floor. Mak automatically tilted her head to face him with her biggest, most cheerful, nothing-to-see-here-folks smile plastered on.

“Yup. Happens all the time, no big deal. As I was saying, how would you like your body altered today?”

“Ummm, I was hoping for a tattoo?”

“Great! I’m Mak, resident artist. Donny over there makes people sparkly. Let’s head over to my area so I can draw you up something. What are you looking to get and where?”

She grabbed his wrist and dragged him into one of the stations, depositing him into the consultation chair--a wing backed monstrosity that Donny threatened to burn on a monthly basis-- and pulling her sketching supplies from the carefully organized stacks and boxes. Her client shifted in the seat, rubbing his hands together--rough, calloused, sounded like sandpaper on leather, his wrist had felt huge, she couldn’t wrap her fingers all the way around, and it felt like she had been pulling a mountain into her station. When he spoke, his voice was still soft, whether from nerves or if that was just his personality, she didn’t know.

“Well….it's...I just...damn.” A hard exhale through the nose. “My brother. He recommended you. Said that one of your guys had done his piece before he went overseas. A green Phoenix on  his calf?”

“Yeah, Bondi did that one. We have different styles though...If you want, I can do a rough draft of the idea and give it to him and he can schedule an appointment with you when he gets in?”

“No, I… I did my homework and I liked your stuff...it’s...softer? I dunno. This is stupid.” Mak waited. Most people looking for their first tattoo fell into one of two categories: “Dude! DUDE!!! WE should totally get a Tattoo!!”, and “Oh, god this is going to be on me FOREVER. It needs to be PERFECT!”  She would take the latter any day of the week. He would tell her what she needed to know, if she let him get the nerve up.

“It’s my sister. We’re twins, but she is like, four minutes older than me. She’s always looked out for me and stuff. But she’s about to get married and is moving to California, and is freaking out because she thinks that I’m going to self destruct without her. Which...fair enough. So….I wanted to get something to show her that...I’ll be Ok, I guess? She’s like this warrior-woman, super smart, and I’m used to being in her shadow, but I can be my own person too...we used to go hiking all the time, and she was the one who taught me basic survival skills--so I wanted to get two trees….next to some water, maybe? On my forearm.”

Putting pencils to paper, Mak had him tell more stories about growing up, keeping her face angled down as if she was following the flow of the sketch. She kept her eyes closed, listening for the hints of personalities that people always included without realizing. After about half an hour of sketching, she showed him his idea. A massive oak next to a smaller, more delicate ash, with the impression of a stream running between them. She gently took ahold of his arm, and arranged the paper over the skin so he could get an idea of placement and size. “Perfect” he smiled.

“Ok, so you said that you had done research. Do you know about my unique method of tattooing?”

“Yeah, I know that all of your stuff is grayscale, and that your clients say that it heals faster and doesn't hurt as much your way.”

“Do you know why?” a negative sound from across the desk. “I don’t use a machine. As long as I am the one that draws something, I can...convince it to leave the paper and live in your skin. It still hurts, but there is no actual puncture wounds to take care of. Still very light sensitive, and feels like a massive bruise though.”


“Don’t know. My mom said that it’s God’s way of making up for me not being able to see the world around me, I get to make beautiful art another way” She removed her tinted glasses to reveal completely pitch black eyes “I told her that’s bullshit because plenty of other blind artists paint and sculpt. Not going to complain though…..I like marking people”

With a bright smile, she dipped one finger into an inkwell, and then pressed the other hand over the sketch. The ink spread through her veins and seeped into his skin as the process began.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Lost Eschaton: Flash Fiction submission

Ok, So this is my second ever blog post, but it is doubling as a submission for a Flash Fiction Challenge hosted over here at TerribleMinds. Thank you Chuck for the inspiration.

The idea was to get a randomly generated Title, mine was Lost Eschaton (I had to look it up. Means the end of the world, end of time, or climax of history) and write a less than 2000 word story supporting that title . I hope that this little story fits in with the idea, and I hope that you enjoy, please comment so I know how I went wrong!


There is junk everywhere. Stacks of outdated newspapers lean against a tower of decaying photo albums. Are those….Yes. All of her old high school trophies were underneath the window, behind the pile of winter coats. Broken electronics were scattered across whatever empty floor space they landed on.

“How did it get this bad, Martin? I can’t...he was never like this before Mom died…”

Tiffany stood in the kitchen, peering over the bar at the war zone that her childhood living room had turned into. When she had agreed to help her brother clear out the house after moving their father into a nursing home, she imagined reminiscing with him over the good times they had in the house, perhaps crying over a forgotten piece of jewelry that her mother had left behind, definately getting drunk at the end of the day, but she was beginning to think that the bottle of whiskey that she had stashed in the trunk of her car was going to need to be cracked open before she could even process the amount of work that needed to be done. Her brother had planned ahead though, benefits of living five minutes away from Dad instead of five hours, he knew what he was walking into and was on his second beer. It was nine in the morning.

“Yeah….this all started about three--no wait, Sarah had just gotten pregnant with Jenny---so yeah, four years ago? He was so worried that people were listening in on him or something. Paranoid sonovabitch. You invent one superlaser and you start to think everyone’s out to get ya.”

Martin’s laugh was a tight, forced thing, as if even the air didn’t want him to kid himself anymore. His normally perfectly styled hair and pressed clothes were nowhere to be seen, exchanged for heavy bags under his eyes and paint spattered t-shirt and shorts. Tiffany couldn’t help but grin when she eyed the bright pink and purple flecks. Hazards of having two daughters under the age of eight. Pastels everywhere.

“Speaking of, where is the rest of the brood? We are going to need more backup. Any chance you can call in some of your Marine buddies. OH! How about Jason? Jason’s hot. He seeing anyone?” Tiffany grinned over her shoulder as she started putting the large moving boxes together, she could at least start shoving appliances from the kitchen out of the way.

“Jason is very happy with his new boyfriend. Stop hitting on him. Sarah and the kids will be by later after the fairy princesses have their naps, but Trent should be here any minute. He just got his Driver's license. Be appropriately impressed.” No sooner had he said it than Tiffany heard a car door slam in the driveway. Her adopted nephew shuffled into the house, gave a cursory glance around at the chaos that was the living area, and seemed to deflate.

“Hey Trent, why don’t you help me in the garage. That’s where dad kept the heavy stuff, and I’d rather get going on that before the sun gets much higher and we roast in that tin death trap.” Martin finished off his beer and snagged the teen by the shoulder, shouting back at his little sister “Don’t let anything in there bite you. You know how Dad liked to tinker!”
Tiffany cleaned for hours. It got moderately better when her sister-in-law and nieces showed up, but if there is one thing that those two little ones did not like, it was getting dirty. To forestall the screaming fit that would erupt if a speck of anything tarnished their princess dresses, Sarah set the seven and three year olds up at the kitchen table with coloring books and a tablet streaming kid-friendly YouTube. Martin and Trent had made quick work of the garage, arranging for a local scrap yard to collect some of the larger items before they returned to the blissful relief of the air conditioning. With the house in a much more manageable state, the three adults and one teenager decided to tackle one last area.

The Basement.

Tiffany and Martin stood in front of the door. It was unlocked. It had always been unlocked. But Tiffany had never set foot on the staircase before. The Basement was Dad’s Space: Do Not Enter, By Royal Decree, Under Pain of Grounding.

“Ok, brother mine, go ahead. You know what’s down there, right? We gonna need to have Trent haul old computers out on his back?”

Martin slowly turned his head, looking at her as if she had suddenly sprouted whiskers, a tail and called herself Lassie. “The Hell you talking about? I’ve never been down there. I didn’t have a death wish.”

“You two are ridiculous” Sarah shoved her tiny frame between the siblings and opened the door, feeling along the wall for a lightswitch.

It wasn’t necessary.

As soon as the door opened, lights began to flicker, a generator hummed to life, and metal shutters slammed down covering every exterior window and door.


The voice that echoed out of the walls of the house was definitely their father, but much younger. Tiffany remembered that voice reading her bedtime stories when she was Jenny’s age. It shouldn’t be yelling like this.


“WHOA! DAD! Um...It’s Martin...the person who opened the door is my wife Sarah…”


“SHIT! DAD, Don’t shoot. It’s me, Tiffany. The other three are the kids, Trent,  Maria and Jenny. DO NOT TERMINATE ANYONE!”


“Oh, hell no. Nope. Not gonna happen. You two have fun going down into deathville. I’m taking the kid and we are going to sit and watch videos with the girls. You can deal with whatever craziness your father dreamt up.” Suiting actions to words, Sarah stomped down the hall, dragging a wide-eyed Trent with her. Tiffany and Martin peered down the narrow stairs. Only room to go down single file. An intense battle of rock-paper-scissors broke out, with Tiffany coming out the loser.

“Big bad Marine sends his baby sister to her death. I can see the headlines now.”
“Shut up, you won’t die. Dad liked you better anyway.”

At the base of the stairs was one of the most elaborate computer systems Tiffany had seen outside of NASA. Security cameras showed the exterior of the house, and a couple of warehouses and storage rooms that had even more sensitive equipment set up.  On one screen, there was a countdown. 3 days, 7 hours, 56 minutes, 18 seconds.  Right in the center of the console was a simple VCR, with a post-it note that said “Play Me”. Tiffany elbowed Martin, and he reached forward to hit the play button. The center screen came to life.

Their father was sitting in his recliner, holding his glasses in one hand, a bottle of scotch on the end table next to him as he rubbed at his eyes. With a deep breath, he looked into the camera.

I’m sorry kids. I’m so damned sorry. If you’re watching this it’s because the toxin got to me, and I’m no longer with you to explain. Your mother’s death was not natural. We had been working together to contain an airborne contagion that was manufactured on accident. By Our people. Our government covered it up, said that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Making fools of ourselves, overreacting. You know how it goes.

He paused to take a long swig out of the bottle at his side.

We were the last hope and we failed. I got so close, so close to fixing it and then my samples were stolen right before we found out about little Jenny. I’ve been working backwards ever since. I wish I could say that everything is ready to go. That all you have to do is call General Whats-his-face and you could save the world. But I can’t. I can’t. I don’t know how far the damage will reach, but there are enough supplies in the basement here that you can survive for about three months. God I hope you brought the little ones with you. If the lockdown was triggered, it won’t lift for three months. By then you should be able to survive whatever diluted toxin is left. And whatever is left of humanity by the end of all this.

With a last swallow of scotch and tears running down his face, their father reached forward and turned off the camera. Tiffany’s eyes were drawn to the countdown again, finally reading the heading:

3 d: 7 h: 50 m: 20 s

Friday, April 8, 2016

Just. Listen.

I would like to start this off by saying that this is not a cry for help, this is not a plea for attention, and this is not a shady pass at someone who treated me badly. It is an observation. And a request for everyone out there who has friends that may struggle with mental health or, you know, being a person sometimes.
Just Listen.
If someone comes up to you and says “can we talk about something?” and starts to express how they are feeling or thoughts that are going on in their head, don’t try to make it a teachable moment, or simplify or generalize what is going on. Don’t try to fix. Just. LISTEN.
This person could have been bottling this up for a long time, and has finally had enough of tamping down the anxieties that keep them from sleeping at night. They could have had a monumentally bad day and don’t know how else to decompress except by talking it out with an actual human being. Maybe they really do want your opinion on whatever “craziness” is bothering them, but I promise they will ask for that if you do one thing and
It can be tempting to redirect the conversation because it isn’t something you are comfortable with, but try to avoid that if possible. (Unless the topic is plotting a murder. Redirect that. That’s not good or healthy). If your friend (or family member) is discussing self-harm, don’t freak out on them, they are already freaking out on themselves.  Let them know that you care. By Listening.

Be Present for your friends and family. You may be the only one that is.