1. James Seamarsh

    We met beneath my house, an 1885 Victorian raised on cribbing to replace the old stone and mortar foundation. It seemed a fitting place, in the middle of the city, to have a ceremony. He was getting married tomorrow. The groom, best man, and six close friends were celebrating his last day as a bachelor.

    We stood in a circle, arms over shoulders, and talked of the coming challenges. Most of the others were married, had been married for years, and told stories of battles and wars waged between husbands and wives, and how to survive them.

    “We need to mark this moment,” the groom declared, and the men grumbled their assent.

    They headed down the street, past the old church, the park, past the Odd Fellows, the Masons, to the fountain, and the little tattoo shop on the corner.

    “Let’s all get a tattoo,” someone said.

    I lagged behind, but had never been inside a tattoo shop before, so followed after everyone else had slipped through the door.

    “Brotherhood,” the tattoo artist was explaining. “It’s the Chinese symbol for brotherhood.”

    One by one they sat in the chair. It reminded me of a barber’s chair, might have been a barber’s chair. Then the buzz, the bravado smile, as the needle jabbed at the stencil, into the skin of each man’s right shoulder. One by one, until I was the only one left.

    “Come on,” he said.

    The tattoo artist cleaned his needles. I shook my head.

    “Come on,” they said.

    They grabbed me, started to drag me to the chair.

    “Wait,” he said, and they did. “Why not?”

    I told them. Nobody in my family had a tattoo. None of my brothers, my father, my uncles, my grandfathers, none had ever gotten a tattoo.

    But the men still held me, still pulled me closer to the chair.

    “Wait,” he said. “It’s clear this is important to him. Let him go.”

    They didn’t, until he came and undid every hand that held me, telling them they had to respect my conviction.

    I followed them out of the tattoo shop, each nursing their shirts back over their wounds, seven brothers and another.

    1. mcullen Post author

      I enjoy how you set up this story . . . description of Victorian house and passing markers/monuments on the way to the unknown and end up in a tattoo parlor. Great tension . . . who will prevail? I love that the tattoo artist intervened. He helps propel the story forward, encouraging the narrator to explain and then the release. He’s the guy in the white hat, the rescuer, loosening the holds, but perhaps not the bond. I enjoy your style of writing. You invite readers to sit a spell, spinning yarns and telling truths. Love the line, ” It reminded me of a barber’s chair, might have been a barber’s chair.” – A place to unburden.

  2. Lisa Goben

    “What the Hell were you thinking?!” Sara’s mom screamed, her voice booming over Sara like thunder at the start of a summer rain storm. “A tattoo!? I just can’t believe you marked up your body like that.” Sara loved her new tattoo. It was a simple anchor on the inside of her left ankle. It was her first but she knew it wouldn’t be her last. And there was nothing her mother could do about it. At 19, Sara was no longer a minor. No longer required to do as her mother demanded. All her mother had to try and sway her was to make her feel stupid about her decision. But Sara refused to accept her mother’s guilt. She’d thought long and hard about her decision and knew deep down her father would have been proud because it was in remembrance of him. Sara crossed her legs and put the palm of her hand over her new tattoo as if to protect it from her mother. It felt hot, like a sun burn, but it brought a smile to Sara’s face and for the first time she found the strength to respond to her mother instead of staring at the floor, taking in all of her mother’s negativity. “You just don’t get it.” She said flatly as she got up to walk away “And you never will.”

    1. mcullen Post author

      Great writing, Lisa. Good tension building as the disagreement escalates and then the wonderful reveal . . her father would have been proud. I love how Sara “put the palm of her hand over her new tattoo as if to protect it,” showing (rather than telling) how much Sara treasures her remembrance. I also like the tactile detail: “felt hot, like a sun burn.” Great ending. Thanks for posting.

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