Once, there were only simple tattoos. Once, there was only color. Shape. Design. Symbols. Mother's names and cupids with arrows but never glowing dragons that wrap themselves around the penis in outline, only at the tip the glow taking over as the dragon breathes fire, the fire filled in with the glow in the dark. Glow in the dark tattoos. I invented them and I tattooed them and I trained my workers to do them. How long has our race been without this idea that seems so obvious, so relentlessly beautiful, so powerful and demonstrative of the inner light of the soul? How many people in the past could have profited from glow in the dark pasties, glow in the dark vulvas? The ladies on stage love me for it. And the ladies of the bedroom, simple wives who have never been able to convince their husbands that the clitoris is the most important part, that it is truly easy enough to find if you just look, well, they are probably my happiest customers of all. Glow in the dark clitoris tattoos are the most painful but the ladies have come to realize that they need not feel the pain, need not be macho, and can be given a syrup that gives them visions to numb their brains and their pocketbooks and help them through the transition.
I loved creating photoluminescence with a material, whose surface properties allow it to absorb ambient light and emit it back out. The only photons coming out are the ones going in.
My name is Destiny. Used to be Bertram. You can see the improvement. You may have heard about me in the popular song by The Snubs that came out this year. You may have read about me in Tattoo Magazine, in the July Issue.
It happened when I was first learning about the stars in the sky, as a little boy. I looked up and they looked down. The stars knew who I was. They winked at me. Some people call it twinkling. I called it winking. I knew at the time that there was something special going on. I started thinking about it and maybe yes, they do twinkle all the time. But that was a special twinkle meant for me. Because it was what gave me the idea. I wanted glow in the dark stars on my body like the ones in my older brother's bedroom. I didn't want sticky things on me that would wash off. I wanted the real thing, or as real as I could get. And I started my process then. For some reason, I am sure a lot of kids think about that, and put stars on themselves. And none of them have ever thought of wanting stars, or figured out how to do it. Or dared to. Maybe paint. But fuck paint. So you can imagine that the idea didn't come to me immediately at age three, when I didn't even know about tattoos. I became a tattoo artist at age 15, helping out my friends at school for cigarettes, or booze, for rides, and for getting me dates with their sisters. By age 16 I had my own shop in the back of the garage and was getting laid a lot more often because I was doing my own tats and girls like guys with tats. And the guy who does them, well, that's an added appeal. But still, I knew something was missing. My destiny was still calling.
It was when I went for a walk after school that it hit me. I looked up at the stars and had my same wish as ever, and it just clicked. I knew what I had to do. And it didn't really take too long to figure it out, but I had to test it on the school hamster. I didn't have any pets myself, so I snuck into the elementary school during lunch and shaved a little bit off it around its nipples, 'cause that part was already pretty easy to get to and wouldn't be noticed much. I put some deadening ointment on it, 'cause I have a heart. I put the stuff in around the nipples, as I didn't want to put it right on them, 'cause when I tried, the hamster just squealed way too much and I didn't want to hurt it that bad. So the hamster had little aureolas that glowed, not enough that anyone would notice. It worked. I just had to see if it made it sick. It was fine.
I wanted to make bets with the elementary school kids, telling them to look under the hamster, and if it had glowing titties they would have to pay me five bucks. But I didn't want anyone to figure out my secret until I had it tested out. I wanted to patent it. I actually went through the patent records looking for that subject, and nothing had been done. I was so happy I gave myself the hiccups.
I started testing it on every animal I could get ahold of around the neighborhood, in places that no one would notice much. Just tiny little bits at first, so no one would catch on, but I could see how they did. Everything seemed fine, but I was sure in a hurry to get going with it. Finally, I told my friend Gregor and he said he'd let me experiment. Gregor was the kind of guy who would do anything. Drink two gallons of melted ice cream. Pee in the teacher's coffee mug in between classes. You name it. I had to make him swear not to tell anyone on pain of loss of his secret. I knew why he—well, I won't tell you, 'cause he never did tell. His secret is safe with me. I'm no squeal.
I took my idea to the biology lab and tested it as best I could, took it to the girl down the street who was training to be a nurse, took it to the books, checking on all the ingredients and how they interact with all the chemicals of the body. Everything checked out. No cancer causing ingredients, nothing dangerous in any way to the body, animal or human, period. So I even asked my family doctor about it, and he gave me the thumbs up. Yeah!! And I had been saving up since I was a kid for my destiny, since I knew I had one, just didn't know what it was. I kept my stash behind my mirror, so whenever I opened the mirror box, I would see myself, tell myself, Yep, dude, this is it. You're the one. It's happening, you just don't know how. And the stash was huge, but not huge enough. I had to start doing it to people in secret before I could make enough to patent it. No one could know before I did. So it had to be only the unpopular geeks, or they'd have girlfriends who would find out. I mean, no way were those guys going to get lucky any time soon. At least not until they had the tats. Then they might get notorious enough that they'd get some girl, maybe even a hottie, who knows. Luckily, it didn't show up in the daytime, or it would be obvious during gym. And it had to be someplace that wouldn't hurt too bad, someplace they'd like to show off when they could. They all got into the idea of a special tat on their butt. They could moon people with it. That's the kind of thing that made Guyerson laugh so's he'd spit around the edges of his mouth, kind of squeaked. Reminded me of the hamster. But way stretched out.
Anderson turned a little redder than he already was. The teacher had tried to make people think it was no big deal that he blushed easily, was so ruddy, by commenting casually that some people have veins closer to the skin. You could tell she really wanted to help, and had practiced how to say it so it didn't make it worse. Had thought about it and saved it till the right moment to come out with it. She had looked back at the board, but you knew she wanted to look around and see how people were taking it but she was scared to.
I loved getting to see them happy even more than getting their money. It was all they had to be special. And these guys, well, you knew they would never grow out of being geeks. They were what they were. They were the dorks. They were ugly. They weren't even good in school. No one talked to them. They hardly even talked to each other that much until that tattoo idea came up. They just had no hope of ever getting any attention other than being put in the wastebasket before the teacher came in. Anderson even liked the attention. It was the high point of his day when they would do that. It became a joke to see how long he would get a thrill out of it.
These guys started to get along better 'cause they had a secret they shared. They would be walking down the hall and start sniggering. I guess even though they're guys, you'd have to call it giggling. They'd see each other and slap their hands, and give the high five. Call each other Jack. They had an identity other than playing Dungeons and Dragons and Going to Star Trek Conventions. They had their asses. They had their smiles. And they had the homecoming dance to go to. 'Cause not one of them had a date. But they had each other. They were ass brothers. The Jackasses, I called them. They had a plan.
They all wanted to go to it, but they wanted to act like they didn't. This way, they could go to homecoming and be the hit of the dance. Be the talk of the town. Luckily, it was a pretty liberal school, or they'd be out on their glowing asses after what they had planned. There was still some danger of that, but they were willing to take the risk. They could tell the school to shove it even more convincingly if they got kicked out, be even more heroes, 'cause, well, no one really likes school. Or if they do, they don't want to admit it or they just aren't cool. I kind of like education, myself. I like English a lot, as you can tell by this. I know how to write, and that comes in handy for interviews. I've already been in three tattoo magazines. I like art, of course. I even liked politics class, 'cause I could make cracks about the dolts in the government.
It took a lot of brainstorming to come up with what would be something they could all get done. We thought about the school mascot the beaver, and how that could fit. Went through a lot of bad ideas. Believe it or not, what they wanted to get was playing cards tattooed on their asses. And one was indeed the Jack Ass. His name was Graham. People called him Gray Ham. Poor guy. Jackass was a lot better than that. He could finally say he meant to be called something stupid. They were into being clubs, because they imagined that once they could drink legally, they'd be the hit of the club scene, would be able to go in and moon them, and say, Hey, look at me. I'm the King of this club. Or, Of course, I can drink another one. I'm the Ace of clubs, what the hell?
The plan was to be the best hand a guy could get. The toughest hand to beat. A Royal Flush. Jack, no problem, considering. I don't know if he ever decided later that being a Jack Ass was a bad idea, but I doubt it. I did give him a second chance to think on it.
Ten of clubs, well, nothing too exciting there, except Mo could make jokes about ten fingers on his ass, being grabbed by some tighty. He thought he could make it work for him. His ass was a ten, you know, best ranking there is. His ass was ok. And he had been working it out to make a better show. He still had skinny arms, and a miniature neck, but his ass was sticking out more every time I did tat work on him. I had to redraw my design a little by the end. On the end. Ha.
Ace was Anderson, who therefore became the uneasy leader, even better than Finklestein the King.
Somehow it seemed that Finklestein should be the leader, being King, but they never really got that worked out. Probably some kind of counseling would have helped.
But the one that I really felt kind of bad about was the Queen. Guyerson of course. You got to be hard up to label yourself as the Queen of Clubs to get attention. But he said it was no different from tattooing any other sexy lady on your body. His was just classier. Poor guy. I made her as sexy as I could, and made her topless. He really liked to bend over in the mirror and look at her. He liked her always being with him. Made him less lonely.
Ass brothers unite!
I hardly had time to study. But I made good money to secure the patent, and I knew once I had that, I would be on my way to owning a parlor I would call Spear of Destiny. I knew how the parlor would be set up with stars on the ceiling that would show up at the late night parties, most likely even with celebrities.
I know it was a pain in the ass for the Royal Pains not to let on what was going on. They got happier and happier, more and more confident, and people got really interested in what was going on. Other people wanted to be in on whatever secret it was, wanted to be in the know at least as much as they were but they also got kind of tired of them acting all superior, when everyone knew they just weren't. But they would be, in their own way once people saw them in all their glory. No one had tattoos as good as that as far as I'm concerned anyway, much less glowing ones. But if it was just tats, well, people would forget about it. What they had planned would go down in the history of that school — hell, that town — forever. And people would know that if I could do that for them, put them on the map, I could be someone to have on their side.
Of course, I did worry a little about being the guy who had gotten intimate with the naked asses of the most unpopular guys in town. Would people see my glow in the dark tats as being associated with geeks? Would only geeks start wanting them? I was taking a chance. I could get kicked out for being the ring leader. I could lose all my business forever. But I hired a cameraman to be there at the homecoming to document it. I had to go at it with flair. With confidence. It had to all come off smooth so people would get the joke all at once.
Homecoming is just not something that I've ever cared a flip for. Big beefy guys stupid enough to do something that breaks their bones. Why? 'Cause that's what our dads say real boys do. It just ain't raght if boys don't play with balls. If they don't want to get hurt. If they want to read or make art or play Dungeons and Dragons. Yeah, the cheerleaders like the players. The fancy clique likes them. But who cares about those chicks anyway? You never even see them with tattoos. Too scared. I guess they might stand out from the cookie cutter mold. And I know they couldn't handle the pain. At our school, they all are blond, whether they were born that way or not. They say "I was like You gotta shave your legs or guys will be grossed out. And she was like I know, but I cut my legs and they bleed too much, and I have to wear Band-Aids. And I was like Why don't you wax them? And she was like That hurts too much. And I was like Why don't you use creams? And she was like That gives me a rash. And I was like, you know, You're blown out of the water, Babe. No guy is gonna want you, are they? And she was like crying and saying Yeah, I know."
That's the kind of thing you have to listen to in class, girls sitting next to you jabbering. It makes me sick. And seeing the girls who I like ok going to the games is even worse, 'cause I care about those ones. And they just don't get it. Everyone goes to games. There's nothing unique about it. You don't have to use your mind to do that. It's herd mentality. It's boring, the same thing every week. You could be doing something else with your time. I always ditched when we were supposed to be on the bleachers, went off by myself and drew. The geeks didn't ditch I don't think, but I know they hated the whole thing. They would probably sit by themselves feeling miserable. Second rate. Bored. But once they started the tats, they loved it. They could sit together and get a rise from imagining people who thought a football game was hot stuff and then got to see their little show. Now, that's hot stuff. That's something to remember. That's entertainment.
The homecoming dance was in the gym, and Jim the Quarterback was the lead singer for the band that played, the Aqueous Humors. Something to do with the fluid in your eyeballs. Their sound was harsh enough to be cool and boppy enough to get the sock-hopper type dancing, too. He was an alright guy, not that great looking, which helped. Course, he could get any girl he wanted, anyway. His date just stood out in the crowd watching him play, didn't get a chance to dance with anyone, so she really had less fun than a lot of the other girls, no doubt. But to his credit, he didn't pick a girl from the popular crowd. She didn't even like football.
The lights were dim, and the walls were all decorated up with chintzy balloons and silver streamers, banners and goofy pom poms stuck up on the walls in the school colors and pictures of the mascot, the Beaver. That was one thing that made me like the school. Ya have to give 'em that.
My friend Gregor was there with his girlfriend, and he was beaming, 'cause once the tattoos got to be ok to talk about, he could show people he had the first one. He was standing taller. He didn't have to worry about whether he would get suspended like the geeks did. He had it made. Though he did come up to me and ask, "Destiny? Do you think Jim will get mad? Do you think he'll take it personally like an insult? I mean, it's his big night, right? If he doesn't like it, we could be shit. Shit up shit creek."
"I know. We could. It's a risk. But people gotta take risks. Buck up little bronco." Just that last phrase gave him enough to think about so he didn't worry about it any more for awhile, trying to figure out how to take that. You could see it on his face, puzzlement, changing his mind from being offended to feeling loved, and back again. It was hard not to laugh.
And Guyerson was the funnest person to share a laugh with, 'cause just watching him laugh was funny in itself. I was in the mood, so I found him, and he was actually a little sullen. "I don't know, Destiny. Do you think people will think I'm gay? What if people don't like me any more?"
"Guyerson. Think about what you just said."
"Yeah. I know. I ain't got nothin' to lose. But still, what if word gets out all over the county? What if my mom thinks I'm a homo?"
"Do you seriously think she'd remember by the next day? Come on, Guyerson. Buck up little bronco!" I was on a roll.
He turned his head fast in my direction and looked at me quizzically. He burst out laughing. He looked down and shook his head, and slapped me on the back. He looked around to see if anyone saw him touch a guy, and then just loosened into it and we did a merry little shuffle dance, and a jive handshake and a high five, and he said "The world is my oyster 'cause I've got nothin' to lose! HiYa!" And he leapt up and touched the streamers hanging down over his head, which was already six-foot-eight-inches in the air when standing on two feet. His adam's apple was sticking out even more than usual, the veins on his clammy yellowish skin looking more noticeable, and his eyes were taking on a sheen.
"Now you got it Guyerson! That's the spirit! We gotta get The Royal Flush ready for their hoe down show down."
"Whoop!" I wondered if he had been drinking more Mr. Pibbs than unusual. I decided to buy some for all the geeks that night.
"I want to treat you all to some cokes. Let's see what they've got for sale. Something with some kick in it."
"Yooou Gotcha." Strange boy. He led his walk with his adam's apple, bobbing like a turkey, grinning and turning a little more pink, starting to sweat. "Let's go get Gray Ham."
Graham was standing in the shadows like he had to keep his tattoo dark even under his clothes or he'd be found out. He looked furtive. "Hey, Jack!"
"What. No one is going to figure it out by that. Hey, Jack! Want a coke, Jack? Whatcha got planned for this evening, Jack?" I was getting louder and louder, with more emphasis on the Jack. It was fun to watch him cower, knowing there was no need to.
He looked around sheepishly and said that he'd have one, but it made his acne worse. I could see his point. He even had acne on his ass, and the idea of making the Jack on his ass get acne made even me a little squeamish. The last thing he needed was for the Jack of Clubs to get more zits.
"Well, how about a kissy from Missy, then?" I asked on the spur of the moment, as one of the sluttiest girls who had obviously snuck in some hootch was wobbling past. "Missy, can you give Jack here a shotgun—of your booze? He hasn't drunk anything all night." And I grabbed her and pushed her up to him in one natural movement and she just went along for the ride, and nodded in what seemed sincere concern for his well being. She probably had no idea who he was and her vision was blurred enough to give him a pretty decent tongue kissing to pass along some of the booze fumes. Then she tottered off and sat down and just stared at the crowd and laughed for awhile. I know it was Graham's first kiss, and after that, nothing mattered.
"Well, then. Let's get to it! We're gonna be great!"
Anderson came up to us, and Graham said, "Hey, we Aced the game, didn't we, Anderson!" You could tell he thought he'd said the wittiest, most daring thing.
"You bet your little velvet painted Jesus! I'm glad we won, too, 'cause I'd hate to make those footies feel inferior on a bad day. Maybe they'll be in a good enough mood they can get into the spirit of the thing. Poor guys."
I offered him a Dr. Pepper, but he said no, He had lots of money, of course, and so he would buy them for us. So Guyerson and I were treated and he got one for himself, and we were getting more and more ready. "We need to get even Mo readeye, mah nigs!" We just liked how that sounded. Made us want to be black sometimes to be able to say that out loud in public, but at least when no one could hear us, it gave us a thrill, 'cause people would hate it if they heard us say it, think maybe we were racist or something.
But where Was Mo? It was getting pretty well into the dance, and none of us had spotted him.
At least Finklestein was there, that much we knew. Everyone knew he was there. You just couldn't miss a guy that was over 300 pounds and wore flip flops and a crocheted hat made of yellow and red yarn. His pants were loose and tied with a drawstring, looking like something to do martial arts in, but you know he didn't do that. And it's a good thing, 'cause when he sweated, he smelled kind of funny. He was looking our way, so we waved him over.
Time slowed down. Boom boom boom. The center of gravity in the room shifted. And as he got closer, he smiled more, though it was harder for him, because he was getting out of breath. "Hey, guys! How are ya?"
"Oh, we be happn'in, we be happn'in. Sup, my nig?" Maybe it was the profusion of hip hop and wiggers. It sure wasn't that there were many black people in our school. It was just too much of a white bread town, everything normal, everything ordinary, without even any jive talk to speak of. It was time to spice it up. Spice it UP!
"Hey, guess what I was thinkin?" said Finkelstein. "What say we do a little dance for the show. Make it really good. We'd have to get the band to cooperate, but I think, if they were on our side, that would be the key. They get into it instead of lead the lynch mob. Whatcha say?"
"Hell yeah! ExActly, mah Man!"
"Let's Do it!" And do it we did. "Hey Jimmy—we've got something kinda crazy planned for tonight. Want to be part of it? We don't want to take all the attention away from your band, so if you want to play a good dance song when it's time, that would be awesome, dude."
"It's all dance songs. I don't know what you're talking about."
"You will, mah Man. You will."
Where was Mo? We couldn't do it without Mo. You can't have a royal flush without the 10, even if that is kind of a stupid card. A ten. Not a very mentally stimulating card. It was like a movie where everything inevitably happens at the very last minute. How people put up with that shit day after day I don't know. It's soooo predictable. Right to the last second, the hero comes in a saves the day from certain doom. Give me a break. Well, we did have a little time, at least. If this turned into a movie like that I'd be pretty damn embarrassed and have to talk to God about the directing on that one.
And sure enough, just as I was starting to have a word with Herr Creator, in ran Mo. So, had he discovered something that would make our show a hundred times better? Had he almost been killed but had to save the country? No, pant pant, his mother had to dry her hair before she drove him there, and the hair dryer quit. Really. I'm serious. Gotta love real life.
So, me and the boys decided it was time to get serious if there was going to be any dancing going on. They would have to improvise, but that would give it a sense of excitement. But they needed to work on some synchronized moves. Out in the hall we went, down to where no one ever went, in the darkish corners of the night. We were the secret lights of the dark corners of the night, soon to be revealed. Ok, guys, all in a circle, heads down, butts up, and wag them thangs and shake yourselves around while walking in a circle together. Good! They'll love that! Now move those butts up and down at the same time. Yeah! Ok, shake them side to side and bang into each other, but don't look too . . . sensuous about it. Look goofy. That's the ticket. And we made the plans, developed the signals so they'd all do more or less the same thing at once. It was heaven. We knew it would be good. But like any performance, it could come off great, or just lame as all get out: No one in the audience applauding, awkward silences and coughs and the clearing of throats, shuffling. Jeering. Name calling. Wrong ideas being had. Guffaws. And in our case, suspension.
We started thinking of songs with a giddiness that left us breathless. I sang "Shake Your Booty" as much as I knew of it, and Guyerson had been saving up "Bend Over, Shake a Tail Feather," and almost fell over laughing and spitting. Anderson's face got so red while he had it down by the floor that I started to worry, and started almost yelling "Ass me once! Ass me twice! And ass me one more time!" They really tried not to laugh and keep up instead with their moves, banging into each other until they got their signals straight. It was like football. Perfect.
"Now we know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall!" That from Gregor who had tracked us down and was watching from the shadows. We were ready.
We had to carry it with panache. Aplomb. Dignity, if you could call it that. Very subtle qualities could make or break it.
We went in there like we meant it. We signaled Greg. He dimmed the lights. Jesus, we couldn't believe it was actually happening, that it was really the time, so we just slid right into it without thinking too much about it and wham. The band started ending the song. And I picked up the spotlight. Bam! Right on Anderson's ass. While Greg clicked the tape recorder with the prerecorded message: "Ladies and gentleman—" And here was added the loud flushing of the toilet. "The Royal Flush!" And the band started up with a drum roll. They were great. We had the universe on our side already, I could tell. Must have been good collective karma. Ace of Clubs. No g string to soften the blow. Just straight up harsh lighting in the middle of a homecoming dance in a small town. Bam. There it was, no foolin. The tension was . . . tense. Red. Tumescent. You could feel it in the air.
Bam! Mo's buff butt. Ten of clubs glowing in the dark. You could tell he'd pumped it up not long before.
Bam. Jackass Gray Ham's Jack of Clubs butt. Some tittering. Some gasps of awe at what we were doing. But I at least hardly noticed the sounds, was just working on feeling the time, intuiting the exactitudes. Making it come out right by will power. And the clincher was what was coming up next.
Bam! Finklesteine's obcenely large ass, filled in at the last minute, still a little red around the glowing face, looking just like the homecoming king's face as the King of Clubs! Ta da! Jesus mother of God, this was the moment we all had worried about most. How would they take it? Moans here and there, and an excited sneeze and sniffle, but the band was drowning that out with their frantic noises as it sounded like they were conferring excitedly among themselves.
And, to top it all off, the moment of truth, the moment we had all had precarious nightmares about, Bam, the spotlight lighting up the glow in the dark outline on Guyerson's flat rear end of the Homecoming Queen of Clubs. Whew. The world still existed. Thank God the lights were really really dim. Guyerson didn't pee his pants, and that was all one could really ask for at this point.
A moment of shocked silence. And then Jim started laughing with a big hearty laugh. Another band member actually fell down on the stage laughing next. And it was all over. The whole crowd was in an uproar, shaking and jelly bellying and sniggering and just letting it out. It was the funniest thing this side of the Mississippi, which ever side that is.
And then the fun began in earnest. This was the moment of a life time. Believe it or not, the band started playing, get this . . . "Ass Sweat Makes Me Wet" Yeah! Ha ha! God, it's been hard waiting to tell you that! Hee hee! It was delicious! It was the best thing, like a piece of cherry pie with ice cream on it and a swig of whiskey for desert! Yeah, buddy, thank the Lard! WooHoo!
And boy could those bottoms dance.
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Copyright (c) 2000, 2004, David Erik Nelson, Fritz Swanson, Morgan Johnson