The bell over the door tinkled as the old man entered the tattoo shop, announcing his presence.
“Be right with ya!” came a shout from somewhere beyond the counter.
The old man stood just inside the doorway gazing around from behind his thick glasses at all the art on the walls. With wide eyes he took in the pictures of skulls, snakes, tigers, crosses, knives, swords and half naked women pinned haphazardly around the room.
“Hiya! What can I do for… ya?” said the owner-operator of the shop as he came out from the back room wiping his hands. He was quite taken aback as he looked up and got a look at the old man for the first time. This fellow was definitely not one of his regular clients. A short little fellow wearing a rumpled suit and holding a battered fedora in his hands stared back at him though what could only be described as ‘coke bottle’ glasses.
“I’m interested in getting a tattoo covered up,” the old man said in a raspy voice.
“Uh, sure. There’s tons of shit… uhm… art to choose from. Besides what you see on the walls I got a book you can look through.” He reached under the counter and produced a thick binder of art work.
Glancing up at the walls and shaking his head, the old man shuffled forward reaching for the book. After ten minutes of flipping pages he sighed and looked up.
“This one will do.”
“You sure man?” asked the shop owner looking down at the old man’s selection. It was a dagger piercing a human skull and wrapped in a thorny rose covered vine.
The old man nodded slowly.
“OK then, come ‘round back here and let’s get the forms signed and get you in a chair.”
A few minutes later the shop owner was hunched over light table prepping a stencil of the new tattoo while the old man was struggling to get himself comfortably placed into the oddly shaped chair.
“OK man, just take off your shirt or pants and let’s see what this is going over…” said the shop owner as he turned around holding the wet stencil ready.
Seeing what the old man wanted covered up, the shop owner stopped and set the stencil back on the light table.
“You know man, it’s totally none of my business, but covering a tattoo only hides the tattoo, you know? The memories don’t go away just ’cause the old ‘tat is gone. I mean, it’s up to you and all and I don’t know why you’re getting this done, but hey, it’s your choice man.” The shop owner shrugged.
The old man looked at him through his thick glasses for a moment and then slowly down at the hated row of numbers scrawled on the inside of his left forearm. Reaching out he slowly rolled down his sleeve, slipped out of the chair and a few seconds later the bell announced his absence from the store.