go back and fetch it
Go back and fetch it
by larry love
Austin paused for a moment while his index finger habitually ran over the long vicious scar on his neck as he gazed out of the window at the setting sun. The light purple and pink clouds were splayed out like upside down ocean waves washing up and over the fading blue sky then receding back into infinity. In the far distance he could already see black night sprinkled with a few scattered stars. Sights such as this made him wonder how anyone in their right mind could find skylines beautiful; they were nothing but nature rapists in his eyes.
He returned to his dining room which had been converted into a home tattoo parlor and resumed straightening up the general area, not that it was unsightly at the moment, but, Austin simply preferred after every single completed customer to restore the place back to its original order. The medium sized room was empty except for his favorite armless swivel chair, a black massage table and a black stained liquor cabinet.
Instead of being filled with liquor the cabinet was packed with a rainbow assortment of ink, needles, tattoo guns, band-aids, cotton swabs, rubbing alcohol and all the other tools that a professional tattoo artist might need.
The walls were sparsely clothed with a few African inspired images; one framed picture had three intense masks starring straight ahead at whomever had the never to stare back, another was a smoky image of a head with it’s lips frozen in an “O” and the last held the image of two figures walking toward a great abyss. Cream Venetian blinds allowed weakening striped sunlight to spill onto the finished hardwood floors.
If ever there was a field slave who fell through a time portal into the present and found equilibrium in his new surroundings Austin could have passed for his twin. He was tall, thick with muscles and arguably the inspiration for all John Henry type characters were alive and well in his blood stream. Austin was clean shaven, face and scalp, skin the color of burnt charcoal with bright brown eyes that were colder than the clear cubes floating in fine diners restaurant water.
Being that it was the end of his day and there was no one coming by who would care one way or the other Austin removed all his clothing except for his mesh basketball shorts so that the oppressive summer heat was not so oppressive.
As had been commented on many occasions by almost every last one of his clients for a tattoo artist Austin had remarkably few tats. The funny thing was the minute, barely visible tats that he did have were in places that were virtually impossible to hide in most social or professional situations.
On his neck and over a large portion of his scar was a pirate inspired skull and cross bones with the question ‘why fear him’ underneath. On the back of his left hand were the words ‘felonious felon’ and a small 180 arc on his chest read the words “what you gonna do?’ Everything was in black ink.
Satisfied with the cleanliness of the room Austin sat down in his swivel chair, picked up a lather satchel that he stashed his daily earnings in and began calculating his dough. The day had been hella good to him.
Austin had swiftly gained a slick reputation in his rough and rugged neighborhood for his top notch ink jobs. After throwing a few tattoo parties word of mouth spread like wild fire and he had not wanted for work since. In fact, it was not an infrequent occurrence for Austin to have to turn work away, however, due to his natural born workaholic mentality he rarely told anyone that he could not help them whatsoever and merely had them come back as to slide them into one of his notorious 12 to 14 hour shifts. Most days Austin’s dining room resembled a hybrid barber shop with just a few folks venting their problems of the day, clowning or just admiring his genuine artistic talent. Had he recognized that his ability to draw could earn so much legit, headache free money he never would have had a need to get the tat on his paw. But hey, that’s life.
Austin strolled down in the basement, took a painting over the couch down and opened the safe behind. Once open Austin was starring at a pile of money that looked more like several heads of lettuce rather than paper. Two long menacing knives and two snubbed nosed revolvers along with ample ammunition played the roles of sentinel to the cash. Austin loved tax free money with a passion that few people had for like itself and through bitter life experience he realized that there were individuals who would come and try to take his. Luckily, he was used to defending what was his.
After literally being state property he knew for a fact that this country and government didn’t give a damn about him or any other the inmates locked down nation wide. While incarcerated Austin made himself the promise that if he ever lived to see the light of day again he would stick the system each and every way that he possibly could for as long as he possibly could. So far he was ahead of the game.
He tossed the money in the safe, locked it , returned the painting and went back up the stairs. By the time that he sat back down in the parlor chair the sun had set. Austin closed and locked the front door, drew the blinds and got a glass of orange juice from out of the refrigerator. He felt a strong presence. There was a soft knock at the door. At least he thought he heard a knock at the door, maybe it was all in his head. It was possible, even probable.
Either way he went and opened the front door for whomever it might be even though he already knew who he would see.
She was standing on the one step porch holding a manila colored folder and smiling the same smile she was smiling eight years ago when she stood on that same porch for the very first time. Austin grinned back. He stepped out of her path to allow her a lane to enter. She did. He followed her closely to the tattoo parlor. Austin sat down in the chair reserved for customers and she in the swivel chair. For a long moment they gazed at each other.
“So what’s it going to be?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“What you gonna give me if I tell you?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
They smiled at each other. She handed over the folder. Austin took it, opened it and appraised the illustrations. Inside were various drawings and sketches of a flamingo like bird with its neck and head craned backwards. He was not well versed in Adinkra symbols, but, he did know that this was a Sankofa bird.
“My back. In the middle just below the collar line.”
“About the size of a computer disc.”
“This is forever. Last time to say no. Yes or no?”
Austin got up and went to the liquor cabinet to get his supplies. Although she had never viewed him work his new tat gig with her own eyes she knew from their conversations what he was going to do next, so she dove headfirst into their partnership.
While Sam was gathering a jug of orange juice and a cold rag from the kitchen she reminisced on the days and years when she would haunt this house and hope that Austin would once again walk through the front door in tact and safe. An old familiar pang of sadness lanced her heart the same way it forever did when she thought of the time he had been arrested and later when she heard that the judge gave him three years in the joint.
The house was paid for so she chose to stay and wait for him even though all her girlfriends and family told her she was a fool for doing so, but they told her she was a fool for getting caught up with the street urchin in the first place. Quickly she became exhausted with trying to convey and explain the feelings that she had for Austin and how she knew he felt about her so she simply stopped and waited for him in relative solitude. She busied herself with completing her bachelors degree in education with money that Austin provided when two years into his sentence word got out that an old rival from his days in the street jumped him with three other cronies, beat Austin and slit his throat. The story went that he was barely alive when the doctors got to him but it was basically an impossibility for him to survive.
That night tortured with grief and anxiety Sam had no real recollection of how she got to the small neighborhood bar that she and Austin would occasionally frequent to break the monotony of their normal routine or how much she had drank when she wondered back out into the streets and was attacked herself.
So many things had happened since then…to both of them.
Changed in such horrific ways Sam knew of Austin’s release for at least a year before she decided to try to contact him. The one & only reason that she finally chose to do this was because she loved him and knowing that he had not and would not get involved with another female until her mysterious disappearance was solved Sam wanted to allow him to move forward with his life. Yet, once on the phone, as only that silver tongued devil could, Austin charmed her from the shadows with a series of conversations and his radiation of pure emotion that often times almost melted the phone.
When Austin saw her return he smiled at what she had done then motioned to the customer chair and sat back down in his swivel chair. Sam put the items down on the floor closest to her own chair then sat down. Having completed the process countless times Austin assembled the tattoo gun with amazing quickness and was ready to get down to business.
“Take your shirt off.”
“I would say you first, but, you know.”
Sam wore a pair of sandals highlighting her bright red pedicure toenails, red sweat pants and a white T-shirt. The colors of Sam’s wardrobe always reflected were her mind was. In one smooth motion she hoisted the shirt over her head, revealing a red sports bra. She folded the cloth, placed it on the floor next to her, and, in an effort to lay down her very short but recently slightly ruffled hair ran her fingers over her scalp. Austin eyes followed her red manicured nails the entire time.
“If this was Cali I would swear that you were set trippin.”
“Something like that.”
“Oh, my bad Suge.”
Austin got up, went into the other room and returned. When he came back he was carrying a white Bic pen. Shortly after he sat back down the stereo breathed life into Brotha Lynch Hung, EBK4, track seven:
'I gave you my love
By telling you what I do
I expect a whole lotta love outta you…'
“You know you are going to look different tomorrow.”
“So do I.”
In no time at all Austin had sketched an outline of the bird in washable ink on the portion of Sam’s back where she had indicated that she wanted it placed. He examined her back while he had the chance. Austin loved her smooth creamy henna colored flesh, which was without blemish, due to, let her tell it, her obsessive use of shea butter; not to mention her chiseled muscle that was uncommon for a female, yet, far from lacking in feminine zeal. In fact her entire body was cut up OJ style like a professional track star. Sam was mouth watering.
Always would be.
The outline was complete. The gun was assembled. Austin was ready to mark Sam. Sam was ready to be marked.
“The first tat hurts folks the most, not because it hurts all that bad but just because people think it will hurt, so, really they make it hurt themselves. In their own minds that is.”
“That could be said about a lot of things in this world.”
“Be that as it may, I always feel obligated to say that to you virgins.”
“Thank you for your concern but I have a rather high tolerance for pain. But thank you again for you concern, you’re a sweetie.”
Austin sank the tattoo needles into Sam’s skin. She did not jerk, squeal, moan, move or adjust in any manner whatsoever. Instead she simply sat there quietly chatting with Austin and every so often she would pour him a cup of juice or hand him the rag to wipe away excess blood and ink from the tattoo in progress. Seeing as how the ink job was not that big or complicated it was completed in roughly 45 minutes.
The two crept to the bathroom on the second floor were with the aid of a wall and hand mirror Sam was able to inspect her new tattoo. Austin added his own creative accents. Sam approved. She loved the piece. They returned to the parlor.
“So are you happy with your ink?”
“In my heart I never believed that you were dead.”
“Good I never thought that you died either.”
“Never once. It’s the same thing for you, this is forever. Aint no going back.”
“Those are the breaks.”
“So you want this?”
“I want you…whatever that means.”
They smiled at each other for a while. Austin leaned over and kissed Sam in the manner that the gods wanted a man to kiss his woman…with love. She kissed him back…with love. Sam’s fangs grew long, sharp and fearsome before she plunged them deep into Austin’s neck.