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A double banner under the skull bore the legend:

“Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.” (Luke, ch 6, vs 25).

Although Donna acted tough it clearly hurt. Every time he had to reposition the needle after refilling the machine with more ink, she’d wince.

Blink tears from pale blue eyes, and suck air through her teeth. Mark thought her mouth was probably dry.

He offered her a cigarette, but knew that she would decline. The tattooist – who worked under the name King Ink – was rumoured to be one of the best, but was laboriously slow. It took a long time.

Track across the room: on the walls of the studio were pasted flash sheets depicting dragons, flags, badly drawn nubiles, hearts, skulls, roses and assorted flowers, alongside images of various cartoon characters. A framed certificate from the Dept. of Health hung over the small sink, which was meticulously clean in contrast to the ceiling which was coffee-piss-yellow-brown with nicotine.

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A small desk next to a chair was littered with swabs, disinfectants, ink-pots, an autoclave, a variety of needles, and King Ink’s cigarettes and cup of sweet tea. Mark knew it was sweet, he’d watched as the tattooist counted in five heaped spoonfuls of white sugar.

After King Ink completed the tattoo Mark suggested they go for a beer, in the place on the corner. Walked in and lined up the celebratory drinks: two beers and two shorts: a vodka and orange, and a Bushmills straight. Donna wanted to show her tattoo to the barman. Mark could tell she was going to get wild drink, and it was only mid-afternoon.

Donna was looking good though, wearing tight-but-not-too-tight jeans. They were pretty f*cked and beginning to fray under her left buttock, spinning a white-blue-fade thread. Her jacket – which she was taking off – was totally collapsing, held together by grime and a last few stitches. Underneath she was wearing a skin tight purple tee-shirt, cut to just above her navel.

Across the front of the shirt, in some 70’s typeface, was the logo ‘PUSSY’ in orange – shaded with green – glitter print. Mark couldn’t remember watching her get dressed that morning, but he guessed by the way the barman was looking at her she wasn’t wearing a bra and the barman could see her nipples friction erect beneath purple cotton and dumb slogan.

She was telling the barman how much the tattoo had hurt, but how it was worth it. The barman could give a f*ck, but had nothing better to do. Acting interested he asked to see it, but Donna was playing seduction saying no not until it was healed, and anyway, she had to leave the absorbent bandage over it for at least another three hours.

But – she promised him – he’d be the first to see it.

Another two beers, two shorts. The barman walks down the bar to serve somebody else. Donna ignored Mark, walked to the cigarette machine, pushed money in. Picked the packet from the drawer, and used her thumb nail to tear the plastic wrapping from the box.

As she sat down Donna opened the box, taking a cigarette from the packet she turned it over and replaced it, upside down, in the box. Mark knew that would be the last cigarette she’d smoke.

He was suddenly overcome with a complete loathing for Donna: “Why the f*ck do you do that anyway?”

She didn’t even look at him, replied “You know why I do it”, a bitter tone in her voice, “For luck”. Donna removed another cigarette from the packet and lit it. Mark could feel alcohol at the edge of his mind, asked her for a cigarette even though they weren’t his brand.

Donna tossed the packet along the bar, Mark opened it, wanted to take out the ‘lucky’ cigarette but thought better of it. He watched Donna light her cigarette, as she leant over and reached into her bag for her matches she wavered slightly. She inhaled, glared at Mark, a look which said: say nothing.

Mark kept his mouth shut.

He had been drinking fast. The rectangle of gauze on Donna’s arm was stained brown. She was talking to the barman again. The light coming from the doorway was fading. More people sat at the tables drinking/ talking.

The music was getting louder. Donna was telling the barman that getting tattooed was a ritual experience for her. The barman nodded but, Mark noted, was visibly starring at Donna’s breasts now. Mark decided he was going to tell the f*cker to stop staring at Donna’s tits. Hell, she was his girl friend.

He wanted to find the words, but, as he shifted his weight on the bar stool, he felt gut sick. Stomach churned acid beer no breakfast nausea. He had to drink something, just sip it.

Mark leant forward sipped his beer. Belched, felt bile rise in his throat swallowed it back. Smoked one of his own cigarettes. Breathing in slowly. Trying to stop vomiting. Donna could hold her alcohol better than Mark. He counted his breath in/ out/ in/out, periodically inhaling on his cigarette. Concentrated on the taste of the smoke not the churn in his stomach. He let his eyes gaze over, trying to focus on nothing.

{xtypo_quote_left}Donna was drunk now, and pulling at the edge of the blood stained gauze. It was tapped to her forearm with surgical tape, and she gingerly pulled the tape from her arm. Lifting the edge of the bandage to reveal the tattoo. It looked good.{/xtypo_quote_left}

Picking the tape from around the bandage she lifted it off. The skull looked good, and the banner curved around it just as she had planned it when drawing it all out the night before. The barman leant in close to have a look.

“Good work” he agreed, then unbuttoned his shirt. On his left pec was a rose, with a banner underneath it, in which the word ‘Dick’ was inscribed in fluid styled curves.

Mark saw movement blurred from the edge of his eye. Angry, spun around to face it. As he stood up his foot, which had been resting on the bar rail, became trapped. Velocity and weight brought him crashing forward/ down/ into Donna’s stool. Until both of them hit the ground.

Already she was kicking him off her, repeated from the knee jerks fast like she was trying to run from under his drunken weight. Each volley accompanied by the cry of “you f*cking asshole”. Her tattoo was bleeding again. And dirty from the floor. The room span crazy and Mark began to vomit.

The night was not going well.