“Wow, that’s gorgeous. Where’d you get it?” Mariel asked Reno.
“That new place on Main Street.”
Mariel admired the tattoo and touched it lightly with her fingertips. His skin was cool to the touch, and the tri-color tat popped against his dark skin.
“What’s the feather for?” she asked as she sat back down at the table between her two friends. Tim was getting his first tattoo and had invited Mariel and Reno to share the experience.
“It tickles the ladies,” Reno laughed. He was on his third beer, and Mariel was looking prettier by the sip.
“I got a feather too,” Mariel replied and pulled the sleeve of her blouse to her shoulder. Her tat was a Native American with chiseled features and a single feather.
“Coool,” Reno cooed as he ran his finger over her skin.
“Where’d you get yours done?” Reno asked, still touching Mariel’s arm.
“The place by the dentist’s office.”
“Nice work,” Reno said, admiring the curvature of Mariel’s arm.
“Did it hurt?” Tim asked, trying to bring the conversation back to his big night.
“Oh, yeah. But you gotta prepare yourself. You gotta get wasted. Takes all the pain away,” Mariel advised.
“Are you gonna do it?” Reno asked, tearing his gaze away from Mariel momentarily and focusing on Tim.
“I’d like to, but I’m scared it will hurt. And what if it gets infected?” Tim answered nervously.
Reno and Mariel laughed.
“Have another drink,” Reno suggested and motioned to the bartender.
“Hey, barman, bring another round. My friend is getting his first tattoo tonight, and he needs a little liquid courage.”
The bartender heard the half-drunk jackass shout at him from across the room and nodded. He knew the type. He brought another round of drinks.
“Pour one for yourself, barman, we’ll make a toast to Tim’s tat,” Reno directed.
“I’d like to, but it’s against bar policy,” the bartender replied. He knew better. He had seen drunken generosity turn nasty.
“Coool, just keep the drinks coming, okay, barman,” Reno answered, gulping down his fresh beer.
“Why’d you get a Native American?” Tim turned to Mariel and asked.
“It was the cheapest one, and I always get the best deals,” she said with pride.
“Coool,” Reno replied. “What are you getting, Tim?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe a lizard crawling up my neck,” Tim said, his eyes lighting up.
“Coool,” Reno chimed in as another round of drinks arrived.
The trio sat and drank until midnight. When Reno stumbled over to settle their bill, he bumped into the table of an old man.
“Sorry, man,” he slurred. “Hey, check this one out,” Reno shouted to his friends. “He’s wasted. Are you getting a tat too?” he taunted the old man.
The old man didn’t look up.
After settling their tab, the trio staggered out of the bar, making their way to the ink parlor down the street.
“Kids.” The bartender shook his head as he wiped down the bar. It was closing time, and he wanted to go home.
“It’s time to go,” he told the old man. The old man didn’t respond.
“C’mon buddy, I gotta close up,” he said gently and helped him to his feet.
As he guided the old man’s right arm into the sleeve of his jacket, he saw the tattoo — a series of numbers neatly etched into his forearm. He paused. This guy didn’t drink so he could get a pointless tattoo. He drank to forget the one he had.
Ruby Zehnder is a sham. She’s the disincarnate human version of Schrödinger’s cat. Her existence depends on the actions of a reader. When her words are read — she exists. When her words are ignored — she’s disappointed. Existing in multiple states of superposition gives Ruby the freedom to choose who she is. She may be a Lemurian Starseed with a telepathic cat. Or, she may be young, stunningly beautiful, carefree, debt-free, and socially woke. While technically not alive, she’s been writing stories for most of your life. Some of them are even good.