Minutes before his four o’clock appointment, the tattoo
artist disappeared. His kid sister, home
for spring break, sat at the reception desk, obsessively straightening neat piles
of papers while the four o’clock appointment watched the clock and tapped his
foot against grimy yellow tiles. She cleared
her throat and stood. She smoothed her
skirt, noticed the half-finished scene climbing up the man’s arm: a family
tree, she supposed, a name scripted into each leaf.
“Let me see if he’s finished.” She checked each of the back rooms again, quietly
opening doors and peering intently into rooms.
She dialed his cell phone. He
didn’t pick up.
The flight ended. The
tattoo artist unbuckled; stepped from the plane; made his way to the baggage
claim; waited for his suitcase to circle around. He blinked at the sudden brightness of the happy
people reunited at the exit, hugging and kissing, some even crying. He counted sixteen bouquets of cut flowers
wrapped in brittle paper. Ten bundles of
helium balloons, yellow and green and pink, bobbed in the musty air. A young couple held a sign Welcome 2 America, Cassidy! An elderly
woman gripped with eagle talons a gift bag bursting with purple tissue paper
begging to be rustled. All around him,
people expressed in gifts what they could not say in words.
Outside, the wind stole a red balloon from the grasp of a
child. He wailed; pointed; demanded that
his mother reclaim it from the sky.
“I can’t, honey.”
She shook her head; bit her lip. “Let’s watch it disappear.”
They stood, necks bent, as they stared at the balloon becoming
gradually smaller until it was just a tiny dot of red ink against the
backdrop of the sky.
The tattoo artist smiled.
He will make his life anew, rendering sketches and inking designs into the
skin of strangers.
You can’t easily make tattoos disappear.
But disappearing a tattoo artist? Easy as floating a helium balloon into the blueness
of the sky.
Labels: Fiction, flash fiction, Trifecta Writing Challenge