Ink 2.0


A black-and-white piece of art, with many black lines interlocking to create symmetrical semi-geometric shapes.

Art by Edward Michael Supranowicz.


Kurt acts like a cartoon for four days. On the fifth day, you realize his batman tattoo is missing.

No way, you say, and you draw out the words until they’re as long as city blocks: ‘No…, way ….’

After a while he is himself again. Moody, devoted. Perfect if you’re a dog or child. But on the first of May he turns monstrous. This is when you get it, the reason you did not pick up on his batman thing right at once. That was the first of the month, too. You assumed it was a day-long prank, an April Fool’s joke he never put an end to.

He is awful. He’s not violent, though you won’t risk it. You pack enough clothes for a week—enough diapers for two weeks—and photograph his triceps as you go by. You have a baby in your left arm and a little girl’s fist coiled in your right sleeve, so the photo isn’t going to win any awards.

You tell your daughter, ‘Come on, ladybug. Kiss papa, we have to go.’

He’s asking and asking while the kids are crying hard. You reply, ‘This is our weekend with Joanne, remember? I’ve only told you about it a hundred times.’

‘Joanne?’

‘Yes, Kurt. Joanne.’ You were careful to make up a name, because, the state he’s in, you don’t want him holding this against anyone real. He says Call me when you arrive, but when you arrive it’s a hotel parking lot. You’re zooming in on the photograph, which you took in haste, but you see it clear as day. His godzilla tattoo is gone.

It takes you another week to know how to ask, and you can only do it by text: Is it possible your tattoos are going into your blood?

By point of fact it is not possible, although it’s happened twice. Your mother used to joke, We all get to see one impossible thing if we live long enough. But she meant weird coincidences, like running into a neighbor while out of the country. Not this. And not twice.

Kurt writes back in less than a minute: That’s ridiculous.

You reply: Yeah? Then what about your batman? And where’s the big lizard? His three dots just blink and blink. It’s long enough to wonder if he’ll come back with: Ok so I just burned down Pensacola.

Whatever the text was going to be, he never sends it.

On May fifteenth, as a condition of bringing the kids back, you go through his arm sleeves together, cataloging his designs one-by-one. There is a tattoo of a hawk, of various dates, of a motorcycle. Also: your mother-in-law, a clock, a skull, an angel and a buxom woman. You trade jokes about him absorbing the tattoo of his mother, and he has a long, genuine laugh about it. But to be clear, you are not making love for a month if that happens. You can flip a coin on the others.

He agrees to get the skull and angel tattoos removed (let him act like a Harley-Davidson if it comes to that). With so much talk of sleeves and what-ifs, neither of you mention the ink on his left shoulder. It is the exact likeness of his wife, the mother of his children.

As if there was any mistaking it, your name is underneath.

You wake the morning of June 1, find him asleep on his stomach, with his shirt off. You only remember the tattoo now because it's gone.

Your daughter jumps on the bed, waking him.

His voice is changed. Patient and familiar.

He says, ‘Good morning, ladybug. You have sweet dreams?’ When your stares meet, it’s difficult to say which of you is more frightened.

There ought to be name for this fear, or perhaps it is too big to name. Putting only one word to it would be like putting a garment around the earth.


 

Fred Nolan has never had a tattoo, although his kids are in their mid-teens and still draw on his arms.

Fred is a speculative fiction writer from Texas. He has published short stories, technical construction articles and a novel. He lives near McKinney with his wife, two children and their old retriever. Please say hello on Twitter, @The_Fredwords.


 

Edward Michael Supranowicz is the grandson of Irish and Russian/Ukrainian immigrants. He grew up on a small farm in Appalachia. He has a grad background in painting and printmaking. Some of his artwork has recently or will soon appear in Fish Food, Streetlight, Another Chicago Magazine, The Door Is a Jar, The Phoenix, and other journals. Edward is also a published poet.