The guy sat in his car in the parking lot for 45 minutes, angry he’d promised himself into this and horrified at the thought of it. He wondered if he drove off and never spoke of it if it’d just go away. But he’d tried that one before and knew better. So he pulled up his pants, puffed out his chest and made a move.
The guy walks into the tattoo parlor. “You the shopkeep?” he asks a dark beard with what he assumed to be a person buried somewhere underneath.
“You the customer?” he pans. They share a smirk. He’s more confident and comfortable than he imagined. He was very comfortable, actually.
He’s eating an apple. Tough guys always looked impossibly cool eating apples in movies. Then he sheds his blazer, tosses it towards some chairs. It misses and falls awkwardly to the floor. It was a minor blow to his confidence and a missed opportunity for style points. The Fonz would’ve landed his jacket just right. He doesn’t pick it up.
And he has to be cool. He can’t be the tourist in a fanny pack with a fold up map in this joint. It’d eat him alive.
So in a flick of improv he incredible hulks his buttondown. Or tries to. About 2-3 buttons from the midsection scatter but the top and bottom buttons hold strong. The whole point of this production was to illustrate for the shopkeep that he wouldn’t need his hand held, that this old dog still has bite. But the shopkeep had turned away right before and missed it. Now he was looking at an old man with half his buttons ripped off wearing the look of a puppy with brand new shoe on its breath.
The shopkeep broke the silence. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Soon as you made that promise, Coach. And I also saw you pull in about 45 minutes ago.”
“I’ve got a picture.”
“Where’s she goin?”
“Hell, I don’t know…leg?” He lifts up his slacks to present his calf.
“Leg no good?”
“Nah, I mean it’s fine…just…”
“Not sure I can even fit this on your leg. What are those, PVC pipes?”
“Well you tell me then, you’re the expert.”
“I need a canvas, space to roam.”
“Nah. You’ll look like an old washed up skinhead or something.”
“Bingo. Top or bottom?”
“Top. Jesus, what do I look like?”
“You remember the Simpsons episode where Mr. Burns jumps outta that birthday cake naked…no, of course you don’t, nevermind. Let’s have a seat and we’ll get started.”
“Aren’t you supposed to ask if I’m sure, you know, really want to do this?”
“Not if you’re paying.”
Then it hit him, the russdiculousness of it all– the blood, the ink, the no going back. How will this play on the recruiting trail? Will this be the lead on his page in history?
“No. No, no, no. I’m not gonna do this. Jesus. I’m a Hall of Famer for chrissakes.”
“Promise is a promise coach. are you hashtag L1C4, or are you hashtag L1-a-r…if you can imagine the ‘1’ as an ‘I’ it has more resonance.”
“Yeah I got it. It’s terrible…but you’re right. How can I expect commitment from my players if I don’t follow through on my word?”
“But this isn’t me. I go to the Hamptons. I have a chef. I own a Derby horse. I’m in the Hall of Fame! I’ll be a laughing stock!”
“Wouldn’t be the first time.”
“You really play ball don’t you, shopkeep?”
“Just call em as I see em.”
“Look, I know the answer, but this going to hurt?”
“Like a sumbitch of fire.”
It did hurt…for a few minutes anyway, then it just went numb. He mumbled a few words but wasn’t interested in talking. And then it was done. Forever.
My pleasure, coach.”
“You want me to put you on the wall?”
He looked up at the collage of satisfied customers displaying their new skin like proud serpents. He certainly didn’t belong with these people.
“Great. Oh, and coach?”