"I'm closin' up shop, Bud. You about done?"
Bud entered the front of the store, through the curtain from the back. "Yeah. Soon's I finish up with Miss Tickle-tush here."
"Okay. I'll lock up the front. Just make sure the back's double-locked and the alarm's on. Don't want any a' them damn drug-addled scumbags rippin' me off again."
"Sure thing. See you tomorra."
Bud went back to the booth. Inside, a young woman lay bent over the end of a cushioned table, her bare bottom up in the air, a mostly done tattoo of a fanciful Phoenix-bird displayed on her right, well-rounded butt-cheek.
"Is it almost done?" she asked, giggling. She was still pretty drunk.
"Just a few more minutes darlin'. It's lookin' real good."
Bud had to admit this tattoo was among his best. The work was clear and sharp, the colors nice and vivid. He prided himself on his work, not like some of the assholes who worked here. They thought because they could operate an electric needle that they were Van Gogh's long lost relatives or something.
Bud sighed as he sat down and picked up his needle. He checked to make sure the color was right and went to work. The girl squealed when the needle touched her skin, but giggled and scrunched up her face against the pain, gripping the table's handgrips tightly. After a few seconds, the girl passed a little poot of gas.
"Oops!" she apologized, breaking into a new fit of giggling. "Sorry 'bout that."
"No sweat," Bill answered. Probably all the beer.
He told her the first time it happened, not to worry about it, that it was inevitable--and it was. The combination of being drunk, and all the bearing down against the pain, more or less guaranteed some farting. This one wasn't so bad though. With the chicks, it usually didn't smell so bad--that and the fact that this one was cute. She sure had a nice round little ass, to be sure.
He preferred it when his clients came in somewhat 'in-the-bag.' It removed the inhibitions against exposing whatever sensitive area of the anatomy they had chosen to bare for his needle, and made his job a hell of a lot easier. When they came in all uptight, it took twice as long. Bud kept a bottle handy to give to the ones who thought they were brave enough to bear the pain stone sober. Even the big, macho types got to whimpering after a half-hour under the needle. It wasn't that the pain was so unbearably bad at first, but it was like the Chinese water torture and wore down the hardest resolves. On really big tattoos, Bud usually had them come in a few times. He got resistance to that idea at first, but after one session, they were usually eager to break it up.
As Bud finished the tattoo, he thought that he needed to get out of this business. Twenty years ago, it was fun--kinky. Now, it was getting weird. They used to come in for the usual stuff on the arms and back, or sometimes the chest. Now, they wanted 'em in the damnedest places--tits, asses, and snatches--even dicks. God only knew what a guy wanted with a tattoo on his freaking johnson!
Then there was the disease factor. There was no doubt in Bud's mind that most of the kinkier ones were into drugs. It worried him to be working on some disease-riddled druggie, or some rump-ranger, especially since the age of AIDS. One slip of the needle, and he was a goner. He and Jim argued whenever he turned down a customer, but Jim valued his talents too much to fire him. Bud was too old to be taking chances, but as long as he got his way, he would stay. Besides, the cash was good. Every time Bud made noises about leaving, Jim upped the ante.
Nevertheless, Bud was thinking about moving on. He had sowed his oats, lived on the edge, and done his thing. A former biker, he had run with a biker gang. He had a couple of tattoos of his own--big ones, on both arms. He was big, and he was tough. Kicked his share of asses and even had his dusted a few times. Now, it all seemed so stupid to his older eyes.
Not one for all the gangbanging his pals were into, he'd gotten his artistic talents started by painting gas tanks for the gang. He was good at it too, putting on some nice designs. Some of the guys asked him if he did tattoos and that got him started with the needle. The real hard cases let him practice on them. He'd made his share of mistakes, but managed to avoid a broken jaw. He had a knack for it and supplemented his income with this tattoo parlor job. Soon, it became permanent.
Over the years, the clientele had really changed. It used to be sailors, bikers and the occasional chick. Now, they looked like characters from a Fangoria convention. Weird hair or bald, dressed all in black, piercings everywhere.
That was another thing. A while back, the owner, Jim, added body piercing to his services. It helped him to unload a lot of jewelry on the side and brought in some decent cash, especially since most of the jewelry was hot. Bud didn't do the piercing--enough was enough. Jim had another guy for that, as well as a chick. What a piece of work she was. Pierced all over herself, she acted as if she were tuned into another frequency altogether. She wasn't bad looking, but all the hardware turned him off. Plus, she was kinky as all hell, running around the shop nearly naked all the time, flashing her jewelry, and asking the damnedest questions. The younger guys got a hard-on from it, but Bud wanted nothing to do with her--too crazy.
Having seen pretty much everything, Bud was amazed at the weirdness going down these days. Often, the customers brought in their own designs, occult symbols and other bizarre markings. He had started turning down the kinkier tattooing, unless it was a great looking chick that wanted a tattoo in one of her more interesting places. There was no fun at all in tattooing some pasty-faced freak with a thousand-yard stare and a burned out mind.
Bud was pushing fifty-five. He had been living with a decent old lady for the past five years. Peg was a lot younger, but she treated him well. Now, she was making domestic noises. Bud had to admit he was fond of her, and always treated her right. Maybe it was time for him to chuck this tattooing gig, move to the country, and maybe pound out a rug-rat or two.
"Are you done yet?" the girl asked. "I gotta pee."
"Just a few more minutes darlin'. Art takes time."
"Gina says that if she likes the way this tattoo looks, she might get one on her pussy."
"Uh-huh," Bud acknowledged. Figures.
"She'll be picking me up soon."
"She's gonna like my work--guaranteed. Gina a friend of yours?"
"No, silly--she's my lover."
"Oh," was all Bud said to that bit of news. Yeah, it's time to move on.