Stevie Gets a Tattoo
Rob Mentzer

Every time Stevie came into the shop he would bother Fagen about it, saying Fagen, you've got to do this for me. It would be the greatest thing you ever seen. And Fagen would say, Stevie, I don't want no part in it. But then after probably the nineteenth time Stevie came in asking, Fagen just told him, sit down, let's get on with it.

For a little while Stevie was so proud of that eyeball Fagen tattooed on his forehead that he stopped wearing his Eagles knit cap and started walking up to people with his head down and that blue-inked, veiny eyeball staring out at them. He led with the eyeball, which had a green iris and small black pupil. He loved to see people's reactions.

The first people who noticed the eyeball moving were the people Stevie drank with behind the Seitzer Building. When Old-Face Arthur came into the shop to tell Fagen that his tattoo was coming to life, we did not exactly take it serious. Old-Face Arthur was worked up about it but Fagen told him, Arthur, man, you've got to lay off the sauce a little bit.

The problem was that it didn't stop with Old-Face Arthur. Dottie the landlady also seen it happen, and then Marcus Swifty the former high school football player seen it. Then what was happening was they were blaming Fagen for doing the tattoo, like Fagen had put some crazy magic ink in there. And Fagen said, look, the first 50 times he came in the shop, I told him to git. That was the tattoo he wanted. Why don't you tell him instead of me?

Stevie started sitting on the sidewalk in the middle of downtown, pulling his sweatshirt up over his face but leaving the third eye on his forehead to rove around, looking around at everybody who passed by. Soon people learned to go out of their way to avoid passing him, because it was weird to see this young guy in redneck flannels with a tattooed eye flicking back and forth like an animation.

So then Stevie started to come back into the shop and beg Fagen to take it off.

Fagen, Stevie said, you have to do something about it. I cannot sleep. I cannot close my eye. I see everything. You have to do something.

Stevie, Fagen said, I didn't have nothing to do with that.

And Fagen told him about the laser procedures you can get to get a tattoo removed. Stevie looked at him like he was crazy, which he was crazy, because there was no way Stevie was going to afford laser surgery or go through the pain.

Finally Fagen said, what if I wrote over the tattoo and made it so that the eyelid is closed? Maybe you'd get some peace.

Believe it or not that actually worked. Stevie screamed and howled as Fagen did it, but at the end the eye was closed over with a dark-bluish eyelid, eyelashes pointed down, and Stevie said for the first time in weeks his mind was quiet. And I wondered whether there was a lesson or a meaning in that, and all Fagen said was that he had had a bad feeling about that tattoo from the beginning. Something about the way he said it, it made me wonder if he didn't actually know more than he pretended.

As for me, I just stayed all the way out of it. I was learning the business from Fagen and I didn't even want to think about stepping out of my bounds or questioning what he does. I had things kind of rough in my life for a little while—drinking, drugging, getting sent up to Marienville as a juvenile—and I appreciated the way Fagen had taken me in. "You have a tattoo gun, you have a job anywhere in the country," is what he says.

Rob Mentzer works at a newspaper in Wisconsin. His fiction has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Post Road, Berkeley Fiction Review and others.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Matthijs.

w i g · l e a F               09-19-11                                [home]