"There's not much doubt in any of our minds that no complete idea springs fully formed from our brow,
needing only a handshake and a signature on the contract to send it off into the world to make twenty-five billion dollars.
The germ of the idea grows slowly..." - Walt Kelly

Friday, May 10, 2013

A person of a different size

This is a two-part post: part promotional and part actually doing what I'm supposed to do here (hint: writing). I saw a very funny off-Broadway show last weekend called 'Old Hats' and while I was at the theater I found something called the Storymatic. I'm giving it a shot here for the first time.

They started calling him "Andre" when he was in the sixth grade. He was larger than most sixth graders, and that trend continued as he got older. He never seemed to stop growing, until one day he did. That was the day he turned twenty-eight, and as a birthday present to himself, he drove to the tattoo parlor down Route 18 (it was called "Franz's") and got the name the children had for him permanently etched onto his skin. As tattoos often were, this would be a reminder of the difficulties he had overcome.

He had heard that it would hurt, and it certainly did, but it was worth it. Just a little more discomfort before you can really start enjoying life, he thought as he sat in the tattoo artist's chair. The artist, Franz himself, was silent as he worked, bobbing back and forth for different views of the nameplate he was imprinting onto the other man's arm.

Finally, it was over.

"All right, buddy," Franz said, rolling his chair back to the side of the room. "You're all set, man. Take a look."

He pointed to a mirror on the far wall. "Andre" walked over to it, but had to squat considerably in order to bring the tattoo into view of the glass. The words shone back at him like they were luminescent - some kind of farfetched species of fish in the deep black of his flesh. Trapped.

"I guess it's none of my business, man," the artist said, "but I don't know if I would be so public about it."

Turning from the mirror in a flash of newly-reddened skin, "Andre" fixed a puzzled look on the artist, who now sat slumping in some kind of uncomfortable-looking position on the counter along the wall of the room, wedged underneath a cabinet.

"Well, you know, whoever this Andre guy is, he must be pretty special to you," Franz said. "You know - like, really special."

He unhinged himself and hopped down from the counter.

"Can't say I agree with it, man. Not really my thing, if you know what I'm saying."

Despite the irritation the artist was causing, "Andre" did what he had learned to do a long time ago when faced with criticism. Keep silent. Unflinchingly, uncomfortably silent. He shook his head in frustration and straightened himself out, unleashing his full size upon the room. The artist took a step back, fearful for what retribution might be coming, but "Andre" only turned and walked out of the room, pausing only to drop the necessary cash on the counter as he passed by.

          *          *          *          *

Back home, "Andre" continued about his life, and for the next week he moved about with an increase in confidence. He felt himself opening up more at work, interacting more smoothly at the supermarket and not noticing the glances and stares that were directed his way.

One morning, though, all was not well. He sat down at the table, his breakfast in front of him and the scent of bacon still wafting throughout the kitchen. He flopped open the newspaper to the editorial section (the only one he ever read - he trusted opinions more than "objective" news) and ran through the headlines. He scanned over the letters to the editor, and one of them caught his eye.

"American values disintegrating at increased pace"

Though he valued opinions, "Andre" was not one for the fear-mongering and scare tactics at use in the modern discourse. Naturally this meant that he had to read the letter, and he did. In it, a concerned citizen mused on the decline of American society, remarking that same-sex marriage was chief among his concerns. "Andre" bristled. He did not appreciate such criticisms, but opinions were opinions. He kept reading.

"Why, just the other day," the letter said, "I had a man walk into my place of business and demand that I give him a tattoo of his lover's name. Andre, the name was. Now, I don't know Andre, and I don't know the gentleman who came into my store, either, but I can certainly tell you that whatever these two men are engaging in is a part of the problem in this country. I chose to live in ignorance, but now that it has been brought to my very direct attention, I don't believe I can continue to do so."

The letter was signed with one name. Franz.

"Andre" was furious. He felt his hands start to shake and the flimsy newsprint crumple in his intensifying grip. He rose from the table, his breakfast cooling by the minute, and walked to the closet. He donned his shoes and jacket and rushed out the door.

          *          *          *          *

Franz was at the computer when "Andre" arrived, checking to see if there were any comments in the online forums for his letter to the editor. He had hoped there would be a few angry readers - he enjoyed arguing more than most. But when the massive frame of "Andre" burst in the front door, all other thoughts vanished from his mind.

"He-hey man," Franz stuttered. "What's....um....what's up?"

He stumbled backwards against the front counter of the store, steadying himself with his elbows. "Andre" approached, looking as menacing as he could (which was not difficult) and placed a hand on the artist's shoulder.

"I read your letter this morning," he said, glaring. "I can't say that I appreciate what you did there."

"Hey man, hey," Franz panicked. "I didn't mean any disrespect to you or Andre, I promise."

The larger man rolled his eyes.

"There is no 'Andre,'" he said. "I got this tattoo to remind me of what the children used to call me when I was young. But now, I need you to remove it." He lowered his gaze and deepened his voice. "Now."

Franz squirmed under the considerable weight of the hand on his shoulder, sinking as he spoke.

"Well, you know, hey man, I'd love to help, I really would." He stopped, seemingly weighing his next words. "But, um, well - I can't do it, man."

The grip on his shoulder tighted.

"Hey, listen," Franz said. "I wish I could, but it's part of my thing, you know? I never go back on an ink, man, not ever. It's my art, man. You know?"

Disbelief swept across "Andre's" features.

"You mean to tell me," he said, "that you won't undo all the trouble you've now caused me just because of your stupid artistic integrity?"

Franz gulped.

"Yeah...yeah, man, pretty much."

"Andre" sighed in a deep, earthly breath. There was nothing more to be done here, then. He squeezed even harder on Franz's shoulder, causing the artist to writhe and give a squeak of pain.

"There's only one thing you need to know, then," he said.

Franz's eyes widened in terror, and beads of nervous sweat popped out on his forehead.

"What?" he asked, horrified of what the answer could be.

"My real name," the larger man said, "is Philip."

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Common, The Food


  1. I enjoyed this story. Written very well as i figured you would. You've taken an interesting direction with the prompt and I was pretty engaged the whole way through.

    I did chuckle at the start of the story, where he never seemed to stop growing until he did. I don't know why, I just found it amusing.

    I like what you did there, with the tattoo artist having a certain set of 'values' he would not infringe upon, but had no issue causing trouble for someone else.

    Also, those storymatic things seem intriguing. I might have to give them a shot.

    1. Thanks, man, I appreciate it. I went looking through my email for your story this morning but I couldn't find it - resend when you get the chance. If you don't see this I'll just talk to you on Tuesday.