’27’ tattoo.

June 7, 2008 at 5:00 pm | Posted in writing | 23 Comments
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Swallowing, ahh never mind, hold out your arm, don’t worry, the warden decided there was just too much HIV and Hep about so they got me a brand new kit. So just a gothic numeral, 27, gotta be a story behind that.

They don’t die straight away. It wasn’t a decision, just a reaction with knife in hand and then I saw how badly it hurt her and I panicked and hit her again. She started screaming so I tried to stop her and that was three across her cheek and four across her collarbone because I missed her throat and five and six went across her knuckles as she raised her hands. She fell and I could see how much pain she was in and I remembered how much I had loved her and how beautiful she was that day when she said ‘yes, I suppose so’, and seven eight and nine were a kind of compassion, remembering my gratitude and seeing her pain and wanting it to stop ten eleven and the screaming became a kind of low groan and for some reason I thought her heart her heart must be stopped, that is the source of the pain and twelve thirteen fourteen were that but the heart is protected by a shield of ribs. She had turned on her side and was making the most horrible sounds of gurgling and sobbing and I was so frustrated and angry at not reaching her heart that fifteen sixteen seventeen and she stopped making any noises but was breathing still in sudden violent gasps, some part of her hanging on to life for reasons I can’t explain and I thought about the boys being left with no mother and dad in jail forever and that made me angry again and reminded me of what she had done with him, the things they had shared, making fun of me behind my back I’m sure of it and now she was curled up in a ball and she had stopped doing anything except bleeding and suddenly I saw her again on the beach that day the first time sitting shyly in a summer dress while her friends lay around and posed in bikinis giggling at boys and I started crying myself and cut her throat which was twenty seven.

(you can read ‘Teardrop Tattoo’ here)



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  1. Excruciatingly good. It reminds me of Ray Winstone in Sweeney Todd. You have captured two sides of the man with no judgement, swings of emotion that are torturous to the reader. I would have been tempted to overplay this – adding more punctuation, highlighting stuff, pausing for effect – but your running with the words is more manly, more definitive that he is not seeking anything from the reader… but somehow we give it. Please, please give us more of this story – flashbacks or whatever… I so want to know more.

  2. oh wow. that is incredibly disturbing and spectacularly written. well done maestro.

  3. wow. dark yet beautiful — my favorite type. this was wonderful the whole way through and kept my attention the entire time. at first i found myself trying to orient myself with the plot, the characters, and later i was trying to understand what fueled the narrator’s anguish and anger. i loved the bits of flashbacks which allowed you to feel something for the narrator. this had so much feeling and description in it and the number counting cleverly tied everything together — i really, really liked it. def. try to enter this dark, lovely piece for submission somewhere.

  4. This is powerful and graphic with that perfect humorous interlude of “yes, I suppose.” The counting gives is the sense of the inevitable punctuated by that last memory on the beach and number 27. That it is all set as a reminiscent monologue while getting a 27 tatoo makes is a nice “nested story,” my favorite kind.

  5. I agree with lissa, try to enter it somewhere. This is brilliant Paul. In all it’s darkness, there is mad truth.

  6. That is some bloody awfully good gore literature. Right. Gothic to Gore. The fluidity was amazingly superb, as yours is unfailingly. The imagery stark and descriptive; the thoughts simple and simply expressed, but never simplistically. Amazing work of a genius; yet and yet again.

  7. love the amazingly long sentences.

  8. wow, paul, horrifying and beautiful, love how we travel and land at the beach in summer dresses and 27. powerful. deep breath

  9. Glossolalia is my site. please read my response to your comment regarding contest entry fees. there are no entry fees for regular Glossolalia journal submissions.

  10. You summed up beautifully the madness of love.

  11. Thanks everybody. I might do more of these prison tattoos if I remember. Your comments are gifts, without you all I would be cold, lost and lonely as an ant in the Arctic.

  12. Hey, that’s pretty funny.

  13. Brilliant, every word. My favourite piece I’ve read of yours so far.

    Not to compare the genius of you to me at all, but it did make me think of a poem I wrote a long time ago, they’re very similar in style – check it out if you’re interested – http://www.simonnemichelle.wordpress.com/2007/07/30/the-unwanted/

  14. I meant the ant in the Arctic, not your post.

  15. while reading i felt like i was hovering on his shoulder. nicely done!

  16. There are three technical things I want to note here while I remember. Firstly she is giving a kind of timidity of character which establishes their relationship by the ‘I suppose so’ and the shy summer dress while her friends are in lewd bikinis. I think this adds subtly to the emotional force of the piece. Secondly, ‘her heart, her heart..is the source of the pain’ and he can’t get to it, works symbolically as well as literally. And thirdly the hidden causality in this phrase ‘…her hanging on to life for reasons I can’t explain and I thought about the boys…’. The reason she is desperately hanging on to life becomes obvious in retrospect.
    These kind of hidden technical details may not occur at the front of the reader’s mind, they may go unnoticed, but I believe they work at some deeper level to make the piece more effective. So it is my contention that some part of the ‘reading’ is actually being done at a level beneath the conscious processing of the words in the reader’s mind.

  17. yes paul, know it is all there, i got it i felt it, the heart the heart no comma, her shyness yes, but most of all the boys left behind catches my throat wells my eyes with tears since i have been close to that madness and what kept me from going there was my son…i also understand his anger there, absolutely

    i don’t feel like she actually did whatever he suspects her of, she seems delicate, uncertain

    do you intend for the friends to be “lewd” as you say in your comment? i don’t get that. they’re different but are they “lewd”?

  18. Well lewd in contrast, I suppose, not lewd as in judgemental. Did she do it? I don’t know but I understand your point. I have a terrible memory so I make these notes to myself otherwise I come back in a couple of weeks and have to start the thinking all over again but I really appreciate your feedback. It can be difficult to know what’s going on when someone is reading and it is that process, the encoding and decoding of the thought that is really at the heart of the writing issue for me, so feedback from someone like yourself is invaluable, thanks.

  19. This disturbed me a lot!! The moral high ground is frightening 😦 …

  20. it sounds to me like one of those every day sorta events that hardly ever happen or hear about.. and when one asks a neighbor or friend.. they were just normal kind of people.. it’s the tat that kicks in gear… a trophy of sorts… poor thing sometimes we just can’t see whaz ahead… very real.. probably what makes it so sorta creepy…

  21. […] can read more prison tattoo stories […]

  22. […] of emergency only, it haunts him. In his dreams flashes of red like fingernails carving the number 27 into his back. What am I to do, he types into the computer and someone else who also has a problem […]

  23. […] can read more prison tattoo stories here) Posted by Paul Filed in antihaiku, writing Tags: Hector Hapeta, prison tattoo, […]

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