Barking Tattoo Studio

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Not all ink is created equal.

The tattoo I got at the new parlor in town didn’t actually bark.  But it did talk to me in my sleep.  Once I got the hang of it, things worked out pretty good.  For a while.

I should have known something was up when I walked through the door.  The place had a vibe.  One of those feelings you can’t put into words.  But I’m a sucker for vibes.  Tattoos are all about vibes.  My tattoo from the Barking Tattoo Studio took vibes to a new level.

If I had known what the heck an Anton Picasso painting was, maybe that would have scared me off.  I saw the odd painting.  It resembled a Picasso, and it had the Picasso signature.  I know enough about art to know that a tattoo parlor in this part of town isn’t going to have even a decent Picasso print.  Original Picassos sell for millions.  I assumed it was some kind of mass produced print or a cheap reproduction.

What possessed me to get a tattoo of a bulldog, I’ll never know.  Must have had something to do with the vibe, and the name of the place.  Most of the bulldogs I’ve known like growling better than barking.  But all dogs can do both.

Getting a tattoo is painful, it will hurt for a few days or longer.  Depends on the location, your personal pain threshold, and the size of the tattoo.  Also, depends on the skill of the artist.  Get a stabber, you’ll hurt more and longer.And maybe swell up, turn purple, and slough off skin. 

Tattooing is a serious business and an art, the practice should be reserved exclusively for professionals.  If you end up with a stabber, just tell them to stop, and get the fuck out of there.  Somebody good can fix whatever got broke as far as the tattoo goes.  But tattoo parlors don’t do skin grafts.

I shouldn’t have to say anything about sterility.  There is more than one bad disease out there.  Don’t become a vector.  Know what constitutes a professionally run shop before you ever set foot in one.  No time to discuss that here.

If you’re new to the tattoo world, you should get to know someone who has been around the block a few times before you get one yourself.  We’re not hard to spot.  Some of us might growl at you but 99% of us love to talk about tattoos.  I’ll also talk about music, golf or football.  If you don’t know someone who is tat heavy, start hanging out with musicians.  You’ll find at least one of every kind of person in that crowd. 

At any rate, Christophe at the Barking Tattoo Studio is a real professional.  He has a fine touch, and he works quickly.  While he created my bulldog, he hardly spoke.  Except to occasionally ask me how I was doing, and what I thought of the progress.  Since he was working on the top of my right thigh, it was easy to watch him while he worked.  If you get tattoos on your backside, an occasional mirror check is mandatory. 

The bulldog turned out spectacular.  I was seriously considering it for my favorite tattoo.  It was definitely my favorite new tattoo.  When I got home that night, I didn’t even have to get drunk to fall asleep.  I slept like a baby.  Except for the dreams.  I don’t think babies have dreams like that.

I’ve had plenty of crazy dreams before.  Sometimes they pertain to real life.  These were different.  It felt like they were telling me to do something.  Like a late night infomercial exhorting me to buy a new vacuum cleaner.  If only it were as simple as that. 

The bulldog was telling me to draw.  I’m not an artist.  I can draw a straight line with a ruler.  A kid in the fifth grade showed me how to draw a cartoon Mickey Mouse.  That was the extent of my drawing skills.  Before the bulldog started barking.

I got out of bed at the usual time, 6 am.  I can’t remember the last time I slept that well.  I could feel the burn in my thigh.  There was the expected amount of redness and swelling.  The tattoo looked awesome.

I never finished making breakfast.  I had oatmeal, raisins, nuts and sliced bananas all over the kitchen counter when I picked up the notebook and the pen, and started drawing.  After a while, I realized I was really hungry.I could tell my blood sugar had crashed.  I looked at the clock.  It was 3 pm.  I had been drawing for seven hours and had not moved from my spot on the couch, not even once.

I looked down at the notebook.  And saw what looked, to my completely untrained eye, to be a masterpiece.  I’d never done anything like that before.  WTF?

I realized I was going to pass out if I didn’t get some protein and fat in my blood.  Normally I have to eat both breakfast and lunch to stay regulated.  Waiting until midafternoon to eat is courting disaster.

Like a boxer reflexively throwing punches when his opponent is close to knocking him out, I grabbed the car keys and the drawing and headed to Mickey D’s.  It is the closest place to my house, I can get there on lightly travelled residential roads.  For similar reasons, my favorite neighborhood bar is even closer than the Golden Arches. 

Thirty minutes later, my stomach is full, and clarity begins to replace the cloud in my head.  I stare at the drawing for a few minutes while I finish my half and half iced tea.  They always make the fully leaded stuff too sweet.

The course of action became clear.  Head back to the Barking Tattoo Studio and demand an answer from Christophe.  He had to be behind this somehow.  I wasn’t sure what was happening.  But I knew the tattoo was something more than carefully laid ink residing in my dermal tissue.  I already had plenty of those kind of tattoos. 

The bulldog was alive, somehow.  Some things you can’t explain, but you can feel, when it is happening to you.  Like all those people getting anal probes from aliens.  It’s real to them, even if the rest of us think they are crazy.  I don’t care if you think I’m crazy.  I’m pretty sure I was anyway, well before the bulldog showed up.

The more tea I drank, the clearer my head got.  I began to get angry.  This Christophe fucker had done something to me without my permission.  Another moment of clarity hit me.  I realized, after I confront him, I’ll be in a situation where I might have to use my fists.  Hopefully not.  I realized in high school, win or lose, fighting was always a bad choice.  If it was a choice.  When someone has you backed into a corner, there’s no choice.  At this point, I wasn’t sure if I was in a corner.

I am bigger than Christophe and if it came down to fists and knees, I could make him quit before I hurt him very much.  Didn’t turn out to be an issue.  When I walked through the door at the Barking Tattoo Studio, I was overcome with as powerful of an emotional experience as I’ve ever had.  Like the first time I came home after starting college.  By the time I made it to the counter, tears were streaming down my face.  I realized I belonged there.

Christophe walked out of the back.  I handed him the drawing.  He looked at it, raised his eyebrow, and handed it back to me.  He said, “You’re late, but I’m going to go ahead and pay you for a full day.  Your outlining is not too bad but you’re going to need to learn a lot about texture, color, and shading before you can even do a simple tattoo.  First you have to fill up a notebook with drawings.  And about the books in the lounge:  Start reading.”

That is how my career as a tattoo artist began.  I quit my previous job, they told me to come back if I changed my mind.  Good plumbers are hard to find, and I had been there three years, never once had bad words with the owner.  Later this would come in handy.  For now, my life was consumed with tattoos.

I took drawing and painting classes.  I read tattoo books.  I got to know Sailor Jerry, Tattoo Johnny, and Stoney St. Clair.  The Mammoth Book of Tattoos isn’t really that mammoth, but it is filled with incredible photographs from some of the best tattoo artists you’ll find.

I filled that notebook up with drawings.  Christophe sold me a used tattoo setup and I practiced at home on grapefruit.  Christophe said to go to Sam’s club and buy in bulk.  You can cut off the parts you ink and eat the rest for breakfast and snacks.

Soon enough I occupied my own room at the Barking Tattoo Studio.  I was at the bottom of the tattoo totem pole.  It took almost six months before a serious practitioner would ask me for a tattoo.  But there were plenty of newbies, looking for simple, inexpensive tattoos that I could pull off.

When Orlando asked me to do ring tattoos on all four fingers of his right hand, I knew that was my chance to break into the big leagues.  He was already heavily tatted, a few by major dudes.  Even though the tats I did for Orlando weren’t complicated, the fact that a big boy would let me ink him made me feel I had arrived.

The tats he wanted were classic choices from a popular book, Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Volume I.  On page 207 of the hardback edition, you’ll see an illustration of four rings.  One with a crown and a backward Russian e, indicating the wearer was an “appropriator”.  One with a skull overlaying an X.  This indicates someone who is a known thief or robber.  One with several circles for an orphan.  One with an A for an anarchist.

After that, my clientele rapidly expanded.  More importantly, the tats they wanted got more complex, and more artistic.  By the time my first anniversary at the shop approached, I was beginning to think I might have gotten as good as Christophe.

But it all ended that morning, on the one year anniversary.  I woke up with a headache.  I realized the bulldog tattoo was gone.  How could that happen?  Slowly, something else dawned on me.  My fingers felt funny.  I had a sinking feeling in my stomach.  I grabbed a pen and a piece of paper.  I could barely draw a straight line.

Like a year before, I staggered down to the Barking Tattoo Studios.  This time, when I walked through the door, there was no magic.  Christophe said, “Your year is up.  Gather up your stuff and move on.  But since you’re here, I’ll pay you for a full day if you’ll unclog the toilet.”

I asked Christophe what would happen if I got another tattoo.  He laughed and said, “The subsequent ones are always harder to predict.  We’ll both find out, as soon as you’re ready.  When you get home, take a look at yourself in the mirror.  You might want to weigh yourself.  Don’t come back until you have rested and eaten your Wheaties.”

When I got home I realized he had spoken the truth.  There were dark circles under my eyes.  I topped out at 146 pounds on the scale.  I am 6’2”.  At this weight, I look like a concentration camp survivor.  I need another 30 pounds before I will be ready for another tattoo.  Time to resume my plumbing career, join Gold’s Gym, and do some serious grocery shopping.

Next time I patronize the Barking Tattoo Studio, it won’t be a bulldog.  Maybe a snake. 



In the South, iced tea is a religion, along with college football and politics and religion.  Note that iced tea and tea are not the same thing.  Iced tea doesn’t require ice, but it must be served chilled.  If that is not a sufficient explanation, your best bet is to visit and find out for yourself.  As an alternative, there may be a Waffle House near you that can simulate the experience.  I would never consider living anywhere that didn’t have a Waffle House. 

New Mexico has a state question, “Red or green?”  It refers to your favorite type of chili pepper.  A friend from there was visiting and told me, “I can tell you what Alabama’s state question should be:  Sweet or unsweet.”

I would add half and half to make it a multiple choice.

When I give advice, I try not to use words like never.  Never is pretty harsh.  But here’s a never.  Never drink instant tea.  Always consume the real thing.  Same with coffee.  Even more important:  Never inhale anything that can be described with a two word phrase beginning with “synthetic”. 

I suppose if you are on the space station, or clinging to an outcropping on Mount Everest, I’ll cut you some slack on instant coffee or instant tea.  Not on the synthetic stuff.  No reason to ever do that.  If you can’t be with the one you love, deal with it.

BTW.  In real life, no tattoos.  I was made right the first time.  I’ve never been in a tattoo parlor.  But I think your tats are groovy.  Tigers and elephants are my favorites.  Eagles too.

Submitted: February 22, 2015

© Copyright 2021 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


Whiskey Charlie

Geezus. If you had just written the first paragraph and nothing more, it still would have been a great story. The rest was pure lagniappe, like a Moon Pie and RC Cola.

Mon, February 23rd, 2015 12:13am


That is really good to hear. Because I've discovered that the shorter your story, the more it gets read. Which is the strategy I have adopted as a reader. I spent five times as much time taking words out afterwards than I did writing it. That is the second time you've made me snort my chocolate milk through my nostrils when I read one of your replies. When I first started in the IT business, the first consultant that took me under his wing and helped me get started is from San Francisco. When he left, I made him a redneck gift box. There was an authentic homemade back scratcher, a bottle of Jack, and a Moon Pie and an RC Cola. I had to google lagniappe. You can stop teaching me stuff. I'm supposed to be retired.

Sun, February 22nd, 2015 4:41pm

Criss Sole

Well at least he had that awesome talent for a year. Back to plumbing we go.
I've never been a big fan of tattoos... at least not on me :P And some great advice at the end there. Good to know. I really enjoyed this one.

Wed, November 11th, 2015 10:04am


Well, if the economy goes bad, we still can't do without plumbers. You never know about the tattoo business. Instead of tattoos, I recommend designer tee shirts.

Wed, November 11th, 2015 3:44am

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