The Tattoo Machine by Steve Toase

IMG_9264

Barrel of a Bic Cristal biro (clear)

Duracell MN1604 Alkali 9V battery

The rotary motor from Hitachi TRK-W350E Radio Twin Cassette Player

One roll of insulating tape (Black)

Single needle (Sterile. Unused)

Ink

When I got older I learned the home made tattoo machine was a lot quieter than the professional ones. Only slightly more advanced than those used in prison it was not tethered to a transformer so was easier to move around. I sat on the bed, pillow pushed between me and the wall, wrist level in front of me. He held my arm in a surgical gloved grip and dipped the needle tip in a small cap of ink.

The point percussioned my skin, pushing in the pigment. A splinter of damp engorged plaster. A small mote of glass from when the window pane slid down, sashes slashed. A speck of ash from Chefchaouen in Morocco.

Waiting until he moved the needle from my arm I shifted a little in my seat and looked out of the permanently open window. Beyond the painted over frame an unsettled sky rested upon the roofs.

Holding the machine in the air he snagged a sentence of conversation trapped against the architrave and two bars of song not heard since the waters were a three times a day devotion. I felt them sting as they ground into my skin, mixed with dark blue pigment.

Pausing once more he caught the forgotten memory of a disapproved of visitor, calling the morning after a fortune losing game of baccarat, and the vodka fumes still rising from the carpet where the bottle was kicked over the night before. They outlined the small cross blooming through blood on my arm.

Finished, he wiped my arm with disinfectant soaked kitchen roll and dismantled the machine to remove the now stained needle.

The tattoo is not big, but carries the room and stays under my skin still.

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The Tattoo Machine by Steve Toase

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