Pinup Girl Tattoo on a Baby’s Inner Left Thigh

Fiction

I stood in the swank lobby of a SoHo high-rise arguing with the domesticated ex-marine leashed to the front desk. He had a hole-punch of a mouth and little black eyes. His name was Jim.

I pointed at my face. “Jim, you’ve seen my face a thousand times. Look!” I pulled at my nose, eyelids, and ears. “It doesn’t come off, Jim, this is my god-damn face. Just buzz me up.” Jim stood and shoved a thick finger in my face. “You — ” but he was cut off by the ding of the elevator. Quin came sliding out in a Ferrari-red speedo. “Hurry up!” he said and dipped back into the elevator. I looked at Jim. He lowered his finger and sat back down. I ran to catch the closing elevator doors and slipped in beside Quin.

Quin was bouncing on the balls of his feet; he was waxed from the neck down. The years had not been kind; he looked like a pile of mayonnaise; a weak gut, thin arms, and flabby thighs — the left one decorated with a half-assed pinup girl tattoo.

“Everything alright?”

“Yeah — ” He looked at me, even his eyes bounced, “yeah, yeah,” he said.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, baby, yeah.”

“You gonna tell me what’s so great I had to leave work?”

Quin watched the floor numbers climb. “Why does this take so long!”

I leaned against the side of the elevator. “Well you could move to Jersey City with me, I live on the second floor. I can even take the stairs, and — huge upside — I can’t get lost in my apartment.”

“Mhm. Yeah man, yeah.”

The doors opened straight into Quin’s penthouse pad. There was a spiral staircase to the right, floor-to-ceiling windows straight ahead. In the middle of this Taj-Majal on top of the world that Quin called home, there was a massive steaming hot tub. It was solid gold.

“Ta-da!”

“Another hot tub?” I asked, unimpressed.

Quin smirked side-long at me. “It is The Fountain of Youth!”

I walked up to it. The jets kicked on. I stepped back, “You’ve nicknamed your hot tub the fountain of youth?”

Quin sighed at me, “No, idiot, I had them turn it into a hot tub.”

“Turn what?”

“The Fountain of Youth! Don’t you listen?”

“Dude, The Fountain of Youth isn’t real,” I reminded him.

He gave me a pitying smile, “Everything is real if you pay enough,” he reminded me. “Now step back. Okay, you are here to make sure nothing goes wrong, you gotta watch me.”

“Like a good little friend,” I muttered. “Okay, so, say I believe you, what do you want The Fountain of Youth for anyway? You’re thirty-two.”

“Yeah, but don’t you want to go back to being a teenager?” He glanced down at his mayo-belly.

I shook my head “Hell no, I hated being a teenager.”

“Ah, you were one of those.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Quin climbed up onto the side of the pool, “Oh you know, those people who are always bitching about high-school and how anyone who was cool is now a truck driver or some bullshit like that. Not true. I tell you; I was cool as shit and look at me now. Bet you wrote poetry, didn’t you?” I glared at him. “Thought so,” He said. He rubbed his hands together and winked.“Bet your poetry was rubbish.”

I gave him the finger.

“You’ll pull me out if anything goes wrong, yeah?”

“Yeah, yeah alright.”

He stepped in and submerged himself. I waited. Nothing. I looked out of the window. I could see the curvature of the damn planet from that window.There was a sound from behind me, a splashing. I turned back to the tub as a young boy’s head appeared, it screamed, then disappeared again. I ran over to the edge.

“Shit.”

I followed the shrinking shadow below the surface then plunged my hands in and pulled out a newborn baby boy. It coughed up a bit of water then cried like hell.

“Shit,” I told the baby, it cried some more. “Dude! Hey man, Quin?”

“Wahh!” Quin said.

“Alright man, alright. I’m going to get you to the hospital. Hold on.”

I held him at arm’s length and ran for the elevator; the pinup girl tattoo growing more harrowing, shrinking as we went. I hit the “Lobby” button with my knee. Quin wailed as we descended. I looked at him. “You idiot,” I cried, “You stupid baby” — then panic hit me — “what the fuck am I going to say to Jim?”

*

Thank you for reading! The artwork for this piece was created by Nikita Klimov, and it was originally published in our publication ‘The Moss’, on Medium.

DEATH at a Preschool Christmas Party

art, Fiction

DEATH

In the mirror, I attach the fake ears and tug the hat onto my head.

“It’s the wealthiest Preschool in St. Peter,” K had said, “they’ll pay you a boatload to just stand around as an elf for their Christmas party.”

I sigh now, as I did then, resigned.

I wash my hands and step out into the hall. The Babushka rolls up to me. Her rock-face is polished. Her eyes are onyx.

She points. I nod. I follow her directions to a door inundated with Christmas joy. I go through.

The room is vast, a gymnasium almost. It is crowded with all manner of Christmas. Bells float through the air, jingling. Ropes of ornament-covered pine snake along the walls. A fat tree absorbs the center of it all.

Children wander about the place. None are more than five or six years old. They are dressed almost exclusively in argyle. A snowman in the corner is telling a story as a small blonde girl discreetly stuffs bits of his backside into her mouth. On the other side of the room, Santa Claus is red-faced as he picks up a small boy. A red-nosed reindeer stands calmly next to him, chewing on the inside of its own mouth.

Santa places the boy on the red-nosed reindeer. The boy begins to wail. A woman in a black sweater runs over and pulls the child down. The boy runs off across the room. I see him slide on his belly down a thin layer of ice. A young woman in a blue dress stands beside it. She claps.

A fair-haired little girl walks up to me. Not dressed like the rest. A simple black dress.

“You got a cigarette?” she asks.

“Huh?”

She sighs, “you got a cigarette?”

“Uh…”

“I’m not a child.”

“Oh…are you a midg—uh I mean– a dwarf?”

She giggles.

“I’m DEATH. And, I want a cigarette.”

I’m not sure whether or not to laugh.

“What do you mean you’re DEATH?”

“I’m not sure what else I could mean. That polished rock turd out there hired me to be here so…”

DEATH shrugged, “I’m often in Russia this time of year anyway.”

I continue to stare at the frail-looking girl. She winks. “Just between you and me,” she lowers her voice, “I never go anywhere I’m not needed. Even for the kind of scratch, this place shells out.”

“Right,” I manage.

“So, you got a cigarette or not?”

I nod.

“Let’s go have one then. Take my hand, everyone thinks I’m a child anyways. Pretend you’re taking me to the bathroom.”

She holds out her hand. I take it hesitantly. Suddenly she grabs it tight, very tight.

“Your time has come!” DEATH says, her eyes go black. I panic and jerk my hand away. My heart stops.

She bursts out laughing. She holds her stomach and bends over, a joyful tear falling from her eye. “You should see your face,” she gasps.

I feel like vomiting.

“Oh, that never gets old,” she says, catching her breath, “but, seriously, let’s go.” She holds out her hand again, her eyes back to blue. I don’t take it. She steps forward and grabs my hand anyway.

“Don’t be a pansy,” she says. She leads me out the door.

The fear in my legs has subsided by the time we get to our destination, a closet. Inside I light up two cigarettes. She takes one. She smokes through her nose. I can’t wipe the frown off my face. It’s beginning to hurt.

“So, what are you doing here?” DEATH says through the cloud that’s sprouted up between us.

“Uh, I am an actor.”

She snorts. “Bummer.”

“Mm.”

We finish our cigarettes in silence.

“We better go back,” DEATH says, holding out her hand again.

I take it this time, apprehensively. Before we leave, I can’t help asking,

“What did you mean that you never go anywhere you’re not needed?”

DEATH smiles up at me and shrugs, innocently.

Continue the story at https://deathatapreschool.com/