(2018-10-25) You Never Stop at One
The new artist at the Mad Tatter has some serious skills, and reasonable prices!

Midday. The receptionist is out to lunch. One of the other tattoo artists has a client, and the buzzzzz of the needle plays percussion to the music coming out of speakers mounted around the room. Manning the (currently dead) phone during this down-time is Ben, who leans on the counter next to the register, reading from a paperback novel, his head bobbing absently to the grungy music.

Katherine steps in, brow furrowed, her steps unsure. Her eyes are narrowed as she checks out the shop, going wide when she spots the sign. She squares her shoulders though, taking determined steps toward the counter. "I want a tattoo." She says, her voice as firm as she can manage. Her head tilts as he checks out the title of the book that Ben is reading, before she remember her manners.

Looking up when the door opens, Ben was probably expecting someone else, since his brows rumple with a crease at the person standing there, but it's only a fleeting expression. "Came to the right place, then." After stuffing a marker in the book (Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein), he looks Katherine directly in the eyes, doing his damnedest to counter obvious trepidation with downright certainty. "I'm Ben," with a handshake offered. "You have an appointment already? Or looking to make one?"

Katherine's eyes are on the book when Ben offers his name, but she gets it together quickly, taking his hand and shaking it. "Hi Ben, I'm looking to make an appointment. It should probably be soon before I talk myself out of it." She takes a deep breath, letting it out with a laugh. "I'm trying to ..break out of my very lived in shell, if that makes sense?" She leans to the left, watching the other artist work for a few moments. "It doesn't look that bad." She murmurs, glancing back at Ben with a smile.

Ben's hands are cool but not cold, and his handshake is socially correct under the circumstances, followed by him nodding intently, really truly listening to Katherine. "Let's get this ball rolling then. What's your name?" He fishes around in the drawer by the register to find a stubby, chewed-on pencil, "And do you know what you want already, or do you want to look at a book? Some ideas on the walls, too." The end of that stubby pencil pokes toward the glass-cased designs, and he smiles. "Not that bad. Hurts less than getting your ears pierced."

"Katherine Stone." She turns and pulls a picture from her back pocket. A mandala taking up a little less than half of the forearm. "I saw it when I was at the spa, in a magazine, and I figured this would be a good starting point." She leans on the counter, watching him write things down. "Well, I was a baby when I got my ears pierced, not literally just ..in how I behaved. I cried. My sisters were embarrassed." She blinks before she hastily adds. "It's been years though, and I have a higher tolerance for pain. Yeah."

Ben reaches of the picture, his thoughts behind his eyes while he surveys it with professional interest. "You want it in the same place?" Turning over his own forearm, he measures it out with his index finger as a marker, nodding contemplatively. "Probably looking at three hours of work. Usually charge seventy-five an hour, but I'll do the whole thing for two-hundred if you want to sit for it now?" Also, he passes her one of the books from the counter, one that's labeled 'Ben' on the cover. His work, presumably.

Kate picks up the book, opening it as she nods absently at his first question. "Maybe an inch higher, so it won't show when I'm wearing long sleeves." She leans over the counter, tapping her fingertips on his forearm to show him where. "I have time now, I just got done filming, and when my boss sees it tomorrow..well.." A smile curves her lips as she looks back down at the book, turning pages. "..the flip out will be loud, and worth every penny of the two-hundred." She glances past the counter and gestures to the chairs. "Which one?"

"Your pick, Katherine, whichever looks most comfortable for the next two hours. Want anything to drink? Some water? Coffee? Tequila?" Ben sounds serious about all those while he lingers near the register for a few minutes, first writing in the book, then sketching something on a clean sheet of paper, referring frequently back to the picture Kate brought with her. The dude's got drawing chops for sure, the book filled with fairly typical tattoo fodder, so at least she can rest assured that the art's not about to get mangled?

"So, you're looking at something like this." He holds his rendition of the mandala up to his own forearm, showing it to Katherine.

Katherine eyes the chair where she can recline and relax, the offer of drinks making her look thoughtful for a few minutes. "Tequila. Honestly, one shot ought to do it." She watches him sketch, tapping her restless fingers on the counter while he works. "That's prettier than the picture that I brought, so ..yes. Something exactly like that." She glances from the register to Ben, and back again. "Do I pay up front, or when you're finished. I'm not sure of how these things work. This is un..un..new territory for me."

Ben clips the finished sketch to a clipboard, looking up when the guy getting his back worked out straightens for a minute and stretches experimentally, making black-feathered wings twitch. "Just a deposit. Fifty now, we'll take a break, pay as we go." The tequila wasn't a lie; there's a bottle by the register, and he pours a shot, then grabs two bottles of water out of a mini-fridge. With allllll this - shot, two bottles, clipboard - in hand, he drags a rolling stool over by Katherine's chair.

"Couple things for you to sign. Basically, they just say that you're a legal adult, you understand what you're asking, and that we agreed on a price. It also shows you how you can sue me if it comes out bad." He plays it all like this is perfectly normal, very chill. "Don't worry, Katherine, everyone has a first time."

Katherine pulls a fifty dollar bill from her wallet, setting it on the counter before she walks to the reclined chair. She stretches out, tries to get comfortable and when Ben approaches with a shot of tequila, she sits up straight and downs it. She makes a face, ducking her head as she shudders. "The aftertaste, gah!" She chokes out, taking a few quick breaths before she lays back on the chair. The clipboard is given her attention and she reads the forms, giggling. Sliding the pen free, she signs them with a flourish. "Well yes, everyone does, but …wait.." She turns her head, eyebrow quirked. "How many tattoos do people usually get?"

Ben puts the bottles of water on a side-table, nodding to them like that's the cure for the aftertaste. "However many they want. Between you and me?" He signs in a few places, too, then puts the clipboard aside. A few steps away, and then he comes back with a tray, not unlike one from a dentist's office, with an array of equipment and colored bottles. "Don't know anyone that's ever stopped at one."

Pulling on latex gloves, he sits on the rolling stool, asking, "Left or right arm?"

Katherine reaches for a water bottle, twisting open the cap. She gulps a few glugs of water and then sets it aside. "I'm going to stop at one, probably." She watches Ben sign some forms, and then looks over the bottles and equipment. "Left arm." She holds it out, closing both eyes before one peeks open. "Warn me before it begins, so I don't jump or..scream. Screaming would be embarrassing."

Not so much as a chuckle argues with Katherine's 'one and done' mentality. Ben nods seriously, like he's buying it, then pulls back Katherine's sleeve for her, clipping it high up on her bicep with one of those little clampy things hairdressers use. "Here's how we do, Katherine. You squeeze this as hard as you want in your right hand," he hands her a stress ball, "but hold your left arm as still as you can. You need to sneeze, itch your arm, whatever, say 'Ben, stop.' You say, 'Ben, stop,' I stop till you're ready again. Okay?"

This speech is gently delivered while he looks intently at her, waiting for acquiescence before he does some things, getting the actual tattoo gun ready with ink, making it buzz in preparation. "Say when, Katherine."

Katherine watches the preparation with wary eyes. She takes the stress ball, gives it an experimental squeeze, before she glances at Ben. "Ben, stop." She repeats once, getting a feel for it. "Okay, I think that I'm ready, her fingers already squeezing the ball. "Just don't laugh at me, if I squeak or something." She's already wincing, toes curled as she waits for the art to begin. "When."

"Promise." Ben doesn't wait once he gets that go-ahead, maybe just in case she walks back the permission? And, while he doesn't seem like a small-talker as a general rule, he does continue in his even, mild way, "What prompted you to make today your first inkday? Special occasion?" There's no way to give someone a tattoo without it hurting, but the first few minutes are at least somewhat mild, testing probes to see how her skin takes the ink, lots of blotting with gauze when he

Katherine can't turn away, she watches with that look on her face as if she might wince at any second. Her right hand is gripping the stress ball with an almost white-knuckled grip, occasionally relaxing the pressure before she squeezes hard again. "For the last two years, I've been doing what everyone else needed and wanted, and I just decided to do something that was solely my decision for my reasons." She calms down as the tequila works through her system. "Also, I'm dating a guy who owns a bar. That seems like …tattoo material." She suppresses a laugh, looking away for a few moments.

Ben, focused, "One of the better reasons that I've heard." Pausing, shifting, he clarifies, "Solely your decision for your reasons, I mean." The receptionist comes in about then, with all her brightly-colored hair, piercings, tattoos, and goofs around with the music, putting it to something more punk till he shoots a baleful look in her direction. Sullenly, she switches it back to the mellower playlist, and he resumes. "How did you pick the mandala?" nb: he's just making conversation for Katherine's sake, to keep her mind off the fact that he's USING AN ELECTRIC-POWERED NEEDLE TO JAM INK INTO HER FLESH FOREVER.

"I am almost curious to hear other reasons." Katherine responds, watching Ben as he works, but trying to view it like an outsider would. The receptionist draws her attention, the splash of color and piercings making her smile. "Wow, that's a lot of tattoos and piercings." She says, her voice sounding awed. "I was going to get flowers or butterflies or something, but it seemed cliched and kind of babyish. This mandala, or the one I saw in the magazine, it looked …interesting without being overwhelming."

Careful that his chuckle is small, with no movement, Ben shares, "Drunk is the number one reason. Then it's special occasions, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, births." He flicks a glance at the receptionist, watching her for a second; his wordlessness could be interpreted as agreement, maybe? It is a lot of needles that girl's put herself through. "They're meditation guides, I think. Like prayer beads for Buddhists." He dabs, then leans back, showing Katherine the initial outline in thin ink.

"Interesting." Katherine murmurs, simply watching Ben work now. The stress ball getting rhythmic squeezes, even if she doesn't realize she's doing it now. "I could use some help meditating. I was going to look into yoga, but nobody has opened a studio yet." She takes a long look at the outline, a slow smile forming on her lips. "I like it Ben, I think this is going to be very pretty when it's finished. Let's keep going."

Time for some color, then. Ben fusses around with that for a while, then resumes with the buzzing gun on Katherine's forearm. "Supposed to be good for core strength and relaxation." Occasionally, he'll pause and shake out his hand to keep it from cramping, or he'll shift to move out of the way of the overhead lights, or he'll move Kate's arm a little, but it's mostly just this: he leans low over her arm, and he works, slowly and methodically. "You're doing real well, Katherine. Need a break?"

"Relaxation is key, or so I've been hearing a lot lately." Katherine watches, her fingers on her left arm twitching a bit. "I think I might need a break soon, maybe another shot of tequila. That's odd for me to say, one shot usually makes me tired." She blinks, and then lets out a chuckle. "Ben, stop." It's said playfully, rolling her eyes a bit at her personal absurdity of it. "So why Frankenstein. Don't say that it's because it's good, I know that it's good."

Ben stops. Not in a dead-stop serious way, but because he saw that one coming, and he leans back, straightening and stretching. "Endorphins," he explains, simply but confidently. "Might keep the tequila from making you tired." A sharp whistle through his teeth rips the receptionist out of whatever magazine she's reading, and he conveys the request for the bottle and a shot-glass to her, then smiles and laughs low. "Almost Halloween, seemed appropriate. Bram Stoker is up next." Handing Katherine the shot and opening the second water bottle for himself, he adds, "You want a book or a magazine? You can flip with your right hand."

Katherine rests her head on the chair, and when Ben stops, she sits up experimentally and stretches a bit herself. "It's something." She agrees turning her feet so they hang over the side of the chair. She takes the shot glass, raises it slightly in a toast, and downs it. She has the same reaction she had with the first shot, grimacing at the taste. "I didn't like Dracula, but I did really enjoy Frankenstein." She glances toward the magazines and then shakes her head. "I would forget, and move my arm, I know that I would. Besides, the other day one of the local magazines had my picture in it. It was horrid. I'm still trying to wrap my brain around it."

"Oh yeah? What are you in the magazine for?" Ben doesn't poke fun at her face or anything, just finishes stretching, popping his neck, that kinda thing, then stands up for a little to rearrange some of the things on his tray. "Heard a story once - probably apocryphal - that Lord Byron gave Mary Shelley the inspiration for Frankenstein. They were at some lake on a dark and stormy night…" He trails off, like the rest of that tale should speak for itself.

"I am on the morning show, talking about celebrities and weather and why Mitch is just so dreamy." Katherine rolls her eyes and then holds out her arm again, setting back in the chair. "I never heard that, but the book seemed real, in some spots, very spooky." She brushes her hair away from her face and squirms to get comfortable. "I try not to read this stuff too close to bedtime, colors my dreams more than I like."

Ben puts on a fresh pair of gloves and sits back on his rolling stool, adjusting the overhead light so it shines just so on Katherine's arm. "When," he warns before starting back up again, the buzzzzzzzzz some eternal background noise. "That's part of the fun, isn't it?" he answers for letting books in on dreams. The part about Katherine's gig? He doesn't touch it other than an 'ahh' and a sympathetic-seeming nod at her.

"No, it isn't for me. My dreams are so vivid and then I wake up and feel like I'm still dreaming." Katherine turns her head away, not watching him work for the moment. "Honestly? I remember when I was reading this book, it was about this doll that was stealing a girls life. I went to sleep, and the guy I was seeing at the time? He shook me awake for something, and I tried to punch him. Right in the face. I don't think he appreciated it very much. I had to give that book up, it scared me too much." She turns back to Ben, eyebrows raised. "You have Frankenstein dreams?"

"My sister was like that when she was a kid, night terrors, used to wake me up from down the hall, screaming bloody murder." Ben listens to Katherine's story about the ex-boyfriend and the face-punching, pausing his work for a second to attend it more thoroughly, then chuckles. "There's a poem by Kabir - Between the poles of the conscious and the unconscious, there has the mind made a swing: Thereon hang all beings and all worlds, and that swing never ceases its sway." He nods at his own recollection of it; "Always thought that seemed the right way to describe dreams." He shakes his head about the Frankenstein dreams, resuming work.

"They say that people who are empathetic are the kind who get terrors like that." Katherine says, and then she clenches her teeth, wincing. "That hurts a bit more." She says while she gives the stress ball a hard squeeze. "I bet the whole poem is beautiful, probably one thing that I haven't read that I should. Poetry." The tension that has built up in her body due to the pain relaxes as it lessens, and she lets out a sigh. "I have lucid dreams, most evenings, sometimes about my day. I like those."

Coloring in between the lines, blotting away wells of blood in-between, Ben nods. "They're beautiful poems. One Hundred Poems of Kabir, he was a famous Hindu mystic, they'd go good with your mandala here." Still while she sighs, he waits till it's safe, till Katherine's arm is loose(r) again before he proceeds once more. "What do you do in your dreams where you have control? I hear people fly."

"I'll pick the book up, our local library has a lot of really amazing selections." Katherine gives Ben an apologetic look, smiling a bit to make up for her squirming. "The last dream that I had, I had super strength. I was juggling cars. My sister thought it was stupid, told me that I could use it for better things. Didn't I want to help people? I got the feeling that she meant her, she wants me to help her." She quirks a brow and smirks. "Weird huh?"

Ben shares absently, "There's a library exchange program if not, you can usually get other libraries to lend. Or Kindle, but I like the weight of a real book myself." He shakes his head at her silent apology, repeating an earlier assurance, "You're doing real well. We're in the home stretch." Which is why he keeps switching colors so often, adding in those little details. "All dreams are weird. A shrink could probably make heads or tails of that one. Did you ever try a dream journal?"

"I have a kindle, I carry it around with me everywhere. It's not the same as the paper, I agree, but it works." Katherine smiles at Ben, sighing softly as she watches him work again. "I can't keep a dream journal, if I did that, I'd have to face up to some of the things that go on in my life. I'm a big avoider. If I can fix it later, or if I can forget about it? I will. Just because it's easier than bad feelings."

No judgment from Ben, just a nod of acceptance at the reasons Katherine cites for not being able to journal. "Sounds like kindness in a way," he agrees. The work presses on, and his estimate winds up being about right when he finally looks up and leans back, cracking his neck again. "Katherine, how do we feel about this?" He dabs at her arm again with the gauze, then drops his hands away, letting her get a looksee for herself.

Katherine sits up gingerly, staying still for a few hours makes you sore, weirdly enough. Her eyes caress the tattoo, a slow smile finding its way to her lips. "You've done better than I could have dreamed, I'm going to show it to the whole city tomorrow on television, so prepare for more business." She lets her hands rest in her lap, admiring the colors. "You take tips, I dearly hope?" She raises an eyebrow and pulls her purse on the chair with her.

Ben lets out a low, relieved-sounding whistle at Katherine's response, peeling off his gloves. "No press is bad press, they say. And yes." About the tips, without any of the awkwardness that often accompanies talk of money changing hands. "Here, let me get you the after-care information. Bandage goes on before you leave, leave it on for at least an hour, then the rest of what you need to do is in this little pamphlet. You mind if I take a picture?" With his phone. "For the book."

Katherine laughs as he whistles, sitting up straighter as he starts to go over the aftercare information. She reads over it quickly, eyes narrowed, and nods along with the instructions. "Of course you can take a picture." She holds out her arm, fingers held together. "It's so beautiful."

"Really glad that you're happy with it." Authentically so. "You were a trooper, Katherine, thought for sure you'd cry, so good on you." Ben takes his picture quickly and painlessly (after almost three hours of torturing Katherine, anything might seem quick and painless?), checks that it's not blurry on his phone, then pockets the phone again. "My name and number are in there," the after-care information, "and if you have any questions, call me."

"I'll do that. Any chance you might want to be on television? Promote your business?" Katherine stashes the after-care information and pulls out cash, counting it out slowly. Apparently the tequila did knock her on the ass. She hands him the bills, a fifty dollar tip included. "I can't wait to show people, how long does the bandage stay on? Can I shower? Oop. I'll read the paper." She blinks, pulls out her phone and holds it to her ear. "After I get a ride."

Ben folds the bills and puts them in his pocket, adding a genuine, "Thank you." As for being on TV? He laughs a rough chuckle and tells Katherine, "Not sure I have that shining TV personality, but I appreciate the offer. And leave that bandage," the one he totally put on even though I probably forgot to pose it, "on for an hour at least, no more than five or six. You can shower, just make sure you dry completely afterward, and no soaking - bathtubs, hot-tubs, nothing like that. Let me know if you need a ride, the receptionist will take you if you're drunk." (Must happen often enough that they have a plan!)

Katherine smiles at Ben, nodding as she backs toward the door. She nearly stumbles once, mumbles an apology and then chirps into her phone. "Luke! Guess what! I need a ride, can you give me a ride? I'm..at.." She narrows her eyes, forgets the address completely and then sighs. "Tattoo place? Please? Yes! Okay, thanks." She hangs up, stows her phone and grins. "Okay. No soaking. Bandage for an hour. I can do that, totally."

Ben supplies into that gap, "The Mad Tatter. On Willow." He says it quietly, so as not to yell into Katherine's phone conversation there. "Do that and you'll be fine. There's some gel in that after-care. It's mostly Neosporin, but better for ink. If you run low, just swing by, we'll give you more, but that should last you a few weeks. And, anything comes up, call."

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