Tattoo U.

Do I remember lung-scripting? Kid, I’m old enough to remember when tattoos were a big deal.

Oh, believe me. There was a time. I know you don’t think there ever was a 20th century, but I was born way back in 1972. When I started working in the business, there weren’t even tattoo-and-piercing salons — because nobody had piercings except circus freaks and 12-year-old girls. And we had to charge, like, $300, $400 for a tat, because not a lot of people had them. We actually thought we had it good in the mid-’90s when everybody started getting them — hell, I started your dad’s college fund out of ankle butterflies and Bulls logos on the biceps of a thousand drunken sorority girls and frat boys. We thought we were on the verge of a golden age when everyone started getting tongue studs and belly button rings in the late ’90s; what we really were was on the skin of a bubble.

It all started to fall apart when places like Hot Topic opened up, and by the time you could get tattoos and piercings at flea markets, I was about ready to go to business school, I was so desperate. Luckily, your grandmother was always more dedicated than me. She handled the business end and I did the designs, but don’t let that fool you: she was really the artist, the visionary. She realized that with every hipster and college kid sporting ink and rocking Prince Alberts, the real money would be in catering to the extreme body-mod crowd who were now stuck without a way to get attention. They weren’t so special anymore now that everyone with a credit card had a tattoo of a flaming guitar on their calf; shit — oops, pardon my French, kid, don’t let your mom know I said that — you should have seen the look on some of my regulars’ faces when New Hampshire elected a senator with a chin spike. And a Republican, too! It was like they just found out there was no Santa Claus.

What? Oh, fuck! No, sorry, boy. Of course there’s a Santa Claus! That’s just, uh, that’s just a phrase we had back when I was a boy.

Anyway, the missus, she was the one who realized we could really make bank by anticipating the new extremes in body mods. When branding crossed over into the mainstream in the early 2000s, we’d already been doing it for a good ten years. Same thing with voluntary amputations — and even then, when it became trendy to cut off a toe or the first joint of your little finger — hell, that would have gotten you laughed at in our circles. You weren’t even allowed into the Chop Shop unless you were missing your nose, a whole foot, or your arm up to the elbow. And by the time that got mainstreamed, we had already passed it by and were doing stuff like partnered limb-grafting, where you and your girlfriend would each get an arm severed and then you’d attach their remaining arm to your stump. In fact, the way I knew your grandma really loved me is, she had her own name tattooed on her left leg before she had it grafted to where my left leg used to be. Some people laughed at us because of the staggered way we walked, but when we’d stroll side by side, we’d kiss each other on the downstroke.

(By this time, of course, getting a tattoo was kind of quaint, like having a church wedding or calling your wife “Mother”. They were so ordinary hardly anyone got them anymore, and when they did, it wasn’t by a tattoo artist; having a tattoo artist was like having a personal laundress or a scullery maid. People just got them in the supermarket, from one of those converted blood pressure sleeves.)

So of course I’ve heard of lung-scripting. In fact, we did some of the first ones at the Chop Shop. Lung-scriptings, heart tattoos, heart tattoos of hearts — the whole deal. We always tested out the equipment on each other first, of course — has Grandma ever showed you the CAT scan? So you’ve seen the tiger on her right kidney? I did that. It was the first organ-scripting we ever did with the ol’ InternoScribbler 4000, back in 2013. In fact, we also did the first liver-piercing, the first muscle-studs, and — it was either the third or fourth guy in Nevada to get racing stripes on his intestines, we did that too. Blood-dyeing, stem-to-stern decorative chains that hook into your cerebellum and come out your rectum so you can hook it to a wallet chain, tongue reversals — you name it kid, and I’ve done it. Why do you ask?

What? Oh, Henry. You’re not really thinking of getting one of those monkey spines, are you? I don’t know why people would do that to themselves.

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