Brad and Jordan shop for a tattoo to seal their love. The tattoo artist is a speed bump on their road to ink. Are they ready for “permanent?”

Enjoy the story.

Inking Ignites a Spark

Bob Gillen

On the sidewalk outside the tattoo parlor, Brad and Jordan studied the samples in the window.

“I love that you’re doing this for me,” Jordan said, squeezing his arm.

Brad nodded, smiled. “Yeah, pretty cool.”

They stepped into the parlor.

“Hey, dudes,” a heavily inked man in a sleeveless shirt greeted them.

“Hi,” Jordan said. “My boyfriend wants a tattoo.”

“Welcome to my shop.” He gestured to the room. “This is all my work.”

Brad looked around at the samples lining the walls and counters.

“Any thoughts on what design or style you want?”

“He’s thinking of my name…Jordan. Right?” She turned to Brad.

Brad nodded.

“What about color? Black only, black and gray, full color?”

“I guess it depends on what I see,” Brad said.

“Are you guys in high school?”

“Seniors,” Jordan said.

“You have to be eighteen to get inked in this state,” the artist said.

“I turned eighteen a month ago.”

“Okay. We can check ID when we finalize this…Any issues with your folks over getting inked?” the tattoo artist asked Brad.

“I didn’t ask them,” Brad said in a low voice.

The artist nodded, paused, rubbed his tongue across his teeth. “Where do you want the tattoo?”

“My right arm, I guess.”

“Everyone will see it there, okay?” The artist walked them to a display of names and fonts.

Jordan said, “On your bicep. That will work.”

“Will the name run up and down, or across, your bicep?”

Brad frowned.

“Let’s experiment.” The artist reached for a chiseled marker. “I can wipe this off with alcohol when we’re done.”

Brad shoved the sleeve up on his tee.

“The name?”


The artist drew Jordan in simple block letters up and down on Brad’s bicep.

Brad slipped his sleeve back down.

Jordan squinted. “Oh.”

“What?” Brad asked.

The artist held up a mirror for Brad to see the image clearly.

What they all saw was dan. The Jor was covered by Brad’s sleeve.

“Everyone will think you’re in love with a Dan,” Jordan said.

“All right then, we go with your name across the bicep,” the artist said.

He wiped the image off with a tissue and alcohol. He then drew Jordan’s name across Brad’s bicep, below his sleeve.

“I like that,” Jordan said.

“How much do you charge?” Brad asked.

“My prices run from a bottom of about eighty dollars upwards through the hundreds.”

“I saved one hundred.”

The artist nodded. “That would eliminate color.”

Jordan made a face. “No color?”

Brad shrugged. “That’s all I have.”

The artist cleared his throat, said, “I don’t want to throw shade at your project here. I have to ask, How serious are you guys?”

Jordan piped up. “We’re going to the same college. Serious all the way.”

Brad smiled. Weakly.

“And if your parents are not fully on board, you may want to ink yourself where they can’t see it. At least, not till much later.”

“Yeah?” Brad felt unsure. “Where would they not see it? I’m on the swim team. They come to all my meets.”

“Some people get their ink on their butts,” the artist said with a grin.

“Oh, sure,” Jordan squeaked, waving her arms. The artist took a step backwards. “Ink my name on your ass. I don’t think so.”

Jordan continued, “Brad, be more confident. I’m sure they’ll be okay with this.”

The artist watched Brad’s face, hesitation written all over it.

“Let me toss out another question,” the artist said. He stared directly at Brad. “Four years from now, when you’re both college seniors, will you still be together? If not, you’re stuck with Jordan’s name inked somewhere on your body.”

“He won’t be stuck with my name,” Jordan flared. “We’re never breaking up. This is forever.” She hugged Brad’s arm.

Brad closed his eyes. Breathed in the smell of ink. Forever.

The artist sighed. ”Look, guys, I don’t want to turn away any business. But I am proud of my work. I don’t want to see you trying to hide it, or even remove it, in a few years.”

“Brad, you want this, right? Speak up.” She cozied up to his arm.

“I am worried about my parents’ reaction. I didn’t think of that before now.”

“Even if they’re surprised, they’ll get over it quickly. They like me. A tattoo will be so cool.”

Brad stared at the marking on his bicep.

Sensing Brad’s hesitation, the artist suggested, “Why don’t you guys take a week to think this over. I’ll still be here. And to show you my sincerity, when you come back I’ll offer you a 10 percent discount.”

“We don’t need time to think about this,” Jordan said, her voice squeaking. She raised her eyebrows. “Brad, tell him what you want. Let’s pick out a style.”

“I think maybe we should wait, like he says. We can look over some designs before we come back.”

Jordan grew red in the face. “Brad, you’re letting this guy talk you out of the tattoo. We agreed to do this.” She glared at the artist.

“I’m not saying no, Jordan. Let’s just come back. Maybe I should try out the idea on my parents.”

Jordan gave the artist the finger. “You ruined this, you fuck!” She turned and stormed out the door. Brad froze in place.

The artist reached to wipe Jordan’s name off Brad’s arm. He whispered, “Trust me. You’ll thank me in a couple of years. If not sooner.”