Song of the Red-Legged Birds: Chapter 3: Meaningful tattoo
Holly's trip and a feather
Last week, in chapter 2 we got pizza at Ralph’s and met Chimera
3. Meaningful tattoo
Thumping, pounding, hammering, and yelling roused Takeda out of sleep. He tumbled off of the small sofa and bumped into the coffee table. It sent a half-filled cup, a worn copy of Writer’s Guild, and his phone tumbling to the floor. He stood as if attempting to balance himself on a moving ship and squinted at his surroundings.
“HEY!” a female voice yelled from outside his apartment door.
Wiping the sleep from his eyes, he turned his attention from the door to the smear of dripping blood. The splatter looked like someone had thrown a wet paintbrush at his window.
“What the fu....”
“Yo, Takeda! I can hear you fumbling around in there. Open up!”
Takeda headed toward the door stopping to make eye contact with Triscuit. She waited with her head in her dog dish, crossed paws, and unblinking eyes.
“Didn’t I already feed you?”
Triscuit stared at him with a bit of drool clinging to the corner of her mouth.
“DUDE!” the voice commanded. The doorknob twisted back and forth.
“I’m coming. Stop yelling, Holly.”
He fumbled with the new digital lock that looked out of place in the old building. How had she managed not to knock this flimsy door off its hinges? Takeda thought as he let her in.
Holly fumed, leaning against the doorframe. She wore oversized men’s boxer shorts, bare feet, and a clinging Sex Pistols tank top. Shoulder-length curls spilled out of the sides of her trucker hat. It proclaimed ‘KALE’ in white letters on a green background.
“Geesh, don’t hurry on my account or anything. Did you sleep through that?”
“Sleep through what? And what time is it? And come in or whatever. Don’t lean there all awkward; you know I hate that.”
“Well, aren’t you a bit pissy, sleepyhead? Happy birthday.” She stopped to kiss his forehead.
“Oh yeah, my birthday,” he said as if he had just woken up again.
“Shitballs, it happened to you, too? What the fuck! Fucking bird suicide pact or something?”
“Bird suicide, what…? That’s what that is? I thought I dreamt it.” He examined the gore and rubbed his head in an attempt to kickstart his brain.
Holly pressed her head to the window, straining to look down.
“Nasty. There’s a lot of them down there.”
“A lot of what, birds?”
“Yes, dum-dum. Did you drink last night or something? Oh my god, you better feed Tris asap! What does this expression mean?” Holly said with a smirk looking at the salivating dog.
“Oh yeah...” he mumbled and stepped over Triscuit. She attempted an awkward slobbering lick at Takeda’s ankle and fell over.
“It looks like they flew into the building simultaneously - fucking weird, right? I was eating cereal, and screwing around on the computer, then boom! Scared the shit out of me, like that Hitchcock movie, you know, you know that movie?”
“Vertigo?” Takeda laughed.
“Rhetorical statement, smartass. Anyway, mega-creepy weird shit, dude.”
“Could you stop calling me dude? I’ve asked you before; it feels odd coming from a girl.”
“Don’t be a sexist fuck, dude,” Holly said, pleased with herself and tugging down on her cap.
Having fed the dog, he returned from the kitchen and did a double take, looking at her arm.
“You’re staring again, and I hate when you do that. Try using your words like a big boy.”
“You got a tattoo?”
“Is that a question? You can see it on my body, right? What’re you trying to say?”
“I’m altogether surprised, is all. You always talked shit about poseurs and their meaningful tattoos. Am I looking at a feather on your arm?”
Holly plopped down on the couch. After negotiating the remaining clutter, she placed her feet on the table, crossed at the ankles.
“Yeah, well…” she trailed off. “Something moved me; has that ever happened to you, Tak? Do you know that scene from the Matrix? The one where Neo wakes to receive a message on his computer screen? Then the super cool chick is at his door with the white rabbit tattoo, and he decides to follow her?”
“Well, this was nothing like that, but I love that scene.” Holly gave a pleased smile.
“Nice,” Takeda smirked and sat beside her, “spill it.”
“It’s a shameful story likely told by thousands of people. I was drunk and stumbling home by myself. I crossed the street with the elegance of a giraffe on ice skates. The edge of the curb grabbed my sandal, and I stumbled. Luckily the window of that tattoo place broke my fall. The one that’s two blocks up from your work, you know?”
“When I tell this story in the future, I’ll say that my hands landed on this feather tattoo displayed in the window. What did happen was that I saw a cute guy inside. He was coloring in a tattoo of a wave that completely covered this huge biker’s back. The design was by this Japanese artist….” She grabbed her phone, swiped it open, and read. “Yeah, the Wave at Kanagawa by Hokusai,” she attempted it with a Japanese accent.
“Cool painting,” he said.
“Yeah, well, I looked it up afterward but pretended to know what the fuck it was at the time to impress the cute tattoo guy. I’m sure he knew I was full of shit. So, I watch him finish up work on this giant getting a tattoo. Then the guy, a biker dude, who looks like he could crush you with only words, never mind his huge arms, starts to open up to me. He starts talking about the significance of his tat; he keeps calling it his tat. He even tears up a little talking about his shitty childhood, and it’s not conventional shitty. He wasn’t beaten or sexually abused, or tormented. He was just alone. Not alone, like, he had a family, but there was no communication. He said it was like being wallpaper. Invisible unless you start peeling, then annoying to anyone who noticed.”
Takeda nodded, “That sucks.”
Yeah, nobody talked about anything. He had to figure out how to deal with emotions on his own. The guy wasn’t even aware that he could or should talk about his feelings. And no one ever asked. He said the funny thing about that is that you don’t know that that’s a problem when you’re a kid. It shows up a long time later and can destroy you from the inside out. That’s what he said anyway, and I’m not entirely clear on what he meant. Then he started to get emotional. This colossal man had tears streaming down his face, and they weren’t because of the needles that stab colored his skin. It got to me. Suddenly, I’m all weepy too, and I reach out and touch this dude’s arm–like this.”
She patted Takeda’s arm.
“And…,” Holly paused for a moment and then another.
“Are you okay?” he said.
“I’d never felt this before, but there was this kind of electricity when I touched him. Electricity isn’t even the right word; it was..., not sexual. It was as if the contact instantly eclipsed the deep and personal things he shared.” Holly glared at Takeda.
“Don’t look at me like that. Shit, I knew you’d be an asshole,” she said through clenched teeth.
“No, no, I’m sorry. It’s a little surprising to hear something like that from you. I mean, I don’t often see you with your guard down.” He turned to face her.
Tris trotted into the living room and plopped down on the floor, partly covering Holly’s feet.
“Don’t fuck with me, Tak.”
“I’m not. Sorry, please continue.”
“I only wanted to reassure him. That’s why I touched his arm, you know, like a thing most normal humans might do? But we both felt some connection; I could see it in his eyes. And all that business seemed like an eternity, but it was about a fraction of a second. So cute tattoo man, whose name turned out to be Declan, finishes up with this biker guy whose name I never did get. He offers the dude two beers, and the guy downs one in two gulps then flops in a leather chair cracking open the other.”
“Then he points to me. He’s pointing right at my face and says, ‘That one,’ and I’m all, huh? He says, ‘You need that one, behind you, that blue feather. I’m fucking serious.’ I say, “Me? Oh, I didn’t want to get a tattoo. I only wanted to watch.”
She sat up and put her feet on the floor, forearms resting on her thighs.
“So, he launches into this story. He says, ‘Bullshit, we shared something, you felt it, and I’m a big believer in serendipity. That feather is you. You ever see the video for the song Learning to Fly by Pink Floyd? The tune has fuckin profound lyrics - not cheesy crap, the real deal. Well, there’s this Indian guy, Native American dude. He picks up a feather from the ground and slides it into this cool ass armband he’s wearing. The pace of the music builds. Then that mother fucker starts running, and he runs right off a cliff. The view switches to his perspective, and he’s soaring. Like he’s become a bird or a flying man. That’s up to the viewer, I guess. The fucking video gets me every time; I don’t know why. Anyway, the thing flew into my head when you touched my arm. And fuckall if you’re not standing right below a feather that would look great on you. I bet you think I’m full of shit, and I often am, go ahead and ask Declan here. But I’m fuckall serious, that tattoo is you!’”
“Tak, you know me, I don’t suffer fools, and I don’t put up with bullshit. Except yours for some reason,” she said, making a face at him. He returned the look.
“But I agreed to it. You know how you see someone with an unfortunate tattoo? You judge them and think they must have regretted it the next morning? I don’t. I love it. And I love that I had no intention of doing this, but it happened. I analyze the shit out of things before I make a decision, yet I let this random, giant, biker dude pick out my tattoo.” Holly beamed.
She stopped and waited for Takeda to say something.
“Holly, it looks boss,” he smiled.
“Bullshit,” she said, slapping his leg.
“I’m serious, I love it, and it fits you. And the Floyd song, I know it, it’s perfect. Might I add that you’ve got the most eclectic music interests I’ve ever encountered, next to mine, that is.”
“Thanks,” she said, tilting her head at Triscuit. The dog reflected the move in the opposite direction. “Well, you grow up listening to certain music, and it sticks with you; there’s no accounting for it.”
Her gaze shifted to the window for a moment. “You know what else was funny? Well, not funny per se, but intriguing? This tough, beer-swilling, swearing, tattooed giant of a man was gay.”
“How’d you find that out?”
“He had a tattoo on his arm that said, I’m gay.
“Well, okay then,” Takeda said.
“And the guy didn’t ride a Harley or some monster-sized bike. Do you know what he drove?”
“It’s like you’re always trying to one-up me, jerk. No, not a fucking sleigh. A fucking moped! A pink fucking moped covered in painted-on skulls! Watching him ride it was astonishing. One of those things that, once you see it, you wonder how you’ve never managed to see it before. And, you know you’ll see it again without even trying.”
“So you had quite the night then. What happened with Mr. Tattoo guy, Declan, I think you said?”
“Nothing. He closed shop and wandered off; I watched the biker dude take off into the night on his bitchin tiny stallion.”
“Hmm,” Takeda said, trying not to look pleased.
Tris let out a loud sigh and wriggled onto her back. Holly obliged with a belly rub.
“Hey, aren’t you late for work? Lunch shift today?” She said.
“Fucker. Yeah.” Takeda jumped to his feet in a panic and ran to the bedroom.
“You know what’s weird, Holly?” His voice echoed down the hall. “I had one of those hyper-vivid dreams right before you came over. I dreamt that I was at work, and it was a normal day. Not a crazy dream where something strange happens, a plain old day at work. It was so damn real I’m going to ask Ralph to credit me a few hours of overtime.”
“Good luck with that.” Holly scoffed, loud enough for him to hear.
“Well, I’m off,” he said, coming back into the living room, “Hey, could you walk Tris in a few for me?”
“By walk Tris, you mean pick up her shit in a bag?”
“That’s the glitz and the glamour of owning the world’s greatest hound!” Takeda sang and tussled the dog’s belly.
“Sure.” She sat up straight as if electrified. “Hey, you didn’t tell me! Did it happen yet? The birthday effect? Do you want to go to The Center tonight and celebrate with a bunch of strangers like a total dork?”
“It did, early this morning. Everything is right with the world, Holly,” he said with a genuine smile.
“Okay, buddy. Thanks, that’s what I wanted to hear,” she paused, “do you want to go anyway tonight? Just for fun, you might be able to do a Replay….”
“Um, sure, yeah, as long as you come with me. Let’s do it.”
“Meet you at the pizza place later then. Now get out of here before Ralph fires you. Tris and I have some catching up to do. And I mean, we’re going to watch Netflix for a while.”
“Then I’ll leave you ladies to it.” Takeda hustled out the door.
Thank you for reading the third chapter. To receive new chapters when I post them and to support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. You’re the best. Triscuit says so.
Next week in Chapter 4 “Nature of the island” we go to Maui and learn about The Event