Being a tattoo artist in downtown Chicago was a pretty easy job, as long as you did exactly what the customer wanted. That being if they wanted a baby Jesus riding a unicorn off into the sunset, then you gave them a baby jesus riding a unicorn off into the sunset. No questions about it either. One time I asked, and that’s when I almost got beat up. Never ask a grown man why he would want baby jesus riding a unicorn off into the sunset. People have their own reasons as to why they want certain tattoos, I do too. When I first started this business I always asked. I didn’t want to put anything on someone that they would regret later on in life. But that came to a close very soon, as I mentioned before.
It was almost closing time, when I heard the bell ring from the front door opening. I looked and saw a regular man standing there. “Hi, what can I get for you?” I asked. He looked around as if he wanted to buy the store.
“What do you think?” he asked plainly.
“Tell me exactly and maybe I can do it.”
The odd man walked up to me. “A tally.”
“A tally? Like a tally mark?” I asked confused.
“Yes.” I hope this tally meant something to him. A tally, really?
“Okay, if that’s what you want. Where at?”
“On my back.”
“Alright, take your shirt off then and we’ll get into it.” I walked over to get my tools. “You can sit on the chair.” I turned around to walk back and looked at his back. I had seen muscular backs before, but this one was different, it had marks of it. They looked like old whip marks. “Where do you want it?”
“The top left corner right above the shoulder blade, an inch tall.” It sounded like he wanted this, like he really wanted it. I knew I shouldn’t ask, but this was so strange to get.
“I haven’t asked this in a long time, but are you sure you want this?”
He kept his head turned away straight forward. “Yes.”
“Alright.” I padded the area of the skin and made the tally. It didn’t even take a minute, and I was done. “There you go.” Before I asked him if he wanted to see it, he was already up and putting his shirt and coat back on.
“How much?” he asked. How could I charge someone for that small of a thing? I was making a good amount of money, considering I was one of the few decent tattoo artists around.
“No charge,” I said. “That would be pointless to charge you for that.”
“Thank you, goodnight.” And he left.
I kept thinking about that night for the next few days. It must have meant something to him. I was surprised to see him again a couple weeks later. “What can I get for you this time?” I asked.
“Same thing,” he said. I made another tally, and didn’t charge him again. I couldn’t of as to why he would want tally marks. He kept coming in every couple of weeks, asking for another tally. After a few months, he gave me $60. I told him he didn’t need to, but he didn’t let me give it back. Sometimes he would come in and ask for two tallies, and sometimes three, but never anymore. After two years of coming in twice a month, he had accumulated over 60 tallies. Since he came in, I never asked him why he was getting these, but I felt tonight was going to be time.
We had just finished his 65th tally. Now it was time to ask a second question I never asked a client. “Why do you want these tallies?” I asked.
“After he got done putting his shirt on, he turned to me and said, “You don’t want to know, trust me.”
“I’ve heard some crazy answers to that question, it’s not like yours could be any worse. Now, come on, why?”
“You really want to know?”
“My job isn’t the regular go to the office and do nothing. It isn’t fun and great. And certainly isn’t something I thoroughly enjoy.”
“No one’s job is,” I joked. He laughed slightly.
“I kill people for a living.” I looked at him and stared.
“You’re kidding, right?”
“You wanted to hear it.”
“So what, you’re a cop then?” He began laughing. “What? What other job would require you to kill people besides a cop or anything like that?” I asked having no idea.
“A man tells me who he wants dead. I go find the person, and kill him. Then I go back to that man and he pays me. That’s a job that requires that.”
“Huh, you don’t say.” I knew there were some people who got tattoos who shot someone or even killed them, but not doing it for a living. “So what do those tallies mean?”
“How many I’ve killed.”
“Shit, and you sleep at night?”
“Like a baby.” I guess I could add him to the list of people I’ve met. “I’ve gotta go now. See you in a couple of weeks. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight to you too.”