Tattoo Stiggy’s
A Short Story by Tim Josephs
Written using the suggestion "Tattoo"
Originally featured on 06-02-2008
As part of our series "Summer Indulgence"

“Ya know what ya want, buddy?”

Startled, the young, spindly man with the messy brown hair dropped the magazine he was flipping through. He looked up to see a stocky man in jeans and a sleeveless flannel shirt standing in a doorway. A gray handlebar mustache drooped from his upper lip and tattoos covered most of his thick arms and neck.

“Ye-yeah,” the young man sputtered.

“Alright, get in the chair.”

He stood slowly and walked over to the worn leather chair.

“You gotta name?”

“Uh, yeah. Todd.”

“Welcome to Tattoo Stiggy’s, Todd. So what’s it gonna be?”

“Um, what I want right here,” Todd said, rolling up the left sleeve of his faded blue t-shirt, “is kind of like a sun or no, not a sun but like streams of light coming through like some clouds.”

Stiggy rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I guess I could do that,” he said, reaching for a needle.

“But that’s not it. Kind of in the middle of the rays of light I want my son’s name.”

Stiggy stopped suddenly. “Son? How old are you?”


“And how old’s your son?”

Todd beamed. “About two hours.”

Stiggy smiled. “Well now, that’s somethin’ special.”

He rubbed a damp cloth on Todd’s thin arm and turned on the needle.

“Yeah me and- oh, that hurts.”

“Yeah, it’s gonna sting a little. So you married, Todd?”

“Not yet. Laura — that’s my girlfriend — and me, we been talkin’ about it for a while and I guess we probably will sometime.”

“So where’s Laura now? Still at the hospital I’m bettin’.”

“Yeah, she’s probably still sleeping. She doesn’t know I’m doing this, it’s kind of a surprise for her and the baby.”

Stiggy nodded. “Yes sir, kids are great. I got six myself.”


“That’s right.” Stiggy pointed to a tattoo of a smiling young girl on his right forearm. “That’s Rosemary. She was my first. This one’s Johnny.” He pulled up his left pant leg to reveal a boy’s face. He then proceeded to lift up and unbutton various pieces of clothing to expose all of his children.

“I’d show you the missus but I don’t know you that well yet,” Stiggy said with a wink. “So, this your first kid?”

“Yeah,” Todd said, as Stiggy continued working on the tattoo.

“Kids are great, they sure are. I mean, they can be loud and the diapers are hell — I didn’t change a whole lot of ‘em myself — but, ya know, all that stuff don’t seem to matter after a while. Yeah, kids are okay.”

He put the needle down and picked up another.

“So what’s the name?”


Stiggy frowned and lowered the needle. “Jayden?”


“You said it was a boy, right?”


“What kind of a name is Jayden?”

“I-I don’t know, just a regular name I guess. Laura picked it out.”

“Listen, Todd, you seem like a nice enough fellow, but I don’t think I can let you name your son Jayden.”
“Why not?”

“No offense towards your girl, but Jayden ain’t a man’s name.”

“It’s not?”

“No sir. When’s the last time you heard a construction worker named Jayden? Or a guy who rode a motorcycle named Jayden? And last time I looked no Jayden ever won the Ultimate Fighting Championship.”

Todd looked puzzled. “Huh. You really don’t think it’s a good name for a boy?”

“Let me tell you somethin’, Todd,” Stiggy said, putting his hand on Todd’s shoulder. “I been tattooin’ folks here for over thirty years and I’ve seen all kinds of guys: guys with long hair, no hair, those Mohawk things, guys who looked like girls with makeup and earrings in all parts of their head, and even a couple wearin’ dresses. But I never had no Jayden pass through here.”

“I guess I never thought about it,” Todd said after a moment. “I don’t even remember really talking about it with Laura, it was just always gonna be Jayden.”

“Well there’s your problem.”

“You know, you might be right.”

“Damn right. So what’s it gonna be?”

“Uh, I don’t know.”

“How about Joe?” Stiggy asked, raising the needle again. “Joe’s a solid man’s name.”

“Yeah. Joe. No wait, Laura has an ex-boyfriend named Joe. People might, you know, get ideas if the kid’s named Joe.”

Stiggy nodded. “Yeah, yeah, I gotcha, no Joe. How ‘bout Charlie? That’s another good one.”

“Yeah, Charlie’s not bad.”

“So are we set with Charlie?”

“Wait. What about Derrick?”

Stiggy thought about it for a second but then shook his head. “Nah, let’s go with Charlie.” He raised the needle.

“Wait, maybe I should talk to Laura about this first.”

Stiggy frowned. “You could do that. You could go talk to Laura, maybe bring her some herbal tea and one of those Starbuck croissant things and then you two can sit down and have a nice, long talk about it. You could do that. Or you could grow a pair and say ‘that’s my son and I’m namin’ him Charlie.’”

Todd nodded. “You’re right. I’m the father, I should get to name my own son!”

Stiggy nodded and aimed the needle.

“Wait,” Todd said, hopping out of the chair. “We can do better than Charlie.” He began pacing around the small room. “How about Butch or…Duke?”

Stiggy smiled.

“Or what about something powerful like…Hammer or…Bull Dozer?”

“That’s not bad.”

“Or maybe something big like Thunder or…or…Mountain!”

“Mountain? That’s pretty good.”

Todd scratched his head. “Yeah, but is it good enough? Let me think. How about…wait, who was that guy, that Chinese guy who killed all those people?”

Stiggy shrugged.

“Genghis! Genghis Kahn!”

“Genghis? You know, I think I like it. Have a seat.”

Todd sat back down but quickly jumped up again.

“But why stop there? That’s just a dude’s name, we could go much higher than that!”

Stiggy’s brow furrowed. “Are you talkin’ about Jesus? I mean, he’s your kid and all, but I gotta tell ya, I tattoo that on somebody two, three times a week. Sure they pronounce it a little different.”

Todd had his eyes closed and was holding his hands together in front of his mouth.

“I got it!” he cried suddenly and leapt back into the chair. “Okay, Stiggy, let’s do this.”


Stiggy grinned and held up a small, dirty mirror. “Well, what do ya think?”

Todd gazed at the reflection: Yellow rays of light streamed down from whitish-gray clouds and right in the middle, spelled out in black script, were the words “Poseidon Mountain.”

Todd grinned. “Awesome.”

“Yes sir.” Stiggy said. “Plus I think it’s the name of a water park not too far from here.”

“How much do I owe you?” Todd asked, reaching into his back pocket.

Stiggy shook his head. “This one’s on me.” He stuck out his hand and Todd shook it.

“Thanks, Stiggy. If I ever have another kid I’ll be sure to come back.”

“Alright, I’ll be waitin’.”

As Todd walked to the door, he pulled out a cell phone and pressed a button. “Hey, Laura, how are you?…Yeah, I’m comin’ back right now. I got something awesome to show you…”

Just as he exited, a young woman entered.

“Hey there,” Stiggy said. “Can I help you?”

“Oh, hi. Yes, I wanted to get a tattoo.”

“Well, you came to the right place, hop in,” he said and slapped the leather chair. “Wud ya have in mind?”

The woman sat down and lifted up her left pant leg.

“Right here near my ankle I wanted some little red and black flowers and under them I want my boyfriend’s name.”

“I think I can do that,” Stiggy said, picking up a needle. “What’s his name?”


Stiggy frowned and lowered the needle.

Read More By Tim Josephs

COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project

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