20. Alpaca plumb troll.
“I’d been inking for about five years when this guy swaggered into the shop. I say swaggered because I could tell he’d had a bit to drink that night. Enough to make him feel cocky but not enough to be completely out of it, which automatically would have gotten him kicked out of my chair. I’m not going to deal with people so drunk they aren’t in control and no one needs 10 am buyer’s remorse. Not for something like a tattoo.
So he comes in and I can tell he’s new. So I direct him to my book of options but he doesn’t even look at it. Just sits in my chair and says ‘I want you to draw a troll. He should be fishing using one of those plumbs to balance the line.’ ‘So you want a net?’ ‘What?’ ‘A net. A trolling net for fishing?’ ‘Ha! Is that where it comes from? Fuck no, man. I want a troll. Big green under the bridge troll! And make sure he’s got a plumb. That’s really important. I want it on my arm.’
I roll my eyes but start sketching a few things out. I’m halfway through outlining something and I say ‘so what type of fish is this troll catching?’ ‘Fish? Fuck no, man. He’s catching an alpaca!’ ‘An alpaca?’ ‘Fuck yeah.’ ‘In the water.’ ‘Now you’ve got it!’ ‘With his fishing pole?’ ‘Don’t forget the plumb!’ ‘How could I?’
So I sketch it out and the guy’s like going bonkers over it. He loves it. And I start it up and go for an hour and get a third of the way through before we stop.
‘What are you doing?’ He asks ‘Stopping man. Large tattoos have to go in pieces. It’ll be better for you.’ The guy slaps down $2,000 in cash and says ‘keep going.’ I stare at it. I stare at him. I keep going. ‘And don’t forget the plumb!’ He says.
So three hours later and this guy hasn’t so much as whimpered on the chair but I’m finally done. The weirdest tattoo I’d ever done but my god was it a masterpiece. The troll was an ugly pale green. The alpaca a fluffy off-white, fur glistening in the water. And the plumb. Well, who could forget a thing like that.
And he thanks me and walks out the door and I stop him on the street because I can’t let it go. I can’t. ‘Hey, dude. What’s up with the tattoo?’ And he looks at me with these instantly sober eyes and says ‘so I never forget.’ ‘Forget what?’ I ask. ‘That “alpaca plumb troll” is an anagram of “Paul Blart Mall Cop.”’”