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Grandpa Gets A Tattoo



Michael Massee


             Chester O’Connor made the announcement at the annual Thanksgiving family dinner.  The main reaction to his declaration was a lot of hearty laughter. However, one person at the table was not amused.
             “You most certainly will not!” was the reply that came from the lips of Irene, Chester’s only daughter.  “No tattoos, no earrings, no nose rings, no lip rings or studs or whatever nonsense is the current  fashion!  You are not a juvenile delinquent!”
             “You’re a senior delinquent!”  chimed in Patrick, the eldest of the O’Connor boys, creating another wave of beer-induced laughter.  The irony of this attempt at humor was that no one was a more honest and law-abiding citizen than Chester Liam O’Connor.
             A second-generation Irish American, he was somber, not big on conversation and kept pretty much to himself.  He had worked hard as a plumber in Trenton, New Jersey, to support his family; his now deceased wife Maureen, daughter Irene, and his five sons, Patrick, Michael, Timothy, Sean and Liam.  Now, as a widowed retiree, he kept himself busy by making improvements on his 1920’s bungalow and by volunteering at the local food bank. His only form of relaxation was reading mysteries and watching soccer on the TV.
             He had been a Democrat for years but had eventually turned to the Liberal Party when he noticed that the donkey party was acting more like an ass and wasn’t getting anything done.  And, unlike the rest of the family, he was a lapsed Catholic.  This was due to his learning of the rampant pederasty being practiced by priests all around the world but, most of all, by the untimely death of his beloved baby sister, Alice.
             “What kind of loving God takes the life of an innocent, sweet kindergarten teacher and then allows his priests to take the innocence of hundreds of children?  And don’t give me that malarky about ‘how mysterious are his ways’ and ‘we are not meant to understand.’”  (These observations were being shared solely with Max, his faithful Labrador, as they sat on the back porch steps watching the sun go down behind the garage.)  Chester very rarely opened up to anyone except his dog.  He believed talking in public about your feelings to be a form of effeminate whining, very unmanly.
             This was why the repeat of his pronouncement, “I’m going to get a tattoo,” became less of a joke and more of a shock.  Grandpa Chester never joked about serious things.  In fact he rarely joked about anything.
             “So, why do you want to get a tattoo, pops?” asked Michael, as he served himself a second piece of pumpkin pie.
             “That’s my business.”
             “What is it going to be?” inquired Patrick, “A mermaid? A heart?”
             “It’s going to be nothing,” interrupted Irene, “and that’s the end of this conversation.  The man is obviously losing it.”
             “Ah, chill out, sis,” suggested Sean, the youngest of the O’Connor boys. “ I’ve got a tattoo, right here on my bicep,” he said proudly as he pushed up his shirt sleeve.
              “I know,” she replied, “and it’s the ugliest Bluebird, if that’s what it’s supposed to be, that I have ever seen.  And tell me if I’m wrong but didn’t you break up with Debbie two years ago and yet there’s her name on your bicep for the rest of your life!  Brilliant!  You can make a fool out of yourself, if you want to, but Dad is not getting a tattoo, period!”
             Irene had taken over the role of Chester’s caretaker when Maureen, his bride of forty-six years had died of congestive heart failure.  She loved her dad very much and worried about him to the extreme.  While there were times when Chester wished Irene would back off a bit, he appreciated the little things she did for him like scheduling his doctor’s appointments and picking up his medications.  But, as he once explained, when she was ready to step in and help him shop for new work boots, “I’m not eight, Maureen, I’m seventy-eight.”

             It was around ten in the evening when most of the family had packed up their portion of the Thanksgiving leftovers and had sleepily headed off to home.  Irene was cleaning-up in Chester’s kitchen and putting his leftovers in plastic containers, labeling them with a magic marker and stowing them away in the freezer.  Sean and his 17-year-old son, Arlin, were storing folding chairs in the hall closet and removing the wooden leaves used to expand Chester’s dining room table. 
             “If your cousin Sheila has twins,” grunted Sean,” there’ll be no more room at the table.  How many of us were there here today, by the way?”
             “I think nineteen,” Arlin replied, “but there would have been twenty-one if the twins had been here.” The twins were the sons of Irene and her husband Carl who were off serving in the military, Beau in the Navy and Dean in the Marines.
             “I don’t want to have to sit at the little kids table anymore, dad,” Arlin declared, as he folded up the card table, “I mean none of us are kids anymore.”
             “I know.  It’s just temporary.  Maybe we’ll all go out to a restaurant next year.”
             “Over my dead body!” announced Irene as she flew out of the kitchen and headed into the living room, to get her coat.  She was toting a large shopping bag with her share of the leftover feast.  “Mom and dad have had Thanksgiving here, every year, with all of us, since we were little kids.  It was mom’s favorite holiday so we’re keeping up the tradition.”
             At that moment Chester came in from the front porch, brushing himself off. 
             “You better hurry up, Irene.  It’s snowing.  Carl is waiting for you in the car.”
             “Okay, okay.  Just let me get my coat on,” she snapped as she wrestled with both it and the shopping bag.
             “Sean, help your sister,” admonished Chester and he stepped aside to let the siblings argue their way out the front door.
             “Stop holding it that way, dummy, you’ll spill the Cranberry relish!”
             “It’ll be fine, sis.  Don’t go and get your knickers in a knot!  Geesh!”

             After the door closed and it was quiet, Arlin slid the folded card table into the back of the closet and turned around to face his grandfather.
             “Do you ever wonder about those two, grandpa?  Aunt Irene and my dad are at it all the time.”
             “I gave up, long ago, trying to figure out anyone, even myself.  Waste of time,” Chester responded, as he slipped into his welcoming recliner and reached for the remote. Max lay down at his feet, glad that the crowd had left.
             “Well, I better get going,” Arlin said, putting on his jacket,  “But before I leave I have an early Christmas gift for you.”
             “You said you were getting a tattoo.”
             “Were you serious?”
             “I guess so…Yeah, a tattoo.”
             “Do you know where to go to get one?
             “Not yet…no.”
             “Well, I do.”

The Secret Plan

             Most of the snow had melted by the time Arlin picked up Chester and they began driving southeast on route 206.  It was the Monday after Thanksgiving and he had skipped school to accomplish what he called ‘Mission Body Art.’  He had told his dad that his class was going on a field trip to the Pine Barrens ‘to study the wildlife in New Jersey.’
             “Well, that’s a whopper and a half,” grandpa Chester replied, “and I don’t know if I approve of you lying like that to your father.”
             “Oh, it’s okay.  He’s used to it.  And he’ll be happy when he knows what we really did.”
             “And what is it, exactly, that we’re doing?”
             “Oh, come on, you know!  We’re getting you your tattoo.”
             “No---I thought we were just doing a little reconnaissance---checking out the possibilities.”
             “Whatever!  We’re heading to Big T’s Tattoos on the boardwalk.”
             “Atlantic City?  I thought we we’re going into Philly.”
             “Oh, come on, grandpa.  Why would we be driving south on 206?  I know you have a better sense of direction than that.  We’ll connect up with the Atlantic Expressway in 45 minutes or so and then it’s a straight shot to the shore.”
             Several miles passed in silence before Chester finally spoke up.
             “I haven’t been to Atlantic City in years.  Gambling was never my thing.  Waste of time and money,” he grumbled. “I do remember liking the salt water taffy, though.”


             It was around noon when Arlin pulled into the Caesar’s hotel parking facility.  He and Chester got out of the car, stretched their legs to get the blood flowing again, and then headed down the block or so to the ocean and the boardwalk.  The water and the sky were sharing the same gray color so it was hard to tell where the horizon was.  Chester was surprised to see that there were a few people, all bundled up, strolling along the boardwalk on this cold November day.  While many of the store fronts were boarded up for the season, a few shops were still open hawking souvenirs, hot dogs and, of course, salt water taffy.
             “When I was a kid,” reminisced Chester, “I thought they made the taffy out of salt water. Later, my dad explained to me that it was called that because it was made at the sea shore.  I was very disappointed.”

             They passed the exterior of the Caesar’s casino with its towering columns topped with five heroic Roman statues and with the chariot fountain in front with four marble horses splashing in the water. 
             Further on, the yawning maw of the Bally Resorts giant façade came into view and threatened to suck them inside in order to help them empty their pockets.  Behind the hungry mouth of the casino rose the twenty-four floors of the 700 room Bally hotel.
             “All this fancy nonsense,” muttered Chester, “just to give gamblers a choice of where they want to lose their money.”
             “Yeah, but it’s changed a lot with the advent of legalized online gambling,” replied Arlin, “That has really cut into the casino business. And all those Casinos popping up all over the country. A lot of the hotels here have closed.  All of Atlantic city has been struggling.  And then, when Covid 19 hit, it just about wiped out the whole place.  The tattoo parlors were shut down, needles and blood being a big no-no, and they only reopened last year.  And, speaking of tattoo parlors, look up ahead.”
             About a block away, there was a giant marquee jutting out over the boardwalk.  It floated, like a crown, over the facade of what appeared to be a theatre. The marquee was all lit up and spelled out BIG T’S TATTOO PALACE.   What was once the theatre’s original grand entrance had been converted into display windows with BIG T sweatshirts, baseball caps and large posters of incredibly complex tattoos, all of them fighting for attention.
             “I was told that this was once one of those huge movie palaces,” explained Arlin.
             “Very impressive.  But where’s the real entrance?”
             “It’s over there around the corner on the left side.  Ready to go in?” asked Arlin.
             “I guess so.  How come you know about this place?” Chester inquired, as he followed Arlin to a pair of double doors situated beneath a bright blue awning.
             “Well, I could uphold my reputation as a liar and say that this is where dad got his bluebird tattoo but that wouldn’t be true.”
             “Where did he get it?”
             “Somewhere in Edison,” Arlin replied, as he opened one of the doors to let his grandfather enter, “Some freaky establishment rated the number one tattoo parlor in New Jersey.  Nothing but the best for my dad.”
             “So how did know about this place?” Chester asked again, as he stopped and stood staring at the giant photographs of dragons and skulls and naked ladies hanging on the sky-blue walls of the space.
             “Cuz I got a tattoo here.”
             “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” Chester exclaimed, shocked but a little impressed, “You’re a regular gangster!  When did this happen?”
             “I got it on my sixteenth birthday,” Arlin answered, in a low voice, as a very attractive young woman approached them, “Used a fake ID,” he whispered.
             “You did, did you?!  Well, we’ll talk more about that later,” Chester whispered back.
             “Good afternoon, gentlemen.  My name is Audrey. How may I help you?”
             Her dark hair was pulled back in a long pony tail exposing a neck circled in yellow butterflies.  She wore a blue sleeveless tee shirt, with a Big T logo on the front, that allowed her arms the freedom to display their ‘sleeves’ of red tattooed roses, intertwined with black spiders and maroon scorpions.
             “Let me guess,” smiled Chester, “You’re a Scorpio?”
             “Very good, pops,” she replied, “and you are a Capricorn, right?”
             Chester felt a little jolt of electricity.
             “How did you know that?”
             “You have no nonsense written all over you,” Audrey continued, “You’re practical, super organized, you count all your pennies and you’re here to see that your son doesn’t get rooked by some wicked old tattoo artist.”
             “Oh no, Miss Audrey,” Arlin started to explain, “this is my granddad and he’s the one getting the tattoo.”
             “I’m not getting a tattoo, yet,” corrected Chester, “Contrary to my grandson’s enthusiasm, I’m just sort of window shopping.”
             “Well, you’re welcome to look around and I’m here to answer any of your questions.”
             “Thank you.  Actually I do have one to start.”
             “Okay,” Audrey replied, as she stepped behind a counter filled with silver rings, chains and other appliances used to fill recent body piercings, “What do you want to know?”
             “In keeping with your analysis of me being a penny pincher---”
             “Oh, I’m sorry if you felt that I---”
             “No, no.  You were right. I am very careful with my money, so what I need to know is how much does a small tattoo cost?”
             “Well, depending on how elaborate the design is, it can run you between fifty and a hundred bucks.”
             “So the big ones you see covering a large area, like your sleeves, must cost somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand dollars?”
              Yeah, but these,” Audrey said, pointing to the rose gardens growing up her arms, “were done, at a large discount, by Brian---”
             “It gave me,” interrupted a large middle-aged man coming down the stairs from the second floor, “a chance to practice my floral talent.” His voice was as big as his torso and it filled the room.  He had a mullet of bleached-blond hair and was dressed in jeans and a hooded sweat shirt with the, now familiar, Big T emblazoned on the back.  A tattoo of some kind of snake climbed up the side of his neck and rested its head on his cheek.  His week-old beard made the reptile look like it was lurking in a patch of grass.
             “Hey kid,” the big guy barked, turning toward Arlin, “How’s your tat holding up?”
             “Ah, hi Brian,” Arlin replied, looking like he was caught cheating in class, “Brian did my tattoo last year.  Ah, Brian this is my granddad.”
             “It’s a pair of lips, you know, like a lipstick kiss, on the left cheek---" Brian explained as he shook Chester’s hand, “---of his ass.”  When he saw Chester’s reaction, he began to stammer, Oh, shit!  I’m---I’m---damn---me and my big mouth---I’m sorry---I thought the kid might've told---I thought you knew.”
             “Believe it or not, Brian knows the rules,” stated Audrey, “We are not allowed to publicly reveal the design of a tattoo chosen by a client.  It’s all about privacy but in his enthusiasm, he sometimes forgets.”
             “Sorry, kid.  So you come by for another tat?  Maybe something for---you know, like they say, ‘turn the other cheek?’
             “Brian!  For god’s sake!” admonished Audrey.
Arlin hurriedly explained, “No—no, it’s not for me.  My grandpa is getting one this time.”
             “Hold on, Arlin,” Chester protested, “I’m still doing my research.  And I’m getting hungry.  We haven’t had any lunch.  You must be starving.  Can you folks recommend a place where we can grab a bite?”
             “Well, many of the fast-food joints are closed for the winter,” Audrey explained.
             “But I’m sure the Philly Steak place is still open and it’s close by,” Brian added, taking the time to give them directions. “But we’ll see ya later, okay?”

The Discussion

             There weren’t many other people in the restaurant enjoying the hero sandwich, known as a Philly Steak, but Arlin and Chester were really into it.
             “I’d forgotten how good this is,” mumbled Chester, his mouth stuffed with shredded beef, green peppers, onions and cheese, “when it’s made correctly!”
             Arlin simply nodded.
             When the meal was done and they were left sucking the last of their Diet Cokes through paper straws that were getting soggy, Chester spoke up.
             “Okay, Arlin.  We need to get a few things straight.”
             “Uh oh.  Sounds serious.  I don’t like it when the conversation gets serious.”
             “I’m sure you don’t but, as your grandfather, I have a responsibility to see that you are not getting into trouble.  When I agreed to your offer to help me I was pleased that you wanted to spend time with me.  It’s been years since you’ve been able to squeeze in a visit with your old granddad.  And I realize how busy you are with school and friends---”
             “Pretty busy but, you’re right.  It’s been too long.”
             “And you’ve changed.  Of course, you’ve changed.  You’re growing up and I realize you’ve got to do your teenage rebellion thing but this deal with a fake ID and being underage and getting a tattoo on your---posterior, this troubles me.”
             “It’s no big deal---”
             “It is to me.  Now, I know it’s over and it’s done deal but—”
             “Are you going to tell dad?”
             “No, of course not.  That’s in the past and what good would it do to bring it up now but I am concerned about the future.  Are there any other things I don’t know about my favorite grandson?  Any surprises down the road?  Alcohol?”
             “Nope.  I don’t drink ‘cause I don’t like the taste, and the hangovers are no fun.”
             “Oh, come on, grandpa!  Do I look like a junkie?”
             “Okay, alright.  I’m sorry.  It’s just that it’s such a crazy world these days. I mean pot is legal now---not for you, yet.  You’re still underage but---" Chester took a couple of dollars out of his wallet and put them on the table as a tip, “you never know.”
             “Thanks for lunch, gramps.  It was really good,” Arlin said, hoping to change the subject. “You ready to go back?” he asked as he rose from his seat.
             “Yeah. Okay, but why don’t we check out the beach?  We could walk back to the tattoo parlor that way.”
             “It’s kinda cold, grandpa, don’t ya think?”
             “Are we wimps?!”
             “Well, no---”
             “So let’s go.”

The Walk

             There was a cold wind blowing off the ocean but both of the O’Conner men were too proud to give in to it.  They marched on, over the uneven sand, rocking side to side like boats on a stormy sea.  It was hard going and finally Chester had had enough.
             “Let’s go over there,” he wheezed, pointing to a set of wooden stairs leading up to the boardwalk. “I got to catch my breath.”
             As they reached the wide stair unit, Chester promptly sat down on the second step as if it were a bench.
             “Don’t you want to go on up, “Arlin asked, “and get out of this shitty weather?”
             “I just want to rest here for a minute.”
             Arlin began to get concerned.  “Are you okay, gramps?”
             “Yeah, sure.  Just a little winded, that’s all.”
             Arlin joined Chester on the step and put his arm around the shoulder of what earlier had been his usually robust grandfather.  Now, Chester seemed diminished, as if the wind had blown some part of him away.
             “What’s going on, granddad?” Arlin asked softly, “You really need to get out of this cold.”
             “I know.”
             “Then let’s go,” Arlin said, as he started to help Chester get up.
             “Wait—wait! Just let me sit here a little longer.”
             “Now, you are really scaring me.  What’s wrong grandpa? Tell me.” pleaded Arlin, getting ready to call 911.
             “Nothing’s wrong.  I just don’t want to rush---”
             “Wait a minute!” Arlin exclaimed, as he began to understand. “I get it. You’re backing out. Am I right?               You’re not going to get the tattoo!”
             “No.  I---I just need to think about it for a minute.  It’s a big step and---”
             “Grandpa, what’s bothering you?  You scared of the pain of the needles?”
             “No, of course not. When you get to be my age you have to have a high tolerance for pain.”
             “Then what’s the problem?”
             After a short pause Chester let out a deep sigh.  He sat up straight and rubbed his hands together to warm them up.  When he finally spoke there was a sad edge to his voice.
             “I’ve wanted to get this tattoo for years but you have to understand that I grew up at a time when the only men who got tattooed were sailors, gypsies, ex-cons or Hell’s Angels.  The only woman I knew that had a tat was the Tattooed Lady in the circus.  Of course, in reality, a lot of ordinary people had tattoos but, as a kid, if someone sported a tattoo it meant, to me, that they were a bad person.”
             “But that’s crazy!” Arlin interrupted, “It’s not like that now.”
             “I know. I look around and everybody has a tattoo; movie stars, ministers, politicians, fashion models, doctors---even a certain teenager I know.  It seems like these days you’re a nobody if you don’t have a tattoo.”
             “Right.  So, come on.  Join the parade!”
             “That’s not my intention.  This tattoo, that I’ve been planning for so long, is not about showing off. I don’t care if no one ever sees it.  It’s just---"
             “Kinda like the one on my butt,” commented Arlin, “I get it.  It’s private. Is it something to do with grandma Maureen?  Like a heart or a cupid with a bow and arrow?”
             “No.  Wherever she is she knows how much I loved her.  She doesn’t need a tattoo to remind her.”
             “Then what is this mysterious tattoo going to be?”
             “Well, I guess it’s going to be nothing if I don’t get off my ass,” Chester declared, standing up and turning around to climb the steps.
             “Are we finally off to Big T’s?  Hallelujah!  I was turning into a popsicle!”
             “But we have to make one quick stop first.”
             “Wait a minute! Is this another delaying technique?” Arlin asked, as they reached the top of the stairs and stepped out onto the boardwalk.
             “We didn’t have any dessert with our lunch.”
             “Yeah, so what?”
             “Salt Water Taffy.”

The Tattoo

             Because the design was very simple and used no color, just black ink, the procedure took about an hour.  The beauteous Audrey, working in one of the private rooms, shaved the area Chester had chosen, applied some lotion to this patch of exposed skin and, using her trusty Cheyenne Hawk electric pen, permanently etched into his flesh that which he had requested.  She had offered to show him her portfolio of original designs but he said it wasn’t necessary as he knew what he wanted.
             Arlin wanted to stay with him during the process as moral support (more likely because he wanted to be the first to see the mysterious design.)  However, before they got started, Chester sent him out into the main lobby with a book of Audrey’s design samples and the box of salt water taffy, to keep him occupied until the job was done.

             After wiping the finished tattoo with alcohol and then gently massaging the area with a soothing lotion, Audrey covered it with a sheet of Saran Wrap held on with surgical tape.  She gave Chester a small tote bag containing a tube of salve and a list of printed instructions.
             “It should heal up in a couple of weeks.  Until then, be kind to your new friend.”

The Reveal

             Chester was zipping up his coat when he exited the private chamber where Audrey had done her magic.  Arlin leapt up and was about to hug his grandad when he stopped, for fear he’d do damage to the new artwork and maybe cause him pain.
             “How’d it go? You okay? Where is it? Can I see?”
             “I’m fine.  I just need a drink,” Chester replied, heading for the double doors leading outside.
             “Wait! Wait for me!” Arlin squealed, “Aren’t you going to show me the freaking tattoo?”
             “Let’s go find a bar at the Caesars,” Chester suggested, “I can get a quick drink and you can get a coffee.  We need to hurry.  We’ve got an hour and a half drive back to Trenton.  I’ve got to get you back home so you don’t get in trouble.”

             When they entered Caesars, Chester finally saw where all the people were during the time he and Arlin had been on the boardwalk.  The hall of slot machines was packed with patrons pushing buttons and lights flashing and bells dinging.  Chester asked one of the employees, dressed as a centurion, where the bar was and he pointed to a sign. It spelled out ‘Toga Bar.’  Chester grabbed Arlin and started dragging him toward the sign, hoping no one would notice that the boy was underage.  Nobody stopped them.  It was as if no one noticed or cared.
           In the dark blue and green lights of the lushly appointed saloon they found a small table, sat down and, seemingly from out of nowhere, a lovely young maiden, dressed in a short toga-like costume, stood at attention by their side.
             “How may I serve you?”
             Arlin had a rude suggestion flash by in his head but he kept it to himself.
             “I’ll have a Jamesons on the rocks,” Chester ordered, “He’ll have a coffee.”
             After the vestral virgin had gone, Arlin took a breath and started in on his grandfather.
             “What the hell grandpa!  Why are you rushing around like a madman?  And why wouldn’t you show me your stupid tattoo?  I mean, after all, I got you here so, at least, you could be decent enough to share with me whatever you had Audrey draw on you.” Chester remained silent and suddenly Arlin understood.
             “It’s obscene!  That’s it. You got a dirty tattoo!  Oh, you rascal, you!”
             At that moment the hand maiden returned and placed the whiskey and the coffee on the table.  Chester checked the bill, reluctantly paid it, and took a sip of his drink.
             “I’m right, aren’t I?” Arlin continued, “What is it, a nude lady, all boobs and legs?”
             “Arlin, I don’t like you very much right now,” Chester growled, gulping down his whole drink.  “Come with me.”  He grabbed the boy by his shoulder and pushed him toward what appeared to be the entrance to the restrooms.  Choosing the door marked Gladiators he led him into the sea-foam-green tiled bathroom and stopped in the middle of the space.
             “I’m sorry grandpa.  What’s happening now?  You going to spank me?” he said, jokingly.
             Checking that no one else was in the restroom, Chester opened his coat and began unbuttoning his shirt.
             “I didn’t put my undershirt back on.  Audrey said it was too tight so I stuck it in my coat pocket.”  By this time his shirt was fully unbuttoned and he was pulling the shirttails out of his pants.  Arlin stared, as the image, protected by plastic wrap, began to appear.  Centered, on his grandfather’s chest, was a tattoo consisting of two words:

             Chester was zipping up his coat when he exited the private chamber where Audrey had done her magic.  Arlin leapt up and was about to hug his grandad when he stopped, for fear he’d do damage to the new artwork and maybe cause him pain.

             Chester was zipping up his coat when he exited the private chamber where Audrey had done her magic.  Arlin leapt up and was about to hug his grandad when he stopped, for fear he’d do damage to the new artwork and maybe cause him pain.

             Chester was zipping up his coat when he exited the private chamber where Audrey had done her magic.  Arlin leapt up and was about to hug his grandad when he stopped, for fear he’d do damage to the new artwork and maybe cause him pain.


             After a moment of stunned silence Arlin’s voice echoed off the tiled walls.  “What the fuck!  Who’s Mia and Bobby?”
             “Arlin,” Chester admonished, “your language has really deteriorated.”  He buttoned up his shirt and began tucking it back in his pants.  “Enough with the fucks.  Let’s find the car and get on the road.  It’s getting late.”
             “But what’s with this ‘Mia Bobby’ shit?”
             “Language, Arlin!  Come on. I’ll fill you in in the car.”            

The Story of Bobby Legions

             Robert Legions the Third was from Glenwood Georgia, one of the poorest towns in the state.  He himself, however, was not poor, having been born into the renowned Legions family, owners of the Legions Estate (formerly known as the Camellia Court Plantation) and proud members of the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy.  His father was CEO of Nexatron Electronics, a company located in Atlanta and specializing in helicopter navigational systems.  It was a very successful firm and a thousand times more profitable than raising cotton or rice, which is what Robert Legions, the First, struggled with during the dark years after the Civil War. Bobby the Third was expected to join his father in the business but secretly wanted to become a country singer.  However, along came the Vietnam war which brings us back to Chester O’Conner and his coming into contact with Robert (Bobby) Legions.

             “Bobby arrived as a replacement for one of our squad who had been severely injured,” Chester began, as they passed exit two on the Atlantic City Expressway, “I mean, Gary had had both his legs blown off so he wouldn’t be coming back anytime soon---”
             “Wait a minute, grandpa!” interrupted Arlin, “You fought in Iraq? No one ever told me anything about that!”
             “No, Arlin, you’ve got the wrong war.  It was a much earlier conflict known as the Vietnam War.  You probably don’t know anything about it.  Way before your time,” Chester explained, as he stared out the window at the bare trees flying along by the side of the highway. “I never told anybody, except your grandmother, and I made her promise not to tell anyone, ever.”
             “But why?”
             “Because I wanted to forget all of it.  I didn’t want to relive it every time someone would ask me to tell them about it.  It was bad enough to have lived through it, to have these nightmares night after night---”
             “I’m so sorry.”

             “See, that’s the reaction I knew people would have.  I didn’t want to be a figure of pity,” Chester continued, “although, now that I hear me say that, I realize that it must have been pretty egotistical of me to think that anyone would really care.”
             “So why are you telling me now?  I mean, I really care and I want to hear about this, I mean I really do, but why now and why me?”
             Chester didn’t reply immediately.  It was as though he was deciding whether to continue on or not.  After passing a mile or so down the highway he began.
             “I’ve reached the age when I may not wake up tomorrow.”
             “Aw grandpa---”
             “Don’t interrupt. It’s just that I’ve been feeling lately that I need to share my war experiences with someone before I kick the bucket. There were things that happened to me, things that I did---I don’t want to have to drag this fucking ton of pain and horror and guilt, that has been riding shotgun with me all these years, into whatever is waiting for me in the---what do they call it---'The Great Beyond.’  Anyway, when you offered to help me with this tattoo business it was like a sign saying that the time had arrived and that you, as the messenger, were to be the chosen one,” Chester began to chuckle, “Well, that sounds like some fucking creepy new age nonsense.”
             “No, it doesn’t, grandpa.  I think---”