Published in Dime Show Review Vol 2 #1 in February 2017

“Excuse me for being personal, but that’s a handsome tattoo on your arm.”

“Thank you. Have you decided what you’re going to have, ma’am?”

“I was thinking about the blue plate special. Does it hurt, doing it?”

“Shall I put you down for the blue plate, then?”

“Yes, please. I suppose I shouldn’t ask such personal questions. But does it?”

“Hurt? Not really. Just pin-pricks. Did you want the broccoli or string beans with that?”

“Broccoli, please. You probably think I’m too old even to think about it, but tell me, if you don’t mind too much, who did yours?”

“My boyfriend. He’s a tattoo artist. Did you want soup or salad to start?”

“Soup, please. Would you mind letting me read the whole thing? It seems to go past your elbow. ‘Miles to go’?”

“Look, I’ve got to wait on other customers, you know. Here: ‘and miles to go before I sleep’. It’s from a poem, I think. Do you want brown bread or white?”

“Oh, yes. Robert Frost. Imagine, from wrist to shoulder!  Nice handwriting, too, framed in all those flourishes and furbelows. Makes your arm worthy of a museum. Is the brown bread whole wheat, or multi-grain?”

“I’m not sure. Multi, I think. Do you know the name of the poem?”

“It’s called Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. I can probably find it for you on my phone while you bring me the soup for starters. What’s today’s?”

“Mushroom or vegetable. They’re both home-made. The chef here is good.”

“I’ll try the mushroom, thanks. Meanwhile, I’ll go to work for you.  Hmmmm.  Good old Google.  Hmmmm.”

“Excuse me.  Here’s the soup.”

“You’re back already? That was quick!”

“Did you find it?”

“Here it is. Come read over my shoulder. ‘Whose woods these are I think I know’. . .”

“‘. . . His house is in the village, though?’ I don’t quite get it.”

“You have to read the whole thing. It’s not long. Shall I send it to you? What’s your e-dress?”

“I. . . . I’m sorry, ma’am,but I don’t know you. They always say to guard your privacy. How do I know you’re not some kind of weirdo? I mean, asking about my tattoo and all.”

“Of course, but then you’ll have mine, too, won’t you, so you can check up on me. I’m a professor at the college. Just starting, actually. Do you have other tattoos?”

“Yes, several. A professor of literature, or poetry?””

“Oh, my, don’t I wish I were a poet. I’m just a dull old researcher. Are the rest of your tattoos are – how to say it demurely – on parts of your body we can’t see?”

“Sort of. One on my neck, and one in the small of my back, and one even farther down. What kind of research?”

“Psychiatry. I’m studying the ways women are subjugated.”

“Sub . . . subjugated?”

“Dominated by men. Say, just out of curiosity, did he tattoo his name anywhere?”

“Look, I’ve got to get back to work. The boss will notice. Why don’t you just write out the link to that poem for me?”

“He did, didn’t he? Something possessive, I’ll bet.”

“I’m embarrassed. It says ‘This belongs to Robert.”

“That’s his name, your boyfriend? Robert?”

“Ex-boyfriend, actually. I dumped him last week.”

“Good for you, I’ll bet.  But that will be a problem, won’t it? If you find a new boyfriend, he’ll see it? Just at some intimate moment?”

“I really am embarrassed. Have you done any of your research on tattoos? Do you know if they can be erased?”

“I suppose you can’t ask him.”

“No, and he’s the only tattoo artist I know.”

“I’m sure they can. I can certainly get you some information. Tell me your email address.”

“Oh, thank you. I’ll write it out on this paper napkin.”

“I’ll send you the poem.  And I’ll definitely find out how you can get rid of that. Maybe some time we can talk privately about how that makes you feel.”

“Your soup must have gotten cold. Let me get you a hot cup.”


One of my favorites of the dialogue-only stories you’ll find in this collection: The reader imagines the settting and the characters entirely from what they say to each other. It’s a form I enjoy trying now and then.



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