Henry looked down at the body of Ms. Ainsworth. “I thought you were too ornery to die,” he muttered. When they brought her in he half expected her to be clutching her ruler. The ruler that swatted his hand when he was her student. The ruler that, even after the days corporal punishment, continued its reign of terror as measurer of girls’ hem lines and preserver of chastity at the prom. “Twelve inches apart is sufficient for dancing!” she’d say, thrusting the ruler between clingy couples.
As Henry prepared to dress her, he thought about the woman. Wayward baseballs were never retrieved from her yard. She was the only one in town who didn’t decorate her house for Christmas. She never handed out Halloween candy. Her tongue was sharp, her neck stiff. No one would mourn her.
The dress the Ladies Auxiliary had brought buttoned up the back. He slipped it on her body and carefully turned her over.
A guffaw ruptured from Henry. “Nobody is ever gonna believe this!” he roared. The sour-faced, prudish Ms. Ainsworth had the words, “Hot Stuff,” surrounded by red flames tattoed on her backside.
Henry finished dressing her quickly, rehearsing his tale in his mind, and giggling uncontrollably. He didn’t hear the door open.
“What’s so funny?” asked Lisa, the new cosmetologist, as Henry turned Ms. Ainsworth onto her back. He started to tell her, but stopped abruptly when he saw his teacher’s stern face. Her dignified, dead face.
“Nothing,” he mumbled.
The girl walked to his side. “Ooh, I hate doing these old ladies. I never know what to do with their make-up. Lipstick or natural, do you think?”
“Lipstick. Red.” Henry answered.
“Red? Are you sure?”
Lisa shrugged. “See, you never can tell with old ladies.”
Henry straightened Ms. Ainsworth’s collar. “No, Lisa, you can’t.”
And he never would.
I wrote this post for the Write On Edge Red Writing Hood prompt.
We’d like you to write a piece in which a tattoo figures prominently. Fiction or creative non-fiction. There is a lot to think about: why someone would get one, what they chose, when they got it, what message does the tattoo(s) send?
You will have 300 words with which to play.
Honestly, I wasn’t really “feeling” this prompt. I did it anyway because I promised myself I’d do all the Write On Edge writing prompts in October. It’s excellent practice, especially in the editing department. The first draft was 400 words long. It’s exactly 300 now. So, regardless of the story’s quality, I got my writing lesson for the day.