Story : The taooist-Elizabth Murray McGinlay

He appears, framed in the doorway, his shadow cast across the cracked linoleum floor. I sit in the old leather creaking dentist’s chair and watch him. He passes, to stand at the sink, scrubbing his hands. His actions are unhurried, graceful even.

I’ve made up my mind. I’ve got this far, further than ever before. Butterflies the size of bats swish about in my belly. i’m scared, really scared: about to let this stranger violate my body; about to be marked by him. I could leave. I am free to leave any time i want but i know i won’t. I trust this man, though he is a stranger. I feel safe. Safe enough to let him inflict this pain on me; to draw blood and i’m going to pay him to do it!

Heavy traffic swishing by in the rain, heavy metal thrashing on the hi-fi. A winter afternoon in Birmingham, UK.

His name is Raol: tall and wide, clad in leather breeks, leather boots and a black t-shirt that strains over his pectoral muscles. His hrad is shaven. He is decorated with nose rings, eyebrow rings, lip rings, bamboo chunksin stretched holes, at least a thumb wide, in his ears. He has beautiful, small, bright blue eyes, keen. Neither of us has spoken yet.

There are pictures of him, posing naked in a magazine, in the small waiting room. He is tattoed from neck to ankle- aiving work of art. Here is a man clearly ease with himself. His motorbike sits there gleaming beside the drinks machine and battered sofa. He turns to me, drying his hands, smiling: right then , what’s it to be?

He has shut out my presence again, except for the one small white rectangle of virgin skin on my arm.His whole attention is now on that.

I watch as he pulls on a pair of tight rubber gloves—panther brand, wich limpet themselves to his strong hands; fingers interlocking, pushing against the bits where hands split apart inti digits; the dark hair of his wrist fringing round the band; black maory morphology glistening on his forearms. I am his last customer today, lucky he could do me – a cancellation. Most of his other customers are regulars.

He sits astride a stool at my side. My heart races. A gynaecological overhead angle-poise is switched on, dazzling me. My mouth is bone dry. The music thumps. The smell of dettol fills the air as Raol takes hold of my upper arm, skin stretched tight and wipes it with some damp, white gauze. He presses his foot down on the floor switch. The purring of the gun.

at the commencement of mutilation;
the onset of extravasation
my eye roll back revealing their whites
and I catch my breath
that is:
i go into a state of pathological
ecstacy as tattoing begins.

The whirring, the humming, the scraping. The cluster of needles vibrating round the ink-steeped hollow core; ploughing through my skin; mixing the ink with my blood; sewing machine rapidity. My mammy up all hours trying to get my dress finished for the school trip tomorrow…

I see through the sky-light, a break in the clouds, a plane flying high, away, silver trail in its wake.

Raol is smoothing Vaseline on my arm, scraping the excess off with a wooden spatula. I look at the tiny droplet of blue and red suspended in the petrolium jelly, covering a piece of kitchen towel he has thrown into a small plastic bucket. There is a pile of torn-off sections of the roll lying on the table, aside the inks and needles, at hand to mop up synovial overflow.

The pressure from Raol’s hand, holding my arm steady is relentless yet it is welcome for it offsets the intense burning of the needles. I shut my eyes. I am here, having this done, of my own free will. No-one has forced me into it. this makes me feel in control of myself, of my own destiny. I feel this pain this scarring, without any terror or shame, as if some of the other suffering I carry around with me is being released by the letting of blood, by catharsis.

I relax into the chair: it is rainy night in marseilles, the ship’s docked: 24 hour leave-

get the young’en his first prostitute,

images of tight, slitted pencil skirt, beret, striped sloppy joe, fag dangling from the ruby-red mouth- ta guelle!

then…his first tattoo!
two little bluebirds joined amorously at the beaks…
I relax even further.

A polynesian island: right of passage tribal arse design sported by captain-cook mutineers, happy to sunbathe, fish , coconut crack; juice-guzzle, completely native-turn, the rest of the landlubbing, clutching at strange gods, days away. Heartbroken to be retrieved by rape-and-pillaging, sea-dog cronies: no more shore-leave for them this voyage !

The ancient magic-bearing designs make their way to taverns all over Europe and Americas.


150 years later someone jumps ship, and sets up shop in steamy, damp Liverpool or Glascow or Amsterdam or Valetta or New York: a backstreet dive, opium-den, brothel, servicing the drunken sailors homesick, with snackes wound round daggers on forearms, spreadeagled eagles on back s, bleeding lovehearts, sweetheart’s name forever inscribed on inner arm or buttock. Ivy-wrapped tombstones with roses and motherly tributes, engraved thereon. Two little bluebirds, seperated forever, on right and left hand. Love and hate. Michaelangelo’s pieta.

Behold a carvern of scars and stumps and takes of adventures on the seven seas. Tipless fags, all ash capsizing on soldiers, convicts, sailors, molls and dolls, the odd gangster or novelist-by-night-librarian by day, queuing, whiskied or rummed, to endure the ecstatic torture, the buzzing delight of south sea island skin embellishment, epithelium illumination, embroidered pellicle-blooded and bandaged.

Behold the whirring in the lamplight, the swirling tobaco
smoke semi-grey, the crude jokes, and coarse laughter.
The accordianist/ guitarist/ pianist/ saxophonist playing just
beyond the beaded curtain in the next room…

Nearly finished, Raol says softly, daubing wound, looking, inspecting, head held to the side, I open my eyes.

I think you’ll be pleased with the results.
I am, very: maybe the butterfly next time.

Elizabth Murray McGinlay (aka Ginz)

Like many Glaswegians, Lizzy is of Scotish and Irish descent from a long line of storytellers, blethereres, pirates and singers.She was enticed to live in the West Midlands by the siren song of a starry-eyed guitarist. One sculptor, two punks later, she finds herself still here! The new Brum is getting built round her-literally!She has one son, a proud Black Countryman, who supports The Wolves, Glasgow Celtic Juventus. His better half comes from a large Napolian family and secretely supports The Albion! Lizzy is currently working on a series of performance pieces called performance pieces ‘n jam.Story-

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