The needles vomited ink into Craig's bicep with a cheerful electric giggle.
"So you said that you were getting this in memory of your brother?" asked the tattoo artist.
"Yes," Craig said. He glanced down at the stencil, tracing the face of his brother in dirty blue ink. He was throwing up the metal horns and smiling. Each pass of the needle added a little more to that indelible marker. "He got mauled by a bear while attempting to set the record for most number of bears jumped on a BMX bike."
"Was he in the military? A marine?" asked the artist, beginning to ink in the SEMPER FIDELIS that sat in block print beneath his brother's image.
"No. Neither am I. But I want to always be true to my brother's memory, you know? Gotta always keep him in my heart."
"You're a good brother," the artist said.
A few more minutes and they were finished. On his way home, Craig declined to go play a game of basketball when one of his friends called, since the tattoo would be too tender.
The next day, his friends asked him if he wanted to go see a movie. Craig declined, because he was busy soliciting money for a memorial fund that he'd established in his brother's memory. It had two goals. The first was to provide funding for park districts to train kids in BMX biking, and the second was dedicatd to eradicating the bear.
On the third day, Craig turned down a date with a woman that he'd be interested in because he had to stay home and drink himself to sleep.
Mid-way down a bottle of what was charitably labelled 'spirits' Craig began to hallucinate that spirits were speaking to him. One spirit in particular.
"Hey, douchebag," said his brother's voice, using a nickname that only Frank knew.
"What?" Craig said, looking around his apartment.
"Down here, limpdick," Frank said.
Craig glanced down between his feet, under the coffee table, and finally caught a reflection of his tattoo in the mirror. Frank's eyes no longer pointed forward, looking towards a future that didn't exist for him, but instead peered upwards at Craig.
"Frank? Is that you?"
"So's jumping a dozen bears on a BMX but I still tried it. I tried haunting the shit out of this stupid tattoo and it actually worked!"
"That tattoo's not stupid. You can't say that. That's my brother," Craig said, coming very close to drunkenly punching himself on his sore tattoo scab.
"It's of me! I can talk all the shit about me that I want! And I say that this is a ridiculous tattoo."
"Why? You wanted to be remembered. You wanted to be known. That's why you were always jumping stuff on your BMX."
"I did want to be remembered, as the guy who'd always try stuff, not as excuse to sit here and drink 'spirits.' You're lucky that a more mischievous ghost didn't come round or it'd be really easy to fuck with you. Why didn't you go out with Sarah tonight?"
"You know why."
"But I want yooooouuuu to saaayyyy it," Frank said in the same sing-song voice that he'd use when he'd managed to pin Craig in a painful hold and demanded a cry of 'uncle!'
"Because I miss you, alright?"
"Gaaaay," Frank said, laughing. "Seriously, you didn't go out with Sarah because you're gay, isn't it?"
Even though it was the spirit of Craig's dead brother mocking him for missing his dead brother, Craig still got pissed.
"You're a real fuckhead, you know that?"
"At least I'm not some punkass bitch sitting around drinking piss liquor and thinking about my dead brother instead of squeezing some booooobs," Frank said. "At least then I could've watched over your shoulder."
"No, what'd be gross is what I'd try to get you to do!" Frank said, still laughing.
"Keep laughing, chuckles," Craig said, throwing on his coat.
"Hey, where are you going?" Frank said, his voice muffled.
"You're gonna have another accident!" Craig said.
"Oh! The boy has reached down and discovered his kiwis!" Frank announced.
An hour and a half later, after and some careful acting to convince the artist that he wasn't drunk, Craig got his tattoo replaced with a screaming howler monkey throwing up the horns.
The Moral: when words won't cut it, express how you feel by jumping a pit of bears on a BMX