Sometimes the Change in a Person is the Thing They Cover Up
By Claire Rudy Foster
It has ears that lay like black petals against the back of my neck. They peek out of my shirt collar, the only visible piece of the massive black tattoo that covers my upper back. Those ears are just asking for attention.
If a man asks me, Is that a Playboy bunny?, I know that he is up to no good.
I get that question more than I would like. I’ve gotten good at deflecting it with, Do I look like a Playmate?
Because I don’t. I’m not that kind of girl.
And it’s not that kind of bunny.
It’s a rabbit, with soft paws and a spray of whiskers. It runs across my shoulder blades. In the spot where its heart should be, the tattoo artist left a little blank circle to accommodate one of my freckles. I was 19 when I got it, and back then I thought I’d never have a job where I had to wear a shirt with a collar. Now, I am the master of scarves, turtlenecks, and high buttons. I have seven other tattoos, but the rabbit is the hardest to hide.
Did I mention that it’s a cover-up?
If you can guess what’s underneath, I will give you anything you want. That’s what I say.
The tattoo artist used a gun with twenty needles in it, scoured my back for almost two hours. My skin was so saturated that I leaked ink for a week after. The scab was wide and flat, black scales that flaked off as I healed.
It hurt, I said. Not as badly as being burned by a cigarette, or scraped raw with a knife, but close.
Yes . . . I know those sensations.
The black rabbit doesn’t mean anything, is what I tell people. Or, sarcastically, It’s my spirit animal. I tell them that rabbits are lucky. They’re never alone. Rabbits multiply, like happy thoughts.
That makes people laugh, when I say that. After all, my tattoo is just a picture—a picture and some words. Isn’t it?
About the Author
Claire Rudy Foster‘s critically recognized short fiction appears in various respected journals, including McSweeney’s, Vestal Review, and SmokeLong Quarterly. She has been honored by several small presses, including a nomination for the Pushcart Prize. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing. She is afraid of sharks, zombies and other imaginary monsters. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
*Editor's note: According to Claire, she has "cat envy." This one clearly likes her company well enough. If that cat knew her talent as a wordsmith, it would most certainly demand to be adopted by Claire. You'll be seeing more of her work on TIR. Stay tuned. - DDM