“Everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes they
regret,” Morton was telling me yesterday as he took a bite out of what
appeared be an innocent looking doughnut on Lee’s desk.
“That doesn’t mean I’m willing
to give Kowalski extra leave because the girl he was head over heels in lust with broke up with him,” I searched in
vain for the report I was looking for. It wasn’t an important report. In fact, it wasn’t even due yet. I was simply
interested in the research Lee had done regarding the mutated Venus Fly Trap of Dr. Green’s that was spilling over each
new planter I put it in located in my outer office.
“But he needs the extra time to get
his tattoo removed. Appointments are hard to come by.”
“They can do that?”
Lee asked, surprised, from the doorway. Surprised because I usually called him
or let Angie if I needed a report he was working on.
I couldn’t help noticing that he didn’t
seem so surprised that his breakfast was being consumed by his XO.
“Lee, where’d you get this?”
Morton was asking after a moment, his brows furrowed,” not up to Cookie’s standard.”
“It’s not Cookie’s. It’s
“Doc’s?” Chip and I groaned
at the same time. Lately Will Jamison was into the health benefits of soy and barley products…
“Yes, Doc’s, you scavenger,
and you deserve that disgusting mouthful, Chip. Next time, simply ask
if you want one of my doughnuts. Now,” he turned his attention to me, “what can I do for you?”
“I need that report on my Dionaea Muscipula.”
“Huh?” Chip asked.
“My Venus Fly Trap. I can’t
find your report, Lee. Neither can Angie.”
“That’s because it’s still
‘up here’,” Lee knocked on his head.
“Oh,” I squirmed. “Um…
“Babycakes will just have to put up
with protein shakes for now,” Lee showed off his fingertips,” I’m getting a bit tired of having to use a
diabetic lance every week just to feed your damn plant. Why not let the contract with Bugs- B- Gone lapse? The flies will
come back soon enough.”
“So would the roaches. No Lee, we’re
keeping the contract.”
“How about an exotic food shop, then?
Perhaps they have dried grasshoppers or you can raise them yourself in one of the labs. Besides, Will was just telling me
the other day that a diet of honey and grasshoppers is really very nutritious. After all, John the Baptist lived on them and…”
“I’m out of here,” Morton fled.
“At last,” Lee pulled out a
paper plate from one of his desk drawers, revealing a luscious looking jelly
filled doughnut, coated with powdered sugar.
“You sneak, you did that on purpose!”
“Hey, he ate all of my mother’s
home made brownies. It was payback time….um, Harry, about Ski’s tattoo… can they really be removed?”
“Well, yes and no. A lot depends.
On skin tone, color of the ink, and age of the tat,” I began. (Now to most people, had they
been listening in, would have simply thought Lee’s inquiry was one of a concerned commander. But I knew, and Lee knew,
and he knew that I knew, that his concern was about his own tattoo. One he’d been unwilling to describe or share a picture with Personnel a short time after
he’d first joined NIMR. The one on the part of his anatomy that one doesn’t usually display out of the bedroom.)
"Salabrasion," I continued,
" is when a salt solution is rubbed into the tattoo, heated and scrapped away. With dermabrasion, the skin is scraped away or sanded. In each case, while the tattoo might be taken care of, there’s
massive scarring…er…you okay, Lad?”
Lee was getting pale. Not
surprising considering the rather…er…private location of his tattoo. I knew all about it now. I couldn’t
help having seen it once when I had to quickly rip off his clothes and shove him into the emergency shower in the lab after a chemical burn.
“Go on,” he was
saying, but with a bit of difficulty. I was glad he was sitting down now.
perked up. I could see the wheels turning in his head; no doubt he wanted to get rid of his tattoo as much as Ski did his.
the tattooed skin is cut away and the remaining skin stitched back…you really don’t look well, son, perhaps that
forgot all about it,” he took a large bite. For Lee to forget about a doughnut
meant he as (and rightly so) taking all this very seriously. Surgery was apparently
out of the question as well.
scarification. That’s like a chemical peel. An acid is used and the scar covers up whatever’s left of the tattoo….”
Lee was squirming in his chair now, so I might as well milk it, after all, his tattoo was his own fault and he’d been
rather curt with me when I’d first tried to get him to tell me about it for Personnel. They never did get the info,
Cryosurgery,” I said, “using liquid nitrogen to burn off the tattoo…like an unwanted wart.”
“Well,” Lee said,
dejected, “ I hope Ski won’t get his girl’s names tattooed on him again. It’s not worth it….”
he’s not going in for any of these treatments, Lee. He’s going in for Laser removal. The Laser searches the contrasts
between the ink and the skin, pulses and breaks the ink into mini particles so tiny, they’re absorbed into the body.
Takes about 12 or so sessions.”
“Why didn’t you
tell me this in the first place?” Lee glared.
“You asked me how tattoos
are removed. You didn’t ask which method is best. And Laser treatments aren’t always successful. For example,
it won’t work with fluorescent type colors; greens and purples are just about impossible to get out. Light skin with
dark ink are removed best. So it should work pretty well for Ski, but…”
“I hear it feels like
getting burned with hot grease. Some patients actually hear the skin sizzle, like bacon in a frying pan…”
I wasn’t sure, but he
looked about ready to hyperventilate.
“And Ski knows about
“He spoke to Doc about
“Braver man than me,”
“Speaking to Doc, or
going for the treatments yourself?”
“A little of both,”
Lee looked up and grinned and offered me half of his doughnut.
“Lee, you really don’t
have to get rid of it. The tattoo,” I clarified as I downed what was left of the doughy goodness, “after all,
only a few people know the details. And it’s not as if the Reserve will ever hold it against you like the Navy did that
skipper in that movie*. It’s not even the same tattoo he had.”
“Still, I sure wouldn’t
want it generally known that the Captain of the Seaview has a tattoo down there reading ‘All Hands on Deck.”
“I’ve seen the
tattoo Lee, remember. That’s not quite what it says.”
“Okay, so the tattoo
artist must have had an evil sense of humor.”
“Or got his vowels mixed
up,” I laughed wondering if he’d actually meant to use an (i) instead of an (e).After all, Lee had to have been
drunk at the time all those years ago. Perhaps the artist had been too.
Just then Angie appeared at
the door with a protein shake. “Time to feed Babycakes.”
“Why me?” Lee
“Because I’m not
going anywhere near that monster. I swear it’s alive. Hovering over my poor African Violets. Oh, by the way, Captain,” (Angie almost never called Lee by his name) “Lola says for you to
remember not to pick her up for lunch. Has that Dr.’s appointment.”
I asked, concerned after Angie left. I might not like Miss Hale personally and I still don’t think she’s the right
girl for Lee, but she is one of NIMR’s top Communication Specialists.
“ She's just been a
bit queasy lately,” Lee explained, “Mostly in the mornings. Speaking of Dr.’s, Harry, you got the name of the one Ski’s going to see?”
I pulled out a business card. “I took the liberty of scheduling you a consultation. I thought you might be interested.”
“Today? " he read the
handwritten date and time, "this morning?”
“I think I’ll
go with you,” I took his arm before he had a chance to change his mind. He might want to get rid the tattoo, but this
was a big decision and no doubt he’d need a little emotional support for whatever he decided. “I have a wart the
Dr. next door can look at while we’re there. Then we can go to lunch,” I added to make my overly paternal concern
less apparent. Lee never liked being mollycoddled.
But he knew. And he knew I
knew he knew. At least he wasn’t going to have to go through this alone.
That was yesterday and my
wart (yes, I actually had one on my big toe) is gone. Lee’s consultation
had been less than encouraging; the treatments only have a 60 % chance of working on him. It remains to be seen if he’ll
actually schedule any sessions to try to remove the tattoo. We’ll just have to wait and see.
After the consultation,
Lee had handed me the medical description, and a photo of the offending artwork. “For Personnel’, he’d said,
and I was on my way there now before he came in and changed his mind.
I could only hope that none
of staff take it out of the sealed envelope I’d insisted on and actually look at it, or there'll be hell to pay.