Today we were let out of work early. 2:30 early. Miracle of miracles. I work with my Dad for those of you that don’t know and because I never learned to drive (that’s a topic for a whole other post), he’s the wheelman. Today he had to stop at Jewel to fill a prescription and I waited in the car. He texts me that he’ll be on the inside for “15.” I respond with “I need a drink and a bag of Doritos.” I wait. He brings me a Diet Coke and snack size bag of Doritos and, as Dads are known to do, as my Dad is known to do, an extra “surprise.” The June/July issue of Esquire with Bruce Willis on the cover. This is sweet enough as it is but he points to the lower left corner where it says in black and red Esquire font, “STEPHEN KING AND JOE HILL.” Inside is Part I of a King/Hill novella, In The Tall Grass. Written together and fucking wonderful. Six and a half pages of wonderful. My Dad is better than your Dad, unless you’re Joe Hill, your Dad’s pretty cool too. Reading this inspired me to share something I wrote a while back. It also inspired me to write about my Dad, but that, too, is a post for another Father’s Day.
My wedding day…you were there.
I’ve talked about my tattoo before. If you’ve successfully blocked me out, I’ll tell you again. I have Stephen King tattooed on my right arm. It’s not a Stephen King inspired tattoo or a quote from a book or an artistic something or other based on his writing. It’s his face. I have the face of a man I’ve never met, permanently (as permanent as tattoos are nowadays) etched into my arm. People’s reactions to this vary, but what consistently follows is, “You should write him and let him know!” Sure, I’ll sit down and write a letter to the greatest writer of all time (don’t start, I’ll fight you on this – I’ll win) and say what? “Hey, just wanted to say, your books are good. So much so that until the day I die, if my Husband wants to see me naked, he has to look you in the eye.” I’m sure that will come off completely sane and we’ll become Besties for life! But after reading what I read today, and reading the “Two Kings One Story” bit about how the two write together and feeling the way I felt when my Dad saw this magazine and knew that his little girl just had to have it (along with a Diet Coke and bag of Doritos), I’m compelled to answer the question most asked about my tattoo “But, why Stephen King?” I think the best way for me to answer that is to finish the letter I started writing three years ago, the one I wrote “to let him know.” When I wrote it I wasn’t sure how to get it to him. Do I send it to his publisher, his website, Entertainment Weekly (he still wrote regularly for them back then – I miss it.), tweet it? I’ll just put it here instead for you, my Intermittent Readers, but I’ll address it to him…
Dear Mr. King,
Let me start by saying that I am not your “#1 Fan.” There’s no Annie Wilkes in me – so far as I can tell anyway – I’m writing to tell you that I have tattoo (a few, but we’ll focus only on the one on my right arm) – the reason I’m telling you this dear Uncle Stevie, is because it’s of you. I have thought about writing to you for some time now and I’m not entirely sure that a 12 yr. old me didn’t send a fan letter your way all those years ago, but I’m doing it now. A little backstory (because who doesn’t love a little backstory). I was raised in Lebanon, Indiana (Population: No one). At a very young age I remember seeing this enormous book on my Mother’s bedside table. She told me it was a brilliant story about good & evil. She told me, while she was in labor with me she was reading this book and that I’d probably really love it. As I was coming into this world…you were there. So I read The Stand…in the second grade. M-O-O-N, that spells, over-my-head. I may not have understood what I held in my 8 year old hands, but I definitely liked the way it sounded. I liked the way it made me feel. I wanted to hear more. The Lebanon Public Library now held only one section for me. Fiction, Horror, King. Every trip to the library and I’d come home with a new book – semi-dusty, yellowed gateways to awesome….and you were there.
In the 5th grade we were to write a book report on a book of our choosing – finally! I chose The Eyes of the Dragon. Apparently my elementary school used the word “choose” loosely. While my teacher, Mrs. Hardee (one of the “good ones”) had no issue, kids talk and parents complain. I was called to the Principal’s office, given stern looks and lectures about the importance of “age-appropriateness.” After all, you must be very, very old to fully enjoy stories about dragons and wizards and such. J.K. Rowling would have been fucked. My parents were called in and I’m sure Principal Nofun expected them to nod. To agree. To punish.
They did not.
They stood up for me and said that they were under the impression that it was their job to decide what I was and wasn’t capable of handling and was there some sort of issue with the quality of the report itself?
“Well I guess we’re done here, aren’t we.”
My Parents stood by me. They fought for me and trusted my judgment. They respected my choices….and you were there.
It’s 1995. I’m now at Lebanon Middle School. I’m playing the Mad Hatter in Boone County Jr. Civic’s Alice In Wonderland. My Mother’s directing. The library is celebrating its 90th birthday with a silent auction of autographed bookmarks “From one of Lebanon Public Library’s Favorite Authors.” We had a performance that night and while I desperately wanted your autograph, the show must go on. Dad spent the entire night standing over my bookmark. The story goes that an evil autograph reseller was going around scooping up all the autographs. He got most of them. He didn’t get ours. The next day my Dad was on the front page of the Lebanon Reporter holding the bookmark that fetched the largest dollar amount. Stephen King, $66! The blurb mentioned how he was determined to make sure he won it for his daughter who couldn’t be there because she was out working on her dream to become an actress – or maybe I just remember it that way – whatever the case. He came through for me…and you were there.
That’s why I got this tattoo. I’m 30 years old now, the tattoo just turned 3. People normally get portrait tattoos of their parents or their children – I picked you because I can look at your face on my arm and I see my Parents, my heroes, my teachers (the “good ones”). I see all the milestones of my life so far because, without fail…you’ve always been there. You know how you can hear a song and it instantly takes you back to a moment in your life where that song was playing and all the emotions you were feeling in that exact moment smack you in the face? Your books are kinda’ like that to me.
I just wanted you to know and I wanted to say thank you.
P.S. I think it’s important to note that I’ve only ever written fan letters to two people in my entire life. The first one was to Ben Vereen during the Zoobilee Zoo years. I do not have Ben Vereen tattooed anywhere on my body…that would just be weird.
A Note To My Readers: I should mention that the tattoo that sparked this all was done by Kelly Rogers from Gearhead Tattoo in Cape Coral, FL. You are a damn fool if you don’t find him and give him all your money.