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Ink

But look at me undressed, see how he got better over the years: his patriotic stage, his religious stage.  He liked greens and reds especially, and fine single-needle outlines, which he called “rare and elegant.”  I’ve got George Washington on one arm and Lincoln freeing the slaves on the other; I’ve got a garden planted between my breasts, Japanese peonies and daisies, reds and faded yellows; I’ve got a little pair of arms sinking into my belly button captioned HELP LET ME OUT.   – “It’s Bad Luck to Die” by Elizabeth McCracken

 

Unlike most love stories, “It’s Bad Luck to Die” pushes limits.  Most love stories involve troubled characters who swear they will never fall in love “again” — or for the “first time.”  What happens? They always do.  In “It’s Bad Luck to Die,” however, Lois was not looking for love, or at least we as readers do not think she was, and most definitely was not expecting her love to be a man named Tiny, who was two years younger than her own mother. What fascinates me about this piece is how open-minded and full-hearted Lois is.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, could bother this girl: Tiny’s age does not bother her; his living does not bother her; and surely what he does to her nearly every day doesn’t bother her.  This story presents many complex relationships, but I believe the most influential example is Lois’s relationship with her mother.  Clearly, her mother was a bit of a control freak and preferred her daughter to look more like Cinderella than some sort of  Tattoo Princess.  Her mother loved her all the same, but the cynical jokes and disapproving comments had to be there because, well, she’s her mother and that is what mothers are for.  Now, I have always adored tattoos, not the silly little hearts or dorky stars, but rather the ink that tells stories.   The greatest thing Elizabeth McCracken did with this story, in my mind, was create a love story from the canvas of human skin.  When someone agrees to have something permanently written on her body for the rest of her life, she is usually extremely passionate about what image she wants inked into her skin.  Lois, however, did not care what went onto her body but rather who did it. If it made Tiny happy, then she was happy.  Because after all, that is exactly what love is about, isn’t it?  Instead of their unconditional love being written just on their hearts for only the two of them to see, it was written all over them, from head to toe, for the world to see.

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