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CARTER: Leon and the belly tattoo

The lady was one bench away camped out in the shade on the sidewalk on Main Street during the Main Street Festival and I watched her while pretending not to watch her because I can imagine it would be pretty creepy for a lady knowing she was, surreptitiously or not, being looked at by a guy wearing a fluorescent orange vest and holding one of those grabby, trash-picker-upper things.
I couldn’t help it, though – looking at her – because she was enormously – alarmingly – pregnant and wearing a white halter top and lowrider jeans that exposed a whole bunch of square-footage of tanned, extended belly and she had on knee-high leather boots and on her head she wore one of those lacquered cowboy hats with the brim rolled up tight on the sides and
adorned with a blue-and-red beaded band and with feathers trailing off the back and her eyes were hidden behind a pair of over-sized sunglasses framed in hot pink plastic and her shoulder-length too blond to be real blond hair was highlighted with streaks of vibrant green and curled up in her lap was a jet-black Chihuahua wearing a rhinestone-studded collar and the dog was taking dainty little licks at the ketchup-drenched curly fries mounded up on the paper plate balanced on the lady’s knees so it was pretty much mandatory that I had to look at her whether I wanted to or not even though she – for some reason I couldn’t quite figure out – was mildly terrifying.

I could hear her talking to the dog and it kept looking up at her and every once in a while she’d take a picture of it – I’d counted four in the few minutes I’d been sitting – with her smart phone and then show the dog the phone and the dog would look at it as if admiring itself and then go back to licking at the curly fries and I was just about to get up and go find somebody to come back and look at her with me when her smart phone slipped from her hand and hit the sidewalk and bounced up under the bench and the lady slumped and sighed and took the fries off her knees and put them on the bench beside her and removed the dog, too, and then grabbed the back of the bench with one hand and the armrest with the other and attempted to heave herself up and, terrified or not, I had no choice but to go and help her.

“I’ll get that for you,” I tell her and then reach under the bench with my City-issued, grabby, trash picker-upper thing and retrieve her phone.

“Oh my God … thank you so much!” she gushes but I didn’t remember what she said until later because I was hypnotized by the big blotch of blue and yellow ink just below her belly button that I’m pretty sure was once a tattoo of a flower or a bird or some other lady-like thing but had sadly – hideously – distorted into a very disturbing and disfigured likeness of Cap’n Crunch.
“You are sooo sweet!!! Isn’t he sweet, Leon?!?”

I tear my eyes away from Cap’n Crunch to see the lady holding the dog up beside her face.

“This is Leon,” she tells me.

Leon looks at me and radiates that sense of smugness only small, pampered lap dogs can radiate with their eyelids half closed over their giant bugged-out eyeballs and that hint of a smile of entitlement upon their might-as-well-be non-existent dog lips.

“Hey, Leon,” I say, not wanting to be rude, and then, weirdly, wave a little bit.

The lady offers to pay me for getting her phone and I tell her no and then she offers me Leon’s curly-fries and I decline those, too, but she insists I sit for “a minute” and talk to her and before long I know she’s passing through on her way to Florida to live with her Mama because her ex-boyfriend is a $%!#@ who decided he didn’t want to be a daddy and left her two weeks ago and she hopes the $%!#@’s (bleep) rots off and that she was going back to dancing as soon as the baby was born and that her due date was three days away but if that $%!#@ thinks she’s going to name the baby after him he’s just crazier than hell and that she was going to name the baby after Leon because …

Suddenly, she takes a breath and then shoves Leon into my arms.

“Let me get a picture of y’all!” she chirps, aiming her smart phone at us.

She shows me the picture.

Leon’s the smug-looking one. 

I’m the one looking mildly terrified.

I love my job. 
William Carter is a longtime Franklin city employee and published author. He may be contacted at

Posted on: 6/14/2013


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