by Saara Dutton
“I’ll scar you for life.” That was The Scar Maker’s professional promise. Then he’d add, “I’ll make you interesting. For just $69.99.”
He launched this business venture once tattoos ceased to be edgy. Tattoos, he realized, were no longer badges of youthful rebellion. They were time stamps of faded youth. Any vegan mommies, cube dwellers, or myopic professors shuffling about with a daisy chain around their ankle, an incorrectly translated Chinese adage or tribal armband were vestiges of another era.
Tattoos had been such a simple way to pay for an outward expression of your secret side. And what good is a secret if no one knows it? Problem was, too many dull people selected the same dull tattoos and the whole country became oversaturated with clichéd flesh.
So The Scar Maker seized his opportunity: he allowed you to pay for your counterfeit sins.
Real sins, the dangerous kind that make for good stories, were in short supply. People were too busy multi-tasking to sin much anymore. Drunken
Ernest Hemingway-style bravado was extinct. Drugged up rock gods no longer bled on cue for an audience. No one went big game hunting, rolled around in broken glass on stage or pummeled street toughs just for kicks.
People battled each other via Xbox, recreated their lives on Facebook and became Rock Stars without picking up an actual guitar. Virtual life was taking over, and no one actually lived. So fake memoirs topped bestseller lists and scripted reality shows reigned on TV. The public was hungry for reality, but wanted it manufactured. Real life rarely offered a cohesive story arc.
This is where The Scar Maker came in. He’d give customers a cool scar and a great story to go with it. He used creepy old tools that he found at junk sales: 1960s ice picks, 1920s fireplace pokers, 1970s medical scalpels. All sanitized of course. He didn’t need any lawsuits.
The Scar Maker worked out of a shithole on 1st Avenue in New York. The half-lit neon sign read, “Scarred For Life”. Or it would have, if all the letters still lit up. At night, in the dark, it actually read, “red Lie”.
This was by design–he’d short fused the sign. Gentrification of the East Village was becoming a problem. He worried that his middle class
customers would be denied the thrill of slumming it. There was a depressingly generic Duane Reade drugstore around the corner from his shop and rumor had it an Olive Garden was moving in. So he manufactured grime too; painting mildew on the walls and strategically planting some plastic roaches. Customers nodded with approval at the faux decay.
Now truthfully, The Scar Maker only had about 12 scar stories that he offered. Of course, he didn’t tell his customers that. They all wanted a special story. But he wasn’t that creative. Or, maybe he was just lazy. So, the 12 scar stories he recycled were:
1. Mountain Climbing in the Himalayas
2. Glass Bottle Thrown While Onstage In Rock Band
3. Drunken Vegas Night
4. Skiing with (fill in the celebrity) in Aspen
5. Street Fight A (Protecting a Woman from Harm)
6. Street Fight B (Thug Style Gang Fight)
7. Mafia Hit Attempt
8. Bear Attack
9. Running with the Bulls in Pamplona
10. Jungle Adventure
11. Racecar Collision
12. Saloon Shoot Out
He charged more for extras, like dates, names and exact places. For a while, he considered advertising a “Frequently Scarred Discount Card” or a “Buy Two Scars, Get One Half Off” offer, but decided against it.
The Scar Maker had one hard and fast rule: all scars had to look like scars. Some idiot came in asking for a Donald Duck scar, and The Scar Maker told him to get the hell out of his shop. He refused to Disneyfy his work. “Go to Times Square if that’s what you want,” he sneered.
His commitment to offering people a life experience without the stress of actually living it became quite profitable. The people who came into his East Village shop were all types. Some were accountants, some were PR flacks, some were college students. All of them were looking for a way to personalize their unblemished skin and unused lives.
So The Scar Maker created scars for Upper West Side daddy’s girls with poodles and Midtown lawyers with canker sores. Queens’ English teachers who dangled participles on the sly and pimpled cops from Long Island. His customers wanted a bit of baggage, just enough to seem worldly, but not world-weary. They craved life experience, but nothing authentic enough to result in heartburn or wrinkles. They wanted carry on size baggage.
Soon, The Scar Maker was scarring customers from all five boroughs. (Plus one personal trainer from Hoboken.) He dreamed of franchising his business, and started to get a bit cocky. After all, what he offered was better than real life, because it was more efficient. He was the architect of experience fraud; providing tangible evidence of risks not taken.
Then one night as he was closing up shop, an irritable man in a business suit knocked on his door. The Scar Maker pointed to the CLOSED sign. But the man was insistent. He began pounding at the door, shouting, “Open up you piece of shit!” The Scar Maker considered going out the back way. But realizing that this guy would just track him down later, he unlatched the lock.
“What do you want, man?” he said.
The pissed off businessman stepped inside the shop as the door slammed shut behind him.
“I want my money back.” He took off his jacket and rolled up his shirt sleeve, pointing to a scar.
The Scar Maker inspected it. One of his better efforts, he thought. It was made with a Victorian dental instrument. “What’s wrong with it?”
“What’s wrong with it? I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it, asshole. I went to an office party last night. Joe Peters was there. We’re both up for the same promotion. So, we’re both talking to our boss, you know. A pissing contest. And he’s a real tough guy type. That’s the whole reason I got this scar. Thought it would give me an advantage. So I’m about to show it to him, when Joe Peters rolls up his sleeve first, and shows him his scar. Well, it looks just like mine, plus his story is exactly the same!”
“Running with the bulls in Pamplona?”
“No. Bear attack.”
“So now this scar is useless. To make matters worse, Joe Peters’ wife is wearing the exact same dress as my girlfriend. Except she looks better in it. Yeah, I know, that’s not your fault. But I looked like an asshole. And now Joe Peters is getting the promotion.”
“I’m sorry, man.”
“That’s it? You’re sorry?”
“You want a new story? You can have Running with the bulls in Pamplona.”
“No! You told me my story was special. You told me it would make me interesting. I want my damn money back.”
The Scar Maker pointed to the sign above the cash register: ALL SCAR SALES FINAL.
“But you sold me a faulty scar! A used scar. It’s not fair.”
“Look, I don’t see why you won’t just take another story.”
“Because it was supposed to be a bear attack. It was supposed to be my bear attack. And I’ve already told other people about it. Everything’s ruined now.”
The Scar Maker shrugged.
The man picked up his suit jacket off the floor and looked as though he were about to leave. But then, he spun around and punched The Scar Maker square in the jaw.
Shocked but not really hurt, The Scar Maker lost his balance and fell sideways. His left cheekbone slammed down on the sharp edge of the counter. He slid down, banging his head against the hardwood floor and passed out cold.
The businessman looked down, rubbed his inexperienced fist and whispered, “holy shit” before slipping out of the shop.
Three hours later, The Scar Maker came to. His head was pounding. He put his hand up to his throbbing cheek, then blinked at the blood on his fingertips. He stood up and went to the bathroom to inspect the gash. Even under the flickering florescent light, he could tell it was perfect. Better than any scar he’d ever made.
Well, it was almost perfect.
The story wasn’t quite right. Too mundane. A sucker punch from a disgruntled businessman? No. A scar this beautiful deserved a better story: a murky jazz den in New Orleans run by a voodoo priestess. A drug deal gone bad. Pandemonium as he’d escaped a hail of bullets and a rabid dog…