Are you looking for an English teacher to take you to the next level? Well, that could be me! I do classes over Zoom, where we will write stories, watch fun videos and talk about whatever you’re interested in.
See you soon, future student!
Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for beginners. The name of the story is The Tattoo. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Tattoo. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Tattoo. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation after it.
Today’s story is a science fiction story. That means it happens in a world that is like ours, but it is a bit different. I thought I should say that, because I don’t want people to get confused. By the way, this story might not be suitable for children, because it has a mention of sex in it.
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
A tattoo is a piece of art that you have on your skin, on your body. You go to a tattoo parlour to get a tattoo. People who work at tattoo parlours are called tattoo artists. Tattoo artists take ink and push the ink into your skin to make a picture. People usually get black tattoos, but you can also get coloured tattoos. It hurts a lot to get a tattoo, because the artists use sharp things called needles to push the ink in. As you get older, tattoos look less pretty, but some people get tattoos all over their body. Common pictures for tattoos are roses, hearts, names of loved ones, skulls and so on.
When you do something months in advance, you do it many months before you have to. For example, if you want to go to a really expensive restaurant, you will probably have to book it months in advance. Or if you want to go and see a popular show like Hamilton, you will have to buy tickets months in advance.
When you lie, you say something that isn’t true. For example, if I tell you, ‘Hi, I’m Queen Elizabeth,’ that’s a lie, because it’s not true. I am not Queen Elizabeth. Children often lie when they don’t want their parents to get angry at them. Sometimes people lie because it is very hard to say the truth.
Squares, triangles and circles are all shapes. Shapes are very important in mathematics. Geometry is the study of shapes.
Anxious means worried. Everyone gets worried, but not everyone gets anxious. Anxious is when you are very, very worried. If you get anxious often, then you have anxiety. If you have anxiety, you might have to take pills, medicine, to make you feel less anxious.
Hide, and the past tense is hid, and the past participle is hidden, is when you make it so people can’t see something. For example, maybe you are eating chocolate, but you don’t want other people to see it, because then they will want to eat the chocolate. So you hide the chocolate in the cupboard so that they won’t see it. Now the chocolate is hidden. Of course, if something is hidden for a long time, you might forget it’s there.
Your bum is a part of your body. Your bum is at the back of your body, below your back and above your legs. You sit on your bum. To be honest, people don’t like talking about bums very much because it’s rude. ‘Bum’ is a word that children often use, or a word that we use with friends.
When you treat someone like something, you act like they are that thing. For example, if you treat someone like they are your pet, you will not listen to what they say, and just make them do things for you. Your boss might treat you like a pet: ‘Go and get me coffee! Sit down!’ More generally, you can treat someone well or treat someone badly. If you sit down and start barking like a dog, woof woof, then your boss will probably treat you like you are very strange.
A barber is someone who cuts your hair. Generally, hairdressers cut people’s hair, but barbers specifically cut men’s hair. Because men’s hair is usually shorter, the styles are different, so many men go to barber’s. Barbers can also cut your beard, but hairdressers don’t cut beards.
When you shave your hair off, you take a razor, a sharp knife, and cut all your hair off. When men get older, they often start losing their hair. They start going bald. When you are completely bald, you have no hair on your head. Of course, many people take a long time to go completely bald, and it can look bad if you only have some hair on your head. So some people decide to shave all their hair off before they go completely bald, because they think it looks better. My father and brother started going bald when they were quite young, but luckily I haven’t started going bald yet. If I did, I would probably shave all my hair off and start wearing a hat.
When you have an original idea, it is an idea that nobody else has had before. Steve Jobs was very famous for having original ideas. Before the iPhone, nobody had thought of making a phone like that. It was a very original idea. These days, it’s very hard to be original, because you can find almost anything on the internet.
When you remove something, you make it go away, you take it out. For example, if I am teaching a class and there is a very difficult student, a student making lots of problems, I might have to remove them from the class. I don’t like doing this, however. If you find you keep eating chocolate and are getting very sick, then you might have to remove all the chocolate from your house. I don’t like doing this, either, but sometimes I have to!
We have a bumper crop of new patrons today. A bumper crop is when a farmer collects their food, their crop, for the year, and there is LOTS more than usual! So we have more patrons than usual, a bumper crop. And those wonderful new patrons are: Sara Disantis, Charlotte Dupré, Jarek, Renata and Valeria the Dancer. Thank you all for your support!
If you join the Patreon by giving just $5 a month, you can get access to 23 bonus episodes of the podcast. This month’s bonus episode is The Boy Who Cried Wolf. It’s a story we had before at beginner level, but this time it’s at the intermediate level. So it’s a great way to learn more vocabulary. You can join the Patreon at Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish.
OK, so listen and enjoy!
Most people got their tattoos on their 18th birthday. It was what you did. People booked their appointments months in advance at the best tattoo parlours in town. You didn’t want to find that they had no more appointments left. May was a very busy month, because most people had their birthdays in May, so it was very hard to get an appointment then. Sometimes, people got angry at the people who worked at the tattoo parlour, or they paid hundreds of pounds just to get an appointment.
Gary wasn’t like most people. He didn’t want a tattoo. His parents, his friends and his girlfriend all told him that he would want a tattoo one day, like everyone else.
‘I know you think you don’t want it,’ said Gary’s girlfriend, Claire, ‘but just think. When you turn 18, most of your friends will have their tattoos already. People will want to see yours. Look, you can tell them that you’re getting it later, that you couldn’t book an appointment, but how long can you lie? One day, you’ll look around and think, “God, why don’t I have a tattoo? Everyone else does.” ’
‘But why do I need one?’ said Gary. ‘Everyone else has one, yes. But I don’t want one.’
‘But Gary!’ said Claire. ‘You’re always like this. You think that, because you have to do it, that it’s something bad. You were like this when you learned to drive, as well. Think of it like this: getting a tattoo is a way to tell the world about yourself. It’s a way to say, “This is me, this is who I am, this is what I want.” And I can’t wait to see what you choose!’
Gary sighed and started talking about something else.
That was the other thing, the thing that Gary couldn’t talk to anyone about. He didn’t think it mattered. Why did you need a tattoo to tell the world about yourself? Why couldn’t you just be yourself, dress how you wanted, talk how you wanted and so on? People know who you are just by talking to you, don’t they?
But no, the tattoo was important. What you chose for your tattoo said what you thought, what you liked, who you were. Some people got tattoos of their pets, or strong animals like lions, or stars or moons or whatever. Some people got words in foreign languages. Some people got simple shapes.
Actually, Gary didn’t know what he would get. For several years, when he thought about getting a tattoo, he felt anxious. He knew who he was, but he couldn’t take ‘Gary’ and put him in a picture. He was more than that, more than just a few words or a shape.
People thought it was bad to tell other people what your tattoo was going to be. Of course, many people did talk about it. Gary’s friends had told him what tattoos they wanted. But they were sure. They knew what they wanted. So when they asked Gary what he wanted, he told them he knew, but he didn’t want to tell them.
One day, his mum found out that he was anxious about his tattoo. She told him it was normal, that many people get anxious.
‘So just get it in a hidden place. Get it on your bum, if you need to.’
But it was true. Most people got their tattoo on their arm or leg, so they could show it to people. Some people really wanted the world to know who they were, so they got their tattoo on their head or their hand. Some people wanted to keep it hidden, so they got it on their back, or the bottom of their foot, or yes, their bum.
But those people often got treated badly. These days, it wasn’t cool to get a hidden tattoo. The day after your 18th birthday, everyone wanted to see it. So if it was hidden, they sometimes took your clothes off and took a picture, anyway. Gary did not want that.
Gary knew that there were some people who didn’t get tattoos. One of his uncles was like that, but he had never met him. His family didn’t like to talk about him, either.
Gary didn’t understand why. Why were people who didn’t get tattoos treated differently? They were seen as strange. People said they were like children, because children didn’t have tattoos. They often couldn’t get jobs, because their boss wanted to know who they were, who they really were, and if someone didn’t have a tattoo, they were hiding something, weren’t they?
So Gary knew that one day, he would probably have to get a tattoo. He could keep saying no, but one day, he would have to.
On the day of his 18th birthday, his parents took him to the tattoo parlour. Of course they did. They had booked an appointment months in advance without telling him. Gary didn’t want to go. He said he wanted to go and see his friends. But his parents had booked the appointment for 10am, and they couldn’t change it.
When Gary got there, he went into a room with the tattoo artist. The tattoo artist was a woman who was maybe 40 or 50. She had lots of tattoos, of course. All tattoo artists did. They were the only people who could get more than one tattoo. Well, other people could, but they were treated as strange. Wasn’t one enough?
Gary was surprised that the tattoo artist was a woman. Usually, men got tattoos from other men, and women got tattoos from other women. But his parents had probably chosen a woman because it might make him feel less anxious. Or maybe it was the only appointment they could get.
Anyway, she was very friendly. She gave him a cup of tea and asked what things he liked, what his hobbies were, if he had any pets or people he really loved.
His parents must have told her he was anxious about it. It made it worse. Gary did have lots of things he loved, of course. But none of them were so special. None of them were so great that he wanted them tattooed on his body. And where would he get it? He didn’t want one where everyone could see it, but he didn’t want to be treated badly by the guys at school.
And then Gary had an idea.
‘Can I… get a tattoo on my head?’
The tattoo artist looked very surprised.
‘Well… yes, you can. But you have a lot of hair. Nobody will be able to see it. And I can’t tattoo you until you get your hair cut.’
Gary stood up. ‘Could you wait while I go to the barber, then?’
The tattoo artist sighed and checked her watch.
‘Alright, but be quick.’
Gary ran out. His parents were waiting outside the room, and they were surprised to see him.
‘Don’t have time to explain,’ he said. ‘I’m going to the barber’s.’
His parents probably thought he was going to get a tattoo on the side of his head. That was a popular fashion. Yes, it meant you had to cut your hair short, but it looked really cool.
But Gary didn’t want that.
He told the barber he wanted him to shave all his hair off. The man was very surprised.
‘But you’re so young. You have wonderful hair. Do you really want to go bald?’
‘Yes, yes. And I don’t have much time.’
So the barber shaved all his hair off, and Gary was bald. He looked very strange, but he didn’t care. He said thank you, paid the barber, and then ran back to the tattoo artist.
‘Oh my God!’ said his mother when she saw him.
But she didn’t have time to say anything else, because he was already back in the room with the tattoo artist.
‘I’m ready,’ he said, panting. ‘And I know what I want.’
Nobody liked Gary’s tattoo. Firstly, it wasn’t original. Everyone wanted an original tattoo, and Gary’s was just a simple X shape. Lots of people had those, but they usually got something with the X, to make it more original. But not Gary. He just had a big X shape.
Of course, the place he got the tattoo was very original. Too original. His friends all thought it was funny. They said that only Gary would get a tattoo on the top of his head, so it was perfect for him. But his parents hated it, and his girlfriend Claire really hated it.
Weeks passed. Gary’s hair started to grow again. His friends stopped laughing about his tattoo, and life started being normal again.
But then the questions started.
‘When are you going to get a real one?’ asked his dad. ‘I mean, that was a funny joke, Gary, but you need a real tattoo. You can’t go bald every time you want to show it to someone.’
Gary couldn’t believe it. He had done the thing that everyone wanted, hadn’t he? So why was it a problem?
But his dad wasn’t the only one. Claire asked him to get a new tattoo every day. She drew pictures for him, texted him ideas. Finally, it was too much for him, and he stopped seeing her.
Gary didn’t get a new tattoo, of course. The first one had hurt, and it cost a lot of money. Yes, his parents had paid for it, but he hated that they paid for something he didn’t want. And really, he didn’t like the tattoo he’d gotten. It was fun to make everyone laugh, but it really didn’t look good.
Gary’s hair grew, and soon you couldn’t see the tattoo at all. He was happy with this, and he didn’t feel anxious anymore. He could forget that it was there.
But of course, this just made everyone else angry. Fine, Gary had gotten a bad tattoo, but now he was hiding it from the world.
‘You can’t get a tattoo there and then cover it with hair,’ said his mother. ‘You should shave off all your hair again, or get a new tattoo.’
‘No,’ said Gary. ‘I won’t do it. I got the tattoo, OK? You should be happy now. I don’t have to be like everyone else.’
Gary went to university, and there he had more problems. Everyone showed each other their tattoos. It was a great way to make friends, because you could talk about why you got your tattoo like that. And when someone had a hidden tattoo, everyone wanted to know where it was and what it was. Gary told nobody where his tattoo was. Several girls tried to sleep with him, because they thought he might have it on his bum.
When people found out where it really was, they were not happy. Some boys from the football team went into his room at night and shaved all his hair off. The next day, everyone saw his tattoo and laughed at him.
‘What a bad tattoo,’ they said. ‘It would be better to have none.’
Until then, Gary had been thinking about getting another tattoo. It was just too hard with his X-shaped one.
But now, he knew that he would never get one. This was who he was. And he found out that there was a word for it: tatless. Tatless people were people who couldn’t get tattoos, or didn’t want tattoos. Some tatless people had tattoos but they removed them, or they never showed them to people.
Finally, Gary met other tatless people. He was very anxious, but when he met them, he knew that they were his people. They understood what it was like, to be treated so badly. They understood why he didn’t want a tattoo, and they thought he was great for the tattoo he got.
Gary liked one of the tatless guys very much, and they became boyfriends. They had to keep their love hidden, of course. If Gary’s parents knew he had a tatless boyfriend, they wouldn’t be happy.
Many times, Gary’s boyfriend, Kyle, said, ‘You know, you could get that tattoo removed. I know it’s hidden, but it’s so much better when it’s removed. When mine was removed, I felt amazing. And it’s very safe. I have a friend who does it.’
But Gary said no.
‘It’s hidden. That’s enough. If I can’t see it, it doesn’t matter.’
Gary and Kyle stayed together over the years. When Gary grew older, he started going bald.
He had been worrying about this. Now his tattoo wouldn’t be hidden, and he would have to remember everything that had happened. He hadn’t talked to his parents in years, and he didn’t want to remember the day he got that tattoo.
So he decided to get it removed. But first, he had to shave off all his hair.
Kyle did it for him. Gary closed his eyes, and Kyle shaved it very quickly.
‘I don’t believe it,’ said Kyle.
‘What?’ said Gary.
He was so anxious that he didn’t want to open his eyes.
‘Did you have it removed already? It’s gone.’
Gary opened his eyes. And it was true. On his bald head, there was no tattoo.
The X was gone. Somehow, it had removed itself.
‘My body knows what it wants,’ he said. ‘And it didn’t want that.’
I hope you enjoyed today’s story. It’s another original story from me, another story that I wrote myself.
I said earlier that it was science fiction, but really it’s more speculative fiction.
Speculate means when you say, ‘Hmm, what would the world be like if X were different? If this one thing was different, how would the world be changed?’ So you are speculating about a different world. That is speculative fiction.
So in this story, I speculated, ‘What would the world be like if everyone got tattoos when they turned 18?’
Personally, I don’t have a tattoo, but I’ve wanted a tattoo for years. The problem is, I can’t decide what I want, but I think I might finally know.
Me and my girlfriend call each other ‘starlight’ and ‘moonlight’. So she calls me ‘starlight’ and I call her ‘moonlight’. I know that’s really soppy. Soppy is when it’s like really romantic and sweet and, aww, cute! But, yeah, that’s what we call each other. Starlight and moonlight.
So we were thinking of maybe getting tattoos with stars and moons, maybe on our arm. I know it’s a really bad idea to get your partner’s name tattooed on you, to get your girlfriend or boyfriend’s name tattooed on you, but this is a bit different because, even if we do break up, it’s still a pretty tattoo, and I’ll still like how it looks. I have a friend who has a tattoo of the moon on their arm and it looks really cool.
I think this probably will be the tattoo I get, because otherwise, I don’t know what I would get. I’m really bad at making decisions. My interests change very frequently, so if I got a tattoo from a TV show or something, I might hate it in a few years’ time.
Anyway, do you have a tattoo, and do you want one? And what do you think about tattoos in general? Come and leave a comment on the transcript at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Tattoo.
Thank you again for listening, and if you’re feeling generous, you can send me $3 so that I can buy a coffee, a tea, or any other beverage that costs around that price. Just go to EasyStoriesInEnglish.com and click the red, or orange, button that says Buy me a coffee. Mmm, I’m enjoying the imaginary coffee already! Thank you again, and see you next week!