My Grandfather’s Tattoo

The first tattoo I ever saw was the faded and blurry blue dragon on my grandfather’s right forearm. He and I would sit in his house, curtains closed against the afternoon sun, watching a tiny black and white TV set. My Granddad didn’t go out much anymore. Instead he read the racing pages and dozed in front of The Three Stooges. If any of the Royal Family ever appeared on the flickering monochrome set, he swore and switched it off.
Otherwise, he was a quiet man.
I sat on his lap and examined his tattoo. But he never answered my childish questions “Did it hurt?” and “Who did it?” and “Why?”

He died three weeks after my thirteenth birthday and it was only then that my Nan told me about that faded, blue dragon.
She told me that in 1944, at the tail end of the war my grandad, Len, had been an inmate in a Japanese run Prisoner of War camp in Burma.
It was there that the tattoo had been painfully etched into Granddad’s arm with a sharpened stick.

For my Nan, that old, blurry tattoo had become all that my grandad would not, or could not say.

She told me that my Grandfather had dug a hole in his flesh and buried his stories inside.

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