Jay did not see the red flags even though the Collins trio had them tattooed on the back of each of their necks. They annoyed the rest of the work crew because they didn’t follow the rules. Jay didn’t care. He wanted to spend time with them. Be like them. They were independent guys. They were confident.
After work on the Friday of the first week they worked, Jay stopped in at the tattoo shop in the strip mall at the end of the Avenue and got a pitbull on the inside of his forearm, just under the crease of his elbow. The image he wanted was too expensive, so he got an outline of the one he wanted. It looked like a tattoo someone would get to memorialize a pet rather than something a bad ass motherfucker would wear, but it was his first tat and Jay buzzed every time he looked at it that weekend. He didn’t want his grandma to see it, so he wore long sleeves in the house. She didn’t look at him anyway, so he sweated for nothing.
Monday, the Collins showed up to work with the doughnuts. They gave Jay first dibs. He ate his bear claw and followed the trio over to his van. They had a large pickup that they shared. It was rusty and rattled loudly.
“Dude, Jay right?” The tallest one said. The pirate ship artwork on his chest poked out of his torn white wife beater. He had little flakes of bright blue icing defying gravity on the corner of his mouth as he explained that the brothers were really enjoying working on the derooting project and Jay was the coolest guy they ever had as a boss.
Jay wanted to reinforce that he wasn’t their boss, but he didn’t interrupt this guy, Brock, because he thought something good was coming.
“We’ve got this awesome road trip planned for the weekend and wondered if we could use your van.”
“My van,” Jay said and set his hand on the side of his van like a horse owner would to the rump of a beloved mare. “Where you going?”
“Cool,” Jay thought. He hadn’t taken the van any further than San Luis Obispo to meet that girl Sharry. Her tattoos mesmerized him. Geometric designs he traced over with his finger until she complained that it made her feel sick and slapped his hand away.