A middle-aged woman, Stella, in a tattoo shop.

She has tattoos of animals everywhere on her body.

A tattoo artist surveys her arms, looks around, searching for space.

tattoo artist



Koalas and lynxes.

tattoo artist



One large golden toad. Not something you want to be showing off.

tattoo artist

There might be some space on the wrist.


This is the insect arena. So many of them. It’s hard to keep up.

The tattoo artist surveys her.


Don’t even bother with the back. It’s all a polar bear. The first. If I’d known then, I wouldn’t have made it so big.

I hadn’t thought of it when I started. Of what this would become. I did think about Kelly. She was only two then and I wanted her to know what a polar bear looked like. Something beyond photographs, because who knew how long the internet would last at that stage. She had some cuddly teddys too and she loved them so much, I just had to do something for her.

I got a hummingbird on my elbow next. A panda on my buttocks. That was when Z was still in the picture, when he thought it was funny.

And then, well, it took on. The way people used to collect things I suppose, back when there was so many things. I don’t know at what point it tipped over – maybe when Kelly left. She’s doing alright for herself, she’s a survivor. Not much of a sentimental creature in the end, she’d shoot a polar bear quick enough if one appeared now.

At some point, well, I suppose it became it, the thing that keeps you going, that instinct that kept the legs of gazelles running from lions, back when there was gazelles and lions.

There’s a gazelle on the right arm, a lion squished on my left foot. I would have made it bigger if I’d planned, but I wasn’t thinking when I started this.

tattoo artist

There’s always the face.



I think I was saving that.

Because it seemed like something she would want to remember.



tattoo artist

We can start small.


You’d better.

We have a while to go yet.