The Compass - - SPORTS -

eavy metal pours out of a hole in the wall of a des­o­late hall­way in the once thriv­ing Wabush mall in Labrador. A gui­tar solo is in­ter­rupted by bursts of a buzzing nee­dle, like a me­chan­i­cal bee driv­ing its stinger into flesh.

Through the open door, on the other side of the long room with red walls and black floor­ing, a man lays on a stretcher, his arm ex­tended as he looks the other way and winces.

Matt Flynn hunches over the arm un­der the only bright light in the room, ab­sorbed like a sur­geon per­form­ing an op­er­a­tion. The nee­dle’s vi­bra­tions ring through his fingers as it pokes past the epi­der­mis.

“Sky’s the limit,” the arm reads in black ink. It’s Bran- don Paul’s ninth tat­too. A self-pro­claimed tat­too ad­dict, Paul’s new­est pur­chase re­minds him to be­lieve in him­self. Feels like a cig­a­rette burn, he notes.

Or cat scratches, says Flynn as he wipes away ex­cess ink.

Paul winces again as the sound of a de­mented den­tist’s drill re­turns.

Flynn lost count of his own tat­toos, but not the mean­ing. Never the mean­ing. Each tat­too is a road map, ready to re­mind him of his life’s jour­ney at a sin­gle glance.

Some peo­ple ex­press them­selves through suits and ties. Flynn colours the land­scape with tat­toos, breath­ing in the spe­cial free­dom of some­one who cre­ates, then watches as his work comes to life on the bod­ies of his cus­tomers.

His eyes widen as he fights the dry­ness in the air while star­ing at the dart­ing nee­dle, adding the fin­ish­ing touches be­fore re­veal­ing his art to the world.

It’s only 7:20 a.m. but the wharf is al­ready bustling with ac­tiv­ity and the drone of ma­chin­ery.

Amidst the noise two women, one with an old Golden Re­triever, stand and chat, squint­ing into the early sun.

They’re look­ing for a scal­lop boat – the GS Mersey. She’s sit­ting out in the har­bour wait­ing for the tide to change.

Vanessa Whynot is one of those women. Her hus­band, Corey, is on the scal­lop drag­ger. He’s been fish­ing out of Queens County since he was 17 years old. He’s 44 now.

Vanessa and Corey have been mar­ried for 18 years. Al­though Vanessa works at the lo­cal se­niors manor, she always tries to greet her hus­band when he re­turns. When she was a young mother, she’d even pack up her two chil­dren and bring them to see their fa­ther come in. Corey of­ten goes out to sea for 10 to 12 days at a time. “It gets lonely at times but you get used to it,” Vanessa ex­plains.

Though she en­joys com­ing to the wharf to see her hus­band come home, she never watches him leave.

“I don’t like to watch him sail,” says Vanessa. “It’s too lonely to watch the boat go out of the har­bour.”

It’s now 7:45 a.m. and the drag­ger makes its ap­proach to the wharf – Corey whis­tles and calls out to Rusty, the re­triever, who hap­pily swishes her tail in an­tic­i­pa­tion.

When he fi­nally gets off the boat, Corey smiles as he kisses his wife. His old dog leans against him wait­ing for at­ten­tion.

The two laugh at jokes with the rest of the crew, gather Corey’s be­long­ings, and head off for a good day.

Be­cause home­com­ings are always the best part.

Matt Flynn, left, Dark­side Tat­too artist in Wabush, New­found­land and Labrador, drives the ink onto Bran­don Paul’s arm, for­ever brand­ing him.

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