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.