France

Prison Tattoo

I had been here a month now. I couldn’t get that wrong, because I noted the day and the date on a piece of paper every morning. I had had the needles for some time, as well as red, blue and violet Indian ink. In the chief’s hut I found three Solingen razors. They were never used for shaving, since the Indians had no beard. One came in useful for the even trimming of their hair. I tattooed Zato, the chief, on the arm. I did him an Indian with different-colored feathers in his hair. He was delighted, and he made me understand that I was not to tattoo anyone else until I had done him a big picture on the chest. He wanted the same tiger’s head that I had, with long teeth. I laughed: I wasn’t good enough at drawing to do such fine work. Lali took all the hair off my whole body. She could scarcely see a hair before she would pluck it out and rub me with seaweed, crushed and mixed with ash. It seemed to me the hairs did not grow so strongly after this.

Papillon, Henri Charrière

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