Two men are talking in a room crammed with all manner of militant placards and gay-advocacy posters. One is named Pete, an artist who works in the prison art studio. He is deeply dissatisfied with his life in general, and his gay life in particular.
He says to his friend "Our society is not developed enough to allow everyone the right to exist in accordance with the character he has, whatever it turns out to be... rather than having a silly hope for alteration of our natures. Why can they not just accept it and let us live as we are..."
"Shit Pete," objects his friend, you must not whine about your life, because every one of us would switch places with you! Your life is much better than that of other convicts: you work only half an hour a day drawing these useless propaganda posters, and the rest of the time you spend tattoing prisoners. You make more money than any of the guards or officers and no one tries to order you around."
Such practical conversation annoys the artist beyond endurance, usually making him seek more intellectually satisfying, abstract topics.
Patiently indulging his friend, Pete launches into a well practiced yet passionate monologue: "The reason I am doing well here is because I am selling my talent now. I am whoring a god given gift for peanuts. I was born to work for posterity, where what I do now would be judged with neither bias or envy. Instead, I am leaving my mark on the skulls of criminals, tattoing 'hello barber', so the next time they are in jail the barber will see my greeting..."
"I was born to influence a generation, maybe even to carry the beneficial and ennobling work of my genius down through the ages! Yet aside from messages to barbers, what do I leave? Tatoos of ropes on prisoners necks, handcuffs on their wrists, and irons on their ankles!"
"I could cover the cathedrals with drawings of icons and saints but instead I am tattoing churches on the hairy backs of prisoners. They even demand that the number of spires equal the years they served in jail. No! It is not to be continued in this manner!"
Pete rises from his chair, wild-eyed and frustrated. "Something has got to be done about it, somehow I have to put end to this... I can not bear this any longer..."
In such times of dispair, Pete usually forgets that he tricked himself into prison for painting copies of famous art works, selling them as originals. He thinks of himself as a victim of an inhuman system; a prisoner of conscience, rather than as a common counterfeiter.
"Shit Pete, you must understand that talent alone won't get you very far," chides his friend. "With no personality, you are only an idle philosopher; an aging homosexual; an impotent anarchist! Lichtenberg said that works such as yours are as a mirror; if an ass looks in, one cannot expect an apostle to look out! You must admit, Pete, you are an ass." Smiling coyly, he confides "To tell the truth, you are such a nice ass that I don't ever want you to become an apostle!"
This brings Peters thoughts down to earth. He stands before his friend, looking at him for a while, wondering if Lichtenberg was a philosopher or a prisoner. He wants to ask, but does not want to reveal his ignorance. He continues, "Yesterday I tattooed this young man from block N7, he is one of us. He wanted me to tattoo a pair of eyes on his buttocks."
"Excuse me, but what is this request supposed to mean? What exactly is the symbolism of such a tattoo? I can't quite catch the drift," wonders his friend, looking a bit puzzled.
Pete agrees, saying "Neither could I, so I proposed instead a tattoo of a pair of stokers, one on each buttock, holding shovels."
"Stokers?" asks his friend, looking even more bewildered.
"Nothing much when he stands still, but when he walks, the stokers start swinging their shovels, like they are shoveling coal up his butt. This is a great breakthrough in the art of skin painting: animated tattoos! I sense a great potential here!"
"I still don't get you," says his friend, "Are there some hidden meanings or what?"
"I don't know of any great significance, or where some lofty meaning may be hidden, but I feel like I am only a stoker who is aimlessly shoving the priceless diamonds of his talent up the arse of his own destiny..." muses Pete, his train of thought once again soaring into intellectual space.