A week or so ago, the Nightstand and an assortment of well-dressed Others had the good fortune to score the circular window booth at Linda's. It was so Algonquin Roundtable of us, minus a few aspects. For example, it's hard to imagine Dorothy Parker knocking back Black Labels in a room over which hangs the taxidermied face of a buffalo. Nor was our party gathered for any reason as sophisticated as starting the greatest American magazine ever. Nor does anyone wear full-brimmed hats anymore. (That is the great tragedy of modern apparel.) Oh hell, it wasn't anything like the Algonquin Roundtable, except for the curvature of the seating and the obstruction of legroom by the presence of a table. In fact, we were at the time actively engaged in not thinking about books at all, expelling such ugsome issues from our mind as whether we should have reviewed John Updike's new novel, Seek My Face (two small letters away, we hasten to point out—at the time we found this very funny—from Suck My Face).
Sometime after the second round of drinks, the Nightstand and company met the acquaintance of a thoroughly defaced and punctured young man whose aspiration is to move to San Francisco and "pierce people." Among other corporal enhancements, this inky fellow had HELL BENT tattooed between his knuckles on the fingers that face you as you're about to be punched—HELL on one hand, BENT on the other. While HELL BENT has its charms—it's a succinct description of the self, it's properly spelled, and it reflects the aggression of clenched fists—it is not altogether original, is angsty in a trite way, and is, moreover, permanent.
What would each of us have tattooed across our fists, our party began to wonder—LITE MAYO? HOMO LOVE? I♥PO NIES? FAUL KNER? (In spite of our resolve, we kept thinking literary thoughts.) We decided the ideal phrase should also work when you reversed your hands. KNER FAUL plainly does not. Nor does NIES I♥PO.
Suddenly what to tattoo on your fingers became the most pressing issue of the day, and we were all muttering to ourselves, stupefied. (The Nightstand recently attended a holiday party that we damn near ruined with a word game. We challenged everyone we met to think of words that were at once nouns, verbs, and adjectives—cross, fit, steel, grave—and everybody, mid-party, stopped talking so they could think.)
PLEA SURE and GODS PEED are single words that separate nicely, which is clever, but aside from the initial hilarity of GODS PEED, the reverse (PEED GODS) doesn't compute. And while PLEA SURE somewhat adequately reverses to SURE PLEA, we feel that you, reader, can come up with something measurably better: something that reads left to right and, also, split in half and reversed; something whose meaning is amplified by it being a hand tattoo; and something that makes us laugh, or cry, or urinate with glee. So, please do so. What would you have tattooed across your fingers? This is the first ever Official Nightstand Word Game Competition for a Prize—yes, there will be a prize—and the deadline is Wednesday, Dec. 18. E-mail entries, and include as many potential tattoo phrases as you like, to the address below. Good luck (does GOOD LUCK work?) and Godspeed!