DENVER – Onlookers in a downtown diner were stumped Monday afternoon by the appearance a 20-something hipster with what looked to be a tattoo of an American flag on his upper arm.
“At first I was like, ‘oh, there must be something weird about the flag,’” said busboy Jerome Gunter. “So I walked closer to take a look, thinking there’d be skulls instead of stars, or George Zimmer or something. But no. It was just the flag in red, white and blue ink.”
When Gunter informed his coworkers about the baffling tattoo, they also found themselves without a viable explanation.
“My idea was that it was, like, ironic as it was,” said the assistant manager Carole Jia. “You know, a hipster with an American flag tattoo. That itself is the message. But then Brian [Fennigan] pointed out that it was almost the Fourth of July, so I was like ‘hmm.’”
“I was thinking it was some kind of Bruce Springsteen reference,” Fennigan said. “I don’t know if Springsteen had a tattoo of a flag or not. But he could have. So that flag would be some kind of 80s retro throwback.”
Amy Loman, a part-time pastry chef who was having a late lunch with her boyfriend, overheard the conversation and decided to clear the issue up.
“I told them I’d seen at least three flag tattoos in the last month,” Loman said. “Literally. But that’s not it. I’d also been seeing a lot of hipsters with eagle tattoos, sort of stylized like it’s swooping, like you might expect to be worn by a guy named Dwight who was a Marine. What else? Oh, and I saw a chick with a cross tattoo that was draped with an American flag. There was just a lot of that stuff going around.”
Line cook Haley Rosendo agreed.
“Yes, yes,” she said. “I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago, and I saw at least five hipsters with tattoos of Lady Liberty, but the old one. Not the Statue of Liberty. The lady with the flat face waving the flag, and she’s in a flowing gown.”
Jia wasn’t so certain.
“Even if other people have the same tattoo,” she said, “that doesn’t say what it means. Why that tattoo? Why?”
“It could very well be a design thing,” Loman said. “Look at the tattoo. It’s crisp. Clean lines. Two primary colors and white. A rectangle in one corner with fifty inlaid stars. It’s quite nice, from a design standpoint.”
“Stars,” Jerome Gunter said. “But are there fifty stars?”
“Ah ha,” Rosendo said.
When Gunter returned from topping the hipster’s cup with coffee, he whispered to the group that there were only forty eight stars. Loman and Rosendo applauded.
“There you go,” Loman said. “That flag was until when. 1950?”
“Or so. Before Hawaii and Alaska were added,” Rosendo said.
“And there you go, ladies and gentlemen,” Gunter said. “It’s an anti-expansionist statement. Free Hawaii and Alaska.”
When Rosendo came back moments later, she stoically reported that there were in fact forty-nine stars.
“I counted twice,” she said.
As tables went unbussed and now-cold orders sat waiting to be delivered, Assistant Manager Carole Jia groaned.
“Where does that leave us?” she said. “What are we to do?”