Parker has been fascinated with tattoos ever since he saw a strongman at the fairground when he was fourteen. The strongman was covered from head to toe in tattoos, except for the lower part of his body which was girded, for the purposes of modesty, by a panther hide.
Parker was standing on a bench as the strongman performed, flexing his muscles for the crowd's entertainment. From his distant vantage point it seemed that the man's skin was patterned by a single intricate design of brilliant color. He'd never seen anything quite like it before. As the strongman flexed his muscles, it seemed as if all the human figures, animals, and flowers on his skin had a life of their own. Parker was filled by emotion at this extraordinary sight, responding in the same way that many do when the flag passes them by.
After the strongman finishes his performance, Parker is struck, for the first time in his life, by a sense of wonder at the very fact that he exists. He senses somehow that his whole direction in life has changed. Not long after this life-changing event Parker gets his first tattoo: an eagle perched on top of a cannon.