something i'm working on

The following drawings/texts are the first three sections of a project that my sister and I are working on together. She draws a picture and I write text to go with it and then she draws another picture working from that text and I write more text to go with the new picture. That's the idea, anyhow. We have been working since January. It has been taking us a long time to get anywhere on it, probably because we're both busy doing other things, and also because we didn't plan out a 'story' beforehand, we don't discuss the direction of the piece at all, and we don't revise anything. We just exchange work and keep adding to it. Hopefully we can get it done by the end of the summer, but then again, we don't know how/when to end it. It is untitled so far.

I really like my sister's drawings. I will post more of them sometime.

Anyhow, here's what we have so far:


Our diet then consisted of whatever misshapen fish our father managed to bring home from the polluted estuary by our neighborhood. He had grown worried at the inconsistency with which the government delivered our rations, and so one night I found him out in the yard, his head under a decayed log, night crawlers knotting themselves together in the beam of his flashlight. These he pocketed when he saw me peeing against the side of the house. I asked him if he planned to eat them all by himself, but he only shook his old fishing pole at me and disappeared down a dirt path.

Later, as my sister and I sponged clean our sick, sleeping mother, I whispered to her that I hated to imagine what went on beneath the surface of the water, the quick choreography of a strike and all it entailed. She thoughtfully dipped her sponge into the bucket and then asked me why.

Because neither of them have a chance, I said.

That’s the beauty of it, she said. That’s something worth imagining.

Years later, after all of this had happened, I began to understand her words, why a worm will wrap itself around the same hook that stabs its body, why a fish will inhale fully a barbed lure. When you have hung long enough at the end of a wire, you tend to forget that the force traveling along its length belongs to a life not your own.


We had not yet learned to interpret expressions on our father’s face – indeed, so poorly did we manage to judge his moods, that we perceived our father to lack all sorts of emotional mechanisms: forehead, eyebrows, nostrils, lips, chin. These a more informed son and daughter might use to navigate their childhood. Instead, we often flailed blindly beneath the weight of his wrath, his sadness, his joy. The fault, however, belonged to us.

Our development as young human beings suffered until my sister created a system of evaluation based upon our father’s bodily attitudes. She charted certain positions of his limbs, the heaving of his torso, at what angle his spine came to rest, and then she cross-associated these with his known personalities, his various temperaments, his ability to love us and to hurt us. Certain postures meant that we should refrain from treading too heavily in his presence. From others we knew that we might eat that day and go to sleep satisfied. We found him thus, neck outstretched, arms above his head, his fingers curled and broken. This position we had come to associate with the idea of surrender, with the phrase PLEASE HELP ME. He had vanished several days ago from our lives – we had presumed him gone on an extended fishing trip. But he had not traveled beyond the detritus of our yard, and soon certain of his responsibilities become our own.


We led our senseless father to the water’s edge the following morning. Behind his back, he clutched the jar of worms so as to prevent their seeing the rippled surface of the estuary. The awful sounds a worm will make as it nears its fate.