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Call & Response: INVISIBLE

Today is the final day of INVISIBLE: 11th Annual Call & Response Exhibition, at the Fenwick Gallery, Fenwick Library, on the Fairfax, VA campus of George Mason University. It was a huge privilege to have work in this year's exhibit, which was part of the Artworks for Freedom’s campaign to raise awareness about human trafficking.The visual artists and writers of Call + Response interpreted the theme of INVISIBLE as it relates to victims of “invisible crimes” or unlawful actions that go unnoticed.

The artist who interpreted my story, "Drag," was Mike Walton, and he chose to make two 30"x30" sheets of paper with embossed, concentric circles moving outward and off the page to mimic the behavior of water when disturbed. They are amazing pieces, obviously best seen in the space and lighting of the gallery, but assuming you don't get the chance, here they are:

"Drag," was originally published in Pank Magazine, and then again as part of a flash novella called "A Texas," which appeared in Heavy Feather Review. You can read that version (and other stories) over at my STORIES page. I adapted "Drag," rather than write an entirely new piece for the exhibit for two reasons--1) there wasn't a lot of time to produce the work, and 2) I was worried that a new piece would be too direct and not very artful. I approached the adaptation process by focusing on the possibilities of invisibility within the existing piece, and I cleaned out some of the "plot." The adapted version is below.


Bonnie, Jack, and Tal go out to the dock behind the bay house to lie under the moon. The wood beneath them smells like old blood because it is soaked in old blood.

A dog they don’t know starts pounding up the dock, stops when he gets close enough to notice them. It’s a big yellow lab, intact. The dog slips over the side as if he’d rather not explain himself. He swims away towards the moon’s reflection on the rippled surface of the water.

Bonnie has a line out, baited with a strip of squid. The rod is in a piece of white plastic pipe bolted to the dock. She won’t catch anything.

Tal tries to get comfortable. He roots around in a bag of corn chips.Jack scratches his stomach.

Bonnie’s rod nods four times in quick succession, so she stands to take it up. The reel starts to buzz, and the line goes out fast and far. She keeps the line tight, cranking it back in a little each time the thing on the other end lets her.

“Heavy,” she says, but she’s making progress.

Tal asks, “What do you think it is?”

Jack says, “Skate. Be nice if it was a flounder.”

Bonnie snorts as if her brother has just said something incredibly stupid. She’s almost got it all the way in. Tal is excited, but Bonnie and Jack are struck by sudden sadness. Neither one knows why, but it’s the same feeling for both of them.

The thing comes to the surface. A white, flat part of it breaches in the moonlight. Bonnie reels it closer, but then it goes black again, twisting and snapping the line. Monofilament curls float on top of the water.

“Shit,” says Tal. “What was it?”

Jack says, “We’ll never know,” as if that’s okay.

Bonnie attaches another weight, another leader, another hook. Puts a tougher bit of squid on, and throws her line out into the night. They can’t see where it lands, but they can hear it.


Around three in the morning, Bonnie’s rod starts dancing again. The line peels out and the rod handle bounces around in its holder. This time whatever she’s hooked is making a direct, strong run into oblivion.

Bonnie, Tal, and Jack have dozed off on the dock. Bonnie in Tal’s arms, and Tal with his narrow back against a piling. Jack is just down, on his side with his head on folded hands.

The rod jiggers its way up the pipe, and then it’s out, banging across the dock, losing a few small pieces of the handle works. It smacks into a cardboard crate of empties and sends some bottles over the side before the rod is pulled into the water and away.

It will be a mystery if anyone notices.

The racket wakes Tal and Bonnie, and they decide to go to bed. Tal notices that Jack is one sleepy roll away from falling off the dock, but Bonnie says that’s going to be okay.


The yellow dog swims back to the dock. The myth he’d fled into spat him out again. He cries a little because he can’t get back up to where it’s dry. Jack stirs, rolls over, wakes up under water. Goes back to sleep to dream about being cold.

The tide goes out. The dog walks in. Summer will end, somehow.

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