Twelve years ago I wrote a little Reel.com piece about the death of a black cocker spaniel puppy in my neighborhood. It happened when I was three years old, and it’s like it happened two days ago. A moving truck had backed up and flattened the little guy, and all that was left was a black dog-shaped pancake with the arms and legs and ears all spread out, and most gruesomely with the puppy’s red tongue sticking out from what used to be his head and snout. All the kids in the neighborhood were standing around and looking at this grotesque sight and going “jeez…jeez!” while the puppy’s owner, a little girl I was friendly with named Sue Ellen, was bawling inside her nearby home. The puppy’s name was Blackjack.
When I described this event in ’03 I wrote, “I can still see that little black pancake on the pavement with the tongue sticking out.” And then one of those online object d’art creations happened. Somebody I didn’t know created a piece of photographic art to accompany the piece. A perfect black-and-white shot of a suburban New Jersey neighborhood with a splotch of red at the bottom of the frame. It finally turned up.
My new project is to create a black-and-white photo along similar lines — blandness, white picket fences, neatly mowed lawns, foundation shrubbery and a cocker spaniel pancake on the street near the curb, accented by a splash of red.
All I have left of that cocker-spaniel story is a photo of an autobiographical essay I wrote when I was ten or eleven, and in this essay was the Sue Ellen/Blackjack story. “Apart from the appalling prose style it struck me how clear and legible my handwriting was,” I noted. “My handwriting is pathetic these days. That’s what being on a keyboard all this time will do. I presume this is the case all around.”