Spanking the Cat

April 27, 2010

posted by Caroline Picard

what follows is an excerpt from WOOF., (what an uplifting book, right? jeez)

The first thing Tobias sees on the second floor.
A young man spanking a cat perched on a radiator in the far corner of the room. Crouching down on its front paws, the cat has its hind quarters in the air, its tail stiff and erect, eyes closed. The boy, smiles drunk, “It likes it!” he squeals, “It likes it!” happily, turns his whole body to bring the flat of his palm back, above his head, before turning his torso once more down, focusing the brunt of momentum on his hand and smacking it square on the cat’s back, just above its tail. “Hahahaha!” The boy laughs. “Hahahaha! My hand hurts. Hahahaha! She likes it!” and then turns his torso again, drawing his hand back again above his head, stretching the hand higher this time—

Noun Swap

April 26, 2010

posted and written by Caroline Picard

an excerpt from WOOF.

An Episode of Childhood: Coat.

Coat comes from Cincinnatti with a pretty little sister, Jessie, and a pretty mom and a handsome father who has worn eye glasses for as long as she can remember. They have always lived in the same house and every summer up until high school the girls went to the same camp and did very well in school and were well known as very nice girls, like their parents, everyone always said what a nice family Coat had. Her parents were academics and the house was therefore full of well-used books, pleasantly unkempt but always clean, their mother washed all woolen things by hand and though the family was not rich by any means, the girls never thought about money or things they couldn’t have or whether or not they could go to college. Their mother drank tea, their father coffee. They shopped at farmer’s markets and kept a garden where they made a pumpkin one year and always had squash and tomatoes and eggplant. Their father was an excellent cook. He made the family meal almost every night for the entire stretch of his daughter’s residence at the family home.

When Coat was six and Jessie was three their parents said “This is a cat,” while pointing to a dog and, “This is a dog,” while pointing to a cat.
Coat and Jessie learned a dog was called a cat and a cat was called a dog and Coat had some trouble at school for a little while because the difference ruptured her understanding of the world. It seemed like a consistent glitch, one that wasn’t caught for quite some time because it was such a small innocuous misunderstanding that no one thought her beet-faced frustration came from a prior conviction that was nevertheless inaccurate. Who knew that one’s world could hinge on the swapping of two nouns?
While she had always been a shy child, she was quite sure of herself especially when it came to the things her parents told her. Consequently, when Mrs. Clark, their second grade teacher, tried to correct the mistake, Coat confirmed earlier suspicions that Mrs. Clark was a batty old fool.
Coat asked Jessie about it and Jessie, who was not yet in school, was neither interested nor perplexed.
When Coat learned the truth she was thoroughly confused.
Her parents called it an experiment of logic.


April 25, 2010

posted by Caroline Picard

I’ve been a terrible poster the last week–you see I just (just, just) finished my thesis–that novel, some clips of which have been posted here over the last few years. It’s also the same thing that I exhibited work based on last summer at minidutch, a show called “Twilight of the Vanities.” At any rate, the book has edited significantly since then, there are an additional 50 pages, a new sub-plot…all of it. Thankfully I’m in that place with it where I’m still very pleased and excited by the material. I feel like the minute it is actually “done done” by which I mean that the advisor would have given it the final and rousing approval, and it will have been turned in, then doubtless I’ll start to think it’s kind of a dumb project and find any number of reasons and ways that it could be better. My secret suspicion is that those “ways of improvement” are actually just ways for me to avoid closure, i.e. it’s easier to think that something could be better and therefore needs more work than it is to think, well that’s done, what do I do next?

At any rate.

Over the next week, I plan to post different excerpts–passages that will hopefully function more or less as discrete storylines, though they’re part of a larger part.

And seriously? It’s seriously so awesome to be almost done with school. Take me to June, I’m ready.

An Episode of Childhood

April 16, 2010

posted and written by Caroline Picard

What follows is an excerpt from WOOF., a novel that takes place primarily in and around hipsters in Philadelphia. The main character, Tobias (Toby), has just dropped out of college and moved in with his oldest brother Fletcher. Their mother, father and youngest brother (Freddy) died in a car accident about six months prior to the novel’s opening. The novel is interupted, periodically, with “Episodes from Childhood.” This particular episode is a flashback about Tobias’ family–his mother (Judith), Father (Mitch), oldest brother (Fletcher) and middle brother (Michael/Mike).

—Toby remembered when they went to the Lake once and they were supposed to jump off the cliff (before Freddy was born) and the cliff was very high and Fletcher and Michael were very big comparitively and (before Freddy was born) Toby was the youngest and they chided him always the big boys chided him and he was very brave and wanted to jump off the cliff like the other boys and Judith said, “Are you sure you really want to, Toby?” And Toby nodded because he was excited and Mitch said, “Of course he does, he’s a big boy, a little man already, he was born for this sort of thing,” and clapped Toby and the back and Toby was very proud and Michael didn’t care one way or another about anything—a nonchalant boy, their mother used to always say—and Fletcher was stretching and Fletcher took a long time stretching and rubbing santan lotion on his arms and legs and Michael was bored and Toby was bored eveyrone was waiting until Mitch said, “Come on Fletch, whatare you waiting for, you wuss?” Their dad was kidding and everyone chuckled but Fletcher looked mad and pink in the sun, “Mom will you put some of this on my back?” and Mitch got mad then and turned away a lumbering bear Toby always thought about his dad like a lumbering bear, “Forget it, we’ll go on. You catch up if you wantta go. Come on, Mike. Lets get outta here and let these sorries take their time if they need, we’ll get on and put on a good show.” Mitch turned away from the adjacent island of towels, corners covered in sand, he turned away and put his arm around Mike and they ambled down towards the end of the beach and Toby was indecisive (before Freddy was born), torn between opposing sides of his family he paused, watching Fletcher sullenly drawing in the sand, their mother rubbed white cream on his back, her hands banal and quick and comforting and Toby looked again to the retreating backs of his father and brother, he looked over to the cliff and saw someone leaping, suspended for the split second of fall and, without knowing he’d made a decision, Toby turned about face and dashed after Mitch and Michael playing at filling their footprints, enjoying the game of his failure as he bounded, irregular puppy strides.

It never occured to him not to be the youngest (before Freddy was born born born born) and he raced ahead of his father and he raced ahead of his brother, he felt the sweat breach the skin of his forehead and he lapped around his brother and he made laps around his father, his feet stinging with the nettles and sticks and leaves and rocks of the path. When they got to the top of the cliff, the path ended at the cliff, a vision of the whole small lake, Toby leapt up and down and up and down he clapped his hands he waved at Judith, she looked so small on their towels with the paper bag next to her full of their sandwiches and potato chips and trail mix, Toby covered her with his thumb he could cover her whole body with his own little thumb, and he smiled at his father who didn’t smile back and he smiled at Michael who absently ruffled his head and he hugged his father who looked down, squinting at him, and smiled and put his hand on the Toby’s head and knelt down, “Now when you jump, you just step out, away from the ledge. That’s it. Just take a step and push out so you get away from the rocks. And you want to make sure to keep your feet together.”

“Why?” Toby asked.

“Teeheehee…” Michael started giggling.

“HawHawHaw…” Mitch laughed the veins on his neck thick with new blood, stood up from his skin. HawHawHawTeeHeeTeeHee. “Well. Because,” HawHawHaw, “Just because. Trust me. Keep your feet together.”

“Wait, Why?” The panic of not knowing made Tobias uneasy, insistent.

“Because, Dumbass,” Michael swatted Toby’s chest.


Michael pointed to his  penis. “Because!”

“Because it’ll hurt if you don’t.”


“Mike you go first and wait for Toby in the water.”

Toby watched Michael step off the ledge and disappear. Down.

“Now, Toby. You. Just step off as far as you can.”

Toby felt fear lump up in his throat. He saw his mother wave on the beach. He smiled. Felt sick. He took a step toward the ledge. He looked down, Michael waved. Michael was very small. The water looked cold, “Is it cold?” Michael shook his head. Toby could see the cliff descend all the way down to the water he could see it stretch under the water he imagined himself hitting the rocks under the water he looked back at his father, “I don’t want to,” he said. Mitch smiled. “Sok. Just take a deep breath, its’ok—” and then the sickening sound of gravel chasing after him Toby half-turned, the wind—he gasped—something thrust him forward, arms fast around him, the wind knocked out of him, he gasped, arms fast and tightly wound the ground disappeared from under him, someone was laughing, Fletcher held him fast and they plummeted together Fletcher was laughing down down down Mitch looked very angry his face got smaller and smaller as they withdrew from his arms his strong hairy arms Fletcher’s arms were wiry and mean, crashed into the water, Toby yelped a searing pain between his legs he buckled, the pain enough to make him curl in a ball in the water, the reflex powerful enough that he  loosed himself from Fletcher’s grasp and hung for a moment, eyes tight shut absorbed/absorbing the pain of the universe under the water he was not heavy enough to stay there he felt himself rising he spluttered wincing a point of upset and misery surfaced at last spewing water shocked with the sky and the shock of cold from the air of the sky tears streaming down his face he wailed Fletcher was smiling smiling smiling and laughing he swam to Toby and rose up and put his hands on Toby’s head and pushed down laughing laughing laughing Toby splutted again, haed still searing with pain he felt water inside of his lungs he flailed with some miserable, unavoidable will to live, flailing with the fear of disappearing all over again forever and ever and ever Toby heard a crash, he saw bubbles, he saw his father’s body crash into the water, he saw his father’s hair stand up staright under the water, surrounded by bubbles of air, Toby surfaced screaming, coughing, sobbing, treading water, the sobs punctuating with him catching his breath he saw his father swim towards Fletcher, his motion swift, stern, unfeeling when their father was mad thier father was unfeeling, and Mitch raised his hand and smacked Fletcher on the face, he’d never done that before never never and Toby wailed again and Michael said “You’re such a dick,” and thwacked his hand on the back of Fletcher’s head and Mitch said enough, a low growl and Mitch swam to Toby and took Toby in his arms and Toby put his thumb in his mouth and felt the bubbles on his father’s body cushion him as they swam, the boys in silence, Judith stood on the beach with her sunglasses on they couldn’t see her eyes she had her hands on her hips her hands on her hips she was getting bigger as they drew nearer and nearer her lips pursed worried with quiet each of them Micth, Michael, Fletcher and Toby felt sure they had disappointed her, terribly. When they got there she shook her head ever so slightly.

posted by caroline picard

Caroline Picard, Twilight of the Vanities
Opening Saturday, May 30th from 7-10pm
Show runs until Sunday, June 28th
Reading on Sunday, June 14th, time TBD

Caroline Picard is working a new novel entitled “Happy Endings.” This work-in-progress is about a group of hipsters living in Philadelphia and the events which led them to their current position in life. Entangling shallow personalities are complicated with transparent glimmers of childhood. The past becomes present, flattening out through night-time banter and its invariable avoidance of grief. The present has to lead somewhere.

To accompany “Happy Endings,” Picard will show a series of “portraits” based on peripheral characters in the book. She combines aspects of drawing, gouache, and collage into beautifully delicate compositions. These abstract works serve as intuitive meditations of the characters she has constructed. A fleshy pallet with spikes of black, hot pink, blue and gold mix together to form intricate pattern work; in each painting, specific aesthetics of each individual are recomposed into an ornate and impenetrable surface.  The gouache mingles with swatches of dollhouse wallpaper, connecting the character’s present personas to their early years.

Fifty hand bound copies of the book will be available for purchase for $20.

And then, outside, on the stoop with all of his dumb bags all over again, everyone else inside because they aren’t ready to leave yet, Tobias just starts to cry. Finally. And he can’t get up even thou gh he feels stupid crying in the midst this city, and all its people—all its pretty people with funny clothes and fancy tattoos and stylish jokes—all of his fans, he can’t help but cry and when he finally does he can’t stop until Fletcher finally finds him in the eaves of a doorway to a store that’s closed for the night. And then Fletcher finally hugs him and tells him that it’s going to be alright. I promise, buddy, we’ll get through this.

Caroline Picard is the Founding Director of The Green Lantern Gallery & Press and a Co-Editor for the literary podcast The Parlor . Her writing has been published in a handful of publications including Featherproof’s mini books, NewCity, the Chicago Art Journal Review and Proximity Magazine. Her artwork has been shown at an array of alternative venues, not limited to COMA, artXposium and a solo show at Around the Coyote.

mini dutch is another apartment gallery in Logan Square directed by Lucia Fabio. Its mission is to show works in progress and site specific installation.

3111 W. Diversey first floor, Chicago. IL 60647
773.235.5687 :: ::
open Sunday 11am-3pm or call/email for appointment