The Detective and the Dog Print: the intensity of the twist

In the dream I am happy at least at first. A man has come over to the house, which must be some amalgamation of the apartment I share with Rachel and my parent’s house because all three are present. The man is nice. Nothing out of the ordinary. Kindly. We give him a tour, finally stopping at the three prints I made during my undergraduate minor as a woodcut printmaker.

Woodcut printmaking is about narrative. It is about carving a story into wood. I never really mastered this, or even tried to. The three prints I made that were in this dream were portraits. The first was a distorted face yelling to the heavens—an image I first painted in 7th or 8th grade. The second, to balance the first, was a clown, whose disembodied head popped out of a jack-in-the-box box. It was meant to be light. Most people think it is creepy. The third print was conceived and carved very quickly, which is arguably why it is the most successful: it is of an androgynous face holding the box from which it has sprung, content, meditative, and calm.

In the dream, each of these prints had elements of red in them, though I never printed any of them in red. (Though I did color the nose of the clown print red once for a friend who wanted to give the print to her dad as a gift.) The man in the dream was appreciative of my craftsmanship and we are all getting along just fine. I look at Rachel—my soon to be bride—and think, “Nothing can mess this up. Everything is perfect.”

“So what happened to the dog print?” the man asks.

“What?”

“The fourth print, the one you did of the dog,” he replies, a little too knowingly.

The flood of realization sweeps over me, through me. It is an intensity of surprise I have never felt before. Everything about the situation changed in an instant of incomprehensible minuteness. I realize this was not a regular man who happened to stop by; this was a detective! In this fiction of my dream, the fourth print to which he is referring—having no equivalent in real life . . . though I did make other prints, none were of animals—was never printed because Rachel, I suddenly remember like a light turning on, many years back, had used the dog-print woodblock to kill a man! And our high school friend Becca had discarded the body! I spend the rest of the dream hiding the truth about my fiance’s crime from the detective. Of course I do. She can’t go to jail. We’re getting married.

I want to recreate the intensity of this surprise, this reversal, in a play, so rich that it reaches into the psyche and OPENS memories the characters and the audience didn’t even know they had stored in their brains. It was such a sensation that I wasn’t even mad at the detective. I was almost thankful for the experience, even though he was out to put Rachel in the slammer.

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