Well , I promised a post about a mouse at a faculty meeting at St. Clement School so long ago , but I have to say right up front that the incident did not involve a real mouse . I had drawn a cartoon mouse on a rectangle of cardboard. The mouse was leaving a table ( not a faculty meeting ) around which several cartoon figures sat . There was a dialog bubble over the mouse saying : ” Dan , you don’t belong here .”
I’m Dan , so I was the mouse . Don’t read too much into that .
There was a time when I was experimenting with drawing cartoon figures . Around that cartoon table on the piece of cardboard were all of the faces that I was able to draw at the time . And the mouse , yes . Why a mouse ? We won’t have time to hire a shrink to examine that question and to wait for her/his report . Sorry . We will just have to move along . I later took a silk screen course at Barnsdale Park in Hollywood during which I silk-screened three blind mice ; but that’s part of the psychological report we won’t have time to wait for here .
I had the idea that other teachers at the school might get interested in cartooning , too . Kids like drawing cartoons . St. Clement was an elementary school . Maybe I could eventually get teachers interested in some kind of a school-wide project , so I quietly put my cardboard cartoon high on a wall in the school office , just above the faculty restroom . I suppose that I thought of it as a subtle inspiration that might spark some interest among other teachers . There were only eight of us , and we all got along pretty well.
I wasn’t getting any feedback about my secretly posted cartoon . No one mentioned it at all . And then , after a couple of days , it disappeared . I asked the school secretary if she knew what had happened to it . She said she didn’t.
A day or so later the school principal asked me at the end of the school day to step into her office . When I walked in she walked over behind me with pronounced solemnity and closed her office door . She then walked past me again and back behind her principal’s desk . She pointed to a chair on my side of the desk , a front -and-center -placed chair , and told me to sit down . She told me to sit down as if she were addressing a child , or an underling , with a formality that we ordinarily didn’t use at St. Clement School . So I was immediately on my guard , you know , waiting .
She pulled my cartoon on cardboard out of the drawer of her desk , held it high over her head with both of her hands , showing it to me , sort of in the classic Moses -with- the- Ten -Commandments stance . She glared at me and said in a stern tone ” What is this ?”
I knew that tone from childhood . Very familiar . Power -of -the -Parent tone . So I considered any response carefully for a moment or so .
A trick question ? Maybe she was mad that I had posted the thing in the office area without her permission ? But , there didn’t seem to be any question about what it was , so why is she asking such a question ? I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck rising .
She continued to hold the thing over her head , figuratively over my head , as the question floated in the ether unanswered , suspended in the static uneasy tension of her office .
” It’s a cartoon , ” I said weakly , almost as if it were a question . I was confused .
She still held it over her head. ” I recognize some of the people , but not all of them , ” she said .
Some of the people ? Now I was worried about her sanity . What people , I wondered . Was I witnessing first -hand her mental breakdown ?
” This is me , ” she said , pointing at one of the figures around the cartoon table . ” And this is Reynold . ” She pointed at particular cartoon figures on the cardboard . ” And this , I guess , is Kathy .” Reynold was our vice principal . Kathy was one of the teachers .
” They’re nobody , ” I said . I tried to keep my voice calm ; soothing . ” They’re just random cartoon figures .” It was the truth .
” And I don’t know about some of the others , ” she continued . ” That’s probably Steve .”
” They’re nobody , ” I said . ” They’re just cartoons . Those are the only faces I know how to draw . ” I briefly told her my idea for a school-wide cartoon drawing project , but she wasn’t listening .
” You can leave my office now ! ” she said .
And that was that . I still have that cartoon somewhere in my garage . Now that I’m thinking of it , maybe that mouse was right , after all . Anyhow , I quit cartooning after that , but that consequence was purely coincidental .