Including the gallstone change, I gave up planes, boats and theaters a long time ago. It was too much to continue watching those dread-drenched faces every time I appeared in public. It was futile to try to explain to anybody that so many years of cartooning had caused my head to vaguely resemble a huge, human drawing pen. Only my creditors refused to avoid me, and of course they always shall. Occasionally some of them ask what turned me intoa monster artist. Naturally they refer to an artist who draws monsters as well as a monster who supposedly is artistic. That was another frenzied phase of existence that started years ago with a violent cirrhosis attack brought on by watching a horror movie titled "The Laughing Liver Larva." After hastily consuming a box of liver pills, including the more edible box, I eventually felt better.
But that wasn't the end of the matter. A few days later there was a telephone call from the editor of the comic books in which my features were published. Being the typical comic book editor, he was less difficult to listen to than to look at. Or perhaps it was the reverse. Or both.
"Why are all your cartoon characters turning out liver-shaped?" he demanded in his usual dose of decibels. "Your stuff looks as though it has been drawn in a cat food factory! Get it back to your usual stuffy style or your salary will get cut in half!"
This was a horrible shock. It meant possibly going back to four dollars a week. That would mean a total of only six dollars a week, including my unsocial insecurity.
My editor had grounds for his beef. Ground beef, one might say. It had been a mistake to draw my cartoons carelessly with my eyes glued to a television screen. There was no awareness of an uncanny urge, produced by the liver pills, to bat out everything in the distorted, liver-like shapes. Unkindly critics might even go so far as to say that I didn't know what I was doing. Even the kindly ones might say the same. It was far from obvious, even to my psychiatrist, that this was only the beginning of my drawings starting to resemble myself, my editor, my wife, my butcher, and even my brother in law.
The real trouble started when my brother-in-law and his family moved in with us. There has never been such a ghastly gang of goops. My brother-in-law, a naturally armless juggler who ridiculously manages to accomplish everything with his feet, including cleaning his fingernails, married the original ghoul girl. Without even planning they managed to come up (down is a better word) with seven unsightly savages.
My morale and blood sugar were already low from the liver incident. At the same time my blood pressure and purple corpuscle count were staggeringly high. It was almost impossible to work while this gruesome gob of guys engendered by my mother-in-law was crawling on the ceiling. Besides, they diverted my attention when it was time for Sesame Street. It was too late to tell my brother to leave. He had already borrowed my contact lenses, which he used in his ears at shower time to keep out water. If he should leave in a state of irritation, so would my contact lenses. Furthermore, there was the matter of my brother-in-law's wife. She had to stay plugged into one of our electrical outlets to keep her tired blood circulating. If her husband left, she would have to stay behind, and she was more grotesque than he was.
All this pressure exerted by the quaint characters hanging around was clearly affecting the quality of my cartoons. Happily, there could be only improvement. It was no surprise, therefore, when another coast-to-coast collect telephone call came from my editor.
"Congratulations on doing away with that liver look in your cartoons!" he bellowed, and hung up.
Leering with satisfaction, I stood rooted to the spot, having stepped in wide wad of my brother-in-law's discarded gum. The phone rang again. It was my editor with another collect phone call.
"I forgot to mention that you're fired!" he yelled. "Your cartoons may be less livery, but now they're somehow more morbid! And don't crowd your curiosity wondering about your replacement! We're hiring Henry Kissinger!"
Yes, my brother-in-law and his family are still with us, and inspiring me constantly as a monster cartoonist. Today only the very choice publications use my kind of work. They include The Abominable Snowman News, The Transylvania Transcript, The Martian Morning Menace, and of course, The Monster Times.