Working home alone every day breeds a special kind of crazy. Getting dressed quickly becomes optional; "extras" like socks and shoes disappear entirely, and whole mornings can be lost pondering the minutia of personal grooming: the symmetry of eyebrows, the odd mole on my forearm, bangs brushed to the left or right. Pass my open window on any given day, and you will hear me discussing current events or the aforementioned odd mole with Hopper and Lucy. Hopper and Lucy are my dogs. It is a fast, slippery slope down into the category of "oddball." Even so, I consider myself to still be clinging to a few basic social skills. I can chat with the cashier. I hold up my end of the conversation at the local urgent care when getting that mole checked. I can tell jokes that don't involve the word "poop." In fact, I find myself hilarious. I crack myself up for hours adding my own little subversions to my illustrations. When I was working on Animal Mischief, a book of silly poems by Rob Jackson, I spent a great deal of time giggling and snorting at my own cleverness. My favorite poem, entitled "What's In a Name," called into question the naming of various types of penguins. They were all "male": Emperor Penguins, King Penguins, Gentoo Penguins. Oh the fun I had sketching out a bunch of penguin school girls being handed their king costumes by the large-fannied headmistress. I laughed and laughed. I was prepared to share the hilarity when my art director called with the comments on my sketches.
"Yeah...(long pause)...they don't get it."
"No, you see, the little girl penguins are getting costumes..." I protested, certain "they" would soon be slapping their foreheads in disbelief at their failure to grasp the funniest joke in the history of children's book illustration.
" Yeah...(another long pause)...no...(yet another long pause. I swear I heard him making the universal sign for "crazy lady" and rolling his eyes). They don't get it. No one gets it. Try again."
"No, but you see..." I was left sputtering into the receiver.
I changed it, and I was happy with the new sketch. It amused me, but not like the first one. I mean really, what could be funnier than a penguin with an enormous rear end? That's right, nothing, unless it was a penguin with an enormous rear end and POOP.