"So this is the desert"
A 24-hour comic (GV)
by Kevin Pease

I had just been awake for more than 24 hours. My phone line was out. At this part of my cycle, I was waking up in the afternoon, so I had stayed up overnight to make sure I could catch Craig at home before work to use his phone and internet connection, and then I was required to wait at home, awake, from 8 AM to 5 PM, for the phone repair technician. At 6 PM, I returned to Craig's house to call the phone company again and ask them why the repairman had not shown up for my appointment. What appointment? My first call to them, in which an unhelpful woman had documented my problem as "receiver off the hook," was on the records, but my second call, in which I made the appointment, and the third call, the one I had made that morning to confirm the appointment, were not. I had to go through "did you try unplugging the phone for five minutes" again before making another appointment, again for "sometime" between 8 AM and 5 PM.

I knew that once I got to sleep I would be sleeping for a long time, probably twelve hours. And once I was done sleeping, I would probably again be awake for a very long time. I would have to be waiting around at home, without any interaction with the world to amuse or occupy me, during the part of that time when most anything outside my home would be open. I could possibly be awake for 24 hours again, more easily than the previous day, and there would be little to do with it apart from the cleaning that this apartment so desperately needs. I decided it was time for me to try a 24-hour comic.

The 24-hour comic is a challenge invented by Scott McCloud designed to get an artist to loosen up and work fast for a change. The goal is to produce 24 pages, from concept to completion, within one 24-hour period. I produced 16 pages in the period of time between 7 AM, Thursday, June 21, 2001, and 7 AM, Friday, June 22, 2001. This class of "noble failure" is called the "Gaiman Variation," after Neil Gaiman's 13 pages, which goes a long way toward making me feel better about it. The remainder of that distance is covered by the fact that I did complete the story to my satisfaction, right under the wire.

I had a hard time loosening up at the start. I drew three pages in the first four hours. Encouraging, but less than promising, and I was slowing down. I was really enjoying the content of what I was creating, and the more I liked it, the more I wanted to take the time to get everything just right... but that would be overcome, along with other personal hindrances such as my tendency to draw small (more panels per page means less pages), and my hatred of filler. My greatest obstacle was an oversight I had made in choosing this day to begin with. I would actually have to deal with the phone guy when he showed up.

He did show up, but it took me a while to realize he was here. Apartment C is not intuitively easy to find, and he was knocking on the wrong door. He was also unwilling to approach the correct door, as my porch (ha. "my" porch, as if) is guarded by the yin and yang of dogs. They belong to my neighbors. One, Bud, is a noisy, psychologically unstable pitbull whose leash and excitable nature allows him the king's share of the porch, and the other, Kodiak, is a very sweet and calm husky who lies in the narrow corridor of safety leading to the doorway, usually requiring you to step directly over her. I live here, and I have to walk past Bud the Psycho Dog practically every day, so my sympathy for anyone who only has to do it once doesn't come naturally without some convincing, but in the final analysis I understand why the repairmen and delivery people of the world treat any dog they see as life-threatening. The fact that I am unwilling to put my hand in range of Bud's jaws myself was none too reassuring to the man who could be fixing my phone line, and there was no way to convince him that the leash was strong, that the safe zone was inviolate, and that Kody was harmless. He was, however, very accommodating, and we arranged for him to come back after 4 PM, when my neighbors would be home and I could ask them to have the dogs put somewhere else for a little while.

It occurred to me that the previous day's no-show had undoubtedly encountered the same problems, left before I could notice him, and erased the appointment from the computer to simplify his own life. I think it would be really nice to have a door that any visitor could knock on to alert me to their presence.

I talked to my neighbor and he agreed to take care of it. When the technician returned at 4:45, Bud was tied up elsewhere, but Kodiak was running around loose. No problem for me, but definitely not at all reassuring to someone who doesn't know her, is afraid of dogs, and most importantly can't yet see for certain where Bud is. This was not what I asked for. Thankfully, Kody had enough charm and/or my repair guy had enough guts that he didn't bolt for the truck when he saw her loose. It took a while for him to find the problem with my line; apparently the wiring in here is a mess and a half. But it got fixed.

Then I spent a rather long time on the phone with my webhost so that I could pay the upgrade ransom to reactivate my website. The rep had a bad habit of putting me on hold every time he got uncomfortable. The hold system, consisting of a professional male voice and a professional female voice alternately begging me not to hang up, was particularly annoying, and after a while I was ready to cancel my account with them and find someone else. I actually said so, and got put on hold again for even longer. I am entirely too patient; I didn't hang up. When he came back, he somehow convinced me to stay with them and make the upgrade, probably because it was the only way to finish the call in any reasonble amount of time. If I had been determined to cancel, there's no telling how many times I would have to ask them before it was done.

I had dinner and returned to the comic. At the halfway mark, I had only five pages done.

More notes are in the Afterword, following the comic itself.

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Copyright © 2001 Kevin Pease.
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