Every morning, my cat and I go through our little ritual. The alarm clock goes off at 6:45am, and I hit the snooze for another 15 minutes of blessed sleep. Eliza, maybe mimicking my slap of the clock, began batting me gently on the back of the head. At 7 or maybe 7:15, I decide I’ve had enough and stumble into the bathroom to turn on the shower. As soon as the rumble and psssst of the faucet starts, I hear the cantered steps on cat on floor, and she jumps onto the rim of the tub. She clambers into the tub and begins drinking the water on the tub’s floor.
Within ten seconds, the water’s hot enough for me to switch from main faucet to shower faucet. I rattle my fingernails on the far wall of the tub, to warn Eliza that she’s about to get drenched by overhead water. She jumps out of the tub, I step in, and whoosh the shower curtain shut. For most of my shower, I see her silhouette stalking the rim. After three minutes or so, once I’m into my morning shave, her head peeks between curtain and wall, and she begins sipping the droplets that occasionally fall from the main faucet. She doesn’t care if her head gets wet. If she’s feeling bold, she’ll jump back into the tub, at my feet, with my body (mostly) blocking the stream of water that would otherwise soak her through.
And that’s the opening minutes of my day.
I’m always curious as to how much Eliza behaves like other cats. I don’t have a second cat, she lost her mother within two weeks of her birth, and she hasn’t been around other cats regularly since I took her away from the rest of the litter, when she was ten weeks old. So, whatever behavior she’s learned is mostly either innate to her cat-self or stuff she’s picked up from her environment and from living with me. At regular intervals, I wonder, How differently does she behave from other cats?
So, imagine the jolt of recognition I had when I read the 4 April 2008 strip of Matthew Reidsma’s High Maintenance Machine. Now, despite my antipathy toward the memoir in general (with Brian Winter’s Long After Midnight at the Niño Bien and C.S. Walton’s Ivan Petrov: Russia through a Shot Glass as noted exceptions), I’ve got a soft spot for autobiographical comics. By drawing yourself and the world around you, you’re automatically forced to put an aesthetic distance between events and your rendition that complicates the reader’s understanding of the situations as the “truth.” With photography, cinema, and prose, the reader is inclined to accept what’s shown at face value; with comics, it’s always conscious that the view presented is a subjective, constructed one.
Reidsma’s strip, expressly begun to force the artist to improve his skills, is a joy. He’s not as stylistically dazzling as James Kochalka’s American Elf—Reidsma sticks to a basic 2X3 panel layout, and draws in black-and-white instead of full color—but I like Reidsma’s work better. His daily vignettes are beautifully, cleanly drawn, and are sweet without being saccharine. The cute, clear-line style is jazzy and bold—the pacing seems quick as a result, even when the six daily panels actually show an infinitesimal moment. He dares to show pivotal moments in his spats with his wife, his minor foibles and successes, and himself at his angriest and least likable. I’ve been following his stuff for a few months.
So, there on 4 April, I discovered that he’s a truly keen observer of cats, and that my girl isn’t a total oddball after all. I decided to buy the original art right then and there: $10 plus $5 for shipping. I got the art, charmingly and carefully packaged and with a free sticker to boot, a mere four days later. Reidsma’s a very tight penciler—there are only a few stray marks differentiating his penciled art and the final inking—and the page makes for a cozy feel. The newest acquisition to the Quiet Bubble collection will hang in the bathroom, where it’s most appropriate.