Inches Nitely and the Lizard’s Id by Tim Rocks
The House the Lizard built: that was how he had described it to Ashley the first time she came over to meet his folks, nine maybe ten years ago — a beautiful white Georgian Colonial there in the suburbs of Boston, like you’d see in some big family movie where Steve Martin plays the dad. The kind where he’s got a professional job in a skyscraper downtown. Only Jonathan’s dad was — a cartoonist. A fun job that, at least back in the old days, paid the bills.
And a whole lot more.
But that was then. These days, “The Lizard’s Id” was just a tired old strip that nobody cared about, on a page full of strips that, if anything, we’re even more forgotten, or never-were.
Jonathan was click-click-clicking away at his workstation, lettering the current batch of strips, while she sat at her own workstation, staring out the window at the quiet suburban neighborhood, same as ever except a bit washed out and overcast. Their young children were playing with some plastic crap — arguing over that red ray-gun again — in the next room over, their chatter mixed with the white noise of the television and its endless cycle of cable news (cord not yet cut, but oft considered.) Upstairs, the dim sucking of the Great One’s life-support machine added a note of pathos to the soundtrack of their lives.
Jonathan spoke this clever pet name without looking at her, just continued click- clicking away. She said nothing, only half-hearing him, still lost in thought staring out the window. For months now she had been increasingly preoccupied, aware that their financial situation was getting worse but not privy to the details. The few times she had pressed him it had ended in stressful arguments and deeper secrecy, so she had backed off. For now, anyway.
“Honey, I wish you’d get that batch colored. We wrap that up, we’ll have some breathing room here for awhile. Maybe go out and enjoy ourselves for a few days, get out of this cave . . .”
Spend more money. Money that was being sucked up by the Great One’s medical bills, plus Jonathan’s new Aston Martin (DB 11, top of the line, in a deep metallic purple that looked almost black), and credit cards he loaded with the sort of luxuries he had never learned to do without.
“You should really learn to do this lettering too,” he was saying, “give me more time to brainstorm and actually write the damn thing. I hate to buy so much from Oscar. Dad used to write them all.”
Oscar. Jonathan’s younger brother, who inherited most of the old man’s talent, possibly the whole kit and caboodle, but wasn’t responsible enough to inherit the cash cow itself. So the old man groomed Jonathan, trying to keep the precious bit of real estate in the family. Oscar, probably drinking rum on some faraway beach, sending in a batch of ideas whenever he hit bottom. He could write a month’s worth in a day or two, then go back to boozing and womanizing—
“Jonathan!” she said, almost standing up from her seat. Reverie broken. He started to ask her what on earth was the matter, but then he saw it too: a ratty old white Camaro pulling up to the curb across the deep lawn, and two men getting out, guys whose fashion sense was more sleazoid than suburbanite. Facial hair affecting a gross 70s retro vibe on one of them. The other lean and wiry, with a smooth way of moving that suggested he could handle guys twice his size without breaking a sweat.
“Take the kids and get upstairs,” Jonathan said, his own face evidently not so immune to perspiration.
“Why, what is it–? Are these–?”
“Do it! Now!”
He saw her start to panic and hugged her, his voice changing to a whisper, saying “I’ll take care of it, okay? It’s fine, I promise, just need you to get the kids upstairs, alright?”