www.common-place.org · vol. 2 · no. 2 · January 2002
"'For the love of God, Padlin, all your damned people look the same! They always look the same!'"
The Hungry Eye, Episode 1
Padlin enjoyed drawing animals--largely because they did not require the particularity of the human visage. If two pigs looked alike his editor wasn't going to complain about it. And Quidroon complained plenty about Padlin's people.
"What we seem to have here," Quidroon would say at the start of a typical critique, Padlin having laid a sketch before him, "is a medical phenomenon."
Padlin, of course, would admit nothing.
Quidroon would then embark on a more intense survey, his head moving over the drawing in a manner that reminded Padlin of a rodent exploring the possibilities scattered over a kitchen floor. "Quite a spectacle," Quidroon would murmur. "Astounding. Astonishing."
Padlin would remain mute, although his eyes (strategically obscured in the gloom cast by the brim of his perpetually donned hat) trembled violently in their sockets.
"How shall we caption this sketch, Mr. Padlin?" Quidroon would finally ask as his head ceased its meandering scan. "Would 'The Grand Mili-tuplet Convention' be an appropriate title?"
Padlin had no penchant for neologisms, not that he would give Quidroon the satisfaction of saying he failed to get the joke. The editor's meaning was clear enough. So Padlin stood there, his rage beginning its inevitable descent toward resignation as this ritual lurched toward its familiar outcome.
Meanwhile, his stab at malicious, if arcane, wit having been blunted against Padlin's obtuse silence, Quidroon would then expend a number of sighs while patting the top of his head. The effect, from Padlin's vantage point, was not unlike watching someone trying to stamp out a spreading brush fire--although there was little enough to burn on Quidroon's bald pate. The conflagration, however, was gathering force within that naked and reddening skull. Sometimes Quidroon would patter and sigh for seconds, sometimes for minutes. Eventually, the flames burst forth:
"Are you following my drift, Mr. Padlin?" Quidroon would suddenly shout. "Do you understand what I'm saying?"
Quidroon would finally glance up at the Special Artist's somber face. "For the love of God, Padlin, all your damned people look the same! They always look the same!"
And with that, Quidroon would summon, in a stentorian voice, Little Waddley. As his diminutive colleague made his entrance (having stood ready in the wings, awaiting his superior's call), Padlin would turn away, never sure of his ability to withstand the sight of his sketch kidnapped once again. Outwardly, Padlin continued to exhibit his indiscriminate scowl, maintaining the expression into which his face had configured as soon as he'd entered the newspaper's offices. But, as he walked away to the discordant music of Quidroon and Waddley's conspiratorial prattle, Padlin burrowed into the nether reaches of his mind, his vision blurred in a viscous cloud of shame and helplessness.
Copyright © 2002 Common-place The Interactive Journal of Early American Life, Inc., all rights reserved