Cal Alley wiggled the handle of the nib pen in his teeth like it was a cigarette holder. It helped him think, though that kind of thinking often led to him walking down to the newsroom and bumming a smoke. He really meant to keep his promise to his wife to quit, but what else was he supposed to do to pass the time until inspiration struck?
Flippantly, Cal had once told a reporter that it took him ten hours and twenty minutes to finish a strip. Ten hours to think of the right joke, twenty minutes to draw it. Most days he wished he hadn’t been so exact.
Ok, I need a break, he thought, getting up from a desk to find a smoke.
As he walked down the hall, hands frustratedly stuffed into his cardigan pockets, a lanky twenty-something rockabilly hippie mash-up disaster sauntered past him. His perfectly quaffed pompadour bounced as he walked, love beads jangling atop his parka.
Cal’s mind immediately snapped to. He saw the guy as a chicken, feathers and all, dressed like a hippie, sign in hand, protesting the war.
Suddenly this was a day when it wouldn’t take ten hours.
Cal Alley was a second generation newspaper cartoonist. His father had won a Pulitzer for his creation of the strip Hambone, which his son worked on after graduating from art school. Cal made a name for himself taking over his father’s position as the Commercial Appeal’s editorial cartoonist then creating the strip “The Ryatts” which ran almost thirty years after his sudden death of cancer in 1970.