Day 3: You & A Bike & A Road

You & A Bike & A Road by Eleanor Davis

I watched the MICE panel on Graphic Memoirs, and it reminded me of one of my favorite works of the form. It tells the story of Davis biking from her parents’ home in Tucson, Arizona, to her own home in Athens, GA. Most of the comics were written during the trip and posted on twitter. I think a few pages were made to make it a cohesive work as a book (my guess is some of the maps as she crosses states borders). But mostly, it chronicles what happened during the day, the stand out moments, or her thoughts.

One of Davis’ frequent themes is the power of stories. How our own stories can make us strong, or how stories about other people can shape them. And that theme is at play in You & A Bike & a Road. On the first page, it shows how Marshstation road looks on a map, a simple line on the page, and then follows up the next page with how it looks to bike on it, the road dipping before her, cacti and other plants crowding the sides. The map makes it seem easy (on Day 6, her parents drive out to meet her covering the distance in a few hours) but biking changes her relationship with the distance, with the trip itself. And these themes pop up throughout the book. When people ask if she’s travelling alone, she lies and says she’s with her husband, because when they fear for her, that infects her. Their version of her story can overwrite her own. And as an outsider, doing something unique, when she meets people, they feel free to tell their stories.

Davis’ style always feels a little loose and that’s particularly true here as she was drawing on the go, but there are also pages crammed full of detail, like a day spent in Austin, where we can feel how overwhelmed she was to once again be in the city. But mostly she catches detail. Bits of scenery, postures and expressions.  

The book at Koyama Press:

Day 2: John, Dear

John, Dear by Laura Lannes

Unnamed protagonist is in love with John. He is her anchor, her tether to this world. Her mother has just died. When she declares her love for him aloud, he tells her he loves her too, and that she’s still beautiful despite her skin condition. What skin condition? she was unaware of any condition. She sneaks out to the bathroom to find holes in her.

The art is entirely done in black and white tones, often gray on black pages that require the reader to pause to fully absorb the images. We’re in horror movie territory where we rarely get an unobstructed view of the monster.

John is supportive and awful. “In a way, this makes you more special to me. I’m the only one who see you for who you are under that.” He offers to marry her so he can put her on his insurance. His undercuts every kindness presented with a comment that controls or belittles her. He moves in and has her quit her job. All the while, the woman is losing more of herself. The disease is literally removing pieces of her, while her identity is lost with only John as a connection to the outside, and she sees less and less of him, waking only when he’s asleep, and maybe he’s not coming home at all anymore?

Lannes site with a few excerpted pages:

Month of MICE Day 1: Anne By the Bed

This year marks the 11th year of the Massachusetts Independent Comic Expo (MICE). Given the current circumstances, all programming has been moved online this year, and instead of having it all in the span of a single weekend, panels and workshops will be occurring every Saturday and Sunday in October, dubbing it “A Month of MICE.” Details at

I’ve been attending MICE since 2013, and volunteering since 2016. It’s my favorite event of the year, and I’m going to miss getting to see everyone. So, in honor of A Month of MICE, I’m going to try and post about a comic a day.

Frontier #6 Anne By the Bed by Emily Carroll

Emily Carroll was a special guest at MICE in 2014. Since the festival overlapped with Yom Kippur that year, I missed Saturday, and by the time I showed up on Sunday, Emily had sold out of all the copies of “Through the Woods” she brought. And all the copies supplied by the local comic shop Million Year Picnic. And all the copies that could be obtained from local comic shops and bookstores in the area. So, she was sitting at her empty table kind of bored when I got there. Luckily, I already had a copy for her to sign, and she also drew a small sketch for me, my first piece of original art by a comic artist. Her work is horror, tales of dread.

Anne By the Bed is done in a sort of documentary style. It tells about the murder of Anne Herron, whose death becomes the inspiration of a Bloody Mary-esque party game. The comic alternates between telling the story of the Herron’s and interviews with people who claim to have had experiences while playing the game, and self-proclaimed experts. History flowing into urban legend until ultimately, the story is made into a movie with Anne cast as the villain.

The form gives her a chance to play. Historical parts are drawn in black and white, while contemporary accounts in color. On one page, the Herron family is introduced through photographs, and on the following, when describing their deaths, the same photos are defaced. Throughout, faces are obscured, heightening the sense that we cannot see the full story.

Purchase online:

Carroll’s website:

Day 30: Little Apocalypses

It’s usually in the evening when I start to miss Leslie. During the day, I’m too busy. The flood tour is radically different from the volcanoes. I still caution people to keep their arms in the boat, but it’s less urgent. There have been suggestions that the water has strange properties, but we’ve all been splashed a little bit. Hell, we sell sealed bottles of the stuff, and I’ve seen the interns whose jobs it is to bottle it. They seem mostly fine. Prone to staring into the water, but maybe they were always dreamy. More importantly, I have to remind our guests to not approach the mermaids. They are the main attraction. You can see them sunning themselves on the lower buildings, if we’re lucky, one will leap out of the water. Sometimes, they bump against the boat’s hull. They don’t mind posing for photographs, but like legged women, don’t care for strangers attempting to touch them. I give three tours a day, and there are two other guides as well. Three people work the shop as well, and they prefer if the guides don’t interfere.

I guess, I’m saying is they’re all pretty cliquey. But I guess Leslie and I would have seemed pretty cliquey too. The only one who really talks to me is my driver. He drives me back to my neighborhood at night, and we chat a bit. I’ve invited him to get a drink, but he has a family.

I’m renting a room in a commercial area. A place where the buildings are close enough together, and they’ve set up bridges between them. Former balconies and widow’s walks are now front entrances. There’s a bar set up in one house, and that’s where I end up most evenings. A limited food menu that mostly consists of macaroni and cheese enhanced with whatever meat or vegetables they can get that day. The bar has become a haven for other disaster contractors.

I sit down next to a woman who has billed herself as the preeminent disaster mathematician. I have no idea what that means, but she says it’s important to sometimes be on scene to get a true understand.

“Numbers are great, I love numbers, I’d fucking fuck numbers if I could. But sometimes, you need to remember that numbers aren’t all there is.”

Marisol, on the other side of me, rolls her eyes. She’s here updating the survival guide for an electronic handbook.

“I work for a hotline. We help people, yes, people, not numbers, in need.”

She’s only recently been promoted, and this is her first assignment. I like Marisol, but she’s pretty disdainful of my job, even more of the sort of people who my company caters to.

“These places are already fragile, and in comes the morons, walking over anything, using up the already limited resources.”

“It brings in money, and that’s not a bad thing,” the mathematician says. She puts her hand on mine. “You have nothing to be ashamed of.”

“And how much of that money stays in this community? It just gets sent back to their corporate headquarters, surprisingly located far from any of the disasters they profit from.”

They’ve been having a variation on this argument for three nights. That’s when I miss Leslie the most.

Behind us, there’s a table of aid workers. I’ve seen them here in the mornings, matching uniforms, all smiles and cheers (they literally do a cheer before they head out), but at night, they wear cocktail dresses and play drinking games. They kind of intimidate me, and I’ve almost never seen any of them separate from the group. Just one night, when one of them sat alone at the bar for a few minutes to write a postcard. For a moment, it looked as though she was going to tear it up. But then she handed it to the bartender, asked him to put it with the rest of the outgoing mail. She shook her head, and rejoined the others, a party girl again.

When I’ve had my fill of macaroni and beer and arguing, I head for home. It’s just two bridges away, and I’ve already learned to navigate it while being a teensy bit drunk. There’s a man outside, and he’s talking to the water.

“I miss you, Maggie. I know we can work it out. Just come back inside. You can keep the tail. I love the tail, it’s beautiful. But I miss you.”

Then I realize, there’s somebody in the water. The woman glances at me and frowns, Then, she does a sort of twist, dives into the water and swims away, faster than a person could swim.

“Was that?”

“Yeah, she’s a mermaid. For a while, she stayed near our building. We’d lived together. But, she’s roaming farther and farther away. I don’t think I’m going to see her again.”

“Come on, I’ll buy you a drink.”

“I think I want to be alone.”

“Bullshit, I’ll buy you a drink.”

We return to the bar.

I remembered something Leslie said, “Every disaster is somebody’s little apocalypse. You might hear about a tornado hitting a small town, or miner’s trapped in a mine, and it doesn’t seem like that big a deal, not when there are wildfires and tsunamis killing thousands of people, but when you lose your home, your livelihood, it’s still an apocalypse. If all you really have is a single friend, saying goodbye to that friend feels like the end of the world.”

Day 28: The Door

I was always too afraid to open the door in the basement. It was in the furthest corner, and it didn’t make any sense. There was no more house in that direction for it to be under. From a distance, it looked like a heavy ornate door, like the door in a cartoon dungeon, with heavy iron bands across it. When I was older, I looked at it closer, and noticed that it was painted that way, that it was in fact an ordinary door. I still didn’t open it. The room behind it would obviously be filled with dust, and I was worried about bugs or rats. Not that I feared them, but there’s a difference between encountering a bug, and walking into what’s probably a room full of them.

I know, I seem timid. Maybe, I am. People say “No risk, no reward.” But I’ve known a lot of people who’ve taken risks without reward, and a few who claim they’re taking a risk, when really they’re just investing somebody else’s money, and surprise, they succeed. Yes, this is all justification, but also, maybe avoid people who say, “No risk, no reward,” they don’t have your best interest in mind.

I’ve been thinking about the door lately. I’ve been thinking about what it would be like to be the sort of person who opened the door. It’s not hard to imagine. Door openers fill our fiction. Nancy Drew would open the door. So would Harry Potter. Almost every hero would. They make the choice to look for trouble in a world that is already more or less safe. Yeah, there is darkness, there are shadows, but the creatures who live in them, only lash out when you disturb them. Otherwise, they’re content to nibble around the edges. They take from you, but they leave you alive so they can take from you again. Maybe, I’m tired of being nibbled on.

“Mom, what was behind the door in the basement? In the old house,” I asked when I called her.

She’s distracted. She’s cooking dinner. I always picture her cooking dinner when I talk to her. I can’t imagine her picking up the phone in any other room. Honestly, I don’t even picture her in her current kitchen, but the one from the old house, that’s where she always took calls. Like there was no way for her to simply focus on the person calling.

“There was the door to the basement.”

“No, the other door, in the far corner.”

“There wasn’t a door.”

“There was. I remember you telling me to not open the door. It’s one of my first memories.”

“You were always making things up as a kid. Can’t you let things go? I don’t think you ever realized just how happy your childhood actually was. But there’s always some accusation isn’t there? Now, I didn’t let you go through a door? Why can’t you be happy?”

I wonder that myself.

“I’m sorry, Mom. You know I love you. But yeah, I should get going. I’ll call you next week, okay?”

“Okay, dear. I’ll speak to you soon.”

I don’t blame her. I just wonder about the door. Maybe, if I’d gone through it, I would be happy. Maybe, letting the shadows nibble on you is no way to live.

I sleep with the light on. I dream about the door.

Day 27: Unified Theory

My singular achievement as a lab assistant is my ability to brew the perfect pot of coffee. It seems even stupider when you realize that my last job before this was as a barista. I have a good head for math too, but that’s usually just to check over Dr. Farber’s equations which are invariably correct anyway. But on nights like tonight, it’s my coffee making skills that make me indispensable.

So, I’m sitting in the faculty room, waiting for the coffee to brew. In the early days, I thought I’d go back to Farber’s office while waiting, but she was so perplexed that I was back without the coffee.

“I wasn’t away long enough for it to be ready yet,” I said. And that’s when I realized she had no sense of how long I had been gone. It was freeing to know that I can take my time but it’s not like there’s a lot for me to do.

I send a text message to my roommate, Lucy.

“I’m going to be here late. Doc just had me brew another pot.”

“OK. Why are you telling me this?”

Lucy and I have been spending more time together lately. I mean, we were friendly when we moved in together. Both of us working at the same café. But for a while, we were just two people who inhabited the same space. Then, we started eating together. Then movies. Sometimes a board game. I guess, I hoped she missed me when I wasn’t there. Not like a longing in her heart, but maybe just a wondering when I’d get home.

The coffee is ready. I add a dash of cream to mine, a bit more to Farber’s, then carefully carry them back to her office. I was told she got a new office around the same time she got approval to hire me. Her star is on the rise, so to speak.

She billed her research as “A Unified Theory of the End of the World” and it is her time.

“It’s sensationalist nonsense,” she told me once I’d signed the NDA, “I mean the research is real. But obviously, the world isn’t going to end, even if humanity does. And everybody digs a unified theory. Who wants to read two theories, when there’s somebody willing to simplify it down to one? And if somebody is going to only read one theory, well, let’s make sure it’s mine, ok?”

She smiles when I enter her office as if she had no memory of sending me to make coffee.

“It’s like you read my mind. Did you get the numbers from the hotline?”

“They refuse to give us anything over official channels, but I’ve been talking to Prisha at one of the call centers, and she thinks she can get them to me.”

“I can’t really publish with anything but the official numbers. I’ll have somebody in the Chancellor’s office see if they can get them, but it will take time. So, if your contact can get us something, I’d still like to take a look. Nice work, Gregor.”

“It’s just Greg.”

“Salesmanship, Gregor, salesmanship. You can be a Greg in your heart, but being a Gregor gets you the bigger office. I’ve done the math, and two or three syllable names get you ahead. Unless you’re running for office, then keep it short. And obviously, by four or five syllables, things fall. Oh god, this coffee is good.”

“So, do you really think they’re all connected, these umm, little apocalypses?”

“Yes, I mean probably. Sometimes, I have this crazy idea. Like what if they’re all man-made? I don’t mean like global warming man-made, but like, what if our collective unhappiness is causing it? I mean, there are fewer strange incidents in Scandinavia and those are the happiest countries in the world.”

“So, if I want to save the earth…”

“You should be happy.”

We both sip our coffees for a moment.

“I think I’m going to head home,” I say.

“Have a good night, Gregor.”

Lucy is on the couch when I get home. The T.V. is on, but she’s also looking at something on her phone. She looks up when I enter the apartment, and she smiles.

“Have you had dinner?” I ask.

She shakes her head.

I sit down on the couch next to her, and she shifts so that she’s leaning up against me.

“I’ll make us something after I sit for a few minutes.”

“I wasn’t waiting for you,” she says.

“I know.”

“But I’m glad you’re home.”

Day 26: Wish You Were Here

The pictures on Pilar’s postcards were always of some sight or building that no longer existed. It had begun a while back when on a trip to New York, she sent me one with a picture of the Worlds Trade Center. She said she found it in a bodega nowhere near the tourist areas, apparently where they sold so few postcards that nobody had gotten rid of these artifacts.

“Huh, was that really in the display?” the clerk had asked, “We should probably do something about that.” Then he turned his attention back to a foreign language soap opera.

Since then, when she travels, Pilar always sends me a postcard. Since her work sends her to places in recovery after disasters, it’s easy for her to get the latest. A hotel before it was flattened by an earthquake, a city street of bustling businesses before it flooded, an expanse of desert before a gated community was built.

It’s a joke that was never really funny, but has gone on too long to stop. On the back, is always a quick message, an explanation of where she is and what she’s working on, and the phrase, “Wish you were here.” I think a lot about that. Does she wish I could see this place in its full splendor, or with her in the moment, experiencing this post-destruction world? Or did she mean it as the throwaway line that it’s always meant, not quite an “I miss you.”

I haven’t seen Pilar in years. She travels so much that when she’s home, she doesn’t want to take train ride out of the city to visit us. Whenever we make plans for me to come visit her, another assignment comes up, and she’s off again. We tried writing e-mails, but realized we’re not e-mail friends. Neither of us likes Facebook, and she doesn’t use Twitter. She posts pictures on Instagram, oftentimes it’s the same places as the postcards I receive, though in its current state. Some of the people she works with, serious faced in matching polos and khakis. Then night shots, of these same people in club dresses, shots in hand. Sometimes, I favorite, but I never comment.

So, I don’t expect her call. It’s the middle of the night for me, who knows what it is for her. I’m not even sure where she is. But her voice is slurred.

“Did I wake you?”

“Umm, yeah, but it’s okay. What’s going on?”

“I’m sorry.”

“No, seriously, it’s nice to hear your voice. Don’t worry about it.”

“No, not for waking you up, well, also for waking you up. I meant for being a shit friend. For always cancelling our plans. For sending that fucking postcard.”

“You’re busy, I get that. Which postcard?”

“Of course, it’s not there yet. Please, ignore it. I’m going to visit you when I get back. I promise. No excuses.”

It comes two days later. It’s a picture of me and Pilar, our arms around each other, laughing about who knows what, we look impossibly young. From anybody else, it would seem sweet. On the back just the words, “Wish you were here.”

Day 25: Chosen One

Jack is the chosen one. Of course, Jack is the chosen one. His name is fucking Jack. I mean, he was the nicest guy in school. Good athlete, not the best. He didn’t kick the most goals, but if you reviewed the plays, he was almost always had passed the ball to the one who scored. His grades were always good too. We were friends for a while. More when we were younger. Even in high school, he wanted to look out for me, I just didn’t want to be looked out for.

So, now he’s the chosen one. I don’t know what that means. There’s a prophecy, and he’s going to save the world, I guess.

“Wait, so you knew that guy? Like for real?” Gail is lying on the couch, head in my lap. She’s looking at her phone, occasionally showing me a picture while she thumbs through trending topics.

“Would I make that up?”

“You’d make a lot of shit up. But yeah, probably not that. This guy looks like an absolute tool. And what the fuck does saving the world even mean? It’s like one catastrophe is averted and there’s a new one the next day. Is he going to stop global warming? Can he cure a pandemic? But sure, let’s pick the most Aryan looking motherfucker to be the chosen one.”

“Gail, you’re very cynical,” I bend over to kiss her.

“Maybe if you’d stayed friends, you could have been his sidekick.”

“Stop looking at your phone. I’m going to get up,” I make the slightest effort to stand.

“No, I want to lie here forever, and you’re so comfortable. It’s why you’d make such a good sidekick. Captain Chosen would come home after a long day’s work of punching volcanos, and he’d be able to rest his head on your lap, and all his cares would disappear.”

“You’re going to make yourself jealous, talking like that. He never rested his head on my lap.”

She sits up. “But you two kissed, right? He’s the guy you told me about.”

“Yeah. But we were kids.”

“I’m not jealous. I’m just thinking that I got the guy that slipped through the Chosen One’s fingers. Shit, he should be jealous. Come on, bedroom, now.”

Things get weird over the next couple of days. Unusual lights in the sky. The president gives a strange address about the end of days which ends with him foaming at the mouth. There are a lot of car crashes, and something makes the birds confused. I stay home from work, and while Gail has already been working from home, she logs fewer hours.

I’m in the kitchen, cooking dinner. Chicken parmigiana. I’m aware of Gail entering the room, but she doesn’t say anything until I put the pan into the oven.

“It’s over,” she whispers.


“Your friend, Jack, he succeeded. He’s averted the end of the days, but he…he died in the process.”

My first thought is, “Of course he did. That’s so like him. Not just to save everybody, but to die doing it.”

“There’s a candlelight vigil,” she says, “We should go.”

“What happened to the world still needing saving tomorrow?”

“We go tonight, and then we fix the world tomorrow,” she hugs me. We stay like that, embracing, until the chicken is ready to come out of the oven.

Day 24: Apple

I’ve been eating apples. Macintosh, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Gala, Honeycrisp. I know the chance of finding the right apple is near impossible. I’m already making a lot of assumptions. That stories are true, that the apple must currently exist. Maybe it was in last years crop? But I believe that the apple must be eternal, that it cycles through each year, growing, being picked, longing to be eaten, often just rotting, or mashed into apple sauce, diluted among the normal apples. But that’s the point. My search for the apple is an act of faith.

Science tell us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Stories tell us that for every poison there is an antidote. You might have read that the cure for a poison apple is a kiss, but that’s not entirely accurate. The apple wasn’t the poison, it was the act of hate, thus the kiss to reverse it. But an actual poison apple, one filled with the Knowledge of Good and Evil, for example, can only be reverse by another apple.

“Still with the apple slices,” Hannah says at she sits down next to me at our table. Maya is with her. They both got the hot lunch today, tacos.

“I like apples. They keep the doctor away.”

Maya giggles, “You are so dumb. Can’t believe you’re skipping tacos.”

The tacos aren’t that great actually, but the guacamole is excellent. Part of me worries, what if the actual cure is an avocado? I know I shouldn’t worry. I shouldn’t ask questions. That’s not faith. Faith is eating apples. Knowing the next apple will be the one, and if it’s not then the one after that.

“Did you skip English again? I mean, I know senior slump, but Mr. Sands can still give you detention.”

“He won’t. My grades are good enough.”

I wouldn’t go even if he tried. I don’t want to be in the same room with him. There’s no way I’d be alone with him. He wouldn’t push it either.

“Well, you are coming to D&D tonight, right?”

Hannah’s parents are pretty protective of her, so she doesn’t get to go out much. But they’ve allowed Friday night Dungeons and Dragons at their house. I skipped last week, so I should go tonight. I just need to act normal for a little while longer. I’ll find the apple soon. I’ll forget about what I’ve learned about good and evil.

“Yeah. I just need to stop at the supermarket in the afternoon.”

“To pick up more apples?” Maya asks.


“You’re so weird.”

I shrug. “I guess.”

“But we love you,” Maya hugs me. It’s weird. But it’s an ok weird.