Most of my cartoons just come from some intangible place in my head, a black box in the rafters of my mind’s garage, a vault buried deep beneath my soul’s grain silo. But this cartoon is one of those rare ones that is entirely autobiographical.
When I was a child, I had a black and white cat that was accidentally blinded in a lab accident. I had a chemistry set I enjoyed playing with and although I had been warned of mixing chemicals haphazardly, I was an intrepid child and frequently pushed the limits of the physical world. One day, I poured a bottle marked, “Do Not Mix This With Acid” into a bottle marked, “Acid.” I knew as soon as I rotated my wrist that I’d made a terrible mistake.
Before I could even shield my face, the newly mixed fluids exploded like bitter enemies. But just as the searing fluid would have hit me in the face, my cat leapt in front of me and took the scalding blow himself. He lived, but lost both of his eyes.
For years he lived with me, completely blind, and would feel his way around the house and the surrounding yards. Just as sighted cats will often do, he would occasionally climb to the top of a tree and have trouble coming down. I routinely would climb up to rescue him, it seemed the least I could do for a friend who had sacrificed his own eyesight for mine.
One day, when I was around 12, he was trapped at the top of the enormous pecan tree in our front yard as black storm clouds and flashes of lightening tumbled toward us. I just barely heard his plaintiff cries over the growing wind and prepared to climb the tree to save him. As I stepped gingerly from one branch to another, I soothed him with my voice. “I’m coming, Steve. Hang on. It’s okay.”
I was only ten-or-so feet off the ground when my foot became wedged in the crotch of a huge tree branch. Though I struggled with the fury of a Norse god, I could not pull it free. The storm approached, the wind got louder, the lightening closer. I glanced up at my terrified, blind cat, perhaps 65 feet in the air, clinging desperately to a branch as the wispy fingers of the tree swayed violently to and fro. “Hang on, Steve!” I shouted over the now gale-force winds. “Don’t let go!”
I turned my attention once again to my shoe, pinned in the fork of the branch like a debutante against the back seat of a car, when out of the corner of my eye I saw something unbelievable. It was Steve, of course, being lowered gently by a squadron of birds. The look on his face was one of relief, gratitude, and astonishment.
I, too, was relieved and astonished to see him safe on the ground and heading for the house, so much so that I had forgotten that a huge storm was bearing down on me while I was still trapped ten feet off the ground.
Just then, as though the day had not already been amazing enough, along came a millionaire CEO of a crooked financial firm with a saw and a ladder. He immediately began sawing the branch away near my foot, until I was free, then helped me down the ladder. Before I could even thank him, he returned from whence he came without asking for any compensation whatsoever.
In a single day, I saw birds rescue a cat from a tree and a ruthless multi-millionaire perform an altruistic act. I have never seen either since, but having witnessed it once restored my faith in the goodness of this world in a way that lasted well over a week.