1. Maybe the kid looks startled as he is some sort of a Junior Man himself and is alarmed to be informed he will be the future cause of grumpy women.

  2. I know it wasn’t posted as a CIDU, but I am not exactly sure what the situation is supposed to be. “Something like” seems to indicate the text said “men are cause” but the boy figured (correctly) it was probably a voice-recognition error. But if he’s that smart, wouldn’t he know the word “menopause?”

  3. I don’t think the boy’s phone figured in the conversation with Grandma. I think he is just holding it while he talks to Grandpa and the exchange with Grandma happened sometime in the past.

  4. Very interesting, CaroZ! So, on your reading, the “I asked her” in panel 1 means he asked her by text (or something similar), and she replied same route, with the error creeping in by voice recognition error (or autocomplete, whatever) as you also mention.

    That could be! And would explain his scrutiny of his phone in the last panel.

    What I was thinking (and unreflectively) was that “I asked her” meant earlier, in-person and by voice. And that he didn’t hear it clearly and/or she was startled into mumbling/blurting something that he misunderstood.
    And what does that reading say about why he’s staring at his phone at the end? Hmm, I don’t know — maybe he looked up “sounds like men-are-cause” and it somewhat miraculously fetched for him an explanation about menopause?

    But the charming side of this (or pointed, or pointedly charming..) is how fitting “men are cause” could actually be as one correct answer to “what makes women so irritable?”.

  5. TedD, I hadn’t seen your comment while I was writing mine. But (apart from the identities, which I am editing here) I was going originally by a reading entirely in accord with yours:

    I don’t think the boy’s phone figured in the conversation with [Mom]. I think he is just holding it while he talks to [the renter] and the exchange with [Mom] happened sometime in the past.

    For anyone not familiar with the premise of the strip, referencing https://www.gocomics.com/zackhill/about , “Ten-year-old Zack now lives with his widowed mother, who runs a boarding house full of oddballs. A hyperactive kid with an overactive imagination, Zack sometimes causes her to pull her hair out as she tries to make ends meet.”

  6. Yes, M4, I assumed the conversation was over text because the kid was clearly paying attention to his phone. I agree it would make more sense if the conversation had happened earlier in person.

  7. The boy isn’t startled. His expression is the same in panel 1 and 3. He has glasses.

    “I asked her” means “I asked her”. If he meant “I texted her” he would have said “I texted her.

    The boy is only interested in the the phone because he is disinterested in the conversation.

  8. Mitch4 – Thanks for the corrections. Despite the comic saying “Mom”, I missed that in my reading and focused on the older gentleman, a renter, apparently, looking like he was old enough to be the kid’s grandfather. That let me to assume the woman they were discussing is the kid’s grandmother.

    I do appreciate your fixing that me! I am not familiar with this strip at all.

  9. I was anyway going amiss in calling him a “renter” or “roomer” — it’s mentioned as a boarding house, which makes these guys “boarders”, meaning they get meals there. A somewhat old-fashioned concept, though I guess there are some in operation still. I believe Studs Terkel said he grew up in a boardinghouse.

    In the Zack Hill strip, these boarders are pretty frequent characters, and all have names and particular histories. But I don’t remember this elderly gent’s name. He obviously is not the one who is a recluse and stays behind his closed door constantly.

  10. I’m not sure how common they are in real life, but in comics, boarding houses permit the artist to assemble an otherwise random cast under a single roof. Both Doonesbury and Bloom County had their “communes”, and I’m sure there are (or were) others.

  11. Not to mention “Our Boarding House, with Major Hoople.” Moon Mullins and the gang lived in a boarding house too. It was a convenient way for a cartoonist to assemble a diverse ensemble cast. Every town had many of them. I spent a few summers at my grandma’s boarding house. Senators and Congressmen used to live in boarding houses when they were in Washington, D.C. I don’t know where Senators and Congressmen live now when they aren’t in their home states.

  12. @ MiB – At the risk of straying toward the edge of forbidden political territory: the arcane methods that we use to select our leaders has led to a situation in which most of our elected representatives are already independently wealthy when they arrive in Washington, and can afford to rent at least an apartment, if not buy a house of their own.

  13. I think I have seen some news coverage of Representatives not finding suitable housing and living out of their offices until caught.

    A few years ago there was an Amazon-made show (during their first experiments with that role) called Alpha House with a premise about Senators sharing a house. With John Goodman, Clark Johnson, and Matt Molloy performing, and Garry Trudeau credited as creator.

  14. @ Mitch4 – I believe that “Alpha House” was the reason that Trudeau went on semi-permanent sabattical, and never restarted the daily strips, even after the show was cancelled. The Doonesbury reruns are sometimes OK, but they’ve gone through a few very tiresome sequences. I have no idea whether Trudeau is bothering to select the ones that are re-run, or whether some syndicate dweeb is merely rolling dice.

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