-1Thank you everyone for your kind reviews – they really do mean a lot.
Special thanks to my friend Dane for letting me bounce ideas off him and to DancesWithCorpses for offering to be my beta and having to read my wretched spelling.
Chapter 2: - Memories and a Big Mouth -
Two hours later, both of them were asleep. Finally, some well deserved quiet time.
Yakko stood up, balancing Dot on his left hip, and made his way to his parents' room, leaving Wakko on the couch, curled up on the middle cushion.
As Dot slept and drooled on his shirt, he turned on the light and looked at the room. Still filthy. With a sigh, he placed her in the crib. She didn't move – hopefully she would sleep through most of the night before waking him up.
Leaving the door open, he went back to the living room to get Wakko, making sure to bring the stuffed bunny with him. Wakko would wake up screaming if it was not beside him. Carrying him to their bed, Yakko looked at the time – 9:06 P.M. He was tired, and debated on going to bed himself, but thought about his books. Then he remembered the book his father gave him.
A bit curious about his history, and what his father was raving about earlier, he thought back to the conversation.
"Kokko! Dammit boy – you read all those damn books, and don't know about him?"
With a shrug, he decided to go back to the living room and open the book. Who knows, maybe he might find something interesting. If not, he could always return to one of his other books.
Feeling a little guilty, he tucked Wakko in. He had meant to read to him tonight instead of letting him fry his little brain cells with another movie. Promising himself that he would definitely read him one of the books he picked out tomorrow, he left the room, keeping the door open in case he woke up and called out for him.
Wincing, he heard the Olsons, the couple upstairs, fighting. He looked at the clock; it was about the right time of night. Out in the hallway, Yakko heard the husband spit a couple of extremely nasty words to his wife, and begin to stomp down the staircase. Yakko quickly ran to the living room to double check that the door was locked. He heard Mr. Olson stomp past the fourth floor, then continue down to the street, while his wife hung out the window upstairs and yelled obscenities at him.
Back on the couch, he reached onto the floor and pulled out the book. Running his gloved hands over the decaying cover and frayed spine, he could barely make out the words "memory book" under the dirt, stamped in what had probably been gold at one time.
Well, someone, somewhere, further back in the Warner line, had cared to make the book, he might as well find out what was inside it.
Opening the front cover and hoping it would not fall apart in his hand, he saw an article on the first page – dated from 1927 – about some animator, Hugh Harman, working on the Alice Comedies at Walt Disney Studios. Some nonsense about humans and animations and "talkie" pictures – he started to scan it quickly.
Growing bored with the dull article, Yakko carefully turned the page, wincing slightly at the snapping sound the brittle page made. The next piece of paper was a drawing of a remarkably ugly 'toon, with the word Bosko under it.
What was a Bosko? It sounded like a drink.
Looking at the drawing again, he surmised this was what the animator thought of if he ever considered the possibly of a human dallying with a troll – this would be the end result. Next to it was a receipt from a patent office, dated 3 January, 1928, registering the "Bosko" as belonging to Hugh Harman.
Good for him, he thought.
On the other side of the book was another drawing, a bit taller and thinner, but still looking almost like the first ugly toon, with the words "Kokko – brother 1923" on it.
Yakko looked at for a few seconds – here was the illusive Kokko.
Figures, we are related to that, he thought. Well, at least they didn't totally resemble him.
Another article, from the New Yorker with the headline "AMAZING – DRAWINGS COME TO LIFE! – Another toon has life breathed into it by able animator!"
Underneath was a grainy picture of Kokko, dancing on a stage of some sort.
Yakko scanned the articles – he didn't totally understand how the humans had made the first toons, nor did he understand why some toons could be born, but others drawn. But, seeing no explanation in the article, which basically said "He walks! He talks! He sings!" he moved on.
The next thing was a contract between Bosko and Termite Terrace – calling for a total of 39 cartoons. A few faded photographs of Kokko on more stages, a few more articles about some other so called "ink blot" creations coming to life.
Yakko was hurting his eyes, squinting to make out the details. Sure these people bore some resemblance to his family – in that they all were bipedal and had three fingers. Other than that, he didn't see much to be excited about.
A short blurb in a variety paper about Termite Terrace being in touch with Kokko and Bosko about producing films for them. In their excitement, the cartoon duo adopted the surname "Warner".
Rapidly growing bored with the history lesson, Yakko was about to put the thing down and go on to one of his infinitely more interesting library books when he spotted another article on the following page, larger than the first.
FIRST TOON MARRIAGE! Screamed the headline – it looked like it was dated 1927, but it was hard to tell with the type being so faded. Underneath was a picture of Kokko, still ugly, holding hands with what was a rather attractive toon dog. Her name was Fanny Flapper, and she had been a former toon designed at but not used by Fleischer Studios.
Yakko looked at them – grandparents perhaps?
Curiosity aroused, he continued on.
Article about Termite Terrace choosing to go with Bosko as their new star – "rare singing and dancing ability" it stated. A smaller article about Kokko being turned down by Termite Terrace, then Disney, then Fleischer Studios...Another piece about Kokko being arrested by the police for assaulting several 'toons and humans outside Termite Terrace. The humans had been unable to stop him, and finally had to call in other toons to help – in all it took six toons to restrain him in what the reporter called "a drunken rampage". He was raving about his good for nothing brother stealing the fame for himself, while he died a slow death on a vaudeville circuit. After all he – Kokko – was the talented one, while Bosko was nothing but a pretty face.
What a nut. Well, now Yakko knew where his father got it from – it was all genes. Mom apparently just joined along for the ride.
Next page – pictures of Kokko dancing on stage to large audiences, Fanny alongside him.
A few small articles about other 'toons getting married – a rather large one about the first toon birth – Sicko Warner. Yakko stopped to look at the picture – the baby looked a lot more recognizable to his family line – longer and thinner than Kokko – face paler – dark eyes - long ears.
Articles about Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Mickey Mouse, all hitting the big time.
Looking at the picture for a few seconds, he continued on. A few more birth announcements for toons being born – a few more marriages. There was a large article, with the headline of "Walt Flips His Wig - Disney to make full length movie staring nothing but toons!" Labeled "Disney's Folly", it featured interviews with some of the dozen's of toons that were trying out for the different roles in the feature. Standing in line to try out was Kokko Warner.
Other articles – toons running rampant in Hollywood. A proposed amendment to section off a section of California, outside Los Angeles, hence forth to be known as "ToonTown". One of these signing the amendment was Kokko Warner.
The animated characters could live there, decide their own laws, make their own rules, and be as free as they like, without bothering the humans who were being put in constant danger with free falling pianos and anvils. Humans tended to find these antics funny only on the big screen.
In this photograph, Kokko Warner was front and center, apparently one of the first to become a resident of ToonTown. Standing with other newly elected officials, he was shaking hands with the then current mayor of Los Angeles.
Toons with any sort of criminal history were already being detained in special places, watched over by other toons – the toon prison - Panic Penitentiary. He scanned the article - Tyrantas Beagle, a toon that was so straight he could almost be a human, had been voted by the other toons as the prison's first warden, and promptly locked up most of his relatives for various crimes, including robbery, assaults on toons and humans, public drunkenness, and simple wanton destruction.
For those toons with a taste of the illegal and the ability to harness any sort of "toon talent", special cuffs were being designed to keep them in Panic Penitentiary for their scheduled time. Utilizing acetone and a watered-down version of white-out, these "toon-proof cuffs" hindered their ability to flush themselves down toilets, slip under doors, pull mallets, utilize their "HammerSpace" or anything else they could think of to attempt to escape Panic Penitentiary.
A few articles about the ongoing "toon wars". Mostly the more talented toons warring with their less gifted counterparts. Frequently, it consisted of just mischief making – Mickey Mouse, one of animations biggest stars, apparently upset Yosemite Sam with his arrogant Disney attitude enough that Yosemite Sam chased him up Ward Kimball Avenue, a major thoroughfare in the beginnings of ToonTown, shooting at his feet. Bugs Bunny stopped the whole fiasco by slamming Mickey in the face with a pie as he ran screaming into Mel's Supper Club, a hangout for the toons that worked at Termite Terrace.
The reporter noted it was Banana Crème.
A clipping from the first ToonTown newspaper – The Animator – stating that henceforth, all parents were responsible for the teaching of their offspring. It had been decided that no schools would be available for toon kids, as the difference in each family of toons was so vast, it would be impossible for the growing town to handle the large schooling needs of the community. According to the article, tutors were becoming very popular in the growing toon community. Yakko's eyes widened when he saw that Kokko Warner was among the advertised tutors.
A photo fell out, along with a small article about the first toon baby finally getting married - Sicko Warner and Drolla Geef. Drolla was a fairly pretty 'toon, with large dark eyes, long black hair in ringlets, a smooth thick tail, and a big grin on her snout. Sicko, while much better looking than his father, looked ill - the photographer had captured them at a bad time, and he was hunched over in what appeared to be a coughing fit.
Next, a death certificate for Kokko Warner – drank himself to death. Another death certificate, this time for Sicko Warner, who apparently was as good as his name – he died at a young age. According to the death certificate, he was suffering from lugubriosity. Yakko went to his bedroom quietly and grabbed the dictionary - lugubriosity - depression.
A birth certificate – dated 1961 – ToonTown – The baby's name was Slacko De-Beck Warner.
Yakko picked up the certificate, stained and crumbled. Like a lot of the articles and papers and documents in the book, it was not secured to a page, just haphazardly thrown in between pages. Nothing was in order. Rather like the Warner's lives it seemed.
Venturing on, a death certificate for Fanny - unlike some toons she was not quite as "sturdy" in the fine art of surviving a car accident.
Hospital records for a visit to ToonTown Hospital, Vet, and Morgue for Slacko - must have been when mom's family beat him senseless, he guessed. From the size of the bill, they must have really done a number on him.
Bail receipts from Dwepty Dogg's Bail Bonds; newspaper clipping of dad trying out for a Merrie Melodies short. Another article, from a human paper this time, of many toons, his father included, talking about growing up as one of the second generation of toons in ToonTown. Reading the article, he noticed his father did not seem quite as angry as he seemed now, but apparently still had a large chip on his shoulder – he was quoted as say they would be "fools to turn down his level of talent".
Marriage certificate for Ophelia Pete and Slacko Warner, dated February 4, 1980 - mom's handwriting a beautiful cursive, dad's a messy scrawl. Which could not be blamed on the beating - his father still had a messy scrawl, the few times he had ever seen his father hold any sort of writing instrument.
A death certificate for Drolla Geef - died of asphyxiation, apparently while eating popcorn and viewing one of her uncles' movies.
A few blank pages. He stopped at the back of the book and pulled out another document - his birth certificate. He looked over the record – everything in ToonTown was color coded, so his certificate was blue – with his name in bold print across the top – Yakko Elias Warner, August 7, 1980. At the bottom were his parents' signatures.
He dug thru some old receipts, including the receipt from where his parents put down the deposit on their lovely living accommodations, and found two more certificates – one blue and one pink.
Wakko Freleng Warner - December 3, 1984 and Dorothy Desdemona Warner - November 6, 1987.
Having always wondered where they were, Yakko felt a bit of relief. He yawned – he didn't realize he was so tired.
He looked around for a clock, and then remembered that there was not one in the living room any longer. Wakko had accidentally broken it while playing a couple of weeks ago, trying to make his bunny fly. His father had been furious about it, and Yakko had quickly taken the blame and sent the terrified Wakko to his bedroom while his father had ranted and raved about the lost family heirloom. When Yakko pointed out that not only was it a very cheap clock, it had also been in a bad place, especially with small children in the house, his father had almost knocked him senseless.
Luckily Mom had been up, not sober, but up, and had come to his defense, dragging him back to his bedroom, screaming at his father about the hell he put them all through. She had given Wakko a wet rag to clean up Yakko's wound while she stormed back into the living room to scream at her husband. Yakko had finally taken the rag from Wakko and just put it on his head; he was trying, but at his age, Wakko didn't exactly have a gentle touch. But, all in all, it had been an ugly argument.
He really needed to learn to keep his mouth closed sometimes.
Shaking his head at the memory, he carefully laid the certificates back in between two pages and closed the memory book, resolving to go through the rest of the documents at a later time. He never thought about it until now, but his family's past went back prior to the beginnings of ToonTown, and while some of the articles were interesting, they didn't really apply to the Warner line...
To tired to be overly curious about it, he walked back to his bedroom. Wakko was still asleep - making small yipping sounds and pawing at the blanket.
Yakko gave a bit of a smile at him as he gently placed the book in the top dresser drawer, out of reach of his younger brother. He could be a little destructive, even when he didn't mean to be.
Satisfied, Yakko moved the covers over his brother a bit more, and glanced at the clock.
Noticing it was past midnight, he decided to head to bed himself. He turned out all the lights, checked the locks, and, deciding to do the dishes in the morning, scooted Wakko over and got into bed, hoping that in the morning, Mom and Dad would have brought more food.
One week later, Yakko took his siblings back to the library.
As he walked down the trash lined street, watching needles and empty bottles and burger wrappers floating in the swift breeze, he thought back over the last week. He adjusted Dot higher on his hip, and grabbed at Wakko, who was making an escape attempt – he wanted to look in the trash can.
It had been a rough week, as always. Yakko could tell his brother had liked the story lady – if for nothing else the cookies and punch. Wakko had asked every day during the week (sometimes two or three times a day) when they were going back.
Yakko couldn't believe it was for the stories – he had tried reading to Wakko several times, with minimal success. Wakko would not stay still for longer than five or so minutes before getting fussy – wanting to play, watch TV, go to the park, anything but listen. Teaching him to read was going to be a chore.
Stomach rumbling, Yakko had to admit the cookies sounded like a good enough reason to listen to a silly story or two. Mom and Dad had not been too successful the last week – Dad lost a tooth and a chunk of his tail in a fight and was in a frightful mood for the first part of the week, and Mom was back to being her ditzy drunken self less than twenty-four hours after their little waltz in the kitchen.
He was very happy that he had her sign the library's permission slip when she had been in the upswing of her many moods. She had signed it and laughed about how she used to practice her signature for hours in preparation of the many autographs she was going to have to sign.
They brought little food yesterday; it was leftover pizza from who knows where – Yakko had given it to Wakko. They had also brought half a container of formula for Dot, which Yakko had raised an eyebrow at.
Where did they buy half a container? They were sold sealed...
Taking one whiff of the liquid had told Yakko they did not purchase it. It was so spoiled it was starting to become solid. With a gag he had thrown it away, and then began to worry what he was going to feed her.
Remembering they had some milk, he had put that in the bottle and given it to her. She seemed a bit hesitant at the first taste, but then became accustomed to it and began to drink with gusto.
He had given her the leftover milk this morning for breakfast. He and Wakko had not yet eaten. When he remembered what day it was, he had decided on the library. Cookies for brunch, but dinner was going to be another matter. They were in big trouble...
Stopping Wakko from eating the couch cushions, he had shooed them out the door and down the four flights of stairs, away from their arguing parents, and down the street to the library.
As he listened to Wakko keep repeating that he was hungry, they arrived at the library and returned the books. The lady who had been nice enough to sign him up for a card with no parent present was behind the counter, and he slipped her the signed paper with a smile. She winked at him and took the paper to be filed.
He headed back to the children's section with Wakko, whom he had to restrain – he really was hungry and remembered the cookies from last week. Growing weary of hanging on to his overall straps, he let go, and watched as Wakko bounced, than ran all the way back, with Yakko following a close distance behind.
Arriving at the section, he saw that the Society for the Betterment of Contemptible Toons was already setting up, and they were among the first to arrive. Grandmother SweetStrudel was already sitting in a chair holding court, directing her two assistants that she was referring to as Dee and Dum, the strange looking egg shaped men in the silly elf costumes, in setting up the refreshments and displays. Yakko grabbed Wakko by his overall straps again before he could run to the table and knock it over.
Yakko took a look at the two men, who seemed like they would need assistance in tying their shoes. They looked slightly familiar, but he could not place them. Grandmother looked much the same as he last saw her – overbearing and fat.
Wakko had taken up a 'cookie cookie cookie' chant, bouncing beside Yakko. Seeing that the cookies were out, and one of the egg-men was pouring punch, Yakko let him go, and he sped off toward the table, where Grandmother SweetStrudel was lumbering over herself to get a bite.
Two more children wandered back with their parents, a family of toon bears, shabbily dressed, but looking clean and well-fed. Yakko looked down at his own clothing, a bit tattered, and glanced at Wakko, who had gone from being scruffy looking but reasonably clean to an absolute mess in the space of two hours, and felt a bit self conscious. The family eyed him, and he shifted Dot and returned the stare until the mother finally looked away.
Wakko began to eat cookies, while Grandmother SweetStrudel poured him a glass of punch.
Yakko kept an eye on his brother, making sure he did not eat all of the cookies. Listening to his stomach, he walked over there as well, still holding Dot, who was attempting to grab his nose, without much success. She had jammed him in the head twice, and once in the eye.
Giving a small nod and a smile to the overweight toon woman, Yakko took two cookies, and, reluctantly, knowing he was going to be cleaning her up later, gave one to Dot. He meanwhile devoured his cookie in one bite, and, while trying not to look quite as desperate as Wakko, ate another one.
Grandmother SweetStrudel continued too munch on her own cookie, watching Yakko and Wakko. Unable to read her face, Yakko looked back at her. Finally, she looked at Wakko, gave him a smile, and poured him another glass of punch. While he was drinking, she turned to continue to scrutinize Yakko.
Uncomfortable, he hurried Wakko off toward the back of the section, putting several families in-between them and the woman's prying eyes. Who did she think she was?
One of the egg men - Dee? Dum? Whatever - began to sing and dance, his silly looking twin joining in three beats late. Yakko and Wakko sat on the floor, and Yakko sat Dot on the floor in front of them. She had been making attempts to crawl lately, Yakko figured let her practice while they were sitting there.
Two very boring hours later, the story was wrapping up, Dot was asleep, Wakko was crying about being tired and hungry, and Yakko was about to join him, he was so irritated. Restraining the urge to simply strangle his sibling and put him out of both their misery, Yakko held him until he could get him to stop crying, promising him a bit of the left over chocolate still sitting in his drawer.
Looking over the top of his sibling, he noticed the fat woman still watching them. She had been watching them the entire time she was telling her story. Yakko had tried to avoid looking at her, instead watching her two odd assistants jump around, dance, enact skits, sing, and in general be grating on his nerves.
She turned from watching them to berating her two bumbling assistants, who were bouncing on and over each other, knocking over a display claiming that "Reading was Food for the Mind".
Not wanting to hear anything more about food, and wishing to get a few books before they left the library, he began to lead his sibling, still leaking tears down his face, over to the far wall to choose a book or two, when he heard someone call out to him.
"You!" He turned. "Yes you!"
It was the fat woman. He was not sure what she wanted - he had restrained Wakko (and himself) from eating the entire stock of cookies she had, and had kept both of his younger siblings quiet during her rather dull story - this time about some silly girl who was trespassing in a house inhabited by some bears, broke their furniture, and then ate all their food.
Personally, he would have been upset too, if he were the bears.
"Come over here boy - I want to talk to you."
Nothing good will come of this, he thought. But Yakko walked over, still holding Wakko's hand.
"Can you send those two off for a few minutes?" she huffed.
"I'm not sending my siblings off anywhere. What do you want?"
She arched an eyebrow on her fat face. "I didn't mean abandon them. Here," she attempted to squat down to Wakko's level. Wakko shrunk back into Yakko's leg, but didn't do anything else.
"Would you like more cookies?"
Wakko, looking happier than he had all day, vigorously nodded his head, and she held her hand out to him, which he eagerly took as she lumbered back to the table holding the cookies. Yakko figured that by now those two buffoons she had with her would have packed them away.
Annoyed, more with Wakko this time for again not listening to his instructions of don't take anything from strangers, he impatiently tapped his foot and waited for the woman to stop filling his brothers face with cookies so they could get going. He shifted Dot to his other arm - she was getting heavy.
"Would you like to place your sister down?"
"I'm fine. What do you want?"
"Just to talk. Watch the attitude - it won't win you any favors."
Who did this woman think she was? "Now look lady - "
She cut him off before he could get too far.
"The name is Penelope Goose."
Turning his head to check on his brother, he said, "Fine, fine, nice to meet you. You still haven't told me what you want."
"You're awfully concerned about your brother - more so than most brothers are."
Lady, you don't know the half of it.
"You're good with kids," she observed, then nodded toward Dot. "How old?"
"Almost eleven months."
"The other one?"
"Three. What's it to you?"
"Bit young to be wandering around by yourselves, aren't you?"
"But old enough to know when someone is bothering me. If you don't mind, I really - "
"Look kid, I wanted to talk with you, I've been watching you for quite a few weeks now- "
"I know, and it's giving me the willies," he interrupted.
She continued on as if he never said anything. "You seem like you have some intelligence, unlike my associates over there." She nodded toward Dum and Dee, who were standing by the table, literally twiddling their thumbs.
Yakko couldn't argue with her on that one, and decided to keep his mouth shut to see where she was going with all this.
"No comment, Yakko, is it?"
His look changed from annoyance to wariness. "How did you know my name?"
"I overheard your brother. Use your head kid."
Yakko stared at the woman in amazement - why would she not get to the point?
"You and the other two look a bit thin."
"Sorry I can't say the same about you," he replied. If she was going to be rude…
"Ah, so full of spirit. So squirt, when's the last time any of you ate?"
This was getting suspicious, and Yakko didn't appreciate the woman trying to pry. Prying eyes could call the authorities, who in turn could call TIS - Toon Inquiry Services. If they saw the conditions at the Warner household, it could mean orphanages, foster homes, being split from his sibs... He had to avoid that.
"A few minutes ago - we had your cookies, remember?"
"How about before that? And your clothes, I really have to say - "
This was intolerable. "I don't see where that is any of your concern. Now, if you will excuse me, we have to leave."
With that, Yakko turned on his heel and began to walk out, calling for Wakko, who grabbed another handful of cookies and ran after him.
Yakko was so furious that he didn't even notice until they were halfway home that he had
not checked out any books.
For the next two months, Yakko continued to take his siblings to the library, making sure that he rented any books he wanted before the story time. Not only did this ensure their quick escape once the stories were finished, it gave him something to read while the god-awful skits, songs, puns, and stories flew.
Grandmother SweetStrudel continued to watch them, but had not made any other attempts to speak to Yakko. Wakko though, was becoming quite fond of her. Yakko had a suspicion that it due to the fact that she let Wakko have the leftover cookies at the end of the story time. The kid was going to be a blimp before he tuned four.
Yakko was usually very bored during the stories - and as it seemed she only had about five in her repertoire, he had them pretty well memorized. He would hope she would at least get some new material - there were thousands of stories out there - she could really attempt to try something different. And find some new assistants while she was at it. They were terrible - terrible actors, terrible singers, terrible dancers, terrible story tellers, just - terrible, all the way around.
Yakko, through trial, error, and many baby books rented from the library, finally was able to wean Dot off the bottle, and was attempting to teach her to use eating utensils. Sometimes, she actually got the food somewhere near her mouth before he fed her himself. She was able to eat regular food if he mashed it up very fine – he had informed his mother of Dot's being off the bottle, and maybe needing to get real baby food.
His mother had started crying about how her little girl was growing up right before her eyes. Why, before she knew it, her daughter would be dating and trying out for movie parts too, she cried, hugging Yakko. Yakko rolling his eyes, hugged her back, and was happy at least one of the females in the house was off the bottle anyway.
Dot was also becoming more vocal. She was not speaking yet, but he thought she may be trying, in between the 'gaaaas' and 'eeeeeeees'. He was trying to speak simple words to her, to see if she would pick some of them up and say her first word, but so far he had been unsuccessful. She was going to be a year old soon - she should be talking.
Yakko was beginning to read to Wakko nightly before bed. It had been hard at first, with Wakko wanting to watch TV instead, but had rapidly grown used to Yakko spending a half hour every night reading to him. Yakko also thought Wakko enjoyed the extra attention - since Dot had begun to crawl, he had been spending a lot of time watching her, making sure she didn't get hurt.
Their fur, never as sleek or shiny as he imagined it should be, but at least a full coat, was beginning to worry him. Wakko was getting small bald patches on his tail and Yakko's skin was always itchy. Dot always had diaper rash and appeared to be getting dandruff. Yakko had a feeling that this was due to the poor diet, but unable to do anything about it, he crossed his fingers and hoped for something good to happen.
Once again, it was Saturday, and it was time to head to the library for the story time with Grandmother SweetStrudel. Wakko, now comfortable with the routine, was getting to be a handful to control each trip. He constantly was trying to run ahead, look at everything, touch everything, eat everything, talk to everything, wearing Yakko out with trying to keep him under control. Once again, Yakko told Wakko to stay beside him and away from the street, making him walk on the side closest to the buildings. Wakko settled in beside Yakko, trying to match steps with his brother's longer stride.
Yakko did not have Dot with him this time, and it felt a little peculiar not to be carrying her. She had been sick - throwing up the entire night and crying. Yakko had decided not to go to the story session this week and tried to ignore the look of disappointment on his other siblings' face. Mom, surprisingly sober for that time of morning, had told him to take Wakko and go, since they both seemed to enjoy it so much. When Yakko had said he didn't know if that was such a good idea, she had gotten angry and yelled at him - she was her mother, didn't he - her son, think she could take care of her baby daughter?
Not liking the idea, but also not wanting to upset her further, he had reluctantly left, with a confused but happy Wakko in tow. He worried about his youngest sib. He hoped his parent's had not decided to sell her while he was away.
Lost in his thoughts about one sibling, he failed to notice the other one again wandering off. Yakko looked down beside him, didn't see Wakko, and then looked up in horror at the sound of a car horn. Wakko was chasing something, straight out into the street. Yakko called to him, and Wakko turned to look at him. Then, to Yakko's disbelief, Wakko kept running, intent on chasing the - whatever it was.
Heart in his stomach, Yakko dropped the books and ran to the edge of the sidewalk, and yanked Wakko back by the scruff of his neck to safety just as the car, a large black sedan, screeched to a halt where Wakko had been standing. Feeling his brother pick him up, Wakko clung to Yakko, burying his face in Yakko's neck.
Smelling the burnt rubber and hearing the driver, a large hippo toon, screaming at him about keeping an eye on that damn kid, Yakko carried his brother back to where the books had been abandoned on the sidewalk. The driver, with a final shake of his fist, heaved his bulk back into the car and sped off. The small crowd that had gathered to watch began to disperse.
Not trusting himself to speak and still shaking at the close call, Yakko put Wakko down and gave him what he hoped was a stern look. He began to pick up the discarded books as Wakko stood to the side and watched him timidly. Books picked up, Yakko led his brother around the corner to an alley by a small bakery.
Heart still pounding, he ordered Wakko to sit on a milk crate while he gathered his thoughts. Shaken and a little angry at his brother, he gave him a hug, then a short but severe lecture that left Wakko in tears, but promising not to run off again, or to at least answer when he called.
Hoping that the scolding had the intended effect, Yakko took Wakko's hand and led the contrite boy to the library.
It was the boring story of the gingerbread house again.
With a silent groan, he leaned back against the table leg. Sitting on the floor in the children's section with Wakko in his lap was not the most comfortable of positions, and he shifted slightly, looking at the crowd. And he would consider it a crowd today - there must have been twenty toons back there, listening to this drivel. Human toons, animal toons, even a family of what appeared to be robot toons, they were all here. There were not that many chairs or tables in the children's section, and the ones that were there were being occupied by parents, so Yakko had no choice but to sit on the floor.
He settled back and opened a book on the floor beside him - the library had a few books about "The Marx Brothers". He had thought he had read all of them already, and had no problem re-reading them when the mood stuck him. He had found a new book today though - Memoirs of a Mangy Lover .
Wakko seemed perfectly content in his lap - cookie in each hand, wide grin on his face, crumbs already in his fur. Wakko had behaved perfectly since the incident on the way to the library, and he leaned back into his brother's chest, looking forward to the story.
With a sigh, he fidgeted again, feeling the sharp corner of the table leg in his back, and began to read.
After the session was over, Wakko hung around to get his weekly ration of treats while Yakko stood near the doorway, watching him. Grandmother SweetStrudel, aka Penelope Goose, was standing by the table, talking to him and telling her two assistants what a couple of doofus' they were. They both blinked at her while Yakko listened to her berate them for their abysmal singing and the poor choice of story.
Well, at least he knew who to blame for the fact that he could recite "Hansel and Gretel" word for word.
Wakko turned to look at Yakko and waved him over. Stifling a moan of frustration, Yakko made his way over to him as he watched SweetStrudel wander off to begin packing a banner.
"Want some?" Wakko questioned, holding what appeared to be a sugar coated bat out to him. Yakko raised an eyebrow at the strange looking cookie.
"No thanks sib, you eat it." Probably the only thing you'll get to eat today, make the most out of it, he thought, watching Wakko eat the cookie whole.
"Where's your sister?" a voice came from behind him, and he whirled around, almost dropping his books, to look into the very full face of Ms. Goose. How she managed to sneak her girth around behind him, he was not certain.
"You're such a charming boy. To bad that attitude of yours ruins it."
"I didn't ask you for your opinion."
"Can I talk to you for a few minutes? Since your sister is not with you, it seems like the perfect time for you not to be interrupted. Your brother will be fine here."
Distracted by her wobbling chins, Yakko released a sigh and nodded. Maybe if he listened to what she wanted, she would stop staring at him every week. It gave him the creeps.
She took his arm and began to lead him away, and he dug his heels in, stopping her.
"What about my brother? I'm not leaving him here while you lead me off who knows where."
"I'm not looking to kidnap you two, you little fool. We are going by the shelves, you can still see him. He's enjoying himself for a few minutes. Looks like he has not eaten in a week; you either really."
"He's eaten, he's just a growing boy; they stay hungry don't they? And you don't need to pry into our personal - "
"Calm down kid – I'm not going to call urchin welfare on you. Just thought you might be interested in a little chat is all."
Irritated, a bit worried, and, he hated to admit it, a little curious as to why the woman was so intent on talking to him, he leaned against the bookcase, arms crossed, and said, "So, you got me. What do you want?"
"Like I said, a real charmer. What's the deal with you kids?"
"Deal? Look, lady, I don't know what you're talking about, but I have things to do."
"Fine, I'll get it out of you later."
"I really think - "
"I doubt that, but anyway. Look, kid, I don't know about you, but those two brain-ea-acts I have working for me over there," she pointed one chubby finger toward Dee and Dum - one of whom was picking his nose while the other watched, "they're not that intelligent. Or responsible. Or even literate. Oh, I'll just say it; they're a couple of real dumb-asses."
Yakko raised his eyebrows up in surprise. It was hard to listen to somewhere swearing while wearing a frilly pink dress, bloomers, and a bonnet, and he bit back a laugh. He turned to look at them.
"Well, I guess I'll agree with you there. Especially since one of them appears to have got his finger stuck in his own nose."
She turned, looked at said stooge, gave a disbelieving snort, and then turned back to Yakko.
"You see my problem."
"It's not your only one, but yeah, I suppose I do."
"I need some better quality help. I've been watching you – you seem somewhat intelligent, you're good with kids, and you're not especially shy – plus you look like you could use a little extra cash."
Yakko, only annoyed before, was starting to get a little angry. "We don't need charity, and we do not look any worse than anyone else here, where do you - "
She interrupted with, "You want a job?"
Yakko, not expecting this, looked at her. "Excuse me - What are you talking about?"
"You deaf? I asked if you want a job. I can fire those two morons and hire you."
Yakko, smirking, replied, "You've got to me kidding me. I told you, I don't need any charity."
"It's not charity you little buffoon – it's a J-O-B. You earn the money."
"Why me?" What game was this?
"The reasons I listed earlier, if you bothered to listen. That and you would probably work cheaper than those two. Made a movie and a couple of TV appearances for Disney years ago –think they are big stars."
Slightly curious about what movie they had been in, but not willing to ask any question off the original topic, he instead said, "You don't say."
"I do say. I swear, Disney toons, huh?" she nudged him. "But, we digress. You interested?"
"And what, have to wear that dippy costume? Better loosen that bonnet lady and find another sucker."
"OK." She did a quick spin, becoming a large pink blur, and settled back to just standing in what could only be called a muumuu. It was blue with maroon flowers - it looked ghastly on her. She looked better in the other outfit. Her blond ringlets, much too tight to be attractive on such a wide face, hung past her shoulders. He watched her pat her hair down with her pudgy fingers.
But, she also must have a little of the toon talent. Yakko had read that spin changes were some of the more difficult of routines to perform in "Cross Dressing to Fool Your Enemies: Do's and Don'ts". He must have looked halfway astonished, because she gave him a sickly sweet smile.
"Does that surprise you kid? That I can actually do something besides eat and tell bad stories?"
"Actually, a bit."
"Could probably pass on a thing or two, if you're interested..." she replied in a sing-song tone. "I see you have "What It Takes To Be A True Toon" in your hand – knew the author at one point, silly little fellow, really liked spinach...smoked though, disgusting habit..."
At this point, nothing this woman said would surprise Yakko. He did not reply and instead did some quick thinking.
He knew his reading skills were above average - even the librarian had commented a few times about how he was always reading books beyond his age. He could do basic math. He had a smart mouth.
But he also knew the ability to read, do basic division, and to make a quip at almost anything were not going to get him far in life. He almost choked on the thought of his life ten or twelve years from now - living in some dingy apartment with a drunken floozy of a wife, children looking up at him, and he knew he was going to have to go out and beg or steal to feed them.
He wanted his sibs to have something better - Wakko and Dot meant more to him than anything - he knew his parents were never going to provide for them the way they should be provided for.
Yakko did not like the idea of stealing for a living – which was where he saw all of them ending up eventually. Even now, when they got home, he had a very bad feeling there would be no food there. He was getting desperate enough to consider stealing; distasteful yes, but it may become necessary. He couldn't continue to feed Wakko and Dot, even himself, meals of cookies once a week. He certainly could not rely on his parents.
Plus, if this woman had any talent, and she had already proven she did – why not get a few pointers from her? It sure was not like his parents were bothering to teach him anything. It couldn't hurt, plus if there was money involved...
He looked at Penelope Goose. Her blue eyes stared intently back into his own.
"What's the pay rate?" he asked. I can't believe I am even considering doing this...
"Twenty dollars a week – it's about four hours worth of work. I do most of the talking, buy the refreshments, and handle reading most of the stories. You help pick the stories, you set the refreshments up, and you handle the clean up of this space. I would like you to help the little one's pick out books at the end of the session – I wouldn't trust those two morons to pick out a pair of socks, let alone help guide little ones to appropriate stories. Plus, you take care of anything additional as it comes up – sing a song or something when I get tired. I'm not a young woman, and this is not my only stop."
Now that did surprise him. "What do you mean, not your only stop?"
"I do this at four separate library districts –Babbitt, Clampett, Natwick, and Plympton. Don't look so worried kid – I only need your help at this one. The others are covered."
Yakko crinkled his nose – out of the four ghettos she mentioned, Plympton was probably the best, and that was really saying something.
Twenty dollars a week. To most toons, it was a pittance. To Yakko, however, it was a fortune. If he was really careful, he could probably make that money stretch for food all week. True, it might be peanut butter and loafs of bread, but still, much better than nothing. If he played it right, he may even be able to put a little away.
He took a quick glace at his brother to make sure he was OK. Wakko, grinning and drinking the punch, waved back, and he caught sight of Wakko's bare hands, covered in soft black fur. Wakko would be turning five in another year and four months – he would be getting his first pair of gloves then; gloves were expensive. He looked down to his own.
Yakko knew better than to count on his parents remembering something that important. It had taken them two months past his own birthday for them to get his gloves. He had been so disappointed then, it meant so much to a toon to finally receive them...
"What about my sibs? Ehhhhhhhhh – I have to, um, baby-sit them on Saturdays...my parents, they work then..." he finished lamely.
Ms. Goose snorted and muttered what sounded like "I bet they do", but said louder, "So, bring them along. Your brother over there never looks bored, unlike you," she said, giving him a pointed look, "and I'm sure as your sister gets older, she will enjoy it. Especially since her brother is getting involved."
Wakko did enjoy the sessions. Dot could stay with him while Yakko was making a fool of himself up in front of the toddler crowd. He would be right there if anything were to happen. With the situation being the way it was at home, wouldn't it be nice to know they might have something to eat in the morning, even if it was just toast? He had been hoping for some good luck to come their way – looks like being a reading assistant was it...
"What do ya say sport? I've got places to be."
Satisfied that his sibs would still be welcome, he nodded. He could practically contain his delight but managed to choke out with what he hoped was some dignity, "When do I start?"
"Now." She said. He watched her waddle to her two prior assistants and order them from the section. Wakko watched wide eyed as she began to yell, and he darted over to his brother to hide behind him. This wasn't the nice lady from earlier.
The two assistants did not move at first, and she pulled out an umbrella from somewhere and began to wack at them. They seemed to understand that, and with petrified looks, fled the section, one bouncing on the other out the front door. She lumbered back to Yakko.
"You're responsible for cleaning this mess up today. Try to have it done in the next thirty minutes – the library gets upset when the section stays closed for this long – we are already twenty minutes behind schedule. Here" she said, handing him two fives and a ten. "That will cover your time for this week."
"But I'm not doing anything but some clean-up." Yakko didn't want to turn down the money – but he was honest enough to not want to take if from her.
"You're not only doing the clean-up – you have to pick out a story for me to read next week. That will take a couple of hours I'm sure. Take the money – buy your brother a soda on the way home."
She shoved the money into his hands and turned around.
"But - "
"Take. The. Money. And I will have your costume for you next week." His new domineering boss came back to him, put her hands around his waist, neck, and head, muttered "I can remember that", and turned to leave. He cringed when he heard the words hat, bells, and feathers. What had he gotten himself into?
"Be here by 11:00 AM next week. You will need about an hour to set up and tell me what you have planned." She checked her watch. "Look at this – because I was sitting here dealing with you, I am late to my next session."
With that she left the section, Yakko still staring at the doorway in astonishment.
Feeling a tugging at his pants leg, he looked down. He had forgotten about Wakko for a minute.
"Can we go home now? There's no more cookies! Why did she give you money? What's an aardvark?"
Used to Wakko's off the cuff questions and comments at this point, Yakko didn't answer at first, merely stared at the money in his fist.
"Yakko! Yakko! Yakko!" Wakko continued to tug on his pants. He finally answered him, before he pulled his pants totally off him.
"Yes Wakko, we can go in a few minutes. I think I just got a job...you want to help me vacuum the carpet and throw the trash away?"
"No." Well, at least he was honest.
"OK. You can sit there" Yakko pointed to a chair in the corner, "until I finish. I should not be more than an hour."
"I don't wanna sit there," Wakko whined, wrinkling his nose.
"Then you can help me."
"Alright." Wakko sighed, crossing his arms and looking away. Oh God, he's going to start pouting. Then Yakko thought to what his new superior said.
"Wakko, you help me, we get out of here faster. Then we can stop at the store to get some food, and I'll buy you a soda, how's that sound?" Wakko loved soda, but rarely got to drink it. It was expensive. But, the lack of soda was probably saving all their teeth.
Wakko snapped his head back to look at him. "Soda! Really?"
"Soda. Really." Yakko said, putting his hand over his heart and grinning.
"OK!" Wakko almost knocked him over pouncing on him. Yakko laughed and told him to start picking up the leftover cups and napkins; he had to go find the vacuum.
Yakko, happy that a little sugar was earning him some brownie points with his younger brother, finally found the vacuum in the janitor's closet. Wakko was crawling around on all fours, under tables, chairs, reaching under book shelves, pulling out cups, napkins, plates, and some other odds and ends to throw away. Yakko had not intended for him to get quite that thorough, and he watched as Wakko began to look behind the books on the lower shelves. It was keeping him quiet and occupied, so he let him continue on as he vacuumed.
On the way out, Yakko had Wakko helping him pick out a few different fable and story books. If he was going to do the job, foolish or not, he was going to do it half-way right, and since he was going to be dealing with a toddler crowd – who better to pick the tale than a toddler? He would begin the search for some more interesting stories tonight.
On the way home, they stopped at "The Budget Price All Generic Almost Expired but Not Quite Grocery and Drug Store". Stepping into the store, Yakko let his eyes adjust to the dim light. Usually stores had the lights bright and the music upbeat - or so he saw on TV. This one was so dark he had feared it might not be open, and he believed they were playing a funeral dirge over the intercom. How very cheery.
Wakko looked around, amazed. Yakko remembered that he had never been to a grocery store before, and even with his own limited experience, began answering questions about beans, Spam, the tiles on the floor, the bored alligator cashier, why a baby was riding in the shopping cart, and exactly what was edible and what was not.
Glad now that he did have his math skills, little that they may be, he grabbed a cart. Yakko was tall for his age, but he still had to do a bit of reaching to push it down the aisles.
Wakko ran to the front to help steer around people, displays, and the spill of something purple on the floor that appeared to be moving. Wakko tried to touch it, and Yakko yanked him away – it was ToonTown after all; hard to say what it was. They watched it scuttle under a shelf and begin to make a purring sound. With a shrug, they moved on.
Yakko, mentally adding up the purchases in his head, directed Wakko to grab a jar of peanut butter off the bottom shelf. Three dollars – but it was a big jar – it could last all week – and jelly, they could get jelly, a loaf of bread, some milk...
"Yakko, can we get some of this?" Wakko asked – pointing to some popcorn at the bottom of the shelf.
Snapped back to the moment, Yakko looked at the price. For the size of the bag, it was a good deal, and they could use a treat.
Figuring that this would be as good a time as any to start teaching Wakko some basic math, he asked him, "How much is it?"
Wakko studied the price tag for a second. "Two," he said, struggling over the number.
"Two dollars?" Yakko asked, looking at the bag when Wakko's head was turned. It was going out of date in the next week, but they would have it finished off long before then.
"Yeah," Wakko replied, looking up at this brother. "Can we get it?"
"If we already have seven dollars of things in the cart, how much would that equal?"
Wakko shrugged and began to put the popcorn in the cart. Yakko stopped him.
"Hey, we got a limited budget here kiddo – real limited. I have to know how much we are spending. So?" Looking at Wakko's face, he could tell he was going to have to coach him through it. A flash of irritation at his parents hit him – he was a kid himself – he didn't know how to teach anything – he barely blundered his way through teething and diaper changing. He suppressed it – it wasn't Wakko's fault – and he needed to learn; he did manage to teach Wakko some of his numbers, and he was going to teach him how to read.
Well, here goes...
"You know your numbers right - one through ten?" He waited for Wakko's nod, and then continued. "OK, so, what's seven plus one?"
Wakko looked at him like he had lost his mind. "I don't know."
"Well, you want to give it a try?"
"No." At Yakko's look, Wakko shrugged and said, "You can tell me."
With a sigh, Yakko said, "What if I'm not here? What would you do then?"
"Ask someone else."
"Not supposed to talk to strangers, remember?"
Yakko sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. This was not going well. "I taught you your numbers; remember that? One through ten?"
"OK. The number seven – what's after that?"
"I don't remember."
"Well, try to remember."
Wakko thought, and then finally answered, "Eight".
"OK. And after that?"
"Nine." Wakko answered, quite proud of himself.
"Alright sib –so if we have seven dollars worth of stuff, and we add two, what do we
"Nine?" he answered, a bit questioningly.
"Very good. And yes, put it in the cart."
Happy, Wakko tossed the bag in the cart, having to stand on his toes to reach over the top of the basket.
Making a mental note to begin to teach Wakko some addition, Yakko lead his brother through the rest of the store, trying not to spend every dime they had. It was a long time until next Saturday, and he wanted to save a few dollars for anything that might come up.
Finally finished, they made their way to the cashier, and Wakko peered over the top of the counter at her, watching her look at each item and type the price in on the oldest cash register in ToonTown. When she gave the total on $14.42, Yakko almost leaped for joy – they had some food – no depending on his unreliable parents this week! – and there was still $ 5.58 left.
Putting the money deep in his pocket and grabbing the three bags, Yakko walked out the door, Wakko holding on to his tail like a leash. Passing the soda machine outside, Yakko pulled out fifty cents to get Wakko his promised soda. Wakko pointed to the bottom button - black cherry. The look on Wakko's face was priceless as Yakko snapped open the can, noting it was a very big can – 36 ounces the label said, claiming that 12 ounces were free. Well, that was a good deal for fifty cents. He looked at Wakko's face, smiled, and gave it to him.
"Hold it with both hands, or you're going to spill it."
Nodding, to happy to speak, Wakko began to drink. Yakko thought just seeing the joy on Wakko's face would make whatever SweetStrudel did to him worth it.
Half an hour later, Yakko was promising himself that he would never, ever, give Wakko another soda as long as he lived. He had not shut up the entire walk home. He was running everywhere, trying to eat everything, talking to everything – animate or not – it was worse than the walk to the library. Scolding, begging, threatening, pleading, even bribery – nothing calmed him down – he just kept going.
"Where's his off switch?" Yakko muttered to himself, closing his eyes in pain when Wakko jumped onto his back unexpectedly, then pushed off hard with his little white feet.
Yakko had broken two of the eggs when he dropped the bag they were in while pulling Wakko down off a street lamp. Wakko had immediately scampered onto a bus bench, Yakko chasing him. Apparently his little lecture from this morning had no effect. Just as he reached Wakko, he managed to surprise everyone within thirty feet with a particularly long and loud belch, including himself. Yakko dashed forward and caught him as the astonished child tumbled off the bench. In catching Wakko, he dropped the bags again, and wondered if any of the eggs were going to survive the trip home.
Wakko grinned as two old woman walked by, prissy looking rabbits with their noses twitching and looking horrified but slightly amazed at the volume. Wakko, sill being held by Yakko threw his head back and burped again, then started laughing. The two women glared at them and hurried away around the corner.
Yakko rolled his eyes, picked up the bags, and started walking again, feeling the sticky spot on the bag that the eggs were slowly leaking thru. Wakko continued to burp as they walked down the sidewalk.
He was loud. He could hold it out for a long time. He was currently trying to burp Mary had a Little Lamb.
Unfortunately, he was doing a decent job.
He was even dancing and bouncing all over the sidewalk, putting on his own little improv for everyone on the street. Apparently Wakko could be quite the showman when the mood stuck him.
Wondering how much longer the carbonation was going to make him burp, Yakko shook his head, grabbed his brother by the back of his overall strap, and continued home, hauling the bouncing child with him.
Looking forward to eating and checking on Dot, he prayed that by the time they got there, Wakko would have crashed from his sugar high. In desperation, he promised Wakko that he would take him to the park for a little while if he would only be quiet until they got home.
He wasn't, and Yakko's ears were ringing with the sound of a thousand belches by the time they walked up to their decrepit building. Yakko looked up at the six story building, hearing the Olsons' already fighting. Usually they waited until the middle of the night to begin to rant at each other. Behind him, out on the street, he heard the sound of yet another ambulance going by, taking another unfortunate to ToonTown HVM.
He studied the building for a second, sitting on the corner of Cambria and Lantz Streets. Blue paint, now grey with age, peeled from the siding in long strips; broken windows looking out onto the street, fire escape hanging loose from the building, banging slightly against the building in the breeze. Reflected in the windows of his building, he could see the neon lights of the neighborhood bar and massage parlor across the street, already flashing pink and yellow. The wind was starting to blow stronger, stirring his ears and tail. He looked at the sky and saw grey clouds - looks like they barely beat a storm home. With a sigh, he began to climb the stairs to enter the building, calling to his brother to come on and to please leave the apple core on the sidewalk where he found it.
Wakko happily bounded up the stairs past him, tripped on the cracked cement step and was saved from a nasty fall backwards by Yakko's quick arm, which he shot out to grab him, causing him to drop one of the grocery bags.
Yakko sighed as he heard a couple of more eggs break in between Wakko's laughs.
"Mom?" Yakko called softly, opening the front door. It was unlocked – not unusual – mom and dad never locked the door. Yakko, however, was worried about what may come wandering in if he didn't. The whole neighborhood knew the Warner kids were there by themselves a lot.
Of course, the whole neighborhood also knew the Warner's didn't have much to steal, so he doubted that anyone would come in. But still, it seemed like a prudent thing to do – there were a lot of nuts in ToonTown.
One of his parent's must have left at some point though – he had locked the door when he and Wakko left earlier.
Wondering where they would have gone to so early, Yakko went to put his key back in his pocket when he felt the door crash open from his hands as Wakko burst in, screaming "Dot" at the top of his lungs.
Almost dropping the bag with the eggs in it for a fourth time, Yakko said, "Calm down, they're not home."
"Where are they?"
"How should I know, you little terror?" Yakko mumbled, already in the kitchen. "I've been watching you bounce on every sign post in ToonTown the last hour."
"Dot's home!" Wakko screamed. Yakko hurried out of the kitchen and followed the giggling and babbling sounds back to his parents' bedroom. He entered to see his sister sitting on his parent's bed, giggling at Wakko as he began singing his own, very unique version of Sweet Adeline.
Dammitt, thought Yakko. She could not stay here for even a few hours with her? She left an infant alone in an unlocked house...
He went to the bed and picked up Dot, who giggled some more and made what he thought was an attempt at giving him a hug. He checked her – she seemed OK – just happy that someone was paying attention to her.
Wakko was bouncing on his toes. "How come she gets to stay by herself? You won't let me!"
"You're too little."
"She's littler than I am!" he exclaimed. Yakko looked at Wakko, who was simply shaking at this point. Yakko hoped the sugar overload didn't explode his heart.
"She's too little too – she's not supposed to be by herself either." He replied. Yakko watched as Wakko began to chase his tail – around and around, faster and faster...Wakko was making him dizzy.
Vowing again to never give Wakko another soda - no, anything with sugar in it period, he corrected himself, he carried Dot into the kitchen to finish putting away the groceries. Placing her in her highchair for safekeeping, he went through the bags.
They didn't have much, but Yakko actually felt very proud of himself. With his parents failing miserably in their jobs as providers, caregivers – heck, even managing to stay in the same apartment as their children for longer than it took to sleep it off – he had actually found a job. Sure, he hadn't been looking for one, and he had a feeling that being employed, no matter in what capacity at his age was not entirely legal, but he didn't see where that should matter.
Opening the cabinets and looking inside, he was happy he had taken Ms. Goose up on her offer, no matter how silly he was going to feel wearing any costume she came up with. Mother Hubbard's cupboards had not been this bare. He put the lone package of pancake mix on the shelf – Wakko had not seen him pick it up, but would be thrilled in the morning.
Trying to wipe broken egg off the loaf of bread, Yakko looked up in surprise when he heard something that sounded like his name, in between rumbles of thunder. It was too high sounding and quiet to have been Wakko, plus he could hear him banging something around in one of the other rooms – probably still chasing his tail.
It sounded like a bird, a high little chirping sound. He looked around quickly, and saw nothing. He shrugged and shoved the seven eggs lucky enough to survive the hellish trip home in the refrigerator, along with the milk.
He looked at the refrigerator – was it getting ready to go? They were going to be in a lot of trouble if it broke – the landlord was not exactly known for being on top of it when it came to fixing things...
The sound was coming from behind him. He thought of something.
He turned around to look at his sister, still sitting happily in her high chair. No way, he thought. Well, maybe...
"You say something sis?" He questioned, walking toward her. She just continued to look at him, giggling and waving her arms.
"Well, I thought I heard something." She blew a raspberry at him and grinned, showing him the baby teeth still coming in. "Oh, so sorry to bother you." He bowed playfully to her, grinning when he heard her laugh, then wincing when he heard something crash from the bedroom.
"Wakko, be careful!"
This time he knew he heard it.
He walked to his sister and picked her out of the highchair. He peered into her little white face.
"Stop playing with me sis – you said it, didn't you?"
"Yakky!" She exclaimed, laughing and throwing her head back. Yakko was stunned, staring at the furry black bundle in his arms, then couldn't help the wide smile that broke across his face – she was talking! And, like Wakko, her first word had been his name. Well, almost, but it was close enough for him.
"You did it sis!" He yelled, jumping in the air with her in his arms, and she continued to laugh. "Say it again!" he demanded.
"Yakky! Yakky! Yakky!"
Yakko felt the same feeling of pride he did when Wakko had first said his name. He started dancing around the kitchen holding her, hearing her laugh, and thought this was probably one of the best days of his life. Both siblings talking – he was overjoyed. He turned as Wakko ran into the kitchen, skidded to a stop, and collapsed on the floor, panting heavily and eyes wide open.
"Why are you so happy? Is it your birthday?"
"Nope – something even better sibling! Dot's talking!" He held the baby down face-to-face with Wakko. "See?"
"Yakky!" She yelled into Wakko's face.
He looked around her head at Yakko. "Big deal – I've been doing that for years. Can we go to the park now?"
Surprised that Wakko wasn't more impressed, but not letting it bother him, Yakko replied, "It's the first time she's spoke Wakko, give her a break, huh?" Yakko looked at the clock, wincing slightly when he noticed the time – then heard another clap of thunder. "Sorry kiddo - it's getting late. Plus, I hear that thunder, even if you are choosing to ignore it." Turning to shift Dot into a more comfortable position, he asked, "Want to read a story?"
"No, I want to go on the swings."
"You promised to take me."
"I promised if you behaved, which you really didn't." Wakko looked at him in confusion. Yakko thought quickly.
Deciding on a different tactic, Yakko said, "Look Wakko, it's been a long day – you never even got your nap. You're going to be tired soon." Real soon he hoped. "How about we watch a movie – maybe eat some of the popcorn? I'll take you to the park tomorrow when it's daytime."
Wakko stomped his foot, then ruined the effect by yawning. "No – I want to go now!"
"No Wakko – it's too late. Tomorrow."
"But I - "
"Yaaaaaaakkooooo," he whined, eyes filling with tears, "We always do what you want to doooooooo."
Yakko silently groaned. Tears – the downfall of big brothers everywhere. That and the whine. He hated to upset his brother, and he did promise. It was getting later – they weren't heading out to the park at this time, no matter how piercing his whining got. Not to mention he was not going to risk all of them getting colds by wandering around in a storm. He had to choose the safety of all three of them over his siblings' desire to play.
Yakko looked down at Wakko - he usually only got this whiny when he was really tired. Tears streaming down his face, he was giving Yakko a woebegone look, lower lip trembling. Yakko got an idea – he could distract him from the park by playing something more exciting... He crouched down; Dot still in his arms, and looked at Wakko.
"Tell ya what sib? You want to play, right? You're about to bounce off the wall." He got a vigorous nod from Wakko. Yakko shifted Dot to his left arm and pulled Wakko in for a hug, wiping his eyes with his glove at the same time. He waited until Wakko looked at him, and then continued. "How about we play something different, and something Dot can play with us – ehhhhhhhhh – we can play Hide and Seek? Dot can stay with me...you like that game, right?"
Yakko watched as Wakko thought, tongue hanging out the left side of his mouth, and then he grinned and nodded. Yakko heaved a sigh of relief – crisis averted. Thankfully Wakko was usually easy to please. Yakko watched him yawn again, and knew it was going to be a short game. Yakko knew from prior experience with Wakko that if he took to long to find him, Wakko would usually get bored and fall asleep. The first time they played, Yakko was sent into a panic when he could not find Wakko, finally finding him fifteen minutes into the game when he discovered him under the kitchen cabinet, asleep.
Yakko sat on the couch. "Me and Dot will hunt for you, OK?" Wakko nodded. "OK – here we go." Yakko put his hands over his eyes. "One, two, three..." He lifted his right ear higher, and heard Wakko scurrying off to their bedroom. "Guess he's going to hide under the bed again," he mumbled to Dot. Dot smiled, let out a burp, and grasped his nose.
Still counting out loud, Yakko pulled his nose free from her grip and headed into the kitchen. Wakko may be crashing from his sugar high, but he was hungry, and he imagined Dot was as well. She didn't seem cranky or whiny, so he supposed that she got her nap. Hopefully, Wakko would sleep through the night. If he fell asleep like Yakko thought he would, Wakko would be missing dinner, but he expected him to be ravenous in the morning.
Yakko made dinner for himself and Dot, and then went to find Wakko. Luckily, the search was over in less than a minute – Wakko had not even bothered to hide. He was sleeping in the middle of the bedroom floor on his side, curled up with his bunny.
Smiling and rolling his eyes, Yakko picked him up and put him to bed.
As expected, the next morning, Wakko was up earlier than normal. Yakko had woken up when his brother sat up quickly, making the bed frame shake and creak and bouncing the thin mattress. One of these days, it was going to fall with them on it.
Yakko watched him, his eyes barely open, listening to the rain pelting the window. Wakko slowly crawled over to Yakko, and he closed his eyes. Maybe if he pretended to be asleep, Wakko would go back to sleep even for a little while...
No such luck, he thought, as he felt Wakko using one little finger to open his eye. They looked at each other.
"I am now."
"Oh good. I'm hungry."
Yakko slowly got up; he stayed up way to late the night before, reading, watching the two channels he was able to get on the TV, and sitting in the window, watching the storm and thinking. He made a mental note to not stay up until 3:00 A.M. when he knew for a fact that Wakko would be waking up early. He rolled over and looked at the clock – 7:18 A.M.
He moaned and rolled out of bed, forgetting where he was and falling to the floor. He heard his brother giggling, and he popped back up to look at him. Wakko was sitting in the middle of the bed, laughing and holding his plushy. Making a face at Wakko, which got him laughing harder, Yakko got up and quickly got dressed. Wakko was in a playful mood, and Yakko spent ten minutes tickling him before getting him dressed as well. Setting him on the floor, he looked across the hall, noticing that his parents' door was still open. They had not come home.
With a slight frown, he walked across the hall and peered in. Dot was in her crib, still asleep. He checked on her, Wakko watching him from the doorway. She was fine, so he led Wakko to the kitchen, where he went into a fit of rapture at the mere thought of pancakes, even if he didn't have any syrup. He seemed content to have Yakko coat them in raspberry jelly for him. Yakko shook his head and complied. Without syrup, he thought they tasted like little frisbees.
As it was still raining outside, Yakko was going to have to find some way to keep his sibs entertained all day. With Dot still asleep, Yakko sat on the couch and called his brother over, deciding this was a good time to talk to Wakko about his employment. Hoping that he was not dumping too much on his little brother's head, he held him on his lap and explained everything that had happened yesterday, in what he hoped was simple enough language for him to understand.
To his complete and utter delight, Wakko not only seemed to understand, he wanted to help. Informing him that he needed help finding a story more than anything at this point, Yakko grabbed the books they rented yesterday, and began to read the stories, taking a break when Dot woke up. They played with Dot a few hours, having her crawling across the floor to them while they called to her, while she continuously said "Yakky" and other things not really intelligible.
After a lunch of more jelly pancakes, they returned to the couch to read. Wakko seemed fascinated with "Red Riding Hood" and "Jack and the Beanstalk", and Yakko marked those two stories to suggest to SweetStreudel.
As Yakko was reading the stories to Wakko, who was taking his new position of "official story picker" very seriously, Yakko mentally was worrying. Where were their parents? He was used to them staying out at all hours of the day and night, but they never actually disappeared. Maybe Mom did not leave the house willingly – maybe something happened – that's why Dot was left alone in an unlocked house? There was no shortage of people who would like to do something to his father, he knew that, but his Mom – she could be irritating, but still, she never really angered a lot of people...more silly than sinister.
He looked at Wakko on his left leg, Dot on his right, both looking at the bright pictures in the book. He smiled, and continued reading. Hopefully, they would show up soon...
They passed the day in each other's company, reading story after story and listening to the falling rain, while the fire escape creaked and moaned outside the window.
End Chapter 2