Chapter 8: Wiley, Wingman of the Year
Back in the farm, Roger would hear the occasional chirp of the birds. Maybe a rustle of leaves. A flash or two of a critter running.
But in ToonTown's park, it's not only the deers that were prancing across meadows.
A womanly tree danced, swaying the leaves at the end of her branches like dancing fans. The woman-tree swayed her "hips", encircled by unrooted twirling flowers. Another tree had constructed a harp made from vines, playing for the tree-woman. Birds blend their songs to the music, perched on another tree that was swaying a baton.
Roger kept rubbing his eyes.
Squirrels flirting with each other, hiding behind their tails. Chipmunks scampering from tree hole to burrows. And if his ears weren't being deluded, he could swear the birds were singing symphonies with the pillowy clouds above them.
"Too sunny for my sore eyes, but it's too easy to like this place," Wiley remarked.
"Wiley? Why are we here again?"
"A break," he replied. The coyote walked, his straight back and formal walk contrasting the scruffiness of his coat. He furtively casted a glance at Roger.
After the uncomfortable discovery that his parents had a hand in blocking off a part of him, Wiley was hoping the cheeriness of the park would infuse with Roger. The rabbit looked around in wonder. Distracted, at least. Wiley swished the park's bench with his tail before sitting on it.
Roger hesitated, glancing at his rear where his cottontail lay exposed. Lowering his backside, he grunted, flexing the little tail to swish the bench's surface.
Wiley watched him with mild amusement. "I assume that was your first time?"
"It's not like there's a hole in my pants back before," Roger said. "I've been wearing trousers wrong as a… as a toon the whole time!"
The coyote raised a brow at the hesitance at his certain words. "We've been approaching your case wrong for the last three weeks." He rested his elbows on the park's bench, steepling his fingers. "I thought the problem is your body. But it seems like the real problem is your head."
Said name rolled his eyes. "What I mean is, your difficulty in tooning is in the mind."
"Stho… what are we going to try now?"
Wiley closed his eyes, leaning back.
"Psychological conditioning calls for this situation. Unfortunately we can't."
Roger wondered if he was getting annoying to Wiley for asking about half of what he says. "Psycho-gena-hair-conditioner-what?"
"It's when we change a response to a stimulus." Wiley stretched before draping backwards, eyes to the sky. "Let's say you see a painting you like. That's the stimulus. So your response?" He stretched out his arm. "You give a thumbs-up."
Roger mimicked him, leaning over the bench's backrest, he gave a thumbs-up to the sky.
"Only, in your case, you can't straighten your thumb. That's your problem with tooning." Wiley said, his thumb crooked and fighting to straighten.
Roger looked at his own struggling thumb in wonder. "Wow, Wiley, Sylvester may say you spout off scientific terms to sound scientifically smart and mysteriousth. But I think you're the real deal!"
Slitted yellow eyes suddenly turned to him. "He doubts my genius?"
Roger suddenly grabbed his mouth as though the words just slipped. "Ehe… hehe..."
Wiley straightened up in his seat. "Never mind that silly cat. There is another reason why we're here."
"What-" something caught his eye.
All the air seemed to rushed into Roger's lungs. It's her.
"Oh look, she's here now," Wile said, waving a hand.
"Hiyeerrr?" Roger croaked, the very air was choking him. Was it possible for sunlight to sparkle on a being? This had to be a living dream. She had to be a living dream.
Herman ducked, giving a loooong dry hurl inside a barfbag.
"Herman, I was just describing what I had felt that day," Roger said, placing his hands on his hips.
The pseudo-infant wiped his mouth, tossing the bag in a wastebasket. "You're such a virgin."
"Yes, she's the colleague that we are meeting right now," Wiley said, stopping his waving when Cheri found them. Someone grasped him in the shoulder and he was suddenly nose to nose with a wide-eyed Roger.
"You didn't say we were going to meet her!" he rasped.
Wiley leaned back, frowning. "Roger, you're acting strange." Then his eyes widened in understanding. "I get it. You're nervous about meeting a rabbit of your kind for the first time, isn't it?" He reassuringly clapped the rabbit's shoulder. "Don't worry, chap. I'll handle the talking. Just answer 'yes' or 'no'."
Roger turned his head back at the obviously feminine hare. The air around her was still twinkling.
"Bonjour, Wiley," her sweet, sweet voice said. Roger gulped. She turned her head to him. "And you must be..."'
"Y-yesth," he whispered, wishing she didn't heard his lisp.
Wiley facepalmed. "Yes, good morning, Cheri. This is Roger. He's new in ToonTown and well, I think you could help him-"
Wiley talked on. But Roger could barely hear him. Her mere presence was making anything insignificant. Like a madonna that blesses with milk and honey. Or a nymph whose presence inspire spring on earth. Or simply the most beautiful rabbit girl in the-
"Poor dear! You're looking for your parents?" the rabbit girl exclaimed, her dark eyes framed with the thickest lashes-
He blinked at the silence, realizing they were waiting for a response. "Y-yeah..." There that's better. No lisp.
Cheri stepped closer, placing a hand on his shoulder. All the air rushed out of his lungs. Is this dying? Is this heaven? Had he accomplished a goal he never thought he would aspire for and was now dying in peace?
Herman rolled his eyes so much, they flipped inside his skull. "Oh my gawd, kill me now." Why oh why did he entered his trailer at the wrong time?
"Toons can't be killed, Herman, you know that," Roger replied, looking confused.
"A few weeks from now, I'll be attending a family reunion. Us rabbit toons consider the whole rabbit family as family," she said. "Someone might know something."
Roger's brain was trying to start. Trying. What was she saying again?
She let go of his shoulder. Roger exhaled a breath he didn't remember holding.
"Thanks, Cheri," the coyote said. "Roger here had been determined enough to ran into a wall to find them."
Cheri laughed. Roger rested his elbows on the table, cupping his face to stare at her. "It's good to see you too, Wile. Oh and Roger?"
Roger sat up straight attentively. Cheri offered him the cutest smile that dazzled his eyes too brightly; they seemed to burst and deafen his eardrums in the inside.
"Come with me to the family reunion, okay?" she said with a wave before walking away. "There would be a lot of rabbits there!" Her upside-down ears fluttered like long hair behind her.
Wiley sighed, scratching his ears. That was one problem eased. But what about Roger's metaphorical crooked thumb? His gears grind.
The trees and critters play their symphonies as he pondered their next step.
Then a new music came.
Wiley startled. It's too near… too unfamiliar to the park… upbeat….piano?
He whipped his head around.
Roger was standing there, the most faraway dazed eyes staring at the direction Cheri had disappeared.
It was coming from Roger himself.
The coyote grabbed Roger and pressed his ear against the rabbit's chest. His whole body was vibrating with the tune. Wile stepped back in surprise and saw Roger still looking far away as he sang softly in wondrous whisper.
"Ain't she sweet? See her walking down the street."
Herman rolled his eyes. "And that's how Roger got his first ere-"
Musik. A toon's slang for symphokinesis. Wiley looked down on his notes. Roger's ability to emulate music from himself was suddenly triggered a while ago. An incident that happened after meeting his friend and colleague, Cheri Cottontail.
Wiley had been euphoric. A serendipitous lead. A lead, unfortunately, that isn't making any sense. For now.
"'Morning, Wiley!" Sylvester voice could be heard from the study.
Wiley rolled his eyes. He had bought locks that couldn't be picked by a cat's tail. Apparently, they're not as advertised. He strode out of the study.
The black and white cat was once again, dragging poor Porky. He went straight to the kitchen and Wiley followed suit, wondering why wasn't he surprised.
"So how's Roger do- what is that?"
The sappiest saccharine music played in the air. Sylvester felt his shoulders tensing with every cringe of every second.
"Da-dum, da-da-da-da-da-da-da da-dum, da-dum!"
Roger appeared, observable to be in a good mood from fifty miles away. He stepped with the music, ambling into the kitchen.
"Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da, why haven't I told you? Oh baby-"
Sylvester's jaw fell on the floor. So did Porky's.
"I've told every little star, just how sweet I think you are-"
Roger's ears waved with the beat. He opened the fridge, unmindful of the guests, and took out a pitcher of water.
"Why haven't I, I told you?"
"Did you lobotomize him?" Sylvester asked in horror.
Roger now began to gargle through the lyrics, refusing to swallow the water before the song ended.
"He met Cheri and was suddenly like this."
Sylvester turned his head to Roger again. Slack hands let go of Porky.
"BEAT ME DADDY EIGHT TO THE BAR! Roger wants to whoopee with a cookie!"
The music stopped with a screech. Roger suddenly spurt out the water, choking.
"Sylvester!" Porky exclaimed. "R-really!"
Wiley began to thump Roger on the back. "Honestly, there's no need to be so lewd. Roger here is just carrying a torch for her."
"The way loverboy's acting? That's not a torch, buster!" Sylvester slung an arm around Roger's shoulders. He shook the still recovering rabbit. "Roger's carrying a burning bush, a raging inferno, a field on FIRE! "
The rabbit hacked, trying to get the water out of the wrong pipe.
"What I don't understand," Wiley said, crossing his arms, "is why?"
"Sssthuffering succotash, Wiley! Will you get out of your brain and just look at a dame for once?"
The coyote rolled his eyes. "Not that, you git. Why is his…" his arm gesticulated, trying to find the proper term, "infatuation causing his symphokinesis?"
Porky shrugged. "When we're si-se-sad, we turn blue. When we're mi-uh-me-uh, dangit, angry, steam can come out of our ears."
"But Roger experiences emotions everyday. It's not like he's a robot."
Sylvester turned to the rabbit. "Roger, have you ever been in love before?"
Roger gasped, clearing his harshed throat. "I -I never felt this way with anyone before."
The cat clasped his hands together. "Aaaw… Roger. So honest. So pure." He began to pull a magazine out behind his back. "He hadn't discovered Play-"
"Y-you put that back where it belongs!" Porky yelled, pushing it back from wherever the cat was hiding it.
Wiley massaged his temple before shaking his head. "Oh, Roger, you're so unpredictable," he said with a smile. He straightened up, putting his hands on his hips. "We'll figure you out yet. Can you do it again?"
"Okay," Roger closed his eyes.
His brows furrowed, thinking of "Every Little Star".
Sylvester broke the monotony with a cough.
Roger's body shook with effort.
"Oh look! He did it!"
"That was a fart, Syl."
Roger opened his eyes, looking slightly bewildered. "I can't do it! It was happening before!"
"I'm afraid about this," Wiley sighed. "Symphokinsesis is rare. But the only one known to control it is Popeye. And he can only control his theme song. As a fellow colleague, maybe Cheri could shed some light-"
"No!" Roger cried.
The coyote raised a brow. "And why not?"
Roger's eyes flickered to the side and back as he wringed his hands. "I..."
"Aaaaaw, he's shy!" Sylvester said.
He looked down on his fiddling hands. "I want to get to know her more before I…"
"Young love," Porky remarked with a chuckle.
Wiley stared at him.
"Is there another way?" Roger asked lamely.
"There is," Wiley finally said, his gears grinding. Calculating, yellow eyes studied him.. "As my research assistant, you're going to report your other tooning abilities."
"But I can't-"
He carefully watched Roger, an idea forming. "By spending time with Cheri."
"She needed help in the library and I'm planning to lend you to her."
Roger's eyes widened. Then he collapsed.
"I'm fine! I- I suddenly felt weak in the knees" he tried to stand. His legs won't cooperate..
"Roger, your kneesth."
Roger looked down. His legs were folded. Too folded. He tried to push himself up. But fell back, his legs wobbling at the impact… boneless.
The rabbit began to flail around. Sylvester and Porky grabbed both of his arms and held him up.
"My legs! What happened to my legs?!" he cried. He tried to move his legs. They dangled and waved like noodles.
Only Wiley didn't appear surprised. He rubbed his chin. "As confirmed, your feelings related to her triggers your tooning. But why?"
"How're we going to get them back?" a curious Sylvester asked as Roger began to hyperventilate.
The coyote paused. His eyes bulged. "I haven't thought this far."
Roger must've fainted because he was suddenly opening his eyes. A hand kept slapping his jaw.
"Wuh-Wu-Wiley! Stop taking n-n-no- quit it!"
The first thing he saw was Porky's hooved feet and Sylvester's foot.
His gaze followed up his leg to realize that Sylvester and Porky were still holding him by the arms. And the hand that kept slapping him was Sylvester's other foot.
"I'm awake!" Roger yelled, trying to brush him off. He yelped as they accidentally dropped him.
This must be what jelly felt like when it wobbles. The whole world shook up and down as he landed on his rubbered rump.
The hyperventilating was back again.
Roger gasped for air. How will he walk? How will he get breakfast? How will he put on pants?!
Wiley was suddenly beside him. "Inhale..."
Roger obeyed, his chest rising.
The rabbit let it all out in pursed lips. Tension loosened its grasp slowly as Roger breathed again.
"Jeepers," Roger whispered, finally looking at his noodle legs spread out before him. He grasped his shin. It drooped like an empty hose. He grabbed the other one. He shook them with both hands. His feet flopped about. "What happened?"
"Suddenly feeling weak is a natural for lovestruck toonsth!" Sylvester said. "Hooray, Roger!"
"Weak in the knees..." Wiley digested, rubbing his chin. He sighed. "I'll need to discuss your feelings with Cheri if we want you to get your legs back-"
Roger froze, heart dipping, skipping a few beats, at her possible reaction. "But, Wiley-" He paused. He look back at his hands that are still holding his legs. Squeezed them. He could feel bone and muscle again.
"Unb-b-be- wow," Porky commented as Roger lifted his leg, his knee jutting out.
"Roger, what did you feel when I said I want to discuss your feelings with her to get your legs back?" Wiley asked, his tone calm but his eyes intense.
"I..." Roger shook his head. "...for a moment, I," A disbelieving laugh came out of his mouth. "I wasth scared-" his eyes widened in realization. "I wasth scared stiff."
Nearly any toon clothes she wore would instantly cling around her form.
Jessica unbuttoned the police jacket she had worn for the filming. Wide at the bust, cinched at the waist; it suddenly became normally proportioned as soon as she took it off.
She put on her red strapless dress. The top molded to her breasts and the skirt clung at her hips like an intimate lover.
Hair brushed and makeup checked, she stepped out of the dressing room. Roger and the others haven't finished filming yet. She walked back to the set to see car after car chucked into Roger's head. Pretty soon, he was underneath a pile of automobiles.
"Baby Herman! I'll save ya!" he yelled, rolling onwards, as flat as a pancake.
She wanted to stay. But she was hired to sing in some event in the west side of ToonTown and she can't be late.
Outside the building. The sun blazed hot. She walked towards the exit. A blue butterfly fluttered. Followed by a yellow. Then pink.
"Bonjour, Jessica," Cheri said, her upside-down ears flowing behind her.
Jessica gave her a smile and a wave as they walked past each other.
She looked back, watching the rabbit girl go inside the building. Into the same corridor that leads to the set.
A purple gloved hand clenched the straps of her purse.
Wiley was studiously bent over a file titled "R.R. Case Study". His brows furrowed. His pencil scratched against paper.
Weakness of knees = rubber legs = counteracted by scared stiffness = possibly counteracted by distracting change of sensation of his lower extremities (?)
He scratched his head with the erasing end of his pencil. Is this really the chain of events?
There was a knock. Wiley looked up to see Roger standing in the doorway. The rabbit stood for a moment, rubbing the back of his head, looking anywhere but him.
"W-Wiley, am I still going to be lend to her?"
Wiley raised his brow at his choice of words. But the rabbit doesn't look like he mind at all. "Of course. I'll be dropping you off to the library on the way."
Roger smiled, happy. "Oh… okay."
"Just record down every tooning that would occur with you tomorrow. We'll be needing that data."
"Okay," was his dreamy reply.
Wiley opened his mouth to counsel Roger about his state. He barely even know his colleague. But he decided against it.
Roger left, practically floating. Wiley leapt to measure the distance between his feet and the floor. Roger barely heard the crash that followed.
The coyote straightened up, ribs sore but distance attained. He went back to his notes. Adding the new data and his other observations for that day. Pretty soon, he was in his own world.
Mellow notes of Ain't She Sweet played in the air. The coyote glanced at the phonograph, not a record was playing in it. He rolled his eyes as he heard Roger sing along. He bent down to continue with his notes.
To get the feel of Roger's moods, listen to the following recordings:
Ain't She Sweet by Annette Hanshaw, 1927
Every Little Star published in 1932 but listen to Linda Scott's version. I voted it the sweetest, cheesiest of the song ever.
It's kind of sad when no one responds after a chapter comes out. To be honest, I feel like I'm just throwing my writing to a dark hole. Can you also review and tell me what you think?