-1My take on the Warner's - who they are, where they come from, what they have to go through on the way to the top, and afterwards.
I foresee this fic being long (if people like it and it gets good reviews). It will cover their early years, their years on "Animaniacs" and afterwards. Mostly from Yakko's point of view, at least for now (he is the oldest after all). As the years progress, other characters - from many different shows - will be making appearances.
When you see "XXXXXXXXXX" it is a change in a characters' thoughts or scenes - I could find no other way to switch the perspective.
Thanks to DancesWithCorpses going through this for me and proofreading my horrid spelling.
Chapter 1 – It's Hard, Being the Oldest
He was jolted out of his sleep, not by the sound of snoring or a nightmare, not even the people in the apartment upstairs yelling at each other, but the unhappy cries of a baby.
His brain still a bit addled with sleep, the child turned to look to his left. Beside him, his younger brother slept peacefully, thumb in his mouth. He rolled over, curling up to his younger brother, hoping one of his parents would tend to the disturbance so he could go back to sleep.
After a minute, it grew silent, and the boy gave a happy sigh; his parents finally did something. With this thought still going through his head, the wails came back, louder than before. Apparently the baby was simply inhaling - more air - more noise.
Why didn't Mom do something to make her be quiet? The boy looked at the clock on the floor – 2:42 A.M. With a small groan, he rolled over and got out of the bed carefully, making sure not to jostle the rickety frame. The last thing he wanted to do was wake his brother. Luckily his little brother was a fairly heavy sleeper and the noise did not seem to have woken him. Clutching his stuffed bunny, he continued to snore, occasionally letting out a small yipping sound.
Staggering across the hallway, he entered his parents' bedroom and flicked on the light, wincing slightly as the dim light overhead lit the grungy room. Not surprisingly, neither of them was home. If he was going to be babysitting, the least they could have done was informed him. It would not be any different from any other day, but it just seemed like it would have been nice to have been told.
But, they hadn't, and the baby was in the middle of his parents' bed, screaming.
Wondering why she was not in her crib on the other side of the room, he walked across the dirty carpet, stepping over clothes, bottle caps, discarded cigarette butts, scattered playing cards, and old slips from the dog track.
Smelling something terrible; he cringed - did her diaper need changing?
Just taller than the edge of the bed, he peered at the baby, barely old enough to sit up on her own. Still bawling, her dark eyes followed his every movement.
He remembered Mom saying something earlier about his sister starting to get her teeth in, right before his mother put her own teeth around the neck of a bottle and thrust the infant into his arms.
Slightly sympathetic, but happy it was not him with the sore gums, he inhaled and hoisted himself onto the bed. Wincing at the bed frame creaking in protest, he crawled across the filthy duvet and picked the baby up. She quieted some. She whimpered and looked at him with big dark watery eyes.
He began to think – neither of his parents were here – not that he was sure how much help they would be. He had to find a way to dull the pain in her gums so she, and subsequently he, could go back to sleep. If the gods found favor with him, his brother would not wake up as well. Doing a quick look, he did not spot her pacifier.
He had read that rubbing alcohol on an infant's gums could numb the pain of teething. Although medicines where readily available for teething on the shelves at the local grocery store or pharmacy, they certainly did not have the money for something like that. He hoped that a bit of alcohol on her gums would sooth her a bit.
It was hard sometimes, being the oldest. And to think – Mom made it sound like it was such an adventure each time she announced she was pregnant – the little ones will look up to you – you'll be the big brother – it will be your job to protect them and teach them...
"Come on sister sibling," he said, liking the new word he had learned today. "Mom said whiskey can dull the pain of anything, and I know there is plenty of that around here."
The baby made a small whimper, but didn't seem to protest further.
As he scooted across the bed, balancing his sister, he found the source of the foul smell - a bottle of spoiled formula. Hoping that his sister had not drank any of it, he kicked it off the bed onto the floor - he would clean it up later.
As the boy carried his sister into the living room, he rolled the new word around in his head. Sibling. According to the dictionary he had been reading - a blood relative. A kinsman or woman. It sounded so much more intelligent than brother or sister.
Yakko knew the importance of sounding intelligent.
Still carrying the whimpering child, he looked around, hoping to see his parents, even slightly tipsy, sitting on the avocado green couch with the cigarette burns on the seat cushions. Of course his father would drunkenly be talking about how "those damn kids" had ruined him; he would have had a successful career on stage and screen if he didn't have to worry about them. His mother would be mumbling about money, hooch, and her own "Hollywood" career that had never taken off.
As he passed the obsolete television with the missing dial sitting on the puce carpet, ineffective rabbit ears sticking out at odd angles, he tripped over the VCR, dented from so many drunken kicks, sitting out in the middle of the floor. He gently moved it with his foot closer to the television in an attempt to save it from being damaged any more than it was. It was really the only thing of value they had in the house - it was entertainment and escape.
Struggling to hold the baby with one arm, he began to root around in the couch cushions. He knew there had been a bottle of rum in there earlier – he had smacked his head on it when he had been watching TV and play wrestling with Wakko. He wasn't sure his sister would like it, but it always seemed to make Mom feel better.
The baby began to whimper louder, and not finding the bottle, Yakko gave up.
Think, think...What to do?
He was seven, getting ready to turn eight – his experience in this area was limited. Wishing he were a bit older and better prepared to deal with this, he hit upon another idea. There had been some cheap popsicles in the freezer – maybe one of those would work. Cold could numb pain, and it was really the only other idea he had at this time.
He quickly made his way into the kitchen, stepping over bottles, toys, and miscellaneous garbage. Looking around, he dragged a chair over to the aging Frigidaire and jumped onto the seat, still balancing the baby in his left arm.
Yanking open the freezer door, he was delighted to see that there were still several popsicles there. Grape, cherry, orange, mystery blue color – what flavor would a baby like?
He decided on red – girls always seemed to like the red ones. He preferred the orange. Wakko didn't seem to care – more often than not, he would eat the wrapper too.
Closing the door, he sat down in the seat of the chair, then balanced his sister in his lap. She looked up at him, starting to cry again.
Ripping open the clear plastic wrapper with his teeth, he squeezed the end until the tip of the treat came out. Dot was starting to cry louder, and, when she inhaled to let loose another scream, he popped the end in her mouth.
She widened her eyes in surprise, but when she tasted the flavor, began to suck enthusiastically on it; surprising Yakko with the speed she was choking it back. At the same time, it appeared to be having the effect he desired – she was no longer crying.
As he sat in the chair with her on his lap, he looked around the kitchen, curling up his lip a bit when he saw several roaches move into the crack on the wall. He made a mental note to clean up whatever was spilled on the floor in the corner that was attracting them. Most of the cabinet doors were not closed, which was a shame - if they were closed, he could at least pretend that there was some food in them, and that he would not have two hungry faces looking at him in the morning. If Mom and Dad did not bring home some food stuffs, they were going to go hungry again, something that was never pleasant.
Dot's highchair was thrown haphazardly in the corner, still filthy from the prior feeding that surprisingly, his mother had done. His father had taken his dinner and disappeared, leaving Yakko to assist his younger brother.
Wrinkling his nose, he noticed that whatever was spilled on the floor was also on the highchair - the tray had roaches on that as well. Disgusted with his mother's cleaning habits and the bugs, he hopped onto the floor. He placed Dot on the chair, where she started making fussing noises, but did not unhand the popsicle. He grabbed a rag, already dirty with a prior spill, off the counter top and walked to the rusted sink. Thrusting it under running water, he began to wipe down the highchair, killing any bugs that he was able to catch and tossing them into a discarded bag that was on the floor. He also tackled the mystery stain on the floor since he was in the area, constantly turning to look at Dot, just in the odd chance she started to fall off the chair.
When he had finished his cleaning, he noticed that Dot had finished her popsicle. Half of it was on her face, the rest smeared on her pink outfit. Thankfully she appeared to be happy, looking at him with a goofy grin on her tiny white face.
Small smile on his face, he grabbed another rag, cleaner this time, and wiped her face and hands, breaking out into a big grin when she started giggling. If she was happy, then he was happy - plus, he could go back to sleep.
Picking her up, he carried her back into their parents' room. Quickly changing her diaper and outfit on the bed, he carried her to the crib. Standing on his toes, he was able to lower the rail to place her in it, thinking that this was the safest place for her, not their parents' bed where he found her. Plus, he knew the crib was clean - he had done the laundry himself a few days before. Judging from the odor coming from his parent's bed, he doubted the sheets had been washed in months.
There were miscellaneous items in the crib that he had to move, including a bottle of rum and the missing pacifier.
"Night sis." He mumbled. He wiped the pacifier off with his glove, slipped it into her mouth, and raised the rails, hearing them click into place. He turned to leave, happy to seek his bed, when he heard her start whimpering.
Tired, and a little annoyed, he turned back to the crib, where she was looking at him through the bars like a tiny criminal, tears forming in her eyes. Were her teeth hurting again already?
She let out a soft wail, and with a sigh, he lowered the rails and picked her back up, ready to shove another popsicle in her mouth and sleep in the kitchen. She stopped crying and peered at him through her tears. With a shrug, he placed her back down, where she started fussing again. Raising an eyebrow, he picked her up, where she immediately stopped crying.
Unbelievable. She woke him up because she wanted comforting. He tried looking irritated, but was unable to really muster up the feeling. Around this house, he was starting to assume the role of primary comfort-giver; somebody had to do it. It would be nice if there was someone to comfort him sometimes.
She let out a soft giggle and began to gently bat at his face with her pudgy little hands.
Resigned to the fact that he was going to be up the rest of the night with her, he cuddled her and began stroking one of her long black ears, feeling the silky black fur through his glove. She squirmed, happy for the attention.
He walked to the window, hoping to at least see something interesting if he was not going to get any sleep. The walls in this apartment were way too thin to watch TV to pass the time - all he would do was wake his brother up. Too bad - his parents had tripped across a wonderful collection of movies from the thirties - Yakko knew better than to ask where they had come from. Old black and white movies true, but very entertaining – he and Wakko had watched them for hours…
He wrinkled his nose a bit, never liking the view out their windows. This section of Toontown was an overcrowded ghetto, full of has-beens, never has-beens, aging starlets, gamblers, con-men, and boozed up sleezeballs looking for a good time. The Plympton Ghetto was not the worst of the ghettos, but it was not one of the better areas of town either.
Somewhere out there, his parents were attempting to hit "the big one" as they called it. Whether it was begging, stealing, gambling, trying to con someone; they were always chasing some new scheme. If they were really fortunate, they would actually bring home some food. A bottle of spoiled formula and some popsicles were not going to make a very appetizing breakfast.
Despite the constant fighting of the residents upstairs, the noisy street, the calls of woman to men, constant traffic, the occasional siren, and a mugging here or there, he could usually sleep fairly well. It probably explained why he never found his brother's snoring all that annoying. He had been dealing with worse for years.
Yakko felt rather than heard another presence, and with a tired sigh, turned to see his younger brother standing in the doorway, clutching his stuffed bunny and rubbing his eyes. Wakko looked at him with sleepy eyes a little hesitantly.
With a small smile, Yakko held out his other arm for Wakko, who ran over to get a hug of his own. Without a word, Yakko turned back to the window, baby balanced on his left hip, Wakko leaning against his right leg.
"Where's mummy and daddy?" Wakko asked quietly.
Yakko, not looking at him, simply said "Out."
His parents - and he used that word loosely…They should be here - they were the ones who chose to have children, but they were never here for anything, always out boozing and scheming and partying…
They had seemed upset when they missed the first time Wakko took a step. They had been more upset when they missed hearing his first word. They had been livid when they heard that his first word was "Yakko". They were actually angry at Yakko, like he stole their spotlight. He was not sure what they thought it was going to be - who spent more time with him - they were never here - someone had to watch him…
The only thing that had surprised Yakko about the whole affair was that his brother sounded like he was going to develop a Scouse accent. Unusual. Where that had come from, he had no idea.
Not wanting to dwell on these thoughts, and about to fall asleep on his feet, Yakko gently turned Wakko around and led him back to their bed, still holding their sister. Looking at her tearstained face, he could see that she was almost asleep. She glanced at him, let out a soft burp, and laid her head back on his shoulder.
He helped Wakko into bed with his one free arm, and too tired to attempt to bring Dot back to her crib, decided to let her stay with them. Maybe if she felt her brothers near her, she wouldn't fuss so much and would stay asleep. He just hoped they didn't crush her in the bed.
Glancing at the clock, the time now read 3:58 A.M.
Glad he had no plans for the day, he laid down, Dot cradled in his right arm. Wakko crawled over him, giving him a knee in the stomach in the process, to sleep on his left arm.
Yakko grabbed a pillow, placed it beside Dot so she wouldn't roll off the bed, and with his two snoring siblings using him as a pillow, dozed off to an uneasy sleep, worried about what was going to be in the kitchen in the morning.
He had been having a fairly pleasant dream; he and his siblings been had sitting in a clean kitchen eating a real breakfast - plenty of food - eggs, cereal, milk, juice…
He should have known it was a dream just from that - the words 'clean' and 'plenty of food' did not appear often in his house.
The scream in his ear shattered this illusion, and he jumped with a start. Groggy, he sat up, and saw Wakko sitting in front of his sister, waving his bunny in her face. She was sitting up, crying, and Wakko looked like he was about to cry too as he violently waved the scrap of fur back in forth in front of her.
Shaking his head, he asked "Wakko, what are you doing? You trying to upset her?" He picked the baby up, where she continued to sob, pushing her wet face into his chest.
"No." Wakko whimpered, clutching the animal to his chest. "She crying - trying to play with her…not wake. You so tired..."
Slightly touched, Yakko placed his hand on Wakko's head. "It's OK, she's just fussy - she's getting her teeth."
Wakko, looking confused, simply shrugged his little shoulders and curled up to Yakko, who looked at the clock. 8:37 AM. He got to sleep later than he thought.
"I'm hungry." Wakko said.
Me too, Yakko thought. Wondering if his parents ever made it home, and if they bothered to bring any food, Yakko gently scooted his brother over so he could get up.
"OK – let's go see if we can find something to eat."
Yakko, holding Dot, was off the bed and waited for Wakko to hop down to the floor.
Holding his hand, he led them into the kitchen, noticing on the way that his parents' door was closed. Well, that answers one question.
Looks like Mom and Dad had a good night, he thought. The bag of groceries on the rickety table looked liked manna from heaven. There was another bag on the table that Yakko recognized - blue plastic bags meant someone took a trip to the all-night liquor store.
Wrinkling his nose slightly, he placed Dot in the highchair that should have been disposed of long ago. The plastic was so broken and jagged that he had bound the entire top in duct tape just to make sure his sister, and previously, his brother, did not get cut on it. But, thanks to his early morning cleaning frenzy, at least it was halfway sanitary.
Wakko climbed into a chair at the table as Yakko began to go through the grocery bag.
Some of this stuff should have been put into the refrigerator when they came home, but apparently something else got in the way, he thought, giving the blue bag a nasty look.
But the milk still was cool, so he was hoping that was OK. There was a can of formula for Dot, a few slices of cheese, eggs, a jar of jelly, a loaf of squished bread, two bars of cheap chocolate - rare indeed in this house, - even a can of some breakfast meat-type product whose name he could not read, but he was hoping was going to be edible. It appeared Mom and Dad didn't have a fantastic night - they had apparently gone to the "scratch and dent" section of the food store.
Excited to be getting something to eat, Wakko bounced up and down in the chair, long black ears flopping around his face.
Yakko laughed at his antics as he moved the groceries to their proper places - milk in the refrigerator, bread on the counter. He hid the chocolate in his pants – something to keep the sibs happy later. He began getting out the pans and bowls to prepare breakfast.
"Can I have cereal?" Wakko asked.
"Sorry, we don't have any cereal." Yakko said, concentrating on preparing Dot's formula.
"Can I have a waffle?"
"Sorry, I don't have any waffles."
"How about pancakes? I like pancakes."
Yakko sighed. He would love to give him pancakes or waffles. Wakko would eat waffles until he burst if given the chance.
"Sorry Wakko, I don't have any of those either. We have eggs, toast, and potted meat product."
"I don't like those." Wakko frowned.
Yakko, who knew that he did like all of the mentioned foods, turned to look at him for a moment.
"Yes you do. You ate toast and eggs a few days ago."
"No I didn't."
Yakko had finished preparing Dot's bottle, and placed it into her chubby fist. She put the nipple of the bottle in her mouth and began to happily drink.
"Yakko, I don't like those foods. I want a waffle!"
Wondering why his brother was choosing to put up a fuss now, Yakko turned. Rolling his eyes at his brother's whining, he continued to prepare breakfast. Probably left over from that 'terrible twos' thing he had heard about.
Unfortunately he had to prepare the food they had. He was not looking forward to yet another meal of eggs and mystery meat either.
"Yakko! I don't want that!" Wakko began to yell, pounding his tiny fist on the table.
Startled, Dot dropped her bottle and stared at her brother in wonder.
Ignore him, just ignore him, Yakko thought. Temper tantrums are supposed to be ignored - if you ignore them, usually they quiet after a few minutes.
Wakko's voice began to rise, and as the pounding on the table continued, Yakko thought it was going to be a long few minutes. Hopefully -
"Quit that damn noise!" a harsh voice rang out.
"What the hell is going on?"
Yakko cringed as out of the corner of his eye he could see a shadow coming down the hall. Darn, Wakko woke him up.
"Wakko - hush!" Yakko hissed at his brother, who stuck his tongue out at him, and continued to pound on the table, repeating his "waffle" chant like a mantra.
Sensing that this was not going to end well, Yakko finished preparing the scrambled eggs, topped with cheese just the way Wakko liked them, and he quickly shoved a slice of breakfast meat and toast on the plate and immediately placed it in front of his brother.
"What are you doing boy?"
Yakko turned to look at his father standing in the doorway.
At first glance, Slacko Warner looked much like his name implied. Tall and lanky, his back was always bent in a constant slouch. His white face, almost translucent for its paleness, held large black eyes, framed by limp black hair and the trademark Warner ears and bright red nose. But where his children's ears were upright and perky, Slacko Warner's ears hung crooked and low, due to the stresses of hard living and the constant breaking of the cartilage in bar fights or when one of his con victims wised up, or he was caught picking the wrong pocket.
His father was not exactly a criminal mastermind - more often than not, he was caught.
His nose, red more from drink rather than genes, was enormous, and he was holding a can of beer to his head. Yakko supposed that another potential sucker figured out what his father was up to - it looked like his father was going to have one heck of a black eye and swollen lip at least.
Yakko noticed that Wakko had stopped throwing his waffle fit and was happily eating his scrambled eggs and toast, though he was avoiding the meat product. Not that Yakko could blame him - while it had turned a salmon color upon being cooked, it originally had started as a carroty-colored lump. He sure wasn't looking forward to consuming it.
"Good Morning Dad. Care for some breakfast? It's really good," he asked, holding a plate up to his father. Better to pacify the old man and get him out of there.
His father continued to glare down at him, eyes narrowing.
"You getting smart with me boy?"
I can't help it, Yakko thought, among other comments. Deciding that caution should be exercised in this instance, he simply said "No sir," and put the plate down on the table.
"What was that brat yelling about?" Slacko hissed at him, glancing at Wakko, who had briefly stopped eating his eggs to watch the conversation. Catching his father's eye, he quickly looked down and began eating his eggs again.
"Oh nothing - he was just having trouble containing his excitement to be eating this feast you have laid out before us."
Yakko saw the slap coming before it actually struck him across the mouth. Staggering back a few steps, he warily watched his father coming at him, hands encased in the standard issued white gloves of half the world's toons. Most toons kept their gloves spotless - his fathers were quite grimy he noticed.
He dimly heard his brother and sister start to cry, and he regretted saying anything to his father in one of his drunken states. He didn't want to do anything to put them in their father's warpath. His parents had never hit the younger ones, and only rarely him - mostly for the same thing.
"Better watch that smart mouth boy - gonna get you in trouble someday. You don't like the food we brought, get your own. Think you could do that kid? Think you could take care of all of you better than your old dad, huh?" Slacko slurred at him, spittle flying from his mouth with every third word.
A whole plethora of thoughts went through Yakko's mind, the first one being: I already do.
Again deciding that silence was called for in this case, he said "No sir" and resisted the urge to wipe his face.
Surprised that his son was being so meek, Slacko glared at his oldest for a full minute, waiting to see what the game was. When he realized that Yakko was simply going to look back at him, he left the kitchen with a final "keep those kids quiet."
As soon as he left and heard the bedroom door close again, Yakko turned to his sobbing siblings, who had abandoned their breakfast and were watching him, sniffling.
"Come on guys, finish your breakfast. Wakko, you like the eggs, right?" Yakko was close to going into panic mode - he didn't want his brother or sister upset, or crying loud enough to bring their father back into the kitchen.
"Look, I'm alright Wakko, see? I just talk too much. Eat your breakfast – I'll take you guys to the park." He sat down to eat the now cold breakfast. He hated cold eggs and mystery meat, the way the grease congealed on the top and sides…
Shaking his head, he looked at his sister, who was slowly stopping her crying. He picked the bottle back up, wiped it off, and handed it back to her. She began to gnaw on the nipple. Wakko, sniffing, watched his brother, and when Yakko, swallowing a grimace of disgust, forked a spoonful of eggs into his mouth, he followed suit, quietly wiping his eyes.
Breakfast was finished in silence.
And neither of them ate the meat product.
After the delightful scene in the kitchen, Yakko thought it was probably a good idea to get everyone cleaned up and out of the apartment for awhile – at least while his parents were sobering up.
While Wakko, still sitting in the chair in his pajamas, played some game with Dot only the two of them understood, Yakko piled the dishes into the sink – he could do them later, when the others went down for a nap.
Glad to see at least Dot grinning, Yakko quickly got her out of the highchair, and nodding to Wakko to come on, walked down the hall to their room.
Sitting Dot on the bed, Yakko quickly helped his brother get changed from worn pajamas to a worn pair of overalls. He quickly changed himself, throwing on his khakis that were a size too big and his shirt, and then remembered – all of Dot's things were in his parent's room.
Darn. Now what?
At the very least, she needed to be changed. No help for it – much as he was afraid he was taking a death walk, he had to go in and grab her things. He turned to Wakko, standing next to the bed and peering over the top at Dot, and got an idea.
"Wakko – I need your help."
Wakko looked at him, half in confusion and half in delight.
"I need to go into Mom and Dad's room to get some things for Dot." The previous two looks were replaced by terror on his small face. "I want to see if you can help me."
To Wakko's credit, he didn't run or start crying. He took a gulp, but nodded his head. Excellent.
"We have to play the silent sibling game." Another befuddled look. "I need you to keep Dot quiet. And yourself." Remembering the chocolate in his pajamas pocket, he added, "If you can keep really really quiet – even quieter than me – you'll win! And I'll have a prize for you."
This seemed to cheer him up – he grinned and began to hoist himself up onto the bed with his sister. Yakko shot him a grin of his own and left the bedroom, keeping the door open so that he could hear if anything happened.
He tiptoed across the hall quietly, and when he reached his parents' door, he laid his ear against it, listening. Other than snores and an occasional grunt, he did not hear anything that would indicate the occupants were awake. Nervous, he placed his hand on the knob and turned it, slowly pushing the door open, wincing at the squeaking noise that sounded a hundred times louder than it actually was.
Sticking his head into the room, he first looked at the bed. His father lay on his back, legs splayed, snoring loudly. He then looked at his mother, dressed in what one could only call "lingerie" – skimpy red silk kimono style dress, torn stockings, and six inch stilettos. While she could be just as nasty as Dad when sleeping it off, she did have her moments. She apparently had just gone to sleep – there was still a half-smoked cigarette in her hand – and she was draped across their father's chest.
His mother. She had been a beautiful toon. She still was, in a way, Yakko thought, looking at her in the dim room. Beautiful in a rough way. Life had been hard on Ophelia Warner.
At sixteen, she had left home, against her family's wishes, and had made her way to Hollywood, seeking to become the lead in a new cartoon series being done by Hanna-Barbera entertainment.
One of the more promising young singers and dancers that had come to Hollywood during that time, she thought she would be a shoe in for the part.
With the voice and legs that other woman, toons or human, could only dream of, and an exquisite face with large emerald eyes, framed with long wavy hair, men would actually stare when she walked down the street. She grew used to the wolf whistles and cat calls.
She knew she was beautiful, and used it to her advantage – men ate out of her hand. But she spread herself a little too thin, began to get the label of "loose" attached to her. She angered many of the female toons. Slowly, quality of men and acquaintances dropped.
In the meantime, Hanna-Barbera had chosen to go a different route with the cartoon, opting for human toons instead of cats, and Ophelia was out.
Having angered many of the toons in Hollywood, she had an impossible task of finding a job. Disney wouldn't touch a soiled toon of her caliber, no matter what she looked like or the amount of talent she possessed. She had not saved a dime of any money she had borrowed from her family or friends, and rent was going to be coming due.
When she caught his eye, Slacko instantly wanted her, down on her luck or not. From what Yakko could make out from the few times he was told of this romantic pairing, a couple of dinners, an offer for her to stay at his place, and a few sympathetic words from the fast talking Slacko were all it took for Ophelia to jump into his arms and his bed.
Mom came cheap it seemed.
A few months of this, and it was discovered that she was pregnant. Unfortunately for her, abortions were not available for toons. A toons body could only handle certain types of abuse; their bodies are not designed for it. Doctors and animators had been studying it for years, and could only come up with toons inner parts were simply too thin to sustain that type of abuse. An attempt to abort was a death sentence for a toon.
She was forced to have the baby.
Her father, a large man, along with her equally large uncle, came and beat the reluctant bridegroom Slacko into submission. While it was hardly the wedding of the century, it was legal, and Ophelia Pete became Ophelia Warner within minutes. After this, her family had cut all ties – she played, she paid. She wanted to live her life – here it was.
Seven months later, Yakko had been born.
Shaking his head to clear his trip down memory lane, Yakko came back to the task at hand – diapers and clothing for his baby sister. He turned his head back briefly to make sure Wakko and Dot were still OK on the bed. Wakko was holding Dot, who was chewing on his ear, and Wakko was craning his neck to see around Yakko. Not wanting his brother to see his parents in this bad a condition, he waved his hand for Wakko to move back.
For once, bless him, Wakko not only understood, but obeyed. He really wanted that prize.
Stealing his resolve, he crouched down and headed to the cardboard box under the crib, where all of the baby items were stored. Not really remembering how many were in there from his trip earlier in the morning, he prayed that there were some supplies in it.
Amazed that his luck was holding, he looked into the box to see several diapers, along with half a tub of wipes.
Life was good.
While his parents continued to sleep, he grabbed two diapers, the wipes, and a clean outfit for Dot, and crept back out of the room, silently closing the door behind him.
Not realizing he had been holding his breath, he exhaled as soon as he got into the hall, relief flooding through him for having come out of that alive.
Upon entering his bedroom, he noticed that Wakko was quietly bouncing gently on the bed while his sister chewed on his ear.
Seeing Yakko, he asked, "Did I win?"
"Yep – sure did Wakko! Great job kiddo!"
Wakko looked delighted, and watched with happy eyes as Yakko picked up his discarded pajama pants and reached into the pocket. Yakko broke off the first row of the bar of chocolate and handed it to his brother, who, with a small cry, began to happily chew on it while Yakko hid the rest of the bar and the second bar in the battered dresser drawer.
With any luck, this chocolate would last a while – who knew when or if they would ever see anymore.
He set about getting Dot changed and ready while Wakko enjoyed his prize. After Dot was ready, he looked, sighed, and set about washing the chocolate off Wakko's hands and face.
Yakko got the feeling that he was the only one in the entire apartment that knew how to put the food into his mouth.
Yakko was always nervous leaving the apartment after dusk – he refused to think about who might be lurking around the darkened hallways and alleys. But during the day, he had much less fear – the sun was shining, it was a nice day, and all the drug addicts, boozehounds, and shady ladies had crawled off to whatever hole they called home; waiting until the sun fell to stagger back out for another performance.
The park wasn't much really – an old swing set, a slide, a see-saw that he had serious reservations about, and a rocket shaped play set from the 1950's that he refused to let Wakko play on. But it was the only real open area in this section of town where they could stretch out, play, and relax. He sat down against a tree. Yakko placed Dot on the grass directly in front of him, and he let Wakko go off to play on the swings, with strict instructions not to get out of his sight. He suppressed a shudder at the thought of what Wakko could run into out there.
As he leaned against the tree, he smelled something – sickingly sweet and cloying – cheap perfume, like Mom wore. She never wore it this strong though. His ears perked up; he heard two ladies talking behind him. He shook his head in annoyance – couldn't they keep their habits out of the park? There were kids around.
"-but then she said to me – Velvet, you spend too much time up around that place. I said, library's the best place to meet men, love – intelligent men make more money."
Her friend laughed – "Intelligent men? 'Round here? Ha- the only books the idiots want around here have no articles and lots 'o pictures!"
The two women laughed, and Yakko strained to listen in on this suddenly fascinating conversation – a library? Where? Surely not around here? And these two women, with their horrible speech knew about it? He had not explored the neighborhood as well as he probably could have, but with it being a rather unfriendly place, not to mention looking after his siblings, he had not had the time to take an extended tour. His parents certainly would not know about a library...
Grabbing his sister and calling Wakko over, who looked terribly disappointed to be called back from his play so early, he headed back to the bushes where he heard the woman, still talking but moving further away. They were heading out of the park.
"Excuse me? Excuse me!" he called as he grabbed Wakko's hand and began to pull him after the two women. Wakko looked at him, a bit stunned.
"Thought we weren't supposed to talk to strangers?" He asked, tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth.
"It's an exception." Yakko told him hurriedly, still trotting and dragging his little family along.
"It could be important," he answered. Where had they gone? He thought he would be able to track them just from the stench alone...
"Because we could have something new to do."
His mother had taught him to read when he was younger, before she became too addled with drink and bitterness. He, personally, loved to read, and snatched up anything he could find, whether it was a book, the back of a box, or a discarded newspaper in the trash.
He already knew the task of teaching the younger Warners' to read was going to fall to him. With maybe a total of seven books in the house, including the dictionary, a cook book, and a fashion magazine from several years ago, he imagined that his siblings were not going to be going gaga trying to learn. But if he could find something interesting to lure them...
"Wakko, please, just be quiet for another minute, OK?"
With a groan, he continued to trot after the two women, Wakko barely keeping up. They finally noticed the boy, and stopped, looked at each other with a grin, and waited for him to catch up.
"Whatcha want boy? Been a bit busy if ya got two already, eh? Looking for more?"
"Ya got money for it what's I like to know, what with the two mouths already!"
The two women laughed, and Yakko, a bit embarrassed and annoyed with the women and their crude comments, asked, "I heard you mention a library back in the park..."
"Spying on us laddie?"
You can only wish, he thought. "No madam, I was simply keeping watch over my siblings here at the park, and while I was being distracted by your grace I caught - "
Wakko had suddenly decided to become quite a chatterbox. Pulling on Yakko's hand until he looked down, he proclaimed:
"Yakko, these ladies smell like Mummy! Their not going to pass out on Daddy to are they?" Pointing at the garishly garbed blond fox, he said, "She's really pretty! I'd lay on her!"
With this stunning announcement, he promptly closed his mouth, tongue still hanging out the right side. Yakko closed his eyes, hoping that the ground would swallow him, while the women roared in laughter. Thankfully, Dot was sleeping through this, not that she would understand any of it anyway.
Giving his brother a glare, he said "Forgive my brother madam, he's very young."
"Come now boy, he's got good taste." Revolted, Yakko watched as the woman with the bad dye job crouched down to talk to his brother. The other woman, a red-headed fox, adjusted her top to hang just a little to low.
"So little man, what are you doing out here today?"
Wakko, a little taken aback with this new turn of events, gasped and promptly shoved his little face into Yakko's leg.
So much for the chatterbox.
"I'm sorry ma'm, he's very shy." Trying not to look too revolted by the overpowering smell of her perfume, he asked, "Could you please tell me the way to the library?"
"You one 'o them intelligent types huh?"
"Oh me? Well, I certainly like to expand my mind – that, and I hear you can meet some lovely ladies at the library." It was a struggle to keep the sarcasm out of his voice, but he must have succeeded. The lady looked flattered.
"What did I tell ya?" She asked, nudging her friend. "Some good ones do hang out down at the library!"
She bent down a bit more to put her hand on his cheek. Yakko meanwhile, still struggling not to gag, refrained from asking her if she used the perfume to cover the fact that she just didn't bathe.
"Well sweetums, if you want to get to the library, go back through the park, and head east on Lilac Lane – you know where that is?" Yakko nodded. "Good. Get to Primrose, and go left. Keep going left until you see the "All Night Liquor and Tan" – library is at the end of the block."
Dizzy with excitement and catching a buzz off the perfume, Yakko gave his thanks and practically ran from the two women, dragging Wakko with him. As Wakko shouted his protest, stating that he wanted to return to the park, the women shrugged and continued on their way.
It had been difficult to convince Wakko to not return to the park to play, promising something better (and bribing him with the thought of more chocolate when he got home), he had managed to get it done, and as Yakko spotted the "All Night Liquor and Tan", he was feeling quite pleased with himself. He simply hoped it was a decent library and not some cruel joke.
It was in a rougher section of town than where they lived, but again, it looked like most of the troublemakers were off elsewhere, for he saw very little traffic – vehicular or 'toon.
Sighing with relief, he spotted the sign saying "Toontown Library #26 - Plympton District". Hardly daring to become too excited, but unable to do so, he climbed the steps, Wakko in tow. Dot was awake now, and looking around, curious about this new place.
Entering the library, Yakko resisted the urge to throw himself on the ground and kiss the carpet. It was a decent one – it looked like thousands of books lined the walls and shelves. Off in a back corner room, he could see a section marked as "children". Painted cheery yellow, it looked like six or seven 'toon kids were back there, reading and playing.
Now convinced this was the stuff dreams are made of, he led Wakko, who had a rather curious look on his face, back to the kid's section. If Wakko picked out a few books, he could read them to him later – it would be better than letting him constantly watch television.
Yakko perused the titles in the children's section himself – amused by some of them, rather interested in others. Wakko had discovered the section on trucks, and was happily looking at those.
Meanwhile, Yakko's sharp eyes had noticed another section on the far wall – Cartoon Theory. He had heard about it, but never even considered the possibility that any of them would actually learn it. The Warners' were far to poor to afford a tutor. Besides, you had to have parents who cared enough to teach you, and you had to be born with the talent.
Everyone knew the Warners' didn't have any talent, unless you could count being drunks or crooks a talent. But still, it couldn't hurt to read about it.
He turned around to see what his brother was doing, and noticed he was eating a book – cover and all. They were going to get kicked out of here.
"Wakko, what are you doing?" he hissed at him, taking the book from his hands. The Hungry Little Caterpillar. Funny.
"I'm hungry." Wakko answered, looking at Yakko like he just grew a third head.
"You can't be hungry – you just ate."
Grumbling that he was still hungry, Wakko turned to look for another book. Dot watched all this with wide eyes, every now and then making a grab for one of Yakko's ears.
Impatient to look at the theory section, Yakko debated on going over and leaving Wakko in this section. It looked safe enough – there were plenty of other children around, even some parents. It was a library, what could happen?
"Hey, Wakko", he said, grabbing the boy's attention. Wakko had found a book on dogs.
"I'm going to go right across the aisle, over there, you see? You think you can stay here by yourself?"
Wakko solemnly nodded his head.
Pleased, Yakko grinned. "I'm keeping Dot with me. Anything happens, you yell and I'll come running, OK? And don't leave this area."
Wakko nodded again, then returned to his book.
Yakko turned, and, with a final look, went to the aisle. Glancing at the clock, he saw it was already 10:39 – the morning was going quick. Sooner or later they were going to have to head home, if nothing else for lunch.
Jelly sandwiches, yum.
Standing in the middle of the row so he could keep an eye on Wakko, his eyes started skimming the titles: "Cartoon Etiquette"; "Anvils and How To Make Them Work For You At Home and on the Job"; "The Magical Mallet"; "Gags, Puns and Witticisms – When and How"; "Escape from the Disney Curse", "Your Hammerspace and You"... Yakko was stunned – which one to chose first?
Turning again to check on Wakko, who was still looking at the picture book, he looked at Dot, and grinned, saying "Interested in learning Cartoon Etiquette Dottie?"
The infant slapped at his nose, and he turned back to the shelf to continue looking at the titles. Wishing he had a basket to load these books into, he grabbed several titles, including "Cartoon Theory for Complete and Utter Morons". He didn't consider himself a moron of any sort, but thought it might be a good place to start.
Wakko was still immersed in his picture book, and he saw more theory books on the other side of the aisle, out of view of the children's section. Wondering if he could get away with sneaking just a glance around the aisle he turned to look at Wakko again. Still looking at the pictures – it was one of those pop-up picture books, and Wakko was laughing at whatever just sprang up in his face.
Just one little look, Yakko thought. Wakko wasn't even looking, they were in a safe public place...
Yakko decided to take the plunge, and stepped around the shelf. Another whole case filled with books on theory. Amazing. But he couldn't look at them all – it could take hours...
Even more curious titles though: "Tunnel Painting and You"; "Cross Dressing to Fool Your Enemies: Do's and Don'ts"; "You Won't Fall Off A Cliff If You Don't Look Down and 101 Other Cartoon Phenomena Discussed"; and "The Lost Art of Pie Throwing".
Yakko continued to browse the titles, while Dot put her head down on his shoulder and went to sleep. So involved was he in the titles, looking at each book, trying to decide which one he would like to bring home to read first, he failed to notice time slipping away.
Surprising himself, he reached the end of the section. He had four books – great big volumes of knowledge he couldn't wait to dive into later when he was alone, that he didn't notice he was at the other end of the aisle – how long was he over here?
Looking at the clock, he saw he had been over there for well over an hour – it was 12:04 PM. With a small start, he dashed around the aisle to look in the children's section, and didn't see Wakko – oh no...
"Wakko?" he called quietly, gaining a few looks from annoyed library patrons.
Oh no oh no oh no...Please, where is he?
Still clutching Dot and the books, he ran the rest of the way to the children's section.
What had be been thinking? He was so stupid – he knew better than to leave him alone, he was too little, he was supposed to protect him, if anything happened to him he'd never forgive himself...
With his mind filled with horrible visions and thoughts, he skidded into the children's area, almost dumping himself and Dot on the ground. Dot, who had woken up, seemed to think this was a new game and squealed with delight.
Looking around, he saw the pile of books Wakko had been looking at, complete with the one with a bite mark, sitting on the floor. But where was –
Sweet relief flooded Yakko as he heard the squeaky voiced Liverpoolian accent. Looking down, he saw Wakko standing by his leg, holding a cookie in each hand.
"Wakko! Oh thank you thank you thank you." He bent down to give his brother a hug, dropping his books and crumbling the cookies in the process. "Oh, sorry about that." He looked at Wakko, and said firmly, "I told you not to take anything from strangers, Wakko."
Wakko shrugged. "There's more. She's not a stranger – Grandmother SweetStrudel is having story time."
Having no idea who or what a Grandmother SweetStrudel was, and not sure he had any desire to fill this gap in his general knowledge, Yakko gave him a noncommittal nod, and stood, picking up books in the process.
"Listen children, Grandmother is about to read the story!" Came a goofy sing-song voice, and Yakko turned just in time to see a fat egg-like man dressed in the most ridiculous elf costume he could imagine, prancing across the green carpet.
Then, he saw the fattest human toon lady he had ever seen sitting in a chair. From the size of her, Yakko seriously doubted that there were any cookies left, and gave his brother a look. His brother was covered in crumbs – probably would look pretty appetizing to SweetPuff or whatever her name was, better get him out of there before –
"Come on little boy – have a cookie and some punch and listen to the story!" He felt a hand grasp his arm, wrenching him forward with such violence that he almost dropped Dot. He was sent flying into a crowd of little boys and girls, all clamoring for a story.
Among this group was his brother, who now had more cookies. Where was he getting them from?
Wakko looked like he had just discovered a treasure and held one out to him. Yakko, figuring that if he was stuck here, he might as well get something to eat out of it, took it. He looked over his brother's head and noticed the sign - "Grandmother SweetStrudel's Happy Afternoon Tales, brought to you by The Society for The Betterment of Contemptible Toons".
He broke the cookie in half and gave one of the pieces to Dot, who promptly began to gnaw on it. After she was finished getting it all sticky and gummy, she began to happily rub it into her hair.
Yakko looked at her and just sighed as Grandmother SweetStrudel began telling a story about gingerbread houses and breadcrumbs.
After spending two of the most boring hours of his life listening to fairy tales, he was able to leave. It wasn't all bad – he and Wakko got four books each, plus Yakko chose two books to read to Dot. Not to mention, they had a nutritionally unsound, but none the less satisfying, lunch of cookies and punch.
Jelly sandwiches for dinner then.
After getting what he could of the cookie out of Dot's hair and fur, he went up to the library counter with the books. He wasn't exactly sure how this would work. The lady behind the counter, a bored looking ostrich, merely raised an eyebrow at the book with the bite taken out of it, told him he needed to fill out the application for a library card, and he could take the books home for up to two weeks. They could even get more if they brought them back early.
Looking at the application, he saw that a parent or legal guardian needed to sign. Drat. He wasn't sure both his parents brains were together enough anymore to remember how to sign their names. Not to mention, they weren't even here.
Thinking quickly, he asked, "My mom and dad are not here right now – could you please hold these books, and I can get them to sign this later, maybe come back tomorrow?" He could forge this later if need be - it would not be the first time he had to forge their name on something.
The woman looked at him. Maybe she was in a good mood. Maybe Yakko, looking excited but exhausted, holding a baby with one arm and a toddler's hand with another, looked so charming and pathetic that she just couldn't help herself. Maybe it was the end of her shift and she simply didn't care.
She said, "Tell you what – I'll sign you up, and you can take the books with you. In the meantime, you get your mom to sign that permission slip and bring it back, directly to me, when you come back."
Yakko, who felt this was probably the best day of his life, agreed, and gave her the requested information, promising to return the next day if need be to bring her the signature. He was told that was not necessary - just make sure to bring it back to her.
Delighted, Yakko took the books, and, with a final smile and wave, left the library, Wakko holding onto his pants leg.
After a dreadful walk home – both Wakko and Dot missed nap time and were driving him insane with the fussing and whining – Yakko put Dot and Wakko in his bed, and went to sit in the living room to begin reading his books.
Mom and Dad were still snoring in their room.
As he thought about the situation in the library today, he learned one lesson – don't ever let small children out of your sight. He couldn't believe he had been that stupid, and even now, hours later, was furious with himself for doing that. Would have waiting an extra ten minutes for Wakko to pick out a book have killed him?
With a snort of disgust at himself, he stretched out on the lumpy couch, "How Being a Loony 'Toon Can Save Your Life" in his lap. Wakko and Dot would sleep for several hours, he should be able to get deep into the book before they awoke.
Thankful for the break, he settled back and began reading.
Two hours later, Yakko looked up to see his mother shambling into the living room, hair disheveled and still dressed in the previous evening's designer outfit, minus stockings and heels. Relighting the cigarette, her eyes fell onto her oldest child, and she moved to sit down next to him.
Old beer, cheap perfume, and stale cigarette smells wafted off of her. Separately the spells made him sick - combined it was almost more than he could bear.
To himself, he made one vow - he was never, ever, going to drink. Ever.
"What are you doing sweetie?"
Of all the idiotic questions…
"Reading Mom. I found the library."
His mother looked surprised. "I didn't know we had a library around here."
The day was just full of surprises.
"If I had known you were looking for one sweetie, I would have found you one. I forget you are one of those types."
Since he sincerely doubted that, and unsure what "type" she was referring to, he chose to change the subject. "How are you feeling Mom?"
"Oh honey, you would not believe the headache I have -" Yakko closed the book, marking his place with a rolling paper he found on the floor, and proceeded to at least look interested while his mother continued on this vein for a few minutes, making sure to nod his head and feign sympathy at the right moments, which was mostly when she turned to look at him. The rest of the time he was struggling not to yawn or make faces at her turned back.
"What did you do today with your brother and sister? I was so worried when I checked and could not find you in the house."
Shocked back into the conversation by this line, Yakko replied again, "I found where the library was, and took them with me. We sat through Grandmother SweetStrudel's Happy Afternoon Tales, rented a few books, and ate a lunch of cookies and punch. So sorry you were concerned about us - you were sleeping and I didn't want to disturb you."
The fine art of sarcasm was lost on his mother it seemed.
"Oh, that's wonderful honey! And you are so thoughtful! Though you should not be wandering around this neighborhood alone - and a lunch of cookies! You three can't eat cookies for lunch! You will just have to have a good dinner! I will cook you up one right now!"
With this rather stunning statement, his mother stood up, swayed, and shambled off toward the kitchen. Yakko watched her go, wondering what she was talking about. The last he checked, there was part of a loaf of bread, some jelly, a bit of Dot's formula, a few eggs and some government cheese.
Choking back visions of a jelly and formula omelet with toast, he quickly got off the couch.
Maybe, just maybe, she had gone to the store…
Yakko followed his mother into the kitchen. His jaw dropped when he saw that she had done the dishes. He could still see food caked in certain places on the plates, and Dot's bottle could hardly be what one would call "clean", but she had made an effort.
He would admit that he was wrong; the day was full of shocks after all.
As his mother began to pull items out of the refrigerator, he sat in a chair to watch her.
Cigarette still dangling from her lips, she had her back to him, and was pulling pans and bowls out of the lower cabinets, long black hair swaying around her hips. He watched her through lidded eyes, wondering how life had taken such a turn and she ended up with a man like Slacko Warner. A little too full of herself apparently, many bad decisions, being saddled with a baby at seventeen – he often wondered how his mother would have fared if the show had worked out, if she had never run into Slacko Warner – would she still be a silly, vain woman? Would he still have been born, to a different father sure, but would he still be him? How about his siblings – how would they be different? He knew they were odd looking, even for 'toons -
"What books were you reading dear?"
Brought out of his musings, Yakko answered, "Toon Theory Mom. I've wondered about it for awhile." Curious, he asked, "Do you know anything about it?"
She laughed, a tinkling bell like sound, until the rasping smoker's cough broke in. "Me? Oh no, no – I wasn't born with that talent. That's your father's department. Very special. But I can dance though, and sing – oh honey – I'm so good at it! I'm one of the best you know! Why, I bet I could have sung for Disney, if only -" she broke off with a dramatic sigh.
Glad to see mom is so modest, Yakko thought.
So, his father huh? He thought about that, and snickered to himself at the mental picture of his father pulling bottle after bottle of cheap whiskey out of thin air, while mother sang, danced and drank.
Hearing a soft humming sound, he almost mastered bugging his eyes on the first attempt when he looked up and saw his mother swaying with a silly smile on her face. Oh no, was she having a seizure?
"-I know you, the gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam..."
Was she...singing? In the kitchen, using a wooden spoon as a faux microphone? Yakko supposed she could still be drunk. Or maybe she was smoking some of that "wacky tobacky" he had heard them mention?
Either way, he had to admit, she had been right – she had a lovely voice – clear, strong, rich, despite the years of heavy drinking and smoking and who knew what other abuses she put her body through. He would never have guessed. And she picked a good song – it was one of his favorites, having watched "Disney's Sleeping Beauty" many times on the television when they could get a good signal.
He continued to watch her as she went from simply swaying in time to the music to actually doing Briar Rose's dance. Maybe he was biased because she was his mother, but he thought she was excellent. He stood up from the chair and leaned on the counter to watch her better – she had her eyes half closed, head tilted back, and a slight smile on her face as she relived lost dreams and broken youth.
As she continued to sing and twirl around the floor, Yakko noticed that she was dancing toward him, and getting to the part where Prince Philip begins to sing.
Gliding past him, she picked him up along the way and continued singing.
Yakko threw his arms around her neck and locked his legs as he almost tumbled over while she started to drag him around the kitchen. He relaxed slightly when she held on to his waist with her left hand. She unhooked his small left hand from her neck and held it with her right. He was tall for his age, but he still had to stand almost on his toes to reach her. His mother had not stopped dancing as he struggled to get into a good position with her. When he did, he looked at her with shocked eyes as she gave him a sad smile and continued to lead as they danced the waltz.
It was a rare but treasured mother and son moment.
"But if I know you, I know what you'll do, and you'll love me at once," she trilled, giving him an encouraging smile. Yakko, used to giving all the attention, decided to abandon his more serious side for a few moments and cherish the attention he was getting.
Hesitantly, his young high voice joined hers.
"The way you did once upon a dream..."
Still smiling at him, he continued with the male solo, a bit more sure of himself this time:
"I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream; I know you, the gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam..."
They continued to sing the chorus together, still dancing across the kitchen floor, dust and discarded bags blowing to the sides as they delicately stepped and twirled.
When they finished, Yakko looked at his mother, who actually looked – proud? Happy? Satisfied?
She let got of his hands and gave him a hug, a rare thing for her, which he returned, and they stayed that way for several minutes, standing in the middle of a dirty kitchen in a cramped apartment in the Plympton Ghetto in ToonTown.
After a dinner of what had been a plain omelet, having convinced her that he would simply like the jelly on his toast, he returned to the couch, where he opened his book and continued where he had left off – pulling a mallet out of thin air and other life saving techniques.
Fascinating ideas – some concentration, and a bit of the correct "toon" genes, train your brain to have a suspension of belief, and you could literally pull almost anything out of a hat; or the back of your shirt, or an enemy's ear, or whatever.
Reading on, he found an interesting idea about this: certain 'toons, born to the correct lines, could potentially have what is knows as the "Schlesinger Syndrome". Most of these toons, the "talented" ones so to speak, could go to work for any studio – apparently toons born to these lines were rare and respected. A lot of the first 'toons with these talents ended up at Termite Terrace.
There was a chapter on the "less fortunate" toons – some of these ended up at Disney, Paramount, Hanna-Barbera...if they found work at all.
It then delved into the fascinating history and talents of some of animation's biggest names – Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd...toons who could pull objects out of whatever happened to be handy, bodies that could take abuse after abuse and simply bounce back, change clothing with a simple spin, even warp the environment around them in some cases.
It took a lot of practice and hard work though – Mr. Bunny, for instance, had studied for several years on his own, teamed up with some other toons to begin to refine these skills in all of them, and even by the age of forty, still was learning and growing into these talents.
Apparently the book he was reading now was written using some of Mr. Bunny's original essays and studies.
He was jolted out of his reading by a shriek of laughter and giggling – Mom was apparently in a very loving mood tonight, and was feeding Wakko and Dot, who had woken up awhile ago, in the kitchen. She had been singing to them as well before, Wakko sitting in a chair trying to sing along while Dot giggled and clapped in her highchair.
Happy that Mom was paying some attention to them and he could take a small break, Yakko returned to his reading when he heard a door open. Dad was up.
Remembering the scene in the kitchen from earlier this morning, Yakko kept his head down like he was reading his book but looked out of the corner of his eye to the hallway. Best to know where he was at all times.
His father, bleary eyed and shuffling, came into view, still wearing the stained shirt and black slacks from earlier. Yakko looked up to see his father standing over him. One eye was almost swollen shut now, and his busted lip told Yakko that he had mouthed off to the wrong person last night.
"What are you doing boy?"
Had no one in this house heard of a book before?
Probably not smart to say that with him so close.
"Reading Dad – I found the library."
"You didn't need to find it – it's right down on Primrose." As always, his father was being extremely helpful. "Should have asked boy, instead of thinking you know every damn thing."
Yakko wisely refrained from rolling his eyes. "Sorry Dad," he said, sounding as contrite as he could under the circumstances.
His father gave a huff, and sat down on the end of the couch, not looking at him.
"Your mouth OK?"
Shocked speechless, Yakko looked at him. Was he serious, or was this some sort of trick question? Hard to tell...
"It's fine Dad. Thank you for asking."
"Your Mom bitched about me hitting you. Sorry."
He didn't sound particularly sorry but he said the words, and then Yakko noticed that his mother was peering around the kitchen doorway watching. She nodded at these words, then disappeared to play mother some more to her two youngest.
Suddenly, his mother's words from a few hours ago came floating back to him:
"Me? Oh no, no – I wasn't born with that talent. That's your father's department. Very special."
There was no way his beer soaked dad could possibly... Yakko had an idea – probably the stupidest idea of his life, but an idea nonetheless. How to phrase this...
Slacko turned to look at his son. "Yeah?"
"I was talking to Mom earlier. I got some books on 'toon theory – she said you were quite talented in that depar-"
"Damn woman doesn't know when to keep her mouth shut..."
Figuring that was never a good way to get off a father and son conversation, Yakko quickly looked back down at his book, barely moving his head to look up every few seconds to make sure he could attempt to avoid any outbreak of violence from his father.
"Course I'm talented boy! That's the stupidest statement I've heard!"
"What sort of talk is that? Think we got some of that inferior genes and blood in us? Do you know who you are descended from? Do you? The great Kokko Warner!" his father looked at him with what he supposed could be called a pleased face. "Could have been a big star, couldn't he? If his lousy brother…"
Yakko had no idea what he was talking about, but if it kept him happy...
"I got the talent - and you will too, you all will! I could have been a big star - descended from that sort of talent - having a family got in the way of that didn't it?"
Slacko looked over, saw Yakko's dumbfounded look, and grew angry.
"Kokko! Dammit boy – you read all those damn books, and don't know about him?"
All what books? He just found the library today. Oh, why did he open his big mouth?
Standing up quickly, he snatched at Yakko's arm. Yakko tried to twist away, but wasn't quick enough, and Slacko had him in his grip.
He's flipped and he's going to kill me, he thought as he dropped the book on the floor.
His mother stuck her head out of the kitchen holding Dot, who was making grabs at the lit cigarette in her mother's mouth, and waved.
But instead of the implied violence, his father began dragging him back to his bedroom, a rather deranged look in his eye.
"I'll show you – make you proud of your heritage – act like your ashamed of being a Warner-"
The rest of his sentence was broken off in incoherent mumbling and Yakko, who had never thought about any such thing up to that point, simply hoped he hadn't gone off the deep end.
Arriving at the bedroom, his father kicked open the door, sending it slamming back into the bedroom wall and showering plaster from the ceiling down on them. He slammed the door back shut, and began muttering. Letting go of Yakko, his father dropped to his knees and leaned over, beginning to look under the bed he had so recently vacated.
Yakko, unsure if he should stay to watch, help, or just run, was rooted to the spot in horrified fascination, watching him toss all manner of objects from under the bed over his shoulder. Including a sheep, an anvil, and various other items that should not fit under the bed.
Blinking, Yakko watched the sheep hit the floor, bleat, and run headfirst into the door. It then fell over, stunned, and lay there letting out a pathetic moan of a bleat before disappearing before his eyes.
Yakko still had not moved. His mother had not been crazy; dad at least had some rudimentary talent.
"Got it! Damn it I found it!"
Yanked back to reality, Yakko looked up at his father to see him holding a scrapbook that had obviously seen better days.
Curiosity mixed with trepidation, Yakko inched closed to his father, anxious to see what he had, but really not wanting to get too close to him – both for safety and smell. He eyed him like one might eye a wounded wild animal.
"What is it Dad?" he asked.
"Your history stupid."
"Oh" was all he could think of to reply to this. It's got to be the drink talking. He hoped his dad would not take to long – it was hot in there, and he wanted to get back to his book.
His father thrust the moldy scrapbook at him.
"Read that if you're so keen on reading something. Probably learn more from that than any book from your fancy library."
Yakko had doubts about that, but said, "Thank you dad. I'll make it my top priority."
His father looked at him, grunted, and told him to leave.
Yakko, happy to oblige such a simple request, took the grimy book and retreated to the relative safety of the living room.
Retreating back in the living room, Yakko saw his brother sitting on the couch, holding his bunny in one hand and something else he could not see. He looked relatively happy though. His mother was in the bathroom, still singing. Must be getting ready to go out for a big night again. Hearing giggles and laughs muffled behind the door, he guessed she had Dot in there with her.
"Whatcha doing Wakko?" he asked him, sitting down beside him and picking up his book.
He placed the scrapbook on the floor under the couch. Maybe he would look at it later…
"Waiting for you - wanna watch?" he asked, holding up a movie. One of the old movies their parents got from somewhere or another.
"Which one you got tonight?" Yakko asked, taking the tape from him and looking at the green box. Same one as last night - out of the nine movies they had, it was Wakko's current favorite, and one of his as well.
Putting the tape in the VCR, he tried to ignore the clicking noises the aged machine made and waited patiently for the television to warm up, listening to the tubes inside begin to hum as they popped to life.
Wakko crawled into his lap, and Yakko rested his chin on top of his head, as the television sprang to life, and music began to play. His brother began to laugh before anything was really on the TV, already anticipating the jokes to come.
He heard the bedroom door open, and his parents came out into the living room. Yakko noticed they were both in different clothing - mom in ragged jeans and sweatshirt, dad in a stained wife beater and cut off shorts.
They were going to do the beggar routine tonight it seemed. Well, if the condition of his father's face was any indication, the high stakes blackjack player bit had not gone as planned last night.
Well, as long as they brought food home in the morning Yakko didn't really much care how they did it.
Mom came over to give a kiss on the forehead to Yakko and Wakko. At least right now, all Yakko could smell was the customary cheap perfume and cigarettes.
"Don't stay up too late dears. Dot is already asleep."
"Right Mom. Be careful." Yakko replied. Wakko took the kiss, then leaned over, almost falling off his brother's lap to see the TV. The quiet man with the harp would be on TV soon - Wakko loved him…
"Remember that book, Yakko. It's been passed down from every Warner father and son - you had better be careful with it…you don't want to see how pissed I'm going to be if anything happens to it," his father added, and with a final look, followed his wife out the door.
You got that right, Yakko thought.
As soon as the door shut, Yakko settled back into the couch, Wakko got comfortable on his lap, and then he heard Dot start crying.
Muttering under his breath, he moved Wakko onto the cushion, and went to his parents' room, where Dot was sitting up in her crib, bawling.
Feeling a sense of deja vu, he slid the rail down, picked her up, and while she slowly stopped crying, carried her into the living room. He settled down on the ragged couch, Dot on his lap, and Wakko crawled back over to rest against him.
Thinking about the books on the floor, including the book his father gave him, he decided to enjoy the movie with his siblings, and read them later. It had been a rather interesting day, and he would like the time to think and digest the flood of information that had come at him.
Wakko began giggling again, Dot joining in simply because of the atmosphere, and Yakko put his arm around his brother, pulling him in tight, as he watched his favorite character in the movie begin to dance as his signature song was sung by the cast.
"Hooray for Captain Spaulding, the African Explorer…"
End Chapter One