Part 11: Waffles In Charge
Editor's note: For some reason, I can't think of Waffle's dialogue without hearing Tracy Morgan's voice and mannerisms from 30 Rock in my head. Use that information however you see fit. Also, I'm hesitant to mention that this may be the finest thing I have ever written or ever will write.
Please enjoy this accompanying musical theme:
JULY 21st, 1848
When Cyrus Jr. found his father early the next morning he was lying in a massive pool of vomit where the bartender had left him.
Paw? Hey paw! Wake up!
Hurr? Wha? No, mmm don't like it there. Take it baaaack...
Waffles crouched beside the incapacitated man and gathered him up beneath the armpits, dragging him from the tavern like a shootout victim. Fortunately the bartender was kind enough to relieve Cyrus of his tab with only a minimal housekeeping surcharge. He was quite used to the whole process, in fact.
Slowly they made their way back to the wagon.
Oh, thank goodness, Cyrus Jr. I was worried he'd gotten locked up or something worse. He can't handle his liquor you know.
Yes, ma'am. When is he gonna wake up?
She pulled the boy aside.
Listen carefully, Cyrus Jr. Your father is going to be very sick for a few days. The doctor told me he's allergic to alcohol, you see, and we don't have time to wait a week for him to get better, with the late start and all. You're going to have to drive this wagon for a little while, do you think you can do that?
My goodness, mama! I don't know... why don't you drive?
Mama's not feeling too well child... this baby's acting up...
Waffles was scared. He'd never imagined being head of the household, he was glad just to get any attention at all. But maybe his father would finally see the kind of man he was. The kind of man he could be. He would do it. It would be the biggest mistake the family had made to date.
Ok, let's do it!
As Waffles began to get the hang of the reins, Susan went about trying to make Cyrus comfortable, who would occasionally babble incoherently and spit something up. It was the most rest he had gotten since he started this trip. She propped him up next to Sarah Jane, who had stopped screaming since they forded the river several days back. In fact, she had stopped talking, too. She hadn't said a word and didn't move much. Susan put her hand on the girl's forehead, but her temperature seemed fine. As for Susan herself, she was doing... not so good. Recently she had begun to feel quite nauseous, quite frequently and she suspected something might be wrong with her baby. It felt different than her other four pregnancies.
Several hours passed and Susan's stomach was getting worse.
Cyrus Jr, did you remember to fill the waterskins? I just need to cool off a bit...
Oh no. What have we got left?
She rooted around the back of the wagon but only came up with one full canteen. It would have to do until they ran across a stream or another wagon. Waffles felt terrible- he had already let down his mother, who wasn't looking too good at all.
Don't worry, ma, we'll find some soon! You'll see!
As the oxen continued to shuffle along at a quick pace, Waffles keenly watched the horizon, straining for any sign of water. They were too far out of Kearney to turn around now and they couldn't afford to lose two more days to make a round trip anyway. For a while he began to think he was losing his mind- the sky was absolutely cloudless but he swore he could hear steady drops of water falling nearby.
Sarah Jane spoke up for the first time in days. Actually, she just squeeked a little.
Sarah Jane, what's wron... HOLY FUCKING CHRIST!!
Soupy colon-surprise was virtually gushing out of the little bugger who sat in its own filth helplessly, unable to express it's internal anguish other than to flail wildly about. Cyrus coughed in a hazy stupor before falling back unconscious.
not my fault... terld you I coodnt eat no mur corn chowder, mommy... mmrf.
What the... OH SUSANNAH!
Waffles leapt into the back of wagon and picked the baby up to prevent it from squirting liquid doom across their supplies any more than it already had. The diaper was still tied tightly around the infant's nether-regions and Texas crude oil was spraying out the sides like a busted fire hydrant. He bound a few feet from the wagon and managed to pull the cloth turd-catcher off of Baby's body, loosing a waterfall of sick onto the unsuspecting ground, which had done nothing to deserve this.
Every member of the Neckebard family was wretching in a desperate struggle against physics to hang on to the meager rations they had consumed that morning but now Sarah Jane had graciously donated her lunch to the toxic pond that had begun seeping into the baseboards of the wagon and Cyrus' shirt had caught some exciting new chunks that had finally found the inspiration neccesary to make the arduous journey from his stomach.
Susan had hobbled herself to the front of the oxen yoke in an attempt to get some fresh air. What little water was left would have to be used to clean Baby's mess. It was that moment that she realized she hated her entire family.
As Baby stopped leaking, they decided to set up camp instead of continuing on that night while the wagon aired out. The food wasn't ruined, but the boxes had been tainted by an odor that practically dared you to find an appetite. Waffles dug out a box of unscathed ammunition.
Mama, I'm gonna catch some food for the fire. I gotta take care of us somehow, right?
He made off into the tall grass as Susan watched silently. She looked around at her catatonic daughter, filthy baby and passed out husband and broke down into tears.
Despite the day's misery, Waffles felt a modest sense of pride in his unexpected hunting prowess. It turned out the kid was a natural, at least a lot better than an enraged old man. He cut off the best pieces of meat he could find and headed back to camp. As had become the family traditional, the evening passed in silence.
All too soon, morning broke and the Neckebards were piling reluctantly back into the wagon where the atmosphere had become tolerable but in no way good. Waffles had gone off into the bushes to take a leak, one of the only enjoyable activities in his life these days. On the way back something caught his attention- it was a massive snake with a giant bulge near it's end like it had died trying to digest something too big, and it wasn't moving.
The young boy could scarcely pass up an opportunity to poke something like this with a stick and that's exactly what he did. There was no reaction. He poked it again, this time a little harder; still nothing. A sound beating produced no discernable movement. Oh hell yes, this was some kind of trophy for a job well done. Waffles scooped up the limp four-footer and ran back to the wagon, where his mother was just settling into the passenger side. He presented his amazing find through the back flap of the wagon:
Ma, take a look at the size of this thing!
At the very moment Susan had turned, the bulbous mass along the back of the snake quivered unexpectedly and a brood of tiny snakes shot from their mother's ass like a reptilian shotgun, covering the inside of wagon with a gooey layer of miniature writhing serpentine abominations who covered the tops of the poo-encrusted supply boxes and were starting to fall down the spaces in between.
The mother snake, her brood finally unloaded, suddenly twisted in Waffles hands and reared itself up to a terrifying height!
Gah, my arm! IT BURNS!
Susan stared through the wagon but she was no longer in the moment. She had gone to her happy place, and that place was not Oregon.
Another day passed as Susan tended to her son's wounds. She hoped the snake bite wasn't venomous, but she was no naturalist and couldn't tell the difference. At least he didn't seem to be suffering the effects of poison. He was feeling well enough to spend the afternoon cautiously digging baby snakes out of the wagon's supplies, but she got the impression he did it out of shame more than duty. Susan didn't know how much longer she could do this without Cyrus; she never had to worry about these sorts of things before. Hopefully he'd snap out of it soon.
Waffles was at an all-time low. Since taking over for his father, he had done nothing but let the family down. He looked over at his mother who was sweating profusely.
You alright, ma? You di'nt get no snakebite from one of them little buggers, did you?
His mother moaned and gave him a weak smile.
No, dear, it's just... the baby, I think. We need to get to Chimney Rock soon, ok?
At that moment an unfortunately familiar aroma assaulted their senses and Waffles swung around to witness the latest literal shit-storm.
Baby had begun laying down a fresh coat of pestulence in the vicinity for immediately obvious reasons: Waffles had overlooked one of the baby snakes who had managed to attach itself maliciously to the malformed child's head-like appendage as it furiously whipped its body about like a snake with an agenda.
Susan stared straight ahead and had wisely elected to pretend that nothing was wrong as Waffles scrambled to carry the dripping infant who was now leaking from multiple orifices from the wagon for the second time in as many days. He fumbled for something he could use to detach the determined snake and came up disastrously short. In a panic he laid the infant on the ground, spreading the snake's body out as far as it would go. He timidly stamped on the extended snake's body, careful to avoid Baby's head.
From the wagon, Susan dared a glance in the direction of Waffles, who, from this angle, appeared to be jumping repeatedly on a baby's head as a spray of brown ooze exploded from it's rear. She didn't know what to think about this, so she simply didn't. These oxen are mighty fine. They have done an exceptional job of carrying this wagon along the trail, Susan thought. You in front- your name is Oxford, and you beside him, you are Cambridge. No wait, that's a stupid name. I shall call you Winston.
A few minutes later, Waffles returned to the wagon. He gingerly placed the child back down next to Sarah Jane and Cyrus, who had been passed out through the entire fiasco. He climbed back into the driver's seat.
I think Baby's gonna be ok.
It was awkward. This whole thing was almost as bad as the waffle incident.
Hey, what's that up there?
Susan said nothing.