Home Sweet Home
Waylon had ridden back home on his bike that day with the silliest, lovestruck grin on his face. Mr. Burns had actually hired him to be his assistant which meant that all day after school, he'd be bringing Burns his slippers, brewing his coffee, answering his phone and maybe even greeting people at the door. Sure, it might not sound like a dream come true to most people, but it was his idea of paradise.
He stepped into the front door of his home and spotted his stepfather Glen sprawled out asleep on the couch in his white shirt, suspenders and rolled up sleeves. He was a tall, thin man, often being described as lanky and his brown hair was short, impeccably trimmed and parted on the side. Every day he would shlep in through the door, take off his suit jacket and place it on the hook near the door. Then he would loosen his tie, roll up his sleeves, kick off his shoes and then pass out on the couch for a while. He rarely strayed from this routine and became as irritable as hell if he was forced to.
Waylon preferred not to deal with him as their relationship was tumultuous to say the least, so he tip-toed passed him and made his way up the stairs. He was careful to skip over that noisy ninth step; however, on the tenth step, the groggy sounds of his stepfather awakening from his slumber met his is ears and he quickly rushed up the rest of the way and dashed into his room, cautiously locking the door behind him.
He plonked down onto his bed and grabbed the nearest magazine just so he would have something to do when Glen came up to check on him, which he would inevitably do sooner or later. Sure enough, soon he heard him stomping up the stairs and by the sound of those angry footsteps, he could tell that the man was going to make things difficult for him. He got up and grabbed a record from his collection, one that he knew would be most annoying and obnoxious to his stepfather. It was his own subtle way of rebellion, much like Mr. Burns had mentioned, a way to break away from the previous generation. Soon the psychedelic tones of 'Light My Fire' by 'The Doors' filled the room with its iconic organ intro.
BANG BANG BANG
, came the loud, thunderous rapping of a fist at his door.
"Waylon, unlock this damn door!" yelled Glen, jiggling the knob. Waylon leaned over to the record player on the table next to his bed and turned up the volume to drown him out. He then settled back, propping the pillow behind his back as he browsed the latest issue of 'Tiger Beat' magazine.
"I know you can hear me boy! Open the door!" Glen bellowed, banging his fist against the door a few more times. Waylon rolled his eyes, something he wouldn't dare do in front of the man. After about a minute, he heard the doorknob rattling again and then a click. The door came open and there stood his stepfather with his pocket-knife in hand and an infuriating smug look on his face.
"You can never go wrong with a good pocket knife." The man chuckled. Waylon groaned with annoyance, sinking down to hide behind his magazine.
"That damn hippie music... God, all they sing about is drugs and sex." Glen snarled. Waylon looked up over his magazine, seeing Glen holding the cover of his record and inspecting it with disapproval.
He had a strong dislike of his stepfather. Even when he was little, his mother used to drop him off with Burns just because she knew Glen didn't like kids and she had her own problems to deal with being an alcoholic as well as suffering from depression. Though she was a troubled woman, she had a kind heart and only wanted the best for her son.
His stepfather was a stern disciplinarian and was the kind that believed a man wasn't a real man unless he adhered to the ideal macho image of what he thought a man should be. A paragon of masculinity; real men were supposed to like hunting, sports and anything that was really tough and competitive. They weren't supposed to like art, dancing, theater, fashion and things of that nature, consequently, all things that Mr. Burns liked and Waylon had always thought that he was the ultimate image of masculinity if there really was such a thing.
"Baby light my fire... phttt..." Glen mocked as he switched the music off and Waylon went back to pretending to read his magazine. Glen snatched the book from him and quickly scanned the front cover.
"Scott Baio? Leif Garret? John Stamos? Who the hell is John Stamos?"
"Hey! I was reading that!" Waylon exclaimed, reaching back for it, his face burned hotly with embarrassment as he realized that the cover was full of sexy male heartthrobs, with captions like, 'Those Sexy, Irresistible Hollywood Bachelors! Shirtless edition!'
"What, for the articles? Looks like a bunch of pretty boys if you ask me." Glen huffed, throwing the magazine back at him and hitting him in the face with it. Waylon got up and stuffed the magazine in his desk drawer.
"If you're just going to criticize everything that I do, then I'll just leave." Waylon slammed the drawer shut a little louder than he'd meant to and turned to leave the room, but was stopped by a firm grip on his upper arm, yanking him back forcefully. He suddenly found himself face to face with the man and he didn't looked pleased, his brows furrowed with anger.
"Not so fast mister." Glen spoke harshly. Waylon gritted his teeth as he mustered up the courage to speak.
"I don't have time for this." Waylon winced with discomfort as fingers gripped painfully tighter into his arms.
"You know you should have called if you were coming home late!" Glen ranted. Waylon looked him in the eye for a few tense seconds before looking away.
"Why would you care? You never have before." said Waylon, his voice hitching uncomfortably. It wasn't like he really cared for his stepfather's approval anyway.
"Well...your mother was worried sick." Glen added, his fingers suddenly loosening the vice-like grip he had on Waylon's arms. It surprised him to see his stepfather's pained expression; perhaps even seeing a hint of remorse reflected in those deep-set eyes. No. He must be imagining it because it was gone in a flash and replaced by his usual anger tinged indifference. An oxymoron if there ever was one. Why did he get so angry at Waylon if he felt indifference towards him?
"I'm sorry... I forgot." said Waylon calmly. Glen let go of him and growled through his remaining anger.
"You know, your mother would be better off if she didn't have to deal with your drama all the time. Always coming home whining, bruised and bloodied." Glen spat, his voice dripping with mockery. "Why don't you try fighting like a man for once?"
Glen's words didn't usually hurt him so much, but this time they cut deep. He turn away from his stepfather as he felt a small lump forming in his throat his eyes burning with tears; it wouldn't do to let the man see him like this. The air was thick with tension and sorrow as the words sunk in. Maybe he really was in the way; maybe his mother would have been better off giving him to Mr. Burns so she wouldn't have to put up with all of his often melodramatic teen problems. Problems that at times, felt like they weighed him down like a wet cloak in a desert sandstorm. His mother didn't deserve to share his burdens when she had her own cross to carry. Her own desert sandstorm to roam.
Finally, after a minute he heard his stepfather leave, taking with him all the tension like a gust of fresh air, yet leaving nothing but uncertainty and doubt in the void. Waylon sighed. At least he had something to look forward to when he showed up for his job at Burns' tomorrow. Now, he only had to find a way to bring up the subject of his new job during dinner and he had the feeling that if his stepfather found out just how enthused he was about it, he'd probably forbid him from going just to piss him off so he'd have to play it casual.
- o - o - o -
"So... um..., I'm going to be a little late getting home from school tomorrow." Waylon stated out of the blue at the dinner table.
"Oh?" His mother Lydia regarded him as she cut her stake into neat slices. She was very meticulous like that and this was one of her good days so her mood was bright.
"Yeah. I hope it's okay." said Waylon at length, smiling back at her. Everyone had always said that Waylon favored his father, but he did share his mother's likeness in more subtle ways. She was fair haired, sharing almost the same shade of mousy, ash-brown hair only a bit lighter and wavy, a little past her shoulders.
He fiddled around with his fork, stirring his gravy and mashed potatoes around a bit as he contemplated the words he was about to say. His stepfather seemed completely oblivious to their conversation, downing his dinner as if he hadn't eaten in a week. Funny to see a thin man eat the way he could. He looked back at his mother and noticed the glass of red wine next to her plate.
"Mother..." Waylon tilted his head to the side in disappointment, gesturing his hand towards her glass. She never thought her drinking was such a big deal and didn't understand Waylon's concern. It pained him to see her drinking away all her troubles, yet at the same time, he could sympathize with her need to escape it all. Drinking seemed to be a hereditary trait on her side of the family and it worried him constantly.
"What? It'll wash down the steak." she laughed, making light of the situation like she always did. She picked up her glass and took a small sip. "It's good for the heart."
"Bad for the liver." Waylon added disapprovingly.
"No harm in a little indulgence occasionally son." she said, her voice going defensively higher in tone. "Now what sort of plans do you have that's going to keep you out late tomorrow? Do you finally have a young lady friend that you're keeping a secret? You should bring her over!" his mother chimed enthusiastically.
"No. It's nothing like that mother." Waylon looked down at his plate. He was always easily embarrassed and the mention of a girlfriend was enough to bring a little splash of color to his cheeks.
"Waylon with a girlfriend? Ha! That'll be the day!" Glen mocked, shoveling another spoonful of food into his mouth.
"Glen!" Waylon's mother shushed from across the table before turning her attention back to Waylon. "Well, if it's not a girl then what is it?"
"I've found an after school job, if that's okay mother." Waylon said as dispassionately as possible. He just knew Glen would object to it if he seemed too enthused about it.
"Oh! That sounds nice! Very responsible for a young man. Just as long as it doesn't interfere with your studies." she cautioned.
"I don't think it will. I'm going to be Mr. Burns' assistant." Waylon's eyes darted from his mother to his stepfather, trying to gauge their reactions. Glen and his mother shared glances for a moment as if in silent discussion.
"Did you hear that Glen?" she asked.
"Meh... sounds fine with me. I couldn't care less." Glen shrugged, scraping the last remnants of his mashed potatoes onto his spoon. "He's your kid not mine. My two are off in college right now so my child rearing days are over." and with that, Waylon felt a huge wave of relief. Things really were starting to look up for him and he inwardly rejoiced in the fact that he'd have even more of a reason to hang around Burns' mansion now.
Not much else was said during dinner that night since most of the food had been eaten. Soon he and his mother had the dishes washed and he went up to his room for the rest of the evening, trying to decide what he would wear to his first day at his new job tomorrow and trying his best to prepare himself mentally so that he wouldn't mess up.
- o - o - o -
All throughout the school day, Jimmy, the red haired bruiser, had been giving him the look. It was a look that said, 'Mess with my girl and die punk!' He tried not to look at Meredith or Jimmy too much that day and even resorted to chatting with the guy who sat in the desk behind him, Homer Simpson, while the teacher was out just to make it seem like he was preoccupied and not looking at Meredith. Homer wasn't the best conversationalist and was somewhat of a slacker that occasionally bullied him, but if you caught him at a good time, he wasn't really all that bad.
At the end of the day he went into one of the stalls in the boy's restroom and changed into some neater clothing that he'd brought with him. He put on a freshly ironed light blue shirt and sharply creased gray slacks in preparation for his first day as Burns' assistant.
He exited the stall and took a quick stock of himself in the mirror. He had shaved off what little facial hair he had that morning and his complexion was pretty good for a hormonal teen. A few weeks ago, he had shelled out thirty bucks of his savings on a cologne called 'Wall Street' that he knew Burns would probably like and he was going to give it to him as a gift, but he'd never worked up the courage to. He'd practically hounded the perfume lady at the mall until she helped him find the perfect scent for a man of Burns' refined caliber that was still within his budget.
He opened the brown and burgundy bottle, wet his fingers with it and placed a little on his neck and chest. It was a refreshingly crisp and invigorating green scent of sliced cucumbers, zesty lemon and thyme with subtle undertones of leather, lavender and salty sea air all culminating into a scent that really was surprisingly similar to that of freshly printed, cold hard cash.
He finished buttoning his shirt and carefully tied his navy blue and white striped tie, the colors of Burns' alma mater of course. He then ran a comb through his hair, parting it neatly on the side for a change and sprayed on a little hairspray. He finished off the look with a navy blue blazer, one he thought looked just professional enough without being too formal.
When he finished up in the bathroom, confident that he looked as good as he was going to get, he went out to the parking lot and wouldn't you know it, Meredith came bounding towards him as if waiting for his arrival. He pretended not to notice and sped up his pace, hiding his face with his hand, but she caught up with him anyway.
"Hello William!" she said in her stuffy, upper-class southern accent.
"Me-Meredith! What are you doing? We can't risk Jimmy seeing us together like this! He'd tan my hide!" His eyes quickly darted around the school grounds in search for her jealous boyfriend or one of his cronies, fearing that he might get caught talking to her.
"Oh, silly boy. Forget about him, this is about you and me sugar." Meredith said cheerfully. "So, have you thought about my offer the other day? About going to the prom with me?" she said, her voice drawling with that slow, southern twang.
She was sort of cute in her own 'spoiled-little-rich-girl' way with her snow-white alabaster skin, rosy cheeks and her coal black hair tied with blue ribbons in old fashioned ringlet curls. She was exactly the kind of girl that would make his mother happy for him to bring home, but she still didn't give him that same rush of excitement, that same tightness in his chest that Burns did. She just didn't take his breath away.
"I'm not used to being turned down you know." said Meredith, snapping him out of his thoughts.
"Well, even if I wanted to... Jimmy-"
"Jimmy's an annoying, overbearing oaf and he'll find another girl soon enough. Don't worry about him." Meredith quickly assured him.
"But I have to! I just got my braces off and I'm quite fond of my newly straightened teeth!" Waylon reasoned, the blaring pain of Jimmy's fist against his jaw was still fresh in his memory. "Besides, I'm just not ready to date girls yet."
"Well my goodness Waylon! What are you waiting for darlin'? Are you hormonally deficient or just a little on the queer side?" she giggled, swatting at him gently. Waylon hesitated, scraping his shoe against the sidewalk bashfully and giving her enough time to jump to her own conclusions, hoping that she would be understanding.
"Wait... please tell me you aren't..." Meredith suddenly looked horrified, folding her arms over her chest and distancing herself from him as if trying to avoid the plague.
"What? NO! No no no... It's nothing like that!" Waylon replied, panicked. Honestly, it was becoming more easy to just deny it rather than to deal with other people's reactions. Being gay was certainly frowned upon and it was still something that was undesirable and sorely misunderstood by the majority of Springfield. It was always easier to conform to societal norms than to provoke controversy, even if it was a lie and he certainly had enough drama in his life already.
"Well good! Then you'll at least consider my offer then?" asked Meredith, her previous tension slowly melting away.
"But why the sudden interest in me?" Waylon asked curiously.
"Yeah Meredith, why the sudden interest in a dweeb like Waytard?" came a gruff voice that filled him with dread. Paralyzed with fear for a split second, Waylon forced himself to react and make a quick retreat.
"I'm... sorry Meredith... I have... to go!" Waylon yelled breathlessly as he ran as fast as his legs could carry him. The memory of Jimmy's knuckles against his jaw was something that he didn't wish to feel again and he knew he just wasn't physically strong enough to cause much damage to the hulking hide that covered all that muscle.
"I'll get you! Mark my words you son of a bitch! I WILL get you one day you hear me?" Jimmy bellowed behind him, chasing him and he was quite thankful that his skill at running track was serving him well at keeping far ahead of the hazardous situation. Suddenly, the worst thing imaginable happened and he felt himself tripping over his own two feet and falling into a mud puddle just as he'd always made fun of those girls in the horror flicks; suddenly it wasn't so funny anymore. Completely disoriented, he felt around in the mud and found his glasses, quickly cleaning the mud from them with his fingers and wiping the rest on his blazer, which was pretty much covered in thick mud anyway. Soon, a tall shadow loomed over him and he didn't have to turn around to know that it was Jimmy.
"Yo, four eyes." came a different voice than he had expected. It was Homer Simpson. "Are you gonna sit there in the mud all day or stand up and thank me? 'Cause I really saved your butt this time."
Waylon stood up and put on his glasses which were still slightly dirty, but clear enough to see through. He started to shake Homer's hand but decided against it since his had was caked in mud so he stood there awkwardly with his hand halfway extended for a moment before dropping it to his side.
"Thank you! Thank you so much!" Waylon graciously commended him. "How did you get rid of him?"
"I got my friends Lenny and Carl to distract him." Homer laughed.
"They told him about the stash of Playboy magazines and beer they had at the old hangout. Easy as pie... Mmm... pie..." Homer trailed off slowly, his eyes glazing over as if lusting over some imaginary pie.
"But why would you help me? You and I have never really been the best of pals." Waylon asked cautiously, knowing he probably shouldn't question Homer's reasons, but just to be thankful for the random act of kindness.
"Eh... I figured that smart guys like you are the future and you'll probably end up being my boss one day, so I might as well be nice to you for now. Who knows, maybe karma will repay me someday?" Homer shrugged. Waylon laughed at the thought of Homer getting all philosophical and speaking of karma.
"Well, thanks Homer... I really and sincerely am grateful to you and I'll... I'll try to keep that in mind if you ever show up for a job interview." Waylon smiled weakly as he thought about how horrible he must look all wet and covered in mud. "Speaking of jobs, I'm supposed to report for my first day of work today."
"Pht... work. Yeah whatever. Just don't expect this kind of special treatment everyday." Homer added, patting him on the shoulder as he passed him and left.
He still felt like a bundle of nerves as he wiped off as much mud and grass as he could. He would just have to make the best of a bad situation and hopefully Mr. Burns would let him wash up when he arrived.
- o - o - o -
His bike skidded to a stop just beyond Burns' gates. He leaned his bike against the stone wall and apprehensively ran his fingers through his hair, determined that if things worked out well and he still had a job tomorrow, that he would arrive looking his best. He pressed the buzzer and waited for Burns to let him in. After a bit, the black iron gates swung open and he walked his bike towards the house, setting it down in the driveway and making his way nervously up the front steps. He was greeted by Raymond the butler whom looked a bit miffed at his arrival. Whether it was from his unsightly appearance or the fact that he would be taking part of the man's job around the house, he wasn't entirely certain.
"This way Mr. Smithers." said the butler formally. "Mr. Burns is awaiting your arrival." Waylon smiled at the use of his last name as well as the title 'Mr.' He could really get used to being treated like an adult. Waylon came to a stop.
"Um... do you think I could freshen up a bit in the bathroom first?" he asked hopefully. Raymond bent down a grabbed a fistful of Waylon's shirt.
"Now listen here you little ragamuffin," Raymond began, "I'm the butler here and that means I'm the head of the entire servant staff here at this manor. I'm in charge so don't think you can go around usurping my authority!"
"Uh... I wouldn't think of it!" Waylon gasped, a bit stunned, yet slightly amused at the butler's lack of composure and blatent display of jealousy. Raymond let go of him and took a step back, still eying him suspiciously. The butler seemed to have realised his lack of control and looked a bit embarrased by it.
"So... I'm just going to go to the bathroom then..." said Waylon.
"Yes, you could do that, but you would be late for your first day and we wouldn't want that would we?" asked Raymond, the man wrinkled his nose at the mud stains, carefully placing a hand on Waylon's shoulder to usher him ahead.
"No." Waylon replied in defeat. He did have a point. Showing up late would be much worse than showing up looking like a mess. It seemed that sadly, all the hard work he'd put into primping and dressing up would be going to waste.
He was led into the large sitting room that was so formal and lavish that it always seemed to suck away the warmth straight into the cold, black and white marble tiles beneath his feet. He spotted Burns' red, throne-like chair in the distance, facing away from him. The butler left and Waylon swallowed, his throat suddenly dry and his palms sweaty as he approached Mr. Burns. He stepped into the man's line of sight and Burns sat there with his fingers tented, silently, yet scrutinously taking in his appearance.
"I'm here sir. I... I must apologize for my appearance. I had a little incident after school." Waylon hung his head with shame. Burns remained quiet, still silently regarding his presence and studying him as if evaluating his entire worth. Waylon couldn't have felt more exposed under that gaze unless he were completely naked.
"Excellent." Burns spoke huskily, his voice slightly echoing within the cavernous room. "You've passed the first test and arrived to work on time. I'm impressed young lad. You're a right proper boot-lick if thine eyes ever did see one!" Burns chuckled. "Let's see how well you perform a simple task then shall we?"A.N. - I really like the intro to "Light my Fire" so I learned to play it on my keyboard. I just wanted to do my own depiction of Waylon's stepfather even though there are several theories of Waylon's childhood. I know at least once, Smithers has mentioned having parents and many things also point to Mr. Burns having a part in raising him. That part of the Simpsons universe is quite flexible and up for interpretation.
To Be Continued.