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Author's note:  This might be my favorite, besides Kermie's Girl.  Ruahnna

Chapter 1: Getting SwampedEdit

            Piggy tried to still the frantic fluttering of her heart.  The closer the train got to Kermit’s hometown, the more nervous she became.

            “This is silly,” Piggy thought, trying to quell her agitation.  “I’ve met Kermit’s family before.”  But this time is different, her mind prompted.  Before, you were coming from another world—now you’re coming to be a part of theirs.  That felt more than daunting—it felt impossible.  At that precise moment, Kermit turned from the window and smiled at her, squeezing her gloved hand.  Suddenly, everything seemed possible.

            “Five minutes,” Kermit said.  “I can almost smell the swamp!”

            Charming, thought Piggy, but she refrained from comment.  Instead, she smiled back at her new husband shyly and returned the pressure of his hand.

            Something about her stillness made Kermit pause.  He looked at her while she dropped her gaze and played with her handkerchief.

            “Don’t be nervous,” he said gently.  “Everything’s going to be fine.”

            Piggy raised her eyes at last.  “But—but what if they don’t like me?”

            “Don’t be silly,” said Kermit.  “They’re going to love you.”  Impulsively, he gave her a sweet little peck on the cheek, and Piggy felt immediately better.

            “Yes, Kermie,” she said.  “Whatever you say.”

            Kermit froze in place and gave her a suspicious look.  “Who are you?” he asked.  “And what have you done with my real wife?”

            “Don’t be ridiculous!” Piggy snapped, bristling immediately.  “Can’t I be nice?”

            Very nice,” Kermit murmured, “but I don’t want you to be anything but yourself while you’re here.”

            “But I want them to like me,” Piggy almost wailed, revealing her deep-seated insecurities. 

            “I like you enough for everybody, Mrs. The Frog.  So stop trying to be a Stepford pig and just be the beautiful, talented, cantankerous, high-maintenance woman I married.  Got it?”

            “High maintenance!” Piggy cried.  “I’ll show you high maintenance!  Just for that, you’re carrying my luggage.”

            Carry it?” Kermit laughed.  “I can’t even lift it!”

            Piggy just stared at him, her mouth dropping open in surprise.  “Oh!” she said, “You are so—“

            Kermit pulled her into his arms and kissed her like he meant to do it right, quashing Piggy’s protest with unilateral action.  Unilateral action changed to bilateral action as Piggy put her pique (and her lips) to good use.  They broke apart at last.

            “Better?” Kermit asked, his expression amused.

            “Yes,” Piggy admitted grudgingly.  Darn the man, er, frog, anyway!

            “Good,” said the prodigal son, pulling her after him into the aisle of the train.  “Cause there’s plenty more where that came from.  Just remember I love you, and everything will be okay.”

            Despite his bravado, the sight of some 357 frogs all peering at them with undisguised interest as they descended the steps of the train gave Kermit pause.  He’d never gotten this kind of reception before.  Then again, he’d never brought home a glamorous lady pig who just happened to be his wife before.  He scanned the sea of faces, picking out brothers and sisters and several scores of nephews and nieces.  There was one face he’d expected to see—hoped to see, at least—but he didn’t.  Inwardly, Kermit sighed.

            “Um, hi ho everyone!” Kermit called cheerily.  “It’s great to be home.”  He turned and offered Piggy a hand down the steps.  Seven-hundred and sixteen eyes watched her silver and Lucite high heels tink-tink delicately down the steps.

            “Wow!” said one of the little boys.  “They look like race cars!”  He was promptly shushed by several adults and disappeared from view.  Piggy looked up, and her blue eyes were wide.

            “Um, hello everybodee!” she said.  Kermit could almost feel her pulling her performance armor around her, and wished she would just relax.  “It was so nice of you to meet us at the station.”  Immediately, despite the attempts of the adults to restrain them, the tide of young frogs surged around them carrying them away from each other.  Piggy looked to Kermit, momentarily panicked, but watching Kermit’s flustered but gentle reaction to the many small hands and numerous high-pitched voices made her eyes soften.  For just a moment, she could see them surrounded by a large brood of bouncing baby—

            “Ma’am!  Ma’am!” said a small insistent voice somewhere in the vicinity of her kneecap.  Piggy looked around for a moment before she identified the speaker.  It was a little girl, perhaps four, with a curly fringe of light hair.  She was gazing at Miss Piggy with undisguised admiration.  Piggy had never been completely comfortable with children, but she knew what to do with fans.

            “Yes, dear,” she said, her head cocked attentively and her gaze very direct.  “What did you want, sweetie?”

            A hush fell over the crowd of little frogs and they cast each other excited looks.  The little girl had fallen silent, paralyzed by excitement.

            “Go on, CeeCee!” someone hissed.

            “Yeah, ask her!”

            “C’mon, CeeCee—don’t be such a pollywog!”

            The speaker rallied at the insult.  “I am NOT a pollywog!” she cried disdainfully.  She squared her slim shoulders and looked straight back at Miss Piggy almost defiantly.

            “Um, are you really married to Uncle Kermit?”

            Piggy blinked and blushed a little.  “Um, yes,” she said, looking at Kermit.  “We got married about two months ago.”

            “You’re very pretty,” said CeeCee shyly.  “I like your hair.”

            “Well how nice of you to say so, CeeCee.”  Always call them by name, Piggy thought automatically.  “You have some very nice curls yourself.”  CeeCee gawped and stammered “thank you” almost inaudibly.

            This is easy, Piggy thought giddily. Girl stuff is easy.           

            “Um, can I hold your hand while we walk back to the swamp?”

            “Of course,” Piggy said, over an absolute chorus of protests from the other little frogs.  They were all clamoring to hold onto her.  Normally, the press of a crowd made Piggy antsy, strung with nervous energy, but then the crowds she usually found herself in were full of strangers and paparazzi.  There were no cameras here, she thought ruefully.  And no strangers.  Just…family.  She looked across at Kermit, who was struggling to hold at least fourteen small webbed hands himself.  As if sensing her gaze, Kermit looked up.  Their eyes met for a long moment as they smiled at each other.  Kermit’s right, Piggy thought simply.  Everything’s going to be okay.

Chapter 2: Trying to BlendEdit

            Piggy put on her hat once they cleared the station, and its wide brim and trialing ribbons generated considerable awe in the children.  Over the tops of many bobbing heads, Kermit introduced her to several brother and sisters.  Piggy recited the names in her mind like a mantra…Kendra, Onslo, Marianne, Stewart, Brian, Matthias, Lynette, Denise, Logan, Elizabeth, Edward.  Every face was different, but there was no help matching names to clothes.  It was not uncommon for Piggy to find herself the best dressed person in a group, but she was unaccustomed to being the only dressed person in a crowd.  She felt oddly indecent. 

            And it was both thrilling and strange to recognize Kermit’s familiar features so plainly stamped on other faces, to hear Kermit’s phrasing and intonation dropping from different lips.  Piggy smiled and nodded, her mind whirling as she tried to commit names an faces to memory while dealing simultaneously with dozens of small nephews and nieces as they talked, asked about a billion questions and tugged on her hands and dress.  Her gloves were commented on, her shoes re-admired, her pearls oohed and ahhed and murmured over in detail.  Under normal circumstances, Piggy would have played shamelessly to this attentive an audience, claiming the admiration that was her just due, but she was constrained by the memory of Kermit’s mother.  No matter what the circumstances of their former meetings, Kermit’s mother had been gracious without being showy, gentle without seeming weak, always deferring the majority of the limelight onto her family.  Piggy did her best to emulate that, but it was an odd fit and she hoped fervently that she would not disappoint Kermit.  Please, she thought fervently.  Just let me blend.

Chapter 3: Putting Down RootsEdit

            The first unpleasant surprise came when Piggy stepped off the paved road.  Lost in polite conversation, Piggy found herself unaccountably rooted to the spot.  She looked down in surprise and consternation to find her heels ensnared by the marshy ground.  Everyone else was barefoot, including Kermit.  She gave a nervous laugh, stepped gingerly out of her shoes and bent to pry them out of the ground.

            “Here, Honey,” Kermit said.  “You’ll ruin your gloves.  Let me.”

            At the word “Honey,” about sixty little frogs giggled and made oohing noises.  Kermit looked at Piggy apologetically, their cheeks flaming in embarrassment. 

            “Sorry,” he murmured.  “Lots of little, um, ears.”  He touched the back of her calf affectionately with one slim hand, and the contact made Piggy feel better.  She stepped gingerly back into her shoes.

            “How silly of me,” she said with false brightness.  She had, in fact, walked out of a shoe before on the red carpet, and this was not—quite—as bad.  Once re-shod, she altered her gait to prevent the heels from sinking.  It was awkward, and not very comfortable, but she plunged on determinedly.  She would make this work.  She would.

            Walking near her, Kermit saw her square her shoulders and set her jaw.  Torn between pride and exasperation, he smiled.  Piggy had her game face on now.  It was bound to be interesting.

            Back at the clearing, there was a considerable flurry of activity.  Ladies checked their hair, and little ones were wiped down or hosed off, depending on the severity of the need.  The logs were arranged cozily around the central clearing, and there was a big pot of soup bubbling over some embers.  Standing serenely in the middle of it all, Jane and James The Frog watched the burst of frantic activity with amused tolerance.

            “You’d think he’d never come home before,” James said, shaking his head.  “And if everybody keeps acting like the sky is falling he’ll never come back.”

            “Don’t be silly, dear,” Jane said fondly, slipping her hand through the crook of his arm and leaning her head against his side.  “Kermit won’t mind the fuss.  But we may scare poor Piggy to death.”

            James looked down at his wife affectionately.  He was pretty sure that there wasn’t much in this world that scared his son’s wife, and a big fuss over her arrival seemed one of the less likelier things to rattle her.  Still, Jane had remarkable insight about people, so her husband was too wise to contradict her until he’d seen a little more.

            “Anything I can do?” James asked.  “Anything left to do?”

            Jane looked up at him, and her dark eyes were sad.  “You could talk some sense into Maggie,” she said softly.

            “No,” he said gently, and heaved a great sigh.  “I’m afraid no one can do that.”  James patted her hand.  “Just give her time,” he said.  “Maggie’s a good girl.  She’ll come around.”

            Jane smiled hopefully but said nothing, and her eyes continued to scan the road for the arrival of her son.

            The edge of the woods was chock-full of little frogs on the lookout for any sign of Uncle Kermit or Cousin Kermit and his new, very interesting wife.  It was always interesting when Kermit visited, the little frogs agreed.  There was no telling who or what sort of creature might come with him, and now he was coming back to see them all and bringing his wife—and she was a pig!  In New York and California and even London, where they spent much of their professional lives, Kermit and Piggy had little reason to consider their union odd, but here in the swamp, a frog married to a pig was big news.  For all his cosmopolitan ways, Kermit was often overly optimistic and sometimes naive.  “I’m sure it will be old news by the time were get there,” he’d assured Piggy.  Piggy was never naïve, and she’d wondered differently, which was just as well.

            The message was spreading like wildfire.

            “They’re here, they’re really here!” Robin cried, hopping up and down in excitement.  The vine he stood on bounced and bobbed under his weight, and he gave a great shout of joy and leaped out over the water to land with a huge ker-plop in the middle.  Concentric circles spread out around where he had gone under, making a lazy, ever-widening pattern on the water that was abruptly disrupted by his sudden reappearance.

            “Oh, gosh,” Robin said.  “I better go get dried off!”  He scrambled out of the water and onto the embankment.  Grabbing a towel, he scrubbed himself dry.  Uncle Kermit and Aunt Piggy were coming!  He could hardly wait.

            “Hey,” Elizabeth said, interrupting her argument with her brother Logan long enough to acknowledge her older sister.  Maggie was ostensibly skipping stones across the flat surface of the pool.  “Aren’t you coming to meet Kermit’s wife?’

            “I’ve had the pleasure,” Maggie snapped.  “No thanks.”

            Logan and Elizabeth exchanged surprised looks.  “Well excuuuuse us,” they  said together.

            Maggie glared at them.  “Get lost,” she said.  Laughing, they obliged.

            “Sheesh,” Logan said.  Somebody got up on the wrong side of the lily pad today.”

            “You’re telling me!” Elizabeth responded, then, realizing she had actually agreed with her brother on something, made a point to start a fresh argument.

            After they had left, Maggie threw her remaining rock as hard as she could into the center of the dark water.  It was a satisfactory loud splash, throwing out ever-growing circles on the water, but in a moment, all evidence of her anger was spent.  It left her feeling dismal, and she flopped down onto the water’s edge and stared sulkily out at nothing.

            “Stupid pond,” she muttered, then shouted, “Stupid Kermit!”  A sleeping bird startled into flight and Maggie took some grim satisfaction in its panicked departure.  That satisfaction, too, faded quickly.  Feeling utterly forlorn, Maggie put her head down on her knees.  Too proud to cry and to angry to do anything else, Kermit’s sister just sat there and let the party go on without her.

Chapter 4: A Great Little SpotEdit

            Piggy sat on a log next to Kermit and tried to keep smiling.  Everywhere she looked, there were frogs.  Little frogs and big frogs, smiling frogs and frogs deep in discussion about world affairs or the latest in pond scum.  Frogs barely more than tadpoles frolicked nearby and stared without compunction at Piggy peaches and cream perfection.  Used to attention and generally undaunted by scrutiny, Piggy was nevertheless somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer number of faces that smiled at her in a friendly manner.  She was especially grateful for Robin, perched on the log nearby and chirping happily to everyone, and to Kermit’s parents, who tried their best to reiterate names at regular intervals and put a buffer between Piggy and some of her more persistent admirers.  Kermit was so gosh-darned delighted to be home, getting his back thumped and his head rubbed and being swarmed by children and brothers and sisters and cousins that he was not, after all, much help to Piggy in wading through the social niceties. 

            There was tea and soup and some little sandwiches which were lovely, but Kermit ascertained almost immediately that Piggy was going to have to stick to tea.  Toward that end, they shared a plate, so as not to be obvious.  He would have to do something about appropriate edibles, and soon.

            Piggy’s luggage arrived and, despite Kermit’s prediction, arrived without help of a crane.  It came by pick-up truck instead, which served admirably well.  It made an excellent excuse to spirit Piggy away from the crowd for bit.

            “Thanks, Sherwood,” Kermit said, waving to the ruddy-faced man in the flannel shirt.  “We sure appreciate it.”

            “Anytime, Mr. Kermit,” Sherwood had said.  He took his baseball cap off to Piggy and looked down, blushing.  “Sure was nice to meet you, ma’am,” he said politely.  “We don’t get many movie stars around here.”  He cut his eyes at Kermit, then stammered, “I mean, ‘cept Mr. Kermit here.”

            Inexplicably, his shyness made Piggy shy in response.  She smiled at him warmly and thanked him again for bringing her luggage out.  He offered to carry it for her but she hefted it without noticeable strain.  She trotted off for the edge of the swamp grass and, except for sinking at irregular intervals into the soggy ground, made it look both easy and oddly elegant.  Kermit smiled after her.  He liked strong women, which—given his family—was fortunate.  He turned to Sherwood and smiled.

            “Congratulations, Mr. Kermit,” Sherwood said admiringly.  “That’s a mighty pretty pig you got there.”

            “Thanks, Sherwood,” Kermit acknowledged, feeling his chest swell a little with pride.  “Um, I was hoping that you could help me with something.”

            “Anything!  You just say the word and I’m on it.”

            “Um,” Kermit began, lowering his voice a little, although they were quite alone.  “I need to get some, um, groceries.”

            Sherwood looked at him, obviously confused.  “Groceries?” he said.  “Why, I thought your Mom would be cooking everything she knows how to—“

            “Um, yeah,” Kermit said, again looking around nervously.  “It’s not that.”  He turned and smiled at Piggy, who was waiting for him at the edge of the grass.  “Um, Piggy isn’t used to, um, country cooking,” he finally said.  It took a moment, but the light eventually went on behind Sherwood’s eyes.

            “Oh,” he said.  “Oh, I see what you mean.”  Sherwood put his tongue in his cheek and pulled on his lower lip.  “What kind of stuff do you need?”

            Kermit sighed with relief.  You could always count on Sherwood.

            “Well, um, we don’t have refrigeration, so we need stuff that won’t, um, spoil or wilt.”  Kermit shot one more nervous look at Piggy, who smiled and waved.  “Um, chocolate is always good.”

            Sherwood was nodding again.  “I’ll get right on it, Mr. Kermit,” he said firmly.  “You can count on me.”

            “Thanks,” Kermit said simply.  He took a couple of bills out of his wallet and pressed them into Sherwood’s calloused hand.  “And let me know if you need more, okay?” 

            Sherwood climbed into his battered grey pickup and leaned out the window to wave.  He waved as he drove off and Kermit went to join his wife.

            “He seems very sweet,” Piggy said as they trundled through the marshy terrain.  The terra firma wasn’t very firma, and Piggy was having increasing trouble with her shoes.

            “Oh yeah,” Kermit said, his hand firm under Piggy’s elbow.  “Clem’s a great guy.”

            Piggy looked at him in confusion.  “Clem?” she said.  “I—I thought his name was Sherwood.”

            Looking at her puzzled, upturned face, Kermit began to chuckle.  “Oh,” he said, “Um, it’s sort of hard to explain.  You see, ever since Clem was a little boy, he’s always been ready to help anybody who asks.  And every time somebody asked for help, he said—“

            “’I sure would,’” Piggy said, beginning to smile herself.

            “Right.”

            Piggy began to giggle and Kermit sighed with contentment.  It was nice, sharing a private joke with Piggy before they went back to the noise and mayhem of his family.  Kermit put his arm around her, kissed her shining hair, and steered her firmly back into the chaos.

           

            The first night was not great.  Despite his hopes, Sherwood had not returned, so Piggy was exhausted, grubby and more than a little hungry by the time they walked away from the big bonfire.  Although the welcome had been unmistakably warm, the strain of being “on” was beginning to tell, and Piggy longed for a little privacy and a place to be alone with her frog.  Kermit tried to find them a nice, comfy tussock of sweet grass to bed down in, but realized belatedly that what might look enticingly comfortable to a frog was far from what Piggy was used to.  He looked at her apologetically.

            “I know this isn’t what you’re used to—“ he began, but Piggy shushed him with a quick kiss.

            “It’s fine as long as you’re with me,” she insisted, and hoped that lightning wouldn’t strike her for a well-intentioned lie, even if it was a whopper.

            Kermit smiled and embraced his wife, snuggling against her in the dimness.  Although Piggy’s suitcase had contained some lovely silk pajamas, there had been no place to change, so she had settled down in her day clothes, her feet tucked protectively under the layers of her skirt.  The night noises seemed loud around her, and she was bothered by the persistent whine of insects.

            “There sure are a lot of mosquitoes,” Piggy said, a little distressed.

            “I know,” said Kermit, snagging a few with relish.  “Isn’t it great?”

            Already uncomfortable, Piggy didn’t feel like reminding him of all their differences.  “Swell,” she said faintly.  She put her head on Kermit’s shoulder and waited for sleep to come.

            Everything seems brighter in the morning.  Piggy got up after a restless night and did twenty determined minutes of yoga stretching to get the myriad kinks out of her spine.  By the time she was done, Kermit was up, and he lay back in the grass and watched her balance and turn and stretch with proprietary pleasure while she made faces at him and vamped just a little.  Finally unable to stand it any longer, Kermit bounded out of bed and embraced her.

            “Come ’ere you,” he murmured, pulling her close for a kiss.

            “Ewww!” came a chorus of little voices right behind him.  They broke apart hastily to find half a dozen small frogs staring at them with undisguised interest.  Piggy felt her cheeks grow hot, and she looked down, flustered.

            “Ewww yourself!” retorted Kermit, more than a little frustrated by his interrupted plans, but at their crestfallen faces, his expression softened and he held out his hands to them.  He was immediately swarmed by small frogs, as was Piggy, dragging them both to breakfast.

            “But I’m sweaty,” Piggy protested, looking with chagrin at Kermit even as they let themselves be hauled along.

            “You look beautiful,” Kermit said gamely, but he knew how Piggy hated to appear in public without a chance to attend to her hair and makeup.  He looked at her helplessly and hoped for divine intervention.

            Intervention came, but it wasn’t exactly divine.  Kermit’s family was large and, although they did not typically sit down to every meal at the same time, Kermit’s mother almost always had something cooking in the big cauldron in the common clearing at mealtime.  They sat down and accepted hot chocolate (which Piggy felt like inhaling gratefully) and found themselves once more sucked back into the maelstrom of family life. 

            When Kermit finally managed to extricate them, Piggy had at least had a couple of mugs of warm chocolate, but the oatmeal had proved to contain added protein that wasn’t exactly compatible with Piggy’s more esoteric tastes. 

            “I’m sorry about the food, Sweetheart,” he murmured when they were out of hearing distance.  “I didn’t think—“

            “I know, I know,” Piggy said wearily.  It was hard to be understanding when she was hungry and felt so sweaty and rumpled and disarranged.  Kermit stopped their forward progress and turned her to face him.

            “I’m an idiot,” he said quietly.  “How about we get away for a little bit—just the two of us?”

            Piggy had a sudden image of a sweet little bistro with a top-notch chef, a private back room and lots of air-conditioning.

            “Really?” she asked hopefully.  “Could we really?”

            “Sure, Honey,” Kermit said.  “I know a great little spot.”  He smiled at her.  “Why don’t you brush your hair and change your clothes and we’ll go?”

            Piggy looked at him with adoring eyes.

            “I could kiss you,” she growled, her eyes boring into his.

            Kermit reached out and brushed some swamp grass from her hair.  “Why don’t you?” he murmured.

            Piggy feinted toward him but pulled away at the last moment, leaving him with his lips puckered and a grumpy expression.

            “Because somebody might say “ewww,’” she retorted, and went to change.

            Kermit sat with his back to a tree stump, his fingers strumming the strings of his banjo idly.  Piggy turned from where she was picking flowers, enjoying the soft plink-plink of sound that carried across the open field.

            This is not so bad, she thought determinedly.  Kermit’s idea of “a great little spot” differed considerably from hers.  Still, with the timely and, in Piggy’s eyes, heroic arrival of Sherwood, she at least had something recognizable to eat.  And she had brushed her hair until it shone, swept it up off of her neck and changed into a beautiful sundress, so she felt immeasurably better about everything.  The day was beautiful, the field of flowers before her a profusion of riotous color, and she was here with her frog.  In fact, she thought absently, this field looked a lot like the one where they had filmed some of the scenes of The Muppet Movie.  Piggy smiled, remembering how awkward they had been when they first started filming romantic scenes together. 

            The day had started like many others—very early, and very hectic.  Piggy had been positively petrified at the thought of so many people watching them act out a full-blown romantic fantasy, but she had calmed down immediately once Kermit arrived on the scene.  Although he had been polite, professional and impeccably groomed, Piggy could see that he was nervous, too, and it made her feel immeasurably better.  Jim had been very hands-on at that point in all their careers and, in typical fashion, had worked to put them both at ease.

            “Don’t worry about the camera,” he had insisted.  “We’ll follow you.  Just, you know, play with it—do what comes naturally.”  Jim smiled at Piggy.  “You look very fetching, Miss Piggy,” he said gallantly.  “If Kermit can’t figure out what to do, I’ll give him a few pointers.”

            Kermit had turned then and given Jim a look that should have felled him, but Piggy had felt a little thrill go up her spine at the glint of challenge in Kermit’s eyes.  “Thanks, Jim,” Kermit said silkily.  “but I’ve got a few ideas of my own.”

            The first few times were awful, Piggy thought.  She hoped the dailies had been destroyed, but after they had tried to run, laughing, through the field for about the fifth time, her shoe caught on a rock and down she went.  Unable to stop in time, Kermit tripped over her, landing in a solid thump on top of her.  After a moment of mortified silence, they had both burst out laughing.

            “I’m so sorry,” Kermit kept saying, but he was smiling as he helped her up, brushing the grass from her clothes with a little more attention to detail than was strictly necessary.

            “I tripped,” Piggy explained for about the twelfth time.  “I must be clumsy today.”

            “No,” Kermit insisted.  “You’re very graceful.”  Without warning, he stepped very close to her, his hand reaching for her face.  Paralyzed by surprise, Piggy stood motionless as he reached out and plucked some grass from her tumbled curls.  “You, um, had grass in your hair,” he said awkwardly, and then she looked at him and he was caught in the glorious gaze of those amazing blue eyes.

            “Thank you,” Piggy whispered.  “That was very sweet.”  Her cheeks felt warm again, and she looked away.  Released from the spell, Kermit found his voice and volition again, and stepped back to regain his equilibrium.

            “Are you, um, ready to try that again?” he asked, then his face suffused with color and he started to stammer an explanation.  “Not the fall,” he insisted, “although that was, um, that was nice, I mean, you fell very gracefully, um.”  With a visible effort, he stopped babbling, then looked at her to see what she was thinking.  She couldn’t help it.  Piggy began to giggle.  After a moment, Kermit began to chuckle, too.

            “This is sortof, um, hard,” Kermit admitted.  “I mean, we’re supposed to be, you know, um, lovers and I’m, um, I’m really nervous about all these people watching.”

            Piggy nodded, then flashed him a look of pure devilment.  “And if all these people weren’t watching?  Would you be nervous then?”

            Kermit gulped, then that same glint of challenge Piggy had seen earlier flashed in his eyes.  “No,” he said firmly, his eyes boring into hers.  “I don’t believe so.”

            After that, it had been easy—easy to play lovers, no matter the scene.  From that moment forward, Piggy had been more than certain that she wasn’t in this alone.

            Fondly, Piggy shook herself back to the present, looking at Kermit adoringly.  He had his eyes closed as he leaned back against the tree stump, letting the sun warm and soothe him.  Piggy felt her heart go pitter-pat.  Here was a field of flowers, and there was her husband, and—

            The flowers dropped from Piggy’s nerveless fingers.  There was an alligator on the embankment, creeping up on Kermit step my sturdy step.  Kermit had no idea he was in danger.  Piggy tried to scream, to call out, but her voice wouldn’t cooperate.  She waved her arms frantically, hoping he would open his eyes.  Another scaly step forward, then another.  Piggy began to run.  The alligator was almost upon Kermit when Piggy launched herself through the air.  Her voice came back of a sudden, and she howled a loud “Hi yah!” as she hit the reptile’s broad back and sent them both hurtling toward the edge of the water.  With a sudden rush of horror, Piggy realized they were going to land in the water, but the horror passed off almost immediately, to be replaced by absolute fury.  When the water closed over her, she held tight to the alligator’s back and began to pummel him.  How dare he!  How dare anyone try to harm her Kermit!  She rained blows down on his scaly head, twisted one arm behind his back.

            Kermit was on his feet now, shouting something.  Piggy couldn’t hear him over the din they were making as they thrashed and splashed and wrestled in the dirty water.

            “Hey!” said an unfamiliar voice.  “Hey—ouch!  I’m gonna need that arm again so I’d appreciate it if you’d—“

            Piggy looked around for the speaker and saw Kermit wading into the water toward them.

            “No!” she shouted.  “Stay away, Kermit!  He’ll eat you!”

            Eat him?” the voice said.  “What on earth gave you that idea, I’d like to know.”

            Piggy realized suddenly that the unfamiliar voice was coming from beneath her, and looked down in surprise at almost the same moment that Kermit reached them.

            “Piggy,” Kermit said urgently.  “Honey—let go.  You’re gonna hurt Arnie.”

            “Arnie?” Piggy said faintly.  She looked down.  Toothily, the alligator flashed her a grin.

            “Hi.  I’m Arnie.  How you doin’?” he asked agreeably. 

            “And Arnie—this is my wife, Piggy The Frog,” Kermit said.  Arnie and Piggy looked at each other uncertainly, then began to disentangle themselves, laughing and apologizing like strangers bumping into each other in an elevator.  Piggy let go of the alligator and slipped dazedly from his back.  Kermit reached out and took her hand, pulling her around to his side.

            “Well, well—so this is the new Missus,” said Arnie.  “Nice to meet you.”  He held out a scaly hand.

            Feeling surreal, Piggy took it.  “A pleasure,” she said faintly, holding her sopping hair out of her eyes.

            Arnie looked at her with open admiration and gave Kermit a frankly covetous look.  “Your little lady packs quite a wallop,” he said appreciatively.  Kermit put a proprietary arm around her waist, beaming with pride.

            “Yep,” he said.  “She does that.  Hey—we’re having a big get-together tomorrow night over at the clearing if you and some of the guys want to stop by later.”

            “Oh, gosh, Kermit—I can’t tomorrow.  PTA meeting—the missus will kill me if I miss this one, but I’ll tell everybody to come by and meet the little lady.”  He winked at Piggy cheekily and slipped beneath the water.

            There was along silence, then Piggy turned and looked at Kermit in disbelief.

            “You—you know him?” she asked levelly.

            “Um hum.”  Kermit smiled and gave her a quick smooch on the mouth.

            “Glad to see you’re meeting everyone,” he said approvingly.  “C’mon.  Let’s go find you some dry clothes.”

            Stunned into submission, Piggy just did as he said.

Chapter 5: A Place to ChangeEdit

            They had, at least, addressed the issue of a place to change for Piggy.  They hung two of Piggy’s voluminous silk dressing gowns over a hastily-constructed frame, making a space where Piggy could dress in privacy.  Piggy dried her damp and muddy sundress over a bush, resolving not to fret about whether or not it would come clean.  Kermit could just buy her another one, her mind prompted, and the thought made her feel better.

            Her up-do was now a fluffy little ponytail, and she was wearing jeans with rhinestone studding down the legs, a white tank top and a red silk blouse knotted at her waist.  Her shoes were red satin open-toed heels, and Piggy once again tried to alter her gait in order to avoid planting herself like a daisy.  Kermit nodded his approval when she emerged, noticing that some of her air of determination had returned.

Kermit sniffed the air.  “Something smells good,” he said.

“Mmm,” Piggy said noncommittally.

“Ready to go have dinner?”

Piggy nodded firmly.  “Ready for anything,” she insisted.  She tried to look confident.

Kermit smiled and took her hand firmly in his own.

“That’s my girl.”

            There was nothing on the supper menu that appeared appetizing to a lady pig of discriminating tastes.  Piggy had had a satisfying lunch, however, and she was content to sit next to Kermit on one of the big logs and watch him enjoying his mother’s cooking.  Things were less formal today, and she felt slightly less the center of everyone’s attention, but it seemed that everyone had heard about her encounter with Kermit’s friend, Arnie.  She smiled and laughed as cheerfully as she could as she was ribbed and teased by pretty much everyone except Jane and James.  Robin, bless him, asked for a blow-by-blow account, which Piggy declined to give.  After more than an hour of stiff-upper-lipping, Piggy was pretty tired of smiling and longed to retreat to a less public place.  As if sensing her discomfort, however, Kermit reached around behind his back and pulled out his banjo.  A ripple of excitement went through the crowd.

            “I wondered if you were ever gonna play that thing,” said his brother Matthias pointedly, “or if you were just wearing it for decoration.” 

            Kermit made no reply, but his slim fingers danced over the strings, picking out a merry tune.  Piggy heard someone warming up on a harmonica, and saw more than one of Kermit’s cousins pull out a reed pipe or a neatly carved water-reed flute.  The firelight was dancing, and she felt drowsy and oddly content as she listened to Kermit’s fingers flying over the taut strings.

            Kermit plays jigs and ballads, songs with words and songs where there were no places for words among the sprightly tune.  Piggy recognized some of the songs, and others were unfamiliar to her.  Others sang, too, and Piggy was pleased to note that, while Kermit was not the only one in his large family to have musical talent, his talent shone very brightly nonetheless.  She was proud of him, and could see that his family was, too.

            Although she was musically talented, Piggy played no instrument.  It was nice to not be expected to perform, but Piggy felt a little left out, especially when Kermit played what were obviously local favorites.  The log was sturdy beneath them, and dry, but it was far from the luxurious comfort of Piggy’s own furniture.  With an effort, Piggy stifled a yawn and leaned against Kermit’s shoulder; she felt like she’d been running on adrenaline most of the day. 

            Feeling her stir, Kermit turned and smiled down at Piggy.  Being a musician had its privileges, but it has its drawbacks also.  You might attract the girls, but you couldn’t do much about it as long as the music was playing.  In Kermit’s case, his banjo had served a dual purpose during his years in the swamp.  More than one fetching young female had been attracted to the melancholy or joyful sounds of his skillful playing in the moonlight, but the music has also served to keep them at a distance.  Feeling the sweet weight of Piggy’s head on his shoulder, Kermit was glad he had never put the banjo down all those years before, glad he had waited for the one who could dance to his own special tune. 

            He finished the strains of “John Henry” and stopped playing to an absolute chorus of protests from the assembled crowd.  Piggy smiled, thinking it was plain where Kermit had gotten his penchant for playing in front of a crowd.

            “Don’t stop playing!”

            “Yeah—the night is still young….”

            “Awww, one more, Kermit—just one.”

            “Do you have to?”  This last was said by about 86 little frogs in various modes of whine.

            “We’re going to turn in,” Kermit said firmly. 

            From somewhere on the far side of the firelight came the sounds of an exaggerated lip-smacking kiss.  Kermit startled, blushing furiously, as everyone burst into nervous laughter.  Jane the Frog made an indignant “oh” and stood up to look for the source of the devilry, but whoever had transgressed had at least had the good sense to melt into the darkness.  Kermit tried to wave it off, but he found himself red-cheeked and annoyed.  Sheesh—it wasn’t like he was the only one who’d ever gotten married.  Some of his siblings had been married for years and had several clutches of tadpoles by now.  He looked to Piggy apologetically and saw her face was suffused with color as well.

            She looked at Kermit in dismay.  Just when she thought the teasing had abated….  She sighed and stood up, forgetting in her flustered state that pushing down on her heels in the soft earth would affix her as firmly to the ground as though she were a prize petunia.  With alarm, Piggy felt herself falling backward.  Some fears are inborn, and Piggy waved her arms frantically to stop her descent.  Sadly, this caused her to miss landing squarely on the log.  She overbalanced and, with a loud cry, fell backside-over-teakettle over the log, landing flat on her back.  Her shoes were still resting placidly inside the circle of firelight.

            Kermit stood aghast, as did the other frogs.  Piggy lay still and wished the earth would swallow her up, leaving no trace.  Again sadly, these things never happen when wished for, and Piggy was forced to endure the helpful assistance of some two dozen of Kermit’s family members as they hauled her not quite gracefully to her feet.  Kermit pushed his way to the forefront and put his arms around Piggy protectively, half-expecting another big smoochy sound but not caring a whit.  Apparently, the perpetrator had been silenced, however, and Kermit was allowed, with much solicitousness, to lead Piggy away.  A chorus of concerned voices called after them as Piggy slunk away with very little left of her dignity.

            Behind the makeshift curtain, Kermit helped Piggy peel off the damp and muddy jeans.  Her red silk blouse was blotched with dirt, and it followed the jeans, as did the tank top.

            Neither spoke, but the tenderness of Kermit’s touch was soothing to Piggy’s badly-scuffed pride.  He put a comforting hand on her waist, but pulled back almost immediately.

            “Piggy!” Kermit cried, suddenly alarmed.  “Your back—omigosh, what, what happened?”

            He was looking at a neat row of red welts along the small of her back.  Gently, he touched one of them.  It felt warm.  Piggy looked over her shoulder in surprise, then up at Kermit’s bewildered face.

            “Kermie, those are mosquito bites,” she explained gently.  Kermit looked aghast.

            “Mosquitoes bite?” he demanded.  Piggy nodded.  His genuine horror and surprise made Piggy smile in sympathy.

            “Yes—and they particularly like to bite you in tight places, like under your waistband or….”  She trailed off and showed him another cluster of bites in an inconvenient place.

            “Do they, do they hurt?” Kermit asked.

            “Not really,” Piggy explained.  “But they itch like the devil.”  At this, Kermit looked absolutely flabbergasted. 

            “But—but I didn’t know mosquitoes could bite.  They don’t even have any teeth!”

            “Apparently, they don’t need them,” she said dryly, trying not to squirm.  “It’s only temporary,” she assured him.  “Miserable, but temporary.”  Much like her recent embarrassment, her mind prompted, and Piggy felt just a teensy bit better.

            “But—but why didn’t you say something.  I didn’t realize—“  His distress was so palpable that Piggy forgot her own misery for a moment and put a hand on his arm.

            “I have some ointment in my makeup case that ought to take some of the itch away for tonight.  Why don’t you go get my makeup case?”

            Happy to have something constructive to do, Kermit trotted off and returned in moments with the leopard-print bag.  Carefully, he helped Piggy tend to all of the little bumps and change into her pajamas.  He felt terrible, seeing the ugly red marks on her perfect skin, and when they finally settled down in the darkness he kept his own miserable council.  Piggy certainly wouldn’t feel like snuggling tonight, he thought dismally. 

            In the darkness, Piggy stirred restlessly.

            “Kermie?” she asked.

            “Yes, Sweetheart?” he responded immediately.  “Do you need something?”

            Piggy’s voice was warm.  “Just you,” she said softly.  “Come over here and distract me.”

            She didn’t have to ask him twice.

Chapter 6: Double TroubleEdit

            Piggy wasn’t exactly Scarlet O’Hara, but she had not gotten where she was by letting a discouraging experience get her down.  Fortified by Kermit’s attention, and determined to turn this visit around, Piggy had gotten up so determinedly cheerful that Kermit watched her nervously out of the corner of one eye for several moments before concluding he was, indeed, awake and functioning in his own space-time continuum.  They went to breakfast together, where Piggy held court with at least a dozen small frogs, delighting them with tales of acts gone wrong at the Muppet Theater.  Kermit smiled ruefully at their rapt and attentive faces.  Piggy wouldn’t run out of material any time soon, he thought, but he was cheered by her repeated attempts to blend with his family.  Still mortified by the thought of rogue mosquitoes feasting on his girl, Kermit was especially glad to see her surrounded by a cloud of children.  They should keep any would-be snackers off Piggy’s smooth, pink skin, and the attention didn’t seem to be doing her any harm.  Piggy was at her best when playing to an attentive audience, Kermit thought fondly.  He smiled, reminiscing about the previous evening.  Even if it’s just an audience of one, his mind promptly slyly, and Kermit felt his cheeks flush.  As if aware of his straying thoughts, Piggy looked up for a moment and their eyes met above the bobbing heads of his nieces and nephews.  There was a world of solace in his gaze, a world of forgiveness in hers.

            Eventually, the children subsided and Piggy was allowed to push her rather un-appealing breakfast around on her plate in peace.  Kermit sat down beside her and kissed the top of her head, daring anyone to say anything about it.

            “Hey, Piggy,” Kermit said suddenly.  “How about going for a swim, today?”

            Piggy was a good swimmer, and he thought the water might soothe and cool her in the heat of the day.  The weather was warm, and today promised to be very humid and close.  Piggy looked at him and smiled.

            “That sounds nice, Kermie,” she said.  At “Kermie,” someone snickered, but was quickly shushed.  She stood, glad to be done with her plate.  She handed it off to Kermit without looking at it too closely.  “Just let me go change,” she said.

            “Super,” said Kermit.  “I need to talk to Croaker for a minute, but I’ll meet you in a little bit.”

            Piggy smiled.  She felt collected and calm, in charge of things again.  She didn’t even mind that she walked out of her shoe on the way back to change.

            Piggy’s newfound confidence was not actually working in her favor at the moment, but she had no way of knowing that.  Either Kermit’s conversation with Croaker was taking longer than expected, or Piggy was becoming more adept at changing quickly behind the questionable privacy of her “dressing room.”  After about ten minutes, Piggy began to feel more than conspicuous in her bathing suit and decided to proceed without Kermit.  He would be proud of her, finding her own way to the watering hole, and Kermit’s mother had given very explicit directions.  Piggy set out with a spring in her step which had nothing to do with her impractical shoes.

            “Hey, Cinderella!” called Orville the Frog.  Norville the Frog snickered, appreciative of his twin’s humor.  Piggy turned around, looking for the source of the voices.  After a moment, she spied two identical frogs perched in the low-hanging branches of a tree, watching her from behind the leaves.

            “Were you, um, talking to me?” she asked politely.  With the sun behind them, she couldn’t see them clearly, but she could pick them out of the foliage by their distinctive blue-green color. 

            “Where’s the ball?” Orville called.  Norville made a gasping sound of laughter.

            Piggy looked around in confusion.  She did not see a ball.

            “I don’t see one,” she confessed.  She shaded her eyes with one gloved hand.  “Did you drop your ball out of the tree?”

            Inexplicably, they burst into loud guffaws.  Still not certain she was the butt of their joke but distinctly uncomfortable, Piggy felt her cheeks grow hot.  She tried again to focus on them, but the noon-day sun was too brilliant, making her squint.

            “I’m on my way to the swimming hole,” she said, more to have something to say than to communicate her intentions.  “I’m supposed to meet Kermit there.”

            It was a shame Piggy couldn’t see the mischief makers more clearly.  If she had, she would have seen the look of evil delight that spread across two identical faces.  As one, they hopped down from the tree limb, landing suddenly on either side of her.  Startled by their abrupt appearance next to her, Piggy let out a little shriek that seemed to amuse them and felt her face grow warm again in embarrassment.

            “You’re supposed to meet Kermit at the swimming hole?” Orville said, all solicitousness.  “Well, you’re headed in the wrong direction.”

            “Oh?  But I thought—“  Piggy looked distressed.  If these two hellions had had consciences at all, her look of dismay would have moved them.  As it was, it made no impression at all.

            “Here,” said Norville, touching her elbow lightly.  “Let us get you back on the right path.”

            “Thank you,” Piggy said gratefully.  “I’m still learning my way around.”

            “We’ll help you,” Orville said.  He flashed a look to his twin.  “We definitely know our way around.”

            Piggy looked around her in wonder.  The pond looked deep and cool and inviting, overhung with enough trees and hanging vines to provide copious shade.  After the sweltering heat of the noonday sun it look wonderfully refreshing and inviting.  Piggy turned around to thank her guides but could not locate them.  She looked around in confusion.

How sweet, she thought at last.  They must have gone off to give me some privacy.  Carefully, she took off her wrap, revealing a sweet little confection of a bathing suit.  Truth be told, it was the kind of bathing suit more suited to lounging by the pool at a posh hotel than swimming in a pond, but Piggy had so wanted to make a good impression.  She fluffed the little skirt happily, and spread her towel on the bank.  Kermit would be here soon, with lunch and something cool to drink.  She stepped out of her shoes and tried to arrange herself attractively on the towel, a task that was complicated by the myriad cypress roots and smalls stones beneath her little patch of terry cloth.  She heard rustling overhead--or maybe behind her.  Eagerly and a little nervously, Piggy turned.

“Kermit?” she asked.  “Is that you, Kermie?”

There was a sound that Piggy would later think might have been snickering, but at the moment she merely took for the rustling of leaves in the trees or the soft, babbling voice of the water.  No Kermit emerged from the trail.  The trail...  Piggy stopped, looking for the trail she had so recently trod.  Perhaps it was a trick of the sunlight through the leaves, but she couldn’t pick out the trail.  Piggy put one gloved hand to her eyes to shield them from the brightness and stood up, looking back the way she had come...no, wait, the sun had been behind her, or--wait, the sun had been...in the sky.  Piggy felt her heart give a little hiccup, then begin to thump loudly.

“Kermit?” she called hopefully.  “Please--are you, um, can you hear me?”  There was more rustling, but this time it was definitely coming from a thick clump of bushes near the water’s edge.  Her knees felt weak with relief.

“Oh, Kermit,” she said breathlessly.  “I was beginning to be--arrgh!  Eeeeek!  Help!  Help!  A snake!”

“Can I help you?” the source of Piggy’s distress asked, but his soft, sibilant voice did not carry above Piggy’s shrieking. 

“Help!  Help!  A snake!” Piggy cried, snatching her robe from the limb and hurling herself headlong through the bushes.  Her towel and shoes were forgotten.

“Well, for heaven’s sake,” said a second sibilant voice.  “What was that all about?”

“Something about a rake, I think, Darling,” said the first voice.  He looked around as though seeing the clearing for the first time.  “I know I haven’t pruned in a while, but I don’t think it looks that bad, do you, Edna?” he said thoughtfully.

“Of course not, Willard,” his wife said, nuzzling his scaly cheek with her own.  “She probably just wanted to smooth out the ground under her towel.”

“Oh.  Quite right.”  He looked at his wife quizzically.  “Was that--was that a warthog?  I didn’t think we got those around here.”

His wife pondered for a moment, hesitating.  “Um, I don’t think so.  I believe it was a domesticated swine.”

“How interesting!  Are you sure?”

“Well, there were no tusks, and I’d say the satin gloves were pretty conclusive.”

“Ah.  Where do you suppose she came from?”

 Edna paused, then gave the snake equivalent of a shrug.  “Judging by the bathing suit, I’d say ‘Saks Fifth Avenue.’”

Willard picked the towel up and tossed it over his, um, shoulder and caught it with his tail.  “We’ll ask James and Jane next time we see them.  There’s not much that happens in this swamp that gets by them.”

Chapter 7: Lost and FoundEdit

“Um, have you seen Piggy, Mom?” asked Kermit.  It was not unusual for Piggy to be fashionably late, but he had been waiting for her for more than an hour, and he was beginning to be alarmed.  He didn’t quite like to admit that he had lost track of time and his wife in the same morning, but was finding himself in need of assistance.

“Oh, Kermit—are you still here?  Piggy left for the swimming hole at least 45 minutes ago.”

Kermit looked uncomfortable.  He had rather lost track of time talking to his childhood friend, but was more than a little surprised that Piggy had changed so quickly—and gone on without him.

“Oh,” Kermit said.  “I guess I better make tracks.”

Tracks he found plenty of, but no trace of Piggy, either at the swimming hole or along the way.  Puzzled, he trudged back to the clearing.  This time, at the sight of his unhappy face, his mother put down her mug and looked at him with concern.

“Didn’t you find her?” she asked, her face troubled.

“No,” Kermit admitted.  “I found tracks up to the old magnolia tree, but then she must have taken off her shoes.  I followed the path all the way to the water and back.  There were some kids there, but they hadn’t seen her.”

“Do you know what time they arrived at the swimming hole?”

“Not really,” Kermit said.  Most of them had been too little to take much notice of time, and nobody but nobody here wore a watch.  “I—how did Piggy know how to get there?  Did she go with someone?”

“No,” said Jane, making a distressed face.  “I—she asked for directions.  I—I should have sent someone with her, but I didn’t think….”  She put a hand on Kermit’s arm.  “You didn’t see any tracks on the path?”

“No,” said Kermit.  “They stopped right under the tree.”  He paused for a moment, thoughtful.  “You know, maybe she didn’t take her shoes off.  Maybe she went another way.”

“Does she know another way?  She didn’t seem very certain this morning.”

“No,” Kermit admitted.  “Piggy’s not, um, let’s just say that directions aren’t her strong suit.  She usually has a driver.”  Or me, his brain prompted unkindly.  “Um, I think I’m going to take some of the guys and look for her,” he said.  “Will you ring the dinner gong and put out the word?”

Worriedly, Jane nodded.  She wiped her hands on her apron and went to call everyone in.

            Croaker picked up the trail underneath the big magnolia with an ease that made Kermit realize that he had become more of a city frog than he wanted to admit.  They followed Piggy’s twin heel grooves up to the edge of a lovely clearing, but Croaker hovered back a little and did not approach the water’s edge.

            “What’s the matter?” Kermit asked.

            “Oh, nothing,” said Croaker.  “It’s just I didn’t want to go in without knocking first.  This is Willard and Edna’s place, and I didn’t want to just—“  He broke off suddenly and hopped quickly into the enclave.  He emerged moments later with Piggy’s  shoes, his expression sober.

            “Um, these look like Piggy’s shoes,” he said solemnly.  “I don’t see any signs of Willard and Edna, though.”

            “Who are Willard and Edna?” asked Kermit, now genuinely worried.

            “Oh--no,” said Croaker hastily.  “They’re nice folks—water snakes, but real nice.  I can tell they’ve been here, but I can’t tell if it was before or after Piggy was.”

            Kermit wasn’t listening.  He was looking at something gauzy that was fluttering mildly in the almost still air, caught fast on the out-stretched twig of a tree.  He walked up and picked it off carefully, then his heart began to hammer in his chest.

            “What is it?” said Croaker.  “What do you have there?”

            Kermit turned and looked at his childhood friend soberly, his eyes worried.

            “It’s—it’s part of Piggy’s bathing suit,” he whispered.  “I—I think we’re going to need some help.”

            Help was forthcoming, and soon the swamp was crawling—and slithering and hopping—with scores of determined rescuers all beating the bushes for signs of an obviously lost and probably very frightened pig.

            The noon-time sun was at its hottest when word reached Kermit that she had been found.  Piggy’s newly-met friend Arnie actually sent up the call that she had been located.  Out of breath from running, Kermit arrived on the scene—along with about two hundred other amphibians—and put his arms and a warm blanket around a very disheveled Piggy.  She leaned into his arms and allowed herself to be led back to the clearing, making an odd little parade through the marshy grass.  Piggy had certainly been in her share of parades, waving and smiling at crowds of the awed and curious, but this time she turned her face into Kermit’s chest and did not seem to even know how many, many eyes were on her.

            “I’ll be durned,” said Arnie’s cousin Mortimer as they passed by.  Mortimer had been with him when he found Piggy.  “I didn’t even know pigs could climb trees.”

            “My neither,” said Arnie, “but this little lady of Kermit’s is a real fire-cracker.  She must have learned it in acting school or something.”

            “Must be.”  They were silent for a moment.  “Hey Arnie,” said Mortimer.  “What do you reckon she was doing all the way out here.  Didn’t Kermit say they were going to the swimming hole.”

            “Yeah,” said Arnie thoughtfully.  “It doesn’t make any sense, does it?”  He gave Mortimer a look.  “You thinking what I’m thinking?” he said.

            “Yeah,” said Mortimer.  “I think we got us some troublemakers on the loose.”

            “You know what else I think?” said Arnie.

            “Yep,” said Mortimer.  “And I’m with you.  Let’s go.”

            Piggy was, at least, clean, having been allowed a private swim in the swimming hole to soothe the cuts and scratches on her pink skin and wash the brambles out of her hair.  The bathing suit had been discarded—permanently—and she had pulled yet another clean and dry outfit out of her luggage.  Piggy sighed as she slipped her arms into the short puffy sleeves of the dress.  It was a little like pulling one poufy tissue out of a box after another, except that her luggage did not contain 180 outfits.  She had been through almost a week’s worth of clothes in less than 72 hours, and was down by one bathing suit forever.  Suddenly, achingly, she thought of her nice apartment with its huge walk-in closets and soft bed and air-conditioning and she felt like crying.  As if sensing her sudden turn of thoughts, Kermit peeked into her changing area.  Piggy hastily averted her eyes, buttoning up the rest of the dress.

            “You okay?” he asked, looking with distress at the pattern of scrapes along her arms.  Piggy wished she had a long-sleeved jacket, but she didn’t.  She put her hands behind her back, but Kermit came up and put his arms around her gently.

            “I wish you’d tell me what happened.”

            “I got lost,” Piggy said stubbornly.  “I was on my way to the swimming hole and I got lost.”

            “I know it was my fault.  You were counting on me to take you, and I—“

            “It wasn’t your fault,” Piggy cried.  “You probably wouldn’t even have been afraid of the snakes.”

            “What snakes?” asked Kermit, suddenly confused.

            “Nothing,” said Piggy.  “I, um, just, um—“

            “Did somebody scare you?” asked Kermit, trying unsuccessfully to catch her eye.

            “Yes—I mean, no.  I mean, they weren’t trying to scare me.  They were trying to help me!”

            “The snakes?”

            “No,” said Piggy, now confused herself.  “I didn’t even know they were friends of your parents.”

            “What friends of my parents?”  Kermit had spent most of this day confused and worried; he knew he sounded annoyed and impatient and tried again.  “Piggy—can’t you just tell me?”

            “Oh—I’m so embarrassed!” cried Piggy.  This whole day had been one long humiliating experience, and she did not think that she could go out tonight and face all the friends and family that were gathering here just to meet her.  She felt fairly certain that her reputation has preceded her to every corner of the swamp, and that everyone who came would be looking at Kermit with either scorn or pity.  She did not think she could bear it.  She would have turned away but Kermit caught her plump little arms in his gentle hands and turned her back to look at him.  When she looked up into his face, everything seemed suddenly okay.

            “C’mon,” Kermit teased.  “This can’t be any worse than the time I fired you in front of everyone and replaced you with our guest star.”

            “Kermit!”

            “Or the time you had to tell all those tabloid writers that you had made up all those stories about you and me.”

            “Oh, Kermie!  You are so—“

            “Or the time—“

            “Stop!” cried Piggy, but she was trying hard not to smile.  It was easy to laugh at those things now because she was on the other side of them—on the other side of them with her frog.

            “Tell me,” Kermit entreated.  “Whatever it is, I promise I won’t laugh.”

            “So, there were tracks leading up the Willard’s place?” said James thoughtfully.

            “Yep—two pairs, along with, um, Mrs. The Frogs.  Funny thing is—it took me a minute to be sure it was two pairs of footprints because they were identical,” said Arnie carefully.

            The two men exchanged a look of shared comprehension.

            “Hmph,” said James.  “I should have known.”

            Arnie looked at him speculatively.  “You want me and Mortimer to have a word with ‘em?” he asked.

            James shook his head, looking thoughtful.  “No,” he said at last.  “Don’t do anything.  Let me think on this awhile.”

            Kermit wasn’t laughing.

            “I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do,” Kermit said hotly.  “I’m going right back up there and knock some sense into those two chuckleheads.”

            “Kermit, please,” Piggy pleaded.  “Don’t make a fuss.”

            “Don’t make a fuss!?” Kermit asked, incredulous.  “You were lost for hours!  You could have been hurt, or scared, or—“

            Piggy kissed him, silencing his tirade in the most practical manner possible.  Resisting a little at first because he was angry, and had been so worried, Kermit eventually warmed up, returning her kiss like a good boy.

            “Piggy,” he said, touching her face.  “I was…I was worried.”

            “I’m fine,” Piggy insisted.  She kissed him once again, but quickly, and looked at him with solemn eyes.  “I want to handle this in my own way.”

            What way?” Kermit demanded.  Piggy dropped her gaze, playing with the lace on her sleeve cuffs.

            “I-I don’t know yet, but—but Kermit,” she pleaded, for he was threatening to break free, “I want to do this myself.  They—Orville and Norville didn’t actually hurt me.  I’m sure they didn’t mean any real harm.”  She gave a little embarrassed laugh.  “It probably never dawned on them that I wouldn’t be able to find my own way back.”  Her expression was hurt, although she was trying hard to hide it.  It made Kermit’s anger flare back to life, and he would have gone off again, but Piggy was trying so hard not to be dependent that he swallowed his ire with effort and tried to smile.  He leaned over and planted a kiss on her cheek.  She smiled up at him, her eyes suspiciously bright.  “I--It was partly my own fault for being so gullible.”

            “It was not your fault.”

            “Look—you warned me before we came that some of your cousins could be tricksters.  I was too busy trying to be nice to be cautious.”  She looked at him, and her expression became rueful.  “I’m not used to being nice all the time.  It’s hard.”

            In spite of his pique, Kermit began to smile.  “Yeah, I guess it is,” he agreed.  He reached out and touched her neck, turning her face back up to him.  “Look,” he said, “just treat everybody here like you treat everybody at home.  If somebody gets in your way, you have my permission to swat ‘em, okay?”

            Kermit saw with satisfaction the little gleam of hope that flash in her eyes, then she masked it quickly.  Her expression was impish as she smiled.

            “Yes, Kermie,” she said softly, batting her eyes in mock docility.  For a moment, Kermit just stared at her, then they both burst out laughing.

            “Come’ere you,” he insisted, pulling her close.  And Piggy obliged.

            When everyone arrived tonight to see a happy couple, chances are they were going to see one.

Chapter 8: OfferingsEdit

            Once Kermit had satisfied himself that Piggy was truly un-traumatized by the day’s events, he went off to make himself useful.  With a little determined digging, Kermit found wild rice in one of his mother’s tins and, stealing a little water from the teapot, made a bowl of brown rice and vegetables, which he brought to Piggy like a dozen roses after an argument.  The sight and smell of warm, edible food made Piggy’s knees weak with longing, a problem Kermit circumvented by dragging her down next to him on a sturdy log and making her eat every last morsel.  Then, like a poker player pulling three aces out of his sleeve, Kermit produced a package of chocolate truffles.  Piggy let out a little whimper and reached for the package, but Kermit held it away from her questing hands.  Deliberately, he unwrapped each little mound of rich chocolate while Piggy watched, then he fed them to her one by one off his fingers.  When the last chocolaty morsel was dissolving against her tongue, Piggy stood up suddenly, slipped onto Kermit’s lap and kissed him with enough energy to remind Kermit that they were still, after all, newlyweds.  His arms were around her now, holding her close.

“Hey there, Mrs. The Frog,” murmured Kermit.  “Still glad you married me?”

“That’s Miss Piggy to you, frog,” Piggy growled.  She kissed him again, putting some energy into it this time.  This almost distracted Kermit from his question, but he returned from the pleasant place that Piggy was taking him to find the question still pinging against his brain.

“You are still glad you married me?” he asked again.  He looked up at Piggy and his eyes were uncertain.  The need in those eyes made Piggy want to rush in and offer reassurance.  She did so, her arms slipping around his neck.

“Marrying you was the most wonderful thing that’s ever happened to me,” Piggy said gently, letting her hand touch his face, then come to rest on his chest.  “And not just because you bring me chocolate.  I love you, Kermie.  Your goodness, your sweetness, the way you put your, um, flipper down when it’s important.  I love you because you’re steadfast and dependable, and I love you because you’re unpredictable.”

“Piggy,” Kermit breathed.  “Oh, Sweetheart....”

“I would rather be here in this stinky ol’ swamp with you than anyplace else on the planet.”

Kermit felt the urge to chuckle, but he was using his mouth at the moment to kiss his wife.  He chuckled when the kiss was over, and looked at Piggy’s earnest and flushed face.

Anyplace else?” he asked, looking skeptical.  “Even Roberto’s?”  Piggy sniffed and got to her feet.

“Don’t push it, frog,” she growled, and this time, Kermit kept his chuckle to himself.

Piggy put on her gloves—the finishing touch.  There was no mirror here, but Piggy could look in Kermit’s eyes and know that she was ready to face anything—even the whole gosh-darned neighborhood.  They held hands and made their way toward the common clearing where everyone would be waiting—waiting for them to show up and show off their matrimonial bliss.  Holding tight to Kermit’s slim green hand, Piggy felt the urge to pinch herself, wondering if it could really be true that she was here, here with Kermit, the newest Mrs. The Frog in a long line of Mrs. The Frogs.  She thought about Kermit’s mom—serene, unflappable, without a mean bone in her little green body—and felt suddenly uncertain again, but Kermit seemed to know, well, everything.  He smiled at her and patted her hand.

“It’s just a backyard cookout,” he said in his most reassuring tone.  “What can go wrong?”

Piggy said nothing.  Never ask a pig what can go wrong at a cookout.  But she held on to Kermit’s hand, and she believed him like she always did—knowing he would not lead her astray.

They just hadn’t counted on Maggie.

Chapter 9: Sometimes, you just have to eat the things that bug youEdit

            Piggy would think of Kermit’s words more than once during the evening but, luckily, she had more weapons in her arsenal than could be gained through physical training.  She put on her game face and determined that she would be the most gracious, most charming, most unflappable lady pig (emphasis on lady) that this neck of the swamp had ever known.

            Supper was, well, what it was.  But since there were folks from all over the swamp there, and not just frogs, Piggy found her food choices considerably broadened.

            “I wish you’d let me talk to Mom about the food,” Kermit had murmured, bringing the topic up for about the hundredth time.  Piggy steadfastly refused.

            “No,” she insisted stubbornly.  “Your mother is a good cook.  I don’t want to hurt her feelings.”

            Thanks to Kermit’s thoughtful intervention, Piggy wasn’t starving, so she felt free to sample some things and pass on other—pass at a distance in some cases.  And she actually enjoyed meeting all of the other denizens of the swamp.  It made her feel, well, less conspicuous, certainly. Instead of being the only pink swine in a sea of green-to-blue-to-brownish skin, Piggy felt more at home in this multicultural mix of species.  She met Arnie and his wife who had come late, scurrying in after PTA, along with two toothy youngsters who looked at her with undisguised awe.

            “My dad says you can really hit!” said a tweenish boy, peering up at her through his glasses.

            Arnie’s wife looked apologetic, but Piggy sat down on a nearby log to make better eye contact and smiled at Arnie’s son, Jake, warmly.

            “Well, yes,” she said, “but that’s because I took karate for many years.”

            “Do you work out every day?” asked Jake breathlessly.

            “No,” Piggy said.  “But I try to keep my hand in.”  She smiled again.  “Do you work out?”

            “Um, some,” said Jake, casting a sideways look at his dad.  “My dad and me—we swim laps.”

            “Me too!” said Jake’s little sister Alice.  “I swim too.”

            “How nice!” said Piggy.  “Moi likes to swim.  Maybe we can all go swimming before Kermit and I go back home.”

            Jake nodded, speechless with excitement as his parents led him away.  Piggy stood back up.  Kermit slipped his arm around her waist, put his mouth close to her ear.

            “Softie,” he accused.

            Piggy sniffed.  “Moi can afford to be.  I really can hit.”  She looked at Kermit out of the corner of her eye. “It’s the least Moi could do,” she said solemnly.  “Arnie’s still limping.”

            Kermit shrugged.  “Yeah, but he gets a good story out of it.”  He steered Piggy over toward a crowd of otters.  “Come over here—I want you to meet Emmet and his mom.”

            “Honey,” said James gently, his hands on Jane’s shoulders.  “Just let it go, Jane.   She’s got a flea in her ear about this and she’s just going to have to work it out.”

            Jane sighed and stopped worrying her hands with an effort.

            “I know, I know,” she said miserably.  “I just…I hate it when the children argue.”

            James didn’t try to tell her not to worry.  He didn’t remind her that Kermit and Maggie were adults.  He didn’t say that he was sure everything would work out in time, even though he was sure it would.  He just set his cane to the side and reached out to put both of his arms around his wife, resting his chin atop her head.

            “They’re our kids,” he said softly.  “And they’re good kids.”

            “Yes,” said Jane.  Her voice sounded wet.

            “And it’s going to be okay.”

            “Yes,” said Jane.  Her voice sounded more firm, now.  After a moment, she disengaged.  “Oh,” she said, putting her hands to her face.  “I need to take out the millipede loaf.”  She wiped her face hurriedly on her apron and headed toward the fire-pit where the bulk of the evening meal had been prepared.  James watched her go, wishing there was something he could say that would make things okay.

            As so often happens, there was nothing.  James sighed and returned to their guests.

            Piggy had really begun to shine as the evening wore on.  Kermit watched her meet and greet with pride.  She was witty and charming and every time she laughed and tossed her golden hair over her shoulder he could feel the collective sigh from his younger or unmarried brothers and cousins.  What a woman, Kermit thought.  What a pig!  Piggy even managed to exchange pleasantries with Edna and Willard, although her grip on his arm had tightened to near gangrene-inducing pressure while she did so.  Piggy had never been fond of snakes, but a casual observer would never have known, and Kermit distinctly heard Edna murmur, “charming, just charming—and such style!” to his mother later in the evening.  He’d flashed his mother a look of triumph, and smiled with satisfaction at his talented wife.

            Ever so often, as they mingled with the large crowd of guests and family alike, their eyes would meet whether they were standing close or far away from each other.  Her blue eyes were gentle, shining with affection for him, and Kermit could see that she was beginning to relax but still working hard to find a way to fit in.  Piggy might be a city pig at heart, but he loved her for trying so hard to fit in here in this more rural setting.  That lifted the weight of a Buick off of his shoulders, and he felt more relaxed that he had in some days. 

            Eventually, as the evening grew darker and the food began to be cleared away, people of all species began to settle onto logs or the soft boggy earth around the campfire.  Musical instruments were brought out and placed on stand-by.  James directed a squadron of youngsters who brought bundles of dry sticks which were fed carefully onto the fire by an adult.  The bonfire lit up the clearing in a warm and cheery manner, but it did nothing to dim the vastness of stars that burst twinkling through the deep, deep blue-ness of the night sky. 

            It was beautiful, thought Piggy.  Fathomless and lovely and…beguiling.  She thought of Gonzo and his song, of the aching that sometimes accompanies both happiness and sadness, of the longing that goes with knowing where you belong, and where you’d like to belong.  Piggy turned her eyes on Kermit, still thinking with wonder how…how utterly amazing it seemed to be sitting here beside him, wearing his ring, bearing his name.  She had longed to be here for so long—in this place, in this moment—and yet she was letting the momentary, transitory annoyances make her unhappy.  Piggy leaned and pressed her cheek against Kermit’s shoulder, wanting to be closer to him.  Kermit looked down in surprise.  He saw the firelight playing over her face, felt the flush on her cheeks that did not come from the fire.  His arm slipped around her waist, the banjo forgotten for the moment.

            “Sweetheart,” he murmured softly.  “Piggy, honey.”

            He might have kissed her then— in front of everyone—but fate had other intentions.  As if on cue, there was an eruption of little frogs all swarming into the circle of firelight, hopping up and down with excitement.

            “Ooh!  Loook!”

            “I want one!  I want one!”

            “Hey—Don’t push!  Hey—I need some!”

            “Lookie!  Lookie, Ma!  Nightcrawlers!”

            It was, indeed, a huge tin of recently harvested nightcrawlers, and little frogs and prepubescent tadpoles ran for sticks that might serve as roasting spears.  There was, in fact, a run on the firewood, but the older frogs kept the poachers at bay and parceled out appropriate sticks with discretion until every little frog—and many of the older ones—had a skewer with a fat white grub on the end.

            Marshmallows, Piggy thought determinedly.  It’s just like roasting marshmallows.  She kept her face neutral and tried not to think about it.  Even when Kermit made a small “hmm” of interest and took one himself.  Piggy took to contemplating the night sky again, serving two purposes at once.  When Kermit’s grub had been toasted to a light brown and consumed, Kermit shifted his banjo onto his lap and let his fingers dance over the strings.

            As it had the night before, a ripple of excitement went through the crowd and various instruments were produced as if by magic.  Kermit began to play, “It’s in Every One of Us,” and other instruments—and voices—picked up the tune.  Piggy knew this one, and she began to sing softly along, careful not to let her strong voice consume the others.  Kermit heard her singing and smiled at her, letting his voice join too.

            Just as the song ended, the tin of grubs made a sudden appearance right on Piggy’s lap.

            Want one?” said an almost-familiar voice.  Piggy stammered out a hasty “no thank you,” but Kermit’s head snapped around and he looked at his sister in astonishment.

            “Mags!” he said, suddenly joyful, but something in Maggie’s eyes made the sudden light in his dim.

            “Hello, Mit,” she said coolly.  She had, at least, called him by his old pet name, but to Piggy’s protective ears it did not sound friendly.  Piggy sat still, not certain what to do, but Maggie turned on her suddenly, and the abrupt movement made the soft white grubs dance in the tin.  “And hello, sister-in-law.”  No, Piggy thought, definitely not friendly.

            She refused to be baited, however, and smiled back with her best determined smile.  “Hello, Maggie.  How nice to see you.”

            But Maggie was turning away, back toward Kermit.  Again, the gesture made the tin and its contents tumble less than a foot from Piggy’s face, and Piggy made grim eye contact with Maggie to avoid looking down.

            “Heard you’ve been busy,” she said to her brother.  “Swimming, playing hide-and-seek in the swamp….”  Her voice was light, but mocking, and her eyes flashed an unmistakable challenge.

            Kermit sat up straighter, trying to stare her down.  “Yes,” he said carefully.  “We’ve had a nice time here at home.  Too bad you couldn’t join us.”

            “Things to do,” said Maggie airily.  “People to see—oh!”  She turned to Piggy as though just remembering something, and the tin in her hand spilled several limp grubs onto Piggy’s skirt.  Piggy picked them up without expression and dropped them back into the tin, but her eyes were glinting dangerously.  “Oh,” said Maggie again.  “Don’t you want one?”

            “No thank you,” said Piggy, her voice polite through gritted teeth. 

            “Ohhh,” said Maggie sagely, as though suddenly understanding.  “I get it—you’re watching your figure.”

            Piggy spread her hands helplessly and smiled up at Maggie, batting her eyelashes.  “Not really,” she said sweetly.  “Why should I, when Moi has soooo many other people willing to watch it for me?”  She favored a log of young male frogs with a devastating smile—so devastating in fact that one of them white-eyed and fell over backwards.  Seeing it, Maggie’s eyes narrowed angrily and she started to say something else—something else that might not have been turned aside so easily.

            Kermit almost choked, but he stepped in quickly to shut this argument down before it could go somewhere where he couldn’t stop it. 

            “Why don’t you sit down, Maggie?” he said stiffly.  “We were just about to play.”

            Maggie looked at the banjo in his hands for a moment, then flicked her eyes toward Piggy.

            “Figured you’d be too busy to play this trip,” she said.  “I figured you’d have your hands full already.”

            “Maggie.”  Kermit’s voice was low and warning.  There were many eyes on them now and, although he was uncomfortable, Kermit was willing to rise to the occasion if necessary.  Suddenly, without any warning, Maggie grinned broadly. 

            “Well,” she said brightly. “I guess I was wrong.”  Once again, her eyes flicked to Piggy.  “I guess we’re all allowed a few mistakes….”

            Mags,” Kermit said firmly, but she had scored her hits and was gone like quicksilver.

            Kermit sat back down, his back tight with tension, but he began to plink out a merry tune on the banjo.  He was, perhaps, pulling the strings just a little too hard, but it was hard to complain.  Tentatively, others joined the tune, and soon the clearing was full of happy, cheerful sounds.  Piggy smiled tightly and looked at the sky and tried to recapture her previous good mood, but it was gone—irretrievable.

            After a few minutes of breathtakingly beautiful night skies, Piggy felt her breathing return to normal and the whole thing began to seem almost funny.  Almost.  Almost at once, however, Piggy’s humor became tinged with despair.

            What was she thinking? Piggy thought miserably.  She was so…different, so out of place here.  What would Kermit say if she told him that she couldn’t stand the thought of swallowing a grub, no matter how perfectly toasted over the coals?  What would Maggie say if she could have seen Piggy’s distress and fear this afternoon over a couple of perfectly civilized snakes.  Once again, Piggy longed for the safety and security of the city and their safe, modern apartment where food arrived from the deli and taxis did not stop if you wore inappropriate (if highly fashionable) footwear.  Piggy stared at her gloved hands and tried to blink back tears, grateful for the smoke that occasionally wafted her way from the bonfire.

            Kermit seemed aware of her shift in mood, for he smiled at her worriedly and nudged her with his shoulder.  Piggy rallied and smiled back up at him, but her mouth was tremulous.  Her new husband longed to put the banjo down and put his arms fast around her but it was impossible at the moment.  Skillfully, moving with precision and grace, his slim fingers flew among the banjo strings while the notes escaped to fill the swamp with song.

            “Pretty Polly” followed “Black Mountain Rag” and other musicians joined in or scrambled to keep up.  Kermit switched often between songs with words and those without, and kept the tempo ever-changing by switching from merry to plaintive and back again with agility.  Around them, little frogs that were barely more than tadpoles were drowsing in the arms of parents, and Piggy saw Robin curled up on the soft, spongy ground near his grandfather’s flippered feet.  The sight of his sweet, familiar little form hit Piggy with a jolt, reminding her that she and Kermit had a life away from here, a life of their own.  It was cheering, and Piggy clung to the sight of Robin like a lifeline, watching his slow, steady, untroubled breathing.

            “Last one,” Piggy heard Kermit say.  “Any requests?”

            “Froggy Went a’Courting!” came a muffled voice.  Kermit laughed and began to strum the familiar tune.  It was, for obvious reasons, a local favorite, and Kermit played the longer musical introduction that would be expected by this crowd.  He was almost to the first verse when the implications of what he was about to play hit him like a bolt of lightning, and—without explanation—he launched into a replay of the intro, buying him some time.

            There were some topics that did not bear repeating under any but the direst of circumstances.  Although initially blind-sided by the request for the old favorite, Kermit could see pretty plainly the trap that Maggie—undoubtedly!—had so cunningly set for him.  His mind searched frantically for some means of escape.

            There was no one here (with the exception of some of the tadpoles) who had not seen Kermit’s on-screen flirtation with Miss Mousey.  Like Piggy, she had been strong, self-confident and sassy.  But while initially intrigued, Kermit had figured out fairly quickly that she moved in faster circles than he was comfortable in.  Exit one frog.  And shortly after that, enter one entrancing and beautiful pig.  Also strong—very strong—and self-confident and sassy, but a better match all around.  Kermit had liked Piggy’s softness, her occasional burst of feminine incomprehensibility.  He found she cut the treacle in his sentimentality, and softened the edges of his grumpiness as though born to it.  Though it had taken him years to admit it, Kermit had realized long ago that a life without Piggy was going to be lonely—and not very much fun.

            “Frog went a-courtin', and he did ride, Uh-huh.  Frog went a-courtin', and he did ride, Uh-huh.  Frog went a-courtin', and he did ride--With a sword and a pistol by his side, Uh-huh,” Kermit sang.
            Kermit continued to play, his fingers dancing, while these thoughts whizzed furiously through his head.  He darted a quick look at the far side of the clearing and, after a moment, was able to discern Maggie’s smirking face looking not at him, but at Piggy, in order to see the effect of her little barb more clearly when it landed.  Kermit felt his anger swell, but he pushed it down grimly.  He would not let Maggie use him to hurt Piggy—not even unintentionally.

            “Well he rode up to Miss Piggy's door, Uh-huh. Well he rode up to Miss Piggy's door, Uh-huh.  Well he rode up to Miss Piggy's door.  Gave three loud raps and a very big roar, Uh-huh.”

            There was a murmur of approval from the crowd and Piggy, who had seen long before Kermit had where this song selection was leading and steeled herself against any outward reaction, turned in surprise and looked up at her husband with melting eyes.

            The murmur turned into an “Awww” as Kermit paused between verses to claim a smooch from his blushing bride.  Nobody cat-called.  Nobody said “Ewww.”

            When Kermit had sufficiently regained his equilibrium, he looked casually over to where Maggie had been standing, but she was not there.
            “Said, ‘Miss Piggy, are you within?’ Uh-huh.  Said he, ‘Miss Piggy, are you within?’ Uh-huh.  Said, ‘Miss Piggy, are you within?’ ‘Yes, kind sir, I sit and spin,’ Uh-huh.”

            “Not likely,” Piggy said, just loud enough to get an appreciative chuckle from those closest to her, and she felt herself warmed and welcomed by their amused faces.
            “He took Miss Piggy on his knee, Uh-huh.  Took Miss Piggy on his knee, Uh-huh.  Took Miss Piggy on his knee.  Said, ‘Miss Piggy, will you marry me?’ Uh-huh.”
            Uh-huh!” repeated Piggy, and everyone laughed.  Many of Kermit’s brothers and sisters and cousins were staring at Kermit surreptitiously, not sure what to make of this suddenly different older brother who flirted shamelessly with his wife in front of everyone.  Was this Kermit?  Their Kermit?  Who had steadfastly resisted all entanglements while living in the swamp?  Who had seemed committed to bachelorhood for so long?  It seemed hard to imagine they were one and the same.  But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding and the contentment on his face and the face of his ladylike pig told a story that was impossible to deny.  Not that anyone was trying.

            Kermit ended the song, pushing his banjo around to his back and standing up as though strung with an over-riding energy.  He smiled at Piggy and reached for her hand but—just at that moment—Maggie appeared out of nowhere and almost between them.  She thrust the tin of grubs under Piggy’s face once more, and her voice was mocking.

            Sure you won’t have one, dear?” she dared.  “A bedtime snack?”

            Piggy’s happy mood—so carefully reconstructed—was falling to shreds.  Piggy looked at Maggie calmly, and her smile was broad but not at all friendly.

            “Why thank you,” she said sweetly.  “I don’t mind if I do.”

            Piggy put her satin-gloved hand into the tin, pulled a soft, limp, white grub out and popped it into her mouth.  She chewed and swallowed.

            Maggie stared, as did Kermit.

            “Thank you,” Piggy The Frog said daintily.  “That was delicious.  But Moi is all in now.  Ta!”

            Piggy excused herself while Maggie stood staring in slack-jawed amazement.

            Once the darkness had swallowed his wife up, Kermit turned on Maggie angrily.

            You!” he said hotly.  “What was that all about?”

            “Oh go soak your head!” flung Maggie.  Kermit would have gone after her, but he went after Piggy instead. 

            Piggy was half-way across the clearing when Kermit caught her arm, turning her to face him.  His expression was bemused and a little incredulous.

            “Piggy, did you—did you really eat that, um, bug?”

            Piggy’s face was defiant.  “What if I did?” she challenged.

            “Whoa, whoa,” said Kermit, holding his hands up to ward off any hostilities.  “I’m just, you know, I’m just asking.”

            She stuck out her chin pugnaciously.

            “So…did you, you know, actually eat that night crawler?”

            Without warning, Piggy grabbed his shoulders and kissed him with refreshing thoroughness.  She pulled back and glared at him, her eyes blazing.  “You tell me!” she flung, and stalked off majestically.  Stunned for a minute by her anger and—sheesh, that kiss!—Kermit ran after her.  He took her hand, slowing her progress but not stopping her.  She pulled him after her for a few more feet then stopped, her chest heaving.

            “Hey,” Kermit said, stepping around in front of her.  Gently, he rubbed her arms until her breathing calmed, then took her carefully into his arms. Grudgingly, Piggy let him enfold her, but gradually she relaxed into his embrace, letting him hold her close.

            “Look,” said her husband quietly.  “Maggie can be a total pill but you, I mean, you didn’t have to eat that bug just because she—“

            “I didn’t, okay?  I didn’t eat it,” she admitted, her voice muffled against his neck.  Her voice sounded bruised and Kermit knew she had a stubborn, pouty expression on her face—the one that usually made him want to kiss her.  He mastered the impulse, just holding her against him.

            “You…you didn’t?” he asked, not wanting to start an argument.  “Cause it looked like—“

            “I know what it looked like!” Piggy cried, pulling away.  “I—I used sleight of hand.”

            Kermit looked at her quizzically.  “Like—like magic?” he asked.

            “Yes,” Piggy answered irritably.  “I, um, used to be a magician’s assistant.”

            Kermit pulled back in surprise and stared at her.  Was there no end to the things he didn’t know about Piggy?  ”When was this?” he asked.  “Before you met me?”

            “No,” Piggy muttered.  She looked heavenward, obviously struggling with herself, then gave a little shrug.  “Um, do you remember that summer Moi told you I was doing summer stock?”

            “Um hum,” Kermit said nodded.  “Up in Minnesota?”

            “Yes,” Piggy admitted.  “I—my job fell through.  I spent the summer working with Marvo the Magician.”

            “Marvo the Magician,” Kermit repeated, not able to take it in.  “But—but Piggy, you sent me pictures of you in costume.  You told me you were playing Juliet!”

            Piggy glared at him.  “I had a second job waitressing at the Renaissance Fair,” she snapped.  “That’s where the picture came from.  Happy now?”

            Kermit started to laugh.  Indignantly, Piggy tried to pull away, but he held her tight, smiling at her in amused adoration.

            “Unhand me you—you frog, you,” she huffed, but without much conviction.  Kermit pulled her even closer.

            “Not a chance,” he said softly, and kissed her pouty mouth.  After the briefest of intervals, Piggy’s arms twined around his shoulders and she returned the kiss with interest.

            Apparently, Piggy wasn’t the only one who could do a little magic.  Kermit wrapped his arms around his pig and made the entire world disappear.

Chapter 10: A Pig of Many TalentsEdit

            Kermit’s desire to please had manifested itself in more practical ways than moonlight kisses.  After breakfast the next morning, which Kermit ate with gusto and Piggy politely ignored, he wasted no time in taking Piggy’s gloved hand in his and half-pulling, half-dragging her toward what looked like a wall made of branches and vines about an eighth-mile down the path from the clearing.

            “What do you think?” he asked.  His eyes were shining with excitement.

            Piggy looked at him uncertainly. “Um…” she began.

            One look at her befuddled expression, however, told Kermit he would have to illustrate.  He reached out and grasped hold of the viny curtain and tugged.  The wall peeled back, revealing a sun-dappled space the size of a very small room, or a very large closet.  He ducked under and stepped inside.  Curious now, Piggy followed.  When the greenery fell back, Piggy found herself in an almost enchanted little hideaway.

            Sunlight came through, but not much else.  While she could see glimpses of the outside world through cracks between vines, no one from the outside could see in.

            “It’s not exactly the honeymoon suite…” said Kermit, and looked up hopefully for signs of approval.

            “Oh!  A room!” Piggy said, suddenly understanding.  She half-turned, looking around her.

            Our room, if you like,” her husband said.  “I know it’s not what you’ve become accustomed to, but—“
            “What I’ve become accustomed to,” said Piggy softly, “is being with you.”

            Kermit smiled with pleasure and relief.  “Terrible, the bad habits you pick up,” he teased.

            “A wonderful vice,” responded his wife.  “Even better than—“

            “—chocolate?”

            “Don’t push your luck,” Piggy growled.  “Moi was going to say Chez Roberto’s.”

            Kermit laughed and reached to take her hands in his.

            “Have I mentioned how wonderful you have been on this whole trip?”

            “Not today,” said Piggy.  “But I’ve got time now…”

            They did not, in fact, have time right then.  What might have ended in a kiss ended with the chirp and bellow of several young voices. 

            “Kerrrrrmitttt!”

            “Unnn-culllll  Kerrrrrmitttt!”

            “Are you in there, Uncle Kermit?”

            Kermit looked at Piggy, who stared back at him.  They put their puckers away.

            “I forgot we promised to go swimming,” said Kermit.

            “We?” said Piggy.

            “Um, me, maybe,” admitted Kermit.  “I guess I forgot to mention it.” 

            “Good guess,” said Piggy dryly.

            “Yeah, well—“

            “And we are going swimming with…?” Piggy asked. 

            “Um, about six dozen of my nieces and nephews.” 

            Piggy’s smile did not dim, but inwardly she sighed.  It will be fun, she told herself.  Just me and Kermit and a pond full of kids.

            “Give us a second, kids,” Kermit called.  He looked at Piggy.  “Is it—is this okay?  Do you mind?”

            Piggy shook her head.  “Not really.  And at least Moi will have a place to change this time.”

            “Good,” said Kermit.  “Let’s get your stuff moved down here, then we’ll go swimming.”

            Piggy nodded, wanting to be agreeable.  She led Kermit take her hand and followed him out into the sunlit path.  Six dozen wasn’t a bad guess, but 12 dozen might have been more accurate.  Piggy felt momentarily overwhelmed, the only pink face in a sea of blue and green and brownish hues.  Also, she towered over everyone, and it was a little disconcerting.  She was glad to see Cee Cee’s eager face in the crowd.  Involuntarily, she squeezed Kermit’s hand, and he returned the pressure warmly, reassuring her with his touch.

            “Um, hi ho guys,” said Kermit.  “Look, we’re going to move Piggy’s things down here to this little shelter.  This is going to be our room while we’re staying here in the swamp.  Once we do that, she can change into her bathing suit and come swim with us.”

            “What’s a bathing suit?” asked one puzzled youngster.

            Piggy and Kermit exchanged startled glances.  It had been a while since the question had occurred to Kermit, but of course, he was used to people and animals wearing clothes for various activities.  Piggy regained her composure before he could think of how to respond.

            “Well,” she said matter-of-factly. “It’s a, um, costume that you wear to go swimming.”

            “In the water?” asked one skeptical fellow.  “You wear it in the water?”

            “Well, yes,” said Piggy haltingly.  “You put it on instead of your regular, um…clothes.”  Piggy realized with a sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach that, to this crowd, that sounded unusual at best, and probably downright odd.

            “How come?” asked a little girl with straight, shining hair cut in a bowl cut.

            Piggy looked at Kermit helplessly, but if anything, he looked more aghast than she.

            “Yeah, how come you have to wear a costume?”

            Piggy was now the only red face in a sea of blue and green and brown, and she looked decidedly flustered.  Kermit had no idea what he was going to say, but he was determined to rescue Piggy from her embarrassment, if that were still possible.

            “Well, um, you guys have seen the show, right?”

            Lots of nodding heads.

            “Well, you know sometimes I wear clothes to play a role on the show.”

            “Like your reporter trench-coat on Sesame Street?” asked one very slender young man.

            “Yes—exactly,” said Kermit.  “A costume helps people know who you are and what you’re going to do.”

            Too true, Piggy thought.  She knew well the power of making a statement with fashion.

            “Well, um, here in the swamp, it isn’t really necessary to wear clothes.  We all, you know, kind of do the same things, so clothes aren’t really important here.”

            Under other circumstances, Piggy might have argued with him.  Clothes were always important.  But she was grateful for his handling of the situation, so she smiled and nodded.

            “But where Piggy and I live most of the time, people and, uh, pigs and, well, rats and other animals usually wear clothing of some sort because it’s the social custom.”  Kermit finished strong, hoping his confident assertion would hold.

            You don’t,” pointed out one of Kermit’s nieces. 

            Kermit smiled and tried to appear grateful for the observation.  “That’s true,” Kermit said, outwardly calm.  “But sometimes I do.  I wore a tux when I got married,” he offered, turning to smile at Piggy.

            This is like a board meeting, thought Piggy suddenly, where’s he’s trying to sell a bunch of executives on an idea. Only the crowd was tougher.  She smiled back at him and waded in to bolster his claim.

            “Yes—and Kermit looked very debonair in his tuxedo.  He dressed up special because it was a special day.”

            “So that’s why you’re going to wear a bathing…what was it?”

            “A bathing suit.  Sometime it’s called a bathing costume,” said Piggy sagely.

            “A bathing suit.  That’s why you’re going to wear a bathing suit.”

            “That’s right.”  She smiled, glad they had reached an agreement—or at least an impasse.  “I’m going to put on my bathing suit because this is a special day; it’s the day Moi get to go swimming with all of vous.”

            It had slipped out.  Piggy had tried so hard to keep from lapsing in to French, but it just slipped right out.  Several little frogs looked startled.

            “That’s French,” said Cee Cee with great importance.  Several little frogs said, “Ooooh,” almost reverently.

            “Wow,” said one of the little boys.  “I didn’t know you could speak French.”

Kermit opened his mouth, planning to tease Piggy a little, but the fire in her eye made him think better of it.

            “She’s a pig of many talents,” he said instead.  “Including swimming.  Now some of you come and help me carry her luggage—the sooner Piggy finds her bathing suit, the sooner we go swim.”

Chapter 11: Swimming with the FroggiesEdit

            Actually, swimming with the crowd of young frogs proved to be marvelous fun.  It was, Piggy observed, a little like finger painting. As a child, she had disliked getting dirty, but once you were already in the gooey paint up to your wrist, then all inhibitions were swept away.  She bobbed and dived like a porpoise, showed off her swim strokes and did not worry about her hairdo.  At any given moment, she was bumping one or another small, soft body in the water, but it was par for this particular course, and she just laughed it off like they did.  Cee Cee had been fascinated by Piggy’s somewhat fluffy bathing suit with its little skirt and sparkling bow in the front, and Piggy—always ready to discuss fashion—had outlined the maillot’s merits without much prompting. 

            Kermit was a big favorite with the kids, something she had already observed, but here—here in the water he seemed so much more like one of them, so much more of this world than the one she shared with him.  She watched him swim, streaking beneath the water and popping out to startle and delight his nieces and nephews by the log-full.  At one point, he popped out of the water right in front of her, stole a kiss without warning and disappeared beneath the water in the space of about two seconds.  Piggy blinked in surprise, then laughed.  Late in the afternoon, when everyone was tiring enough to suggest an end to the days festivities, Kermit pulled himself out of the water and sat dripping beside her on the bank.  Her hair was drying in curly little tendrils and she looked relaxed and peaceful.

            “Tell me,” she said.  “I know these are all your nieces and nephews and cousins, but who is who?  Whose boys are those?” she asked, pointing to three almost identical young tadpoles.

            “Those are Matthias’ boys,” said Kermit.  He scanned the crowd thoughtfully.  “In fact, most of these belong to Matthias and Shirley.”

            Piggy looked at him, unable to comprehend.  Most of these belong to one of your brothers?”

            Kermit nodded, smiling. “Yeah,” he said.  “Frogs tend to have large families.” He looked at her and his eyes grew teasing.  “Can you even imagine having a family this size?”

            The words had slipped out without context but, once spoken, the implications made themselves felt.  Piggy looked at Kermit and he looked back at her and—for a moment—they were each imagining the possibility of a family this size.  After a moment, Piggy smiled timidly and blushed, but her eyes were fixed on his.

            “Yes,” she said softly, not able to say more.

            Kermit reached out and put his hand over hers warmly.  “Honey,” he said softly.  “Oh, Sweetheart.”

            But as was proving to be the pattern, they were not destined to bring this conversation—or any other—to its appropriate conclusion.  As usual, something came up.

 

            In this particular case, something actually came down.  One moment, the pond was full of noisy and cheerful children, and the next there was an enormous splash, shrieks of terror and a tsunami-sized wave crashed over Piggy.  She was already wet, but the shock of it made her gasp, and gasping while you’re being tsunamied isn’t such a great experience for non-swamp dwellers.  Piggy coughed and sputtered, lifting her streaming hair out of her face.  Kermit was doing the same, but there was fire as well as mud in his eye, and he stood up and glared at the grown frog who had cannonballed rudely into their midst.

            “Orville!” he bellowed.  “What the swamp do you think you’re—“

            KER!  SPLASH! 

            A second missile, identical to the first, landed in the water, and tsunami number two rolled over the erstwhile swimmers.  Kermit was knocked backward from the force, then tottered drunkenly on the edge before falling with no grace at all into the murky water.  Piggy admired his form, if not his entry into the water.

            Kermit can up sputtering and hopping mad.

            “What is the matter with you two idiots!” he thundered.  “Did you even look before you leaped?  There are children here!”

            “Yeah,” said Norville cheekily, spitting water up into the air.  “But none of them fell in.”

            Kermit whirled around and glared at missile number two.

            “You could have landed on someone!” Kermit insisted.  “Go find your own swimming hole.  This one is taken.”

            Completely ignoring their older cousin, Orville and Norville climbed, dripping, out of the water and plopped down cozily on either side of Piggy.  Piggy put her lovely snout in the air, but did not shrink away.  She had their number from the other day, and was determined not to be rattled by anything they threw at her.

            “Well no wonder this swimming hole is so popular!” said Orville charmingly.  At least, the words were charming, but the condescending attitude spoiled the effect.  “Look at the view!”  He suited action to words, giving his cousin-in-law a once-over twice that was uncomfortably thorough.  On the other side, Norville was doing the same.  Piggy felt herself growing warm.

            But not as warm as Kermit.  He righted himself in the water and came up furious.  Steam was practically rising off of his skin and he looked like he could have melted steel with a look.  Orville and Norville might be annoying and opportunistic, but they weren’t stupid.  They hopped up from their perch beside Piggy with an insolent wave and a “Au revoir, ma cherie” and vaulted for the trees.  By the time Kermit reached Piggy’s side, he could only mutter in annoyance at their retreating backs as they looped through the trees.  Not for the first time, Kermit thought they must be part monkey.  There had been many rumors that their great-grandmother had actually been a tree frog, rumors that had never quite been dismissed.

            “Idiots!” Kermit muttered.  He suddenly became aware of the many, many little eyes that were watching him and hastened to adjust his face to something more appropriate.   “I mean, that was very dangerous, you know?”  He was speaking in his Sesame Street voice, and Piggy’s expression softened in response.  Kermit made such a good fath…um, uncle  Cousin.  Whatever.  Her mind groped for the right word—then any word—if only it would distract her thoughts from where they had gone for the second time that day.  She felt her cheeks flush, knew her face must be pink.

            Kermit saw the blush and, misunderstanding the reason, knelt before her and took both of her hands in his.

            “I’m sorry,” he said earnestly.  “Sorry about those two…um,”  He looked behind them.  Little aural organs behind him, little aural organs before him.  Little aural organs everywhere, and lots of wide eyes watching.  His voice dropped till he was almost whispering.  “Don’t let them, um, get under your skin, okay?”

            For answer, Piggy just smiled and held her hands out.  Obediently, Kermit hauled her to her feet, and there was a moment—one delicious moment—when, in spite of the crowd of onlookers, her body was close to his, her mouth close to his own aural organs.

            “Not to worry,” Piggy whispered impishly.  “That’s still your job.”

            While Kermit struggled to gather his composure and wipe the stupid grin from his face, Piggy turned and regarded her adoring pre-adolescent audience with genuine concern.

            “Everybody okay?” she asked.  Lots of nodding heads.  “Nobody got jumped on?”  Lots of shaking heads.  Good,” she said in her best imitation Sesame Street voice.  She pushed her sopping hair out of her eyes with both hands, then held her hands out before her.  “Who wants to hold my hand on the walk back home?”

            She didn’t have to ask twice.  And though Kermit wanted to most of all, he had to wait his turn.

Chapter 12: A Fool-Proof PlanEdit

            There is nothing quite so debilitating as a false sense of security.  Piggy had had almost a whole day go by without anything that she felt she couldn’t have handled on her own, and the bonus had been that she had had the benefit of Kermit’s company all day.  Even in their own world, the pleasure of Kermit’s company for long periods was hard to come by.

In short, it had been a good morning, a good early afternoon and Piggy felt that things were looking up.  Kermit had provided a satisfying if unexciting lunch of peanut butter sandwiches and dried fruit.  The water was cool and slightly mossy tasting, and while Piggy found it interesting to her taste buds, she would have given almost anything for a diet soda.  Oh well, she thought philosophically as she dressed for the afternoon.  I probably drink too much caffeine anyway.  She felt relaxed and happy, and when it came time to make an executive decision about wardrobe, Piggy picked a sassy little number that started with a full petticoat with spaghetti straps.  The crisp chintz floral buttoned over it with little pearl buttons all the way up the bodice, which set off her own strand of gleaming pearls handily.

She looked into her trunk, thinking of shoes and debating her choices.  It was not a matter of practical verses fashionable—technically speaking, Piggy did not own any practical shoes, or any unfashionable ones.  She considered the cute little wedges with the cork heels, but eventually style won out over all other considerations, and she chose a pair of dreamy, ivory-colored high heels that re-sculpted the way she walked in ways too marvelous and mysterious to elaborate on.  Like most men, Kermit was sometimes blind to the raw appreciation of footwear, but he had learned to appreciate the effect it could have on her mood and movement.

            He admired her—and the effects of the shoes—when she stepped out of their little hideaway and struck a pose.

            “Hey there, good-looking,” said Kermit, after carefully ascertaining that there were no aural organs, little or otherwise, listening in.

            “Back at you,” said Piggy with a sultry growl.  The smoky effect was somewhat lost when she leaned toward him and almost fell forward on him—overbalancing on the shoes in the soft earth--and they kissed and giggled like teenagers as they attempted to keep Piggy on solid ground.

            This was nice,  Kermit thought, standing in the relative privacy of the path and bussing his wife.  After the swarm of tadpoles this morning, he longed for a little adult time, and this seemed an excellent way to start. 

            Relative was definitely the word for it, because Kermit’s second cousin Lynette rounded the corner with her boyfriend Vincent in tow.  She clucked at them teasingly.

            “Tsk tsk,” she said.  “Leave you two unchaperoned for long and see what happens.”

            Kermit’s cheeks flamed with heat, but he ended the kiss almost defiantly before turning to his tormentor.

            “I was trying to have a private moment,” Kermit said irritably, but some of his ire was cooled by his cousin’s benevolent look.

            “Yeah, tell me about it,” said Vincent feelingly.  “I know just what you mean.”

            “Vincent!”

            It was Lynette’s turn to blush, then laugh, and after a minute, they all joined in.  Piggy leaned against Kermit and felt him relax, enjoying the good-natured teasing.  Piggy’s family had been very different, and much, much smaller.  She wondered what it would have been like to grow up in a family this size, caught herself wondering what it might be like for children to grow up in a family where--  Once again, Piggy caught her thoughts going down a path she hadn’t dared tread yet, and she felt her face almost glow with the effort.  She was glad for the diffused sunlight filtering through the trees, and glad for Kermit’s strong arms around her.

            “Best head for the grub,” said Vincent, ever the pragmatist.  “If they teenagers get there before the rest of us….”

            Grub turned to grubs in Piggy’s mind, and she shuddered delicately.  She vowed the next time she was in Four Seasons to read the entire menu from cover to cover and savor each delectable idea lovingly.  The thought cheered her.  Although she was no longer hungry, thanks to the combined efforts of Kermit and Sherwood, she was not enjoying mealtimes here the way she normally would.  It wasn’t just the selection of food.  It was the effort involved in appearing interested in the food so as not to hurt Jane’s feelings. 

They had almost argued about that again last night, with Kermit increasingly adamant that Piggy should let him tell his mother, bear the brunt of any disappointment, and adjust the menu accordingly.  Piggy had been equally adamant that Kermit stay out of it, that she was fine and not starving and that she would not hurt Jane (or call attention to her own different-ness) for anything in the world.  Their heated discussion had eventually produced heat of another sort, and the argument was set aside for a later time while they tended to other matters.  Remembering their furious whispering in the dark, and the other furies that had followed, Piggy smiled.

It had been a good day, and tonight she would sit around the fire with Kermit and his family and they would sing and play and make merry under the stars.  It seemed a fool-proof plan.

But as Piggy would soon learn, you should never underestimate the ingenuity of fools.

Chapter 13: What You Don’t Know…Edit

            Supper was actually fun, and there was to be a repeat of the singing and merry-making.  Piggy wondered if it was always like this, or if this degree of merriment was on account of her, well, on account of her and Kermit.  She smiled, watching Kermit talking to his father.  How alike they were in some ways, and yet…yet, Piggy saw the clear imprint of his mother’s features on his face, saw something of her in the elegance of his hands.  She caught herself smiling.

            A tadpole wandered up near Piggy and pointed mutely at one of the battered tins which had been passed around the clearing earlier.  Piggy recognized it as the one which had held fat, white grubs the other evening, but she was in a buoyant mood, and thought she could stand the thought of handing one to this little cutie.  She hefted the tin, a little surprised by the weight.  Dead weight, her mind prompted, and Piggy quickly clamped her mind shut and looked away, distracting herself even as she worked to pry the lid free.

            The little tadpole jumped up and down in excitement, and Piggy hastened her mission.  She could certainly put aside her queasiness to help put a smile on this youngster’s face.

            Unsuspecting, Piggy started to open the tin.  Kermit heard the rasp of the metal lid, turning slightly toward the sound.  There are some moments, usually too horrible to recall, when your life flashes before you, or at least patches of it rush by you while you try to make your lungs still pump air and your heart keep beating.  Kermit was having one of those moments now.

            He was too far away to reach her.  He started to shout, but the thought of startling her, now, made him clamp down on the sound.  Only a gurgle escaped, but it was a very Kermity-sounding gurgle, and Piggy looked up and toward him, momentarily taking her eyes from the tin.

            Egypt, they say, was once inundated with locusts, and certain mid-Western states had suffered hoards of the insects over the years.  Neither place had anything on Piggy, who suddenly found herself in the midst of a small hailstorm of flying, jumping bodies.

            Dead grubs are one thing.  Live grasshoppers are quite another. 

            Piggy let out a shriek that sent nesting birds up into the air for a least a mile, and she shot up off of her log flailing wildly at the hundreds of raspy bodies.  Several of them tangled in her hair, between the layers of her petticoats and dress, walked and jumped and drug across her bare skin.  Her yelps of distress had awoken all of the sleeping children (and every sleeping adult within a half-mile of the clearing) and some of them began to cry.  Kermit scrambled toward her, but tripped in his haste.  He found himself flat on his back, staring up at the sky stupidly, but Piggy’s hysterical cries urged him on.  He jumped to his feet and ran across the clearing, careful of the embers from the fire.   Several brothers and sisters and cousins had leapt to Piggy’s defense, but she was mindless with fear and revulsion.  Their attempts to stop her from swatting and swinging were hampered by their very real need to stay out of her way, lest they be flattened.

            Determinedly, Kermit dodged a swing that would have felled him had it connected, coming up under Piggy’s arm and throwing his arms around his wife.  Terrified, Piggy screamed at this apparent attempt to restrain her before she registered who her captor was, then she latched onto Kermit, all but immobilizing him by the strength of her grip.  Kermit felt the air leave his lungs with a whoosh and struggled for breath.

            “Piggy,” he wheezed, “not so tight or you’ll, gah, *pant pant* yeah, um, choke me….”

            “Oh—make them go away!  Make them go away please please please please!” Piggy panted.  Several of them were, indeed, going away, but not of their own volition.

            “Piggy!  Piggy, Honey!  Just hold still, okay?  We’re getting them, okay?  We’re going to make them all go away.”  Kermit made several of them go away between murmured comforts, and it was just as well that Piggy was standing with her eyes squeezed tightly shut, as though by failing to acknowledge what was happening would make it stop.

            Kermit saw Lynette and Vincent, his father and mother, and a handful of helpful others all snagging struggling grasshoppers with their agile tongues, but they seemed to make no dent in the number of wriggling bodies.  There must be hundreds, thought Kermit with something like amazement.  Whoever had packed that tin had certainly intended for this to happen.  Kermit had a short list of people who might have done it, and the list started and ended with one name:  Maggie.  Guided more by instinct than design, Kermit threw his arms around Piggy and held her tight.  This had as much to do with self-preservation (and family preservation) as it did with comforting Piggy, but it seemed to calm Piggy down a bit.  She put her face into his neck, ignoring the furious attempts of the grasshoppers caught in her hair to free themselves, and tried counting all the departments at Neiman Marcus in her head.  She did not know, nor would it have helped, had she known that she was roundly cursing (in a ladylike fashions) insects, swamps, frogs and sisters.  Kermit swore, suddenly and definitively, that he would never hold it against her—and he would never bring it up.  He secretly hoped she would never remember.

            More family members crashed through the clearing and began to munch grimly on grasshoppers.  The awakened children waded into help, which was not helpful, and soon, the tangle of froggy arms and legs and tongues all waving around Piggy made her feel wildly claustrophobic.  If Kermit hadn’t been holding on to her….

            But he was.  He held on tight, making sure no grasshoppers lurked in the folds of her petticoat, and gently disentangling the four that had gotten caught in her hair and were now buzzing furiously in their desperate attempts to get away.  He did not eat them, but tossed them down where they were immediately snatched up by youngsters.  Piggy gave a shudder, then another.  Kermit was fearful that she might actually be in shock, and he looked at her in some concern.  Jane must have had the same idea, for she came up and put her soft hand on Piggy’s face until Piggy opened her eyes.  Piggy’s teeth were chattering but she was beginning to calm down naturally.  Jane smiled at her, and Piggy gave a split-second attempt before burying her face in Kermit’s neck, humiliated and miserable.

            That might have been the end of it, and Kermit would always wonder what might have been different had what happened next not happened next.  In the sudden silence in the clearing, caused by the eventual lack of all grasshoppers, there came a strange but oddly familiar sound.  Laughter.  Peals and peals of hysterical laughter were coming from the far side of the firelight.  Kermit’s chest swelled indignantly, but he could not leave Piggy, both because he couldn’t and because he wouldn’t, but Croaker ran across and gave a cry of indignation and anger.

            “You!” he gritted.  “And you!”  Kermit saw him haul Orville and Norville up from the ground.  “Why, I oughta—“  Far from contrite, they were beside themselves with mirth, laughing so hard they’d fallen out of their perch in a nearby tree.  Croaker wasn’t a large frog, but he manhandled, er, frog-handed the two miscreants with ease.

            James the Frog stood as straight as he was able and glared at the two young hooligans.

            “What is the meaning of this?!” he demanded.

            “Oh, man!  You should have seen her!” said Norville.

            “It was better than any of her movies,” said Orville.   “When she started swinging at—“

            “Did you put those grasshoppers in the tin?” James asked.  His voice was quiet, but carried clearly.

            “No, man!” said Orville.  “That wasn’t us—that was, um, that was someone, um, else.”

            “But it was awesome!” snickered Norville.  “How great was that!”

            “Enough!” roared the older frog.  “That is quite enough out of you two.”

            Some of their mirth was cooling, and they looked at each other nervously.  Neither of them looked sorry, but both looked sorry they’d been caught.

            “What a disgrace!” said James.  “Piggy isn’t just our guest—she’s a member of the family.  I’m ashamed of you, and if your mother was alive, she’d be ashamed of you, too.”

            Orville cut his eyes at his twin.  This was not quite the reaction that had expected from everyone. Certainly everyone had been amused by Kermit’s wife’s lack of swamp sophistication, but they hardly thought it warranted being called down in public for laughing at it.

            “Yeah, but did you see her?” he mumbled defensively.  “She was—“

            Norville elbowed his twin sharply in the ribs, but it was too late.  The damage had been done.  With a sob, Piggy broke free from Kermit’s embrace and ran.

Chapter 14: A Part of It AllEdit

            Piggy had worked with the muppets for a long time, so it was safe to say that she was proof against most mortification and embarrassment, but failing phenomenally onstage—whether through your own efforts or because of the efforts of, say, a couple of dozen penguins—is quite different from the sort of personal embarrassment that Piggy had just suffered.  It was made worse by the fact that she had begun to feel welcome and relaxed—if only just a little, and now she felt foreign and strange and out of place again.  She stumbled once and her run slowed to a walk.  She’s had quite enough pratfalls for one visit, thank you.  She made her uncomfortable way across the clearing toward their little sanctuary, wiping at tears.

            Adrenaline is a funny thing.  It spurs the fight or flight instinct, readying you to take on the world, or run from it.  Piggy had done a lot of the former, but not much of the latter, and her chagrin was changing rapidly to indignation.  She thought of a million different ways that she could have reacted that would have been better than what had actually happened, and she dwelled with increasing despondency on the things she had said in her terror.

            Oh, please let Kermit’s family not hold it against me! She thought desperately.  I didn’t mean it—I was justjust pathetic, her mind prompted.  She wilted suddenly, her anger deserting her.  What must they think of her!  What must be going through their minds?  Piggy actually seemed to shrink, imagining the conversations in her wake, Kermit’s embarrassment at having brought such a silly wife home, everyone’s pity, Maggie’s triumph.  Hot tears began to spill again, but they were tinged with anger, too.

            It wasn’t fair!  She had done the best she could!  There were times when Piggy had insisted she’d given her all to the show during a lackluster rehearsal when even she did not believe it, but in her heart, she knew that had not been the case tonight.  She had…she had done everything she could…and it wasn’t enough.  Poor Kermit, stuck with her citified ways and silly clothes and—a sob escaped, and Piggy clamped her hand over her mouth.

            Actually, it was the sob that helped Kermit hone in on her.  He had been trying to find her, but she had managed to get off the beaten path a little, and he had not wanted a repeat of the all-swamp search they’d had earlier in the week.  Kermit scrambled after the sound and overtook her with relative ease.

            “Piggy,” he said gently.  “Honey—you didn’t have to run…I mean, I was…I was looking for you,”

            “Yeah, well I’m easy to spot.  I’m the big pink one with the stupid clothes and the stupid shoes and the grasshoppers and grubs on her clothes.”

            Taken aback by the vehemence in her voice, and unaccountably amused by her description, Kermit dared not show his mirth.  In truth, her anger cheered him a little, for it meant she was not giving up without a fight.  His heart lifted microscopically.  He tried to stop her forward progress but she pushed around him angrily.  This, too, struck him as a good sign.  Whether she realized it or not, her anger at him meant that she still trusted him to love her and want her—no matter what.  Kermit intended to make sure she realized that he did.

            “Piggy,” he began.  “You’re not—“

            I know I’m not!” she cried miserably.  “I’m not—I’m not what you thought!  I—I can’t do this anymore!  I can’t keep pretending that I fit in here with you and you’re--”  She would have said “wonderful family,” but her breath caught on a sob.

            “You don’t need to pretend,” Kermit started.  “You’re—“  He would have said “already part of us,” but Piggy didn’t give him time to finish.

            “Out of place and useless and stupid,” she muttered.  “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do here—I don’t know how to act.”  She sounded angry, but there was just enough of a plea in her voice for Kermit to latch onto it.  She would not listen to his soothing now, but he had often gotten under her skin in other ways.

            That will be the day,” Kermit said dryly.  Piggy’s tear-stained face shot up.  Was he teasing her?  After everything she’d been through?  His amused eyes said yes.  Piggy stared in disbelief as Kermit crossed his arms over his chest.

            “Piggy, you don’t have to be a frog to be Piggy the Frog.”

            “But—but I--” Piggy faltered.  In spite of herself, his words salved her wounded pride—but not for long.

            “And I thought we’d already been over this,” Kermis said sternly, half-teasing.  “I just want you to follow your instincts, Piggy.”

            “But—but that was on the set!” she protested.  “I’m not an actress here.”

“Exactly!” said Kermit triumphantly.  “So stop acting.”

            What?!”

            Kermit put his hands on his hips.  “Don’t ‘What’ me, Piggy.”

            “What are you talking about?” Piggy demanded.  She would have stamped her foot but had found out the hard way that it only made her high heels stick in the mud.

            “I’m talking about you trying to be what you think everyone else thinks you ought to be, or a cross between June Cleaver and Shirley Jones.”  Piggy had often sniffed with disdain at the stylized housewives of the early days of television, and their purely ornamental function.

            “June Cleaver!” Piggy snapped.  “How dare you—“

            Kermit stepped back and regarded her with his chin in his hand.  “I think it’s the pearls,” he said thoughtfully.

            Piggy’s eyes narrowed.  “Oh—oh, you are the most aggravating, most irritating frog on the entire planet!”

            Yes! Kermit thought.  He was getting through!  Now, if only he could turn the tide of the conversation…

            “Are you sure?” Kermit teased.  “Cause I think my sister is still in the running for—“

            She is!” Piggy howled.  She was almost panting, her ribcage heaving.  “And two of your cousins are vying for second place!  But you—YOU!”  She glared at him.  “You are by far the most—“

            “Wonderful?” Kermit suggested helpfully.

            “Wonderful-hah!” Piggy cried.  “Try annoying!  Try insufferable!  Try—“

            “Debonair?  Charming?”

            Piggy glared at him, a glare that had downed grown men at 30 paces.

            “Out of my way,” she grunted, “or so help me I will—“

            “Kiss me?”

            “You are sooo sleeping in your own tussock tonight,” Piggy muttered.

            “I’d rather be in a hotel room with you!” Kermit said.  He was a quick study, Piggy noted.  Since they’d gotten married, he’d honed his radar and his survival instincts, and now he hovered just out of karate-chop range.

            At the thought of a dry, clean, air-conditioned hotel room, Piggy felt slightly crazed, her eyes pricking with tears.  Ducking her head hastily, Piggy tried to push past him, but—stomp or no stomp—her left heel refused to budge.  She gritted her teeth, abandoned it, and kept going, forging through the swamp grass all catywampus.  With a sigh, Kermit retrieved the shoe and ran after her. 

            She had not gotten far.  He found her trying to pry her other shoe out of the muck, angry tears running down her face.  Gently, he gathered her into his arms and held her close, murmuring little nothings of comfort into one velvety ear.

            Tenderness worked where teasing had not, and Piggy turned into his arms, clinging to him.

            “Piggy,” he said gently.  “Here—I’m here.  Don’t cry.”

            “I’m making such a mess of things!” Piggy wailed.  “Everything I do is wrong!”

            “That’s not true, Piggy,” Kermit said soothingly.  “You’re doing fine.”

            “I’m not!” she almost wailed.  “I—my clothes are all wrong.  I’m afraid of snakes, I can’t eat your mother’s cooking, and I hate mosquitoes and grubs and grasshoppers and all those icky—“  Her breath caught on a sob.  And my shoes keep sticking in the mud!

            “I know, Honey,” Kermit insisted.  “I know.  But don’t worry it—those things aren’t important.”

            “They are!”  Her voice was pleading with him to understand.  “They’re important to you, so they’re important to me.”

            Her face was turned up to his, her lashes wet with tears.  Kermit tightened his arms around her, noticing in the process that she had tree sap on her sash.  Wisely, he did not mention it.

            You’re important to me,” he said.  “Not the clothes or the food or the…the shoes.”  He tried not to smile, but he couldn’t seem to help himself.  “How, um, many pairs did you bring, anyway?”

            “None of your beeswax,” Piggy murmured, her voice muffled against his neck.

            “You’re right,” Kermit agreed.  “That’s between you and your hernia.”

            “Oh, Kermit, I—“  Piggy looked up at him again, her blue eyes tragic.  “I’m trying so hard!   I—I don’t know what else to do.”

            Kermit brushed her hair back from her face, getting lost in those sad eyes.

            “Why don’t you kiss me,” he said softly.  “That’s always a good place to start.”

            Having just lectured her on the importance being her own pig, of not blindly following the whims and directions of other people, Kermit was more than pleased when she took his suggestion to heart.  Piggy tightened her arms around his waist, closed her eyes, and kissed him as though trying to blot out the entire swamp. 

            It worked exceptionally well.  Kermit forgot where he was, who he was and, indeed, everything else except the fact that he belonged to Piggy, and she to him in the beautiful moonlit dusk.  Gently, Kermit pulled her back with him into the shelter of some overhanging vines, letting nature’s arbor provide privacy.

            For her part, Piggy forgot everything that, moments before, had seemed so all-encompassing.  Her embarrassment, the heat, the damp, the mosquitoes—which had thankfully kept their distance once Kermit arrived on the scene—all faded in the background.  In Kermit’s arms, it was impossible to feel out of place.

            All around them, they could here the happy trilling of contented frogs as Kermit’s family and friends made their own peculiar night music.  Crickets were chirping, too—somewhat incautiously, Piggy thought—and the soft lap-lap of the water against the embankment was as comforting as a heartbeat.  Without warning, lips still locked with Piggy’s, Kermit began to trill, too, the sound arising from some deep, instinctive place.  Surprised, Piggy stood stock-still for a moment.  She felt the reverberations in Kermit’s frame and in her own, entangled as they were in the twilit night.

            Kermit is a part of this, thought Piggy.  She felt her heart catch with emotion.  I want to be a part of this too!  She lacked the necessary physiology to trill, but she could hum.  She held tight to her frog—her husband—and added her own musical noise to the natural symphony around them.

            Kermit looked at her in surprise.  It was too dark, now, to see Piggy’s face, but he could feel her gaze on him in the dimness.

            “Oh, Sweetheart,” he said softly, and that was all he needed to say.

Chapter 15: ResolutionEdit

            Long after Kermit had succumbed to sleep, Piggy lay awake in stunned contentment, his body draped protectively over hers.  The grass was soft beneath her, the night air sweet and soothing.  How different everything had seemed before, how changed everything looked to her now!  How could she have forgotten—even for an hour—the way he made her feel, the way she loved him without reservation?  If this was Kermit’s home, this was her home too, she thought fiercely.  She would find a way to make it work.

           

            Piggy woke up early the next morning.  Snuggled into the warm, grassy tufts she marveled at how comfortable she had been.  Sleeping like a log, she thought, and had to clamp a hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle.  Kermit stirred sleepily but did not awaken as she parted the curtain of vines and stepped out into the sunshine.  Her dress was a mess, but her cotton petticoat still looked fresh and provided adequate coverage.  More than adequate, she reminded herself, since everyone else around her was as nature had made them, and no more.  Her shoes were still back in the viny alcove where Kermit slept, so she picked her way carefully through the marshy grass.  Piggy squinted up at the sun, orienting herself, and made for where she thought the cooking area must be  Stopping and starting a couple of times, Piggy finally found herself near the clearing where Jane did her cooking, but still completely enclosed in foliage.  The swamp had once seemed one big morass of flora (and alarmingly, fauna), but now that she was catching on, she realized that the place was full of little private rooms separated by hanging curtains of vines and Spanish moss, just like the one Kermit had secured for them!  Piggy frowned, determined.  She knew that going back wasn’t the correct direction…  That thought made her pause, then set her jaw determinedly.  No, no going back, not literally, and not figuratively.  She would just have to go forward—somehow or other!  She pushed through what looked like the most accessible spot and burst triumphantly into the clearing.  Her mood quickly turned sheepish when her mother-in-law startled and turned from her huge cooking pot to smile at Piggy.

            “Oh hello dear,” she said warmly.  “I thought I was the only one, um, stirring.”  She looked down at the ladle in her hand and then up at Piggy and both of them burst out laughing.  Jane patted the log nearest her invitingly.  “Come keep me company,” she insisted.  “A watched pot never seems to boil.” 

Jane did not mention her ordeal of the night before, but Piggy caught her casting anxious, surreptitious glances her way and did her best to seem composed.  She picked her way over carefully and sat down, studiously avoiding a look in the big cauldron.  Worried she might appear rude, Piggy nodded her head at the cooking area and tried to look interested.  “What are you cooking?” she asked politely.

            “Oatmeal,” Jane said, trying hard not to smile.

            Piggy looked up, almost daring to hope.  “Just—just oatmeal?” she asked.

            Jane nodded briskly.  “Um hum.  The doctor is always on to me to eat more whole grains, and it certainly won’t hurt any of the others.”  She inclined her head at a huge stack of bowls and a couple of airtight tins near the end of the log.  “Get a bowl,” she said firmly.  “And there’s brown sugar in one of those green tins.”

            “What’s in the other one?” Piggy asked, making conversation.

            “Don’t ask,” quipped Jane.  “You’ll know if you’ve gotten the wrong one.”  Jane softened her teasing with a reassuring smile.  “Nothing that will hop out, dear.  I promise.”

            With alacrity, Piggy fetched a bowl, her mouth watering as June filled it with steaming cereal.  Luck was with Piggy and the first tin she opened was full of brown sugar clumped into enticing little shapes.  Piggy stirred in brown sugar until it made a little caramel-colored swirl throughout, then took a tentative bite.

            “Oh,” she said, feeling the sugar hit her system like a drug.  “Oh Jane—this is wonderful.”

            Jane scooped her own bowl, sugared it sparingly and then, with a quick look to verify that they were unobserved, added two additional heaping spoonfuls of sugar.  She stirred quickly and popped the spoon, upside down, into her mouth.

            “Wow,” she said contentedly.  “Thath hiths the spotht.”

            Piggy looked at her in surprise, and Jane made a comical face and swallowed.

            “No one can be a good example all the time,” she admitted.  “I’m always telling the grandchildren not to do this, but—oh!  Once in a while you just have to splurge.”

            Well, well, Piggy thought.  She isn’t perfect after all.  The thought made her feel better, but somewhat guilty, and she regarded Jane shyly from under lowered lashes.  As if sensing the scrutiny and aware of the meaning behind it, Jane reached over and patted Piggy’s plump knee affectionately.

            “But I guess you know all about trying to be a good example, dear—don’t you?
            Startled, Piggy looked up.  “I don’t…what do you mean?” she asked.

            Jane smiled and her dark, fathomless eyes seemed to see right through to Piggy’s soul.  Her expression was very kind, and she didn’t answer Piggy’s question directly.

“James and I got married for a long, long time ago,” she said, clasping her hands in front of her and smiling off into the distance.  “We were so in love and oh!--we were so young.  I can’t even imagine being that young.  The first time we visited James’ family, I remember feeling so, so lost and uncertain.”  She looked over at Piggy.  “Now don’t think that I ever doubted that I loved James or that he loved me, but married?  What did I know about being married?”

“Yes,” Piggy said softly, hardly aware that she spoke.  “Exactly.”

“We hadn’t grown up very far from each other, but I felt like I was entering another world.  Everything was different--the way they talked, the way they did their hair.  I felt terribly out of place.

“The way they dressed,” Piggy suggested dryly. 

Jane looked at her and smiled.  “Yes,” she said.  “That, too.”

 “So…how did you and James…?”
            “Oh!” said Jane, taking up her narrative again.  “Well, it didn’t help that I was shy, and quiet, so two of his brothers teased me quite a bit.  It was their way of being friendly--they had no idea how mortified I was.”

“What happened?” Piggy asked, her interest piqued.

“James wanted to rush right in and tell them to knock it off, but I didn’t want him to.  I wanted to find my own way of dealing with them.”

Piggy leaned forward in her seat.  “Did you?” she asked breathlessly.

Jane looked at Piggy carefully, then her voice dropped to a whisper.  “Yes,” she said.  “I did, but it wasn’t very nice.”

Piggy grabbed Jane’s hand between her own.  “Now you have to tell me,” Piggy insisted, and Jane began to laugh.

“Well,” Jane said, “it’s like this—“ and proceeded to regale Piggy with tales of ancient revenge while Piggy took several mental notes.

When the deed was done—and the contemplation of a new deed had been firmly established, Jane looked over at Piggy and her eyes turned reproachful.

            “I—I’m so sorry about last night.  We--Kermit should have told me about the food,” Jane said sternly.  Mortified, Piggy hastened to his defense.

            “He wanted to!” she said earnestly.  “I—I wouldn’t let him.  I didn’t want to…hurt your feelings.” Her voice was small, and it was Jane’s turn to reassure.

            “That was very sweet of you, but it wouldn’t have hurt my feelings to make a few of your favorites, too.  I’m sorry I didn’t even think to ask.  We were just so excited that Kermit was bringing you that I got all in a tither.”

            Piggy gave a tentative smile.

            “I can’t imagine you in a tither,” she admitted, but Jane gave a little laugh that was almost a groan.

            “Smoke and mirrors, I assure you,” she said ruefully.  “If I look organized, it’s only because I’ve buried all the bodies.”

            Piggy wondered idly about burying a few bodies of her own, and it must have shown on her face, for Jane laughed out loud again.  Her laugh was full and infectious, and Piggy felt some of the tightness in her chest leave with a small chuckle of her own.  A sudden remembrance of her recent humiliation washed over her, and for just a moment, that chuckle hovered on the edge of a sob.

“Kermit loves your cooking!” Piggy blurted.  “He says that nobody makes a millipede loaf like you.”

            Jane beamed.  “Well, I’ll take that as gospel,” she said happily, “but I’m guessing millipede loaf isn’t quite your cup of tea.”

            “No,” Piggy admitted, and dared one quick peak at Jane’s eyes to be sure she wasn’t being cruel with her honesty.  “But—but I’d like to have the recipe.”

            Jane’s smile was like the sun coming out.  “Of course, dear!  Kermit would be thrilled if you took the recipe!”

            Piggy decided to take Kermit’s advice and abandon all pretense.  “I don’t know anything about cooking,” she admitted.  “But I know some wonderful chefs.”

            Jane eyes widened in surprise and interest, and Piggy hurried on.  “There’s this one little bakery that make these cookies that Kermit just loves.”  She looked at Jane doubtfully.  “Do you know what chocolate chip cookies are?”

            “Heavens yes!” said Jane.  “We know about chocolate!  Seventh wonder of the world!”

            The women laughed.

            “There’s this bakery that makes chocolate chip cookies, only they replace half of the chocolate chips with—“

 

            “Honey, I don’t know,” said Denise for the umpteenth time as they walked across the clearing.  Her daughter did not deal well with “I don’t knows” and looked more than a little disgruntled.

            “But she wouldn’t leave, Mama,” Cee Cee insisted.  “I just know she wouldn’t—not  without saying good-bye.”

            “Well, I’m sure she wouldn’t unless it was an emergency,” said Denise with false brightness, but she was not-so-secretly doubtful.  After last’s night disgraceful prank, Denise wouldn’t have blamed Kermit’s new wife if she were currently hundreds of miles from the nearest frog, swamp and grasshopper.  Still, nothing was going to be resolved on an empty stomach—not at this hour, anyway—and she had brought Cee Cee to see her Great Aunt Jane with the hope of a breakfast—and a moment’s peace from her daughter’s anxious speculation.

            She parted the vines and found—to her complete astonishment—the aforementioned new wife giggling in a conspiratorial way with Kermit’s mother.  Both women looked up with such guilty and amused faces that it was obvious that they had been up to something.

            Cee Cee launched herself across the space and threw her arms around Piggy’s neck.

            “I knew you wouldn’t leave,” she said fiercely.  “I just knew it.”

            Denise looked mortified, not willing for Piggy to think herself the topic of other people’s conversation, but Piggy was used to being the topic of other people’s conversations.  She took it in stride and smiled tentatively at Kermit’s cousin.  Jane had gone a long way toward easing Piggy’s misery about last night, but the thought of facing Kermit’s cousins proved to be daunting. 

            “Hello, Denise,” Piggy said, using her how-nice-of-you-to-have-me-on-the-show voice. Denise thought she was doing pretty good to be getting enough air with Cee Cee’s crushing grip around her neck. 

            Denise smiled back tentatively.  “I’m sorry to barge in like this,” she said, genuinely embarrassed to have interrupted what was obvious a private conversation herself.  “We were just, um, coming for breakfast.  Cee Cee was up early and….”  She trailed off.

            “There’s oatmeal,” said Jane cheerily.  “Get a bowl.”

            “Oatmeal….” Denise repeated, still uncomfortable.  Piggy looked up from helping Cee Cee get seated next to her, and her eyes were grave.

            “Yes,” she said solemnly.  “Just oatmeal, I’m afraid.  We seem to be fresh out of grasshoppers….”

            For a moment, the solemn look held, then Piggy’s eyes lit up with merriment, and Denise began to laugh.  Cee Cee looked at her mother in astonishment, then at her new friend, who was also beginning to giggle, then joined in.

            “Oh, bless your heart,” said Denise.  “That was such an unkind trick to play on someone who’s not used to…I mean, someone who isn’t….”  Oh dear! thought Denise miserably.  I didn’t mean to—

            But Piggy waved it away like a billow of smoke.

            “Well, it wasn’t very funny at the time,” Piggy admitted.  “But it seemed funnier later, after…well, after I got over being so startled.”

            “Those two are incorrigible,” huffed Denise.  “Why last month they had half the tadpoles terrified of a Bog Monster with big googly eyes, a huge nose and horns on his head.”

            “I think I’ve worked with him,” Piggy said dryly, but not quite loud enough for Denise to hear.  Cee Cee giggled and put her hand over her mouth.

            Denise went on with her story while Jane scooped up oatmeal and brown sugar, and before long, their party of four had turned into a revolving party of hungry frogs coming and going until the big vat of oatmeal was almost empty. 

            It was, thought Piggy, like eating the proverbial elephant—one bite at a time.  Although her cheeks burned with embarrassment more times than she could count, Piggy managed to maintain the same, self-effacing grace she had shown with Denise until the bulk of the big family had come and gone.  She could feel Jane watching her, nodding from time to time with approval, and that made Piggy think she could eat a dozen elephants!  Um, face down a dozen annoying cousins, that is.

One of Piggy’s tried and true maxims had long been, “If you mess up, pretend you meant to do it all along,” and this wasn’t so different.  Kermit’s family was more than happy for any excuse to excuse her, and many of them expressed indignation and remorse over what had happened while she poked fun at her own over-reaction and tried to appear unexcitable.   Often, she looked up to find Jane smiling at her, pleased and proud, and the sight made Piggy’s heart warm.  She could do this.  She could.  And it was ever-so-nice to not have to do it on an empty stomach.

 

            Kermit stirred slowly as the sun began to filter into their private arbor.  Sleepily, he reached over to drape an arm around Piggy’s form but found only the spot where she had been.  The surprise of her absence stirred him awake, and he sat up sleepily and blinked.

            The hanging branches and vines had shielded Kermit from the full blast of the morning sun, but he realized it was well past early morning, and scrambled to his feet.  Piggy must have gone to hunt breakfast without him, he thought.  The thought of breakfast made his stomach rumble, and he stepped out into the sunshine and squinted in the direction of the clearing. 

            “Hey there, sleepyhead,” called one of his cousins.

            “I guess city frogs are late risers,” teased his brother Matthias.

            “Ha ha,” said Kermit.  He made a scrunchy face, which—far from deterring them—only made them laugh.

            “Come on,” another cousin cajoled.  “I’ll bet Aunt Jane still has something hot to eat—even if you did sleep through.”

            Yawning, Kermit trotted after them.

            “That was some banjo playing last night,” said Elliott.  “Can you teach me that alternate chord structure on Black Mountain Rag?”

            “Sure thing,” said Kermit.  “Can I eat first?”

            Elliott consulted with his brother merrily.  “I guess so,” he allowed, then they all laughed.

            “Sheesh,” said Kermit, and they laughed again and patted him affectionately on the back.

 

            Bellies filled, those who made their home in the swamp had come and gone.  James had come in from his morning constitutional and sat with them for a while, displacing Cee Cee for the seat next to Piggy.  He softened the blow by pulling Cee Cee onto his lap until her mother reclaimed her, but eventually he, too, had gone, leaving Piggy alone with her mother-in-law.  Of Kermit there was not a trace, and Piggy smiled to herself, thinking he must have been exhausted. Her heart warmed a little at the thought of him waking to find her restored to her previous state of not-quite-grace and determined to keep plucking away at swamp life.  She gazed gratefully at Jane as she dished up all of the remaining hot cereal.  Echewing any help, Jane set her cooking area to rights while they continued to visit, and all but climbed into the big pot to scrub it.  When it was shining dry in the morning sun, Jane refilled their coffee cups and returned to sit next to her daughter-in-law. 

They did not talk about what had happened, but Piggy felt Jane’s approval as plainly as the sun that was warming her face.  Indeed, as inevitably happens when women get together, the topic turns to fashion.  Piggy was surprised to find that Kermit’s mother sewed, and seemed to know quite a lot about style.  Ruefully, Piggy mentioned her dwindling available wardrobe, and Jane had responded thoughtfully, but on two tracks at once.

            “Piggy,” Jane said gently.  “Piggy, honey—have you ever bought off the rack?”

            Piggy was surprised, but her “no” came out automatically.  Jane smiled, so she smiled back, then added, “Well, at least, not for a long time.”

            “And why is that, dear?” persisted Jane.

            “Why…?”

            “Yes.  Why don’t you like to buy clothing off the rack?”

            Piggy still had no clue where this was going, but Jane was obviously working toward something.  How like Kermit she is! thought Piggy, and the thought made her relax.  “Well, I—sometimes I can’t find things that work for me.  Fit is so important,” Piggy said earnestly.  “And some things have to be done before you even cut the material. Once it’s sewn, you can’t go back and correct it.”

            “Wonderful!” Jane cried. “I had no idea you sewed, dear.”

            Piggy blushed furiously.  “I don’t,” she admitted.  “I  just—I’ve had enough dresses made to know.”

            Jane laughed, absolving her.  “Well,” she said, “at least you’re observant.  So tell me—why is it better to have something made for you—just you—than to buy one off the shelf like everyone else’s.”

            “Because I’m not like everyone else,” Piggy said before she could edit the thought.  She looked fearfully at her new mother-in-law.  Piggy could hold her own with critics, reviewers and sharks, proclaiming her diva-hood and the own peculiar charm she wrought with nary a thought of being contradicted, but she cared very, very much about how her words might be interpreted.  After everything that had happened, she didn’t want Jane to think her discomfort stemmed from any idea of superiority.  Her worries were unfounded, however, for Jane reached out and clasped both of her hands warmly.

            “Exactly,” the elder Mrs. The Frog said.  “Piggy—you aren’t like anyone else.”

            “Not here,” Piggy muttered, but Jane shushed her with a patient look.

            “You’re unique—not just here, but everywhere—because there is only one, wonderful you.”

            “But—“

            “And whether you’re here, or in Hollywood, you’re still unique.”

            “But I belong there in Hollywood,” Piggy cried, literally unable to help herself.  “I—I have a niche.  Here, I don’t fit seem to fit in at all.”

            Jane’s rebuttal was mild.  “There can’t be a lot of lady pigs in Tinsel Town,” she observed.
            Piggy tilted her head in acquiescence, but couldn’t help muttering, “You’d be surprised.”

            It made them both laugh, but Jane was like Kermit when he had a point to make.  She turned Piggy back toward the previous topic.

            “So, why does it bother you more to be different here than it does to be different back home?”

            “I—I don’t know,” Piggy answered slowly.  “I guess…I think that I don’t care as much there if people like me, as long as they respect me as an actress.”

            “And actress-slash-model,” Jane reminded her.

            “Yes,” Piggy said, blushing.  “And actress slash model.”

            “Mustn’t forget that,” Jane said briskly.  “I can assure you that your last calendar

generated quite a bit of interest around here.”

            For a moment, Piggy looked too surprised to speak.  They—they had followed her career!  Hers!  Not just Kermit’s.  She didn’t know what to think, much less what to say.

            “Sold out the first day if I remember,” Jane continued.

            “That’s what Marty said,” Piggy murmured faintly.

            “Soooo,” continued Jane.  “You certainly stood out from the crowd there.”

            “Yes.”  Piggy smiled, thinking she could finally see where her mother-in-law was going.

            “And here?” Jane prompted.

            “Here, I—I want everyone to like me.  I want to fit it.”

            “We do like you, Sweetie.”  Jane’s eyes were sad but earnest, willing Piggy to believe it.

            Piggy’s voice was very small.  “Maggie doesn’t.  She doesn’t like me at all.”

            Jane squeezed her daughter-in-law’s gloved hands.  “Never you mind Margaret,” she said firmly. 

            “And Orville and Norville,” Piggy couldn’t help adding.  Her cheeks flamed with embarrassment.  “They think I’m…silly.  Ornamental and useless.”

            “Are you kidding?” asked Jane the Frog.  “They haven’t been this excited about anything since the last time locusts hatched.”  Piggy shuddered delicately and Jane moved hastily on.  “They’re wildly interested in you—not that I approve of their way of showing it at all.  But don’t be so sure you haven’t won several hearts along the way.”

            “Really?”  Piggy’s voice was so hopeful that Jane reached out and put a smooth hand on her daughter-in-law’s cheek.

            “Yes, really,” she insisted.  “And as for fitting in—maybe you need to just be more yourself—truly yourself—than some version of what you think we think you should be.”

            Piggy was silent, thinking.  It…it was true, or—at least, it seemed true.  The things that had been of most interest and which has caused the most delight had been things that had not been deliberate.  They had simply been Piggy being, well, Piggy.  Her clothes, her gloves, her pearls, her accent.  These had inspired not just interest but imitation.  Cee Cee had been wearing a string of bright clay beads around her neck this morning, and she had heard a small cadre of giggling girls say, “Oh no—after vous,” as they took turns jumping into the pond.  Piggy began to smile.

            “That’s what Kermit said,” Piggy murmured softly, wonderingly.

            “There,” said Jane.  “You know I’m right.”

            Piggy started to shake her head but ended up nodding helplessly.

            “But—I still feel so out of place sometimes.  My clothes are all wrong.”  She lifted the frothy folds of the slip.  “I wanted to look feminine and sweet.”  She dropped the filmy fabric.  “I ended up looking fussy and overdressed.”  Her blue eyes were beseeching.

            “Well, I think you look lovely,” said Jane.  “And, based on the way he was looking at you last night around the fire, I’m pretty certain Kermit agrees with me.”

            Piggy blushed in spite of herself, but nodded, and Jane laughed in delight and patted her plump knee.

            “So,” said Jane, “the way I see it, you don’t need to be someone you’re not—you just need a new image.”

            “A new image…” Piggy murmured, thinking hard.

            “Yes,” Jane insisted. “An image that suits you here.”

            Piggy perked up and her ears cocked forward.  “I’m listening.”

            Jane smiled fondly.  “Maybe you should think about what you’d have been like if this had been your home all along.  How can you translate who you are now into, um, ‘swamp culture.’”

            Piggy has a sudden image of Kermit in Tarzan-togs, herself in a fur bikini.  “Me Kermit—you Piggy,” said the picture in her mind.  She started to giggle.

            “What?” said Jane, mystified.  Impulsively, Piggy told her, and they laughed until their sides hurt.

            “Um, yes.  Well, I don’t think Hollywood is quite ready for that,” said Jane at last, wiping away tears of laughter and straightening her face with an effort.  “But…about that new image.  The way I see it, you’re going to need some new clothes.”

            Piggy perked up immediately.  This was one of the most welcome phrases in the English language, along with ”Won’t you have another helping?” and “We wrote the part just for you.”

            Jane stood, taking Piggy’s hand.  “Come,” she said. “Let’s go find Sherwood.”

Chapter 16: RevelationEdit

            When Elliott and Matthias turned toward the swamp interior, Kermit went on alone.  He had not meant to sleep so late, had not known how far up in the blue sky the sun had climbed by the time he opened his eyes.   He kept his feet moving to keep from wondering how long Piggy had been up, and if he would find her fretting or hunched miserably in some quiet corner of the swamp, so he did the obvious:  When in doubt—ask Mom.  Failing to find his mother in her own room, Kermit burst into the common clearing to the unnerving sight of his mother and his new wife side by side deep in conversation.  He had only been married a couple of months, but some things are instinctive, and this was unsettling.  While he watched with considerable anxiety, not sure whether to advance or retreat, Jane reached over to embrace what looked suspiciously like a tearful Piggy 

            “Um,” he gulped nervously, wondering if he could back out of sight before they saw him, but his flipper-shifting must have been seen.  They turned at the same instant and smiled at him.

            “Sweetie!”

            “Kermie!”

            Kermit realized with relief that Piggy had been giggling, not crying.  A wave of relief washed over Kermit, followed immediately by a swift surge of anxiety.

            “Hi ho,” Kermit said, smiling tentatively back at them.  “Um, what are you guys talking about?”

            “Oh, telling embarrassing stories about your childhood,” said his mother hastily.  She turned to Piggy.  “Did I tell you about the time he got into three fist-fights in one day?”

            Kermit’s protests were as vehement as they were immediate, and both women laughed at his pink-tinged cheeks.  Jane desisted teasing her eldest son, and they held out their hands to him in an identical gesture of greeting.   Sulkily, Kermit hesitated, but only until both of them smiled and scooted over to make room for him in the middle.  The invitation was irresistible, and Kermit walked forward and took both of their hands, still not certain whether he was coming into                          safe harbor—or walking into the lion’s den.  Still, once he was wedged happily between them, a cup of java perched on his knee, he found it wasn’t a bad place to be. 

            Jane kissed him on one cheek, and he hoped that the synchronized act would continue, but Piggy just smiled at him.  Kermit smiled back, very pleased to see her looking so happy and self-possessed.  Still, there was something secretive about her expression, and when Jane stood and made some pretense of leaving them alone, Kermit turned expectantly to his wife.

            Piggy’s downcast eyes and respectful silence were like those she had adopted immediately after their marriage.  Kermit was immediately suspicious, but her fidgeting hands betrayed her desire to communicate something of note.  He put his coffee down and took her hands in his own.

            “What?” he said.  “I know you have something to tell me.”

            Piggy looked up, her blue eyes wide.  “Kermit, I want to go to town.”

            Kermit’s heart sank in his chest.  Seeing her so composed after the discombobulating prank, he had hoped that the worst had blown over.  And he had thought, after last night…but no.  He had…he had failed her, and he felt dismal about it.    He was careful, however, that no hint of his distress crept into his voice.

            “Well, sure, Honey,” he said easily.  “Well get a nice room in town—a place with air-conditioning, and room service and—“  For just a moment, the image swam before her eyes like an oasis in the desert, but Piggy shook it off like a pesky gnat.  She reached out suddenly and put one of her soft hands over his mouth.

            “Stop,” she said, her expression tender and amused.  “You don’t understand.”

            “I know,” said Kermit earnestly, “but I’m trying.  I know this can’t be easy for—“

            Her hand had not worked, but her kiss stopped his chatter effectively.  Kermit recovered from his surprise and returned her quick, fierce kiss with interest, but Piggy was already pulling away.

            “Now that I’ve got your attention…” she murmured.

            And my heart pounding, Kermit thought, but he listened doubtfully.

            “A room in town sounds lovely, but I don’t want us to get a room in town.  I want to go to town.” 

He wasn’t sure what she was saying.  She wanted to leave, but…by herself?  But…but she had just kissed him.  He continued to look blank and Piggy attempted to explain.

“To shop,” Piggy added.  “I want to go shopping.”

            Kermit shook himself, clearing the cobwebs and confusion away.  “Oh,” he said blankly.  “Oh—shopping.”

            “Yes, shopping,” said Piggy with something very like a giggle.  “I need to get some things.”

            “Um, sure,” said Kermit, getting himself under his own power again.  “Just give me a second to tell Mom and—“

            Piggy put a soft hand on his chest.  “No,” she said.

            Kermit looked confused again.  “No?” he said.

            “No,” Piggy repeated.  “I don’t need you to come.  Your mom has already sent for Sherwood.”

            For a moment, Kermit continued to look uncertain.  “You don’t want me to come?” he asked, and he looked so forlorn and alone that Piggy rushed in to comfort him.

            “You could come if you wanted, but you’ll just be bored.  Let me waste a few hours in a mall and I’ll be back before you even miss me.”

            Kermit smiled that wonderful lop-sided smile that she loved so much.  “Not likely,” he muttered, but Piggy just smiled. 

            “Go hang out with your Dad,” she suggested.  “It won’t take me long to do what I need to do.”

            With that enigmatic phrase, she was gone. 

 

            Maggie was having a lovely morning.  She had chortled herself to sleep last night, content with her victory.  If she had had any thoughts of remorse, they had been drowned in scorn and merriment.  Ha ha! she thought.  Take that Kermit’s new wife!  She thought with glee of the mayhem that had ensued once that silly sow had opened the tin.  Though far too sly to be caught at the scene of the crime, she had heard the uproar from her perch not far away.  In fact, everyone had heard the uproar, and she had heard no other topic of chatter until she had fallen asleep to the symphony of musical trilling. 

For reasons she could not explain, Maggie had not joined in the trilling last night.  When she had thought about it, the image of Kermit’s face had swum before her eyes, sometimes angry, sometimes sad, and the little squirm of discomfort she felt had stilled her own voice.  She waved the thought away now like smoke in her eyes, and preened herself on a warm rock, determined to enjoy her triumph as long as possible.

If she had been willing to examine her motives (which she was not), she might have realized that trilling with her family was a sign of solidarity and oneness.  And no amount of creative deceit on her part could convince her that she had not sorely wronged her brother.

But—but he started it! she wanted to cry.  He started it by…by bringing that…that pig here.  All I did was let her show how poorly she fits in here.  Here with us.  Us frogs.

Somehow, that thought failed to sustain her good mood.  She caught herself glaring into the sky, trying to think of some reason why she shouldn’t feel bad about what she’d done and having a little trouble.

She wasn’t the only one, after all.  Orville and Norville had been more than happy to devil that fancified pig.  But Orville and Norville had not come last night to share what had happened in the clearing, making her feel more than a little uneasy.  Well, she’d just have to track them down today and get the whooole story….

Chapter 17: Revelations, Part DeuxEdit

            Kermit had not actually gone to see his father, so Fate had intervened.  His Father had come looking for him.  James the Frog found his eldest puttering around camp like a stray puppy and had put his hand gently under Kermit’s elbow.

            “Take a walk with me, son,” said James.  “You look like you’re in the way and underfoot.”  Kermit had grinned and ducked his head, embarrassed at being caught moping.  The two men set out for a leisurely constitutional around the swamp, enjoying the bright sun filtering through the leaves and the moist and often buggy air.

            Despite his cane, James walked with the vigor and stamina of a much younger frog, and while Kermit didn’t exactly have to hustle to keep up, he found he couldn’t lag for fear of being left behind.  They talked while they walked in the manner of male frogs—the weather, the tides, the likelihood of locusts this year, but Kermit knew his father was angling toward something other than mosquito futures.  It had always been this way, with small talk preceding conversations of more substance, and Kermit looked with mostly equal parts anticipation and dread to where this conversation might turn.

            When it turned, it turned abruptly.  James stopped suddenly in a pale beam of filtered sunshine, planted his cane firmly into the marshy ground, and looked at his son with deliberation.

            “’Bout time you got married,” said James, but his eyes were twinkling with fond approval. 

            “Dad!” Kermit wailed, and then burst out laughing at how juvenile it sounded.  He gave his father his best stern look—a pale imitation of James’ own look, but not bad.  “This isn’t going to be a repeat of the lecture you gave me when I started losing my tail, is it?”

            James was unperturbed.  “Why?” he asked.  “Do you need a refresher?”

            Kermit held up his hands in surrender.  “Uncle!  Uncle already, Dad!” he cried, blushing furiously.

            James laughed silently, and thumped Kermit on the back.  “As I was saying, it’s about time you married that pretty little pig.”

“Um, thanks?” Kermit tried again.  “I—it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.”

            This was a good answer, but James gave his eldest son a penetrating look.  “What about now?”

            Kermit took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  “Oh, Dad,” said Kermit.  “I was such an idiot for waiting this long.”

            James did not disagree, but studied his son fondly.  “Well, you came around,” he said gently.  Kermit made a rude noise of disgust at himself, but said nothing.  James let the nothing hang there in the air, but he saw the restlessness in Kermit’s frame and began to walk deeper into the swamp.  Gratefully, Kermit followed, glad to be moving again.

            “So,” he said finally.  “What prompted this sudden change of plans?”

            Kermit sighed, looking rueful.  “It wasn’t really sudden,” he admitted slowly.  “I—I think I’ve known for a long time that Piggy was the one.”  He cast a sideways glance at his father.  “Do you believe in the one true love thing, Dad?”

            “Of course,” James said.  “I don’t just believe in it—I’ve lived it.”  He patted Kermit affectionately on the back.  “Once I met your mother, that was it for me.  There wasn’t another woman on the planet that could hold a candle to her.”

            Beauregard wasn’t here, but Kermit’s mind heard him say, “Why would they do that?”  The answer came—in Gonzo’s voice—“Hey—that sounds like fun!”  Kermit shook his head.  He’d worked in chaos for so long that it followed him even here, into the relative peace of the swamp.

            “But,” James continued thoughtfully.  “I don’t know if that’s true for everyone.  Some people can get happy by themselves.  Others can bloom where they’re planted with whomever happens to be in the same garden.”  He looked to Kermit to see if he understood, and Kermit nodded.  “So…you decided Piggy was the one.  What made you decide to act on it?”

            Kermit was quiet for a moment, half stalling for time and half thoughtfully pondering his next answer.  “Well….” He said slowly.  “The show was over.  We had a good run, but it was time to do something else.  We’d started filming the third movie and….”  He stopped and shook his head.  “No, that’s not true.  Have I…did I tell you the plot of the third movie?”

            James inclined his head.  “A little,” he said.  “And your Mother would tell me little bits along when you talked to her about it.”  He looked at Kermit out of the corner of his eye.  “So, you were already thinking about it before you wrote the script.”

            “Well, it seems to have been on my mind,” Kermit said ruefully.  “I mean, initially it was just going to be about the gang going to Broadway and getting discovered.”

            James sighed and shook his head.  “You show biz guys do love to reinvent history,” he sighed.

            “Dad,” Kermit complained again, but affectionately.  “So I had the script mostly written, but I couldn’t think how to end it.  I couldn’t think what to do after the show.  And then, when I was thinking about it, I realized that—sheesh, Dad—it was the end.  The end of the show, the end of the movies we’d contracted to do.”  He gave his dad the same little sideways look he had just received.  “The end of seeing my friends every day at work.”

            “And the end of having Piggy around all day, every day.”

            “Yeah,” Kermit said.  “That too.”

            “So, you decided to invent a little history of your own,” James said.  Kermit was grateful for his insight.  His dad seemed to know on some instinctive level that Kermit sometimes found it easier to cross into new territory wearing his director’s cap.

            “Yeah, maybe,” Kermit admitted.  James made a sound that might have been a snort, but when Kermit flashed him an irate look, his face was carefully neutral.

            “So you scripted yourself a dream wedding,” James the Frog prompted.  “Complete with a beautiful bride.”

            “Uh huh.”

            “But once you’d tried that idea on for size, you—“

            “I didn’t want the dream wedding—or the dream bride.  I wanted…the real one.  I wanted Piggy.”

            James was quiet for a moment.  They were deep under the overhanging trees now, and the sounds of the water gurgling and singing, and the crunch of pine needles and leaves underfoot were the only sounds.  The trunk of a fallen tree lay conveniently nearby; they sat.

            “I guess that was a little hard to admit, after…after everything else.”  Thankfully, James did not comment about the years of public breaking-up-and-making up that he and Piggy had gone through.  It had long been a tacit rule back at the swamp that—whatever Kermit said about the status of the relationship, James and Jane just smiled and nodded and hoped for the best.

            “Maybe,” Kermit said, and there were a lot of things implied but not said.  He cast his father a sheepish glance.  “But once I was sure about what I wanted…then suddenly I began to wonder if that’s still what Piggy wanted.”

            “So…making the movie was a way of sounding her out about that.”  James looked thoughtful.  “Kindof an unfair advantage, wasn’t it?”

            Kermit looked uncomfortable, but nodded.  “I—yeah. I guess that wasn’t very….”  He grew quiet.  “It took me a long time to recognize what I felt, and even longer to admit it.  During all the time, Piggy was waiting on me.  I was…I was afraid I’d made her wait too long.”

            James said nothing but his expression was kind.

            “So, after Piggy got the finished script, she was…I had a hard time getting a read on her at all.  Sometimes, she’d breeze past me like I didn’t exist, and other times….”  Kermit blushed.

            “Other times,” his dad prompted, deviling his son a little.

            Kermit put his hands over his face as he felt a deep blush spread across his features.  “Other times, she seemed to like me just fine.  Finally, we got close to the end of filming, and we needed Piggy to find a wedding dress.”  He hesitated, thinking.  “At first, she said Hilda should just pick one for her.  I guess…I guess picking out a wedding dress when you aren’t getting married would be sortof hard.”

            “You don’t say,” said James dryly, and Kermit nodded, accepting this parental censure because he deserved it.

            “So…I said I’d take her dress shopping—buy her any wedding dress she wanted.”

            “Talk about a two-edged sword,” said James.  “I’m surprised she didn’t flatten you.”

            Kermit rubbed his middle ruefully.  “Yeah,” he muttered.  “But Dad—when we were—when she was trying on dresses, that’s when I knew she still loved me.  That she was still waiting on me.”  He smiled—a quirky, lop-sided smile that was so very familiar.  “I’d catch her looking at me, catch her watching me out of the corner of her eye.  If I’d had the ring by then, I would have proposed, but I didn’t.  But that’s when I started making my plans.”

            “I saw the rock,” his dad said.  “Looks like you did a nice job.”

            “Piggy likes it,” Kermit said, brightening.  “Tiffany’s always comes through.”

            “And from the look of that thing, I’d say business is doing well.”

            Kermit grinned.  “Business is very good.”  He looked at his father and shrugged.  “The rest you know---and here we are, the happy couple!”

            “Happy couple indeed,” said James thoughtfully, “but your girl has had a bit of a rough go here in the swamp.”

            Kermit nodded miserably.  “I know!” he moaned.  “Nothing’s turned out exactly like I thought.  I wanted Piggy to feel at home here, but bad things keep happening.”

“Some of the bad things haven’t happened by themselves,” James said.  “I’m sorry to say that Maggie and those two incorrigibles have had a flipper in some of that.”  He put a hand on Kermit’s back by way of apology.

Kermit made a little morose sound of agreement.

“What should I do, Dad?  What can I do?” Kermit asked.  For just a moment, Kermit looked at his father and wished that he still had the power to make everything all right.          

            James rubbed Kermit’s back, and Kermit had a powerful skin memory of sitting beside his father on a log in front of the fire when he was about twelve.  He could not remember what they had talked about—only that he felt much better after.

            It was James’ turn to hesitate, but at last he cleared his throat.

            “Sometimes, Kermit, you can’t protect the people you love from the bumps and scrapes of life.  But you can be there for them when it happens.”  For a second, he thought about telling Kermit about Jane’s upset over Maggie, but changed his mind.  No need adding this worry to the others.  “Just be there for Piggy,” James said warmly.  “That’s the best thing you can do, and I know you won’t let her down.”

            Kermit nodded and smiled wanly.  “Thanks, Dad.” 

            James stood, and Kermit stood with him.

            “C’mon, son,” James said.  “It’s time to be getting back.”

            “Yeah,” said Kermit.  “Piggy might be back from the store by now.”  He looked at his father and shrugged.  “That usually cheers her up.  When in doubt, shop.”

            James laughed.  “Or in your mother’s case—cook.”  He looked at Kermit speculatively.  “But we could take the long way back—I hear the crickets are particularly fine on the far side of the old stump.”

            “I’m your guy!” said Kermit enthusiastically.

            James put his arm around Kermit’s shoulder and patted.  “I never doubted it for a moment.”

Chapter 18: Revelations, Part TroisEdit

            “Sheesh,” said Norville to his twin when they had been roundly snubbed by another passle of cousins on the narrow pathway.  “You’d think we were the bad guys.”  He swung up onto the low-hanging branch and perched there, waiting until his brother joined him.

            Orville was just slightly more introspective than his younger brother, and he was quiet for a moment.  “I…I think maybe we are,” he said at last.  Norville spun to look at him, eyes wide with surprise and betrayal.

            “No way!” he sputtered.  “We didn’t do anything, um, so, you know, awful…..”  He trailed off, mumbling resentfully, and shot his brother a baleful look.  “Besides—it wasn’t us that put the grasshoppers in there.”

            “No,” said Orville, his mouth twisted ruefully.  In that instant, he looked so much like his cousin Kermit that Piggy might have forgiven him anything, but she wasn’t there—and Norville, who bore an equally strong resemblance to Kermit, wasn’t impressed with the resemblance.

            Norville squirmed.  “It was Maggie.  Maggie did it—and she and Kermit are always playing tricks on each other.”  Around the swamp, their pranks on each other were legendary.

            Orville shrugged in a gesture that was half-agreement, half-defiance.  “Yeah,” he muttered.  “On each other.”  He looked at his twin.  “I don’t think this was quite the same.”

            “Oh, get over yourself,” said Norville.  In his opinion, Orville had an annoying habit of “pulling rank” on him because he was hatched thirty seconds earlier.  And so what if they’d been the only two eggs to hatch—it didn’t make Orville the boss of him, did it?

            “Speaking of getting over yourself, where—exactly—is Mags this morning?” Orville said coolly.  If Norville had had eyebrows, they would have climbed.  No one called Maggie Mags except Kermit—no one, and doing so even here, out of aural organ-shot, showed a daring that demanded at least grudging respect.  “If she’s so delighted with herself and what she did, how come she isn’t out getting snubbed like we are?”

            Norville didn’t have an answer for that, but he was spared one by the sudden rustle of swamp grass nearby.  When, after a moment, Arnie the Alligator emerged from the tufts and squinted up at them, they shifted uneasily.  Quite without realizing that he did it, Orville pulled his toes up out of nipping range.

            “’Day to you, Orville and Norville,” said Arnie.

            “Hey,” said Norville faintly, waving his hand as though compelled to against his will.  Orville shot him a look of contempt and rolled his eyes at his brother before turning back to their visitor.

            “Hello, sir,” said Orville.

            Arnie’s pale eyes turned and fixed themselves on Orville, who was again very glad his toes were far off the ground.

            “Oh,” said Arnie softly.  “So today its, ‘sir” and nice manners, is it?  What a pleasant surprise.”

            Orville shifted uncomfortably and didn’t answer, and he ignored Norville’s look of faint alarm.

            “Come down here,” said Arnie and, loathe as they were to do it, they dared not disobey an adult and a friend of Uncle James.  They hopped down and stood uncomfortably in front of the reptile.  While well into young adulthood, up close they appeared much younger.  Just big kids after all, thought Arnie.  H sighed and reassessed how to begin.  “Pull a log up, sit down,” he said, more gently, and they looked at each other uncertainly.  “Do it,” Arnie said, and they hastened to comply.  Norville didn’t quite hit the log soundly, and had to wiggle his blue-green butt over a little to avoid falling off.

            “I knew your great-grandmother—did you know that?” the alligator began.  Two identical faces registered surprise and exchanged hasty glances.  They had expected a lecture, but this was something different.

            “Great-Grandma Stumpwhistle?” asked Orville, but he knew the answer before the alligator shook his head.

            “No,” Arnie said slowly.  “Not your Great-Grandma Stumpwhistle, although she was a fine lady.  I meant your other great-grandmother.”

            Norville was so astonished he remembered his manners.  “You knew Great-Grandmother Elderbitz, sir?”

            Alligators are not physiologically designed to nod, but Arnie nevertheless managed to convey an affirmative answer.  “Yes.”  He squinted up at them thoughtfully.  “But her real name wasn’t Elderbitz—did you know that?”

            “Yes,” said Orville.

            “No,” said Norville.  He turned and stared at his brother.  “Wha--?  How come you never--?”

            But Orville cut him off with an impatient wave of his hand.  Arnie was speaking again, and he wanted to hear what he had to say.

            “Do you know what her real name was?” Arnie asked gently.

            Orville hesitated, then whispered, almost too low to hear.

            “Elderberry,” said the elder twin.

            Norville was looking from one to the other of them with an incredulous and slightly mutinous expression on his face.  “Elderberry?  Like the tree?” he said.

            Arnie’s gaze, which had been intent upon Orville, turned and looked at Norville significantly.  “Yes,” he said.  Just like the tree.”

            It took a moment, but the import of what Arnie was saying finally penetrated.  Norville turned wide bulbous eyes on his twin and grabbed his forearm convulsively.

            “Then…then it’s…true?”

            Orville nodded, but Norville needed verbal confirmation.

            “Great-Grandmother Elderbitz, I mean, Elderberry was…a tree frog?”

            Orville nodded, then managed a faint “yes.”

            “How come you knew and I didn’t.” Norville wailed indignantly, and Orville rolled his eyes. 

            “Maybe because you’re too immature to handle the information?” Orville shot back.  Arnie made a mild gesture that nevertheless managed to capture their attention.  The two frogs desisted arguing with each other in favor of watching the alligator warily.

            “And a mighty fine lady she was,” said Arnie.  “I knew her family before she married your Great-Grandfather—nice people.”

            Norville was trying, but he couldn’t quite seem to let go of the idea and its implications.  When they had been barely more than tadpoles, stilled hauling tails behind them, they had often pretended to have exotic ancestry, unwilling to believe the grown-ups in their world were truly as boring as they had seemed to two wildly imaginative youngsters.  But Great-Grandmother Elderbitz had actually been….  It was too much to take in.

            “How did you know them?” Orville asked.  He was wondering about a lot of things—why this seemed important to ask now he couldn’t say.

            “Some of her uncles were in trade,” Arnie said vaguely.  “Used to send convoys up the river when the swamp covered a little more ground.  One day when I was just taking a little swim, around the curve of the river they came.”

            “And you met her?” asked Norville.

            “Well, not right away,” said Arnie.  “But I saw her.”  He smiled and gave what might have been a chuckle.  “Hard not to—she was the first thing I saw when their little raft rounded the bend.”  He smiled and the resultant display of teeth was fearsome, and oddly reassuring.  “She was hanging onto the mast, right on top of their little sail, so I got a good look at her.”

            “What did she look like?” asked Norville and Orville together.  They shot identical looks of annoyance at each other, then laughed and gave over to amiability. 

            “She was a right little thing,” Arnie said.  “Not much bigger than a minute, as they say.  And she was holding to the mast and not making any never-mind about it.”  Arnie’s voice had softened, and he seemed lost for a moment in a far-off time and place.  “And when the raft came aground, she didn’t jump onto the bank—she looked up, squinted her eye and jumped into the nearest tree.”

            “Wow,” said Norville reverently.  “How high did she jump?”

            “Well, the raft was riding low in the water, and the tree….”  Arnie looked up into the branches of the tree they had been in.  “Oh, I guess about that branch there—the one with the broken twigs.”

            Orville and Norville looked solemnly up, calculating.  Orville was the first to shake himself out of his reverie.

            “So, did you say hello?”

            “No,” said Arnie, laughing a little at himself.  “I wanted to, but I was afraid to show myself by then.”  He looked at the twins significantly.  “They’d parked the raft close to me ‘cause I was under the water, and I guess they couldn’t see me.  I didn’t want to startle ‘em, so I went under and slipped downstream a little, then approached them a little more noisily than usual.  By that time, Audra was standing on the bank.”

            “Audra was…Great-Grandmother Elder…berry?”
            “What?  Oh, yes.  Audra was her first name.”

            “What was she like?” asked Orville wistfully.  In that wistful tone was the longing of almost-grown boys everywhere—the hope that life will be full of adventure and things unimagined, and unimaginable. 

            “She was quick—very quick, and funny.  I remember that.  She flitted around the bank helping set out wares.  And she wasn’t afraid of me, which was nice, although I did catch her shooting a quick look up at the trees.  I guess if she’d felt threatened she’d have vaulted into the branches above.”

            “Most frogs would’ve gone for the water, but I could tell right away she would have tried up before she hit the water.

            “I guess she could tell I was a little shy.  She was almost grown, and I was just a boy, for all that I was plenty bigger than her.  But she was friendly—asked my name and if I’d like to come closer to see what they’d brought.”  Arnie grinned, remembering.  “She didn’t have to ask me twice.”  Arnie paused, thinking.  "I guess that makes me the first one from the swamp to meet her."

            “How’d Audra…I mean, how’d Great-Grandmother Elderberry meet Great-Granddaddy?” 

            Arnie smiled.  The how-we-met stories never seemed to lose their appeal.  His own children could practically recite his courtship of their mother like a well-worn catechism.

            “Well, after a little while—you know how news travels here in the swamp, people started to show up to see what there was to trade for.  Every woman with an ounce of curiosity was there with purse in hand and children in tow.’

            Orville and Norville exchanged knowing glances.  Though they’d been orphaned at just a few weeks old, they’d been raised in the heaving bosom of a large and loving family, and one of the first rules of childhood is, “If Momma wants to go shopping, we all go shopping.”  They’d been dragged on innumerable shopping trips, and knew well the carnival atmosphere they could attain.

            “You Great-Grandpa was there with a group of young frogs—seems like they did everything in a group—but he took one look at Audra and that was the end of traveling with the pack.”

            “What did his friends say?” asked Norville.

            “What did his family say?” asked Orville.

            For the first time, Arnie hesitated, not sure how much of this narrative he was comfortable imparting, but in the end he eyed their eager faces and hungry gazes and told them the whole of it.

            “Most frogs are nice folks,” said Arnie.  Sometimes it was easier to go around your elbow to get to your knee.  “Not everybody,” he added, and counted himself virtuous for not giving them both a significant look.  “But most folks are just folks, and they will give a new idea a chance to take root before they throw it out lump, stump and barrel.  Your family has always been reasonable about this sort of thing, and most of our friends are the same.”

            Orville opened his mouth to speak, then shut it again.  After about five seconds of intense mental ping-pong, he blurted, “Great-Great-Aunt Tilly says some folks were scandalized because Great-Grandpa Charlie wanted to marry a tree frog.”  He looked at Arnie, half-daring him to deny it, half-hoping he might, but Arnie just sighed deeply.

            “I’m sure it’s true,“ he admitted.  “I’m sure some folks—frogs or alligators or doves or whatever—live and die by the almighty TTWWADI, but Charlie wasn’t ever much for rules.”

            Norville had a question of his own now.  “What’s an almighty twaddy?” he asked, thinking he must have missed one of his Grandmother’s boogeymen.

            But Arnie threw his head back and laughed.  “Not a twaddy, son.  Tee Tee Double-yu, Double-yu, Ay Dee Aye—That’s The Way We’ve Always Done It.  TTWWADI.”

            “Oh!” the younger brother said, finally comprehending.  “I get it now.”

            “Wish everybody did,” Arnie muttered before continuing.  “So, Charlie and Audra got married, and settled down to the outer edges of the swamp.  Had a lot of clutches of eggs, but not many…well, they had a houseful of kids, but not several housefuls.  How’s that?”  Arnie felt he might have inadvertently stumbled into matters of biology as opposed to matters of culture, and he back-pedaled with alacrity.  “Audra was a great mom, and Charlie just doted on her, but...well, some people disapproved of how Charlie and Audra chose to raise their kids.”

            “What do you mean?” asked Norville.

            Orville shot Norville a withering look, then turned back to Arnie and braced his shoulders.  “You’re talking about all the stupid people who said Great-Grandmother Elderbitz didn’t know a thing about taking good care of tadpoles.”

            Arnie jumped in hastily.  “Well, now—let’s not be too harsh.  You know, sometimes it takes more family than just Mom and Dad to raise tadpoles.  Those late-night feedings can get pretty intense, you know?”  A warning bell went off in Arnie’s head and he heeded it.  Orville and Norville had been the only two from their clutch of eggs to hatch, and then their parents had been cruelly taken by that accident.  If anyone knew the advantages and disadvantages of group parenting, it was these two.  Arnie made up his mind to be as truthful as he could be.

            “I don’t think anybody meant to imply that Audra was a bad mother, but she did things mighty strange compared to local custom.  Some people were just worried that the tadpoles wouldn’t be safe if they were put to bed up in the trees so soon after growing legs.”

            “And she got mad.”                                        

            “Well, she got sad, I might say.  She didn’t feel like she fit in here, and she refused to let Charlie go where she’d grown up.  I think it was about this time that she began to tell folks her maiden name had been Elderbitz instead of Elderberry, and she stopped traveling through the trees.”  Armie gave a sad little sigh.  “That always makes me sad,” he said.  “Audra felt like she had to hide who she was to fit in here, and it didn’t say much for the way we treat people who are different.”

            “But she did fit in eventually—didn’t she?” asked Norville.  Normally, his brother would have teased him for the almost mournful tone of wistfulness in his voice, but the same anxious look was mirrored on Orville’s face, and he said nothing.

            “Yes!” Arnie cried triumphantly.  "She stayed and—eventually—it did get better.  Audra and Charlie didn’t have a big family, it’s true, but they had an active one, and before long it was obvious to anyone that their kids were turning out just fine.”

            Arnie paused thoughtfully, not wanting to gloss over the periods of difficulty and isolation that Audra and Charlie had suffered but determined to push home the positive outcome.  “Most swamp dwellers are pretty fair,” he began.  “When folks saw they’d been wrong, they made amends if they could.  By the time the kids started school and Frog Scouts and all that other stuff, Charlie and Audra had a great big circle of supporters and friends.  Why, Audra was even elected president of SPAT (Swamp Parents and Teachers) one year.  After a while, folks got used to seeing frogs jumping in the trees as well as in the grasses and nobody thought twice about letting their kid go to parties or sleepovers at Uncle Charlie and Aunt Audra’s place.”

            “How come people don’t like to talk about Great-Grandmother Elderbitz?” said Orville irritably.  “Every time I try to ask about her….”  He trailed off and turned reproachful eyes on the alligator as the only available adult target of his reproof.

            “Well, I think talking about it makes some folks a little uncomfortable.  A lot of reasons for that—some of them sensible and some of them not.  Talking about Audra reminds folks that their parents or grandparents might not have been very nice at first, so I guess it’s kindof embarrassing.  And some folks are so worried that it will seem like they’re still disapproving of tree frogs that they just try to minimize the tree part and stick with the what-a-nice-frog-she-was part.”  There was one more thing Arnie started to say, but he hesitated.

            Sensing weakness, Orville and Norville honed in on it instantly.

            “And--?” Orville prompted.

            “Yeah! And--?” chimed in Norville.

            Arnie sighed and gave the alligator equivalent of a shrug. “Well, I reckon you two are the last of their kin,” he said.  He knew they knew it—they had grown up in the shadow of that knowledge—but he was careful to be gentle.  “Not many frogs around here can swing through the trees like Tarzan anymore.”

            “I know,” muttered Norville.  “There’s nobody to play with sometimes except each other.”  He looked at his older brother accusingly, as though it was somehow Orville’s fault.

            “Yeah—and some of the grown-ups give us dirty looks when we come by overhead.”

            Arnie gazed at them mildly.  “Maybe the problem isn’t that you’re up in the trees,” he suggested, “but what you do when you’re up there.  Think I could be right?”

            The twins squirmed.  They had taken advantage of their aerial ability and the element of surprise to startle or prank more than one family of frogs.

            “Maybe,” muttered Norville sulkily.

            “Yes, sir,” mumbled Orville.

            “Well, I’ve got things to do,” said Arnie.  “But I thought I’d just track you two down and talk to you about Audra.  Been on my mind for a bit.”  He turned to go, but Orville’s voice called him back.

            “So…you’re saying that when we make fun of Kermit’s wife for being different, we’re sortof being like the folks that were mean to Great-Grandmother Elberbi—Elderberry,” he finished firmly.

            Arnie registered surprise.  “Now, did I say anything about the newest Mrs. The Frog?”

            Orville smiled ruefully.  “No, sir,” he said.

            “Didn’t think so.”  Arnie turned to go, then paused and craned his neck around once more.  “Some time in the fall, I promised Jake I’d take him camping upstream.  If James says it’s okay, maybe you could come, too—see if we could find some of your distant cousins at the old Elderberry home place.  Sound interesting to you?”

            This time, they young male frogs were too excited to answer.  They nodded emphatically, desperately eager to be included.  Arnie was almost out of sight before they remembered to say “thank-you.”

Chapter 19: Amazon Dot SwampEdit

            Piggy was indeed back.  With Sherwood’s insistent help, she had conveyed all of her boxes, bags and sundries from the truck to their little room, and dispatched the remains of her trousseau with Sherwood to be shipped back home.  Kermit had missed her at the clearing, but he trotted up and reached expectantly for the curtain of vines that served as the door to their room.

            Piggy let out a little shriek, and Kermit jerked his hand back instinctively.

            “Piggy—Honey, it’s me.”

            “You can’t come in!” Piggy cried. 

            “I was just going to—“

            “You can’t come in," Piggy insisted, as though she were explaining something to one of the children.  Her voice sounded oddly muffled.  “I’m changing!”  Kermit had no idea how true that last was, but he was caught up unhappily by the thought that he couldn’t see her.

            “How come?” Kermit complained, thinking after the words had left his mouth how juvenile it must have sounded to anyone nearby.  Cheeks flushed, he turned and looked carefully around, but, for the first time in several days, luck was with him and he saw no one.

            “Cause I’m almost done,” Piggy said.  “Just wait there and I’ll come to you.”

            That sounded infinitely more promising, and Kermit waited obediently if not patiently for Piggy to emerge.  As usual, it was well worth the wait.

            “Close your eyes,” Piggy wheedled.  Kermit started to protest but sighed instead and put his hands over his eyes.

            “No peeking,” Piggy demanded from behind the viny curtain.

            “I’m not peeking,” Kermit complained.  By the time the words left his mouth, they were true.  He heard the rustle of the door, then Piggy’s excited little giggle of surprise.

            “Now,” said Piggy.  “Open your eyes.”

            When butterflies emerge from their chrysalides, there are several moments before the transformation is complete, then the beautiful wings spread wide and a stunning new creature is revealed.  This is like that, thought Kermit dazedly, as Piggy looked at him intently, then took off the pale pink silk kimono and showed him the fruits of her shopping.  Kermit’s mouth went dry.

            “Wow,” he croaked finally.  “Wow, Piggy, you look…you look fantastic.”

            There was nothing fluffy about this bathing suit.  Though far more utilitarian in cut and fit, it allowed Piggy’s own natural endowments to take the center stage—and to take it by storm.  The print was purple camouflage and the little spaghetti straps and impressive underpinning made much ado about very little fabric.  Giggling a little at Kermit’s gaping mouth, Piggy executed a perfect runway turn and displayed the virtues of the suit’s—and her own—back side.

            She was not wearing heels, Kermit noticed after he had allowed his gaze to linger down the graceful line of her back, and to admire the smooth, plump and shapely legs that tapered to trim ankles and feminine feet.  She was wearing what looked to Kermit’s eyes like clogs.  These clogs had wooden platforms with little designed carved into them and, instead of sinking into the ground, gave Piggy a firm foundation on the spongy ground.  Kermit had yet to regain his composure, and Piggy laughed delightedly and vamped just a little for him, tossing the kimono over her shoulder and doing her slinky run-way walk before executing another perfect turn and coming back to where he stood.

            Kermit had been so overwhelmed by the whole that he was still registering details.  Piggy had done something with her hair.  It had been brushed back from her face and restrained with two little combs connected by an elaborate web of netting and tiny sea-shells woven through.  Little curls and tendrils escaped from the webbing and lay against the pale skin of her neck and shoulders, and though Kermit could detect no signs of make-up on her face, her eyelashes looked freshly curled.  She smelled good, but Kermit couldn’t identify the unfamiliar scent.

            He settled his arms around Piggy’s lush curves and smiled at her.  Piggy smiled back at him with impish delight.

            “I take it you approve,” she murmured with that charming touch of demureness that Kermit found irresistible even while he harbored no delusions that he was in charge of the situation. 

            “I definitely approve,” he agreed.  He bent to claim a kiss and Piggy allowed it for the briefest of moments, then pulled away from his embrace.

            “Then tell me what you think of the others,” Piggy said.  In an instant, she was inside the little enclosure, presumably donning another purchase.  Kermit waited as patiently as it was possible to wait while your new bride is undressing nearby, but Piggy reappeared in remarkably short order.  While she might take an interminable time to get ready for any particular appearance, Piggy’s background on the runway made it possible for her to change her clothes and her image hastily when she wished.  And, replete with new purchases and new ideas, Piggy wished.

            This next outfit seemed somewhat safari-inspired.  The olive drab khaki-cut shorts were well-tailored, held in place by a canvas belt of leopard print.  There was a bright yellow mini-tank top that stopped at her midrift, and the white silk shirt was knotted with elaborate casualness well above her waist.  This allowed Kermit (and anyone else) a tantalizing glimpse of smooth, pink skin that gleamed palely against the fabric.  Again, she was not wearing heels, but short leather hiking boots that nevertheless seemed to have some heel height on them and gave the necessary umph to her profile.  The entire ensemble was topped off by a butter-yellow mesh pith helmet over Piggy’s hastily braided hair.

            This time, Piggy did her runway walk without further prompting, stopped short in front of him to give him a dramatic smooch.

            “Do you like my pith helmet?” Piggy asked coquettishly.

            “Yeth,” said Kermit, straight-faced. 

Piggy made a face and once again disappeared into the enclosure.

            The third time she emerged, she had a bright floral halter-top that stopped just under her bustline and a sarong-inspired triangular skirt-wrap-thing that Kermit didn’t know what to call over a pair of hot pants in the same fabric as the top.  Her hair had been twisted up and secured behind one velvety ear with a huge silk lily-flower clip.

            When she made to breeze past him, Kermit caught her and pulled her into his arms.

            “Enough with the fashion show,” said Kermit.

            “But I’m not done,” Piggy pouted prettily.

“Well I am,” Kermit insisted, teasing her a little.  “I surrender already—you’re gorgeous.”

            Piggy put her arms around his neck and her expression became coy.  “Just remember that you surrendered when you get the bills,” she said archly.

            Kermit might have protested, but he was learning to pick his battles.  He contented himself with kissing her upturned lips.  “So just pick one already,” Kermit said.  “And let’s go for a walk before supper.”

            “In a minute,” Piggy promised.  She disappeared into their little enclosure and Kermit sighed and leaned against the nearest tree.  He was elated that Piggy had found a way to combat her unease and feel more at home here, and he was certainly enjoying the private fashion show, but he wanted to talk to Piggy, to hear about her day and to tell her about his own.

            This time when Piggy emerged she seemed more subdued.

            Shy, Kermit corrected almost immediately, noting the blush that was gracing her cheeks.  It took him a moment for his eyes to take in what he was seeing, then a moment longer for the significance of it all to dawn on him. 

Piggy was wearing green—several shades of it, in fact.  Her shoulders were bare, and the dress she wore seemed fashioned from loose, silky layers that looked like nothing so much as leaves.  Her hair was down, and she had a ring of leaves woven into a circlet for her hair.  Her shoes were bronze sandals, barely emerging from under the silky folds of material, and her gloves…her gloves were non-existent.  When Kermit reached out to take her hands, her fingers felt warm in his.  Piggy looked up at him, hoping he understood, and the look on his face said that he did.  For a moment, Piggy’s eyes threatened to fill with tears.  Of course he understood—Kermit understood everything. 

The frog who knew everything—at least, who knew everything important—did know what he was seeing.  Piggy had clothed herself in green to show how much she wanted to fit in, how much she wanted to be a Frog.  But she had taken off her gloves to show that she was not afraid to get her hands dirty—that she had come to take hold of this place, this family, this frog.

Kermit pulled her close, and Piggy raised her eyes to his, grateful for the love and approval so abundantly offered.

“I wanted to look like Piggy the Frog,” Piggy said softly.  “How’d I do?”

Amused, Kermit shook his head.  “Like you always do,” he said.  “Exceeding every expectation.”

Piggy kissed him then, but gently, and pulled back just enough to see his face.

“Maybe you need to raise your expectations,” she teased, and pulled him, sputtering, after her for a long, lazy walk before dinner.

Chapter 20: Strangely FamiliarEdit

Supper was a happy affair.  With Kermit’s input, Jane had prepared several things that Piggy found appealing, and for the first time since she had arrived, Piggy was sitting down to hot food with everyone else and getting to eat it.

Everyone went out of their way to be nice to Piggy.  She had made such an obvious effort to be a part of this family that the week’s many unfortunate events were determinedly overlooked.  If she had looked pristine and glamorous before (despite her odd habit of wearing clothes), she looked positively radiant tonight.  Her shoulders showed creamy pink above the décolleté neckline of her dress and her golden curls shone, reflecting the fire’s glow. 

If Piggy was radiant, Kermit was positively beaming.  He sat with his arm settled in a proprietary way around Piggy’s waist and smiled at everyone with great contentment.  His banjo was slung casually over his shoulder, unwanted for the moment.

            The twins had come in well-scrubbed and shame-faced and apologized very earnestly and prettily to the generous-hearted Piggy, who forgave them gravely even as she tweaked them for their misbehavior.  They took the gentle chiding—and Kermit’s less tender-hearted sternness—as their earned chastisements, but were warmly welcomed into the loving fold of family life with great hopes for their eventually improvement.

In the kitchen clearing, Jane laid out the last tray of stuffed grape leaves, then paused to look toward the firelight.  Croaker must have said something funny, for she heard the bright, jingling sound of Piggy’s giggles and Kermit’s breathy laughter.  Kermit said something back to Croaker and everyone laughed, and sound surging up toward the heavens like the leaping flames of the fire.

“Oh, James,” said Jane softly.  “Don’t they look happy?”

“That they do,” said James.  He came up beside Jane and put his arm around her. “Remind you of anyone?”

Jane blushed and looked up at her husband.  “Yes,” she said softly, and stretched to kiss the corner of his mouth.  James the Frog might need the assistance of a cane to navigate the swamp grasses, but he did not need any help discerning the correct path here.  He clasped Jane firmly around the waist and turned in time to catch her quick kiss full on his froggy lips. 

“Mmmm,” said James contentedly, holding the contact.  Jane began to giggle, their lips still happily locked.

“James…” she admonished, when at last he smiled down at her.  “The children—“

“Are grown,” said James firmly.  “And I’m sure they’d understand me wanting to stand in the moonlight and kiss my own wife”

“But the grape leaves…” Jane began helplessly, then laughed at her own absurdity.  She put the tray of comestibles down on a convenient stump, then turned and put her arms around her husband’s broad shoulders.  “The grape leaves can wait.”

“Yes,” said James, and kissed his wife again.  After a very satisfactory moment of determined smooching, they turned back toward the fire.  James’ arms were still around her waist, and he rested his chin on her head as they looked back toward the bright clearing.  Kermit’s banjo was now on his knee, and he was plinking the strings experimentally as he tuned.

“I’m glad Kermit came home,” said Jane softly.

“I’m glad he found his home,” James murmured significantly, and Jane nodded, and gave a discreet little sniffle.

“Why, Janie,” James cried, his voice tender.  “You’re not..are you…crying?”  He pressed a kiss against her temple.

“Of course not,” Jane said wetly.  “That would be silly.”

 

Tonight’s sing-a-long was full of its own silliness.  Some of Kermit’s cousins surged to their flippers and clogged with more enthusiasm than skill when he played Cotton-Eye Joe and Foggy Mountain Top, and other instruments and voices and clapping added to the merriment.  All seemed right with the world—for the time being, at least.

Into the midst of this cheerful gather slunk one little cloud of discontent.  Maggie the Frog, daughter of Jane and James, sister of Kermit and leader-astray of Orville and Norville (who had not, after all, needed much encouragement) slipped into the shadows on the far side of the fire from the kitchen.  Maggie had gotten an aural organ full of reprimands and complaints from Orville and Norville instead of the gleeful report of Piggy’s humiliation she had expected, and had left them almost immediately in high color and full of self-righteous indignation.

She watched Kermit and his new bride with something like malice in her usually-pretty face, sensing their happiness in each other like a palpable thing.  She could not say why it so offended her that Kermit—who had long been her best bud and closest sibling—had found happiness in his new matrimonial state.  She only thought—no, felt—that Kermit had somehow betrayed her—had betrayed all of them, if only they could see it. She watched his slim green fingers dance across the strings, saw him laugh his funny open-mouthed laugh and turn joyfully to Piggy to share some private joke, and Maggie saw red.  In the next cacophonous set of requests, she harshened her voice to disguise it and raised it above the others.

            “Froggy went a courting’” she insisted, and was happy with the split-second of hesitation in Kermit’s face, and the trusting uncertainty he found in Piggy’s blue eyes.  Kermit’s hands danced over the strings, skillful and sure.

            “Froggy went a courtin’ and he did ride, uh huh,” he sang.  “Uh huh.

Froggy went a courtin’ and he did ride, uh huh.

Froggy went a courtin’ and he did ride, sword and pistol by his side, uh huh, uh huh-uh, uh-huh.”

Kermit was grinning, confident of where this song would go and happily expectant of the favorable reaction from the crowd—and from Piggy.

“Well, I rode up to Miss—“

“Mousie’s door, uh huh!” sang Maggie, her clear voice rising above the others.  Kermit startled and looked around for his sister.  If anyone had looked at Miss Piggy, they would have seen her press her hands tightly together and sit very still, waiting for Maggie next barb to land on her or on Kermit.

 Kermit continued to play while his eyes scanned the crowd, then at last he saw her, her face flushed and triumphant.  Kermit’s hands stilled on the banjo, but Maggie continued to sing loudly in the sudden silence until the end of the stanza.  They stared at each other.  Kermit’s eyes were hard, but he kept his voice level.

            “Enough, Maggie,” he said quietly.  “That’s enough.”

            Maggie flushed, suddenly aware that she was the focus of hundreds of censoring eyes.  Her mouth fell open in shock and anger.  No one was supporting her!  Even Orville and Norville looked reproachful and grim.

            “You’re not the boss of me!” she cried, then was immediately horrified at how childish it sounded.

            “Then be the boss of yourself,” Kermit returned evenly.  “And stop it.”

            “I don’t have to—I wasn’t--  You aren’t even--  I hate you!” Maggie flung at last.  “I—this is all your fault.  It’s your fault for bringing her—“

            “Margaret!”  James the Frog stood slowly up, his knuckles pale green on the head of his cane.  Maggie wilted under his gaze and slunk off, but not without one last venomous look at Kermit.  James sat back down, and Kermit realized that every face in the clearing was turned on him, wanting his direction and guidance.  This was a role he knew.  He pulled it around him like armor.

            “Sweetheart?” he said with forced brightness to Piggy.  She looked up at him expectantly, following his lead.  His eyes said he was oh so sorry, but he needed her help.  As usual, he got it, and in spades.

            “Yes, Kermit?”

            “Let’s do the new one, shall we?  The one we did for the movie.”

            “Oh,” said Piggy softly.  She looked flustered, and a little uncertain.  “Are you…are you sure?”

            Kermit nodded.  His fingers danced over the strings, but his eyes were fixed on her.  They looked at each other, breathing in and out in the same rhythm, hearts thudding in time.  Piggy’s uncertainty fled.  She nodded once, then looked down at her hands.  She did not think she could look at all those expectant faces while she sang this song.

            “He’ll make me happy, now and forever!  He’ll be the reason my heart can sing…”  She raised her face at last, looking into her husband’s eyes.  “He’ll stand beside me and I’ll have everything.”

            “She’ll make me happy, each time I hold her, and I will follow where my heart may lead.  And she’ll be all I ever need.”  His eyes said it was so.

            “Days go passing into years…” sang Piggy, willing it to be true.

            “Years go passing day by day…” Kermit responded, seeing their lives stretch before them.

            “She’ll make me happy, now and forever.  Until forever, our love will grow.”

            “I only know he’ll,” Piggy’s voice caught, and her eyes glistened in the moonlight. 

            “—make me happy,” Piggy managed, and found Kermit’s voice blending with hers. 

            “—make me happy,” Kermit repeated.

            “That’s all—“

            “That’s all.”

            “I need—“

            “I need—“

            “—to know.”

            Kermit was never entirely certain who took the banjo from his hands.  He only knew that his arms were suddenly occupied, and that Piggy’s face was pressed up against his chest.

            “Oh, Kermit,” said Piggy happily.

            “Piggy, honey,” Kermit murmured.  There was a collective murmur through the crowd, and someone finally said, “Awwww.”  Kermit laughed, waving them off.

            “Go find your own pig,” Kermit called, but he was laughing.

            “I wish!” said another voice.

            The tension was broken once again.  Although Kermit declined to play any more that evening, handing his banjo off to his brother, Elliott, the music went on for a very long time.  Inside the circle of firelight, Kermit and Piggy the Frog sat side-by-side, holding hands and listening to the music fill the swamp.

Chapter 21: NocturneEdit

            The swamp sounds of day and evening had settled, replaced by the nocturnal sounds of the swamp at night.  Piggy lay with her head on Kermit’s shoulder, listening in drowsy contentment to the strange sounds that now sounded so much like home to her.  Kermit moved microscopically, and Piggy the Frog realized that she was not the only one awake.

            “Want to talk about it?” Piggy asked softly, and Kermit gave a little groan of self-recrimination.

            “Sorry,” he said.  “Sorry if I woke you.”

            Piggy pulled back just a little so she could see the dim outline of Kermit’s face.  “You didn’t wake me,” she assured him.  “I’ve just been lying here listening.”  She did not point out that Kermit had evaded the question artfully, nor did she need to.  Kermit pulled her back into his arms and nuzzled her light golden curls.

            “Hmmm,” he murmured, and Piggy leaned into his caress, but she waited.  Kermit would get to it when he would, and she would wait for him.

            “It’s just…” he began, then trailed off.  Piggy’s heart hurt at the unhappiness in his voice, and she pressed her face against his chest, offering comfort.

            “We used to do everything together,” Kermit said sadly.  “Mags and I used to go everywhere, try anything.”  Piggy heard him smile, but it was a small smile.  “My Mom used to call us the ‘terrible twosome.’”

            “I can imagine.” Piggy murmured dryly, encouraging him.

            Kermit’s smile was less constrained this time.

            “If Mags said there was a place to explore, I explored it.  If I said there was a tree to climb, nothing would do but for Mags to climb it.  If there was a new swimming hole that needed to be christened, well, Mags and I were right there.”  He was quiet for a long moment, thinking back, and Piggy lay there in his arms and listened to the soft sound of his breathing.  “She never made fun of my dream of making people happy.”

            ‘Um hum,” Piggy said, not sure what to say, but wanting Kermit to know she was listening.

            Kermit let out a small laugh.  “She certainly made fun of everything else, though,” he said ruefully.  “If she beat me in a race, she crowed about it for days.  If my cannonball didn’t splash as much as water as hers, I heard about it everywhere we went.  We were pretty competitive.”

            Were?”  Piggy couldn’t resist.  Maggie’s visits to Kermit had shown Kermit’s coworkers a side of Kermit they hadn’t seen before.  The pie-eating contest was still talked about at holiday parties.

            Kermit had the good grace to chuckle.  “Yeah…but it was all in good fun.”

            “Hate to see what you’d have done if you really meant it.”  Piggy rubbed little circles on Kermit’s chest with her soft forefinger.

            “Yeah…”  Kermit’s voice was soft.  “It…it hasn’t been the same since…”

            There was an uncomfortable silence.

            “Since we got married?” Piggy asked, steeling herself for the truth.

            But to her relief, she felt and heard Kermit shake his head.

            “No.  Before that.”

            Piggy lay still and knew that if she could see Kermit’s face it would be scrunched up in consternation.

            “Since the last movie,” Kermit said, thoughtfully.  “When we were about to wrap, I called home to talk to everyone.  Maggie asked me when I was coming home. I told her I’d come home for a visit after we wrapped.”

            “You came home after our trip,” Piggy said, remembering how sorry she had been to see him go.

            “Um hum.  I told Maggie I’d be home for a visit as soon as I could.”

            He was silent again, and there was such puzzlement and pain in the silence that Piggy just ached for him, but she did not know what to do to make this pain diminish.  After a long moment, she prompted gently, “And then?”

            “Maggie said she had to go, and she handed the phone to Onslo.”

            “Did you see her when you came home?”

            “Sure,” Kermit said.  “But she was snippy with me.  Wanted to know why I hadn’t come straight home after the wrap.”

            Piggy said nothing.  It was obvious to both of them that Maggie had been unhappy about their trip together.

            “I told her I had things to take care of, and she showed me the tabloid picture of the two of us sunbathing on the beach.”

            “Oh,” Piggy said softly.  “The one where you were fixing my—“
            “That’s the one,” Kermit said, and Piggy had to resist the urge to giggle as she felt a blush spread across her husband’s skin.  “But by the time I got ready to come home, she was like her old self—daring me to do things, racing me to breakfast.”  He took a deep breath.  “Then I came back home.”

            “And Maggie was mad?”

            “I guess,” said Kermit.  “But she always got over it before.  This time…this time she hasn’t.”

            “This time is different,” Piggy said.  “You brought me.”

            “Yes, and I haven’t had…I mean….”  He trailed off helplessly, caught between what he meant and what he was willing to say.

            “It’s okay,” said Piggy.  “I guess I’ve kept you sortof busy.”

            She heard Kermit’s slow smile in the dark, and there was no sadness in it at all.

            “Speaking of…” Kermit teased, and Piggy knew that he was done with talking for the moment.  As a matter of fact, so was she.

Chapter 22: Unlearning and RelearningEdit

            Piggy wasn’t a big fan of early rising, but she had been awake for hours.  When the sun first peeped over the horizon, she had turned her snout into Kermit’s shoulder and enjoyed the sleepy warmth of snuggling with her frog.  Kermit stirred and made a small sound of contentment, but did not rouse, so Piggy lay there as the sun-illuminated the swamp and prayed for another sort of illumination.  She turned the problem over in her head until it took on phantasmagorical dimensions, then snorted at her own folly.  She had never had a close relationship with a sibling and the only sort of jealousy she had ever experienced did not yield any helpful insights.  There was a lot she didn’t know, but she knew about pain, and Maggie’s pain was almost visible, a glaring wound in her soul.  In the midst of Piggy’s own anger and hurt, she could not be blind to Margaret’s. Still, the thought of Kermit’s quiet unhappiness and the puzzled hurt in his voice tempered any thoughts of clemency.

            One thing that eluded Piggy’s repeated attempts to understand was the source of Maggie’s dismay  She had never done anything to Maggie (although she had recently considered a number of distinct possibilities), and while she’d received the brunt of Maggie’s venom, Kermit’s confession last night made it clearer than ever that he was the one she was truly angry with.

            Hmm…here was something new to think about.  Piggy had been mad at Kermit innumerable times, and tried to think if that was useful.  Thinking about all those times made her smile, and she thought about how easily all of her anger at Kermit could disappear once she was in his presence.  It had never actually seemed to matter to her whether or not he apologized, or defended, or slithered artfully around the hot topic of the day—just being with him had seemed balm enough.

            Not so long ago, Piggy was so hurt and angry and dismal that she had considered leaving the performing family she’d been with for so long.  The thought of leaving the muppets had been daunting, but not as daunting as the prospect of staying without some proof of Kermit’s love and affection.  Piggy stopped for a moment to mull this around, and to give silent thanks for the gift of being here, known and loved, in Kermit’s arms.

            Piggy heard the sounds of other folks stirring and wondered.  She wondered what kind of night Maggie passed, what Kermit’s family had thought of the events of the past week, what she might wear that day and what Jane was cooking for breakfast….  Piggy laughed as the thought made her mouth water.  She wriggled out from under Kermit’s arm and went to get dressed.

 

            Jane had been up almost as early as Piggy.  She had wanted a quiet moment to work on something, because working with her hands helped her mind to still so she could think about things.  She had been thinking about Margaret, and while no miraculous insights had come, Jane had finally conceded that Kermit and James had done all there was to be done until her wayward daughter finally came to her senses.

            Despite being angry and disappointed with her daughter, Jane had been a mother too long to not recognize that there was something other than malice or caprice in Margaret’s actions.  There had always been a restlessness in Maggie, a colossal impatience with the world, that had often seemed to match Kermit’s dreams of making people happy.  But while Kermit’s dream had come into sharp focus and transmuted into reality, Maggie’s restiveness had never found a cause to rally around.  She was looking for her own rainbow connection, and it eluded her still.

            Jane’s musings were cut short when Cee Cee emerged from the bushes and displayed the fruits of her great-aunt’s labor.

            “Oh!” cried Cee Cee reverently.  She twirled, and the little skirt flared around her.  Cee Cee had never in her life felt so dainty and lovely.  “Oh, Aunt Jane—thank you!  Thank you!”  She threw her arms around her great-aunt’s shoulders and hugged her tight while Jane relished the press of that small, soft body.  They grow up so fast, she thought with dismay.   Too fast.

            “Well, thank your cousin Piggy, too,” said Jane.  “That where the fabric came from.”

            Cee Cee nodded energetically.  “This is like her bathing suit!” she said excitedly.

            “It was her bathing suit,” corrected Jane.  “After it got torn, Piggy asked if I could use the material.”

            “And you did!” Cee Cee said.  She twirled again, looking over her shoulder to admire the way the little skirt added the illusion of grown-up femininity to her kindergarten-inspired frame.  “Can I—can I wear it today?”

            “Yes,” said Jane happily.  “You most certainly may.”

            Cee Cee skipped off, twirling every third step, and left Jane alone with her thoughts.  That was another one with wanderlust in her soul, thought Jane, and she smiled and started to make breakfast.

 

            “Do that again,” demanded Matthias, watching Elliot’s hand move up and down the fretted neck of the instrument.  Elliot obliged and Matthias looked appropriately gape-mouthed at his brother.  He shifted a little tailed frog in his arms and leaned forward for a better look.  The little frog held tight to his dad’s neck and peered with sober interest at what the two older frogs were looking at.

            “Kermit showed you that?” Matthias asked unnecessarily.

            “Yep,” said Elliot happily.  “It makes the key change a lot faster when you’re picking.”

            “Can I—can I try?”

            “Sure!” said Elliot.  He reached his arms out for his brother’s little hitch-hiker.  “C’mere, Puddin’—come to your Uncle Elliot.”

            Puddin’ (whose real name, Jerrell, had long been abandoned by his parents and siblings) surged happily toward his Uncle Elliot, who swung him wildly around before settling him on his waist.  He watched his dad lift the banjo and make a few chords.

            “A B C D E F G!” Puddin’ sang, hopeful of accompaniment, but none was forth-coming.  Matthias was intent on the musical instrument in his hands, but Elliot grinned.

            “Good job!” he said, and he sounded so much like his eldest brother that a Sesame Street native would have turned to look.  “What comes after ‘G’?”

            “A B C D E F G!” Puddin’ sang again.

            Elliot’s smile broadened.  “Okay, buddy—we’ll work on the rest of it, okay?”

            “Okay,” said Puddin’, who had no clue but liked to be agreeable.

            The instrument has ceased making sounds of distress, and was actually producing something moderately tuneful.  Matthias gritted his hard palate and tried again, doing a fairly convincing imitation of what Elliot had played.

            “Much easier,” he said thoughtfully.

            “Except for having to un-learn what you already know!” his brother added.

            “Yeah, that’s the rub, isn’t it?” Matthias said ruefully.  “Forgetting what you know so you can learn something new.  But once you get the hang of it….”

            Puddin’ was now reaching for his father.  “Dada,” he insisted, and his father laughed and lifted his youngest from his uncle’s arms, trading one noise-maker for another as he passed over the banjo.

            “Tonight, I’ll bring my guitar and see if I can do some damage.”

            “Good answer,” said Elliot, and went on his own way.

 

            After breakfast and some earnest conversation with her mother-in-law, Piggy had taken a not-so-aimless stroll toward one of the less-frequented swimming holes.  Piggy might not be a naturalist at heart, but she knew when she was being watched.

            “I know you’re here,” she said flatly.  “Your mother told me you’d be here.”

            This exhibition of parental omnipotence did little to dispel Maggie’s dark mood, but she deigned to show herself rather than look childish by continuing to hide.  She settled herself on a tree stump.

            “I wasn’t hiding,” she said coolly.

            “Good thing,” said Piggy in kind, and Maggie’s eyes narrowed. 

            “Like you would have found me if my mother hadn’t told you where I was.”

            Piggy crossed her arms across her chest and regarded her self-appointed enemy dispassionately.  “I thought you weren’t hiding,” she observed mildly, and Maggie glared at her.

            Okay, they’d both proven that could be complete snots, but that wasn’t going to help.  Piggy forced herself to back down a little.

            “Maggie, I’m not your enemy.”

            Margaret made a rude noise.  “It’s over,” she said sullenly.  “You won, I lost, okay?”

            “This isn’t about winning and losing.”

            “Easier to say from where you’re standing.”

            “Maybe,” Piggy conceded.  “But this is the vantage point I have, so…”

            “Look—I get it,” Maggie said sarcastically, but the sarcasm didn’t quite hide the pain.   “Kermit picked you instead of us.”

            Piggy’s eyes narrowed shrewdly.  Áh.  “You mean he picked me instead of you.”

            Maggie’s mouth fell open in shock and fury. 

            “Get out!  Get out of my swamp!” Maggie had shot to her feet, her whole body trembling with indignation.

            “I was invited,” Piggy said coolly, “and the last time I checked, the swamp doesn’t belong to you.”

            “Fine.  Then I’ll leave.”  She pushed past Piggy, managing to ram her with her hard little shoulder.  Piggy gritted her teeth and managed not to retaliate.

            “That works pretty well for you, doesn’t it?” she said instead.  Her voice was smooth, mocking, and it stopped Maggie dead in her tracks.  She turned and stared.

            “What are you talking about?”

            “When the going gets tough, you seem to find somewhere else to be.  What are you afraid of, anyway?”

            “Me?” shouted Maggie.  “I’m not afraid.  I’m not the one who left.”

            “No,” Piggy said quietly.  “You’re the one who stayed.”

            “Yes!” Maggie bellowed.  I stayed.  I did what I was supposed to do.  Kermit’s the one who left—the one who just had to go to Hollywood and leave all of us here.”

            “He’s back now,” Piggy said, but gently.

            “But he brought it with him!”  She gave Piggy a scornful look.  “He brought you with him.”

            “Yes.  To meet his family.”

            “Fine—you’ve met us.  You can go already.”

            “I don’t think Kermit’s ready to leave.”

            “Then—then maybe I’ll go away!”

            “Maybe you should--until you can play nice with others.”  Piggy's voice was still calm, but now it had an edge to it. 

            Maggie wanted to hit her.

            “How dare you!”

            “I dare pretty easily, sweetie, but then, I guess you think that’s your territory, too.”

            Maggie tried to think of a snappy comeback but failed spectacularly.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she snapped, marching away, “and since it can’t be that relevant—“

            Kermit left.”

            Maggie stopped in her tracks and turned to stare at Piggy, her eyes narrowing dangerously.

            What?

            “I said, ‘Kermit left.’  Left the swamp, left you.”

            The color was draining out of Maggie’s face.  He green pallor was dimming to chartreuse.

            “He did not—“

            You were supposed to be the adventurous one, right?  Kermit was the one who was more timid, always followed your lead.”

            “That was—we were just—“

            “Kids,” Piggy finished levelly.  “And now you’re not, and Kermit is the one who went out into the great unknown and had adventures.”

            “He was doing that before he met you!” Maggie flung.

            “True,” Piggy conceded, cocking her head on the side.  “And he was doing it after he left you.”

            “Kermit didn’t leave me!” Maggie wailed, feeling the hot tears spring up in her eyes.  She glared at Piggy, her hands balled into hard little fists, her shoulders hunched like a fighter.

            “That’s right,” Piggy said gently.  “He didn’t leave you.  He didn’t leave the swamp, either.  He just…followed his dream, and it took him some unexpected places.”

            Maggie humphed and turned away.

            “Kermit’s dream has made a lot of people happy, Maggie.  You should be proud of your brother.”

            “Don’t you tell me what I should and shouldn’t do!” Maggie shouted.  “And what do you know about it, anyway!  I am proud of Kermit—I’m more proud of him than anyone!”

            There was a silence, then in that silence, Piggy said quietly, “I know that must mean a lot to Kermit.”

            “I never told him!” Maggie flung, then stopped as though stung.  “I…I never told him.”

            Piggy’s voice was gentle again, all the steel gone.  “Then maybe you should.  I know—“  She stopped abruptly at the challenge in Maggie’s eye, rephrasing her comment.  “Your opinion means a lot to Kermit,” she said at last.  “He’d like to know he had your approval.”

            “Kermit…wants my approval?”

            Piggy nodded.  “I think he needs it.”

            Maggie’s face crumpled, her lips trembling.  “Kermit—needs my approval,” she said haltingly, as though the idea had never occurred to her.

            “He’d like your blessing.”

            Maggie bristled immediately, but Piggy put up her hand.  The enormous diamond sparkled in the sunlight and Piggy wished she’d used her other hand, but what was done was done.

            “Not for marrying me,” she said distinctly.  “You don’t have to like that.  You can dislike me all you want, but Kermit would like to know that you’re not mad at him anymore.  For leaving.  For following his dream out of the swamp.”

            “I didn’t realize....” Maggie said, shaken.  “I…I never meant….”

            Piggy would have liked to put a comforting hand on Maggie’s arm, but knew it was a bad idea.  She settled for a cautious smile instead.  “It’s okay,” she said softly.  “It’s not too late to fix it if you want to.”

Chapter 23: Something Old, Something NewEdit

            James the Frog watched with great bemusement as his newest daughter-in-law strolled by in what looked to be a very new bathing suit.  Kermit certainly has good taste, he thought fondly, knowing that Piggy may have picked the bathing suit, but Kermit had picker her.  Piggy had almost disappeared around the curve of the trail when there was a great clattering and banging behind him.  His amusement increased as he watched Orville and Norville clamoring after Piggy carrying her chair, her towel, her big straw hat and a cooler of bottled spring water (which completely mystified the native swamp dwellers) and, pretty much, anything else her heart desired. 

            “Hurry!” said Norville to his older brother, “or all the little tadpoles will get to sit next to her!”

            Orville picked up the pace, but paused long enough to holler and wave to his great uncle.

 James nodded gravely.  “Day to you, boys,” he said solemnly.

            “Oh boooys,” Piggy’s voice floated back along the path.  “I think I left my cover-up back at the clearing.  Could one of you get it?”  The boys exchanged glances, dropped the cooler and sprinted back up the path.

            “Hey!” said Orville, trying to catch up to his twin.  “She asked me!”

            “Did not!” Norville panted.  “She specifically asked for me!”

            They disappeared back the way they had come.  James chuckled to himself and looked up to find his daughter-in-law looking right at him, waving merrily with a big smile on her face.  He laughed out loud and waved back, feeling suddenly young.  He waited until she had disappeared around the path again, then shook his head and resumed his walk.

            He wasn’t going to worry about Piggy—or Kermit—any more.

 

            Jake stumped along beside his father, occasionally squinting up at the older alligator as they made their way down to the swimming hole.  Jake’s little sister rustled along behind them, occasionally leaving the path to chase dragonflies in the bright sunshine.

            “Are you sure we were invited?” he asked for the umpteenth time, more because he wanted to hear his father say it than because he doubted his veracity.

            “Yes,” his father said with the patience only reptiles can achieve.  He looked down at his son fondly.  “Mrs. The Frog said to come and swim this afternoon and have a picnic.”

            “But—but we’ve never been to a swimming party with the The Frogs before,” Jake persisted.

            “No,” Arnie said thoughtfully, “but things seem to be changing a little, don’t they?  Now, you mustn’t frighten any of the little ones,” he cautioned.  Jake nodded solemnly, imbued with the importance of his charge, and his father’s next words caused him to swell with pride.  “Compared to them, you’re a big strapping boy.”

            “Yes sir!”  If alligators could be said to bounce, Jake bounced down the path.

            “When is Mom coming?” Alice asked, appearing at her father’s scaly elbow with her head draped in a daisy chain.

            “After her meeting,” he said mildly, and Alice wandered off again, apparently satisfied.

            “And Mrs. The Frog said we were invited special?” he asked once more.

            Arnie laughed and jerked his snout toward the watering hole.  “Why don’t you go ask her yourself,” he said.  “We’re already here.”

                       

            Jane refilled Kermit’s mug of coffee and, for just a moment, she remembering filling his sippy cup with milk so very long ago.  Her eyes brightened for a moment, but she hid it artfully by bustling back to the fire with the coffee pot. 

            “Thanks, Mom,” said Kermit.  Breakfast was over, and the picnic baskets had already been packed and laid to readiness at the edge of the clearing.  It was nice, Kermit thought, to have a moment of quiet with his mom.  Kindof like old times, he thought, and was surprised to hear himself say it out loud.  Jane stopped bustling and looked at him, seeing both her little tadpole and the grown frog he had begun.

            “Sometimes it seems that way,” his mother said, then she put everything down and went to sit next to Kermit.  She put her hand out, palm out, on her knee, and Kermit put his hand in hers like he had so many times before.  Their little froggy fingers clasped, and Kermit noticed for the first time that his hand now dwarfed his mother’s the way hers had once dwarfed his.  They didn’t say anything because it wasn’t necessary, but there was an almost palpable bond of pride and affection flowing between them.

            “You’re going to come swim, aren’t you?” Kermit said.

            “Yes,” Jane said at once.  “James and I are going to walk down together after the baskets have been picked up.”  She looked at Kermit quietly.  “Piggy’s already gone on?”

            “Um hum,” said Kermit.  “She took the kids and went on.”  There was an awkward silence, one of the only few Kermit could ever remember with his mother.

            “I think you should—“

            “I think I ought to—“

            They stopped and smiled at each other, but Kermit’s eyes were sad.  “Yeah,” he said.  “I’ll see if I can find her.”

 

            The clearing looked deserted, but Kermit sat down anyway.  He had a handful of smooth pebbles and he sat on a large rock overlooking the water and began to drop them in one by one.  There was no sound other than the soft lap-lap of the water and the occasional plop of a stone into the water, but Kermit was aware that he was not alone.  Apparently, today just wasn’t Maggie’s day for hiding.

            “Bored with your pig already?” she said at last, a disembodied voice hovering over the water.  Kermit shook his head without looking up, but held up his fist with the remaining stones in it.

            “Nope,” he said calmly.  “I brought you some rocks to throw.  I figure that has to be your next move.”

            There was a small sound of outrage and Kermit was able to hone in on the sound, but he did not look in Maggie’s direction.

            “I would not throw rocks,” Maggie muttered, compelled to defend herself. 

            “Well, sticks then,” Kermit continued.  “We’ve got plenty of those here in the swamp.  But I feel it’s only fair to warn you—Miss Piggy’s got a pretty good aim.  She’s liable to throw them back.”

            “Kermit—“

            “And if she lands one, that thick skin of yours isn’t going to be much protect—“

            “Okay, okay,” said Maggie.  “So I’m pond scum.”

            Kermit did not rush to disagree.  He pondered this flippant apology for a long moment, still staring into the water at his reflection.

            “No,” he said at last, as though he had just decided something.  “No—pond scum would have apologized.”  He dropped in another pebble, watching the ripples spread.  “You must be lower than pond scum.”

            Maggie let out a little cry of embarrassment and anguish.

            “All right!  All right already.  I’m—I didn’t mean, you know—I wasn’t—“

            “No,” said Kermit quietly, but there was firmness in his voice.  “I don’t know, Maggie—I can’t even imagine what would make you act like you’ve acted.”

            Maggie had crept out of her concealment and slumped on a boulder, hugging her knees and not looking at Kermit.

            “Me either,” she whispered, her voice carrying clearly in the still air.  “I don’t know what made me—“  She forced her lips closed.  “But I wouldn’t throw rocks,” she insisted.

            “Well,” said Kermit sarcastically.  “It’s nice to know you have some standards.”

            “Stop,” muttered Maggie, her voice pained.  “Don’t—I know, I know…”

            They sat in constrained silence for what seemed like an eternity to the two unhappy siblings, then Kermit spoke again.

            “You used to be my ally,” he said.  It was not an angry accusation, but the wail of a child who has let go of their balloon.  Kermit’s throat felt tight, and he stared into the water determinedly.

            Maggie felt the hot tears slip down her face.  “I am your ally,” she said.  “Oh, Kermit, I just—“  She took a deep breath.  “I just miss you sooo much.”  She put her head down and began to sob.

            Kermit had expected defiance—and had steeled himself for unrepentance.  He had not expected this.   “Mags—“ he said, but now that the genie was out of the bottle there was no stuffing it back in.

            “You used to come home every chance you got!” she wailed.  “Now you only come home when you have to!”

            “No,” Kermit said.  “No, that’s not—“

            “You used to tell me everything—now you…now you just tell her….”

            “But Maggie, that’s—“

            “You have a whole life somewhere else—I just have here, and now I don’t have you to share it with.”

            Kermit didn’t know what to say.  Some hurts are too deep for words.  Instead, he got up and went to Maggie, sat beside her and put his arm around her shoulders.  Maggie turned into his chest and bawled.

            “Mags,” he said softly.  “Mags, don’t cry.  I’m right here.”

            “You left!” she said, accusingly.   “I thought you’d come back, but you didn’t.  You didn’t.  And now you won’t.”

            “What?  Because I got married?”  Kermit’s voice was gentle, trying to understand.

            Mags pulled away and regarded him balefully.

            “Because you…because you’re so happy wherever you are, as long as she’s there.”

            Kermit felt a blush creep up his cheeks.  So it did show. 

            “But Mags, that doesn’t mean I…”  He stopped and tried to gather his thoughts.  “Look, ever since I was little, I dreamed about, you know, making people happy.”  He rubbed her back softly with the palm of his hand, trying to put words around his meaning.  “And somewhere along the way, other people became a part of that dream, too.  Jim, and Fozzie, and Rowlf and Gonzo and Dr. Teeth and—“

            “And her.”

            “And Piggy,” Kermit said firmly.  “But just because they share my dream with me doesn’t mean you can’t,” he said softly.

            Maggie had stopped crying, and she nudged him with her bony little shoulder.  “What if I don’t want to share your stupid ol’ dream with you,” she muttered, but Kermit only smiled and pulled her tight against him.

            “Then we’ll just have to find you a dream of your own.”

            She made a little shrug of discontent, then burst out again.  “Oh, Mit, sometimes I just feel so lost without you here,” she said.  “I…I haven’t figured out what I want to do yet---what I want to be.”

            ‘Well, who says you have to decide now?”

            “Only everyone,” Maggie muttered, and Kermit couldn’t suppress a smile.  “Don’t you laugh at me!” she cried indignantly, but Kermit shook his head. 

“I’m not,” he said gently.  “I’m not laughing.  I’m just, you know, remembering when everyone thought my dream was silly.”

Maggie looked up.  “I never thought your dream was silly,” she said.  “I always knew….”  She trailed off, looking surprised.  “I did—I always knew you could make it happen.”  Suddenly, her arms surged around Kermit’s middle and she hugged him fiercely.  “I’m so proud of you,” she said.  “I’m so proud of you, Mit.”

Kermit returned her fervent hug, moved and surprised by his sister’s declaration.

            “Look,” said the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. James The Frog.  “I know you’re my sister and it’s your job to be a pain in the neck—“

            Maggie made a sound of protest, but it sounded suspiciously like a giggle near the end.

            “—but you can’t be mean to Piggy anymore.”

            Maggie sniffed.  “Not even a little?” she said, and it was Kermit’s turn to nudge her, hard, until she relented and put her head on his shoulder.

            “I married Piggy because I loved her, and she loved me, and we want to spend our lives together.”  He held up a hand to ward off any protests.  “That doesn’t mean I love you or Mom and Dad or Robin or anyone any less—it just means that I’ve added to the people in my family.  And if you love me, you’ll respect my wishes—and my wife.”

            Maggie nodded.  “I will,” she said softly.  “I’m sorry.“

            Kermit’s arm tightened around her shoulders, then he dropped the pebbles into the water and reached over with his now-empty hand and gave his annoying little sister a first-class noogie.  Maggie squawked in protest and tried to retaliate.  The results of same dumped them unceremoniously into the water.  They came up laughing, wiping water out of their eyes.  Kermit offered Maggie a hand, pulled her to her feet and started up the bank, still holding her hand.

            “Come swimming with us,” he said.  “Everybody’s going to come for a picnic.”

            But Maggie pulled her hand free and shook her head.

            “No,” she said.  “No, I’d—I’d make everyone uncomfortable.  You go.”

            Kermit hesitated.

            “Go on!” Maggie teased.  “That pig—“  She stopped.  “Miss Piggy probably needs you.”

            Kermit nodded, then turned and started back the way he had come, toward the rest of his family, both old and new.  For a long time, Maggie just watched him go, then she climbed out of the water and sat on the bank.

Chapter 24: Something BorrowedEdit

(Wished I’d called it, Something Borrowed, Somewhat Blue)

Piggy had made an entrance pretty much every night she’d been there, and had also, with alarming frequency, made a spectacle of herself.  Still, nothing she had done to date had garnered more sheer astonishment than her arrival that night.

            The newest The Frogs were fashionably and predictably late, having seen the last of the afternoon swimmers graciously off.  By the time they had gathered the last of their things (which is to say, Piggy’s things), and made their way back to their own place, Piggy felt compelled to redo her toilette and take a little extra time with her hair.  The perm she had embraced for filming was succumbing to time and wear and swamp water.  She brushed it into soft waves, the ends still curling into ringlets, but seemed dissatisfied and finally sent Kermit ahead. 

            She arrived in the clearing some ten minutes after her husband, wearing a pink linen dress.  It was sleeveless to show off her plump and rosy arms, and she had resumed her lavender satin gloves, but it was not the dress or the gloves that made the crowd stare in startled disbelief.  It was the scarf—THE scarf—the one that Kermit had bought for Maggie on her first visit to him on the set of Sesame Street—that caught everyone’s attention.  Piggy was wearing it to hold her hair back from her face, and had it tied into a soft fluffy bow just in front of her ears.  In a society where clothing was scarce to nonexistent, something as distinctive as Margaret’s cherished, much-bandied-about dainty was as individual as a fingerprint.

            Even Jane looked flabbergasted at the sight of that cherished trifle adorning Piggy’s tresses, but she covered quickly, reaching out to take Piggy’s hands in hers.

            “How, um, pretty you look,” she said hastily.  “And, um, what a lovely scarf you’re wearing.”

            Piggy’s first love—even before Kermit—had been the stage.  Had she been in the largest theatre on Broadway, her voice would have carried distinctly to the back row.

            “Why thank you,” she said, one hand going for her hair.  “It is lovely—isn’t it?  Maggie was sooo sweet to lend it to me.”

            The sound of crickets chirping was loud in the sudden silence.  When the crickets recognized their conspicuousness, they hushed immediately as if aware of their precarious place in the cycle of life.

            “Ah,” said Jane, her eyes bright with grateful tears.  “Oh.  Oh!  That was…that was very sweet of Margaret.”

            “Oh yes,” said Piggy, with just the right touch of off-handedness.  “So very thoughtful of her.  I thought the color matched my eyes.”

            Talking began abruptly as though a switch had been flipped back on. 

Kermit went to Piggy’s side, suddenly understanding the reason she had sent him on ahead.  Piggy turned and looked at him, her blue eyes huge and innocent.  For a moment, Kermit wished he had been able to witness the meeting of those two minds, but his musing was cut short.

Supper was served, and the entire The Frog family sat down and tucked in with relish.

Well, almost.

 

            Orville and Norville had followed up their helpful and child-friendly demeanor of the afternoon with great politeness and good manners to their fellow frogs.  Several people watched with wonder (verging on open-mouthed astonishment) as they waited their turn in the chow line only after assisting a couple of elderly aunts and actually intervened in a pre-teen pile-up, rerouting the overeager youngsters to alleviate the clog.  Croaker had commandeered Kermit’s attention and they were laughing like the old friends they were.  There was a moment when Piggy felt oddly elated over being excluded, and she wondered at it for a moment before she divined the meaning of her odd mood.  Suddenly, her expression turned surprised, then amused, and finally, triumphant.  She understood.  Kermit was no longer worried about Piggy’s ability to either fit in or take care of herself.  He now felt free to enjoy the company of his old friends and leave her to mingle.

            At Hollywood shindigs, Kermit had often sent Piggy out to do the hard work that she was so consistently good at—schmoozing the bigwigs and taking the pulse of both the gossip and the fashion quotient in the room.  Later, they would meet up to compare notes and, depending on her mood and the status of their couplehood, she would fill him in on what she had learned.  If they were in one of their on-again phases, she could usually be bribed with dinner or—if she had some particularly juicy tidbit to share—dinner and a show.  If there were in one of their off-again phases, or if one of the many young wolves of Hollywood had attempted to barter for a chance to howl at her door, Piggy usually passed on her tidbits with dispatch and left with an airy “I’m off the clock now, frog.”

            While Piggy slithered artfully around the room, Kermit was no slouch.  He was, in fact, his usual affable and accessible self.  People liked him—people flocked to him in a friendly fashion to say hello and ask about what the company was up to.  Though this was not the usual Hollywood style—too honest and too un-slick for the usual Tinseltown mores—Kermit’s contributions to the cause were as essential as Piggy’s.  If Kermit said Rainbow Productions was looking for backers, people either expressed interest and showed up with their checkbooks, or kept tabs on the project for future reference.  Kermit’s reputation for straight dealing dealt him out of the usual politics and mostly allowed him to run his company in a more straightforward fashion than most.

            Although sometimes a tad too trusting, Kermit could afford to be a little naive.  He had little fear of their ideas being scooped or stolen.  For reasons not yet entirely clear to the ambitious amphibian, his little band of entertainers never quite seemed to being doing what everybody else in town was doing—either professionally or personally.  This likely contributed to the general attitude of unthreatened and friendly goodwill that greeted him wherever movers and shakers congregated.

            This had that feel about it to Piggy—the feeling of being trusted to do her part and to leave the rest to Kermit.  It was a happy feeling, a feeling of being both wanted and needed, but while she was becoming acclimated to swamp life in her own inestimable way, it nevertheless instilled in her a bit of genuine homesickness.  Shopping with Sherwood had been a treat—the man had a wonderful eye for color and a complete inability to lie—but Piggy missed Saks and Tiffany’s and Rodeo Drive.  She missed limos and taxis and mints on her pillows, steamy bubble baths and television.  Still, looking around her at the sea of welcoming faces, Piggy found those things fading a little in comparison.

            She wondered what it would be like to live here—truly live here in the swamp surrounded by more family than she had ever imagined.  Everyone had tried so hard to make her feel welcome—well, almost everyone—and Piggy felt a surge of affection.  After all, stores were crowded, and even five-star hotels sometimes tried to give you the second-string towels.  And the neon lights were just artificial illumination.  This place had spawned Kermit—her Kermit—and had shaped the frog he would become.  How awful could it be?  In fact, it might be-- 

God may well protect fools and children, but Fate is a prankster at heart   At just that moment, Piggy’s artfully shod foot sank into the soft earth and she stood there for a moment contemplating the wet, squishy earth between her toes. 

            On the other hand, Broadway was lovely this time of year.  And, while it had been wonderful to have Kermit much more to herself after they had wrapped their third movie and stopped production of The Muppet Show, Piggy was already beginning to find herself restless from a professional point of view.  She…she didn’t know what the months and even years ahead would hold—only that they would include Kermit.  That still hadn’t quite sunk in.

            Her foot, on the other, um, hand, had.  Piggy braced herself and heaved her footwear out of the muck.  Smiling ruefully, Piggy carried tea to her father-in-law, who was deep in conversation with one of the elderly aunts.  Sufficient unto the day….

 

            Maggie had not hung out with Orville and Norville for naught.  She balanced on the tall tree branch and surveyed the moonlit swamp.  The sounds of laughter and eating had been replaced with the more subdued murmur of conversation, and she could hear the bright plink of instruments being tuned.  Maggie felt a great swell of pride and possessivenesssweep over her, rooting her to this swamp—her swamp.  The image of Yertle the Turtle swam up to the surface of her brain from the depths of childhood, and she smiled.  She had been acting a bit like a petty dictator, but Mit had understood after all.  Why on earth she had thought that him getting married would change them she could not imagine.

            She dropped another stone into the water, liking the deep “plop” of sound it made.  She couldn’t see the ripples, but she knew they were there, reaching out in ever-widening circles toward infinity—just like Kermit’s dream.

            He…he had made a lot of people happy, and Margaret the Frog realized in a rush of emotion that she had been one of them.  Because Kermit had chased his dream out of the swamp, Maggie had first known and understood that she could dare to grasp hold of her dearest dream and let it take her where it would.  Was that why she had hesitated?  And resented?  Because Kermit’s success was a reminder of all the unfulfilled potential inside of her?  On some level, Maggie now knew it to be true, but she also knew that she could not go back to pretending that she didn’t have any responsibility—to herself and to the world—to follow her own dream as well.

            She looked toward the glow of the bonfire, and smiled in spite of herself.  That scheming little pig had probably done everything but run her scarf up the flagpole by now.  Smart cookie, that.  It was entirely possible that she might pick up a few pointers if she kept her eyes and her aural organs open.  The sounds from the clearing were drawing her, drawing her in, drawing her home.  She squared her slim shoulders, took a deep breath, and hopped down. 

            It was time to pay the piper.  If she was lucky, she might even get to dance to the piper’s tune.

 

            Kermit had lost his seat the instant he’d gotten up, and came back to find his place of honor at Piggy’s side supplanted by half a dozen small frogs. 

            “Hey,” he objected mildly.  “Move over and make room for your Uncle Kermit.”

            Scores of eyes stared at him, then slipped slyly to the side.

            You move,” someone whispered.

            “No, you move—I was here first!”

            “Were not!”

            “Were so!”

            “Make Mikey move—he’s a tadpole, anyway.”

            “I am NOT a tadpole,” someone—presumably Mikey—objected.  There were sounds of scuffling.

            Kermit put his hands on his hips.  “If somebody doesn’t get up—“ he began in a warning tone.

            Laughing, Piggy stood up and reached for his hand.  So tightly pressed were the small frogs around her that her spot on the log, too, immediately disappeared in a tumble of little frog bodies.  Piggy took Kermit’s hand firmly and began to lead him away from the circle of firelight.

            “Hey!”

            “What happened?”

            “Where are you going?” several little frogs wailed.

            Piggy regarded her cheering section fondly.  “I’m going for a walk with your Uncle Kermit,” she said. 

            “Can we come?” wailed Doralee, but without much hope.  Cee Cee shot her a look and rolled her eyes.  Doralee could be sooo dense.

            “Certainly not,” Piggy said fondly.   She surveyed the troops like a five-star general.  “Cee Cee—you make sure everyone shares the marshmallows.  Dakota and Jacob can keep the little ones back from the fire.”  She tried to look stern.  “No bickering,” she insisted, then took Kermit’s hand and led him away.

            It was a beautiful night.  The moon was almost full, with the barest crescent missing, and the light of it filled the swamp with an other-worldly glow.  When they were safely out of range of both small and large eyes and ears, Piggy stopped, lifted her arms to Kermit’s neck and kissed him like she’d been waiting to do it all day, which she probably had.  Taken by storm but not surprise, Kermit withstood this assault on his senses bravely, answering her kiss with enough ardor to convince her he’d been hoping for just this when he’d followed her out into the sweet swamp grasses.

            With a shaky laugh, Piggy stepped back, then let Kermit take her hand and tuck it under his arm.  They strolled around the quiet clearing, their skin moon-dappled by the pale glowing light.  Kermit inhaled the rich earthy smell of the swamp, caught the faint elusive scent of Piggy’s shampoo beneath the stronger smells of sunscreen and bug spray.  He sighed, deeply content on almost every level, and heard Piggy’s answering sigh mirror his.

            “Beautiful night,” Kermit said.

            “Lovely,” Piggy said.

            There was a little pool of moonlight, and Kermit gestured to it grandly.  “Your spotlight,” he said, with a flourish of his hand, and handed Piggy into it before joining her there.  Piggy seemed suddenly shy as Kermit stepped forward and put his arms around his wife.

            “Happy?” he asked, not really needing her answer to know the truth.

            “Yes,” she said fervently.  “So happy.”

            Kermit smiled, enjoying her wonder and the way she was looking at him in the moonlight.  Piggy’s new look had given him a lot more to look at today, and he appreciated the soft fullness of her in his arms.

            “Me too,” he said, and his voice sounded husky.  It was no trouble at all to lean forward and kiss her, and he felt her happy sigh of contentment as her lips worked with his.  “Mmmmm,” he murmured. 

            “Mmmmm,”Piggy agreed.  She heard the soft night sounds of the swamp, and though it was as soft and soothing as a lullaby, sleep was far from both of their minds.

“Think anyone would miss us if we didn’t come back?” Kermit asked.  He knew the answer but hoped Piggy would join him in his delusion.

            Piggy laughed, then gently disentangled herself.

            “Are you kidding?” she asked.  “The last thing we need is a frog scout patrol scouring the swamp for us.” She gentled her response with another kiss or two, and though Kermit turned reproachful pollywog eyes on her, she managed to withstand same.  “Besides,” Piggy said reasonably, “If we don’t go back soon, there won’t be any marshmallows left.”

            Kermit muttered something unkind about marshmallows, but ruefully, and let Piggy lead him around the clearing until they rejoined the others.  A quick glance told them Cee Cee seemed to have her charges well in hand, and they slipped into the back row of logs on the opposite side of the clearing and sat.  Soon, music would start, and Kermit would play, filling the clearing and the swamp and Piggy’s heart full to bursting with songfulness and joy.  She had not believed it possible that she could love Kermit more than she had the day he proposed, but she found that she did so now.  Maybe Kermit could read her thoughts, for he turned to her and smiled.

            “Glad you married me, Mrs. The Frog?”

            Piggy’s eyes were shining, luminous in the moonlight.  “Yes,” she said.  “So very, very glad.”

            “Me, too.”  Kermit the still-newlywed frog leaned forward, but he was spotted before their lips could meet.

            “Kermit!  Cousin Kermit!  Get up here!”

            “We need another banjo!”

            “Stop spooning and play already!”

            Kermit smiled at Piggy, sighed, and reached for her hand.  She took it and followed him to a log nearer the fire—and the other musicians.

            “Any requests?” he asked her, shouldering his banjo.

            Piggy’s voice was low, pitched for his aural organs only.  “Plenty of time for that later,” she teased, and Kermit felt his heart go pitter-pat.  Yes—plenty of time for that, he thought happily.  A lifetime of time for that.  He settled himself more comfortably on the log next to Piggy and began to play an old Appalachian folk tune.

            “She’s gone away for to stay a little while,” he sang softly.  “But she’s coming back if she goes ten thousand miles.  Oh who will tie her shoes, and who will brush her hair, and who will kiss her ruby lips when she is gone.  Look away, look away, over yonder.”  He pronounced the last word “yandro,” the way the original author of the song may have done.  Piggy looked at him, her eyes shining, and watched his fingers moving over the strings.

            “I’m goin’ away for to stay a little while,” she picked up the verse. “But I’m coming back, if I go ten thousand miles.  Oh who will tie my shoes?  And who will brush my hair?  And who will kiss my ruby lips when I am gone?  Look away, look away—over yonder.”

            Kermit leaned forward without missing a beat on the banjo and answered at least one of the questions.  When they broke apart, they were smiling at each other in the moonlight.  Piggy scooted over beside him and rested her shining head on his shoulder as he played.  Kermit changed songs, shifting to another old Appalachian song.  “I wonder as I wander out under the sky,” Kermit began, his voice light and clear.  His cousin Kendra joined him on the next line, her contralto voice blending beautifully with his.  His brother Leonard came in the chorus, his rich bass adding weight and balance.  On it went, voices coming and going, blending and fading, while Kermit’s fingers danced lightly over the instrument.  Requests were made, and Kermit played on.  Some songs were solemn, some of them silly or telling a tale. 

            It was a coincidence—almost an accident, really—that he saw her.  Kermit had just finished Barbry Allen, a mournful tune about lost love, and was tuning up a string that had gotten slack.  Listening with his head cocked to the side, a subtle movement near the edge of the clearing caught his eye.  He looked up, and his eyes met those of his sister Maggie.  Surprise made him silent, which was fortunate, because a public acknowledgement of her presence might have sent her scurrying away, but since he did not speak, they looked in silence at each other for a long moment.  Maggie’s eyes were unreadable, Kermit’s sad.  Come in, he pleaded silently.  Be a part of this with us.  For a moment, Maggie looked away—Kermit held his breath—but then she shrugged, the merest lift of the shoulders.  Kermit was never going to be an expert on women, but he had been married long enough to know that that little shrug meant.  His face broke into a wide smile as Maggie squared her shoulders and marched boldly into the crowd.  There was a little murmur of excitement as the crowd shifted nervously.

            “Sheesh,” she said, thrusting her chin at the banjo.  “Can’t you play anything lively on that thing?”

            “I can play anything you can sing,” Kermit challenged.  Maggie’s eyes narrowed and she put her hands on her lean hips.

            “Oh, realllly,” she said.  “You’re on.”

            The tension in the crowd evaporated.  Leaning against Kermit, one arm tight around his middle, Piggy felt him relax, felt him let the tension roll right off his slender frame.  He turned to her and grinned.

            “I know that look,” Piggy murmured, wondering if Maggie was up for the laughing challenge in Kermit’s eyes.

            Kermit shot her a look, equal parts delighted and annoyed to be so well known.

            “Maggie knows it, too,” he told her wryly.  Piggy stifled a smile, amused by the way the old sibling rivalry brought out the devilry in her spouse.  She patted him fondly on the back, and waited to see what would happen next.  With Kermit, you never quite knew.

Chapter 25: Author of MischiefEdit

            The water was quiet and still.  Still waters run deep, don’t they?  At least, that’s what people write in your yearbook when you’re quiet and they don’t know what to make of you.

            Nobody had written that in Kermit’s yearbook.  Ever.

            Still, he had learned to imitate calm, and he lounged beside the swimming hole with every outward appearance of calm, and none of its substance.

            Piggy looked up from arranging her bathing suit straps to avoid a tan line and her smile was indulgent.

            “We could get the tickets moved up a couple of days,” she said matter-of-factly.

            Kermit started guiltily.  “Um, do you want to?  Do that?” he asked.

            Piggy exchanged looks with Maggie, who was lying on her stomach on a towel nearby, twirling a pen idly through her fingers.  Seeing it, Kermit crossed his arms across his chest, which caused both of them to look hastily away and bite their lips.  Sheesh!

            “No,” said Maggie after a moment.  “But you do.”

            Kermit started to deny it, but abandoned the attempt.  He gave a rueful sigh and the familiar lop-sided smile made its appearance.  Both women smiled back at him—one lean and dark, the other blond and lush.  He started to speak, but at that moment, Robin climbed dripping out of the pond and draped himself coolly over his uncle’s back.  Laughing, Kermit put one arm up and pulled him easily over his shoulder and onto the mossy ground.  Cool-ish water splashed both of the ladies, but the only reaction was Maggie’s protective covering of her notebook.

            “Coming in again, Uncle Kermit?” asked Robin. 

Kermit shook his head.  “I am nice and wet—“

Robin giggled.

“—but no—I think I’m done swimming for the day,” he said.  “But don’t let me stop you.”

Robin righted himself, shrugged, and plunged back into the water, his gleaming, slippery body almost soundless upon entry.  Kermit looked back up and faced the music, so to speak.

“I was thinking it,” he admitted.  “Rowlf says there’s talk of something new, and Scooter sounded a little frantic when I spoke to him Monday.”

“The red-headed guy?” asked Maggie.  Piggy nodded automatically.  “Oh pooh,” said Maggie.  “He always sounds like that.”

Kermit couldn’t argue, but he knew Maggie wasn’t really arguing with him.  He had seen the look that passed between his sister and his wife—the most recent in a long series of knowing looks recently shared.  They might kid him, but they had not misread him.

He was restless.  He had come home to bring his bride and rest; those things had long been neatly checked off on his to-do list.  Now, he was hankering for the life he’d come on vacation to escape, and it was more than obvious to those who knew him best.  He was ready to go back home, and it showed.  Still, he hesitated, watching the little tadpoles and frogs frolic in the water.  While he watched, he felt Piggy’s hand slip into his, and he turned to her and smiled.

“I think I will walk to town and check at the train station,” he said.  Piggy nodded and raised her plump cheek to accept his offered parting kiss.

“Do that,” she said.  “We’ll see you at supper.”

After he had gone, Maggie scritch-scratched her pen across the paper for a while, covering pages with small, untidy script with occasional stops to gum her writing implement thoughtfully.  Piggy lounged and flipped pages idly in her romance novel.  She’d read it before, but it was a loaner from Jane and that made it worth perusing again.

“How do you read that stuff?” Maggie asked, laughing, when Piggy’s eyes widened at some highly unlikely bit of acrobatics.  Piggy sighed and closed the book over a long blade of swamp grass.

“Mind candy,” she excused herself.  She fluffed her hair.  “And how’s the great American swamp novel coming?” she tweaked back.  Maggie rolled over on her back, her head pillowed by the notebook.

“Better than expected,” she admitted, “but far from coherent.”

“The better to sell the movie rights,” Piggy quipped, then looked thoughtful.  “Kermit said you wrote, but I never knew what.”

Maggie looked uncomfortable, but determined.  “Poetry,” she said.  “Short stories.  Some long stories.”  She smiled self-consciously.  “Mother used to say I was an author of mischief, so one day I thought I’d see if I could be an author of another sort.”

Piggy did not press it.  Art was a personal thing, and craft a hard one and she tried to let Maggie set the tone and pace for what she would say. 

“Do you like to write?” she asked after a moment when nothing else was forthcoming.

Maggie hesitated.  “I…I guess so.  When I’m upset, sometimes I need to write.”  She did not say that her recent unhappiness had been all the more bitter because she had not been able to write about it.  Her behavior had been so repugnant, even to herself, that she had not been willing to set it down on paper.

Piggy nodded.  “I need to act, I guess.  The stage was the first place I ever felt at home.”  Piggy blushed, not sure if this was a safe admission.  Still, she and Maggie had forged a friendship of sorts—based perhaps on respect more than affection.  Maggie did not jeer, but nodded slowly.

“Everybody needs to feel at home somewhere,” she said.  Her voice was soft and wistful, and Piggy felt like it was time to change the subject—or at least turn it in a different direction.

            “Kermit writes things, but always with an eye toward the stage,” Piggy mused.

            “Um hum.”  Maggie was quiet, seeing back over the years.  “He always wanted to turn everything into a play.”

            “The play’s the thing…” began Piggy lightly.

            “—wherein we’ll catch the conscience of the king,” Maggie finished automatically, but it was obvious her mind wasn’t on Shakespeare.  “But plays are…it’s not the same,” she finally burst out.  “It’s—you’re so dependent on other people that way.”  She looked away, wondering, perhaps, if she had said too much, but her sister-in-law pulled up the thread of her thought deftly.

            “No,” said Piggy.  “If you get a good script, you hope you do justice to it, but sometimes even a bad script will do if you can make it work for you.”

            “Are you saying writing isn’t important?” Maggie said, bristling in spite of her smooth skin.

            “Of course not,” said Piggy.  “But writing a script is a collaborative art whether you want it to be or not.  The best script in the world can’t necessarily survive terrible acting, and the worst script might work if the chemistry is right.”  She turned her blue eyes shrewdly on Maggie.  “That’s why you’d rather write stories and poems, isn’t it?  Because you don’t have to depend on others to tell your tale.”

            Hesitantly, Maggie nodded.  More proof that the pig was wasn’t as superficial as she’d assumed.  “Maybe,” she hedged.  She sat up suddenly, plucking at grass.  “I…when you count on people you get disappointed.”

            “Sometimes,” Piggy admitted carefully.

            “Mostly,” Maggie muttered.  She started to speak, then shook her head.

            “Go on,” said Piggy.  “I haven’t had a good argument in days.”

            It broke the tension nicely.  Maggie laughed in outrage and indignation, and Piggy preened a little, happy with her handiwork.

            “Okay,” said Maggie, squaring her shoulders for mock battle.  “Say you…say somebody writes the great American swamp novel.  What then?”

            “Well, that’s up to you.  What do you want to do with it?”

            Maggie made an adolescent shrug.  “I’m not sure what you mean,” said Maggie, and her cheeks looked a little flushed at having to ask, but Piggy was brisk and businesslike.

            “Well, if you write it because you want to—because you need to, maybe—then that’s enough, isn’t it?”

            “Yes,” said Maggie immediately, then hesitated.  “No.  Wait—I don’t know….”

            “But some people want to share what they write,” Piggy continued, politely ignoring Maggie’s confused outburst.  “You told me Kermit always like to write songs, but it wasn’t enough, was it, to just sing them for himself?”

            “No,” said Maggie with some bitterness.  “He had to go off and share them with the world.”

            “Not so easy, I guess.  And no guarantee that the world would want them.”

            “Of course they wanted them!” Margaret The Frog flashed.  “How could they not?”

            “That’s what I say,” said Piggy, and her companion subsided sheepishly.  “But when you share things with the world, sometimes the world wants to change them.  Sometimes the world wants to change you.”

            Margaret nodded unhappily.  “Kermit said that,” she said.  “I mean, not that specifically, but when he was starting out…well, you know how much Kermit loves children, and children’s television.”

            “Yes,” said Piggy, and tried not to think of the possibility of many, many, many bouncing baby figs.  They were, after all, talking about children in general, not children in specific.

            “But after he did that, some people didn’t think he could do other things.”

            “Yes,” said Piggy.  “But there were people who believed in him.”

            “Like Jim,” said Maggie suddenly.  She had not always been a big fan of the people and projects that took Kermit away from home, but she had always known and appreciated the special role Jim had played in Kermit’s success.

            “Yes,” said Piggy, and smiled suddenly.  “And you, and Jane and James.”    Margaret allowed a laugh.  “Okay,” she said.  “Yes—we knew he could do anything, the little show-off!”

            “So,” said Piggy, trying to gather her thoughts and steer the conversation back on track—if indeed there was a track to get back on.  “So, if y—if somebody writes a poem, or a story or even a book, then that person has to decide if they want to share it with the world, or just enjoy the creation themselves.”

Margaret took a deep breath.  “Say the person wants to share it, and somebody does want to buy it.”

            “Then you take me shopping,” Piggy said lightly, then held up her hand against Maggie’s protests.  “No, no—kidding.”  She pursed her lips and looked thoughtful, trying to think what to say.  “If someone does, then you have to decide if you are willing to sell it on the terms they’re willing to buy it on.  Do you know what I mean?”

            Maggie nodded grimly.  She knew about compromise, even if she didn’t like it.

            “And if you can work out terms, then they help you share your vision with the world.”  She paused, smiling a little.  “Contract negotiations,” she mused fondly.  “That’s why I have Marty.  They say they wrote the part for you.  You say you’d like to do it, but you can’t go to Italy for four whole months.  They say they’ll work around your schedule but you have to dye your hair.  You say you’ll wear a wig and they’ll have to get you…well.”  Margaret was looking at her with an amused and slightly sardonic expression, and Piggy guessed (rightly enough) that she pitied Kermit trying to negotiate with Marty.  Piggy coughed delicately, then looked pointedly at Maggie’s little notebook.  “Are you ready to share any of that with the world?” she asked.  Margaret hesitated, and Piggy slid her hand a couple of inches toward her sister-in-law.  She somehow doubted that she and Maggie would ever find themselves bawling on each other’s shoulders, but it was a gesture of intimacy nonetheless.  “Or maybe with just a friend?”

            Maggie’s face curved into a lop-sided smile, so familiar and yet so foreign that Piggy had to blink back her surprise.  “Not yet,” she said, with a strange, airy confidence.    “But some day.”

            “Good,” Piggy said, and might have said more, but out of the corner of her eye, she saw stealthy little frogs creeping toward her and Maggie, giggling wildly in anticipation of plastering their wet bodies all over the adults.  “But I think we’d better mount an offensive—or run for it.”

            Maggie laughed, a mischievous gleam in her eyes.  “Never retreat!” she cried. 

            They got up and ran for the water to the shouted joy of lot and lots (and lots) of little frogs.

Chapter 26: Somewhat BlueEdit

            “I can’t believe it’s time for you to go back,” said Jane.  She bustled about, fussing unnecessarily.  Jane was easily the most unflappable frog that Piggy knew, but she also knew from recent experience that when Jane fussed it was only to cover for some other emotion.  How much like her Kermit is, Piggy thought with great affection.  She moved impulsively and put her arms around Jane’s shoulders.  Surprised, Jane stopped moving, then turned and made the hug come full circle.

            “I’m so glad you came,” she whispered against Piggy’s shining curls.  “I’m so glad to see Kermit so…”  She stopped, not sure what to say.

            “Settled down?” teased Piggy, but Jane shook her head.

            “Happy,” she said firmly.  “I’m so glad to see Kermit so happy.”

            Piggy nodded, not trusting herself to speak.  She had been so deliriously happy herself that Kermit’s testament of happiness had been like a cherry on top of the sundae.

            “You’re gonna miss your train,” said James the Frog, looking at his pocketwatch and shaking his head.  Young people simply did not have proper respect for time, he grumbled to himself. 

            James was, quite possibly, correct about their disregard of the time.  The change in plans had been managed, with 38 hours shaved off the trip, but it necessitated a departure time for the railroad that was rather indecent.  Kermit and Piggy had stayed not quite two weeks, which seemed to be about as much vacation as Kermit could comfortably stand, no matter how comfortable the stay.  Jane and James had greeted the news blandly, but Piggy now knew them both well enough to see the secret amusement in their eyes.  She assumed that they knew what she knew—and what Margaret knew—that Kermit’s restlessness had nothing to do with them, and everything to do with Kermit’s dream of making a lot of people happy.  The world was a big place, and if Kermit was going to reach the entire world with his dream, well, he’d have to get cracking.

            Their luggage had been hauled to the edge of the road to await the arrival of Sherwood and the faithful pickup truck, but Piggy and Kermit had lingered as long as possible in the common clearing.  Restless or no, Kermit seemed reluctant to leave now that the time was upon him.

            “We’ll come home again when we can, Mom,” said Kermit, embracing his mother for the third—and last—time before leaving.  When their cheeks were pressed close, Jane murmured, automatically, “You be a good boy.”

            Piggy had said much the same thing to Orville and Norville, who had stood—awkward and morose—and offered repeatedly to carry things or be put to use.  Piggy had let them carry her trunk, and they had performed the duty with all the solemnity they possessed.

            Robin burst through the swamp grass, bouncing excitedly.  “He’s here!”  he cried.  “Mr. Sherwood is here!”  He had begged and begged to be allowed to stay up late and later and finally, early, in order to see his Uncle and new Aunt off. 

            “He can sleep it off this afternoon,” James had said, indulgently, granting amnesty.

            “Robin can come for a long visit once we get settled and figure out what comes next,” Kermit said, talking hastily as he walked toward the road and the sounds of a rattling old engine.

            “He can stay as long as he wants!” Piggy said, anxious to show that it was not just Kermit doing the inviting.

            “Yippee!” shouted Robin, who was immediately shushed by all of the adults.  Maggie did not appear to be a morning person, and her shushing was, perhaps, a bit more stringent than some of the other adults.  Robin was quieted, but not cowed, and he continued to bounce around them as they made their way toward the country road that ran past the swamp.  James and Jane and Maggie and a handful of early risers followed them toward the road, with James casting anxious glances at his pocketwatch every so often.

            At last, the battered truck was in sight, blowing faintly blue smoke in the early morning light from its exhaust.  More hurried goodbyes, then Sherwood had the door standing open. 

            Because of the stick shift, Kermit got in first, and—just before mounting the running board, Piggy turned and looked back the way they had come.  She saw the swamp, timeless and serene, and wondered that it had ever looked strange and intimidating.  She saw the paths that countless generations of frogs had made through the rustling swamp grasses—none of them in high heels.  She saw the waving hands and smiling faces of Kermit’s family—of Jane and James and Margaret and Robin—and oh, there was Matthius with Puddin’ waving a pudgy hand.  Not Kermit’s family, Piggy corrected herself.  Our family.  Her vision blurred suddenly, but she covered it well.  She was, after all, a professional.  And she was also Mrs. Kermit The Frog.  She rose to the occasion and waved gaily. 

            “Good-bye, everybodee!” Piggy called.  She climbed in the truck.  She was not wearing a hat this time, but she waved a hanky theatrically out the window, finally letting it drift back as the truck rounded the corner and disappeared in a cloud of dust.  Maggie rolled her eyes as Orville and Norville dashed after the scrap of pink linen, but she could admire the artistry in the gesture all the same.  Margaret The Frog watched the road until the dust had all settled and the sound of morning had replaced the sounds of dawn, then she turned and started back toward the clearing with Orville and Norville.

            “Nice of you to take Miss Piggy’s luggage,” she said.  Her voice and manner were a little stiff, but the twins cottoned to the fact that she was making an overture of friendship to them.

            “Um, we could help you carry things, too,” said Orville eagerly.  “You know, clothes or, um….”  He trailed off in confusion, but Norville came to his rescue.

            “Or anything else you need carrying,” he said.  Maggie noted with some amusement that his voice seemed to be deepening a little, marking him as a man, if a young one.

            “I’ll keep that in mind,” Maggie said, managing to remove all the sarcasm and most of the irony from her voice.  “If you keep this up, you guys are going to give Sherwood a run for his money.”

            They exchanged startled glances.  Was she teasing them?  Was Maggie tweaking them or being sincere?  It was hard to know.  While they were still pondering, Maggie nudged Orville with her bony little shoulder and laughed.

            “Just don’t start running the roads in a pick-up,” she said.  “You two are dangerous enough in the trees!”  She started trotting, and picked up speed as she dashed toward the edge of the trees ahead.  With a whoop, Orville darted after her, with Norville in hot pursuit.  One, two, three figures swung up into the overhanging branches and disappeared from view as the swamp swallowed them utterly.  You can take a frog out of the swamp, they say, but you can’t take the swamp out of a frog.

 

            Piggy leaned her shining curls against the cool glass of the window and looked out the window.  The trip down dusty lanes must be affecting her, for she wiped now and then at her eyes.  Beside her, Kermit sat still, but she could feel the coiled readiness in him—as usual, he had his face toward the future and what it might hold.

            Mrs. Kermit The Frog wondered if Kermit knew how much he took for granted, wondering if he knew what it was like to feel the warmth and security of knowing where you came from, and where you belonged.  Piggy looked down at the ring on her hand and smiled.  She was just beginning to know.

            The train was mostly empty.  It would not pick up any significant number of passengers until it they got into a less rural setting.  Kermit took advantage of the privacy to slip his arm around her waist.  With a sigh of great contentment, Piggy leaned away from the window and into  her husband’s shoulder—away from the cold and into the warmth.  Kermit smiled indulgently.

            “Go ahead and sleep,” he said softly.  “I’ll be right here.”

 

            The ringing of a bell tied to a cord gave warning of a customer.  Jack came out of the back where he was trying to down a peanut-butter sandwich, wiping his hands carefully on a moist towelette.

            “Whacha got there, Sherwood?” asked the storekeeper.  Sherwood drew out a carefully wrapped brown paper package, tied with enough string to secure the Mongrel hordes.

            “S’picture,” he said.  “I was hoping you could help me find a frame for it.”

            “Got plenty of frames,” the man said.  “What kind are you looking for?”

            “Somethin’ fancy,” Shewood said.  “I like that one there.”

            The man followed the line of his pointing finger.  “The gold one?  The big one with all the curlicues?”

            “That’s the one, Jack,” Sherwood said firmly.  “That’s just the thing.”  Carefully, regretfully, he laid the wrapped package on the counter as though fearful of letting it out of his hands.  “Reckon you could frame this for me afore I come back to town on Friday?”

            “I could do it now, if you want to wait.”

            “Really?  That’d be—that’d be great.”  Sherwood hesitated, then picked up the package and handed it to his friend behind the counter.  Gently, Jack peeled the paper back to reveal a beautiful 8 x 10 glossy of stage and screen diva, Piggy The Frog nee Miss Piggy.  His eyes grew wide.

            “Pretty nice, Sherwood,” he said approvingly.  “I’ll take extra special care of this.”

            Scrawled across the bottom of the photo, in large loopy cursive, it read, “To Sherwood, from his biggest fan, Miss Piggy” and under that, “Kissy, kissy!”

            No doubt about it—things around the swamp were never going to be quite the same.

Chapter 27: Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-JigEdit

            They stood on the threshold of the huge Spanish-style house and looked at each other.  It was much too big for them, and still so new that it hardly felt like home, but what did feel like home to Piggy was to stand here, with Kermit’s arms around her, and look into his bulbous eyes.

            Ever the opportunist, Kermit leaned in and kissed her.

            “It’s good to be home,” he said softly, and his eyes said it was not the only good thing.

            “Yes,” Piggy said.  “Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.”

            Kermit laughed at her nonsense.  “What was that?”

            Piggy smiled, wondering if she could explain.  “When I was a little girl, I used to love Nursery Rhymes.  Mother Goose, especially.  There was one poem that always made me laugh—it ended with ‘Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.’”

            “Sounds painful,” said Kermit dryly.

            Piggy shook her head, and put her shiny new key into the lock.  “I don’t remember the whole poem, but I loved that last line.  When I’d been out all day with my mother, shopping—and let me tell you, if you think I can shop for a long time, well….  Once we were settled in the car and started for home, that line would always bounce around in my head.  Home again, home again….”  She stepped through and looked around.  Their stuff was there in the house, but sparse, giving the home a not-quite-finished look.  She turned to Kermit and smiled.  “That’s what we’ve done today—gone from home to home.  From your home—where you made me welcome, to our home.”  She turned and kissed him.  “Welcome home.”

            “Oh, Piggy….” said Kermit softly. 

He took her hands in his, and they stood there on the threshold looking around at this new kingdom of theirs.  It was clean and shiny and smelled of lemon cleaner.  They still smelled faintly of swamp grass and wood smoke. 

“Do you think—“

“I hope that we—“

They broke off, smiling at each other on the threshold of their lives together.  What would happen next?  Anything!  Everything.  With Kermit, Piggy thought anything might be possible—and often was.

           

Epilogue

 

            “I didn’t know it then—wouldn’t know it for a long time yet to come—but sometimes it takes a change in someone you love to make you see a change in yourself that needs to happen.  Kermit had changed, yes—but so had I, and while he had changed for the better, my own change was just beginning.  Who says that you stop growing after you lose your tail?  Certainly not me—I know better.  But the first summer that my brother came home a married frog marked the beginning of a journey for me that would change the course of my life forever.”

            “I dedicate this book with great affection to Miss Piggy, my dear sister-in-law.  I daresay we inflicted a few truly miserable days on each other in the beginning, but I hope I’ve made up my share in the years since.”

                        --excerpt from the dedication of “The Pig Who Wouldn’t Go, and other stories, by Margaret The Frog

 

 

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