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Wearin o' the Green for St. Pat's Day (Fanfic)

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Chapter 1: Wake up and Smell the ShamrocksEdit

“You won’t forget to wake me up early, will you?” asked Robin excitedly.  Kermit smiled and tucked the covers more firmly around Robin’s middle.

            “Promise,” said Kermit.  He bent and pressed a fond kiss over Robin’s smooth forehead, enjoying the damp, faintly swampy smell of a squeaky-clean young frog.

            “And my uniform’s all ready, right?”

            “Right.”

            “And my water bottle is in the fridge?”

            “Yes, Robin.”

            “And my shoes are all polished?”

            “Robin,” Kermit said firmly.  “You don’t wear shoes.”

            “Oh,” said Robin sheepishly.  “Right.  I’m just excited.”

            “Well, I’m excited, too,” said Kermit, “but tomorrow morning is going to come early, so if we don’t get a little shut-eye—“

Robin obliged by squeezing his eyes tightly shut with enough energy to power a Sherman tank.  Kermit sighed, patted him lightly on the head, and switched out the light.  He paused in the doorway for a moment, enjoying the sight of Robin nestled into his bed—a real bed.  In a few weeks, Robin would go back to the swamp for Spring Break, leaving his uncle with a little time on his hands sans progeny.  Kermit observed the march of days with equal parts delight and dread.  He shut the door and walked down the hall toward his own room.

            Robin had been wildly excited about his Frog Scout troop being invited to walk in the big Hensonville St.Saint Patrick’s Day parade.  It was a big honor, for they would not only walk in formation, but they would dispense candy to the children and flyers to all of the adults along the route.  The flyers would remindflyer’s, which were several different shades of green, reminded the citizens of the goings-on in the once-empty warehouse near the end of town where the parade would end.ended.  Kermit smiled, again with anticipation and dread.  There would be a big chili -cook-off and charity bazaar going on.  There would be booths and fair games.  There was to be a pie-eating contest that had Gonzo and Rizzo doing “pie-drills” at the drop of a, um, pie.  The Electric Mayhem had promised to provide music, and Fozzie was playing Barker.  “Seems like that ought to be my job,” Rowlf had joked, but Rowlf had duties of his own that day.  Even Piggy had something planned to help the cause, but his quests for information about the specifics had been met with giggles, evasion and downright insubordination.  Kermit thought determinedly of the thirty-dozen details that he was sure he had forgotten to remember, but in reality he was pretty certain that Scooter would not let him down.

The mayor and city planner had called Kermit in, praised his contributions to the city, flattered him to the point of embarrassment and all but demanded he head up the day’s events.  Kermit had left the meeting amused, resigned and clutching a list of potential sponsors.  Scooter had made short work of that contact list and, supplementing it with Kermit’s own connections and the connections of Scooter’s once-powerful uncle, had garnered the manpower and dry goods necessary to make this flying umbrella go.

            The city had given permission to use the warehouse space for the fund-raiser, and the money raised was to be channeled into several programs and events in the thriving (ahem) metropolis of Hensonville.  Robin’s scout troop hoped to raise not only money, but awareness, too, with a conservation booth touting several of the projects that his troop hoped to launch in the coming year.  Kermit did not expect to see the inside of his domicile from sun-up to long after sun-down tomorrow.  Speaking of the inside…Kermit made haste to examine the inside of his eyelids with determination.

            “Wake up!”?” cried Robin excitedly.  “The sun isit up!  The sun is up already!”

            Kermit groaned and tried to roll out of bed.  He managed it on the third try, blinking blearily at his bright-eyed nephew in the faint sunlight filtering into his room.  “The sun is up,” was an overstatement.  “The sun is visible” would have been more accurate.  Nevertheless, Kermit knew with crystal clarity that he would never fight his way out of that bed twice in the same morning, so he stayed where he was for a moment, then stumbled downstairs for coffee.

            Foreseeing his own short-sightedness this morning, Kermit had done everything but press the little button on the coffee pot.  He did so now, and in a very short period of time—which seemed very long indeed to the caffeine-challenged amphibian—he had in his Disney store mug a cup of hot joe that revived him in stages.  When he could almost see the bottom of the mug, he began to feel amphibian again, and celebrated by refilling his cup.

            Robin was up, dressed and as well-turned-out in his Frog Scouts uniform as a bandbox.  He waited with ill-disguised impatience for the hands of the clock to move forward, practically hopping up and down in his enthusiasm.  Mindful of Robin’s heightened state of excitement, Kermit forewent a shower, shave and clothing—since these things are almost always optional for frogs—and in no time the two frogs were peddling down the wide streets of Hensonville toward the site of the St. Patrick’s Day fair.  Kermit could certainly make use of Robin’s seemingly boundless (boundful?) energy until it was time for him to line up with the other frog scouts for the parade.  And for that, Kermit was glad.  It was going to be a busy day, and he’d take all the help he could get!

Chapter 2: The Set-UpEdit

            The dunking booth was full, and Kermit looked at it doubtfully.  Full of what? was the question Kermit feared to ask.  Gonzo followed his line of sight and realized at once what Kermit must be wondering.

            “It’s not Kool-aid,” said Gonzo reassuringly.

            “Oh, good,” said Kermit, with a great sigh of relief.  “I was worried that—“

            “It’s Jello.”

            There was a long silence, broken by another sigh.

            “Gonzo, who do you think will want to see someone dumped into a tank of green Jell-O?”

            “That sounds fun!” said Robin.  “Can I try, Uncle Kermit?  After the parade?  Can I?  Puhlease?”

            “We’ll, er, talk about it after the parade, Robin, okay?”

            “Oh, okay, Uncle Kermit.  I won’t forget.”

            Inwardly, Kermit groaned.  Small chance of that!  Robin had a great memory for things Kermit wished he wouldn’t remember.  He began to steer his nephew away.

            “Si, si—is brilliant, no?” said Pepe.  Kermit was beginning to question the wisdom of allowing Gonzo, Rizzo and Pepe the leeway to feed off of each other’s bizarre behavior, but there wasn’t much he could do about it now.  “All of the hot womens will want to dunk Pepe, non?” asked the saucy little king prawn.

            Only if they can hold you under, thought Kermit grimly.  "Um, sure, Pepe," he said.  They moved on.

            “This looks great, Rowlf,” said Kermit admiringly. 

            “Wow, Mr. Rowlf!  I like the way you’ve decorated your piano!” piped Robin.

            “Thanks, short stuff,” said Rowlf, winking at Robin and wiggling the bill of his Frog Scout cap.

            “I’ll bet you really pack the people in for this,” Kermit said, admiring the posters advertising showtimes.

            “Hope so,” said the canine piano player amiably.  “Wayne and Wanda are going to open, followed by our little quartet, and Marvin is going to do every other show.”

            “Marvin, um, Suggs?” asked Kermit.  Rowlf gave him a frank look and shrugged.

            “He wanted to do something for the cause.”

            “Well, that’s admirable, I suppose.  Speaking of cause…do you know where Piggy is setting up her booth?  I still don’t know what she’s doing to raise money.”

            Rowlf suddenly became very preoccupied with what looked to be a flea behind his ear, and Kermit’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.  He had never known Rowlf to have fleas—not ever.

            “Rowlf—do you know something I should know?”

            Rowlf looked up, his eyes wide and guileless.  “Absolutely not,” said his shaggy friend.  Kermit returned the look for a moment, then figured he was being paranoid, and tried to shrug it off.   “Oh,” said Rowlf, as though suddenly remembering.  “You might want to check out Chef’s booth.  He’s doing something, um, green in honor of the holiday.  I was hopin’ for green beer, but….”

            “As opposed to the things he serves that shouldn’t be green,” said Kermit dryly, and the two males exchanged wicked smiles.  “I’ll check it out,” said the resigned amphibian.  “It can’t be worse that last week’s Swedish tennis balls.”

            Rowlf shrugged.  “I thought they were better this time,” he said philosophically.  Kermit laughed and walked away with his arm around Robin’s shoulder.

            Once they had gone, the talented canine performer let out a slow breath.  “I am absolutely certain that you do not need to know what Piggy is doing to raise money.  You won’t like it, and it’s too late to stop her.”

            “Okay, Sweetums,” Scooter was saying patiently.  “When people come in their cars and want to park for the parade, you make sure they find a place.”

            Sweetums nodded enthusiastically.  “Ah can do that!” he said proudly.

            “Great!” intoned Scooter.  “But remember—we need to be sure we’re leaving enough room for people to get out of each row, okay?”

            Sweetums nodded, but seemed vague enough to make Scooter ask again.

            “Do you know what I mean, Sweetums?  We want to be sure that the cars can get out if someone who parked in the first row wants to leave before someone parked in the last row.  Got it now?”

            The little light bulb went on.  It was a small bulb, but it was a sincere one.  “Oh!” said the gentle giant.  “Ah unnerstand!”

            Scooter patted his arm, which was about even with the top of his own head.  “Good job, Sweetums,” he said generously.  “Thanks for helping out!”

            “No problem!”  The big fellow gave a big thumbs up, and Scooter moved on to the snow cone machines to see how the penguins were fairing.

Chapter 3: Many Feathers Make Light WorkEdit

            “What do you mean, am I sure?  Of course I’m sure this is safe,” Dr. Bunsen Honeydew wheedled.  “Now just climb the ladder like a good boy, Beakie, and let me know if you can see the bottle from up there.”

            “Mee meep meee!” Beaker protested, but feebly.  When the doctor continued to beam at him benevolently, he sighed and started climbing.  He wasn’t particularly scared of heights, but he wasn’t all that wild about jumping from them.

            “—going fine so far,” said Scooter with his usual unflappable air.  “Everyone’s reported for duty—wait, no.  We may not have a story-telling area today, Kermit, but that’s the only cancellation I had.”  He held up the calico dress and be-ribboned mopcap.  The accompanying apron was ruffled, but Scooter was not.  “Catherine said she’d sub once her class is over, but I told her not to sweat it.”

            “Fine, fine.  What happened to Hilda?” Kermit asked, concerned.  “She’s not sick, is she?”

            “No—nothing like that,” said Scooter.  “She’s just not going to be able to get here in time to make the first few sets.  By that time, I figure it will be too late to put out the signs.  Best just to let it go.”  He looked at Kermit speculatively and grinned.  “You might look good in a mop-cap,” he began, but Kermit held up his hands to ward off any ideas.

            “No way,” he said dryly.  “But you could check with Piggy.  She’s not too wild about aprons, but—boy!—does she like hats!”

            Scooter looked uncomfortable, consulting his clipboard while a telling blush crept up his cheeks.

            “Oh, um, Miss Piggy,” he said nervously.  “I—I think she’s already got something going today.”

            “And what would that be?” Kermit asked.  The guilty and nervous reactions of more than a handful of the fair participants had convinced him that there was something he didn’t know that they did.  He didn’t know what he didn’t know, but he did know two things—(1) it involved whatever Piggy was selling at her booth, and (2) he wasn’t going to like it when he found out.  He sighed and hoped it wasn’t the sort of thing that would involve bloodshed or a lawsuit.

            “Gosh, Boss—lots to do!” cried Scooter and, showing his unswerving instinct for self-preservation, sprinted away.  Once again, Kermit frowned—and moved on.

            “Um, Bobo—I don’t mean to criticize, but why are you blowing up the balloons yourself?  We bought a big helium tank.  Didn’t you know?”

            The big bear made at face at Kermit and finished blowing up a mylar balloon shaped like a shamrock.  To Kermit’s surprise, it floated toward the sky on a bright silver string.

            “What the hey?” Kermit muttered, watching its ascent.

            Got the tank right here,” said an unfamiliar voice.  Kermit looked around in surprise and Robin started to giggle.

            “Who said that?” asked Kermit.  There was no one but the three of them.

            “It’s Bobo, Uncle Kermit,” said Robin.  “He’s talking funny!”

            Bobo was indeed talking funny, and the mystery of the unused helium tank and the floating balloon was dissolved in an instant.  While they two amphibians watched, Bobo took a big pull on the helium tank, then proceeded to blast the lighter-than-air out of his lungs into a balloon shaped like a pot full of gold coins.  Bobo tied the balloon off and handed it to Robin.

            Here you go, little fellow!” he said fondly.  Ready to march in the parade?”

            “I sure am,” said Robin enthusiastically.  “Uncle Kermit’s letting me help him until it’s time to step off.”

            Helping so far had consisted of following his Uncle around the fair site while the various booths were examined with varying degrees of dubiousness and alarm.  The Swedish Chef’s green pancakes had been surprisingly palatable, and Kermit withdrew his earlier misgivings.  The green syrup, however, had proven too much for his sensibilities, and he had simply handed the warm, flat bread to Robin plain.  They munched as they headed toward the bazaar.

            The Bizarre Bazaar—as the sign announced—was an interesting conglomeration of the sublime to the outright weird.  Citizens of Hensonville had been urged with great energy to part with any knick-knacks or gewgaws that might be of interest to anyone besides the trash collectors, and the resulting array of flotsam and jetsam was as fascinating as it was diverse.  On the long front table, items that would be available only during the afternoon auction were displayed, giving bidders a chance to examine the wares close-on.  Several ladies from town were arranging everything from clothes to toys to books on the many long tables set up along the edges of the pavilion.  Although the entire bazaar was indoors (due to the unpredictability of the weather), different stations had used streamers, ropes, tents and tables to stake individual claim to each different area.

            Looking around the grounds, Kermit was pleased. 

            “This is looking really good,” he said happily. 

            “Yeah,” agreed Robin.  “I can’t wait until all the people come in after the parade!  Oh!  Oh, look!  There’s my troop’s booth!”

            Robin shot off toward where the Frog Scouts Banner was being hung with great precision by Robin’s Scout leader, Mr. Rana and Sam the American Eagle.

            “Hi Scoutmaster Rana!  Can I help?  Is there anything I can do?”

            “Always,” said the older frog, smiling broadly.  “Hello, Kermit,” he said warmly.  “I’d shake your hand, but…”

            Kermit chuckled and reached to help.  It took all four of them to hang the banner, the Frog Scout Flag and the American Flag to the satisfaction of Sam the Eagle.  Kermit managed to talk him out of pulling out his level for a third time, and breathed a sigh of relief when Sam subsided.

            “There now,” said Scoutmaster Rana.  “Our booth will be all ready when the parade is over.  Good job, Frogscout Robin!”  Robin saluted smartly, all but vibrating with pleasure.  “And thank you gentlemen, too,” said the dark-skinned frog graciously.  “I think this is going to be a wonderful festival—and the Frog Scouts can earn their citizenship badges and their environmental badges today just by manning the booth.”

            “Don’t forget our parade badges!” Robin said worriedly.  “We’ll hike over five miles today!”

            “Not to worry, Frogscout Robin!” said the leader solemnly.  “I’ve already got them ordered.”

            This news was met with considerable relief by Robin, and amusement by the older males.  Mr. Rana pointed to some boxes in the back of their booth.

            “Help me stock the booth with family conservation kits, won’t you, Robin?” he said.  Robin hopped to it, leaving the adults alone.

            “Everything in order?” asked the Scoutmaster.

            Kermit gave a half-shrug, half-nod.  “If this were a dress rehearsal, I’d say we were good to go.”

            “Sure smells good!” the older frog said.  All three of them took in a deep and deeply satisfying quaff of pungent air.  The smell of hot bread from the pancake stand, the sweet, fruity scent of baked apples, the fair smells of popcorn and cotton candy and cinnamon-sugar elephant ears were making everyone’s mouth water, and told of a brisk business once the parade deposited it personnel and audience at the door of the warehouse.

            “It does!” agreed Kermit.

            “Yes.  Very nice,” said Sam formally, sniffing the air again.

            “All the areas staffed?”

            “All but one,” Kermit admitted.

            Sam the Eagle grabbed him by the shoulders, looking shocked.

            “Oh no!” he cried.  “How could this have happened!”

            Kermit gave a half-smile and attempted to disentangle himself from Sam’s feathery grip. 

            “Well, you know, Sam.  And it’s only one booth.  I think we’ll survive.”

            “But—but—which area?”

            “Um, the children’s storytelling area,” said Kermit.  “You know, for the younger children.”

            Sam slapped a hand over his forehead dramatically, and Kermit found he could no longer make eye contact with Scoutmaster Rana without the fear of bursting out laughing.  He looked away hastily, but a wicked thought was occurring to him.  He clasped Sam’s arms firmly and looked as serious as he was able.

            “Well, Sam,” he said solemnly.  “If you know someone who could help us out…”

            Sam’s eyes brightened and he took on the saving-the-world-one-crisis-at-a-time look.

            “I’ll do it!”

            “Gee, Sam.  Are you sure?” Kermit asked.  Scoutmaster Rana had one webbed hand over his mouth, pretending to cough, but his eyes were twinkling with shared mischief.  Kermit dared not look his way.

            “Absolutely!  Positively!  Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it!”

            Kermit looked skeptical—or, at least, he tried, but eventually he allowed himself to be persuaded and sent Sam looking for Scooter’s carrot-top head.

            “He’ll have your, um, props and things,” called Kermit after him.

            Sam stopped and saluted smartly, much as Robin had done.

            “You can count on me, sir!” he said, and strode purposefully off.

            After he went, Kermit turned to find the elder frog looking at him with respect and bemusement.

            “Well-handled, young sir,” said the Scoutmaster.  “And where—exactly—can we expect to see Sam this afternoon.”

            Kermit smiled and looked serene.  “Um, dressed as Mother Goose and surrounded by small children.”

            The Scoutmaster laughed heartily—so heartily, in fact, that Robin came up to see what was the matter.

            “What’s so funny?” asked Robin, eyes wide.

            “Oh, um, Sam’s going to help out by working in the storytelling area.”

            “Wow!  That’s nice of Mr. Sam,” said Robin.  “What’s he going to do?”

            Kermit put his arm around Robin’s shoulder and steered him toward the parade route.  They should leave now if they were going to get there in plenty of time.

            “Sam has a very important job.  He’s going to be Mother Goose.”

Chapter 4: Making an AppearanceEdit

            Saying that Piggy paid attention to how she looked was a little like saying that the sun was hot, and Antarctica is cold, but few could argue today with the fact that Piggy’s considerable efforts toward looking as fetching as it was possible to look had not been misspent.  Her blonde curls were half-up, framing her prettily made-up face, and she was wearing a light green dress that showed off a great deal of her to advantage.  A certain unnamed frog would find much to like in the color of her dress, and much to admire in the cut of it, but the overall effect—and the use she planned to make of it—were likely to be objectionable.  Her gloves were lilac, like the first pair she had ever worn, and she hoped this touch of familiarity would soften some of the surprise.  The gloves matched her sash, which tied in a poufy bow in the back.  There was a wide-brimmed unpainted straw hat with a lilac ribbon around it and it shaded her face becomingly.

            “Wow!” said Gonzo, stopping on his trot by to give Piggy and admiring once-over.  “I’ll bet Kermit has a cow when he sees you!”

            “Keep moving, beak-brain,” Piggy growled angrily, then attempted to recover some of her primness.  “Kermit does not need a cow,” she said snippily.  “He has a pig, and that should be quite enough.”

            “Looks like it,” Gonzo muttered dreamily, and Piggy turned on him.

            What!?”

            “Looks like I’ve got a chicken,” Gonzo said hastily.  “That plenty for me!”

            “And more than you deserve!”

            Gonzo just smiled.  “Don’t I know it!” he smirked, and walked off smartly.  Piggy watched him go, puzzled by the green, soggy footprints that he was leaving in the grass.  Shaking herself out of her reverie, she smoothed her dress and looked around for Scooter or anyone who might help her find her station.  She did not want to find fans waiting when she arrived—it was bad form, after all.

            This was an important day, and it was an important day for Mon Capitan, she thought defensively.  She wanted to do her share to help their community, and if Kermit didn’t like her method of fund-raising, well, that was not her fault!  And that frog could be so unreasonable at times!  Why, just the other day--  Piggy managed to reign herself back in by reminding herself that Kermit had not, after all, made any objections to her full participation in the accumulation of greenbacks for the city.  Yet.  She shook her head once again.  I’ll think about that tomorrow, she told herself firmly, and that phrase brought back such cinematic grandeur that she had to laugh.  And go looking for her own booth.

            There was a veritable sea of bobbing frogs lined up at the start of the parade, and Kermit watched with some bemusement and no small amount of envy as Scoutmaster Rana’s requests for quiet and order were obeyed.

            “That never works for me,” thought Kermit, sighing, but he did not seem genuinely morose.  Satisfied that Robin was safely ensconced with his troop, he went to find his own place in the parade.  Kermit had initially argued that he could not possibly be in the parade and supervise the activities at the end of it, but although it had at first seemed that he was prevailing in his opinion, Scooter’s usual talent for having things well in hand had caused him to relent and agree to walk in the parade.

            Walk!” Kermit was saying.  “I said I’d walk in the parade.  Whose idea was this?”

            This was an obviously reluctant specimen of the equine species whose bad humor might have had something to do with the fact that his mane and tale had been temporarily dyed bright green and he was wearing a sash around his neck which said, “Kiss me, I’m Irish.”  He looked at Kermit balefully from under a brilliant forelock.

            “Wasn’t mine,” he said acerbically, and Kermit startled a little and drew back.

            “Oh!” he said.  “I—I didn’t mean to be rude.  It just that, um….  Look, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but I’m not much of a horseback rider,” Kermit stammered.  “I would much rather walk.”

            “Nobody’s stopping you,” said the horse irritably.  “And I’m sure as heck not gonna argue for a chance to show off looking like this.”

            Kermit looked at him thoughtfully.  “You look—you look very festive,” said the kind-hearted amphibian, trying to be honest.  “Very much in keeping with the theme of the day.”

            “Hmph,” snorted the horse.  “You can talk.  At least your hair isn’t chartreuse.”

            Kermit looked at him for a moment.  “I don’t have any hair,” Kermit said at last, in the vain hope of making more pleasant conversation.

            “Lucky you,” came the disinterested reply. 

            Kermit sighed inwardly.  “Um, look, uh—“

            “Blackstone,” came the grudging response.  It fitted.  The name fitted the horse well, even if his normally charcoal mane was bright green.

            “Um, nice to meet you, Blackstone.  I’m Kermit.  The Frog.  I didn’t mean to be, you know, rude or anything, but I’m not a very expert rider.”

            Blackstone raised his head proudly.  “I’ve never lost a rider in my entire career!” he said proudly.  “A couple of shoes, a groom or two, and the love of my life--but never a rider.  You can bet your backside on that.”

            I will be, Kermit thought, but managed to refrain from saying so.  He looked at Blackstone nervously, but something about the tilt of the horse’s proud neck told Kermit he might be giving more offense than he wished if he refused the offer of a ride completely.  He took a deep breath.  I can do this, he thought. I mean, I can ride a bicycle, right?  How different can this be?

            Different.  But he was up, and Blackstone was as good as his word.  Kermit bounced around a bit, but after a few tactful suggestions from his mount, found his seat by gripping more firmly with his strong legs.  The reins he was allowed to hold in his hands on the condition that on no account would he try to steer.  Kermit managed to loop them around the saddle thingy and began to actually relax, thinking this could be an adventure.  This was good, because the parade was lining up.

            Scooter had checked on almost everyone, and he was almost satisfied.  Despite his own dire predictions, Sam the Eagle had really accepted the only remaining job with excessive (and entirely superfluous) dignity, taking his, um, perch at the storyteller’s station with aplomb.  The music was lining up—good, good, thought Scooter.  The booths were all staffed.  There was one booth that he had not checked on, and Scooter turned his sneakered feet toward it with equal parts eagerness and trepidation.  Quite without realizing he did it, his hand sought the neat wad of currency clipped together in his pocket, but when he caught himself thinking about the things that he might ultimately spend it on at the fair, he blushed and withdrew his hand hastily.  Plenty of time for fun at the fair, he thought, after all the booths were checked in.  And he did have to check all the booths in, didn’t he?  Well, didn’t he?  Scooter lifted his chin defiantly.  It was, after all, his job to check out that everything was running smoothly.  How could he complain to Kermit if he shirked his responsibilities?

            This did not actually satisfy his conscience, but it certainly stunned it into insensibility.  Scooter made himself content with that, and went to check on Miss Piggy’s booth.

            Robin was thrilled at the sight of his uncle astride a horse—a black and green horse, no less!—but then, Robin cheerfully hopped onto Sweetum’s shoulder at the slightest provocation.  Kermit didn’t think he was the best judge of what made a suitable mount.  Still, the little frog’s enthusiasm was catching, and Kermit felt very fine and proud indeed to be the center of envy and interest when Blackstone trod sedately past the frog scout troop to take his place in line. 

            The now-complacent amphibian was moving with the flowing motion of the horse and had ceased bouncing around like a ping-pong ball in the saddle.  He reached forward and patted the dark horse awkwardly.

            “You’re doing great, Blackstone,” he said.  “I think I’m getting the hang of this.  I feel much more comfortable than I did.  Thanks for the ride.”

            “Don’t mention it,” came the short reply, but Kermit was certain the horse was glad he had.  It was funny, Kermit thought absently.  Sometimes, all you had to do to reach a pleasant understanding was to talk about things.  He couldn’t imagine why everyone didn’t try that approach first.

            Before the day was over, he was going to figure it out.

Chapter 5: Getting Down to BusinessEdit

            “And you’re sure the apron doesn’t make me look fat?” asked Sam anxiously.  His bushy eyebrows were drawn together in consternation.

            Gonzo and Rizzo looked at him speculatively.

            “Heck, no,” said Rizzo.  “You look fine.  The hat makes it.”

            “Really?”

            “Yeah,” agreed Gonzo.  “And I think the trim on the dress really brings out the color of your eyes.”

            “Oh, well,” said Sam, almost blushing.  “Um, thank you.”

            Pepe continued to stroke his chin thoughtfully.  “Hi don’t know,” he said slowly.  “Hi am thinking that the pantaloons make ju look a little hippy.”

            “Hippy?” Sam cried, alarmed.  He raised his calico skirt and looked at his drumsticks.  “But—but I work out three times a week.  Durn those carbs!”

            Rizzo sighed and looked heavenward, and Gonzo reached over and kicked Pepe surreptitiously while Sam was looking with chagrin at his knees.  There was a sound like air leaving a balloon, then Pepe gave a discreet cough, looked Sam up and down and said, “No—Hi was wrong.  Ju look svelte.  Hit was just a shadow.”

            “Oh!  Well.  Thank goodness,” muttered Sam, looking relieved.  “And—the hat’s not too much?”

            “Well—“

            “It’s fantastic, Sam,” said Rizzo quickly.  “Have fun with the kids, ‘kay?”  They made a hasty retreat, Pepe in tow.

            “What’d you go and do that for?” Rizzo complained.

            “Yeah!  Sam’s helping out—don’t make him feel bad about his costume.”

            “H’okay, h’okay!” said Pepe in a placating manner.  “Hi am chust trying to be honest, h’okay?  Hi have my reputation to think of.”

            It was a testament to Pepe’s dignity that he did not react at all to the snorts of derision from his two companions.

            “Yeah, yeah,” said Rizzo.  “With your reputation, Sam probably better watch himself while he’s wearing that dress.”

            Pepe puffed himself up, ready to defend his honor—or Sam’s, or…well, something—but Gonzo put a furry blue arm around both of their shoulders.

            “C’mon guys—no more fighting!  Somebody’s got to help me test my gelatin diving.”

            Bickering amicably, they moved on.

            “Drat this weather!” said Wayne irritably.  Wanda looked scandalized.

            “Why, Wayne, dear—whatever is the matter?”

            “It’s this weather!” Wayne lamented.  “It’s March, for goodness sake!  How can we sing Blowing in the Wind when the wind isn’t even blowing!”

            Wanda patted his arm in what she hoped was a conciliatory manner.  “I think our song will sound just fine even if it isn’t windy, Wayne.”  She looked around nervously.  “And maybe this will be, um, safer—you know?”

            But Wayne was implacable.  Wanda sighed.  She was just glad she had talked him out of singing the other Bob Dylan song-- Shelter From the Storm.

            The Swedish Chef poured some thick green batter from a battered tin pitcher into the skillet and watched with great satisfaction as the hotcake began to form little air bubbles around the edge.

            “Der hootcakes is cukin’ gud!” he hummed to himself.  He eased the edge of a spatula under the browning edge and flipped the hot bread expertly into the air, catching it with ease in the heavy cast-iron skillet.  Perched nervously on a tall stool, Camilla thought with wonder that Chef was remarkably proficient at some things, if only he would stick to them.  Hoping to be of use at the festival, she had volunteered her services and found herself paired with her old occasional stage partner, the Swedish Chef.  He had seemed delighted to have her, but Camilla found it somewhat difficult to relax in such a small space full of so many sharp objects.  She kept one eye glued on the man in the chef’s hat and made herself useful, transferring stacks of hot bread to the warming ovens in preparation of the coming crowds.

            A moment more on the other side and the pancake was done, crisp-edged and steaming.  He transferred it to a waiting stack of mouth-watering (even though they were green) pancakes.  Chef reached for the pitcher again and tipped it to pour.  Nothing happened, and he stared reproachfully into the mouth of the pitcher.

            “Nu mur hotcake batturski,” he bemoaned.  Camilla looked around hastily and handed him another similar pitcher filled with some thick, green substance, but the Chef only peered at it and shook his head.

            “Buc buck buugawk-gawk?” Camilla asked.

            Chef shook his head again.

            “Noop.  Dis iz der sir-opp!”  He continued to look for more batter.

            Camilla peered carefully into the pitcher, noting the viscous green liquid within.

            This was the syrup?  She made a mental note to send out for lunch.

            “Well?” Piggy asked.  She batted her eyelashes a couple of times like she did when she was trying to wheedle something out of Kermit.  Scooter gulped and tried not to tremble under the onslaught.

            “Well…what?” he managed.

            Piggy laughed huskily.  “Well, does Moi look ready for business?”

            Scooter tried to remember what he was there to do.  He looked down desperately at his clipboard.  “So, you’re um, doing a, um—so how does this work?” Scooter finished desperately.  “People just give you five dollars and you, um, you…you just—“

            Scooter Grosse had two simultaneous thoughts: 1) Kermit was going to kill him; and 2) It might just be worth it.  Scooter found the five dollar bill that had been in his pocket in his hand.  He looked at it as though it might bite him, but it had precious time to form any intent.  Piggy whisked the bill from his hand and tucked it discreetly away under the counter, then her two satiny hands reached out and cupped his face.

            Geez—her eyes were so big and blue, thought Scooter.  He felt his glasses steaming up, but he didn’t need to see to feel her warm, soft lips merge with his.  It was, relatively speaking, a chaste and entirely respectable kiss, well in line with what Scooter’s age and experience would deem appropriate, but it was more a matter of technique than action, and Scooter knees felt decidedly wobbly when Piggy withdrew.  In the space of a few seconds, Scooter had another reason to admire his boss—and another reason to be mystified by Kermit’s often aloof behavior.

            “There now,” she said sweetly.  “Am Moi ready to open my stand?”

            Scooter could only nod, and his head bobbed up and down like one of those velvet flocked dogs that you saw in the back windows of cars until he finally found his voice.

            “Yes ma’am,” he managed, glad his voice only cracked a little.  “You are cleared for, um, business.”

            Piggy laughed gaily and patted him on the head.  “Good boy,” she said, and sent him on his way.  After he was gone, Piggy tucked the money thoughtfully in her cash box.  There was a prize for the booth with the most money earned, and she thought she just might make a run for the money, so to speak.  She loved prizes, and she loved winning.  She set her delectable lips into a smile and turned back toward the fairway where the crowds would shortly be streaming by.  Time to get busy.

Chapter 6: All That GlittersEdit

            “So, tell me about this love of your life,” said Kermit as they clomped sedately down the wide streets of Hensonville.  People cheered and waved, and Kermit waved back—so long as he did not have to loosen his death-grip on the saddle horn.  True to their agreement, Kermit did not even attempts to steer, and gave Blackstone his head.  Blackstone took the reins—figuratively and literally—and put on quite a show, arching his neck and trotting prettily whenever there were spatters of applaud.

            “Not much to tell,” he muttered out of the corner of his mouth.  “She liked me.  Her dad didn’t.  Said a horse in show-business would be high-maintenance and stuck-up, wouldn’t be there for her when she needed me.”

            Kermit was thoughtful.  “Show business is sometimes hard on relationships,” he said, thinking of the times he’d been onstage during holidays.  “I mean, it works out great for us because we can all be together, but it’s hard.”

            “Apparently she thought so, too,” said Blackstone morosely.  “After months of sneaking around, meeting in out-of-town pastures and unsavory watering holes, she told me she couldn’t see me any more.”

            “Gee, I’m sorry,” said Kermit, continuing to smile and wave.  “That’s a real shame.”

            “You’re tellin’ me.  She was a purty little filly for sure.”

            “Well, you know, I’m not an expert at relationships or anything,” said Kermit, thinking of the past few months of precarious dating he’d experienced, “but I think if two people really care about each other, it can work.”

            Blackstone was thoughtful, but he continued to preen, occasionally snorting in a manly fashion.  Little children lining the sidewalks squealed with delight.  “Well,” he said finally.  “I know she hasn’t been seeing anyone else.  She works down to the dairy, doing light delivery.  Her father pulled a milk delivery cart for 20 years.  She went into the family business.”

            “That sounds nice.”

            “If you want to do it.  I don’t think Marabelle—that’s her name.  I don’t think Marabelle wanted to be a delivery horse.”

            “Really?” said Kermit.  He was thoroughly engrossed in the conversation, but mindful of his public duties.  He waved and smiled broadly, enjoying the crisp air.

            “Yeah,” said Blackstone.  “I think she’d really like to be, you know, here.”

            “You mean with you?” said Kermit.

            Blackstone gave a discreet snort.  “Well, I mean, um, doing the show horse route.  She has great legs.”

            Kermit’s thoughts went easily to other nice legs, but thinking of Piggy made him remember he didn’t know what she was up to today.  He hoped she wasn’t going to try to hawk anything cheesy, like the hair extensions she’d once sold.  True—they’d looked good on Piggy, but not everyone can carry that look, and there had been some disgruntled customers.  Still, the beach house was very nice in the winter, and provided a nice little rental income during the off-season.

            “Well, I’ll make you a deal, Blackstone,” said Kermit, suddenly generous.  “If you can talk Marabelle into an audition, she can come audition for me.”

            “Really?  You’d do that?”

            “Sure,” said Kermit.  “I can always use a good act.”

            “Gee!”  Blackstone’s voice was awed.  “That’s—that’s swell.  Thank you, Mr. Kermit the Frog.”

            Kermit just laughed.  It might have been the bright green amphibian’s imagination, but he would have sworn that Blackstone’s stepped just a little higher after that.

            Robin put his shoulders back and his chin forward, marching proudly at the head of the parade just after Kermit, who was leading off.  The frog scouts were taking turns carrying the banner which identified their troop, and Robin felt especially proud to be first.  Behind him, the American flag, the Hensonville flag and the Frog Scout flag fluttered in the wind.

            People clapped at they passed, cheering for their merry band.  Filled with pride, Robin stuck out his chest.  He was going to be the best banner carrier the town of Hensonville had ever seen!

            Gonzo’s head appeared over the counter and he grinned at Camilla.

            “Hey Camilla!” he called.  “I got your lunch right here.” 

            The Swedish Chef’s head popped up and he made a disgruntled face, then he shrugged philosophically.  Haute cuisine was not for everyone.

            “Better eat up,” Gonzo was saying.  “The parade has started on the other end of town.”

            At the counter, Camilla clucked something grateful and a little mushy and put her feathery wing on Gonzo’s shoulder for a minute before returning to her station.  Gonzo went on his way a happy weirdo

            “Right this way!  Step this way!” shouted Fozzie. 

            “I don’t think it’s possible,” sniffed Wanda.  “Not in these shoes, anyway.”

            “Come one come all and see the fair!” said Fozzie, undeterred from his mission.  The musicians were all setting up for their selections, and Fozzie was determined to drive as many fair attendees past the music stage as was possible.  He checked his pocket watch again, eager for the show to open.

            “What’s your watch say?” said Rowlf, seeing his time check.

            “Tick tock, tick tock!” said Fozzie immediately.  “Wocka wocka!”

            Rowlf let him have his moment of merriment, shaking his head in consternation.

            “Um, the parade should have started about fifteen minutes ago.  Crowds will start arriving in about another thirty.”  The knew not everyone would watch the parade, but the publicity had been so thorough that the entire town of Hensonville was expected to turn out and partake of some part of the fair, at least.

            “Good,” said Rowlf.  “I’d like to finish this song with the guys, and then Marvin Suggs and Lew Zealand want to practice a little.”

            Fozzie winced.  Usually the most benevolent of performers, always ready to encourage a fellow cast member, these two acts made him decidedly nervous.  Not as nervous as Wayne and Wanda, who he was careful to give a wide berth, but nervous nonetheless.  It probably had to do with the fact that Fozzie couldn’t quite believe that no muppets—fish or otherwise—were actually harmed in the pursuit of musical showmanship.  Still, an act was an act, and Kermit was counting on him.  He put his hand to his mouth, drumming anxiously, and was horrified to discover that the motion made his fake handlebar mustache fall off.  He went running off in search of a mirror—and some spirit glue.

            The parade was nearing the fair site.  Even though there was nothing visible yet, they could hear the school band, and the sound of taped music blaring from one of the floats.  Rizzo heard munching and his finely-tuned nose sniffed inquisitively.

            “Are you eating?”

            “Yeah,” said Gonzo.  “I don’t think I can eat all that pie on an empty stomach.  Rizzo started to say something, but the paper bag in Gonzo’s hand caught his eye.  It was a white paper bag, and there was some red lettering on the side.

            That’s funny, thought Rizzo.  That looks like  He gasped.  He looked at the cardboard box that was partially obscured in his roommate’s hand, and his eyes widened at the sight of several golden brown morsels of food.  Gonzo was methodically moving them from the box to his mouth.

            “Um, Gonzo,” said Rizzo levelly.  “Whatcha eating?”

            “Chicken nuggets,” Gonzo said distractedly, watching for the parade to pass.  You could now hear the band.

            Rizzo, Beaker and Pepe were now staring at him aghast.  Feeling the weight of all those eyes on him, Gonzo turned and saw six wide, horrified eyes looking at him.

            “What’s the matter—you want one?”

            He proffered the cardboard container and Pepe and Rizzo fled and hid behind Beaker, shouting protestations.  Beaker let out a squeal and put his arms back protectively.

            “What’s the matter with you guys?” Gonzo asked.  “I got them over at the Colonel’s.”

            “Oh, sheesh,” said Rizzo, “do we have to spell it out for you?”

            Apparently they did, for Gonzo continued to look at them like they had three heads--each.

            “Are you telling me that when you went out to get lunch for you and Camilla, you bought chicken nuggets from the Colonel?”

            “Yeesssss,” Gonzo said, still not getting it.  “That’s what she asked for, and I like ‘em too.”

            Suddenly, and with great dramatic effect, Pepe white-eyed on them and hit the dust.  Beaker tried to revive him, patting his four wrists gently until he opened his eyes.  Rizzo looked a little unsteady himself.

            “I just—I don’t see how you can eat those things!  And Camilla—why, I never would have guessed.”

            “I know,” said Gonzo, shaking his head.  “She eats whatever she wants and always looks great.  I don’t usually go for deep-friend, but…  Sure you don’t want one?”

            Rizzo looked decidedly ill.  “No!” he said.  “But don’t you think—“

            “I mean, I know all the unhydrogenated fat is bad for you and everything, but it’s a vegetable, right?   Even if it’s deep-fried.”

            “Well if you can live with yourself, then—“  Rizzo did a double take.  “Wha?” he said.  “A vegetable?  What do you mean, a vegetable?”

            “Good grief,” said Gonzo.  “You are a city boy.  Haven’t you ever seen corn grow?”

            “Well, yeah, in pictures, but what does that—“

            “So first they have to pick it, and shuck it—that means peel it—and after they get it off the cobs—they put a spoonful of sweet kernels into a cornbread batter and then they deep-fry them.  C’mon—try one.  You’re cholesterol isn’t that high.”

            Rizzo shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs.  “Hey, Buddy,” he said, “when you said you bought those chicken nuggets at Colonel Sanders--”

            “Oh!  Hey, whoa whoa!  Who said anything about Colonel Sanders!  I would never eat there!  I bought these at The Loving Kernel.”  He held up the white paper bag, and Rizzo could see plainly displayed, “The Loving Kernel:  Homebaked for Our Feathered Friends!”  Rizzo felt so relieved he thought he might faint.

            Suddenly, Gonzo’s eyes narrowed.  “Wait a minute,” he said.  “Did you think I was eating—“  He put his furry blue arms on his hips and glared at Rizzo.  “Thanks!  Thanks a lot for thinking I’d cannibalize my girlfriend.”

            Rizzo gulped and shrugged, back-pedaling madly.  “Um, don’t be sore, hey Gonzo?  It just looked like, you know….”

            “Humph.  Some friend you are.”

            “Aww, don’t be like that.  Here—I’ll eat one. Come on—gimme one.”

            Gonzo stared at his earnest face for a moment, clearly undecided about whether to abandon his pique or not.  Finally, he dipped two fingers into the cardboard carton and produced a deep-friend chicken (food) nugget.  Rizzo tossed it down, chewed thoughtfully and swallowed.

            “Hey!” he said.  “These aren’t half bad!  What say my treat next time, okay buddy?”

            Rizzo had probably been watching a little too much Disney.  He turned his “cute and adorable fuzzy animal eyes” on Gonzo, but Gonzo held up his fingers like a cross before him as though warding off vampires.

            “Enough!” the furry blue whatever cried.  “Fine.  Fine—have another.  Just spare me the cute and cuddly act.  And save some room for pie.”

            “Whatever,” said Rizzo. 

            “Yes?”

            “Oh, never mind.”

            They craned their necks toward the approaching parade.

            Officially, the fair had not opened, but the instant Piggy had arrived on the scene, lurking males of several species had begun to converge on her little booth.  Piggy took it as Divine Right and got her little money-making enterprise down to business.

            “Married?” Piggy asked the young man standing in front of her.

            “Um, no ma’am.”

            “Engaged?”

            “No.”

            “Seeing anyone seriously?”

            “Um—“ he began, then, seeing Piggy’s hesitation, blurted.  “We stopped going out six months ago.  That’s all—I swear!”

            “Tell me.”  Her blue eyes were shrewd.

            “She, um, dumped me.”

            “Because?”

            “Because I forget her birthday,” he mumbled, looking down.

            Piggy’s eyes softened.  “All right,” she said.  She accepted his five dollars gently, and completed the transaction in the most efficient manner possible.  Piggy pulled back and gave him a stern look.  “Think you can do that again?”

            “Oh yes ma’am!” he cried, leaning forward eagerly.

            Piggy stopped him with a hand on his chest.

            “Huh?” he asked, disappointed mid-pucker..

            Piggy patted him on the cheek, “Good,” she said.  “If you can do that again, go buy your former girlfriend some balloons and get back in the game.

            He looked sheepish and doubtful.  “Balloons?” he said.  “Are you sure?”

            “Trust me,” she said dryly.  He did.

Chapter 7: On With the All's Fair in Love and ShowbizEdit

            The parade ended with great aplomb at the warehouse, and parade viewers and participants alike surged into the huge warehouse to see the shows, eat holiday-themed fair food and buy things from the bazaar.  The threat of rain had ended with certainty, the sky a cerulean blue, and Gonzo and his lime-jello-diving act had been banished to the outer grounds.  Robin had scurried off to the Frog Scout booth to sell Frog Scout Popcorn, so Kermit bought a green pancake and a glass of limeade and wandered around, happily munching. 

Now that the fair was populated, it was much more interesting.  Several high windows in the warehouse made the huge building bright and airy, and Kermit stopped and watched the music booth for a while, unsurprised when Wayne and Wanda’s song disintegrated because of the malfunction of an oscillating fan at the next booth.  Fozzie seemed to be having a great time as a Barker, though he begged Kermit to fetch him a something to drink.  Kermit bought another limeade and a second pancake which Fozzie gobbled eagerly.  The Chef’s booth seemed to be doing well, and Kermit had chatted up Camilla while waiting.  Camilla, too, claimed to have no idea what Piggy was doing at the fair, and Kermit was now certain—positive—that he was being either protected from knowing something distressing, or that Piggy was being protected from him.

He checked in with Scooter, who claimed everything was running smoothly.  In a few hours, the various booths and performers would count up their money and the big, um, green ribbon would be awarded to the booth that had raised the most money.  That was ages off, according to Scooter, who admonished Kermit to relax and enjoy himself.

“Sure thing, Scooter,” he said.  “Thanks for taking care of everything.”

“No problem, boss,” said Scooter brightly.  “Piece of cake.”

“Never say piece of cake in the labyrinth,” Kermit murmured, but Scooter didn’t hear him.  Scooter was pursing his lips and making marks on one of his ever-present clipboards when Kermit stopped and stared at him.  After a moment, he grinned.

“I guess you’re having a good time at the fair,” he said dryly.  Scooter looked up.

“Huh?”

“I said,” Kermit repeated, now smiling broadly.  “I guess you’re having a good time at the fair today.”

Scooter looked uncomfortable, affirming Kermit’s suspicions.  “Um, yeah,” he mumbled.

Kermit sighed and handed him a napkin.  “Okay,” he said.  “So don’t tell me.  But wipe the lipstick off the corner of your mouth.”

Scooter complied, and abruptly found someplace else to be.

Kermit shook his head fondly and watched him go.  If Scooter didn’t want to tell him who he’d been trading puckers with yet, it was understandable.  Love was complicated, and things often went wrong.  Kermit sighed benevolently.  Even with problems, it was sooo much better to have your relationship out in the open.

Thinking this made him think of Piggy, and wonder where she was working at the fair.  He had half-expected to see her at the music stage, but she had apparently not made an appearance there.  Kermit set his feet toward the Bizarre Bazaar.  It would take him the better part of the afternoon to make his way around to everything—especially the far end of the fair, where some attraction was generating crowds and long lines.  Probably some sort of kiddie ride, he mused.  He’d have to check it out eventually, but right now, he was going to enjoy himself—and look for Piggy.

“There’s caramel popcorn in this one,” said Robin, displaying the tin.  “And that’s cheese-flavored popcorn.  This one—with the brown lid—has chocolate-covered popcorn.”  He turned and hefted an enormous tin onto the booth.  “This one has all three.  What would you like today, sir?”

Money changed hands and Robin put it solemnly into the money box beneath the counter, but inside he was jubilant.  They had not slowed down—not even a little—since the parade had stopped, and he and his scout buddies were thinking with longing of winning the prize for most money earned.

“Wanna take a turn at the popcorn machine?” asked Mr. Rana.  “You’ve been working the other booth the whole time.”

“Do I ever!” said Robin.  At the side of their booth was an old-fashioned popcorn maker that was shooting out great golden clouds of buttery popcorn and filling the air with wonderful, mouth-watering smells.  The scouts had all vied for a chance to fill the machine with dry popcorn, oil and butter-salt, then scoop the hot, fluffy corn into bags.  Robin hopped to it with alacrity.

“--and the wicked witch set about fattening poor Hansel so she could cook him and eat him.”  Sam frowned at the storybook in his hand.  This seemed rather frightening, although the children were hanging on his words with rapt attention.

“Of course,” he said, clearing his throat, “That was not a very nice thing to do.  That’s, um, why they call her a wicked witch, instead of a nice witch.”

“What did she feed him?” asked one of the children.  Sam stared at the little boy blankly, then looked down at the book.

“It…it doesn’t say, but there’s a picture of her feeding him a pie.”

“But if she could cook a pie, why would she want to eat a little boy?”

“I don’t know,” Sam said.  “Maybe she didn’t make very good pies.”

“Oh.”  This seemed to satisfy the youngster, and Sam turned the page, but before he could start reading, the boy piped up again.  “If she didn’t make very good pies, how could she get Hansel to eat it?”

“I’m sure I don’t know,” said Sam uncomfortably.  “She shouldn’t be feeding him pie at all.  Children need balanced meals—not just dessert.”

“That’s what my mom says,” volunteered one little girl.  “She says if we don’t eat our vegetables we can’t have dessert.”

“A wise woman,” offered Sam, and turned back to the book, but the little girl was not quite done.

“She says if you eat too much dessert you’ll get junk in your trunk.”

It took a moment for Sam to translate the phrase, then to feel his cheeks grow pink.  He was quite sure they shouldn’t be talking about people’s trunks—unless, of course, they were elephants, and then it was quite a different matter.  Then again, Sam wasn’t that thrilled with the book in his hand.

“That’s why you have to go to the gym,” said another little boy.  “My mom and dad go to the gym and jump around to music.”

“I do that at preschool,” said a little girl.  “Right after story time.”

Sam wished somebody else was doing story time.

“Um….” He began.

“Could we hop around to music?” asked another little girl plaintively.  “I’m tired of sitting down.”

“Could we?  Please?”

“Please, please let us jump around to music!”

“Well, I don’t think—“

“But exercise is good for us.  You don’t want us to get fat like Hansel, do you?”

Sam was so far afield from his area of expertise that he didn’t know how to stop this from snowballing out of control.

“Well,” he said.  “The President does encourage physical activity.”  He looked at the book in his hand with distaste.  “Would you all rather go for a march through the fair than listen to this story?”

“Does she eat him?” asked one little girl uncertainly.

“No.  She doesn’t.  Gretel outsmarts the witch, rescues Hansel and they both live happily ever after.”

“What about the witch?”

“Um, she gets old and fat,” Sam improvised.  “Now—who wants to go for a walk?”

There were cheers all around.

If the citizens of Hensonville, who were accustomed to all manner of odd things, found it disconcerting to see an American Bald Eagle, wearing pantaloons, a calico dress and a mop cap lead a giggling band of children through the fairground area singing battle songs in a deep baritone, no one mentioned it.  At least, no one mentioned it to Kermit.

The jello-dunking had been a splash hit.  Gonzo’s art wasn’t always comprehensible, but it was always eye-catching.  People lined up and dropped money into the jar, clapping politely as Gonzo emerged, covered with green goo and wiping his goggles with a soggy blue arm.  Rizzo had begun to take bets on precisely what part of Gonzo’s anatomy would enter the water first, and soon his contributions to the cause rivaled those of the little blue weirdo’s act.

Camilla had come by to see Gonzo on her break, and though she pecked him chastely on the cheek, she declined to be hugged by her paramour.  She reminded him of the one-hour call for the pie-eating contest and went in search of something cool.

“Ahm gonna win that contest,” said Sweetums.  “Ah love pie.”

Fozzie looked at Sweetums’ enormous maw and smiled.  “You’ll be a natural, Sweetums.”

“Thar’s just one thing Ah don’t unnerstand,” said Sweetums, scratching his big head.  “Who is it we’re supposed to throw the pie at?”

Fozzie looked up in alarm.  “Oh!  No, Sweetums,” he said hastily.  “You don’t throw the pies—you’re supposed to eat them!”

“Eat them?” asked Sweetums.  “Aw, shucks.  That’s no fun.”  He wandered off, disconsolate.

Fozzie shook his head, dislodging his fake mustache.  He signed and went looking for the spirit glue.

            Piggy looked at her next client appraisingly.  “How old are you, young man?” she asked sweetly.

            He gulped and took off his baseball cap.  “Um, I’m, uh, eight--, um, nineteen,” he stammered.  Piggy crossed her arms across her chest and pointed to a sign on the counter behind her that said, “You must be 19 or older to purchase anything at this booth.”

            “May I see some ID,” she said coolly.  The young man dug around in his wallet for a moment, then produced a driver’s license. Piggy looked at it carefully, then scrutinized the young man in front of her.  His cheeks were flaming but underneath he looked very pale as she looked from his face to the picture on the license.  At last, she handed the card back to him, then smiled a ten-thousand volt-smile.  “Happy Birthday,” she said, and kissed him.

Chapter 8: Kiss Me, I’m GorgeousEdit

Kermit bought a book at the Bizarre Bazaar, and a foufy embroidered pillow that he thought might make a nice present for Piggy.  He tucked his package under one arm and continued on his way.

Music (well, noise anyway) was still coming from the stage area, and Kermit smiled to himself.  He thought he might check on Robin and see how the popcorn sales were coming.  He passed a huge throng of onlookers and squeezed himself through the tightly packed knot of people.  Piggy usually attracted crowds, he thought hopefully, wondering if he’d found her at last.  But when he could finally see the cause of all the hubbub, it proved to be Bunsen Honeydew’s hapless lab assistant Beaker.

Usually, one could hone in on Beaker by sound, listening for his terrified or astonished mee-meeps, but Kermit had heard nothing.  This mystery was explained by the fact that the flaming-haired lab assistant had his long, skinny head crammed all the way into a 16 ounce cola bottle.  His mouth opened and closed soundlessly, rather like a fish in a tank, and Kermit watched with some concern as several burly men picked Beaker up and held him horizontally while another one tugged firmly on the bottle.

“Please be careful,” the good doctor said.  “I’m supposed to get a deposit on that bottle!”

Kermit shook his head.  Some things never changed. 

He made his way back to the center strip and stood thinking, wondering if he should spend any more time trying to find Piggy in this crowd or just go and check on Robin.  As he stood there pondering, he heard a collective gasp from the crown and looked up to see Bobo hovering over the top of the dunking booth, completely airborne.  The helium seemed to have gotten out of hand, and Kermit experienced a small twinge of guilt at thinking how much the big bear resembled a Thanksgiving Day Parade inflatable.

While Kermit watched in horrified fascination two men on ladders—one of whom might be Scooter—tried to snatch one of Bobo’s dangling hirsute feet, he saw Floyd Pepper stop at the foot of the ladder with Animal.  He hollered something up at Scooter—yes, it was definitely Scooter—the shock of red hair gave him away—and they had a shouted conversation that ultimately ended with Scooter shrugging. 

Floyd unhooked Animal from his leash and the long-limbed drummer clambered up behind Scooter, eying Bobo with lowered brows.  Without warning, Animal launched himself off the top of the ladder and sunk his teeth into the sleeve of Bobo’s jacket.  The startled bear let out a high-pitched scream, then a huge belch, and both bear and band member disappeared from view, presumably hurtling toward the ground below.  The crowd gasped, then laughed in relief, and Kermit relaxed a little, too, but he was undeniably relieved to see Animal emerge from the crowd, straining at the leash, with a fragment of dark blue serge in his teeth.

Kermit was torn between a feeling of responsibility and the desire to escape.  It was a feeling he knew well, but while he wavered the situation resolved itself.

“—hurt nothin’ cuz I landed on my head,” Bobo was saying to Scooter as they made their way back toward the balloon stand.  Scooter saw Kermit out of the corner of his eye and Kermit saw him flash a quick expectant look at his clipboard.  Scooter held up a hand to stop Bobo’s rambling monologue and trotted over to Kermit.

“Um, we’re short a judge for the pie-eating contest.  Can you do that?”

Kermit shrugged.  Why not?  “Sure Scooter—tell me what you need me to do.”

Scooter pointed to a far pavilion near the entrance.  “See that tent?  The one with the yellow flag where people signed up to get their utilities bills online instead of on paper?”

Kermit nodded.  He had signed up himself, thinking that the city not having to send the boarding house a printed bill would probably save a ton of trees per year.

“In less than 30 minutes, that’s where they’re going to have the pie-eating contest,” Scooter said.  “Just go over there and tell Prawnie you’re going to take the place of The Newsman.”

Kermit nodded.  “Sure, Scooter—just count the number of pies eaten and give out the ribbons, right?”

And referee,” Scooter muttered, too low for Kermit to hear.  “Thanks, boss—I’ll try to leave you be for a while.”

“No problem, Scooter.”  Kermit set his face toward the pavilion, then turned as a sudden thought occurred to him.

“Um, Scooter?”

“Yeah, Boss?”

Again, Kermit wondered why Scooter looked so fidgety and guilty.  “Do I want to know what happened to The Newsman?”

Scooter did a sortof half-shrug.  “Wayne and Wanda,” he said, and did not elaborate.  Kermit nodded to himself and decided to get while the getting was still good!

            The line had slowed somewhat, but not because of lack of interest.  The line had slowed to accommodate a slow-moving gentleman who looked to be in his senior years.  His gait was slow, but his eyes were bright and lively over a bushy mustache, and Piggy smiled at him when he got up to the counter.

            “Are you old enough to purchase anything at this booth?” she teased.  The old man guffawed and slapped the knee of his plaid pants.

            “Old enough and wise enough,” he insisted.  Piggy giggled.

            “Married?”

            “Sixty-one years, I was,” he said proudly.  “To the sweetest little gal ever wore a bonnet.”

            “What was her name?”

            “Goody,” he said.  His eyes grew wistful and faraway.  “And she was a good one for sure.”

            Piggy smiled.  “Sounds like a keeper.”

            His eyes locked with hers.  “I tried to keep her,” he said softly.  “I tried but she just slipped away.”  His eyes were bright and so were Piggy’s.  “Cancer.  Six years ago this June.”

            “I’m—I’m very sorry.”

            “Me too.  She was a good un.”

            Piggy hesitated.  “Are you sure--”

            “And, boy! Could she kiss you like she meant to!”  His eyes began to twinkle, lightening the mood.  “And I’ll bet you can, too.”

            “Yes, sir,” said Piggy demurely, and the gentleman laughed again and slapped his leg.

            “Well—here’s my five bucks!  Come and plant one on me, Honey!”

            Piggy did, and when she released him he smiled a dreamy smile.  “Almost as good as Goody,” he said happily, and moved off in a pleasant fog.

            Piggy watched him go, a half-smile on her face, and when she turned back to her booth she was startled to find herself eye to eye with Rowlf.  A broad smile burst across Rowlf’s face and Piggy watched him warily. 

            “Top o’ the afternoon to you,” he said, his expression cheeky.

            “Does Kermit know you’re here?” she asked pointedly.

            “Does Kermit know you’re here?” the piano-playing canine countered mildly.

            They stared at each other, sizing up the opposition.  But Rowlf wasn’t really interested in opposition—far from it.  He put a green bill on the counter and looked at her expectantly.

            “What’s that for?” Piggy asked.

            “What do you mean, what’s that for?” Rowlf asked.  “It’s for a kiss and a five-spot in change.”

            Piggy took the bill reluctantly, looking around for signs of Kermit.

            “As long as you’re not here spying for Kermit,” she said snippily.

            “Kermit?!” said Rowlf.  “The last person on my mind right now is—“

            Piggy grabbed him around his collar, hauled him up close and kissed him.  She did not have a money-back guarantee posted anywhere on her booth, but if she had, she would have had no takers.  Rowlf was no exception.

Despite his earlier assertion, Rowlf was indeed thinking of Kermit.  He was, in fact, thinking that Kermit was an idiot.

            “And Rowlf,” Piggy said with saccharine sweetness as she released him.  Rowlf found his voice with difficulty.

            “Yes’m?”

            “If Moi finds out you were betting on this, Moi will hurt you.”  Her blue eyes were very intense.

            Rowlf gulped and nodded.  Then again, Kermit wasn’t so dumb after all!  He almost forgot to collect his change.

            Blackstone was watching them stack pies in mouth-watering mounds when he felt a gentle nudge on his withers and turned.

            “Saw you in the parade,” said Marabelle the little brown mare.

            Blackstone tried to think of something witty to say.

            “Yeah?” he asked, and wished, like that nice frog from this morning, that he could slap a hand over his face in consternation.  Brilliant! his mind prompted.  Impress her with your rapier wit.

            “Yeah,” Marabelle countered, and she whinnied in a teasing tone.

            “Like my new hairdo?” Blackstone asked dryly, but Marabelle took his question seriously, or seemed to.  She walked around him slowly, which seemed to Blackstone to require showing him a great deal of her great legs, but in the end, her big brown eyes rested on his.

            “I do like it,” she said seriously.  “I’ll bet the kids just love it.”

            Blackstone cheered a little, remembering the feel of lots of soft, pudgy hands stroking and occasionally tugging the bright green strands.  The children had liked his hair, and he had stood very still and very patiently, quietly blowing out big puffs of air through his nostrils until all of the children had had a chance to pet him.  One little girl, name of Prairie Dawn, even came up and hugged him.

            “They did,” he said, feeling less ridiculous and more proud.  He cut his eyes at her.

            “You’re looking good, Marabelle,” he said, and the petite filly ducked her head and let out a mare-like snort.

            “Who—plain-Jane me?” she asked, but she sounded wistful.  Blackstone thought about telling her about Kermit’s offer, but they were interrupted by the arrival of Marabelle’s father, a sturdy draft-horse with enormous hooves.  He did not sneer at Blackstone—he was a dignified horse—but Marabelle started guiltily at the disapproval in her father’s eyes.

            “I, um, just finished delivering the last of the canisters from the dairy,” she said, and Blackstone thought she sounded breathless and nervous.

            “Thanks for the directions to the boarding house,” Blackstone improvised suddenly, and Marabelle looked up in surprise as he added, “I’m going to make a point of looking them up after the parade.”  Blackstone squared his shoulders and straightened his withers.  “Marabelle said you delivered to the big boarding house in town,” he said, addressing the older horse respectfully.  “I just met Mr. The Frog who runs the theater.  He seems like a nice sort.”

            “Pays his bill on time,” said the older horse amiably enough.  “And they did chain up the drummer until we make our rounds in the morning after one of our boys got nipped last fall.”

            Blackstone nodded, hoping very hard to make a good impression.  “Thoughtful of him,” he said, not sure what else to say.  He could always blurt, I adore your daughter—she’s the most beautiful horse I’ve ever seen! but he didn’t think that would go over well.  The show horse took a page from his show business career and decided to exit the stage while the crowd was still benevolent.  “Very nice to see you, Sir.  Marabelle.”  He nodded formally and trotted off as though he had someplace to be.  Blackstone could feel their eyes on him until he turned the corner at the next booth and disappeared from view.

Chapter 9: To the Rizzo Go the SpoilsEdit

            For a fellow who had spent most of the day submersed in a vat of lime green jello, Gonzo looked pretty natty.  His lime-and-coral-striped pants and were neatly creased and his butter-yellow shirt had been impeccably ironed.  He did take the precaution of tucking his shamrock and daisy embroidered necktie inside said shirt while he waited for the start bell.

            Next to him, Rizzo sat in his lime-Jell-o-splattered t-shirt and slicked back his hair, ready for anything.  Sweetums cast an impressive shadow over both hopefuls, and dwarfed the two men on his other side.  One had his long hair pulled back into a neat pony-tail beneath a baseball cap that had been turned backwards and the other had shouldered out of a green watch-plaid jacket and handed it off to his girlfriend.

            “Hey,” said Rizzo.  “Where are all the womenfolk?”

            Gonzo looked at him sadly.  “Don’t you know anything?” he said.  “If women eat pie like this, they do it after everyone else has gone to bed.”

            Rizzo shrugged, then sniffed the air appreciatively.  “More for me,” he said.  “But if Miss Piggy had entered, we’d all be toast.”

            Gonzo gave a small snort.  “I think Piggy’s too busy for pie, today,” he said, and Rizzo cleared his throat and nodded.

            A young man approached the microphone and tapped it a couple of times with his finger.   “Is this on?” he asked, then jumped back as it screeched in protest.  When the wail had died away, he approached it again cautiously.  “Testing,” he muttered.  “One, two, three—and hi, folks!  Welcome to the St. Patrick’s Day pie-eating contest.  Some of Hensonville’s best bakers have been working hard all week to provide the pies for this year’s contest.  Let’s hear it for them, okay?”

            People clapped politely, and a couple of kids yelled, “You go, Mom!”  The young man laughed.

            “Okay.  You know the rules, right fellas?  No throwing, no fighting and—oh, that’s right—there’s a new rule for this year’s contest—no hands.”  The contestants all blinked in surprise, then the man at the end of the row took off his necktie and unbuttoned his collar with a determined air.  People cheered.  Not to be outdone, Gonzo took off his necktie and threw it over his shoulder.  It landed on the young man with the microphone, who removed it from his shoulder and laid it on a table behind him.  More cheering, and then Kermit stepped up to the mike.

            “Okay, guys,” he said.  “We want a fair contest.  On your mark, get set—eat pies!”

            They were off, face first into whatever sort of pie had been laid in front of them.  Rizzo made short work of his apple pie, and Gonzo slurped up his lemon meringue with alacrity.  Sweetums grasped the whole pie tin between his teeth and flipped it down his enormous maw.  The two men on the end had tackled their treats with equal gusto and in less than a minute, five new pies were on the table.

            Kermit watched with pleasure, liking the old-fashioned holiday feel.  What a great day of wholesome entertainment this was turning out to be!  Runners removed empty pie tins, replaced them with fresh pies and kept counting their fingers with obsessive attention to detail.  The stack of pies behind the table decreased, and so did the speed with which the pies on the table were being consumed.

            The man with the baseball cap had been presented with a pistachio pie, which was obviously not his favorite, but he chewed gamely.  Still, he lost enough time to see the writing on the wall—even if it was in meringue.  He held up his hand in resignation and was greeted with polite clapping and a steaming hot towel to clean up with.

            Sweetums was having a little trouble with the no-hands rule, but he was having even more trouble with the don’t-eat-the-tins rule.  Eventually he, too, resigned from the contest to pick the aluminum foil out of his big teeth, and was handed a steaming hot towel of his own.  He groomed his face and hands carefully and ate the towel thoughtfully.

            “That’s okay, buddy,” said Beauregard.  “You did great.”

            Gonzo and Rizzo and the man in what had once been a snowy shirtfront were eating with dogged determination now, mouths working with furious force to subdue and consume the flaky crusts and sweet filings.

            This contest always drew a big crowd because once the winner had been declared the spectators were invited to line up for pie.  Kermit watched, hoping for a little sweetness himself. 

            Things were pretty even until, halfway through a key lime pie, Gonzo began to falter.

            “Too much,” he muttered dazedly, slipping sideways in his chair.  “Too much lime….”

            “Hang in there buddy!” said Rizzo around a mouthful of cherry cobbler.  At least, Kermit assumed that was what he said, for the actual words came out rather mushy.

            “Can’t…hold on,” said Gonzo.  “Too much…going—“

            “Don’t give up now!” Rizzo said.  “We’re just hitting our stride!”

            But Gonzo was indeed showing signs of giving up.

            “Go…on…without me!” he panted.  “Save yourself!”  He fell with a thunk beneath the table.

            The man at the end of the table looked relieved.  A pretty little brunette at the end was holding his jacket and cheering him on, but he was obviously slowing down.  Rizzo spared a glance of concern for Gonzo, then looked his last competitor in the eye and dived, face-first into a cocoanut cream.

            “I luff conconuth cremf!” he moaned happily, and set himself to the task.

            Three-quarters of the way through a luscious-looking blackberry pie, the man at the end of the table looked up at his pretty girlfriend with a hangdog expression.

            “Oh!” she squealed.  “It’s okay, Jakey-poo!  You’re gonna get a ribbon and a big kiss anyway!”

            Jakey-poo threw in the towel, toweled off and collected his reward—from the judges, and then from his girlfriend.  Only Rizzo remained.

            It took them a couple of minutes to find the little rat in the deep swells of cocoanut cream, but he emerged triumphantly to collect his ribbon—before diving back in to finish his pie.

            Kermit laughed, patted him on the back and got in line for a piece of pie.  He watched the man with the blue ribbon walk away with his little lady’s dark head on his shoulder and thought about Piggy.  Maybe he would get two pieces of pie, he thought, and go and find his girl.

Chapter 10: The End of the Line and the Beginning of an ArgumentEdit

            Kermit still had the pillow under one arm and he had two slices of Derby pie on a Styrofoam plate and wrapped with green plastic wrap.  Two plastic green forks lay between the slices of rich, fudgy pecan pie.  Just looking at the slices of pie made Kermit want to drool, but he shook his head at his own lack of willpower.  Nope—he would wait and share his pie with Piggy—provided he could find her.  While he was at it, he thought he’d better check on Robin as well.

            He headed for the Frog Scout tent, being stopped about every eight feet or so by someone congratulating him for such a nice fair, or expressing their gratitude for the conservation cause, or oohing and ahhing about the cute little Frog Scouts.  Kermit took it all in happily.  This was like Hollywood schmoozing, except nobody kissed you or patted you on the bum or tried to stab you in the back—much more friendly-like.

            When the parade had ended, the crowd and the fair booth workers had all been dumped at the far end of the site and had disbursed like dandelion fluff.  Kermit wondered if they had a head count of people here, which immediately made him think of Count von Count.  He made a note to himself to look up The Count—or his friend Ed—and see if they had some numbers for him.  This thought was almost put out of his head by the press of bodies as he neared a veritable logjam of people all craning their necks toward something he could not see.  Still, he was almost to the Frog Scout booth, and he wedged himself determinedly through a couple of young men and almost staggered to the counter.

            A very excited, very buttery group of Frog Scouts greeted his arrival with an onslaught of words.  Kermit nodded and smiled a lot and finally gleaned from the cacophony around him that Scooter had just been by.  He had told them that, of those booths that had already reported in, the Frog Scout popcorn booth had outstripped all of the other money-makers at the fair.  This was good news, thought Kermit, and wondered again how much money they were talking about.

            He finally divested himself of small frogs and sidled over to talk with Scoutmaster Rana.

            “Sounds like you guys had a profitable day,” he said, rebalancing the pie and the pillow so he could shake the older frog’s hand.

            “We did indeed,” said Scoutmaster Rana.  He leaned forward and when he whispered it was just barely loud enough for Kermit’s aural organs.  “Although I don’t reckon we’re gonna beat your little lady.  Still, the boys made a good run for it.  Nothing wrong with second place.”

            Kermit was trying to make sense out of his words.  “You mean Piggy?” Kermit asked at last.  “You think Piggy’s going to outsell the Frog Scouts?”

            Rana’s eyes were twinkling.  “I do,” he said.  “She’s given her…um, her most to the cause.”  He grinned at Kermit and jerked his head toward the press of people just beyond the booth.  “And I have to say you’re being an awfully good sport about it.”

            Again, Kermit had that feeling that there was a “kick-me” sign on his back or something smelly on his flipper—some vague feeling that everyone knew something, something about him that he ought to know but didn’t.

            “Um, where is Piggy now?” he said as casually as he could.  “I haven’t, you know, seen her all day because she’s been, um, working.”

            Again, Scoutmaster Rana nodded toward where the crowd had yet to thin.

            “I imagine she’s still at her booth, trying to make the most of the time left before they count the money.”  He looked at the pie and the pillow.  “That’s nice,” he said approvingly.  “You brought presents.”

            Kermit blushed a little and nodded, feeling all school-boyish and shy.  “Yeah,” he said.  “I haven’t been very available today.  Thought I’d make up for it.”

            A fleeting expression of…something—surprise?  Amusement?—flitted over the older frog’s face and he tilted his head toward the crowd.

            “Sounds like a plan,” the Scoutleader said.  “But you better get in line before she closes.”

            Before Kermit could ask him anything else, Rana was swarmed by small frogs, all hopping excitedly and talking at once.  No hope of recapturing the older frog’s attention now.  Kermit set his face toward the crowd—still wondering what on earth the line was for—and pushed on, looking for one lush pink figure in the midst of the crowd.

            It didn’t take him long to find her.

            He had pushed against the line that, curiously, seemed to be comprised only of men until the line had pushed back.

            “Hey—no shoving,” one guy complained.  “I been waitin’ most of an hour and I’m not giving up my place in line!”

            “Yeah—and the line is closing in two minutes.  If you aren’t in line then—“

            “—not half as long as the lines this morning,” another young man was saying.  “I’d have come back sooner but it knocked me for a loop and I just got my feet back under me so—“

            “—said it was the best five bucks he ever spent outside of—“

            “—wished I could have thought of something to say, but she was real nice about—“

            “—counting the money now.  The only booth made more’n her is the Frog Scout kids selling popcorn.  That red-headed guy is still adding—“

            “—see that old guy?  He had to take a heart pill after—“

            The line gave a sudden abrupt heave and the corner of Piggy’s booth—and Piggy herself—came suddenly into Kermit’s line of sight.  Scooter sat at the corner of her booth, out of the way, counting out bills methodically.  Kermit paid him no mind—he only had eyes for Piggy.

            Kermit did not notice how carefully matched her ensemble was, nor how very dedicated she had obviously been to the cause.  Kermit did not approve of her carefully worded signs or the fact that she had been hard, hard at work all day long while he flitted from one project to the other.  In fact, Kermit looked decidedly unhappy with the fact that she was running neck and neck with the Frog Scout booth for first place in money-raising ventures for the day.  The pots of money so prominently displayed conjured up images of Piggy giving more to the cause than he could sanction.

            Heedless of the other men, Kermit stepped angrily out of line and marched up the counter.  He glared at the short, middle-aged man Piggy was bussing with aplomb but if Piggy was even aware of him, she gave no sigh.  When at last she released her patron he tried a couple of times to speak and failed.

            “Are you married?” he asked faintly, his voice hoarse.

            Piggy laughed and motioned him away.  “No,” she said, and then her blue eyes saw Kermit—and hardened.  Not yet,” she said firmly, and crossed her arms across her chest.

            “A kissing booth!” Kermit said.  “A kissing booth!  Piggy—this is the most ridiculous idea I have ever heard of!”

            Piggy smirked at him.  “Good thing the citizens of Hensonville don’t share your views.”

            “My views?” Kermit huffed.  “It’s not my views that are in question.  This is supposed to be a family event.”

            Piggy looked at him levelly.  “Single men often become family men,” she said silkily, then put her hands on her ample hips and looked him up and down.  “At least, some of them manage.  Why just today, I had fourteen proposals—“

            “I’ll just bet you did!” Kermit muttered, but not quite loud enough for Piggy to call him on it.

            “And I raised tons of money for the town conservation project!” Piggy shot back, infuriated.

            “And plenty of eyebrows!”

            Piggy gave him a look of pure venom.  “What other people do with their eyebrows is none of my business!” she snapped.

            Kermit couldn’t think of anything snappy to say to that, so he changed tactics.  “And look at all this money!” he accused.

            “We’re supposed to be making money,” Piggy said.  Her voice was level but her blood pressure was not.  “This was a fundraiser, and Scooter says I might win first--”

            “Yeah, but—“ Kermit blustered brilliantly.

            “Perhaps vous have forgotten that art can be commercially successful,” she said primly.

            “Art?  I don’t think this qualifies as—“

            “Well, if the crowds are applauding….”  She trailed off and looked at him sweetly.  “You do remember that feeling, don’t you?  The one when people actually clap after the performance?”

            Oooh!  Direct hit on the frog’s ego.  Kermit drew himself up to his full height, ready to say the first scathing thing that popped into his head.  He opened his mouth--

            Piggy kissed him.  In the time it had taken him to puff himself up with irritation, she had reached out, snagged the green beads draped around his neck and pulled him within target range.  Some small part of him argued that she was bound to be good at this seeing how she had just practiced so very much but it was impossible for him to remember anything of the sort once her lips met his.  There was apology in her kiss, and tenderness and insecurity and a million other things that could not fail to move him if he was not immovable.  He found he was not, and he also found his arms around her waist, feeling the solid wealth of her curves and glad to find them so obligingly pressed against him.

            By the time they pulled apart, it was safe to say that Kermit had thoroughly sampled the wares so cunningly displayed at Piggy’s booth, and had little to say in disapproval—very little to say indeed.

            Piggy looked at him, her eyes contrite, but there was a hint of mischief in them.

            “Five dollars, please,” she said sweetly.

            Kermit drew himself up, pulling his dignity around him with difficulty as if suddenly becoming aware of the many eyes watching their little interchange.  He slapped a ten dollar bill on the counter, but when her hand reached for it, he grabbed her wrist, pulled her firmly into his arms and dipped her almost to the ground. 

“I didn’t ask for change,” he muttered, and kissed her again.

Nobody reminded Kermit this was a family event.  Nobody so much as said “awwwed” or made “kissy-kissy” noises.  After an appallingly indecent interval, Piggy was set back onto her very high heels in front of a crowd determinedly looking at something else entirely.  She put one hand to her hair and the other rose to her flushed lips while she looked at Kermit without saying anything.  After a moment, one satin-gloved hand closed over the bill, and Kermit was surprised to find the other gripping his wrist.  She walked swiftly, drawing him after her, and there was a loud wail of disappointment as she abandoned her post.  Too powerless to pull free and too proud to protest, Kermit had no choice but to follow.  Piggy walked his ten dollar bill over to the Frog Scouts table.  She put it on the table and looked at Robin brightly.

            “Ten dollars for some of your Frog Scout popcorn,” she said quietly, trying to ignore the little stir her arrival had created among the pre-adolescent frog scouts.  Only Robin seemed impervious to the fact that a real, live, in the pink movie star had just visited their booth, and he took her money and sold her a box of chocolate-covered popcorn.

            There was a rustle of movement, then Scooter burst through the crowd.

            “Was that a ten?” he asked.

Several heads nodded, and Scooter looked down at his clipboard.

“It’s official then,” he said.  “The Frog Scouts win for most money earned at the fair.”

“We win!’ Robin shouted exultantly!  “We win! We win!  We made the most money today!”

            The crowd erupted into cheers and yells.  Frog scouts bounced with abandon and there was a great deal of back-thumping and head-rubbing congratulations. 

            Kermit found himself surrounded by people, but Piggy’s hold on his hand had not loosed and the crowd swept around them.  He returned the pressure of her hand and looked at Piggy, his eyes softening in response.  “I guess we all win,” he said softly.

            Piggy nodded earnestly.  “I…I wanted to do something for the cause.  This seemed like a natural.”  She had the good grace to blush under his scrutiny—she who had not blushed once on the job!—but Kermit’s sigh was benevolent.

            “It certainly seems to have been a smash hit,” he admitted.  He gave her a lop-sided smile.  “Five dollars a kiss!” he teased. “I had no idea I was so deeply in debt.”

            Piggy sniffed and disengaged herself.  She put her lovely snout into the air and sailed past him.  “Don’t worry,” she said airily.  “I’m willing to let you work it off.”

            There was a moment’s stunned silence, then Kermit smiled broadly.  He would have started after her, but at just that moment a small webbed hand slipped into his.

            “Hi Uncle Kermit,” said Robin, beaming at him.  “We did good, huh?”

            Kermit smiled, taking in Robin’s slightly less-than immaculate uniform and twinkling eyes.  “You did great.” 

“Um, is there anything to eat?” asked Robin.  “I’m hungry.”

Kermit thought of the old joke about the parents who simply weighed their little boy as they exited the grocery store and paid for the weight difference at the going rate for grapes.  He imagined that Robin had consumed his weight twice over in popcorn, and there was nothing—nothing at all—leftover from the sack lunch he’d packed the night before.

“Sure,” Kermit said, his arm around Robin’s shoulder.  “Lets go back toward the entry and see what they’ve got to eat.”  He glanced once over his shoulder and saw Piggy in earnest conversation with Scoutmaster Rana, then smiled and let it go.  He’d catch up with Piggy in a bit—she wasn’t going anywhere.

Chapter 11: Don’t Miss Your QueueEdit

            Stuffed with pancakes, pie and punch (Kermie was having a bit of a Sesame-Street-inspired flashback), Robin had finally declared himself no longer starving.  He had belched delicately, giggled and then asked permission to run and play with the Frog Scouts and other Hensonville children.  Kermit watched him go, confident of his safety in this familiar crowd, and looked around surreptitiously for Piggy. 

His miffed mood had evaporated somewhere in the middle of their second kiss, and he did not mind at all the looks of grudging admiration that had followed him in the wake of their little scene at Piggy’s booth.  If he was honest (which he did not much want to be) he would have admitted that Piggy’s contribution to the cause had been pretty inspired—and pretty inspiring!  The taste of her lips was still on his (or was that chocolate?) and he could still remember the look in her electric blue eyes when he had set her back up onto her nosebleed heels.  She had landed a couple of jibes, true—the one about applause had really stung—but he had stormed up to her booth like a Neanderthal.  He had a sudden image of himself in caveman togs, Piggy dressed in a leopard-print bikini, and the thought was so…well, ridiculous and fun that he felt like laughing.  Besides, no matter how many people Piggy had kissed, in the end, she had only had eyes—and lips--for him.

Kermit worked through the crowd, trading triumphant hugs with Fozzie over the day’s successes and waving to Rowlf, who waved a mug of something frothy and green back at him.  The mayor had been full of praise and congratulations, and Kermit’s arm had been pumped so many times he thought it might be sore tomorrow.

The Bizarre Bazaar had done quite well for itself, but the everything-you-can-stuff-in-a-recylable-grocery-bag-for-$5 sale at the end of the day had picked the long tables clean.  Kermit saw Ed strolling arm-in-arm with Nora, both of them laden down with bags.  Nora’s looked like books, and Kermit was sure he saw a candelabra sticking out of Ed’s bag, along with something that looked like a string of Christmas lights, but with prisms hanging at intervals instead of light bulbs.  Kermit expected to see the garland adorning Bat Bolt and Skull in the very near future.

Kermit saw Piggy coming across the fairway, the fluted hem of her dress swaying as she walked toward the center of the square.  Her hat was in her gloved hands since she no longer needed protection from the sun—or from erstwhile suitors—and it was obvious from her manner that she was looking for…something.  Kermit was pretty sure what that something was, and he locked his eyes on her face until the force of his gaze drew her unerringly to look in his direction.  There was a long moment—a nice moment—when they simply looked at each other, then Kermit grinned and waved.  Piggy, however, wasn’t waving—her happy smile changed to a look of surprise, then horror, and Kermit turned to see what had so arrested her gaze.

            Robin and some of the other frog scouts had been happily playing on the barrels that Gonzo’s gelatin had arrived in, scrambling over the stacks of sticky containers with youthful exuberance to bound with great joyfulness into the soupy vat of green semi-liquid.  It was not, Robin had thought, unlike climbing the maze of trees and vines he had so often climbed with his many cousins in the swamp, but the plop at the end was definitely more fun.  It was a great pastime—especially since it was then possible to clean off under a stiff spray of water from Dr. Honeydew’s station where Beaker had thrilled and horrified the crowds with his intellect-defying dives.

            Many, many people had jostled their way onto the grounds today, laughing, eating and enjoying the shows, sights and smells of the festival.  Over the course of many hundreds of bodies squashing themselves past the tower of gelatin barrels, the foundation had become a little less steady than it ought to have been.  This was compounded by the fact that—as the gelatin in the vat had diminished, it had been replaced by the reserve gelatin from the barrels.  The barrels had once been full, and heavy.  Now they were empty, and provided much less sturdy a foundation for the substitute diving board the Frog Scouts were using.  This had gone un-noticed until just this moment, and it was still un-noticed and unknown by the little green frog perched triumphantly on the makeshift diving board at the top.

In actuality, Kermit whirled around as soon as he saw the look on Miss Piggy’s face, but the act seemed to take a long, long time.  Something small and green caught the corner of his eye and drew his eyes up, up, up above the teeming crowd.  Kermit froze, horrified by the sight, as Robin had poised briefly on the top and readied to launch himself forward.

In the same way that Piggy’s gaze had been unerringly drawn to Kermit by his eyes fastened on her, Robin sensed the weight of Kermit’s stare and turned to look down, waving to his uncle frantically from the top of the heap.

“Look at me, Uncle Kermit!  Watch me!  Watch me jump!” the little amphibian cried, clinging to the edge of a barrel which was just beginning to tip.

            “No!” Kermit shouted!  “Robin!  Don’t jump!  Hold on!  The barrels are falling!”

            But the bold Frog Scout was concentrating on his dive, and did not heed his uncle’s desperate cries.  Others joined in, yelling to the little frog scout, who finally recognized the din as something other than simple cheering.  The timing couldn’t have been worse.

            Robin looked down and—startled by the rows of people all frantically waving at him—did not attend to the barrel beneath him at all.  At that precise moment, the stack of barrels behind the stack he stood on smacked squarely into his perch and he was pitched forward without warning.  Robin let out a cry of surprise and scrabbled desperately for a hold—any hold—on the tower of wooden containers while the crowd below him gasped and pointed.  The make-shift diving board swung in a slow, almost lazy semi-circle and ended up by hovering over the rickety barrels while Robin held on for dear life.  If Robin lost his grip now, his landing would not be soft and squishy.

            Sometimes when faced with something too terrible to contemplate, the mind seems to shut down completely and adrenaline surges to the forefront, readying the body for action.  Kermit’s mind had shut down the instant he’d seen Robin atop the unstable barrels, but his body was tensed as though for battle.  His bulbous eyes were scanning the fairway, calculating distance, force, gauging what sort of jump might intercept his nephew’s perilous position when he caught sight of Blackstone’s brilliant green mane. 

            If this had been a movie, Kermit would have put two fingers into his mouth, given a sharp whistle and then caught the saddlehorn of his trusty steed as he thundered past.  This was not a movie, and Kermit had never learned to whistle like that, but he gave a loud, almost hysterical bellow, calling for Blackstone at the top of his lungs.  The stallion’s head shot up out of his bag of oats and it took him two seconds to meet Kermit’s frantic gaze and identify the source of his anxiety.

            A good horse knows his rider.  A great horse knows his rider on short acquaintance.  Despite his ridiculous coiffure, Blackstone had the heart of a great horse.  He raced toward Kermit, shouting instructions as he came.

            “Forget the saddlehorn,” the horse cried.  “Grab my mane with both hands and hang on!”

            Kermit only had time to gulp, then his outstretched hands closed over two fistfuls of brilliant green hair and he was whisked off his feet.  Finding his seat wasn’t as hard as he’d imagined, but nothing mattered now except Robin, who clung paralyzed with fright at the top of a mountain of teetering barrels.

            “I’m coming Robin!” Kermit cried.  “Just hang on!”

            Desperation took over where skill was lacking.  Blackstone was thundering down the hard-packed paths, swerving with precision and skill to avoid the crowds milling mostly unawares between the two erstwhile heroes and their object.  Kermit could not afford to look where they were going—he could not spare a glance for anything they were hurtling past.  He had his eyes fixed grimly and without wavering on a small green figure who was perched on the very edge of disaster!

            There was a rumble, and at first it seemed to come from the crowd, but then the entire heap of containers was falling.  Too frightened to yell, Robin had only time to push off with his feel, but he did not have time to aim.  It did not take a physics major to see that Robin was going to far overshoot the welcoming vat of green gelatin and land somewhere on the far—and far harder—side of his target.

            But Kermit was coming. Blackstone’s hooves were gobbling up the earth and Kermit found himself—unawares and completely unconscious of the potential danger to himself—crouching on Blackstone’s back.  One hand still held tight to Blackstone’s mane but the other was outstretched, straining toward the place when one small green frog seemed likely to land.  Robin was falling faster and faster, but time seemed to slow, to still, everything moving in freeze-frame.

            Kermit’s initial idea was to catch Robin, snatching him out of the air before he could hit the ground, but it was clearly impossible at the rate they were going.

            “We’re not going to make it!” Kermit cried, and his voice sounded deep and funny to his ears, but Blackstone wasn’t about to admit defeat. 

            I’m not going to--” the horse panted back, “but YOU can!  When the time comes, jump for it!”

            It took only a fraction of a second for Kermit to understand, but the fraction of a second was precious indeed.  “Right!  Right!  Do it!” he yelled.

            Kermit felt the stallion dig in his heels, skidding through the tramped-down dirt in a wide arc, and then Kermit was propelled over Blackstone’s head and into the air, aided by a powerful push from his strong hind legs.  Now Kermit was flying up toward his nephew as Robin hurtled down toward the ground.  If they collided in midair, it would all have been for naught—and for both of them—but Kermit had not come this far to fail. 

            “Robin!  Arms out!” Kermit screamed above the roar of the wind.  “Catch me as I catch you!”  He hoped to break the force of their impact by catching Robin askance instead of head-on, diffusing some of his momentum and pushing him back into the range of the pool.  If it worked, Kermit expected them to emerge rather banged around, but it was far better than the alternative.

            There are moments when your fate hangs in the balance and no one can say which way the scale will tip, but that is assuming a blind and impartial judge.  It was fairly safe to say that there were very few impartial viewers to this little drama, and it was enough to tip the scale in Robin’s favor.  Frightened beyond ken, Robin did what his uncle asked, holding both arms wide as Kermit did the same.  The two projectiles intersected, spinning wildly but clinging to each other, the force of Kermit’s ascent pushing them back the direction Robin had come.  Kermit wrapped his arms and legs around his nephew, shielding him with his body, determined to take the brunt of the fall.

            Time was creeping by with incredible slowness.  Kermit felt Robin clinging to him, felt Robin’s head pushed into his shoulder as though to hide his face from what might come next, but he was also aware of other things, other noises.  He heard yelling, strains of music and laughter, and wondered briefly if his life was flashing before his eyes, but his musings were cut short as Kermit hit the pool of viscous liquid with a solid THWOP.

            It hurt.  It hurt quite a bit, but Kermit had never been more glad to do a stinging flop into the water in his life. Everything went green for a moment as they hurtled toward the bottom, but they surged back up to the surface in a surprisingly short time.  They were both coughing and sputtering, wiping green goo out of their eyes, but there were worried faces smiling at them, eager hands reaching for them both, and it was going to be okay.

Chapter 12: The Luck of the AmphibiousEdit

            Kermit flexed his shoulder gingerly, knowing it would be sore tomorrow, and submitted with good grace to being examined.  Robin had already received a thorough once-over by the Hensonville practitioners and been declared sound (and infused with lime gelatin).  Other than a sore shoulder, where he had taken the brunt of Robin’s weight as the little projectile had hurtling into his arms, Kermit received the same diagnosis.  This clean (if somewhat sticky) bill of health prompted a surge of concerned friends and townsfolk to converge upon him and want to hug and congratulate him.

            Kermit was always happiest surrounded by his friends, but he did not always try to be the center of attention.  Finding himself so was frequently uncomfortable, and Kermit blushed and stammered his way through many compliments and charges of incredible bravery.

            “No, really,” he was saying for the umpteenth time.  “It was nothing.  If it hadn’t been for Blackstone—“  He craned around, worried that his valiant sidekick was being overlooked, but he found instead that the oddly-coiffed show horse was completely surrounded my admirers and fans, none the least of which was a rather pretty little brown filly.  Kermit found himself grinning, and only turned back toward the crowd surrounding him and Robin when someone grabbed his shoulder (the sore one), turned him around, and kissed him with great fervor.  Kermit didn’t even see who his partner in oscillation was, but he didn’t need to see to know these lips.  He allowed Piggy to kiss him until he needed air, then took her gently by the shoulders and set her back from him.

            “Oh, Kermie—I was sooo worried.  When Robin’s diving board started to fall—“

            “He’s fine,” Kermit said firmly.  “And I’m fine.”  And you looks pretty fine yourself, he thought happily, but he said nothing.  He did manage to flex his sore shoulder in an open ploy for sympathy and Piggy rose to the bait admirably, watching him flex his muscles a little and making cooing noises of concern.

            “Are you—are you really okay, Mon Capitan?”

            Kermit tried to look solemn and rolled his shoulder.  The solemnity was entirely faked, but the wince was not.  “I’ll be fine in a few days,” he managed, milking it with as much dignity as he could summon.  After what she’d put him through today, he felt due a little tender loving concern.  “Maybe you could bring me a limeade?”  He was pushing his luck, he knew, but Piggy nodded at once.

            “Of course,” she said, bobbing her bright curls.  “Oh, Kermie, if anything had happened to you I don’t know what I would have—“

            The lovely moment was broken—as so many lovely moments were—by the arrival of Gonzo, who appeared panting and out of breath.

            “Omigosh,” Gonzo said, gasping.  “That was AMAZING!  You HAVE to do that for the next festival!”  He insinuated himself between the pig and her frog and Piggy made a snort of disgust and backed away in search of that limeade.

            Kermit and Robin looked at each other, then shook their heads and made identical noises of negation.  “Uh huh,” they both said.  “Not a chance.”

            “But it was FANTASTIC!” Gonzo said.  “Robin—you HAVE tell me how you got the barrels to fall like that.”

            Robin and Kermit exchanged another look, then Kermit gave a little shrug, leaving it up to his nephew.

            “Why don’t you buy me a cream soda while I tell you?” Robin asked, his bright eyes wide and guileless.

            “Sure!  Anything!” said Gonzo, steering him away.  Kermit watched them go, and caught Robin improvising, “Um, well, I didn’t know they would all fall at the same time….” as they moved off.   He smiled and shook his head, just as he felt someone nudge his not-as-sore arm.  Kermit the Frog turned to find Blackstone the show horse standing just behind him, and he turned at once and converted the nudge into a full-fledged hug.

            “Oh, gee, Blackstone,” Kermit said, patting the proud neck.  “I don’t know what I would have done without you today.”

            Blackstone pawed the ground, but the little brown mare that Kermit had seen before stepped forward.

            “Wasn’t he just marvelous?” she asked.  “Oh, and you were so brave, too, Mr., um….”  She stopped abruptly, as if just realizing that they had not been properly introduced.  She faltered, suddenly shy, and Blackstone rose to the occasion.

            “Marabelle, this is Kermit—Kermit the Frog.  Kermit, this is, um, Marabelle,” Blackstone said, and it was obvious from the delighted and not-especially-subtle looks that he kept throwing her that this was the aforementioned love of his life.

            “The, um, friend you mentioned,” Kermit said.  Blackstone’s eyes went wide with terror, but he calmed down immediately as Kermit added.  “The one who might want to audition for me?”

            Marabelle and Blackstone exchanged uncertain looks, but she was obviously pleased to have been the topic of previous conversation.

            “Well,” she said prettily, “I would love to, but my Father—“

            “Would be delighted to bring her ‘round to audition for you, Mr. the Frog,” said a deep baritone voice.  Kermit turned to find himself staring at the tufty foreleg of an enormous draft horse, and craned his neck to look up.

            “Oh—um, how nice,” Kermit faltered, but he managed to put on his company manners and stepped forward.  “That would be super—we’re always looking for talent, Mr., um--”

            Marabelle hastened forward.  “Daddy, I’m sure you know Mr. the Frog.  Mr. the Frog—this is my father, Able Whitlock.”

            Kermit wasn’t sure about shaking that huge hoof—especially with his sore shoulder—but in the end he and the big horse exchanged grave nods.   “Kermit,” the amphibian said earnestly.  “Everybody just calls me Kermit.”

            “Oh, Mon Capitan!” Piggy called, coming through the crowd and pulling up short at the sight of so many equine personages standing around her small green frog.

            “Except Miss Piggy,” he quipped.  He took the limeade and reached for her gloved hand to pull her forward and make introductions.  After a few minutes of pleasant conversation, Able gave a dignified snort and excused himself.

            “Work starts early at the dairy,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.  “I think it’s time for me to cut out.”  He turned and looked at Blackstone, who managed to keep his four knees from knocking.  “Young man,” he rumbled.  “Do you think you could make sure that Marabelle finds her way home safely after the festivities close down?”

            Blackstone stepped forward, eyes blazing with pride.  “Yes, sir,” he said smartly.  “I’ll see her home.”

            The two couples watched him amble serenely away.  Finally, Blackstone cleared his throat.

            “Say, Marabelle,” he said.  “Would you like to go find a couple of oatmeal pancakes?  I hear they’re pretty good.”  Marabelle whinnied and the two horses walked off, shoulders touching amiably.

            Kermit turned to Piggy and smiled.  She smiled back and put her hands in his.

            “Piggy,” he said.  “Why don’t we—“

            “Yes?”  Her voice was breathless.

            Fate had already been benevolent once, but was determinedly looking in the opposite direction now.

            “Kermit!” said a hearty voice.  “Kermit, my dear frog.  What a wonderful day this turned out to be for Hensonville!  Splendid job, splendid job, Kermit.”

            Kermit was used to being interrupted, so he sighed, gave Piggy a lop-sided smile and turned.

            “Thank you, Mayor,” Kermit said, and almost cried out as his arm was pumped vigorously.  He disentangled his little froggy fingers as hastily as he could, assuming that the little drama with the gelatin barrels had not been widely known.  Just as well, he thought firmly.  No need to alarm folks, and next year he’d keep a better eye on Gonzo’s attraction.  Kermit caught himself up short.  Next year?  Where had THAT come from? He was still somewhat staggered by the thought, which made him slow on the social niceties.  Belatedly, he realized that Piggy was still waiting for him to either include her in the conversation or conclude his business with the mayor and turn his attention back to her.  He turned to perform the civilities.

            “You remember Miss Piggy,” Kermit said formally, but the mayor was almost ahead of him.

            “Of course, of course.  Nice to see you again, Miss Piggy,” the mayor boomed.  He appeared to enjoy the view more than Kermit liked.  “So nice of you to do your part today,” the man said dryly.

            Piggy lowered her big blue eyes and murmured “thank you,” but Kermit had the feeling that this was not the first time they had seen each other today.  He got between them determinedly.

            “Yes,” said Kermit, a little coolly.  “Everyone worked very hard to make the day a success—especially the Frog Scouts.”

            “Yes—wonderful fellows, the Frog Scouts.  Quite a turnout—quite a turnout,” the Mayor said jovially.  “We’re really going to benefit from the energy savings, and all the money raised was very welcome.”  He tipped his hat to Miss Piggy and Kermit almost swore he winked.

            “I’ll pass along your compliments to Scooter and the rest of the gang,” Kermit persisted, and the mayor tore his eyes away from Piggy and blinked.

            “Who?” he asked, then recovered.  “Oh, yes!  The young Mr. Grosse.  Wonderful organizational abilities.  He ought to be a politician.”

            Or not, Kermit thought darkly, but he didn’t say it.  He was, after all, an affable frog.  “Well, it was great of you to stop by and I’m really glad the day turned out so well for everyone,” Kermit said, “but I know you must have a million details to attend to.”  He hesitated, then plunged ahead.  “Let me know when you’re ready to talk about next year, alright?  I’ve got some ideas.”

            “Capitol,” said the mayor joyfully.  He looked at Miss Piggy hopefully.  “And can we expect your…um, cooperation next year as well, Miss Piggy?”

            Piggy cut her eyes nervously at Kermit, then opened her mouth to respond.

            “We haven’t discussed Miss Piggy’s appearance at next year’s event,” Kermit said smoothly.  “And we’ll have to talk terms with her agent.”  And her frog, Kermit added mentally.

            “Oh,” said the mayor, looking surprised.  “Of course.”

            “But it was really very nice of you to stop by,” said Kermit, taking the mayor’s elbow and steering him back into the crowd.  “I’ll have my people call your people,” he added wickedly, and then the mayor was gone.

            Kermit swung around to look at Piggy, who was biting her lip and very determinedly not looking at Kermit.

            “Now,” said Kermit blankly.  “Where were we?”

            “You were saying, ‘Why don’t we—‘”  Her cheeks were flushed and Kermit suddenly remembered what it was he had been about to say.

            “Yeah,” he said.  “Why don’t we—“

            Something collided with his shin.  Kermit winced and looked down.

            “—best party ever,” said Rizzo.  “Oh—hey Kermit!  Hey Miss Piggy!”

            The little rat had an enormous blue ribbon pinned on his chest and he was munching what looked like an enormous tamale.  Following in Rizzo’s wake were an assortment of rats and a somewhat bedraggled Beauregard.  They all bore the evidence of pie-eating and merry-making, and Beauregard had some sort of second-place ribbon pinned to his chest.  Kermit squinted at it, amused to see that it was for knocking the most milk-bottles down.  Beauregard would be a natural at knocking things down, he thought dryly.  It took several minutes of exchanged small talk and congratulations for the rodents and the janitor to be on their way.

            Kermit turned to Piggy urgently, grasping her hands, but this time he didn’t even manage to get any words out.  They were interrupted by the arrival of Sam the Eagle, still looking quite fetching in his mop-cap and pantaloons, and a small horde of happy children.  If Kermit had had ears they would have hurt by the time the surprisingly motherly eagle and the chattering passel of children (all talking at the same time) moved on toward Storyteller’s Point where parents would undoubtedly be waiting to collect the little darlings.

            After Sam and the children came Wayne and Wanda, who seemed to want to talk at great length about how terrible they felt about what had happened to the Newsman.

            “And who even knew it was a toupee?” Wayne was saying in an anguished tone.  Kermit calmed them—at least as much as anyone ever could—and sent them morosely on their way.  Fozzie came by, trying to bum spirit glue, and Piggy dug in her purse for a bit and handed him a tube without comment.

            “What do ladies use that for?” Kermit asked, overcome with curiosity despite his annoyance at being so continuously interrupted.

            “False eyelashes,” Piggy said at once, and then her own blue eyes with the thick dark lashes widened cautiously.  “At least,” she said hastily, “ladies who wear false eyelashes use it.”

            Kermit’s mouth twitched a little at the corner but he said nothing.

            “Not that I ever have,” Piggy continued doggedly, looking pouty and defiant.

            “Of course not,” Kermit murmured, putting her back at her ease.  “You’re definitely a one-hundred-percent natural beauty.”

            Piggy’s eyes narrowed and she could not tell if she was being teased or not.  Kermit’s expression was guileless, but then—so had hers been in the days leading up this fair.  She decided to take it at face value and did not rise to the bait.

            Rowlf came by arm in arm with the Swedish chef and they were singing something vaguely Nordic at the top of their lungs.  Kermit suspected it had something to do with the frosty mug he’d seen earlier in Rowlf’s hands.

            Camilla and Gonzo came by next.  Camilla had retained all her feathers and her good humor despite a hard day being Chef’s assistant.  Kermit wondered absently if there was a neon sign pointing out his position in the dusk-gathering evening, but when Gonzo and his chicken took their leave, he waited a couple of beats for the next interruption. 

            Nothing happened.  He waited a minute more, but it was just him, and Piggy, and the rising moon.  Kermit turned to find her regarding him with some amusement.

            “What I started to say—“ Kermit began.

            “Uncle Kermit—can we go home now?”

            Kermit looked down into the eyes that this morning had been wide, wide awake.  Now, his nephew looked pleased and rather sleepy.  He found Robin’s hand slipping into his and Kermit squeezed that little hand in return.

            “Sure, Robin,” he said.  “Just let me tell Piggy—“

            But Piggy was bussing him gently and regretfully on the cheek.

            “I’ll see you at home, Kermie,” she said softly.  “I’m going to try to catch a ride with Wayne and Wanda.”

            Kermit watched her go, equal parts disappointed and perhaps relieved.  He thought about what he had wanted to say and wondered if he would have really said it, but it was too close to call.  He shook his head at his own folly and looked down at his nephew.

            “So you’re ready to go back to the Boarding House?” Kermit said.  “I think we might have missed the shuttle.”

            Robin looked up hopefully.  “Do you think Mr. Blackstone might give us a ride back home?”  He gave Kermit a pretty fair imitation of his uncle’s lop-sided smile.  “I’m—I’m kindof tired.”

            “We can sure ask,” Kermit said gently.  Sore shoulder or not, he scooped Robin up and slung him casually over one hip and around his back until the young frog scout was riding along hanging off his uncle’s back like a baby possum.  When soft snores began to emerge from a place somewhere between Kermit’s shoulder blades, Kermit turned away with Robin still snoozing on his back.  He would walk.  It was a lovely evening and he would simply walk the dusky streets back to his home with the sweet weight of Robin’s form slumped against his back.  He’s not heavy, Kermit thought with some amusement.  He’s my nephew.  They made their quiet, pleasant and altogether uneventful way back up the long dark streets of Hensonville until Kermit found himself stopping underneath the front porch light.  Before he could debate the logistics of trying to open the door with his foot or ring the doorbell with his elbow, the door opened soundlessly to reveal Piggy, holding the door and shushing anyone in the house who was loud enough to wake one tired and snoring little frog.  The room quieted, and Kermit ascended the stairs with his precious burden.  In a moment, Robin lay sprawled on his very own bed.  Kermit unfastened and tugged away the Frog Scout uniform which—rinsed or no, still smelled faintly of lime jello.  Kermit loosened the neckerchief and took off his nephew’s hat, setting them both on a chair.  He bent down and kissed that smooth, unlined forehead, blessing his good fortune and the happy intervention of trusted friends both old and new.

            He closed the door quietly behind him, and found Piggy waiting for him.  Before he could think of anything to say, Piggy had put a finger to her lips and, taking his hand, drawn him out onto the little balcony on the second floor, closing the door behind her.  She started to speak, but nothing came out, and Kermit realized with great satisfaction that she was blushing and looking uncomfortable.  It would have been easy to step forward and taken her gently in his arms, proving conclusively that he was no longer mad, but it was more fun to watch and see her wrestle through it on her own.  Kermit crossed his arms across his chest, looking stern but feeling incredibly, blissfully smug.

            Piggy sneaked a peak at his face, and his lack of an open scowl made her visibly relax.

            “Kermie,” she said softly.  “I thought vous were very brave today.”

            “Gee, thanks Piggy,” he said.  He could have said more.  He did not.  He waited, watching her with some amusement.

            “And I’m so glad that Robin is safe.”

            “Me, too,” Kermit agreed fervently.  “I—it was pretty scary there for a few moments.”

            “And I like your new friend, Blackstone.  He seems very nice.”

            “Yes.  He is.”

            Piggy obviously had something more to say, but she appeared to be becoming unwilling to say it.  “Well, that’s—I, um, goodnight, Kermit,” she finished abruptly.  She started for the door, but as soon as she’d opened it, Kermit’s hand shut it again.  Piggy turned to look at him in surprise, and this time he did, indeed, take her gently into his arms and kiss her.  He felt her swoon just a little, and there was enormous satisfaction in knowing that she had been kissing fellows all day long—and had not swooned--not once. 

            “Oh, Kermie—“ Piggy began, her blue eyes enormous in the moonlight.  “About the booth.  I didn’t mean—“

            Kermit shushed her.  “It’s okay,” he said.

            Piggy looked at him hopefully.  “Really?”

            “Yeah.  Sure.  I—you were doing your part.  I shouldn’t have made such a stink.”

            It was as close to an apology as Kermit was likely to come, and Piggy wasn’t inclined to look a benevolent frog in the, um, mouth.  She leaned forward suddenly and covered that mouth with hers, making this hasty kiss count for all of its shortness.

            Kermit now looked a little discombobulated, but very pleased.  Piggy straightened up, brushing her silky hair back from her face and reaching for the door.

            “Piggy—“ Kermit began, but she was already sailing past him.

            “Don’t worry,” she said archly.  “That one’s on the house.”

            When he was finally alone with this thoughts and the night, Kermit shook his head and smiled.  His shoulder felt like it had been wrenched out of its socket and snapped back on a rubber band, but he could not shake the feel of Robin’s head tucked into the hollow his collarbone, trusting his uncle to make everything all right.  Grunting a little, he lifted that sore arm to touch his froggy lips where Piggy had just kissed him, and that made him smile too.  He was tired—he was exhausted—he was pleased.  It had been a long, long day, full of unexpected twists, but in the end, it had been a good one.  Especially in the end.  The town had lots of money to meet the ambitious (and amphibious) goals set forth, Robin and his Frog Scouts had won an award and Piggy had kissed him.  It had been a pretty good day in the life of this frog.  Some days, it’s not easy being green, Kermit thought as he made is way back to his room.  But today—today wasn’t one of them.

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