Chapter Seventy-Five Pfc. John Holt had been serving under Major D. for over two months now, but he had spent most of that time behind a camera. For the most part, if he wasn’t eating or sleeping, he was seeing the world through a viewfinder. So although Kermit insisted that he was part of the unit, Holt himself still felt terribly awkward on the rare occasion when the camera had to be put away. Like right now. Kermit was pacing with one of his latest letters in his hands, and the rest of the unit had gathered around him. “Who is it, Frog?” Larsen asked. “Who wrote that letter?” Kermit stopped and shook his head. “Well—my dad wrote the letter,” he said. “But it’s about my brother, Noah.” Geraldson rubbed his forehead. “Frog, I can’t keep track of all your siblings. Which one is Noah? Have you mentioned him before?” “Maybe. Maybe not.” Kermit sighed. “Noah… He’s quiet. Always has been. Polar opposite of his wife. They only have one daughter, and she’s very, very spoiled.” “Oh, her you might have mentioned,” Emerson said. Kermit gave a tight smile—or at least, something that tried to be a smile—and shook his head. “I don’t know what to think, guys. Noah’s the last person I’d ever expect to even think about enlisting.” “Do you think he could handle it?” Pine asked. Kermit’s eyes flashed. “There’s no way to know if anyone would be able to handle what we do here,” he said quietly, his voice tense. “Of course not,” Pine said. “But I mean generally speaking, being in the military… Do you think he’d be up for it?” “In other words, do you think he could survive boot camp?” Casper said. Kermit frowned thoughtfully. Eventually, he shook his head. “I just don’t see it,” he said. “Noah… he’s never been the most active frog. I mean, even when we were kids, he wouldn’t so much play with us as he would sit and watch us play…” Holt, who had spent this whole time fidgeting and rubbing the back of his neck, quietly cleared his throat now. “He—he sounds a little like me, sir,” he mumbled. Everyone’s attention immediately turned to Holt, which did nothing to ease his nerves. “How so?” Kermit asked. Holt squirmed and set the camera down. “Well…” He sighed. “My family was pretty surprised when I said I wanted to enlist. I guess… they thought I was too… stationary. I mean… I didn’t play much, with my brothers or… anyone.” “Why not?” Larsen asked. Holt shrugged. “Nobody else in town liked baseball.” “How does a whole town not like baseball?” Pine asked. “It’s America’s favorite pastime!” Holt rubbed his neck. “They all played football.” “Oh… America’s other pastime,” Pine said. “I thought that was eating,” Casper said. “So why did you enlist?” Kermit asked. For the first time since he’d started speaking, Holt looked up and allowed himself to meet Kermit’s eyes. “It was important,” he said quietly. “It still is. If I knew what I know now, it wouldn’t change my mind.” Kermit nodded grimly. “But what made you decide to enlist?” he asked. Holt sighed and sat down, frowning down at his hands. “I don’t think it was one exact thing,” he said uneasily. “It just… I’d thought about it a lot, and it made sense to me. I mean… there had to be a reason we were staying over here… and I—I wanted to do something about it. Because it was important.” Kermit felt himself drooping. “You do sound like Noah,” he said miserably. “He only talks when it’s important.” He plopped down and slung his arm around Holt’s shoulders. “I guess, I just… I just don’t want him to see this… what we do here, and…” Holt picked up the camera and shifted it in his hands. “He already sees it, sir.” It was the last thing Kermit wanted to hear. He deflated even more, his hand slipping away from Holt’s back. “I guess so,” he whispered. “I guess they all do.” Larsen and Geraldson were immediately at his side, each with a hand on his back. “That was the point of this show. Remember?” Geraldson said with a quiet urgency. “Let the whole country see the truth, so they would support us. Remember?” “I remember,” Kermit sighed. “I know it’s tough, Frog, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Geraldson said. “You remember all the protestors? All the people arguing against this war? We’re here for a reason. Your brother sees that now, and he wants to help. That’s all that’s happened here.” “And if your brother sees it, then other people must be figuring it out, too,” Larsen said. Kermit nodded reluctantly. “I just didn’t think my own family would enlist,” he said softly. He twisted the letter in his hands. “Dad sure didn’t expect that, either.” “What does he say in that letter?” Larsen asked. “Is he asking you to talk your brother out of it?” Kermit frowned and smoothed the letter out, looking at it without quite reading. “Not exactly,” he said quietly. “He asks me what I think… asks me what I want Noah to do.” He sighed. “Dad… strongly implies that he would like me to talk Noah out of enlisting… but he also says that… that he understands he can’t… really ask me to do that.” “Because you’re trying to get people to support the war,” Geraldson reminded him. “And persuading someone not to enlist sort of contradicts that.” Kermit nodded. “I guess so.” “And enlisting doesn’t necessarily mean coming overseas, right?” Pine spoke up. “I mean, Rivers re-enlisted, and he’s operating a camera in Memphis.” “That’s true.” Kermit absently folded the letter. “He could get stationed somewhere on the home front.” “And even if he doesn’t… I mean, he might not be on the ground,” Larsen reminded him. “It would depend what branch of the military he enlists in. If he’s in the Navy, or the Air Force…” “Or the National Guard,” Pine said. “They’re all different. Chances are, your brother won’t end up on the front lines.” Kermit let out a quiet sigh. “That’s good,” he said softly. He frowned at his father’s letter. “Holt, when we send the footage in for this week, remind me to e-mail my brother. I guess I should let him know… if he does enlist… I mean, I’ll be worried about him, but—I think… I’ll kind of be proud of him, too.” ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ “We’re sure about this?” Rowlf asked of the few Muppets who had gathered around Scooter and his laptop at the kitchen table. “Well, I’m sure,” Scooter said firmly. “It’s gonna take a lot of gasoline to get those supplies here,” Rowlf reminded everyone. “Which is why it’ll cost so much, too,” Miss Piggy said, and she sighed at the laptop screen. “Can we afford it?” Fozzie asked nervously. “With all the money we’ve been saving, staying home all the time? No problem,” Scooter said. “I still feel bad about the gasoline, though,” Gonzo said. “It should be sent overseas to help Kermit and all the other troops.” “Of course it should,” Rowlf said gently. “But not every drop is going there, anyway. And we use as little as possible in every other way.” “We use as little as possible in this way, too,” Scooter said with a fieriness they hadn’t expected. “This isn’t an option. It’s a necessity!” He looked around and lowered his voice. “It’s for Robin’s safety, guys.” Rowlf shook his head. “If it were just about Robin’s safety, we’d just stop bringing him to the park. This is about Robin’s quality of life.” “It’s about not telling Robin how worried we are about taking him to the park in the first place,” Scooter said. “It’s about not letting him know how bad people can be, and why we have to stay home as much as possible just because we support his uncle.” The look on his face and the way he was glaring at the computer screen made the others in the kitchen wonder if their go-fer wasn’t considering abandoning his general protectiveness of technology and non-violent demeanor. Miss Piggy put a comforting hand on his shoulder. “It’s worth it,” she said quietly. “Do it, Scooter.” So Scooter clicked on the button that confirmed their order for all of the wood and supplies they would need to build the elaborate swing set he had personally designed for the five-year old frog, using the components on the website. “Robin has a hard enough time, with Kermit being gone,” he said quietly. “He shouldn’t have to miss out on having a good playground to play on, too.” “He won’t now,” Gonzo said. “Let’s just hope things don’t get bad enough that we have to take him out of Frog Scouts, too.” “No,” Scooter said firmly. “I don’t care how many of us have to go with him to every meeting. We are not taking him out of Frog Scouts.” “No matter what it takes,” Rowlf nearly growled. Two weeks later, their order arrived just after Robin had left for school. Like many schools across the country, the school Robin attended had shifted to a schedule of much longer school days a mere three days a week to minimize bus rides, which meant that the Muppets had almost a whole day to assemble the swing set before the five-year-old came home. With a great deal of determination—and some help from Miss Piggy—Scooter managed to convince all of the Muppets to watch the assembly video and review the instructions before they set to work. Either for that reason, or because Scooter kept reminding everyone that this was for Robin’s safety, the swing set was completed without anything being destroyed… although Gorgon Heap did eat the rope ladder, but they didn’t think Robin would miss it too much. Ultimately, the most difficult part of assembling the swing set was waiting a full hour after they’d finished it for Robin to come home. As he usually did after such long days, Robin came home exhausted. Once he got off the bus, he dragged himself and his backpack across the lawn and plodded up the porch steps. He stopped and stared at the porch swing, thinking about just crawling up there and taking a nap. That was about all he felt like doing, but he knew from experience that the Muppets would be worried sick if he didn’t walk through the door soon. He sighed. The front door swung open in front of him. “Robin!” Fozzie said excitedly, ushering the little frog inside. “How are you? How was school?” “Fine.” Robin slipped his backpack off and let it drop on the floor. Scooter was immediately there to scoop it up and hang it on a hook. “Are you hungry, Robin? Dinner’s just about ready!” “I’m not hungry.” Robin started dragging his flippers towards the couch. Maybe he could curl up there. But Gonzo intercepted him. “Hey, Robin! You wanna see something really neat? We’ve got a really great surprise for you!” Robin took a step back. “Surprise?” he repeated warily. Scooter laughed. “It’s not that kind of surprise, Robin. It’s from all of us! Not just Gonzo.” “Oh… it is?” Robin looked cautiously optimistic now. “Yeah, come on! It’s in the backyard,” Fozzie said enthusiastically. Sweetums chuckled. “C’mon, Little Buddy,” he said, and he held his open hand down low for Robin to hop onto it without quite even realizing he had hopped. “You’re gonna love it!” the hulking beast declared, and he carried little Robin outside with a parade of Muppets following. Once they stepped into the backyard, he set his favorite frog down and gestured broadly with his arms. “Have a look!” As the Muppets excitedly gathered behind and beside him, Robin stared out at the familiar yard. The Jacuzzi was no longer its most noticeable or outstanding feature. Robin’s jaw lowered. He rubbed his eyes. He gaped up at Sweetums, and then at Scooter, who was also beside him. He tugged at the go-fer’s jeans. “Is that for me?” he whispered loudly. Scooter was grinning hugely. “Yup! It’s all yours!” he declared. “Wow!” Robin stared out at the yard, and his exhaustion from the day vanished as he bolted forward. “It’s a PLAYGROUND! It’s a whole PLAYGROUND!” “Playground” was certainly right; “swing set” was just too modest a term for the structure that Scooter had designed. As everyone had expected, Robin went straight for the steps, and—determining the outcome of quite a few bets—he was too excited to even pause halfway before he scrambled into the wooden structure those steps led to. To his left, a set of monkey bars led to a much smaller (though equally tall) structure, complete with a look-out post and a wooden bucket attached to a pulley. Robin grinned in that direction before bolting straight ahead to a ladder leading up to a bridge. He laughed as he hopped across that bridge, knowing that there were three beautiful swings hanging right below his flippers—and how nifty was that? “Wow! LOOK at this!” Robin declared as he hopped down the ladder from the bridge to the next structure. “A trap door!” He closed and opened the door, laughing with delight. There was a ladder from this floor door to the ground, but there was no reason to use it to go down. For purposes of going down, this structure had not one, but two slides—a relatively straight, open slide, and a twisted pipe. “It’s a twisty slide! It’s a TWISTY SLIDE!” the little frog declared, and he hopped in to slide on down. “Wheeeeee!” He laughed as he reached the bottom, where Sweetums was already waiting for him. “This is GREAT!” Sweetums laughed a big, deep chuckle. “You wanna go back up?” “YEAH!” Before anyone could stop him, Robin had dashed to the ladder and was climbing up to the wonderful little trap door. “I’m gonna go down the OTHER slide this time! Ready? WHEEE!” This time it was Fozzie who caught him at the bottom. “Do you like it, Robin?” the bear asked. “I LOVE it!” Robin declared. “Can I swing on the swings? Let’s swing on the swings!” He hopped down and dragged the bear over to those three beautiful swings. “This is GREAT! I have a PLAYGROUND! My very own PLAYGROUND! Wait ‘til I tell Uncle KERMIT!” He hopped onto the center swing and laughed as he started to pump, and then Sweetums was behind him to give him a push. “Higher! HIGHER!” By now, more than a few of the Muppets were playing, too. The swings to either side of Robin both had someone to swing and someone to push, several Muppets were looking down from the bridge, there was a small line for the slides, and Sal was showing off his skills on the monkey bars. It was therefore with quite a bit of reluctance that they eventually went inside for dinner. Once they were at the table, Robin couldn’t manage to eat much. Now that he was holding still, he felt very tired again. In fact, when Jimmy called at the end of the meal, the young frog had to be woken up and have the mashed potatoes wiped off of his face before he could talk to his father on the phone.