Chapter Seventy-Seven As the gaggle of Muppets marched towards Robin’s school, flanked on all sides by every monster associated with them, Miss Piggy was hard at work on her cell phone, using every contact she had to alert the media. She didn’t bother trying to be classy about it. “No, you twerp, of course Robin isn’t giving any interviews! None of us are giving any interviews to anyone until we are absolutely certain that we’ve done everything we can to fix what they’ve done to him!” She hung up and growled. No one else spoke as they walked, but even when Miss Piggy was done making calls, it didn’t feel quiet. They were too angry for that. And when they reached the school and saw what was waiting for them there, their anger only mounted. It was a small protest—a dozen people, at most—but they were right next to the school playground, kept away only by the chain-link fence. They were shouting to see Robin, and their picket signs had horrible phrases like, “Robin, would your uncle kill YOU?” The police had arrived, and a handful of officers was herding the group away from the fence, but they couldn’t make any arrests. Technically, no laws had been broken. “Freedom of speech, at its finest,” Clifford spat. Miss Piggy put one silk-gloved hand on her waist. “I think those officers need a teensy bit of help convincing those people to leave,” she said sweetly, and she turned to the monsters. “Boys?” With more than a few smug chuckles among them, the monsters were more than happy to join the police officers and stand with their backs to the fence, giving the protesters plenty of dirty looks. Fozzie was trying to hide behind his tie to avoid reading the picket signs. “Let’s go get Robin,” he said, and the remaining Muppets went inside. Sweetums was the only monster who joined them. The building was eerily quiet. They went into the front office, where two very tense women were sitting behind the desk. Upon seeing the Muppets, they both jumped to their feet. “Charlotte, go get him,” the older woman ordered, and the younger woman bolted through a back door. “Oh, thank heavens you’re here. We’ve been keeping him in the principal’s office so no one would see him if they tried to come in,” the first woman explained. “He’s not alone there, is he?” Fozzie demanded. “Oh, no, of course not!” the woman said. “His teacher, Ms. Stewart, hasn’t let him out of her sight. The poor thing! He’s so brave, you know. He hasn’t cried at all.” She wrung her hands together. “He may be the only one in the school who hasn’t,” she confessed. “It started during recess, you know. We brought everyone inside right away, and they’re in an assembly now…” She bit her lips and shook her head. “It’s just awful.” The back door opened, and the younger woman re-appeared. Behind her, a woman with puffy red eyes and her blonde hair tied back in a ponytail was carrying Robin in her arms. That was technically against school policy, but no one was about to say anything about that. She set Robin down, and he immediately ran to the Muppets and flung himself into whichever arms caught him first—which happened to be Scooter’s, although all of them were reaching for the little frog. Miss Piggy wrapped her arms around both of them, and Fozzie still managed to find enough room to put his hand on Robin’s cheek. They all crowded together in a tight group hug. Safely wrapped up in the center of the group, Robin clung to Scooter’s jacket and cried. No one tried to hush him. No one told him it was alright. It would have been a lie. “I’m Ms. Stewart, Robin’s teacher,” said the woman who had carried the little frog in, not expecting anyone to answer her or to really listen. “The police have agreed to guard the school yard for the rest of the year. Just as a precaution. There’s only three weeks left.” “We still might not send him to school on Wednesday,” Rowlf rumbled without looking up from the all-important group hug. Ms. Stewart nodded quickly. “That would be fine,” she said. “Would it—could I call, later tonight, to check on him? Would that be alright?” “Sure,” Rowlf said. “But we’ve been screening our calls lately, so don’t be offended if it goes to the machine.” “That’s fine.” Ms. Stewart wrapped her arms around herself. Robin sniffled and wiped his eyes, but the tears kept coming. “I wanna go home,” he whimpered. Scooter nodded. “That’s where we’re going,” he said quietly. “We’re here now, Robin. We’ve got you,” Miss Piggy murmured. “He does need to be signed out, before you can go,” Ms. Stewart said quietly, and Clifford reluctantly detached himself from the group to fill out a single line on a clipboard. With that done, they shuffled out of the office. Before they left the building, Sweetums bent down. “C’mere, Little Buddy,” he said, and he scooped up both Scooter and Robin to cradle them protectively against his chest. The rest of the Muppets gathered around him, so that he was at the center of the crowd. Between the arms of the go-fer and the huge monster, Robin was scarcely visible at all, and certainly couldn’t be reached by any outsiders. Together, they marched out of the school, where the rest of the monsters circled them once more before they went home to the Muppet Boarding House. Floyd and Animal were waiting on the front porch, and even Floyd’s white-knuckle grip on the chain couldn’t hold Animal back when the other Muppets came in the yard. “SMALL FROG! SMALL FROG!” he shouted, charging forward. The Muppets made a path for him, mostly to avoid getting trampled, and Sweetums knelt down so the drummer could see the little frog still tucked in Scooter’s arms. “SMALL FROG!” Animal declared as he came to a stop and stared intently at Robin. “Small Frog?” Robin peered up at him. “Hi Animal,” he said quietly. Animal tilted his head to one side. “Small Frog okay?” he asked, his voice full of concern. Rather than answering directly, Robin reached up and gave the drummer a hug. Animal gently cuddled him and settled him back in Scooter’s arms to be carried inside. They spent the rest of the day on the phone with the swamp. Robin was held and cuddled and given all the chocolate and milkshakes and cookies a five-year-old could want while he talked and listened to his family—both of his families. But the one family member he wanted to talk to most was the one he couldn’t reach at all. “Can I write a letter to Uncle Kermit?” he asked softly in a rare pause between phone calls. The Muppets looked at each other nervously, trying to communicate a thousand thoughts with silent glances. Miss Piggy put her hand on his back. “Of course, Robin,” she said. “But… but maybe… it would be best if… if you didn’t tell him what happened today.” “No. That isn’t right,” Rowlf said. “Let him talk to his uncle about this. He needs to, Piggy. You know that.” “Of course I know that!” Miss Piggy pulled Robin tight against her. “But I also know that if anything happened to Robin right now, Kermie would blame himself for not being here. Do you know what it would do to him if he knew what those people are doing—and doing to Robin—because of Kermit’s choices?” She let the fire go out of her eyes and her voice as she turned to the little frog, gently cupping his cheek in her hand. “Robin—do—do you understand what I’m saying?” she asked shakily. Robin nodded. “Uncle Kermit would be upset,” he said sadly. “And he would stop doing what he’s doing, which is important.” Miss Piggy nodded. “That’s right,” she said softly. Tears sprouted out of his eyes again. “I want him to come home, Aunt Piggy!” he said, pressing himself into her arms and hugging her with all his might, which was a great deal more than she expected. “I want it to be over! I want my uncle back!” “I know, Robin… We all do,” Miss Piggy whimpered, and she cried with him as she rocked him back and forth. That night, the Muppets all slept together in one big pile in the living room, with Robin safely nestled in the middle of everyone. And when they woke up with stiff backs from sleeping on the floor, nobody complained. The idea of going to their own bedrooms hadn’t even crossed their minds. The next day was Tuesday, and since Robin’s school only met three days a week now, he had the day off. He spent most of the day halfway up the steps on his new playground, sometimes just sitting, sometimes coloring, and sometimes very carefully working on a letter to Uncle Kermit. He was much quieter than he usually was between school days, not that anyone really had to wonder why. They offered to play all sorts of games with him, and to play with him on his playground, and to spoil him in just about any other way they could think of. He accepted most of the sweets they offered—he did stop before he got a tummy ache—but he had no interest in running or playing. So the Muppets were very surprised that evening when he got his backpack together and set it by the front door, ready for the next day of school. “Robin…” Fozzie took his hat off. “You don’t have to go to school tomorrow, if you don’t want to,” he said. “Yeah, we don’t know if—” Gonzo hesitated. “If those people will still be there or not.” But Robin stood up as straight and tall as he could. “I’m going to school,” he said firmly. “I don’t like those people. But they’re not gonna stop my Uncle Kermit, and they’re not gonna stop me!” He stared at all of the Muppets with his fists clenched, waiting for them to argue. For a moment, no one said anything. And then someone started clapping, and several others joined in. Miss Piggy laughed—not a mean laugh, but a happy laugh—and she scooped Robin up and kissed his cheek, which made him squirm. “That’s very brave of you, Robin!” she said. “I’m so proud of vous! And Kermie would be so proud of you, too!” “We’re all proud of you!” Scooter declared. “Yeah, c’mon everybody, three cheers for Robin!” Rowlf said. “Hip hip—” “HOORAY!” “Hip hip—” “HOORAY!” “Hip hip—” “HOORAY!” “HIP HIP HOORAY!” Animal belatedly shouted. Robin beamed as Fozzie scooped him out of Miss Piggy’s arms and into his own. “But if you change your mind, that’s okay, too,” the bear said. “Even if you’re already at school. You can still come home.” “I won’t come home,” Robin declared. “Not until I’m supposed to!” And so it was that Robin marched to the bus stop the next morning with his head held high—escorted, of course, by eight other Muppets. He climbed on the bus without a second thought and even grinned at the other Muppets and waved goodbye as the bus pulled away. But his bravery had waned some by the time they reached the school. He gave the fence around the yard a long, hesitant look when he got off the bus, but the only people there right now were some police officers. So he went inside. For a few hours, everything was fine. He traced the alphabet a few times, and he sat with everyone else while Ms. Stewart read them a story, and then had a delightful time making a big mess with the glue and the glitter for an art project. He loved using glitter because it was messy, and because he was pretty sure it had something to do with the “razzle-dazzle” stuff they always talked about in the theater. But when he carefully carried his glittery creation to the window to dry before their first recess, Robin happened to look outside. There, beyond the playground, beyond the police officers… those people were back. He couldn’t hear them, even with the windows open, so they probably weren’t shouting this time… But just seeing them again, he didn’t feel very brave right now. “Clean up, everyone! We can’t have recess until everything is put away,” Ms. Stewart reminded them. Then she came and crouched down next to the little frog who was staring out the window. “Robin?” she said softly. Robin didn’t look at her. “Those people came back, Ms. Stewart,” he said. She glanced out the window, even though she had already seen what was there. “Yes, they did,” she said, and she took a deep breath. “Robin, I think it would be best if you stayed inside with me for recess today.” Now he did look at her. “For both recesses?” he asked. A second recess had been a necessary part of the longer school days. “We’ll see if they’re still here for the second recess,” Ms. Stewart said. “I’ll need you to line up with everyone else when it’s time to go to the playground… but don’t go outside, okay? Just stay right next to me.” Robin nodded. “Yes, Ms. Stewart,” he said. They were almost done cleaning up when Robin’s friend and fellow Frog Scout Andy hopped over to him. “Hey Robin! Wanna play on the monkey bars with me?” he asked. Robin shook his head. “I’m not going outside for recess,” he said. Andy frowned. “Why not?” Robin squirmed a little. He didn’t want to talk about the angry people, even with Andy. “Ms. Stewart said for me to stay inside,” he said. “How come?” Andy asked. Robin shrugged. “MS. STEWART?” Andy called out. “WHY CAN’T ROBIN GO OUTSIDE?” “Uh—inside voice, Andy,” Ms. Stewart said quickly. “Oh. Sorry,” Andy said. “Why can’t Robin go outside?” “Robin can’t go outside?” Charlie asked. “Why can’t Robin go outside?” Lila asked. “Robin, are you in trouble?” Tony called out. “Inside voices, Tony,” Ms. Stewart scolded. “Sorry.” “Why can’t he go outside, Ms. Stewart?” Andy asked again. Ms. Stewart took a deep breath. It wasn’t an easy issue to explain, but it didn’t look like she had much of a choice. “Calm down, everyone. Settle down,” she said, not entirely sure if she was addressing her students or herself. “Let’s all… Why don’t you all sit down on the rug with me,” she said, and she sat on her stool as if she were going to read them another book. The children quickly sat down on the rug, all peering up at her, silently demanding answers. Robin squirmed uneasily and finally sat down at the very edge of the rug, off to her side. Ms. Stewart folded her hands in her lap and took a deep breath. “Do all of you remember the people who were outside by the playground on Monday?” she asked. Two dozen students bobbed their heads. “Well, those people are here again,” Ms. Stewart said carefully. “They’re here because they’re angry at Robin’s uncle. But they can’t talk to Robin’s uncle about it, so instead, they’re being very mean to Robin.” “But that’s not FAIR!” someone in the back shouted out. For once, Ms. Stewart didn’t remind the offender to use an inside voice. “No, Gummo, it isn’t fair,” she agreed. “It isn’t fair, and it isn’t right… but there’s nothing that we can do to stop them. So instead, we’re keeping Robin in here, where they won’t say anything mean to him.” “So he can’t ever go outside, ever?” Kelsey asked. “He can go outside,” Ms. Stewart said. “But while… the angry people are here, it’s better if he stays inside, until it’s time to go home.” “But ROBIN didn’t do anything wrong!” Trevor protested. “No, he didn’t,” Ms. Stewart said, and she gave the frog in question a gentle, encouraging smile. “In fact, Robin is being very brave.” Robin hugged his knees a little tighter. Brave? Now, he was being brave? He didn’t feel brave. “But Robin shouldn’t have to stay inside!” Emily said. “That isn’t fair!” “Ms. Stewart?” Andy said, raising his hand like everyone had forgotten they were supposed to do. “If Robin has to stay inside, can I stay inside with him?” “Yes, Andy, if you want to,” Ms. Stewart said. “Can I stay inside, too?” Charlie asked. “And me, Ms. Stewart?” Trevor asked. “Yeah!” Emily said. “If Robin can’t go outside, then we can stay inside!” “Yeah, and then Robin doesn’t have to be all alone!” Raymond said. “Can we, Ms. Stewart? Can we all stay inside?” Sammy asked. “Calm down, everyone, quiet down,” Ms. Stewart said, raising her hands to quiet them. “Yes, anyone who wants to stay inside for recess is welcome to, but no one has to stay inside, alright? Anyone who wants to go outside can do that, too. Now, who does want to go outside?” She waited. Robin picked his head up. He started to smile a little. No one was raising their hand. “I want to stay with Robin,” Charlie said. “Me too,” Trevor said. Ms. Stewart let her hands settle back into her lap. “Alright,” she said softly as a smile traced its way across her lips. “Alright, then. We’ll all stay inside with Robin.” She beamed at her students, and the tears in her eyes had nothing to do with the headache she would surely earn herself by holding recess indoors.