I'm a bit late with this one, but hopefully no one noticed. Chapter Ten "Miss Hillary! Miss Hillary!" "Yes, Jerome?" "Can you help me with my english homework?" "Sure." "Good." Jerome tossed a book at Hillary, who let it bounce off her arm. "The Feminine Mystique: Middle School Edition. Why'd you have to throw it at me? That's a pretty large book." "I need you to read that, and tell me what it's about so I can write a report about it." Hillary shook her head and smiled. "Oh no, you're not getting off that easy. Let's sit down and talk about this report." "But this book is boring! There aren't even any pictures, let alone a chart or a graph. I'd take a diagram even! A diagram! Even if I have to read a footnote to understand it!" Jerome slid off his seat and rolled onto the floor, writhing in mock-pain. "Come on, Jerome." Hillary bent down, getting eye-level with the displeased leopard. "We can do this." "But…too many words...not enough pictures." "Let's sit up and then go from there, okay." Watching from afar, Rowlf smiled. Hillary had been an excellent hire for the after school program. The program's needs had shifted since the school year began; the principal had made it clear that grades needed to be improved and homework needed to be completed before any extra music lessons should proceed. So the books had to be hit before the instrument cases could be opened. Rowlf was disappointed, but he knew where the principal was coming from. Grades were important; it didn't matter if you could play the violin or trumpet well if you were failing classes. School had to come first. He flashed to his middle school days, when he was cruelly separated from his piano for two weeks because of a C-minus in social studies. He could never keep straight all the presidents and their same names; was there that much of a difference between James Madison and James Monroe? Evidently his teachers were not only aware of the differences between the two, but avid fans of them, so he had to get special tutoring sessions. This nearly killed him then, being separated from those 88 keys, but looking back on it, it was important to learn. Especially because the other night the Final Jeopardy question was about the Monroe Doctrine and he won thirty bucks from Floyd and a lunch from Statler. "You put off reading this whole book until the night before the report was due! Exactly how did you think that would work out?" "I don't like to fret about that sort of thing, Miss Hillary. Things have to work themselves out." "Well, I suggest you start reading now, and prepare yourself to ask for an extension from Mrs. Bradley." "Mrs. Bradley won't give me an extension, she's a little-" "SNACK TIME IN TWO MINUTES! Please start cleaning up your homework and backpacks." Rowlf's voice cut through the din of the homework and chatting, and all the students scampered to straighten up their work area. "Hillary, if you don't mind going into my office, I've got a cart with juice boxes and apples for everyone." "No problem." Rowlf turned to face the class while Hillary scampered out of the room. "Mister Rowlf," asked a young hyena, "why can't we have a fun snack? Like ribs." "Ribs? You want me to cook ribs for 20 people?" "Some potato salad would be good as well." A cheer went up from the crowd of students. "And rolls!" "Goodness! You guys know this is an after-school program and not a hotel, right?" "So then no hot towels, Mister Rowlf? My neck is stiff." "Nope, sorry. Michael, you have a question?" "Can I go to the lavatory?" "Michael, you just went ten minutes ago." The persnickety turkey shook his head. "I was checking out the surroundings, making sure they met my standards. I can't use just any lavatory?" Rowlf sighed. "Do they?" "Begrudingly. The stalls could be a lot wider and cleaner. And the automatic soap dispenser does not provide me the adequate amount of soap to clean my wings. But it's useable." "Well, I guess you can go then." "Before I go, do you think any changes could be made to the quality of the lavatory? Is that on the agenda?" Rowlf was stumped. "Umm, you'll have to attend a Board Meeting, I think." Hillary came in with the cart of snacks, which stopped conversation mercifully. Any food, even if it wasn't ribs, was good if it was free. "Students in Row A and B can come get their snacks. Hey! Hey! Tom, you're in Row C. Wait your turn." After all the snacks had been served, and everyone was sitting and talking, Rowlf sidled up to Hillary. "Things are going pretty well today." "Well, one problem." "What?" "Mandy and Jarrett had to be separated twice today." "How come? They were the closest of friends yesterday." Hillary shook her head. "They broke up today at lunch. Evidently Jarrett gave his pudding cup to another female and denied it, until she came up and said thanks. Mandy wasn't too pleased. She dumped her lunch tray on his head." "Did it get stuck in his antlers?" "More than likely. But they need to stay on separate sides of the room for the rest of the day, or at least until they get back together again." As if on cue, an argument broke out between the two of them. "Mandy, I'm sorry, Julia really needed my pudding cup." "I don't care! You're just like all the other deer in the world! All about food." "I need you, Mandy, baby." Rowlf stepped in to break up the lover's quarrel. "All right, you guys, that's enough." He escorted Jarrett to the other side of the classroom to help him clean up the snack cart. Meanwhile, Hillary was getting the class organized. "Now that snack's over, let's head to the music room." A din of excitement erupted from the student body, who promptly lined up at the door, nearly trampling each other. "Everybody ready to leave?" "YES!" "Let's go!" Hillary opened the door, and a rush of students whizzed past her, running down the hallway, nearly knocking over a custodian who had the misfortune to be sweeping up in their path. The music room was at the other end of the school, a beautiful room, neatly carpeted and soundproofed, with plenty of room for all sorts of instruments. Most striking was a large bay window, which over looked the school's backyard and a small parking lot. Rehearsals went nicely, Hillary taking the time to listen to the students play their latest chords and notes, while Rowlf helped a small, frustrated mongoose learn some basic piano chords. Everything went well until Jerome, who had been absorbed in his cello practice, suddenly burst out laughing. "Hahahaha! Look at that doofy bear and eagle outside! They crashed their bike into someone's car. Hillary, that eagle kinda looks like you. Less hair though." "An eagle?", asked Rowlf and Hillary incredulously. Looking outside, they saw Sam and Fozzie next to a crushed up bike, arguing. The soundproof window prevented them from hearing the argument, but it was clear that Fozzie was losing. "What in the world?" asked Hillary. "Looks like they're okay," said a relieved Rowlf. Both ran outside, followed by a trail of students. "Fozzie! Sam! What are you two doing here?" Sam cleared his throat before speaking. "I needed to talk to you Hillary about some news I heard this morning from Annie Sue." "What?" "She told me you resigned from your job at the Four Seasons Market this morning. Why would do such a thing?" "Dad, I didn't want to work somewhere that treated my brother so badly. He got fired after giving them weeks of hard work. I can't support that kind of behavior." "But how are you going to earn any money?" "Rowlf has arranged for me to be paid, and I can help out more in the planning process of the lesson plans, meeting with teachers during the day." "Well, fine, then." Sam seemed unusually flustered. Both his children had left the jobs he took great care to set up for them. It had barely been a few weeks, and all his plans were cast aside with the wind. What good had he actually done? Rowlf stepped into the conversation. "How come you guys took the bike over here?" Fozzie answered. "Well, Sam's car kind of doesn't work, because there was an accident with it when I borrowed it yesterday. I needed to pick up a prop for my act, an inflatable dentist's chair, and the box was too big for my car, so Sam said I could borrow his truck if I filled it up on my way home." "An accident?! You put diesel fuel in a gas car!" "All the pumps look the same! I didn't see the signs! I'm sorry!" Sam just shook his head. Rowlf put his arm around a discouraged Fozzie. "Accidents happen, it's okay." "So he said I was responsible for getting him to the middle school today. Only thing was Gonzo was using my car." "Why did he have your car?" "Nigel had his, since Floyd borrowed Nigel's, and Rizzo borrowed Floyd's-" Rowlf shook his head. "I get the idea." "So we had no other choice but to use the tandem bike. I don't like riding in the front, I have to make all the decisions about if we stop or not, take a turn or stay straight. Too stressful!" "He was just awful out there. I thought I was going to die of a heart attack when sitting on the back of that bike! Weaving in and out of traffic, stopping short at every light. I don't know how you ever got your driver's license!" "Sorry, Sam." Rowlf looked at the flustered Sam and the saddened Fozzie. "Well, how about you guys stay for the rest of the day, and then I'll drive you guys home. Hillary, bring everyone inside, and have them play some songs for the two of them." The kids ran inside, followed by Sam and Fozzie. Rowlf stayed outside to move the bent-up bike out of the parking lot. It had turned out to hit the back of his car, but he didn't want to upset Fozzie even more. "Only a few scrapes. Nothing too major. Still, I never thought I'd see the day when Sam and Fozzie rode a bike together. I guess things are changing around here." ********Coming up in Chapter Eleven: Showtime at the Muppet Theater with guest star Paul McCartney and Andrew getting a special job with the backstage crew.