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Death and the Matron

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by newsmanfan, Jun 17, 2011.

  1. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Fourteen (I)

    “C’mon, Fozzie, we’ve missed the opening already!” Rowlf panted, the cool dry air of the Museum a relief after jogging through the already-muggy streets. “Nothing to race for now!”

    “Ohhhhhh but I wanted to be dere! Everyone else is dere, even da flu sicky people!” Fozzie argued, stopping in confusion at the top of the stairs, unable to read his map correctly.

    Rowlf sniffed the air. “That way, Fozzie,” he said, turning the bear in the correct direction.

    “Dat says reptiles, Rowlf! Are you sure?”

    Rowlf was about to point out the large sign proclaiming FELT AND BONES EXHIBIT THIS WAY when screams and a frightening roar echoed through the entire third floor; patrons on the stairs or browsing in the Hall of African Mammals turned in surprise. Suddenly a Museum guard came sprinting past, a panicked expression turning his face from average into something pale and sickly. Hot on his heels, Sam the Eagle fluttered and stumbled. “Security! Security! Man, don’t run from danger! This is your duty!”

    Neither of them paid any attention to Fozzie or Rowlf, legging it down the stairs. Fozzie sucked a finger apprehensively. “Wow! I didn’t know guards were scared of eagles!” he said.

    “Uh, I don’t think that guy was running from Sam!” Rowlf gulped, and Fozzie whirled to see a tide of people come racing out through the reptile hall. The two friends exchanged a look, and as one fought their way around the panicked professors and squealing old ladies toward the entrance to the new Muppet Natural History exhibit gallery. When they peered inside, Rowlf wasn’t sure arriving earlier would have been a better or a worse idea.

    The first thing which caught their eyes was the meeping, bouncing, utterly helpless Beaker being dragged across the floor close to the exhibit entry by what appeared to be a very big gun turning red-hot as it sputtered and blasted; Fozzie jerked to one side when a ray narrowly missed him, instead hitting a case of mounted Muppet insects. A giant moth flapped its wings at once and took off; numerous smaller things like winged crayfish shook themselves awake and began crawl-hopping down out of the case with fluttering buzzes of their vestigial beetle-wings. “Aaaa! Bugs!” Fozzie cried, then noticed much worse things were crawling or jumping or thunderously pounding through the gallery. An enormous clawed foot slammed down right in front of him, and the bear gaped up at a bony, elongated skull easily three times his size. Empty holes of eyesockets stared right at him. “Ulk!” Fozzie gulped.

    The Muppetasaurus Tex opened its ponderous jaws; four prominent fangs and a bristling mouthful of shorter but equally vicious teeth shook in Fozzie’s face as the monster roared. Fozzie’s hat flew behind him somewhere. The bear caught a glimpse of a frog trying to hustle a pig toward the far side of the room, and ran toward him, wailing. “Keerrmiiiiiiiiiitt!”

    “Whoa!” Rowlf ducked as something not quite bat and not quite lizard swooped overhead, its tiny claws clutching at the air where the dog’s nose had been a second before. “What the Jimmy Dean’s goin’ on here?” the dog griped.

    In the middle of the room, Kermit tried to see to Piggy’s safety. Unfortunately his wife had other ideas. “Shake your ugly mug at my frog, willya? Hiii—yaaahh!” she cried, chopping one of the snapping, turkey-with-shark-teeth Velocimuppet skeletons over its bony beak. It shrieked, jerking back, but then advanced again. Desperately Piggy spread her arms protectively in front of Kermit, noting two more of the ugly reptilian birds encroaching from the side where they thought she wouldn’t notice them. She beat them back, but they weren’t giving up. Apparently having no flesh anymore was an advantage; her blows knocked them back but didn’t seem to be doing any damage. “What the heck? Are these guys indestructible? I’ve broken bones before!” Piggy growled, confused.

    Bunsen Honeydew put up a helpful finger, dodging another swoop by the bat-lizard. “Technically, Miss Piggy, these are fossils! You see, when a creature becomes entrapped in a wet environment, mineral seepage over thousands of years will eventually fill in the bones as they decompose, leaving a bone-shaped fossil actually made of—“

    “Well whatever they’re made of, can ya make ‘em dead again?” Piggy yelled, kicking another Velocimuppet. It croaked and squealed and lunged back at her, toothy beak snapping.

    “Oh,” Bunsen murmured, one hand to his mouth, worried. “Oh, dear…”

    “Keep rolling! Keep rolling!” Rhonda urged, sticking close by the sloth; nervously, the Newsman ducked away from the ponderous tread of a Muppetasaurus Bovinocorpus as it strolled by apparently unconcerned with the chaos. “We’re gonna go live, Newsie! Keep talking!”

    Newsie clutched Gina, his eyes darting every direction, unwilling to let her go for the sake of the filming. She in return held onto his shoulder, yanking him aside when two white feathery things with long necks and teeth and red wattles chased a bounding, protesting Gonzo past. “Girls! Camilla! Look, I said I thought the new look was sexy! Aaaagh!”

    “Er – things seem to have turned strange here at the Museum of Natural History!” Newsie ad-libbed, trying to stay vaguely in front of the sloth’s camera.

    “Stranger than usual, you mean!” complained a balding, grayhaired gent in a suit far too thick for the weather outside, and more wrinkled than a shar-pei on a diet, standing in the middle of the chaos.

    “Statler, you old fool, this isn’t the ‘Bombshells of ’45’ exhibit!” His companion, a shorter and even frailer codger, grabbed the official Museum map from the first gent’s curled hands. He peered at the map, then thwacked the first man. “You were holding the map upside down, you ninny!”

    “Oh…I thought ol’ ‘Bomber Betty’ was taller!” Statler said, eyeing Miss Piggy.

    “She wasn’t a pig, either, you blind old bat!” Waldorf grumped.

    Statler shrugged one shoulder. “Eh, it was the war! I’m sure those flyboys would’ve painted pork on their bombers!”

    “How ya figure?”

    “With wartime rations being so strict, every piece of bacon looked good!”

    “Oh, ho ho ho ho!”

    “Watch it, twerps!” Piggy shouted at them, grabbing one of the Velocimuppets by its snakelike tail and swinging it into another, tumbling them both in a clatter of bones and a shriek of outraged malevolent fossil fury. However, even as she gave Kermit another push toward the exit, the bony monsters shook themselves all over and staggered back to their three-clawed feet with ominous growling clucks.

    Kermit pointed out Gil and Jill huddling with the Frog Scouts next to the platform the M. Tex had stood on. “The Scouts! We have to do something!”

    “Er…are we live yet?” Newsie asked Rhonda, who was conferring with someone by phone, one paw pressed to her free ear.

    “Can ya keep it down? Some of us are trying to make journalistic history here!” the rat shouted at the room in general, then resumed her hurried conversation. “Now? About time! Great! Take the feed!” She snapped her phone shut and gestured at Newsie, addressing the sloth. “Get an earpiece on him! Fargo’s at the studio and the truck’s here to bounce the feed! Go! Go!”

    Dr Honeydew caught up with Beaker, who by bracing himself against one of the large granite pillars in the center of the gallery had at least managed to stop his ungainly and involuntary tour of the exhibit; now he was doing his best to saw through the safety wrist-strap of the Disint-o-ghoster 4000 with a pocketknife held in his mouth. “Beaker! I’ve got it! I know what’s wrong!” Bunsen cried; Beaker stared at him, dazed. “Somehow the neutron polarity has been switched in the wrong direction! All we must do is to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow, and set the Tobin waves down a notch, and assuming the anti-Muppaspectre facilitating engine doesn’t—“

    At that instant, the barrel of the gun turned white-hot. Beaker shrieked as the safety strap burst into flames, jerking his hands free. With an earsplitting craaaaack!, the core of the Disint-o-ghoster exploded. Shrapnel shot straight up. “…Explode…we should be fine,” Bunsen finished lamely; his gaze turned upward with Beaker’s at the one Muppasaur anywhere in the gallery which hadn’t been animated with a stray shot yet: the Greater Muppassic Muppadactyl skeleton suspended from the high ceiling by airline cables. As the scientists stared in horrified resignation, every single cable holding the fossil up was sliced by a blazing-hot piece of subatomic-reinforced nickel-iron which had seconds previously before failed to contain the explosion. The entire Muppadactyl fell surprisingly gracefully, swooping much like a half-ton pendulum directly onto the heads of the Muppet Labs duo.

    As the dust settled around them, Bunsen groaned, “Ouch…”

    Beaker agreed with a weak meep before passing out.

    “Live, at the Museum of Natural History, this is your Newsman for KRAK,” Newsie barked at the camera when Rhonda vehemently gestured at him they were broadcasting directly to the station, where images of this bizarre carnage would be sent out to the entire viewing area. “Er…Bart, are you seeing this?”

    A sneering voice came through loud and clear over his earpiece, and Newsie winced. “Looks like the usual Muppet weirdness to me, Newsie. What’s the story?” The anchor’s tone made it clear he was annoyed at having been dragged away from his brunch date for just another Muppet piece. Angry, the Newsman was about to launch into a curt description of the action so far when Gonzo rode by on the back of one of the altered-state chickens.

    “Whooooo—haaaaa! That’s it, Camilla! You can beat ‘em!” Gonzo yelled, bouncing excitedly like an ostrich jockey; the Muppasaur-throwback bird didn’t seem to be racing the other ones hot on her tailfeathers as much as vainly trying to jump up to eat the fearless daredevil, hen’s teeth snapping viciously at him.

    Gina stared at that, still holding Newsie’s shoulder. He tried to regain some appearance of confidence. “Um…well…as you can see, Bart, this is hardly the normal chaos! The scene, in fact, is somewhat grim, with a whole host of ravenous, reanimated Muppasaurs attacking the crowd who’d come to see the opening of the exhibit!” Gina yanked him to one side as the primitive Whatnot shaman glared and pointed their direction, his evil jade eye sparking with energy. “Erk! – and an undead, mysterious mummy is also wreaking a terrible vengeance on the people who dared to ogle him by doing some shameless ogling of his own!” Whatever force the shaman wielded with his evil eye hit the camera aardvark smack in the face, sending him and his camera tumbling right to the feet of the Muppetasaurus Tex.

    “Is this yet another publicity stunt by the Muppets to raise their theatre attendance?” Fargo demanded.

    “Bart! People are in real danger here!” Newsie protested.

    “There they are! Make them – make them behave like proper dead things!” Sam shouted, one firm wing pointing variously at the Muppasaurs running amok, and the altered chickens now snapping and snarling at Gonzo as he perched precariously atop one of the taller freestanding cases. “Er…and…and proper chickens!”

    The Museum guards right behind Sam in the entrance to the gallery stared in complete shock at the scene: Dr Teeth and Zoot were desperately swatting as the crustacean-bugs buzzed and clawed them in what appeared to be an attempt to grab the Muppets’ noses. The class of preschoolers, one enormous bird, and one shy pachyderm huddled in a corner, staring with wide eyes, thus far unnoticed by the monsters. The giant moth and the winged lizard were locked in a circle of aerial combat, swooping wildly around the room just above head-height. Two M. Bovinocorpii kept trying to eat the reconstructed, plastic giant Muppafern, mooing unhappily as each bite produced no chewing satisfaction. And Animal and MahnaMahna seemed to be doing the frug just behind the arm-waving, angry-dancing Muppeti Quidquid. Sam gestured angrily at the guards. “Well? Do something!”

    The shaman noticed him. “Ooogawokka mugga boot!” he screamed, rolling his jade eye at the huge marble pillars framing the gallery entryway. Sam heard the crumble and rumble of rock being forced impossibly from its place and leaped into the room an instant before one of the massive pillars toppled, blocking the entry, trapping the guards outside the room…and everyone else in from that end.

    “A mummy coming back to life? Oh, come on, Newsie…wasn’t that just a movie?” Fargo asked over the audio feed into Newsie’s ear.

    Newsie spread his arms, including the room at large in his frustrated gesture. “Bart, I don’t pretend to be even remotely qualified to explain this phenomenon—“

    “Doo dooo doo doo doo!” Two pink, horned creatures chorused, springing up next to Newsie.

    He shoved them aside. “Oh will you get out of here! –-but Bart, I assure you and the viewers, this is no publicity stunt! Somehow, a number of large prehistoric Muppet monsters, most of them with huge, sharp teeth, have animated and are attacking everyone in the room!” Newsie lost the feed for a moment when Gina threw both of them to the floor; another burst of chilly energy shot over them, shattering the remaining glass of another display.

    “Hey! Hey! Get me outta here!” a thin, reedy voice shrieked; they looked up to see Fleet Scribbler crouched inside the hollow ribcage of the M. Tex, still alive and apparently unhurt. He began banging on the ribs of the giant carnivorous Muppasaur. The aardvark tilted his camera up, capturing Scribbler’s imprisonment…and the monster’s irritated reaction. With another earsplitting roar, it shook itself violently, cast about for something to bite, and its open jaws swooped down over the cameramuppet at its feet.

    “Jerry! Oh, no!” Rhonda squeaked. The M. Tex gulped the aardvark down; he went sprawling, camera-first, onto the mop-ragged head of one tabloid reporter. The Muppasaur snarled, stomping back across the room, its spiked tail whooshing through the air behind it more than enough discouragement for anyone even thinking about following…not that anyone was. “Jerry! Are you okay?” Rhonda yelled as she saw the aardvark trying to pick himself up within the bony bowels. When he gave her a weak thumb-up, she vented her anger on Scribbler. “Scribbler, you moron! If you’ve broken my camera, I’ll tear it out of your scrawny hide!”

    The tabloid hack didn’t reply. He wasn’t accustomed to having heavy things pound his head.

    “Ohmygawd! Ohmygawd! It’s gonna eat me!” Rizzo screamed, at about the same time as the much-angered M. Tex was homing in on Statler. The rat bolted this way and that with a snapping Velocimuppet on his tail; seeing Scooter behind one of the walls for the “Timeline of Muppet Evolution” corridor, the rat leaped into his arms. “Save me! I’ll give ya all my cheese!”

    The Velocimuppet, focused on a tasty rat snack, lunged at him; frightened, Scooter instinctively threw Rizzo. “Aaaaaaaawhatareyoudoing?” Rizzo screeched; he bounced off the tall hat and into the broad hands of the Swedish Chef. “Oh my heart,” Rizzo panted, but before he could catch his breath, the same singleminded proto-Muppet turkey raced to the Chef, bony beak spread wide with multiple teeth gleaming. “Ohmygawdhereitcomesagain—aaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!”

    “Ooh! Der turken-toofer nooo der snicky-snacky!” Chef exclaimed, hurling the rat back at Scooter, who only just managed to catch him.

    “This is Lewis Kazagger with Muppet Sports! An early start to the Muppet International Keep-Away Tourney here at the unlikely venue of the Museum of Natural History! So far the score is Muppets one, vicious fossil monsters nothing! But the Velocimuppets were a species known for their tenacity and fierceness, so it’s gonna be a wild contest here today!” Kazagger proclaimed, popping up with a large microphone.

    Newsie blinked, eyes wide and jaw slack. “Who the heck is he broadcasting to??”

    “This is all your fault, you nearsighted old fraud!” Waldorf complained, shifting around for more elbow room in the ribcage.

    “Me? I didn’t wave my coat at it, yelling ‘Toro, toro!’” Statler grumbled back, trying to free his foot from underneath some sort of long-nosed, shell-less armadillo with a broken camera.

    “If you’d admit you need reading glasses, we wouldn’t have been here in the first place!”

    “That exit’s still open!” Kermit pointed out the narrower corridor at the far end of the room to Fozzie and Rowlf. “Get those children out of here! I’ll get the Scouts!”

    “You got it!” Rowlf promised.

    “This is—this is hideous!” Sam stuttered, trotting alongside the dog. Fozzie was already beckoning to the frightened children and their young teachers; the chaperones may have mastered their early education teaching techniques, but nothing they’d learned about ADD, bullying, or cleaning glue spills had prepared them for raging, lunatic Jurassic Muppet carnage. They hustled their charges after the bear and the dog gratefully. Sam brought up the rear of the hasty parade, his sharp gaze swiveling all around as people continued to be chased and snapping, snarling, stomping monsters continued to snap, snarl, and stomp at them. “This is an outrage! Where is the curator? I must protest this ridiculous, antisocial fossil behavior to him at once!”

    “Uh, I think dat’s him over dere,” Fozzie said, nodding briefly at the end of the “Muppet Evolution” display. On the pedestal where Mookie-mookie had been laid in state, Dr Van Neuter writhed and jumped while two of the reverse-DNA-injected chickens, now the size of ostriches and with similarly aggressive attitudes, clawed and pecked at the hapless scientist, yanking out his hair strand by strand as he yelped and swatted vainly at them. Mulch crouched behind one of the display walls, wincing every time his boss cried out.

    “Ow! Ow! Stop it! Ow!”

    “They’re not eating him?” Rowlf wondered, pausing a moment to stare. “What the hey?”

    Sam blanched. “Uh…I…I think…they’re gathering nest material,” he muttered.

    He, Fozzie, and Rowlf all shuddered. “Yeeesh…”

    “Gil! Jill! This way!” Kermit urged, and the adult frogs saw him, nodded, and began herding the Scouts around the empty platforms toward the unguarded, still-open exit. Kermit felt a tap on his ankle, and jumped. Looking down as he landed, he relaxed as he saw the tiny, fluffy, pink bunny rabbit. “Oh! Geez…uh…do you want to come with us? I’m sure it’d be much safer for you too away from all these Muppasaurs,” Kermit offered.

    The bunny blinked its adorably large eyes at him, wiggled its whiskers, opened its jaws impossibly wide and lunged at the frog with incisors the size of a sabre-toothed tiger’s. “Aaaack!” Kermit yelped. “Piggy!”

    “Kermie!” Throwing aside the squealing Velocimuppet she was body-slamming against the floor in an attempt to break its mineralized bones, Piggy waded into the fray.
  2. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Fourteen (II)

    “It looks as though the Velocimuppet team may be tiring!” Kazagger announced, somehow keeping just out of range of another circling turkeylike monster as his wobbly parsnip of a nose darted one direction and the opposite repeatedly while Rizzo was hurled between Scooter and the Chef, both of whom were ignored by the Velocimuppets as long as the rat was in the air. “Could this spell defeat for the fulminous fossils? Will they come up with a better strategy and stop this ignominious slaughter?”

    “I’m gonna come up with my lunch in another second,” Rizzo groaned, flying limply into Scooter’s hands once more. “Ooooohhh…” Scooter, showing some strain now, nearly missed his return throw to the Chef, and then yelped and bolted as the second Velocimuppet finally realized it might make more sense to attack the people throwing the rat than pursuing the rat himself. “Aaagh! Chef! Chef! Do something!” Rizzo squeaked, seeing Scooter flee and the original fossil monster bearing down on the Chef.

    “A break for the fossil team! Finally they may be able to even the score!” Kazagger exclaimed, following the action.

    “Dude, whose side are you on?” Scott demanded, waving his hands at the Chef. “Here! I’m open! I’m open!”

    Gladly, the Chef lobbed the rat underhand and looping high; Scott caught Rizzo and promptly plopped the nauseated rodent atop his six-foot-four head. The Velocimuppet chasing the tasty furball screeched to a floor-gouging halt when Rizzo blew a sloppy raspberry at it; from the monster’s perspective, the rat had suddenly vaulted in size, and might present more of a challenge than it wanted. Hissing, it backed away. “Holy cow,” Rizzo gasped. “It thought me an’ you was da same!”

    “Good thing we’re both Dodgers fans,” Scott said, noting the same jacket on both him and the rat today.

    “And that concludes the first game, with the final score Muppets twenty-seven successful passes, Velocimuppets still zero, an astounding phenomenon…er…which… which has not been successfully reached in over fifty years of championship Keep-Away play until now, and you saw it here first, sports fans!” Kazagger said excitedly, doing his best to ignore the singing pink horned things suddenly behind him.

    The sloth somehow managed to stay unnoticed as he continued filming; possibly his slow movements made the Muppasaurs doubtful he was actually alive. He focused on the Newsman while Newsie repeatedly dodged and weaved, Gina keeping an eye on the dancing shaman while Newsie doggedly continued his on-the-scene coverage. At least, he noticed when his gaze swept the whole room at one point, his mother had vanished. Probably she’d found the whole event too weird; he wasn’t sure he could debate that opinion right now. “The schoolchildren seem to have been safely maneuvered out of harm’s way, but that still leaves a great number of us in danger here, Bart, including an entire troop of Frog Scouts and celebrity couple Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy! Is there any chance of the governor sending state troops to relieve the overwhelmed Museum security staff, Bart?” Newsie asked loudly over the screeches of hunting prehistoric predators.

    “Yoo hoo! Ugly!” Janice cooed; Mookie-mookie swung around, tattered brow furrowed. As Janice waved and struck a pose, lifting her skirt to show off a tanned thigh, Floyd reached for Animal’s chain and tugged on it.

    “Come on, man, snap out of it! You’re a drummer, not a backup singer!” Floyd coaxed. Unfortunately, the entranced Muppet growled loudly at his friend, and the shaman whirled back around to find Floyd inches away. “Uh…what’s happenin’, my ancient and tombalicious grey dude?” Floyd tried, and held up a hand for a jive shake.

    The mummy apparently was not a hipster. “Mooga! Unga hoggah mooga buk!” He roared, bringing both hands together in a clapping gesture over his head and glaring at Floyd, then Janice. A line of velvet ropes connected to brass posts swooped across the floor, swiftly wrapping the guitarist and the bassist together and rolling them off to a side wall, where had they not already been close, they would’ve felt distinctly overcrowded.

    Janice sighed, barely able to shake her head. Floyd gave a half-shrug, arms pinned. “Well, good thing we’re past the holding-hands stage already,” he joked weakly.

    Bart Fargo, star anchor, was meanwhile casting doubts on the Newsman’s motives. “I haven’t heard anything from the governor’s office, no. You know, Newsie, I’m sorry but I have to bring up the scene last night which a number of people witnessed, where you allegedly blew up at your girlfriend, and yet isn’t that her behind you?”

    Newsie glanced at Gina; she gave his hand a squeeze, dispiritedly watching the last of the Mayhem become entrapped in crowd control ropes. “Uh, what has that got to do with any of this?” Newsie glared at the camerasloth. “Tony, are you getting all this?”

    “The live feed’s good,” Rhonda promised him, hovering next to the sloth. “And his name’s…oh never mind…”

    “Well, we all know the Muppets have a reputation for bizarre, crazy stunts—“ Fargo continued.

    Right then, the transformed Camilla lolloped past, riding Gonzo, her oversized feet clutching his shoulders as he galloped. “Yeeehaaaa! Okay, can I be the cowboy again now, Camilla? …Camilla? Sweetie?”

    “Grrrr---BAWK!”

    Newsie, Gina, and Rhonda stared after the pair. “Er…no, Bart; just that guy,” Newsie muttered. “Some of us are pretty normal…”

    “Mooga-shaka!” Mookie-mookie howled, pointing at the Newsman. Animal and MahnaMahna echoed him loudly, swaying, their arms and legs pumping up and down as they did what looked like a dancercise. “Mooga-shaka! Mooga-shaka!” Gina shoved Newsie out of the way, stumbling; he frantically grabbed at her as she fell, and a high-pitched squeal in his ear made him yelp in pain and dig the audio-feed earpiece out and throw it. He wound up gasping on the floor next to his beloved.

    “Newsie!” Gina said, reaching for him. He returned the embrace, relieved to see she didn’t look hurt. “Forget the stupid coverage already! This is out of control and we need to get the h—out!” she argued.

    “He what? What do you mean? Live? Now?” Rhonda squeaked into her cell phone. Disgusted and astounded, she lowered the phone, staring at Newsie. “That was the station. Bart just broke out in green fur flu…on the air live.” She threw her paws in the air. “Sheesh! What next?”

    Next came immediately in the form of two of the Velocimuppets. One of them veered off at Newsie and Gina, one at Rhonda. “Ack! Why do they always pick the rats? Why?” Rhonda cried, legging it for the huge hollow Muppafern, the only thing nearby which seemed likely to provide shelter she could reach but the snapping, demented bony turkey behind her couldn’t. She dove into one of the tiny holes in the fern’s trunk just ahead of the surging stretch of fossil neck and a clash of hard teeth. Panting, the news director suddenly realized she might be out of the Velocimuppet’s reach, but she was certainly not alone; she looked around in growing apprehension at an entire clan of animate, stuffed creatures which appeared to be the ancient ancestors of Muppet mice, although these things still seemed more reptile than rodent. “Ah…hi, guys,” Rhonda said, nervously backing into a fern wall, the creatures sniffing and closing in around her. “Uh…speak English? No? Um—how about mouse? Squeak? Squeaky squeak?” she tried, rummaging through her memory back to foreign-language classes in high school. “No, huh? Um, look, I’m with the local news, maybe I can get you an interview? Ack!”

    Across the gallery, three other rodents were experiencing a similar problem. The recent Frog Scouts of small furry persuasion bounded as fast as their tiny legs could carry them, but couldn’t keep up with the longer-springing froglets all making a break for the one unblocked exit. “Eep! Eep! Wait!” one of the mice called, but his tiny voice went unheard beneath the roar of the M. Tex shaking its body from side to side in an apparent attempt to shut up the newly-complaining Scribbler trapped in the ribcage under one aardvark, two grumbly old men, and one Museum staffer who hadn’t moved fast enough when the enormous mouth opened over him. Melvin the snail, who’d hung back and stared in awe at most of the fast-moving events since the giant Muppasaur had roared its defiance the first time, saw the mice’s peril.

    “Iiii taaaake it baaaack,” he muttered as he scooched across the path the mice had just gone between two broken display cases, laying a trail of slime on the marble floor the instant before the Velocimuppet hit it. Talons skidded, bones slipped, and the Muppasaur went tail-over-beak, crashing into one of the cases. “Yoouuu’re noooot soooo cooooll,” Melvin sniffed at it. “Yooouuu’re juuust a buuuuuuulllyy!”

    The vicious predators hadn’t even seen the small shelled creature until now. Now…it turned, seeking the voice, and finally located it. Melvin yanked himself into his shell as the Velocimuppet bit down, but the shell crackled dangerously under the tremendous pressure of the strong teeth. “Heeeeellllpp!” the snail yelled.

    His lower voice carried where the mice’s high-pitched squeals hadn’t. Robin and Dill, both at the rear of the Scouts to usher the younger ones ahead, heard and whirled around. Robin gasped. “Oh no! Melvin!”

    “The mice!” Dill agreed, shocked, seeing their newer members all in trouble. The two raced back the way they’d come, into danger’s reach.

    “Robin! Dill! Keep away from those monsters!” Kermit yelled, jerking aside when the violent pink bunny growled and tried another leaping lunge at his face. “Someone! Get that snail!”

    “Ungh! You leave him—alone, you horrible –ergh!—beast!” Piggy shouted, but even her best karate chops missed the wildly hopping rabbit.

    Rowlf and Fozzie, at the doorway to help usher the scouts out of the exhibit hall, stared in surprise at the sight of their friend and employer bouncing higher and higher, equaled by the lightly springing bunny with ridiculously long teeth. “Good grief! I think that thing’s rabid!” Rowlf exclaimed.

    Scooter, his lungs and legs hurting, joined them, and stared as well. “Uh…no. Its eyes aren’t googly enough to be a Rabbid…” he opined weakly.

    “Get ‘em, guys!” Robin whooped, leaping upon the Velocimuppet attacking Melvin. With croaking war cries, several of the older Frog Scouts followed his example, grabbing bony shoulders and legs and ribs, pulling and kicking and pounding with tiny frog fists. Dill scooped up the mice, hustling them to the relative safety of the exit and the adult troop leaders, who looked on in horror, separated from their brave little frogs by two of the mutated chickens fighting with another of the fierce fossils as the monsters ranged all over the back section of the gallery. The Scouts kept up the assault, perplexing the Velocimuppet; it screeched in protest, shaking itself, hopping from one foot to the other, trying to scratch at them, but the troop clung tight. It dropped Melvin to try and bite the frogs; the snail hustled out of the way at a full-throttle half-mile an hour. “Yeah! Take that! and that!” Robin shouted, kicking repeatedly at the thing’s ribs, ducking its beak. Suddenly the entire thing shivered and collapsed into a pile of quivering bones. The froglets froze, surprised. Everyone turned to look at Ribsy the toad, who blinked slowly at them, and held up a small triangular bone.

    “Duh…lynchpin bone,” he croaked.

    Robin cheered. The other scouts took up the cry, peeping and ribbiting happily. “Yeah! Yayyyy Ribsy!”

    Their joy didn’t last. The bones began to reassemble before their stunned eyes. The shuddering fossil resumed its upright stance, the beak darting down and grabbing the bone from a frozen Ribsy, tucking it back into its spine near the neck. “That didn’t work! Run, everybody!” Robin cried, and the troop took to their flippers again.

    As Gina ducked and darted around broken cases and half-collapsed portable walls, pulling Newsie along by one hand, she saw Mookie-mookie distracted by something in the center of the room, where Kermit was leaping in the air in some sort of contest with a pink bunny rabbit and Piggy’s powerful kicks could be glimpsed behind the M. Tex lumbering into a better angle of attack on the pig. Was the shaman directing the Muppasaur? Hard to tell – but he wasn’t paying attention to anything else! She halted their flight, yanking a startled Newsman almost off his feet as she dropped into a crouch behind a tall platform. “Newsie!” she hissed, “Look! None of them can see us here!”

    Trying to pant silently, he peered around the corner. “Good,” he said weakly, slumping to the floor. “This is insane…”

    Gina studied the angle, the distance. “I think I can sneak up on him. If I can get close enough and yank out that d—d eyeball, maybe I can stop him, at least!”

    “Gina, no!” Newsie said, shocked. “There’s no way you can do it!”

    She looked around warily; in every direction, ancient Muppet creatures still ran, flew, crawled, and chased. The mummy shaman chanted, waving his arms over his head, and the rumble of support pillars throughout the room made her and Newsie shudder. “There’s no telling what he’ll do next!” she whispered heatedly. “Sounds like he’d be happy burying the whole d—d Museum along with himself again!”

    “Gina!” Newsie gasped, grabbing her arm, shaking his head. “No, you can’t! I couldn’t…I can’t lose you!”

    She stopped, meeting his worried stare, then drew him close for a deep kiss. “I love you, Aloysius. I’m not going anywhere without you.”

    He held her tight, fervently returning the kiss. They pulled just far enough apart to breathe, both short of air and tense. Gina brushed his prominent nose with her own smaller one. “Together, then.”

    He heaved for breath, trying to steel his nerves. But if his beloved could dare this…how could he stay behind? He nodded at her, holding her gaze. “Together.”

    Gina gave him a silent finger-count the same way the floor manager would on the news set: three…two…one! They sprang up, running as quietly as they could the few steps to the terrible Mookie-mookie and his even worse backup singers. A second before they reached him, the shaman sensed something, and started to turn.

    “Hey, stupid!” Newsie shouted before Gina could, startling her as well as the mummy. He ran past it, turning to pull his mouth open even wider with his fingers, sticking his tongue out. “Bllleaaahh! You couldn’t hit the broad side of a gravestone, you ugly—“

    “Oooongrah fugguh muh!” Mookie-mookie yelled, throwing his arm forward threateningly – and Gina snatched the jade eyeball out of the withered socket. “Ragguh-puh!” the mummy howled, waving its arms wildly.

    A small shockwave of force hit Newsie, sending him sprawling into the tail of the Muppetasaurus Tex. The beast snarled, automatically smacking its tail; fortunately the spikes missed, but the thick, bony part of the elongated spine made contact. “Whoof!” Newsie choked, the wind knocked from his chest, landing hard against a pillar by the exit to the gallery.

    Scooter nodded at him, still winded himself. “Nice distance!”

    Zoot and Dr Teeth puffed wearily, clinging to one another, still looking green around the edges and worn out from fighting off the nose-pinching crawdad-bugs. They made room for Newsie at the exit as he climbed groggily to his feet.

    Mookie-mookie shouted and pounded his feet on the floor angrily. “Mookaka baroo foogah shaka-laka!” He swiped at Gina, but his depth perception was off. She stepped back, but then Animal grabbed her leg.

    “Aaaaa! Wo-man!”

    “Eeek!” Desperate to keep the eyeball out of the shaman’s reach, Gina threw it over his head at a man in a large collar with buggy eyes. “Hey fish-guy! Catch!”

    “Ooouhhh okay!” Lew Zealand agreed enthusiastically. He palmed the heavy eyeball, feinting left and right as MahnaMahna raced over and jumped up and down trying to steal it back. “Heh heh! Catch, cook!” He lobbed it over to the Chef, who protested.

    “Oom nut er kook! Oom uss noormal uss der eenywuns!”

    “Aaaaaand the second round of the International Keep-Away Games is on!” Lewis Kazagger shouted, suddenly in the midst of it again. “This time it’s the Muppets versus the Munificent Mummy Muggers! This might not be a fair fight, since the Muppet team has brought in a ringer who has at least two feet over most of the other players!”

    Animal rushed the Chef, growling, and the frightened Chef tossed the eyeball back at Lew. “So far the score is two and oh for the Muppets! Can they repeat their earlier victory or will this be the match that stops their relentless advance?” Kazagger commented, avidly watching the tosses back and forth. Gina tried to break away from the contest, but Mookie-mookie grabbed her arm, chanting at her. However, he immediately jerked back in pain; she felt heat around her neck, and realized with a start that her copper bead necklace was humming.

    Oh my gosh…is his energy the same kind as Newsie’s? Just…better directed at chaos-causing? she wondered. Whatever the case, the mummy, frustrated at not being able to touch her without consequences, went into a hopping rage, and Gina quickly scrambled out of the way.

    Newsie saw the last part of that from across the room, relieved when it seemed the horrible dead thing couldn’t harm her. He shook his head in amazement as Kazagger continued to narrate the eyeball keep-away contest. Scooter asked, “How does he manage to just be there when sports happen?”

    “Search me,” Newsie grumbled, not without admiration. “Wish he’d teach it to me…that would come in really handy for news reports!”

    Another bone-rattling roar from the M. Tex made everyone jump. The thing loomed over Piggy, and the remaining Velocimuppet still stubbornly snapping at her gave up, backing off before the much larger beast. Unsure whether she could afford to give it her full attention, Piggy glanced from it to Kermit; her frog still dodged and bounced and panted around the room, going in random directions to try and throw off the killer rabbit, but the springy pink thing wouldn’t relinquish its pursuit. “Kermie?” she called. “I may have a teensy problem…”

    “Same here!” Kermit yelled back, turning in midair to see what she was dealing with now. All in one glance he took in the gigantic fossil with its ribcage full of uncomfortable people all being knocked around when it moved into a position to try and add Piggy to that total…and his nephew and the rest of the Scouts backing toward the exit with what looked like all of the Velocimuppets trailing them hungrily. “Oh good grief!” he cried, ducking when the rabbit lunged at him again. “Piggy! Robin!”

    “Out! Everybody out!” Rowlf yelled.

    “Gina!” Newsie called at the same instant.

    She waved him off. “I’m fine! Go! Go!”

    Oh, he hated that idea. However, the ring of Velocimuppets closed in swiftly, coordinating finally, the flock herding the Muppets not tied up or trapped elsewhere in the room all toward the exit doorway. If these things get into the rest of the Museum…if they get OUT of the Museum--! No, no! Frightened, Newsie could all too easily imagine what those razor-claws and vicious teeth would do to any non-Muppets they encountered…and he doubted they would turn to dust if caught outside in full daylight, as the Museum’s inhabitants had in the movie. We can’t let them out! We can’t!

    He voiced these fears as the Frog Scouts edged past him. “Those things will destroy the city if they get loose!”

    “They’ll destroy us if we don’t get out!” Scooter argued, backing away. The Velocimuppets chirped and growled oddly among themselves. Newsie didn’t like that one bit…they were communicating…planning.

    “Split up!” Rowlf suggested – and then the lead monster leaped at the terrified Muppets.

    The group charged along the hallway. A stairwell opened down and up just past the gallery on the right, but Fozzie had heard the Newsman and knew he was right. “Not down dere!” he shouted, directing everyone past the stairs instead. “Dere’s innocent people down dere! We can’t let dese monsters loose!”

    “Wish we had some of our monsters!” Rowlf panted, casting a disappointed look down the stairs as he ran past. “Where they heck are they, anyway?”

    “Monster-petting therapy at the Shadows on the Dial Happy Home for the Dangerously Senile,” Scooted puffed back. “It’s supposed to be good for the old folks…”

    At the top of the stairs, a purplish Muppet with a stringy mustache and dreads and a leather-clad prawn, both in dark shades and bad moods due to the guards at the Columbus Avenue entrance to the Museum having forced them to leave their double-jolt cups of coffee behind, paused to stare at the river of small frogs and larger Muppets who pounded past them, not even noticing. A few paces behind, six monsters consisting of toothed beaks, long sleek bodies with no skin or flesh of any sort over their dark bones, and enormous claw-toes propelling them forward raced in the Muppets’ wake. The last of these turned its skeletal head to shriek at the visitors on the stairs, but didn’t slow, and in a moment all were out of sight.

    Clifford blinked. Slowly he looked down at Pepe, who returned his slack-jawed, weary-eyed stare. “Maaaaaannnn,” Clifford sighed, “it is waaaaayyy too early for this stuff!”

    “You said it, amigo,” the king prawn agreed. In perfect synch, they pulled out their shades and donned them, and turned as one to slouch downstairs and back home to bed. “Do you think that blonde from last night will call me? She has my number,” Pepe wondered as they trudged down the stairs.

    “Man, only because you scotch-taped it to her wrist! You have got to give it up, Pepe!”

    “Hey, right now I don’t gots to do nothing but get some sleep. Hey, we should go clubbing more often, you know? I gets more free drinks with you around!”

    “Uh, only if you promise to stop climbing into girls’ drinks…”

    Kermit was only slightly relieved to see several of the more responsible Muppets leaving with the Scouts; there was still little he could do with this blasted rabbit on his heels, and the crazed thing didn’t seem to be tiring…unlike him. Meanwhile he could see Piggy squaring off against the M. Tex. She made a feint to the left, then swung out a leg in a fast foot-sweep; the Muppasaur snarled, stepping back surprisingly sprightly, and lashed its tail at her in return. It missed. The two circled one another, sizing up postures and possible weaknesses. “Come on, ya big bony loser, ya want a piece of me, you’re gonna have to do better than that!” Piggy growled. It growled back, and tried a bite, but Piggy expected that and dove to one side, then stomped hard on the thing’s bony big toe. It snatched its foot out of the way with a low grunt. Kermit could only focus on his own contest, despairing; he knew Piggy had enormous reserves of strength and determination, but these things seemed unstoppable…and sooner or later the Muppets’ energy would run dry…

    Newsie veered right when the Frog Scouts did, running through a hall of stuffed birds behind glass while the other Muppets kept going straight into the Eastern Woodland Indian exhibit. He tried to recall the exact layout of this floor; with the entry to the Muppet exhibit blocked, there was no longer a complete circuit to be made without going up or downstairs…but… When Robin and Dill finally paused, panting, at the door at the far end of the Hall of African Mammals with its now-famous lion pride motionless in the center, he was able to catch up with them, but saw three of the Velocimuppets pacing through the bushes, closing in. “We can’t lead these things down into all the people!” Robin gasped, seeing the main stairs just ahead.

    “They’re right behind us! What’ll we do?” Jill croaked.

    “Well we’re not taking the ad account for this place, that’s for sure,” Gil groaned. “This is a PR catastrophe!”

    “Mom, Dad, we’re being chased by Muppasaurs! A little focus, please?” Dill begged.

    “Go straight,” Newsie directed. “Next room!”

    “But – but isn’t that the scary snake room?” one of the other Scouts asked, shivering.

    Robin glanced at Newsie, realizing what he had in mind. “That’s where the live frog exhibit is!”

    “Go hide!” Newsie urged. “Climb in the tanks if you have to! Maybe they won’t pay attention to regular frogs!”

    “Right!” Robin cried. “Come on! Hop, everyone! Hop!”

    A cavalcade of frogs, one toad, and three mice made a last-ditch run for the long Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians just around the corner from the grand stairs. Gil paused, looking back at the Newsman. “But…you’re not a frog! Where will you hide?”

    Whoops…
    --------------------------------------------------------------
  3. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    -------------------------------------------------
    Yes, there's more to come, obviously...but I'd like to take this intermission to encourage everyone to check out the site for the REAL Museum (yes, the same one as in the movie), which has some fairly cool exhibits:

    http://www.amnh.org/

    Also, at the time of this writing, the FrogCam!

    http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/frogs/frogcam/

    And this one is the first thing which popped into my twisted brain when I first began writing the showdown at the Museum...frog help me. This video is only, I repeat ONLY, for the brave of heart and daring of soul! Be warned!...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJQVlVHsFF8

    ---------------------------------------------------------
  4. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    Yay--lots of heroics to cheer for! Things that made me smile:

    Piggy taking on the biggest Muppasaur for the sake of her friends and her frog!

    The frog scouts proved both brave and adept at biology!

    Scribbler trapped in the belly of the beast. (Any beast works for me!)

    Pepe and Clifford missing the action--and missing any action! (No surprises there!)

    Kazzager showing up at just the right (or wrong) time to narrate ridiculous sports.

    The Chef saying he's not a kook. (Or was he really saying "I am not a cook!")

    Rhonda still going for the story despite a swallowed camera-man, a flu-infused pompous jerk of a news jockey and a chaotic environment.

    Kermit being chased by a bunny. I...I just like it.

    And, of course, Gonzo. (But then, you know how I feel about Gonzo....)

    Keep it coming, Kris! You're on a roll, girlfriend!
  5. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    The neat part was when the velocimuppet reformed itself once the Frog Scouts removed the lynchpin bone. That's exactly what happens when you stomp on a Dry Bones skeleton upon encountering them within fortresses in the Mushroom Kingdom of Princess Peach.
    *Wonders what happens should that jade eye break.
    *Worries over Rhonda inside that Muppafern with the Muppet rodentia fossils.
    *Chuckles at the inclusion of the hecklers.
    And where hexactly is Death in all of this? He's not gonna like the fossils being brought back to life. He already put dem dudes under once, Ima not sure if he'd help do it a second time, unless they come after him for his brownies. Then all bets are off.

    Thank you for updating, a welcome ending to a long day. :sleep:
  6. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    BTW: How do you visualize Mookie-Mookie appearing like?
    There might still be room for some more souls at our haunting grounds. :scary:
  7. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    ------------------------------------------------
    Hmm...are you familiar with the Andean mummies? Kinda freeze-dried rather than scalloped out and stuffed, but still dry and wrinkly and dusty under yards of wrappings and faded-colored tatters of cloth, with fingerbones poking through; some tufts of hair left on its head, but the eyes terribly sunken into their sockets...and whoooo the smell... Of course, with his careved googly eyeballs of jade and ivory in, he looks more Muppety. Like a gray Whatnot dressed for Halloween. :news:

    More soon...writing in process at night...
    --------------------------------------------------
    The Count likes this.
  8. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Mmm, this post of yours does help. Okay, so that's one more down, about 154 still left to gather. :batty:

    Oh, and if ye be interested... I've got Newsie drafted as a ghostly newscaster, his name/persona coming from one of the punny names of the ghosts or Boos from the game Luigi's Mansion (which I'm surprised the Mario franchise was able to get away with as it's eerily similar to Disney's own doomicile of happy haunts. Although I debated if he should be Mr. Bates, I just wasn't fully comfortable going in that direction... Unless you think it to be more fitting?
  9. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    -----------------------
    Hmmm. Boosie?

    I like that game too. :news:
    ------------------------------
  10. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Fifteen (I)

    Nothing moved in the long galleries full of waxen people.

    The trio of Velocimuppets prowled slowly, chirp-growling to one another: Not here. Not there. Nothing to report. Had they been able to sniff anything still, the Muppets hidden cleverly among the displays of Eastern Woodland and Great Plains natives would’ve been detected; even when alive, though, the skulking, vicious turkey-monsters had largely relied on their keen eyesight, and the one pacing remorselessly right past Scooter and Zoot paused only a moment to peer at them before continuing on through the gallery. Scooter kept his eyes open straight ahead, wondering how long he could do this before they started to water; so far, his hastily-donned costume of moccasins, a buckskin loincloth, an eagle feather stolen from Sam (with an indignant but quickly shushed protest), and absolutely nothing else seemed to be concealing him from harm. For Zoot, staying motionless wasn’t normally difficult…he spent a great deal of time napping or zoning out to the sweet sounds in his head…but this porcupine-quilled buckskin tunic sure did itch.

    Another fossil Muppasaur paused, looking over the tableaux of the legendary Chief Sitting Blue Eagle and his faithful horse next to his grassland teepee with its buffalo-skin cover. It wasn’t educated in the eras which had passed after its death, and so didn’t realize that horses didn’t usually have brown curly fur under their blankets, or short wet noses…or that buffalo-skin throws weren’t made of light brown fur in a vaguely bear-hugging-tent shape. Irritated, Sam blew a stray feather off his nose. The Velocimuppet growled, whirling, and Rowlf and Fozzie tensed, ready to flee or scream or both, as the monster examined Sam closely. The eagle stared straight ahead impassively, his wooden personality for once an asset. Eventually another Velocimuppet called, and the one glaring at Sam stepped lightly out of the display, hurrying to its comrade. Sam let out the breath he’d been holding. “Weirdo,” he whispered contemptuously.

    In the adjacent Hall of Pacific Peoples, the third Velocimuppet stalked among a large central display of a potlatch ceremony, complete with a pit-smoker, a long table piled high with conch and fish on palm leaves, and the village cook stirring the pit coals, near the gold-toothed chief in a wild headdress of palm leaves and wearing a strange gourd in an even stranger place. The monster turned its head this way and that, peering with its empty eyesockets at each figure in turn among the many gathered for the waxen feast. Moving on uncertainly, it reached the back wall of the Museum; frustrated, it screeched like a bird of prey, calling the others in this wing. The predators gathered, held a quick conference, then began moving slowly back the way they’d come, peering at everything again. When they’d moved out of the Pacific Peoples gallery, Dr Teeth sighed very, very quietly.

    “Borkey-borkey nut uppen-givun,” the Swedish Chef observed, hanging on to the giant wooden spoon he was posing with, wondering if it would be sturdy enough to bowl over a borkey-fossillum. He’d had to give up his part in the keep-away game when one of the ugly borkeys had snickersnacked at him, and he’d barely escaped.

    “Man, this is righteously wrong,” the good Doctor grumbled. “Are you abso-positively-for-sure that this get-up is authentic? This modesty-unenhancing dried vegetable is definitely the weirdest thing I have ever been involved with – and that includes the radish-playing flying squirrel act last year!”

    “Der squishy-squashen maken verbiggens der yonson,” the Chef offered before the monsters returned. Both of them froze once again, and the angry Velocimuppets swung their bony heads all around but couldn’t detect any differences between the wax figures of Polynesian tribesmen and the Muppets posing as such…so they began toppling over everything.

    Dr Teeth calculated the approximate distance to the doorway; only one way into or out of this particular gallery. How fast would he be able to run in this costume – or was it worth the embarrassment of throwing one particular part of it aside to run faster? The decision of when he should make like a tree and leave was abruptly forced the instant the Chef, still suffering the green fur aftereffects, sneezed loudly. Fake palm fronds, bits of green fur, and an inexplicable amount of paprika flew into the air; the trio of Velocimuppets screamed wildly and scrambled to attack, claws gouging the platforms, teeth bared all too eagerly. Grabbing a woven reed cloth off the table as he tossed aside the gourd, Dr Teeth fled, the Chef right after him, and three extremely furious fossils hot on their grass-clad behinds.

    ----------------
    “Unnngh!” Miss Piggy almost didn’t dodge the stomping, enormously-clawed back foot of the Muppetasaurus Tex in time, and felt the downdraft whooshing her hair into her face. She puffed it out of her eyes, though a stray golden lock clung to her snout, and when the Muppasaur roared in frustrated foamlust at her, she hurled one of the brass posts with a velvet rope still chained to it directly into its mouth. “Ha! Ha ha! Chew on that, you bigmouthed bonehead!” she yelled hoarsely.

    “Good job, Piggy!” Kermit shouted, kicking off the vast teeth of the tiny Muppalepus Snarlodontus when it snapped at him midair. Stunned, it knocked against one of the half-destroyed walls of the Muppet Evolution Corridor, but then righted itself and came after the frog with a furry vengeance. Piggy’s triumph faltered when the M. Tex bit down with enough force to bend the metal post. Snarling, it shook its mighty jaws, and the ruined crowd-control accessory sailed across the room.

    “Whoa-ho-ho! Hey, careful!” Lew Zealand chuckled, ducking the crumpled post. He waved the jade eyeball at Gina. “Your turn!”

    Gina shoved the wriggling, jumping MahnaMahna aside again and jogged back two steps to catch Lew’s throw; he seemed to have the worst aim she’d ever seen outside of junior high gym class. Quickly she unshod her dress sandals from her feet; the shoes were cute, but provided no traction on the sleek marble floor of the exhibit hall. As the furry Muppet rushed her once again, she planted a firm kick in the center of his cylindrical chest to send him flying right into Animal’s mouth. “This can’t go on forever! We need to get this thing farther away from him!” Gina shouted, pointing at the enraged prehistoric Muppet shaman.

    Kazagger whisked to her side. “A break in the action! Tell us, Miss Broucek, how long were you in training for this match? Aren’t you enjoying an unfair advantage over the much shorter members of the Mummy Muggers team?”

    Gina stared at him. “For crying out loud, Lewis! Did you forget to put your brain in this morn---aaack!” Animal grabbed her leg, nearly pulling her down.

    “Wo-man! Wo-man! Mooga-shaka!”

    “Oooh! A tremendous tackle for the Mummies! How will the Muppet team pull free of this one?”

    Desperately, Gina lobbed the eyeball high; she groaned in despair when the flying lizard-bat thing snatched it out of the air. However, the giant moth hadn’t abandoned its quarrel with the flying Muppasaur over sovereignty of the skies (or at least, of the space overhead in the gallery) and immediately crashed into it; knocked loose, the jade eyeball fell – into the grasping hands of Mookie-mookie. “Moooooga-shaka!” he crowed. He lifted it toward his empty socket – and a wet fish smacked it from his hand. “Uh-urrgh?”

    “Hee hee haw haw haw!” Lew Zealand chortled; the fish thwacked back into his palm, and he retrieved the eyeball from its mouth. “Good one, Muskie Ed!”

    Kazagger, nonplussed, looked from the madly hopping mummy to Lew waving his talented fish in one hand and the eyeball in the other. “I have no idea how the scoring will go on that, but the ball is back in the Muppets’ hands! Amazing!”

    Gina kicked Animal off her leg, but then tripped backwards trying to get away from the persistent drummer. Her wrist cracked in pain when she landed on it, attempting to break her fall. “Aaaaah!” As she winced, tears blurring her vision involuntarily, a large oblivious thing hove into view right above her. Gina rolled to one side an instant before the lumbering Muppetasaurus Bovinocorpus wandered through. She lay gasping on the floor, and the Muppasaur simply stopped where she’d been a moment before…and chewed what appeared to be mashed bits of green, flimsy plastic, its heavy jaws crushing the material methodically as it stood placid as a rock, blocking her view of both Mookie-mookie and Lew. “Don’t let him get that eyeball back!” she cried as loud as she could to whomever might still be playing on her team, then edged herself away from the clueless cow-Muppasaur, holding her left wrist against her chest. This is insane! Hope Newsie’s in better shape…

    -----------------------------
    The Newsman crouched behind the balustrade at the far side of the main stairs, panting silently, his brain racing. If he ran downstairs – or up – those things would surely follow, and he’d be endangering who knew how many innocent people? If he bolted for the reptile hall he’d be spotted fairly easily. He couldn’t double back through the African Mammal room, as the monsters were just now lightly stalking through the doorway: he could hear the clicking of their sharp claws on the floor as they advanced. This tiny section of corridor he’d ducked down into was a dead end. If even one of those things came around this end of the staircase instead of turning toward the right side…

    One did.

    It screeched, spotting him instantly. It leaped at him, claws outstretched to snare, teeth spread wide to tear. Unable to move fast enough to escape, Newsie tried to dodge to his right, instinctively raising his left arm to block the thing from his face. The impact slammed him to the floor; he gasped, struggling up, expecting to find his arm gone, he couldn’t feel it, he must be in shock –

    His arm was fine. The Muppasaur staggered, dazed, flexing its bony beak. Before Newsie could process this, the thing shook itself, growl-chirped, and lunged again. Again, he threw up his left arm, crying out, cringing – and again, felt a heavy collision which knocked him back. Blinking, terrified, he looked up; his arm was whole, and several teeth now littered the floor. The Velocimuppet stared at him eyelessly, its beak somewhat less bristling with incisors than before. What the HEY?

    Another of the turkeylike monsters, attracted by the noise, lunged at him; this time Newsie didn’t flinch away, and saw the predator clamp its jaws over his upraised arm – and saw the glow of light around his wrist even as the force of the impact shoved him back. The bracelet? Is that the bracelet? They can’t touch me because of that? In growing excitement, he staggered to his feet, two of the things facing off against him; the first one tried again to bite him, singleminded, and he swung his left arm at it, his legs braced for the impact this time. Shrieking, it skidded back a few feet, raking scars in the floor with its hooked toes. Immediately the other one came at him from a different angle, and Newsie blocked with his right arm – and the vicious beak chomped him.

    Screaming in pain, Newsie fell, feeling it tearing his felt through his coat and shirt; it was trying to twist its beak, digging its teeth in, oh dear god the pain, his foam, it would chew through to his foam – Newsie desperately smacked it over the beak with his left forearm. With a choked cry, it released him.

    Gulping, Newsie sprang up, throwing himself into the wall on his right as the Muppasaur lunged at him. His shoulder bounced painfully off it, but the monster missed. He ran, heading back for the African Mammal room – maybe he could climb a model tree? could these things climb? he hoped not – but the largest of the three Velocimuppets now all orienting on him leaped onto the thick railing overlooking the staircase, launching itself off and landing smack in the doorway to that room. Newsie’s shoes squeaked loudly on the floor, skidding to an ungraceful halt, and he frantically backed away. They closed in, toothy beaks clacking, little foreclaws flexing eagerly, oh god, they would shred him, they would sink their horrible teeth into him, no way he could fend them all off even with Gina’s charm; they would devour him piece by—

    His elbow banged something that dinged. A door slid open behind him. An elevator!

    The Newsman glanced inside: empty. What if he could – no. This is crazy! I’m no action hero!

    The Velocimuppets closed in, certain of their meal. The one in the lead ground its jaws at him. Only a second to judge the distances – oh good grief, I’m no athlete! I can’t do this! Oh, Gina! Desperately, at the same instant all three monsters surged forward, Newsie leaped inside the elevator, grabbing the safety rail inside and hauling himself up with all his might, terror overcoming his pain. The Muppasaurs crowded in, knocking into one another in enraged confusion. Momentum carrying him, Newsie bounded off the high shoulderbone of one of them, kicking up, and his fingertips barely caught the edge of the crossbrace in the low ceiling of the car. One of the Velocimuppets snapped at his shoes; he kicked it away, crying out in fear. Straining, he pulled his lower body up, clinging to the crossbrace, and fumbled several times at what looked like a latch in the ceiling. Shrieking, the monsters jumped at him, beaks snapping inches below him each time, and his entire body cringed upwards. “Please…open…open… d— it, open!” he cried, and finally his grasping fingers closed over the latch and he pulled it as hard as he could. With a creaking, metallic groan, a section of the ceiling wedged open. Trembling with effort, Newsie worked both hands into it, grabbed the outer edge of the maintenance hatch, and hauled. His left foot slipped, and one of the Velocimuppets gladly leaped up, its toothy beak clamping on his shoe. “Aaaaghh!” he screamed, trying to kick it loose with his other shoe. “Aaagh—aaaghh—aaaaah!” One final, panicked kick knocked a fang out, and the Muppasaur screeched in protest, dropping to the floor. Newsie yanked his legs up before the others could repeat the stunt, and slowly crawled out of the elevator onto the top of the car.

    He lay there gasping on his back, his glasses streaked with his tears, dully noticing the blood staining his coat. Oh great. Another one ruined. This was so incongruous, so ridiculous a concern at the moment, he almost started laughing despite the sensation of his right arm being on fire. He wondered briefly how deep the wound was. At least he could still move it. He could hear the monsters snapping and fighting below, trying to pursue, unable to jump high enough – although if even one of them, by design or chance, happened to jump up on the back of another as he himself had done, they would surely reach the hatch. He rolled over, daring a look back inside the car, flinching when all three of the monsters went into enraged, snarling jumps at seeing him.

    This wouldn’t last long. He could shut the hatch – but then what was there to keep them from bouncing out of the elevator and going after the Frog Scouts again? Or accidentally sending the elevator to another floor, where they would chase and violently rend anyone they found, Muppet or human? He could see the oversized buttons on the elevator wall; he was no athlete, but…

    Newsie pulled off one shoe, aimed for the buttons, and threw. One of the Velocimuppets intercepted it with its teeth, slashing it with a few angry bites. The others, thinking the monster had acquired some tasty treat, banged into it, snarling, shrieking in jealous hunger. One of them shoved another into the floor buttons. With a sickeningly cheerful ding, the car began to move upward. Hurriedly Newsie yanked off his other shoe, grunting in pain at forgetting and using his right hand, realized he might only have a second before the Muppasaurs finished fighting over the first shoe, and threw hard.

    The elevator groaned to a halt between floors, the emergency stop engaged when his shoe hit it. Oh thank frog for heavy wingtips, he thought, collapsing atop the car again. As an afterthought, he kicked the hatch shut, hurting his sock-clad foot; he didn’t stop until he heard the d—d thing lock. He lay there, gasping, eyes closed, nerves twanging, pain throbbing in his arm and now his foot as well. Gina. You left Gina back there! Unhappily he wrested himself to a sitting position, peering up in the dark shaft. Tiny guide-lights went the rest of the distance up along a metal ladder set into a vertical niche of one wall, running aloft to the fourth-floor doors. He had no idea if he had the strength to open them, much less to climb a ladder like this…but what if she was in worse danger? What if the other Velocimuppets had doubled back into the exhibit hall? What if the other weird things loose in there attacked her, even if the mummy couldn’t?

    It took him almost five long minutes to climb less than half a level up and wrench open the doors to the fourth floor. He groaned, pulling himself through the opening right before the self-closing doors clamped shut again, and knelt on the cool marble, his bleeding arm numb, his hair falling between his eyes and his glasses. Worry for his beloved spurred him into motion once he’d caught his breath a little. Carefully brushing his hair out of his face with his left hand, he looked blearily up. A menacing figure in a black shroud loomed over him.

    Newsie choked. He didn’t have enough air in his exhausted lungs to scream.

    ---------------------------------
    The scaly mice surrounded Rhonda, continuing their chant; although she was relieved they seemed to be revering her as royalty, the repetitive, scratchy-squeaky voices really got on her nerves after a while. “Okay, guys, it’s been real, but I should probably see what’s going on out—hey!” She smacked the paws trying to groom her short blonde hair. “I do not have fleas! Knock it off!” The primitive creatures kept bowing and chanting, and now one of them was – ughh! “Stop that! Stop licking those! Dang it, you stupid stone-age rodents, those are Jimmy Choos!”

    “Ohh-weee-ohhh…lowww-dohh…” Sheesh. Even the one trying to caress her hair wouldn’t stop chanting.

    Still, she reflected glumly, judging by the noises still crashing and roaring in the gallery just outside this tiny haven, it could be worse. As long as the idiot still slurping a long slimy tongue over her 6-mm heels didn’t bite off the cute bows on the toes… Sighing, she leaned against the trunk wall, wondering how everyone else was coping.

    “Here! Lew, you rag-arm, throw it here!” Rizzo yelled, waving wildly at the bewildered fish-boomeranger as Mookie-mookie closed in on him.

    “And with their ringer out of the game, the Muppet team seems to be in real trouble!” Kazagger commented. “It’s Lew Zealand with the pump-fake while both the unappetizing, undead ubermummy and crowd favorite MahnaMahna seem poised to take the ball, and the lead, away!”

    A startled Lew whirled to see the shaggy singer indeed about to pounce on him, and stumbled aside just in time to avoid being grabbed. “Mooga-shaka!” MahnaMahna yelled in frustration.

    One Snowth looked at the other, puzzled. “Doo doo…doo doo doo?” it wondered. The other one looked around, then shrugged. Shaking their heads, the two creatures turned around to watch Gonzo being repeatedly flogged over the head by something which might once have been a chicken, wielding a dazed prehistoric Muppet purple centipede like a thresher.

    “Aagh! Ow! Sweetie! I didn’t mean it like that! You look butch in a good way!” Gonzo cried.

    “Dang it, whaddaya got, a fish in yer ear? I’m open!” Rizzo shrieked as loud as he could, and finally Lew noticed him and Scott both gesturing, the rat standing on tiptoe atop Scott’s head.

    “Wuh-huh-huh! Aaaookay! Heeeere it comes!” Lew yelled gleefully, and hurled the jade eyeball. It sailed up, up, up – Rizzo waved his paws in the air, trying to judge the landing, Scott backed up, then veered to the right, then left.

    “A high fly eyeball to right field! And the rat goes back back back back---“

    “I got it! I got it! I---whooofff!” The heavy stone eyeball thunked right into the glove Rizzo held, the weight of it slamming him instantly backwards to the floor. “Sheesh,” the rat muttered, dazed, struggling to get out from under the eyeball. “Great throw, Figuerola.” Scott turned to help, but before he could reach the shot-putted Rizzo, a red, furry drummer barreled past him, knocking him down.

    “Eye-ball! Eye-ball!” Animal howled, his hands reaching for Rizzo, his mouth open wide, eyes blankly staring. A few feet away, Lew watched in dismay, Mookie-mookie jumped up and down yelling in apparent triumph, and Gina tried to pull herself up by hauling with her uninjured arm on one of the few display stands still actually standing. Rizzo yelped, seeing the entranced Animal bearing down on him.

    “Hey! Ack! Buddy! Animal! C’mon! Friends! Animal, friends! It’s Rizzo! Oh geez please snap out of it—“

    Kermit tried to twist in midair to escape another lunge by the psychotic pink bunny rabbit, and very nearly hit the swinging skull of the M. Tex as it reared up for another bite at Piggy. “Kermie!” she shouted, more afraid for her frog than for herself; she could see how tired he was, how each bounce fell lower and lower. However, the bunny’s course-correction sent it right over the nose of the giant Muppasaur…and the M. Tex took offense at all these small jumping things distracting it from its succulent pig meal.

    One amazingly fast SNAP, and the prehistoric carnivorous rabbit suddenly found itself inside the huge mouth, teeth penning it in on three sides. Kermit bounced twice more, hardly able to grasp what he was seeing; Piggy caught him, quickly swinging him out of harm’s way behind a platform. The M. Tex tilted its massive head back like a duck taking a drink of water, and one confused sabre-toothed bunny tumbled down the hollow neck-cage and onto Waldorf.

    “Ah! Statler! They’re trying to cram more of ‘em in here!” the old man protested loudly.

    “Hey! Hey you, frog! What’re you trying to do to us, create a Jurassic trash compacter?” Statler called down from the ribcage. Then the bunny recovered what wits it had, and snarled at the old men on the top of the heap. “Aaahhhh! Get us out! Get us out!”

    “Attica! Attica!” Waldorf howled, grabbing something and knocking it back and forth across several ribs in a row. The Muppasaur roared, shaking itself, upending the rabbit again.

    “Blleeeaaghh!” Fleet Scribbler gulped, weakly trying to pry free of the crazy old man. “That’s my head, gramps!”

    Kermit’s head jerked around when a group of Muppets led by Dr Teeth raced back into the room, all clothed in questionable native disguises. “Hey, my main frog! Get outta the way if you don’t want to become next on the menu!” the musician yelled, Scooter, Rowlf, Sam, and Zoot swift of feet in his wake, scattering throughout the exhibit gallery. Kermit looked at all of them, panic rising: where were the Frog Scouts? Before he could ask, three of the fast, angry Velocimuppets charged in, screeching, splitting up and pursuing their frantic prey.

    “RRRRAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUGGGHHH!” the M. Tex bellowed.

    “Screeeeeeee!” shrieked the lead Velocimuppet.

    “Eeeeeeeee!” the rabbit snarled at the other unfortunate denizens of the ribcage.

    “Moooooga-shaka!” Mookie-mookie howled, dancing a glorious celebration as Animal lunged at Rizzo.

    “Aaaaaaaaauuuugh!” chorused everyone else in the room.

    “A lá peanut butter sandwiches!”

    A deafening clatter and crash resounded throughout the gallery, the echoes overwhelming the slightly less noisy sounds of other bony collapses. Every skeleton dropped to the floor in a cacophony of clunks.

    In the astonishing silence which followed, dust sifted down from the ceiling. Everyone recognized Janice’s voice: “Oh, wow! Like, talk about making an entrance!”
    ------------------------------------------------
  11. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Fifteen (II)

    The Newsman gaped at the hooded figure. It leaned down, glaring with glowing balls of light deep within black sockets, and about the time it dawned on him that this wasn’t the Death, merely a death, it rapped on a small electronic screen and shook a bony fist at him. “STOP that! Who do you think you are, Bruce Willis?”

    “I…uh…whuh?” Newsie stared up, going into complete brainlock.

    The reaper tapped its iTomb personal media device again. “You’re screwing up the Death Predictability app with all this heroic action stuff! You’re not supposed to be brave and take risks! YOU were supposed to keel over from a myocardial infarction ten years from now the day the acid-spitting spider jumps on you during one of those stupid news reports!”

    “Agh!” Newsie choked, scrambling backward, wincing when his right hand hit the floor, the impact shivering through his injured arm.

    Disgusted, the reaper waved the screen at him. “Next thing ya know, some ditzy redhead actually falls for you, and we have to reconfigure EVERYTHING! Thought we had it all worked out, ya know? You go out on a wave of bliss in the middle of—but NOOOO! YOU have to keep completely throwing off your own danged life-endangerment parameters! Now the program’s TOTALLY tombed up!”

    Newsie’s eyes were open as wide as they could get, jaw hanging loose, sparks still shooting off along his arm and in his brain…at least, that’s what it felt like. He struggled to comprehend what the scary bony thing was yelling at him. “Wha…what the heck are you talking about?” he gasped, flinching when the reaper stuck a long finger right at his nose.

    “Don’t play smart-aleck with me, bub! Dissing undead Muppasaurs in an elevator – you think you’re being funny? Huh? Think that little stunt helped you? Well, the Boss will hear about this – you better believe it!”

    “Springsteen?” Newsie wondered confusedly what an aging rock star had to do with what he’d just gone through, but the spectre only snorted at him and vanished. Newsie sat there on the cool marble floor, utterly overwhelmed. All he could grasp from the bizarre rant he’d just been subjected to was that he’d done something to make the underling-death angry – Death! The Boss! Oh, you idiot! Blushing in embarrassment, Newsie slowly picked himself off the floor. Gina. Gina’s still in there with that mummy…and the other monsters…what if Death…no, no, no! Frightened, he forced himself into motion, looking around for the staircase, locating it, and heading down, picking up speed with each terrified thump-thump of his Gold-Toe dress socks down the steps.

    --------------------------------------
    With a dramatic flip of his cape over one shoulder, the Amazing Mumford surveyed the wreckage of the Muppet Natural History exhibit gallery. “I see no one has accomplished anything in my absence! What an unutterably sad situation!”

    Piggy released Kermit only reluctantly when he slowly moved toward the magician, keeping hold of one of his slim flippers. The frog looked ready to collapse in a heap of bones himself, trembling with fatigue, his back feet wobbling a bit. “M-Mumford? What did you – how did you—“ Kermit gulped, trying to organize his thoughts, adrenaline still making his head spin. “I thought that mummy threw you into an elevator?”

    “Indeed he did, fortuitous frog! Nice to see you again, by the way! You never drop by the Street anymore!” Mumford drawled, nodding smugly at him.

    “I don’t get it,” Piggy huffed, looking around at the motionless piles of fossil bones and the Muppets slowly standing up in the open to stare at it all. “You destroyed them all? Just by waving that stupid wand and saying your stupid peanut butter sandwich line?”

    “I didn’t know that line worked for anything!” Kermit muttered, clinging in exhausted relief to his wife. She kissed the top of his head, sagging a bit herself.

    “Rah…huh…huh…” Animal panted, looming over Rizzo. The rat squeaked in terror, throwing his arms over his face.

    “Aaack! Mother!”

    Animal blinked at him. “Riz-zo?” The rat slowly uncurled, peering up uncertainly. Animal gave him a puzzled look. “Friends?” the drummer asked.

    “Uh...yeah! Friends! Dat’s right, Animal!” Relieved, Rizzo allowed himself to breathe again. Animal poked at the jade eyeball. “Oh…uh…heh heh…ya wanna play ball?”

    “Raaggghh!” Animal growled, plucking the eyeball out of Rizzo’s paws…and tossing it down his wide gullet. He gulped loudly, then blinked at Rizzo.

    “Taste…like…broccoli!” the drummer proclaimed, then lowered his shaggy brows. “No like broccoli!”

    Lewis Kazagger shook his head. “Will the Muppets forfeit this game to the mummies with that move? When we come back, the judges’ decision!”

    Lew Zealand waggled a fish at Kazagger. “It wasn’t my fault! That eyeball wasn’t anywhere near as aerodynamic as my salted Norwegian cod!”

    “Mumford, I…I can’t believe that actually worked! I had no idea you could actually cast spells!” Kermit said, giving his former colleague a surprised once-over. The red cape, out-of-style old tux, and shiny top hat looked just the same as he remembered; only the satisfied smile on the magician’s face was new.

    “Well, of course! You know, I was valedictorian in my class at Remarkable Ramon’s Academy of Apocalypse-Ending Spellcasting!” He shook his head wearily. “But you know, frog, even with a college degree these days, it’s so difficult to actually find work in your field! Sure, I can lay the unholy dead to rest, build a fully ultradimensional Pickman Apparatus, summon spirits, oh, the works! But does anyone ever want to see any of that?” He sighed. “No…people just want to see a rabbit pulled out of a hat!”

    Piggy turned to the jumble of enormous bones which had been her opponent a few minutes before. “Well…merci for the assistance, of course, but moi was doing perfectly well! In fact, I believe the beast was beginning to tire…one false move, and I’d have brought it down like a ton of prehistoric bricks!” She tossed her hair back with a sniff.

    “Hey! Hey! Lemme outta here!” a whining voice grated, followed by hoarse insults.

    “This rescue attempt reminds me of my wife’s tuna casserole!”

    “Oh? Why’s that?”

    “’Cause it takes too long and it’s always still one big mess!”

    “Ho, ho ho ho ho!”

    Scott climbed over the wreckage of the M. Tex’s shoulders and began wrenching the collapsed ribs away from those still trapped inside the curving bones. Fozzie, who was nearest, carefully picked his way over the motionless skeleton to help.

    “Mooga, unga frahhhawoowoo blah!” growled a rusty voice.

    “It’s still moving!” Gina yelled, pointing at the mummy. Mookie-mookie, swaying and trailing bits of what looked like dry grey foam, lurched toward the cracked case it had emerged from.

    “What? But that should have crumbled it like the rest of these things!” Mumford exclaimed. He waved his wand at the undead, but clearly tottering shaman. “No matter! I, the Amazing Mumford, shall now end this travesty of continued existence by this formerly fearsome and fumigation-requiring shambling shibboleth of—“

    Before he could finish his speech, the mummy reached the glass case, knocked a few loose shards aside, glared back at the magician, and grabbed the strange two-handled stone cup laying there. The instant the shaman’s crumbling fingers touched the pottery piece, both he and the cup vanished.

    “Meee!” Beaker gasped, pausing from his labors, trying to free himself from beneath a wing of the massive Muppadactyl.

    The Amazing Mumford swore under his breath. “Malevolent Melba toast! The cup was a portkey!”

    “Uncle Kermit! Uncle Kermit!”

    Kermit clasped his nephew in tired but strong arms, relief washing over him like a cool swamp current. “Uncle Kermit! They have some really neat frogs here! I was trying to talk with a red one with yellow feet, but all we could really understand was each other’s names. He spoke Spanish…I think he said he was from Venezuela,” Robin said happily. Kermit chuckled breathlessly, just hugging the little frog; Piggy joined in from the other side. The rest of the Frog Scout troop poured in, ribbiting excitedly; they cheered when Melvin crawled out to greet them, and the abashed snail had to endure many small fists pounding joyfully on his shell before a bunch of them lifted him and little Ribsy on their shoulders and paraded around with them both.

    “Oh well,” Rhonda sighed, looking at the suddenly still, stuffed lizard-mice creatures. “I guess it’s just as well. They might’ve gone for a goddess sacrifice next.” She clambered from the Muppafern model, casting annoyed looks around for the sloth. “Tommy? There you are! Please tell me you kept filming!”

    The sloth nodded slowly, patting the camera with one long three-toed paw. He mumbled something about the live feed and ratings. Rhonda squeaked a laugh. “Oh heck yeah! If that doesn’t get us an Emmy for live news coverage, I’ll make Newsie eat Murray’s hat!” She glanced around, irritated at not seeing the short yellow journalist anywhere. “Where is the Plaid Avenger, anyway? Don’t tell me he bugged out and missed all this!” The sloth shrugged unhelpfully.

    A sudden tall, pale head bobbing over her made Rhonda flinch, but Van Neuter only pointed at the camera. “Are we still on? Oh! Oh! Did you film everything? All the Muppasaurs? All the marvelous bird mutations?” When the sloth slowly nodded, the scientist danced happily in place, arms flapping eagerly. “Oh! Oh! Oh! I need that footage! Would you – could you burn me a DVD of all of it? Pretty please?”

    Rhonda inserted herself between the crazed, weirdly bald exhibit curator and her employee. “I suppose, in the interest of the advancement of paleomuppetology, I – er, I mean the station – might be willing to make a copy of the raw footage for you, Doc.” She narrowed her eyes shrewdly. “Of course, we’d have to ask for a nominal materials-and-processes charge…”

    “Of course, of course! Mulch, go get your checkbook!” Van Neuter ordered.

    His extremely reluctant assistant glared at him. “Fuh grungah oom buggah!”

    Van Neuter started back, shocked. “Mulch! I have had enough of your insubordination today! Now go get your checkbook before I bring out the Hunch-piercing Brain Fat Expander!” Grouchily, the blue Muppet stomped off, muttering insults about there not being a toupee cylindrical enough to fit such a tall fathead.

    Rhonda shook her head. “Cash only!”

    “But…oh, all right,” Van Neuter grumbled, rummaging in his pockets. “How much?”

    Rhonda smiled. “That depends. You want regular or Blu-ray?”

    Gina looked around, worried when she didn’t see Newsie returning. She tapped Rowlf on the shoulder as he was watching the impromptu Frog Scout parade around this end of the hall. “Rowlf? Was Newsie with you?”

    “Uh…no. He ran off with the frogs, I think,” the dog replied, realizing he didn’t see the newscaster anywhere. His smile dropped. “Sorry, Gina…I don’t know…”

    Her worry growing, Gina limped to Gil and Jill and Mr Ribbot, who were interrupting one another…slowly…to tell Kermit and Piggy their adventure. Gina broke in, not bothering with an apology: “Where’s Newsie? Rowlf said he went with you guys!”

    “Are vous hurt?” Piggy asked, noting the way the taller woman was cradling her left arm against her body.

    Gina made a curt gesture with her uninjured hand; that wasn’t nearly as important as finding her Newsman. “Er…I believe he was with us until we hid in the frog hall…” Jill mused.

    Robin jumped in. “He suggested we hide there, Uncle Kermit! That was a really good idea! But he...but he…he didn’t come in with us,” the senior Frog Scout realized as he spoke. He blinked at Gina, round eyes wide. “I don’t know what happened to him. We…we heard all kinds of loud yells…”

    Death, you son of a… Gina’s expression turned grim. Piggy touched her arm gently. “I’m sure he escaped,” she said, trying to sound hopeful. “He, uh…he always was good at running…not so much at the not-being-squished part, but as long as those things didn’t fall from the ceiling, I’m sure he’s fine!”

    Dark thoughts of Mrs Crimp and a menacing reaper crowding her head, Gina strode over to the Amazing Mumford, who was examining the now-harmless stuffed Muppalepus Snarlodontus. “What a pity,” he muttered. “That would have been magnificent to pull out of my hat!”

    Gina grabbed his shoulder. “You said something a minute ago. Something about laying the dead and summoning spirits. Were you serious, or is that all the shtick you give to the audience?”

    The magician drew himself up, affronted. “My dear long-legged girl! Why, I never brag about anything I can’t actually accomplish!” He leaned in. “Why, did you want a private showing?”

    Gina repressed a shudder. “I need you to summon my late grandmother for me. I’d do it myself, but I…I can’t. Don’t ask why, it’s a long story.” She reflexively touched the beads around her neck, the barrier keeping her Newsie safe from the disastrous effects of their combined energies but blocking almost all of her inherited gifts and talents. “This is a real question of life and Death, so will you just do it, please?”

    Mumford peered up at her, trying to judge her seriousness. Gina glared at him. “Come on! Will you help me or not? Or were you just blowing smoke about your supposed skills?”

    “Oh, I assure you, young lady, I can do it,” Mumford said. “But this is a highly difficult summoning you’re asking for! As a card-carrying, charter member of the Magician’s Union, even at scale rates, you understand, I would have to ask for something in return.”

    “How much?” Gina snapped, glancing around to see where her purse had landed among all the debris.

    “Oh no, no, not coin of the realm! I would, however, appreciate the presence of a lovely, fiery young assistant onstage in my comeback tour…”

    Aware that every passing second might mean disaster, Gina clenched her fists, immediately releasing the left one when pain shot up her wrist. “For how long? I have a job already!”

    Mumford eyed her cannily. “One year.”

    “Are you crazy? No!” Gina sucked in her fury, reminding herself of the way her Aloysius held her last night, of the way he’d gazed at her when they lay breathless, arms entwined; reminded herself of the terrible demand laid upon his shoulders. But oh, if there was one thing her Grandmama Angie had taught her, had emphasized as the one skill no chavi Romano would ever, ever forsake, no matter the circumstances…it was how to bargain. She stuck out a finger at the smiling magician. “One week!”

    “Six months!” Mumford countered.

    “Do you take me for a loose penny, to be tucked in your dirty pocket? Two weeks, and that’s generous considering no theatre will hire you for more than one night!” she snapped.

    “Yours did, for three shows!” Mumford argued.

    “That’s because the producer is a dilo chor bal valo!” she snarled, slipping into Romani in her anger.

    “Oh, you’re Gypsy!” Mumford said, surprised. “With the red hair, I wouldn’t have guessed! Well, in that case…I’ll come down to two months!”

    Exasperated, Gina grabbed the magician by his jacket collar, yanking him into the air, gritting her teeth at the pain that cost her. She growled in his face, “One month. Or I go throw you to the mulesko angelo to be a fit companion for the old witch plaguing my Newsman!”

    “Oh! You, uh, your boyfriend’s the Muppet News guy?” Mumford asked, squirming. “Why didn’t you say so! I love his sketch – all that stuff falling on him always makes me la—er,” he gulped, seeing real fire in those dark eyes now. “Ah. One month. Sounds fair.” Wordless, fuming, Gina released him. Nervously Mumford straightened out his collar. “So. You need me to summon your grandmother because…?”

    “Because she’s the only one I can think of who might be able to put Newsie’s horrible mother back in her place!”

    “Oh, dear,” Mumford sighed. “I really get tired sometimes of doing family shows…” He saw the clouds threatening in Gina’s expression, and hastily held up his gloved hands. “But of course, for my beautiful new assistant, I will venture even into an incident of incendiary in-laws! I will—“

    “Just say the d—d line,” Gina snapped, arms crossed.

    ---------------------------
    Newsie paused at the bottom of the steps on the threshold of the third floor, listening. Not a sound stirred through the grand upstairs foyer with its elegant staircase. Not a leaf fluttered out of place in the Hall of African Mammals. Did the frogs all escape? he wondered; he struggled a moment between hastening on to reach the disaster-stricken far gallery or stopping in the Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians. After a few seconds, guilt at the idea of leaving anyone behind won out, and he tiptoed into the frog room. The special exhibit within the permanent hall seemed peaceful; dozens of peeps and ribbits and croaks sounded, hardly pausing when he entered. Newsie peered into several tanks but didn’t recognize any of the frogs; certainly none of them seemed to be wearing bandanas. Unable to determine whether the Frog Scouts had departed or whether they’d simply gone native so well he couldn’t tell the difference, he sighed. At least no other monsters leaped out at him. “Robin, if any of you guys are in here…good job,” he muttered loudly.

    “Peep,” a frog replied, blinking at him with large wet eyes. “Peepeepeepeepeep.”

    Newsie looked it over once uncertainly. “Uh…right.”

    He hurried back toward the African tableaux of lions, zebras, and elegant giraffes, but although he nervously cast his eyes in all directions repeatedly, nothing moved. His arm had shifted from ice back to a dull, throbbing heat, as though coals stuck to his felt. His mouth set in a grimace, the Newsman continued on, searching for any sign, any indication at all of everyone else’s fate. Beyond the mammals, a number of birds from the common pigeon to a gorgeous hawk posed forever behind glass…all except one, some sort of large white stork with enormous teeth and red wattles and…

    Newsie froze.

    The mutated chicken blinked at him, then narrowed its eyes. “Cluck. Cluck…grrrrrrr!”

    “Aaaagh!” Holding his hurt arm close to his side, Newsie bolted back the direction he’d come when the chicken-thing surged forward surprisingly fast, toothy beak clacking and snapping. This time he took the stairs down, hoping against hope that security forces were at last on their way…and that even if they couldn’t handle an unkillable fossil Muppet monster, they might at least be able to subdue one overgrown fowl. With a bawking snarl, the beast flapped into the air, zooming after him, claws outstretched.

    -------------------------------
    Gonzo lifted his head enough from the floor to see the guy who’d killed the fossils striding toward the open exit, his fabulous cape thrown jauntily back and Newsie’s girlfriend in his wake looking very displeased. “Uh, hey!” Gonzo called. “Hey, wizard guy! Could you give me a hand before you go?”

    The Amazing Mumford turned around, saw the three giant chickens with sharp teeth relentlessly pecking the furry daredevil, and jumped a little, startled. “Great Banana Fudgesickles! Those are the toothiest great blue herons I’ve ever seen!”

    “They’re not herons. They’re chickens – ow,” Gonzo corrected between pecks. “At least, they used to be…can you help?”

    “Of course, my boy!” Mumford pulled out his wand. “I wave my magic wand, I say the magic words – A lá bawkety bawk-bawk baaaaa-kawk!”

    In a swirl of feathers, the chickens all became mere Muppet birds once more. “Bawwwwwwwk?” one gasped, dazed.

    Gonzo pulled her into a weak embrace. “Oh, sweetie! That was amazing!” He lowered his voice, looking guiltily around at the other chickens slowly coming to their senses, “Uh…I know you’ve been taking method acting lessons from Uncle Deadly…think you could, you know, reach into your angry place later tonight and, um…”

    Camilla blushed, rubbing her feathery head shyly against him. “Bu-gawk bawk?”

    Gonzo chuckled softly. “Uh, yeah…I think the whip is still in the pantry…”

    Impatiently, Gina tugged Mumford’s sleeve. “Hurry!”

    He sighed. “Patience, my dear! Good ghost-calling can’t be rush…er…then again, perhaps you’re right. Why put off until tomorrow a spirit you can summon today? Heh heh…” Avoiding the Gypsy’s only-one-stick-of-dynamite-short-of-a-mountaintop-excavation glower, Mumford trotted out the gallery exit, Gina right on his clicking heels.

    Suddenly Gonzo looked around. “Hey! Florence? Anybody seen Florence?” Only questioning looks met his worried gaze. Camilla clucked at him, and he shrugged, annoyed. “Well, okay, but you know her better than I do! Flo? Flo, you in here?”

    The other chickens clucked, shifting around anxiously. The rest of the Muppets looked over when Gonzo yelled, “Hey! Anyone seen Florence Hendershen? Anyone? Guys! We have a missing chicken! A chicken is unaccounted for!”

    ------------------
    In the station at the lowest level of the Museum, the Newsman did something he’d never, ever done in his life: he jumped the turnstile, running for the subway train just pulling in, panting dryly, but the mutant bird snapping inches behind him never slowed. The journalist and the monster-formerly-known-as-Florence dove inside the last train car just before the doors closed. The train whisked off, picking up speed, heading downtown along the B line.
    -------------------------------------------------------------
  12. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Woot! Another hexcellent double-chapter post.

    *Gasps. A port key? No! Great, guess we've got another loose end to take care of. Now where did I put my time-turner? *Sends an auror off to Little Hangington's cemetary after the shaman.

    Mumfie saves the day! And gets an assistant. Careful there mage, redheads are known for their volcanic tempers.

    Seems like that underling Death hasn't been keeping up with the story posted so far. He'd better get himself a die-brary card and head on to the Three Candlesticks to get a copy of Love Rain or News. Cross-promotion, you know I love it.

    Now that's something you don't see everyday Chauncey.
    What's that Edgar?
    A gold-foamed newsman and a mutated chicken riding the 7:15 subway back to the downtown district.
    Maybe they'll meet up with the magician and the gypsy in time for the summoning.
    Maybe Chauncey.

    Thank you for posting this. *Goes off to the cafeteria for some pizza, following most of the Muppets (who all have smilies here at MC now) exiting the museum.
    newsmanfan likes this.
  13. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    Oh! Whee! Or as Rizzo would say, "Idn't dat swell!" Everybody safe (at least temporarily) and ALMOST everybody reunited with their loved ones. Can't wait to see Newsie's homecoming, and REALLY can't wait to see his Mum's "home-going."

    Will try to post more comments later, if I get to be back on!
  14. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Sixteen (I)

    When she was six years old, Gina learned how to dupe the gadje.

    Grandmama Angie played the neighborhood numbers game, and usually won; she was a startlingly shrewd poker player, even among the men of their small community of Rom; and she could dukker the gadje with the best. Her fortune-telling, a canny mix of simple psychological observation and an actual gift for foretelling, brought in coins every week; in these ways she kept herself and her orphaned granddaughter afloat. Honoring the wishes of her more progressive son-in-law, Grandmama Angie allowed the child to attend the gadjo school and learn the things she would need to move freely in this settled society; but her nights and weekends were spent learning a trade regarded as far more useful and lucrative: wheedling money out of gullible strangers. “After all,” her grandmother told Gina many times, “there’s no marimé against taking coins for a little good news, a few pleasing words. They’re happy, you’re richer, what’s the problem?” And so the girl learned how to use her soft grey eyes to look plaintively at the gadji lady in furs at Grandmama’s basement table and hold out the well-worn sunbonnet or wool cap for payment when the old lady told fortunes. An innocent, earnest face brought in higher tips than the fortune-teller could have garnered on her own. The child listened in as her grandmother mixed what she could sense of the person’s immediate future with comforting platitudes or exciting hints of romance, whichever seemed most required, and softened any blows she saw in the line of a palm or the turn of a card. “Never tell them bad things,” Grandmama Angie cautioned her. “Even if it’s true, they won’t want to hear it.”

    So the girl found herself an expert at the cards by fourteen, and surreptitiously gave readings during lunch hour at school, or after classes, for the lonely overweight girls and the snooty socialites alike. Who didn’t want their fortune told? Gina could never see ahead as clearly as her grandmother, but she was a fairly good judge of body language and attitude, and word of mouth brought her more than a few student clients. She could never quite bring herself to flatter the lonely ones with assurances of happy times ahead, especially as so many of their cards tended toward tribulation and isolation, but she would try to temper their fortunes with suggestions designed to boost their self-confidence by planting ideas they might try: “Someone you don’t suspect even likes you will be very impressed when you hold your head up to any insults… Your perseverance in improving your body will bring you many suitors.” The rich girls, the preppy boys who sat down with her with smirks and their best buddies snickering nearby, she felt no remorse about. To them she would gladly dole out the gloom and doom and dire warnings. “Your athletic skill won’t get you through that exam… Examine your girlfriends. One of them is unfaithful.” Sometimes she could see nothing at all of their futures, and blithely invented warnings for them on the spot, knowing they’d never guess her deadly-serious words didn’t accurately reflect a spread of cards about increases in wealth. Funny, though, how often pentacles and swords cropped up in rich kids’ readings…

    Grandmama Angie was the only Gypsy whom Gina really knew well. Once in a while she’d gone upstate to a convention of caravans, met others of her people who still lived the itinerant life, concerned with horses and knife-making and music, but she never felt comfortable there, not fully. Although in her grandmother’s petite but fierce company no one dared say an unkind word to her, Gina caught looks exchanged, saw the initial startled reactions when she was introduced to some new Rom. That first quirk of an eye or subtle shift backward in a stance spoke volumes, even though it was always immediately masked with pleasant greetings. Years passed before she finally dragged the heart of the matter out of her grandmother: “It’s your hair, little fire,” Grandmama Angie sighed. “Your hair and your eyes. Your face is as Romany as they come, but you have your father’s mama’s coloring. She was of the Irish blood; she married into the Rom.”

    “Then am I not Rom?” the girl asked at eleven.

    Her grandmother hugged her tight, and met her troubled stare with a firm, black look. “Little fire, you’re as Romany as I am! Don’t you let any of them make you doubt that.”

    As delicately friendly as the Gypsies could be around the girl, she saw firsthand how much worse they were to any strangers who came snooping into the encampment, particularly those who came hoping to find cheap horses or gold jewelry. Gina had watched silently from the edge of the campfire one night when a loud, overly friendly man negotiated a Gypsy called Spry Tom down to what he felt forced to accept as a fair price for a necklace of “antique gold coins, been in the family for five generations, but times are hard.” Spry Tom bewailed the necessity of selling the piece, haggled for almost an half-hour over it, and the other Rom men present threw such dark scowls at the gadjo wanting the necklace that he finally paid more than he’d wanted to by a large amount. When the man returned the next day as the caravans were packing up to depart, complaining that after wearing the “gold” necklace his wife had developed a green stain around her neck, Spry Tom was nowhere to be found and only stony silence met the unhappy man’s protests. Gina asked carefully whether the man had been cheated on purpose.

    “He’s gadjo,” Grandmama Angie had sniffed. “What does it matter? If he’s not an expert in gold he should’ve brought along someone who was! We don’t deal like that with family, not ever; but a dilo gadjo? Who cares? It’s his own fault for stomping in here all full of himself, thinking he would get the best of us!”

    Gina thought about this as she kept pace with the shorter Mumford, hurrying across the street into the park. She was certain her grandmother wasn’t going to be pleased to be summoned by a gadjo muleh-vi, a medium not even Gypsy by extraction! “Why are we coming out here?” she asked the magician. “Are you one of those earth-magic types?”

    “What? No,” Mumford said, waving a languid hand. “It’s just awfully crowded with dead things in there, and I wanted to make sure we called up the right one!” He stopped in a small glade just off the path, looked around, lifted a purple finger and tested the wind direction, took off his hat and dusted its brim before resettling it firmly on his head, and cracked his knuckles. Gina watched warily.

    “Don’t you need a personal item of hers or something?” she asked, but the magician shook his head with an air of tolerance for one so young and unlearned in these affairs. Gina didn’t appreciate the attitude.

    “Fret not, dear child! I am an expert in these matters. No, all I’ll need from you is for you to focus on the dear departed in your mind, and picture her as if she really was in front of you here, and when I tell you she’s here, you may ask your questions…”

    “Wait. When you tell me? No, no, no! That’s not what I agreed to!” She took a step closer to Mumford, making sure he noticed how much taller than him she was…and how her brightly-floral halter dress showed off the lean muscles of her arms, easily capable of swinging a Muppet…or hurling him, even with an injury. Mumford shrank back a bit, hastily raising his hands.

    “Now, now, you asked for my help! I’m providing a valuable service here!” he protested.

    Gina batted his upraised wand away from her. “Watch where you’re pointing that!”

    “Listen, my fabulous firebrand, this was the deal! I summon your grandmother’s spirit so you could ask her to intervene with your boyfriend’s mother, correct?”

    “Yes, but I thought –“

    “Well, that’s exactly what I’m doing! Now, you said time was of the essence, so enough fussing! Just concentrate on the dear old lady, while I wave my magic wand, I say the magic words…”

    “Bet I could throw you all the way to the lake from here,” Gina muttered, but closed her eyes and tried to calm the nervous anger still surging through her, tried to picture Grandmama Angie. She heard Mumford mumbling something about peanut-butter-and-ginger-jelly sandwiches. Grandmama, I hope you can hear this gadjo muleh-vi. I hope you’ll find Newsie’s mother before she can do anything worse…

    She waited. Mumford fell silent. She waited a little longer. Suddenly thinking the magician might be pulling a fast one and sneaking off, Gina opened her eyes, but the Muppet showman hadn’t left; he was looking around, seemingly puzzled. When he saw Gina peering at him, he jumped, then hastily smoothed down his cape over his shoulders. “Now, now! You mustn’t rush an excursion into the misty realm of the dead! Keep concentrating; this won’t work if you don’t have her very clearly imagined just as though she’s right—“

    “What in the name of the gory dragon Michael slew is this dilo gadjo doing?” demanded Grandmama Angie. She stomped a tiny, slipper-shod foot, and the Amazing Mumford cringed back, startled. “You, with the stupid cape! What are you, putting on the Ritz out here? What do you want with a dead old lady anyway? Throwing around random names to prove you can call up a muleh, or are you trying to steal my duk for your own –“

    “Grandmama!” Gina exclaimed, throwing open her arms, but then unsure if she should, or even could, hug a ghost.

    “That’s never happened before!” the Amazing Mumford muttered, amazed. “First time that spell’s ever conjured a full-body apparition…”

    Grandmama Angie started, seeing her granddaughter. “Angelina! What are you doing with this dinilo, narkie—“

    Although she agreed with the old lady about the magician being crazy and unpleasant, Gina interrupted before she could carry on with more insults – a favorite occupation of hers when alive, and clearly still enjoyable. “Grandmama, I asked him to call you, I’m sorry. It’s important. Newsie—“

    “Sastimos, Rawnie,” Mumford drawled in a passable Romani accent, making a formal bow. “I assure you I would never have disturbed your peaceful slumber; however your descendant here…”

    “Peaceful, my hind end! I was in the middle of five-card stud with your uncle and your great-great-grandfather, bless their gullible souls!” snapped the Gypsy woman to Gina. She gestured in disbelief at Mumford. “Good health, he wishes me? I’m dead and it’s a good health to me he says?”

    “Grandmama, please. It’s important.” Gina remembered finally why she hadn’t tried to have serious discussions with her grandmother whenever anyone else was present. She took a deep breath, winced when she began to curl her fingers into loose fists by force of habit when trying to summon enough patience to deal with her very impatient grandmother, and started again: “I need your help. My Newsie has—“

    “You’re hurt! Did that boring fool of a Newsmuppet actually grow a temper on you?” Grandmama Angie demanded. When Gina shook her head, trying to explain, the old lady swiftly turned on Mumford. “You! Did you hurt my granddaughter, you squinty-eyed dog in a snooty hat?”

    Insulted, Mumford stood up straighter. “Madam! I am not a dog, I am a professional magician highly trained in the esoteric arts! Now you just be quiet long enough to—“

    “Be quiet, he says? Gina! Tell me you have nothing further to do with this gadjo!” Grandmama Angie shouted; a wave of chilly air swished over Mumford, making him shiver even in the heat of the sunny morning.

    “Actually,” said the magician, taking a precautionary step back, “she’s my new assistant.”

    Grandmother stared at granddaughter for a beat in silence. Then she sadly shook her head, seeing the truth of it in Gina’s shameful blush. “To think,” she sighed, “that I would ever see the day my own flesh and blood would stoop so low… This is very, very marimé, you know! Ohhh, I hope your grandpapa doesn’t hear about this!”

    Gina growled, “How would he? He was dead before I was even born.”

    “Well he won’t hear it from me, but all the same! This is terrible! Gina, little fire!” The old woman touched Gina’s arms lightly; it felt like a brush of cool wind. “How could you? I mean, going after that Muppet for your lover was one thing – and you better believe no one on the other side knows about that either, they’d be so horrified, you know! – but to go into such a shameful business with a gadjo charlatan!”

    Gina took several more deep breaths. She wasn’t sure she could hold her temper long enough to explain it all. She hoped this had been a profoundly useless idea…

    ******
    The chicken wouldn’t give up. The Newsman’s dismay upon hearing startled yelps and gasps behind him, and turning to see the ostrich-sized monster bearing down on him inside the subway car was only equaled by his despair when fleeing to the next car on the train didn’t deter its pursuit in the least. His shorter stature meant he was jostled mercilessly by the throng of weekend riders, and several times he choked back a cry of pain when someone bumped against his injured arm. He heard the chime which meant the next stop was fast approaching, and desperately tried to shove his way in between the other passengers to get to the exit.

    “Buk-gawwwwrrrrr!” the chicken-thing snarled, having much more success at the people-shoving than Newsie was. Snapping at them with sharp teeth probably gave it an edge.

    “Excuse me—please – sorry, I have to get out here—hey! ow – sorry—“ Newsie said loudly, trying to be noticed over the rumble of the train, the metal-on-metal sound of brakes as the train slowed, and some kid’s samba music blaring despite the fact his earbuds were shoved deep in his ears as he sat near one of the doors. Pushed back and forth roughly, and occasionally glared at, Newsie struggled to reach the doors when they slid open only to realize at the last second that he was next to the entrance, not the exit, confused and distracted by the enormous feathery monster lunging at him every few steps. He was knocked farther into the car by the rush of incoming passengers, those already standing inside grudgingly making way for them, and found himself pressed between some lady’s oversized handbag and one of the plastic seats when the doors hissed shut and the train picked up speed again. “No! Wait!” he cried out, but he was too late. He managed a few steps toward the exit doors when suddenly the people ahead parted and he faced the mutated chicken directly.

    “Ack!” Newsie threw his left arm up – and the chicken bit off his bracelet. He stared at his bare wrist, astonished, a full two seconds before the monster lunged again. He ducked, slipped in his socks on the smooth-worn floor of the car, hauled himself up and ran for his life.

    He didn’t pause this time, wrenching open the door between cars and throwing himself forward, the rocking along the tracks making him stagger. He had no idea how the monster chicken was able to open doors, but when he glanced behind him, sure enough, the thing was hot on his trail. As he struggled past a clump of people blocking the center of the car, a large woman in a uniform rose to her feet from a nearby seat. “Hey! What’s the hurry, man?” she demanded.

    Newsie paused only long enough to jab behind him with a trembling finger, then launched himself along the rest of the car, trying to keep to the exit side, hoping another stop was coming up soon. “What the--? Holy…” he heard the train marshal exclaim, along with another low, growling cluck. Newsie reached the connecting doors between the cars, pulled them open and stumbled through; the curses and exclamations he could hear in his wake told him the monster chicken hadn’t given up. A train full of people and it only wants to eat ME? he thought, amazed at his own horrible luck. Is this how I die? Eaten by a mutated Muppet poultry monster? Oh, frog, the ‘Scandal’ will have a field day with that! Desperate, he pushed past several more irritated people without bothering to apologize, needing all his breath to fuel his feet at the moment – and skidded to a pole-grabbing halt at the end of the car. Bulletproof glass shut the compartment away from the conductor’s seat just beyond. End of the line! Oh, no!

    Turning quickly, he found the chicken slavering and scratching its talons against the steel floor. Screeeeek…screeeekk… Wincing at the terrible sound, the Newsman looked left and right, hoping some stranger might jump in and help him. Instead, the people nearest seemed to be staring in shock, if they paid any attention at all; he saw more than a few heads bent over cell phones, texting away. One young man raised his phone, snapping a photo of the chicken-thing. So my final moments will be captured for ‘America’s Dumbest Minor Celebrity Deaths.’ Great, Newsie thought glumly.

    “Hey, you! You can’t bring livestock on the subway!” the marshal yelled at him from just beyond the monster. A dull chime sounded.

    The mutant chicken growled, scrunching up its beak, readying its powerful legs for a pounce – and the train wheezed to a stop, the exit doors nearest Newsie sliding open; he tumbled out in the crowd, regaining his footing with difficulty and running onto the platform. He heard shouts and laughter behind him – Wait. What’s funny about any of this? Turning in puzzlement, he saw the marshal fighting with…a chicken.

    An ordinary, albeit very bewildered, Muppet chicken; Van Neuter’s serum had worn off. As the marshal tried to grab her, the chicken squawked and flapped and pecked. Newsie stared in astonishment. “Dang it, stop that, you – you –chicken!” the marshal yelled, swatting at the bird.

    “Bok-bok-buh-gawk!” the chicken protested, landing atop her head and pecking and dancing the crazy claw dance. Spotting Newsie, the marshal pointed at him while trying to bat the bird away with her other hand.

    “You! This is your chicken! Come back here! That’s a class B fine, you joker!” she yelled. “Violent poultry attacking a transportation department employee!”

    The Newsman felt he’d endured enough weirdness for one day. He bolted for the stairs and didn’t stop running until he was several yards from the subway entrance.

    *****
    The guards had finally ventured into the Muppet Natural History exhibit hall, but nothing remained for them to do but to reluctantly engage in a long argument with the Museum director over whose responsibility it would be to pick up the bones and restore some semblance of order. “I mean look at this mess!” the director said, sweeping his arm in a three-hundred-sixty-degree arc to encompass all of the rubble. “Really, it’s…it’s…” He threw up his hands as if pantomiming a bomb going off. “You know?” he demanded of Sam the Eagle, who nodded somberly.

    “Mm. Mm. Well put,” Sam agreed.

    “Well we didn’t make all dem bones come alive!” a guard protested.

    “But you are entrusted with the security of this fine institution!” Sam scolded.

    “Exactly! Exactly,” the Museum director agreed. “I mean, what happens when the guards don’t guard, eh? What happens? Can you tell me?”

    “Er…uh…” the guard said, looking around discouraged at the smashed cases, scattered bones, half-destroyed displays, and Muppets celebrating their escape.

    “A little help over here!” Scott bellowed from over by the collapsed Muppetasaurus Tex.

    Relieved to have something useful to do, the cadre of guards scurried off to help free the people still trapped in the ribcage. Disgusted, the Museum director threw his hands in the air, letting them slap down against his legs. “D’ya see what I have to put up with for employees here?” he asked Sam. “I mean, look at them! Shirking their…! at the drop of…! You know?”

    “Oh, quite, yes. Mm,” Sam nodded. “Dis-gusting!”

    The director looked the tall eagle over once, brows knitted, then pointed at him curiously. “Aren’t you supposed to be stuffed?”

    “Mm, yes. I—what?”

    “I think you boys should get the Bravery Badge for all running to help your fellow Scouts with that horrible Muppasaur,” Gil told the Frog Scouts all gathered around him.

    “Especially my Ribsy,” Mr Ribbot croaked.

    Robin, Dill, and some of the older frogs looked at one another, then as one shook their heads solemnly. “Mr Frogg, we only helped. The bravest one here is Melvin,” Robin said. “He jumped in to help the mice when none of the rest of us even saw them in trouble!”

    “I wouldn’t exactly call it ‘jumped,’” one of the other frogs muttered, but was shushed.

    Gil and Jill nodded. “That’s true. Melvin Snail, we’d like to see to it you’re awarded the Frog Scout Badge for Conspicuous Bravery…the Green Heart!” Gil announced.

    The Scouts cheered. Kermit smiled, nodding, proud not only for the snail, but also of his nephew for putting credit properly on the one who’d risked the most. The snail ducked his antennae, pleased. “Awwwwww…thaaaaaaaaanks!”

    “And the Muppasaur Studies Badge for Ribsy!” Dill said, and the Scouts cheered again.

    “And a party for all of vous brave, loyal frogs…and mice and snails,” Miss Piggy announced, and the cheers doubled in volume. Surprised, Robin looked at his uncle.

    “Uh…sure!” Kermit agreed, though he wrinkled his mouth a little nervously.

    “We’ll rent a rec hall,” Piggy murmured to him, which relieved Kermit enough to join in the cheers as the Scouts began madly hopping everywhere, all talking at once.

    “Ooh! Ooh! Can we have a FrogBand challenge? I can bring my Xbox!”

    “Can we have a jumping bog?”

    “Can we have a pool?”

    “Can we have pizza?”

    “I call no stinkbugs on mine!”

    “Fine, half pepperoni and half gnats!”

    “Eww,” squeaked a mouse scout. “Can we just have plain cheese?”

    Scott and one of the guards gently hefted the aardvark from the crumpled-in ribcage of the fallen giant Muppasaur, leading him by the forepaws over the unsteady mound of bones to Fozzie’s capable hands. The guard anxiously tapped Scott’s shoulder as the tall techie started to head after the aardvark. “Uh…what about that guy?”

    Scott shook his head, grinning. “Nope. Call the Fire Department. Think he’ll need the jaws of life. We’re done here.”

    He kept grinning as the skinny Muppet still trapped in the smallest, lowest section of the ribcage, crumpled into a small package of felt and mop-like hair, banged on the bones with a piece of broken videocamera. “Hey! Hey, losers! Lemme outta here! I’ll print your names in the Daily Scandal! You don’t want to be on my mean side! Hey, c’mon! I’m serious!”

    “So am I,” Scott muttered, and went to see how the aardvark was faring.

    *****
    If the Time-Warner building, with its sleekly modern tower, hadn’t been enough of a clue to his whereabouts, then the statue of Columbus presiding over the honking, dragging traffic jam confirmed it. Columbus Circle. Sheesh…I need to get back to the Museum! However, Newsie certainly had no wish to return to the dark bowels of the subway, where one outraged marshal…and possibly also one enraged chicken…awaited. Sighing, squinting up into the hot day, he tried moving his right arm. Fire shot along it, then dulled to a sickening ache. He couldn’t recall when he’d had his last tetanus booster; did such an inoculation even cover things like undead Muppasaur bites?

    It was too far to even consider walking, with the threat of Death still looming in his thoughts. Newsie trudged to the northern side of the circle and waved desperately until, finally, a cab stopped. As the Newsman gratefully yanked open the door to the backseat, a lumbering man in a bulging suit loudly protested: “Hey! Thath my takthi, you thieving Muppet!”

    Newsie, startled, glanced back; bulbous lips working into an angry froth and flat, round eyes were all he saw of the ponderous stranger before he slapped his press badge against the partition window of the taxi. “The American Museum of Natural History – and step on it!” he yelled, swinging the door shut with a grunt, trying to ignore the pain in his arm. He felt mildly sorry for the fish-faced man, but he’d discovered there were more important things than good manners sometimes. The cab screeched off, but quickly became enmeshed in traffic, and missed the turnoff to Central Park West, swinging up along Broadway toward Columbus Avenue instead.

    “Don’t worry, Detective, I’ll get ya dere,” the cabbie promised. “Is dis about da distoibance dey said onna radio?”

    “Disturbance? Uh…right,” Newsie said, then did a double-take. Detective? But I’m not…oh. The press badge. He debated correcting the cabbie’s mistake, then realized he might get there faster if he said nothing. But that’s the kind of trick Scribbler would pull, he thought guiltily. He moved to knock on the partition, halted himself, sucked on his knuckles in indecision a moment, then grimaced at his own fallibility and leaned forward again to speak up.

    “And now lies,” his mother sniffed haughtily. “You’re not acting like any son of mine!”

    “Aaagh!” Newsie gulped, jerking away from the gray spectre suddenly sharing a cab with him.

    “You see? You see what you’ve degraded into, without me here to guide you?” Mrs Crimp scolded. “You weak-minded boy! You never could—“

    “Shut up, Mother!” Newsie shouted; the cabbie flinched, swerving into the left lane enough to provoke angry honks all around. He seemed to be dodging around and between other cars.

    Mrs Crimp glared at Newsie. “You may think you’ve put up some kind of a fight, you pathetic little boy, but you mark my words: Death will have the final say here, and he knows good sense when he hears it!” Newsie glowered at her, resisting the urge to vent his anger further, knowing there was no point to it with her. Apparently taking his silence for a declaration of surrender, his mother smiled. “Don’t worry, Aloysius; I’ll forgive you…when you’ve done enough penance for all this disobedient behavior.” Her smile darkened. “See you soon.” She winked out as abruptly as she’d arrived.

    “Hey, uh, Detective…if you’re gonna fight in my cab, I gotta charge extra,” the cabbie said.

    “I’m not a detective,” the Newsman sighed, holding his hurt arm tighter over his chest; the cold radiating from his mother had intensified the pain in it. “I’m a journalist.”

    “Hey, whaddaya mean pretendin’ ta be a cop then?” the cabbie demanded. “I t’ought you was gonna let me offa any speeding tickets!” He stomped on the brakes, then eased the taxi back into the normal pace of traffic.

    “I wasn’t…” Giving up, the Newsman slumped in his seat. Why would no one ever listen? At least Gina did… Oh, Gina. I still don’t know how to make this all go away…how to make Mother go away, forever! If she’s left out here she’ll never quit badgering me about being with Gina, about living in sin, about… He blinked, seeing something out the window as the sidewalk crept by. Scooting forward on the seat, he tapped the partition. “Uh…could you pull over here, please?”

    “Sure t’ing, ya lousy liar,” the cabbie muttered. When the cab brushed the curb, the driver demanded a fee higher than was legal, but Newsie wasn’t going to waste precious time debating it, and handed over enough to cover it before scrambling out. He stood staring at the beautiful collection of amber-in-rose-gold jewelry displayed in the shopwindow. Slowly he tilted his head up to read the name of the store: LE BELLE EPOCH JEWELERS. He tried to smooth down his ruffled hair, straightened his tie, hoped they wouldn’t notice the blood on his jacket sleeve or his sock-feet, and went inside to ask about one particular item in the window. One particular item…which he fervently hoped might cancel out at least one of his mother’s objections.
    ******
  15. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Sixteen (II)

    Grandmama Angie stormed across the street, ignoring the cars screeching and honking like angry geese. Gina hurried after her, and a very amazed Mumford brought up the rear. “The dead have no right to bother the living! What, didn’t he remember to turn all the mirrors to the wall when she died?”

    “I don’t think he even knows about that, Grandmama,” Gina reminded the old woman. “He’s not Rom!”

    “Ahh…don’t remind me! What you see in a man so boring and yellow I’ll never understand…but he treats you good?”

    “He treats me very good,” Gina asserted, finding it a challenge to keep up with the ghostly lady as she strode up the main stairs to the Museum. “And he’s definitely not boring.”

    Her grandmother stopped, gauging Gina’s expression, and Gina felt a blush creeping up her face. She did her best to maintain a level, indifferent gaze. The old woman laughed finally, and continued on. “Little fire, some things I don’t need to know! All right. So let’s go give this old mamioro the what-for, hey? Messing with my granddaughter – ho, she’s asking for a smackdown!”

    “A smackdown? Grandmama, since when do you—“

    “What? We watch WWF every Thursday. Bebe, trust me, the afterlife isn’t half as interesting as it’s made out to be, but you didn’t hear that from me!”

    Sighing, Gina followed the quick, tiny woman into the Museum, where she’d insisted Death would naturally be drawn because of all the dead things already there. “Just so long as nothing else starts moving that shouldn’t be,” Mumford grumbled behind them. He trotted closer to Gina to whisper to her: “If the Reaper decides to take you with him, I’m still holding you to your contract!”

    “She has no contract with you, dilo gadjo,” Grandmama Angie declared firmly, having heard him perfectly well. “The Rom do not enter into contracts with the gadje!”

    “Grandmama, stop,” Gina pleaded wearily. “I did say I’d do it. It’s…it’s only for a month. I had to, to get in touch with you.”

    “Did you hear nothing I ever said to you?” her grandmother snapped. “He’s gadjo! You don’t have to hold any honor with him! No Gypsy ever felt bound by a word given to one of them!”

    “Now, wait just a minute,” Mumford began, but the two women ignored him, arguing as they blew past the startled guards and went up the grand inner staircase side by side.

    “But I did give my word, even if he is gadjo,” Gina said.

    “Ha! And your precious Muppet, what will he say about this deal?”

    “Newsie won’t like it,” Gina admitted, then locked eyes with her grandmother’s ghost. “But…he’d want me to keep a promise. He always keeps his word.”

    Grandmama Angie frowned at her, then threw her arms in the air, making the multiple bangles in her ears chime against one another. “Wonderful! Now my own granddaughter thinks like a gadji…no; like a Muppet!”

    “I don’t see anything wrong with that,” Gina retorted. She matched her grandmother’s glare.

    “Uh…pardon me, but I want to interject here…” Mumford said. Ghost and girl whirled around and gave him such malevolent looks he quickly retreated, twirling his wand nervously. “Or not…”

    “No woman of the Rom would ever, ever place themselves beneath one of the gadje! It would be enough to earn her permanent marimé! You would be banned from all Gypsy life! Gina – little fire – think about what you are saying! A fling with a Muppet is bad enough, but –“

    “A fling?” Gina choked, angered. “Grandmama…you know what? I don’t want your help. Newsie is not a fling for me! He’s the only man I’d ever consider…consider…” She gulped. In a quiet voice, she made herself finish the thought: “Consider…staying with. Forever.”

    Her grandmother’s fierce gaze softened. One tiny hand reached up, beckoning; swallowing back her tears, Gina bent over, and Grandmama Angie brushed the moisture from her cheeks. It felt like a soft autumn breeze. Her grandmother sighed. “He means that much to you?”

    Unable to speak without choking up, Gina nodded.

    Bright black eyes gazed unblinkingly up at her. Finally her grandmother nodded as well. “So, then. Just don’t talk to your grandpapa for a century or two when you get over here. Dordie, won’t he be having a fit when he hears about all this…” She sighed, and lifted her skirts once more, climbing the stairs. “He’ll need that long to cool down! Come on, little fire, let’s go save your Muppet from his mariomo mother.”

    Gina trailed after her. Mumford followed at a short distance, thoughtfully silent. Feeling both angry and ashamed still, Gina muttered at her grandmother, “I’m sorry I’m not a very good chavi Romano, Grandmama.”

    “Oh, my Gina.” Grandmama Angie sighed, then unexpectedly gave Gina a smile. “We’re more alike than you think, little fire. Remember…you’re as Romany as I am.” And she winked.

    Gina stared at her, bewildered. “Grandmama?”

    “Hush, child! I smell Death up here.” The ghost touched Gina’s unhurt arm gently. “Hurry! Hurry! Hey you back there, pick up your cape and move it!”

    *****
    Scooter spotted him first as he trotted worriedly through the galleries on the third floor; the pillar blocking the entrance to the Muppet exhibit from the reptile hall showed no signs of budging. “Hey, Newsman! We were worried about you! Where’ve you…hey, is that blood?”

    “Yes,” Newsie said shortly, breathing hard, not slowing. Scooter ran alongside him.

    “So…what happened?”

    “Got bit by a Velocimuppet,” Newsie said. “You?”

    “Uh…we’re fine. We’re all fine! Everyone else, I mean,” Scooter said, still giving him curious looks as they headed through the New York State Mammals gallery. Newsie glimpsed what looked like a brown Muppet cow in one of the displays, and stumbled in surprise, then reminded himself he really didn’t have time to figure it out and kept moving.

    “And Gina? Where is she?”

    “Um…I’m not sure,” Scooter admitted. “She left a little while ago with that magician.” He held up a large sack with a familiar green logo on it. “She might be back by now; I don’t know. I went out to get coffee for the rescue workers treating the bumps and bruises…had to use the stairs. Apparently a bunch of bones got stuck in one of the elevators.”

    “Magician?” Newsie wondered. “Why did she go anywhere with a magician?”

    “I don’t know…but Newsie, you missed it! This guy showed up right in the middle of all the chaos and just snapped his fingers, and all the Muppasaurs died! Uh, died again, I mean. It was pretty amazing! I think your assistant got it all on film, though…”

    “She’s not my assistant, she’s my reports producer,” Newsie muttered. They jogged around the corner into North American Birds; nervously Newsie scanned the stuffed birds behind glass for chickens sporting fangs. “Gina left with a magician, and he’s the one who stopped all the Muppasaurs?” he asked, an idea as to why Gina might have gone anywhere with such a person forming in his mind.

    “Yep, she did! Uh…they weren’t kissing, or anything,” Scooter assured him.

    The Newsman only nodded, thinking. Did she try to recruit this guy to stop Mother? If he can make dead things dead again, maybe…

    Then they both heard the shrieking, still another long gallery over: “How dare you say that to me, you dirty little con artist!” Newsie couldn’t help a cringe; he knew that scratchy, high-nasal voice all too well.

    The response, however, confused him. A gravelly, thickly accented voice yelled back: “How dare me? How dare you stick that huge ugly nose where it doesn’t belong, you nasty old hen!”

    Oh good grief, Newsie thought, breaking into a hard run, leaving Scooter puffing behind, unwilling to risk spilling all the coffee. Oh no. No, please don’t tell me that’s –

    He raced through the last few feet of the Hall of Primates, entering the narrow exit to the special exhibit gallery, and saw his mother, furious, nose-to-nose with a short, dark-curly-haired old woman in a faded shawl…and Gina standing to one side, anxiously watching the argument. A purple Muppet in a top hat and old tuxedo hung back, seeming unsure what to do with the wand in his right hand. Newsie slowed, panting, a little shocked at recognizing the old Gypsy woman who had not turned him Swedish the night she’d cursed everyone else at the Muppet Theatre during a live performance.

    “You call my nose ugly? Yours looks like a potato!” Mrs Crimp spat, and with one sharp fingernail poked the old Gypsy’s nose.

    “Not that I understand what my granddaughter likes about having a boyfriend with a beak, but on you, it looks even worse!” the Gypsy retorted, grabbing the elderly woman’s pointed nose and giving it a yank.

    “Oh, wow,” Scooter muttered, catching up. “A ghostfight!”

    The Newsman moved toward Gina; unfortunately both she and his mother spotted him at the same instant. As Gina dropped to her knees to welcome him into her embrace, Mrs Crimp swooped over, grabbing his shoulder to yank him backward. “There’s my ungrateful child! It’s time to go home now, Aloysius! No more playing with dirty slatterns for you!”

    But right on her back came Grandmama Angie. “You call my granddaughter that? You rotten, ugly, gadjengi lashavi kanny! Take your hands off that Muppet before you defile him, you sour-milked cow! I don’t want the hands that touch the blood of my blood to be dirtied with your diseases!”

    Shrieking, shouting, and hair-pulling ensued. Gina drew Newsie out of the way, worried, her hands swiftly roaming his face, his shoulders, gently holding up his arm; he winced. “Oh, Newsie! What happened?” she cried, seeing the rust-red stains.

    “Had to fight off a bunch of vicious dead things,” he muttered, putting his left arm around her waist. Suddenly he noticed she was favoring one arm as well. “Gina! You’re hurt!”

    “I think it’s just sprained,” she said, and kissed him on the nose, on his cheeks, on his lips; he held her there, needing badly to experience that affection again. She was only too happy to oblige. The fight raged on a few steps away.

    Fozzie nudged Kermit. “Er…should we try to break it up?”

    Kermit shook his head. “Break it up? I don’t even know what it is!”

    “An actual ghostfight!” Scooter exclaimed, passing the coffee out to the paramedics bandaging Statler’s ear and Waldorf’s nose, which had been banged around in the Muppasaur’s empty guts.

    “Yeah, it’s fascinating,” Fleet Scribbler growled, then tried to yell over the commotion. “Can one of you geniuses on the city’s payroll cut me out of this thing?” If the firefighters avidly watching the ghostfight heard him, they gave no sign of it.

    “Roll tape!” Rhonda squeaked at the sloth. Tommy scratched his head slowly; before he could remember what he was going to say, Rhonda cried in exasperation: “Yeah, I know it’s all digital now, wiseguy! Just roll it!”

    “Oh, my! Look, Beaker! Two full-bodied, nonvaporous apparitions! And they apparently don’t like one another very much,” Bunsen Honeydew pointed out.

    “Uh-uhhh,” Beaker said, wondering what corner of the room would be safest to hide in before Bunsen suggested they go get an ectoplasmic sample.

    Newsie hugged Gina as tightly as he could, biting his lip when she accidentally brushed against his right arm. He didn’t care. Being with her was worth anything. “I love you,” he told her.

    “And I love you,” she whispered back, holding in her tears, trying to enfold him in both arms despite the pain in her left wrist. “I…I had to get Grandmama Angie here. I figured the best way to fight a ghost…”

    “Was with another ghost?” He glanced back at the two old women practically duking it out at this point, and shuddered. “Remind me never to get on her bad side!”

    Gina kissed him again, and for the moment, that was all he wanted to do: feel her tongue touching his, her lips against his, her body pressed tightly against him.

    A booming voice brought everything to a halt. “KNOCK IT OFF!”

    Grandmama Angie and Mrs Crimp staggered into stillness, neither letting the other out of her glare, small wisps of white fog curling off both of them to dissipate on the floor. “Look at that!” Bunsen said, “Actual ectoplasmic residue of violent spirit-to-spirit confrontational contact! Oh, how I wish I had some sample jars with me!”

    Beaker sighed, relieved, but then Dr Van Neuter nudged Bunsen, holding out a small plastic container. “Here you go, Bunnie! I always keep a few spares in my pockets.” He chuckled. “You just never know when you might find the perfect mutated Drosophila Muppetogaster!”

    “Oh, thank you very much! Now Beaker, if you’ll just…Beaker?” Bunsen looked around confusedly, but his carrot-topped lab partner was nowhere to be seen.

    Kermit shivered, instinctively grasping at Piggy’s arms; she held onto him, equally shocked. “Is that…do you think that’s really…” he gulped, unwilling to speak his fear aloud.

    Piggy couldn’t speak, eyes wide. Fozzie hid behind his hat, trembling. “It sure looks like it!”

    Gonzo rushed forward to the black-shrouded spectre which towered over Muppets and humans alike. “Oh, wow! It is him! Hey, can I have your autograph?”

    Death stared with glowing sockets at the fearless daredevil. Camilla clucked and fainted. Gonzo, unfazed, gazed up in rapt fascination, apparently unaffected by the cold or the musty scent of the bones. Death sighed, pulled out a black feather quill, and leaned over. A second later, an ecstatic Gonzo hurried back to the others, sporting letters in black ink upon his nose. “Guys! Did you see that? That was so cool!”

    “You,” Rizzo said, poking Gonzo’s stomach, “are one hundred percent, completely insane!”

    Newsie and Gina looked unhappily at one another, then stood slowly, holding hands, to face the grim spectre. The skull turned slowly from one of them to the other. “WELL? WHAT’S YOUR SOLUTION?”

    Gina tried to speak, but her throat was suddenly dry. Newsie gulped, but managed to get words out: “We’re not going. Neither of us!”

    Death sighed, shrugging. “YEAH, I KINDA FIGURED YOU’D SAY THAT. WELL, SO BE IT. BESSIE CRIMP, I HEREBY—“

    “What are you doing?” Gina asked, taking strength from her Newsman’s firm grip on her hand.

    “It’s Florabeth, you nincompoop,” Mrs Crimp snapped at Death.

    “Nothing flora about that stink,” Grandmama Angie muttered. “What is that you wear, perfume of old snobby cow?”

    “That’s it!” Mrs Crimp yelled, grabbing a fistful of the old Gypsy’s hair. “You nasty, corrupted –“

    “OH FOR PETE’S SAKE! ENOUGH ALREADY!” Death bellowed, shoving clacking, bony hands between the two furious ghosts. He pointed one long finger in Mrs Crimp’s face. “YOU, SHUT UP! I WAS ABOUT TO RELEASE YOU BACK INTO THE LIVING WORLD!” He turned to Grandmama Angie. “AND WHO EXACTLY ARE YOU? ANOTHER OF THESE PESKY MUPPETS?”

    “No, she’s my grandmother,” Gina interrupted. “She’s just short.”

    “And short-tempered,” Rizzo observed respectfully.

    “Runs in the family,” Mumford chipped in, adjusting his rumpled collar carefully.

    “You…you can’t allow her back here!” Newsie argued, stepping forward, closer to Death. Afraid for his safety, Gina held tight to his hand with both of hers, silently urging him back. He gave her fingers a squeeze, but held his ground, shivering. “She…she’d make my life…our life…a living nightmare! You can’t!”

    The Reaper eyed the much shorter Muppet, perhaps reassessing him. “THEN SHE’D BE HARASSING ME NIGHT IN, NIGHT OUT, ALWAYS COMPLAINING ABOUT HER SON FALLING INTO BAD COMPANY… DO YOU UNDERSTAND SHE’S SPENT THE LAST NINE YEARS HARPING AT ME ABOUT YOU STAYING UP TOO LATE, DRINKING TOO MANY CREAM SODAS, AND LIVING IN SIN? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW IRRITATING SHE IS?”

    “Er…yes, I do,” Newsie said, blushing. “But…but I think I can take care of one of those issues right now.” Swallowing dryly, he turned to Gina. “I…I’ve thought about this for months,” he said, fumbling in his inside jacket pocket.

    Gina’s eyes widened. She looked around; every Muppet in the room, plus the emergency workers and the guards, were all staring at her and Newsie. Oh no. No, no, Newsie, please, you know how I feel about this, please don’t do this…

    But he continued: “And…and I know where I belong, and whom I belong with, so…” He brought a tiny velvet box from his pocket. He saw tears starting in Gina’s eyes; saw his mother gaping in shock, and Gina’s grandmother beginning to smile. Feeling his face reddening, he plunged ahead. He knelt, gently tugging her unhurt hand; to his relief, Gina sank to the floor with him. This would have looked even more ridiculous if she’d remained standing, given their height difference, he thought. His voice was rougher than normal as he strained to keep it from cracking. “Angelina Vaarcek Broucek, will you…” He saw her starting to shake her head, crying, and for a moment he almost couldn’t do it. If she said no, he didn’t think he’d resist a trip with the Reaper any more.

    Gina thought desperately, Oh no. No! Aloysius, please don’t do this to me! I told you how I feel about marriage! Don’t do this, don’t make me say no to you in front of all these people, please don’t—

    “Will you…stay with me, and allow me to stay with you, forever?”

    Gina stared at him.

    He hadn’t said it. It took her a long moment to process what he had said.

    The Muppets, the ghosts, and even Death leaned forward, holding their breaths, if they had any to hold.

    The Newsman opened the tiny box with shaking fingers. Within, the beautiful curves of the antique, Art Nouveau ring gleamed in the warm lights of the Museum gallery, the single, perfectly oval amber gem seeming to take in all that light and hold it, a glowing ember encircled in a rose-golden vine, curling delicate filigrees the almost-living support for the tiny piece of ancient sunlight. Gina barely looked at it, her gaze held by her Aloysius’ pleading eyes. She moistened her lips, picking through the maze of startled words crowding her head. “That depends,” she said softly. She saw him blanch, but forced herself to continue. “Will you…will you promise to obey me in everything? To quit that dangerous news job, and stay home with me, and be whatever I ask?”

    A soft gasp went up from the Muppets. Gina glanced over at Mrs Crimp, who looked on the verge of boiling over. Grandmama Angie stared back impassively, waiting. Death seemed puzzled. Newsie blinked at Gina, tears starting, his throat moving but no words coming out. He looked from her to his friends, to his mother, to the ring. When he raised his eyes to hers once more, she could see he didn’t understand. It killed her to have to put him through this. She took his hand gently in hers, looking hard into those stunned dark eyes. She saw his body wavering; he was on the verge of collapse. Hurriedly she continued, “Or will you be your own Muppet, and never obey anyone ever again? Will you promise to stand up to anyone who tries to use you?”

    Newsie choked, blinking; tears rolled down those long cheeks, but at last he understood. He nodded, slowly at first, then vehemently. “Yes…yes! I will!”

    Gina felt heat in her own eyes. “Then I will too. I love you, Aloysius.”

    He threw both arms around her. She hugged him in return, both of them crying. When Gina could wipe her eyes a little, and kissed him again, and then looked around, there didn’t seem to be a dry eye in the house…except for Newsie’s mother.

    “And just what was that little performance supposed to mean?” she snapped.

    Death glared at her, bending down to fix the unhappy ghost directly in his chilling sockets. “IT MEANS THEY’RE FORMALLY TOGETHER, AND YOU DON’T HAVE A COMPLAINT TO MAKE ANY MORE, FLOSSIE.” Mrs Crimp fidgeted uncomfortably.

    “That’s as good a proposal as any Rom ever made to his bori,” Grandmama Angie declared. She shrugged. “Eh, he’s been with her for how long now? In some of our people’s tribes, that alone makes them already married!” She poked Mrs Crimp. “Your boy has good sense! Lord knows where he got it – certainly not from you!”

    “All that nonsense about obeying!” Mrs Crimp muttered, though she seemed less angry than before. “If she’s going to be his wife, she should be the one obeying him!”

    Grandmama Angie cackled. “My little fire? She hasn’t obeyed anyone since the day she was born! And me a grandmother, having to raise that! I tell you, old crone, the children these days…”

    “You don’t have to tell me!” Mrs Crimp sniffed, her large nose in the air.

    Death tapped his scythe on the floor, making everyone jump. “ALL RIGHT, WONDERFUL, EVERYBODY’S HAPPY. YOU TWO – WITH ME. NOW. I DO HAVE OTHER THINGS TO GET DEAD TODAY!”

    Almost as one, the old lady ghosts turned on the Reaper. “Don’t rush us, old bonyguts! It’s not every day I get to see my granddaughter so happy!”

    “I’m not leaving until I find out how much of my son’s money he spent on that silly bauble!”

    “Hey, if it’s for my Gina, it had better be real gold!”

    “If she’s marrying my Aloysius, she’d better sign a pre-nup concerning any other gold he earns!”

    Death rolled his fiery eyes. “BOTH OF YOU – SHUT UP ALREADY!”

    Statler, frowning, nudged his crony; they both sat on one of the abandoned display platforms, sipping coffee they’d stolen from the medics. “Hey Waldorf…do those two old biddies remind you of anyone?”

    His companion shook his head. “No, and I’m surprised you remember anything at all, you old fool! Oh, ho ho ho!” Statler at first joined in the laughter, then stopped, glowering at the other codger.

    Death looked at Gina and Newsie, clinging to one another, still kneeling together on the floor. “YOU TWO GET A PASS TODAY. BUT NO MORE STIRRING UP THESE BLATHERY BIDDIES! ALL RIGHT, GIRLS, TIME TO GO.”

    Mrs Crimp smacked her fist against the bottom of the shroud. “You beast! How dare you call us that!”

    “You watch your language around respectable old women!” Grandmama Angie chimed in, shaking her finger at the Reaper.

    With a heavy sigh, the grim spectre swirled his cloak around them both, and all three vanished. Cold winds wafted randomly through the gallery.

    Piggy looked at Kermit. Kermit stared back. “’Us’?” Kermit mumbled.

    “’Respectable’?” Piggy muttered in reply.

    “Hoo boy,” Scooter blew out a breath. “Frog help him!”

    Newsie gently wiped Gina’s tears from her lovely face with his fuzzy fingers; she startled him happily by kissing his away. He leaned into her, his chin on her shoulder, overcome, loving the feel of her nuzzling his cheek in return. “Together,” he whispered to her.

    “Together,” she agreed softly, and kissed him again.

    He glanced over at everyone else; for the moment, they were all standing around stunned, only now beginning to murmur among themselves at all that had just happened; he knew it would only be a short while before someone interrupted him and Gina. “I love you. Thank you for…for saying what you did just now.”

    Gina kissed his nose. Oh, how he adored that… “Right back at ya,” she murmured. “Finally…maybe we can relax, with your mother gone.” He looked so unhappy at that, she stroked his cheek. “I’m so sorry, Newsie. I’m so sorry she couldn’t just let you live for yourself.”

    He tried to shrug; it came off very halfhearted. “She…she could be angry, and…and mean…sometimes…but…” He took a deep, painful breath. “But she was all the family I had, really. You’re…you’re so lucky, to have been raised by someone who…who…” He gulped. He couldn’t say it. He met her concerned gaze, and then allowed her to simply pull him close again, to hold him and stroke his hair with her unharmed hand. He closed his eyes, sighing, holding her.

    “But you did have other family,” Gina murmured, “You told me so. An aunt, right? An aunt and uncle?”

    “Uncle Joe died decades ago,” Newsie said, shaking his head. “And Aunt Ethel’s in…er…a facility. I don’t think she remembers much.”

    Gina drew back to study his eyes. “You don’t think she’d recognize you?”

    He choked out a laugh. “Um…I don’t think she’d recognize herself at this point.”

    She continued stroking his hair, which he found very…distracting. “You know what? Maybe you should go say hi to her anyway. I’ll bet she doesn’t get any visitors.”

    “She pets monsters,” Newsie argued. “How far gone do you have to be to like monster-petting therapy?”

    Gina couldn’t keep a grin from her face at that. After a second, giving in to the release of it all, he started snickering. Gina giggled. Newsie held her tight, threw back his head, and let out a joyful guffaw. They fell to kissing again, fervently covering every inch of one another’s noses and cheeks and mouths with quick touches of lips and tongues, until both started when Piggy tapped the Newsman’s shoulder.

    “Excuse-moi,” she said pleasantly, batting her eyelids at him. Newsie looked around; every Muppet in the building, it seemed, was gathered around the two of them.

    He attempted civility, embarrassed. “Er…yes?”

    “It is customary, when you buy a girl a ring, and she says yes,” Piggy explained, her sweet voice swiftly turning growly, “To actually put it on her finger.”

    Newsie blushed. “Uh…right,” he muttered.

    His fiery beloved shot him a wicked grin, and held out both her hands. Newsie gave her a grimace, hesitated a moment, then chose the left hand and slipped the ring very lightly over her third finger. Gina gently mitigated his embarrassed flush with a very deep, very long kiss.

    Rhonda sighed. “Well it’s about freakin’ time!”

    Rizzo sighed. “Oh, bruddah.”
    ------------------------------
  16. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    I heartily approve of this chapter. *Notices no disclaimor of "The End", so waits for whatever's next.
    Night. And thank you very much for posting.
  17. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Seventeen (denouement)

    “Thank you! You’re too kind. For my next trick…”

    Gina did her best to maintain the fake smile on her face, but her thought at that exact moment was that the scattered, hesitant applause from the audience really was too kind. It had taken Mumford no less than seven minutes to perform the card trick, which ended not with the magician correctly guessing what card the bewildered man in the front row had picked from the deck, but instead the cards turned into a flock of small wingless seabirds, who were now waddling and awking all over the stage. Gina stepped sideways as one of them mistook the stage floor for a privy right next to her, and growled under her breath, “I am going to kill him.”

    Newsie shook his head, his chin propped in his hands, leaning on the windowsill to the tech booth from the inside. Scott snickered. “Did you get a pic of her in that outfit yet?” he muttered low at the Newsman from his own excellent vantage point of the lighting board.

    Newsie glanced over at him, shocked. “She’d…er, she wouldn’t like that at all!”

    Gina, as Mumford’s assistant, had been half-coaxed, half-blackmailed into her current clothing, and in the end had only agreed to it if the Muppet performer would shave one week off her contracted time in his employ. The low-necked leotard with bright scarlet sequins sparkling on every curve-hugging inch was only matched for sheer audaciousness by the equally sleek, black sheer tights showing off more than they concealed of her long legs. Thus far, Gina had refused to turn her back to the audience, but Newsie had seen her emerge from the dressing-room and knew just how, er, flattering the outfit was from the rear. At his stunned jaw-drop, she’d blushed, glared, and threatened to kill Mumford for the sixty-third time. (Scott, Rizzo, Pepe, and Gonzo had a pool going as to both how many times she would utter some variation on that thought…and how many shows it would take before she actually followed through on it. Newsie knew about it, but for the sake of his friends’ safety elected not to mention it to Gina.)

    In the audience, Rizzo elbowed Gonzo. “Sixty-six! You’re outta da running now, nice guy!” he chortled quietly.

    “Ehh, I thought she’d actually maim him a lot sooner,” Gonzo replied, shrugging. “The flightless auks are pretty cool, though, huh?”

    “Bawwwwwk?” Camilla asked, and Gonzo stroked her back.

    “Of course not. But they are kinda exotic…” he murmured to her, and the chicken shrugged noncommittally.

    A number of the Muppets had attended last night’s charity show at the Sosilly Theatre, and a few more showed up for today’s final matinee. Fozzie had been surprised when Statler and Waldorf began heckling Chucky Bear and Topo Sticky earlier; “Hey, I was gonna use dat joke!” he exclaimed at the old Gags Beasley saw about the monk, the airplane glue, and the seventy-two-piece model Studebaker. Kermit and Piggy had been too busy with the Frog Scouts and the usual Muppet Theatre business to attend, but had contributed generously to the charity fund. Link Hogthrob came Saturday night with a bubbly blonde he’d met in the waiting room of the hair gel company, and the two of them missed the first half of the show, too busy praising one another’s well-styled locks in the lobby. Someone had thrown a pie directly in the face of the smarmy lounge singer during his stint earlier, about six words into his very un-Motown rendition of “Sugar Pie, Honeybunch,” to much laughter and applause; Newsie could’ve sworn he saw a woman with a large sunbonnet yanked low on her head who nonetheless reminded him somehow of Wanda, trotting swiftly up the aisle immediately after the pie splatted on target. The steel drum player seemed to have forgotten she ever suffered rabbititis, and her backup pigs brought down the house with their version of Jimmy Buffett’s “Volcano” (thankfully, everyone had tactfully forgotten to tell Crazy Harry about the show at all, and the song ended without a climactic finale). All in all, counting the well-heeled people who also attended to fill the house almost to capacity, a very good show.

    The Newsman felt a pang in his right arm, and eased back in his seat. The medic who’d stitched him up at the Museum yesterday had assured him the wound wasn’t too deep and should heal. All the same, he was trying to go gently on it…especially after last night. He flushed pink, and tried to refocus his thoughts. However, gazing at his beloved onstage in that…that…er, spangly, showgirl outfit…was definitely taking his mind in an embarrassing direction. He wondered whether he could get away with sneaking a photo of her. Or…or convincing her to keep the outfit after this stage-magic gig was done? Brightening, he smiled. Maybe he could ask her to give him a private magic show? She really was rather good at it…certainly better than Mumford, who had now pulled two woodchucks, a broken accordion, and approximately twelve yards of flocked velvet Elvis wallpaper out of his top hat, but no rabbit.

    “Ah…once again! I wave my magic wand, I say the magic words…”

    Gonzo snorted. “This would be way cooler if he’d do something with all that stuff! I mean, c’mon, at least try to eat the wallpaper, or juggle the flaming auk, or something…”

    Rizzo laughed. “Ha! Just standin’ up dere with Gina havin’ to show off in dat outfit, the guy’s takin’ as much risk as you do in your acts!” He did a double-take. “Wait – when did the auk catch fire?”

    “See you Thursday night, my dear!” Mumford said, waving jauntily at Gina when they exited the stage to confused murmurs in the audience; no one was quite sure what to make of his smothering the auk-fire with the wallpaper, and then pulling an enormous monster with stuck-on bunny ears and fat goggle-eyes from his hat to devour the flaming Elvis prints.

    Gina glared at him before striding backstage to the ladies’ dressing room to strip off the humiliating skimpi-tard as fast as she could. Mumford had insisted she wear spangly bunny ears as well next time, for his show at some swanky resort in the Catskills, where he had a one-weekend engagement. If he thinks he’s pulling ME out of that hat… she snarled to herself. Her resentment only banked into a residual smolder when she emerged from the dressing-room to find her Newsman waiting for her, a bouquet of red and peach roses in his hands.

    Gina sighed, and had to smile. “Newsie…you don’t have to give me flowers every performance!” She accepted the roses, burying her petite nose in them. “Mmm…these are beautiful. Thank you.”

    He stood on tiptoe for a kiss. “You were wonderful,” he told her earnestly.

    She knelt, more comfortable in well-worn cargo pants and a “Chucky and Sticky: Wooden is Gooden” t-shirt which young Alan had foisted upon her; it was his first marketing ploy as the comedy duo’s new manager. Gina nuzzled her Muppet’s nose, enjoying the soft, nubbly feel of his skin. “No, you are wonderful. Come on…I need to get away from here, before I come to my senses and stuff that stupid magician into his own dratted hat.”

    Sixty-seven, Newsie thought, and wondered if he ought to report that to the betting pool participants. Forget it…let them find their own inside source, he thought happily, gazing up into the welcoming eyes of his Gypsy girl. “Sounds good,” he agreed. “Uh…do you want to get a frozen coffee? An early dinner?”

    She considered that, smiling, fondling his hair along the part, enjoying the way he began to blush and squirm while trying to maintain an innocent, proper appearance in public. “Gina…” he muttered, trying to duck out of her grasp, and she laughed and pulled him close.

    “Know what I’d like?”

    “Besides one less magician?”

    “Ooh. You’re getting quick.” Newsie grinned, pleased, and she continued, still teasing him, one finger playing with a thick wave of his hair: “I was thinking…how about we pick up a nice, cool fruit tray at Whole Foods, and a bottle of something light and crisp—“

    “Riesling?” he guessed; he’d never been much of a drinker, but in her company he’d learned a small glass of something nose-tickling could be pleasant.

    She nodded. “Good call. Fruit, Riesling, maybe a couple of cheeses and crackers, and just go home and…” she brushed her lips over the pointed tip of his nose. “…Nibble?”

    He had to remind himself to stay upright. “Sure…”

    Newsie was puzzled, but happily so, when on the way out the back door of the theatre, Gina stopped and pulled him into a passionate kiss right as a somehow familiar-looking, fish-faced man started to approach. As Newsie stood there, wobbling a little, joyfully dazed, Gina said, “Bye, Paul,” and tugged Newsie after her out the door.

    The fruit proved wonderfully fresh and cool, the wine sharp and light, and the Newsman was delighted when Gina turned his accidental spill of a few drops of wine down his unbuttoned shirt into a reason to lick his felt clean. Intrigued by the possibilities, he retaliated with a strawberry down the front of her t-shirt…and the midafternoon snack turned into something much more involved.

    Later, as they snuggled together in the comfortably cool sheets of the bedroom, Gina stroked his nose thoughtfully. “So…how are you feeling about tomorrow?”

    Newsie sighed, his pleasant mood dissipating with the change of subject. “I don’t know. I don’t think this is such a good idea.”

    “Why? I thought you liked your aunt?”

    “She was always kind to me,” Newsie agreed, but turned away to stare pensively at his framed bachelor’s degree hanging over Gina’s desk next to her own theatrical accomplishments. “She stood up for my going to college, when Mother wanted me to go into ordinary shop-work. But…but I doubt she’s going to know who I am now. I haven’t even seen her in almost ten years.” His Aunt Ethel, Mother’s older sister, had hung on longer than his mother had, but after Uncle Joe died, she’d moved first to Pennsylvania to live with some of Joe’s relations, then back here a few years ago when her senses failed and one of her stepkids admitted her to the asylum in Queens. He paused, checking his thoughts: no, to the Happy Home for the Dangerously Senile, a “full assisted-living facility especially for people of diminished mental capacity,” according to their website; no one called them asylums anymore. Not that the nomenclature makes much of a difference, he mused.

    Gina wrapped the arm which didn’t sport a wrist-brace around his shoulders. She hadn’t worn it onstage, but the doctor’s orders were for her to treat the sprained joint carefully for a couple of weeks, and her Newsman had insisted she wear it at all other times, even in bed. “Well, have you really changed that much? I mean, I’ve watched some of your old footage from the Muppet Show…”

    Newsie blushed a little. “Uh…you’ve…you’ve changed the way I think about a number of things!”

    Gina laughed, kissing him. “That wasn’t what I meant! Do you have any photos of yourself when you were a kid?” She’d thought it curious before now that he’d never shared any with her, even when she’d dragged out her own photo album and they’d giggled over pics of her scowling at the camera at eight… To her surprise, Newsie hesitated only a moment, then hopped out of bed and rummaged through his books on her bookshelf. She smiled at the fact he still dragged a throw pillow with him for modesty. Oh, well. He’s always going to be like that…but it IS pretty cute.

    Newsie returned, slipping between the sheets once more, handing her a large picture book. “’Fish Is Fish’?” Gina wondered aloud. “Are we doing storytime?”

    Newsie threw her a frown, and she grinned. He flipped carefully through the aged book, arriving in roughly the center, and gently tugged from the safety of the brightly colored pages an old black-and-white photograph. Gina held it up to the filtered sunlight through the closed linen shade. “The nurses said she’s regressed; she only recalls incidents from her younger life,” Newsie said quietly. “If she remembers me at all, it’s probably something like that.”

    Gina studied the photo. “Uh…this is your mother and aunt…and you?”

    “Yes.”

    “How old were you?”

    “Er…maybe seven?”

    In the picture, a severe Muppet woman with a tight hairbun and a large pointed nose posed standing, holding onto the back of a chair. Next to her, another woman, looking more serene although she shared the same nose and long face, smiled softly as she stood with hands folded over an embroidered apron. Between the two, seated on the chair, a Muppet boy with the same prominent nose and large glasses gazed seriously at the camera. He looked like a miniature version of the Newsman, even down to the brown plaid jacket. Gina bit her lip, tamping down a giggle fit. “Um. You know…I think she’ll probably recognize you, Newsie.”

    He looked worriedly at her. “I hope you’re right. Otherwise this is going to be a fairly pointless exercise.”

    Handing him back the photo, which he carefully set between the pages again, Gina stroked his mussed hair back from his forehead. “I’m sure she’ll like having a visitor, anyway, okay?” She noticed the care with which he returned the book to its place on the shelf. “I’ve never seen your other family pictures.”

    Embarrassed, he shrugged, climbing back into her embrace. “There aren’t any. Mother said things like that were vain. Um…that one was Aunt Ethel’s idea. She gave me that copy. Mother didn’t want it around, so I had to find a safe place for it.”

    “Seriously?” She stared at him; uncomfortably, he shrugged. “Newsie…why didn’t she want a photo of her son, or her own sister?”

    “She said she knew what we looked like, she didn’t need a reminder around all the time,” Newsie said, and looked away, unhappy with the discussion. “Can we…not talk about this? I feel silly.”

    Oh, my poor Newsie, Gina thought. She drew him into her arms; he gave in reluctantly, clearly mortified. “Okay,” she agreed, and kissed him until he relaxed and kissed her back. Then she turned the kiss into something guaranteed to make him forget about feeling embarrassed at his odd family.

    *****
    The Newsman shifted uncomfortably while they waited for an attendant to escort them to the dayroom, unclipping and reattaching the laminated visitors’ badge to his jacket collar several times, unable to find a suitable spot for it. Gina touched his shoulder, and he glanced up at her, worried. “Relax,” she murmured to him. “It’s going to be fine.”

    “Not to, uh, grate on an unpleasant subject,” Newsie muttered, “but how can you tell anymore?”

    Gina shrugged. “Just a good feeling. Okay?”

    He didn’t feel okay in the least, but he nodded, and tried to look calm and professional as the desk nurse returned. “This is Pinky…at least, we all call him that…at least, we think it’s a him,” the nurse introduced an odd furry creature which seemed to be all mouth, eyes, squiggly antennae and long blobby body. “He’s one of our interning monsters in the Monster Petting Therapy program, and he knows your aunt very well.”

    Newsie and Gina stared dubiously at the creature. It bobbed its head up and down, and said in a flat, harsh voice, “Yip. Eth-el. Yip. Yip. Yip yip yip yip yip.”

    “Take them to see Ethel, okay?” the nurse asked, smiling as the strange thing bobbed excitedly and began jerking and slithering oddly down the corridor. Gina glanced at Newsie; he met her uncertain look with one of his own. She shrugged, and hand in hand they followed the creature.

    Another small monster identical to the first one, but with blue fur, hovered anxiously around the wheelchair of a wizened, rosy-cheeked Muppet woman. Her soft gray hair spilled in waves down her back; the odd monster was brushing it, a large hairbrush in each of its three skinny clawlike hands, as they walked up. “Yip,” announced Pinky, “Vis-i-tors. Visitors. Yip.”

    “Vis-i-tors! Yip yip yip!” exclaimed the second creature, tossing the brushes aside. Both of them bobbed and swerved all around the wheelchair, talking to each other and to the old woman in the same clipped tones. “Eth-el! Vis-i-tors! Yip yip yip yip yipyipyipyip uh-huh!”

    “That’s nice, boys,” Ethel replied, and reached down slowly to pat the second monster (Gina immediately named it Blue) on what passed for its head. It rubbed against her like a cat, seemingly happy. “Run along now. See if the watermelon’s ready. We’ll go down to the lake in a while.”

    “Lake! Yip yip!”

    “Yip yip. Wa-ter-mel-on. Yip yip yip!”

    The strange things hop-slid off, presumably to look for the long-ago memory of a summer picnic in Ethel’s mind. Newsie stared at his aunt. She looks so frail, he thought, his unconscious hope to find her as robust and cheerful as she’d been throughout his childhood dashed. Gina nudged his left shoulder, and he looked up at her. She nodded gently at him. Swallowing down his unease, he approached the chair; his aunt continued to stare with squinting eyes at a glazed window, but he doubted she saw it. Her gaze was far away, perhaps focused on the view of the lake from the summer cabin she and Uncle Joe had rented for many years, farther upstate. “Er…Aunt Ethel?”

    Slowly her head turned; she smiled at him, her tiny eyes bright and happy in that wrinkled face. When she didn’t speak, Newsie came closer, tentatively reaching a hand out and touching hers. “Uh…it’s me. Aloysius.”

    “Oh, how nice,” Aunt Ethel said, and gently patted his fingers. “I have a nephew with the same name.”

    “Right,” Newsie said, casting a nervous look back at Gina. She joined him, standing a little to the side, and smiled as the old woman looked curiously up at her. “Um…this is Gina. We came to visit you.”

    “Sit down, sit down,” Ethel said, indicating the floor. “It’s nice and cool under the tree here. We’ll have cake in a while…and sparklers tonight. I like sparklers.” Unsure how to respond, Newsie only nodded. Ethel smiled at him. “My nephew likes those too. He runs around the lawn with them. Calls ‘em fireflies.”

    Startled, Newsie glanced at Gina again. “Er…that’s right. I remember that…”

    Gina dropped to the floor, sitting crosslegged, gesturing for Newsie to sit on her lap if he wanted. It seemed strange to play along, but he accepted, admittedly reassured somewhat by her arm around his waist. “Um…Aunt Ethel…how are you doing?”

    “Oh, I’m fine,” the old woman said brightly. She tucked her long hair back over her ears. “I can’t find my barrettes, though…have to put my hair up if I’m going to frost the cake…”

    Gina opened her small purse and fished out the spare hair scrunchie she sometimes remembered to carry. She handed it to Newsie, nodding at him. Uncertainly, Newsie got to his feet again, and showed the scrunchie to his aunt. “Would you…would you like me to put your hair up for you?”

    “Oh, that would be lovely,” Ethel agreed.

    With hands that only trembled a little, the Newsman gathered up the soft, thick waves of gray silk and wrapped the scrunchie around them in the back the way he’d watched Gina do dozens of times. “How’s that?”

    The old woman smiled and patted his hand again. “You’re a good boy, Aloysius. Just like my nephew.”

    His heart caught. He swallowed with a dry throat. From behind him, Gina spoke up, “Tell me about this nephew?”

    Ethel kept hold of Newsie’s hand, her gaze drifting over the other chairs in the dayroom, some of them empty, some occupied by other elderly folk, but she didn’t seem to see them. “Oh, he’s a sweet child. Very serious. He’s Flora’s boy.” She sighed. “Poor Flora. She’s had such a hard time raising him on her own.” Her eyes shifted back, locking Newsie’s gaze. “You heard what happened with Flora, didn’t you? How the boy’s father was killed in action?”

    “I thought it was falling turnips?” Newsie choked out, startled. Gina moved closer; he felt her comforting touch on his back.

    “Turnips! Oh no, no!” Ethel laughed, a light, sweet sound. Newsie recalled suddenly how she sang sometimes, often while cooking or sewing, soft melodies; rarely when his mother was around. He’d always suspected Mother was jealous of Ethel’s musical voice, so unlike her own harsh one. “What a silly idea!” His aunt smiled at him, then turned sorrowful. “No…that young man was a sailor, you know. An engineer, shy as they come. He was killed on one of those islands…Guam? No…I don’t remember the name of it now…but he was one of those young college boys, the ones they sent ahead to figure out how to build airstrips so our planes could land. All the way to Japan. So shy, that one…” she chuckled. “Why, I don’t think he ever would have gone into that back room with Flora if his friends hadn’t got him a little tipsy!”

    This wasn’t the history he’d heard from his mother. Not even close. Newsie blinked at her, and asked hoarsely, “When…when did he and Moth…uh, when did he and Flora marry?”

    Ethel straightened up, looking hard at him. “You’re not from the government, are you? Snooping around asking all those questions, harassing poor Flora?”

    “No, no,” Newsie choked out, shaking his head emphatically. Gina held tight to him; he felt like if she hadn’t been there, he’d be wobbling by now.

    Relaxing, Ethel leaned toward him. “Well…now please don’t let on I said this, all right? Well…they didn’t, really.”

    Newsie stared at her in shock. Gina froze a second, then gently rubbed his back. It brought him out of his stunned silence. “They…they didn’t marry?”

    Ethel sighed. “Poor, poor Flora! She was so ashamed! She’d never been with a boy, you know…and Daddy was so strict…it was my fault. I should have looked after her better; I did warn her not to go down to the docks, that those dance halls weren’t respectable… She’d come to the city, you see, to live with me and Joe. Oh, things were different then…the war…everyone so romantic, everybody knowing their men might not come back, so things moved more quickly than they did back home! Flora just…well, I should have told her. I should’ve told her what could happen. She was so surprised, you know, when she started getting ill in the morning…”

    Newsie wavered, feeling faint. Gina rose to a kneeling position, wrapping one arm around him from behind. “That must have been a shock,” she commented.

    “Oh, you believe it was!” Ethel laughed lightly, regretfully. “Well I knew right away what the matter was, and told her. She was so upset…Daddy would have disinherited her, of course, if word got out! So I promised to help her, and we wrote to that young man…but by then, you see, he’d been killed. So we…oh, please don’t think I’m terrible!”

    Newsie shook his head, speechless. With a sad look, Ethel continued, “So, we told the Navy she was his widow. She needed something, to raise that child with! She couldn’t find work like that! Joe helped get the papers all done…I suppose they just had to believe us. It wasn’t uncommon, you know. Young people eloped quite a lot, in those years. Sometimes the records got lost.”

    Newsie stood there, lost, unable to think anything at all. Ethel smiled at him. “You look a lot like my nephew…what did you say your name was?”

    “A-Aloysius,” he stammered.

    “That’s so nice. I have a nephew named that,” she told him, nodding.

    He nodded back, at a loss what to say, what to think, how to react. He felt Gina’s hand softly holding him, her warmth at his back. Ethel sighed, staring off again. “Flora should never have tried to raise him herself. She just wasn’t the mothering type, sad to say. I tried…asked to keep the baby, me and Joe…we could have said it was ours…but she insisted. Took it as a duty. Can’t blame her, really…she always was the one Daddy punished the most, for shirking chores…not that she did any less than the rest of us! But he was always harder on her, poor girl.” She gave a heavy sigh, and looked down at Newsie’s hand, still clasped between hers on her lap. “Joe and I never had children of our own, and his from his first wife’s were mostly grown by then…it would have been nice, a little boy like that. A good boy like that.”

    Newsie felt tears streaking down his face; he stood frozen, helpless to stop them. Still in her reverie, Ethel smiled. “Do you have children? I have a nephew…he likes to play announcer, when the game shows come on. Always beats the people on ‘em to the answers. Such a smart boy.”

    “No, no, I don’t…” Newsie gulped. Suddenly he realized he didn’t have any memories about game shows. If anything, throughout his life, he’d never cared for them, preferring newscasts or educational shows on politics or history. Startled, he asked, “Game shows?”

    “Oh, yes! Name That Fruit: Extreme Muppet Edition is his favorite. He also likes that one with Guy Smiley, what’s it called…”

    “Er…This Is Your Life?” Newsie guessed. He wondered just how jumbled up the old woman’s head was. He’d always thought Guy Smiley was a pompous jerk, even as a young journalist, when the game show host had started to pop up seemingly everywhere.

    “No, not that one…”

    “Uhm. My Favorite Monster? Time’s Up? Er…” Newsie racked his brain, still certain his aunt was confusing him with someone else. “You Win a Chicken?”

    His aunt perked up. “Yes! That’s the one. He loves that one! Says he’s going to be a host one day. Such a bright boy.”

    At a loss, Newsie looked back at Gina. Concerned, seeing his distress, she brushed the tears off his face; embarrassed, he pulled out his handkerchief and set about cleaning his glasses. An idea hitting her, Gina asked, “This nephew who likes game shows…what’s his name?”

    “Oh, that would be Chester, of course. He’s Wilfred’s son,” Ethel beamed at her.

    If Gina hadn’t been holding him tightly, Newsie would have gone down. His legs felt useless. His glasses still in his hand, his vision blurry, he stared at Aunt Ethel. “Wilfred?”

    She frowned lightly at him. “You don’t know Wilfred? He’s my brother. Mine and Flora’s. Wilfred Blyer.” She gave him a puzzled look. “What did you say your name was again?”

    “Aloysius,” he repeated weakly, “Aloysius Crimp.”

    “Oh! I didn’t recognize you, I’m so sorry!” Aunt Ethel cried, grasping his hand happily. “You’ve come back! Flora will be so happy! When did your ship dock? If you’d told us, we would’ve come out to meet you!” Newsie stood there, overwhelmed. Excitedly, Ethel tried to get up from her wheelchair. “Flora! Flora! Your sailor’s come back! Oh, this is wonderful!”

    The strange monsters zipped out of nowhere, easing the old woman back into the chair. “Eth-el. Sit. Yip. Sit. Yip yip yip.”

    “Oh, boys, we have to go tell Flora! Her sailor boy’s come home! Oh…we have to…oh…” she quieted as one of the creatures pulled the hair scrunchie out and examined it; the other one picked up a hairbrush and began stroking it gently through that rich length of grey hair.

    “Brush-brush. Yip. Brush-brush.”

    “Stretchy. Yip. Cir-cle?” the other one questioned, pulling and twisting the scrunchie curiously. Gina took it back, causing both of them to jump, startled, yipping nervously like monotone dogs.

    Ethel nodded slowly, patting the one not brushing her hair. “That’s right. Good boys… Soon we’ll go to the lake…good boys…”

    “Good. Yip. Good. Yip yip yip.”

    “Eth-el good. Yip yip.”

    Seeing that the old woman had drifted away again, lulled by the feel of the odd creature reverently brushing her hair, Gina stood and gently pulled Newsie backward. “Newsie…come on. Come on. It’s okay,” she murmured in his ear.

    “But I…she…but…”

    Gina walked him a few steps away to a low bench and sat him down, taking his shoulders in her hands, gazing into his face. He hadn’t put his glasses back on yet. She loved how he looked without them, but gently raised them to his nose anyway so he’d be able to see. He blinked at her, eyes wide. “Gina…she…my mother…she…”

    “Shhh,” Gina whispered, stroking his hair. “I heard.”

    “I can’t believe this,” he muttered. Gina took his anxiously clasped hands into her own, making him focus. He stared up into her soft eyes, gulping. “She wasn’t…she didn’t…and…and…”

    Gina sighed. “Guess that’s why she was so against you sleeping with me. Maybe she worried history would repeat? Or maybe it just reminded her of her shame…”

    He couldn’t reply, sitting there with a completely shocked expression still. Gina leaned over and kissed him. “You know it doesn’t bother me, right?” she asked. “I mean, except the part where your mother obviously lied to you. That bothers me. A lot.”

    “Same here,” he said, his voice rough.

    Hoping to drag him out of the worst of these revelations to the best of them, Gina touched his chin, coaxing him to meet her gaze again. “But you have some amazing news now.”

    “I’d call that more shocking than –“

    “You have a cousin,” she pointed out gently.

    He stared dumbfounded at her. She could almost hear the gears ticking over, forcing his thoughts to shift. Finally he blinked. “I…I do?”

    “Your mother and aunt’s brother had a kid. Another nephew. Chester…Chester Blyer?” Thinking it over, piecing together all his aunt had said, Newsie slowly nodded. Gina smiled at him. “So, Intrepid Journalist, feel up to a little genealogy?”

    His eyes widened, turning bright. Gina kept smiling, waiting. That smile, he thought, was the most wonderful thing he’d ever seen. She’s right, he realized. “I…I have family,” he said, astounded by the idea.

    Gina grinned, and kissed him; he returned it thoroughly, and she hummed appreciation, her hand sliding over his chest. He broke away first, the amazing news hitting home. “I have family out there somewhere!” he exclaimed.

    She nuzzled his nose. “Sounds like it. What say we go find them?”

    He gave her a worried look. “You…you don’t mind that I’m…I guess this means I’m…not really a Crimp? I’m a…a Blyer?”

    “You’re my Newsie,” Gina said firmly. “And that’s all I care about. Got it?”

    “Got it,” he murmured, and then his tongue was busy showing her how much he appreciated her…how much he loved her.

    How much, in short, he loved being hers.

    The end…
    -------------------------------------
  18. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    I've been promising a genuine review--and here it is! (Full of typos, no doubt, but so be it--the typing fairy has already gone to bed.)

    Sixteen I

    Well, there’s plenty of heroism in the last segment, and plenty of anti-heroism in the end of this story. I was so glad that Grandmama Angie showed up and carried the day, but I was very unhappy about her assumption that other people are beneath her in some way. Isn’t this the way that Gina complained that some people treated Newsie? Although, since her ultimate function was to annoy the stuffing out of Death—and Mrs. Crimp, and she succeeded beyond expectations, yay for Grandmama Angie! I was glad that Gina did NOT whole-heartedly accept her grandmother’s teachings, but decided to follow her own moral code. And I’m glad that—warts and all—Grandmama Angie came to help. It also made the final ending more appropriate, showing very clearly that family is not perfect—just family.

    I’m so proud of Mumford for actually having some magical ability. When I think about all the times that Kermit’s faith in some performer’s questionable ability made that star a, well, star, then I will keep my faith that miraculous things can still happen. I don’t quite understand why Gina is so mean to Mumford, although I suppose she gets points for even honoring her commitment—her promise to him—because her Grandmother clearly wouldn’t have bothered. I just wish she could do it more graciously so that everyone around her wouldn’t have to deal with her being so angry. Mumford did—after all—save the day. So she has to show off her legs (to more than one person at a time)—deal with it! Enjoy it! Buy new shoes! (Sorry—apparently I’m channeling Piggy….)

    The subway chase scene was great. Why am I not surprised that there’s an ordinance against vicious chickens?

    Why am I not surprised that Sam has a lot in common with the fusty ol’ Museum director? I was sorry about all the wreckage in the museum, but that’s what insurance is for!

    So glad Kermit and Piggy are hosting the Frog Scouts party—and even gladder that the party is being hosted AWAY from the The Frog household….

    Soooo happy about Scribbler being in the, er, bowels of the beast….seems appropriate for a muck-raker.

    I loved Newsie being honest about not being a police officer—it says so much about his character. And I can understand why Gina loves him—he is so very different from the other people she has known. Made my heart go pitter-pat, it did!

    Sixteen II

    I wasn’t sure exactly what you were implying about Gina being Romany or not. Was Grandmama Angie not really Romany? She seems to imply that she is not—did I misread that?

    Okay, I have to confess. When you wrote, “A booming voice brought everything to a halt—I immediately thought of Piggy, who could probably thrash those two old biddies with one hand tied behind her back. But Death was good, too….

    “You just never know when you might find the perfect mutated Drosophila Muppetogaster!” (Is this fruit flies? What does muppetogaster mean?)

    Gonzo getting Death’s autograph was my favorite part, hands down. Leave it to the little weirdo to be a fanboy for Death. And to get his schnoz signed—perfect.

    I’m not really a huge fan of non-marriage, but I understand some couples choose this. If Newsie, who is so traditional, can be content with this and not just accept it because he has no choice or say in the matter, then I wish them great happiness together. I do believe Gina will love him and take care of him even though she won’t marry him.

    I like the “frog help him” every time I saw it.

    The ending was both sweet and sad. The little yippers were oddly comforting (and a little creepy) as they dealt with their beloved old people. I’m glad to think that Newsie has family somewhere.


    And glad to think that that might mean we’ll eventually get more story! An end that is really a beginning! I LOVE those!

    Way to go, Newsie fan! Way to bring it all home!
  19. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Heh, nice touch adding the Sesame Martians at the institute/homing center where Newsie's Aunt Ethyl is currently residing at. That was probably one of the more profound segments I've read in a fic, probably because it hits home.
    Newsie not liking Guy Smiley? Maybe he's not aware that it was his evil twin, Smy Guiley out to ruin Guy's reputation. *A cookie if you get the reference.
    Agree with Ru... Gina's far grumblier than I would've expected for her showgirl turn. Sure, the first couple of days I'd give her full understanding to her Jaye P. Morgan-esque dislike of the situation. But c'mon woman... You've clearly got it, so go and flaunt it. After all, Esmeralda wasn't above using her, er assets, to her gypsish advantage.

    All in all, a good tale and I thank you for sharing this with all of us. :) :news: :flirt:
  20. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    ------------------------------
    Thanks all! And especially thanks to Ed and Lady Ru for continuing to review. Comments help me consider things I otherwise hadn't...all good in my book. :news:

    Hmm...I thought I had made it plain that Gina didn't object so much to being gawked at onstage (though that's why she's a techie, NOT a performer) as to being ogled by the magician. Well, she's definitely NOT Piggy, either way!

    Ed...keep the cookie...I've never heard of Smy Guiley! Sounds funny though. As a Newsman, though, he already dislikes reality tv and game shows (which tend to be hyper-real), and ol' Guy was the very essence of obnoxious loud host!

    Is Gina Romany? Was Grandmama Angie not Romany? Heh, heh, heh. You'll see. I have plans. (Mwah ha ha ha...)

    Drosophila Muppetogaster: a species of googly-eyed, feltlike fruit flies who seem to prefer singing tomatoes above all other foods. First caught and named by Dr Honeydew during a Marvin Suggs and his Singing Fruit performance.

    Marriage is all about commitment to one another. Church and state don't ultimately matter here...it's about hearts and souls entwined more than what some paper says. Weirdly, a lot of people seem to change once that paper is signed. Hey, maybe that's just MY observation...and yes of course there are happy marriages out there. But love is love, no matter what form that commitment takes. :flirt:

    Anyway...glad you liked, and much thanks for all comments and critiques! I'm waiting to see what this hurricane does, as that will affect the next tale...

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