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Fraggle Fic: A Wandering Heart

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Slackbot, Apr 25, 2011.

  1. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    That was a nice chapter. We got the baby-naming celebration... And a scene where Janken starts to realize his potential... And he's going to stay with Cleo's clan for a while to figure things out. I'm liking the path this story's taking, thanks for sharing it with us.
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  2. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Thanks. Actually, Janken doesn't have a clue what his potential is yet, and it's starting to drive him nuts that Cantus won't give him a straight answer. A pity Jan doesn't remember what the Trash Heap told him when he was worried about his family. She gave him a great big hint, but he was too upset to file it away for future reference.

    It'll be a while before Janken catches on. As Cantus might say, "All of life is a journey; do you really want to hurry toward its end?" Which probably has nothing to do with the situation, but it sounds cool.

    If I ever contemplate writing a chapter with more than one song, slap me with a dead fish.
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  3. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    (A "bonus feature", posted a bit early. Jan doesn't actually doublespace between paragraphs--not enough room on a postcard for that--but I can't do indents on these boards.)

    ***

    GopherCoffee likes this.
  4. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks for sharing Janken's postcard with the rest of us silly creatures. With so many holidays, you'd think we'd have a major one set aside for each month. I'm drawing a blank as to what celebrations fall in either August or September and what figure/character would be best associated with them.
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  5. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    No problem. Janken doesn't mind my sharing his postcards. He figures that postcards are meant to be ready by anyone anyway. If he has anything private to say he writes a letter and sticks it in an envelope. (The first letter he sent wasn't read for weeks because nobody understood that they were supposed to tear the envelope to get at what's inside.)
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  6. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    And now for a real update...

    *****

    A Wandering Heart
    Part 10: Left Turn at Albuquerque
    by Kim McFarland

    *****

    Fraggles bustled about in one of the many large, open caverns that surrounded the colony Janken was visiting. Unlike most caves, these were floored with dirt instead of stone, and plants grew in orderly rows in the soil rather than clinging to the walls, sprouting out of crevices, and taking root wherever else their seeds happened to land.

    This Fraggle colony was deep under the earth, so deep that they had never seen the surface world. Janken had tried to describe it, but they could not believe that the stone that formed their world ended somewhere. What was on the other side? Outer space. And on the other side of that? He had tried to describe the sky. They had laughed, amused by his flight of fancy. They believed he was making it all up. After a while he had stopped trying, because, well, what right did he have to go around telling them they were wrong?

    Only one Fraggle halfway believed Janken. Clio found it as outlandish a tale as the rest did, but as long as she could remember Cantus had been telling her about other, very different colonies. If Janken told her about the same things that Cantus did, there must be some truth in their stories. She could accept that there were places and people that she did not understand.

    Because as far as this colony was concerned there was no surface world, there also were no Gorgs. And if there were no Gorgs to grow food, then the Fraggles had to find their own. Before Traveling Matt had discovered the path to the Gorgs' world the denizens of Fraggle Rock had lived on mushrooms and Doozer sticks. These Fraggles had found a different way to feed themselves: they had created gardens of their own.

    As Janken emptied a pail of water into a cistern in the center of the cave, he thought that these gardens represented a huge amount of labor. All the soil had to be brought in from somewhere. They could not run the nearby stream through it to water the plants because that would wash the dirt away, so they had to carry water in. And the Fraggles tended the plants themselves, keeping them healthy and safe from creatures that also wanted to eat them. Because of this, everyone in this colony had at least a five-hour work week. According to Janken's count, that was; the Fraggles did not even consider this to be a job! For them it was simply a part of life: the garden fed everybody, so everybody did their part to tend it. A few days working here, weeding and watering and keeping pests away, had given Janken new respect for the Gorgs.

    Time spent in the gardens was pleasant enough because there were always other Fraggles to talk to while tending the plants and fungi. Many of them liked to ask him about his home colony, even if they thought some of his tales were fiction, and they were happy to tell him about the way they lived. He often put in overtime simply because he enjoyed the company.

    These Fraggles had many strange ways, but, he thought, they were not nearly as strange as they first seemed. The gardens made sense once you understood that these Fraggles couldn't just go out and gather food. He was learning about other customs, many of which made sense once you understood the logic behind them. Like the ceremony for naming babies. The beginning of life—which, here, was birth rather than the Midsummer Festival—was the most magical, precious event in their lives, so they honored every birth. They waited until a baby's eyes were open because newly-born Fraggles—and, often, their mothers—were too delicate to make such a fuss over. They dunked them in water because water was essential to all life, and, of course, because Fraggles love to swim.

    He had been surprised to learn that these Fraggles didn't celebrate many of the things that his colony did. Of course they didn't greet the Fraggle Moon because they couldn't see the sky. What shocked Janken was finding out that they did not celebrate the Festival of the Bells. They treated that all-important day as any other! They found the idea of celebrating the bitterest part of winter ridiculous. He had been appalled at first. After a while he had reasoned out that his clan must have the responsibility of reawakening the Great Bell because they were closer to the heart of the Rock.

    Janken finished his task—filling the cistern for those whose task it was to water the plants—and checked around to see if anyone needed help. That was rarely the case, as these Fraggles took Doozer-like pride in maintaining their gardens. They enjoyed it, so how could he criticize it? Well, okay, it did have one major shortcoming: they did not grow radishes. They had never heard of radishes! He vowed to himself that if it was in any way possible he would bring them some radish seeds. Fraggles deserved radishes.

    His feet were muddy. Fortunately, the stream he had gotten the water from was also the stream that everyone swam in to wash off after gardening, and it was downstream from the colony's pool so they did not have to worry about fouling the drinking water. He took off his sweater—these Fraggles always took off their clothes to swim—and jumped in.

    **

    Clio looked up when Janken came in, still damp. "Hi."

    "Hi. What's going on?" he asked, putting his sweater down on his bed. This was her cave; she had invited him to stay with her after the Minstrels had moved on. He'd explained to her that he was single-sexed, and not for women, and they had agreed that that would not be a problem. They had become good friends since. Life was a lot easier if you didn't complicate it with romance, Janken told himself only half-jokingly.

    She said, "They're organizing a wall race. Get from one side of the Central Cavern to the other without touching the floor. I'm going to enter. How about you?"

    "I'll watch," he told her.

    "Fair enough. It's going to be tomorrow morning, right after the first meal. They're marking the course now so nobody comes too close to the water stalactites."

    He nodded. "My Aunt Red would love a race like that. She loves any race, really. She's competitive."

    "We've got a few like that."

    "Yeah. I wish they could meet Red. Pit them against each other and they'd break all the records or go crazy trying," he said with a grin as he opened his backpack and took out the map he had been drawing.

    She came over and looked over his shoulder. He was studying a part of the map that was only halfway drawn. She pointed to one of the exits and said, "There's a passage over here that loops around and re-enters the Central Cavern here."

    "Oh? Thanks, I'll look for that."

    "I don't get why you want to map this place. Everyone knows the colony," she told him.

    "Yeah, but the colony's only the beginning. Who knows what's outside that?"

    "Who needs to know?" she replied.

    "Don't you want to know what's around you?"

    "Not especially."

    "Well... I guess that's just a difference between us. Um... actually, not many of the Fraggles in my colony go far from home either, but my family's always been into exploring. Sometimes you find dangers, but sometimes you find wonderful things too."

    "Well, if you think it's worth the risk," she said.

    He smiled. "I can take care of myself. I was trained by some pretty good explorers. And wouldn't it be funny if there was another Fraggle colony nearby and you never knew about them because neither of you ever explored far enough?"

    She drew in a breath to speak, then paused to consider. "I don't think there is, but I know that there are lots of colonies in the caves. Cantus has told me about them."

    "I've seen a few. There are even colonies of people who aren't Fraggles," he told her.

    "That's hard to believe..."

    "I guess it is," he said. These Fraggles lived alone. They had never heard of Gorgs, and no Doozers had ever been seen here either. Was it because they didn't grow radishes? The only people who weren't Fraggles that these people had seen were Balsam, Murray, Brool, and Reed of the Minstrels, and you don't tend to think of people as a species if you only ever see one of their kind. "It's really neat, meeting a new kind of people and finding out about them. It's like making a new friend."

    "You do that easily enough," she said with a warm smile.

    He smiled back. It was true enough. "At first I thought it was weird that you—this colony—live so differently, but, you know, it's not really so different. It's neat."

    "Maybe that'll be your job," she told him. "Visiting other colonies and learning about them."

    He considered. "Maybe. I'd like that. But the colonies I've visited with the Minstrels are a day's walk from each other at least, and I couldn't do that alone. I've seen creatures in the caves that could eat me in three bites."

    "Maybe you'll find other Fraggles like you, then."

    "How about you?"

    "Me?"

    "Yeah," Janken said earnestly. "You're the only Fraggle here who asks me about my colony and actually believes some of what I say. Why don't you do some exploring too? See things instead of just listening to me talk about them."

    She laid a hand on Janken's arm. "Jan, it's one thing to hear about exploring, and another to go out in the caves and risk being buried by cave-ins and mauled by animals and falling down bottomless pits and starving out in the middle of nowhere. You make the stories, and I'll listen to them. All right?"

    "All right," he replied. He wasn't disappointed; she had declined several times before. These Fraggles never willingly left the safety of their colony, and they did not recognize anything as edible if it did not grow in their gardens. Still, she listened to his stories eagerly, and he kept hoping that someday she would change her mind.

    He folded the map up and put it with some wax pencils in a waterproof outside pocket of his backpack. While chatting with Clio he packed his exploring equipment. He planned to be gone most of the day, so he packed three meals' worth of food and water, just to be safe. Exploring could be strenuous work, and it was just silly to have to turn back due to lack of fuel. He told her, "I'll be back tonight. Maybe after Last Meal."

    "Be careful," she told him.

    "Always am," he replied, and left.

    **

    Janken went to the last cave he had explored. It was a small, rough room, with lots of gravel on the ground and little in the way of plant life. From the look and smell of it, there had been a small rockslide here recently. He drew a "caution" symbol on his map.

    There was only one tunnel leading out, and he took it. The passage turned and twisted like a vine, making it difficult to map, but it did not fork. He added it to the map, using the length of his steps to measure distance.

    He emerged into a larger cave. The air was clean, and there were some scents that seemed familiar, but he could not identify them. They were not plant or animal smells. He paused, breathing deeply, trying to puzzle out the odors, but they were too faint.

    Holding his map and pencil, he looked around the room. The ceiling was maybe three Fraggle heights at the tallest point. The walls were covered in moss and plants, and he saw no fallen dirt or gravel. The rock was stable here, then. Only one tunnel led out, and that was little more than a crack in a unusually flat cave wall. Curious, he knelt down and poked his head into the crack. It was silent; there was no animal lairing here. And there was no animal smell, but the strange odor was stronger. Instinct was not warning him about the smell, and he trusted his instinct.

    Papa Gobo, I wish you could see me now, Janken thought as he crawled through the tunnelet. Gobo had explored most of Fraggle Rock. Most, but not all. He was never more excited than on those rare occasions when he found some new, unexplored region. If Gobo were here they could explore it together. Maybe someday Gobo could come here. If the Minstrels could walk this far, certainly several well-equipped explorers could make the journey. It would be worth it, he thought, to put the two colonies in contact with each other. And bring radish seeds.

    It was a tight squeeze, and for a while Janken worried that he would have to back out, then take off his pack and try again, pushing the pack in front of himself. But then he hit another unnaturally flat wall, as if a block of slate had fallen in front of the tunnel mouth. It was made of the strange-smelling material, and it gave a little when he pushed against it. He pushed harder, bracing his feet against the tunnel walls for leverage, and, alert for the sounds or puffs of dust that warned of an impending rockslide, managed to move it far enough to squeeze around it. Before going out he listened for the sounds of rocks shifting, and heard nothing.

    He wriggled past the obstruction and into another room. This one was almost completely dark, in contrast to the caves he had just left. He glanced back down the tunnel. He could see the light of the mossy room behind this one. And there was a straight line of light along the ground on the opposite side of the room.

    The ground was perfectly flat, he noticed, and covered with something like very tough moss. He felt around, and found more of the odd-smelling, flat objects. Now he realized where he was. This was Outer Space. He had found a new link to the surface world.

    He went over to the light. It was right along the ground, so he couldn't see under it. When he felt around along the wall he found a seam, then a round metal handle. Standing on tiptoes, he reached up and tried to turn the knob. It would not budge.

    Sometimes doors that were fastened shut had buttons to press or turn to open them. He explored the knob with his hands. In the center was no knob, just one of those slightly-irregular slots that meant that you had to have a special piece of metal to open them. The only piece of metal he had that could open this was his pickaxe, and the creatures living in Outer Space were likely to take a dim view of him hacking through the caves they built. They weren't Doozers, after all.

    Now that his eyes were adjusting to the dark, he could see that this was a small room full of squares and rectangles—boxes—on shelves and piled on top of each other. They kept things here that they weren't using at the time. He listened at the door, and heard only the faintest murmur of sound from the other side. There were no voices or other sounds he recognized.

    It must be night here, he decided. He would come back later, and hopefully the Silly Creatures would open the door for him. In the meantime he would go back and mark this path to Outer Space on his map. He stuck his head into the tunnel and was about to begin crawling forward when he heard a rustling and smelled a scent that had not been there before. It was the reek of a carnivore, and it was intense. It smelled big and very near.

    Quickly he pulled his head back into the room. He was not going to crawl back there, possibly into the mouth of something large and hungry! He was glad he had found this room; if the creature had followed him into the mossy room and cornered him there, he would have been in trouble. But he must be safe here, because there was no way the whaterever-it-was could fit through a passage that was snug for a Fraggle. He'd wait it out. He took off his backpack again, searched within it by touch, and found a small box. He opened the box, took out a sandwich, and began to eat.

    **

    Soon, despite Janken's excitement at finding this room and fear of the carnivore blocking him off from the caves, the dark began to get to him. Deprived of light, Fraggles soon fall asleep. Janken wished he had brought along his bedroll. But the room was warm and safe, so after finishing his sandwich and drinking from his canteen he lay down and, using his pack as a pillow, fell asleep.

    *****

    Fraggle Rock and all characters except Janken and Clio are copyright © The Jim Henson Company. All copyrighted properties are used without permission but with much respect and affection. Janken, Clio, and the overall story are copyright © Kim McFarland (negaduck9@aol.com). Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only.
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  7. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Heh... You had me with the chapter's title. Exciting things are a foot (or a Fraggle) at the Circle of K. I'm very much liking how you present the world of Cleo's colony, wonder how the wall race will take place. Neat little references to his Papa Gobo's explorer heritage help tie Janken's current adventures with those of his family's. Thanks and as always, more please.

    BTW: Where in the chronology timeline of your Fraggle fics should Coda be placed at?
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  8. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Thanks, glad you like it. Jan's always been close to his family, and even when he's not with them they're in his thoughts. Maybe a little too much so, hence the journey.

    Circle K? He didn't find a path to a convenience shop. Heh, some people may be able to guess where he is.

    Coda takes place in the future of my fanfics. As of this story Cantus ain't young, but he's toughened, like those old men that seem to be made out of rawhide. It'll be a while before he begins to weaken noticeably. So, you can place it at the end, where a coda belongs anyway.
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  9. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    A Wandering Heart
    Part 11: Monstrosity
    by Kim McFarland

    *****

    There was a soft creak as the door opened, letting a shaft of light into the dark storeroom. A hand reached in and flipped on the light. Janken, startled awake, glanced around in confusion. Before he remembered where he was the door slammed shut again and the doorknob clicked.

    Then he remembered. He had crawled through a tunnel and found himself in Outer Space. A rather cavelike section despite all the unnaturally flat surfaces, he thought as he looked around. He put his sweater back on, then went to the door, reached up, and tried to turn the knob. It was locked. He put his ear to the door. He heard voices, raised and speaking urgently, on the other side. He could not make out what they were saying, but the general impression he got was that they were afraid of what they had found in the storage room. Afraid of him? How silly could these Silly Creatures be? He tapped on the door.

    The voices cut off abruptly. Hearing footsteps approach, Janken waited calmly. The lock clicked, and the door swung open abruptly. Janken had an impression of a wall of blue, shaggy fur, and then something closed around his neck and upper body and lifted him off his feet.

    Janken panicked for a moment, then he began screaming and kicking at the thing holding him. When you're alone and something has you cornered, fight back, show it you're not going to be an easy meal! It was huge and shaggy and had too many teeth and horns, and Janken didn't have claws or any other weapons, so he did his best to ruin its eardrums and bruise the arm that was holding him.

    The beast glanced around the storeroom, then turned and said to someone behind itself, "There's only one of them. It doesn't look dangerous. Just noisy."

    Janken stopped struggling and shrieking. He could just make out other faces beyond the big blue thing. He said, "Um. I'm a person, not an animal. Would you put me down?"

    The beast looked at him, startled. He waved one hand and tried to smile. "Hi."

    "How did you get in?" it wanted to know.

    "I came in through the hole in the wall over there. I was exploring the caves, and wound up here. I didn't mean to upset anyone."

    Another, smaller creature squeezed past the blue monster and peered at him. This one was covered in short, neat pink fur, and although it had ears and a beak it looked much more like a person. It—she, he was pretty sure—put her fists on her hips and said, "You broke in through the wall?"

    "I didn't break anything! The tunnel was already there."

    "A tunnel to a cave," she replied, clearly not believing him. She picked up his backpack, opened it, and dumped it out. A map, writing utensils, a small knife, a box that was now empty of food, a dry canteen, a pickaxe. She looked at the pickaxe, then at him.

    "Just go look. It's right behind that box there." He pointed. "I promise I won't go anywhere."

    The woman looked behind the box. She stared, then knelt to take a better look. After a minute her head rose again and she said to the blue beast, "There's a cave back here. There are offices on the other side of the wall, but I see a cave!"

    "What should we do with him?" the blue monster asked.

    Janken said, "That's where I came from. Um, could you put me down now? This is really uncomfortable."

    The pink woman said, "He's been breaking and entering, but I don't see any damage except that hole in the wall, and it doesn't look like he was trying to steal anything. I think we've found the most inept thief in the world. Put him down, Cheryl. Even he's got to be too smart to try something while you're here."

    Janken understood the implied threat. His feet touched the floor and the hand released him. He rubbed his throat. He felt as if he'd been picked up by a baby Gorg. He said, "I'm not a thief. I just found this place by mistake."

    The pink creature said, "I'm going to call the police. Watch him," and left.

    Janken didn't know what a police was, but from her tone of voice he wouldn't like it. When Cheryl glanced away from him he grabbed his pickaxe, darted around the box, and dove into the tunnel. He scrambled on elbows and knees, hearing shouts in the room behind himself, half expecting a huge hand to grab his tail and drag him back. When he was confident he was out of reach he paused long enough to sniff the air. He did not smell yesterday's predator, just dust. Lots of dust, making it smell musty. He continued forward, and soon emerged into the safety of the cave.

    As he got to his feet and brushed the dust off himself he thought, that had been a narrow escape. He had heard that not all Silly Creatures were as friendly as Doc, but he had never expected them to attack him just for coming out of the caves! He would mark a warning on this part of the cave. Oh—he had left his map and mapping tools behind. Well, no matter, he'd make another map.

    He turned to go back to the colony. After the first twist in the passage he found it blocked by fallen rocks and debris.

    He frowned. So this was the source of the dust. He looked around the edges, and could not see through to the other side. Rock and gravel filled the tunnel completely. It was a good thing he'd had the presence of mind to grab his pickaxe. Using the flat end, he dug into the pile. Debris slid away, raising more clouds of dust and making him cough. Underneath the gravel was more rock. Large rocks, so big he could not get the edge of his pickaxe around them for leverage.

    With rising desperation he tried digging on the other side. That was no good either. Frantically he scraped away the loose material, revealing a core of big boulders that firmly blocked the small passage. There was no way he would be able to pull them out of the way, there was debris on the other side so he couldn't push, and the stones were too hard for him to break. And there were no other passages leading out of this area. He was trapped.

    Trapped between a rockfall and Outer Space, blocked off from the Fraggle colony by a pile of cold, unfeeling boulders. Alone and helpless. He put down his pickaxe, sat on one of the boulders, and did the only thing he could think to do. He lowered his face into his hands and began to cry.

    It was too much for him. Why had he left home? He had been safe there! If he'd been trapped, they would have come to rescue him! He should never have left to follow Cantus because of a vague invitation and a foolish crush. He shouldn't have left the Minstrels because he was losing his nerve. He shouldn't have gone exploring alone. Why did these rocks have to fall now? It was like he was cursed!

    Janken did not notice when a small, pink-furred Monster emerged from the tunnel, a can of pepper spray held out before herself. She looked all around herself, amazed. She still could not believe that this cave was here. Clearly it was possible; she was seeing the evidence with her own eyes—but how?

    There was only one exit to the room, and she heard soft gasping sounds from it. Cautiously she followed it, ready to spray at the first sign of danger. She found the intruder who had broken into their office sitting on a pile of rubble and crying.

    She stared, trying to understand what she was seeing. She had expected either to find that he had fled, or to pepper spray him into submission. The last thing she had anticipated was to see him crying like a child.

    He glanced up, then startled and yelped when he saw her. She was holding something like a weapon. It didn't look dangerous, but Silly Creatures had all sorts of magical things. His pickaxe was on the ground, and she could use that thing on him before he reached it. Eyes wide, he begged, "Please don't hurt me!"

    His cheeks, covered in rock dust, were streaked by muddy tears. He was staring fearfully at her pepper spray. She lowered it and asked, "What happened here?"

    He told her, "I was trying to go home. But this rockslide had blocked the way back. I can't dig through it, and there's no other way out of here!" He wiped below his eyes with his sleeve and sniffled, trying to regain his composure.

    "Your home is down here?" she asked.

    He nodded, then looked at the blocked tunnel. "Down there."

    Part of her mind was telling her that this was ridiculous; magical caves didn't just appear. She pushed that thought aside, because obviously it had happened, and now this...being...was in distress. She said, "My name's Lana Bea. What's yours?"

    "Janken," he answered.

    Softly, trying to avoid scaring him, she asked, "Janken, why did you come into our office last night?"

    "I was exploring. I wanted to see what was beyond that tunnel. I didn't know it led to Outer Space."

    "Outer space?"

    "The surface world. We call it Outer Space because it's outside of our caves, and it's nothing but space."

    "And now you're trapped," she said, looking at the rockslide.

    "Nobody could move those rocks by himself," he said, trying to keep his voice from trembling.

    She said, "Come back with me. Maybe we can help you."

    "Someone can help me break those rocks?"

    "I don't know. But you don't want to stay in here, do you?"

    Mutely he nodded. She beckoned toward the hole, and nerved herself to go through. Janken considered retrieving his pickaxe, but decided not to; they might mistake it for a weapon, and what he needed right now was their goodwill. He started to kneel to go through the tunnel, but she said, "No, I should go first so I can explain what happened."

    "Oh, right."

    The pink woman hesitated a little longer—she was afraid, Janken realized with surprise, even though it was a stable tunnel, and not all that long—then got on her hands and knees and started crawling.

    **

    The rest of the office staff were waiting anxiously around the hole in the wall when Lana reemerged. She told them, "It's all right. There really is a cave back there." She looked at the hole again. Only the end of Janken's purple nose was visible. He was staring apprehensively at the collection of Silly Creatures. She beckoned to him and said, "Come on out, we won't bite."

    Janken did not want to leave the safety of the tunnel, but what choice did he have? Reluctantly he crawled out, wishing he'd kept his pickaxe after all.

    Lana put a hand on his shoulder and said, "This is Janken. A rockslide trapped him in a little cave on the other side of that tunnel. I know that's impossible, but I saw it myself. Anyway, he doesn't have anywhere to go now. I think we should in-process him."

    The others looked at each other. This was the strangest situation they'd dealt with here, and they'd handled some strange cases in their time. It sounded ridiculous, a tunnel to a cave appearing in the wall of an office building, but they had all looked into the hole, and Lana was not gullible... Cheryl said in a low voice, "The Lord works in mysterious ways."

    Nodding, Lana replied, "That's the way I see it."

    **

    The blue monster showed Janken a washroom where he could clean the dirt and mud off his face. It had taken him a minute to puzzle out how faucets worked. Then she led him to a desk in a larger cave—no, room, he reminded himself—with windows on one side. Janken stared at them. Streets, cars, buildings, Silly Creatures by the dozen, sky! This was Outer Space for real!

    The monster said to Janken, "Did Lana tell you who we are?"

    "She told me her name, and I heard her call you Cheryl." Which was, he thought, an intimidating name, perfectly appropriate for someone so huge and spiky, he thought. She was being nice to him now, but he remembered the terror he had felt when she had held him off the ground.

    Cheryl folded her hands on the desk. "We call ourselves the TMI. In a nutshell, our purpose is to aid Monsters who have fallen on hard times, and who are willing to do their part to get back on their feet."

    Janken said, "Monsters only?"

    "Monsters, broadly defined. However, we link with other organizations to get help for other people, and they refer Monsters to us."

    "Oh. Um, I'm not a Monster," Janken told her.

    She tilted her head. "May I ask what you are?"

    He couldn't help being a little amused at the sight of the huge, fanged beast now speaking to him so politely. "I'm a Fraggle."

    Now she looked startled. "Fraggles are mythical cave fairies."

    Janken patted himself as if to make sure he was all there. "I don't feel mythical."

    The door opened. Janken glanced around. A pair of Silly Creatures wearing identical dark blue clothing came in. One said, "Someone reported a B and E?"

    Lana intercepted them. "I'm sorry, Officer Faluci. We thought someone had broken in again, but it was a misunderstanding. I apologize for wasting your time."

    "Are you sure, Lana?" the other one asked.

    Lana smiled. "Yes. We're all right, I promise."

    "Okay. Glad it was a false alarm this time."

    "So am I."

    The two Silly Creatures left. Lana, who had been listening to the interview, told Janken, "'Monster' isn't a specific kind of person. Those who people don't know the species of are often treated as Monsters, and as they have the same disadvantages, we aid them too."

    He thought about that. "I guess it's relative. There's a creature we call a Hairy Monster. He visits us sometimes. We didn't find out for a long time that he was a dog, and by the time we found out we were used to calling him a Hairy Monster, so we still do. We like him."

    "Do you object to being called a monster?"

    Janken shrugged. "I guess not. If you've never seen a Fraggle before, I might as well be a monster to you, huh?"

    She nodded and smiled. "Most of us here are Monsters."

    He looked around. The other people came in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Maybe Monsters are just people who seem scary when you first see them, he thought. He said, "You can help me until I can go back home?"

    "I don't know about digging through rockslides in magical caves. I don't know how we'd even get tools in there. But we can help you learn to live out here."

    He paused, thoughtfully. He hated the thought of being cut off from everyone and everything he'd ever known. He wanted to go home! But he couldn't. And... a Fraggle could live on the surface world; Great-Uncle Traveling Matt had wandered Outer Space for years. He had found many bizarre, incomprehensible places and creatures, but he had survived. In fact, he had enjoyed himself. If he couldn't go home, he might as well make the best of it up here, he decided. He said, "Thanks. I'd like that very much."

    *****

    Fraggle Rock and all characters except Janken, Lana, Cheryl, and Officer Faluci are copyright © The Jim Henson Company. All copyrighted properties are used without permission but with much respect and affection. Janken, Lana, Cheryl, and Officer Faluci, and the overall story are copyright © Kim McFarland (negaduck9@aol.com). Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only.
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  10. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Hmm. It slipped my mind when I was writing the program notes to part 9 that "Timshel," the title, is a Hebrew word that translates more or less to "thou mayest," in the sense that one is enabled to do something; rather than being commanded or destined, one may choose. It's the central point of the novel East of Eden, which explores the theme of Cain and Abel. In a memorable passage one of the characters discusses his family's sages' research into the meaning of that story, and it illuminates the whole book.

    The book begins very slow, with endless biographical yadda-yadda, but the central theme of choosing one's destiny rather than being swept along by fate and events spoke to me.
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  11. Java

    Java Active Member

    I've only read the first four chapters so far but this is wonderful. What a way to describe becoming a mother, you hit the nail dead on there. I will be sure to catch up on this wonderful work soon!
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  12. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Java. Glad to see someone's still reading this mess. ;)

    I've done extensive research on the motherhood thing, in the form of observing my sister's family under the undercover identity of "Aunt Kim" and occasionally having my sister preread passages which deal with subjects in which I, never having had a kid myself, have no firsthand knowledge. Some of the scenes are taken directly from things that happened in real life, such as the "miracle of sleep" line. And, unfortunately, the birth being rough on Red. But my sister recovered, and next summer Red will be up and kicking tail in the rock hockey rink once more.
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  13. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    I have a batch of fresh-baked bagels cooling in my kitchen, which has nothing to do with this story.​

    *****​

    A Wandering Heart
    Part 12: Phone Home
    by Kim McFarland

    *****

    It was early evening, and the staff of the TMI were preparing to close up the office. For most, that involved getting as much of their case work as they could to a resting point. It was never possible to clear the boards before going home; social work didn't lend itself to that. They simply brought things to a point at which they could pick up the following morning.

    The workload had been lightened a bit these last few months by the new addition to their staff. They sometimes hired the Monsters they were helping to work around the office until they got better jobs. This time they had put Janken on staff to give him a little income and keep him out of trouble. Not that he was inclined to mischief but, as they had quickly found out, he had no idea how to live outside of a cave.

    They had had to teach him everything from the basics up: where it was safe to walk and when, why you had to exchange money for the things you need, how to tell time, and so on. He was smart, but some concepts were so alien to him—private property, money, any kind of hierarchy—that he often made mistakes. However, when he finally understood things, he did not forget them. It was a stroke of luck that he had come to the surface here, in this office; otherwise he would likely have been injured on the road or arrested for shoplifting on his first day.

    His current task was learning how telephones and computers worked. He could not begin to fathom the how of it; machinery and electronics, to him, were as magical as portals to Outer Space. You had no idea how they worked, but they did, and you just had to learn how to use them. He was starting to get the hang of writing on a computer, but he didn't like it much. He understood why it was good; it let you write a whole lot and kept it in one place and you could change things later and it would even check your spelling. However, printed text looked so rigid and impersonal, and in the time it took him to hunt-and-peck a sentence out on the letter buttons he could have written a whole page by hand.

    Telephones, on the other hand, were a miracle. They let people who were far away talk as if they were right next to each other! After learning phone etiquette they had him take care of incoming calls, which he did cheerfully. If there were phones in Fraggle Rock, he thought, he could have told his family where he was. They wouldn't yet be worrying about him because he was trapped out here; it would be some time before the Minstrels returned to Fraggle Rock without him. He'd like to tell them about his adventures himself, before they had a chance to get upset. Maybe they could send someone to clear the rockslide away from the other side. But... he didn't feel like he needed rescuing just yet.

    Outer Space was fascinating. Great-Uncle Traveling Matt's postcards had made it seem like a weird, baffling place. Now Janken was beginning to understand how things worked out here. Matt had misinterpreted so much because he had thought of everything in terms of Fraggle Rock. Silly Creatures built things, but they were not edible like Doozer constructions, nor were the creatures that built them Doozers. They built things to live and work in because they did not have caves. And many of the 'creatures' that Matt had described in his postcards were actually machines of incredible size and complexity.

    Janken could not laugh at Matt's mistakes. Rather, he admired him all the more for exploring this world, voluntarily braving its strangeness and cheerfully sending messages back home. He had blazed a new trail. Janken had accidentally followed that trail, and now he wanted to take it further by understanding the world of the Silly Creatures. He could be the first Fraggle to do this. It would be an impressive thing to talk about back home, but, he thought, what was more important was that someone should do it. They needed to understand Outer Space, because they were all part of the same world. Janken remembered the story of how Fraggle Rock had once been poisoned when industrial waste had been pumped into the caves. If Boober had not managed to communicate to Doc that there were people living there, everyone would have died. But if there were Fraggles who knew how to talk to the Silly Creatures, they would not be helpless any longer. Gobo always said that the more you understood of the caves around you, the safer you were because you knew how to handle the dangers. Well, the better Fraggles understood the world, the safer they would be in it.

    Janken felt a little silly when he found himself thinking like this. He wasn't going to perform great deeds out here, certainly not on the same par as Cantus and the Minstrels bringing the many people who lived in the Rock together with music, or even Wembley making friends with Junior and showing him that Fraggles were just as much people as Gorgs were. They were the true pioneers. Janken was here by accident, and he was just muddling through because he had no other choice. But since he was already here, he'd learn as much as he could, then bring that knowledge back to the Rock.

    Lana said, "Janken."

    He startled. He had been so spaced out, he hadn't noticed when she had approached. He said, "Yes?"

    "Would you come with me?"

    "Sure."

    He followed her into the interview room in the back. He'd sat in here often enough during their weekly progress meetings that he was no longer intimidated by the stark, pale, cubical walls. However, she usually spoke to him on Fridays, and this was a Wednesday.

    As usual, she sat at the desk, and he took the chair on the other side. She put the folder on the table in front of herself and said, "How are you getting along?"

    "Fine. I'm getting the hang of staying out of trouble, at least," he said.

    "You're doing very well. Frankly, we're all impressed with how quickly you've picked up on just about everything we've shown you."

    "Thanks."

    "Tell me, if the cave-in was cleared away and you could go home right now, would you?"

    His eyes widened. "Is it?"

    "No. But if it was, what would you do?"

    Disappointed, he leaned back in the chair and dropped his gaze to the floor. She waited while he thought about it. When he looked up again he said, "I'd want to move back into the colony so I could swim and live with other Fraggles, of course. But I'd want to be up here too. Spend the nights in the colony and work up here so I could keep learning."

    It was not quite the answer she anticipated, but it was certainly an honest one. She could not expect him to renounce his heritage. She said, "Sorry if I got your hopes up for a moment. What I'm leading up to is, I see an opportunity for you, if you're willing to commit to staying here for a long time, whether that passage remains closed or not."

    "What is it?" he asked.

    "We have helped many people enroll in the local university to complete their educations. With a bit more work, I think that you would be a good candidate for that."

    "Oh," Janken said, surprised. Lana watched as he thought about that for a minute, then asked, "Um, what kind of things could I learn there?"

    "They teach vocational and performing arts." Janken looked at her blankly. "I have some information that you can read. Going there would require several years' commitment. We have worked with them many times before; they're Monster-friendly, and their counselors are very good with the special cases we bring them."

    She handed him a booklet across the desk. He took it and flipped a few pages. Lots of tiny print. Writing in Outer Space was always so little, it hurt his eyes to read it without a bright light. There was so much of it, this would take hours. He asked her, "Would this help me? Would I be able to do it?"

    "Yes, it would, and I think you could. You're smart enough, and you have the drive."

    "Can I read this and think about it?"

    "Yes. Tell me what you want to do by Monday so, if you decide to go, we can begin to bring you up to speed, beginning with earning a GED."

    "I will. Thank you." He looked at it, wishing he knew more about this. He had never heard of a university before; how was he to decide if he should spend years in one? He wished there was someone else he could talk to about this. He started to get off the chair, then, having a sudden thought, asked, "Would you help me write a postcard?"

    Surprised, she repeated, "A postcard?"

    "Yes. I want to send it to someone I know. He's a friend of my family. I'd like to ask him about this."

    She thought he didn't know anybody outside the caves. "You just need the card, his address, and the postage. If the card is pre-posted, then you just need his address."

    "That's the problem. I don't have his address. All I know is that he lives in 'the desert'."

    "That's not very specific."

    "Is 'the desert' big?"

    Patiently she told him, "There are many deserts all over the world, and some are very large. Do you know which desert?"

    He shook his head. "No. It's very hot there in the summer during the day, and it gets very cold at night."

    "That's what deserts do. What's his name?"

    "Doc. Um, some letters to him call him Jerome Crystal."

    She wrote that down. "What else do you know about him?"

    "He's an inventor, and he has a dog named Sprocket, and his best friend, Ned Shimmelfinney, lives downstairs. And he thinks we're magic, but I think he's magic." He smiled. He knew that sounded silly, but it was true.

    "I don't know if I can find out anything without knowing which state he lives in, but I'll see," she told him.

    "Thanks," he said sincerely.

    They left the office. Janken went back to the reception desk so he could cover the phones and read the booklet.

    Lana went to a workroom in the back which was used for confidential work. Janken thought he could talk it over with someone by postcard and have an answer by Monday? He must believe that mail travels instantaneously, she realized. She sat at a computer, opened up a web browser, and after a few clicks typed in a name.

    Several minutes later she picked up the telephone.

    **

    "Janken."

    The Fraggle looked up. Lana was calling him from the hallway. "Coming," he said.

    He followed her into a conference room. She held out a telephone to him. He took it and said, "Hello?"

    "Janken Fraggle?"

    "Doc! Is that you?" Janken exclaimed excitedly.

    "Of course it's me! Where are you, Janken? Gobo told me that you're traveling through the caves with a band of minstrels." The line clicked, and Janken barked into the other extension.

    "A rockslide trapped me in a cave with only a Fraggle hole as an exit-"

    "Oh! Were you hurt?"

    "No, I'm fine! I'm in Outer Space now. I found some friends and they're helping me. Doc, have you ever heard of the university?"

    "Of course! I remember those years well, when I was a young man studying marine biology. It was a fine time. Why do you ask?"

    "They're talking to me about helping me go to a university to learn about things. Should I go?"

    "You want to enroll in a university?" Doc sounded startled. "Well, they are institutions of higher education. If you want to learn about the world, that's where you'd go."

    Earnestly Janken said, "I can't go back home. And... I'm interested in living out here, not just peeking out of a hole every so often. My friends have been showing me all sorts of things. I want to learn more. Maybe it's time a Fraggle did. Do you think it's a good idea, Doc?"

    "Well, now.... I don't really know. But you should decide for yourself. If you really want to, then I say do it!" Sprocket arfed emphatic agreement.

    "Thanks, Doc. I haven't decided yet. I just wanted to ask you about it. I was going to write you a postcard. Uh, could I send you postcards for my family?"

    "Sure! It'd be like old times. Do you need my address?"

    "Yes. What is it?"

    Janken wrote down an address in California. He said, "Thanks, Doc. Could you tell my family where I am, and that I'm all right?"

    "Of course, Janken. These people who've been helping you—is the lady who called me one of them?"

    "Yeah. She's been really nice to me."

    "Could I speak to her again?"

    "Sure. Bye, Doc, Sprocket." He gave the phone back to Lana, saying, "Thanks!" Then he left with the booklet.

    Lana said, "Mr. Crystal?"

    "Please, call me Doc. Tell me—what do you know about Fraggles?"

    **

    Janken read through the booklet. Parts were difficult to figure out because he had no frame of reference, but what he could understand was that it offered two- and four-year training programs for various jobs. Plumbing, building, art, writing, acting, and other things he did not understand very well. There was a map on the back of the booklet, and it showed the university's location. It wasn't far from here. The booklet even explained how to get there by bus.

    When Lana came back to the front she said, "You've got a good friend in 'Doc' Crystal. He wanted to make sure we were treating you well."

    "Yeah, Doc's great. He's the first Human friend we ever made. He didn't believe in us for years, but when we finally met... well, we've been friends since."

    "Does his dog usually bark on the phone?"

    Janken grinned. "Yeah."

    Lana shook her head, amused. "No wonder you call us Silly Creatures."

    "Um, it says here that the bus goes to the university. I'd like to visit it this weekend. What do you think?"

    Janken had a monthly bus pass, and it was his favorite toy. On weekends he used it to explore the city, and somehow he never got lost. "Go ahead."

    "I will. Thanks. Thanks for everything!" he said with a wide smile.

    "You're welcome," she replied with equal warmth, and patted his shoulder.

    He opened the booklet again. His mind was not on the print, however. He was thinking about what he would write his family. He would buy a postcard after work, and write Doc's address in the same spot where Great-Uncle Matt used to do that, and he would tell them about what he was doing now. He'd tell them not to worry, that he was happy—and safe, he added, thinking of Boober.

    He mulled it over, then realized that he was composing a postcard telling them that he would be going to the university. He really did want to go. It would take years to finish, but he could do it, and then he'd know what Fraggles needed to know, and could bring it back to the Rock. For the first time in his life, he thought, he had found something that really felt right, like it was what he should be doing.

    He wished he could talk to Cantus about it. Heh, if he did, Cantus would only turn the question back on him. Can you? You tell me.

    Yes, I can, Janken thought, smiling to himself.

    *****

    Fraggle Rock and all characters except Janken and Lana are copyright © The Jim Henson Company. All copyrighted properties are used without permission but with much respect and affection. Janken, Lana, and the overall story are copyright © Kim McFarland (negaduck9@aol.com). Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only.
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  14. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    These chapters with the TMI are highlights for the story. They make me smile, remembering stuff...
    Bus/weekend visit to the university to check it out and what they'd offer a student with "special" needs. Yep, Senior year of high school, we did that.
    Having to be integrated as a client/member of a specialized institute best equipped for handling the needs of those "special" students. Yep, though it's gotten far too bureocratic nowadays, I'm glad I don't have to deal with them any longer.
    Good job, hope more gets posted soon. Well, once you're done with those bagels that is. *Spots a Swaehb! Swaehb! sticker on the corner of that postcard.
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  15. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    I wasn't expecting to trigger old memories with this, but, heh, I see what you mean. Jan will need help, but in his case it's because of cultural differences and gaps in his knowledge. At this point he can read and write just fine, though his penmanship is pretty weird--the Fraggle writing we've seen is very vertical. He can do basic math, but geometry and simple algebra are utterly beyond him. And, of course, his knowledge of history, science, citizenship, etc is nil. He's gonna have a fun time earning that GED.

    Fortunately, Janken's very good at making friends. He'll need 'em to keep his sanity. It's probably obvious who one of those friends will be.
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  16. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    D'OH! No matter how often I proofread my stories, something weird always slips by me.
    To quote The Trash Heap, "It's always good to learn a second language!"

    (I seem to have a hard time with Sprocket's name. In one draft of "Trials and Tintinnabulations" I called him Frisket.)
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  17. Java

    Java Active Member

    I've now caught up to it all and I'm really enjoying it. I will have to go back and read your other stories to catch up with some of the other little details in your Muppet world.
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  18. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    A Wandering Heart
    Part 13: Veggie Monster
    by Kim McFarland

    *****

    Janken sat at a console, looking at the three monitors. They showed different views of the same scene: a mostly-empty stage, with people wandering about. They were figuring out blocking, scenery shifts, and suchlike.

    Janken had nothing to do yet. He had arrived early so he could familiarize himself with the equipment before the rehearsal. While the actors were rehearsing onstage he would be practicing on this console, so that when the real performance came around he'd know the show well enough to handle the cameras without stopping to think about how.

    Every so often it hit him how funny it was that he, a cave-living aborigine, wound up working electronics. After being trapped on the surface by a rockslide, he had proved himself a fast learner, and he had wanted to learn everything about Outer Space so he could teach the Fraggles back home. He had soon realized that the world was much too big, and that nobody could ever know everything. Even if anyone's mind could hold it all, one lifetime was not enough to learn it all in.

    Janken had decided early on that it was at least as important to understand the culture of the surface world's inhabitants. The more you learned about people, the easier they were to talk to and work with, as they had learned from the Doozers and Gorgs. But that too was much more of a task than he had expected due to its size and complexity. Trying to understand everything about the Silly Creatures of Outer Space was like trying to drink a waterfall! so he had decided to simplify his task and become part of this world for now. He would walk in the Silly Creatures' shoes so that, if the need arose, he could act as a go-between.

    To that end he had been studying in a university. People learned various jobs here. Janken, being a Fraggle, had gravitated toward musical theater because it reminded him of home. He did not want to be onstage; he was certain that he'd be as awful an actor as he would have been a storyteller. But he liked working behind the scenes, and that way he could still be a part of it. He'd discovered a knack for lighting and camera work. They were a way to focus the audience's attention, to tell people where to look, just as a storyteller chooses which details of a story to emphasize.

    He watched the people messing about onstage for a little longer. It would be a while before they began the real rehearsal. He took out a book for one of his other classes and began reading.

    **

    Some time later Janken heard someone approach, and looked up. It was one of the people he'd seen scurrying about onstage. He was about the same size as Janken, and orange-skinned. Janken was startled to realize that, except for his eyes and ears, he almost looked like a Fraggle. He said, "Hi."

    "Hi," Janken replied.

    "They told me that a new student would be working the cameras and lights for this show. That's you?"

    "Yeah. I'm Janken."

    "Hi, Janken." The orange guy grinned, and Janken was startled to feel his heart flutter. He had a nice smile. He continued, "I'm going to be stage managing this gig. The director likes to keep things simple as far as blocking goes, so the lighting and camera work shouldn't be tricky."

    Janken said, "That's good. This is my first full show."

    "This is everyone's except mine, I guess."

    "Oh, you've done this before?"

    "Huh? Yeah. I've been doing it for years off and on."

    "Oh? Nice."

    The orange guy looked at the monitors, then said, "I'd better get back. Good meeting you, Janken." He turned to go.

    Janken said, "Wait, I didn't catch your name."

    He glanced back over his shoulder and gave Janken an odd look. "Huh?"

    "Your name. You didn't tell me what it is."

    Now he seemed genuinely surprised. "You serious?"

    "Yeah," Janken said.

    He laughed. "Wow, you must live under a rock or something. I'm Scooter."

    Janken paused, then said in a flat tone, "Yes, as a matter of fact I have lived most of my life under a rock," and turned back to the monitors.

    **

    The rehearsal lasted for a few hours, during which Janken played with the cameras, getting a feel for them. By the end he was manipulating and switching between them without thinking about it; it came naturally after a little practice. He would wait to mess around with the lights until it wouldn't distract the people onstage.

    They broke for lunch, and Janken left the theater as well. Sometimes he packed a sandwich or some fruits and vegetables. Not today; there was a stand by the campus that he liked to visit. He walked his bicycle over to the tentlike construction that appeared on this corner twice a week. The people here sold fruits and vegetables. Janken could smell how fresh they were, probably locally grown, and they didn't taste of pesticides, so he bought from them whenever he could.

    He selected some carrots, apples, oranges, peaches, and cucumbers. As he paid for them he said, "Do you know if you've got any radishes coming?"

    "I don't know. If we do I'll save you a bunch."

    "Thanks!" He ate one of the carrots, then put the bag into his bicycle basket and rode off.

    **

    A few minutes later he arrived at an office building off campus. He locked his bike to the rack, took the sack, then went in. "Hi, guys."

    "Hi, Jan," one of the Monsters who worked there replied. "How's it going?"

    "It's going fine. Could I check the hole?"

    "Sure, I'll let you in."

    The Monster led him into the back and unlocked the storeroom. Janken went in. There, behind a crate, was another door. They had put it over the hole leading into the Fraggle caves to prevent anything else from getting into their storeroom. The door would stop an animal, but a person who knew how to open it, or was reasonably clever, could get through. He took the handle and lifted, and it slid upward smoothly.

    He crawled through the narrow passage and emerged into an open chamber. The air was clean and free of dust, and the ground and walls were dotted with soft pads of moss and decorated by cave ferns and flowers. He went down the passage that led to the nearby Fraggle colony. It was completely blocked by rubble too big to move, as it had been for the past two years.

    Janken had not expected otherwise, but he still checked every week. He was no longer so homesick that the sight of the closed tunnel upset him. He was comfortable enough living on the surface, and with Doc's help he kept in regular contact with his family by postcard. But, still, he checked at least once a week to see if the way back had opened.

    He went back to the open room, sat on a comfortable patch of moss, and began munching on a cucumber.

    **

    That afternoon he returned to the theater. The actors and director were onstage, discussing the first scene they would tackle. Scooter was off to the side, listening and occasionally jotting notes down on a clipboard. Janken thought, he's probably some big man on campus; that must be why he expects everyone to know who he is. It's a shame he's stuck up, he thought, because he's good-looking.

    Good grief, where had that come from? Janken smiled ruefully at himself. As usual, he was attracted to the wrong guys. Oh well, it would pass. Scooter was only a Silly Creature, after all.

    **

    They ran through the first few scenes, working out staging and blocking as they went. Janken made some notes on his copy of the script. He wouldn't be able to make decisions on camera angles and lighting until they had a better idea of what they were doing onstage, he knew, but he was getting more familiar with the material.

    By evening everyone had had enough, and after taking some time for discussion the rest of the crew left for the evening. Janken was shutting down the console when Scooter walked over. Janken glanced up, then asked, "Do you have notes for me?"

    "No, it's too early for that. Um, I think we started off on the wrong foot back there. What say we do a retake?"

    Janken cocked his head. "What do you mean?"

    "Sorry if I insulted you. I was just joking around. I'm so used to being recognized, and treated funny because of it. I thought you were pulling my leg." He put his hands in his jacket pockets and smiled sheepishly.


    He sounded sincere, Janken thought. He'd meet him halfway. "I guess I haven't gotten around much. Where would I have heard of you?"

    Scooter shrugged. "Never mind. It's kinda nice not to be recognized for once. What do you say we forget it?"

    "Sure," Janken replied.

    "So... where're you from? I can't place your accent."

    "I'm from around here. I picked this up from my parents," Janken said. He didn't make a habit of telling people he was a Fraggle; it only begged more questions. People didn't really want to hear his life story in response to a casual question anyway.

    "Oh. Say, want to grab a bite?"

    Janken glanced at the clock on the console. "Thanks, but I have to get going."

    "Oh, meeting a girl?" Scooter said with a smile.

    "Nah. I work in the evenings."

    They started toward the exit. Scooter said, "Night job? That's tough."

    "Not really. I like it. When I finish the shelving I can study or read."

    "Oh," Scooter said, nodding.

    Janken's bicycle was leaning against the wall by the exit. Scooter held the door while Janken walked it out. Janken put the bag in the basket. He said, "Besides, if I had a date it wouldn't be with a girl."

    Scooter said, "Oh... okay. See you tomorrow."

    "See you," Janken said, swung his leg over the bike, and pedaled off.

    Janken was pleased and a little relieved. Scooter had been surprised, but only momentarily, and it hadn't bothered him. He might be worth getting to know after all.

    *****

    Fraggle Rock and all characters except Janken are copyright © The Jim Henson Company. All copyrighted properties are used without permission but with much respect and affection. Janken and the overall story are copyright © Kim McFarland (negaduck9@aol.com). Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only.
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  19. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

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  20. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Yeah, back to this dumb thing...

    *****

    A Wandering Heart
    Part 14: Oblique Angle
    by Kim McFarland

    *****

    It was a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon, the first one Janken and Scooter had had free in months. The university's most recent theatrical production had finally ended its run, so Scooter wasn't needed as a stage manager and Janken didn't have any lights and cameras to wrangle, and Janken didn't work at the library on Saturdays. Now they were in a park with nothing more complex to do than skim a Frisbee back and forth through the air. Janken thought it was like skipping stones. He'd send a Frisbee back home, but he didn't think the caverns were big enough.

    The two had been working together for the past year. Scooter had enough pull to get Janken for his projects. Janken was good on cameras, plus he could think quickly, so ad-libs and unexpected happenings didn't throw him. Janken wasn't sure why Scooter thought that was so important, as such events were not terribly common in university productions, but he wasn't going to say no. He enjoyed working with him. He was a good stage manager, and had taken Janken under his wing and taught him all sorts of things about the live stage that he wouldn't have learned in a class. Plus, he was a nice guy, and cute as heck. Janken was glad that his first impression of him—an egotistic twerp—had been wrong.

    Janken caught the disc between two hands and slung it back. He aimed slightly to the side, but put a bit of spin on it so it would curve back toward Scooter. As he did, he smiled at himself. He had long ago admitted to himself that he was attracted to this Silly Creature. Now that Janken had finally gotten past adolescence his hormones weren't trying to boss him around anymore, so he had a bit more perspective. If he was attracted to someone and the feeling wasn't mutual, that was all right; he could still enjoy their friendship. Although he wasn't quite sure that there was no hope... but, never mind, if something happened it would, and if it didn't it didn't. Heh, that sounded like something Cantus would say, didn't it? "What is, is."

    The two played until early afternoon. Then Scooter caught the Frisbee and walked over to Janken. "Hey, why don't we get some lunch?"

    "Sure. I like food," Janken agreed.

    The produce stand was open today, and it was right by some hot dog and other carts. Janken had once tried a hot dog, and his body had informed him immediately and in no uncertain terms that Fraggles were meant to be vegetarians. Scooter said, "I know a place you'll like."

    "I don't have much on me," Janken said uncomfortably.

    Scooter waved dismissively. "I'll get it."

    They got on their bicycles, and Scooter led Janken to a restaurant in an outside mall. Janken didn't usually go to restaurants; they were more expensive than he liked, and the idea of telling someone you didn't know to prepare food for you felt cold and impersonal. But when in Outer Space, act like a Silly Creature.

    Janken followed Scooter in. Scooter went up to the counter and ordered two salad bars. After taking payment the cashier waved him through. At the end of the line were some trays with large plates. Scooter took one, and Janken took another. He led Janken to the salad bar and said, "Load up and let's get a table."

    Janken stared at the salad bar. He was expecting lettuce, tomatoes, maybe a few other light vegetables, and a bunch of heavy dressings. Spread before him were an array of all sorts of vegetables, some of which he didn't recognize, plus eggs, pasta, french bread, nuts, fruit, and other things. He stepped up and eagerly began loading a little of everything onto his plate. He didn't want to miss anything. Amused, Scooter followed behind. He certainly wasn't going to go in front of Janken and risk getting between him and something he wanted. He did point out the bacon bits so Janken wouldn't have an unpleasant surprise.

    They claimed a table, and for a while ate without talking. Janken was giving all his attention to the food, first eating one of each item separately, then trying combinations. Scooter had never seen anyone devote such attention to garden food.

    When half of his food was gone Janken looked up. "This is good," he understated.

    "I thought you'd get a kick out of it."

    "You're not kidding. There are things there I've never tasted before! Restaurants usually aren't my thing, but I'll make an exception for this. Thanks!"

    "Glad you like it," Scooter said.

    "Mm-hm," Janken said.

    After a while Janken went back for a small plate of seconds. While he was grazing Scooter got some ice cream from the machine in the back. He remarked, "I've never seen someone get so excited over a salad."

    Janken looked up. "This is how we eat where I come from! Except we don't have this many different kinds of food at one time. Things grow at different times." He examined a forkful of bean sprouts. "I wonder if we could grow this."

    "I don't know. I never tried gardening."

    "I'll look it up. Convenient that I work in the library, huh?"

    "Yeah."

    "So, what're you doing tonight?" Janken asked.

    Scooter sighed, "I'll be going out with my sister."

    Janken looked up. "You don't sound too happy about that."

    "Oh,I like my sister fine, but it's a double date."

    "Double date?" Janken asked, puzzled.

    Janken had odd gaps in his knowledge. By now Scooter was used to them. "She's got this idea that I need to get out and meet people more, so she sets it up so we go out on dates together. She has someone, and picks one of her girl friends for me." He shook his head. "I guess it's fun, but it never goes anywhere."

    "Why not?" Janked asked.

    "I don't know. Nothing happens, that's all. I've made a few friends that way, but, well, it always ends up as 'just friends'. Skeeter means well, but I'm getting tired of it." And too many people recognized him and treated him funny. That was something that Janken had never done. Scooter was glad for that particular gap in Janken's knowledge. To change the topic, he lowered his voice and asked, "Are you seeing anyone?"

    "Dating? Nope," Janken replied. "I never saw the point in it."

    "What do you mean?"

    Janken explained, "I don't like the premise. It's like you're auditioning someone for a part in your life. If you don't know a person well enough to know if you even like each other, why even think about that? I'm old-fashioned, I guess. I want to make friends, and if something happens to develop from there..." He smiled at Scooter.

    Scooter nodded understanding. "Yeah."

    "But I did try it once..." Janken admitted.

    "Didn't go well?" Scooter guessed.

    "Nope. A girl I really liked and I decided we were going to be a couple. We'd been really close friends for a long time, and I thought it'd be perfect, but...no good. The problem was, she was a girl and I'm gay, and neither of those were going to change. We just made each other unhappy. After we figured that out we stopped trying to force it and went back to being good friends. I never tried that again." He smiled sheepishly at Scooter. "Kind of a dumb story, huh?"

    "It doesn't sound dumb to me," Scooter said.

    "Thanks. I guess everyone makes silly mistakes when they're trying to figure themselves out. Right after that I got a crush on someone, who... well, long story short, I was pretty sure he wasn't interested, so I never said a thing. Mostly I think that was the right thing to do, but sometimes I wonder if it was really honest." He realized that he had been pushing his food around on his plate while he had been talking, and stuffed a forkfull of raw cauliflower into his mouth. He was hoping that Scooter would be kind enough to change the topic, but he just sat there and looked sympathetic. Janken swallowed and said, "It's been a while since I've had an evening all to myself. I'll go see a movie at the library."

    Scooter asked, "They show movies there?"

    "Sort of. You know you can check out DVDs and videotapes, right? They have an AV room in the back with monitors and headphones in little cubbies. You choose something, ask 'em to play it, then put on the headphones and watch. I've seen lots of movies that way."

    "Huh, I didn't know about that."

    "Not many people do, I guess. I don't see a lot of other people there."

    "What kind of movies do you watch?"

    "I've been trying a little of this and a little of that. I guess I gravitate to musicals, though. What a surprise, huh?"

    "Yeah," Scooter said, grinning.

    "I keep coming back to The Wizard of Oz, though. They must be getting sick of playing it for me."

    "Ever seen it in a theater?"

    "No. Do they show movies that old?"

    "Not often." Scooter thought a bit. There were some movies that you really should see in a theater at least once. "It's really something on a big screen."

    "If they ever show it in a theater around here I'll go, then. Maybe someone'll be showing it around Christmas."

    "Probably," Scooter said.

    **

    That evening, when Scooter met up with Skeeter, he told her, "Sis—don't set up any more of these, all right?"

    Surprised, she asked, "What's the matter?"

    "I've made other plans, that's all."

    "What, hanging around with those Muppets? Come on, you need to get out more, little bro."

    He did not rise to the bait. "I've just made my own plans, that's all."

    Grinning, she said, "Is it with anyone I know?"

    "No, it's not."

    Her grin widened. "Aha! Well, good for you. But you're not flaking out on tonight, are you?"

    "No, I wouldn't do that."

    "Good. Well, c'mon."

    **

    The next afternoon Scooter was already in the theater when Janken came in. Janken thought he'd get there a bit early and tweak some of the lights to focus the stage illumination a bit more tightly while nobody was there, but it looked as if Scooter had been there a while already. He was messing around with the scenery and props, marking down things that needed to be repaired or touched up for future productions. Janken walked over and said, "Need any help?"

    "Yeah. Mind marking things down while I check them out?"

    "Sure."

    Scooter gave Janken the clipboard. He went over to a section of building and looked it over. "This was wobbling when they slid it onstage the last few times. Some nails pulled loose from the support strut. Needs to be fixed."

    "Yeah," Janken said, marking it down.

    Scooter slid another piece back and forth. It squeaked and pulled to the right. Scooter crouched down and looked at a wheel. "Needs WD-40. There'll be some around here," Scooter said.

    "Got it."

    "What'd you watch last night?"

    "Cabaret. Strange film."

    Scooter glanced over. From the tone of Janken's voice, he found it a little disturbing as well. Scooter guessed that he didn't understand the era the film was set in. "Not exactly feel-good."

    "Nope. The songs were good, though—

    "What good is sitting alone in your room?
    Come hear the music play."

    Scooter joined in the next line,

    "Come to the cabaret, old chum,
    Come to the cabaret."

    They both laughed. Scooter asked, "Want to go see a movie with me next Saturday?"

    "Sure. What's playing?"

    "We'll see."

    Janken looked up. Scooter was grinning. Janken felt his heart give a little flutter, and grinned back. "All right."

    *****

    Fraggle Rock and all characters except Janken and Scooter are copyright © The Jim Henson Company. Scooter is copyright © The Muppets Studio, LLC. Cabaret is copyright © . All copyrighted properties are used without permission but with much respect and affection. Janken and the overall story are copyright © Kim McFarland (negaduck9@aol.com). Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only.
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