Rizzo came into the kitchen where Kermit was sorting the mail over the trash can. "Hey Kerm," he asked. "What's the scariest thing you can think of?" Kermit didn't even look up. "Piggy's dry-cleaning bill," he said, and continued sorting the mail. He smirked to himself, feeling doubly pleased because he did not have to wonder whether or not Piggy would overhear. She was on an urgent shoe-buying trip to New York, brought on by the insufficiencies of some 203 snazzy pairs of shoes. Kermit had driven her to the airport, kissed her good-bye, and was actually looking forward to a brief interval of only being responsible for the happiness and welfare of everyone else. Despite that heady responsibility, he had nothing more constructive for Rizzo. “You’re no help,” Rizzo muttered resignedly, trotting into the living room. “What do you need help with?” said a low lugubrious voice. “Oh, hi Beauregard,” Rizzo said absently. “I’m trying to think of something scary to wear for Halloween.” “Aren’t you a little old for trick-or-treating?” asked Beauregard, looking uncertain. “I mean, you’re little and all, but I thought—“ “I’m not going out for candy,” Rizzo said, looking annoyed. “I’m helping out with the haunted house down at the Hensonville power plant.” “That big abandoned building on the edge of town?” “That’s the one,” Rizzo said. “Nobody uses it any more—it’s inactive.” “How active could it be?” Beauregard marveled. “It’s a building after all.” Rizzo started to explain but checked himself and smiled tolerantly. “Right,” he said soothingly. “So some of the folks have helped make it into a premo haunted house. It’s already a creepy old building—now things jump out at you and you walk through fake spider webs and stuff—really scary.” “Oh. I get it. But Rizzo--how to spiders make fake webs?” Beauregard asked. Rizzo opened his mouth to answer and came up with nothing useful. “Um…” he began. “Hey guys,” said Gonzo, coming down the stairs and stopping near them. “What’s up?” “Fake spider webs,” said Beauregard. “And a building that moves around.” Gonzo shot Rizzo a look of bemusement. “Haunted house?” he asked. Rizzo nodded, and when Gonzo headed toward the door, Rizzo took his leave of the Muppet Theater's janitor and trotted along after him. “Yeah, and it’s going to be super,” said Rizzo. “Plus, we’re collecting food for the less fortunate. Wanna come help?” “Well, I was going to give out candy here to the trick-or-treaters,” said Gonzo. “So give out candy if you want to—that’s tonight. We’re working on the haunted house stuff now. Come and give us a hand.” Gonzo looked undecided and Rizzo leaned forward and added the piece de resistance. “C’mon, Buddy,” he wheedled. “There’s a million ways to maim you just waiting to happen.” Gonzo could not stop the spark of interest from lighting in his eyes. “Really?” he asked. “Well, maybe I could help out for a little bit.” Rizzo laughed and put a hand on Gonzo’s back. “That’s the spirit,” he said with a laugh. “Now come help me put more ooze on the walls.” Gonzo turned and looked at his friend. “Um—where does the ooze come from?” he asked. Rizzo kept his face carefully neutral. “Trust me,” he said. “You don’t want to know.” “Hey there, Kermit,” said Rowlf. He had just come in from a brisk walk around the block and he shook himself, sending off the faint crisp smell of wet leaves. “Nice outside?” asked Kermit. He was actually having a second cup of coffee and perusing the paper in relative quiet. “Oh yeah,” said Rowlf. “The fall colors are beautiful and there’s a real nip in the air. It’s going to be a great Halloween.” He looked at Kermit slyly. ‘How’s the kid?” he asked. “Excited?” “And how,” said Kermit. “We’re going trick-or-treating with the frog scouts and then we’re supposed to check out the haunted house at the end of town.” Rowlf grunted, snagged a mug and poured hot coffee carefully before sitting down. “Supposed to be really scary,” he said. “At least—that’s what I hear.” “Me too,” said Kermit. “That’s why I’m going, too.” “Robin wanted reinforcements?” Kermit’s voice was dry. “Either that or he wants to see if I really do scream like a girl when something icky jumps out at us.” “What’s he wearing for a costume?” Rowlf asked. “Well, last I heard, he was going as Robin Hood, but that was this past weekend. He’s probably changed his mind six times since then.” “What about you? You dressing up?” “Thinking about it,” Kermit said, and smiled. Something about this holiday seemed to bring out the child or the actor (or possibly even the child actor) in everyone—dress up time for adults. “How about you?” “Well, I’m supposed to help out the local constabulary,” Rowlf said. “They’re looking for a few good noses to make sure there aren’t any rotten apples.” “All it takes it one,” said Kermit. “That’s what I’ve heard,” Rowlf deadpanned. ”Piggy get off okay?” “Yep,” said Kermit. “She and her luggage are happily ensconced on a quick hop to New York.” “Hats?” Rowlf asked. He reached for the sports section. “Shoes,” replied Kermit imperturbably. “Ah.” They sipped their coffee in companionable silence, enjoying the uncharacteristic quiet. It did not last long. Below their feet, there was a faint concussive “boom” and smoke began to pour up through the floor vents. Seconds later, there was the sound of a land-slide on the top floors, accompanied by a great deal of penguin honking. With a sigh, Kermit drained his mug and stood. “Up or down?” Rowlf asked, not entirely successful in hiding his grin. “Up,” said Kermit resignedly. “When in doubt, start with the penguins.” “Sage advice,” Rowlf responded, but Kermit was already gone. Sage advice might be in short supply, but the run-of-the-mill variety was easily had. “Right over there,” said Johnny Fiama. His expensive suit was immaculate, and he held a paper cup of designer coffee in one well-manicured hand. Johnny had come to help with the haunted house preparations, but he saw his role as more advisory than hands-on. Sal was hands-on enough for both of them, attaching pulley cables in the high rafters with ease. “So this is where the rubber spiders drop down on ‘em,” Sal gushed. “They’ll scream for their mommies.” Johnny gave him a mild look, and Sal looked doubtful. “Not that that’s a bad thing,” he said quickly. Johnny nodded and sipped more coffee. “Hey Johnny,” Sal said. “What are you gonna dress up as tonight?” “Well, I was thinking about coming as Count Dracula.” Sal’s eyes widened and he nodded vigorously. “Wow! That would be swell!” “Yeah,” Johnny said casually. “A lot of people don’t know that Count Dracula was actually from around Italy.” Much as Sal adored his friend, there was a doubtful silence. “You think?” he said at last. “Oh yeah,” said Johnny complacently. “Explains the accent.” Sal smiled and nodded. “Sure, Johnny,” he said contentedly. “If you say so. Now—how do the spiders look?” “Hideous,” said Johnny. “And that one on the end is all hairy and icky.” Sal laughed. “Good—but I mean, do they look spaced out and everything?” “The one in the middle looks confused….” Rizzo wasn’t confused, but he was pleasantly surprised. “—really nice of you guys to help out,” said Rizzo. Dr. Honeydew and Beaker had arrived on site rather suddenly, with more than one furtive glance behind them. “Not at all,” said Bunsen Honeydew. “Beaker and I thought it would be a great way to get some, um, fresh air.” Beaker rolled his eyes but did not contradict his friend. “Now—here’s that mist-in-a-jar that you were asking for,” said the good doctor, handing over a box of old-fashioned mason jars that were all filled with what looked like swirling clouds. “Excellent,” said Rizzo. “Tell me how they work?” “Just place them around strategic points and open them about fifteen minutes before the guests begin to arrive. The mist should last for about five or six hours.” “You are the man,” said Rizzo, and Beaker meeped in agreement. The little man beamed. “What else can we do?” “Um, check with Clifford. He’s sortof running this dog and pony show.” Beaker nodded his long thin head. “Mee meep meee,” he said solemnly, and marched off. “Here,” said the doctor. “Let me help you carry those in, and I’ll join Beakie in a moment. This haunted house is going to be--” “Phantabulous,” said Dr. Teeth with a wide, wide grin. “Musicus spookus is one of our very best sounds.” “Like, I love the stage decorations,” Janice chimed in. “Those grinning skeletons and jack-o-lanterns are, like, really creepy and cool. Floyd Pepper survey their stage, and the artfully strung fake cobwebs that adorned it. “We are, like, The Grateful Un-Dead,” he quipped, and laughed his raspy laugh. “Yeah,” said Zoot, floating happily in his own little world. “Like that,” he said to no one in particular. “So, after they’ve toured the haunted house, they’ll come here for refreshments and a little festive music,” said the woman with the clipboard. Her curly red hair looked a little wild and she groped absently for the pencil that was holding her hair in a bun. “Is there a better time than another for us to take a break to stretch our legs? Or our fingers?” Dr. Teeth asked pleasantly. “Oh, I’m so sorry. Of course there is—I meant to mention it. Let’s see--we run the tours in shifts—it takes about ten minutes to get from the front door to here, and we start tours on the hour, at fifteen after, and at the half hour. You should be able to break at fifteen of every hour.” “And the tours run from 6:00 to 8:30—zat right?” “Yes sir!” She beamed at him. “Last tour begins at 8:30. If we can’t curl their toes in that amount of time, we’ll call it a good day’s work anyway. Then we’ll have some punch and cookies and other goodies and see how much food we collected.” Dr. Teeth laughed his smoky laugh, exhibiting his trademark smile. “It sooo nice of you to help us out,” his companion began. “I’m sure this is going to be a wonderful event and we’ll collect lots of food for the hunger drive.” “It is always our privilege to serve,” said the doctor graciously. “Anything we can help with right now?” She consulted her clipboard, then looked up at him doubtfully. “Um, how do you feel about monsters?” To her relief, the hip musician smiled toothily. “Some of my best friends are monsters,” he insisted. “Oh good—then you can help them set up the maze.” Dr. Teeth waved to the band. “Shake a leg,” he said cheerfully. “We’re gonna help out on the monster maze.” He didn’t have to ask twice. Fozzie Bear was pleased enough for two. “So I’m gonna drive the golf cart,” said Fozzie proudly. “We won’t be able to carry all of the canned goods that we collect by hand, so I’m gonna drive along behind with the golf cart and pull the wagon.” “That’s terrific, Fozzie,” said Kermit. “I’m glad your coming with us. The frog scouts are really looking forward to trick-or-treating and collecting food for the hunger drive—and of course the haunted house.” “H-haunted house?” said Fozzie. “What haunted house? I thought we were going down to the old abandoned electric plant for a party afterwards.” Kermit smiled his most reassuring smile—he’d been practicing it all morning and it showed. “That’s the place, Fozzie—but before the party we’re going to tour the old plant. They’ve made it all creepy and scary and we’ll go in and have a fun time getting scared before we have a party.” “You think?” Fozzie said doubtfully. “I might just help sort the cans and—“ “Oh, c’mon, Fozzie—don’t be silly. It’s just some harmless, scary fun. You’ll have a good time.” “If you say so,” muttered Fozzie resignedly, and tried a wan smile. Fozzie was not the only reluctant participant. “Me no like scary place,” said Cookie Monster nervously. “I feel like someone’s watching me,” said Telly. “No one’s watching you, Telly—it’s just the grinning skull lights. And it’s okay, Cookie,” said Herry. “It’s not really scary.” “It not?” asked Cookie Monster, looking nervously at the rows of grinning skulls. He was ostensibly helping to secure the partitions for the monster maze, but his gaze kept wandering to the eerie decorations—skulls and bats and skeletons, oh my! “No—it’s not really scary because it’s not real,” explained Herryy patiently. “It’s just pretend scary—for the kids.” “Oh, right—for the kids,” said Telly, gulping but trying to put a brave face on it. “Me like kids,” said Cookie Monster, brightening. “Me too,” said Herry. “And they’ll have a good time getting scared here tonight. Just good clean fun.” “We have to clean?” Telly said, his voice rising in pitch. “I-I thought we were just putting up these cardboard walls. Omigosh—I didn’t even bring my mop!” “No, no cleaning, Telly—I was just say—“ “Hey! Look who’s here?” Rizzo cried. Gonzo crowded into the doorway behind him and his face broke into an excited grin. “Well lookee there!” he exclaimed. “It's the second and third best-looking blue furry guys on the planet!” Cookie Monster dropped the garland of pumpkin lights and ran over to completely enfold Gonzo in a crushing monster hug. “Furry blue guys got to stick together,” he said, “but you not best looking blue furry guy.” “Yeah—that would be me,” said Herry. While they were arguing the merit of hot oil conditioners verses gel, Rizzo walked over the put out a friendly hand to Telly. Telly took it, managing to tangle himself in the string of orange lights, and they exchanged pleasantries while Rizzo worked to de-mesh him. “You come to help Cookie?” asked Cookie Monster hopefully. “We got to finish all walls up by tonight.” Rizzo opened his mouth, not wanting to dash his friends’ hopes, but was saved the necessity of answering by the arrival of the Electric Mayhem in all their glittering glory. In short order, there were too many cooks spoiling the broth, and he and Gonzo made their escape, um, getaway toward the vampire room. Speaking of cooks…. “Der pander fryin mek der sizzlesizzle,” said the Swedish chef complacently. “Tehn der dough goes flumpy flumpy inter der funnel.” The red-haired woman was looking at him doubtfully, but seemed to be getting the gist of what was said. “Tehn der cakes gert all hotten and crispen, an der shaky shaky wih der sugar powder.” He illustrated, turning out a lovely crisp brown funnel cake. With a flourish, he sifted confectioner’s sugar over the hot fried bread and presented it to her for her approval. She put her pencil behind her ear and broke off a tiny piece. Chef watched expectantly as she put it into her mouth and chewed. “Wonderful!” she exclaimed. “Everyone will love them. But tell me—what is that spice I’m tasting? Not cinnamon—ginger? No…maybe nutmeg?” The Chef seemed suddenly busy with his skillet, dodging her question skillfully by rearranging the rows and rows of caramel and candied apples lining the edge of his table. She might have asked again, but Rizzo came in with a question, and she followed him out without getting an answer. Some things are best left a mystery. “No mystery, man—when the kids stop here to read the tombstones, I come out dressed like a Mummy and moan and wave my arms. They’ll be so scared they won’t know what to do.” Scooter looked up from hammering braces behind the fake tombstones so they’d stay upright in their pretend cemetery. “Well, just be sure to get your bandages on secure. Nobody’s going to be scared if you start to unravel in front of them,” said Scooter. “Well I don’t know,” Clifford said dryly. “Kerm was pretty scary the last time he started to unravel in front of us.” Scooter laughed guiltily, but the sometimes MC and bassman had no such compunctions. His low chuckle was unrepentant. “I think this is the last one,” said Scooter. “Anything else on your list?” “Naw,” said Clifford after a moment of perusing his orders. “We’ve carried in the coffins for the vampire room, strung spider webs all over the stage—and everywhere else we could think of—and we’ve set up Forest Lawn here for the mummies. That’s everything on my—no, wait. We got to go carve some pumpkins.” “Oh, good!” said Scooter. “I always like that part of Halloween.” “I like the after part—where we eat the pumpkin in pies.” “That, too,” said Scooter, picking up his tool caddy and following Clifford out of the room. “It’s not a good as sweet potato, but I’m not one to complain.” “But, but—you have to have them in Moi’s size,” Piggy complained. “You must.” “I’m so sorry, Miss Piggy,” said the sales clerk, Renata. “There were only a dozen pairs like this made. We don’t seem to have these in your size.” Her expression was suitably mournful, but Piggy didn’t want sympathy. She wanted shoes. Specifically, she wanted the shoes she had seen in the window, and she could not quite comprehend what the helpful sales woman was saying. How could they be out of her size when she had made a special trip to New York just for the perfect pair of shoes? “But—but vous always have them—you always have my size!” Piggy said, half petulant. “And those shoes were made for Moi—you just must have a pair! Try your other stores!” “I’ve already called all of our other US stores, and I’ve sent emails to our stores in Paris and Milan. Milan said no, and though I haven’t heard from Paris, I’m very afraid we just don’t have them.” Piggy considered her options. She could pitch a huge diva fit and have the district manager begging to placate her with other shoes, but she didn’t want other shoes—she wanted that particular pair that had stolen her heart in the store-front window—but wailing for them obviously wouldn’t do any good. Renata was an excellent personal shopper, but even she could not be clairvoyant. The shoes had simply sold before she’d know Piggy would fall in love with them. Piggy had no compunctions at all about making a scene if it would help, but even she saw there was no need pitching a fit toward no specific end. Her blue eyes grew very blue and her mouth twisted down into an unhappy pout. Renata had a wild desire to pat her on the shoulder and say, “There, there.” “But the ones in the window…” Piggy began sadly. “I even thought of those,” said the sales clerk, “but we always put size six on display, and I’m afraid that won’t do.” “No,” Piggy agreed despondently. It most certainly would not do. “Is there—is there anything else you want, Miss Piggy. You know how much we value your business, and if there’s anything else we could do….” “No thank you,” said Piggy. “I…thank you for checking. Perhaps you could call me a cab?” “Of course, Miss Piggy.” A cab was summoned and arrived. With a great show of deference, the cabbie loaded Piggy’s six bags and two boxes into the trunk and handed her into the cab. “You’ll call me if Paris has them, won’t you?” Piggy asked Renata, who had waited with her until her cab had arrived. “Of course, Miss Piggy—you’re at the Waldorf-Astoria?” Piggy nodded. “Until this afternoon.” “Oh—I thought you were staying over until tomorrow.” Piggy shrugged. The disappointment over the shoes was putting a damper on her trip. She wanted to go home. “Well, I’ll certainly let you know once I hear from Paris.” “Vous are too kind.” The sales woman watched the cab pull away from the curb with something like despair. There was no better shoe customer on the planet than Miss Piggy, and although she had managed to find several pairs of boots, pumps and more casual shoes that Piggy had eagerly purchased, to have to disappoint her in her quest for evening footwear was a severe setback. She wished without any real hope that Paris would miraculously have a pair in the diva’s size, but she knew that their Paris location had never had these shoes in Piggy’s size. Inwardly, she sighed. You win some, you lose some. Camilla was on the verge of losing it. She had been perfectly happy setting up the vampire room for this evening, and had just taken a moment to try out her new beak fangs when her territory was invaded by penguins. “Bawk,” she said decisively to the black-and-white tide of aquatic waterfowl. “Bawk buh-bawk begawk!” “Aw, c’mon, Camilla,” said Winky. “Let us be vampires.” Camilla didn’t even need to say anything, which was just as well. She fixed a gimlet eye on Winky and his rowdy bunch and they seemed to shrink together into one solid black and white mess. “Bawk bawk,” she said firmly. “Well what would you like us to do?” whined Zany, but before Camilla could answer him all-too-plainly, Rizzo arrived on the scene with the frazzled looking red-haired woman. “Hey—guys! Glad to see you!” Camilla started to say something, but kept her beak closed with effort. “Glad somebody is,” said Winky. “We wanted to be vampires, but—“ “Vampires?” said Rizzo. “Oh, no—I have something much better for you guys. Come with me.” The penguins crowded after Rizzo into the hallway, leaving the two women alone. “This looks wonderful, Camilla—everything ready for tonight?” Camilla clucked fussily and proceeded to show all of the hidden surprises that awaited their little goblin guests, to the delight and praise of her friend. “Oh, wonderful!” she exclaimed. “This is positively to die for!” “—shoes are to die for, and I absolutely swear that I was in fear of my life until I found a pair in her size.” “Wish I’d been as lucky,” said Renata, coming into the break room with a sigh. “Miss Piggy was here this morning and we didn’t have the shoes she wanted in her size.” Every clerk in the room made a sound of dismay and comfort. It was the recurring nightmare of every shopper’s assistant, that a client would finally be sold on something that was no longer available. “Oh no! How awful for you! What did she do?” “Asked me to call a cab.” More sounds of sympathy and dismay. “Did she buy anything?” asked one of the younger clerks. Several of the more experienced clerks shook their heads sadly at this display of ignorance. Renata looked dismal. “Twelve pairs,” she admitted. This news was greeted with wails of surprise and dismay. “That’s all?” “Just twelve?” “She usually buys twice as many when—“ “She wanted the ones in the window,” said Renata. “Fell in love with them, and we didn’t have her size.” “Oh—the little strappy ones? The ones that—“ “That’s the pair,” said Renata. “And we didn’t have a pair in her size. In fact, the only pair I was able to find was one in Paris, and they weren’t the right size. And, of course, the ones in the window are sixes, so—“ “Not anymore,” said a very young, very blonde young lady, absently munching an apple. “I had to sell the sixes yesterday, so I just replaced the ones in the window with the pair in the storeroom.” Every perfectly coiffured head in the store turned and stared at her. She became aware of the scrutiny slowly, looking at the sea of startled faces around her. “Was that—was that bad?” she asked, and wished her voice didn’t come out in a squeak. She had only been on the job three weeks, and was suddenly fearful of having violated some unwritten rule. “Well,” said an older sales matron severely, “our policy has always been—“ “Not necessarily,” interrupted Renata smoothly. “What size is in the window now?” The young lady swallowed nervously. “I—I’m not exactly sure. But the customer wanted the size sixes, so—“ Renata grasped her wrist and pulled her after her toward the front of the store, her heart beating double-time. Oh! This might solve everything! She felt her spirits begin to lift… “Just a little higher,” Rizzo was saying. The penguins tugged on the ropes that held the floating ghosts aloft, setting them back up. They had just done a practice run on the electric eye triggers, and the cheesecloth and fishing-wire ghosts have come scrambling down onto the lot of them to great whoops of laughter and applause. “That was awesome,” said one of the younger penguins, to lots of honking approval.” “Yeah, but now we have to set it up again,” said Rizzo. “Here, let me show you how to reset the light and get the ghosts back in place.” While they panted and pulled, Winky turned his eyes on the little rat. “As fun as this is, Rizzo, is this all we get to do at the haunted house?” “What? Are you kidding?” said Rizzo. “I just wanted to show you the ghosties, but I have something special in mind for you guys.” They gave a final heave and the ghosts were all hovering over their heads, waiting for their next swooping attack. Rizzo wound the rope tightly around the handle and gave a quick nod of satisfaction. “There—perfect! Now—follow me to the creature shop!” “Creature shop?” said Winky. “I like the sound of that.” “Just wait,” said Rizzo. “You won’t believe your eyes.” Renata couldn’t believe her eyes. The shoes now resting gracefully against the artfully strewn purses in the window were, in fact, the exact size that Miss Piggy wore. For a moment, she couldn’t quite find her voice, then she let out a big breath and smiled. “Hand them to me,” she said. “Oh—I can’t wait to call her!” “I was so glad to get your call!” said the red-haired woman happily. “It’s sooo nice of you to help us.” A couple of bats fluttered around her hair, apparently assessing nesting possibilities, and she grinned and tried not to walk into one of them. “And you brought your own, um, assistants,” she said. A slender black cat, one of several, wound around her ankles as she walked, and she managed to progress without tripping. “Always glad to visit a charming haunt,” said the accented voice. “And the girls are always eager for a night out—especially on Halloween.” “Well we’re delighted that you’re here. Let me show you to a room, and you can grab Rizzo if you need any help.” “That’s one—one helpful rat,” said the voice, and lights flashed overhead. The red-haired woman looked doubtfully up at the ceiling. “Must be a short,” she muttered. “A short what?” asked the well-modulated voice. She was spared the necessity of answering when they rounded a corner and came face-to-chest with Herry Monster, Telly and Cookie Monster. “Well, hello, Count!” cried Herry. “Have you come to help haunt the house?” “That’s three—three happy monsters!” cried the Count. Once again, lights flashed overhead and the woman looked around a little uneasily. “I wonder what’s causing that?” she muttered under her breath. She put a hand on Count von Count’s arm and pointed. “Don’t let me interrupt, but here’s your room. You can set up anything you want in there. The kids will come by here—“ She consulted her clipboard. “—right after the cemetary, and just before the creature shop. Okay? And if you need anything, just holler.“ Count von Count took her hand and kissed it gallantly. “I shall ‘holler,’” he said solemnly. He released her hand and watched her go, then he and his familiars turned back toward his familiar friends. “How nice to see you,” he said. “Tell me—what are you doing here to make the little ones shriek?” “Get out!” Piggy shrieked into the phone. ‘Oh! OH! How wonderful! You found them, you found them! Oh, Renata! You are wonderful! Kissy, kissy!” Renata held the phone away from her ear and grinned broadly. Usually, she felt elated to get a simple “thank-you.” It was certainly nice to make someone’s day and to hear about it in such unaffected terms. “But—but I’m on my way to the airport now,” said Piggy. “Can you—can you meet me out front with them? I’ll have my cabbie stop on the way!” “Certainly, Miss Piggy. I’ll be watching for you.” “You are a doll, Renata! A complete dear! Kissy kissy, dear! I’ll think of you on Oscar night!” Renata was still grinning happily when she hung up.