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Slackbot's text sketchbook

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Slackbot, Sep 27, 2011.

  1. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    On that story line? I don't have anything else in mind. I just wanted to drop an idea I had--that Scooter's Machiavellian streak came from his uncle, but he has very different goals--into a story. I'm writing other fic, though. Currently drafting the second chapter of Growing Together.
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  2. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Here's a little something made up of notions that have been floating around in my head. It's not part of my continuity; it's just an exploration of possible near futures.

    *****

    Future Conditional
    by Kim McFarland

    *****


    Miss Piggy, wearing a silk dressing robe, searched through her closet. It was so full she had to push hard to make space between items, yet some days she felt as if she had nothing at all to wear.

    Kermit, having selected his collar for the day, read a magazine while he waited for Piggy. She took her time when dressing herself and putting on her makeup, so he found ways to keep himself occupied. It was one of the many accommodations they had worked out since their marriage four years ago.

    They had made plenty of little compromises to ease the change in their lifestyle. They lived in a suite, so they would each have their own space, but at Piggy's insistence the bed was in her room. She had made noises about them moving out and buying a home of their own, but she hadn't pursued it thus far. The Muppets were a family, and although the lack of privacy—not to mention a private bathroom!—exasperated her, she knew that Kermit didn't want to leave those he considered his family. It was a frog thing, she told herself, thinking of the thousands of siblings he had grown up with. But, she had to admit, if she moved away she'd miss the others too.

    She selected a fetching dress, took off her robe, then stepped into the dress. After threading her arms through the sleeves she reached around to the small of her back, found the zipper, and tried to pull it up. It only went a few inches. She said, "Kermie, give me a hand here."

    "Sure," he said. He put down the magazine and, holding the base of the zipper with one hand, pulled up on the tab with the other. It wouldn't go far. He said, "I think you'd better try another dress."

    "I wanted to wear this one," she said in a pouting tone.

    "I don't think you're going to fit into it for a while."

    She nodded, affecting a sulk. She took it off again and put it back on the hanger. Then she began searching through her closet again. As she did Kermit's arms encircled her from behind. His hands rested, one on top of the other, on her stomach. He was too short to rest his chin on her shoulder, so he pressed his cheek to her back.

    She laid a hand over his. Whatever irritation she had felt vanished. Lately she was having more and more trouble fitting her usual wardrobe. Her weight normally fluctuated a teeny bit, but she could usually fit into her clothes with a bit of effort. However, that hadn't been working too well lately. Her abdomen was beginning to round out, and it would only become fuller in the upcoming months.

    Several minutes later she selected another outfit, a sweater and a more forgiving skirt. After inspecting herself in the mirror—dark colors were so slimming—she told Kermit, "I have a call to make."

    *

    Downstairs, the younger Muppets were eating breakfast before going to school. Gonzo and Camilla's daughter Billie, now in the second grade, was making short work of oatmeal, fruit, and toast. Her yellow-green baby fluff had been replaced by white feathers tipped with blue. Her beak turned down at the end, making her look somewhat hawklike. She wore a purple dress and pink sneakers.

    She was sharing her breakfast with the baby sitting on Scooter's lap. Tenkei was a fuzzy pink creature with a puff of white hair and a long tail that semaphored his moods. Occasionally when Janken visited he brought this little boy, and Billie enjoyed his visits. He was too little to talk with, but he was rambunctious, cheerful, and nearly indestructible, which made him a fine playmate.

    Few of the Muppets besides Scooter knew the details of Tenkei's birth. A few years back Mica, a lifelong friend of Janken's, had asked Janken to join the Midsummer Ritual with her. At first both Janken and Scooter had been torn; Janken did not want to be unfaithful to Scooter, but absolute faithfulness would mean that he would never have any descendants. After much discussion, they had decided that Janken should do what was right by Fraggle standards. Tenkei was born the following spring. Scooter had never regretted consenting to Janken's 'fling'; Jan had come right back to him, he was now Uncle Scooter, and Scooter found that he genuinely liked Mica. What Fraggles said was true: what you give is what you gain.

    Opposite them, a thin, gangly frog munched toast spread with something that would not appeal to those not of the amphibious persuasion. He was at a clumsy stage, not having gotten used to the long legs he had recently acquired. Robin was a late bloomer—a very late bloomer—and he was overjoyed at the novelty of actually being able to see over things, even if he was banging his shins a lot these days. Rounding out the gang at the table were Rowlf, Fozzie, Gonzo, Camilla, and Janken.

    Miss Piggy, escorted by Kermit came down the stairs. She was wearing comfortable shoes, which in her case was only medium heels. "Good morning, ma famille!" she sang.

    Various Muppets greeted her in various ways. She was unusually cheerful this morning. She laid a gloved hand on Scooter's shoulder and said, "Moi has had Bernie contact all the top fashion designers. I expect to receive calls from many of them. If any of them call the house, I want you to put them right through to me."

    "Wouldn't they call you directly?" Scooter asked, nonplussed. Miss Piggy had her own phone line.

    "They should, but you can never tell." She laughed, then went into the kitchen. Scooter looked questioningly at Kermit. The Frog, wearing a silly grin, shrugged and followed his wife.

    "Wonder what that was all about?" Fozzie murmured.

    "We'll find out soon enough," Scooter predicted.

    *

    When Miss Piggy came back to the table she brought an ample breakfast, with some of everything that was available. Nobody commented. Miss Piggy was known to be a healthy eater. Pigs were not meant to be skinny. Miss Piggy wished that Floyd was there; he would have been sure to make a fat joke. His tactlessness was utterly reliable. As aggravating as that normally was, today it would have been a perfect conversation starter. So instead she told Scooter, "Moi will be needing a new wardrobe very soon, so I have offered to let the best of the best design one for me."

    Scooter knew his line. "What for, Miss Piggy?"

    "Moi happens to be eating for two," she said sweetly.

    Gonzo's eyes widened. "Piggy, you and Kermit are having a baby?"

    "Yes. Married people do that sometimes, as you know," she said with a smile.

    "Wow, congratulations!" Rowlf said heartily. The other Muppets at the table agreed.

    "Thank you. That is why I have contacted the world's greatest designers. The heck I'm gonna hide inside some frumpy tent. Moi will show the world the glory of motherhood!"

    When she had rehearsed that line in her head it had sounded impressively dramatic. It hadn't provoked laughter. She glared around the table. The chuckles stopped, but they were still grinning. Good enough.

    Robin said, "Wow, you're going to be a father, Uncle Kermit!"

    Kermit chuckled. "And you're going to be a cousin."

    "I'm already a cousin a couple thousand times over," the adolescent frog said.

    Kermit smiled and nodded. He was letting Piggy have the spotlight. She had insisted on keeping this a secret until the right moment, and he was glad that it could finally be known.

    Scooter glanced at his watch. "Five minutes 'til the school bus comes."

    Robin and Billie made a show of finishing their breakfasts as fast as they could. It seemed that every time they made a bigger production of it. Sometimes the table had to be squeegeed afterward. They stopped just before five minutes was up and dashed for the door with their bookbags in hand. They had excellent timing; cutting it fine enough meant not having to clean up after yourself.

    Tenkei whined, dismayed the sudden disappearance of his playmate. Janken took him from Scooter and cuddled him, offering some granola. Sorrow forgotten, the little Fraggle began munching contentedly on the treat.

    Miss Piggy said, "I expect to see some designs in by the end of the week. You all may look at them, but they must be kept secret until I model them properly. Understand?"

    The other Muppets nodded. She caught Scooter's eye, and he knew what she was thinking: don't you dare leak them on the Internet until I tell you to. Then post like gangbusters. Piggy had people for official publicity, but you couldn't beat the word-of-mouth power of fansites. He nodded understanding.

    Miss Piggy excused herself and went back upstairs, making up headlines and article titles in her head.

    ******

    All characters except Janken, Billie, and Tenkei are copyright © The Muppets Studio, LLC. All copyrighted characters and people are used without permission but with much respect and affection. Janken, Billie, and Tenkei are copyright © Kim McFarland (negaduck9@aol.com), as is the overall story. Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only.
  3. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    That was a fun update. Billie's beak curving down giving her a hawklike appearance, that's to be expected, she is Gonzo's daughter. Glad to see Robin growing up in another fic. The addition of Tenkei is interesting... Though I know he'll have to face at some point the fact someone will yell: "Tenkei, Tenkei, Tenkei!" and he'll have to answer with "You're welcome.", blaming :p and :( for that joke.

    Good stuff, thanks for sharing.
    GopherCoffee and WebMistressGina like this.
  4. Fersureitsjess

    Fersureitsjess Active Member

    Wow that was great! :)
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  5. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    The Count: The funny thing about Billie having a predatory-looking beak and bluish coloration is that some people assume that she's related to Sam rather than Gonzo. She finds that as appalling as Sam does. Sam is not a fun person and Daddy Gonzo is!

    Tenkei is another victim of my "can't-think-of-a-name syndrome." If I'm stuck for a name, I just use some Japanese. Just as "janken" means "rock-paper-scissors" (actually it's jan-ken-pon, but that was too long), tenkei means "heaven's gift" or "nature's blessing." Or "revelation" or "divine punishment" or a certain class of nouns or a specific era in Japanese history or incidental details in a picture. Japanese words wear a lot of hats.

    Fersureitsjess: Thanks, glad you liked it!
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  6. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Hmm... Do they wear dumb hats too? :smirk:

    When I can't find a good character name (or one hasn't already been given) I usually end up going to the pun-alty box for more than two minutes sometimes.

    LMK if you may need help with any future fics. :drool:
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  7. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    Scooter seemed very like the Scooter I know from the show in this fic. Very enjoyable, and a pleasure to see the predatory gleam in his eye.

    I can't think what to say about the other story.
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  8. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Fair warning: this is a fairly grim story. I'm dealing with things in my life that I'd rather not, and my mood appears to have made it into this story. Thankfully, the events in this story are not based on (I hesitate to say inspired by) anything in my life.

    This is what was in my mind when I drew this.

    *****

    Dancing Through Life
    by Kim McFarland

    *****

    Dancing through life,
    Mindless and careless.
    Make sure you're where less
    Trouble is rife.
    Woes are fleeting,
    Blows are glancing,
    When you're dancing
    Through life.

    -- Dancing through Life from the musical Wicked

    *****

    Note: This takes place in The World In Which Kermit Had Never Been Born, seen in It's a very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie. Without Kermit's influence, many lives were changed, and not for the better.

    *****

    It was early morning, or late night, depending on how you looked at it. The loud, thumping techno music in Club Dot had been turned off. Skeeter's ears were still ringing, and her head felt like it was wrapped in cotton.

    She was mopping the floor. She was fortunate to be doing that; lately she had been no good as a cage dancer. She could have been fired. Simple demotion was a relief.

    "Gonna be long, Skeet?"

    She looked up to see her brother Scooter. "A bit. It was kinda messy tonight. We got a date?"

    "Yeah. It's The Bluebird of Happiness."

    She nodded. She ought to be glad. She wasn't. She looked down at the floor she was mopping. A lot of drinks had been spilled.

    "C'mon, cheer up, Skeet. I know what would make you happy," he said with a teasing smile.

    "No," she said. "I want to keep my head."

    "What for?" Scooter asked, but dropped the matter and left.

    When he came back a few minutes later, he told her, "He'll wait." Then he found another mop and pitched in.

    She smiled. Scooter didn't like cleanup work, and he wasn't very good at it besides, but he always watched out for her. She didn't suggest he go on without her; she knew he'd refuse.

    **

    When they finished up, Scooter told her, "I don't like seeing you like this, Sis."

    "That makes two of us."

    "So why?"

    "I don't know," she murmured. Life was so much easier when you medicated your moods. Happiness came in small packages. Nothing mattered much, and fun things were that much better. There wasn't any point in seeing the world as it really was. Maybe. She didn't know anymore.

    She went into the back to change from her black tank top and skirt to a black dress. She and her twin had been on their own since they were practically kids. They'd taken to this lifestyle because it was fun. Party all night, finance it using the one resource that cost them nothing and couldn't be taken away from them. Because they were half-humans, full-sized people saw them as childlike. That and the twin appeal won them a lot of attention. But it was getting old, she thought as she tied her hair back into pigtails with a pair of green ribbons.

    She looked at her reflection. The gothic Lolita look was in now. It contrasted weirdly with her brother's tight shirt and shorts, but the dates liked it. She honestly didn't care.

    **

    When Skeeter came back out she was practically dragging her handbag. Scooter said, "I hate to see you like this."

    "I'll be all right."

    "Yeah. Don't worry, leave everything to me," he said brightly, and put an arm around her shoulders.

    **

    They left the club. Among the people loitering outside was a bird. The humans hardly noticed him, but he was right on Scooter and Skeeter's eye level. The twins walked over. Scooter said, "Sorry it took so long, Sammie. Thanks for waiting for us."

    Not at all," the bird replied. Seeing how down Skeeter looked, he said, "Are you all right, my dear?"

    "I'm okay," she said with the best smile she could muster.

    Sammie hailed a cab. The three got into the back, and Sammie gave his address to the driver. He sat on one side and Skeeter on the other, with Scooter in between. Scooter moved close enough to Sammie to rest his head on his shoulder. The bird put a wing around him. Scooter put his free arm around the bird's waist. He was still holding Skeeter's hand with the other.

    **

    They entered Sammie's apartment. Scooter and Skeeter knew it well; lately they had been spending a night or two a week here. Skeeter said, "Mind if I freshen up?"

    "Not at all."

    Skeeter retreated to the bathroom for a few minutes to nerve herself. Scooter said confidentially to Sammie, "She's just tired. They've been working her pretty hard."

    "I didn't see her in a cage tonight," Sammie answered.

    "Yeah, they were letting some new girls try it out. She got stuck on cleanup crew. They work her like Cinderella."

    "How sad."

    "Yeah."

    Skeeter returned. Scooter asked, "Are you all right now, Sis?"

    As he asked her, his eyes flicked right-left: no. She replied, "I'm fine," in an utterly unconvincing tone of voice.

    "You look like you need to rest tonight," Sammie told her gently.

    Scooter glanced up-down. She smiled and said, "I guess so. I'm sorry."

    "We all have our crosses to bear," the bird said sympathetically.

    Scooter said, "She's tired, but I'm not," with an eager gleam in his eye.

    "Why don't you lie down on the couch and get some sleep, my dear?"

    Her smile was a little less forced. "Thanks. I appreciate it. It really has been a bad day."

    "Tomorrow'll be better," Scooter chirped.

    She lay down on the couch. Her dress would be a mess of wrinkles tomorrow, but she didn't particularly care. Scooter went into the kitchen, got a glass of water, and set it on a coaster on the coffee table. He untied the ribbons in her hair—she'd forgotten they were there—and said, "G'night, Skeet."

    "'Night, Scoot."

    Scooter and Sammie went away. In the darkened living room Skeeter felt suddenly alone. Her ears were still buzzing from the loud music in the club.

    She ought to be happy, she thought. It was always good news when Sammie picked them up. He treated them well rather than using them and throwing them away. He gave them a safe place for the night, paid without cheating, and even fed them, and compared to some of their other dates he didn't ask for much at all. He was fond of them, even cared about them, she thought. Why? Of course Scooter liked him; he was a sugar daddy. Normally Skeeter did too. Today she didn't like anyone. Not even herself.

    She wanted an apartment. A place for just her and her brother, where they could be safe and alone, not at the mercy of whatever date they had for the night. Where they could just rest and not worry about someone else's demands. But places to live cost money, and around here there was nothing within their reach, even considering their freelance work. No home for them; just other peoples' pads, for a few hours at a time.

    She was a fool, she realized. Scooter was right. He knew how to get through life. He lived in the Happy World. He liked what he did to make a living. It was fun. Isn't that how life is supposed to be? When she was in the Happy World she felt the same way. Bad things still happened, but they didn't matter so much.

    He'd given her a glass of water. He always looked after her, she thought. He understood what she needed better than she did. She opened her purse. There, in her makeup kit, was a lipstick tube with a false bottom. She unscrewed it. Inside were several tablets. She selected an orange one and glanced at the design stamped into it. It looked like a roman numeral II. Gemini. How appropriate, she thought as she dropped in onto her tongue, then took a swallow of water.

    She lay down again and closed her eyes, knowing that when she woke up the world would be a better place.

    *****

    All characters are copyright © The Muppets Studio, LLC and are used without permission but with much respect and affection. Dancing through Life is from the musical Wicked by Stephen Schwartz. The overall story is copyright © Kim McFarland (negaduck9@aol.com). Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only.
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  9. charlietheowl

    charlietheowl Well-Known Member

    Very dark story but a good one nonetheless. When life pushes you back against the wall, sometimes the short-term fixes are more appealing than holding out hope for the long term. Skeeter clearly wants to keep her eyes on the future, but sometimes that's just too much to take when the present is bleak, and that's when people turn to drugs or whatever other distractions are needed.

    Hope whatever you're dealing with works out for the better.
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  10. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Thanks. I had a bit of poster's remorse on the bus home, and expected it to be deleted by a mod for unsuitable subject matter. That still might happen, I suppose, thought I toned it way down while writing it so the point of the story wouldn't get completely lost under the shock factor.

    I hope that I can find out what I'm dealing with! The days between tests at the doctor's office and finding out the results pass by so slow.
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  11. charlietheowl

    charlietheowl Well-Known Member

    To be fair, you don't really explicitly say any of the squelchy things, so I think you've gotten off on a technicality when it comes to the subject matter. But also I think that darker fics can be interesting when done in small and intelligent doses. Granted, I can see where some people might not like their favorite characters being put in bad situations, and that's completely fair. But life is not all sunshine and roses, as most people on this board know, and sometimes these things are compelling.

    But hopefully you have occasion for your next story to be one of your happiest!
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  12. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Kinda agree with charlietheowl. It's a depiction of the Dark Universe (where Kermit was never born), but that realm's been explored before in Beauregard's Visions and Visions 2 fics. Mayhaps a read-through might benefit your ideas. Then again, I knew this one-shot would be centered around your recent sketch, so I was ready for the AU treatment. What really compels the piece is the inclusion of Skeeter as a dual element counterpart to Scooter's depiction.

    Hope you're able to find out what's ailing you and you can get better.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  13. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Someone else has written in that universe? Shoot, I thought I was being original. But it's also comforting to know that I'm not the only one. I'll check 'em out when I can line up enough brain cells to read some fic.

    Yeah, I hoped that leaving out specifics would let this one slide by. We don't really need to know exactly what's going on, and in fact I cut out a line in Skeeter's internal monologue showing that even Scooter had his limits, because it hinted too closely at what those limits were. To be nonspecific, he won't mistreat his sister. I included her both because I like her (Funny way of showing it, huh?) and because Scooter needed someone else to keep him from being a completely mercenary little twink. "Sammie" wouldn't have been enough. BTW, was it obvious who Sammie was?

    When I was writing this, trying to nail down Scooter's character, I kept flashing back to some dialogue from a courtroom scene in the movie Nuts:

    Francis MacMillan: What did you live on?​
    Claudia Draper: [pausing, glancing at Levinsky] Gifts.​
    Francis MacMillan: [with relish] Gifts. Gifts from whom?​
    Claudia Draper: Friends.​
    (snip)​
    Claudia Draper: [to the judge] Um, excuse me. Is it legal to take cash gifts?​
    Judge Stanley Murdoch: I beg your pardon?​
    Claudia Draper: I mean, if I say to you, "Stanley, here's, um, five hundred dollars just because I like you," is that legal?​
    Judge Stanley Murdoch: Yes, that's legal.​
    Claudia Draper: Thank you.​
    [to MacMillan]​
    Claudia Draper: A lot of the gifts were cash.​

    Scooter probably used that defense to fast-talk his way out of trouble any number of times.

    I don't plan to write any more in this line. It's just depressing. Originally the story was to have gone on for another scene, but I decided that the point was made by the time Skeeter went to sleep. We don't need to see her in Stepford mode.
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  14. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Yep, Sammy was :attitude:'s DU alternate. It kind of fits better here with the deleted role of Baron von Scrooge from the Moulan Scrooge than with his off-handed appearance as another diaper-clad raver at Club Dot—all of which I've learned thanks to the stuff posted here and at Muppet Wiki from behind-the-scenes goings-on.

    Glad that this has served its purpose. Hope to read something from your wellspring when you're inspired to post it.
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  15. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Yeah, that was Sam. I don't know if he was wearing a diaper, but he did have a pacifier and he was waving glow sticks around. (The former of which, BTW, hints strongly at MDMA use. Brrr.) Since I was twisting characters around anyway, making Skeeter the dependent "little sis," I thought it'd be interesting to make Sam a sympathetic, nonjudgmental sort.
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  16. mostlikemokey

    mostlikemokey Active Member

    I love these, especially the Fraggle ones. Even though I write Fraggle stories of my own, it's interesting to read some from a different continuity. More soon?
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  17. miss kermie

    miss kermie Well-Known Member

    I love every story on here! please post more!
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  18. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    I hadn't planned to follow up on Dancing Through Life. It's a sleazy story set in a depressing universe. But I felt kinds bad about leaving Scooter and Skeeter in such an icky situation. So here is a 'happy ending', relatively speaking, for them.

    *****

    After the Dance
    by Kim McFarland

    *****

    Lee’s hand shook as he filled the delicate cups. He drank his down in one gulp. “Don’t you see?” he cried. “The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ Don’t you see?”

    -- From East of Eden by John Steinbeck

    *****

    Cement and metal. Cinderblocks. Industrial paint with just enough color to look colorless. Doors that clanged when they opened and closed. Informational posters, probably required by law. A clock on the wall that ticked loudly.

    Skeeter looked around. This place was depressing. Not as depressing to her as it was to most people, though. She could walk out again.

    She and Scooter had been caught and sent to prison. It wasn't their first time being arrested, but this time the charges had stuck. Their luck had run out. Well, not completely. They'd been convicted of misdemeanors. They could have been nailed for a felony or two. Then they'd really have been up a creek.

    It had taken her a long time to realize it, but in fact their prison time had been a blessing in an almost impenetrable disguise. It had taken her and her brother out of the world they had been living in, of go-go dancing and hustling and better living through chemistry. Skeeter had wanted to stop, but had no idea how. But Scooter had enjoyed the life, so she had followed his lead. The worst thing about prison was being separated from her brother. The two of them had been together all their lives. Losing him was like losing part of herself. That and withdrawal had made the first month an utter misery.

    But after that... it had gotten better. The Powers That Be had determined that she was salvageable. She'd gotten time off for good behavior, and help getting on her feet once she was out on parole. Afraid of being on her own, she had taken advantage of every bit of help and guidance they offered. She never wanted to dance in a cage or depend on a "date" for a place to spend the night and a few dollars. She now had a clerical job. The pay wasn't great, but it was enough.

    The door groaned open, and Scooter, accompanied by an armed guard, entered the room. He was dressed in the usual ill-fitting prison garb. It had once been a joke that someone must have a full-time job sorting out clothes so that everyone's outfit was two sizes off. Now it wasn't funny, just a dreary fact of life. Being a half-human, Scooter always got clothes that were much too large. As the guard watched, he walked over in concertina-like pants and hugged his sister. "Hi, Skeet. How's tricks?" he said in a brittle attempt at a cheerful tone of voice.

    "No tricks. Not much in the way of treats either," she replied.

    They sat side by side, arms around each other's shoulders. They always did. He hated being separated from her as much as she did. Though it had only been a few days since she had visited him last, she asked, "How've you been?"

    "Eh, all right. No trouble since last time."

    'Last time' was when, a month ago, he had been goaded into a fight by some jerks who had speculated on just how close his relationship with his sister was. When Skeeter found out she had blessed him out for getting so upset over stupid words. She said, "Good. Are you feeling all right?"

    "As much as I can," he said with a shrug. "You know what it's like in there, Skeet. I don't want to talk about it. What've you been doing?"

    "The job's all right. Kinda boring, but it's safe. I like that."

    "Yeah, I know," he said softly.

    "And when I'm off for the day I take the bus to the apartment. It's just a one-bedroom basement crackerbox, and the neighbors can be noisy, but they're on the other side of the walls. I can turn on the radio and listen to that."

    "You should get a TV."

    "I'm going to, next payday or the one after that."

    "What'd you have for lunch?"

    "Spaghetti and an apple."

    "You eat a lot of spaghetti."

    "It's cheap."

    "It sounds great. Last time I saw an apple it looked like someone had used it as a softball."

    She nodded. Prison food was supposed to be bad. As such, the cuisine here was a success. She had tried to bring him some food, but the guards wouldn't allow that. It might contain contraband. "Get yourself paroled and we can have all the spaghetti and apples you want."

    "I know, I know." He had really been trying. It was ironic that the same skills that had made life easier outside got him into trouble here. There was a black market for all sorts of contraband, and the guards could never shut it down. He could get what he wanted, and he knew what to trade...but his dilated eyes always gave him away afterward. He had been faced with a terrible choice: give up the only thing that eased life here somewhat, or face serving the maximum time, only seeing his sister a few times a week, for years more. It had been a hard decision to make, and it was still hard, but at least he was finally out of withdrawal.

    "Thought about what you wanna do when you get out?" she asked.

    "Besides eat spaghetti and apples?"

    "Yeah."

    "I don't know." He shook his head. In a low voice he said, "I don't know what I can do. Besides..."

    "Not that. Not anymore," she whispered back.

    He nodded without conviction. He could easily go back to that life. And probably end up back here, with a prior on his record... but he didn't have the foggiest notion what kind of job he could do. He and Skeeter hadn't even finished high school, much less gone to college, and what kind of crummy job could you get without a degree? Burger flipper? He'd go nuts on the first day!

    "Just be good and get out. And if they offer any help, take it. Once you're out, we'll be together again. And it'll be better," she promised.

    "I know. I'm trying."

    "You can do it," she said. "If I can, you can."

    His mouth quirked in a one-sided, wry smile. He used to be the strong one. He had guided and protected his 'little' sister. Now the roles were reversed. Well, considering where his leadership had gotten them, that had to be for the better. He said, "I trust you."

    "Yeah."

    They talked quietly as the clock ticked off their allotted time. When the last second was up the guard said, "Mr. Grosse."

    "Yeah," Scooter said. He gave his sister a quick hug, then went back. Skeeter said, "See you Sunday."

    "Yeah. Love you, sis."

    "You too, bro."

    The door closed with a heavy, metallic clank. Skeeter left the visitation room, went back through a security checkpoint and several miles of cement hallway, and emerged into the late afternoon sun. She could go home and open up a can of soup. She could go by the store and get something to fix for dinner. She could get some takeout. She could eat anything she liked—within her very tight budget, of course. That freedom didn't seem so significant until you lost it.

    She went to the bus stop and waited. Someday, hopefully before too long, she and her twin would be once again riding the bus together. however long it took, she'd wait for him. He needed her as much as she needed him. She saw that now. And when he was out, she'd protect him.

    *****

    Scooter and Skeeter are copyright © The Muppets Studio, LLC and are used without permission but with much respect and affection. The overall story is 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

    Here's a little something that has been knocking around in my head for a few months. I don't know whether I'm going to pursue it or not.
    *****​
    Within the Music
    by Kim McFarland
    *****

    "This will be your first real test. Are you sure you want to go through with it?"

    "Yes, I'm sure."

    The Tunesmith, to his credit, did not shrug, shake his head, or in any other way show his opinion of Jago, one of his pupils. The boy was gifted, but in dire need of discipline. He spent more time dreaming than practicing, and he never could settle on one instrument. If he could just learn to focus he could become a great musician. He was young; he had time to learn. But the earlier the better.

    The two Fraggles walked from the Tunesmith's cave and down one of the passages leading out of the colony. There were dangers out here; unstable caves and hungry creatures and territorial plants and, supposedly, a ghost. The Tunesmith did not believe in ghosts, but so many Fraggles claimed to have heard a voice whispering out of nowhere that now everybody believed that these caves were haunted. Jago didn't seem worried. Either he didn't believe the rumors or, more likely, simply wasn't thinking about them.

    *

    The two Fraggles reached a small hole in the tunnel. A low moaning came from the darkness within. The Tunesmith gestured toward the hole. Jago looked at him in surprise, then peered into the hole. He turned his head, listening. Then he asked, "What whould I do?"

    "Spend the night here, in the Piping Cave. Tomorrow, tell me what you have learned."

    "What am I supposed to learn here?"

    "You tell me."

    Jago looked into the cave again. All he could hear was the low moaning of wind passing through long tunnels. It blew against his face, ruffling his flower-colored hair. He stepped in. As his eyes adjusted he could see more of his surroundings. He was in a large room with many tunnels of various sizes leading out on the opposite side. Fresh air seemed to be blowing evenly from all of them, making the room breezy and pleasant. After listening for a minute, he began to sing along with it. He used no words, only the sounds that came to him.

    The cave began to lighten in response to his song. The Tunesmith smiled. Fraggle song brightened the caves, and not only in figurative terms. Jago began wandering within the cave, his teacher forgotten. The Tunesmith turned to go back to the colony.

    *

    Jago wandered within the Piping Cave. The wind blowing in through the tunnels--there were seven of them--was steady and gentle, and, he soon realized, each tunnel's sound was different. The smallest tunnel played a a high, whishing sound. The largest one had a lower tone, the moan he had heard first. The other tunnels made sounds in between. As he walked around the cave he noticed that he heard different sounds depending on where he stood within it.

    He paced and listened. He felt as if the wind was blowing through him. As if he was an instrument rather than the player of one. It was a pleasant, even exciting sensation. After he had walked around the cave long enough to understand its sounds and their sources, he began to sing softly.
    "Music flows through the coves,
    Wind and stone singing together as one.
    Echoing as you sing,
    Let me hear your song..."

    Something was listening.

    *

    He sang, entreating the cave to share its secrets with him, until he felt he had said enough. Standing to one side, out of the main flow of air, he listened to the chord of the seven tunnels. It was pleasant, if a little monotonous. Looking around the cave, he realized that it was like the inside of a giant ocarina, with the tunnels acting as the holes...no. You blow in one side of a flute and change its single tone by covering the holes with your fingers. He put his pack down on the ground and began walking, stepping as silently as he could. He was aware of nothing but the sound of the wind. It would change if he stopped up a tunnel, he supposed. To test that he found the smallest tunnel within reach and leaned back against it. Sure enough, the chord sounded different...incomplete. He stepped away, and the chord was complete again. Taking away wasn't any good, he thought.

    Only one of the tunnels at ground level was large enough for him to enter without blocking the air flow. He walked a ways into it, then stopped and listened. Once again, the chord was changed. But this time it sounded good. By entering this tunnel he had raised its tone, which in turn changed the song of the cave.

    He stood, looking into the cave, seeing little, straining for all he could hear.

    *

    Early the next day the Tunesmith returned to the Piping Cave, hoping that his pupil had fared well. Many found the eerie sounds of the lonely cave frightening. But Jago had not run back to the colony during the night--the Tunesmith had checked his family's cave before coming here--so at least the boy had toughed it out.

    The Tunesmith looked into the cave. Jago was there, asleep on top of his sleeping bag rather than in it. From the look of it he had simply bedded down without bothering to make a campfire. He shook his head, smiling wryly, then patted Jago's shoulder. The boy's breathing caught, and he blinked and looked up. The Tunesmith said, "Arise, sleepyhead. I hope sleeping isn't all you've done in here."

    "No, not at all," Jago replied. He sat up and stretched hard, then wiggled his fingers to limber them.

    "Well then, what have you learned?"

    "Well... this cave, it's like the inside of a musical instrument."

    "Like an ocarina," the Tunesmith said, nodding.

    "No, not really. More like my reed flute, if all the reeds blew into one chamber. I've never seen an instument like this. Each tunnel makes a different sound, and it changes depending on where you are."

    "And what does that mean?"

    "It means that what you hear depends on where you are, just like anywhere else. The music you make changes as you move. Let me show you."

    Jago took out a stringed instrument like a small balalaika and stood hastily. He said to the Tunesmith, "Walk with me."

    Jago began playing the instrument, singing softly and wordlessly. The wind provided the background chord, and as he moved through the cave he adjusted the song to harmonize with it. The Tunesmith was impressed. This was the lesson the cave had to teach, but the boy had gone beyond understanding the mere principle and used it in his own music. And the tune was improvised; he would have recognized a prepared composition. When Jago finished the Tunesmith said, "Very good."

    "Thank you. And, this tunnel--if you go into it, you change the sound it makes."

    "Yes, like muting a wind instrument." the Tuneamith acknowledged.

    Jago continued, becomeing more animated, "Just as we hear different things by moving around in the world, we can change what is heard just by being in the right place. The song of the world continues, but we become a part of it rather than using it in our music."

    If the Tunesmith had ever doubted that Jago was still a dreamer, this would have laid that question to rest. Trust Jago to turn a practical lesson on music principles into a philosophical matter. Still, there was nothing to say that musicians couldn't be dreamers too. "Have you learned anything else?"

    "Not yet."

    Patting his student's shoulder approvingly, The Tunesmith said, "Well, you've passed the test. You've done very well, in fact. Let's return."

    "I'd rather stay here."

    Surprised, the Tunesmith asked, "Why? What do you want to do?"

    "I think there's more to it. At the very least, I want to listen some more."

    The Tunesmith gave him an odd look. Then he said, "If that's what you want to do. Come back when you're ready."

    "I will."

    The Tunesmith left his odd pupil behind. He had the talent to be a master musician, but with his disposition, who knew what he would finally turn out to be.

    Unseen, an entity watched the young Fraggle, and was pleased. It said in a voice so low that Jago believed he was hearing his own thoughts, "Listen."

    *****

    Fraggle Rock and Jago (under his real name) are copyright © The Jim Henson Company and are used without permission but with much respect and affection. The Tunesmith is copyright © Kim McFarland (negaduck9@aol.com), as is the overall story. Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only.
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  20. charlietheowl

    charlietheowl Well-Known Member

    Yay! More Fraggle fic. I really like the descriptions of the Piping Cave. Thanks for sharing.
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