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The Best Neighbor

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Fan Art' started by Convincing John, Jul 17, 2009.

  1. Convincing John Well-Known Member

    Hey everyone,

    Until I can blow the dust off my old Fraggle fanfic and finally finish it, I've been working on another fanfic. It's not done yet (and won't be for a while) but I know how everything will play out. (The Fraggle one has left me wembling between a few different endings).

    In the meantime, I have a lot of my new fanfic to post while I play around with the last dozen or so chapters. The whole story is growing much more than I anticipated!

    Inspired by TogetherAgain and Prawncracker's stories, this will be my first fanfic starring the regular Muppet gang. I've even taken a crack at creating a new character, who you will meet immediately.

    In addition, I've been looking at the other fanfics here at MC and as far as I know, I'm breaking new ground. There are three individuals in this story that are very familiar to us fans, but to my knowledge have never been used in an MC fanfic before. Two of these guys are outside of the Muppet universe (but still got quite a few fans around these parts) and the third guy appears quite frequently in a treasured Muppet film we all love.

    There's lots of cameos and lots of Muppet and non-Muppet references (from time to time, you may want to keep Wikipedia open to catch 'em all). Oh yes, and there's plenty of penguins! (Can't have a Muppet story without penguins somewhere).:zany:

    I'll be posting about a chapter per week. That way, I can keep ahead of the story and have plenty of time to fix any mistakes.

    Some people ask "when does this story take place?" Since the Muppets are timeless, it's hard to pinpoint. For argument's sake, let's say it's 2009, but also you can pretend that the events in the Muppet Movie happened in the not-so-distant past...like 2003-ish instead of 1979.

    If you like what you read, let me know. If you don't, please give me time to duck before you throw rotten vegetables at me.;)

    The Prologue and Chapter 1 will be in my next post.

    Convincing John
  2. Convincing John Well-Known Member

    Prologue

    We'll just get rid of it all." Mr. Frass ordered.

    "Sir, you're joking! We can't just tear that down--"

    "Look, no one cares about that old stiff anymore or what he had to say. He's outdated and so are his principles. We're in charge now...right?"

    The assistant's mouth twitched uncomfortably as he glanced at his feet.

    "RIGHT?" Mr. Frass boomed.

    "R-right, Mr. Frass."

    "This place is going to be the best of the best! Think of the business! Think of the money! I'm gonna be RICH! We'll have the first dog food factory chain in the country to use extra protein from a natural source no one has used yet! Dogs'll love it and I'll love my newfound fortune! Purina'll be no match for us!"

    The assistant looked at the plain building on the corner. It was a crumbling warehouse. He didn't care about the building at all. It was what was inside that mattered. So many years worth of priceless information was stored here. Sure, a little went in and out now and then, but almost all of it was here--over thirty years worth!

    The artifacts were in there, too...he had seen them before. They were on television years ago and had just completed their tour back from the Smithsonian. Each artifact was simple, yet unmistakably priceless.

    Except for a few small items, all of it was in that warehouse. The building was fenced off with CAUTION tape. Bright orange mesh hung taut between metal posts. The whole thing was to come down within a week...artifacts, information, everything included.

    He couldn't let this happen.

    "B-but...that's the building where they keep all the--"

    "Boo hoo!" Mr. Frass sneered, spraying spit and cheap cigar smoke at his assistant and tilting his sweaty head from side to side. "Grow up! That geezer is worm food and those stupid kids don't know or care anyway."

    "But the Smithsonian! When they find out that..."

    Frass twisted his mouth and imitated his assistant in a horrible mock baby voice. "Buh-buh...duh Smiffsonian!" Frass's eyes narrowed as his scowl came back. "I don't care what the Smithsonian thinks! They got enough junk in that museum to fill 18 of these warehouses!" He flapped an arm towards the building. "They should thank me for blowing this crap up so they don't have to deal with it! Besides which," the boss showed his assistant a document on this clipboard. "It's all legal. Everything in there is mine. See? Right there." He savored the words as though they were a juicy steak.

    Mr. Frass smirked haughtily as his crow's feet extended like forked lightning around his eyes. He poked a sausage-like finger at the clipboard, allowing the assistant to read the gist of it:

    "Warehouse 57-G scheduled for demolition under the ownership of Edd Frass, the CEO of "Bugaboo Dog Chow". All items within said warehouse may be disposed of upon the order of the CEO on November 24, 2009 if items do not benefit said company...."

    And down below it said:

    "Note: this document of ownership is null and void if other proof of ownership is declared by the previous owner."

    "'Null and void if...' what's that?"

    Mr. Frass snorted at the sentence and huffed some cigar smoke at it. "That means that if that stiff geezer had had any brains, he would've left that junk to someone. If they found anything saying he had an heir...heh!...we'd have to find another place for our factory. We've waited for that and it ain't comin'. This place'll be rubble in about a week when the dynamite and crew I ordered get here."

    The assistant looked helplessly at the building. There had to be a way to save what was inside...

    Just inside the warehouse door, a man who at a distance looked like an elderly security guard, put something carefully in a tote bag. Behind Mr. Frass's back, in shadow, he hopped on his bicycle and sped away.

    There wasn't much time...and only one individual who could help him now.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  3. Convincing John Well-Known Member

    Chapter 1

    Thud...Thud...k-klop klop...
    Thud...Thud...k-klop klop...

    It was a sound many residents were familiar with in Hensonville. Around this time of the afternoon, many people listened for it. Some waved to the sound, others just glanced up, then went back to working in their flower gardens.

    Thud...Thud...k-klop klop...

    "Go home now?" asked Animal. He turned around as best he could, his chain jangling.

    A pair of hollow, blinking eyes glanced up as a distant clock chimed four-thirty.

    "Yeah man, that's enough for today." Floyd held Animal's chain in check as they turned the corner towards home. Animal's cement galoshes thudded against the sidewalk as Floyd's boot steps responded.

    As the two musicians walked along, a bicycle bell tinkled somewhere from behind them. The bell continued to ring as someone in a blue uniform sped by in a blur.

    "Excuse me!" he called out as he passed them.

    Normally, Animal hated it when anyone passed him on his walks. Had he the energy, he would have bit the bicycle as it passed, ate it, and had the cyclist's pants for dessert.

    He was too tired now, though. All he wanted was a quick bite when he got home (a banister usually made a good snack) then to fall asleep (letting his bed be wherever he fell down in exhaustion).

    Floyd followed Animal's heavy, plodding steps as the afternoon sun sparkled through the overhead green oak leaves. The slight breeze waved his fluttering moustache, then died down as the two of them passed the dry cleaners. It was about six blocks from home.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The Boarding House was getting livelier, as it usually did near the end of the day. Daytime was often quiet around the house. Between 4-5, everyone returned home from their daily activities. Janice, Link and Miss Piggy had gone to the theater to rehearse some music for next week's show. The old door squeaked open as the chattering group crossed the threshold.

    "I think I sang that number even better this time," drawled Link Hogthrob as he pompously strutted through the door. "if that's even possible with my talent." Link smugly looked down his snout at the rest of the Muppets with him.

    "Aw come on," growled Miss Piggy, rolling her eyes. "You sounded like an old moose with a head cold."

    "Sounds like he's improving, then!" cackled Waldorf from across the room. He and Statler were in the middle of their favorite two activities--napping and heckling. Statler woke, yawned and chuckled as Link's ego slowly deflated.

    "Well, not everyone can sing such a sophisticated and complicated song like me." Link protested, trying to square his shoulders again.

    "What'd he sing?" called Clifford, looking up from his newspaper.

    Janice grinned. "Like, he sang 'The Eensy Weensy Spider'!" The whole Boarding House cracked up as Link shrank inside.

    "Mommy likes that song..." he mumbled.

    "Moi wanted to do something from 'Carmen' but I just didn't have the right musical accompaniment today." she sniffed haughtily.

    "Are you kiddin'?" chuckled Sweetums from behind her. "We were great!" he clomped a hand on Piggy's shoulder, nearly knocking her over. "Ah! Toréador..." he sang, spreading out a massive hand.

    "Don't spit on the floor..." interrupted Statler.

    "Please use the cuspidor..." chimed Waldorf.

    "That's what it's for! Do ho ho ho ho ho ho!" they both finished.

    "Hey! I know that song on my harmonica! I can play with you and it'll sound just peachy!" Bo said brightly.

    Steam threatened to curl out of Piggy's ears. "It's bad enough I had to rehearse with the walking Sequoia. Moi will not do opera with a harmonica backing me up!"

    "Hey, pig. Give him a chance." grinned Dr. Teeth. "Ol' Bo here's jammed with us. He does a pretty mean solo when we play 'Love Me Do'."

    Kermit was at the kitchen table, helping Robin with his math homework. Both frogs looked up as the small group entered the living room. Robin dropped his pencil in excitement.

    "Sweetums!" he cried, hopping over to his giant friend. Sweetums carefully scooped Robin up in a huge hand.

    "How was school today, lil' buddy?"

    "It was fun!" smiled Robin. "We played kickball and me and Norman worked on our castle diorama an...an...OH BOY! THE MAILMAN!" he yelled, pointing out the window. "The mailman has a package!" Robin hopped up and down excitedly in Swetums's palm. "I hope it's my Star Frog Flashlight I sent away for!"

    Kermit sighed. He hoped so too. The cereal box said it took 6 to 8 weeks for delivery. The way Robin had been going on about it, it felt like 68 weeks.

    "It's not the regular mailman." said Fozzie, peeking through the bay window curtains.

    "Maybe he's a door-to-door fungus salesman." suggested Gonzo.

    As the man walked closer, Kermit noticed a large bag, distinctive, tinted spectacles and an old fashioned bus driver-like cap. Sure enough, he could see the neatly trimmed moustache, too.

    Kermit smiled.

    "I know who that is."

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  4. Convincing John Well-Known Member

    A word of caution first...

    Before you read this chapter, it would probably be a good idea to read it if you aren't eating at the moment...or just getting ready to eat. There's something in this chapter that's not too pleasant to look at, (kinda gross) but it's necessary to the story. Just bear with it (wocka wocka) and penguins will be there shortly afterwards, I promise.

    Chapter 2

    "Mr. Frass, sir, if you'll just listen to reason." the assistant pleaded.

    "Look, I don't want to hear any more from you." Frass growled. They were inside the warehouse. Frass glowered at the many abstract shapes in the near dark. All were covered with off-white canvas tarps. There were crates, too--old wooden ones. Some were stamped "FRAGILE" in faded, black ink.

    "This junk has got to go. I don't see why the Smithsonian wanted this mess. It's useless!" Frass gave a nearby cardboard box a kick. It tipped over and a single, worn, blue sneaker tumbled out. A thick sleeve flopped heavily over it. "Old clothes not fit for the Salvation Army."

    The assistant bumped into a covered something too big to be in a box. They jumped, startled at the sudden echoing pound from inside it. The assistant pulled back the cloth. It was an old piano.

    Frass's oily face brightened. "Hey! Nice find, there! Let's see that..." Frass's beady eyes scanned the piano from end to end. "It's worn, but it looks like it might be worth something. We can haul it out and sell it before we tear this place down."

    The assistant stood between Frass and the piano. "No! Do you know who this piano belonged to? We can't just--"

    "Shut up!" roared Frass. "It's mine and I can do what I want with it! I don't care if it belonged to that old geezer! He's DEAD! He's WORM FOOD! We're lucky we found something of value here to sell. I mean, look at this." Frass whipped the cover off a massive grandfather clock that the assistant recognized instantly. "This clock is no good! It doesn't even have any hands!"

    "It's not supposed to..." mumbled the assistant, hanging his head. "it never did..."

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The Muppets watched as the mysterious stranger approached the Boarding House. As he came closer, he became more and more familiar to them all. Could it be...?

    Knock knock knock knock...

    "Come in!" Kermit answered brightly.

    The door opened and there he was, just as he'd come into that other house everyone knew so well. Instinctively, Rowlf (who was sitting at the piano) plinked out a few brisk notes with one paw.

    "Hey! I know you!" announced Link as he walked up to him. "You're the Maytag Repair Man! Well, the washing machine is in the basement. It's been on the fritz since the penguins did their Tony Hawk impressions--"

    "Dat's not the Maytag Man, ya lug!" frowned Rizzo. "Dat's da man on dat kid's show who shows them films about how they make stuff!"

    Link scratched his head, trying to think. "Uhh..."

    "Mr. McFeely!" everyone chorused in unison.

    "Oh, yeah!" Link nodded, finally getting it.

    Right away, Kermit could tell something was wrong. Even though Mr. McFeely had never visited Hensonville before, Kermit had seen him enough times to know when something troubled him. Countless hours watching him on TV (when Robin was smaller) taught him that.

    Mr. McFeely looked worried and slightly winded from his bicycle ride. His concern was concealed by his sudden realization of the home he had stumbled into. People mixed with livestock, monsters and who knew what else stared at him like they knew him. Even the huge monster looked at him with acknowledgement and respect. The slightly nervous delivery man never had seen such an odd mix of...inhabitants...before under one roof. Still, he had a delivery to make and a promise to keep to his old friend.

    "It's nice to meet you," smiled Kermit, extending a hand. "Kermit the Frog."

    Mr. McFeely took it and shook. Surprised as he was, he remained polite.

    "It's very nice to meet you, Mr. Frog."

    "So what brings you here to our home?" Kermit wanted Mr. McFeely to be at ease. He knew of people that weren't used to the Muppet Boarding House. He never forgot one time when a Girl Scout was selling cookies and Crazy Harry answered the door. True, he did buy three boxes of pecan clusters, but he didn't need to use a detonator to open the boxes.

    As timid as Mr. McFeely looked, Kermit was glad that Animal wasn't around. Even with Floyd holding him in check, Animal had a thing for anyone who looked like a postal worker...mostly an urge to bite.

    "Well, I have a Speedy Delivery here for someone." Mr. McFeely held a mailing tube underneath his arm and a medium sized bubble mailing envelope.

    "Oooh! I knew it!" crowed Robin. "My new Star Frog Flashlight!"

    "No, no," Mr. McFeely gently corrected. "it's not a flashlight, it's something much different."

    "Aw, rats." mumbled Robin.

    "Who's the delivery for, sir?" asked Fozzie.

    Mr. McFeely shrugged. "Well, that's what I need help with. I'm not sure who exactly...but I believe they live right around here."

    Clifford put down his newspaper. "Hold the phone. You mean you got somethin' for someone but have no idea who it's for? Sounds like a Dead Letter Office candidate to me."

    "Well, in most cases, yes it would go there...but it's much too important." Mr. McFeely held the package like a precious antique. "And like I said, it seems to be for someone either in or around Hensonville."

    "What's so important about it?" Link drawled. The other Muppets murmured in curiosity as Mr. McFeely noticed the entertainment center in the living room. He held out the smaller bubble envelope.

    "Well, I have a video here that explains everything, if I may use your VCR."

    Kermit nodded and took the package from him. "Sure thing." He kept wondering why on earth Mr. McFeely, of all people was stopping here. Kermit was used to chatting with celebrities. He had done it for years. But this encounter left a different impression on him. This was no typical Hollywood celebrity. There was no limo, just a bicycle. There was no fancy tuxedo, just a blue collar uniform. There was no flashy bravado and an expression that mugged to a camera, just a gentle demeanor and the simple handing over of a plain bubble mailer.

    Still, there was a different type of celebrity presence there. He was famous all right, but a different type of famous. You could bound and gag John Cleese. You could pelt Milton Berle in the face with a giant powder puff. If you wanted to blow up Jaye P. Morgan or let the crocodiles chew on Elton John, no problem.

    But Mr. McFeely was completely different story. You just didn't do that when he was around. Without demanding it, he just somehow earned a polite respect. In a way it was like that little pause Kermit liked every morning when he read the "Peanuts" strip from the paper.

    Kermit handed the tape over to Scooter, who put it in the VCR.

    "Oh boy! I hope it's da 'How Dey Make Cheese' film!" Rizzo blurted out.

    Pepe gave him a look. "Jou actually watch dat show?" he mumbled. "Jou are nuts, hokay?"

    Rizzo shrank a little, embarrassed. "It was a cheese factory...we rats got weaknesses too, ya know."

    The Muppets watched as a brief test pattern blipped on the screen, followed by a title card which simply read "The Best Neighbor" in neatly printed lettering.

    There was the familiar pan across the house, but with no musical accompaniment. There was only silence as the camera panned through the kitchen with the old fashioned fridge. A shot of the fish tank, the traffic light and Picture Picture followed. The trolley tracks were next, followed by the closet door, the little framed picture of a tiny unidentified something, the little window with the 1970's style bluish-green curtains, then the front door.

    Unlike the regular greeting expected, the front door opened a little slowly, as if whoever was pushing it had a hard time getting it open.

    It was him, all right...but much older. His hair was grey as it had been for years, but there were many more wrinkles lining his smile. He also wore a pair of thick reading glasses. Behind them was the familiar twinkle in his kind eyes. Like he always did, he walked down the little set of stairs and sat on that same seat. This time, though, he didn't change his shoes.

    "Hello there, neighbors."

    "Hello!" Beauregard answered brightly.

    "If you are watching this videotape, I, Fred Rogers have passed away. This is a message for someone very special. For some of you, you may have heard about something I talked about called 'The Best Neighbor'. Some time ago, I decided that I wanted to leave my television program, 'Mister Rogers Neighborhood' in the hands of someone who I could trust. This, of course, is PBS.

    But, I also wanted to leave behind the sets you see behind me, the puppets I use in the Land of Make Believe and even my trolley in the hands of someone who will take good care of them while not in the Smithsonian. This key--" here Mr. Rogers held up an ordinary brass key "is for a building where all of this, including all the master tapes of 'Mister Rogers Neighborhood' are stored. As of November 24, 2009, my lease to the building will expire. I am leaving this key to someone I call 'The Best Neighbor'. They will be in charge of keeping it safe."

    The camera zoomed in ever so slowly on Mr. Rogers' face like it had so many times on his program while he explained something important.

    "The person I chose as 'The Best Neighbor' will not own what's in the building...they will just keep it safe. The Mister Roger's Neighborhood we all know and love belongs to all my television neighbors, past, present and future. 'The Best Neighbor' will have a big responsibility. They will make sure that my television neighborhood is around for as long as possible." He tilted his head slightly. I think it's good for children just starting to grow to visit this television neighborhood even after I am gone."

    Mr. Rogers paused to clear his throat, the only audible sound in the room.

    "'The Best Neighbor' will be announced by my good friend, Mr. McFeely, shortly before the lease for the warehouse is up. In 2002, I told my decision on the air and asked people to send in their response if they were interested in being 'The Best Neighbor'. If their response convinced me they had the same amount of love and respect I have for the television program, they would become 'The Best Neighbor'. I received many responses, and it was very, very difficult to choose just one for the job.

    But I received one entry that truly surprised me. It was an entry from a child, mailed in with the help of a grown-up friend. This entry truly touched my heart, even more than the lengthy, sophisticated letters I received from grown ups.

    I have decided that this child, with the help of their grown-up friend, will be in charge of keeping 'Mister Rogers Neighborhood' on the air and keeping the tapes, props, puppets and sets safe. This child is the one whom I have chosen to be 'The Best Neighbor'."

    Mister Rogers tilted his head slightly to the other side. The corner of his mouth twitched for a split second as his gentle eyes gave the viewers a calm, yet serious look.

    "This is my wish. I want my neighborhood to always be there. I want it to be there for everyone to enjoy, to learn from and to grow with. To 'The Best Neighbor', I wish you the best of luck, my thanks and my love."

    Mister Rogers gave a little nod, then the camera slowly faded to black. A moment later, the colorful test pattern appeared. Its low hum broke the silence in the room.

    Mr. McFeely wiped his eyes with his handkerchief and put his glasses back on. "He was..." his voice trailed off.

    "He was a good American." finished Sam respectfully.

    "But...who is this 'Best Neighbor' he was talking about, sir?" asked Fozzie.

    "Who gets that key?" added Gonzo.

    "Who wrote to him?" asked Scooter.

    "Oongesh yer de ber de be?"

    "Bawk?"

    The silence in the room broke into chatter again. Kermit waved his arms. "QUIII-ET!" he yelled.

    Kermit glanced at the large mailing tube under Mr. McFeely's arm. He had hung onto every word from the video. Though he never actually met Mr. Rogers in person, he had a good idea that he was a man who made very wise decisions. The first of these was to have one of his best friends seek out the 'Best Neighbor' as he put it. The second was selecting 'The Best Neighbor'. Who was it? The answer, Kermit knew, was underneath the delivery man's arm.

    "Well..." said Mr. McFeely. "This is where things get complicated," he showed everyone the mailing tube. "inside here is the entry Fred talked about. It's more of a drawing than a letter. Whoever drew it is going to be the safeguard of the sets, props, tapes, everything relating to 'Mister Rogers Neighborhood' while not on exhibit. Whoever drew it is 'The Best Neighbor'." There was a pause. "May I show it to you?"

    There was a sudden ripple of interest and cries of "yes!" and "please!" Chickens and penguins clucked in agreement as Kermit led Mr. McFeely over to the kitchen table, followed by the curious group of Muppets. Rowlf plucked the salt and pepper shakers out of the way and swept the table clean with his paw.

    Gently and carefully, Mr. McFeely reached inside the tube and pulled out a curled up manila mailing envelope. Immediately, Kermit noticed two things. One was that the return address was smeared as if by rain. The second was Fred Roger's clear printing on the back of the envelope, which read 'The Best Neighbor'.

    With the care of a rare book conservation specialist, Mr. McFeely lifted the flap and pulled out a rolled up paper 18 by 24 inches. He unrolled it and Rowlf used his paws and the salt and pepper shakers to hold down the slightly dinged and ripped corners. Everyone (except Sweetums) craned their necks to see.

    Mr. McFeely was right. It was a drawing. The whole thing was done in crayon. Colorful shapes decorated the paper in no certain pattern...but there was an odd order to them. Nothing was scribbled. Each shape had been carefully colored as if the child concentrated on not going outside the lines. It was obviously done with a lot of time and care (as much as a preschooler could muster). At the same time, it also looked like an ornate cave painting. Someone, obviously was trying to tell something with these shapes.

    At the left of the page was a large, light blue apartment building with an unfinished, jagged roof. Next to it was a pink box with a little circle drawn on it. Next to it was a very obvious tree with something vague and blue in its branches next to a yellow square. Next to the tree was what looked like a squat, gray jar. The artist had carefully drawn colorful vertical lines on its lid. Next to the "jar" was a brown lump in midair, then an orange rectangle stood on end with a yellow circle overlapping its upper half.

    Beneath the shapes were four stick figures. The first one looked a little like a pictograph of the Swedish Chef. Its arms were stretched out to its sides. The next one was of a woman in a skirt. Her arms were raised up as if she were in the arches during the "Muppet Show" theme song. The third one was male. It had a vague, blue flat something on its head and its arms and legs were overlapped in the same shade of blue. One arm pointed straight up. The other arm pointed straight out to the side. In one hand was a gray blob.

    The last stick figure was done with more detail than the others. It was drawn in black crayon with orange overlapping its torso. Blue ovals covered its feet. Next to the figure was a small red rectangle with yellow lines drawn through it and around its edges. Two black lines underlined the object and snaked to the blue "apartment building". This last stick figure had one arm pointing up, one arm pointing down.

    All four figures together looked like they were either dancing, reaching for something or exercising. It was hard to tell.

    There were words, too. They were misspelled, sporadic, and some letters were missing or misshapen, but they were there.

    Next to the square in the tree, someone wrote "mowmomewmemow". The blue "building" had a word on it, too. The wrapper from a "Payday" candy bar was stuck to it with chocolate.

    Another word was repeated at least a dozen times in the picture: FRED. It was written in the sky, in the corner of the picture and between the floating objects. Sometimes the middle line from the "E" would be missing or the "R" would be a "P", but each word was unmistakably intended to be read as "FRED".

    Other words appeared between the "FRED"s. "LOVE" was written in the sky. "GOOD NEYBR" was scrawled next to the pink box. "U C F R I E N D SPECCEL YOU R MY FREND" crawled up beside the upright rectangle.

    Beneath the four stick figures was the only full sentence on the paper. The child must have practiced writing the sentence previously several times before writing it here. The letters wobbled, but were not nearly as lopsided as the others on the page. It said "I WANT TO HELP FRED".

    Everyone exchanged curious glances, trying to make sense out of the picture.

    "Who drew this?" asked Kermit.

    Mr. McFeely shook his head sadly. "I don't know. I wish I did know. The return address from the envelope is too smeared to read."

    Rizzo made a face. "Wait a minnit. If you couldn't read da retoin address, then how da ya know dis picture came from heah?"

    Mr. McFeely took the manila envelope and turned it over. "It's a good thing there's the Speedy Delivery tracking number on these packages." On the envelope was a stamped number. "When I looked up the number, two addresses came up. One them was a Hensonville address and the other one was for someplace different. But they both have the same name associated with them: Kermit the Frog."

    Everyone looked at Kermit, whose eyes bulged a little in confusion.

    "But I didn't draw this." he answered.

    "Well, maybe not, Mr. Frog," Mr. McFeely agreed. "But someone very near one of those addresses of yours did send in this picture. That's where I need your help."

    "But what happens if we don't find out who made this?" asked Gonzo. "Is there a runner up or something that gets to be 'The Best Neighbor'?"

    "No no, Gonso," corrected Pepe. "De runner up halways gets de Rice A Ronis from de womens on TV. You need to see more of de womens on de Game Show Network, hokay."

    Rowlf noticed Mr. McFeely's expression just then. He, like a lot of dogs, knew when a human was distressed even if they tried not to show it. He knew what Mr. McFeely had to say next wasn't good.

    "If...if we don't find 'The Best Neighbor', the Smithsonian will not be able to keep what Fred put in storage. In that case, the building and everything in it will be the permanent property of whoever buys it by next week. After that, everything in that building will be owned by a man named Mr. Frass. He plans to build something where the building is."

    "Who's Mr. Frass?" asked Scooter.

    "I can tell you who he is," growled Piggy. "he's that dirty skunk who put up one of those smelly dog food factories two towns over...and RIGHT NEXT TO THE MALL! Moi tried to shop, but that stink was everywhere! All that darling chiffon was on sale, too! Not even the most expensive perfume could cover up that rotten horse meat stench!"

    "Hold on now," said Rowlf. "there's nothing wrong with a man who's into the kibble business. I'm sure he's got a plan for Mister Rogers' stuff once he realizes how important it is."

    Mr. McFeely didn't say anything. How could he tell them? The videotape, which had been left running, now stopped and automatically rewound. As it did, the test pattern was replaced by a commercial. A slightly portly man in his late fifties appeared on the screen. He had a round face, short, gray hair and deep-set, beady eyes. A well-rehearsed, greasy smile stretched across his face. The man knelt next to a tan mongrel that looked skeptically at a bowl of dog food in front of it.

    "Hi there, friends. I'm Edd Frass, president and CEO of Bugaboo Dog Chow. If you're a dog lover like me, I'm sure you'll agree that your pooch needs the absolute best in nutrition. This is where Bugaboo Dog Chow becomes a part of your dog's life."

    There was a close up, slow motion shot of kibble tumbling into a dog food bowl. Mr. Frass continued in a voiceover.

    "Yes, friends, Bugaboo Dog Chow is loaded full of vitamins and nutrients your dog needs to live a healthy and active life...and now Bugaboo Dog Chow contains even more of an all natural ingredient to give your dog extra protein!"

    The camera shot returned to Frass and the dog. "Dogs just love the new taste of Bugaboo Dog Chow," Frass gave the dog's head an affectionate ruffle. "Don'tcha, boy?" Frass held the bowl under the dog's nose. The dog looked at the bowl the same way Beaker did when faced with testing one of Bunsen's inventions.

    The final shot was of a bag of Bugaboo Dog Chow with a filled dog food bowl next to it. A woman's voiceover sang a cheesy jingle:

    "Bug-a-boo! Bug-a-boo!
    Great for mutts and purebreds, too!
    That's Bug-a-boo! Bug-a-boo!
    It's the perfect food for (an offscreen dog barked once) to chew!"

    Rowlf drummed his fingers a little and sang the jingle under his breath. "Not bad. I mean that Frass guy looks a little nutty, but that dog chow of his ain't half bad." He picked up a small bag of Bugaboo Dog Chow from behind his piano. "I like to have a little snack in between practices."

    "Yuccha." remarked Piggy, wrinkling her snout.

    Mr. McFeely nodded. "I have to agree with you there, Miss. The commercial left something out." he reached into his tote bag and pulled out another videotape. "if I may, I'd like to show you all something else." He handed the second video to Scooter. As Scooter put in the second video, Mr. McFeely glanced around the room.

    "I will tell you now that some of what you see won't be very pleasant. If anyone wants to leave the room, you should do it now."

    Many eyes glanced in Robin's direction. Robin immediately puffed out his little chest.

    "I'm a Frog Scout! We're always brave!" he declared. "In fact, I got my merit badge in bravery last week. I even watched on YouTube where Ernie and Bert went to Egypt and I didn't flinch once!"

    Link shuddered and fought the urge to suck his thumb in front of everyone. That statue gave him nightmares for weeks. It was even worse than that red hot "I" in the steel mill.

    "I went to see the Bugaboo Dog Chow factory two towns over and got some behind the scenes footage with my video camera. This is how people make Bugaboo Dog Chow." Mr. McFeely explained.

    The screen immediately displayed a wobbling picture of a huge mixing vat, hidden partially in shadow. Except for the photography, it reminded Kermit of the regular "How People Make Things" films he showed Mr. Rogers.

    Rowlf watched the film with interest, snacking from the bag of dog chow in his paw.

    "When people make Bugaboo Dog Chow, they first start out with putting some ground up soybeans in this vat." Mr. McFeely narrated. A fine, off-white powder sifted into the vat as more different colored powders poured in.

    "Then, this machine adds more powders which are beef, turkey and chicken flavored."

    "BAWK?"

    "Chicken flavored, honey. It's artificial. Don't worry, honey."

    "Bawwwwk."

    "Now, water is poured in and the whole mixture is taken to another machine to be mixed." The camera bumped along, trying to keep the moving vat in shot. The camera ducked as two men in hardhats appeared in the distance. Even in silhouette, the Muppets recognized one immediately as Mr. Frass. The other made Kermit sit up. Was that who he thought that was? The video moved too quick to tell for sure.

    "And now the vat goes to this..." Mr. McFeely paused. "...part of the factory. This is where the extra protein is added in."

    Rowlf crunched away contentedly. It was kind of fun to see a food you liked being made.

    Mr. Frass's assistant came into view, most of his face in shadow and oblivious to the hidden camera. He looked down into the vat of mixed soybeans, water and artificial flavors. With great disgust and obvious guilt, he lifted a huge plastic box in front of him with a capped spout at the front. The word PROTEIN with obvious quotation marks was printed on the side.

    Kermit's mouth popped open in surprise. There was no mistaking who that was.

    It was him.

    The assistant's gloved hand popped open the spout's cover. A stream of something dark poured out at high speed and immediately settled into the mixture.

    It wasn't a liquid. It was pieces of something. Each piece was dark brown, bullet-shaped and about the size of a swollen thumb.

    The videotape's audio squeaked a little. For a moment, the Muppets thought it was just the tape itself squeaking. But the squeaking became louder as the camera got closer. The squeaking quickly turned into a slippery, squishy sound, like an avalanche of boiled eggs. High-pitched, rapid clicking mixed in sounding like a thousand miniature maracas.

    The camera zoomed in further. The dark brown bullet shapes slid over each other, obviously lubricated with something. There was a bump in the film, the camera shook and the screen went black for a moment. The television lit up again to a fuzzy, amber-hued, squirming image. The squishing and clicking grew louder. The camera slowly focused from a fuzzy picture to a horribly clear sight:

    Roaches.

    They filled the screen; writhing, squirming, climbing over each other, wriggling their wavy antennae. There were hundreds of them, perhaps a thousand. More of them poured from above, bouncing on their comrades' slick, oily, filthy backs as their jagged, pointy legs wriggled helplessly. Thousands of opaque, glassy, unblinking eyes searched everywhere at once for an exit that didn't exist.

    The camera slowly pulled back. The roaches were sinking into something gloppy and light tan...the vat of soybeans and artificial flavoring. Countless, thin legs reached for something to grab as they were sucked into the mixture like quicksand. More roaches piled on top, only to sink into the goop.

    Below the vat, the camera filmed a type of tube and a cone-shaped grinder almost completely obscured by shadow. The grinder came to life with a sound of walnut shells being crushed within an orange. The grinder gagged and ground up a particularly tough, half-alive thorax before swallowing it down another translucent tube. With a grunt like a massive case of indigestion, it pumped the pasty, chunky mess through a pulsing, twitching hose. Finally, the end product poured from a dirty spout. It then stopped...poured, then stopped...poured, then stopped. Below it, metallic trays slid by as the hose spit up into each one. The end product spilled a little over the edge, revealing dark, chopped up pieces oozing within the tan mixture. A leg (or possibly an antenna) slid down the side of one tray and fell off. Tray after tray went by, accepting each pile without pausing. Each passing tray made the production line look like a cafeteria run by David Lynch.

    The trays were fitted with molds. Some were round, some square, but many were in the shape of dog biscuits. The metal trays slid down a type of conveyor belt into an oven, where they were cooked. After a brief shuffling in the dark, the camera wobbled and a new, partially focused image appeared.

    Blurry, off-white, vertical shapes jerked across the screen. A background clacking, as if from an off kilter teleprinter, accompanied the shifting shapes.

    The shapes turned into white bags. Gravel (or what looked and sounded like gravel) rumbled from above, filling each bag. As the video camera shifted for a better view, a gray-haired man sat at the end of the production line. Ignoring the "teleprinter" sounds, the man selected an open bag. He picked out a piece of kibble and examined it under a large magnifying glass. Mr. Frass waddled up to him, drumming his fat fingers idly on his hips.

    The gray haired man nodded once and looked up at Frass.

    "It's OK." he said matter-of-factly.

    The camera's last shot was of the finished bags being sealed. Each label read: "Bugaboo Dog Chow--NOW WITH EXTRA ALL NATURAL PROTEIN!" The gray haired man placed the bag back on the jerking belt. His hand swept some kibble crumbs away into the blackness as the factory whistle howled like a wounded animal.

    The tape suddenly ended and the television blipped to a blue screen.

    "And that's...that's how people...make Bugaboo Dog Chow." Mr. McFeely finished quietly, looking pale.

    The room was silent as the Muppets continued to stare at the (now blank) television in disbelief and disgust. Kermit, Robin and Dr. Teeth weren't the only ones who looked green. Rizzo actually lost his appetite. Clifford shook his head as he and Sam shared the same disgusted frown. Gonzo was fanning a faint Camilla with a few of her loose feathers.

    A small hiccup came from an easy chair. Miss Piggy's wide, terrified eyes had not blinked for a full minute. Her grimacing mouth was hidden partially by her bent knees. When the roaches came onscreen, her feet had left the floor so fast, her heels fell off in the process. Piggy's painted toenails gripping the front of the chair seat mimicked her gloved fingers squeezing the arm rests. Meanwhile, behind the chair, Link had fainted.

    Rowlf just stood there. His mouth was...full. He hadn't chewed since he saw...

    Rowlf's eyes slowly widened in delayed shock as he felt the once delicious dog chow turn into something beyond nauseating. He looked at his open paw, which still had some kibble in it. One of the round pieces had something sticking out. It was pointy...

    long...

    amber...

    ...and feebly bending on its own.

    Rowlf's jaw quivered as a few half-chewed crumbs tumbled from his mouth...

    A lot of things happened at once: the sound of loose kibble falling on the hardwood floor, the spinning then crashing piano stool, a dark brown blur flying upstairs to the bathroom, then finally something black and white flying out of the bathroom as the door slammed shut.

    The thing bounced clumsily down the stairs and bumped to a stop at Mr. McFeely's feet, squawking irritably. It was a penguin in a shower cap with a toothbrush in one wing. Smeared Aquafresh traced the rim of its beak. The penguin stood up, glanced around, then waddled off haughtily with its beak in the air, muttering angrily.

    There was a whimper from the other side of the room. "Is it over?" Fozzie had his hands over his eyes and had just now chanced a peek between his fingers.

    Mr. McFeely nodded. "And that's what will be in place of the warehouse soon."

    Miss Piggy regained her composure and slipped back into her heels. "A big, smelly factory filled with bugs? Moi will NOT stand for THAT!"

    "I agree, Miss," said Mr. McFeely sadly. "but unless we find 'The Best Neighbor', Mr. Frass will put up another Bugaboo Dog Chow factory right down the street...and there's nothing we can do about it."

    Visions of squirming, crawling roaches in mixers appeared in everyone's heads.

    "B-but what happens to Mr. Rogers' things?" Fozzie asked timidly.

    "Unless we find 'The Best Neighbor', Mr. Frass will tear down the warehouse...and everything in it. There's--there's a wrecking crew scheduled to go for next week."

    Some of the group glanced at the large drawing on the table. Most of them were still trying to forget those squishing, clicking, grinding, slurping sounds.

    "Y-you mean..." Fozzie began.

    Mr. McFeely nodded sadly. "It'll all be destroyed."

    beebeebeebeep! beebeebeebeeep!

    "Oh, my goodness!" Mr. McFeely looked at his digital watch. "I'll be late! Listen--I'll leave the tapes and drawing here and I'll be back tomorrow morning to pick them up. Let me know if you can help us, Mr. Frog."

    The watch beeped again as Mr. McFeely hurried out the door to his bicycle.

    "If my Uncle Kermit can help me with that rotten ol' long division for school, he can help you with this!" said Robin brightly, trying to reassure him.

    Mr. McFeely tried to smile back, but it barely came. Instead, he just hopped on his bike and was gone.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  5. redBoobergurl Well-Known Member

    Oh my....

    I can't believe no one has commented yet so let me be the first.

    First of all, I love how you are tieing the Muppets to Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. As someone who grew up with both, I believe they definitely go hand in hand. I am very intrigued by the Best Neighbor and have some ideas of who it might be, but I will wait to see where this goes!

    You have a ton of mystery and suspense going here, with the descriptions of Mr. Frass and his assistant, and I'm definitely creeped out by Mr. Frass!

    I'll admit the graphic nature of the dog food scene was difficult to read, but I understand why you did it and the reactions were more or less appropriate from the characters and as a fellow author I know sometimes it's necessary to write stuff like that. But the penguin was a nice comic relief after that point, it was helpful!

    Everyone is in perfect character here and you provide alot of detailed description, I am totally and completely sucked in. I look forward to reading more!
  6. The Count Moderator

    *Gives story stamp of nagger's approval. *Aims muffin cannon at both John and Boobergurl to get updates to their tales of fanficdom.
  7. Convincing John Well-Known Member

    The dog food scene was difficult for me to read...and write too! (I felt so bad for poor Rowlf!) But like I said, it had to be in there. We have to see what's going on in the factory to know what's going on in Frass's head. He's our bad guy in this story. Also, the scene was necessary for the point of view from the assistant. We'll see plenty more of him in this story, too.

    That whole roach thing is (of course) Mr. Frass's plan. Don't worry, that's the most gross, graphic scene in the whole thing...or at least it should be. We will see the factory again, but a different part of it. Rest assured, there will be no more close up shots of the mixing machines.:)

    There are a few references here in this chapter. For those who have seen it, there's a 'pencil factory' scene in the David Lynch film "Eraserhead" that inspired the scene in the story where the guy is inspecting the kibble. "It's OK." is right from the film.

    Also, the name 'Edd' comes from a nasty former teacher of mine (he spelled it with an extra 'd').

    One last reference, do you know that "Frass" is a real word? Yup. Use a dictionary or a Google search to find out it's definition.

    Yes, Count, there will be an update very, very soon!

    Convincing John
  8. Convincing John Well-Known Member

    Here's the 'pencil factory' scene from Eraserhead, which inspired the Bugaboo Dog Chow inspector:



    The first minute and a half is all you really need to see.:D

    New chapter forthcoming very soonish.

    Convincing John
  9. Convincing John Well-Known Member

    Chapter 3

    Almost no one was very hungry when suppertime came, and for once it didn't have to do with the Swedish Chef's cooking. Animal and Floyd (who had missed seeing Mr. McFeely entirely) were the only ones who had any supper. Animal had the banister he had looked forward to. Floyd chained up Animal in the basement before taking a bag of Cheetos from the kitchen. On the way, Rizzo passed him with a plate. Even Rizzo's appetite was subdued. He only had four slices of pepperoni and anchovy pizza. Floyd blinked at him and shuffled back down to the basement, away from all the activity.

    Rizzo gobbled up the first slice of pizza as Pepe watched with amazement.

    "Ai, dios mio! How can jou eat after seeing dat film, hokay?"

    "Hey, I gotta have a little sometin' before I go ta sleep tonight. Otherwise, I can't get to sleep until after it's time for my post-Late Show, pre-midnight snack. Then my mealtimes will be all messed up."

    "Ay yi yi." the prawn rolled his eyes in exasperation.

    Instead of having supper, the Muppets were doing anything they could to keep their minds off that...film. Robin sprawled out on the floor with his long division. Sweetums offered to help even though he wasn't very good at math. He had suggested eating Robin's homework for him so he'd have an excuse for the teacher.

    "Sweetums, the teacher knows that trick," Robin said. "I used that already with my history report last week."

    Sweetums picked his teeth. "Oh yeah."

    "Uh!" snorted Sam. "You sir, have no respect for the decency and integrity of American history!"

    "Course I do!" Sweetums answered. "American history is wonderful!"

    "Really?" agreed Sam, skeptical at the monster's sudden display of patriotism. "Then tell me something about..." he grabbed Robin's history book and flipped through it as his eyes shifted back and forth "...the origins of the Bill of Rights! Hmph!"

    Sweetums scratched his head. "Well, according to what Robin wrote..."

    "Yes?" Sam leered.

    "It was delicious!" Sweetums concluded. Robin put his math book over his head and laughed as Sam covered his face and groaned.

    The band was in the basement, working on some sheet music. It was their chance to go over some of the more complicated parts while Animal was asleep. Lips rubbed his tufted chin as he penciled in some notes on a staff. Janice and Floyd jammed lightly as Dr. Teeth experimentally played the notes, seeing how well they worked. Zoot glanced at the sheet music, gave a little nod, then sat down to take a nap.

    Gonzo was filling a tuba with string beans and rolled up argyle socks for his new act. Fozzie was practicing his jokes to anyone who would listen. Piggy sat in one of the easy chairs with a huge pile of miscellaneous objects in front of her. A high heeled shoe, some half-empty mascara bottles, empty plastic bonbon trays, wadded up takeout menus, lipstick tubes, a compact, a cell phone, fuzzy Life Savers, sunglasses, tissues, dried up pens, another shoe, more bonbon trays and a hacksaw clattered to the floor. (She was cleaning out her purse). Meanwhile, Rizzo scurried under the couch, munching on old potato chip crumbs and stale jellybeans for a second course. One of Piggy's old, lint-covered breath mints made a perfect dessert.

    Rizzo paused to see two figures rush by. Clifford chased after Pepe, angrily waving a phone bill. He had found out that Pepe had used Clifford's cell phone to call dozens of random women in Barcelona. As Clifford ran past, he yelled something about a "one way ticket to Red Lobster".

    In the parlor, Scooter waved his baton, conducting the Penguin Choir. They were rehearsing their latest musical number ("Duel of the Fates") with Marvin Suggs and his Muppaphone. (He had been looking for an excuse to try out his double-headed mallet). So far, the penguins sounded all right, but the Muppaphones were a little flat.

    Kermit barely looked up from the kitchen table as the Swedish Chef chased a frantic trio of chickens with a smoking, roaring belt sander. This happened every Tuesday.

    Kermit stayed at the table for two reasons. One was to keep an eye on the mysterious drawing in front of him. The other was to watch out the window. For the past half hour, Kermit listened to someone gargling Gershwin, then Rogers and Hammerstein, then some Gilbert and Sullivan. Between gargling, Kermit heard steady chewing.

    Figuring the drawing was safe for a few moments, Kermit walked outside. It was twilight. Only the sound of the occasional passing car and Statler and Waldorf's snoring from the porch disturbed the constant sound Kermit loved.

    Frogs.

    There was a river not far away. The chorus of frogs, hundreds of them, chirped and croaked..."singing for rain", as some of the old folks said. Even though it was late autumn, the frogs kept it up in Hensonville until almost the first snowfall.

    Some frogs chose that life, just chirping and croaking on the riverbank. Kermit remembered that life. It was fun. Even though he loved his friends and showbusiness very much, he was tempted to take a weekend off one of these days and join in the frog chorus. The frogs "singing for rain" always made him happy.

    Chew, chomp, chomp...gawarggggwrgglllewrrgggg...ptoo!

    The poor guy... thought Kermit.

    Rowlf still looked a little green as he sat on the lawn. Of course there was green around his mouth, some green in his fur and even some green splashed down his stomach. He was pulling up handfuls of grass and shoving them in his mouth. After swallowing, he grabbed a bottle of Scope, took a hearty swig, gargled out a tune, spit, wiped his mouth and grabbed for more grass.

    Kermit looked at the area around Rowlf and sighed. At least we won't have to worry about mowing the lawn over here for a while. he thought.

    "Hey!"

    Rowlf paused and looked up.

    "How you doin'?" Kermit knelt down and patted Rowlf's shoulder.

    Rowlf nodded. "Three more bottles and a quarter of the yard should do it."

    Kermit grinned. He knew that if Rowlf kept his sense of humor, he was going to be fine.

    "Feel like coming in?"

    Rowlf burped. "'Scuse me. Um..."

    "Everyone's busy doing stuff right now. You could play a little piano. It might take your mind off of...y'know."

    Rowlf's mouth twitched.

    "How could he do that?" Rowlf angrily pounded his fist on an empty Scope bottle lying on the lawn. "All those innocent dogs...innocent puppies eating...roaches! Roaches! I'd like to give that Frass a piece of my mind!" he yelled.

    Kermit understood completely. As a frog, he had no trouble eating flies, mosquitoes, the occasional cricket and centipedes. He'd even have a firefly if he wanted just a light snack.

    But roaches...blecch! No self-respecting frog would eat a roach. They were terrible, no matter how much ketchup you put on them. They didn't sauteé or fry at all, and all they did in the microwave was explode. Yecch.

    "Have you figured out who did that drawing?" Rowlf asked, trying to calm himself and focus on something different.

    Kermit shook his head. "No, but I've figured out a few things that might help. Want to come in and see what you think?"

    Rowlf sighed and glanced around at the bare spots and $30 worth of spit-up Scope.

    "Okay...maybe we can solve this mystery after all."

    Kermit helped Rowlf gather up the bottles and took them to the recycling bin.

    "You know, Rowlf, there is someone else we're going to have to face besides Frass when we find 'The Best Neighbor'." Kermit lifted the lid as Rowlf poured the bottles in with a series of hollow 'clunks'."

    "Who?"

    Now it was Kermit's turn to let his mouth twitch.

    "Max."

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  10. The Count Moderator

    *Laughs at the bit where Clifford chases Pepe.
    Good Muppety humor throughout.
    Nice little bit of wistfulness with the mention of the Frog Chorus.
    Waiting to learn if the gang figures out that drawing means what we already know. Heck, even me who's visually challenged has been batting a thousand on those FB Muppet quizzes.

    *Wants more story... Please?
  11. LamangoNumber2 Active Member

  12. Convincing John Well-Known Member

    Just FYI for the readers, if you'd like, go ahead and open up Wikipedia in a second window. Why? Well, Dr. Teeth is going to explain something to Rowlf in this scene. Just for fun, you can use Wikipedia to find out what our grinning piano man is telling our canine friend before he figures it out...

    Or you can read on and get a clue from the other members of the band. At any rate...

    Chapter Four

    "It can't be."

    "It's him...I know it's him."

    Kermit and Rowlf were sitting at the kitchen table looking at the drawing. Rowlf looked more like his old self again; contemplative and (thanks to a quick shower) his fur free of Scope and grass stains. His face expressed mild disbelief as Kermit explained.

    "It is Max." Kermit insisted. "he's the one who was on that tape. I recognized his glasses and hair right away."

    Rowlf frowned a little. "What would Max be doing working for someone like..."

    "Max made a poor choice when he got tangled up with Doc Hopper. I wouldn't be surprised if he did it again."

    A sudden wave of panic went through Rowlf's stomach that had nothing to do with roaches.

    "What if...what if Max tells Frass about us? If Max remembers me, Frass might want to make me advertise for him like Hopper did with you."

    "That's not going to happen," said Kermit decidedly. "First, I think Max wouldn't make that same mistake twice. At least I hope not. Second of all, if Frass did find out about you, he'd find out you worked for Purina. For all he'd know, he'd think you'd still have a contract with them."

    "That's true." Rowlf nodded.

    "Finally," Kermit concluded. "what would you do if you were on one of those commercials for Frass?"

    "I'd throw up right there on camera."

    "Exactly!" Kermit smiled, patting Rowlf on the back. "and you wouldn't want that all over YouTube and the Muppet Central and Tough Pigs Forums, would you?" he joked. "So, I don't think you'll have anything to worry about."

    Rowlf half-smiled. "Okay."

    Kermit looked at the drawing again, his face becoming serious again. "But what does worry me, aside from why Max is working for Frass, is this drawing. If I don't figure out who did it, then Frass will destroy that warehouse with Mr. Rogers' things for the Smithsonian."

    Rowlf looked up. "What do you mean 'I'?"

    "Huh?"

    "You said 'if I don't figure out who did it'. What makes you think you're in this by yourself?" Rowlf's paw gave Kermit's arm a little squeeze. "I'm in. I never met Mr. Rogers, none of us have, but I know how much doing stuff for kids means to you..."

    ...for both of us he concluded in afterthought.

    "You're right...but if we had even more help from the gang we could get this mystery solved a lot quicker."

    "I'll help you round 'em up."

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    On his way upstairs to find Piggy, Fozzie and the others, Kermit heard a crash coming from one of the rooms.

    This was one of the extra rooms sometimes used for practices, a temporary guest room or storage. Not knowing quite what to expect, Kermit gingerly opened the door.

    Immediately, he noticed a large cloud of dust, small pieces of wood and some insulation sprinkling down from the ceiling. When Kermit looked up, he noticed something else: two saddle-shod feet kicking wildly. Kermit ducked just in time to avoid another crash. Beaker, covered in dust, landed harshly on the floor and wailed miserably.

    "Another scientific breakthrough, Beakie! We've done it!"

    You had a breakthrough, all right. Kermit frowned at the overhead jagged hole.

    When the dust settled, Kermit saw Bunsen Honeydew smiling proudly next to a lit up TV screen. Next to it was a souped-up old school Nintendo console with questionable wiring snaking in and out of it. Its crooked antenna topped with a blinking light alternated with a matching one coming from Beaker's dust-covered, retracted head. When Kermit looked closer, he noticed that Beaker was wearing a cap. It was similar to the one Mario wore, but marked with a "B" instead of an "M". "B"'s were also printed on faintly sparking straps around Beaker's wrists and ankles.

    "What..." Kermit started. He really wasn't sure if he wanted to ask.

    "It's our latest invention!" Bunsen boasted. "Well, it's an improvement on an existing invention, but once they hear about it, Nintendo will be begging us to buy the prototype!"

    "Uhh...yeah." Kermit couldn't think of anything else to say.

    "After Beakie and I read about people becoming more active with the Nintendo Wii, we figured 'why not take it a step further? Why just use your hands or your feet with a game when you can use your whole body?' So that's when we developed our latest video game invention. I call it the Nintendo Meep!"

    The TV screen now displayed the title card for the original Super Mario Bros. game.

    "Oh, here we go! Let's see if we can get to the end of the level this time!" Bunsen picked up the old school Nintendo controller. An additional antenna attached to it quivered. The matching antenna on Beaker's hat and the straps to his wrists and ankles responded. Against his will, Beaker leapt to his feet.

    "Uh, can you two come downstairs, please? We're having a meeting in a few minutes."

    "No problem! This level will only take a moment and we'll be right down. At least I think it'll take a moment. I know how to create video games...I've just never been very good at playing them."

    The TV screen now displayed the caption "WORLD 1-1". The Super Mario Bros. theme started up. Bunsen lifted his glasses momentarily and clumsily poked the controller buttons.

    On the screen, Mario skidded left, right, then left again. Beaker mimicked the same steps. Mario leapt high into the air. Beaker's ankle straps tightened. Beaker leapt like a ballerina and landed on a tall bookcase. Mario ran underneath some bricks, then butted them for coins. Beaker jumped and repeatedly smacked his head against the support beams. Mario jumped over a pipe and kicked a green shell. Beaker jumped off the bookcase and kicked a bowling ball, hurting his foot. Mario jumped into a green pipe. Beaker leaped into an opening in the air ducts. As Mario jumped for coins, Kermit watched the air duct bulge, bang and shake while making muffled meeps. The two of them exited their pipes simultaneously. Soon, the big, brown castle and flagpole was in sight onscreen.

    "We did it, Beakie! Here we are at the end of the level!" he turned to Kermit. "We'll be right down."

    It was easier done than said in Beaker's case. As Mario bounced up the big staircase, Kermit hopped back as Beaker jumped past him and out the door. Mario gave a big leap. Beaker did as well and soon discovered he had leaped over the balcony and was now in mid-air, with the parlor floor fifteen feet below him. In desperation, Beaker grabbed the closest thing to him, the cord to a chandelier. As he did, Mario grabbed the flagpole. Both of them slid down. As Mario gave the "peace" sign and disappeared inside the castle, the chandelier groaned. So did Beaker. He tried to grab onto something else, but his hands only succeeded in loosening the light bulbs. A half second later, Beaker and the chandelier crashed to the floor, followed by plaster, followed by a cloud of dust.

    "Oh, my goodness!" cheered Bunsen. "The timer ended on a five! How snazzy!"

    On the screen, fireworks exploded around the castle. As if on cue, five light bulbs followed, shattering around Beaker. The last light bulb popped on his head. The red cap and straps sparked while Beaker's eyes swiveled. He gave a final moaning meep before fainting.

    Clifford frowned. "Aw man! This is not cool! Just when I think that every light gets fixed in this place..." he tossed his newspaper aside and grumbled his way to the garage for his tool box.

    As Kermit dealt with things upstairs, Rowlf went to the landing of the basement stairs to call up the Electric Mayhem. As the band passed by him up the stairs, Rowlf noticed two band members were missing.

    "Hey, where's Floyd and Animal?"

    Lips opened his mouth to speak, but Dr. Teeth beat him to it.

    "Oh, they're positively in the same vicinity as the dwelling of which we now exist, but it appears that at present they aren't within the range of our ocular abilities. Our moustached musician has taken our Stephan Bibrowski-esque percussionist to a nearby Lithocarpus for a much needed Tarō Gomi inspired activity."

    "Like, too much granola'll do it, fer sure." added Janice.

    Rowlf was, of course, a musician. He was used to a lot of scat talk and musical jargon, but the Electric Mayhem's way of communicating was completely unique. Most of the time, he just hoped to get the gist of what was being said when they rehearsed together.

    Of all people, Zoot translated for him. Zoot pointed limply to the window behind Rowlf as he shuffled along lazily.

    "Bathroom, man."

    Rowlf turned around. Out in the yard, Floyd held Animal's chain taught as the drummer circled a beech tree. Floyd circled the opposite way to keep Animal from wrapping the chain around himself. In the process, Floyd looked like someone trying to fly an unwieldy model airplane on a tether cord.

    Deciding (wisely) to stay away and just wait for the two of them to come in, Rowlf got to work gathering up everyone he could find in the kitchen and parlor.

    Within five minutes, nearly everyone was present around the kitchen table. The drawing lay in the center among some of the usual clutter--bills, today's newspaper, Robin's homework and a few chickens.

    "Kermie, will this take long? Moi's agent is supposed to be calling."

    "Anyone seen Connie Sue? I threw her ay-way, but she didn't come back to me!" A flounder sailed across the room and bounced off Sam's head. "Oh, there you are!"

    "Buck bawk?"

    "Well, I switched to the argyle socks because I can't get the the tube socks tuned correctly."

    "Oongesh ber de froggy der be do?"

    "Where's da food? I'm starvin'!"

    "What's this meeting about, chief?"

    "Probably about snu."

    "What's 'snu'?"

    "Nothing's 'snu'. What's 'snu' with you? Wocka wocka wocka!"

    "I hope this meeting takes a long time so we don't have to rehearse anymore. My head is killing me---"

    "SHUUUUT UP!" POW!

    "OW!"

    "Of course when we get to level 2, I can place Insta-Grow pills inside of portabellos around the room for you, Beakie. But I'll have to find a way to genetically engineer a real Fire Flower..."

    "MEE MOH MEEEE?"

    "Like I halways say, de womens from Barcelonas love a prawn from Madrid."

    "And if I get a hold of you, they'll love you with cocktail sauce!"

    "QUIIIIIII-EETTT!" Kermit yelled and waved his arms frantically.

    Almost everyone fell silent.

    "...and so I said, 'sure, I'd love to work as a camp counselor, but not at a nudist camp!' So then I..." Janice glanced around. "...oh."

    "Okay," began Kermit. "Rowlf and I have been talking about this drawing that Mr. McFeely delivered. We're going to conduct a search around Hensonville and...a second place, I guess...to find out who sent it in order to save Mr. Rogers things for the Smithsonian. And so..."

    Someone's hand went up...a hand with a fish in it.

    "Yes, Lew?"

    "Why?"

    "Why what? We have to find out who sent it."

    "No, no, I mean..." Lew looked around. Someone had to say it. It might as well be him. "I mean, Mister Rogers is for little kids. Why should we care? Can't someone else help him out? We've never met him."

    Silent agreement rippled through part of the crowd. There were some small nods.

    "Like, Kermit, I know you rully think this is important, but there's no way you can ask everyone in Hensonville and find out who sent this thing by next week. And like, kids have all kinds of other things to watch on TV now, anyway." said Janice.

    "Yeah, I bet they won't even miss it. It's for pre-preschoolers anyway, Kerm." agreed Clifford.

    "He's no Bill Nye...he's not even a Sid. Clifford is correct, Mr. Kermit," Bunsen agreed. "according to my calculations, at the rate of preschooler growth and development compared to the ratio of available channels and programs, the percentage of children who still care about the program is most likely minuscule."

    "Meep?"

    "Janice is right, chief. With everyone all over Hensonville, there's just not enough time to find this 'Best Neighbor'. If they lose the tapes, they can always put something better on TV anyway. The kids won't even realize it...right, boss?" asked Scooter.

    "Si si," agreed Pepe. "Put someting on for de kiddies with lots of womens on it. De honly womens my size on dat show is de scary one, hokay? I'm not into de 'boomerang, toomerang, soomerangs', hokay?"

    "WHO...CARES?" Marvin shouted, leaning forward. "It is a BABY SHOW."

    Though no one would say it so bluntly, a lot of them thought what Marvin had just said. Why did it have to be up to Kermit to save the warehouse? He had a lot on his mind with the show. He never met this guy...someone who did this...well...baby show.

    "Listen gang," Kermit folded his hands on the table and glanced around at the faces of his friends. "it's...it's hard to explain unless you know what it's all about. See, none of you know what it's like except for me and Rowlf. It's about the kids."

    Rowlf chimed in. "Yeah, see...what would happen if Frass wanted to do this same thing to Sesame Street?"

    "We'd chip right in and help you then," agreed Lew. "but that's different. They're your family."

    A hubbub of agreement went around the table.

    "Okay, okay..." Kermit raised his voice a little to quiet the chatter. "See, you'd help out then, even though Sesame Street is for preschoolers, too?"

    No one gave that a thought. Sesame Street was intentionally for preschoolers, sure, but it was so much more. Everyone knew that.

    "It means a lot to us...and to lots of kids, too. Just like Mister Rogers does. Even though I never met him, I know Mister Rogers had a dream too. There wasn't much dancing, but it had a lot of singing and making people happy. And..." he looked at the drawing on the table. "...someone cared enough about him to send him this, because Mister Rogers made this person happy. And...it just reminds me of..."

    "...Those letters." Gonzo finished without thinking.

    "Oh, si, si, de letters on de 'Sesame Streets', hokay. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, hokay."

    "Not those letters." Rowlf knew instantly, as did many of them. The letters still came once in a while. The ones read on the air that unforgettable night were carefully preserved in a safe upstairs. Clifford poked a finger behind his shades and rubbed his eye a little. He remembered reading that letter decorated similar to the one on the table...

    Dear Kermit...I hope you feel better. I will miss Jim Henson, too. I hope this letter makes you feel better. I love you...

    Gonzo's thoughts were on the same wavelength... It's a good thing there are people who can do Jim Henson's job...he will be able to see us every time we watch the Muppets. He will be able to see them from Heaven.

    Robin, sitting on the table near the drawing, would never forget the one he saw. Someone named 'Matt' had drawn Kermit, kneeling and sad beneath a rainbow.

    "Mr. McFeely is kind of like me. He was Mr. Rogers good friend, like Jim was my friend. I know that if the same thing were to happen to anything of Jim's, I'd want someone to help me."

    There was a long pause.

    "Kermit?" Fozzie gently touched Kermit's shoulder. "Even though I never met Mister Rogers...I'd like to help." Fozzie then glanced at the crowd before quickly looking at his feet. "I...when my monologues didn't go so well, I'd remember what he said..." Fozzie then muttered in a small voice. "he...he made me feel a little better about myself. That's all...and he..." Fozzie shrugged a little, looked down again and fiddled with his tie. "That's all..."

    Kermit patted Fozzie on the shoulder knowingly. Only Kermit knew about the well-worn copy of "The World According to Mister Rogers" Fozzie kept with his joke books. After all, Kermit had given it to him.

    "I'll help too, Uncle Kermit," smiled Robin. "I mean...Mister Rogers is for little frogs, but it's important to you, so I'll help."

    "If Robin's helping, then I'm helping, too." Sweetums chimed in.

    "And I'll help," added Gonzo. "the man knew culture. I've seen it."

    "Yes he does," nodded Sam approvingly. "his program may be for youngsters, but having brilliant segments featuring such artists as Yo-Yo Ma, extraordinary ballet dancers and the outstanding opera episodes introduces American viewers to sophisticated culture at an early age! I will help as well."

    "I'm not talking about that," said Gonzo. "I'm talking about that brilliant movie he showed! It's a cinematic masterpiece--'How People Make Toilets!'" he crowed enthusiastically.

    Rizzo gave him a look. "What?"

    "It's in episode #1723 'Giving and Receiving'....look it up." replied Gonzo.

    There was some quick typing at the other end of the table.

    "He's right." said Scooter, tapping at his laptop screen.

    "We're in, too. All for one and one for all." grinned Dr. Teeth. Janice, Zoot and Lips cheered in agreement. Penguins, chickens, the Swedish Chef and the others chattered their approval. Even Marvin Suggs gave a half-hearted shrug and a slight nod.

    "Oh, I don't know," drawled Link. "isn't it just easier to forget about it? I mean, all my favorite bowling shows are on this week. Besides, the kids have other things to watch like Dora the...uh, the Adventurer, Curious Gerard and Bob the Fixer. And if Mister Rogers goes off the air, they can always put on more episodes of Bar-"

    Several hands clamped over Link's mouth like lightning, the last hand being one of Pepe's.

    "Ah, dios mio!" his eyes froze in terror. "Don't jou hever say dat word!" he yelled. "Not unless you say 'rubble' or 'fifes' after it, hokay! Look, look!" he turned Scooter's laptop around and found a bookmarked site. "See dat? See, it says 'don't say de bad words on de Muppet Central Forum', hokay. If jou do, the moderators put a locky ting on de thread and POOF! No more story, hokay!"

    Link's narrow forehead wrinkled. "Varmee's a bam wrrd on Mrffet Cntrll?"

    A pair of stern, shifty eyes glared into Link's.

    "Not technically, but in the face of all that is moral, pure and wholesome, I say it is! There is not one iota of culture, intelligence or decency associated with that program. It is an insult to anyone with the IQ above a houseplant! According to the distinguished American author Michael Davis, It once even threatened to destroy Kermit's second home to which he and millions of red-blooded Americans hold dear! Had I more knowledge on website design, I would create an online petition to BAN that...ugh!..." Sam shuddered at the thought. "...THING from American television forever!" Sam pointed at the laptop screen. These moderators work long and hard to keep that website clean and free from such utter FILTH for which YOU sir, almost spilled forth in front of innocent readers!"

    The hands left Link's mouth. "Oh, uh...I uh, didn't know...uh..."

    "Besides, you wouldn't want those roaches all over Hensonville, would you?" asked Lew. "Imagine if someone made money off of mixing roaches in with pig swill. How would you feel?"

    "That'd be terrible!" he moaned. He turned to his left. "Wouldn't it, Piggy? All of our delicious swill ruined by bugs!" he leaned against her and sobbed against her shoulder.

    "Get off me!" Piggy gave Link a shove. "Moi has certainly NEVER eaten swill!"

    Link gave Piggy a look. "Oh, sure you have! Remember when we were at summer camp as piglets together?" Piggy's face turned beet red from embarrassment, rage or a combination of both.

    Link drawled on, a big smile spreading across his face (now that he had everyone's attention). He elbowed Piggy in the ribs. "Sure! It was at good ol' Camp Sowaoinka years and years ago. At lunch, Piggy lined up with us at the ol' feeding trough and said 'this is the best swill I've had since I was a little porker back at the sty!' Remember, Piggy? Huh huh! You still had swill on your face when we had our group camp photos taken. I got mine in my wallet right here--"

    Before Link could reach for his wallet, a lavender-gloved hand clamped it down to his thigh.

    As the rest of the Muppets looked on, Miss Piggy turned to us, the readers.

    "Pardon Moi for breaking the fourth wall, but Moi believes we are having technical difficulties with this story. We will be back in an eensy-teensy moment."

    (Piggy then reached up and pulled down a huge shade, blocking us from view. "Please Stand By" is displayed, while Herb Alpert's 'Little Spanish Flea' plays in the background).

    When the shade was lifted, Piggy had her hands folded on the table and a look of satisfaction on her face. Link's chair was empty.

    "Now, where were we?" she asked sweetly.

    "Uhh..." Kermit glanced briefly at the settling tuft of shredded paper behind Piggy. Trying to ignore the smell of a burnt electrical motor, he continued..."Mister Rogers..."

    "Yes, Mister Rogers, yes," she agreed. "Well, you know how I feel about fashion, Kermie. The man had no fashion sense. I mean, only TWO pairs of shoes? Come on! And blue sneakers just do not go together with those sweaters of his."

    Kermit sighed. Here it comes, she's bailing out on us.

    "But it is important to vous, Kermie...so I will help you."

    "Oh good." he smiled.

    "Of course we will want something decent on television for our future children, Kermie." she batted her eyelashes at him.

    "Ah...uh...(gulp)...well, then that's settled then. We're all in this together."

    "So what do we do first, chief?" asked Scooter.

    Rowlf rubbed his chin. "I'd say the first thing we do is try to figure out how to reach as many people in Hensonville as we can. We don't have much time."

    "Right!" agreed Kermit. "I think the best thing we can do is shoot some kind of announcement and broadcast it over our local Hensonville TV station. I might have a little pull in some of the other networks, so if we're lucky, we'll get some airtime on those channels, too."

    "Television?" Piggy smiled, her eyes twinkling. "Oh Kermie, may Moi be in it?"

    "Why not?" Kermit agreed. "unless anyone has a better idea, let's do it."

    "Ah, to send our message over the television airwaves is an excellent choice, Kermit," said Sam. "however, so we don't attract any WEIRDO viewers, I vote to broadcast our announcement on C-SPAN. This way, we will be guaranteed to reach only sophisticated audiences..."

    "...and put 'em to sleep!" Rizzo muttered to Pepe. They both chuckled as Sam glared at them.

    "Well, I was thinking that we should start with shooting it at the KMUP Studio," Kermit explained. "that way we can save some money, plus we can do it more quickly."

    "No problem, Kerm," said Clifford. "those lights oughta be just fine."

    "And I'll sweep up and polish the floors so they're all shiny-shiny!" smiled Bo.

    "And we'll tune up the transmitter!" Bunsen said as he twiddled his fingers excitedly. Beaker's head telescoped down to his shoulders.

    "But wait, wait..." said a little voice. Kermit felt a small hand tugging on his arm.

    "Shouldn't we look at the picture first to see if we can figure out who did it? There might be a clue." Robin was closest to the drawing and was pacing around its edges.

    "Robin, sweetheart," said Piggy. "don't you remember? Mr. McWhatsisname said the return address was too smeared to read. See?" her gloved hand pointed to an inky blotch in the corner of the envelope.

    Robin let out a little exasperated sigh. "I know the address is ruined, but the picture isn't. We might find something out by looking at the picture."

    "It's a kid's drawing," shrugged Lew. "what more is there?"

    Robin's facial expression clearly said 'do grownups have to have everything explained to them?'

    "A lot," said Robin decidedly. "if we just look at it and study it, like Mr. McFeely wants us to, we might know how to find Mr. Rogers' 'Best Neighbor'."

    Rowlf nodded. "Let's give it a try."

    The Muppets watched as Robin walked up to the picture and swept his little arm over it. "It's obvious what this picture is of, isn't it?" he looked up, hoping that one of them would get it.

    "Oongesh der de Neberhood de Meeke-Beleeve."

    "Right!" cheered Robin. "Don'tcha see it?"

    "oh?"

    "...oohhh...."

    "...OH!"

    To some of the Muppets, it was like looking at a Magic Eye picture. They only saw it for what it was after they were told to look for it. Fozzie knew right off the bat what it was, but he felt he had already revealed too much about being a fan of Mister Rogers.

    "Of course! There's the tree where the owl and that cat live!" said Sweetums. "Remember the cat that always went..."

    "Mowmomewmemow." read Robin off the drawing.

    "There's the tiger's clock!" said Scooter, pointing to the upright rectangle.

    "And that psychedelic factory." said Dr. Teeth, pointing to the pink shape.

    "And dat's where de scary womens lives, hokay." said Pepe, indicating the squat, gray shape.

    "And there's Sweetums!"

    Everyone looked at Bo.

    "See? There he is! Right there!" Bo pointed to the brown lump on the page. "He's watching the show on TV!" he turned to Sweetums. "I didn't know you went to Mister Fred's Neighborhoodland!"

    "I think that's...didn't some duck things live there?" asked Bunsen.

    "Mee-me-mee-me."

    "Oh, platypuses. You're right, Beakie."

    "And that's the...the castle!" said Gonzo.

    "Waaaaiiit a minnut," argued Rizzo. "If dat's da castle, den what's a candy bar wrapper doin' on dere? See?" he scraped a little chocolate off the wrapper and tasted it. "See? It's stuck on dere wit' chocolate!" he smacked his lips. "Mmm...and nougat."

    "That's disgusting!" said Piggy. "That chocolate's at least six years old!"

    "Hey, it's properly aged," Rizzo replied. "it improves the flavor."

    Robin rubbed his chin and leaned over the blue illustration. "I think I get it. King Friday lives in the castle...and it's a Payday candy bar wrapper. Now, when does Uncle Kermit pass out the paychecks at the theater?"

    "Ummm...when we have money?" asked Gonzo.

    "Okay, okay, when we have money. But when do the paychecks usually arrive?"

    "FRIDAY!" everyone knew that.

    "See? Friday...Payday...I think that's a clue." explained Robin. "Maybe whoever drew this knows that their mom or dad or whoever gets paid on Fridays. That's why they put that wrapper there because...whoever drew this can't write well," he pointed to the various, shaky letters, some with missing parts. "So instead of writing 'Friday', they found something that...well...sort of matches."

    "I think some kid was just eating and it just stuck there while he was coloring." nodded Lew.

    "You'd think so," said Robin. "but Mrs. Appleby always tells us to pay close attention to details. See how evenly it's stuck on here? And plus, there's this line going through the castle. That's where King Friday would come out. See? Payday is Friday. King Friday lives in the castle. Get it? This was put here on purpose. It's--" Robin touched the wrapper. "--so evenly pasted on there, too..."

    "Except around da corners." Rizzo scraped his finger around the edge of the wrapper and licked off the extra chocolate. Piggy grimaced.

    "But what about these people?" asked Scooter.

    "Yeengesh her be poortreet uf me!" the Swedish Chef pointed to the chef in the drawing.

    "No, no..." corrected Rowlf. "remember, we have to think of things from Mister Rogers' show."

    "Chef Broccoli!" smiled Bo. "He makes those cakes!"

    "I think it's Brockett, Bo." said Rowlf. "this could be...Lady Aberlin...in fact I'm sure it is..."

    Piggy took a guess. "That's Mr. McWhatsisname with the mailbag, isn't it?" The blue suit, the hat, the gray blob looked like it could be a mailbag...

    "And there's Mr. Rogers with the trolley!" finished Robin. "See? The trolley goes..." he traced a little green finger along the black lines from the trolley to the castle. "...into the Neighborhood of Make Believe."

    The words (or partial words) were easy enough to figure out. Rowlf guessed at the trickier ones.

    "These are some lyrics," he then sang part of a Mister Rogers song he remembered as he pointed to individual letters on the drawing. He sang "for a friendship with me, you see--that's what 'U C' stands for--F-R-I-E-N-D special. You are my friend."

    "Well, thanks mostly to Robin, we have at least part of this puzzle straightened out," said Kermit. "now besides getting the studio ready, we have a couple of things to worry about. One is keeping this drawing hidden. The way we will find out who drew it is to ask kids and their grownups to describe it to us. Once we get the most detailed description, then we'll show them the drawing and ask if it's theirs. This is the only way for sure we know who Mister Rogers picked. I'll keep the drawing safe for now with...with the letters upstairs. I'll ask Mr. McFeely if it's okay for us to hang onto it for now."

    "So what's the second thing we have to worry about, chief?" asked Scooter.

    Kermit's face fell as he remembered. He gulped. How could he tell them? Rowlf silently looked at an empty space on the tabletop, slightly worried.

    "...Max..." Kermit finally got out.

    "Wha? Max who? Max what?" asked Clifford.

    "Cinemax, he probably means Cinemax, hokay. Kermin is going to get us Cinemax wit de late night womens movies on it, hokay."

    "Just Max." Kermit said more loudly, quieting the prawn.

    "That Max?" Fozzie cringed.

    "What about Max?" asked Scooter.

    "He's...he's working for Frass." Kermit tried not to meet anyone's eyes directly.

    "No!" shouted Gonzo. Dr. Teeth's eyelids raised in alarm.

    "Are you sure? How did you find out, Kermit?" Fozzie asked.

    "It was in that video. Max was in it...I know it was him pouring those--"

    "Ulp." Rowlf put a hand over his mouth. "--Okay. We know, Kermit."

    "It was?" asked Scooter.

    Kermit nodded sadly. "I recognized him. He's still got the same glasses and hair. I'd recognize him anywhere."

    "And where there's Max..." Robin began.

    "Doc Hopper might not be far behind." finished Dr. Teeth.

    "I'm not so sure about that. Remember how Max acted towards us? He even dressed up like a cop and warned us about Doc Hopper." Kermit thought back to their journey to Hollywood. "every time Doc Hopper tried something, Max looked like he didn't want to be a part of it."

    "I distinctly remember him cheering at the success of the Insta-Grow Pills." said Bunsen.

    "He wasn't really a bad guy." said Rowlf. "He didn't do anything bad."

    "Except ruin a romantic moment." Piggy huffed.

    "But he tends to fall into the wrong crowd," Kermit replied. "that's what I'm worried about. Think of what might happen if Max figures out we're here? Sure, Max doesn't want to hurt us, but he let Hopper push him around all the time. I'm sure Frass would do the same thing."

    "But Frass isn't looking for vous, Kermie."

    "Which gives us an advantage," Kermit said. "I don't think Max or Frass know we live here...yet. The only drawback is if they see our announcement on local television. If Frass sees we're trying to help Mr. Rogers, he'll try to stop us."

    "But we...we have to help!" pleaded Fozzie.

    "And we will...we're just going to have to take a risk or two, that's all."

    There was a pause.

    "So you want me to light the lights at KMUP, Kerm?" Clifford asked.

    Kermit looked at the picture. He thought of the unknown, young artist, the decades of sweater zipping, piano tunes and trolley dings. He thought of the man himself, wanting so much for his dream to come true. He thought of his inwardly flustered best friend...the imminent crashing of cement and the destruction of thousands of artifacts...the destruction of one of the last truly innocent and pure bits of television left...

    No.
    He would not let that happen.

    Kermit looked at him. "Clifford?"

    "Yeah, Kerm?"

    Kermit smiled. "It's time to light the lights."

    The Muppets got up and left the table, splitting up to get things started. Amongst all the empty chairs, the only activity in the room was a faint hiss. Smoke rose from the paper shredder. It was severely clogged with a crumpled, worn wallet, sliced credit cards, shredded cash and an old photograph, now turned into confetti. One of the bedrooms on the upper floor now had a new air vent. It was in the floor, freshly created by Link's head and torso.

    A penguin waddled by and saw Link as he wriggled to get free from the floor. The penguin, thinking Link was doing a new dance, waddled alongside him. More penguins joined in, squawking and having a great time as they shimmied, waddled and jumped. One bounced off Link's head.

    "Ow! Oh, if Mommy were here, she'd kiss my boo-boos and make them better." Link complained.

    Hearing this, the penguins crowded around Link and kissed him, squawking and laughing all the while.

    "This isn't my day." sighed Link.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  13. The Count Moderator

    *Loves update. Thank you, I needed that.
  14. Convincing John Well-Known Member

    Chapter 5

    Chapter 5 everyone! (Although I feel like Count is the only one reading this). Every time I type a new chapter, I sorta feel like Rowlf in . Maybe Count should tell me "Post, hound! Post!" at the end of each chapter lol!

    Anyway, a hidden movie reference, a commercial reference and another trip back to the dog food factory are located within this chapter. Enjoy!

    Chapter 5

    It had been a busy couple of days. Between rehearsals for the next show, Kermit had taken the taxi back and forth between the theater and KMUP studios. He wanted to ride his bicycle so badly. It was perfect weather for riding. But Kermit decided against it. That's how Max found out about him in the first place.

    Other precautions were made around the Boarding House. First up, something was immediately done about the Electric Mayhem's bus. Parked outside, it was just too obvious. Max would've recognized it. Sweetums had helped build a makeshift garage for it in the driveway. It was only canvas and some metal poles, but it did the job.

    Clifford and Rizzo got to work at the KMUP studio controls as Bunsen and Beaker fiddled with the transmitters. As Bo swept up, he flinched and squinted at each spark caused by Beaker being used as a conductor. Most of the others did what Kermit did; they took taxis or carpooled from the Boarding House to the theater or the studio. When possible, they used side streets to avoid being seen. Kermit had even put a tarp over the word "Muppet" on the marquee and the theater sign.

    Robin went to school like he always did. The only difference being that Kermit wanted Robin to take a different route for safety. This meant taking the bus was out. Robin didn't mind that. Sweetums volunteered to carry Robin to and from school. It was more fun this way for Robin, since Sweetums knew all the shortcuts. Most of the shortcuts, however, were through various backyards. More than once, Sweetums came home with Robin in his hand, a plastic flamingo dangling from the tattered rags on his leg and half of someone's clean laundry draping his shoulders.

    That day, Kermit decided to come early to the KMUP studio before the others came to shoot the announcement. He wanted to check out everything, just to make sure it all worked properly.

    The stage backdrop was lit up with soft blues and purples. This would double as the video screen. Bunsen had done a good job editing the footage they needed. Clifford's expertise with the lighting equaled that of selecting the background music. Kermit tried it out. The music's stereo system was just right. No feedback, no pops...good. He played the video. Perfect focus, no 'blips' or lines...excellent.

    The only thing on the stage was a simple, tall stool...the same one Kermit had sat on during the 'Magic Store' number. It was scratched and worn around the corners, but that was OK. It was all he needed...and he was sure Mister Rogers wouldn't mind.

    Despite how great everything was going, Kermit felt butterflies in his stomach. They weren't the butterflies he had for lunch. This was a different feeling.

    They were taking a risk putting themselves on television with Max so close by. Frass wasn't looking for them...but after what happened with Doc Hopper...

    Kermit rubbed the goosebumps underneath his collar and tried to forget. He concentrated instead on that lone child out there. Somewhere, there was a lone child that would help protect the legacy of a legendary gentle genius. He had to find this child. Max or no Max.

    Kermit shut everything off and locked up. As he hailed a taxi on the curb, he tried not to worry about the deadline. Things would work out.

    At least he hoped they would.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    "Was I all right? Was I funny?" worried Fozzie.

    "You were fine, Fozzie." assured Kermit.

    "How was Moi?"

    "You were fine, too Piggy--"

    "Hopefully lots of womens will see dis hokay."

    "Were the floors squeaky clean enough?"

    "When do we eat? I'm starvin'!"

    "In a bit," answered Kermit. He hadn't thought about food (or anything else for that matter) but the announcement.

    Kermit called the schedule managers of KMUP, (the local Hensonville Local Access Channel). They scheduled the announcement to be run about a dozen times per day throughout the week. The first airing would take place at 6AM the next morning. Scooter downloaded the rehearsal video and posted it on YouTube. There were no viewings so far, but they knew that would change soon enough. The only difference between the rehearsal video and the final cut was a blooper in the rehearsal tape. At the beginning, Beaker noticed he was on camera and quickly ran out of shot. Big deal thought Scooter. It doesn't matter.

    Throughout the night, Kermit kept waking up. He had the same recurring dream of himself and Rowlf doing a musical number, Max noticing it and telling Frass. Then suddenly the image transformed to himself and Rowlf being forced to work at the dog food factory. The last thing Kermit saw in each dream was looking at a warehouse collapsing under a controlled demolition. As it imploded, Kermit saw a blue sneaker, part of a small crown and half of Daniel Striped Tiger's clock sailing into the air.

    After the third time, Kermit decided just to stay up. He looked at the clock.

    "4:30? Sheesh." Kermit sighed and climbed out of bed without bothering to put on his robe. He shuffled along in his pajamas, tired but also worried and nervous. What if we can't find that child in time? What if Max finds finds out we're here? If Frass sees that announcement, he's bound to try to stop us. I hope he doesn't try to find our house and...

    No.

    He had to keep those thoughts out of his mind. Jim had a positive attitude. So could he. They would find that child. They would save Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. They would!

    But what to do now? Kermit thought. He knew he'd have that dream again. He walked softly down the stairs. Maybe...maybe I'll have something to eat, he thought.

    Kermit squinted as the interior refrigerator light hit his eyes. "Let's see...leftovers, leftovers..." he glanced around the upper shelf. "okay, we got some soda, OJ, purple stuff, ooh! Sunny D, all right!" Kermit poured himself a glass, then walked into the living room to settle in his favorite chair. Amazingly, the TV remote wasn't lost (like it usually was) but right there on the chair armrest.

    Kermit glanced up at the clock. It was fuzzy in the dark, but only five minutes had crawled by. Not much to do now but wait. He clicked on the TV and flipped through the channels. They only had basic, so there wasn't much.

    (Click)

    "HI!" A voice bellowed even with the TV volume down. "I'm Todd Kapoodle, the Used Car King! We got all kinds of cars going REAL cheap! We got a special sale on fixer-uppers! Buy a car without an engine, then if you can find all the parts for that engine, we'll install it at HALF the fee! Yes! HALF the fee! We have all kinds of tires, too! We got round tires, square tires, and even flat tires we've professionally repaired with the help of our good friends at Hubba Bubba! So, come on DOWN this weekend for excellent deals! For instance, here's a one-of-a-kind, rustic item! Thanks to a stalling on the train tracks, the 5:15 from Chattanooga turned this once boring, functional truck into a real fixer-upper for the handyman who really wants a challenge! So--"

    (Click)

    "And lift those legs! One! And two! And one! And two! C'mon! Burn that fat!"

    (Click)

    "This is an AMAZING vacuum cleaner! Just LOOK how it picks up those marbles!" RRRNNN!-clackety-clackety-clackety!--RRRNNNN!-clinkety-clunkety-clack!--RNNNN!-clunka-clanka-dink!--

    (Click)

    Fffffff......(Click) "Camembert cheese is also produced on a large scale and molded by the thousands in giant factories..." (Click) ffffffff (click) "cheeses..." (click) ffffff (click) "cheeses..." (click) ffffff (click) "cheeses..." (click) fffff

    Kermit frowned. "Should I watch cheese or snow?"

    The TV static had a calming, almost hypnotizing effect. The flickering light from the television cast reflecting ripples in Kermit's glass of untouched juice. Finally relaxed at last, Kermit faded off into a fuzzy, dreamless sleep.

    A little while later, dawn inched its way into the corners of the Muppet Boarding House. Early morning sunlight greeted the plants on the front porch, warmed the windowpanes and made a small, young frog rub his eyes as he walked down the stairs.

    "Uncle Kermit?" Nothing replied except the long, monotonic hum of a test pattern.

    Robin crept closer. There was his uncle sound asleep in the chair. He looked at the clock. It was 5:50AM.

    "Uncle Kermit?" Robin gently shook his uncle's arm. Kermit mumbled a little in his sleep.

    "It's almost time..."

    "Mrpph? Hrmm...I don't wanna go to school today..."

    "Not school! The announcement! The announcement we made to be put on TV! It's almost time!"

    "What?" Kermit groggily woke up and squinted in that fuzzy focus one experiences after a deep sleep. Straight ahead of him was the smiling face of Jim Henson...for some reason singing a long song with only one continuing note. A half-second later Kermit snapped fully awake and realized he was staring at the local Hensonville TV channel, KMUP test pattern. The traditional "Indian Head" in the test pattern was replaced by Jim Henson's face.

    Kermit shifted his weight in the chair and stretched. How long had he slept? It felt like hours.

    A moment later, the test pattern disappeared and was replaced my a graphic with the KMUP call letters. A baritone voice announced "Good Morning" and proceeded to rattle off the station identification information. As the voice explained how many gigahertz the station took and where its transmitters were located, a third resident of the Boarding House joined Kermit and Robin.

    "Couldn't sleep, eh?" asked Kermit.

    "Not really," Rowlf admitted. "I thought I'd sneak a peek at how the announcement looks."

    "Well, grab a chair, it's going to start any minute." said Kermit.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Dawn slowly swept across Hensonville, bathing the landscape beyond it in a warm, welcoming glow. It shined on the tractors that had been puttering across the fields for an hour. It sparkled against the windshields of early morning commuters' cars. It greeted drowsy, yawning people as they bent down to pick up their newspapers.

    There was one place, however, that the dawn seemed reluctant to cover. Two towns over from Hensonville was an imposing structure. It was a factory. It differed from the other factories in town, mainly because it stank of bugs and stale dog food. Not even the nuclear power plant across town reeked this badly.

    Another attribute set the factory apart from the rest of the town altogether. Due to budget cuts, lazy planning and "important" design decisions, the factory was unfinished, yet functional. Several walls were missing, replaced by haphazardly taped plastic canvases. Steel beams balanced precariously in the rafters, abandoned by construction workers who were let go due to budget cuts. It was all right with the CEO. His office and personal lounge were finished. In his mind, that's all that really mattered anyway.

    The morning whistle was about to blow as one lone worker checked the various gauges and instruments in the factory. He walked among the machinery, glancing briefly at the filthy gears, belts, spouts and hoses. As he worked, he tried to focus more on the clipboard in his hand rather than his surroundings. No matter how well the janitors cleaned the place, there were always a few dead (or dying) roaches here and there.

    This was his morning routine and he hated it. Still, a job was a job. He had to pay the bills somehow...and that last couple grand he still owed on his student loan payments. It wasn't much of a comfort to know a paycheck was coming when it came from a job like this.

    The worker performed his last duty before opening the factory: unlocking the doors for the factory workers.

    The keys jingled almost pitifully as Max glumly put them in his pocket. Workers standing outside shared his expression as they put on their hardhats and checked in. There weren't many of them now that the factory had so many budget cuts. Frass had pulled some strings, dodged some policies and bribed many a health inspector to make his factory functional on a skeleton crew.

    After the last worker shuffled by, Max checked the names on his clipboard and went to his boss's lounge to enter in the data.

    Max didn't dare go into the staff lounge. Nor did anyone else. The janitors did their best, but roaches still found their way inside. Max never forgot the morning he flipped on the light and saw a family of them swarming from the coffee pot to a crack in the wall.

    No, this was Frass's personal lounge and the place was kept scrupulously clean. Max didn't care if the place was sanitized enough to suit Howard Hughes. He still didn't dare sit anywhere and often carried hand sanitizer when he had to touch the computer keys. It was a habit of his.

    Frass (or a janitor) had left the television on from the night before. Someone in a baritone voice mumbled something about the transmitters and gigahertz some television station used. Max ignored it as he propped the clipboard against the monitor and opened the daily Excel spreadsheet. There was a blob of what (he hoped) was dried nougat on the Tab key. To be safe, he poked the sticky key with a pen as he checked off the workers' attendance records. He flipped a page, opened a second file and entered some inventory records from the night before. The television mumbled through a brief Sermonette and was now nearing the end of a brief livestock report.

    Max saved and closed the file. As he logged off, his stomach twisted at the thought of another day pouring drum after drum of roaches into mixers. As always, Max had the only breakfast that calmed his stomach, the same breakfast (and lunch) he had had for ages: Rolaids. Max crunched and grimaced at the chalky taste.

    Doing his best to keep his looming, daily tasks out of his head, Max lowered his head and left the room just as the livestock report came to an end.

    Ding ding!

    "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood..." a cheery voice sang.

    "What?" Max blinked and peeked into the room.

    The smiling, singing face of Mister Rogers was there. It brightened even this squalid, wretched place. Mister Rogers had a way of doing that. Max's stomach loosened a little, not relieved by Rolaids this time.

    It was obviously a video clip--some kind of commercial for PBS, Max thought. The whistle hadn't blown yet. Max had a little time. Maybe...maybe he'd watch Mister Rogers for a minute or two...just to see what the commercial was about.

    The camera pulled back. Mister Rogers was now on a TV screen within a nearly blank studio. For a moment, Max thought it was a "picture in picture" feature of the TV.

    It turned out it wasn't. The TV within the TV was filmed on purpose, right next to a worn out stool. On top of it sat...

    Max's jaw dropped.

    It was him.

    "Please won't you be...my neighbor?" Mister Rogers sang as he tied his left sneaker.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Rowlf, Kermit and Robin had seen the playback of their announcement last night. They knew what to expect. Still, it gave them goosebumps all the same.

    "Hi ho, Kermit the Frog here," said the Kermit on the screen. "We're here to tell you all about something Mister Rogers did a few years ago."

    A tight shot of tumbling envelopes appeared with Kermit now providing a voiceover. "A few years ago, Mister Rogers tried to find someone who he called 'The Best Neighbor'. This person would be in charge of keeping Mister Rogers' Neighborhood safe. Mister Rogers finally chose one person...a kid, actually, from two places. One of them was Hensonville. As a matter of fact, we have a video of Mister Rogers talking about it right now."

    The announcement showed a clip from the "Best Neighbor" video Mr. McFeely had played for them. Mister Rogers explained what 'The Best Neighbor' entailed and that he made his decision.

    The camera shot now showed a close up of Kermit. "That's right, kids. Mister Rogers has made his decision and we have the child's entry. The only problem is the return address is too smeared to read. We don't know who 'The Best Neighbor' is. This is where we need your help. If you are a kid and live in the Hensonville area, and if you sent in a drawing to Mister Rogers with the help of a grown up, please visit the Muppet Boarding House here in Hensonville. This is where the drawing will be kept for safekeeping for now. If the drawing is yours, then you will be 'The Best Neighbor'!"

    A new shot of a covered easel filled up most of the screen. Miss Piggy gestured to it like a game show model in front of a new car. The cloth over the easel, bathed in swirling spotlights (thanks to Clifford) was coated with question marks. As Miss Piggy hammed it up for the camera, Kermit's voiceover continued.

    "Yes, right behind this cloth is the drawing Mister Rogers personally picked."

    "He picked it personally?" asked Fozzie as he walked into frame and pointed to the cloth.

    "That's right, Fozzie!" Kermit replied from offscreen.

    "That's right!" Fozzie repeated, stepping in front of the cloth as Piggy frowned. "Mister Rogers personally picked the picture from preposterous piles of proposals presented by post from possible participants! So please pedal, plod or plunder to our place if you plan to be persistent in providing a possibility to our perplexing predicament! Wocka wocka wocka!"

    "Fozzie!" called Kermit from off-camera.

    "What? Oh, sorry!" Fozzie reached up with his tie and wiped off the slightly moist camera lens.

    The camera was now on Kermit again. Max watched intently, hanging onto every word.

    "Remember, this is a very important job and Mister Rogers is depending on you, whoever you are, to help him. If your description of your drawing matches the one we have and you live in the Hensonville area, then YOU will be the Best Neighbor! Yaaaaaaay! The Muppet Boarding House is located at--"

    "MAX!"

    Max jumped, his heart racing. He turned around to see the frowning face of his boss.

    "I--I just got the data entered in..." he stammered.

    "GET...ON...THE FACTORY LINE...NOW!" he boomed. Max immediately ran out of the room and down the hall. Frass pointed after him and continued to yell like a drill sergeant. "If you wanna watch cartoons instead of working, I can always find another assistant!" he roared. "Any more loafing and you're going STRAIGHT to the unemployment line without ANY severance pay!"

    Frass watched as Max scrambled down the hall like a frightened squirrel. He then grabbed the errant remote with his pudgy hand and saw just a fraction of a familiar, elderly face before snapping it off.

    One grey, wiry eyebrow arched in the direction of the set. As soon as he knew he was alone, Frass turned on the TV again. He had a feeling there was something out of place. The channel number didn't match PBS in that area. Why would any other channel show Mister Rogers besides PBS? Something didn't make sense.

    By the time the picture blurred from black to a focused image, Mister Rogers was gone. Instead there was footage of a bearded man in a hospital bed. A doctor examined him while the man tapped his fingers on his book. For some strange reason, everything happened to a beat: the man's heartbeat, a cough, a bird tweeting and finally a small clock, which exploded on the windowsill. A moment later, the same man (perhaps) was painting an elephant pink.

    Frass snapped off the TV.

    "Weird." he huffed and waddled back into his office.

    Max stopped at the end of the hall as the morning whistle screamed. A new day of pouring roaches into dog food mix awaited him. Eight long hours. His stomach churned along with the machinery as it groaned to life.

    But there was something different about today. There was hope. Somehow, somewhere, there was hope. If nothing else, Max was going to hang onto that hope...

    ...and somehow he was going to try to find Kermit.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    "Not bad for the time we had to do it in," smiled Rowlf. "it was nice and simple...and that's OK."

    "Yeah," agreed Kermit. Forgetting how long he had left his juice out he tried a sip. "Warm...yecch."

    The announcement came on a couple hours later as the Muppets woke up and began their day. It wasn't long before there was a knock at the door.

    Kermit's heart raced, immediately thinking of Frass. He imagined him there in the doorway, fists clenched, ready to threaten him.

    "Who-who is it?" he called among the chatter of the Boarding House.

    No answer.

    Carter, the elderly, shaky butler went to answer the door, pausing to peek through the little peephole.

    "It'sh a man with glasshesh and a hat-tsh." he lisped. (He had forgotten his dentures upstairs).

    Max! thought Kermit. Oh no!

    "Come in." Carter quavered.

    "Wait!" called Kermit. But it was too late. Worst of all, Robin was near the door. Kermit was too far away to get him in time.

    Slowly the knob turned.

    The door opened as if in slow motion. Kermit's arms went cold as he reached out, much too far away to get his nephew out of harm's way. it was too late for anyone to do anything.

    The Boarding House went deathly still.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  15. The Count Moderator

    Aargh! Need more! Post pronto please!

    BTW: The part I liked the best, because it brought back memories of doing the same thing, was where Robin got up and walked downstairs to the TV with the station identification information and all the radio signal info as well. That was back during my childhood, when SST was on 6 AM. Good memories.
  16. Convincing John Well-Known Member

    Yep, I loved writing that part because I too have fond memories of seeing that stuff on TV at the crack of dawn when I was a kid. With me, it was every Saturday morning. Before the cartoons came on there'd be the test pattern, then the sign-on stuff (with the station and radio info) and the guy with the deep voice rattling it off.

    I always liked this song, too. It's kind of a "Good Morning" song, where the lyrics were changed depending on the region/station. I've heard it a lot during the "sign on" years ago.



    Now, channels are almost all 24 hrs. When there's nothing on in the middle of the night, they play those stinkin' infommercials! Honestly, I'd much rather watch a test pattern and the "sign-on" than some schmuck selling something you don't need that doesn't work anyway. (End of rant).

    Oh, and more story will be coming very soon!

    Convincing John
  17. Zena Star New Member

    I'm loving this, all the jokes, and just everything about your writing is so great! I especially like how you managed to weave ol max in there! More please! :flirt:
  18. redBoobergurl Well-Known Member

    I'm still reading! I promise! I signed up to be notified and I don't think it's working real well, I got the email about chapter five, but not chapter four.

    I don't even know where to begin with my review - this is just so fantastic! The details, the humor, the scene reminisant of GMC where Kermit is ralling the troops to help his cause, Robin figuring out the picture, Kermit watching early morning TV, Max...OY.

    This story is truly my favorite on Muppet Central right now, so please, keep it coming! I'll stop relying on my email notifier so I don't miss out next time!
  19. Convincing John Well-Known Member

    Chapter 6

    Chapter 6

    "Speedy Delivery!"

    Several Muppets, Kermit most of all, sighed with relief.

    "Hooray! It's Mr. McFeely!" Robin cheered.

    Mr. McFeely walked inside to find a nervous but happy crowd. Some of them clapped.

    "My goodness! Thank you!" he smiled. "What a welcome!"

    "We thought you were the bad roach man!" said Beauregard.

    "Yes," agreed Bunsen. "we calculated the probability of Mr. Frass coming here once he found out what we are trying to do. Sadly, the risk is very high."

    "Mee mah mee mah." agreed Beaker.

    "That's why we were a little on edge," explained Kermit. "we figured once Frass finds out what we're doing, he'll try to stop us."

    "That is a reason to be a little concerned," said Mr. McFeely. "but once we find 'The Best Neighbor', we won't have to worry about it. Which reminds me," he paused. "Mister Frog, I have seen your announcement and I think Fred would be very pleased. Has anyone asked about the drawing yet?"

    "Nope," Kermit replied. "but it's only been a couple hours since it aired and it will be on KMUP pretty much all day today. Lots of people in the Hensonville area watch it."

    "That's wonderful, but if it's only a local channel, I don't know if it will fully help you."

    "What do you mean?"

    "Well, remember when I said there were two possible addresses that the drawing could be from?"

    Kermit had completely forgotten about that! Here they were concentrating on only the Hensonville area. Somewhere, there was a second area to search.

    "Where is it?" asked Kermit.

    "Well, the Speedy Delivery tracking number pointed to two places. One is Hensonville. The other is from New York City."

    "NEW YORK CITY?" everyone chorused.

    "That'll take, like, ages to search!" moaned Janice.

    "Fortunately miss, the number narrowed it down to just one street." Mr. McFeely replied. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a little paper he had written on. As he gave it to Kermit, a look of concern came over his face.

    "Here's the street name the tracking number says you're connected to. The problem is, I don't know how to get there."

    Kermit took the paper and read the name.

    "Do you?" asked Mr. McFeely.

    Kermit grinned as the last bit of leftover fear drained from his stomach. Why didn't he think of this before? It was so obvious!

    "But if we have to go somewhere else, then who will stay here? The announcement said for people to come here to see us." Fozzie pointed out.

    Kermit thought quickly. "We'll have two groups. One small group will stay here to answer phones, see people in person and...try to keep Frass and Max at bay if we can. It'll only be for a couple days. Most of us will be going to New York because I'm going to need a lot of help. This will be a short trip to New York because I want to be here and keep an eye out on the Boarding House."

    There was a chorus of "I'll stay" and "I'll go!" until the whole house was chattering away again.

    "QUIIIII-ET!" Kermit yelled, waving his arms. The Muppets went silent. "Listen, we need some protection and also some people who wouldn't mind answering the phone. Like I said, it'll only be a couple days and then everyone can pitch in."

    "Well, Mr. Frog, that is a good idea," said Mr. McFeely. "but might I suggest choosing someone who didn't appear in your announcement to watch the house? If Mr. Frass comes here, we would want someone here he couldn't recognize."

    Kermit thought a moment. "I think I have an idea how to do that."

    "Well, you keep me posted," Mr. McFeely replied. "I'll be back in a couple days to see how things are going. I think I'll leave the tapes and the drawing here with you in case you need them some more. I'll see you soon!" He gave everyone a wave goodbye and was down the street on his bicycle in no time.

    "Okay, we need just a few of the gang to stay behind. Five should do it. Lew, how 'bout it? Do you want to answer the phone and the door and interview kids?"

    "Sure!" said Lew. "they'll come to me, and if they ain't 'The Best Neighbor', I'll send them ay-way! Hee hee hee!"

    "Thank you. Now I was thinking we could get Pops to lend you a hand with that. He's had a lot of experience with answering the door anyway. I kind of wish Sam were here to help, but he's off doing that C-SPAN thing. Hmmm..."

    "And I'll stay to make sure the place is clean for the nice folks who drop by!" volunteered Beauregard.

    "Uh...okay, yeah, sure, Bo." Kermit agreed.

    "Who do we get for protection, chief?" asked Scooter.

    "Who else?" shrugged Kermit. "if Frass tries anything, I'll tell Crazy Harry to 'do his stuff'. But since we don't want the whole house blown up, I thought of someone else that might help. I'll be right back."

    Kermit walked downstairs to the basement, but not too close. Before he was halfway down the stairs he heard "SMELL MAILMAN! SMELL MAILMAN!" followed by "Down, Animal! Sit! Heel!"

    "Down! Sit! Heel!" repeated Animal as he sat down. He panted, eyelids drooping, while Floyd hooked his chain to the wall.

    "Hey Floyd?" called Kermit. "We could use your help with something."

    "Aw man," Floyd shook his head. "Can't. I heard somethin' about a road trip to New York, but I can't go. Me an' Animal gotta stay behind."

    "Be-hind..." Animal panted.

    "Well, that's what I needed you to do anyway. There'll be a lot of people, hopefully, showing up...kids mostly, over the next couple days. But if anyone comes to the door who looks like a big, fat version of Doc Hopper, let Animal go after 'em."

    Floyd nodded. "Sure thing, man. This dude's trouble, huh?"

    Kermit realized that Floyd missed the meeting yesterday, but he had no time to fill him in on what was going on. No matter, Kermit thought. He was sure to see the announcement on TV anyway.

    "He sure is." said Kermit. "So...just curious. Why did you say you have to stay here?"

    "Oh...uh..." Floyd looked at Animal. "Well..."

    "What?"

    Floyd leaned in closer. "I gotta give the dude his...you-know-what..."

    "You have to give him a what?"

    "The dude knows the word even if you spell it..." Floyd thought a moment. "Uh...you know that song Ernie sings...about the...squeaky thing?"

    "Yyyeah..." Kermit nodded.

    "And where is Ernie when he sings that song?" Floyd asked.

    "OH!" Kermit finally understood. "Okay, okay. I get it now."

    "Okay..." Animal panted, not understanding the conversation.

    "And it's best if no one's within 50 feet of him during that. You dig?"

    "Okay, gotcha."

    "Chief! Chief!" called Scooter from the stairs.

    "It's a hit!" he pointed to his laptop. "Come quick!" Kermit ran up the stairs and closed the door. He heard a muffled roar of "HIT! HIT!" followed by ferocious pounding and crashing against a drum set.

    "Look at this!" Scooter pointed to the YouTube video of the Mister Rogers announcement. "4,973 views so far! It's great!" he cheered, pumping his fist.

    "Any comments from anyone?"

    "There's loads of 'em! Let me just scroll here..." Scooter set his laptop on the table as the rest of the Muppets gathered around. Kermit hoped that somewhere in the list was 'The Best Neighbor', trying to reach them. The rehearsal video of the announcement played on YouTube. The Muppets watched Beaker pass by the camera by mistake, give an embarassed 'Meep!' and quickly duck out of sight. The rest of the announcement played as normal.

    "Okay, here we go..."

    Scooter swiped his finger on the laptop pad, carefully reading the list of comments. Some he read aloud.

    "I remember the Muppetts! Ther funy!"

    "BEAKER!"

    "It's the Muppet Show!"

    "Piggy! ROFL!"

    "Is this a new Muppet Show coming out?"

    "This is a joke. Mister Rogers was never on the Muppet Babies Show. :mad:"

    "So Mister Rogerss wants the Muppets to have huis stuff? I don't get it." :S

    "That's dumb. Mister Rogers should put his stuff in a museum instead of giving it to a kid."

    "I like Mistr Rogers."

    "Beeker's my fav"

    "Mister Rogers. RIP. :-("

    "I can't find this on the Muppet Wiki. Is this a fake video?"

    "FONZIE BEAR! WOKA WOKA WOKA!"

    "Reply to: FONZIE BEAR! WOKA WOKA WOKA! 'It's spelled 'Fozzy', stupid! Look it up!'"

    "BEAKER BEAKER BEAKER LOL! I <3 BEAKER!"

    "40 years ago there was a girl born in Paraguay. She comes to the village every full moon and looks for her true love. Send this video to at least 12 people in the next 10 minutes and the next person you see will look just like her AND you will fall in love! THIS IS NOT A JOKE!"

    "BEAKER RULES!"

    "If you look close, you can see Jim Hensen's arm. Pause it at 3:10."

    "Check out the videos on my channel."

    "BEAKER!"

    "Beaker should go on Mister Rogers. he should be like the guest host or something."

    "Yeah! Beaker and that doctor guy he hangs out witrh should do mister rogers neighberhood."

    "dr teth?"

    "Yea him. beaker rulz."

    "Mr. Beeker's Nieghborhood! ROFL!"

    The Muppets looked at each other. Beaker's head slowly slid down in embarrassment.

    Scooter continued to scroll through dozens of comments. Every third comment or so either referred to Beaker or desperately needed to be proofread.

    There were a few well-wishers "Good luck, Kermit!" and the like popped up here and there. It was nice, but there was not one helpful comment in the whole list.

    "Well..." Kermit finally said. "we'll just have to keep watching this list until something useful comes up. Scooter, keep the page bookmarked and let me know if anyone makes a useful comment."

    "Right, chief."

    "In the meantime, we have a road trip to plan. We'll take off first thing in the morning. I'm going to take the drawing with us."

    "But what if someone describes the picture and we need to show it to 'em?" asked Lew.

    "I've thought of that. I'll take a digital picture of it, then have it blo--" he stopped in mid-sentence, saw Crazy Harry in the crowd, then corrected himself. "-enlarged to poster size. We'll make some copies. We'll leave one copy here and take the original and the rest with us."

    After Kermit came back from the copy shop, Dr. Teeth got gas for the vehicle they would use on the trip. Since they had to keep the Electric Mayhem bus undercover, Pops let Dr. Teeth borrow the Happiness Hotel bus.

    Light luggage was packed. The atlas was unnecessary. Kermit knew the way. KMUP played in the background that evening at the Boarding House. The announcement came on between programs. There were some visitors who had asked about the drawing, but none of the entries they described came close to the one Mister Rogers chose. Phone calls came too. Everyone who had called or visited politely obeyed the request 'no visits or calls after 9PM please' made at the end of the televised announcement.

    Scooter continued to read the comments on the YouTube page while wincing at the horrible misspellings.

    Before they knew it, it was 11:30PM. Everyone had shuffled off to bed. Even Scooter, tired as he was, closed his laptop for the night and went upstairs.

    Kermit walked down the hall to his room. On the way past one dark room, he heard a small voice.

    "Uncle Kermit?"

    Kermit came inside to find his nephew in bed, but wide awake. His hands were clasped behind his head as he rested against his pillow.

    "You're supposed to be asleep." Kermit whispered. A huge, hairy mass of fur snored in a dark corner. Sweetums tilted his head and continued his dream, breathing like a hippo with asthma.

    "I know," replied Robin. "I'm just kinda worried."

    Kermit sat down on the bed. Kermit was worried, too. Education meant so much to him. Helping kids...making them feel good about themselves. Mister Rogers did that too. He didn't want his dream to come to an end.

    "Don't worry, Robin. We're going to New York in the morning. We have help from all our friends to find 'the Best Neighbor'."

    Robin didn't look fully convinced.

    "But...what if we don't find them?" Robin's eyes got that worried look again. That look tore Kermit up inside. He hated seeing Robin like that. There was only one thing he could think to say.

    "We will find 'The Best Neighbor'." he said decidedly. "now just get your sleep and we'll talk more about it in the morning. We have to be up super early so we can get on the road." Kermit got up from the bed and gave Robin's arm a little pat. He left the bedroom and watched Robin snuggle in bed, finally content. Sweetums's lawnmower-like snores became muffled as he quietly shut the door.

    Kermit went to bed and set his battery-operated radio alarm clock for 4AM. Everyone else had done the same. To be safe, he chose the option of the radio to wake him up instead of the regular beeping alarm. (It didn't always work). Sleepily, he turned one dial (thinking it was the station selector rather than the volume) all the way to the left, flopped down on his pillow and faded off to sleep.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    3:59AM crept silently into the Muppet Boarding House like an unseen, velvet shadow. Peaceful, deep breathing came from each bedroom as the seconds ticked by. Kermit, comfortable and warm, smiled as he continued a dreamless sleep filled with complete and total relaxation. Serenity enveloped him as he took another deep breath. All was quiet. All was still. All was dark, save for the digital display on the alarm clock: 3:59...

    ...

    "GOOOOOOOD MOORRRRNINNNG! IT'S TODD KAPOODLE'S MUSIC HOUR! BROUGHT TO YOU BY TODD KAPOODLE'S USED CAR EMPORIUM! AND NOW, HERE'S A SLIM WHITMAN FAVORITE PERFORMED BY CHARLIE FRUMP ON BAGPIPES WITH IZZY GLUNKERMAN ON TROMBONE!"

    In the course of one second, Kermit's body shot upwards a full foot and landed on the floor with a crash. His eyes, now frozen wide with shock, tried to focus after being yanked out of his deep sleep.

    "FWAWWW-WAAAWWWW-WUPPA-WUPPA! FAWWW-WUH-WUP-WUP-WUP!" "FLERRR-NEIIIEENIIIEEEE-NEEIIIIEEE-NEE--NEE-FLEERRRRRRR!" It was an unholy duet of musical instruments loud enough to wake all of Hensonville.

    Kermit realized the noise came from the other side of the bed. Kermit's legs were tangled up in a wad of blankets. He tried to stand, but fell against the bed. As he finally stood and tried to run around the edge of the bed, one comforter corner wrapped around his leg. He tripped and fell down, this time flat on the floor.

    "BLERR-NEE-NERRRR-FAWWWAWWWAAAH-WAHWAHWAH-WAUUUH-WAH-FLER-NEE-FLERRR!" screamed the radio. Kermit finally got up on his third try and pushed every button on his alarm clock to try to shut it off.

    Stupid! Kermit thought to himself. I turned the volume all the way up by mistake instead of the station selector!

    Kermit acted on the instinct of anyone who would be waken by bagpipes at 4AM and not thinking straight. Angrily, he flung the clock out the open window like a Frisbee. The duet of trombone and bagpipes faded as the clock bounced out into the street. A few seconds later, the street sweeper came along. It sucked up the clock, silencing it with a muffled, crunching honk.

    Silence once more. Kermit's chest heaved. His head was pounding. His arms and legs still had that "warm sleepy feeling" in them, yet they were sweaty. He only now noticed the dull pain in his left flipper from where he stubbed it on the bedpost.

    Kermit let his shoulders slump as he sat heavily down on the bed. He shook his head and looked out the window. Out in the street was a lone, rolling AA battery.

    What happened? Now fully awake, Kermit shook his head again as the last bit of sleepiness left him.

    Another noise made him turn around. It too was boisterous, but not nearly as annoying. Robin was in the doorway, nearly hopping with excitement.

    "Uncle Kermit! It's time to get up!" he cheered.

    "No kidding." Kermit mumbled as he rubbed his temples.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    More to come soon.

    Convincing John
  20. The Count Moderator

    This last chapter was a nice one. Was wondering when they'd remember the second address the drawing could've come from. Awaiting the next chapter for the great cameos. BTW: You might want to check ReneeLouvier's Sadies Stories for a route between Hensonville and SST. Post more soon!

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