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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

    Well, it's just a smidge early for Halloween, but what the hey. This chapter has some additional spookiness to it. Enjoy!

    Chapter 15

    "Ah yes, yes, this looks like a sufficient place to begin our questioning. Right here, it seems, the citizens of this street are doing some rennovation. An excellent job for decent, hard working Americans." Sam was studying the row of worn, yet colorful doors behind him.

    Rizzo sighed. "Dis ain't no rennovatin'. It's supposed to look dis way! Dis is where Big Boid lives!"

    Sam looked down his beak at Rizzo.

    "Ugh! You disgusting rat! What would you know about this street, let alone this...Big..."

    "Big Boid! He lives right over dere. Dese are his doors." explained Rizzo.

    "A large bird lives here? What species is he? Another bald eagle, perhaps?"

    "No. He's just Big Boid. He's all yellow--"

    "Yellow?" interrupted Sam. "A canary, then, or perhaps a goldfinch, but these birds are very small in stature. Perhaps to you they are big, but not to me."

    "Oh, he's pretty big all right," replied Rizzo. "he's eight feet tall an'--"

    "WHAT?" Sam interrupted again. "There is NO bird in the world, especially in America, which fits such a description! What you are describing is completely imaginary."

    As Sam continued to lecture, some low-range brass and bassoon music played from somewhere around the corner. Slowly, shuffling along on shaggy feet, Mr. Snuffle-upagus walked up to them.

    "Oh, hello Bird!" Snuffy blinked. "Wait...you're not Bird."

    Without missing a beat in his lecture, Sam patted Snuffy's snuffle with one wing as he pointed at Rizzo with the other.

    "Simply nothing in zoology looks like that bird you described. When you claim a creature to be real, you must know what you are talking about. As you can see here, this is a fine specimen of the North American Wooly Mammoth! One would think this creature is extinct, but thanks to some of our best scientists in the field of...DNA..." he paused, struggling for the word. "...doohickery...in the country, here a mammoth stands before us! You see? You must have proof that something exists!" He picked up Rizzo by the scruff of the neck and held him up to Snuffy's face. "This is quite clearly real." Sam swung Rizzo up to beak level. "the concept of an eight foot yellow bird is completely imaginary. Huh! I suppose next you're going to tell me this eight foot bird can talk."

    Rizzo tried his best not to smile at Sam's ignorance. "Dat boid's so smart, he can sing da whole alphabet as one long woid!"

    "Enough of your blather," Sam let Rizzo drop to the pavement. "you will waste no more of my time with your ridiculous stories. I am going to find a resident of this street, a cultured one mind you, that will actually provide some real assistance in our search. If Kermit is looking for me, tell him I will be discussing these and other matters of importance with the distinguished scholar, Professor Hastings. Good day, vermin! Ugh!" Sam turned around. With his beak (and tail feathers) in the air, he stalked off muttering "eight foot yellow bird...in-deed! Completely imaginary! Hmph!"

    Rizzo shook his head in disgust as he tried to pick up the drawing. From behind him, a deep, slow, hollow voice asked a question.

    "What was that all about? I couldn't understand a word that bird was saying."

    Rizzo let out a chuckle and looked up. "Believe me, you ain't the only one, pal. Say, you wanna help me wit' sometin'?"

    "Ohhh, sure!" Snuffy nodded.

    "I need to find your yellow friend in dere, but I'm it's too hard ta open da door wit' dis picture I'm luggin' around. Can you give it a push for me?"

    "No problem. Ho ho ho ho..." Snuffy lifted his snuffle and opened the door to his best friend's home.

    "And after we talk wit' your pal, we'll grab sometin' ta eat!"

    ~~~~~~~~~~~
    It was a place unlike any other on this street, or even in the city. Just beyond the street and around the corner, the pavement became cracked and uneven. Even the sky, which was sunny and pleasant elsewhere, was now filled with billowing thunderheads and silent sheet lightning. Buildings stopped, replaced abruptly by a prickly, imposing forest. The leafless trees seemed to reach up to the tumbling sky like a hundred skeleton hands. Sidewalks reached dead ends, yielding to wild crabgrass covering a series of lumpy hills. Crabgrass changed to dead, wheat colored grass. The dead grass encircled something no other place in this area should have:

    A moat.

    The moat was filled with murky, churning water and the ocassional snake--or what seemed to be a snake at first. If one decided to glance a second time, they would see the long, slithering tentacle, then the bulbous head of a golden octopus gliding through the moat.

    There was only one road here: the cracked, uneven, cobblestone road. It had been here for hundreds of years, it seemed. The road stopped at the edge of the moat.

    If one thought it was strange for a moat to exist in New York City, then the building the moat surrounded was even stranger.

    It was a castle. It wasn't a storybook castle with pointed towers and a pretty princess at the top. There was no king or queen, no knights, no brilliantly painted coat-of-arms or even flags.

    This castle looked like it had been abandoned for centuries. The decayed stonework around its edges made an imposing silhouette every time the lightning flashed. The castle's charcoal grey bricks seemed to absorb light rather than reflect it. Some bricks were missing around the towers. One massive stone had fallen into the moat ages ago. It made a "home base" for the undulating octopus.

    There were windows. Each one was cracked, smudged or had pieces missing from the absract designs in the faded stained glass. Through one hole in the glass, an eye could be seen from behind a glinting monacle. The eye blinked, then vanished into the darkness.

    "Oh Beakie! Isn't it just wonderful?" asked Bunsen as he admired the surroundings. Never have I seen such sudden and rapid decomposition in a concentrated area! We must conduct some experiments here once we finish our task for Mr. Kermit!"

    Beaker nervously followed Bunsen as they approached the edge of the moat. As the octopus swam lazily by, Bunsen lifted his glasses momentarily.

    "And such exotic examples of fauna here!" he remarked. "One wonders how such an excellent specimen of the Enteroctopus dofleini migrated this far into the city!"

    In the distance, somwhere from the edge of the forest, something howled like a very large, hungry, feral dog. Beaker's head swiveled around to see something wolflike lumbering along on two lanky legs. It tossed its head back and howled again at the moon.

    Bunsen noticed it, too. "Oh my goodness!" he twiddled his fingers. "it's an excellent specimen of a lycanthrope! Too bad we didn't get to see it transform." he sighed. "They are such fascinating creatures of legend."

    From just inside the castle, the scientists heard the sound of two massive chains being pulled. As the chains rattled and clanked around an unseen, groaning wooden wheel, Bunsen stepped to the edge of the moat to get a closer look.

    A massive, double-ironed drawbridge lowered slowly. Beaker's jaw fearfully imitated it. With a soft thump, the edge of the drawbridge touched the ground a mere six inches from where Bunsen stood. The drawbridge extended into the castle's main entrance, which was pitch black, save for a single torch inside.

    A cloud of bats flew out of the castle door and swooped around the towers as the lightning flashed again. As the thunder rumbled softly, the lightning reflected off the waves in the moat and the curling, glistening tentacles below.

    Bunsen walked across the drawbridge, intrigued.

    "Come along, Beaker."

    Beaker shook his head. "Muh-uh!"

    "Oh come on!" scolded Bunsen. "Don't be such a baby!" Bunsen got behind Beaker and pushed him from the back. Another primitive howl from the forest scared Beaker into running across the drawbridge.

    "That's the spirit, Beakie!"

    As Beaker realized what he was doing, he stopped dead in his tracks. In front of him was the castle's entrance. A figure emerged. It almost seemed to float from the torch's flame shadows. The figure was nearly enveloped in a flowing, dark green cape. Only part of a lavender face could be seen. A set of squinting eyes, one magnified by a monacle, peered at the scientists.

    As if on cue, a set of ominous, descending organ notes played as the figure stepped closer and unfurled its cape.

    "Greetings!" it said with a pointy-toothed mouth. "I am the Count. Do you know why they call me the Count?"

    "That is an excellent question!" answered Bunsen, not a bit afraid. "Why do they call you the Count?"

    "They call me the Count because I love to Count things!" the Count answered happily. "And now I have something new to count! I have--" the Count pointed to Beaker, then to Bunsen. "One, two! That's TWO wisitors to my castle! Ah ah ah ah ahhh!" The Count wrung his hands in jubilation.

    Thunder pounded overhead as sheet lightning glowed through the clouds. A jagged, wild finger of forked lighting streaked into the distant, dead trees. Beaker's head retracted into his shoulders as Bunsen looked up at the dark, billowing clouds.

    "Fascinating!" he remarked. "Your counting has the ability to create thunder and lightning!"

    "Vell, it's a natural talent," the Count shrugged modestly. "sometimes my counting makes balloons and confetti fall, too. So vhat can I do for you?"

    "Ah, we are so glad you asked! I'm Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and this is my assistant Beaker. We're here to help Kermit with an important assignment. May we ask you a few questions?"

    "Ah, of course!" answered the Count. "You can ask the questions and I, the Count, vill count them! Come into my castle."

    As the three of them entered the castle, the Count waved his fingers tenderly to the octopus.

    "Hello there, Octavia. Vonderful to see you getting your exercise." From the forest, the werewolf howled again.

    "Yes, yes, Euba, ve vill play later."

    The interior of the castle was just as ominous as the inside. The two scientists followed the Count into his crumbling, cobweb-infested parlor. Beaker's face paled as he watched the Count pass by a dusty, cracked mirror. He saw his own fearful expression and Bunsen's inquisitive face, but that was it. The Count left no reflection in the mirror.

    "I vasn't expecting guests, othervise I vould have put up new cobvebs." the Count explained. "just make yourselves comfortable."

    Bunsen took a seat on an ancient, dusty couch. Beaker sat next to him and immediately noticed the only illumination in the room: a candleabra with four globby, dripping candle stubs. The candleabra sat on what looked like a long, bulky coffee table...until Beaker noticed the handles on the sides...which were clearly meant for pallbearers.

    The Count himself settled in an ancient, wrought iron chair opposite them with blood red cushions. The back of the chair was sculpted in a design resembling a twisted, dead tree with bats in its branches. Beaker could see the chair in the mirror. Indentations in the upholstery appeared in the reflection...but nothing else was there.

    "So, vhat can I, the Count, do for you two wisitors?" A jet black cat hopped into the Count's lap. Fatatita purred as the Count scratched behind her ears.

    It was up to Bunsen to explain the situation. As he did, Beaker noticed a tickle on his arm. he looked down and his mouth popped open in shock. A fat, hairy, curious tarantula slowly crawled up his sleeve.

    "Ah, that's vhat I love about my pets," the Count smiled. "They are so wery affectionate."

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

    Ding dong...chimed the doorbell.

    "Oh my goodness!" exclaimed Grover. "My cute little doorbell is ringing! I shall go see who it is!"

    Grover put down the book he was reading ("How to Avoid Exhaustion While Commuting Near and Far Between Multiple Jobs") and went to answer the door.

    "Waak! Waak wak!" a crowd of penguins stood in the doorway, shuffling to get a better look at the furry, blue monster.

    "Oh, look! Look at all the cute, little penguins! What can I, Grover, do for you?"

    The penguins all wanted to tell him about what was going on, but they only succeeded in squawking and waddling towards Grover all at once.

    "Please!" pleaded Grover. "I cannot understand you if you all talk at once! You have to --ulph! My foot!"

    The penguins crowded around him. One of them waved the drawing in his face.

    "Oh, that is very nice. Did you cute little penguins do this picture?"

    The penguins unanimously shook their heads and quacked out a chorus of "no's" and "huh-uhs".

    "Well, it is a very cute drawing, even though you did not do it."

    "Waak waak?" a penguin asked as it tilted its head inquisitively.

    "No, it is not my picture. I did not do it." Grover shook his head. A chorus of sighs responded. Some penguins lowered their beaks in disappointment.

    "Oh do not be sad," Grover answered sympathetically. "I have an idea. How would you all like to stay for lunch with me and Mommy?"

    The penguins responded with grateful squawks and embraced Grover with their sleek wings.

    "Oh, you are welcome, nice birdies! Now I just need Mommy to drive us to Long John Silver's. Now, where is my cute, little checkbook?"

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

    More to come.
    :eek::batty::zany:

    Convincing John
  2. The Count Moderator

    *Cheshire smile glows in the darkness. The dreaded glomp of doom embraces the convincing Fraggle author of this tale. *Leaves jack o'lantern filled with butterscotch cookies and Halloween candy. *Retreats back into the darkness, delighted to the enth degree with this latest addition.
  3. redBoobergurl Well-Known Member

    I loved this chapter! Grover and the penguins were too cute! Long John Silver's! And the Count was perfect! I don't know if I have ever seen anyone write him so perfectly in character before! I love how Bunsen is unphased by everything going on there and Beaker is petrified.

    But we're no closer to solving the mystery so - more please!
  4. Convincing John Well-Known Member

    Herry: "What's after 15?"

    Jon Jon: "Uhhh...what comes after 15?"

    Herry: "After 15 comes..."

    Jon Jon: "Uhhh..."

    Herry: "16"

    Jon Jon: "OH! Cause that is...SIXTEEEN!"

    Yup, that's right.

    Chapter 16

    "Hi doggy!"

    "Hi doggy!"

    Rowlf smiled and waved as two preschoolers rode their tricycles past Hooper's. He missed being with kids sometimes. He hadn't done it as much as Kermit had, but he knew why Kermit enjoyed it so much.

    Rowlf glanced at his reflection in the laundromat window. He wondered if anyone else besides himself remembered when this part of the street was the Lending Library. Around the corner he went, mentally counting off places they still needed to check, people they needed to see.

    Even though they only needed to check this particular street, Kermit felt like they should take other precautions. Gordon, for instance, promised to take a copy of the drawing to show his students and make a brief announcement about it. Some of his students had younger siblings after all. 'Couldn't hurt.' he said.

    The same thing went for another school. Scooter had bumped into Roosevelt Franklin, who had an idea about how to reach more people. That afternoon, the principal of Roosevelt Franklin Elementary School made an announcement on the intercom about the picture and kept it in his office for possible candidates to see.

    Extra copies were made (with printed announcements) and passed around to whoever thought they could help. Susan borrowed a copy for the hospital, Leela hung a copy in the laundromat with a posted announcement next to it, and even some of the nearby businesses not far from the street had copies of the picture with a posted announcement in the window. As Rowlf turned the corner, he saw the preschool rendition of the Neighborhood of Make Believe in several windows. These places included Mike's Bakery, Charlie's Restaurant, Sunny's Laundry and the library on the corner. Rowlf's heart gave a nervous jolt as a shiny, jet black, expensive-looking car cruised down the street. He sighed, relieved to find it was a limo and not Frass. Rowlf did a double take when he saw the drawing Scotch taped to the limo's trunk.

    "Who...?" he started.

    Then the limo pulled into a television studio parking lot a block away and the window slid down to reveal the smug, yet friendly face of Guy Smiley. As Guy excitedly bellowed something to the guard at the security booth, Rowlf smiled a little.

    "...of course." he finished.

    But it wasn't the television studio Rowlf was looking for. It was a place that had moved just around the block, but other than that, it was just the same as he (or anyone else who knew the place) remembered it.

    The contents in the window varied daily, sometimes weekly, but the sign in the window reading "Se Habla Espanol" was there.

    There was the same old work table with its nicks, scratches and paint stains from years of use. On top of it sat a power drill, a wrench, a hammer and an assortment of wood scraps sprinkled with sawdust and the odd nail or two. At the end of the table sat a broken toaster. Its metal casing reflected the only thing on the table not there on a day to day basis: a prawn.

    "Hello there, handsome," Pepe said to his reflection. "jou are one handsome prawn. De womens cannot resist jou, hokay?" Pepe glanced around to see if anyone was watching, then turned to the toaster again.

    "Hand now, it's de Pepe Show!" Pepe stood up and picked up a loose nail with one tiny hand. He spoke into it as if it were a microphone. "Hello nice peoples. Dis is Pepe and welcome to de Pepe Show, starring me--" he tilted to one side and admired his reflection. "Pepe. Hand now, here's a little song for hall de womens out dere. Uno, dos, tres, quatro!"

    Pepe got up and danced around the counter, passing the nail from hand to hand as he hammed it up to his reflection.

    "It's not unusual to be loved by anyone, hokay?
    It's not unusual to have fun with anyone, hokay?
    But when I see jou hangin' about wit anyone
    It's not unusual to see me cry, hokay?
    oh I wanna' die, hokay?"

    Pepe jumped on a block of wood and tapped his foot. He imagined himself in a night club, backed up by a big band suitable for Frank Sinatra Jr.. The audience was all female. The women constantly threw flowers, undergarments and phone numbers at Pepe as he sang.

    "It's not unusual to go out at any time,
    But when I see jou out and about it's such a crime
    If jou should ever want to be loved by anyone,"

    Pepe jumped off the block of wood, landed on his knees in the sawdust and gripped the nail with three of his four hands. His fourth arm was stretched out to the side. Pepe waved to his imaginary audience, pointing and flirting like a crustacean Wayne Newton.

    "It's not unusual it happens every day hokay, no matter what jou say, hokay?
    Jou find it happens all the tiiiime!"

    Pepe continued to dance, oblivious to the person walking out of the Fix-It Shop. It was Gabi, who had a cell phone in one hand and only noticed Pepe when she turned around.

    "Yes, Mr. Hemlock, your magnifying glass is ready to be picked up. Just stop by the Fix-It Shop...today..." her eyes widened as she saw a singing, dancing king prawn on the work table. "...adios." she finished.

    "Love will never do what you want it to,
    why can't this crazy love be miiiiiiine." On the word 'mine', Pepe tilted his head back and raised a tiny hand as high as it would go.

    "It's not unusual, to be mad with anyone.
    It's not unusual, to be sad with anyone, hokay?"

    Gabi slowly put the cell phone in her pocket. All she could do was blink. Pepe, who was facing the other way, didn't notice.

    "But if I ever find that you've changed at anytime,
    It's not unusual to find out that I'm in love with jou!" He pointed his microphone ahead of him towards an imaginary woman next to the power drill.

    "whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh..."

    Pepe danced and shook his hips as he spun around.

    "Buenos dias?" Gabi asked tentatively.

    "whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh.." Pepe whirled around in mid-step and suddenly noticed Gabi. "Whoa--" he froze. The all-female audience and backup band immediately vanished. If he hadn't already been red, he would have turned red from embarrassment.

    "Ahh...um, well, ahem..." Pepe quickly tossed the nail down and hastily brushed off his coat with his two lower arms. "I was just...um, rehearsing, hokay?" Gabi raised an eyebrow at him.

    "At the Fix-It Shop?"

    "Uh, well, um, it is a good place, hokay. Good lighting, nice acoustics and h'I halso get do sing for de pretty girl, hokay?" he spoke the last few words suggestively as he looked up at her. "H'I heard jou speaking Spanish. H'I speak Spanish, too. Pepe knows a pretty Spanish womens when he sees one, hokay?" Pepe leaned against Gabi's arm and gently stroked the sleeve of her sweatshirt. "Such a nice lady," he leaned his head against her arm and continued to stroke it like a cat. "so warm, so soft, just like de Charmins, hokay." he sighed contentedly.

    Rowlf, who had been watching the whole thing a little ways off, decided to intervene.

    "Charmin?" he chuckled. "Is that how you pick up women? By telling them they're like toilet paper?"

    Pepe, irrtiated, stood up. "Jou mutt," he frowned. "H'I don't need any advice from jou on how to pick up de womens, hokay."

    "I guess not," Rowlf smiled. He then took Gabi's other hand and mockingly flirted with her.

    "Oh my love, come away with me to the Northern part of the country. For my love for you is thick, absorbent and double quilted with warmth. I'm not one of those flimsy, 2-ply guys who will leave you flushed with anger!"

    Gabi laughed as Pepe frowned.

    "Jou stop it, hokay?"

    "Hey, I was on a roll!" Rowlf replied. Gabi laughed harder.

    "What's going on out here?" asked Luis. "What's so funny?"

    "Hi Papi," said Gabi. "I was just talking with this puppy dog and watching a shrimp sing."

    "H'I am a king prawn, hokay?" Pepe scowled.

    Luis saw Rowlf and smiled. "Hey, Rowlf! Long time, no see! How've you been?"

    "Not bad," said Rowlf. "I noticed the Fix-It Shop moved."

    Pepe couldn't care less about where the Fix-It Shop had been. He completely ignored Rowlf and Luis as he focused on the only thing that mattered: Gabi.

    "Yeah, it's a new location, but the same old place. I'm testing the popcorn popper inside to see if it works right," Rowlf looked inside the Fix-It Shop and saw a large, upside-down transluscent bowl on the table. A heater underneath the bowl sent the kernels leaping. "While the popcorn pops, I thought I'd bring this lighted, oval mirror frame to the work table. It needs a new mirror installed." Luis held it up a little and checked the lights, which came on in sequence.

    "Hmmm..." Rowlf looked through it and turned his head around to follow the light bulbs surrounding the frame as they illuminated.

    "Nine lights."

    "Honey, have you seen my power drill?" another voice said. Out came Maria, who was holding a birdhouse under one arm. "Oh, here it--what's everyone doing out here?"

    "I yi yi!" Pepe gaped when he saw Maria. It was the only thing that tore him away from staring at Gabi. His tiny mouth hung open like a wolf's in a Tex Avery cartoon.

    "Hi, Maria!" said Rowlf, his head upside down inside the mirror frame.

    "Hey Rowlf, welcome!" said Maria. "good to see you again!" Rowlf turned right side up and Maria gave him a little scratch behind the ears.

    "Same here, I love this old place."

    Gabi turned to her mother. "You know this puppy dog, too?"

    "Sure. You remember Rowlf, right? He visted here when you were a lot younger," explained Maria. "In fact, Rowlf lived here before we did."

    "I think I remember you now," said Gabi. "You play the piano...like Bob, right?" Rowlf nodded.

    "Hand make corny jokes, hokay?" grumbled Pepe. He hated to be ignored.

    "Who's this?" asked Maria.

    "H'allow me to introduce myself," Pepe tapped one of his hands to his tiny chest. "H'I am Pepe the King Prawn. H'I came here wit Kermin and de rest of the Muppens to tell jou someting very himportant, hokay?"

    "Kermin?" asked Luis.

    Pepe appeared to notice Luis for the first time. "Yeah, Kermin de Frog. He waves his arms, goes 'yaaay' and his girlfriend's dat piece of pork."

    "Kermit's here?" asked Luis.

    "Yes, and we have to show this," Rowlf paused to unroll his copy of the drawing "to everyone we see. Whoever did this drawing has a big responsibility on their hands."

    "What kind of responsibility?" asked Maria.

    "It's kind of a long story, but if you get KMUP way out here, it should explain. Basically, Mister Rogers chose a guardian for his props and sets and stuff. He said the guardian is whoever did this drawing, but we have to find out who," Rowlf handed a copy of the printed announcement to Luis. "this should explain everything more clearly. We just know that it's very important to Kermit...and me that we find people to help."

    Luis put down the mirror frame. "Can I put those in the window of the Fix-It Shop?"

    "Of course." Rowlf handed them over and Luis went back inside to tape them to the window. As he worked, Pepe strutted up to Maria and Gabi.

    "As long as we're here wit Kermin, how 'bout jou two ladies and I ditch de pooch and go out for some fun, eh?" he leaned against Maria's arm and looked up. "Jou have de most beautiful eyes. H'I halways loves de Spanish womens best, hokay? We'll go out for some good food at de authentic Mexican restaurant, hokay? Nothing but de best for Pepe's dates." He looked back and forth between Maria and Gabi.

    "Thanks, but no thanks," frowned Maria.

    "I'll get you each a chalupa..." Pepe schmoozed. "from Taco Bell." he looked up at them hopefully.

    Rowlf put a hand over his mouth and tried to keep from laughing.

    "Taco Bell?" he chuckled.

    "I don't think so." agreed Gabi.

    Rowlf saw the popcorn popper in the Fix-It Shop, now filled with fresh, buttery popcorn. Luis opened the halves. The heater part sat on the table, glistening with popcorn grease. Steam and a buttery smell filled the air. He helped himself to some popcorn, then came out of the Fix-It Shop with something else to work on. "There, I got the picture up. So what's this about going to a restaurant?"

    "Si," said Pepe. "H'I am about to go on a date wit dese two beautiful womens, hokay? Go ahead and take care of de pooch while H'I am away." He waved Luis away with one lower hand as he stroked Maria's arm with an upper hand.

    Luis raised an eyebrow. "You're taking my daughter and my wife on a date?"

    Pepe froze in mid-stroke. His eyes bugged out more than usual at Luis's expression of disapproval. "Ah...um...you see, H'I, um...hokay..." for once he was at a loss for words. Then Pepe sniffed the air.

    Steam...
    Steam and butter...
    Freshly melted butter...

    Pepe's jaw began to quiver. He looked like Beaker when confronted with one of Bunsen's inventions.

    "Honey, what's that?" asked Maria.

    "Oh this?" Luis casually held it up as Pepe looked at it, now absolutely horrified. "Mr. Lagasse wanted me to fix his lobster cracker today." Luis gave the thing a few experimental squeezes in midair.

    Pepe's four arms shot up in submission.

    "AHHH! Dios mio! H'I surrender, hokay! H'I didn't know de womens were your womens!" Pepe turned to Maria and Gabi. "H'I halso just remembered dat my credit card is maxed out hokay?" He slashed a hand from left to right. "De dinner date is cancelled!" Pepe scrambled off the work table and motioned to Rowlf. "C'mon, Woof! We need to find de womens to ask who don't have esposo and padre bodyguards wit de lethal weapons!" In no time, Pepe was at the end of the block.

    "For a shrimp, he sure runs fast." said Gabi.

    "H'I am a king prawn, hokay?" Pepe's distant voice called from 20 feet away.

    "What was that all about?" asked Luis.

    Rowlf gave the trio a 'that's life' type of shrug. "Just be lucky you don't have to put up with this all the time. Anyway, remember, if you hear from anyone who thinks they drew that picture, let us know right away."

    "Will do, Rowlf. Adios!" said Luis.

    "Adios!" Maria and Gabi added as they waved goodbye.

    Rowlf walked on. As he did, the sound of tools drilling adjusting and hammering became fainter. Rowlf smiled. It was a while since he heard those particular sounds. Sure, people fixed things at the theater, but this was different. Here, things actually stayed fixed and didn't explode.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The last of twilight wavered over the tops of the buildings. One last purple sliver of daylight peeked from between an array of TV antennas as it slowly succumbed to the night sky. It was a clear night, as usual. Somehow, the air pollution from the rest of the city never reached the skies directly over this particular street. The stars sparkled with incredible clarity. They surrounded a luminous, crescent moon hanging over Bob's apartment. It looked as if one were to stand on top of that roof, they could reach up and touch it.

    The accomadations worked well for everyone. Kermit put his spindly fingers on the windowsill as he mentally noted where everyone was staying for the night.

    Most everyone was staying at someone's apartment: Fozzie and Scooter were at Maria and Luis's, Rowlf and Pepe were at Bob's and Link stayed at Susan and Gordon's. Bunsen and Beaker stayed with the Count. Sweetums simply sprawled out in front of the window well just outside Ernie and Bert's. This way, he could be close to Robin, who was bunking out with Kermit, Ernie and Bert.

    The band camped out in the bus back at the parking lot. "Makes us feel like we're at Woodstock!" Dr. Teeth had remarked.

    Piggy (of course) had made reservations at a swanky hotel a few blocks away. Sam was somewhere. Kermit wasn't sure where, but he wasn't worried. Sam could take care of himself.

    Rizzo, of course, stayed with Oscar. They got along well that one Christmas...

    Grover had volunteered to let the penguins stay with him. After several exhausting trips to the convenience store, Grover finally had enough ice to fill up his plastic kiddie pool. Gonzo caught wind of this and volunteered to bunk with the penguins...not because they were birds, but because Gonzo thought that it would be fun to sleep in a cramped pool of ice. Camilla slept near the pool but not in it. Grover had carefully made a nest for her out of the only twig-like things he could find in his apartment: it was a framework of Tinker Toys, lined with Nabisco Twigs, pretzel rods and slightly crumbled Shredded Wheat from the kitchen. It wasn't the most comfortable nest Camilla had sat in, but at least she had plenty to snack on.

    Kermit stood in Ernie and Bert's bedroom and stared out the open window. His hands were now clasped behind his back. Kermit's eyes followed a silent, winking plane as it slowly soared into the heavens.

    There were the stars...and beyond them was space itself. Was anything beyond that? Was there anyone beyond that? Some people thought so. He remembered what Richard Hunt had said a long time ago...

    "The stars...that we look up in wonder and say 'is that where we're going?'"

    Kermit thought about Richard and how much he missed him...and Jim...and well, a lot of people. He thought about Mister Rogers and sighed. Was he too where Jim was? The stars flickered back silently, almost in response to Kermit's silent question.

    Kermit wanted some kind of sign that things would be okay...that he would find 'The Best Neighbor' in time. He didn't want that poor child's heart to be broken...whoever it was.

    But who was it? Who? Kermit didn't get frazzled easily, but a part of him wanted to imitate Richard Dreyfuss from 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind': to run outside, wave his arms and yell at the sky in frustration. Kermit then had a silly image of himself at the dinner table carving a trolley out of mashed potatoes. He chuckled at the thought. At least he had his sense of humor.

    Some people said the stars didn't really twinkle. They just seemed to due to everyone having a slight amount of astigmatism. Kermit half-smiled. Bunsen would say something like that. But as for Kermit...he liked to wonder 'bout the world above...up there.

    "So, do you think we'll find out who did the picture, Kermit?"

    Kermit turned around. There was Bert in his same old striped pajamas he always wore. The only light in the room was the lamp behind Ernie's bed. It cast a friendly glow on Rubber Duckie, who was sitting on the bedside table. Ernie was brushing his teeth in the bathroom. Robin, who was snuggled in his Frog Scouts sleeping bag, was on a half-empty bookcase. He chose that spot because he didn't want to get stepped on during the night. Also, if he stretched a little, he could see Sweetums just outside. Robin had been asleep for a half hour. It had been a busy day for him.

    "I sure hope we do, Bert." Kermit replied. He tried to hide the worry in his voice.

    "It's not like...it's not like we have to search the whole country or anything. Just here and Hensonville." Bert reminded him.

    Kermit nodded. "Yeah, you're right...and after we leave, we'll leave copies of the drawing here and..."

    "We'll keep asking the kids and anyone else you didn't see." finished Bert. "We'll find out who did it." Bert gave Kermit's shoulder a pat. "we will." Kermit smiled back.

    The bathroom light snapped off and the door opened. Ernie walked out, dressed in his regular yellow and brown spotted pajamas. Kermit glanced at the moon again.

    Ernie spread his fingers to cover his wide yawn.

    "Beddy-bye time again, ol' buddy Bert." sighed Ernie as he snuggled into bed.

    "Good," Bert replied as he settled down on his pillow. "let's go to sleep. Good night Ernie. Good night, Kermit."

    There was a slight squeak.

    "I know, Rubber Duckie," Ernie nodded. Ernie turned to Kermit, who was still standing at the window. "Rubber Duckie says it's time for bed, Kermit."

    Kermit managed another small smile and admired how the moonlight shone on the street he rarely visited, but still loved.

    "I was just...looking at the moon." Kermit said simply.

    "I do that, too...(squeak)...what's that?" Ernie asked.

    (squeak squeak squeaka squeak)

    "Oh, I see. Rubber Duckie says he thinks about the moon, too. Say Kermit, did you ever think you'd like to visit the moon?"

    Kermit, still in contemplation, nodded a little without even knowing it. His worry ebbed when he heard Ernie begin to sing.

    "Well, I'd like to visit the moon
    On a rocket ship high in the air.
    Yes, I'd like to visit the moon
    But I don't think I'd like to live there".

    Ernie sat up and mimed looking down from the sky with his hand shielding his eyes.

    "Though I'd like to look down at the earth from above,"

    He put his hand down and gave Rubber Duckie a pat.

    "I would miss all the places and people I love.
    So although I might like it for one afternoon
    I don't want to live on the moon."

    Kermit, still at the window, sang the next verse. It reminded him of the swamp.

    "I'd like to travel under the sea.
    I could meet all the fish everywhere.
    Yes, I'd travel under the sea...
    But I don't think I'd like to live there.
    I might stay for a day there if I had my wish,
    But there's not much to do when your friends are all fish
    And an oyster and clam aren't real family.
    So I don't want to live in the sea."

    Bert, who had propped himself up in bed by one elbow, sang the next few lines.

    "I'd like to visit the jungle, hear the lions roar,
    Go back in time and meet a dinosaur."

    Ernie joined him on the next two lines.

    "There's so many strange places I'd like to be
    But none of them permanently."

    All three of them sang the next few lines: Ernie and Bert in their beds with Kermit taking one last look out the window.

    "So if I should visit the moon,
    Well, I'll dance on a moonbeam and then
    I will make a wish on a star--"

    Kermit's eyes watered as he thought of Jim, Richard and Mister Rogers.

    "And I'll wish I was home once again."

    "Though I'd like to look down at the earth from above," sang Ernie.

    "I would miss all the places and people I love." sang Bert.

    "So although I may go I'll be coming home soon..." sang Kermit as he slowly walked toward his sleeping bag and settled into it.

    "'Cause I don't want to live on the moon." all three of them sang as they pulled their covers up.

    "No, I don't...want to live...on the moon." Ernie sang alone. He gave Rubber Duckie a goodnight pat, then tucked him in before fading off to sleep.

    The crescent moon shone down on all four of them, the snoring, friendly monster just outside, the arbor, the buildings, the entire street. Three stars near the moon seemed to twinkle slightly brighter than the others.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    More soon.

    Convincing John
  5. redBoobergurl Well-Known Member

    Another wonderful chapter! I love the stuff with Rowlf cause he is my favorite. Pepe was hilarious! I also like where they all ended up for sleeping and I found the Ernie, Kermit, Bert scene with "I Don't Want to Live on the Moon" very heartwarming. Nice stuff!
  6. Convincing John Well-Known Member

    Just FYI, there will be more Rowlf stuff coming up soon, so stay tuned!

    Unfortunately, for now, we have to leave the safe, warm comforts of Sesame Street and explore elsewhere. As odd as this may sound, this next place actually contributes to the end of the story.

    Hang on, watch your step...and your wallet.

    Chapter 17

    It was almost 10PM as the Maybach drove around and around the outskirts of New York City. Max waited for instructions from his boss. Thanks to Frass's inability to read a map, they were still lost. They had taken the same exit three times and another one at least twice.

    Max did exactly as he was told, even though he knew he was going the wrong way. In fact, he was often glad they were going the wrong way. He didn't want Frass anywhere near Kermit.

    During the third time instructing Max to loop around a cloverleaf intersection, Frass gave the map a disgruntled toss.

    "We're stoppin' for the night. Just take the next exit and we'll stay at the first place we see. We'll go after that frog in the morning. He can't be too far."

    Max obediently left the cloverleaf and headed for a brightly lit building he had seen zoom past the horizon a half dozen times by now. The Maybach entered an enormous parking lot surrounding a twenty-five story building. A neon, animated display flashed from atop the penthouse. The first set of neon lights showed an outline of a green monster with horns and bulging, insane eyes. The next set of lights showed the monster with its mouth open and dollar bills flying out. The two images alternated every second.

    Below, a massive marquee of running lights encircled four huge words in red: BIG MEAN CARL'S CASINO.

    "Here?" Max asked.

    Frass didn't hear him. From the sight of it, Frass grinned. He loved casinos. He couldn't get enough of them. The neon display reflected on the tinted window until Frass let it down. Traces of the lights reflected off the oil on Frass's face. Red light from the marquee glinted in his deep set eyes.

    Max guessed that Frass didn't want to bother with valet parking, so he parked the car himself.

    Row after row of cars glinted in the moonlight as the two of them left the Maybach and walked ahead. Frass was like a disgusting kid in a candy store. Had he the energy, he would have ran. Instead, he had to settle for a spirited waddle.

    Max had never been to a casino before. He had heard about them, of course, but had no money to buy a simple deck of cards, let alone money to gamble with.

    As Max walked closer, he felt very much out of place. They reached the front door. It was a revolving one made from glass and highly polished brass. To Max, it looked like solid gold.

    Max listened to the distant traffic and glanced at the dim, streaming headlights as he waited for his boss to struggle through the door, as he barely fit between the revolving panels.

    The world of a chilled city night peppered with outlines of parked cars and blackness vanished as Max pushed on the glass. There was a vacuum-like whumph as he stepped through.

    The quiet night changed instantly into an alarmingly bright, noisy day. The first thing Max heard was steady ringing, followed by the chattering of an immense crowd mixed with the clattering and clinking of glasses and change.

    Lights! They were everywhere! Rows upon rows of machines, further than Max could see, were lit up ten times brighter than the most extravagant Christmas display. The lights flashed, alternated in color and scrolled and chased each other around the edges of the slot machines. Each machine had some kind of whirling, animated display screen. Each screen had a hapless gambler, mesmerized by the animation. Each gambler was slumped over a screen and shoving various types of currency into slots. The machines seemed to take anything from cash to credit cards to change to valuable objects. One man was feeding his watch into a slot. Max saw the corresponding screen display read "CREDIT 1 GOLD WATCH" before the game started.

    Among the machines, there were tables for Blackjack, Roulette, Craps and various other games. Max even saw a Keno game in the distance next to a fancy buffet. Ritzy people in fancy clothes adorned with glittering jewelry sipped champagne and smoked Treasurer Black cigarettes while laughing at the gamblers, who furiously scrambled for pocket change with shaky hands and glazed eyes.

    Max saw some people lucky enough to win something from the machines, but it was usually just enough change to keep them playing. Mostly, Max saw people dig for change, give the machines pleading looks and slump in defeat. One man had his head buried in his hands and was either sobbing or asleep from exhaustion after sitting at the same machine for the past ten hours.

    There were two things this casino had that most casinos didn't. One of these was an excessive amount of belching. It came from each machine, each table and even the buffet once in a while. The belching came from the second thing most casinos didn't have; green monsters.

    Max immediately noticed that huge, green monsters just like the one depicted in neon lights outside were all over the place. They were on the computer screens in each game, they appeared in plastic statue form atop different casino machines, there were paintings of them on the far walls wearing scowls and three-piece suits. There was even a massive fountain in the center of the casino with a monster statue in the center. Water gushed endlessly from its sagging jaw and splashed into a pool where dozens had tossed (and later fished out) loose change.

    Max was amazed to see that they also appeared in the flesh, (or rather in the fur). They were dealers at the tables, spun colorful wheels in front of crowds and stuffed themselves at the buffet table. Max watched a trio of them as they swallowed whole lobsters and trays of Swiss truffles without pausing to chew.

    Each monster, either onscreen, statue, or in the flesh belched every 30 seconds or so. As they did, sometimes money came out for the gamblers to use. Mostly, it was just a lot of bad breath. After each belch, the monster would declare "Thank you! Thank you!" and demand more money.

    Max ducked as something was hurled his way. He saw a green monster, obviously a security guard, give the bum's rush to an elderly, penniless man. Instead of tossing him out the door, the guard tossed the man straight into a chute next to the revolving door.

    "AN' DON'T COME BACK TILL YA GET MORE MONEY!" bellowed the monster. Max turned around and glanced through the revolving door. A massive vacuum pump sucked up something heavy, then spat it out like a cannonball. The jumble of arms and legs flailed helplessly as the old man sailed in an arc over the darkened parking lot. Max heard a muffled thump as the old man bounced off someone's hood and hit the pavement. A car alarm wailed and whooped in response.

    The security guard monster went through the revolving door just enough to poke his head out.

    "SHADDUP!" he roared to the parking lot.

    The car alarm silenced immediately. The monster nodded gruffly, then came back inside.

    Frass took no notice of this. He was too interested in the enticing games and the buffet, licking his oily lips in anticipation. He stood in line with Max as they waited to be admitted. With nothing else to do, Max just stood there with his boss. As he did, he couldn't help overhearing a conversation nearby. An overconfident lounge singer noticed Frass in line. He cocked an eyebrow to his primate bodyguard as they passed by.

    "Hey Sal," he beckoned.

    "Yeah, Johnny?" asked Sal.

    "Get a loada the Good Year Blimp, eh?" he chuckled. "Ya better go hide the cannolis before this one hits the buffet."

    "Okay Johnny, I'll go hide 'em in your bed upstairs!" Sal rushed off.

    Johnny now eyed two young women, who were beginning to make goo-goo eyes at him.

    "Hello there," said one woman seductively.

    "Hey, how ya doin?" Johnny leaned casually against the velvet rope. "I'm Johnny Fiama. I sing here at the casino. No doubt you've, ahem, heard of me. I er uh, got a deluxe room upstairs," he leaned forward and raised an eyebrow. "very classy."

    "Hey Johnny!" Sal bellowed as he ran up to him. "I can't hide all the cannolis in your bed because--oh hi," he glanced at the women. "because I remembered somethin'. Since your Ma's sleepin' with us in the one single bed upstairs, there's no room for the cannolis in the bed. You want me to put 'em in the bathtub instead, Johnny?"

    The girls looked at Johnny and tittered.

    "Say 'hi' to your Ma for us." one said as they walked away, laughing.

    Johnny gave Sal a dirty look.

    "What?" Sal shrugged innocently.

    Soon, it was Frass's turn to be admitted. A huge, dark brown bear in a security cap and badge stood behind a podium. When he saw Frass and Max, he hastily stashed away his bucket of fried chicken. He licked his claws and quickly picked up a pen.

    "And your name, sir?" asked the bear.

    "Edd Frass. This is Max." he jabbed a thumb behind him.

    "And are you here to play?" Bobo asked Max.

    "Uhh..." Max hesitated. In his pocket were the car keys, his wallet devoid of cash and three rolls of Rolaids.

    The bear wagged a claw at Max. "'Cause if you don't have at least $10, you can't come in. House rules."

    Max frantically searched his other pocket. Two dimes and a nickel. He imagined himself being tossed out via the vacuum tube at any second.

    "OH!" Frass, hating to wait, angrily reached into his lapel pocket. He shoved a roll of quarters forcefully into Max's hand. "HERE! That comes out of your pay, of course."

    Of course...Max thought sadly.

    "All right, and how about you, sir?" Bobo asked Frass. "You got cash?"

    Frass eased into one pocket and held up a wad of fifty dollar bills. Bobo could count at least ten of them.

    "Verrry good, sir," said Bobo, scrawling something in a guest book. "Now, will you be having a room as well?"

    "I will," said Frass, putting emphasis on the 'I'. "one of your best rooms, please." He reached into another pocket and gave Bobo a five hundred dollar bill.

    Frass turned around to Max as Bobo put the money away and fumbled with the guest book. "You're lucky you got that," he pointed to the quarters in Max's hand. "If you get hungry, there's the vending machines over there. You get sleepy, there's a bench next to it. You're lucky you're staying in here where it's warm rather than in the car."

    As Bobo finished taking down their information and checking driver's licenses, he gave Frass a key to his room. Then Bobo unhooked the velvet rope next to the podium, allowing them to enter.

    "Enjoy the casino!" said Bobo as he waddled back to the podium, his mind focused on the bucket of chicken.

    Frass's close-set eyes glowed. Dirty spittle glistened at the corners of his mouth. He saw something else in the casino that he had to have. It wasn't found in a machine or on the Blackjack table. He had to hurry to catch it.

    Quickly, he turned to Max.

    "I'll be back here in the morning. Early morning..about 5. Until then, you're on your own."

    Without another word, Max watched Frass waddle through the crowd like a penguin through a snowdrift. He was headed straight for a mini-skirted blonde waitress holding aloft a tray of drinks.

    "Hey, honey!" Frass sneered. "Get me a bottle of Everclear, 190 proof, and step on it!" Max saw Frass give the woman a firm slap on the rear. "And if you're quick enough, I might reward you." he dangled his hotel room key in front of her and grinned seductively with a mouth full of yellowed teeth.

    Max heard another slap. It was much louder and painful-sounding than the first. Max had no idea that the waitress had such quick reflexes. He feigned sudden interest in a slot machine when Frass glanced in his direction. The side of Frass's face was bright red. As Max watched the cartoonish display on the slot machine, he inwardly cheered for the waitress and wished he had enough money to give her a decent tip.

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

    More soon...

    Convincing John
  7. The Count Moderator

    Good update. Loving how you're mixing in all the different characters. Very well done and I await more eagerly.
  8. redBoobergurl Well-Known Member

    I also like how you're weaving different characters in here and there! I could totally see this playing out like a movie!
  9. Convincing John Well-Known Member

    A duet, another non-Muppet cameo appearance and some late night musing about shapes comin' right up.

    Oh, and here's an example of art imitating life. The way the coffee machine in this chapter...er, functions...is based off of a real coffee machine at work that did the same thing.

    Chapter 18

    The crescent moon overhead shone down on the city. Its light bathed an inner city street, glinting on the darkened windows. The natural moonlight mixed with the street light on the corner and reflected off a pair of sunglasses angled slightly upwards.

    Zoot lounged on the upper landing of the fire escape. Hoots perched on the handrail. One of them played a slow, jazzy tune. The second one played it back, improvising here and there. Then both musicians played together. They played to an empty house (or an empty street, rather) but it didn't really matter. What mattered was playing. Wordlessly, the two of them let their music flow into the empty night. The tunes mingled with the distant traffic sounds and the occasional distant dog bark. Everyone was asleep, yet the music made its way around the edges of their dreams. It blended with the noises of the night, harmonizing briefly with the pitch of the crickets, the tone of a test pattern from a TV left on, and used staccato notes to compliment the garbling snore only an eight foot yellow bird could make.

    Zoot and Hoots came to the end of their tune and glanced upwards. The moon seemed to be listening, too. A low B flat ended the song as the moon was obscured by a cloud.

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

    Max wasn't sure what to do. Ever since his boss left for his room (or to gamble, Max had lost sight of him), he wandered up and down aisle after aisle of zombie-like gamblers getting little to nothing back from the flashing, ringing, belching machines.

    He looked at the roll of quarters in his hand. The paper covering was grease-stained from where Frass had held it. After checking out the vending machines, Max found out he had enough for a bottled water, but not much else. The ridiculous price for a single bottle was $7.50.

    Nothing in the vending machine looked good to him. No food ever looked good to him. It didn't matter, because everything was overpriced anyway. $3.00 for a lousy pack of gum? Max thought. No way!

    A man came up to the coffee machine Max had ignored until now. He wore a bright red jacket, blue jeans, and an expression that clearly said he hadn't slept in two days. His red hair forked up in the front and his wide, bulging eyes zipped back and forth, examining the coffee selections.

    Max watched as the man put in a ridiculous amount of quarters with shaky, overly-caffeinated hands. Most of the time, it took three tries for him to get a quarter into the slot.

    "Coffee coffee coffee coffee coffee..." he jabbered obsessively as he punched a button on the machine.

    The machine gave a grinding groan, then it dispensed the man's coffee...sort of. The machine first spit out dry coffee grounds all over the floor. Then it spit out a shower of ice cold water. Then, with the trademark belch of the casino, a Styrofoam cup clunked out on the floor.

    The man immediately sank to his knees, gripped the sides of his head and screamed to the heavens as though the world was coming to an end.

    "My coffee!" he wailed. "I've gotta have my coffee!" In desperation, he grabbed the cup and started to scoop the dirty coffee grounds into it. Whatever he couldn't scoop with his hands, he licked off the floor like a dog. "My coffee!" slup-slurp-slup-slop "C'mere!"

    Max stepped back in shock. As he did, the man stood up.

    "I gotta get a coffee filter...I know! My insole!" as the man reached down to yank off his shoe, a woman approached him. She wore a white tank top and black tights with matching big boots. As she swept back her long, purple hair, Max noticed that she had only one giant eye in the middle of her face.

    "Here you are!" she scolded. "I told you to make the delivery and get back to the ship, not to go on another one of your coffee binges again. C'mon!"

    The woman forcibly yanked the man's arm. As she did, the man yelped in protest and dropped his cup.

    "Hey! Cut it out! OW! My--HEY! My coffee!" The man whimpered and whined like a little boy as the woman dragged him out of sight. "NO! My coffee! I want my coffee-ee--ee!"

    Max scratched his head and wandered away from the vending machines. As he did, he saw a row of little old ladies putting quarters into some old-fashioned looking machines. He shrugged. He knew he'd never afford a vacation and he'd probably never be in a casino again, so he thought he'd make the best of things and play a little...but only a little. He had Rolaids to eat and his bench was only a little ways away. There was even a drinking fountain and restrooms down the hall. He had everything he needed.

    Max ripped the paper on the roll enough for a quarter to slide out. The cartoon on the screen enticed him to play. The title screen "EAT THE STREET" scrolled by. A word balloon floated from one animated monster's mouth. "WIN BIG! WIN BIG!" it said.

    Max put the quarter in and pressed a red button. The green monsters on the screen ran up and down a city street. As they did, they gobbled up anything and everyone in sight. One monster belched and everything flew back out on the pixelated pavement. "SORRY! PLAY AGAIN! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!" yelled the game.

    Max tried again. The monsters marched a little further down the street, but the same thing happened. This time, however, Max saw a credit display at the bottom of the screen. He now had won 10 cents. Another play, Max gained $5 credit, but lost it within 3 more turns. The fourth turn, Max gained $20 credit.

    As is common with many gambling games, this machine tricked Max into thinking he won a lot, but yanked the money away with the next turn.

    It didn't take long for Max to become completely immersed in the game. He played for hours, pausing only for a bathroom break. Each time Max played, he gained back almost what he put in. The little old ladies beside him took no notice as they robotically inserted quarters, a silver brooch and a medical alert bracelet.

    Unfortunately, Max didn't notice that he was steadily losing his change. He reached into his pocket and there was only one quarter left. The animated monsters flapped their jaws and pleaded Max to play.

    With nothing left to lose, Max put in his last quarter. The onscreen monsters plowed down the street full force. Another herd of monsters joined them and ate their way through an animated mini mall. A third herd of them crashed through and ate a used car lot.

    As Max watched the last monster eat a hot dog stand (with the vendor), the machine rumbled violently. Max stood up and stepped back. A molded green monster face on the machine's lower casing lit up. It's jaw opened and it let out a belch so forceful, it almost blew Max's cap off.

    The belch also projected something Max's way. He caught it in his hand. The monster on the machine bellowed "THANK YOU! THANK YOU! NOW GO SPEND IT! HA HA HA HA HA!" The face closed and the game went back to the title screen.

    Max looked at the object in his hands. It was a gold coin the size of a tunafish can lid. One one side, the name of the casino was inscribed, followed by a series of jumbled letters and numbers. Max wondered if it was a code of some kind. The other side of the coin was an embossed picture of the green monster, laughing and pointing at the viewer.

    What happened? Obviously, he won something, but wasn't sure if it was really worth anything. No one seemed to take any notice of him and the huge coin. They were all too busy with their own games. Max's eyes glanced around and noticed a line forming at the far wall. With no other money in hand, he thought he'd try to cash the coin in. Maybe, with luck, he'd get his $10 back. He shuffled to the back of the line to wait.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    "Do you ever think about squares, Bert?"

    "Go to sleep, Ernie." mumbled Bert.

    "I mean, squares have four sides...and they're all the same, you know?"

    "Go to sleep, Ernie." mumbled Kermit.

    "Of course...I wonder about triangles, too. You know, you can play a triangle as a musical instrument."

    "Mrrrffmmrn..." said Robin as he groggily reached into his knapsack. Being the ever-prepared Frog Scout that he was, he fished out a pair of earmuffs and put them on before falling asleep again.

    "You know those musical triangles they have that go 'ding-da-ding-da-ding'? Those are fun to listen to."

    Bert sighed, turned over and put his face in his pillow. Kermit sunk down in his sleeping bag and frowned.

    "But if they call it a "triangle" and you can play it, why don't they call a tamborine a 'circle'? It's shaped like a circle, but they call it something different. If they did call it a 'circle', you could say 'I'm going to play the triangle and the circle in the band.'...so why don't they call the tamborine a circle? Huh? Oh well...I guess..." Ernie snuggled down into bed and yawned. "I guess they just...do..." In a moment, Ernie fell asleep.

    A long moment passed by.

    "Yeah...why don't they call it a circle?" Bert asked aloud. There was a long pause. "Oh great. Now I'm wide awake. Sigh..."

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

    More soon.

    Convincing John
  10. The Count Moderator

    Nice update. Liked Zoot and Hoots' duet, it reminds me of a cool idea for a photo of the figures, Zoot with his sax under the lamppost outside Big Bird's nesting area. The casino stuff is intriguing, wanna know about that coin. The nighttime conversation, perfect, even Robin knows you should bring earmuffs for sleeping over at B & E's. Please post more.
  11. redBoobergurl Well-Known Member

    Good old Ernie. I loved the shape conversation, very cute. Must have more!
  12. Convincing John Well-Known Member

    More cameos comin' right up! Most of 'em are Muppets, plus one celebrity (well, more of a celebrity in the late 80's) who worked on TV with Alaina Reed (Olivia) years ago on another show. She seemed to fit in this chapter. Enjoy!

    Chapter 19

    Max realized why the line was taking so long by the time he reached the front of it. The line was made up almost exclusively of men. Each one was trying to catch a glimpse of the cashier's window.

    There were two men ahead of Max. The one at the front of the line just stood there, staring at the cashier. A sign above the window read "CASH OUT/CASINO CARDS PURCHASED HERE". Max then saw why the men were so eager to get in line and also why the line was so slow.

    At the window was a woman. She was a black woman in her early thirties wearing a tight-fitting, cherry red dress that barely covered her Mae West figure. A massive mound of jet black teased hair encircled her cocoa-complexioned face. Deep, dark brown eyes winked at the men with long, curling, come hither eyelashes. Her shiny, magenta lips curled in a sultry smile as she talked to the man in front of her.

    The voice did not match this woman at all. It was as if the woman were trying to talk seductively and whine through her nose at the same time. None of the men in line seemed to care as they gazed at her. Max watched as she talked to the man at the counter. Max could read the name "Sandra" printed on a name tag just inches from her cleavage.

    "Well, hi there!" she squeaked. "You comin' back for another Casino Card, sweetie?"

    "Humma..ma...uh huh..." the man was fishing through his pockets, furiously looking for money. All the while, he never took his eyes off the woman. He finally found some twenties wadded in his left pocket and handed them over.

    "Thank you, you sweet, generous man!" she puckered her lips and lightly touched the man's chin with a long, red fingernail. She put the money in the cash register and printed out a card from another machine. As she slid the card towards him, she leaned forward. "You come back and you see me again," she tilted her head, curled her lips in a pout and made a 'sad puppy face'. "won't you?" she pleaded.

    "Ahh...d..d...mahhm...yeah..." the man sputtered as he took the card.

    "Okay, tell all your buddies to come see Saaaandra to get their Casino Cards!"

    The man nodded, his eyes still glazed over and a dopey grin stretched across his face.

    "Okay now, bye-bye cute stuff!" Sandra held up a hand and wriggled her long, painted fingernails at him.

    The next man eagerly stepped up to the counter.

    "Well, hi there!" Sandra squeaked. "You comin' back for another Casino Card, sweetie?"

    The second man gaped like a goldfish, then searched for money in his pockets that wasn't there. In desperation, he pulled out his pocket knife and noisily scraped at his molars. Finally, he pried out all of his gold fillings. He winced, put the fillings on the counter and said "You accept theesh?"

    Sandra's disgust was evident to Max. She hid her grimace well as she pulled a manila envelope from under the counter.

    "Just...put 'em in there..." she struggled at the next word. "...sweetie." The man eagerly scooped his fillings in the envelope and handed them to her. Sandra took the envelope as if she were holding the tail of a dead mouse. After putting it in the cash register, she composed herself and her usual seductive expression was back.

    "Now here's your card. Go have fun! You tell your friends to come see Saaaandra, OK?"

    The man, now with a fresh card and several toothaches, gleefully left the line for the Blackjack table. Now it was Max's turn.

    As Max stepped forward, he sniffed a lemony scent. Sandra made a face as she sprayed Lysol where the fillings had been. She put the can away and looked up.

    "Well, hi there!" she repeated in her nasal, Mae-West-on-helium voice.

    She's a broken record, thought Max.

    "You comin' back for another Casino Card, sweetie?"

    Max tried to compose himself as Sandra batted her eyelashes at him. As she did Max's eyes began to glaze over. At last he remembered the huge coin he had won earlier.

    "N-no...I'm here to cash this in. I won it at the machine and I just want to see how much I got..." Max never took his eyes off her as he reached into his pocket and handed her the large gold coin.

    Sandra took the coin and put it in another machine where similarly printed coins were kept and counted. When she did, a little ticket popped out. Sandra tore it off, read it and her jaw dropped in surprise.

    "Do you know what you just did?" she asked incredulously.

    Max shrugged. He had no idea.

    "You just won five thousand dollars!" Sandra squealed.

    "Wh--wha?" Max blinked.

    "Oh my goodness! This is incredible! Congratulations!" She opened the cash register and beckoned Max closer with one long, red fingernail. "Come here, sweetie. Give me your hand."

    Still in a daze, Max did as he was told. Sandra took his hand and turned it palm upwards. She then counted out the bills as she put them in his hand.

    "There's one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand...and FIVE thousand! You are one very lucky man!"

    Max stood there, stunned. He ignored the dirty looks from the gamblers behind him as he turned away from the cashier's counter.

    "Now hold on, wait a minute, sugar," said Sandra. "you wouldn't think about leaving just yet, would you?"

    Max looked back at her, then at the sudden amount of wealth in his hand. "Uhhh..."

    "Because when a man wins that kind of money, it's customary to treat a lady to a meal at the buffet." Sandra leaned forward, her ample bosom falling and rising with each hot breath Max felt on his face. Her plucked eyebrows raised seductively.

    "You interested in treating a lady to dinner? I am simply," she tossed her hair a little and leaned a little closer. "famished."

    "Uhmmum..mum..." Max felt his ears turn red.

    "I thought so." Sandra leaned to a little microphone and pressed a button with her knuckle (so she wouldn't break a nail). "Oh Carl, I'm finishin' my shift now. Send Mewwwy up to Window 1, please."

    Much to the chagrin of the gamblers in line, Sandra left the window and met Max, who was waiting away from the line. She suddenly held up her hands and put one to her cheek.

    "Ooh! I forgot my purse!" she exclaimed. Sandra leaned forward and held up her finger to Max's face.

    "Now you just wait here, sugar. I'll be--" she lightly tapped Max on the nose twice "right...back." Max watched her turn around. With a dreamy look in his eyes, he watched Sandra totter away on her stiletto heels and wiggle in all the right places.

    As she disappeared around the corner, Max felt the money in his hand and snapped back to reality. He couldn't believe his luck! Five thousand dollars in his hand and a dinner date with one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen! He put the money in his wallet and sighed. Finally something was going his way! He couldn't quit his job, but he could save up...or pay off some student loans or...

    That woman...

    At last he had money to go out on dates! That's what he'd use it for! He was going to date this woman!

    Max happily wrung his hands, feeling joy for the first time in ages. His heart soared! At last, things were going to be--

    "MAX!"

    Max's face fell like a sack of sugar.

    Oh no. Not now! Why now? Max thought woefully.

    Frass waddled up to Max. Max could see that Frass had a few more fresh red marks on his face. From the look of it, Frass never did get that Everclear he ordered.

    "We're leavin'! It's past 5 already! We gotta hit the road. I suppose all your quarters are gone, huh?"

    "W-Well..."

    "I thought so," Frass huffed. "Spending your hard earned cash on the slot machines all night, I bet."

    "Uhh..."

    "Well, c'mon, Max! If we're gonna catch that frog, we gotta get goin'!"

    Max looked pitifully towards the corner, hoping for Sandra to return. She didn't.

    "Don't you need to cash your chips, sir?" Max asked, trying to stall for time.

    The places where Frass's face weren't red blended to match the rest of it. His eyes didn't meet Max's.

    "I don't...need to cash in." he muttered uncomfortably.

    "Well, you could stay to eat..."

    "No time. I wanna catch that frog!"

    Frass's beady eyes squinted, reading Max's pleading expression.

    "What are you lookin' like that for? You wanna gamble some more?" Frass nearly roared. "I'm not giving you any more money to play! Now get GOIN'!" Frass gave Max a shove towards the revolving door.

    With one last pitiful glance, Max watched where Sandra had disappeared. His heart gave a jolt as he saw the edge of her red dress peeping from around the corner. Then they were gone.

    A fuzzy, black and white image of Frass and Max played on a security monitor behind Sandra. She was just reapplying her lipstick. As she snapped her compact shut, a massive green monster trudged up to her.

    "Heyyy, Sandra!" he bellowed in greeting. Carl liked Sandra. Thanks to her, casino card purchases (from the men anyway) had skyrocketed since she was hired. A lot of men lost games on purpose just so they could get in line again to buy another card from her.

    "Hey Carl! I'm goin' home now."

    "All right, just lemme look at the stats for your shift," Carl punched a button on the cash register and a long strip of paper rolled out. "Uh huh, looks good...someone lost ten grand at the Blackjack tables! Ha ha ha! No one's won anything yet...good good...ooh! We got fifteen more cars today! A Lincoln Town Car, very nice..." Carl's eyes then bulged at the last item on the list.

    "Someone WON five thousand dollars?" he snapped. "How did THAT happen?"

    "He got a jackpot coin from the slot machine." explained Sandra.

    "And he CASHED IT IN?" Carl fumed. "He didn't get another Casino Card and spend it?"

    Sandra raised an eyebrow at him. "Well, can't people cash in and just leave if they want to?"

    "Yeah, but we ain't supposed to TELL 'EM!" Carl yelled.

    "Look," Sandra scowled and poked Carl in the chest with a red fingernail. "that poor boy had next to nothin' when he came in here. I saw him."

    "So?" snorted Carl. "That's what we do here! When someone comes in with next to nothin', we make sure they leave with absolutely nothin'! You don't let people leave here with MONEY!"

    "Well I don't care what you think!" she slung her purse over her shoulder. "Now that I am done with my shift, I'm plannin' to go out that door with that man and have dinner!"

    "You're going to do what?" asked Carl, leaning in as if he had trouble hearing.

    "HAVE DINNER!" Sandra yelled.

    "Don't mind if I do!" yelled Carl.

    Sandra screamed in terror as Carl gripped her shoulders and stuffed her head into his gaping maw.

    The men who hadn't left the line yet were now in shock. They booed Carl and yelled in protest as he continued to gobble up Sandra. Her nasal screams were now muffled by the booing and Carl's loud "MWAM MWAM MWAM"s as he ate.

    A moment later, Carl, oblivious to the crowd's disapproval, wiped his mouth with his wrist and smacked his lips. He turned to the crowd, his belly bulging. Suddenly, his mouth opened wide.

    "BLEEEEEHHHHHHRRRRP!" he belched. Two stiletto heels and a tube of lipstick flew out of his mouth. "THANK YOU! THANK YOU! Now if ya wanna buy more cards, just go to Window 2!" he pointed to the right and left the booth.

    A goofy looking man in a horrible toupee popped up from behind the second desk. He smiled excitedly like an overactive infommercial host hired to peddle a product guaranteed not to work.

    "HI everybody! It's ME, Todd Kapoodle! Don't forget, when you leave the casino, there's all kinds of GREAT deals to check out at Todd Kapoodle's Used Car Emporium!"

    "Hey! That's the guy who sold me that crappy car!" someone yelled. "the flywheel was made outta Legos!"

    "Yeah, mine too!" yelled someone else. "And the carburetor in mine was held together with Scotch tape!"

    "The tires he sells are pre-flattened!"

    "The bucket seats in his cars are nothin' but upside down ice cream buckets!"

    "Get him!"

    "BOO!"

    The crowd's boos shifted from Carl to the salesman. They threw their drinks, Sandra's shoes and casino chips at him. A dirty ashtray bounced off his head, sprinkling cigarette butts in his toupee. Carl pointed and laughed as someone's Bloody Mary splattered all over the salesman's freshly ironed, light blue shirt.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Max walked alongside Frass. It was still dark, but the early morning traffic was buzzing around the edge of the city. Frass watched a baker's truck, a semi carrying fruits and vegetables for a grocery store and bus after bus trundle along the perimeter of the parking lot.

    Busses...

    "Max, I got an idea."

    Max's head, just downcast a moment ago, snapped to attention.

    "We're gonna split up. Gimmie the keys." Max obediently surrendered them. "I'm gonna take the Maybach. You take the bus over there." He pointed with a fat finger towards the bus stop. We'll make it to that street quicker this way."

    "Yes...yes sir."

    "I just hope you got enough money for fare, cause I ain't givin' you no more."

    "Yeah, I got some change," Max replied. Plus about five grand more, he thought.

    "Good. We'll meet up there. Now get goin'!" Frass pointed again.

    Max nodded, then walked across the parking lot to the cold, open bus stop with no bench. Meanwhile, Frass waddled to the Maybach, stuffed himself into the driver's seat and cranked up the heater a few minutes before taking off.

    Max watched him go. It was obvious his boss didn't drive much. He nearly hit a car pulling out of the parking lot. He didn't use the turning signal at all and changed lanes back and forth without warning. Max winced as the Maybach weaved and finally merged with the rest of the sporadic traffic.

    Max shivered as a sudden rush of cold wind whipped around him. There was no one else nearby. The closest person Max could see was someone crying her way to the parking lot. She had gambled her car away and was weeping miserably in the empty parking space. Every so often, someone would appear in the moonlight. It was some completely poor person sailing over the parking lot courtesy of the casino's ejection tube. At the right angle, the people who flew in front of the moon looked either like clumsy, broomless witches or a blooper from "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial".

    The mournful sobbing and occasional thumping of bodies against cars was depressing. Max remembered the money in his pocket. Should he give it to these poor people and help them out, or would they just go and gamble it away again?

    Before he could think about it any longer, Max noticed lights from the other direction. Headlights. Max squinted and shielded his eyes as the bus pulled up to the curb.

    The doors hissed open and Max saw an unusual bus driver. He was something like a cross between Harpo Marx and Marty Feldman with a lavender complexion. His googly eyes spun unsettlingly above a permanent Chesire Cat grin. A bus driver's cap sat lopsided on his fuzzy head.

    "Hiya, friend!" he said in a chuckling voice. "Need a lift?"

    Max did, but he was wary of the bus driver. Still, it was either ride the bus or stand out in the cold. So Max climbed aboard.

    "Exact change, please!" said the driver, pointing to a sign. Fortunately, Max had the two dimes and a nickel. As he put them in the little box next to the driver's seat, the driver noticed someone else climbing aboard. Max took a seat as a blue-headed balding man wearing a three piece suit put a quarter in the box.

    "Does this bus go to Sesame Street?" asked Max. The driver nodded excitedly.

    "Oh good," said the blue headed man. "That's where I want to go, too."

    "What's that?" asked the driver.

    "I said," the blue man repeated. "that's where I want to go, too."

    "All right!" the driver reached into his pocket and pulled something out. He stuck it directly to the blue man's suit as a strange "twang" echoed from nowhere. "Now you can go--" he pointed to the number sticker. "Two!" The driver laughed crazily as the bus's doors hissed shut.

    The grumpy man took a seat across from Max and unfurled his newspaper. "At least it's not as bad as that waiter I have to put up with." he grumbled.

    As the bus stopped every few blocks or so, Max watched in amazement at the assortment of passengers the bus picked up. There were some other blue men like the first passenger behind Max (one of whom spoke English punctuated with sound effects). A pointy headed green man with sleepy eyes sat and cuddled his girlfriend: a massive, dark blue monster wearing a necklace, brown, curly hair and a crooked pink bow. The man didn't seem to mind her thick unibrow or her pointed teeth. Another unibrow in the room belonged to a large, smug-looking rabbit in a super hero costume. The rabbit held a carrot and some celery as though they were trophies for all to admire. A group of hippies sat in another row. They were lead by something that looked vaguely like Kermit with thick orange hair that hung over his eyes. Four other redheads sat with them. They were all nearly identical. Each one had moptop hairstyles, bobbing antennas protruding from their heads, beady eyes and light grey suits with stovepipe pants. They chatted with British accents to a pair of twin cats with curly brown fur. A confused looking cowboy idly scratched his mustache as he sat not a seat, but in a saddle. His slightly exasperated horse had to turn around so the cowboy could pay the driver. For some reason Max couldn't figure out, he was sitting backwards in the saddle.

    It went on this way for a few blocks until Max was crowded by riders of all colors, shapes, sizes and species. There were even things Max weren't sure fit into a species. The best example of this was a rider next to the blue balding man.

    "So between Cookie, Mr. Music and Mr. Hemlock they couldn't guess who I was. Say, are you done with the Sports section?" The blue man handed it to the rider: a large, red, letter "X".

    It was impossible to hear any one bit of conversation as the bus got fuller and fuller. As Max waited patiently, he heard a single word being repeated in the crowd: Kermit.

    There it was again: Kermit...yes, someone definitely said 'Kermit'!

    Max pricked up his ears and looked for the speaker. There! Between the lion chewing on a bunch of broccoli and the smartly dressed flamingo were three monsters.

    "Excuse me...excuse me..." Max leaned forward to them. "Sir?"

    A tall, grey monster with a high, peaked head turned around.

    "Yeah?"

    "Did you say 'Kermit?'"

    "Yeah, I did--"

    "You know him?" asked Max excitedly.

    "Kermit's my name, but I know other Kermits!" the monster replied.

    "Kermit the Frog?" asked Max, his hopes rising.

    The grey monster made a face. "Kermit the Frog?" he shook his head. "My name is Kermit the Forg," he gestured to a second grey monster with a bullet-shaped body and a pink nose. "that over there is Kermit the Grof," he waved a floppy arm towards a turquoise monster with a nose like a pear. "an' that's Kermit the Gorf."

    The turquoise monster spoke up. "Some people call me 'Maurice'."

    A nearby bearded hippie made a scratchy 'wolf-whistle' sound effect on his guitar and laughed.

    Just then Max noticed that each monster wore yellow t-shirts with their names printed on them.

    "You guys know a 'Kermit the Frog'?" asked the tall, grey monster. The other two sratched their fuzzy heads.

    "Nope."

    "I don't know him personally," shrugged Maurice. "But I think his t-shirt'll be ready Thursday. Does that help?"

    Max sighed and shook his head. As the monsters went back to their conversation, Max sat back and stared at the ceiling. Even among the din, Max felt sleepy. He had been driving for hours and it had taken a toll on him. Somehow, the chaos around him was soothing...the monsters chatted, the rabbit super hero sang while feeding the horse a carrot and the cowboy some celery, the moptop musicians sang a little with the cats and the letter 'X' cleared its throat. Throughout all this, the driver's hyper chuckle made itself present every few seconds. It was Max's own set of characters from Wonderland. Sleep finally overtook him as the bus stopped to pick up a grinning man in a loud suit and derby hat who eagerly sat between as many people as he could.

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

    Psssshhhhh! The bus's brakes hissed to a gentle stop.

    "Sesame Street! End of the line!" snickered the driver.

    Max awoke groggily. As he pulled up the bill on his cap, he noticed the bus was empty except for himself and the driver.

    Was this all a dream? Max thought. It was still dark outside. Condensation was on the windows, blurring everything in a single shade of grayish-navy blue. His joints were stiff. How long had he slept?

    "End of the line! C'mon, pal! Let's go!" the driver grinned. The doors opened to reveal nothing but cold, bluish-black darkness.

    "I'm at...Sesame Street?" Max repeated as he stood up on tired legs. There was nothing to see outside.

    "That's right m'friend!"

    "And I'll find...Kermit here?" Max asked aloud, more to himself than the driver. He made his way to the bus's exit. Ahead was a row of buildings too blurry to make out. It was a city block, all right, but something immediately didn't make sense. It didn't feel right to him. Still, the bus ride was a godsend compared to driving Frass around. Wherever he was, if this was Sesame Street, it was better than that rolling coffin with that rotten sausage smell.

    As Max grasped the rail and walked gingerly down the steps, he remembered his manners.

    "I appreciated the ride. Thank you."

    "What's that?" the googly-eyed driver asked as he leaned forward.

    "I said 'thank you'!" Max repeated.

    "All right!" the driver said as he reached for something. In one swift movement, he stuck something horseshoe-shaped to Max's shirt. As he did, an odd "twang" came from thin air. The driver pointed to the letter 'U' on Max's chest.

    "Thanks a lot, U!" The driver screamed uncontrollably with laughter. "You get it?" he yelled. "THANK U! Thank YOU!" The driver let out another howl and tossed a handful of confetti in the air. "THANK U!" A played, presumably from the same place as the twang.

    Max hastily stepped backwards onto the pavement as the doors hissed shut. The bus drove away as the driver, still in hysterics, continued to throw confetti in the air. In a moment, the bus was gone and Max was left staring in silence at the spot where it had been.

    Ka-clunk, ka-clunk!

    Max turned around to see a vague, small shape jumping from trash can to trash can.

    Just a cat...Max thought as the feline ran away with a newfound treat in its mouth.

    It wasn't until the noise had stopped that Max realized how quiet it was in this part of the city...

    ...and dark.

    ...and deserted.

    This couldn't be Sesame Street.

    First of all, there was not a light to be seen anywhere. Only the crescent moon above provided the little light Max had to see the littered sidewalk. Crumpled papers, leaves and other small pieces of airborne garbage swirled around in the light wind.

    As Max got closer to the main building in front of him, he saw that every window had been boarded up. A large, revolving door had been replaced by plywood and planks. Over the doorway's remains hung a curious bas relief sculpture. Max squinted at the shapes. They looked vaguely like limp arms covered in hair. The building's name, or what was left of it, was over the sculpture. Some of the letters had worn off (or fell off) years ago, leaving "F r y A ms" behind.

    "I bet that driver took a wrong turn," Max thought aloud. "I must be lo-" he caught himself in time. He didn't want to finish that sentence after what happened on that highway with the yo-yo man.

    "I'll just wait till it gets light, then I'll find a...gas station or something and get directions."

    Max brushed away some leaves from the abandoned stoop, peeled the letter 'U' from his shirt and tossed it away as he sat down to wait for dawn.

    The Westminster Chimes rang out from a distant clock tower. 6AM...

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

    More to come.

    Convincing John
  13. The Count Moderator

    Max, you doomkof... Then again, we shouldn't blame him, he probably hasn't kept up with Sesame's renovations throughout the years. If he had, he'd know not to throw away that U and put it up to complete the Furry Arms Hotel's name. But at least he's on Sesame.

    Was Sandra meant to be Jackie Reed? It worked quite well, though maybe Spamela could've been inserted into that role.

    The highlight was the bus ride Max ended taking.
    Bus Manifesto:
    Harvey Kneeslapper, Driver
    Mr. Fred Johnson
    Simon the Sounds Man
    Tony
    LouLou
    Captain Vegetable
    Little Jerry and The Monotones
    The Beetles
    Chip Cat
    Dip Cat
    Forgetful Jones
    Buster the Horse
    Chicago the Lion
    Placido Flamingo
    Kermit the Forg, Gorf, and Grof
    Alphabet Character: X, from What's My Part?

    Absolutely loving this, especially how you're combining old school and current SST. Please post more.
  14. redBoobergurl Well-Known Member

    I can't say much more than what Ed just said, loved the bus ride full of cameos, that much I know! Keep it coming!
  15. Convincing John Well-Known Member

    I didn't think of Spamela...hmmm...maybe she'll make a cameo yet. The woman in the casino is Jackee Harry from that show 227. I have a few of the episodes. For those who haven't seen (or don't remember) the show, here's a clip:



    I didn't think Max had kept up with Sesame's changes because his TV has worse reception than Oscar's. (lol). That's why he's so clueless about where he is right now. I still hear some people today saying "wait...they can see Snuffy now? When did that happen?"

    I had a ball with this chapter and cameos are so much fun. There will be more story soon.

    Convincing John
  16. Convincing John Well-Known Member

    New update (lots here, too!)

    Oh, and the last guy who got on the bus in the last chapter was Mr. Between (the betweeniest guy you ever seen).

    Chapter 20

    Jingle jingle went the keys in Rowlf's paw.

    Only Rowlf and Bob knew about the place. Maybe Kermit did too, but he never mentioned it. Rowlf had been awake for some time and since Hooper's wasn't open yet, he needed a place to do his morning musing. He wanted to play piano, but he didn't want to wake up Bob.

    Instead, Rowlf quietly left Bob's apartment and descended the little stairway. Except for Bob, only Rowlf had a key to the old place...maybe except for Kermit.

    Jingle jingle...

    They were a pair of identical, simple keys, worn and plain, but Rowlf looked forward to using them. Twenty minutes was all he needed before the others would be awake. It had been so long for him...

    He had to see the place again.

    Not far from where the Happiness Hotel Bus was parked sat a large, yet nondescript storage building. Rowlf smiled. It hadn't changed. Many things did here, but this place never did.

    Click click went the key in the lock.

    The door opened and Rowlf turned on the light.

    Lining the walls from floor to ceiling were thousands upon thousands of shelved videotapes. Each one was hand labeled and arranged by year. Every memorable moment that had ever happened on this street was recorded, carefully labeled and archived. It was an archiver's paradise...if they specialized in researching educational animation, songs about cooperation or wanted to write a thesis on the behavior of googly-eyed monsters.

    Rowlf passed section after section he was unfamiliar with. He knew where he needed to go. He knew it was here. He knew it was.

    Some of the tape's labels had familiar handwriting on it. A few were even by his own paws. Some things had been transferred to newer tapes as the old ones began to deteriorate.

    Rowlf took special care to inform Bob about this project every few months. He wanted to keep updated. This place was his home too. He didn't want the memories and the history to die.

    So much was here...some well remembered, some seen once then shelved, some completely forgotten by nearly everyone, some infamously remembered.

    Rowlf chuckled as he read the spine of one tape: THE TELLY MONSTER--DEBUT. That was one he hadn't seen in a while. In fact no had seen it in a while...a long while.

    There was one tape even Rowlf wasn't sure about. He read the spine: TEST SHOW--GORDON:--? No one knew who that guy was. No one would ever know, probably. It would always be a mystery.

    No matter. Rowlf had found the tape he was looking for.

    Good old Joe.

    Many people were comfortable asking Rowlf for advice. But when Rowlf himself needed advice or just a pick-up, he often turned to Jeff or Joe. He loved those guys...

    He missed those guys...

    But he had the tapes and the music carefully preserved. That was what mattered.

    Carefully, Rowlf pulled the master copy of the song he needed from the shelf. He had faith in what Kermit was trying to do for Mister Rogers...but he just needed reassuring.

    Near the entrance of the room was a TV/VCR/DVD combo on a cart. Rowlf plugged it in and soon an image appeared on the screen. Gonzo called it a swarm of hyperactive raisins battling furiously in a vat of sour cream. Most folks called it "snow" or "static".

    Rowlf put in the tape, not bothering to set the clock on the VCR. It flashed 12:00 as the TV image changed to black. Rowlf sat on the floor and gazed at the screen like he did when he was a puppy.

    Light, soothing music started, accompanied by a kitten slowly climbing a set of stairs. He didn't mind the cat in the film. Normally he hated cats...but this one was all right.

    sang the voice.

    It was a voice like no other. It was warm and reassuring. The words were sung confidently, gently and calm. It could only be Joe. No one else had that unique sound. If coming in from the snow and finding fresh butter cookies from the oven had a sound to associate with them, it would be the sound of Joe singing.

    "Just keep on try--iiiinnnnng..." Joe's voice echoed pleasantly in the vast warehouse of tapes.

    Rowlf needed this little moment. Here they were on a quest with, he had to admit, a questionable outcome. As much as he admired Kermit and believed in finding 'The Best Neighbor', he had his doubts.

    Joe erased those doubts from Rowlf's mind with ease.

    "So much try-iiiinnnnng...."

    The little boy in the film finally caught the football and jumped with joy at his accomplishment. Rowlf smiled for him.

    They would keep trying...they would find 'The Best Neighbor'. They just had to keep on trying, like Joe said.

    "Thanks, Joe." said Rowlf quietly.

    The tape ended and Rowlf carefully rewound it. As he put the tape away in its case, the "tv snow" returned onscreen. Rowlf hummed contentedly as he put the tape away. Rowlf turned around, full of confidence and security only a place like this could provide.

    All at once, the light from the open doorway was extinguished by a large shape. Rowlf's confidence extinguished along with it. He froze as something massive and stinking of rotten sausages and gingivitis blocked the exit.

    "Well, hello there, little doggie." sneered Edd Frass.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Kermit was out on an early morning walk. He needed some time to think. He had asked a lot of kids about the drawing. Unfortunately, none of them claimed the picture was theirs. Often, their parents were with them to verify it.

    Despite his own unsuccessful attempts, Kermit liked talking with the kids. It was fun. You never really knew what they would say or do. They were all just beginning to know about the world and saw everything with fresh eyes.

    He forgot how much he missed the kids now that he was at the theater. He came back now and then, but it was just too busy with the show each week.

    Every once in a while, when the theater was in full chaos backstage, Kermit had a daydream. People wondered sometimes how Kermit could handle the stress caused by "a group of crazies". It was simple. While the others ran into various theatrical problems, quarreled with each other, blew things up and tried to perform under the constant boos from Statler and Waldorf, Kermit had a momentary daydream. It varied, but it usually involved himself sitting on top of a brick wall explaining what a square was or drawing a letter in the air with his finger. It was so simple, yet so fulfilling.

    Scooter caught him once or twice doodling basic shapes on the theater schedule. That was nothing. Everybody doodles at work. However, the time Scooter saw Kermit idly writing an "M" in the air backstage took a little bit more creative explaining. Lucky for Kermit the "M" didn't actually appear there. It couldn't. That only worked on this street and nowhere else.

    He loved the theater. He loved performing. But when things just got too much, Kermit wished he could leave the theater for a while. A vacation to him was here, giving a talk about the number 4 or explaining why things are the "same" and "different". It was the same type of therapy to him as a beach at sunset would be to a regular person.

    Kermit walked on, past the tire swing, past the brownstone, past Oscar's can and Big Bird's nest. He turned the corner and the street he was on now was considerably darker. He had heard about this part of the street being built, but he was never here while everything was open and running.

    It was all from a brief, but now forgotten time. There was a hotel, some kind of a dance studio...Kermit tried to remember what else. He glanced up at the buildings in front of him. They were all boarded up and deserted. Not even the street lights were lit yet.

    Someone sat on the stairs. Kermit stopped. He didn't know who--

    He did know who that was...

    "Kermit?"

    ...

    "Max."

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ....

    "I've seen you before..." Frass stepped forward. "thanks to the internet and that...Too-Tube...or whatever it's called, I've seen you on there."

    Oh no...thought Rowlf.

    "Yeah," Frass nodded slowly. "I was lookin' for videos on Bugaboo's main rival company, Purina."

    Rowlf stepped back as Frass took another step forward.

    "And you know, I saw some of their commercials...and guess who I saw in those commercials?"

    "Uhhh..."

    "That's right, pooch. You. Now you may not know this, but the Bugaboo Dog Chow Company does not take kindly to rival brands. At our company, we may not use the freshest ingredients. We may not have health standards that are--hmph--'up to code'. We may not sanitize the equipment in the factory. But there is one thing our company is truly dedicated to--" Frass's tiny eyes gleamed maliciously as he slowly wrung his oily hands. He took another step forward. "--eliminating our competition, bit by bit. Purina may be a big company, but I can make sure you never make another commercial for them."

    Rowlf took another step back. His shoulder was nearly touching the TV.

    "I also found out that you work for that frog who's trying to wreck my plans to build a new factory. Thanks to that 'Too-Tube', I saw you playing the piano on there. Let me tell you something, mutt. You've played your last song, that's for sure. When that frog tries to find out where you went, I'll call the news and tell them you had an 'accident' and went to 'doggie heaven'." Frass reached into his lapel pocket and pulled out something that looked like a dead snake. It was a ratty, well-worn leash tied into a noose. Loose dog hair poked from the knot Frass had tied in it. "I've used this before with other little doggies who shill for other companies. I don't intend on stopping now."

    "Wait! before I..." Rowlf looked at the noose and gulped. "--go, don't I get a...last request?" Rowlf pleaded.

    Frass's beady eyes narrowed.

    "What kinda request? Better not be any funny business, pooch."

    "No, no! I just..." Rowlf thought fast and came up with a plan. An idea came to him as he noticed one of the tapes on the shelf. Aha! "C-can I watch my favorite little film from the collection first? It won't take long, I promise! It's just a little film about milk."

    Frass took a heavy, silent breath.

    "Fine. But just to make sure you don't try anything, I'm gonna sit here and watch it with you!"

    Perfect! thought Rowlf. His voice, however, said: "O-okay, okay, it's right over here..."
    Frass watched Rowlf's every move as he put the tape in the VCR. The film's countdown started. Rowlf sat down and appeared to watch the screen, but was merely staring at the TV knob. His ears tuned out the TV, replacing the sound with a symphony tuning up in his imagination.

    I hope this works. thought Rowlf.

    Frass, meanwhile, watched the screen. The film started out with a cat drinking milk out of a dish. Footage of kids drinking milk followed. All the while, light guitar music played and someone hummed in the background.

    "Milk," a flat voice said. "Did you ever wonder...where it came from?"

    The guitar played on as another kid poured a glass of milk.

    "Do you ever wonder...where it comes from before the carton?" the voice asked.

    Grainy footage of a dairy farm appeared as a cow walked by and mooed. The narrator continued in its monotone, almost robotic voice. Nearly every sentence it spoke paused awkwardly in the middle and was followed by a second awkward pause filled only by the guitar.

    "Milk is made in the body of the cow. Most of the milk we drink is made by cows."

    A second voice sang along with the melody, in complete contrast with the emotionless voice.

    "Hey cow...I see you now..." it sang.

    A cow mooed, but not a regular moo. It mooed halfheartedly, as if it were bored. It was more of a "Muhhh..." than a "moo".

    "Up before the sunriiiise...birds by your siiiiide....watching the clouds pass byyyyy....." sang the second voice in an Art Garfunkel-type manner.

    More cows appeared on film. Normally cows don't look enthusiastic, but these cows looked especially listless and tired. It was almost as if they could hear the lilting, lullaby-like music.

    "Making the miiiiiillllk...." the singer crooned.

    "Most...of the milk we drink...comes from cows..." the narrator's halting delivery interjected.

    Rowlf stared directly at the TV knob, staring at its tiny ridges, watching how the way the light reflected off its edge. He let his eyes blur and his mind wander. In his imagination, he was playing at Carnegie Hall. Beethoven's 5th Symphony began in a full orchestra. The string section carried the strong melody as the kettledrums rumbled in the background. Rowlf imagined himself playing the piece and let his eyes go out of focus just a little. He pretended the TV knob was a glint of light from the brass section. Buh-buh-buh-bummm.....buh-buh-buh-bummmmm....played the symphony in his mind. He had to stay fully awake and concentrate. No bovine-related thoughts or tinkling guitar notes could enter the concert hall in his imagination. His paws flew over the keys, his eyes watched the notes as he played. He couldn't make a mistake.

    "The cow makes milk for her baby...the calf," droned the narrator. "but she makes much more milk than her calf can drink."

    Another long pause was filled by guitar and more grainy footage of stumbling cows.

    Frass continued to watch. Barely a minute had passed and Frass felt like he had been standing there for an hour. It was one of the most boring things he had ever seen. Why would anyone select this to watch as a last request?

    "So twice a day...on farms all over America...in the morning...and in the evening...is milking time."

    In Rowlf's mind, a fluffy-haired conductor waved his baton wildly and gestured with his arms to each section in turn. The cymbals flashed, ready to collide: Crash! Crash! Moooo.

    Moo?

    Rowlf looked up and saw something out of place near the percussion section. One of the cymbal players was replaced by a farmer and a lethargic cow. The farmer milked the cow, oblivious to the orchestra around him. Rowlf watched the cow try to graze off the harp as the farmer squirted the milk into an old bucket. Rowlf's mouth threatened to yawn as an acoustic guitar's mellow notes wove their way into Carnegie Hall...

    NO! Rowlf fought the vision and intruding sound. He had to concentrate! He had to focus! The cow and farmer metamorphosed back into the cymbal player. The milk bucket transformed back into the music stand. 'No cow, I DON'T see you now!' thought Rowlf determinently. The brass section drowned out the guitar with a powerful 'E-flat'.

    As the footage showed a dairy farm, there was a yawn. Frass was getting both bored and tired with the film. It was like a fragmented C-SPAN lecture with elevator music. He let out a silent yawn, showing rows of tartar-stained, yellow ochre teeth.

    "Hey cow, I see you now..."

    The film had a strange effect on Frass. A sudden wave of drowsiness came over him. Cartons of milk slid by in a comforting, hypnotic way. The singer hummed on. Frass's eyes gradually went out of focus as his fatty head began to nod.

    "Did you ever think how so many cartons...coming into so many stores...means...so many cows?"

    So many cartons...so many cows...thought Frass sleepily. A line of cows stumbled by. They blurred out of focus. Some of them were in double vision.

    "Hey cow...I see you now..."

    Yeah cow, thought Frass sleepily. I see you now. I see lots of cows. Lots...of...cows...

    "The cow gives milk...cartons and cartons of milk."

    "Cartons and...cartons of...milk." Frass repeated in a half mumble. Sleepy warmth and boredom enveloped his body. He felt like he was wrapped in a thick but comfortable blanket.

    "Most of the milk we drink...comes from cows."

    Frass's eyelids drooped. They felt like they weighed 20 pounds each. His bones were deteriorating into jelly. He had to sleep. Cows appeared ahead of him...cows everywhere...cows...cows...cows...

    "Hey cow...I see you now...hmmm...mmmm......"

    Finally, Frass's arms and legs went slack. He just couldn't take it anymore. Heavy sleep overtook him as he stumbled backwards a few steps. He collapsed heavily to the pavement just outside the door. Frass was already in REM state by the time he hit the sidewalk.

    The film faded to black. Inside Rowlf's mind, he let the orchestra vanish. Carnegie Hall vanished. He saw the TV knob clearly again and blinked. Rowlf chanced a glance behind him. There, just outside the door, Frass was sprawled out on the sidewalk in a gelatinous, stinking, snoring heap.

    Rowlf rewound the tape and put it in its case. After shutting everything off, Rowlf locked up and left Frass there on the sidewalk. A dog with a hotter temper might have bitten Frass. A part of Rowlf did want to bite him, but immediately figured Frass would taste even worse than the dog food he made. Besides, this method was more effective.

    "That oughta do it for a couple hours...if not more. I knew that clip'd be good for something someday." Even though he had a lot of time to spare, Rowlf hurried to find the others.

    A grainy, slow dream lumbered through Frass's head like a powerful, relentless sedative. Hundreds of cows plodded on as cartons of milk slid along conveyor belts. Frass saw cows. He saw them now.

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

    The first thing Kermit saw was Max's immediate expression of relief.

    "I found you!" Max smiled. "I've finally found you!"

    "Not for long, you haven't!" declared Kermit angrily. "We're gonna find 'The Best Neighbor' soon! My friends are looking right now and as soon as we find out who it is, we'll stop you! We'll stop you and Frass!" he yelled.

    "I wanna stop him, too." Max said quietly. "I don't blame you one bit for being angry." Max watched Kermit's folded, scowling face.

    "Do you have any idea what..." Kermit yelled, then stopped. Max just sat there and let him yell. Max's only response was silence etched on a face full of remorse. The smile was gone.

    "Do..." Kermit tried to yell again.

    "I know," Max said. "go ahead and yell. I'm used to it. Besides, I'll actually listen to what you have to say."

    Kermit frowned, then tried to keep the frown. Finally, he just gave a dented soda can on the ground a look of concern.

    "I'm sorry, all right?" Max didn't know what else to say. "I'm sorry. I want to help you out."

    Kermit looked up at Max.

    "You know what Frass is going to do, right?"

    "I know exactly what he's going to do," Max stood. "that's why I need your help."

    "I don't--" Kermit started. "I...don't want you to take this the wrong way or anything, but how do I know I can trust you now?"

    "I don't work for Doc Hopper anymore. I quit for good after the last time I saw you in the ghost town."

    Kermit shook his head. "I don't mean that, I mean..."

    "I warned you about the frog killer Doc hired." Max reminded him.

    "I know, but Max, listen, is Frass any better than Doc Hopper was? Sure, you're not in the frog legs business anymore, but do you know what you're doing?"

    Max winced. "I know..."

    "Why do you keep falling into the wrong crowd, Max?" asked Kermit. "Why do you keep working for these horrible people?"

    Max sighed and rubbed an eyebrow with his finger. "It didn't used to be this bad. I was just a factory worker. After I quit working for Doc, I got this job. It was just like any other dog food factory for a while. Same ingredients and all that. It wasn't bad working there at first. I was just another regular Joe on the assembly line, y'know? Then when Frass bought it about two years ago, he started cutting corners with the health department, then staff wages, then the construction, then everything else, really. That's when he took the regular meat that was supposed to be in the dog food and replaced it with..."

    "I saw." Kermit replied evenly. "Roaches."

    "Well," Max continued. "what could I do? Frass heard I used to work for Doc and I guess they're old rivals or something. Each one tried to be the bigger businessman years ago. Frass kept me on board to try to 'get the dirt on Doc'. I didn't know much, but he knew I used to drive Doc around. That's why I'm here and..."

    "But why didn't you quit?" asked Kermit.

    "Not many jobs around that town," replied Max. "I was also--" Max put his fingers up to mimic quotation marks "--'promised' a raise from Frass. Well, that didn't happen and over the past year I've had to move twice and sell a lot of my stuff just to pay the rent."

    Kermit sighed and suddenly had a brief mental image of Max outside a little apartment, piercing a hole in a washtub.

    "I'm sick of Frass. I want to quit, but I can't find another job. I want to be able to eat again without thinking about roaches. The most fruit I get in my diet is if I buy Tropical Flavored Rolaids."

    Kermit gulped.

    "If I knew I'd find another job someplace else, yeah, I'd go in an instant! I just need to help save Mister Rogers' stuff first! He--I watched him years ago and..." Max sighed. "he was always something to look forward to at the end of the day. He came on in the afternoon. I even thought about writing him a letter once, just to say 'hi' and 'thanks', but now he's dead," Max sighed again. "I just want his stuff to be safe so other people can enjoy it. I just know that if I try anything, Frass'll destroy the warehouse anyway and I'll be on the streets and out of a job."

    Kermit thought. He took in Max's dilemma, his own dilemma and came up with a solution, perhaps, for both.

    "Max," Kermit looked him straight in the eye. "if I can find you another job, do you promise to help me and my friends out and never work for another person like Hopper or Frass again?"

    Max gratefully extended his hand and smiled. "Kermit, you got a deal."

    They shook.

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

    More soon...very soon.

    Convincing John
  17. The Count Moderator

    Thoughts...

    Mr. Between was on the bus? Where?
    Jackee Harry, yeah, that's who I was thinking of/meant.
    The archive hall... Is that meant to be the carriagehouse's bottom section, what used to be the doors with the 8 and No Parking stickers that Hiroshi rented from Oscar? If it is, now that Gina's vet office isn't there, that is an absolutely perfect spot to retain Sesame's taped history after these last 40 years.
    Rowlf sitting down to watch a clip... Awww.
    Hey cow, I'm looking at yooooou! No wonder Grover always had cows on the mind.
    Methinks I see a Best Neighbor, but I won't say anything now as I've come to enjoy this.
    Wonder what's happening back at our hometown during all of this.

    *Traces M in the air.
    Please post when you can.
  18. redBoobergurl Well-Known Member

    Wow, lots going on here! Scary stuff with Rowlf and Frass, but I like how he put him to sleep with Hey Cow, too funny! And Max, you know deep down he's a good guy, at least we have to hope so!

    Great stuff, more please!
  19. Just got finished reading what you've written so far and I love it! Parts of this story had me LOL! Love the Moving right along song! Looking forward to the next update!
  20. Convincing John Well-Known Member

    Mr. Between just got on the bus right when Max was fading off to sleep:

    Sleep finally overtook him as the bus stopped to pick up a grinning man in a loud suit and derby hat who eagerly sat between as many people as he could.

    As for the archive hall (or whatever you want to call it), I didn't think about it being behind the doors in the arbor, though it does sound logical. In my mind's eye, Rowlf just walked past the laundromat, turned right and somewhere nearby was the building. Maybe a block away, not far. Those arbor doors could lead to the back entranceway of the archived tapes (maybe through a hallway?)

    Ah yes, the search for the Best Neighbor continues. It won't be long until we return to Hensonville...or at least see what's going on.

    More will be posted soonish.

    Convincing John

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