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So We'll Go No More A-Roving, for Fear of Furry Monsters

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by newsmanfan, Sep 12, 2011.

  1. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    (because I've been dying to write something for Halloween!)

    ------------------------
    Gonzo poked a fork unenthusiastically at his sardine oatmeal. He sighed, and forced himself to start eating. Ever since his chickie-love had moved out, though, breakfast just didn’t have the same energy, the old thrill of gazing at a yellow beak pecking away on the opposite side of the table…but he needed the protein and fish oil. After all, oatmeal was rightfully advertised as the “breakfast of daredevils.” Oh, sure, Camilla still went on casual dates with him, still talked with him and even finished his sentences as old friends are wont to do. But not being a couple anymore…really sucked. Gonzo sighed again. Yeah, there really isn’t a better way to put that. Eating breakfast alone sucks. It’s like adding insult to the injury of not having anyone to cuddle with. Although it had been several months since the Christmas show in Vegas, and Camilla’s startling announcement that she wanted to be single again, Gonzo hadn’t yet summoned the strength to dismantle the large nest he’d helped her build on the loft-bunk of their bedroom. MY bedroom, he reminded himself glumly. She’s got her own nest now. He thought she was sleeping with the other chickens back at the Muppet Theatre, but couldn’t be entirely sure; when he’d last asked her about it, she’d cackled demurely and wouldn’t answer outright. Sheesh. I hope she’s not roosting with Black Bart, anyway. That guy’s got corn mush for brains, and a pathetic little beak… He knew it was masochistic to dwell on any possible romantic entanglements which Camilla might or might not be involved in currently, but flogging himself – mentally or otherwise – was too old a habit to break.

    Trying to distract his wallowing brain, Gonzo picked up the morning’s edition of the Daily Squeal (sure, it was a rag, but it had better entertainment news than the Scandal) and flipped listlessly through the “Around the Scrapyard” section. “Ehh,” he muttered, “a revival of Ten Little Crawdads? That’ll never work. The songs are so outdated…” Hmm. An audience-participation show of ‘Night, Mother – “bring your own rope”? Might be fun. Wonder if Rizzo would come with me? He and the rat had kicked around the idea of moving in together once more, but Rizzo had been working (well, he referred to it as “work,” anyway) at a cheese-packing warehouse over in Brooklyn for vast chunks of hours lately, so they hadn’t had time to move his stuff back into Gonzo’s apartment.

    Not really reading the rest of the paper, the depressed furry whatever -- blue in at least two senses -- hopped from his chair and went to the kitchen window. He shoved the sash up, grunting. One of the wonderful advantages of this particular studio, apart from the rent control, was its view: he had three windows, and all of them overlooked the back alley. He’d practiced dumpster-diving many times from here, for the fun of it more than the chance of finding useful items others had discarded; Rizzo had chided him, claiming people normally didn’t dumpster-dive from ten stories up, but what did the rat know about conservation anyway? Sticking the newspaper out the window, Gonzo squinted, felt the pleasant October breeze on his scraggly fur, adjusted for drift, and let the paper fall toward the recycling bin below at ground level. He opted to stay inside the apartment today; he just didn’t have the gusto for dangerous swan dives after breakfast like he used to. He did, however, stick his head out to observe the paper fluttering wildly to its certain doom and eventual reincarnation, probably as toilet paper.

    A sudden gust slapped the paper around, sending the ads and inserts swooping in all directions. “Nuts,” Gonzo muttered, annoyed. One smaller piece of paper caught an updraft, smacking him in the nose. Spluttering at the abrupt blockage to his nostrils, Gonzo plucked the sheet from his face, then stared at it.

    Large, though blurrily printed letters proclaimed: DAREDEVILS NEEDED FOR REALITY TALENT SHOW!

    “Really?” Gonzo wondered, perking a bit. He read the small print closely: “A national cable channel is producing a talent competition/reality TV show to debut this fall! Do you like dangerous stunts, wickedly maiming contortions, life-threatening juggling, or suicidal and possibly final performances? Then WE NEED YOU! Compete for fame and fortune before a TV audience LIVE starting THIS THURSDAY! Apply at the Ars Moribunda broadcasting studio by 5 p.m. Thursday the 13th. Bring performance outfit and at least three instruments of destruction. SERIOUS CONTENDERS ONLY!” An address was scrawled, almost as an afterthought, below the printed announcement.

    “Oh my gosh! This is too cool! Oh, wow! Camilla! Did you see this…” Realizing his stupidity, he fell silent, saddened. Of course she wasn’t here to see it; not that she would anyway, wherever she was. Though her conversational skills were wonderful, she’d always evaded discussions which would reveal her lack of reading ability beyond third-grade level. It wasn’t her fault that she’d been forced to go into show business to avoid feeding her farm family before she’d completed school… Disheartened, Gonzo looked back at the ad. Should he even bother? The thrill was gone. Sure, once a daredevil, always a daredevil…but it was so much better when you had an adoring little chickie cheering from the sidelines…or clucking in utter terror as you plunged to certain death, whichever. “Defying death isn’t any fun alone,” he sighed.

    Still…what if…

    What if he entered this competition, and just asked her to be watching him on TV? Wouldn’t she be impressed when she saw him doing even more dangerous stunts than Kermit would allow onstage? He realized their lovemaking had dwindled into a certain boring security, a while before she’d asked to call it quits. Maybe she’d simply become bored with the ordinary? Well, heck, how many times can your woman whip you with ropes made of fruit roll-ups studded with thousands of whole cloves, or dance with her claws on your bare back while holding you prisoner in a medieval rack, before it gets tired and old? Nodding in growing excitement, Gonzo read the address again. Is that uptown or downtown? Wait…that says “below street level”…maybe it’s technically UNDER town? A dungeon! They must have an actual DUNGEON! How COOL is that!

    “Yes!” he said aloud, startling a pigeon investigating his open kitchen window. “Oh, Camilla, you just watch! I’ll make you proud! I’ll show you I haven’t lost the magic, and you’ll beg to move back in! Woo hoo hoo!” Chortling, Gonzo scurried into the bedroom, lugged his traveling trunk from the closet, flung it open, and started yanking out drawers. “Better bring the purple cape…and the pink spangled tights, who doesn’t like spangles? I wonder if they have a snooty British judge? Hmm, better pack the Union-jack Underoos just in case…and the sixteenth-century manacles, Brits like old stuff, yeah, good, good…”

    Happily assembling a trunkful of necessities for this next gig, Gonzo felt almost giddy for the first time in nearly a year. Things were looking definitely up.

    -----------------
    “Would you…would you do me?”

    Gina glanced up quickly, a smile immediately spreading across her face. The Newsman stared at her a moment before what he’d said hit him and he blushed. “Er, um…I mean…would you perform a reading for me?”

    “I will happily do both, my sweetly blundering journalist,” his Gypsy girl assured him, leaning forward in her seat at the kitchen table to plant a kiss on her Muppet’s long nose. Her newest Tarot deck was laid out before her; she’d been shuffling through it face-up, getting a sense for the slightly different feel of the cards. Although she’d learned on an old Rom deck her grandmother had owned, she’d collected a number of others through the years, usually picking only the ones which boasted lovely artwork. This one, the Halloween Tarot, she’d bought in honor of the holiday, thinking of doing some street readings for a little extra cash. People always tended to be more interested in having their fortunes told around this time of year. Although Newsie had pointed out his salary more than covered their needs, Gina felt better when she had her own income, and her old-fashioned but not insensitive journalist had agreed. Work had been irregular at the Sosilly Theatre, and she wanted some extra funding for the upcoming gift-giving season.

    Newsie sat down next to her, fuzzy yellow fingers curled around the latté mug she’d given him; it was bright orange with smiling jack-o-lanterns stacked to form the handle and a narrow mouth which helped divert coffee into his own wide one without spilling any. He liked the ease of use of the mug (coffee stains were one of the reasons he’d stuck with brown sports coats for so long – if he missed, no one noticed), and the fact that she’d chosen something friendly-looking rather than scary to symbolize the holiday touched him. He sipped the pumpkin-spiced froth atop the coffee, smiling shyly when Gina kissed the resultant blob of whipped cream from the tip of his nose.

    Gina looked from him to the cards and back. “Are you sure? I have no idea how accurate it’ll be, Newsie…most of the time with this stuff, I’ve always interpreted based on what I could pick up about the customer. And because of the necklace, I doubt I’m going to get much of a vibe to work with.” She shrugged, touching the copper beads around her neck. “I kind of figured my street readings would be a lot of old-style Gypsy shrewdness more than accurate sensings of their futures.”

    Newsie frowned lightly. “You mean you planned on conning innocent people for money? Gina!”

    She giggled at his creased brow. “Not entirely…there is an art to this, you know. A lot of it is about reading body language, looking for clues about their finances and love life and general outlook on things by how they appear. I already know who you are, handsome!”

    Only slightly mollified, he tried to push past the heat rising in his cheeks again. “Uh…well…just promise me you won’t simply make things up, okay?”

    She spread her hands wide over the deck. “Eh, the cards know all, the cards tell all! We only translate for the unwitting!” Newsie scowled again at her mock-Czech accent, and she burst into laughter. “Okay, I promise. If the reading makes no sense at all I won’t charge anything. Fair?”

    “All right,” he agreed, and slupped more of the cream along with the hot pumpkin coffee beneath. He had to admit, he did enjoy her enthusiasm for all things autumnal. He’d always loved the scent of turning leaves in Central Park, and the colors of fall, complementing his own golden-yellow and reddish-brown hues. As long as his beloved’s idea of Halloween didn’t involve ghosts or scary monsters, he was all for it. “So…how exactly does this work?”

    “Well,” Gina said, “first you have to hold the deck.” She turned the cards all face-down and scooped them into a thick pile, tamping them neatly, then placing the Newsman’s broad hands over them.

    “Okay…” He gazed at her uncertainly but willingly, and Gina smiled.

    He’s so cute when he does that, she thought. She loved how trusting he was of her now. Going slowly with him in everything new was well worth it for the devotion and tireless dedication he put into it, once he’d learned what to do, and he seemed always willing to learn, always curious. She pressed his hands upon the cards gently. “Feel them, Newsie. Let your energy flow into them. Concentrate on what you want to know. It can be anything at all…about work, or something about yourself, or your future, or…”

    “Or my cousin?” he asked, eyes sharp behind those heavy hornrims.

    Sobering, Gina nodded. “We can try, sure. Close your eyes and focus on him.”

    Newsie had pored over genealogical records online for over a month since discovering he had a cousin, previously unknown to him. All they had to work with was a name – Chester Blyer – and the marriage records of both Newsie’s mother and his aunt Ethel, although they knew his mother’s was a false one. Neither of them had spoken of that fact much; Newsie was deathly embarrassed about it, and worried for his reputation should Fleet Scribbler or the rest of the hacks at the Daily Scandal uncover it somehow. Gina hadn’t brought it up after the first night when she’d tried to reassure her Muppet love that it made absolutely no difference to her what his parentage had been. Newsie had stammered and squirmed and acted so unhappy that she’d desisted, and simply held him and kissed him until he relaxed once more.

    Finding anything out about the Blyers had proved frustrating. Day after day, Newsie scoured the Internet, poring through court records, property records, marriage and death records, even police files which a friend at KRAK had quietly given him a source for, all to little avail. The two Blyer sisters had married (or pretended to) here in the city back in the ‘40s, and Ethel had listed her state of birth as Wisconsin, but he had no idea what city or even which county to search in for a Wilfred or a Chester Blyer. Apparently that state was chock-full of Blyers, and he discovered listings for no less than a dozen Chesters…three of whom had fathers named Wilfred. For all Newsie knew, he might be related to all of them! He’d tried contacting each of them by email, ferreting out their online addresses, but received no replies. Phone queries had followed, but none of the people he spoke to knew anything about sisters named Ethel or Florabeth. Unfortunately, the remaining Chester Blyers he’d found listings for didn’t have parents named; perhaps the records were sketchy? He had no idea what year his cousin was born, and the Chesters ranged from quite a bit older than him to Gina’s age. He had no idea at this point how professional family researchers kept their patience in the face of missing or inaccurate records, unhelpful county registrars, or surly people assuming he was a telemarketer and hanging up on him repeatedly.

    Newsie shut his eyes as directed, felt the smooth surface of the top card under his spread fingers, and thought about his mysterious cousin. Will I find him? Is he still living? Does he know I exist? Newsie wondered. He frowned. What if his cousin didn’t want to be found? What if he was some sort of black sheep? Well, figuratively, of course; he doubted any of his conservative family would have married a sheep. What if Chester was in trouble? What if he really hated the name Chester, and had changed it, and vanished from the records? What if he was in the Muppet witness protection program, hiding out from monsters? Newsie had been lucky enough to interview one such unfortunate soul, during an investigative report on those brave Muppets who dared defy the monster racketeers who ruled the Lower East Side back in the ‘70s…

    “Newsie. You’re jumping all over. Focus on one question,” Gina cautioned him, and he opened his eyes, surprised.

    “How…how do you know that?” he asked.

    She sighed gently, smiling at him. “Because I know you. Settle down, All-Querying Journalist, and focus.” He nodded, abashed, and she giggled. “Besides…you scrunch your eyebrows all cute when you’re thinking. Makes it pretty obvious.”

    “Hmf,” Newsie snorted, but closed his eyes again and tried to keep his thoughts centered on one question: Will I find my cousin?

    After a silent moment, Gina said, “Okay…now shuffle the cards until you feel like they’re where they need to be.”

    He blinked at her, puzzled. “How will I know that?”

    “Trust me. Just let yourself…drift a little. Keep thinking your question, and shuffle the deck.”

    Trying to set aside his skepticism, the Newsman did as she instructed. Oddly, after a minute of randomly moving the cards around on the table (he’d never been any good at standard card-shuffling, and had been chastised the time his mother had reluctantly made him sit in for an absent player at one of her bridge games and he scattered the deck all over the carpet), he stopped, staring at the loose pile of cards. “Uh…there?”

    Gina looked askance at the mess. “Okay…interesting method.” Before he could decide whether to retort, she continued, “Now pick three cards off the top.”

    He did so, and when he shot her an uncertain look, she directed, “Turn them over, one by one.”

    The first card depicted a man in heavy armor astride an equally well-defended horse, riding at an obviously slow pace while holding a small, fat pumpkin. The man and his steed moved without light into a dark landscape. Gina nodded. “Well, that’s definitely you! Knight of Pumpkins…he’s steady, dogged, cautious, weighs things carefully but never gives up. A knight of great integrity and determination.” She smiled at Newsie; he blushed, smiled back, and turned over the second card. This one looked more disturbing: a hapless man was strapped to a revolving wheel with odd symbols and laughing skulls painted upon it, and apparently knives were being thrown at him as though he was the victim of a carnival act; some already stuck out of the wheel around his body, and he appeared deeply upset about the whole arrangement. Newsie looked worriedly up at Gina. She shook her head. “Don’t panic; it’s not necessarily bad. The Wheel of Fortune just means a reversal. You’ve had no luck so far finding your cousin, so maybe this means that luck will turn for the better!” Swallowing back his discomfort, Newsie turned over the third card. Gina paused.

    “What…what is it?” Newsie asked, looking from the card to her. A greedy bully on the card, dressed vaguely like a masked bandit, stood on a hill with a hoard of Halloween candy in his arms and at his feet, while in the distance costumed trick-or-treaters stood sad and candyless. A moon-face above seemed to disapprove, and five bats watched nearby.

    Gina sighed. “Newsie…you can’t take this stuff too seriously. Remember that.”

    “But what does it mean?” he insisted.

    “Well…this is a card about humiliation, about someone being really cruel and unfair. Since I know that’s not your style at all, this is about what will be done to you.”

    “To me? But my question was whether I’d find my cousin!”

    “Yes…but the first card is definitely you. Knights are harbingers and fighters and defenders, and you do all that every day in your news job, my brave reporter. Add in the qualities of this particular knight…this is you, Newsie, not your cousin, unless he’s just like you, which I doubt.” She stroked his nose with one soft fingertip. “There’s only one you!”

    “But…a change of fortune, and a humiliation?”

    “Well,” she sighed, leaning forward to place all three cards in a row, studying them, “taken all together, this means you’re going to run into some worse difficulty in trying to find your cousin than you’ve encountered already, and someone is going to block you by putting you through something mean, or bullying you. This last card could represent a person who will stand in the way of your search.” She stared at the cards a second more, then swept them all into the pile again, mixing them up. Newsie gave her a hurt, confused look. She took his hands in her own. “Newsie, don’t put too much stock in this, please! It’s not an exact science, you know.”

    He swallowed, steadied himself, and took a deep breath. “Do it again.”

    “Newsie…”

    “Please. Do it again.” He stared hopefully at her. “If…if the reading was accurate, it should come up again the same, right?”

    “No, because now you’re just focused on the negative things,” Gina argued. Shaking her head, she gathered the cards up and tucked them into a large pouch sewn of autumn-colored strips of silk. “I think that’s enough. You’re taking this way too seriously.”

    “But –“

    “No buts! Unless you’re offering me yours,” she said, trying to lighten the mood.

    Unpersuaded, the Newsman tried again. “Gina, if those are even remotely right, I need to know more!”

    “Aloysius…no.” Gina kissed him; he responded reluctantly. “You always need to know more; that’s your nature, I get it and I love that about you…but Tarot cards aren’t guaranteed predictors! I wouldn’t have agreed to do this with you if I’d known you were going to get upset over it,” she scolded, though gently. Seeing his disappointed expression, she tousled his hair and smiled. “Now come on. If you’re done with your coffee, I could use some help in the shower.”

    He wasn’t done, and he still wanted to find out what was meant by a turn for the worse and a cruel humiliation, but his lovely Gypsy taking him by the hand and coaxing him toward the bathroom, with many teasing kisses, made him give in and set aside his worries for the time being. Once under the steaming water with her, she did something else to help him turn his attention to more positive things…but later, as he dressed for work, the Newsman wondered what was in store for him, and just how much he could safely dismiss the dire warning explicit in his cards.

    ---------------------
    The knocking persisted at the back door. Exasperated, Kermit yelled, “Can someone get that?” He was poring through scattered papers, comparing the shooting schedule for the next movie side-by-side with the theatre’s running calendar, trying to figure out which weeks to do what, and how much time to spend in L.A. as opposed to the old stage still going strong in New York. He’d arrived early and tried to have a go at this stuff before his trusty assistant even came in, and was regretting it. Scooter’s so much better at figuring this ridiculous nonsense out, Kermit realized. His spirits perked at the sound of the voice coming to his rescue.

    “I got it, Chief!” the gofer called as he hurried up from the deserted house seats. He plopped a full-sounding bag with the Donuts á la Snowth pink logo emblazoned on it onto Kermit’s desk as he trotted past, and Kermit gratefully inhaled the scent of cinnamon donuts and hot caramel-apple coffee wafting from the bag. As he abandoned the schedules to dig into the perfect autumn breakfast, he heard Scooter talking with someone: “Uh, well, is that really such an issue?... Well, okay…yeah, I guess you can come in…”

    Kermit frowned. What now? A fast mental assessment didn’t pinpoint what the grievance might be: their power and water bills were paid up; since the renovation of the theatre earlier this year the neighboring tenants hadn’t complained so much about the giant spiders or late-night marauding Java worms in the alley’s garbage bins; and he’d talked Gonzo out of performing his next act “in the glorious bare felt!” in a futile attempt to woo Camilla back. He turned to see Scooter leading two very dour-looking Whatnots up the back stairs. “Hey, boss? These guys want to talk to you,” Scooter said.

    “Uh, yes? Can I help you?” Kermit wondered. Both the dull Muppets, he noticed, were dressed almost identically in grey suits and ties, and possessed unoriginal features: one was balding, blue, and had a round grey nose, and the other tall, orange with blue hair, and heavy-lidded. Bland and Blander, he thought.

    “You must be Mr the Frog,” the orange gent said in a dull, nasal voice.

    “That’s right,” Kermit said, nodding perplexedly.

    “We are…” the blue gent began, but Kermit impatiently interrupted.

    “Bland and Blander, attorneys at law. Yeah, I’ve seen your commercials,” he said. “Uh, what does a law firm want with us? Did Crazy Harry get caught by Homeland Security again?”

    “Er…no. Mr the Frog, we’re here on behalf of the Muppet Anti-Discrimination League. Every year, we donate our services to this noble cause, and it came to our attention…” began one of them.

    “That you have not heretofore contributed to the fund, and we’d like to formally invite you and your colleagues to do so,” the other finished smoothly. Kermit briefly wondered how they told each other apart; even with the differing felt colors, they seemed somehow twins.

    “Anti-Discrimination? Why, are people enacting Jim Crow laws against Muppets?” Kermit asked.

    The lawyers exchanged a glance. “Who is this Jim Crow? Why does he persecute Muppets?” one asked.

    “I think what my boss is saying is, we didn’t realize there was any discrimination against us,” Scooter jumped in, suppressing a smile. “We’ve always been treated pretty well here. People love us!”

    “Ah, then you are clearly not aware of the struggles many Muppets go through every day, simply to be recognized as equals by the non-felted!”

    “And the non-furred,” the other lawyer added, and they both nodded sagely.

    “Er…no, not that I’ve ever heard of,” Kermit said. “Look, what exactly is it you guys want?”

    Bland – or maybe Blander – pulled what looked like a legal summons from inside his coat; Kermit blanched, and Scooter almost moved to intercept it, but the paper was slapped upon the desk with an air of absolute finality. “Then of course you’ll want to join us this year and help raise community awareness of Muppets! This is the flyer for the charity walk; we’ll send round a courier with the actual sign-up forms later, of course.”

    “Community awareness?” Kermit repeated, annoyed. “Listen, I doubt there’s anyone in the country, much less this city, who doesn’t know who we are, and most of ‘em love us! I think you guys have the wrong impres—“

    “Just give us an estimate of how many of your employees will be participating, and start gathering your sponsors for the walk,” Blander said.

    “We’ll be in touch,” Bland added, and the two of them reversed and marched out in perfect step with one another. Scooter and Kermit stared after them, then looked at each other.

    “What the hey?” Kermit sighed.

    Scooter picked up the flyer gamely. “A charity walk? Sounds pretty tame.” He frowned at his boss. “Kinda weird insisting we’re victims of discrimination, though.”

    “Well, whatever. I guess their hearts are in the right place even if their brains seem to be late,” the frog sighed, turning back to the mess of calendars and location lists. “Scooter, we need to figure out which weeks we can sandwich in filming, with all the holiday shows coming up…”

    “Ya know,” Scooter mused, studying the flyer more carefully, “This isn’t a bad idea.”

    “Giving to a charity with no actual purpose is a good idea?” Kermit snorted. “For all we know, those guys are just lining their own designer pockets!”

    “Maybe…but look: the walk is on Halloween, through a ‘haunted-house’ setup, and it’s going to be televised live!” Seeing that his boss didn’t quite grasp the advantage yet, Scooter continued, “The next movie is supposed to be a comedy-horror flick…”

    “And we could plug it by tromping through a spookhouse on Halloween? Hmm,” Kermit said, thinking.

    “There’s sure to be a press junket about it,” Scooter offered. “And we could all show up in matching t-shirts, advertising the film.”

    “We haven’t even started shooting it yet!”

    “But we’re targeting the release date for next Halloween, remember? People associate that sort of thing pretty well, and maybe we’ll excite some interest with the spook-movie fans as well as our regular base!” Scooter pulled out a donut and took a large bite of it, chewing while Kermit chewed on the idea. “Plus, I bet the studio will be more willing to negotiate the budget with up-front buzz already out…”

    Kermit grinned. “Okay, okay, sold.” He dunked his own donut, with spiced mayfly icing, into his coffee and chomped it contentedly. “So, what exactly do we have to do?”

    Scooter tapped the paper the lawyers had left. “Looks pretty standard. Any of us who want to join in can; we just each need to get sponsors to pay into the charity fund for doing the walk. I guess they thought a Halloween theme might draw more interest at this time of year. It’s more original than the usual call-us-to-pledge thing, anyway…”

    Kermit snickered. “Then it’s a sure bet those two didn’t come up with it!”

    Scooter laughed. “No kidding!” He set the flyer aside. “I’ll see to posting the signup stuff when it arrives. Now…what did you want to do about the shooting schedule?”

    Kermit sighed, and handed over the mess. Yet again, his assistant was here to save the day.

    ---------------------
    The bedraggled show host waited at the back of the cell while the monster tossed a bent metal bowl of plain oatmeal through the bars, snarling at him. Snookie had learned years ago not to protest, argue, or acknowledge the monsters in any way, lest they take out their resentment at serving as cooks and jailers upon him. He sat still and silent until the monster had moved a few cells down the block, banging on bars as it went to awaken the other inmates not yet up. Snookie had no idea what time of day it was; though the monsters called it “breakfast” it might be three in the morning or four in the afternoon, for all he could tell. The cells were dark, dimly lit at all hours by strange glowing worms which crawled randomly on the ceiling. This routine was all he knew anymore: get woken up by the monsters, eat something tasteless likely left over from the tasteless dinner last night, be herded into the shower room to clean himself up (no talking to the other inmates there, at least, not where the monsters could hear you, and some of them had wicked sharp ears), get dressed in one of the several identical brown-plaid sports coats and grey pants they apparently kept around just for him, and go to the studio to film yet another mind-crashingly awful show. And then hurry to a different set for the next show. And then the next one. And so on, sometimes six or seven of them a day, and sometimes one he’d done the day before would never be repeated again; he assumed it all had to do with the ratings, but since he no longer had access to those golden figures he had no idea what the network’s criteria for success were. Then back to the cell, where if he wasn’t fast enough undressing they’d strip him –horror of horrors, those furry clawed hands pawing at him! – then another bowl of something tongue-numbingly dull, and mouthwash, and bed.

    The monsters persisted in referring to that as “lights out,” but the one time Snookie had argued that the lights never went out because there weren’t any actual lights to begin with, they’d forced him to do the next episode of “Swift Wits” in the nude. He was only grateful he had a podium to stand behind. He wouldn’t step out from it while the cameras were on, no matter what the ratings might be!

    He sat on his flat, hard bunk and poked unhappily at the cold oatmeal. How the heck did I wind up like this? he wondered for the thousandth time. A bright childhood, a promising college career, the popular guy at all the frat parties, hired right out of school to take over “Name That Fruit: Extreme Muppet Edition” when Guy Smiley retired as host…it had all seemed so perfect! And then…and then…when the ratings tanked after the tainted-kiwi uproar, he’d been humiliated to have to accept the job as host of “Swift Wits.”

    And then, the stupid little show had been snapped up by this bizarre network, and everything had changed. He’d be given the wrong clues on his cue card to coax the contestants with. Or instead of a cute little puppy, an alligator would be behind the panel and team up with Carl the Big Mean Bunny to eat the contestant. Or the contestant would insist on phoning a friend, which wasn’t even allowed… Any one of a boggling array of dismaying things happened to prevent anyone from actually winning the game. And Snookie discovered that his contract contained a host-imprisonment clause for as long as the game went unwon! Who knows how I missed that? I must’ve been so pathetically desperate for a job I’d have signed anything… Note to self: always read the fine print, he thought grimly. Gallows humor was all he had left.

    “Psst! Chester!”

    Irritated, Snookie glanced over at the tiny partition where his cell abutted the one to the right. Fawningham Offawump, the cringing, blobby, tuskless walrus who hosted “Beach Party Fling-O,” eyed his breakfast. “Psst! Chester! You gonna eat all yours?”

    “Call me that again, and you’ll be wearing it,” Snookie snapped. He regretted ever telling the walrus his real name, back when he was trying to make allies around here. He glanced down at the awful stuff in his bowl, then set it on the floor and shoved it toward the other cell. “Take it. Get fatter. Maybe soon I’ll actually be thin enough to slip through the bars.”

    “Huh, huh,” Offawump chortled. “Nuh, your head will always be too big.”

    “Shut up, will you? They’ll hear,” Snookie urged, but it was too late. “Gaaahh!” he choked as a thick paw shot through the bars on a ridiculously long arm, clamping around his neck.

    “No get through bars!” the monster roared. It shook him like a ragdoll. Desperately he grabbed at the furry fingers, to no avail. “Bad host! Bad!”

    He gasped when it finally released him. “I told him not to throw away food,” Offawump simpered, but the monster only glared at him before lumbering off again.

    Furious, Snookie picked himself off the floor, not bothering to dust off his shorts and dirty grey t-shirt. He waited until all noise on the block died down, and when he was sure the guards were elsewhere, he sidled closer to the placidly chewing walrus and hissed at him, “They’re only letting you do that so they can make sure you’re as fat as possible when they roast you.”

    The walrus paused, shooting him a fearful stare. Yellow eyes narrowed, and the walrus shook his head. “You’re making that up, Chester! Nah, nah, Chester, Chester, Chesssster!” it taunted, but Snookie was too angry to lose control now.

    “I overheard them talking about it yesterday. It’ll be called ‘Beach Party Blubber Pit,’ and they want me to host it,” he improvised, forcing himself to whisper. He saw the walrus’ whiskers stiffen, and threw home a final jab: “I didn’t want to betray a friend like that, but now I think I’ll volunteer!”

    “You…you wouldn’t!” Offawump said. He stared in fright at the grimly satisfied game show host; Snookie turned away, ignoring the walrus, and grabbed a glow-worm, holding it over the tiny plastic mirror in the corner of his cell so he could see to smooth down his sleek black hair. “Uh…uh…we’re friends, right? I mean, uh, here! You can have your grits back!”

    “Those were grits?” Snookie grimaced, but still wouldn’t face the walrus. He rubbed a broad, yellow-golden hand over his small chin. Hard to tell if he needed a shave or not.

    “I was just kiddin’! Oh, come on, Ches—Snookie! I mean Snookie!”

    Snookie Blyer took what slight satisfaction he could from the sniveling going on behind him. Frog knows, small and hopelessly empty victories are all we get down here, he thought.

    Sighing, he sat on his bunk and waited for the monsters to come get him. Time to start the day. Whatever “day” meant anymore.
    -------------------------------
    The Count likes this.
  2. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    *Explodes in happiness.

    Let's address this in segments as it progressed.
    It's good you're writing something for the upcoming season. There are a couple of ideas I'd like to "maybe" work on as well, but knowing me as only I do, there's always that "ima not sure about it" feel and next thing you know you're already putting efforts into something else that chews up your time.

    As soon as I started reading the bit with Gonzo, there was an inkling of where his depression stemmed from. And then there it is as predicted... Last Christmas in Vegas.
    Cross-fic-promotion, you know I love it.
    Then we get the reveal of the blue whatever's salvation, a new reality torture TV show. He'd love those, will be rooting for him during the competition.

    Newsie and Gina, always nice to see them together.
    *Loves the Halloween tarot deck.
    Knight of Pumpkins sounds most like the gilded Newsman indeed.
    Wheel of Fortune? Depicted it more like Gonzo's particular wheel.
    Greedy Bandit/Bully. Now why am I thinking of either Lefty the Salesman (SST) or Barrel from Halloween Town (TNBC)?
    Interested to learn what other cards are in that deck... Mine consists of the Poker Geists with the flush formed by the Ten of Pumpkins model, Jack the Ripper, Queen of Hearts, King of Pain, and Ace of Spades.
    Also, nice touch with the smiling jack o'lantern coffee mug.
    But Gina's correct in trying to convey a calming attitude after determining the possibilities, that's why you never perform a second reading.

    Bland & Blander, Attorneys at Law. Yeesh, where'd you find these guys, on the Dead Muppets Wall? At any rate, it certainly provided for a break into the Muppet Theater where Kermit attempted to align his appointments.

    The entire last segment with Snookie and Fawningham... It smacks of familiarity with another novel narrative you've shared. And to be honest, when it started I expected Snookie to be the perceived jailor having to put up with facing the monsters. Here, instead, the roles were certainly reversed and it helps to connect with the bleakness shared by both cousins.

    Thanks, hope to read more from you soon. :D
  3. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    Ooh! A spooky story! And Halloween! I'm enjoying and glad to see so many thing already in motion! Here's hoping that Gonzo and Rizzo end up rooming together again--always comedic gold--and I'll cross my fingers and toes that Newsie survives whatever happens to him intact!
  4. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    Kris asked me to post a quick note to let you guys know she's injured her finger and may have some trouble posting soon. Don't despair--your storyteller will return when able!
    (But feel free to nag, moan and push ALLLLLL you want until she does!!!)
    ((Don't tell her I said that!))
  5. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Good, we'll be here waiting for that update when possible.
  6. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    ---------------------------
    Broken left thumb, actually. Today I can type without the gentle tug of tendons making me yelp in pain. It's healing. Looks all zombified, though...

    Have already, as of last night, begun the next segment, but my speed is way down, so I beg patience, gentle readers!

    Ed: the Halloween Tarot is a real deck, with gorgeous artwork, and the minor suits arrayed as such: pentacles: pumpkins, wands: imps, cups: ghosts, and swords: bats. But I like the idea of a poker-geist! Tell me your ideas if you like. I'm always willing to use input if possible! Both yours and Ru's suggestions made it into the last piece, you may have noticed. That goes for anyone else too!

    Bland and Blander wrote themselves in. As attorneys are wont to do...

    More soon. Thanks for reading, everyone! Hey you lurkers...how about a comment or three, huh? I know you're out there; I can smell you breathing...really. Tic-tacs, guys. Tic-tacs.
    ------------------------------------
  7. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Two

    Rizzo sighed as the call went to voicemail yet again. “Sheesh. Hey, buddy, dis is like da toid time I’ve tried ta get hold’a ya! Gimme a call back sometime before twenny-twelve and da woild ending, okay?” He shook his head at Pepe. “Some people! Ya gotta wonder why he even has a cell phone!”

    The king prawn shrugged lightly. “So, are we on for the cheese-food wrestling championships or not, hokay?”

    “Guess you an’ me are, anyway,” Rizzo replied. He’d thought his old pal was finally seeing the light about how much better his life could be without a chickie at home, holding him back from enjoying things like guys’ night out at the Greasy Napkin (home of beers, buffalo cheese bites, and full-contact bikini cheese wrestling), but since Gonzo wasn’t answering his phone, Rizzo worried perhaps his dream of getting their bachelor friendship back on track wasn’t going to set sail after all. “Eh, I just don’t get it! Last week he was all like, ‘Hey Rizzy, how about you an’ me revivin’ da swingin’ bachelor pad again?’ and suddenly he don’t retoin my calls! I tell ya Pepe, da poor schmuck can’t make up his mind what he wants ta do!”

    Pepe trotted along after the rat as they headed for the stairs. The theatre canteen had been rebuilt, but the food was as questionable as ever, so lunch options for the smaller Muppets boiled down to what they could steal from the street vendors, or going over to a Greek café where Rizzo had once served as a short-order cook to beg scraps from the new owners. “I think his plumosa mujer is still too much in his head, amigo,” Pepe offered.

    Rizzo shook his head. “Geez! Speak English, willya? Ya know it drives me loco when I hear youse guys moiderin’ da lingo!”

    The shrimp bristled all over, which made him suddenly resemble a skinny sea urchin. “Whadda jou saying? I speak English better than jou do! Are jou trying to insult my heritage, jou pequeño peste?”

    Before Rizzo could mount a counterattack, Gonzo flew past them, yelling as he ran: “Hey, Chef! Chef! Do you still have that barrel of atomic pepper sauce?”

    “Whoa! Hey, watch it, pal!” Rizzo protested, baffled.

    “Ya, der storgen der hoogenstoof uv speecy-spicee saucen,” the Swedish Chef said from behind the canteen counter, his poufy hat obscuring his face as he nodded.

    “Fantastic! Mind if I borrow it for a while? I’ll bring back what I don’t drink,” Gonzo promised. As the Chef nodded and ambled into the storeroom to fetch the hot sauce, Gonzo turned to grin at Rizzo and Pepe still clinging to the stair rail. “Hi guys! You won’t believe what cool thing I discovered today!”

    “Da Mayor has a sudden cravin’ for hot sauce, which only a blue, furry, completely insane creature can provide?” Rizzo frumped, annoyed at being blown past so rudely.

    “No, even better! A TV studio right here in the city is hiring daredevils for a new reality show! I’m gonna audition Thursday! Isn’t that cool?” Gonzo demanded, eyes wide and bright.

    Rizzo knew that look too well. He edged closer to Pepe, differences of linguistics forgotten. “Uh…huh. What exactly is dey hirin’ daredevils for?”

    Gonzo laughed. “To do mind-bogglingly lethal stunts, of course! It’s a competition! I’m practically a shoe-in!”

    “Wait, wait, wait. A TV studio is actually asking for jou to come do loco things? Jou’re right. I don’t believe it!” Pepe snorted.

    “Aww, c’mon guys, don’t be like that! Don’t you see, this could be my big break! You know there’s all kinds of great ideas I’ve been wanting to try for years that Kermit won’t let me do here, and—“

    “As I recall, dat’s been because dose stunts would either burn down da theatre, strip every ounce of skin from your body, or both?” Rizzo pointed out, frowning.

    “Well, yeah, but…”

    “And now you’re all ‘oh, sorry Rizzo old pal, but me putting myself in danger of graphic maiming is waaay more important dan guys’ night out at cheese-food wrestlin?’” The rat glared at him.

    Gonzo looked briefly sheepish. “Uh, well, when you put it that way…yeah! Sorry, Rizzo. But this could be it! And Camilla might…” he shut up suddenly, embarrassed.

    “Oh boy,” Pepe groaned, rolling his eyes, twitching his antennae.

    Rizzo approached his friend, laying a concerned paw on Gonzo’s arm. “Listen, buddy…I know you guys were together a real long time an’ all, but…she’s not comin’ back. Ya just gotta man up and accept dat.”

    “There is plenty more birds in the bush, amigo,” Pepe agreed, nodding.

    Gonzo shook his head. “Not like that girl, there aren’t! Look…I’m sorry I can’t come with you tonight. I promise, soon as I win this contest, we’ll go out and celebrate, okay?” He happily received the enormous lead-lined barrel with the skull-and-crossbone sign prominently plastered in numerous places over it from the Chef, bowing almost in twain beneath its weight. “Hey, why don’t you guys be my assistants? I can always use someone to set off the cannons!”

    “Uh, Gonzo old buddy, not dat I don’t want a bigger career in show biz, but…” Rizzo paused. “Did you say cannons? As in plural?”

    “Oh, yeah! I’ve got the whole thing planned out! For my audition, I think I’ll strike the perfect balance between traditional and postmodern death-defying art: I’ll start with being shot out of the small cannon, but then ricochet off the ceiling-mounted trampoline, fly through the hoop of flaming guacamole, land in the larger cannon, be shot out of that along with all the ingredients for chili con carne and land in the barrel of atomic Yo’Mama sauce; my dead-on cannonball dive should send exactly one bowlful-worth of spicy chili con carne into the dishes of each of the judges watching! Dinner and a stunt! It’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser!” Gonzo beamed, despite puffing under the weight of the barrel, which seemed to have sauce oozing out of a small crack in the lead within the wooden staves. Rizzo noticed smoke curling from a widening hole in the side of the barrel.

    “I don’t think jou will be serving your chili mucho caliente, Gonzo,” Pepe muttered, seeing the tiny flames beginning to lick at the barrel as the hot sauce inside came in contact with the oxygen of the room.

    Gonzo paused. “Why? You think I should go with the Nikita Khrushchev Pepper Crisis Sauce instead?”

    “Run!” Rizzo yelped, scurrying out of range as a noise akin to Chinese fireworks sputtered out of the container. Pepe flattened himself to the floor as the entire barrel, with Gonzo still clinging to it, shot across the room, bouncing up the stairs to the backstage area with spirals of hot flame spurting from the widening crack.

    “Whoa-oooh-hoo-hooooo!” Gonzo shrieked, the volatile hot sauce spitting all over his fur, laughing hysterically as tiny flames burst onto his elbows, his back, and the top of his head. Upstairs, cries of protest and yells of terror sounded when the daredevil went up and out as though he was riding his own personal Niagara Falls in reverse.

    “Hey! Commenbakker wit der speecy-spicee saucens!” the Chef shouted, shaking his spoon angrily in Gonzo’s flaming wake. He took off at a run up the stairs, hoping to salvage some of the sauce for his tapioca pudding surprise he’d planned for tomorrow’s lunch.

    Pepe disgustedly dusted off his designer yellow denim jacket. “Doesn’t he know this was an Oscar de la Groucha original? Two hundreds and ninety-nine on sale, and he tries to turn it into a fried plantano, hokay?”

    “A fried what?” Rizzo wondered, not really listening.

    “Plantano! Plantano! They grow on trees, they’re yellow, jou have to peel them to eat them? Jou never had one?”

    “Are you talkin’ about a banana? Sheesh! See, dis is just what I was sayin’ earlier! You gotta learn da right woids, Pepe!” Dismayed, Rizzo stared up the steps from the green room; the grumbling upstairs meant the dust had probably settled, but the wild-barrel-riding-cowthing could be miles away by now, as fast as that hot sauce had gone through the place. The rat sighed. “Man, I sure hope he knows what he’s doin’. Dis sounds even more dangerous dan usual…”

    Pepe straightened his jacket with a huff and a toss of his head. “Is not a banana! I am talking about los plantanos!” He marched over to the rat. “Jou are the one who has to learn his words! Now, are we going to get some foods or what?”

    “Yeah, yeah,” Rizzo muttered. He buttoned his jacket, knowing it would be much chillier outside. “You, uh, you still wanna go to da wrestlin’ later?”

    “Oh, sí, sí! Are jou kidding? Like I would pass up a chance to put a dollar in the bikinis of las floras?” With two of his hands, he made suggestive curving lines in the air.

    Rizzo chuckled. “See? Now dat is language I unnerstand poifectly!” He nudged the king prawn. “C’mon, we better hurry before da lunch crowd gets all da wrinkly hot dogs from da cart outside!”

    The pair hurried out of the theatre, hoping to reach the hot dog vendor unnoticed in the lunch rush. “I still do not get why jou likes the overcooked ones,” Pepe grumbled as they went.

    “Pal, you can’t call yourself a New Yawker ‘til ya taste a hot dog dat’s been sittin’ in hot water since last Tuesday!” Rizzo argued, rubbing his large stomach. He attempted to shut the back door behind them, but it seemed to have been knocked off its hinges again; a vaguely barrel-shaped dent in the door hinted at the cause. Shrugging, the rat took his picky-eater friend by the shoulder and steered him toward street-food heaven.

    ------------------
    Rhonda already had the sloth in position, camera at the ready, when the Newsman arrived on the steps of the courthouse made famous in numerous law-enforcement TV shows. Despite the morning traffic fumes, he could smell the dying leaves on the ornamental maples and boxwoods out front, and even having that scent in his nose as he dug out his notepad and decided what he wanted to focus on in today’s Muppet court news segment subtly lifted his mood. Rhonda trotted over, and he nodded at her. “Any updates yet?” he asked.

    “Nah, they’ve been in there all morning. I got shots of Suggs yelling his way up the steps as usual,” his news producer replied, shrugging. She brushed her layered blond bob down with a paw when a stray breeze tickled it. “You wanna ambush the prosecutor today, or the defense?”

    Newsie frowned, considering it. “They haven’t even broken for lunch yet?”

    “Nope. And they put extra security in front of the doors…my guess is, Suggs made even more of a racket on the stand than usual.” Ever since a paternity test earlier this year had conclusively proven Marvin Suggs was in fact not the father of any of the Benson’s Babies (neither was Benson), the former conductor and showbiz impresario had been dragging the matter into court over and over again, trying to insist, apparently, that he might have fathered at least one of them and should be held responsible for child support…at least, that was his claim as of this week. The story seemed to change every few days, and Newsie for one was becoming irritated with it.

    He sighed. “So, no new developments with the ousted juror?”

    Rhonda shook her head. “Haven’t seen him. Guess he figured his fifteen minutes of fame were up. You find anything to suggest he’s a plant by the prosecutor?”

    “If he was, I haven’t been able to prove it, and neither has Suggs,” the Newsman snorted.

    “Well, they might be a while, at this rate. Wanna go ahead and do the stand-up?”

    “All right,” Newsie agreed. He glanced through his notes once more, fixing the details of the case thus far in his memory…no small task, considering the number of twists and outrageous claims which had come up in the course of this unusual trial. Rhonda conferred with Tony the camerasloth…no, wait, Tommy...and signaled to Newsie they were ready for him. The Newsman checked the angle of the sunlight, placed himself on the steps carefully so as to avoid pedestrians hurrying into or out of court, and reflexively adjusted his tie before beginning. “Ahem. This is a Muppet News Update! From the steps of the New York County Courthouse, this is your Newsman, for KRAK. Things were quiet today in this, the fourteenth day of the third appeal hearing for the Marvin Suggs case. Far more quiet than yesterday, when an uproar resounded through these hallowed halls,” (he winced slightly but otherwise ignored the ferocious roar of some fierce animal from within the formal entryway a few steps up) “…as it was discovered that one of the jurors hearing the case was, in fact, a Muppaphone. The former employee of Mr Suggs had gone through jury selection with both prosecution and defense lawyers and apparently had escaped the notice of both, until yesterday when Juror Number Eight stood up and soundly descried a statement made by Mr Suggs on the stand that he had, quote, ‘Never mistreated anyone in his entire life!’” Newsie frowned at the camera. “Pandemonium ensued, and the defendant had to be returned to his cell in cuffs after producing a giant mallet from his underwear and chasing the juror around the courtroom.” He noticed Rhonda looking bored, and hastened to add what little he knew to the report so it wouldn’t be just a rehash of yesterday’s news. “Extra security has been spotted outside the courtroom today, and although the prosecution presumably would like to see this case wrapped up as quickly as possible – er – hey!”

    Newsie struggled ineffectually as two beefy guards suddenly pounced on him, rolls of colorful paper, ribbons and tape flying. Dusting their hands in satisfaction, they strolled away, leaving Newsie peeking bewildered out of a tight, vaguely Muppet-shaped gift package, with the hand holding his mic sticking out. “Uh…ahem.” Though muffled, he was able to make himself heard. “There may yet be another twist to this already bizarre court drama, since Suggs’ lawyer, Jim ‘Snicker’ Snakk, is calling for a mistrial.” He sighed. “Until someone unravels this mess, for KRAK, I’m the Newsman.”

    Rhonda grinned at him. “I think rainbow happy faces is so you, Newsie! Save some of that for a new tie!”

    “Can you just get it off me?” Newsie grumbled.

    The sloth checked the playback while the dainty rat helped Newsie untangle himself from the gift wrapping. “So, which camp do we want to interview today?” Rhonda asked again while Newsie stuffed the crumpled paper and fluttering ribbons into a nearby trashcan. She’d saved a tiny length of pink-and-white ribbon, and was clearly more intrigued by using it for a novel way to put her hair up than in the story. Admittedly, though, this case had dragged on for quite some time, and Newsie wondered if their audience really cared anymore. Suggs would undoubtedly posture and preen and protest for any camera he saw, but that stuff was more suited to the gossip rags as far as Newsie was concerned.

    He glanced up at the imposing grey building, and shook his head. “I’m not sure either of them really should be newsworthy any more. What if we went down to City Hall instead, and followed up on that tip about monster sightings by Con-Ed workers?”

    Rhonda glared at him, hands on tiny hips. “You and your monsterphobe obsessions! Come on, isn’t that just this year’s alligators-in-the-sewers myth?”

    “Maybe…but if there really are more monsters moving into the undercity, people have a right to be warned!” Newsie argued, blushing a little.

    The rat weighed the idea, scowling. She’d already had that expression in her repertoire, but her close association with the Muppets’ champion scowler (next to Sam the Eagle, of course) had sharpened her already-sharp features whenever she put forth a deep, doubting look. “Hmm. Well, okay, not that I think there’s anything to these crackpot reports your cop friend keeps telling you about, but…”

    Shrieks from behind them made them both whirl around to look. A blue, wild-eyed, ululating Muppet in a prison jumpsuit, with custom-cut sleeves resembling an orange flamenco shirt, bounced down the courthouse steps. Hot on his heels were twenty or thirty small fluffy balls with glaring eyes and angry mouths, and right after them four guards scrambled to catch up. Newsie stared as Marvin Suggs grabbed a truncheon away from a policeman and swung around to whack the nearest Muppaphone. It yelped, but immediately half a dozen others leaped upon the crazed bandleader, thumping his head with their furry bodies. The guards jumped into the fray, and the steps became a frothing mass of flying pink and orange fur, swinging billyclubs, yowling tiny creatures, cursing men in uniforms, and here and there a blue face popping up to yell “Yi-yi-yi-yi-yi!” before disappearing in the whirlwind again. Tommy raised the camera, but looked over at Rhonda. Rhonda looked at Newsie. Newsie frowned. Rhonda signaled “cut” with a slash of her paw at the sloth, and he lowered the camera, sighing.

    “Seen it,” Rhonda growled.

    “Same thing as yesterday,” Newsie muttered. “Does he really think this is still news?”

    “Does he really think?” Rhonda countered. She took her reporter by the elbow. “Eh, come on, Geraldo. Let’s go see what’s in Al Capone’s basement.”

    “Doesn’t he wear a toupee?” Newsie snorted, smoothing down his wind-mussed hair. “Mine’s all real.”

    Rhonda rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah. And your nose is bigger, and you dress even worse, we know. Come on. We’ll grab lunch on the way.”

    “After that comparison, you’re buying!” Newsie informed her. The sloth slowly packed up his camera and lugged it after them as they walked down the street, ignoring the commotion still going on in front of the courthouse. A group of frazzled Muppaphones jeered at Suggs even as they were also led into custody for assault; a rookie cop allowed his Muppaphone to slip free of its handcuffs and suddenly the brawl began again, with shouts and yelps and groans echoing into the high colonnade of the stately building. “Rhonda?... Do you…do you know anything about tracking down lost relatives?” Newsie asked.

    The rat shrugged. “Eh, I might know a guy who knows a gal who used to date a guy who finds lost people who don’t wanna be found, if that’s what you’re asking.”

    Newsie considered that. “Uh…I’m not sure that’s necessary…”

    Rhonda blinked at him in sudden comprehension. “Oh, this is about your cousin, huh? Still no luck?”

    “None,” Newsie sighed. “I’m running out of leads, and ideas.”

    “Why don’t ya just ask your auntie?”

    He grimaced. “Rhonda…she’s barely lucid anymore! Last week she thought I was the milkman, and lectured me on the difference between cream-top bottles and actual cream for an hour!” Despite the utter futility of hoping one day his senile aunt might recognize him, Newsie had visited her once a week for two months now, sometimes with Gina, sometimes on his own, but he couldn’t tell whether his pilgrimages served any useful purpose at all for either him or Aunt Ethel.

    “Doesn’t she have any family records? Photo albums? Anything that might give you a clue where to search?”

    “I don’t know…”

    Rhonda paused, glaring up at him. “Excuse me! You do what for a living?”

    Nettled, he glared back. “I report the news! Faithfully, truthfully, and thorou—“

    “Did I ask for your freakin’ News Scout oath? Do you or do you not also investigate, oh clueless not-yet-a-star-anchor?”

    “Yes!” Newsie snapped, and Rhonda nodded smugly.

    “Then shall I suggest you actually do some investigating, next time you’re moping around your aunt’s room at the funny farm?”

    “I…” Newsie stopped the retort on his tongue. He blinked. “I…I’ve never been in her room! Usually we visit in the dayroom, or the play lounge…”

    “Sheesh. I don’t even wanna know what that is; sounds like something Pepe would enjoy far too much! So Newsie – go check out her room! I’m sure she must have something there that would give you more info on that mysterious family of yours!”

    Feeling negligent that he hadn’t considered that, simply having assumed residents’ private rooms were off-limits, Newsie fell silent, resuming his walk. He looked down when he felt a soft pat on his arm. Rhonda gave him a sympathetic look. “Sorry. But really…you should check it out.”

    “Yes,” Newsie agreed with a sigh. Despite the rat’s overbearing manner, she did try to help him – usually – and she had brought up a good point. “I will! You’re right.”

    Rhonda smirked. “Aren’t I always? Trust the rat, Golden Boy. Never steer ya wrong. Speaking of…do you smell what I smell?”

    Newsie sniffed tentatively, his sensitive nose immediately filled with a dozen conflicting scents from the street environment. “Uh…day-old sandwiches being passed off as fresh, or unidentifiable crustaceans spiced with too much cumin?” He squinted dubiously at a gaggle of street vendors’ carts not far from the courthouse, where men and women in dark suits already queued up for on-the-go power lunches.

    Rhonda smacked his arm, grinning. “No! Grouch-tossed salad with moldy Roquefort dressing! I am so all over that! Come on!” She tugged at his jacket sleeve before scurrying into an alley opening, where a gray-furred Grouch was jeering loudly as she flung disintegrating heads of lettuce at complaining passersby, following up with streams of thick, pinkish stuff shot out of a Muppablaster squirt cannon.

    “But I like this jacket,” Newsie muttered, glancing down at his new orange-and-brown-plaid sports coat and brown tie with tiny red-and-yellow leaves printed all over. He watched Rhonda begin a complicated argument which was the Grouch form of price-bargaining, sighed, steeled his nerves to accept whatever came flying his way, and headed after his news producer. Well, at least he’d get some leafy greens for lunch. Gina was always telling him to eat more veggies…

    ------------------
    The spotlights swirled back and forth, and like a desperate moth, Snookie found himself drawn to the light center stage. He stepped into it and smiled a big frozen grin for the camera as the stage brightened around him. “Hey! It’s time to play the country’s favorite trailer-park-poll game – the Hammily Feud! Yes, back this week we have last week’s champion hams, the Puercitos family of Judgment Gap, Arizona!” Snookie read blithely and quickly off the TeleMonSter screen in front of him as the ropelights chased in circles around a grunting, snorting, waving-at-the-camera-happily group of pigs. “Ha ha, they look like they’re ready for a rip-snorter! Hey, Mr Puercito, what are your thoughts on returning as champions to play today with ten thousand dollars already in your grubby little pockets? I’ll bet you feel as rich as a pig in a mudbath!” he rattled off the inane comments from his screen as he kept grinning for the camera and faked a hearty slap on the shoulder of the father of the clan.

    The pig grunted, “Well, uh, like I tried to tell you yesterday, Snookie, we’re not pigs, we’re actually javelinas, and—“

    “Fan-tastic!” Snookie barged ahead, hurrying to the other side of the stage. “And tonight to challenge them, here are the latest family of hams to try their tiny brains against our board of gossip, rumor, and false opinions: the Lechadas of Los Alamos! Hi, pigs! So it says here that you were present at the nuclear tests in the nineteen-fifties?” Snookie raced on, glancing only briefly at a cue card in his hand.

    The mother of this family, a skinny sow with a drooping bustline and what might have been an extra head poking up over one shoulder, smiled and batted her eyelashes at the host. “Well, Snookie, that was actually my grandpappy, but you know what they say about family resembl—“

    “O-kay!” Snookie yelled, ignoring them, tossing his cues away with a flourish. “Enough small talk! It’s time to play the Hammily Feud! All right, Puercitos, as our two-week champions you start off our game! The category chosen tonight and with all answers pulled from our highly scientific poll of pigs we found lolling in barnyards all over America is…” He waited a second for the obligatory drum roll before announcing, “Things you can fit up your nose!”

    Canned applause seemed to baffle the contestants, who peered out into the darkness behind the cameras, seeking an imaginary audience. “Uh, okay, Snookie…I think the most popular answer is…onions!” Mr Puercito said smugly. His family nodded, grunted, and slapped each other on the backs.

    “Survey says?” Snookie yelled up at the giant board suspended behind them. With a clang, one of the pieces of cardboard covering an item fell away, revealing ONIONS writ in large chalk letters. “Excellent choice Puercito family! Go again!”

    The southwestern pigs received correct answer clangs of the dinner bell for hot peppers, turnips, and dirt, then lost control of the board with a wrong answer of cactus. “Oh no I’m so sorry that is wrong! So you will have to sacrifice one of your family members to the pot,” Snookie told them, immediately turning to the Lechada family. Behind him, the startled javelinas tried to flee, corralled suddenly by large monsters in cowboy hats and chaps (sheesh, he so despised these cheesy “themed shows”), and the little brother of the family was stuffed, oinking loudly, into an enormous cauldron shoved onstage. “So, Lechadas! Things you can fit up your nose, you have thirty seconds go!”

    “Uh…uh…” A large, rotund pig with greenish fur rubbed his nose, bewildered. Clearly not the brains of the family, Snookie thought.

    The mother scratched her head, rubbing the secondary head with her other hand. “Huhhh…oh! Tacos!”

    Snookie consulted the board; a large white rabbit with bulging eyes and huge teeth glared down at him. Repressing a shudder, he asked, “I’m afraid you’ll have to be more specific! What kind of tacos – soft or crunchy?”

    “Oh, crunchy! Crunchy!”

    Clang!

    “Yes! Go again!”

    The game dragged on another few minutes like this. Eventually, all the pigs but one member of the Lechadas was stuffed into the large (and now steaming) cauldron, and every item on the menu board had been uncovered. “The Lechada family has the last member standing, so they win this week’s round! And now for the extra bonus prize, looking at all the items on our poll board, can you tell me what else all these items could be categorized as?” Snookie asked, gesturing at the chalkboard overhead.

    Little Boopie Lechada, the grade-school-age baby of the family, trembled and looked from Snookie to the board. “Uh…uh…Mr Snookie? Can I please get my family back now?”

    “Oh no, I’m sorry, the correct answer was lunch for a monster! And with that bell, our time for this week is over! Tune in next week and see two totally unprepared teams go at one another and wind up in the pot anyway on Hammily Feud!” Snookie shouted at the camera, hurrying off the set.

    “Bell? What bell? There wasn’t a bell!” the porcine child protested as the monsters dragged her away to join the rest of the pigs in the simmering pot. Carl the Big Mean Chef hummed contentedly as he diced onions and crumbled taco shells into the mix.

    Snookie paused to mop his face with a makeup towel. He hated it when they cooked right onstage like that; the ventilation down here really wasn’t sufficient, and the studio always steamed up, and he was prone to breakouts. He glared up at the yeti lumbering over with a clipboard. “Yeah, yeah, fine, I know. Next set.” He sighed. “What show’s next?”

    The yeti growled something, pointing at him. Unhappily, Snookie headed for the exit and the next studio down the dank hall. The snorts and squeals from the cauldron made him pause and glance back. Although he knew (from far too much personal experience) that monster digestive tracts were so unsophisticated they usually only dissolved your clothing before you were…er… deposited back out, usually whole, he still hated to see them eat a kid. Even a tubby, pigtailed, shrilly squealing one. Seeing the giant plug trailing off from the hot-plate of the cauldron to the wall next to the makeup table, he diverted his path quickly. “Uh, just let me touch this up a sec – whoops!” All the power in the studio conked out as he managed to trip over the plug. He heard piggish shrieks and angry, hungry roars. Yellow yeti eyes fixed him in their glare, the plug was shoved back in the socket, Snookie offered up his best aw-shucks-I’m-an-idiot grin…and saw that not one of the pigs in the pot had taken the opportunity to escape.

    “Grawwwfurrrrah!” the yeti snarled at him, gesturing angrily with its clipboard, then pointing to the Mickey Mouse watch on its hairy white wrist.

    “I know, I know! Sorry about that! You know me, feet always ahead of my brain!” Snookie laughed lightly, hurrying from the room. Well, at least they didn’t catch on and stuff ME in this time, he thought, disgruntled. Not my fault if those guys are too thick-headed to make a run for it!

    At the side of the pot, Carl chuckled while he shook more sea salt over the sloshing, scrambling pigs. He’d noticed the game show host’s deliberate accident, but he’d let it slide for now. He already knew stewed host wasn’t as tasty as boiled pork…and he also knew a barbeque cookoff competition show was scheduled later this week. Grinning widely at his cohorts as they gathered around to steal sips before the broth was fully done, he thwacked the claws of one, and daydreamed about a yellow-felted host turning slowly in a pit of mesquite coals.

    Hmmm, Carl mused. Would he taste better with honey Frackle Daniels sauce, or Day-After Lawrence Kansas Meltdown Rub? Decisions, decisions… He smacked a grasping, gasping javelina back into the bubbling broth. “Wait until you’re done!” he snarled at it, and then resumed his drooling while he weighed his cookoff-entry options. After all, it was a sure bet he wouldn’t be the only monster choosing game show host for his dish!

    And Carl really wanted to win this time. The grand prize, he’d heard tell, was a month above ground in the city…
    ------------------------
  8. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Oh so much subtext, where to begin...

    First Gonzo's swiping Chef's barrel of atomic pepper sauce for a hot flame chili con carne presentation. That made me laugh. And you won't find anything like that on Food Network.

    Rizzo and Pepe are perfectly insconsed in 'guy' ness with wanting to get to the hotdog vendors and the cheese restaurant early.
    Oscar de la Groucha jacket, nice, nice joke.

    I wonder if I'm the only one, besides the author, who got the reference of Marvin Suggs's defense lawyer's name.
    1 2, 1 2, and quickly through...

    And then we segway to a brilliant cameo of a grouch street vendor with their rendition of tossed salad.

    Top it off with the ribbeting game of Hamily Feud. Probably one of the best parodies in a fic so far. Not to mention the fact that there's that BBQ cook-off the monsters are looking forward to. And then it gets tied into the earlier mention of tips Newsie's been getting from his cop friend of potential monster suburban uprisings.

    Oh, this was a great update. Thanks. But why do I suddenly feel like :insatiable:?
  9. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    ------------------
    Dunno Ed... maybe you're not getting enough felt in your diet? :concern:

    I will award extra bonus cookies to ANYONE who knows where I sto-- er, borrowed -- the "Name That Fruit" running gag from!

    And yes, 'tis a frabjuous day! Glad you liked! Suggestions for other game shows will be welcomed from anyone who feels like tossing their hat into the ring...just watch out for the monsters, they eat hats!
    --------------------
  10. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Three

    Wednesday morning brought pleasant confusion…pleasant for Gina, at least, as she watched her Muppet love dashing around the apartment half-dressed. “Where’s the fire?” she yelled as Newsie ran out of the bedroom for the third time in five minutes. “You don’t need to be anywhere for hours yet!”

    A long pointed nose poked through the open bedroom door, and worried eyes stared at her through heavy lenses knocked askew. “But I wanted to get to the asylum before eleven, so I could see Aunt Ethel in her room! I called ahead and they said I’d be able to catch her there if I arrived before she goes to lunch!” He vanished again. Gina bounced her heels lightly on the thick throw rug next to the low bed, sitting among the rumpled sheets and quilt. She pushed her hair out of her face, smiling as she listened to Newsie frantically thumping up and down the hallway in search of frog knows what now.

    “Anything I can help with?” she called, and within seconds he hurried back in, breathless, his comb in one hand and a can of hairspray in the other. Gina scowled at him, swiping the can playfully before he could stop her. “Newsie! I thought we agreed you looked much cuter without the plastered-down style?”

    Annoyed, he tried to grab the hairspray back; she yanked it over her head, out of his reach, grinning. He gave her an impatient huff, then shut the bedroom door to view himself in the long mirror mounted on the back of it, and hurriedly combed his thick but flyaway-fluffed hair into its standard part to his right. Gina giggled, shaking her head. “Honestly! You look gorgeous. Slow down!”

    His comb snagged in his hair, making him grunt in unexpected pain. Gina patiently took the comb away, wrapped one arm around his waist, and pulled him onto the bed. Sighing, Newsie submitted to her attentions, recognizing she was much better at this sort of thing than he was, especially when in a hurry. “I keep telling you, using conditioner every morning will solve that without making you look like you sewed it in place,” she grumbled at him, efficiently teasing his hair into proper order with short strokes of the comb.

    “I didn’t have time,” Newsie growled back, buttoning his shirt while she finished the job. He shot her a wry look over his shoulder. “As you may recall, I was kept somewhat occupied all morning and got to the shower late! Er…not that I didn’t like, um…that is…”

    Utterly unrepentant, Gina laughed. She released him, and he bounced from the bed immediately, looking through the numerous ties he’d hung in precise color-coordinated groupings in the closet. Gina grinned, noting he hadn’t even picked out pants yet. “Basing the outfit around the shorts today? That’s new. Kind of bold – I like it!”

    The Newsman looked down at himself, flushing pink as he suddenly realized he was jumping all out of order; so far, the plain white button-down shirt, a pair of brown argyle socks, and the red-and-brown falling-leaf motif boxers he’d pulled out of his dresser drawer at random this morning were all the progress he’d made toward clothing himself respectably. “Let me help,” Gina suggested, flustering him further when she languidly rose and sauntered to the closet…wearing nothing at all herself.

    “Ah…er…” Newsie gulped, averting his gaze.

    She waggled two ties at him. “Okay, what about these? You like the tiny oak leaves or the brown stripey one better? I think the oak leaves match your shorts.”

    Newsie dared a peek, regretting it when he saw quite a bit more than the ties. He blushed again. “Gina!” She laughed delightedly when he hastily threw his hands over his face, then with eyes tightly shut, pointed vaguely at her. “Uh…uh…fine! The leaf one!”

    “You’re pointing at something else, dear Modest Journalist…”

    “Ack!” He turned his back before her teasing could completely derail his intention to get on the train for Queens as quickly as possible. “Er…um…could you…could you throw a robe on? I mean, not that I don’t, uh, appreciate…um…but I really…er…” Exasperated, he sighed, glanced back at his grinning Gypsy love, and crossed his arms over his chest with a scowl. “You know what that does to me!”

    “Mmm, don’t I though,” Gina purred, but with a smile she obligingly shrugged into her slinkiest, thigh-length red paisley robe. “There. Better?” She knotted the sash loosely around her waist.

    Newsie saw she’d deliberately allowed the robe to reveal as much as it covered, and sighed, conceding defeat. “Thank you.” He accepted the tie from her, tossing it around his neck and fumbling with broad fingers to knot it correctly. “The russet coat or the chocolate one?” he wondered. Having more colors in his fashion vocabulary now than brown plaid still baffled him; he was convinced Gina and Rhonda must trade notes about his wardrobe behind his back, judging by the comments both offered unsolicited whenever he picked what he wanted to wear any given day. Sometimes it was just simpler to entrust that decision to his beloved. Quieter, anyway.

    “You have the news tonight, right?”

    “And the Muppet Show,” he agreed, calming somewhat as he finally coaxed the tie into a decent Windsor knot.

    “Hmm…go with the russet, and the charcoal pants.”

    “Okay,” he agreed, and promptly dressed the rest of the way. As he sat on the edge of the bed to tug his saddle shoes on, Gina leaned over to stroke his cheek with light fingers, and he gave her a smile. “Thank you.”

    “You’re always welcome, gorgeous.” Ah, and there was that adorable blush again. Some days she felt like tossing compliments at him continuously just to see how pink she could turn him. “I thought visitor’s day was Thursdays at Shadowy Mile?”

    “Shadows on the Dial,” he corrected her, though he could tell at once from her smile that she was teasing again. “Technically, it’s visiting hours, every day; but they said I might get better results if I made visiting a strictly-scheduled event.” He grimaced briefly. “That doesn’t seem to have worked yet.”

    “Well, okay…so why today? Did something change?”

    Embarrassed, Newsie realized he’d forgotten to tell Gina that he intended to poke around in Aunt Ethel’s private room at the retirement home for the dangerously senile. Last night, when they’d returned from dinner after his stint at the Muppet Theatre, Gina had launched into paperwork for her own theatre, drafting by hand a light plot for the next show at the Sosilly, a production of Pinter’s “The Homecoming” they were putting on around Thanksgiving. He hadn’t wanted to disturb her and had quietly buried his nose in a book about press censorship until they went to bed. “Oh, er…well, Rhonda actually had a good suggestion…” He hastily told Gina what he planned.

    “That’s a good idea,” she said, startled. “Why didn’t I think of it?”

    “I’m a little ashamed it didn’t occur to me.” Newsie replied. He shook his head. “Anyway, you’ve been busy with your design work.”

    She knelt to give him a hug. “I know. Probably too much. I’m sorry, Newsie. By all means, go! Go forth and find the answers you seek, brave knight!” She returned his relieved smile, and kissed him. He saw her hand coming and ducked out of reach before she could muss his hair, and she laughed. “Hey! C’mon, I love doing that!”

    “I love you doing that too,” he murmured shyly, then did his best to look stern. “But I have to look professional! So – so –“

    “So I’ll just pounce on you later tonight,” she agreed, making him smile. “Go on, Valiant Journalist! Get thee to Queens, and quest for your cousin!”

    She loved it that he jumped three inches in the air, completely unprepared for her playful slap on his rear as he left the apartment. He was still bright pink and bright-eyed when the elevator doors closed. Chuckling to herself, Gina turned to her own side of the closet. Sooo…what says ‘professional fortune-teller’ without looking too stereotypical? she mused, flipping past dresses and blouses and skirts until she found something she liked.

    An hour or so later, she was shifting uncomfortably on her old camp stool, and warily eyeing the beat cop strolling up the sidewalk. Although she wasn’t hassling passersby on the corner, simply sitting and making herself available to anyone who might want their cards revealed, she hadn’t bothered with the nicety of an actual license for this – what self-respecting Gypsy ever would? – and suddenly realized Newsie would worry if he found out she’d been cited for street peddling. Swiftly packing up her small folding card table and stool, she walked off. Rats. Where can I set up and not be harassed? she wondered. Wait…rats! That might work…if Kermit lets THEM hang around, maybe… Worth a try… She turned her steps toward the Muppet Theatre.

    ------------------------
    Scooter blocked their path as soon as the two shortest members of the company stepped down into the green room. “Hey, did you guys want to join in the charity walk?”

    “What? Walking for charity? Of course I would be happy to show off my newest fall fashion finds! Ah – how much would be my fee for the modeling?” Pepe asked the gofer, his voice lowering to a conspiratorial murmur.

    Rizzo shook his head. Scooter corrected the prawn: “Not a catwalk, a charity walk! The kind where you get people to pledge their support for the cause if you complete the walking course!”

    “Wait, jou mean there is actual physical labor involved? Because I do not do that.”

    “Sheesh,” Rizzo muttered. “Hey, what’s da cause, Scooter?”

    “Uh…it’s to support the Muppet Anti-Discrimination League. I, uh, should also mention the boss likes it… We’re thinking of using it to help promote the new film.”

    “Wait. Ya mean dat film dey ain’t even started filmin’ yet?” Rizzo wondered. Scooter shrugged.

    “Well, yeah. But it’s got a Halloween theme, see – the walk, I mean – well, the film does too, and –“

    “Don’t twist yer shorts in a knot, Cecil da Mille, I get it,” Rizzo interrupted. Scooter shot him a glare, tapping his fingers on his ever-present clipboard. The rat sighed. “Good publicity all around, yeah, okay. Will dere be catering?”

    “Will there be beautiful womens?” Pepe chimed in.

    Scooter shrugged. “The sign-up sheet with all the details is over there on the bulletin board! Just remember, if you sign up, you gotta get at least three sponsors to contribute!” He leaned over Rizzo with a warning frown. “In money, not cheese!”

    “Whatevah.”

    “Sí, sí, we look but we promise nothing, hokay?” Pepe agreed huffily. When the gofer hustled off to whatever mission he’d originally been about, the pair gave in to curiosity while feigning complete disinterest. Pepe tried to read over Rizzo’s shoulder as the rat perused the charity walk rules. “This is very poor timing, hokay? Why didn’t they do this on some other day besides the New York Day of the Dead?”

    Rizzo stared blankly at him. “What da heck are you babblin’ about? It says it’s on Halloween night! Lemme guess, you were plannin’ on trick-or-treatin’?” He snorted. “What were you gonna go as, a lobster?”

    Pepe sniffed. “Funny. Jou funny rat. Not that it is any of jour business, but the spooky night is the biggest party night in the city, hokay, except for New Jear’s! I already have three costume parties which have booked me as the guest of honor, jou know.” He struck a pose, hands on hips, antennae high in the air. “It would be rude to my fans not to reward them for their faithful worship, jou know.”

    “Oh, bruddah,” Rizzo sighed. “Yeah, right! Or can it be dat you’re just chicken when it comes to spooky t’ings?”

    “What? What jou call me?”

    “Bawwwwk,” Rizzo teased. “Bawk, bawk, bawk!”

    Pepe put a concerned hand on the rat’s shoulder. “Jou have been spending too much times with your weirdo friend, I am thinking. Jou starting to sound like him. Jou taking a bird for your girlfriends too?”

    “You moron!” Rizzo snapped, waving the sign-up sheet in Pepe’s face. “See right here? It says da walk will be t’roo an actual, live haunted house!”

    Pepe paused a beat, staring back. “If it is a haunted house, can they call it live?”

    “Well apparently so, ‘cause it also says da whole t’ing will be shown on live TV!” Rizzo read over the rules once again.

    “Jou’re making the whole haunted house thing up,” Pepe objected. “Let me see that!”

    “Hey, I ain’t done readin’!”

    The two wrestled with the paper a moment until it ripped in half. Noticing several other Muppets turning disapproving looks upon them, Rizzo sheepishly handed the other half of the sheet to Pepe. “It says so, right dere,” he muttered, pointing out the venue’s location.

    Pepe skimmed it, then looked up with wide eyes. “Madre de las camerónes! Does Kermins know this?”

    Rizzo shrugged. “He must! Ya know dat gofer and da frog, t’ick as t’ieves, da two of ‘em!” The two considered it all silently a moment. “Ya t’ink dere’s anyt’ing to it?”

    Pepe huffed contemptuously. “Of course not! There is no such thing as ghosts, hokay?”

    “Oh, den you won’t mind signin’ up for dis, huh?” When he saw Pepe pause uncertainly, Rizzo taunted, “Dat’s what I t’ought! King Prawn? More like chicken of da sea!”

    “Oh yeah? I do not see jou putting your names on this already!”

    “Oh yeah?” Rizzo retorted. “Hey, hey Zoot! Ya gotta pen, man?”

    They waited impatiently as the saxman searched slowly through his jacket, bewildered to find his wallet and keys in his pockets. Rowlf leaned down with a ball-point. “Uh, use this.”

    “T’anks,” Rizzo replied, promptly scribbling his name with a flourish upon the sheet. Pepe snatched it away.

    “Jou used two lines!” he complained.

    “So? I write big. So what?”

    “Are jou signing jour big head up separately?” Pepe asked, smoothly penning his own signature in elegant cursive with an unnecessary swoop at the end.

    “Since when does da letter ‘E’ have all dem curlicues?”

    Before the argument could escalate again, Scooter popped over the short balustrade to the green room stairs. “Rizzo! Hey, Rizzo!” When the rat looked up, Scooter jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “There’s a bunch of rats up here wanting to talk to you!”

    “Dere is? Uh, dere is!” Surprised, Rizzo hurried upstairs, Pepe immediately behind him. An entire contingent of dirty, mangy rats stood uncomfortably just inside the back door. Straightening his shoulders, Rizzo strode over to them. “Yes, may I help you?”

    “’May I help you?’” one of the rats muttered snidely. “I told you dis was a bad idea!”

    “Shh!”

    “Uh, yeah…we, uh…we hoid you gots space here for lotsa rats, and dat sometimes youse guys let uddah rats in,” said a shifty, whiny-voiced rat at the front of the group.

    Pepe drew Rizzo aside to whisper loudly, “Be careful, amigo. They look like they have fleas.”

    “We do not!” another rat snapped, but was quickly shushed by others.

    “Look, Mac, we ain’t asking for room and board, just a place ta sleep at night. We’ll forage for ourselves,” the lead rat pleaded. “T’ings is getting’ a little weird in da sewers lately. C’mon…I see ya got lotsa space!”

    “Weird in the sewers?” Pepe repeated, dubiously regarding the scraggly clothing and dirty fur of the entire group. “Like it’s not already weird to be living in the sewers, hokay?”

    “Well, uh, well…” Rizzo stammered, taken aback at the request. Several of the rodents made sad eyes at him…including one young lady with a cute gingery punk hairdo. Struck by the happy coincidence, he pronounced, “Yeah, okay, just for now, you can sleep in da t’eatre – but ya gotta pay me re—“

    Scooter suddenly planted his feet nearby, glaring down at the whole company of rodents. “Er – I mean, sponsor da cause! Yeah…be my sponsors for dis charity t’ing, and I’m sure da other guys around here will forgive a missin’ sweet roll or two… Speakin’ of…” He sidled up to the ginger rat. “I can show ya a pretty sweet roll, sister, if you’re innerested!”

    The rat looked briefly annoyed, but glanced at the lead rat, glumly twitched her whiskers, then managed a girlish giggle for Rizzo. “Heh, heh, right dis way, beautiful!” Rizzo said, draping an arm around her shoulders. “Everyone else, pony up! Five cents a night!”

    Loud grumbling arose, but the lead rat rebuked them: “Would you raddah be down dere tonight? In da dark? Wit’ dose sounds?” The entire group abruptly shut up, then grubby paws reluctantly reached into grubbier pockets to fork out nickels.

    “Hey, that is not fair!” Pepe complained. “How am I supposed to get so many sponsors?”

    Over his shoulder as he led the grudging lady toward Chef’s pastry display in the canteen, Rizzo cackled, “Eh, why don’t ya go down to da seafood joint an’ hit up da scallops? You were such a good spokeshrimp for ‘em I’m sure dey’d return da favor!”

    Pepe snorted, watching the sewer rats stack their nickels on the floor where Rizzo had indicated. “Unbelievable!”

    -----------------------
    Gonzo’s fur had mostly recovered – the singed bits flaked off in the shower – and he gazed up at the perfect blue sky as he walked along, bundled up nattily in a long yellow-and-black striped Merino scarf which perfectly contrasted against the brown plaid jacket, brown-and-orange-checked pants, and cozy orange sweater with a smiling jack-o-lantern face woven in. After much long internal debate and a half-watched marathon of “American Gladiator” re-runs last night, he felt he’d planned an even better audition piece than the cannon-con-carne. His feeling of confidence, however, dissipated when he heard clucking, and turning the next corner found a group of chickens strolling along. His heart fluttered like a moth to that feathered flame.

    “Uh…Camilla?” he called out. The chickens paused; his lady-love glanced from them to Gonzo, then made soft shooing motions, assuring her friends in low clucks she’d catch up with them in a minute. She waited for him, her pure white feathers resplendent against the jaunty scarlet silk scarf tied around her neck. The way it gently tickled her back-feathers in the subtle breeze made his heart stick in his throat…oh, wait, he’d forgotten to swallow the dried chili banana he’d been chewing.

    Camilla gave him a soft cluck when he at last stood before her on the sidewalk, dried yellow leaves blowing past their feet. Gonzo noticed the chicken had recently enjoyed a pedicure. “Wow, cute little gems; I like!” he offered; she ducked her head demurely, but said nothing. Gathering up his courage, Gonzo blazed ahead: “So, uh, did you hear I’m trying out for a TV show tomorrow?”

    “Bawwwwk?” Camilla wondered, cocking her head sideways at him.

    “Er…well, I don’t know if it’ll preclude the theatre gig or not yet. But it’s perfect for me! It’s a daredevil reality show competition!” Gonzo was dismayed to see the bright look in her eyes fade. “It’s very prestigious! A national cable channel, Camilla! Just imagine the kind of fan following I might get with that! This could really be the big time!”

    The chicken placed a gentle wing upon his hand, silencing him. She gave him a sweetly tolerant look…but he saw no spark of passion. “Bukawk,” she told him, patted his hand, and turned to go.

    “But –but –wait! Sweetie, don’t you want to come help me out? Or –or watch me audition, at least?” Gonzo pleaded.

    Camilla gave him a sigh, clucked again, and gestured the way her friends had gone. They hadn’t walked very far, obviously curious about the outcome of this meeting. “Oh,” Gonzo murmured. “Okay…sure…I understand. I’ll, uh…I’ll let you know if I make it onto the show, and maybe…maybe you can watch it with your girlfriends, and vote for me every week?”

    Camilla considered it, nodded, clucked, and with a small wave of one delicate wingtip, hurried to catch up with the others. Gonzo watched the group of them hurry on, sneaking looks back at him, occasionally breaking into loud cackles and coos. Sighing, his shoulders drooping, he trudged on toward the theatre, all jauntiness gone from his step.

    Why didn’t she want to come see me? Does the whole idea bore her? Maybe…maybe I’m not being daring enough! Hey, she didn’t even ask what my act was! Growing worried, he tried to convince himself that her attitude would change once she saw him in action again, but the way she bounced along at a fast trot, moving steadily away from him without once looking back, quickly melted his resolve into a small, grey puddle of woe.

    He continued in a funk until he reached the front steps of the Muppet Theatre…at least, he thought it was the right steps, but he didn’t recall ever seeing a street peddler there before. He craned his neck to read the theatre’s sign before he realized the young woman in multicolored, fluttering silk scarves and large gold bangles and earrings was in fact the Newsman’s girlfriend. Pausing, he listened in while she advised a girl who wore too much makeup, over a table of spread, colorful cards.

    “Waiting tables will put food on yours, but no, it’s not going to help with your acting career,” Gina told the girl. She tapped a card which depicted a man made out of vegetables sowing seeds in a garden of pumpkins. “This means you need to focus on perfecting your art by planting yourself somewhere; once you’ve done that, your work will grow and you’ll reap the full harvest in due time.”

    “Like, does that mean I should go work at the vegan co-op?” the girl asked, confused.

    Gonzo was fairly sure he saw Gina bite back a smile. “No, but school would be a good step. Acting classes. And then plant yourself in a theatre.” She swept the cards into the deck, and held out a palm. “That’ll be ten dollars.”

    “Yeah, okay…thanks,” the girl said, paid the fee, and walked off apparently still mulling over the garden analogy.

    “Too bad she’s not Chauncey Gardener,” Gonzo commented.

    Gina laughed, making him smile. “I love that book! Hi, Gonzo. How’re you doing?”

    “Ah…I’ve had better lives,” he sighed. He looked curiously at her Tarot deck while she shuffled it. “Does that stuff really work?”

    “Am I a Gypsy or what?” Gina returned. She leaned on the table, studying his drooping nose. “Would you like a reading?”

    “Um, I don’t think I have ten bucks…”

    “Gratis, for the man who knows who Chance the Gardener is. Tell you what, why don’t we make it a full spread, not just the three-card draw?”

    Gonzo met those bright eyes a moment, and gave in. “Sure, okay.”

    “Here. Let’s pick a significator card for you…the one which will represent you, right at this moment.” Gina fanned the cards out face-up, looking carefully through them, then gave Gonzo a startled look when he pulled out one showing a clown juggling a number of symbols over his head, smiling as he danced toward the edge of a precipice. “The Fool? Okay…actually, that’s a good choice…he’s all about creative drive and wild dreams without pride or ego; risk-taking, innocent…”

    “Uh, I’m not much of an innocent.”

    Gina regarded him with sharp eyes a moment. “You are, though,” she said, “more than you think. All right, so that’s you.” She laid the card dead center in the table. “Now, shuffle these,” she said, placing the rest of the deck in his hand. Gonzo did so expertly, the fresh cards making a satisfying burrrr-thwack with each feathering of them… Feathering. Yeah, great, rub it in, he thought, sighing.

    Gina frowned lightly. “So what’s on your mind? This isn’t about Rizzo’s garbage-recycling business failing, is it?” The rat had tried to convince everyone to invest in the dubious venture a month back, but when no one wanted to help him pore through tons of trash Rizzo had thrown some snappy words at all the Muppets, but especially at Gonzo. Newsie had reported it as an example of the difficulties faced by environmental entrepreneurs, though Gina doubted the rat’s tree-hugging credentials.

    “No…it’s…I guess you could say it’s a sickness of the heart,” Gonzo muttered.

    “Oh,” Gina said quietly. “Gonzo, I’m sorry. Camilla still isn’t talking to you?”

    “Oh, sure, she talks to me…we even go out still sometimes…but all we do is talk, if you catch my drift.”

    “Ah.” Gina wasn’t sure what to say, what comfort to offer. She indicated the cards still in his hands. “All right, think about what you most want a minute…then when you feel ready, cut the deck.”

    Gonzo tried to quiet himself inside. Camilla, Camilla, we were so perfect…why have you turned away from me? he thought. One of the cards suddenly felt right, and he slipped his fingers into the deck there, bringing it to the top. Gina gently took the cards back, and flipped the top one over, covering the Fool card. “This card represents the matter at hand,” she told Gonzo. “And it’s reversed. That’s odd…” The card showed three phantoms in traditional hooded shrouds smiling as they twined together, each holding aloft a goblet. “Normally, this is a good card; celebrations, friends, positive outcomes…but reversed, it means you’re having a difficulty with a relationship. A break of friendship.”

    “Wow,” Gonzo said. “I guess they can be accurate sometimes, huh?”

    Gina turned over the next card, laying it across the reversed three of ghosts. “This is what’s influencing you right now…why you’re doing this reading.”

    “Because you offered it?”

    “Not quite. See how there are two bats hovering over the blindfolded angel? This means you’re searching for some kind of compromise, a way of rebalancing your life…between your desire for love and your need to perform?” Gina asked, and Gonzo’s eyes widened. Seeing his surprise, Gina smiled wryly, and continued to the next card, placing it above the pile of three cards in the center. “This represents your hopes and goals. Oh…now that doesn’t surprise me at all! The Magician. A major card.”

    “I haven’t really thought about stage magic as a career,” Gonzo mused, looking at the tuxedoed magician pulling a rabbit from a hat, while a cat, a bat, a jack-o-lantern and a ghost looked on happily. Numerous infinity symbols snaked around the card. “You think I should ask Mumford for some tips?”

    “Gawd no,” Gina growled. She tapped the card. “Hopes and goals. Creative drive leading to stupendous projects; infinite energy and ambition to push yourself over the top, always learning as you go, always getting better at your art. Tell me that’s not you!”

    Gonzo tilted his head to one side, silent. Gina placed the next card just behind the center pile. “This is your recent past, things you’ve gone through which are fresh in your mind.” A group of five ghosts looked worriedly down at a spilled bucket while the pumpkin-headed man who’d dropped it seemed unhappily puzzled as to what to do. One full bucket sat untouched behind him. “No surprises there: you’ve lost something very dear to you…but you should realize all is not lost; you still have something left from that relationship.” Gonzo blinked. He’d never put much stock in this stuff, but he didn’t think Gina would lie to him. Seeing he wasn’t going to comment, she turned over the next card, placing it lower than the center pile. “This is the root of the problem. Another reverse, hmm…” A bunch of short reddish imps raucously warred with long staves under a full moon. “Well, normally this isn’t as bad as it looks; it says that sometimes, when your creative energy feels stagnated, you should just stir things up. But reversed…not so good. It means stagnation itself; complacency, which causes a lot of relationships to break up, believe me.” At Gonzo’s worried glance, she laughed. “No, not me and Newsie! He’s wonderful. But in your case…”

    “I understand,” Gonzo nodded. Just as he’d thought: Camilla had become bored with him! He must not be daring and inventive enough anymore…

    Gina placed another card in front of the center pile, so now a card showed in each cardinal point around the middle. A giant hand emerging from a cloud grasped an imp by its tail, while the imp scattered a handful of oak leaves into the sky. “This is what’s in your immediate future, and that’s good! Are you planning some new project?”

    “Yes – I’m auditioning tomorrow for a new TV show!” Gonzo felt a flicker of hope.

    “Well, this card is all about new beginnings, especially creative endeavors. So this only confirms your immediate plans.”

    “So I’ll win the audition?”

    “Probably,” Gina grinned, seeing his eyes alight. “Wait, though. We’re not done.” She started a line going up off to the right side of the compass-rose of cards. “This card represents your attitude toward the problem. Hah…more imps! I’m not surprised; the whole suit is about creative force and restless energy, and that’s you to a T. The eight of imps…” The little monsters flew in a frenzy all through a night sky, looking confused, some holding Cupid-like arrows. “You’re moving fast and determinedly, but you might be overlooking something in all your haste. Your mind is all over the place.”

    “Um.” Gonzo frowned, though if he had to examine himself, he had felt a little scatterbrained lately. Just this morning, he’d actually poured milk in his cereal instead of prune juice.

    “This shows how your friends feel about your problem,” Gina continued, placing another card above the last one. A bunch of ghosts seemed to be mourning a hooded figure as it climbed a hill, heading away from them all. “You may think your new plan will lead you to bigger and better things – and it might – but the other Muppets may feel you’re abandoning them. Tread carefully.”

    “Geez,” Gonzo muttered. Would his friends really think he was following the wrong path? How could they? Heck, everyone knew he’d always dreamt of stardom, fame and cool scars!

    A third card went up the side. “Goodness. That’s the third major arcana card…Gonzo, you really must have some magnificent dreams,” Gina said, flashing a smile at him. He shrugged, and she explained the meaning of the card. “The Chariot. See how the driver is zooming along in the dark, with all those hazards close by?” A pumpkin-headed man grinned at the wheel of an old-fashioned hearse with Egyptian symbols painted upon it; a frightened black cat crouched close by the driver, while miles of spiked fencing hemmed in the car. “This is for the hopes and fears you don’t talk about, and the Chariot represents great drive and self-discipline, but also the potential to crash and burn if your control ever slips.” She gazed at Gonzo seriously. “You worry about failing, even as you push boldly onward.”

    “Well,” Gonzo began, but fell silent. He didn’t know what to say to that. He swallowed with a dry throat.

    “Now the last one. It shows the outcome of your current path as outlined by all the other cards here, if you keep going as you are now, with your current plans,” Gina said softly, and turned over the next card, setting it at the top of the line of four. It certainly didn’t seem hopeful: a woman had eight bats swooping around her, each of them carrying a length of cloth; the woman was blindfolded and wrapped like a mummy, but it was hard to tell if the bats were trapping or freeing her. “Oh, Gonzo,” Gina sighed.

    “I take it that’s not joy and celebration.”

    “Restriction, imprisonment, indecision…no. Not good at all.” Gina studied the entire spread, lifting each of the center cards to view the ones beneath as well. “Okay…taken as a whole, here’s what I see. You’re still hurting from your breakup with Camilla, and you feel you’ve been stuck in the same place creatively too long, and you’re throwing yourself head-on into a new act, in hopes of reaching bigger, better things in your art…but there are a number of cards here which talk about the need for caution, for reconsidering. You’re launching into this new project because you think it will impress Camilla, aren’t you,” she said; it wasn’t a question.

    “Don’t you think it will?” Gonzo responded. “I mean, if she broke up with me because I was getting too ordinary –“

    “It’s not about what I think, it’s about what the cards say,” Gina argued. She gave Gonzo a steady stare, making him fidget. She tapped the table for emphasis. “Everything here comes down to this: although the same-old-same-old may have led to the breakup, you’re rushing into something that might have very unpleasant results. Something that won’t achieve what you want it to. Reconsider.” Sighing, Gina looked at the cards a moment longer, then swept them into a pile and began reshuffling them into the deck. “Sorry, Gonzo.”

    “So…what do you think? You, personally?” Gonzo wondered.

    Gina shrugged. “That’s a pretty strong and definite warning. I’d pay attention to it, honestly. But keep in mind, that’s only where your current path leads. If you change something, the results can also change.” She gave him a small smile. “Look, if it was me, and Newsie was looking elsewhere, and I thought doing something new and creative would get his attention…I would absolutely do it! I can completely understand why you’d want to win Camilla back. Just…watch your step, okay?”

    “Slow and careful,” Gonzo nodded. “Got it. Thanks, Gina.”

    “Anytime. Love the threads, by the way. You didn’t borrow the coat from Newsie, did you?”

    Gonzo blinked down at his tasteful autumn-hued plaid. “Uh, no offense, but he’s usually not this stylish…”

    Gina laughed, and with a grin, Gonzo waved goodbye and went into the theatre, privately musing, Maybe I should hold off on the chainsaw-dance for now. Slow and careful. Maybe just use the live jellyfish instead?...

    Watching him go, Gina hoped whatever the Whatever was planning, he’d be able to stop himself from hurtling into catastrophe…although she knew from repeated visits to the Muppet Theatre this was rarely the case with him. She sensed someone else standing in front of the table, composed her expression into disinterested calm, and turned around to see a purple, dreadlocked Muppet peering at her from above dark shades. “Hey, baby,” Clifford said, leaning in to ask in a low voice, “uh, say. Are you a real Gypsy?”

    “Yes. Did you want your cards read?” Gina offered, but the Muppet shook his head, stringy mustaches flying.

    “Naw, naw, gorgeous! I just, uh…I kinda need a…” He sighed, and gave her his most hopeful smile. “Do you, uh, brew love potions by any chance?”
    ----------------------------------
  11. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    <333 the chapter, mostly for Gina's inciteful reading with the asides added from the conversation between her and Gonzo.

    Rats scared of what's going on in the sewer... We're not talking about resurfacings of that river of pinkish mood slime are we? :scary:
    Looking forward to what, if anything, Newsie finds in his aunt Ethyl's room.
    Thank you for some much needed fic enfusion. :jim:
  12. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Four

    “Mm. News-man. News-man. Yip. Yip yip yip.”

    Oh, not these weirdos again, Newsie groaned inwardly, turning to see the blue-furred creature stretching up on whatever passed for its tip-toes to stare at him, then jerking away when he glowered at it. He’d completely forgotten Wednesdays were one of the two Monster-Petting Therapy days here at the Long Shadows Upon the Dial Happy Home for the Dangerously Senile; it was one of the reasons he’d chosen Thursday as his regular visiting day, so he wouldn’t have to deal with the bizarre creatures. It stared wide-eyed at him; he’d yet to see them blink. He didn’t even think they had eyelids. Squiggly antennae bobbled at him curiously. “Mm. Go to Eth-el? Eth-el? Yip?”

    “Yes,” he growled, and the monster immediately skidded and slid around the corner. Sighing, squaring his shoulders against the nuisance of it all, the Newsman followed the monster through the halls, a little bewildered when it took a different direction than he was accustomed to. He had to almost sprint up a set of stairs to keep the thing in sight. Well, at least this isn’t one of the big ones, he told himself. Some of the residents had apparently been assigned eight-foot beasts as their personal monsters to pet on therapy days – “Whooof!” He smacked into something orange-furred as he rounded the next corner. Putting up a hand to steady himself, he jumped back as slavering teeth and glowering eyes jutted into his face. “Ack! Uh—uh—sorry! I didn’t, er, see you there…”

    “How can you see anything through those coke-bottles?” the monster cackled, shoved him aside with one clawed paw, and ceremoniously escorted a doddering old gent along the corridor. “C’mon, Bernie. Let’s go eat some squirrels.”

    Newsie shuddered, and looked down the now-vacant hall. No sign anywhere of the odd creature who’d been guiding him. Hesitantly he walked along, glancing at the mostly-closed doors of residents’ rooms. Mad giggling came from beyond one; a sudden crash in another room was followed by a blue-scrub-clad nurse hurrying in, shutting the door behind her. Unnerved, Newsie quieted his footsteps, wondering if perhaps he should just come back on a different day. Suddenly a door opened just as he passed it, startling him. “Hey! Yeah, you!” the wizened old codger standing in the doorway with a chrome-painted walker pointed an accusing finger at Newsie.

    “Er…me?”

    “You think I don’t know? You think I don’t see you stealing my pretzels? Oh no! I see it! You only think my eyes are closed!” the old man yelled, advancing upon the befuddled newscaster.

    “I haven’t taken your pretzels!” Newsie argued. “I don’t even know you!”

    “Oh, I know you,” the old man sneered, nodding. Newsie backed away, wondering how to get past the walker now blocking the hallway, or whether he ought to simply go back. “See you every night on the news! Acting so above it all! But I know…I know!”

    “Excuse me,” Newsie gulped, darting to one side. He squeezed past the walker, but a wrinkled claw of a hand grabbed his sleeve. “Ack! Sir, please let go!”

    “Not ‘til you give me back my pretzels!” The old man’s eyes blazed, and his white hair frothed around his spotted head like stormclouds gathering. “You’re in league with them!”

    Exasperated and not a little creeped out, Newsie tugged, but the fingers locked in his coat-sleeve wouldn’t unhook. “Sir, I have no idea who stole your pretzels, but I give you my word as a journalist, it was not me!”

    “Then who was it? Huh? Who?”

    Desperate, Newsie tried a different tack. “I don’t know, but I’ll look into it! That sounds like…like a story of imminent importance to the public!”

    Suddenly content, the old man released him. “Oh, good,” he murmured, turned around, and wobbled back into his own room.

    When the door shut, Newsie let out a breath, feeling his heart still thumping hard. He looked toward the end of the hall again –“Aaagh!” The blue-furred thing with googly eyes and long lips wobbled backwards, startled by his reaction to finding it abruptly in front of him again. “Don’t do that!” Newsie gasped at it.

    “News-man lost. Looost. Yip-yip. Lost. Yip yip yip yip yip uh-huh.”

    “I wouldn’t be if you wouldn’t run so far ahead,” Newsie complained.

    The thing bobbed its head down, then up, then down again, continuing to stare right at him. He hated that. “Ru-un?” it asked, puzzled.

    “Never mind,” Newsie sighed. “Just take me to my aunt.”

    He stayed close behind it this time, jogging, until it swung through an open door. Its twin, the pink thing, was bouncing its head up and down while loud static squealed from an old clock-radio. “Mu-sic! Music! Yip!” it called out.

    Excited, the blue monster joined it, and they shuffled and hopped and waggled their antennae, apparently overjoyed by the white noise. Irritated, Newsie shut the radio off, and they both stared at him. “I can’t hear anything over that noise!” he barked at them, and turned to greet his aunt, trying to compose himself better. “Uh…Aunt Ethel? It’s me, Aloysius…”

    “Needs hear-ing aid,” a low, monotone voice came from behind him, followed by amused snorts and yips.

    The Newsman ignored them. His aunt, pale and tiny, gave him a vacant smile. She reclined on her bed, the top half of the mattress tilted up, wearing a blue dress with white polka-dots; it spread like a welcoming flag across the neatly made red blanket, bringing vaguely-recalled childhood memories of Victory gardens and stars in windows back to Newsie. He reached carefully for her hand; she took it without hesitation, but he couldn’t tell if any recognition sparked in her eyes. “How are you today, Auntie?” he asked.

    “Oh, very well, thank you,” she replied, but the way she continued to sit and beam at him told him she had little idea of where or when she was.

    “Aunt Ethel, I came to talk to you about our family,” Newsie said, deciding launching right into the purpose of his visit might be best. “About the Bly—hey!” He whirled angrily; the monster who’d been poking a skinny hand into his jacket pocket leaped back, yipping in protest. “Stay out of my pockets!” Newsie snapped, then returned his gaze to his aunt. “About the Blyers. Can you tell me more about them?” Scolding himself, reminding himself open-ended questions tended to bring in only vague answers, he corrected, “Er…would you tell me what you remember about your family, when you were growing up?”

    “Oh, yes,” Ethel said, her wrinkled face brightening. “We had a lovely farm, until the Muppabean Weevil came along in ’29…”

    Newsie took out his notepad, but fumbled for his pencil stub. Looking around, he saw it being passed back and forth by the monsters, who examined it as though it were an alien artifact. “Stick? Yip. Stick. Yip yip yip…uh-uh. Not stick. Nope. Nopenopenopenope.”

    The pink one took the pencil, popping it into a wide round mouth. “Hey!” Newsie said, startled and angry.

    “Mmf. Car-rot?” the pink one wondered. Newsie grabbed its head; it fought wildly, but he managed to pry open its snap-trap mouth and retrieve the not-yet-swallowed pencil.

    “Stop taking my things! And stay out of my pockets!” Newsie snapped.

    The creatures looked at one another, shrugging. “Not car-rot.”

    “Nope. Nopenopenope.”

    Disgusted, Newsie wiped off the pencil with his handkerchief, then hastily began jotting down his aunt’s words as she reminisced, oblivious to the monsters. “Even with the weevils, we might have brought in a crop that year, but the snow fell early, and too many beans froze in the fields…oh, it was a disaster. We had to move to a tiny shack. Flora and I shared a bunk, and Wilfred had the top bunk, and Ma and Pa put down a bedroll in the main room by the fire.” She paused, eyes gazing off at nothing the Newsman could see. He waited, wondering if he ought to prompt her again, but then she continued, “That was a little crowded, you can imagine! But things improved after Wilfred got a job in town…”

    “Which town?” Newsie asked, pencil poised.

    “Cheddarbrethe Hollow, of course,” Ethel responded, puzzled. “I thought you said you were the county registrar?”

    “Uh, no. I’m your nephew, Aloysius.”

    “Oh, how nice,” she nodded pleasantly at him. “I have a nephew by that same name!”

    “Okay,” Newsie sighed. “Tell me more about Wilfred. What did he do in town?”

    One of the creatures poked Newsie in the side, skittering back when he jerked around to glare at it. “Ched-dar?” it asked, holding out a pink eraser.

    Newsie tried to snatch the eraser from the thing’s tiny claw, but it quickly tossed the item to its companion, which promptly popped it into its mouth and chewed, furry lips masticating sideways like a cow. “Mmmm! Ched-dar! Yip yip yip! Ched-dar!”

    “Yip yip yipyipyipyipyip uh-huh!”

    Irritated, Newsie looked back at Ethel. “Oh, well, Wilfie started as an apprentice curd-fluffer at the plant, but he worked his way up. By the time he retired, he was second assistant hole-puncher in the Swiss cheese department!” She smiled sweetly. “Such a good work ethic Wilfie had…he always made Pa proud.”

    “He had a son, didn’t he?” Newsie asked, and she nodded.

    “That would be Chester. Chester didn’t go into the cheese business, though…Wilfie never did understand that. Such a bright boy, you’d think he would’ve jumped at the chance to become a professional curdler like his daddy…” Ethel shook her head, smiling wistfully. “He’s a good boy, though.” She perked. “Would you like to see some pictures, Mr…what did you say your name was? I’m so sorry, my memory’s not what it used to be…”

    Newsie sighed again. “Just call me Newsman, if that’s easier.”

    “Oh! You’re a reporter? Well why didn’t you say so! Oh! Will this be in the Cheddarbrethe Hollow Clarion? Oh, how delightful! Won’t Pa be proud to see our name in the paper!” Ethel clapped her hands, and suddenly leapt up, throwing open the lid to a sturdy, rough-hewn oak hope chest at the foot of the bed. Nervously the yipping creatures darted around her while she rummaged.

    “Yip yip! Sit! Eth-el sit! Bad! Yip yip yip!” one scolded, but she shoved it away impatiently. Newsie hurried to grab her wavering shoulder. The pink thing tried to insinuate itself between him and his aunt, bobble-wires and huge eyes suddenly pressed against his nose. “No touch! Nopenopenope! Eth-el sit!”

    “Get away!” Newsie snarled, elbowing the monster. It suddenly reared up, staring down at him – he hadn’t realized they could make themselves taller – and yipping like a one-note watchdog. Its partner crowded him from behind, and though he flailed at them, the two pushed him away from Ethel. Fortunately she found what she wanted and plopped tiredly on the end of the bed.

    “Oh…oh, my, these bones are so weak for some reason lately…I must not be eating enough cheese,” she murmured. Shoving his way past the monsters, Newsie took her hands in his, checking her over, worried.

    “Are you all right?” he asked, while the monsters anxiously darted and hovered, mumbling to themselves.

    Ethel beamed at him. “My, you’re very considerate! How nice to see the post office hiring good-mannered young men these days! You know, was a time that postmaster was such a grouch…always came in with dirt on his fur, and snarled at anyone trying to buy stamps…”

    “Er…uh…is that a photo album?” Newsie asked, trying to get the conversation back on some kind of track. He was positive he’d never seen the huge, fabric-bound book before.

    “Isn’t it darling? Joe helped me make it.” She smiled at Newsie. “He’ll be home from work soon! Would you like to have some tea and cookies with us? Joe loves tea and cookies after a hard day at the accounting firm.”

    “Uh…sounds very nice,” Newsie managed, then tapped the book forgotten in her lap. “Can you show me a picture of Chester?”

    “Chester…hmm, I don’t know if I have any photos of him in this book. Let’s see…” She began flipping the oversized pages; numerous faded black-and-white photos flew by. “Oh, look! There’s Flora at the fall dance! Didn’t she look lovely?”

    Newsie felt strange viewing a picture of a much younger version of his mother posing with a bouquet of wild grasses and sunflowers, scowling deeply at the camera. Ethel continued on. “And here’s the cheese factory…there’s Wilfie standing in front of the curd vat…”

    Newsie peered curiously at the stern-seeming, stout Muppet with overalls and a large rounded nose, his dark hair bowl-cut over deeply lined eyes. It occurred to him that his uncle might have still been alive when Newsie was growing up. He’d never known the man existed until a couple of months ago, and any chance to even meet his uncle was likely now lost. “Unfortunately, he got Pa’s nose, instead of Ma’s like Flora and me,” Ethel sighed. “Poor homely soul. At least Willie didn’t seem to mind. She told me once she loved how he always came home smelling like Muenster.”

    “He smelled like a monster?”

    “Oh, you silly! Like Muenster, the cheese. What kind of dairy farmer are you, not knowing your cheeses?”

    “Uh…right. Willie…his wife?”

    “That’s right. Wilhelmina. Sweet little thing she was…the green fur flu took her in ’67. Such a shame.” Ethel paused at a page showing the dour-faced, cheese-making man standing with one arm around a tiny Muppet woman with large round ears sticking straight out, and an almost nonexistent chin. Her eyes, however, looked kind, with doe-like lids giving her whole face a demure expression. The woman cradled an infant in her arms, bundled up so tightly all Newsie could see of its features was the large round nose sticking out of the blanket. “Didn’t they make a lovely family?” She lingered a moment more, then flipped the page. Newsie started at the candid shot of himself, perhaps age two, running across a lawn bawling, trying to hold up a diaper which seemed to be coming untied. “Oh, that’s my nephew Aloysius! Such a doll!”

    “Er,” Newsie stammered, and reached over to turn the page back. “Uh…tell me more about your brother’s family. You said Chester didn’t go into the cheese business. What does he do for a living?”

    “Chester? Oh, well, I’m sure you know him. He’s famous now! Such a good boy; I always knew he’d be in show business, the way he used to put on funny skits for the cows…”

    “Show business?” Newsie was positive he’d never heard of a Chester Blyer acting in anything. Then again, he rarely bothered with entertainment fluff, preferring hard news stories. He was willing to make an exception to that rule for Kermit or Miss Piggy, naturally, or the other Muppets, but typically he was smugly pleased when he didn’t know a single name of any of the reality-TV psuedo-celebrities being bantered about around the water-cooler at KRAK. Suddenly a pink furry head shoved between him and the photo album.

    “Eth-el. Lunch. Yip yip. Lunch. Brrrrrrring! Lunch.”

    Newsie was on the verge of really going after the intrusive monster when a loud bell rang, echoing through the halls of the asylum. He heard doors opening, and patients shuffled and mumbled along the hall. A nurse entered the room. “Hello, Ethel! Time for num-nums! We have tapioca today!”

    “Ooh, I love tapioca,” Ethel said, smiling up at the woman in bright floral scrubs. She looked at Newsie. “Will you be joining us, Mr Donaldson?”

    Taken aback, Newsie fumbled for a response. The nurse gave him a thin smile. “I’m afraid you’ll have to come back another time, sir. We don’t allow patients to have visitors during lunch; it tends to agitate them too much.”

    “But – but I wasn’t done asking –“

    “The monsters will see you out,” the nurse stated firmly, helping his aunt into a wheelchair and swiftly taking her out of the room. The pink thing crowded him, its head jerking from side to side to peer around his nose. Irritated, he pushed it away from his face.

    “Just a minute,” he growled. “At least let me put her book away.” He glared at both of them, wary of them shuffling around with odd ripples of their footless bodies, and with a grunt raised the heavy lid of the hope chest. Good grief, she must be strong; this thing weighs ten pounds! He carefully lowered the photo album into the chest, but stopped when he saw another album, bound in plain blue vinyl, beneath it. He exchanged the albums, opening the blue one, amazed to find the first few pages contained nothing but newspaper clippings of himself. MUPPET NEWSMAN BURSTS ONTO CITY NEWS SCENE! the first one announced, accompanied by a grainy photo of the exact instant he had been blown up by Crazy Harry on the steps of the Stock Exchange building during an on-the-spot report about trading exploding that day. Ergh…I didn’t know anyone had shot that! he thought, wincing. Another was a front-page review of the Muppet Show which focused on Kermit, Piggy, and Gonzo’s oatmeal-snorkeling-while-bagpipe-playing act. Far into the article, on a third clipping which had been buried on page eighteen, a single mention had been outlined in dark marker: “Also notable: the recurring comedy act of one Muppet trying to present absurd ‘news’ stories but falling victim to the report every time. Don’t miss the falling cow bit!”

    Embarrassed, Newsie flipped the page. The blue monster nudged him. “Go. Now. Go now. Yip yip yip. Gooooooo!”

    “Go. Go go. Yip yip yip yip uh-huh!”

    “Knock it off!” Newsie said, trying to push them away as they crowded him uncomfortably. The pink thing grabbed the scrapbook in its wide mouth, lurching away with it. “Hey! Give that back!”

    “Nooope. Nope nope nope. Yip.”

    He yanked it out of the clamped furry lips only by bracing his heels and pulling with all his strength; the monster let go at the last instant, sending Newsie sprawling on his rear. “Go. News-man go. Yip yip yip.”

    “Yiiiiiip yip yipyipyipyip go! uh-huh,” the other one chimed in, its movements growing even more aggressive, the two of them circling him. He wasn’t sure they wouldn’t bite him. Granted, he didn’t see any teeth, but if they both latched on and pulled in opposite directions… He snatched up the scrapbook, fallen on the floor in his tumble, and his eye suddenly noted a different picture, someone definitely not him, but dressed in the same brown plaid sports coat he had favored for so long. Backing toward the door, Newsie glanced between the advancing creatures and the clipping pasted on the page: ‘SWIFT WITS’ CAPTIVATES AFTERNOON AUDIENCE. The publicity photo depicted a Muppet who clearly hosted the show in question, standing with his back to a large title logo. The host had a large round nose, round ears sticking out from his head, a shock of dark sleek hair, and bright, doe-lidded eyes.

    “Make go,” the pink thing muttered, and its partner agreed with an ominous yip. They closed in on the Newsman, their voices monotonous, threatening: “Yip, yip, yip yip yip yipyipyipyip…”

    Hugging the album to his chest, Newsie fled, stumbling down the corridor. Mr You-stole-my-pretzels lurched into his path; Newsie put out one hand and vaulted the walker, albeit ungracefully, landing hard but picking himself up and pounding around the corner and down the stairs. He didn’t slow until he’d reached the parking lot. Looking back, he saw the twin monsters staring at him from the flowerbed at the side of the asylum, but they didn’t seem inclined to pursue him past the front gate. Relieved, he flashed his visitor’s badge at the guard and was allowed out.

    I have to remember NOT to be here when they are, he thought, panting. Why they even allow those freaks on the grounds is beyond all reason! How can encouraging monsters on the premises be GOOD for the inmates? Dear sainted Murrow…wait. Why ARE they even here? It’s supposed to be “petting therapy,” but I have yet to see anyone petting them…not that any of them would allow that, I bet. Wonder if any of the inmates have gone missing on monster days? He walked along the tree-lined drive, musing, his heart slowing gradually. He checked his watch, and saw he had plenty of time to catch the train back to the city and meet Rhonda; his reports producer had reluctantly agreed to go with him to ConEd to try and track down the workers who’d complained of strange things sighted belowground. In the meantime… Newsie parked himself on a low bench, polished his glasses, and reopened the scrapbook.

    It made him feel odd to know that his aunt, who didn’t even recognize him now, had saved all these clippings of him, all these chronicles, flattering or not (mostly not) of his career. He’d never known. His mother had certainly never had a kind word about his choice of livelihood; she had never even mentioned him appearing in a review. Not once. But Aunt Ethel… Swallowing dryly, Newsie forced himself to go past his clippings to the page with the unfamiliar face. He read through the article. The fluff piece praised “the witty banter, the charming veteran monster Carl, and above all, the mercifully short length of the program.” He tried to dredge up any memory of the show, but failed; game shows simply held no interest for him. After all, trivia was not news. He looked at the picture closely. That nose…didn’t it resemble his uncle’s? Weren’t those ears the same as his late aunt Wilhelmina’s? Could this Muppet be…?

    Then he saw the host’s name, in tiny print under the photo: “‘Swift Wits’ features Carl the Big Mean Bunny, darling of afternoon television; also the current host, Snookie Blyer.”

    Blyer! His heart skittered. Eagerly, Newsie skimmed through a dozen more photos and articles, each focusing on an enormous monster with what looked like costume bunny ears (he suddenly had a disturbing vision of this thing crashing one of Hef’s parties – “Hello! Ahhh nom nom nom! Thank you!”), but each at least mentioning the host in passing. The last used page in the scrapbook had one final photo, this one in color, of the game show host standing off by himself, with a distant look on his face, while other Muppets with either large round or large pointed noses, all yellow-felted, laughed and drank and mingled convivially around a laden picnic table. This one hadn’t been pasted in; Newsie carefully detached the brads holding it in place and flipped it over. Written in Aunt Ethel’s graceful hand on the back were the words, “Blyer Family Reunion, 1990. Chester’s last visit.”

    Newsie turned the photo over again, studying the image with deeply mixed emotions. This guy Snookie is Chester? My cousin? A family reunion? Why wasn’t I invited? Am I not…not considered family? He swallowed down the hurt, trying to refocus. His last visit? And there aren’t any more articles…so where’s he been for the past twenty-one years? Did he quit show business? Was he fired? At least now he had a face to put with the name, and a possible lead. Tonight, he’d start research into the show, and find out when it was canceled, and what network it ran on. Perhaps an inquiry to that station could help him track down the missing Blyer. It counted as progress, anyway. He’d copy all the articles about this Snookie guy and return the scrapbook to his aunt the next time he visited. Telling himself this was a good discovery, the Newsman stood and tucked the scrapbook under his arm, walking unhurriedly toward the entrance to the asylum’s spacious outer grounds, questions tumbling through his head as he went.

    The yipyips watched him go. The pink one turned to the blue one. “Mn. Bad. Yip. Bad man.”

    “Mm,” the other bobbed its head in agreement. “Should tell. Bad. Mm. Yip yip yip.”

    “Yip yip,” the first one added. Together they half-bounced, half-slid across the neatly trimmed grass to a storm drain. Exchanging another look, they both shook themselves rapidly from side to side, humming a low note, and melted like laundry soap down the drain opening.

    “Such odd boys,” Ethel said, staring at the vanishing monsters from her table in the garden. She blinked up at her nurse, and automatically accepted the spoonful of tapioca being offered her. Around the mouthful, she commented, “I can never recall whose boys they are. Must be Homer’s…he was a black sheep, my cousin Homer, you know.” The nurse nodded patiently, scooping another spoonful into the old lady’s mouth, dabbing her with a napkin. “Yes, I think they must be Homer’s. He moved to Minnesota, of all places, swore off cheese, and started rooting for the Vikings! Can you imagine?” She shook her head, and gummed another spoonful with a smile. “Mmm. The creamed corn’s tasty today, isn’t it?”
    ----------------------------
    WhiteRabbit likes this.
  13. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Yay Newsie! You've made progress in that you now know it's 'Snookie' Blyer. You've got a face to the name and a definite lead to chase down like the determined journalist you are. And I love how the Martians were involved in this chapter. Their descending down into the underground lair might not bode well. But Gina did warn him he'd have to go through some sort of humiliation in his quest. Thanks as always. :)
  14. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    Oooh! Halloween approaches! And now, a quote from one of my OTHER favorite shows:
    "In the Old Religion they call it Samhain. It's a night when the walls between the worlds grow thin, and spirits of the Underworld walk the earth. A night of masks and balefires, when anything is possible and nothing is quite as it seems. Your city has its own magic as well."
    Newsie, Gonzo and Rizzo (not to mention the YipYips) seem destined to roam between worlds very soon, but hopefully with the successful goal of setting dreams and friends and family free from a half-life of uncertainty and imprisonment.
    I love that Gonzo--who believes at least 17 impossible things before breakfast each day--is skeptical of the tarot reading.
    I am anxious for Gonzo to GET A CLUE about his relationship with Camilla. Poor things....
    Scooter being his usual efficient scheduler is always a treat. He'll probably be selling chances to sponsor him on Ebay....
    I enjoyed the competitive discussion between Rizzo and Pepe--a little machismo (a very little) goes a long way!
    I am oddly distressed at the thought of the YipYips being sinister!
    And a little creeped out by the monsters eating the, um, soup on stage.
    Keep it coming!
  15. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    -----------------
    Oh, well if THAT creeped you out, you might want to skip the next chapter... heh, heh, heh....

    More soon. Thanks for the input, guys! And a word to all you lurkers: you will be found and tagged with iridescent paint to forever mark you if you do not chime in. Positive OR negative...just tell me what you think, okay? :news:
    -----------------------
  16. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Five

    The lights swirled wildly, the music flubbered to a wet-sounding crescendo of tubas and gargling octopi, and Snookie yelled out the intro: “Want a tremulous trout? How about a splendiferous salmon, or a charming char? These and more could be yours if you’re picked to play – You Win a Fish!”

    The audience slapped their fins, tentacles, and tails loudly against their benches or each other as the greenish studio lights brightened and the smiling, jovial host paddled the inflatable boat into the center of the gigantic holding tank. Rumor held the network had purchased the eleventy-thousand-gallon tank from a defunct Octo-World sea life park, but Snookie was positive he’d never seen any branch of Octo-World which had anything comparable to this. At least he didn’t have to get wet. He tossed his tiny anchor overboard with a splash to keep himself roughly in the center of the tank and waved to the audience filling the half-submerged bleachers on three sides. “Hey! Are you ready to play?”

    The squid, octopi, sharks, and unidentifiable deep-water predators all gurbled enthusiastically at him. “All right then! Let’s bring out our current champion! With a five-week winning streak totaling three hundred and twenty-two fish,” he paused a moment for the cheering and applause, “heeeeeere’s Goompah Gobrobbler!” As the portly Great White shark lumbered into the tank, doing fin-pumps for his cheering fans and showing every one of his five hundred reticulated teeth, Snookie continued, not even needing his waterproofed cue card to recite the shark’s accomplishments after five weeks of cringing away from him every workday: “As you all know, Goompah is a six-year-old resident of the Great Barrier Reef who arrived at our studio by hitching a lift on the back of a nuclear submarine – with his teeth!” Too bad they didn’t assume he was another sub and fire a warning torpedo at him, Snookie thought. “He’s proven himself quite the fish professor around here, he weighs four hundred and twenty-two pounds soaking wet” (audience laughter) “and ladies, he’s single! Now, let’s meet our challenger today!” Snookie glanced at the cue card, his brows briefly creasing as he realized the contender wasn’t another shark, polar bear, alligator, or Marianas Trench Squid. “O-kay! Well, here’s a surprise! Our contestant today is a Muppet! He has a degree in plumbing technology from Cal State, he likes peanut butter and caviar – together, and he says he’s never met a fish he didn’t like! Let’s give it up for…Lew Zealand!”

    “Ooookaaay! Wuh-huh-huh! Hi, Snookie! Wow, this is exciting!” A rounded man with wide fat bobble-eyes and a fluted collar swam out into the tank. He waved at the crowd while treading water. “Hi, everybody!”

    Goompah the shark snarled, but Snookie held up a hand. “Hey, now! No eating until the game is over or you forfeit all your winnings so far! Heh heh!” Deeply relieved when the shark decided to obey the rules, Snookie checked to make sure Lew was headed for his side of the tank while the shark cruised on the opposite side. “Everybody in place? Fan-tastic! Let’s play!”

    The audience hushed. The strobes sparkled in sequence over the water, and the computer-controlled lights all swung down and inward at once to focus on Snookie, Goompah, and Lew, the rest of the tank dark. “All right players, your first question, for one brown trout minnow, is: name the Mesopotamian fish god whose followers sometimes threw sacrifices into the sea!”

    Both players shook their cuttlefish; both cuttlefish pulsed vibrant electric blue, but Lew’s was a split second quicker, and Snookie called on him. “Well, that’s an easy one! Dagon!”

    “Correct! Next question, for one farm-raised catfish: what prehistoric fish was confirmed not extinct in the 1930s?”

    Again, Lew beat Goompah to the buzzer…so to speak; the cuttlefish didn’t actually buzz. Snookie had always felt the show would make more sense if they did. Well…as much sense as something this bizarre could make, at least. “Ah, that would be the coelacanth, Snookie!”

    “Correct again!” Snookie proclaimed, as the scoring basket above Lew’s head now had two flopping fish dripping down on the delighted contestant. Goompah shook his cuttlefish, which turned three different shades in protest.

    “Hey, I don’t think my buzzer is working!” the shark growled. A technician in a wetsuit hurriedly swam over and pulled the tentacles, squeezed its eyeballs, tickled its beak, and finally handed it back to the shark.

    “Well, the tech guys say it’s working fine, Goompah, so why don’t we continue the game?” Snookie asked, growing a little nervous. “The third question, for one fat blowfish: what river is the black-skirt tetra found in?”

    Determinedly the shark slammed his cuttlefish into the wall of the tank, making it fluoresce brighter than Lew’s. Snookie looked at him expectantly. “The Chattahoochee!” the shark shouted.

    “Uh – no! Lew, do you have the answer?” Snookie asked, wincing as the shark’s beady black eyes widened in disbelief.

    Lew laughed. “Huh-huh! That’s a trick question, Snookie! All tetras come from the Amazon or one of its branch rivers!”

    “Correct! So as we head to the break, that’s three fish for challenger Lew Zealand, and one strike for reigning champion Goompah Gobrobbler! Stay with us for this unexpected heat on You Win a Fish!” The cameras went to commercial standby, and Snookie nervously sleeked his hair down with one hand. Half the audience was rooting loudly for the shark; the other half booed Lew, but the clueless Muppet only smiled and waved at them. Oh, frog. What is this guy doing? Doesn’t he know after the first bite the blood in the water will draw every shark in the northern Atlantic? He wished he could say something to Zealand, but interfering with either of the players was grounds for immediate devourment if he was caught. The scaly orange monster who directed this show snapped his finny fingers, getting Snookie’s attention; commercial almost over. Snookie took a deep breath and presented his widest smile for the camera. “O-kay! So, let’s find out a little more about our players! Lew, it says here that you throw fish?”

    “Oh, not just any fish, Snookie! I throw boomerang fish! You see, I throw the fish away…” He produced a very smelly dead fish from inside his strange Elizabethan doublet and threw it at Snookie; the host ducked, and the fish bounced off Goompah’s nose before flying back to Lew. “Heh-heh-heh! And it comes back to me!”

    “Weh-heh-ellll, that certainly is an interesting hobby, Lew! Now, Goompah –“

    “Oh, it’s not a hobby, Snookie! I do it for a living!”

    Snookie paused, dubious. “You actually make money at that?”

    “Well…not so far, but—“

    “So, Goompah! I understand you have a special fan in the studio today?” Snookie continued with the fluff questions, the shark’s scowl an incentive to move things along.

    Goompah nodded, pointing with one sharp fin at a small blue shark bobbing in the front row of the audience. “That’s right, Snookie. Smitty here is a very special young shark. Y’see, Smitty was born with only one set of teeth.” A low murmur of pity ran through the assembled sea creatures. Goompah nodded firmly. “He swam all the way here with his family to see me compete in person after watching me on the show! I was so inspired by his story that I’m gonna give half my winnings today to the Make-a-Fang Foundation, which helps kids like Smitty catch fat boaters and other easy-to-digest prey!”

    “Ooo-kay,” Snookie responded, keeping the smile frozen on his lips, though he shuddered inside. “Are you both ready to play?”

    “Wuh-huh-huh! Sure!”

    “Bring it.”

    “Let’s play!” Again, a hush fell with the darkness around the ring of the tank. “Gentlemen, your next question, with a red snapper on the line: what fictional pirate named his ship after an ancient denizen of the deepwater with a hard, circular shell?”

    Lew won the buzzer. “That would be Captain Nemo!”

    “Correct! Next question –“

    “A nautilus isn’t really a fish,” Goompah objected. “Is that question fair?”

    Snookie glanced past the tank wall to the control booth. He saw the director nodding his orange, glistening head, gills flexing. “I’m sorry, but yes, that does fall within the range of questions allowed! Moving on, fellas: in which waters can you locate the Portuguese Man-o’War?”

    Goompah slammed his cuttlefish nearly insensible to win the tossup. “Indian Ocean!”

    Snookie tried to speak as quickly as possible in the hope it might take the shark longer to react: “No I’m sorry Lew do you know the correct answer?”

    “Of course! Those are found mostly in the Gulf of Mexico!”

    “That’s right! A flat sunfish for Lew and a second strike for Goompah on that one! Uh-oh, our shark champion is dangerously close to striking out of the game! And we’ll be right back.” Snookie flinched when a large fin suddenly flashed in front of him and the shark reared up next to his tiny rubber boat. “Uh, heh-heh, Goompah, buddy! You know the rules say you have to stay in your corner until the game is settled!”

    “I’m winning this game, you scrawny plaid appetizer. Get that?” the shark snarled.

    “Hey, sharkie! Wanna see my boomerang yellow-and-black mackerel? Go get ‘em, Prince Charlie!”

    Snookie ducked again when a very floppy fish sailed low across the tank. The shark reached up with giant teeth, snapping once. “Heyyy! That was my mackerel!” Lew protested.

    “Aaaand we’re back! In case you’re just tuning in, there seems to be an upset in the making –“

    “You could say I’m upset, yeah!” Goompah shouted. Snookie did his best to keep smiling, laughing off the implicit threat for the camera’s benefit.

    “Now, now, Goompah! Let’s get on with the game, shall we? Next question, for the staggering amount of one kingfish,” Snookie said, going marginally slower so the lights could dim and the enormous, struggling, sail-finned trophy fish could be swung into position over the tank for everyone to see, “is…what country is depleting the Pacific shark population for a tasty soup?”

    “What!” Goompah yelled. “Are you kidding me?”

    Lew buzzed his cuttlefish. “That would be Japan, Snookie!”

    “Right you are! And Goompah, please remember if you have the answer, you must use your buzzer to –“

    “That is an insult! You’re deliberately offending me! I am so degraded!” Goompah yelled, charging the rubber boat. With a shriek, Snookie jumped straight up, his shoes kicking the angry shark in the nose as those powerful jaws snapped shut right where he’d been; the boat deflated with a loud pop and hiss. “You’ff piffed off da wong fark! Come back heuh!” Goompah bellowed around the rubber now shredding all over his teeth. Snookie scrambled over the shark’s slippery head, desperately diving and winding up involuntarily crowd-surfing over the yelling, roiling audience.

    “Hey, Snookie! I’ll throw you a fish! You catch it and it’ll bring you back here!” Lew called out, tossing fish after fish at the host, although most of them were caught and eaten by the audience, and one slapped Snookie square in the nose.

    Carl the Big Mean Chef stormed into the control booth. “Hey! What’s goin’ on here? That was a stupid question! Who writes this stuff?”

    Beautiful Day Monster chortled, halfway raising a hand. Carl scowled. “Figures! Lemme guess – you’ve entered the cookoff too?” B.D. shrugged, grinning. “Well go get him outta there! He’s my prime ingredient! Get that shark off him!”

    Some growling and posturing ensued, but in the end, B.D. waded into the pool and grudgingly extricated the terrified, ragged-clothed host from the jaws of death before he could become Goompah’s donation to Make-a-Fang.

    --------------------------
    “Hey, uh, Frog of my Heart,” Fozzie began tentatively. Kermit gave him a curious look, reminding himself not to smile; Fozzie usually only wrung his hat like that when what he was about to say or do would prove unintentionally comic.

    “What is it, Fozzie?”

    “Um, I know you and Miss Piggy are, uh, busy and everything, but, um…well I was wondering if you could…I mean, if you’re not busy…”

    “Fozzie, spit it out! What is it?”

    “Oh, right! Right! Uh…” The bear gulped, and asked in a shaky voice, “Could you come to my Ma’s Halloween party?”

    Kermit took an extra beat to allow that to sink in. “Your mother’s throwing a party? When is it?” And why is Fozzie acting so nervous about it? Despite having to keep half his attention on the usual backstage pre-show chaos, Kermit was intrigued.

    “It’s next week. Saturday da twenty-second. At her farm.” He stared so earnestly at the frog that Kermit became suspicious. “Do you…do you think you guys can come?”

    “I’ll check, Fozzie.”

    “Okay,” the bear mumbled, turning to go.

    “Fozzie – why is this such a worrisome thing?”

    “Who said I’m worried?”

    “Fozzie,” Kermit said, growing impatient. He could hear Animal shouting Pen-guin! Pen-guin! somewhere below in the green room, and hesitated to even visualize what that could be all about.

    Fozzie groaned all in a rush: “Kerrrmiiiit…it’s just dat Ma wants me to come up dere and see Dora and I didn’t think I could do it all by myself so could you please just come to da party? Pleeeeease?”

    Kermit frowned. “Dora? I thought that was a kids’ show.”

    “No, no, no, not dat Dora! Dora Bruin! She and I kinda grew up together, and…and da last time I saw her I made a total fool of myself with all dat Wormwood Soames stuff, and…and…” Desperately he grabbed Kermit’s arm. “Look, Frog, can you just say yes you’ll be dere?”

    Kermit sighed. “Fine. As long as it doesn’t interfere with location scouting, yes, I’ll be there. Piggy too.”

    “Oh thank you Kermit! Thankyouthankyou—“

    “Okay, sheesh,” Kermit said, shaking free of the bear hug to go yell at the scientists inexplicably dragging a llama through the wings. “Bunsen! What have I told you guys about bringing walking rugs in here!”

    Elated, Fozzie stopped the janitor as he ambled by, mop in hand. “Oh hey, hey Beauregard! Wanna come to a Halloween party? It’s gonna be at my Ma’s farm a week from Saturday!”

    Beau blinked slowly. “Me? A party?”

    “Yeah! It’s gonna be great! There’ll be pumpkin-picking, and apple-bobbing, and everyone can wear a costume! Whaddaya say?”

    “Uh, I don’t know, Fozzie,” Beau mused. “I don’t think I even have a pumpkin pick.” He brightened. “Would an ice-pick do?” He frowned again. “But what will I use for the apples?”

    “Just be there! Saturday after this one! Okay?” Fozzie hurried to a group of chickens preening atop a stack of crates, waiting for their opening number, a feather-fan dance to the tune of “Anything Goes.” “Hey, you chickens! Wanna come to a party?”

    “Dat’s so sweet of him to toot his ma’s horn,” Johnny Fiama murmured respectfully. “Hey Sal. Make a note. We’ll need five dozen pumpkin cannolis, Sattiday after next.” He shot the ape a significant look. “Make sure it’s Ma’s recipe!”

    “Uh, sure t’ing, Johnny,” Sal agreed at once, though he immediately remembered all the other preparations for Johnny’s own Halloween bash he was supposed to be coordinating already. “So dat would be anuddah five dozen? ‘Cause you already ordered dat many for your party on da same night…”

    “Whaddayou now, an accountant? Eh, a dozen here, half a dozen dere, who cares? Commie see, commie saw, like dey say, ya know? Just make it happen, Sal!”

    “Uh…but your party is da same night, Johnny…you want we should invite Fozzie, like, as a return gesture?”

    “Whaddayou, nuts? My party’s only for people in show biz! I can’t have bears droppin’ in!” Johnny lowered his voice, leaning close to his trusty flunky. “Besides…I’m tryin’ ta get dat Cal-bert guy to interview me on his show, and he’s on my guest list, capiche? You know how he is about bears.”

    Camilla clucked affirmatively at Fozzie, and he bounded off to the next Muppet in his line of sight, apparently frantic to get everyone possible involved. The chicken smoothed down her lovely wings with her beak, pleased by the idea of an old-fashioned autumn harvest theme for the party; she’d offered to bring along real candied corn. She never spoke of her chickhood to anyone but Gonzo, but the truth was, she did sometimes look back upon those innocent farm days with nostalgia. She’d immediately liked the practical Emily Bear when they’d met years ago at a Christmas celebration at the farmhouse, and seeing the country in all its autumn splendor appealed strongly to her as well. She’d suggested a bonfire to Fozzie, and he’d agreed enthusiastically, perhaps forgetting the necessity of keeping certain members of the Muppet company away from large open flames… The chicken’s glance slid speculatively over to Beaker, who was meeping in loud protest and growing panic when the llama refused to stop chewing his hair.

    The Newsman was surprised when the bear suddenly jumped in front of him. “Newsie! Hey Newsie! Are you free Saturday after this one?”

    “Er…” A quick, confused review of his mental calendar didn’t bring up any conflicts, but he was wary about agreeing to anything around here without further investigation. “I’m not sure. Why?”

    “Oh! See, my Ma is throwing a Halloween party, and I want everyone to come! Uh, and…and…” The bear appeared sheepish. “Uh, can you bring Gina?”

    Pleased but still cautious, Newsie gave him a careful nod. “Uh, I’m not sure if she’s scheduled at her theatre that night, but I’ll ask…”

    “Oh great! Uh – uh – and can you, um…can you ask her to be da entertainment?”

    “What?”

    “Well, um, I saw her out front earlier, doing dem card tricks…I asked her if she’d teach ‘em to me and she said it was a special Gypsy card trick thing. So, uh, could she bring dose cards to da party?”

    The Newsman started to smile, then saw how absolutely in earnest the bear was, and suppressed it. “Well, er, you realize I can’t speak for her, Fozzie. But yes, I think she’d be happy to attend as long as she doesn’t have a schedule conflict. Count us both in.”

    Fozzie gave him a quizzical look. “You can’t speak for her? I thought married people could do dat!”

    “Shhhhh!” Newsie clamped a hand over the bear’s mouth, glancing around worriedly, but then relaxed; Gina had left the backstage area a few minutes ago and should be sitting out in the house by now to watch the show, as she had almost every night since the two of them had started dating earlier this year. “Don’t ever, ever,” he cautioned Fozzie, “EVER use that word around her!”

    “But I thought – she was wearing dat ring you gave her –“

    “It’s a matter of semantics,” Newsie explained, sighing. “Yes, as far as I know we’ll be happy to come to the party, Fozzie. Sorry…I need to get ready…” Bewildered, Fozzie nodded, and with a nod back, the Newsman hurried downstairs to his dressing-room.

    Fozzie scratched his head. “Semantics,” he repeated, confused. “Huh…someone should tell him not all of us have learned Gypsy language like him…”

    “I speak Urdu, Bawkbawk, and a little Yiddish,” Gonzo commented, overhearing him. “But I think that was more the language of compromise than anything else.”

    “Oh, hi, Gonzo! Hey, my Ma is throwing a party…”

    Camilla noticed Fozzie chatting up Gonzo. She felt deeply regretful about having to turn down her darling Whatever’s latest crazy attempt at stardom…especially when he looked so smart in that fall-colored outfit. She knew exactly what snuggling against that soft sweater would feel like… A pang of loneliness caught her by surprise. She envisioned Gonzo holding her tight next to a smoky bonfire, sharing a cup of fresh cider, gazing up at the stars on a crisp rural night… Slowly, she walked over to where the stylish but overeager daredevil was listening to Fozzie expounding the attractions of a celebration in the countryside.

    “So dress up as whatever you want, and come join us! It’ll be a bla…” Fozzie caught himself in time, disappointing Crazy Harry, whom he caught listening in over the balcony. “Uh…it’ll be great! And Ma would love ta see you again!”

    “Eh…I dunno, Fozzie. I mean, sure, it sounds wonderful…but I’m auditioning for a new show tomorrow, and I’m sure to get the part, and I don’t know when the show will be shooting!”

    “Oh,” Fozzie said, taken aback. “A…a new show? You mean like…not dis one?”

    Gonzo sighed. “Well…you know I love you guys, Fozzie. You’re family! But…but I need room to grow as an artist, and, well…this other show wants insanely dangerous stunts! I mean, it’s exactly what I’ve always dreamed of!” He patted the crestfallen bear on the arm. “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll be there if I can! Hey, who would turn down the chance to walk through a bonfire in their bare feet, right?”

    “Uh…okay,” Fozzie said.

    Camilla stopped. Her feathers drooped a moment. Then she turned around, straightened her neck up, and trotted back to the other girls fussing with their beaded costumes before Gonzo could notice her. Sighing inwardly, she cast an unhappy look at the daydreaming daredevil as he hustled down to the canteen, then responded to a clucked question from one of the other hens, keeping her tone light, pretending she didn’t mind at all that Gonzo was choosing a new act over what he might have held onto here.

    She kept her head high, her demeanor professional, when the chickens danced out onstage, and her voice didn’t waver one bit as she took up the song: “Bawk bu-gawk buh-bawk-bawk bok bok buk bawk buk…buk-kawk-kaw baaawwwk!”

    Not one little bit.

    Beau stuck a large spike with a handle in front of a startled Fozzie. “Do you think this will work for the pumpkins? I found a pickaxe too…”

    ----------------------------
    Carl leaned over the shorter monster, his enormous pink nose wrinkling in distaste. “Well, he can do the intro voiceover thingy later when I’m done! I got dibs!”

    “Dibs! When did you call dibs? He’s scheduled to be here for this thing right now!”

    Snookie cautiously poked his head into the sound booth. “Uh…heh heh…I thought I was supposed to be doing a voiceover for…” He glanced at the paper in his hand, and adjusted his grey tie nervously. “Uh, American Sidle – the hit show where everybody slinks sideways for cash?” he read the show’s promo blurb aloud. Oh, frog. Am I at the wrong soundstage? The monster crew tended not to be understanding about schedule confusion, even though they frequently changed details at the last minute, and finding his way around this warren of studios and show sets was worse than navigating the Atlanta airport during the holidays.

    Carl shoved the smaller monster, a greenish frackle, roughly aside, squashing its mouth all the way up to its furry ears against the sound mixing board in the cramped booth, which settled the argument. The Big Mean Chef grabbed Snookie by the collar of his jacket, grinning toothlessly at him. “Not right now you’re not! I have a cooking contest to win, and I need a taste test!”

    “You…you want me to taste something for your cooking contest?” Snookie wondered, utterly floored. Oh heck no, that can’t be good. What is it, eels flambé again? Maybe bugs in a light cream sauce? He shivered, immediately gagging.

    Carl chortled, dragging him down the hallway. “Don’t be silly! I need to taste-test you! Now, do you think you’d go better with more cumin, or more paprika? I can’t decide.”

    “Eeegh!” Snookie tried to wriggle out of his jacket, but Carl grabbed his arm as well, propelling him unwillingly toward the cooking studio. Another conflict awaited the gourmand monster, however. Beautiful Day yanked open the door just as Carl was reaching for the knob, having tucked Snookie’s head under his hairy arm so the host wouldn’t escape.

    “Hey! No fair trying to peek at my recipe!” Carl snarled.

    “Who says I care about your stupid loser barbeque? I’m gonna win it with my triple-slathered slime-glazed walrus!” B.D. claimed, holding up a quite slimy Fawningham Offawump. Snookie was gasping too hard to even appreciate his threat to the annoying walrus had come true.

    “Whatever! But get outta that studio! I have it reserved from six to eight!”

    “Oh yeah? Says who?”

    “Says so right there!” Carl pointed to the room’s signup sheet, posted clearly on the dreary, dripping wall next to the door.

    B.D. promptly ate the sheet. “Bwah hah hah! Now scram! I gotta practice my presentation for the judges!”

    Incensed, Carl the Big Mean Diva roused himself from a growl to a howl: “Your presentation? As if! You’ll be choking on your own fur when the judges taste this spicy morsel, you fat slob! You couldn’t cook your way out of a tinfoil drainpipe!”

    “Oh yeah?”

    “Yeah!”

    Monster disagreements usually involved a great deal of posturing and threats, very seldom actual clawing, biting, or swallowing one’s opponent whole – at least, not when the monsters were more or less evenly matched. It then became an issue of bravado, Snookie had observed, and the best response was always to sneak away unseen if he could. Carl’s grip on him had indeed loosened a little, and if this argument over use of the fully-equipped, gas-fired, soundproofed-against-screaming-main-dishes studio continued much longer, Snookie had no doubt he and the walrus would be ignored while the monsters squared off and tried to force the other one to back down. However, something they kept repeating troubled him deeply enough he finally croaked out, “Uh, guys? Guys!”

    Surprised an entrée would interrupt, both monsters stared at him. “What?” Carl grumped.

    Fawningham was staring round-eyed at Snookie in pure shock. Snookie swallowed down a flash of fear, and asked, “Uh…you keep using the word judges, plural…how…how exactly is that going to work? I mean, heh heh, I thought you guys didn’t like to share!” The idea of being included in a cooking contest was horrible enough, but he had been devoured whole by several of these numbskulls before; often enough to be able to close his eyes, hold his breath, and go to his happy place while enduring the stink of monster digestive tracts. But being eaten multiple times? No, he didn’t think he could handle that. Not more than one trip through the alimentary canal, thank you…not to mention the intestines…

    Carl actually gave him a straight answer. “Well, it wouldn’t be a very fair contest if there was only one judge, now would it? Any idiot can buy off one other monster!”

    “The judges all hate each other,” B.D. chipped in. “So it’ll be totally fair…and of course that means my dish will win!”

    “All? Wha---what do you mean all? How – how many times are they going to…to…” Snookie couldn’t finish the question, shuddering.

    Carl snorted. “Once each! Well, okay, they each get a piece, of course! Duh! Don’t you ever watch Iron Chef?”

    “A piece?” Panicking, Snookie struggled, but Carl clenched his arm around the host’s neck. Snookie choked out, “You…you can’t tear me in pieces! That goes against my contract!”

    “Does not! I’ve read your contract!” Carl the Big Mean Lawyer produced a briefcase out of some huge hidden pocket of fur, flipping it roughly open and yanking a long roll of paper from it, which he snapped in Snookie’s face. “See? Right there it says, ‘The Host may be subjected to any action required for any show by any monster, pursuant to article X.13’!”

    “You can’t tear me up!” Snookie gasped, fighting as hard as he could, but the headlock didn’t budge an inch.

    “Maybe you better ask the boss,” B.D. muttered, looking a little doubtful.

    “I’m not bothering the boss with this!” Carl growled, but then perked up. “Hey! Get the vet down here! Vet! One’a the critters is whining! Hey vet!” he bellowed.

    Within a few seconds, a tall Muppet in a stained lab coat bounded into the corridor, irritably pushing a pair of large goggles up his long forehead. “What? What? Who called?”

    “Hey, Doc. This troublemaker says we can’t rip him in pieces for our cooking contest,” Carl snorted, shaking Snookie like a ragdoll.

    The vet looked Snookie over dismissively. “So? Call a lawyer! Not my problem!”

    Carl rolled his eyes. “Well, look, we do need him for other stuff. He’s…” Carl leaned over to whisper roughly, “He’s the boss’ favorite, so we can’t actually turn him into pulled jerky if it’s gonna ruin his career.”

    “Hmm, I see your problem,” the vet said. Thoughtfully he tugged Snookie’s hands, pulled his ears, and flopped one of Snookie’s legs up and down while the show host stared at him in shock.

    “Hey, you’re…you’re a Muppet!” Snookie gurgled around the headlock, recognizing the strange doctor from the KMUP station both had worked for years ago.

    The vet sniffed. “Well, isn’t he the obvious one!” He waved his hands in a shooing motion at Carl. “Yes, yes, you can rip him limb from limb if you want, he’ll be fine! I can always stitch him back up good as new! Well, almost. Probably. I think.”

    Fawningham groaned and drooped in a faint, irritating B.D.

    “No! No! I will not be fine! NO!” Snookie shouted. “No! If you do this, I’ll – I’ll – I’ll rig every game! I’ll cheat every contest! I’ll – I’ll –“ Desperate to find some kind of trump card, he fortunately thought of one thing he knew they’d hate. “I’ll make you eat me every show!” When Carl stared at him, one tooth sticking up from his lower jaw in utter bewilderment, Snookie continued breathlessly, “Every show! In a week it’ll be old shtick! Boring! Ratings will plummet like the production standards around here!” Panting in triumph, he stared wide-eyed up at the monsters. “You think the boss will like that? Huh? Ratings dropping? Think he’ll be happy with you guys?”

    Uncomfortably, Carl shifted from one enormous green foot to the other. B.D. shook his head, muttering curses. The vet chuckled. “Well! Looks like you don’t need me after all! It’s not as though I was in the middle of anything important, like, oh, I don’t know…splicing tomatoes with piranha glands?” He glared at the monsters. “Next time, figure it out yourselves! I have work to do!”

    As the tall, strangely floppy-limbed Muppet sauntered smugly off, B.D. yelled after him, “You’re only allowed lab space ‘cause you work for the boss, same as us, stringy-hair!”

    “Ah, forget him,” Carl grumbled. He shoved past B.D. into the cooking studio, hauling a weak-kneed Snookie after him. “Now butt out, Ugly Day! I got a dry rub to perfect!”

    “Dry rubs are so last year!” B.D. rumbled. “Who’s gonna tell them we can only have one judge?”

    “You are! I’m busy!” Carl snapped, slamming the door in the other monster’s face. B.D. growled and grunted, but dragged the unconscious walrus off by the tail to take the unhappy news to the producers. Snookie could only catch his breath, his heart still pounding and his head still reeling, when Carl released him long enough to fire up the ten-yard-burner gas grill.

    Oh frog. Oh frog. Shivering all over at how close he’d come to being an unwilling yellow felt pull-apart bread roll, Snookie clung to the prep counter’s edge, too shaky to move. He looked up worriedly when Carl turned around and grinned at him.

    “Hi! For my recipe, I’d like to draw on the rich post-nuclear monster cuisine tradition, but with a twist! First, we coat the foam all over in my special secret spices…”

    Snookie had just enough presence of mind to shut his eyes before the giant-sized sack of chili powder, cumin, parsley, and fine-ground Belgian cocoa flumphed over him in a cloud of sneeze-inducing dry powder.

    ----------------------------------
  17. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Huh? Dunno... For some reason it felt like there should have been just a wee bit more to end the chapter. But at least this cliffhanger does work its way around one objection I kinda thought of. If all the monsters were going to use game show host as their secret ingredient, there'd be noone to judge the cook-off. But since the judges, er judge, will be one of the monsters' own I see no problem. Although live edibles is something even my palatte wouldn't venture to taste.
    Great cameo by Dr. Neuter

    As for the main Muppets... There seems to be some misunderstandings and misgivings around Fozzie's Ma's Halloween party.
    Was "Cal-Bert" intentional?
    Also, why does Fozzie have an accentuated speech making him sound like Rizzo?
    Wonder if the party will leave room for both the daredevil show and the walk through the staged haunted house.

    The installment of You Win a Fish... Funny and great to see Lew dethrone the reigning champ. With enough momentum in the fish thrown, he probably could tip that great white over to catch and toss away boomerang-style.

    Enjoyed this update with all the foodsie references, the confrontation between Carl and BD, and watching what happens next, as it made my night. Hope for more when possible.
    *Leaves choc-popcorn clusters for :news:
  18. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    In a word....Ewwwwwwwyuck! Great addition to the story. I'm glad you explained about the indigestible nature of the muppet host. I was getting a little worried. And I'm glad Camilla's keeping her, um, beak up. You can't love Gonzo and be faint of heart.

    And I am TOO going to finish my Halloween story before, um, before Halloween!
    Gonzo: You notice she didn't say what year.
    Ru: Gonzo! Whose side are you on?
    Gonzo: Who's got the peanut-butter and sardine sandwiches?
    Ru: Um, I've got stale peeps and hot tea?
    Gonzo: Neato! I'm in!
    newsmanfan likes this.
  19. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    :oops: He's in what?
    Good question.

    BTW: Wouldn't Mabel have that kind of sandwich combination?
    :shifty: Mabel's here?!

    Dunno, ask Aunt Ru.

    :batty: You don't suppose Gorgon Heap vill be the judge do you?
    Well, he is known for being the world's best eater. Although that title could just as easily apply to Cookie.
    :insatiable: Someone say me name?
    Eh, c'mon guys, let's knock off for the night and leave Kris to write more fic.
    *Pushes the button.
  20. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    -----------------
    Thank you, Frank. ;)

    As far as accents go...representing Fozzie's unique patois is a little tough for me. Apologies if it doesn't come across quite right. :o

    (Johnny: Cal-Bert! Sheesh! Don't these wiseguys ever watch his show? He's da best variety show host around!
    Sal: Uh, Johnny...you're right of course but...uh...ain't he more like a news show guy? And ain't his name actually --
    Johnny: EH, news, variety, whaddayagonna do. Dey're all da same ain't dey? Now go press my shirts!)

    The party is before Halloween...go check your calendar. Dates are this month. :concern: And as for the daredevil show...well, stay tuned... And I am SO finishing this before Ru does hers. Nyah, nyah, noonan, noonan! Writing more tonight since I have TWO, TWO glorious days off in a row! :batty: Ah ah ah! *Boom, crack*

    More soon! Thanks for reading!
    -------------------------

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