Yes, D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) (An affectionate tribute to the American Library Association’s READ campaign poster featuring Kermit and the marvelous Miss Piggy) “Absolutely not!” Kermit insisted. “You are not wearing that.” Not for the first time when Kermit laid down the law, Piggy felt two distinctly different emotions. Relief was foremost—relief that he was looking out for her, but obstinate defiance followed shortly thereafter and Piggy bristled. She did not like to be told what to do, and yet…and yet she wasn’t comfortable in this outfit. She looked down past the bustier at the layers of petticoats under the miniskirt uncertainly. She didn’t actually mind the fishnet tights and heels—she was used to very high heels--but the juxtaposition of femininity and trashiness was really not her. Still, she did not want to be dictated to by Kermit, whose idea of Sunday-go-to-meetin’ dressing was to go au naturale. She fluffed the little skirt thoughtfully. “It’s not so bad,” she said. “I mean, it’s not really my style, but….” She took a deep breath. “In a good cause, I could wear this.” “In a bad cause,” Kermit muttered. Piggy’s head snapped up. “WHAT?” she barked, but he ignored her. Kermit put his hands on his hips and shook his head. “No,” he said. “This is—this is not what I thought we were going to do.” “Well isn’t that just typical,” Piggy snapped irritably. “You don’t know what’s going on and you’re the one who set it up!” The combination of Kermit’s trusting naïveté and dictatorial style meant that sometimes (okay, often) things were not quite as explained to the cast and crew. Piggy had long ago give Marty an ear full for letting her sign a contract with the phrase “other duties as assigned” in it. But that was history and this was…well, this was not exactly what she had imagined when Kermit had suggested a quiet day in the library. As if sensing that Piggy’s swat-o-meter was reaching critical, Kermit made one of those lightning-quick shifts that had saved both his career and his amphibian hide on more than one occasion. He reached out and grasped Piggy’s plump, pink arms. Like Piggy had a moment ago, Kermit felt two distinctly different emotions—desperation as he attempted to persuade her and pleasure at the feel of her soft, satiny skin beneath his palms. “Look,” he said earnestly, flashing his pollywog eyes without even being aware of it. “The point is to promote reading, right? We’re supposed to serve as good role models for readers.” Wordlessly, Kermit let his eyes travel down the rather unsophisticated little outfit, and when his gaze came up to lock with Piggy’s they were both blushing. “All right!” Piggy huffed, pulling away. Kermit thought she was irritated, but the truth of the matter was she wanted to put some distance between them after that scorching look. “I get it. I’m not exactly going to be a good role model for young readers in this get-up.” She put her hands on her hips. “You hate it, don’t you?” Kermit blinked, caught off guard. “I don’t hate it,” he said hastily, surprised. “It’s just not, um, the sort of thing you usually, um….sheesh.” He fell silent, cheeks flaming now, and saw Piggy smile at him—that secret, satisfied smile that she got when she managed to outmaneuver him on script issues. He felt his temper flair, felt his body temperature spike but once again Piggy exhibited her ability to knock him off-center. She giggled, and the sound of her giggle was impossible to resist. Kermit began to laugh, too, covering his face with his hands. “How did we manage to turn a promotional announcement about reading into an argument about wardrobe?” he lamented, grinning at Piggy. Piggy fluffed the little skirt flirtily. “Moi can turn anything into an argument about wardrobe,” she insisted smugly, but Kermit called her on it immediately. “Hey, look—maybe I’m just too old-fashioned.” He gave her a thorough, raking once-over than made her clutch the hem of her skirt. “If you want to have your picture made in that get-up, let’s do it.” He reached for her hand, starting to pull her after him, but she dug in her high heels. “Wait,” she said, and her hold on his hand caused him to snap back to where she stood. “I’m thinking.” “About what?” Kermit demanded. “About having your picture made in that skirt—standing on a big pile of books?” Piggy withdrew her hands as though he had warts. “Vous are so rude,” she muttered. “I—Moi is thinking about what you said.” Kermit crossed his arms. “That would be a first,” he muttered, but Piggy shot him a warning look and he subsided. “I’m thinking about what you said about being old-fashioned.” Kermit looked a little uncomfortable. Despite having worked in the entertainment industry for many years, he often found his well-bred sensibilities at odds with the Hollywood norm. “Look,” he began defensively. “I’m not even going to try to defend it. I was raised a certain way—“ “Kermie, sweetie,” said Piggy lightly. “I would not begin to argue with your parents about the way you turned out. I’m thinking more about fashion.” “Figures,” he muttered. “Old-fashioned fashion,” she said. “Do you remember when you took Moi shopping?” “Which time?” Kermit muttered. He was stuck in a petulant mood, but Piggy reached out and grabbed his hand. Contact with her hand—warm even through the cool silk of her gloves—made his expression soften and he smiled tentatively. “I seem to remember being commandeered to take you to a couple of malls,” he conceded. “Vous are too kind to squire me around,” Piggy murmured, making nice. That put another dent in his bad mood and his mouth quirked into a wry smile. “Not to mention paying for everything,” he said dryly. “Always a gentleman,” Piggy cooed. She batted her eyelashes at him and Kermit gave up trying to remain mad. “Okay, Piggy—what is it you want me to remember?” “Well, fashion is never an exact science,” she mused. “At any given time there is never just one look that is in style.” She drew herself up and tossed her long curls over her shoulder. “And Moi has never looked like everyone else,” she said smugly. “You got that right,” Kermit said, but he squeezed her hand and smiled at her. He was trying to make nice, too, and it was…it was nice, very nice. “This is in fashion,” Piggy said, making a sour face and gesturing to the bustier, “but there are other looks that are popular now, too.” She bit her lip, thinking. “There was a store that had these dresses—chambray skirts with frilly white blouses. Do you remember?” Kermit shot her an incredulous look. “Piggy, are you seriously asking me if I remember everything we looked at when we were shopping? Are you kidding? I can barely keep my mind on…um. I mean, er—chambry skirts, you say? And white blouses with lace and ruffles and little brass buttons?” ‘Ooh! Right—lots of little brass buttons.” She leaned forward and kissed his cheek, discombobulating him again. “Vous are sooo observant,” she said, and Kermit basked sheepishly in the light of her praise. “So…what are you thinking, Piggy?” He sighed. “Are we going shopping again?” “No,” said Piggy. Her faraway look and distracted voice told him she was thinking. “I can send for what I need. When are the photographers due?” “We’ve got about an hour,” Kermit said doubtfully, but Piggy nodded briskly and began to shoo him away from the dressing room area. “Then get out of my way and let me make a couple of calls,” she insisted. Bemused, and more than a little anxious about the time, Kermit went. An amazingly short time later, several plastic clothing bags were processed into her dressing room, along with a couple of costume assistants. Piggy opened the door in her silk robe and let them into her dressing room with alacrity, waving at Kermit’s hovering figure impishly. He retreated, nervously watching the time. He tried not to loiter, but was gratified—on his third pass—to see Piggy emerge from her dressing room looking very, very different from the way she had looked earlier. The dress looked more like a skirt and a blouse, and Piggy had secured it around her waist with a trim faux leather belt. This blouse was more tailored than some they had seen, with a demure touch of lace at the neck and wrists. Kermit smiled ruefully. Piggy hardly needed ruffles to enhance her figure. Instead, a long line of small brass buttons provided just the right touch of embellishment. Yards of frothy white petticoats peeked out from under the hem, but when Piggy preened, turning for him, he could see that she had kept the fishnets and high mary janes. “Better?” she asked, her eyes merry. She already knew how she looked, but she wanted to hear Kermit admit it. “Better,” he admitted. “You look…you look great, Piggy. Very…school-marmish.” “School-marmish!?” Piggy huffed. “What’s that supposed to mean?” A wiser frog would have back away, but Kermit had not always shown good judgment where Piggy was concerned. He walked up to her, looking her up and down with satisfaction. “It means smart,” he said. “And stylish.” “Well….” “Can you put your hair up?” Piggy’s eyes widened. Was Kermit really giving her hairstyling tips? “I—I guess so,” she said. “Do it,” Kermit said, pursing his froggy lips and stroking his chin thoughtfully. “I think we want to see the line of your neck.” “Oh we do, do we?” Piggy muttered, but she pulled her long, golden tresses up, holding them on top of her head a little self-consciously. “Oh—oh yeah,” said Kermit. “That’s lovely.” Piggy blushed, not sure what to say. “I can’t just stand here and hold it up,” she said. “That doesn’t look smart or stylish.” “Hang on a second,” said Kermit, sprinting over to his office and returning with two long, yellow number 2 pencils. “Here,” he said. “Can you secure your hair with these?” Piggy looked at him approvingly. “You’re full of good ideas today,” she murmured, and Kermit grinned back at her cheekily. “You have no idea,” he teased. Piggy pointed peremptorily, sending him away. “Go!” she said. “Get out. Let me mess with my hair for a minute.” Laughing, Kermit went. “This is great! Fantastic!” the photographer cried. Kermit wondered idly why photographers always seemed so…excitable. He turned and smiled up at Piggy, who had raised one leg coquettishly. They’d been at this awhile and he was restless. “Are you doing okay, Piggy?” Kermit asked. He had the easier time of it, for sure, sitting comfortably on a stack of books while she balanced precariously on a slightly taller stack beside him. “I’m fine,” she answered coolly. Now that photographers were here, she was all business. “Mr. the Frog!” snapped the lead photographer testily. “Could you please remain still?” “Apparently not,” he muttered, unrepentant. “Piggy, do you need a break?” “We’re almost done,” said the photographer insisted, then pursed his lips thoughtfully. “But if you’re bored, you could go and we could take a few more of Miss Piggy…?” Kermit looked up from his book and his bulbous eyes, usually so mild, were flinty and hard. “Not a chance,” he said, smiling. “She goes when I go.” “Kermit!” Piggy gritted, without breaking pose. Kermit did not reply. He didn’t care what the photographer said, or even how much Piggy fussed. He had set up this photo shoot for himself and his glamorous co-star and he was not about to leave her unprotected in this den of photographic vipers. Grumbling, the fleet of photographer settled down to business again. Eventually, after another ten minutes in which Piggy was superbly poised and unflappable, the photographers began to stand and put away their equipment. Kermit shot a surreptitious look from under his lids, and those that remained looked like they were dawdling unnecessarily. “Are we done?” Kermit asked pointedly, and the lead photographer made a dramatic sigh. “I guess so,” he snapped. Kermit hopped up, stepped lightly to the floor and held his hands up for Piggy to step down. She paused, looking at him with an expression that was hard to read. “C’mon,” Kermit said. “I’ve got you.” He grinned up at her. “You were super,” he said, “although I have to admit this shoot would have been more fun for me if you were still wearing the other outfit.” He had timed it just right. Piggy had stepped down into his arms at just the moment that she was likely to be most irritated with him. She gave him a look that was not at all hard to read, and Kermit knew that if she wasn’t dependent on him for balance that he might be a froggy pancake, but she was, and he wasn’t. So there. He waited until he was sure she had her circulation and her balance, then set her neatly away from him. She glared and he smiled, utterly insufferable. “Frogs!” she humphed, and stalked away from him. Kermit took what time he needed to make a follow-up appointment to view the shots. He wasn’t worried that Piggy would leave him—they’d come to the studio in a company car and he knew she wouldn’t leave without him. When he was quite done, he sauntered over to her dressing room and knocked. He knew better than to try the knob, waiting for her. The door snapped up and Piggy glared at him. “Vous are such a…man, sometimes,” she complained. “I’m a frog,” Kermit said automatically, a little dumbfounded by the way she looked. She was not wearing the old-fashioned-inspired dress, and she was not weary the trash-with-flash costume either. She was perfectly attired in something modern, chic and very, very…wonderful. “A lucky frog,” he muttered, and looked up at her hopefully. “Can this, um, frog buy you dinner?” he asked, his eyes apologetic and earnest. “Anywhere you want to go?” Piggy crossed her arms and glared at him, one exquisitely shod foot tapping angrily. “I was thinking," she said, “of curling up on the sofa with a good…book.” That last made Kermit flinch. “We could stop by the library after supper,” he inserted meekly. Her face remained imperious, but there was a microscopic shift in the tempo of her foot tapping. “Anywhere I want?” she asked, her eyes narrowed suspiciously. Kermit gulped, knowing this was going to cost him, but he had fought to leave the studio with Piggy and now he would have to pay the piper—and the restaurant. “Anywhere,” he promised. “You name it, I’ll pay for it.” He smiled his lop-sided smile, and though he could not know it—not now, anyway—that was what turned the tide in his favor. Piggy’s heart skipped a beat and she relented, slipping her sating-gloved hand through his arm. “How about the bookstore?” she asked. “I hear they have good sandwiches.” Kermit’s heart expanded with relief. “And good books,” he said. Piggy smiled and leaned her head on his shoulder as they started down the hall. “And couches,” Piggy said, and Kermit smiled.