Happy Sunday, Mupps! So in case you may have missed it in 4 Ball, I start training for a new job tomorrow and I'll be tied up - hopefully - during the morning for quite some time. Fingers crossed, everyone!
So because I'll be working, I think I'll move Mondays to Sundays for the time being. And believe me, I have a bunch of Mondays (series) to work through. I'll tell you more at the end, but for now, here's the next chap!
There's some stuff from the previous stories and 2011 movie, so if you haven't caught, do so now me hearties!
DIVINE MISS P: Where are you?
ANDY WESTSIDE: Office Row.
Piggy remained calm as she left the hospital, not giving anything away in terms of just how annoyed she clearly was with this situational change. The picture Scooter sent had been quite clear, the paper’s headline assaulting her eyes the way the words were insulting the comic bear; she had calmly nodded to the room’s occupants and left as quickly and quietly as she could.
Normally the type of girl to enjoy the comforts of the chauffer driven car, Piggy also liked to get behind the wheel every once in a while. Oh, she knew the others thought she was a danger on the road – probably built from that horrible perception on women drivers – but sometimes Piggy had a need for speed. With Kermit out hobnobbing with the snobs, she had been quite happy at taking the little convertible that she swore up and down was bought for the frog and not for her; she couldn’t help it if he never drove it.
Taking her time to pull out of the hospital parking lot – it was a hospital, after all – she nonetheless put pedal to the metal as she hurried towards the Muppet Studios. Office Row, as they called it, was a series of offices on the backlot of the studios that served for various members of the troupe; Kermit, Scooter, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and the musicians of the group all had offices here, though they were hardly used during their show run.
These offices were mainly used during the times they were shooting a movie, which made it easier to get what they needed instead of hiking their way up to the theater. Kermit’s office kicked off the row, housing various items that were close to the frog’s heart; his many banjos were hung up on the walls (though his first and very favorite sat at home), along with pictures of him with their many guest stars and the group itself.
His prized possession however was a picture of him and Jim Henson, that proudly hung on the wall across from the door. The frog (and some of the others) had a habit of saying hello or goodbye to the man when leaving the office, their part in keeping alive the spirit of their friend and first cheerleader.
While she had only been given the context that they were located somewhere on Office Row, Piggy instinctively knew both captain and first mate were in Kermit’s office and nowhere else. Arriving at the door, Piggy let herself in with the key she always managed to have, gave a quick “Hello, Jim,” to the portrait that faced her, and joined Scooter in front of Kermit’s desk.
If the matter hadn’t been a serious one, Piggy may have sent the boy out in order for some alone time with her frog. Kermit always cut a dashing figure when he was dressed up; today’s assemble was a short sleeved dark blue mock turtle with black slacks and jacket. The jacket had been thrown carelessly over the back of the chair that the frog now sat in. Scooter was casually dressed, as he often did when he wasn’t being Andrew M. Grosse, in khaki shorts and a red collared polo shirt that highlighted the tuft of red hair on his head.
Neither said a word to her, with Kermit letting out a sigh while Scooter handed her the actual magazine he had taken from the restaurant customer. “What’re we gonna do?” the frog asked.
Piggy let the conversation, which she was sure had been going on far longer than it took her to arrive, filter around her as she read the article. Like something from the National Inquirer, the article on Fozzie was filled with huge images of the bear and parts of his act; the written article itself was full of misspellings and inaccuracies, not even taking into account that the article was claiming that Fozzie had died in the accident. Adding insult to injury, even the bits about them as a group were wrong.
“Fils de garce,” she muttered.
“Language,” Kermit said, throwing her a look. The last thing he wanted was for Piggy to get murderous about this or did he? He wasn’t sure how he should be feeling at the moment.
“I still say we sue for libel and defamation of character,” Scooter said. “It’s within our rights.”
“Let’s hold off on that as a last resort,” replied the frog, heaving another sigh. “I just wanna know who these guys are and what their beef is with Fozzie. How’d they even find out about the accident in the first place.”
Scooter, ever connected to technology, pulled out his smartphone before hitting a few buttons and presented his case. “The Rag Muffin is the newest tabloid on the street,” he read off. “Just launched a few months ago and is slowly making a path on the newsstands.”
“Obviously not slow enough,” retorted Piggy, throwing the paper on Kermit’s desk in disgust.
“Normally, I’d let this kind of thing slide,” Kermit said, picking up the thrown magazine and helping it find its way to his nearby trash can. “But this is going too far. We can’t have our fans thinking one of own is…we can’t have that.” Looking at the clock on the wall, he quickly stood up and started to put on his jacket.
“I gotta get outta here,” he said, straightening himself out. “I’m supposed to be meeting with the parent company for a late lunch. I’ll leave this in your capable hands.” Thinking about what he said, he looked at Piggy and quickly added, “Scooter.”
Caressing his face, Piggy retorted, “Go make bread, dearheart. Moi and Andrew have things in hand.”
Knowing that he wasn’t going to win the argument for the moment, the frog just nodded and headed out.
“Who wrote that, you know?”
Turning to look at the red head, the diva growled, “Find him.”
In another part of town, the very reporter who had broken the story of the death of Fozzie Bear was standing in the warehouse that worked as the offices for the Rag Muffin. Being the low budget outfit they were, the owner of the Muffin – Mr. P.J. Mufflelin – was big about cutting corners in order to save on the money it took to run a newspaper; that meant instead of traditional offices in a traditional building, Mufflelin had settled on an abandoned, two story warehouse to work out of.
And thanks to the rising trend of digital papers, all of the articles were made, edited, and produced on computers; very very old computers, like Windows 95 or the really old Macs, but they were computers and they did connect to the Internet, which was also on the low end of things. Their color printers had been a deal when Mufflelin had bought the warehouse, which had held a printing business that had unfortunately gone under thanks to the technology of the day.
The bottom floor was where the writers and editors worked, while the top floor held the ‘corporate’ offices. This was where Lance Greenley stood to accept the praise in breaking the story of the Muppet death. “That was a good scoop you got, kid,” replied Mufflelin, as he leaned back in his chair. Mufflelin acted as owner and head editor for the paper, having been a delivery boy when he was six made him assume he knew all about the newspaper industry.
“Thanks, Mr. Mufflelin,” Greenley replied. “I couldn’t believe it myself; it pays to be in the right place at the right time.”
“Indeed it does, boy, indeed it does.”
The conversation lasted for another fifteen minutes, ending with dibs on a prime assignment based out in Hollywood proper. Greenley of course accepted and nodded his goodbye, leaving the upstairs office and heading down to his desk in a quieter and offset part of the writing and editing floor. While the new assignment would be great, something nagged at Greenley in terms of this Muppet thing.
Oh sure, he could’ve checked his facts on whether or not the bear was truly dead, but what mattered was getting people to pick up and more importantly, buy the magazine and if the world’s most beloved comic bear was shown to have died on the cover, then that was more money for them. Greenley had done some research – he had to pad out the article besides stating the bear was in a car crash and died – and a couple of interesting things had passed by his radar.
Firstly, in covering the career of Fozzie Bear, he noted that there had been a seven year gap between the Muppets’ last movie and the most recent one; in that time, Fozzie had been doing comedy tours before signing up with the Moopets, a cover group if you will of the Muppets. Why would a member of a comedy troupe settle for a fake parody of the group he once worked for? That led him to check out what the other members of the Muppets were doing during that time and it was an interesting find, too:
The Great Gonzo went on to become one of the richest plumbing magnates.
Scooter Grosse went to work for search God Google.
The Electric Mayhem did several tours before quietly backing out of the spotlight.
Sam the Eagle had gotten his own guest spot on a nationally syndicated news program.
Miss Piggy had left the country in order to become the plus sized editor at Vogue.
There were other cases too, of members leaving the limelight or doing other things. That is to say, doing other things than what people were expecting, which was Muppet movies. Growing curious, Greenley dug a little more and discovered that the Muppets did have a movie going before everyone seemed to bail; that movie had stopped production, however the dates were off. One listing said the studio stopped producing the movie on one day, while other reports stated the group stopped and disbanded three weeks later.
What was the deal with that?
Knowing the Muppets would never talk to him – they had a thing against tabloid reporters for some reason – Greenley knew he’d have to get to the bigger source, that of the people who knew or worked with them during that missing time frame. Lance was a smart guy and knew that many of these people wouldn’t want to tarnish the great name of the all and powerful Muppets, except one group.
Fozzie’s former partners had most assuredly run afoul of their namesakes – besides fighting to get Fozzie - who was still under contract - back, they had joined up with the very man who had been trying to get the studios, one Tex Richman. Apparently, some head trauma caused by an errant bowling ball had given the businessman amnesia and he basically rescinded everything he had done up to that point. Once the studios and Fozzie had been back in the fold, Grosse’s lawyers had turned around and sued the Moopets for copyright infringement.
Leaning back in his chair, Lance nodded. He would need to make some calls and then get a plane ticket to Reno.
A few days later
Wednesday morphed into Thursday, when morphed into Friday and the weekend. Before Fozzie knew it, he was in his second week of hospital confinement; anyone else would have chaffed at not being able to move or the incredible discomfort of not being able to scratch your leg when you wanted to, but the comic found he had no such issues.
And it was all thanks to one Penelope Strider.
Penelope Strider had recently been assigned as Fozzie’s nurse, replacing the part time traveling nurse that had taken care of him after he left the emergency room and had gotten a private room. Penny was a bear, something that was rarely seen within the public (besides any bears that were contracted with the Muppets, of course) and she was as kind as she was pretty, at least Fozzie thought so.
And his thoughts were leading him into dangerous waters; he and Penny had struck up a friendship, learning about one another as one bear took care of the other. Penny had grown up in upstate New York, just as he did, living in the type of farmhouse/cabin that his family had grown up in; she had gone to school there before deciding that her helping nature warranted a pursuit of something along those lines. She had come to California around the same time he had and he had wondered why they had missed each other.
She had shyly admitted that she was a fan of the show, making time to either watch or record it when it came on Sundays. She loved the comedy, the music, the acting, the guest stars, all of it and she thought he was quite the funny bear.
That had of course elevated his ego to the point where, when he saw her, he made sure to have ready made material to test for her.
“You’re really sweet to let me test material out on you,” he said, that Monday when she came to check on him.
“You’re really sweet to test it on me,” she retorted. “And I bring you good news.”
“Better than seeing you on a daily basis?” he asked, smiling at her. “I can’t imagine what could be better than that.”
Even the hue of Penny’s fur couldn’t hide the blush that appeared on her cheeks. Giving his arm an affectionate squeeze, she said, “Flatterer. The good news is twofold, actually. One, your shoulder looks to be healing fairly well and two, your leg is healing well, too.”
“That’s good, right?”
“That’s very good,” she said. “It means we can get you on some crutches and down to physical therapy.”
“Awesome!” the comic exclaimed. His happiness deflated though when he got to that last part. “Physical therapy?”
“Don’t worry,” she said, patting him on the leg. “I’ll be right with you. We’re just making sure you can move everything they way you could before.”
“Aw, Penny, I really owe you.”
“No, you don’t,” she began. She stopped, however and looked at him.
“Actually…” she started. “I was wondering…and I hate to impose, but…you know what? It’s stupid and rude and I shouldn’t be asking…”
“Penny, what is it?” Fozzie asked, grabbing her arm as best as he could with the uninjured one. “I promise, whatever it is, whatever you need, I’ll help as best as I can.”
Penny was still a bit hesitant, but then relaxed, taking the comic’s hand in hers. “I wanted to ask if it was okay if I brought someone to see you,” she said.
“Only the biggest,” she chuckled. Blushing prettily, she whispered, “It’s my son. He absolutely adores you and I was hoping…well, I was hoping if I could bring him by and you could say hi to him.”
Fozzie did his best to keep his disappointment to himself. Of course she was married! Why did he think she’d be available? But never let it be said that Fozzie didn’t enjoy kids, because he absolutely did. “My biggest fan, huh?” he asked, giving her hand a squeeze. “Of course you can bring him by. I’ll even let him sign my cast!”
“He’ll need help,” she responded, going around to mark notes on his chart. “He’s only two and a half.”
“Well,” Fozzie said, clearing his throat. “Maybe your husband, I mean, his father could help him. He can come too, of course! I don’t want you to think that he’s excluded or something.”
Penny’s expression dropped slightly, as she hung his chart back up. “My husband died,” she whispered. “About two years ago; not sure if Frankie remembers him or not.”
“Aw Penny,” Fozzie groaned. “I’m so sorry. That was totally insensitive of me.”
“No it wasn’t,” she said, smiling sweetly at him. “Most people assume I’m married cause of Frankie.”
“I’d still like to meet him,” the comic said. “A kid should get a special treat every once in a while and if I’m that to him, then I gotta step up and let him sign my cast!”
That put a much bigger smile on her face, adding to the laughter she gave at his explanation. “Thanks, Foz,” she replied, walking over to him. “It would really mean a lot to him.”
“No problem,” he sighed, dreamily.
Giving him one last smile, Penny leaned over and pecked him on the cheek. “I’ll come back to check on you in a little while, okay?”
Fozzie could only nodded, happily.