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Muppets in Oz
Richard Paul Smyers
"Beaker! Beaker, where are you?" Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Chief Scientist-in-charge-of-important-things at Muppet Labs, was vexed. Just when he wanted to run a final test on his latest invention, to be sure it was ready to demonstrate, his assistant was missing. And it was essential that Beaker be present, because it took two people to test the new model Muppet Labs Teleporter.
"Where is that fellow? Beaker! Never around when you need him... Oh! Beaker, what are you doing in the broom closet?" Beaker didn't say anything as he came out, for he didn't want to tell Dr. Bunsen that he had been hiding. It never did much good to tell Dr. Bunsen anything, anyway. He was so wrapped up in his many strange inventions that he hardly ever listened to anybody.
"Now, Beaker, I need your help to test the new Teleporter. Mr. Kermit and some of his friends are coming over to see it in a little while, and if we impress them, we can use the machine on the next Muppet Show. Isn't that wonderful?" Beaker nodded, glanced at the door, which was closed, and sighed. He'd just have to help the Doctor and hope for the best.
"I've got it all set, and when I throw this switch, whoever is in the booth will be instantly transported out of the building and across the street to the Hamburger Hut! After five minutes I'll reverse the field, and they'll be brought back, with a cheeseburger and fries! 0000, I get tingly when I think of it!" Beaker looked into the booth, studied the switch and looked back at Dr. Bunsen.
"Now, the power is turned on, and the distance and direction are set, so if you'll just put this belt on and step inside, we'll give it a whirl," smiled the Doctor, but Beaker just blinked and gave a squeak.
"Yes, now just hop in there, and we'll see if it works ... " Dr. Bunsen was cut short as Beaker bolted for the door, knocking over a laboratory table, Dr. Bunsen and the hat rack on the way!
"Beaker! Come back here, I need your help!" Dr. Bunsen was out the door after his fleeing assistant in a moment, leaving the laboratory empty behind him. And that was the way it was when Kermit the frog and his nephew Robin came in three minutes later.
"Hey, Bunsen, are you here?" Kermit glanced around, set the hat rack upright and turned to Robin, who was looking at the Teleporter booth.
"Is this what we're going to see, Uncle Kermit?"
"I don't know, Robin. Dr. Bunsen just said he had a new invention he wanted to use on the show, and he'd demonstrate it for us."
"Like the machine to turn gold into cottage cheese?" asked Robin. Kermit winced. That had not been one of Bunsen's better ideas.
"No, this has nothing to do with food, I asked him that." Kermit looked into the booth, which had a metal door, sides, back, top and bottom.
"This is probably a portable, coal-burning steam bath, if I know Bunsen."
"Maybe it's a transporter, like they use on Star Trek," said Robin, looking at the dials on the side of the cabinet.
"It better not be. He built one before, and nearly drove me crazy, popping people in and out of the show all night," Kermit remarked, as he looked into the booth. "I wish he'd show up before Piggy and the others get here. Watch out, Robin!"
Kermit jumped into the booth and pulled Robin in with him as the door of the laboratory flew open and Beaker raced into the room, with Dr. Bunsen in hot pursuit. The two frogs were just able to get out of the way, and as Beaker passed the booth he bumped against the door, which swung shut with a thump and a click!
"Now stop running, Beaker! All you have to do is wear the return belt and you'll come right back! Come out from under that table!" As they dashed back and forth around the room, neither Beaker nor Dr. Bunsen noticed the muffled thumps and calls for help that came from the Teleporter. In fact, they didn't even notice the Teleporter until they ran into it, one after another, smashing against the controls with a thud that rocked the booth, which began to hum.
"Oh, Beaky-poo! Look what you did! The Teleporter has been turned on, and the settings have been mixed up," fumed Dr. Bunsen. He studied the dials and then gulped in apprehension.
"Oh dear, it looks as if somebody was inside the booth! It wasn't me, and it wasn't you, Beaker, so, who could it have been?" Just then the door opened and Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Scooter and Gonzo came in.
"Yoo hoo, Kermy, are you here?" warbled Miss Piggy, as Dr. Bunsen turned slightly green.
"Ah, hello Miss Piggy, er, ah, Mister Kermit isn't here just now," the Doctor stuttered.
"That's funny, he said he'd be here early," said Scooter.
"His frog-cycle is parked in the lot," Fozzie added. "Is this your new invention, Bunsen?"
"It looks like a tin-plated telephone booth," sniffed Piggy, as she gave Dr. Bunsen a thoughtful gaze. Gonzo, who liked to be called 'Gonzo the Great,' was fascinated by the box.
"What a wonderful idea! I can use this in my new act, where I tap-dance blindfolded to 'Singing in the Rain' while taking a shower in lemonade!"
"Hey, Gonzo, what do you want with a tin-plated telephone booth for an act like that?" asked Fozzie.
"I'll fit it with shower heads to spray the lemonade, of course," Gonzo replied. "How do you qet it open?"
"It's not a telephone booth! It's my new version of the Teleporter, and it can send a person anywhere in the world, and then bring him back," Dr. Bunsen snapped.
"Have you tried it out yet?" Scooter asked, looking at the dials on the side as he spoke.
"Yes! That is, not really. I mean, well, perhaps I did ...”
"Listen, Bunsen, if you think one of us is going to get in your machine, you're asking for it! See!?" Miss Piggy's judo skills were well known to Dr. Bunsen, which was why he wanted to avoid telling her what he was afraid had happened just a few minutes before.
"Beaker says that somebody was in it and got transported," Fozzie remarked, and Dr. Bunsen felt a lump of ice appear in his tummy.
"Well, yes, we bumped into the machine and started it going. The dials show that somebody was in it, but I don't know where he went, you see ... "
"Wait a minute! You think maybe Kermit was inside when the machine got turned on?" Scooter's question brought a look of shock to Dr. Bunsen's face and one of surprise to Gonzo and Fozzie, but Miss Piggy turned purple.
"Okay, Bunsen, put this contraption into reverse, and get Kermit back here! He's taking me to dinner tonight, and you'd better not make him late, see!?"
"Wait, let's see if he's still inside," said Gonzo, and turning the handle he opened the cabinet door. Fozzie and Gonzo stepped into the Teleporter and looked around, which was easy to do for they almost filled the booth.
"Nobody here now, unless they're hiding," Fozzie remarked.
"Listen, four-eyes, you get my Kermy back, and do it now!" Piggy fumed.
"I can't, Miss Piggy, he wasn't wearing the return belt, so the machine can't pick him up! And the dials are broken, so I don't know for sure where he went, either."
"What! Well try this belt, you creep! HHIII-YAH!" Miss Piggy's judo chop was well aimed, but she had overlooked where Dr. Bunsen would go after she hit him. Fozzie and Gonzo ducked back into the booth and pulled the door shut, Scooter and Beaker dove under the laboratory table, and Dr. Bunsen was lofted neatly by Piggy's punch, slamming against the control panel of the Teleporter, which promptly began humming again!
"Oh my, there they go again," moaned Bunsen. "Did anybody get the number of the truck that hit me?"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
When the lights stopped whirling around them, Kermit and Robin found themselves sitting on a patch of grass in front of an old, weather-beaten little house. A road seemed to be a short distance off, and the trees and flowers around them were 'all very pretty, but it was rather odd to be in a metal box in a building and then find yourself outside a different place with no idea how you had got there.
"Wow! That was fun, Uncle Kermit, can we do it again?"
"Once is enough, Robin. First let's find out where we are now. Drat that Bunsen and his crazy inventions," Kermit muttered as he hopped over to the door of the little house.
"Hmmm. Locked. Looks like nobody has been here for a long time, Robin ... Hey, Robin, where are you?"
"Uncle Kermit, come here, quick! Look at this!" the little frog called from the edge of the roadway. The pavement was made of bricks, and stretched smoothly into the distance, but it showed no signs of automobile traffic. Kermit stared at it until his eyes bulged a little more than they usually did; it was a road paved with yellow bricks.
"A Yellow Brick Road! And, and an old house, a farmhouse! Don't you see it, Uncle Kermit? We're in Oz!" Robin was practically hopping with joy as he spoke.
"Wait a minute, Robin, I wouldn't be too sure about that. It didn't look this way for Judy Garland, you know.
"Uncle Kermit! That was a movie; this is the real thing, don't you understand?"
"Okay, Robin, I'll believe we're in the Land of Oz if you say so. Any ideas about what to do next? I don't think we can trust Bunsen's machine to take us back home very soon."
"We should go to the Emerald City, and ask Ozma the Queen to help us get home, said the little frog. "She always helps strangers who come to Oz. Remember that book you gave me for Christmas?"
"Oh, yeah: The Road to Oz," Kermit replied. "Now, let me see. Dorothy's house landed on the Wicked Witch of the East in the Munchkin Country, so if we want to get to the Emerald City we have to go to the west. But, which way is west, I wonder?"
"That way," said Robin, pointing down the road.
"How can you tell?"
"I'm wearing my Official Frog Scout's Flipper Compass," Robin answered, and the two frogs headed off down the yellow pavement, leaving the little old house behind them.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Hah, hah, HAH! What a way to make an entrance! Just think of it, an empty stage, and then, out of nowhere, Gonzo the Great! Whoopee!"
"Will you stop planning a new act?" fumed Fozzie Bear, as he cast an anxious eye at the trees around the clearing where the Teleporter had dropped him and Gonzo. "We gotta get outta here and back home, or we'll miss the next show!"
"But Fozzie, just think how it would look on stage ... " Gonzo's voice was suddenly muffled by Fozzie's right paw clamping his mouth shut.
"Gonzo, if we don't figure out where we are, and how we can get back to Kermit and the others, you won't be able to do any act at all, 'cause we are lost! See?"
"Lost? But, what will Camilla do without me to look after her?"
"She'll either stay in the chicken chorus or go back to the egg ranch, of course. Now, let's see if there's a way outta here."
"There's a path, between those two trees," Gonzo pointed to the right as he spoke. The two started into the forest, and pushed along for a time, until they came to a second clearing.
"We aren't going in circles, are we? This looks like the place we left," said Fozzie.
"No, that tree over there isn't like anything we saw before," Gonzo remarked.
"Stop! Who are you?"
"Ga- Gonzo, did- did you say, stop?" stuttered Fozzie, without looking around.
"You mean, you didn't say it?"
"I didn't say stop; you didn't say stop ... Don't look now, but we're not alone!" The bear turned around slowly, and so did Gonzo, to find a small stuffed bear behind them, holding a popgun which was pointing straight at the two strangers.
"Watch out, that thing might be loaded!"
"Who are you, and why are you here?" said the little bear, ignoring Fozzie's protest.
"He's Fozzie Bear, and I'm Gonzo the Great. No doubt you've heard of me?" Gonzo was somewhat nonplussed when the little bear shook his head in reply.
"Perhaps our king has heard of you, but I have not. But you must tell me why you are here! It is the law!"
"Well, we got in a metal box, and there were flashing lights and it bounced, and when we stopped bouncing we were here," Fozzie explained. The little bear looked puzzled.
"I was going to use the box in my act," Gonzo put in. "We work in a theater, you see ...”
"Wait! Is that anything like a circus?"
"Well, yeah, sort of," said Fozzie.
"I didn't know that the bears in circuses were stuffed," the little bear remarked, and Gonzo shook his head in dismay.
"No, no, Fozzie isn't stuffed! He's real, just like me."
"You aren't stuffed? This is very strange," said the small bear. "You must come with me to see our king. He will decide what to do with you. Forward, march!"
"Pardon me, but which way do we go?" asked Gonzo. The small bear pointed at another path that lead into the woods, and the two started down the trail, with their small guardian following them.
"Say, friend, what's your name, anyway? Ow!" Fozzie had kept walking, but turned his head to look back over his shoulder at the little bear as he spoke, and bumped into a low-hanging branch as a result.
"I am Corporal Waddle. And you should watch where you are going, for if you are not stuffed with hair, like me, you might be injured by hitting a tree."
"Ya know, Gonzo, I think we should be careful in these woods," said Fozzie. "You can bump yourself on a tree awful easy in here."
After a short walk through the forest, Fozzie and Gonzo came to a third, somewhat larger clearing. All of the trees around the clearing seemed to be hollow, but there was no sign of any other bears, or even persons of some other sort. The little bear waved a paw about and said, "This is the wonderful kingdom of Bear Center!"
Corporal Waddle pointed his popgun in the air and pulled the trigger. At the sound of the gun, a bear popped his head out of each and every hollow tree, and then came jumping out into the clearing. In a matter of minutes, Fozzie and Gonzo were surrounded by stuffed bears of all colors and sizes, all made in the same way as Waddle. Then a voice called out from the side of the clearing: "What has happened, Corporal Waddle?"
"Two persons, either visitors or intruders, your majesty!" replied the little bear.
"Ah, that is important," said the voice, and in a moment a large, lavender-colored bear strolled out of the forest. He wore a tin crown set with jewels, carried a slim wand that looked as if it was made of silver, and was tall enough to look Fozzie straight in the eye.
"His majesty, the King!" called Corporal Waddle, and all the bears in the clearing bowed low, except for Fozzie, of course. He took off his hat.
"One strange bear and one other creature," said the lavender bear.
"Just what are you, may I ask?"
"I am Gonzo the Great, star of the stage, and someday, the movies!"
"Gonzo, he asked what are you, not who," muttered Fozzie.
"And you, bear, I have never seen you before. What is your name?" the Bear King went on.
"Oh, ah, I'm Fozzie Bear, your highness, sir, majesty. Funny songs and snappy patter, a joke and your sorrows just won't matter! That's me!"
"You seem very different from my subjects. Tell me, what are you stuffed with?"
"Meat. I think. Ah, Gonzo ... ?" Fozzie seemed to find the question unsettling.
"Fozzie isn't stuffed, he's a real bear, just like I'm real," said Gonzo. "Do you mean all you bears are stuffed, like toys?"
"Of course! All of us are stuffed with the best quality curled hair," said the Bear King. "We do not need to eat, so we have more time to enjoy life." For some reason, the Bear King's words seemed to upset Fozzie, and he looked around at the many other stuffed bears with growing concern.
"Stuffed with hair--and they're alive--but that ain't possible! Gonzo, I think we should get outta here!"
"Why do you worry?" asked the Big Lavender Bear. "Many of the creatures here in Oz are not made of meat, and they are very pleasant to talk to."
"Do you mean that we're in the Land of Oz?" Gonzo said. The Bear King nodded in reply, and Fozzie forgot his fears.
"You mean this place is Somewhere Over the Rainbow? Follow the Yellow Brick Road, Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead, and all that stuff?"
"Bear Center is in the Land of Oz, and the ruler of this land is Queen Ozma, who lives in the Emerald City," said Corporal Waddle.
"Hey, Gonzo, let's go see this Queen! Maybe she could use a jester around her place, and I could get the job. Just imagine: me, Fozzie Bear, playing The Palace!"
"It is not easy to travel from Bear Center to the Emerald City," the Bear King said. "You must go east from here, keeping south of the cities of Herku and Thi, and passing the Merry-Go-Round Mountains and the Rolling Prairie until you come to a river. Then follow the river north until you come to the place where it joins the Winkie River. Follow that river down stream and eventually you come to Lake Quad, which is very near the Emerald City. But this is a long journey, and will take several days."
"What? But I have to get back to the theater! Camilla needs me!"
"Gonzo, will you stop worryin' about that chicken?" growled Fozzie.
"If you want to travel to your home, it will be easy once you have spoken to Queen Ozma. She can send you home in the wink of an eye with her magic," said the Big Lavender Bear.
"Well, I guess we'd better get started, then. Come on, Gonzo, and thanks for the help, sir, your majesty, your highness."
"Wait! You're going the wrong way!"
"Corporal Waddle is correct, for you are walking south when you should go east," said the Bear King. "Here, bear, I will enchant you so that you will always know which way to travel." He waved his wand in a circle and then in several strange movements, while Fozzie stood rooted to the spot, and Gonzo backed away, staring at his friend.
"Ah, thank you, but I don't want to trouble you, sir, we'll just... "
"Fozzie! You've got a red nose!" Gonzo cried, and when Fozzie tried to look down at his nose he saw that it was glowing faintly, and had become bright red in color.
"When you face in the direction you must follow in order to reach the Emerald City, your nose will be its normal color, but if you go in some other direction," said the Lavender Bear, ''It will turn red. That will keep you on the correct road. When you get to the Emerald City, the spell will break and your nose will be normal again. Good luck!"
"Come on, Fozzie, let's get going! If this Queen can send us home, then I want to get there in time for the next show!" Gonzo pulled his friend toward the path that led away from the strange village, while Fozzie stare~oss-eyed at his own nose and muttered to himself in bewilderment.
"A stuffed bear--he's a king--he makes my nose light up--Gonzo, I don't think I'm ready for this sort of thing...”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Uncle Kermit! Wake up! I think somebody is coming down the road!"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, Robin? How long did I sleep?" Kermit sat up and crawled out from under the bushes where he and his nephew had curled up for the night. It was morning, and through the trees and mist a figure could be seen marching along the Yellow Brick Road, coming from the direction that the two frogs had been heading when they stopped.
"Hmmm. Look's pretty thin to me," Kermit mused, as the figure drew nearer. The sun was gleaming from the stranger as though he were made of metal and highly polished, while the noise his feet made on the bricks was a sharp, clanking sound. As he drew near, Robin gave a hop of excitement.
"He's all made of tin! Uncle Kermit, it must be the Tin Woodman! Come on, let's go meet him!"
"Wait a minute, Robin, let's be sure it's all right first." But Kermit's protest was too late, for Robin had dashed to the center of the road and called out to the approaching figur= at the top of his voice.
"Hello! Are you the Tin Woodman, which way is the Emerald City, and how are the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion?"
The metal figure came to a stop and bent forward to look at the little frog on the road ahead of him.
"Halt! Who are you, and why are you here?"
"He's my nephew," Kermit explained as he came up to Robin's side. "We got here by accident and we're trying to find somebody who can help us go home. Are you the Tin Woodman of Oz, sir?"
"No, I am not Nick Chopper. I am Captain Fyter, the Tin Soldier of Oz. You are strangers, you say? Where do you come from?" The Captain squatted down to bring his head close to the two frogs, who stared back at his gleaming, polished face.
"Well, we came here by a transporter," Kermit explained. "It dropped us beside an old house, and then ... " He went on, describing the trip along the road, until Robin finished the explanation by saying, "And now we want to go to the Emerald City and ask Queen Ozma to send us home, please."
"Hmmm. This sounds very strange," Captain Fyter remarked, as he took out an oil can and put a few drops of lubricant on his neck joint. fill have heard of people from the Great Outside World who came to Oz by sandboat, cyclone, magic belt, skyrocket, kite and magic ring, but never anything like this transporter of yours. Perhaps the Wizard of Oz or Glinda the Good know about it; I am just a soldier, doing my duty, and I don't understand much more than that."
"How far is it to the Emerald City from here, Captain?" Kermit asked.
"Not far for me; I do not sleep so I can walk a long distance in a day. But you will take several days to get there, unless I carry you."
"Well, if it would be out of your way, you needn't bother."
"Could you take us there, Captain, sir? Please!" Robin asked.
"I think I should. One of my duties is to see that people who need our Queen's help or protection are escorted to her palace. You can ride in this tin knapsack that Ku-Klip the tinsmith made for me, and I will take you to the Emerald City."
"Thank you, Captain," said Kermit, as the two frogs were lifted up and popped into the metal box that the Tin Soldier of Oz wore on his back. "But, if you don't mind me asking, why do you have a tin knapsack? There's nothing in it, and you don't need to carry food, do you?"
"No, I do not eat, but the Wizard of Oz told me that a great general in the Outside World said that every soldier has a field marshal's baton at the bottom of his knapsack. Since I want to be a proper soldier in every way, I had Ku-Klip make me a knapsack. He is going to make me a tin field marshal's baton, too--once I find out what it looks like."
All that day Captain Fyter marched steadily toward the west along the Yellow Brick Road, stopping only to let Kermit and Robin get out and eat. While the two frogs slept the Tin Soldier kept on through the night, and in the middle of the next day they entered the gates of the Emerald City of Oz.
"Wow! This is great, isn't it, Uncle Kermit!"
"It is pretty impressive, Robin. I wish we could get the theater sets looking only half this good. HEY! There's Fozzie and Gonzo!"
Kermit jumped down from the knapsack and hurried over to where the two friends were standing, looking around at the buildings and the street that led to the center of the city.
"What are you guys doing here?"
"Oh, hi, Kermit. We hid in the Teleporter when Piggy got mad at Bunsen, and it sent us to a place full of stuffed bears," Fozzie explained. "Live bears, stuffed with hair. Can you believe that?"
"This is a fantastic place, Kermit! I'm getting new ideas for my act every time we meet somebody! You should hold an audition call here for the show."
"Gonzo, I just want to find out what has been going on back home. If Piggy is upset the theater will be disorganized, and the next show won't go on if I'm not there to keep an eye on things," said Kermit. "Let's go to the palace and see this Queen Ozma. She might be able to send us all home again."
The four friends started down the main street, with Captain Fyter showing them the way to the palace. Robin was delighted by everything he saw, while Gonzo kept muttering about how the fountain of the elephant would look good in his act, or that he wanted to ask some of the citizens to join the Muppet Show. Fozzie seemed a bit nervous, and when a copper-colored man, who seemed to be made of several large balls fastened together, walked across the street ahead of them, the bear stopped short.
"Wha- wha- what's that?" he asked Captain Fyter.
"That is Tik Tok. He is made of copper, instead of fine tin plate like I am, but nobody holds that against him."
"Is he alive?" Fozzie gulped.
"No, Tik Tok is a machine. When he is wound up properly he does everything but live, and he is one of the Emerald City's most famous citizens."
"Gee, he looks like an early, mechanical version of C3PO," said Kermit. Captain Fyter then asked who C3PO was, and by the time Robin had explained all about Star Wars, the little party had reached the palace entrance.
"Wait a minute, Kermit, I can't go in there," said Fozzie, pointing at Ozma's palace.
"Why not, Fozzie? What's wrong?"
"I didn't bring my library card! Wocka! Wocka!"
"Will you cut out the jokes! Try to act dignified; we're going to meet a real queen in a minute or two."
"Hey!" cried Gonzo, "Who is that beautiful creature?"
They all looked to the right, where Gonzo was pointing, but the only one in sight was a chicken scratching in a flower bed.
"That is Billina, Princess Dorothy's pet hen," said Captain Fyter. "She lives here in the palace."
"Hubba hubba! She is gorgeous!"
"Come on, Gonzo, you can look at chickens later," said Kermit, as he led the way toward the door. "Try to act sensible for a change."
Kermit was definitely impressed with the decorations as the little group entered the Royal Palace and followed Captain Fyter through several rooms and corridors. At the foot of a grand flight of stairs they met a pretty young girl in a green dress, and Robin couldn't hold his tongue any longer.
"Hello, are you Dorothy, please?"
"Why no, I'm Jellia Jamb. Who are you?"
"My name is Robin, and this is my Uncle Kermit-"
"Hold it, Robin, I think the Captain has something to say," Kermit cut in.
"Is Queen Ozma available, Jellia? I have a party of visitors who need help to return to their home."
"Her majesty is in her apartment right now, Captain, but I'm sure she could see you. It isn't often we get animals from the Outside World as visitors, so she'll want to meet them, you know."
"That is true. Come this way, please," said the Tin Soldier, and he marched up the stairs with Kermit and his friends close behind. But nobody had noticed that Gonzo was no longer with them...
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Listen, chicky-baby, I'm serious! You come back to the Muppet Theater with me, and I'll make you a star! Your name will be up there in lights—just below my name of course—and we'll amaze the audiences around the world! Fame! Fortune! Fabulous tours to far-off places! Gonzo and Billina! What an act!"
"You listen, hook-nose, I have dozens of grandchildren to raise, I like it here in the Emerald City, and I'm not going to leave just because you like chickens," Billina remarked, as she paused in her calm walk around the palace flowerbeds. "Besides, I've been to a few far-off places in my time, and I came close to getting changed into an ornament for the Nome King's palace. No more of that, thanks."
"You did? Say, that sounds like a great trick! I could use that in my act!"
Billina looked at Gonzo and considered that if he were a piece of bric-a-brac in Roquat's underground palace, she would be inclined to leave him that way, instead of breaking the spell.
"Maybe so, stranger, but if you want to travel, I can tell you're going to do some real soon," the hen remarked. Gonzo looked puzzled at this.
"Travel? Me? But, where will I go? Yikes!"
"You should have come with me," said Captain Fyter as he picked Gonzo up by the back of his coat and carried him toward the palace door. "It is not polite to keep a queen waiting, you know."
"Good-bye!" Billina called.
"I mean it! You are the best-looking chicken I've ever seen!" Gonzo tried to look back at Billina, but the Tin Soldier firmly marched back into the palace with him held in a tight grip.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"So, that's the story, your majesty," Kermit said. "I really have to get back to the Muppet Thea~ and see that things go right in the next show. Scooter will never be able to handle it alone, even if his uncle does own the building."
"Well," said Ozma of Oz, "I can send you home at once, if you really feel you are needed there. Oh, here's Captain Fyter with your friend," she added as the Tin Soldier of Oz entered the room and ceremoniously placed Gonzo in front of Ozma's chair.
"He was talking to Billina, your majesty, just as Kermit thought."
"Thank you Captain. And you are Gonzo the Great, is that correct?"
"Ah, yes ma'm, that is, your highness." Gonzo seemed a little flustered at meeting a real fairy ruler of a magical country, and Kermit noticed that for once Gonzo's sense of his own importance seemed to have disappeared. It had been the same with Fozzie, for the bear had not tried a single joke since entering Ozma's private apartment. Robin hadn't said a word. Instead he just gazed around the room at the beautiful decorations and furniture, in between staring at Jack Pumpkinhead, who stood behind Ozma's chair and smiled back at the visitors.
"Gee, I'd like to stay here a while—but I have my new act to do in the show—and then there's Camilla..." Gonzo stopped for a moment. "I wish I could see if she was all right."
"Why not let them look in the magic picture, Father?"
"That's a good idea, Jack." Ozma smiled as she spoke, for she had been hoping that Jack would make that suggestion. Jack had recently carved himself a new head, and Ozma had been a little concerned that the pumpkin he used might not have been ripe enough.
"That's right! The magic picture could show us how things are at home! That was in the book, Uncle Kermit, remember?" Robin cried.
"Jack, open the curtain, please," said Ozma, as the party of six moved to stand in front of a large, beautifully-framed picture that hung on one wall of the room.
"Gonzo, did that pumpkinhead guy call this queen 'Father? "' Fozzie whispered, behind his paw.
"Sure he did. Why not, Fozzie?"
"But- but she- she's a girl! How can she be somebody's father?" the bear muttered back in puzzlement.
"Just ask the picture to show you what you want to see, and it will appear in the frame," explained Ozma. Kermit gulped, for he wasn't really used to talking to pictures—furniture and fruit, yes, but not pictures.
"I... I want to see what's happening in the Muppet Theater, please." The woodland scene faded away and a view of the stage of the theater appeared in its place, with dozens of people in view. Everybody seemed to be doing something different, and hurrying back and forth at the same time, while the scenery and various props were being moved on stage and off again in rapid succession by Sweetums and Beauregard. Doctor Teeth and the Electric Mayhem were rehearsing in the middle of the stage, Animal the drummer was chewing a chair into kindling, Link Hogthrob and Miss Piggy appeared to be in an argument, and Sam, the blue eagle, was walking away, shaking his head in dismay.
"0h, dear! It looks terribly disorganized," said Ozma. "Perhaps I should send you back at once, before it gets any worse!"
"Actually, our rehearsals aren't that well run, as a rule," the frog replied. "Maybe they don't really need me around after all."
"Kermit, don't say things like that! You're the mainspring of the whole operation!" Gonzo said. "Why without you as the master of ceremonies, the show wouldn't last a week."
"That's right, Uncle Kermit, you see that everybody does the right thing when they should," Robin put in.
Kermit nodded thoughtfully, and kept watching the magic picture. The view shifted to the backstage area where the Swedish Chef was standing on Rowlf's piano, trying to keep a plate of doughnuts from being eaten by a group of chickens.
"Say, that's Camilla!" said Gonzo, pointing at the left side of the flock of hens as Miss Piggy hurried through the group and went into her dressing room.
"Come on, Kermit," Fozzie remarked, "You've been in show business ever since you left the swamp. You can't quit now."
"Hmmmm. I'd like to see what Miss Piggy is doing, please," the frog said, and the picture changed to show the inside of Piggy's dressing room. Kermit was surprised to see that Piggy was sobbing on Annie Sue's shoulder, in a complete change from her obvious anger of a few moments before.
"Who's the second pig, Father?"
"That's Annie Sue," Fozzie told Jack. "She's got talent, but Miss Piggy is a real star!"
"Gosh, I wonder why Piggy is so upset?"
Kermit's question was answered as Miss Piggy turned from Annie to pick up a framed picture from her dressing table, kiss it, and hug it to her bosom.
"Hey! Kermit, that's your picture Piggy's got!"
"Yeah, Gonzo, I remember I gave her that for her birthday last year. Gee! Piggy is mad and upset just because I'm not around? But only last week she said I wasn't letting her do enough numbers, and she felt her talents weren't being appreciated." Kermit watched as Miss Piggy put the framed picture back on the table, wiped her eyes, blew her nose, drew herself up and marched out the dressing room door, heading back to the rehearsal.
"Perhaps she's trying to organize the show for you," Ozma said softly. "It does look as if she misses you, Kermit."
"Yeah. Ahem! Well, I guess we'd better go, then. The show is tonight, and if Piggy is going to go on in 'Pigs in Space,' I'll have to be there to run the rest of the performance!"
"That's the stuff, Kermit! Go out there and break a leg! Ah, I mean, flipper," Fozzie remarked, as he watched Ozma go to a large safe, open the door and take out a large, jewel-studded belt.
"Do you ever use pumpkins in your show?" Gonzo's eyes lit up at Jack's question, and he turned to Kermit at once.
"What about taking him along, Kermit? He could sing with the All-Vegetable Glee Club."
Ozma chuckled at this, and gave a small shake of her head.
"Oz would not be the same without Jack Pumpkinhead, and besides, as Jack's parent I can insist on him staying here."
"I thought he said you were his father, your highness, m'am, sir, ah—" Fozzie seemed to be totally bewildered.
"You see, Fozzie, Ozma made Jack from some sticks and old clothes, and then Old Mombi the Witch brought Jack to life," Robin explained. "It's all in a book."
"Maybe I'd better read that book," the bear muttered, as he, Kermit, Robin and Gonzo gathered into one small group. Ozma touched the belt, and spoke a single sentence:
"I wish that these four people will return to the Muppet Theater in time for the next show."
"Did they get there, Father?" asked Jack a moment later, when the slight puff of air made by the disappearance of the visitors had settled.
"See for yourself, Jack," said Ozma, pointing to the magic picture as she spoke.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
When Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo and Robin appeared at the theater they arrived backstage with a suddenness that was only noticed by one person.
"WOW! Chief, where did you guys come from?! And how did you do that, anyway?"
"Never mind that now, Scooter, I'll explain it later. How are we for time, and what's planned for the show?" Kermit answered, while Gonzo, Robin and Fozzie hurried off to other parts of the backstage area.
"Three minutes to curtain, here's the list of the acts, and — Look out!" Scooter jumped aside as Miss Piggy swept Kermit up in her arms and gave him a volley of kisses that almost smothered the frog.
"Oh, Kermy! Where have you been, what sort of awful place did that crazy machine send you, how are you, do you need a nurse?"
"Piggy! Stop that and go get into your costume for 'Pigs in Space!' I'm all right!" Kermit managed to gasp. "We can talk after the show!"
"All right, Kermy, I'll do it—just for you," said Piggy, and she hurried up the stairs toward her dressing room with a definitely gay spring in her step.
"Scooter, who did you get for a guest star?"
"Well, the Guest Stars' and Celebrities' Union Hiring Hall didn't have much, so I took the best they had."
"Fine, but who is it?" Kermit insisted.
"Angus McGonigal, the Argyl Gargoyl."
"Yeep! Well, he'll have to do. Warn the guest star, Scooter! Orchestra, ready for the music! B,auregard, stand by for curtain! Places, everybody!"
As the music came up and the house lights went down, Kermit glanced about himself at the organised confusion of the start of another show. 'If Queen Ozma is watching,' he thought, 'I hope she likes the show.' Then the frog turned to the job of running things. This was more like it, everything going right and another Muppet Show in progress. Nothing could go wrong now.
"I just wish we had a better guest star," Kermit sighed, without realizing that Ozma had also granted him one wish with her own fairy powers; the first heartfelt wish he made after getting back home. Kermit was going to get a better guest star—almost immediately! But that is a different story!
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