13 May 2002
Splayed in a drunken stupor he grasped for the remote. Realising that it must have been kicked under the sofa he resigned himself to an eventual contortion of the limbs as he threw himself head first after it. As he emerged triumphant with his prize the blood rushed to his head, the vodka kicked in once more, he hauled himself into upright in an attempt at composure. As he did so, he kicked over last night's pizza box, turning Hawaiian on the floor. Switch on the television; unrecognised figures dancing in the half-light; profound feeling of constraint and despair. There was nothing for it - Kermit was going to have to make a decision.
Kermit's job as local journalist and TV reporter had catapulted him out of Harlem and onto Broadway, where he had enjoyed a modicum of success on the stage. In the process he had acquired a glamorous, if somewhat wilful and porcine, girlfriend and associates who did not much care for his Sesame Street hood. The fear was that his ghetto upbringing would rub the critics in the gallery up the wrong way. Halfway between his roots and his future, Kermit was a frog paralysed.
* * * *
Across the pond things were nowhere near as upwardly mobile. Fistup Road was as it always had been - comfortable, suburban, slightly left of centre and socially concerned. But underneath the surface even this community had its problems. Joyriding was on the increase: on Thursday nights Roland Rat, Kevin the Gerbil and Errol the Hamster would clear the streets in their Ford Anglia. Newly unemployed Zig and Zag had taken to shoplifting to fund a crack habit nurtured and dictated by television stardom. Meanwhile Sweep and Sue's home footage porn empire was bringing legions of undesirables to the area. And then there was Emu.
Emu had recently lost his partner in a tragic sporting accident. This would have been enough for anyone to cope with, but Emu had relied on Rod. Movement in his legs had always been limited; now he couldn't make it to the shops on his own. Sooty had offered to deliver: Emu now regretted that at the time he had been too proud to accept. Or had he still been in denial? He probably hadn't even considered that he needed the help, had expected Rod to come through the front door with the bird seed and the Australian lager.
But Rod didn't come. Sue used to do the cleaning on Fridays, and had been a friend to Emu in his isolation when Rod had been at work. But she had stopped visiting shortly after Rod's death, no doubt when the money dried up. He couldn't be sure, but Emu suspected that Sweep had something to do with it. He always had his hand in any local deal. It had been no surprise to any of the other residents when Sweep was unmasked as the puppet behind the property scam of the eighties. But Sue was a nice panda - wasn't she?
It had been nearly two weeks now since Emu had seen anyone. Necessity drove him to see if he could get to the corner shop on his own. Hauling himself up on his walker he edged painfully out of the living room into the hallway, dragging his legs behind him. After a few minutes' rest he felt able to negotiate the lip of the front door, and suddenly found himself in the front garden. Emboldened by his success he quickened his pace and started to cross the road, but all too soon. His legs, unused to the exertion, could take no more: as they buckled Emu fell in a heap in the middle of the road. He lay there for some time, grateful that he lived in a traffic calming zone. But he was growing weaker all the time, and desperately needed medical attention. He was only metres from the shop, but couldn't quite make it - and Sooty should have come out by now. He was about to shout for help, when he saw the net curtains twitching in the flat above the shop. As his eyes closed he could just make out Sweep... Sue... and Sooty... peering down naked in open amusement...
* * * *
Kermit sat like that for hours, too scared either to move or to determine his future. Then it occurred to him that he was never going to be accepted fully by either side. Already Oscar and Big Bird had accused him of forgetting his roots, turning his back on his brothers, and it was true that he no longer felt one of them. How could he stay? But he also sensed that the Muppets looked down on him, and he knew that he would have a limited shelf-life with Miss Piggy - deep in his heart he admitted that he was only a novelty to her, a toy rough diamond. It was clear that there was no other option left him now but to go underground - down at Fraggle Rock.