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Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet: The Good, the Bad, and the Fuzzy
By Kirk Scroggs
Little, Brown Books for Young ReadersCopyright © 2012 Kirk Scroggs
All right reserved.
When Dr. Honeydew requested that I meet him at his lab at Eagle Talon Academy, for some weird reason he asked me to bring my dad. I also had my pet rat, Curtis, at my side, as well as Pasquale, my best friend and safety officer—which was a good move, because when we arrived, the place was an inferno! As soon as we opened the lab door, the pungent smell of the burnt hair of Dr. Honeydew’s assistant, Beaker, filled the air. (It smells kinda like charred tangerine peels and teddy-bear stuffing, in case you were wondering.) Flames were quickly spreading across the room. Luckily, Pasquale had his own personal X-3750 Fire Extinguisher with him, and he blasted the fire with foam. My dad helped fight the flames as well.
My dad dousing the fire with flammable powder actually worked out nicely—the wind from the explosion extinguished the flames. Of course, I’d guess it also did about a hundred thousand dollars worth of damage. Oh, well… it’s all in the name of science.
“Whoooweeee!” I said, wiping my forehead. “That was a scorcher! I’m honored, Doc! All this destruction just from trying to reverse my transformation.”
Dr. Honeydew shook his head. “Actually, we were trying to make hot fudge using cocoa atoms,nitroglycerin, lavender-scented hand lotion, and a propane torch.” He pulled out his notepad and scribbled, “Note to self: Next time, use less hand lotion.”
Pasquale leaned over to me and whispered, “Surely he didn’t call us over here to watch him make explosive fudge.”
“Astute observation, young man,” said Dr.Honeydew, walking us over to the corner of his lab that wasn’t a pile of burning embers. “What I wanted to show you before we got distracted was this.”
Dr. Honeydew approached a large round object with a dusty sheet draped over it. With one dramatic swoop he ripped off the sheet to unveil…
“Whoooaaaaa!” I whoa’d. In front of us was a metallic podlike contraption. It was as tall as our refrigerator and looked kind a like a giant Easter egg crossed with a cyborg. It had one door on the front and a big cable poking out the back, which stretched across the room and attached to an identical pod.
“That’s some set of telephone booths you got there, Doc,” said my dad.
Dr. Honeydew flipped a switch and the pods lit up with blinking lights, and steam billowed out of the pod doors. “These aren’t telephone booths, my friend. Danvers, I want you to step into the first unit. Then, Mr. Blickensderfer, you will step inside with your son. If my calculations are correct, with the flip of this switch here, you both will be exploded into atoms, then reconfigured and transported to that pod over there. Danvers, I believe the extra Blickensderfer DNA from your dad will force out any residual Muppetness.”
My dad gave me a look. “I thought you brought me over here to watch the Patriarchs game on the doctor’s big-screen TV?”
“Tell me about it,” grumbled Pasquale. “He told me we were just gonna hang out together tonight, no science experiments, no Gonzo stunts, and definitely no Transportaters.”
“Come on!” I said. “We spent, like, an hour together today already.”
“Running up the bleachers in gym class with Coach Kraft shooting ice water at us from a Silly-Squirter doesn’t count,” said Pasquale.
I tried to comfort Pasquale. “I know you get a little frustrated, but I just gotta find out why this happened to me, and how to go back to my old self. Don’t get me wrong—it’s great being a Muppet and all, but it’s not always a picnic.”
“Son,” said my dad, “I know you are hankering to get back to your old self, but I’m not sure having your atoms recombobulated—”
“That’s not a real word, but I like it,” interrupted Pasquale.
“I’m just not sure this is the safest plan,” my dad finished.
“Oh, don’t worry. It’s perfectly safe,” Dr. Honeydew assured us. “There is a forty-five-percent chance that you might vanish into the atmosphere during transport, but that’s neither here nor there. And there’s a remote possibility you and your son could be combined into one being. A molecular mash-up, if you will.”
“Perhaps we should do what scientists conducting dangerous experiments have been doing for centuries: Test them out on their assistants first,” Dr. Honeydew suggested.
“Meep?” squeaked Beaker. The steel pod rumbled like an idling jet engine as Beaker stepped in, shivering and meeping feverishly.
“Don’t be concerned about bodily harm, Beaker,” Dr. Honeydew comforted his assistant. “We will all be behind a protective safety barrier over ten feet away when you are vaporized.”
“Maybe you should wrap him in foil, Doc,”advised my dad. “It’ll seal in juices and lock in freshness.”
After Beaker was secured in his pod, Dr. Honeydew hit various switches and levers on a huge computer command console in the middle of the room.
At the end of his countdown, the doc threw a big green lever and the room began to rumble. Blue lightning crackled around the pod and a bright white flash and an explosive sonic boom left us dazed and confused. Curtis cowered on my shoulder.
When the dust settled, Dr. Honeydew turned to us and said, “If the test was successful, Beaker should have been transported through time and space to the far pod.”
Suddenly, the door on the second pod flew off its hinges and Beaker stepped out of the smoky mist with a klang! That’s right, a klang! Beaker had been transformed into a steel, half-human, half-robot being.His skin was shiny metallic, his eyes were glowing orbs, his hair was like wiry steel cables, and his hands were coated in a nonstick Tufflon coating, perfect for frying eggs and dishwasher safe.
“What’s up with Beaker?” I asked. “He looks like my mom’s combination toaster, food processor, coffeemaker, and bunion massager.”
“Oh, dear,” said Dr. Honeydew, rushing to his computer to review his files. “I must examine the data to uncover what went wrong.” He clacked away on the keyboard, looking for answers. Then Curtis scurried up, pointed to the screen, and squeaked.
“Oh, my!” shouted Dr. Honeydew. “You’re onto something there, my furry little helper. It’s exactly as I had feared!”
“What is it, Doc?” I said.
“Your laboratory rat just pointed out that I was storing a box of old kitchen appliances in the other pod. I had totally forgotten about them and now I’m afraid that Beaker has been fused with the best kitchen technology of the nineteen seventies!”
Dramatic music filled the room as Beaker opened his mouth with a rusty creak and coughed up a piece of half-burnt toast, which landed at my feet.
“Doc, I think I’ve decided to wait until your Transportater has had a few more test runs before I let you reconfigure my atoms,” said my dad.
I had to agree. “Yeah, sorry, Dr. Honeydew. As much as I’d love to be able to produce my own strawberry Toaster Tarts, I don’t think I can handle any more bizarre transformations this year.”
Suddenly there was a loud knock at the door, and the principal of Eagle Talon Academy, Sam Eagle, flung it open.
“It was nothing, Mr. Eagle,” I assured him.
“Oh, hello, young Blickensderfer,” Sam continued. “Have you given any more thought to our discussion on enrollment?”
I totally did not want Pasquale to hear this right now. “Uh… not yet, sir,” I squeaked as Pasquale gave me a seriously dirty look.
“Well, don’t think about it for too long,” huffed Sam. “Numerous students have sacrificed a lot to enroll in this establishment… mostly their dignity. Oh, and, Beaker, your new look is electrifying. Very utilitarian.”
As soon as Sam left, I could feel Pasquale’s icy stare burning a hole through me. “What?!” I shrugged.
“What did he mean ‘our discussion on enrollment’?” Pasquale snapped. “You’re thinking of leaving Coldrain Middle School, aren’t you? You’re thinking of leaving me!”
“Maybe I’ve thought about it… just a little bit.” I squirmed. “Just about the school, I mean. It is the only school that specializes in helping students achieve their full artistic potential.”
I could tell Pasquale was pretty upset. I had discussed the possibility of going to Eagle Talon with my folks, and they were kind of okay with it, sort of, but I hadn’t even breathed a word of it to Pasquale. He might seem shy and quiet on the outside, but deep down, he’s a volcano of raw emotion just waiting to erupt. Well, okay, maybe he’s more like one of those volcanoes you make for science projects out of baking soda and vinegar, but he could still erupt.
“Look, Pasquale,” I said, trying to comfort him. “Let’s not worry about it right now. I haven’t even made up my mind. We need to focus on getting me back to my old self.”
But Pasquale just walked off, his shoulders slumped.
Dr. Honeydew moseyed up beside me. “Danvers. About getting you back to your old self—we should talk about that.”
This didn’t sound promising.
“I’m afraid that there is a distinct possibility that your Muppetmorphosis could be a permanent condition. I’m not ready to give up hope just yet, but I’m darn close…. Being a Muppet forever is a reality you must be willing to consider.”
“Permanent condition? Be a Muppet forever?” I sighed, plopping down on a crate full of preserved planarian worms. “That’s heavy.”
“Actually, quite light,” said Dr. Honeydew. “The average Muppet weighs only four point three pounds.”
My dad pulled up a box of mutated fungus spores and sat next to me. “Son, let me tell you a little story…. ”
Whenever my dad says, “Let me tell you a little story,” my brain fills up with images of The Great Gonzo juggling Alaskan salmon on top of the Statue of Liberty. I think it’s a defense mechanism to keep me from being bored to death, like when a lizard lets its own tail fall off so it doesn’t get caught by a predator. I usually catch the end of his stories, though, so at least I can get the gist of them.
Dad clamped a hand on my shoulder and said, “I guess what I’m trying to say, son, is that maybe you were meant to be what you were meant to be.”
Easier said than felt.
After a stressful night of tossing and turning with thoughts of forever being orange and fuzzy and of Pasquale hating me for deserting him, I actually woke up in pretty good spirits.
When I arrived at school, I saw Pasquale at his locker. From the look on his face, I thought he either had just smelled a rotten egg or was in a seriously bad mood.I was sure he was still worried that I was leaving Coldrain. Somehow, I had to get him to not be miffed at me. We were leaving for spring break in just a few days, and there was no way I wanted to spend my vacation with bad blood in the air. In fact, as a general rule, I’d rather there not be any blood in the air.
I decided to use my patented Rapid-Fire Pun Attack, a full-on assault of bad jokes that would chip away at Pasquale’s surly exterior until he couldn’t help but give in to my charms.
“Hey, Pasquale!” I said, all peppy-like. “Look, dude, I should apologize for last night. I know I made you feel like a watch that’s stopped running.”
Pasquale gave me a cold look, with one eyebrow raised, and said, “How so?”
“You were ticked off! Get it? Ticked, as in tick-tock?”
But Pasquale wasn’t having it. “I know what you’re trying to do. You think you can make me forget I’m angry with you with a bunch of bad puns. It’s so predictable. Now you’ll make a million ticking-clock jokes, trying to get me to giggle. Well, it’s not going to work.”
A Blickensderfer never turns down a challenge!
“Oooh! I’ve had it!” Pasquale bellowed, slamming his locker with enough force to rattle little Timmy Bender’s braces. Pasquale barged off down the hall.
I couldn’t believe it. Pasquale must have really been mad to resist my time-tested wit. I could usually break him with just four puns and a knock-knock joke.
“Where are you going?” I called out.
“To see the school nurse!” barked Pasquale. “I’m suddenly feeling nauseous.”
“Don’t worry!” I said as he marched away in a huff. “I don’t even think I’m going to go to Eagle Talon! There’s, like, a ninety-percent chance I’m staying right here at Coldrain!” Which was true, give or take fifty percent.
Suddenly, Kip, formerly known as “the good friend who kicked me out of his obnoxious boy band and became my mortal enemy before chillaxing and becoming my friend again,” came running up to me.His normally perfect hair looked frazzled, and his eyes were quivering with stress—well, I actually couldn’t see his eyes through his ridiculous bangs, but I’m sure they were quivering. His bandmates Danny and Cody were with him, and they looked just as distraught.
“Dude, I need your advice, yo,” he whimpered.
“I don’t know if I’m in any condition to give advice,” I said. “I just drove away my best friend in the world.”
“This is about something much more important than your friendship with Pasquale!” cried Kip.
I said, “Like what?”
Kip started really freaking out and babbling incoherently—something about nursery rhymes and Little Bo Peep.
Kip finally came to his senses. “Whoa! I can’t believe you just slapped me. Good thing you’re made of felt, or that could have hurt.”
“I promise you, I took almost no pleasure in doing it. Now, what in the world has you so upset?”
“It’s my career, dude! My reputation! My dignity! They’re all about to take a belly flop in the cesspool of shame, yo!”
I rolled my eyes. “Quit being so dramatic and just tell me what’s wrong!”
Kip held a CD up to my face and said, “This is what’s wrong!”
“Tea Party in the Garden, Yo, with Emo Shun?” I said, trying to hold back a giggle. “Boy! That is wrong! When did you do this?”
“We just recorded it last week,” Kip cried. “We’re supposed to release it on the Internet at five PM, but now I’m starting to have second thoughts, yo!”
“I’m surprised you ever had first thoughts,” I said with a laugh. “What made you guys want to record an album for little kids?”
“Dude, I panicked,” said Kip. “Emo Shun’s popularity has been on the skids lately. We needed to do something bold.”
“But music for toddlers?” I said. “How’s that gonna help your rep?”
“Someone told us that the kiddie market is where it’s at, man! But now I’m not so sure. This could be more embarrassing than the time I sang ‘La Cucaracha’ in a green leotard.”
Suddenly, I got suspicious. “Who told you this would be a good idea?”
Kip looked around nervously. “It was… it was your little sister, dude.”
My flip-top mouth opened so wide I could see the backs of my shoes. “My sister! You took advice from my sister?”
“I figured she knew all about what’s popular with kids, yo. Look at all her Fluffleberries success!”
“My sister would advise a baby mouse to take tango lessons from a boa constrictor just for her own enjoyment!” I ranted. “You have to stop this from being released immediately!”
“I know! I know!” said Kip. “But I feel kinda lousy. Your sis was so excited about it. I bet she’s anxiously awaiting the album to drop as we speak.”
I had to laugh. “I think I have a pretty good idea what Chloe’s doing right now.”
Kip was beside himself. “What am I gonna do, dude? My cool card will get revoked for sure if this gets out!”
Suddenly, Scrant and Greevus walked by, shouting out to us, “Dude! Love that poison ivy song! Itchy itchy itchy, yo! Scratchy scratchy scratchy, yo!”
Then some girls skipping down the hall stopped and called out, “Hi, Danvers! Hi, Kip! Awesome new track!” They shuffled off, giggling and looking back at us.
“Dude, what’s going on?” asked Kip.
I leaned in and said, “They’re singing our poison ivy song.”
“I thought that tune was ancient history, yo.”
In case you haven’t been keeping up, Kip’s band, Emo Shun, and my band, Mon Swoon, joined forces a few months back to form Mon Emo Shun Swoon, or M.E.S.S. for short. We recorded only one track: “Girl, Don’t Be Rash.” We thought the song was gonna be a huge hit, but due to a mix-up when Pasquale posted it online, when kids listened to it… well, you know that magazine article in Moral Outrage Weekly that claimed rock music turns kids into little monsters? Let’s just say listening to our download turned kids into monsters, for real! Zombies, to be precise.
Button Hauser walked up to me and Kip looking all dewy-eyed.
Then, more and more kids approached us, raving about that silly song.
Excerpted from Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet: The Good, the Bad, and the Fuzzy by Kirk Scroggs Copyright © 2012 by Kirk Scroggs. Excerpted by permission.
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