Piggy In The Middle
(The Illustrious Crackpot)
The night before, and the night before that, and the night before that, and every night as far back as those four walls could remember, that apartment had never seen any evening that could possibly qualify as "quiet". No, not because of the muted humming of the refrigerator, nor the buzzing of a light that's been turned all the way down but not quite off; not even for the sounds of dogs barking in the alleys, or the birds shrilly calling for those dogs to shut up so decent folk could get some rest.
What kept that apartment noisy at night was the snoring, a loud and obnoxious snoring that bespoke a wild and carefree lifestyle, or perhaps just troubled sinuses. But that particular night, there were no snores, only the soft, quiet breathing of someone who's not quite sure what's going on.
It had been at least two hours since Miss Piggy had deposited herself on top of that bed, wriggling snugly into a series of thick warm blankets and delicately arranging her feather-soft pillows in the perfect shape to cradle her perfect head, and yet her bright blue eyes were still staring blankly up at her canopy without any sign of weariness. But that just wasn't right. Every night she retired precisely at ten, and mere moments later she would be snoring carelessly in the confines of her private dreamland—not that she would ever admit to the snoring, of course. She was a lady, after all, and not even ladies with a quadruple-black-belt in martial arts was allowed to snore. But regardless of whether or not there was any snoring involved, lying restlessly awake in bed was simply not something that Miss Piggy did.
"This is ridiculous," she grumbled irritably to herself, lifting her head off of her pillows only to let it fall back down again. This action did not seem to activate any switch in her brain that might send her to sleep, thereby doubling her annoyance. "What is it, okay? What?"
As one might expect, there was no reply. But she was Miss Piggy, and she demanded full cooperation in everything, even when there was nobody present. "Well? I'm waitin' for an explanation here!"
Again, no response. So, as distastefully as she viewed this course, she had no option but to find the answer herself.
The problem certainly wasn't a lack of comfort; her mattress was the coziest that money could buy—she should know, as she herself had signed Kermit's name on the check—and the pillows and blankets, as aforementioned, were soft and warm respectively. The temperature in the apartment had always been methodically adjusted by a trained professional in order to give her the most suitable atmosphere, and the bedroom's doors and windows had been soundproofed in order to protect her from those pesky outside noises. After all, she was a star, and stars need their beauty rest.
At that idle thought, the pig's heart suddenly leapt into her throat, and she sat bolt upright with a terrified gasp.
What if she'd gotten less beautiful?
Ripping off the covers, one hand snapped out and instantly snatched a large handheld mirror off her bedside table, bringing it up to her face with the speed of unadulterated horror. She couldn't see. Just as quickly she grabbed the cord of the table lamp and yanked it once, switching it on and flooding the room with light.
An elegantly round face, slightly tangled but still-shimmering blonde hair, and a pair of jewel-like eyes just above her dainty snout. Miss Piggy sighed with relief. She was still beautiful.
A click, and the lights went off.
Two seconds' pause.
Did that dress really match her eyes?
Holding the mirror out to arm's length to get a better view, she eyed her attire critically. Yes, the light pink of the frills offset her glittering sapphires just perfectly, and the fluffy trim around the neckline was an exquisite tribute to her glamour. Oh, how was it possible that she could look so stunning?
As a rule, Miss Piggy always slept in elaborate dresses, all more flashy and magnificent than those that most other women wore during the daytime. After all, one never knew when movie producers or handsome actors might land on one's doorstep, so it's best to be prepared for all occasions.
Satisfied with the divinity of her visage, Miss Piggy replaced the mirror, though a bit reluctantly, slid back into bed, and once more turned off the lights.
And yet still she remained wide awake.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!" she shouted, thumping both fists against the bed. A floor or two below, someone called out for quiet, which, considering that the room was supposedly soundproofed, should not have been audible. But, considering that the soundproofing had been done by a certain company named "Muppet Labs", all this was hardly surprising.
It was madness. It was insanity.
"WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO HERE? WHAT?!"
Still no response. By that time, steam was practically shooting out of her ears.
She needed sleep. She demanded sleep. But still her most basic bodily functions were defying her.
Why in the world couldn't she sleep?
For a few minutes more she simply slumped there, waiting for something miraculous to happen. Nothing did, and so, with a hearty grunt, she pushed herself off the bed and slid into a pair of sequin-patterned slippers, clicking the lamp back on and shuffling off to the opposite corner of the room.
Miss Piggy was not entirely fond of reading—after all, what's the use of any form of entertainment that can't possibly tell you how radiant you look?—and so her "bookshelf" was mostly filled with photo albums exclusively dedicated to her favorite subject, herself. But here and there were scattered a few thin, flimsy-looking paperbacks, the spines of which she scanned with a surprisingly fierce intensity. At last she discovered the one she wanted, yanking it roughly out between two albums chronicling her "blue period".
The book was fairly new, only a few years old at most, and the cover still shone glossily. "How To Help You Help Yourself", the title read, and though she'd nearly decked Fozzie when he'd given it to her as a gag gift (the accompanying note was still wedged inside it somewhere, suggesting that the book's contents might add something to her act), it had turned out to be a surprisingly good read. She'd especially liked the part where it said that her problems, few as they were, had all been caused by someone else.
Wrinkling her snout at the shower of dust that had accompanied the book's withdrawal, Miss Piggy carefully cracked the book open, thumbing through the wafer-thin pages until she'd backtracked all the way to the table of contents. She peered at the chapter titles, cocking her head in surprise at just how many pages were in this scrawny little book, and finally found the section she was searching for, right smack-dab at the beginning of page two-forty-one.
Troubling Times: Coping With The Menace Of Insomnia
Why Do Bad Dreams Happen To Good People?
There are many reasons why you might have trouble falling asleep. One could be too much coffee. Really, how much of that stuff do you DRINK, anyway? Enough to suit an army, I'll bet. What is WITH people these days and their coffee? HONESTLY! Editor: If you don't drink coffee, ignore this paragraph.
Sometimes it's tough to fall asleep because of guilt. You know, you'll say or do something that you'll regret, and even if you don't realize it, it'll keep you awake all night. For instance, when was the last time you donated to this organization? Merely buying our books won't help us, you know. What about OUR needs? Huh? So you only care about yourself, well, that's FINE...
With a deft flick of the wrist, Miss Piggy snapped the book shut. "Guilt"; she'd heard the term before, but she wasn't entirely sure where.
Wedging the self-help book back onto the shelf, she removed another, thicker tome, this one covered with even more dust, and gingerly let it fall open into the crook of her arm.
guilt \'gilt\ n ; 1 : the fact of having committed a breach of conduct esp. violating law and and involving a penalty; 2 : the state of one who has committed an offense esp. consciously; 3 : a feeling of culpability for offenses.
This book too was snapped shut, albeit with a bit more difficulty—though, rather than replacing it on the shelf, the pig just set it down on the floor, one gloved hand running confusedly over her rough forehead.
"Well, that's just stupid!" she barked suddenly, stomping one foot hard against the floor and earning a few more not-so-nice remarks from her downstairs neighbors. "What, moi? Feeling BAD about something I did, when everyone knows I don't do ANYTHING wrong?"
Emitting a loud pfft noise, Miss Piggy tossed her hair rebelliously and stalked back over to her bed, plopping herself down on it so violently that half of her pillows flew straight into the air. She crossed her arms tightly, grumbling loudly at the audacity of those silly books to suggest that she might have done anything worth regretting.
At length, she soothed herself with the reminder that those books had been written for other people, not for anyone half so perfect as herself. Yes, that was it; they were intended for other people, like...like Link Hogthrob, or Floyd Pepper, or...or even GONZO!
Suddenly, she paused, stiffening almost against her will.
Kermit threw his arms into the air, finally caving in to her demand after a full half-hour of whines and threats. "All right, all right, FINE! I'll TAKE you to that fancy new restaurant, okay? There! You HAPPY now?"
For the moment Miss Piggy was so taken aback by his unusually speedy acquiescence that she couldn't really respond to his question. However, not two seconds later the door was flung unceremoniously open, smacking the person on the other side with a dull, hard thunk.
"Ouch!" Gonzo yelped, but, upon spotting the unusual way his nose was now facing thanks to the collision, he changed the yelp into a small whistle. "COOL!"
Kermit hiccuped slightly, there not being much for him to say, and Gonzo jumped with surprise, his eyes widening. "Whoa! Sorry, guys, I didn't see you there." He cocked his head to the side and pondered upon this for a moment before turning back to the frog. "This IS the supply closet, isn't it?"
Shuffling his feet awkwardly, Kermit cleared his throat. "Uh...yes. Yes, it is."
There was a short pause.
"Well then, can you hand me some pliers, a mop, and about sixty loofahs? I need 'em for my—"
All of a sudden, without any sort of warning, Gonzo was smacked straight in the face with a flying bar of soap. This, incidentally, knocked his nose back into its original position, for which he was momentarily depressed, but he had very little time to worry about that because his head had suddenly become a target for just about every cleaning product Miss Piggy had to hand.
"Out! OUT!! Get out of here, you little weirdo! We are having a PRIVATE CONVERSATION! Out out out out OUUUUUUUUUUT!!"
Making odd little squeaking noises, Gonzo jumped backwards out of the closet and slammed the door shut, though not before a spray-bottle of Lysol somehow got wedged down his throat. Fortunately the Veterinarian's Hospital sketch was onstage next, so the obstruction was removed in next to no time, but it still caused him unspeakable agony, especially when he found out that he wasn't allowed to take the camera footage home to re-watch at his leisure.
Back in her bedroom, Miss Piggy stared unblinkingly at her end table, her mind whirling with confusion. Why had she just experienced that oddly detailed flashback? Was she...was she possibly...
"No," she muttered stubbornly, shaking off the vague doubts with another toss of her lemony tresses. "Gonzo was the one who interrupted moi and Kermit during a very important discussion. Besides, he's a freak. I bet he enjoyed it."
Irritated by that strange little itch at the back of her mind, Miss Piggy shook her head once more, but that couldn't dispel her discomfort. She felt...unfulfilled, as though something was lacking. But that was silly, because when she had herself she had everything...
And then it hit her.
"Are there any truffles left?"
Sharply jerking open the top drawer on her nightstand, she rummaged madly through the contents, eventually locating and extracting a thin red box with a pale yellow ribbon wound clumsily around it. The lid was promptly torn off and hurled across the room, and every annoying little layer of tinted tissue paper tossed over her shoulder as she searched wildly for those elusive little morsels. By the time she reached the bottom of the box, she was nearly ankle-deep in debris and the only item left untouched was a small, dark lump that looked vaguely as though it had once been chocolate.
"Yummy!" Miss Piggy cooed delightedly, scooping the lump out and carelessly dropping the box onto the floor. The treat was halfway to her mouth when suddenly she paused—could this possibly be the dreaded coconut-filled piece? She loathed coconut, and if she ate this chocolate not knowing whether or not she had just swallowed a piece of that hated confection, she'd simply die.
Carefully, very carefully so as not to destroy the treat, she began to pinch it between her thumb and forefinger, slowly compressing it down and only halting when a globule of thick, half-hardened goop began to trickle out through the cracks in the sides. Raspberry. Or very old lemon, to be sure. But, at the very least, it wasn't coconut.
Once again the chocolate was raised to her lips—and once again it failed to complete the trip. For, just as she was about to open her mouth, something caught her eye, and she held up the chocolate to better examine it.
That was odd...if held at a certain angle, it looked almost exactly like the side of Scooter's head...
"All right, everything's in position for Veterinarian's Hospital!" Scooter called out enthusiastically, hurriedly scampering off the stage and back into the dressing room area. A moment later, he was frantically shoved aside as Gonzo, flailing his arms and emitting fractured gurgles, barreled right past him and dove in an amazingly graceful belly-flop right onto the prop gurney. Scooter stared at him for a few moments, then shook his head and wondered exactly why they all had scripts if nobody ever followed them.
Soon enough the necessary actors started heading onto the stage, first Janice (while still struggling to get her nurse's uniform on) and then Rowlf, already warming up for the act by cranking out puns at top speed. At last, arriving mere minutes before the scene was scheduled to start, Miss Piggy trotted out into the waiting area, seemingly unconcerned as she smoothed down her purple skirt—she STILL didn't have her costume on, even this close to the performance.
Scooter grinned cheerfully at her, even going so far as giving her a small wave. "Punctual as usual, Miss Piggy!"
The tone he was using was not a cynical one. He had heard others say it to her in such tones on many occasions, but, not being too good at recognizing sarcasm, had always assumed that the compliment was genuine; he'd never seen the aftermath of such encounters, wherein the utterer's stomach was generally compressed by a swift karate chop. Possibly due to this wide range of experience, but also possibly due to her genetic makeup, despite every friendly signal the gofer was sending her way, Miss Piggy still took the remark as an affront.
"I'll show YOU punctual! HIIIIIII-YAH!"
Only just in time did Scooter manage to shield himself with his clipboard, but the blow was enough to hurl it out of his hands and straight against a wall, snapping the metal clip in half and scattering its papers to the four winds. Which was not an exaggeration, as someone had left the back door open after sneaking out into the alley for a candy bar.
"Oh no!" gasped Scooter in horror, scurrying over to try and rescue as many pages as he could. "The documents I'm supposed to deliver to my uncle tomorrow—the ones for the Electric Mayhem's paychecks! Oh, they can't be gone, oh no, oh NO..."
Miss Piggy just glared down her snout at him, then, with a loud "HMPH!", she trotted off to her dressing room.
Her stomach turning a bit, Miss Piggy gingerly placed the chocolate back on her nightstand, suddenly having lost her appetite. But that was silly. If he hadn't blocked her with that clipboard, it wouldn't have been flung against the wall, and the papers never would've gotten lost in the first place! Besides, what should she care if those lousy, long-haired musicians never got paid? It's not like they did anything important. Not like HER, the backbone of the entire show!
"You know," began Waldorf loudly from his seat up in the balcony, "that Miss Piggy is the hipbone of the entire show."
Statler, completely deadpan even though he was already anticipating the punch line, leaned forwards in his chair in order to better project his words out onto the stage. "Don't you mean the BACKBONE?"
Waldorf had to muffle a small chuckle before he could respond, but respond he did, and with great gusto. "No, the HIPBONE—have you seen the size of that WAIST?"
Both old men burst into raucous laughter, frantically grabbing at the railing so they wouldn't simply fall out of their seats. Though she had tried to ignore it before, after that previous crack Miss Piggy was forced to break character, snapping right out of her "Nurse Piggy" persona and startling the rest of the Veterinarian's Hospital cast onstage. "Oh YEAH?" she shouted angrily, so unexpected that it even caused Statler and Waldorf to pause in their reverie. "Well, what about YOU? You two look like you've GONE to 'waist'!"
The two hecklers exchanged glances with each other.
"That was TERRIBLE," said Statler at length, settling slowly back into his chair.
Waldorf nodded in agreement, folding his arms across his chest. "Yep...one of the worst puns I've ever heard."
"No, no, not THAT!" Statler favored his companion with a solemn gaze, his tone so flat that it was hard to tell whether or not he was joking. "That really hurts. Right HERE."
He tried to put his hand over his heart, but it had been so long since he'd seen or heard from his heart that he didn't quite know where it was, and ended up putting his hand over his stomach instead.
Back on the stage, Miss Piggy turned to face Janice and Rowlf, who were both staring blankly at her. But she sweetly cocked her head to the side, and recited in a pretentious sing-song voice, "Well, Doctor Bob, I'd say that this patient isn't showing us his true feelings!"
Catching the cue instantly, Rowlf emphatically thumped the gurney that Gonzo was lying on. "I agree; it certainly seems like he's got a lot BOTTLED UP INSIDE!"
This time, when she returned to herself, Miss Piggy was trembling. But...but...but why should she tremble? It was the old geezers' fault—they'd practically been ASKING for it since the day they'd first walked into that theater and needled every performer to come their way! Besides, Statler and Waldorf had received countless catcalls from dozens of other Muppets, even from "keep-your-cool" Kermit on occasion!
Finally, with a loud, primal "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!" (and the resolution of several downstairs neighbors to cancel their lease first thing the next morning), the pig flopped backwards onto her bed, sprawled belly-up on those soft yet totally unwelcoming blankets. That stupid self-help book was messing with her. She was still herself, she was still perfect, and her sleep deprivation was probably just caused by her harrowingly stressful life as a TV star! There was absolutely no way that any action of hers could have caused this agony!
The Veterinarian's Hospital sketch was over and the guest star spot was about to begin, causing for a lot of confusion backstage as everyone scrambled to set up the appropriate scenery, or just to catch a glimpse of a real, live celebrity. However, the moment the act started, the whole place was bare as a bone, with everybody not needed onstage or offstage having gone to sit in the audience and watch. Save for Bunsen and Beaker, who were on next and needed to retrieve their props from the Maximum-Security Containment Unit, otherwise known as the garbage can.
They were just heading for the stairs as Miss Piggy was coming down them, fresh from her dressing room. They were on the far right. She was on the far left. Both parties would pass each other with nearly two feet to spare.
And yet, for no readily discernible reason, at the last minute Miss Piggy veered sharply, leaving no time for the Muppet Labs scientists to get out of the way before they all collided, even knocking Beaker fully off his feet.
"Watch where you're goin', ya clods!" snapped Miss Piggy brusquely as she hurried away.
She was perfectly innocent. That was all there was to it. Nothing more.
Five Muppets had to be called out of the audience to restrain her before she could catch up to Dr. Strangepork, and three more were required to wrestle the rolling pin out of her hands.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. She hadn't done anything wrong.
She took an elaborate bow, smiling charmingly at the few audience members who were applauding, ignoring the befuddledly depressed look she could feel coming from Lew Zealand, whose act she'd just upstaged with her own impromptu dance number.
No matter what her mind was throwing at her, she was absolutely fine. Nothing was the matter with her. Nothing had happened. There was nothing, not a single worrisome thought that could possibly keep the likes of Miss Piggy fretting away into the night—
And then she paused.
Because, somehow, in that dim room with one lit lamp, her floor covered with aged tissue paper and a spotless pink canopy over her head, Miss Piggy had an epiphany. She knew what the trouble was now. She knew, she knew.
But she could change it. She could right all that was wrong. She could save herself, and not just for the sake of a good night's sleep; for the sake of a better future.
Suddenly, and with great purpose, she sat up, sliding off the edge of her bed and back onto the floor. Kicking aside the tissue paper in her wake, she strode briskly over to her bedroom door, flinging it wide open and hurrying through.
Moments later she was in the kitchen, flipping on the lightswitch. A small, slightly old-fashioned phone was bolted to the wall, and she grabbed at the receiver, fumbling to get it up to her ear as she punched in the necessary numbers. With this small step, she would start on her way. With this small step, all would change.
"Hello?" The words were lilting, musical—and, after she heard her response, incredibly apologetic. "Yes, it's me, and I know how late it is and I'm so sorry, but...but there's something I need to say, and I need to say it right now."
Welling up all the power within her in one single breath, she said it.
"Kermie, when are you taking me to that fancy new restaurant?"