by Kim McFarland
A female Fraggle, her pink hair streaked white with age, pressed her fingers lightly to Mokey's throat, feeling her pulse. It was normal, which was to be expected, as Mokey was characteristically calm. Then the older Fraggle pressed her ear to Mokey's stomach and listened to the softer, faster heartbeat within.
"Well?" Mokey asked.
The pink-haired Fraggle, whose name was Weft, stood again. "Its heart sounds fine and strong. Has it been moving much?"
"All the time! It must be sleeping now. Otherwise it would have kicked you in the ear."
Mokey said this cheerfully, but lately she had not been getting as much sleep as she'd have liked. It was spring, the last chill of winter long past, and she was expecting a child. Fraggle pregnancies lasted 200 days, and she was on day 194, according to her tally chart.
Gobo, Wembley, Red, and Boober had also been keeping count. Several years ago, when the issue had finally become relevant to them, they had faced the question of how to start their families. Pairing off would have meant choosing only one of their friends and excluding three others, and one of them would have been left out altogether, so it had not been seriously considered. In the end they had decided that, as the five of them were as close as any Fraggles could ever be, they would all form a family. It was, for them, the obvious choice. Last year they had taken part in the Midsummer Ritual, and the result was almost here.
It had not been difficult to decide who would be a mother first. Mokey had declared her readiness to take her part in the great stream of life, and Red was willing to let her have that honor, not to mention relieved. The other question had been who would sire her child. Mokey had wembled on that issue—choosing for one meant choosing against the other two! In the end she had decided she simply would not make such a decision. So they had left it to chance by all joining in the ritual.
Mokey was ready for this. She could hardly wait to have a baby of her own. She was also looking forward to not getting kicked all night. Not that she would admit to being irritated by that—how could a baby know any better?—but Red could tell when her roommate had not gotten enough sleep. It had been weeks since she had banged her gong to welcome the dawn.
Red didn't understand how Mokey could be so dang serene. Sure, it would be great to have a little Fraggle, but being weighed down by a Fragling-to-be all winter and spring would drive Red nuts, and everyone had heard horror stories about giving birth. Either Mokey was very brave, Red thought, or she was as oblivious as Gobo's Uncle Matt.
Wembley was as eager to see the baby as Mokey was, and, taking his cue from her, completely unafraid. Well, of course he could be all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about it, Red, thought; he wasn't going to be put through the wringer in a few days. Boober, on the other hand, was trying to pretend he wasn't worried, and failing miserably. His anxiety had been getting worse and worse as Mokey's time neared. At this rate, she thought, he'd be a basket case by the time the baby came. At least this time he was keeping it to himself rather than freaking everyone else out.
Gobo... she had a hard time figuring him out. He was looking forward to it, of course, but he had also gotten himself named Moon Greeter, and was obsessing over what to do to make the coming Ceremony of the Moon as special as possible. That was only two days away! How at a time like this he could be more intent on something that happened every month was beyond her. He'd just better snap out of it before the baby came, she thought.
Weft told Mokey, "You and the baby are fine. You'll be a mother very soon now."
"Oh, good," Mokey said. "It'll be nice to see my feet again."
Weft smiled. She'd heard variations on that remark many times. Complaints about size meant that the expectant mother had nothing worse to gripe about. She said, "Send someone to get me if anything happens. Until then, whatever you've been doing, keep doing it."
"I will. Thank you."
Weft watched the two Fraggles leave her home, then went back to her loom. Her profession was that of a weaver; midwifery was something she only practiced once or twice a year in springtime.
Gobo, Wembley, and Boober were waiting right outside Weft's door. Gobo asked, "What'd she say?"
"She said I'm fine, and it'll be born soon."
"Are you sure she wasn't just saying that?" Boober asked, a quaver in his voice.
"Boober!" Gobo exclaimed.
Mokey said gently, "Don't worry so much, Boober. Everything will be all right. You'll see."
Red remarked, "He's just worried about the diapers he's going to have to wash."
Boober shook his head. He feared no laundry. If diapers were in his future, that was fine with him. What he feared was that they weren't.
Wembley sensed that this would be a good moment for a change in topic. "We filled the pantry up this morning, Mokey. We've got enough radishes to last everyone in the Rock for a week!"
"Oh, thank you," she answered. Her job was getting radishes from the Gorgs' garden. Though it was no longer dangerous because the Gorgs willingly shared their crop with the Fraggles, she was not up to the task now. The others cheerfully took up the slack, and then some.
Gobo said, "Speaking of the garden, I'm going to go see the Trash Heap. See you guys in a bit."
As Gobo turned to leave, Boober said, "Wait. I'll come with you."
Gobo looked back, surprised, then said, "Sure, come on."
They left. Red put her fists on her hips and said, "Sheesh. Can you believe them, running off like that?"
"Never mind," Mokey said. "They must have things on their minds."
"Yeah, I bet they do," Wembley said.
"Unlike you," said Red.
Red smirked. "Gotcha!"
When Gobo and Boober reached the mouth of Fraggle Rock, long evening shadows were stretched across the garden. The Gorgs could be heard inside their home. Gobo thought that they were likely having dinner. He hopped out and said, "C'mon, Boober."
Even though it had been years since he had been menaced by a Gorg, the sheer hugeness of everything still frightened Boober. He shrank into himself as he followed Gobo.
They found the Trash Heap staring at the horizon. Her rodentlike companions, Philo and Gunge, were half asleep. She said, "Hello, little Fraggles. Have you ever seen such a sunset? I tell you, it was worth being shoveled up and carted around in a wheelbarrow to have such a view."
Gobo and Boober looked at the sky. "It's very nice," Gobo said politely.
"'Very nice' is just where it begins. It gets more and more beautiful the more times you see it. The best sunsets look like miracles painted in the air."
"That's so gosh-darn eloquent, Marjorie!" Philo said.
Gunge told Gobo and Boober, "When she talks all fancy like that, she really means it."
Gobo said, "Um, Madame Heap, I've come to you for advice."
"Advice? I advise you to pull up an old tire and watch the sunset with me. You both look like you need to relax."
Gobo said, "I'm fine! What I need to ask you about is how to celebrate the moon."
She looked down. "Don't you Fraggles do that every month? I thought you had figured it out already."
"No! I mean, yes, we have, but every month one Fraggle is the Moon Greeter, and this month it's me. The Moon Greeter has to do something special, and I want this time to be the best ever!"
"Why?" the Trash Heap asked pointedly.
"Well, because any Fraggle can just sing a song, or bake a cake, or stuff like that."
"So what's wrong with that? You sing songs and bake cakes because that's what people enjoy. Just because something is commonplace doesn't mean it isn't special, even magical." Her gaze returned to the sunset.
"Yeah, but I really want mine to be the best moon greeting ever," Gobo insisted.
She looked back down. "Why? Do you think the moon will notice?"
"What kind of question is that?"
The Trash Heap folded her arms and asked, "What do you want to honor? The moon, or Gobo Fraggle?"
Stung, Gobo protested, "I don't want to show off! I want..." He lowered his voice. "I want it to be special because Mokey's about to have her baby. I want to do it for them."
This was not the first The Trash Heap had heard of Mokey's condition. She chuckled. "I had a feeling it was something like that. Very well, my advice to you is this: sing a song. Or bake a cake. Or, better yet, let someone else greet the moon this month. There'll be other Ceremonies of the Moon."
Philo and Gunge chorused lazily, "The Trash Heap has spoken."
Gobo was quiet for a long moment. Then he said, "Thank you for your advice."
The Trash Heap watched Gobo turn to go. The smaller, mossy-looking Fraggle, who had almost managed to blend into the background, hesitated. The Trash Heap said to him, "You have a question?"
Boober squeaked, then got control of his voice and said, "Um... I... no."
"Now, now. You're trembling. Do I scare you?"
"No! Well, not much. But I'm scared," he said miserably.
"Oh, you need something to bring you luck? Well, let's see..." She began searching around herself.
"I'm afraid of doom and calamity. I'm afraid that terrible tragedy is about to strike and destroy the lives of everyone I hold dear. I'd do anything at all if I could keep it from happening, but I don't even know what it is!" he cried.
"Hmm. It'll take more than a lucky bottle cap to ward that off," The Trash Heap remarked thoughtfully. "When do you think it will happen?"
"Soon. In a few days. Just when everyone but me least expects it!"
"Calm down," she said, holding a hand out, palm down. "Does it have anything to do with Mokey and her baby?"
"I think so," Boober said, ashamed. "I know I ought to be happy, but when I think about her all I want to do is panic."
"Little Boober, you have what is known as... the jitters."
Horrified, Boober exclaimed, "I do? Where did I catch it? Is there a cure?"
"The jitters is not a sickness. It is the fear of something that is about to happen. It can turn a wonderful event into an ordeal. To cure yourself, you will have to look within yourself. There you will find all the answers you need, for you already know just what you are afraid of. Once you face your fear, you will come out on the other side, braver and stronger."
"Can I do that while hiding under a rock?" Boober whined.
Philo, who had half fallen asleep during the exchange, said, "The Trash Heap has spoken." Both he and Gunge yawned.
Boober, wringing his scarf in tightly-clenched fists, ran along the base of the garden wall, afraid of being seen. When he reached the mouth of Fraggle Rock Gobo was sitting there, looking up at the waxing Gorg Moon. Boober followed his glance, then looked back at him.
"Did you ever notice that the Gorg Moon is full on the night of the Fraggle Moon?" Gobo said.
"No, I can't say that's ever been on my mind," Boober replied.
"It's always above the well in time to see the Fraggle Moon, and never any other time. It's as if it wants to look down into the pond and see it. Like they're friends."
"Gobo, do you feel all right?" Boober asked worriedly.
Gobo smiled. "I sure do. Listen, Boober, you go back home. I'm going to get another radish. You can never have too many in the pantry."
"All right." Boober said, and dove for the safe underground.
He ran head-on into Wembley, knocking them both down. Unfazed, Wembley said as he got back up, "Hi! I was wondering what happened to you and Gobo."
Boober was not in the mood for Wembley's cheerfulness. He said, "Gobo's getting a radish. Why don't you help him?"
Wembley found Gobo in the garden, dragging a huge radish by its leaves. He said, "Hi, lemme help!"
Together they hoisted the radish up and carried it toward the hole. Wembley asked, "What did the Trash Heap say?"
"I got my idea for the greeting of the Fraggle Moon. I'll have the Gorg Moon greet it!"
Wembley laughed at what he thought was a flight of whimsy. "How?"
"If I climb to the highest point in the world, I can reach it." He pointed to the tallest tower of the Gorgs' castle. "The belfry. I've seen the Gorg Moon pass right over it, close enough to touch. I bet if I bring a net I can catch it."
"Wow," Wembley said, impressed.
"I'd need a big enough net..."
When Boober went back home he did what he always did to soothe severely frayed nerves: he gathered up the grimiest clothes, the ones he saved for just such an occasion, and set to work washing them. Who could worry while scrubbing stubborn paint stains? It was a quietly engrossing task, and freed his mind from his cares.
Usually. Now, however, his nerves refused to be calmed. He had faith in The Trash Heap's wisdom and benevolence, but what did she mean? Look within himself for the answers? The only thing he'd find if he looked within himself was an annoying clown, and he hadn't acted up in years. The last thing Boober wanted to do was wake Sidebottom up. That couldn't have been what she meant.
Someone would die if he didn't find the answer. He knew it as surely as if he had already seen it happen! He needed answers, not riddles! He would cut off his own tail if that would avert whatever was coming, but he had no idea what he had foreseen. How could he do anything to prevent it then?
The others thought he was merely nervous. He had hidden his fears from them, because what good would frightening them do? It might only ruin someone's final hours. Besides, he was the only one who had foreseen it; he was the only one who could do anything about it. If only he were brave enough to face his fears... no, he would face them without being brave, if that was what it took. But what did he have to face?
It was so much easier to be helpless, he realized. If there was nothing you could do, you could simply await your fate. It was hardly worth being afraid then. But if you had hope, then you had fear.
"Hey, Boober, you've nearly scrubbed a hole in that smock."
Boober yelped and jumped at the sound of Red's voice. Startled, she shied back for a moment. "Hey, sorry, I wasn't trying to startle you."
"That's all right. I was just... deep in thought."
"Boober, you're scared silly. Everyone can tell." She stood facing him.
There was no use trying to hide it. "Yeah," he admitted.
Quietly she said, "I'm kind of nervous too."
He looked at her. Misinterpreting what she could see of his expression, she said quickly, "Only a little! But, well, it's scary, what Mokey's going to have to do. I don't know how she can be so calm about it."
She doesn't know what's going to happen, Boober thought. Nobody did but him. They were all brave, much braver than he was. Shouldn't he tell them, so they'd be alert? But what could he say? Doom was coming, he was sure of it, but he had no idea when or what form it would take. They'd think he was losing his mind.
Red got up to sit by Boober. Silently she put her arm around his shoulders. "Can you keep a secret?" she said softly.
"Sure," he answered.
"I...feel kind of left out. Mokey's the mother, and you or Gobo or Wembley could be the father, but me... I've got nothing to do with it. Sometimes I feel like I chickened out. Silly, huh?"
He touched her other hand. "No, I don't think so," he whispered.
"I know we'll all raise him or her, and that's great, but... I don't know."
"This time," Boober told her softly.
She looked at him for a moment. Then she said, "Yeah. Maybe later. 'Til then I'll just be Aunt Red."
They sat quietly together for a little while. Then she said, "I came here to find out what was bugging you and ended up doing the talking."
"That's all right."
"Well... Mokey and I are going to go for a swim. Want to come with us?"
"No thanks. I have laundry to do," he answered.
He never swam with other Fraggles. Red suspected he stayed clean by laundering himself when nobody was looking. "Okay. Well... see you later. And thanks for listening."
"Anytime," he answered as she got up. It was strange, but he actually did feel a little better. Red could be boisterous, and she got on his nerves a lot, but sometimes even she needed a confidant, and he was Fraggle Rock's resident expert on angst. It made him feel good to put his natural gifts to use.
When she was at the door he got up and said, "Red."
She looked back. "What? Gonna come after all?"
"No." He went over to a box and opened it, then took something out. "I made a fresh batch today."
"Radish bars!" She eagerly took them from him. "Thanks! You're sweet. But not as sweet as these bars!"
He accepted a slightly crumby kiss on the cheek, then watched her scamper up the steps, munching on the confection. Hopefully she'd save one for Mokey.
He sat back down at the laundry tub. His small smile faded. If he was going to do anything better than cringe and wait for the snare to snap shut, he'd have to obey the Trash Heap and look within himself. He would start by spending some quality time with his anxieties.
Fraggle Rock is copyright © The Jim Henson Company. All copyrighted properties are used without permission but with much respect and affection. The overall story is copyright © Kim McFarland (negaduck9 at aol dot com). Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only.