A Wandering Heart
Part 1: Rainy Day
by Kim McFarland
It was a dark and stormy day. Despite being cave dwellers the Fraggles were aware of this, because a column of rain was falling through the well in the Gorgs' garden and into the pond in the Great Hall in the cavern below. Fraggles loved water, whether flowing or falling, and they cheerfully incorporated this novel element into their water games.
Janken was sitting on the arch, watching the Fraggles in the pond. He felt no urge to join in. He had swum earlier that day, and just didn't feel like doing it again. Before long the entertainment value of watching others splash around wore thin, and he walked down the arch and away.
Hands in the pockets of his yellow sweater, he wandered toward the cave that his mother Mokey and his aunt Red shared. En route he met Mokey in the tunnel. She was leading her seven-year-old daughter Sage by the hand. Sage was a ball of bluish-green fur like Boober, her father, but much more energetic and cheerful. "Janjanjan!" she called.
He said, "Hi, Sage! Where're you two going?"
"I'm going to get a radish for dinner, and Sage is going to help me select just the right one," Mokey answered.
Sage told him, "Papa wants a big one, but it needs to fit in the oven. Just this big." She held her hands wide apart.
"That big, huh? Can I help carry it?"
"I can carry it by myself!" she declared.
"I could use your help getting some for the pantry," Mokey answered.
They never actually needed him to gather radishes, he knew, but it was always a good idea to have extra food on hand. "It's raining out," he said conversationally as they walked up the tunnel.
"Oh, well," Mokey said, trying to look cheerful, but Janken could tell she didn't want to go out in the rain. No Fraggle minded getting wet, but mud was another matter.
The three of them stopped before they went out into the garden. Mokey and Janken removed their sweaters, as fur dries faster than clothing and is easier to clean. Sage was wearing only the feathers, flowers, and other decorations she stuck in her braided hair. They left their clothes just inside the tunnel, then went out into the garden.
The rain was coming down in heavy drops, quickly plastering their hair down and soaking their fur. It was a warm rain, though, so they were comfortable. As expected, the loose soil of the garden had become mud, which splattered up onto them as the raindrops struck. Worse, they had to cross deep mud puddles, which sucked at their feet and made it hard to walk.
Mokey said to her daughter, "You know what kind of radish Boober wants. Pick out a good one for us."
Sage splished about in the mud, inspecting the radishes one by one. She found a large one that she liked, and held out her arms, comparing it to the size Boober wanted. It was easily triple that. Janken watched with amusement as she gazed longingly at it for a moment longer, then regretfully moved on. He would have picked it himself, but it was too big for one Fraggle to carry.
A little further down Sage found a radish that she approved of. She said to Mokey, "Let's get this one, Mama!"
"All right. Pick it," Mokey answered.
Sage put her arms around it and tried to lift. Her feet sank into the mud. Janken was about to help her when the radish suddenly came loose. She stumbled, fell over backwards, and landed in the mud with a squelchy plop. The radish still clutched to her chest, she exclaimed, "Ewwwww!"
Both Janken and Mokey grinned as they helped her up. Her back and the back of her head were completely coated with mud. Mokey said, "Never mind, the rain will wash that away."
"Yeah," Janken said as he tugged at another radish. It resisted. He pulled hard, careful not to repeat his sister's performance. After a minute the radish worked loose, and he began dragging it through the mud by its greens.
They brought the radishes to the entrance of Fraggle Rock, then stood and waited for the rain to wash the mud off of them and the vegetables. Sage and Mokey did their best to work the mud out of Sage's hair and fur. Janken said to Mokey, "I still haven't decided what job I want."
"You don't have to rush," Mokey told him. "You help me bring radishes from the garden, and you help Boober gather what he needs for his home remedies and do the laundry, and you explore with Gobo and his uncle Matt, and you help other people. It's not like you're sitting around doing nothing."
He sighed. "I keep busy, but, well, it's like I'm just copying other people. I'm not doing anything that's me."
Sympathetically she said, "I see what you mean. Have you asked The Trash Heap for advice?"
He shrugged. "I know what she'd tell me to do. Sort it out for myself. And she'd be right. I need to decide what I'm going to be. I just don't have any clue what that is yet."
She patted his back, splat splat on his wet fur. "Don't worry, just keep looking and you'll find something that's just perfect for you."
When the three were clean again they entered the passageway. Mokey and Janken carried the radish Janken had picked, as it was a large one, and Sage carried her prize, which was bigger around than she was, by herself.
Mokey and Janken placed the big radish in the pantry, and Sage hustled over to Boober's kitchen, calling out "Papa Boober! I got your radish!"
"That's perfect," he told her as she set it on the cutting block in the center of the room. Seeing how wet she was, he asked, "Did it grow in the swimming hole?"
"It was raining. We got all muddy, so we stayed outside until the rain cleaned us and the radishes off again," she explained.
"Bye," the little girl said, and ran out to the great hall. If she was already soaked through, she was going to do some swimming!
Janken dodged out of his little sister's way, then entered the kitchen. "Hi. Need an extra pair of hands?"
"Sure. You could chop these up," Boober said, pointing with a knife at some wild onions on the cutting block. "Bulbs and greens both."
"Okay." While Janken got another knife Boober took out a deep pan. He placed the radish in it and began peeling the reddish-pink skin in strips, giving it a striped appearance. He was finished by the time Janken had chopped up the onions. "What else?" Janken asked.
"I've got everything else ready," Boober said as he mixed the onions with some other dried, chopped herbs and drizzled them on the radish. "Oh, you could bring that to Red."
Janken looked in the direction Boober nodded. It was a small pitcher with a cup for a lid. He glanced inside. Blueberry juice. "Sure. She'll like this."
"And make sure she's resting. If she isn't, come get me."
"I will," Janken promised.
Janken went into Red and Mokey's cave. It was also partially his home; he had spaces to sleep in all of his parents' caves. That had been fun when he was little, always having the choice of where to spend the night, and they all welcomed him, but lately it was starting to feel kind of... well, childish, not having a place of his own.
Red was asleep in her bed on the floor, curled around Poncle, her week-old daughter. She had had to give up her comfortable hammock last winter, when her pregnancy started throwing her balance off. The increasing risk of a nighttime spill wasn't worth it, and Boober had ordered her to sleep in a more stable bed. As uncomfortable as it was to lie on a bed on the ground, she had to admit he was right. Even if it hadn't become a problem when she was pregnant, there was no question of risking sleeping in a hammock with a baby.
Janken was debating whether to awaken her when she heard his footsteps and opened her eyes blearily. Janken said softly, "Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you, Red. I just brought some juice from Boober."
"Oh, thanks," she said.
Janken poured her a cup. She held it in one hand, the other around the baby, trying to avoid awakening her. She had recently learned two of the most undeniable facts of motherhood: When your baby sleeps, you sleep, and waking it up is an act of masochism. She always had some water on hand, but Boober kept her supplied with juices and radish bars to keep her energy and morale up. She drank, then handed the cup back to Janken and said "Thanks" again.
"How do you feel?" Janken asked.
"Tired. Not as sore as before. I'll be playing rock hockey in a few days." Poncle was beginning to squirm and make little noises. Red picked her daughter up and held her to her chest, where she found what she wanted.
Janken grinned. "If you try Boober will glue your blanket to the floor with you under it."
"Don't I know it. He never bossed Mokey around like that."
"He didn't have to."
And Mokey was bigger than Red and had an easier time having babies, Red thought. Both times she had been up and walking around in a few days. It wasn't fair. But Red was starting to understand why Mokey had been so flaky for a few weeks after Janken and Sage were born. There was something about seeing a tiny living being that had grown inside you, knowing that one day it would walk and talk and be an actual person. She had always understood the process intellectually; now she felt it in her gut, so to speak. She could gaze at Poncle for hours, just feeling her warmth and weight and watching her breathe.
After a few minutes she said, "Could you pour me some more? This is thirsty work."
"Sure." Janken handed her another cup. She took it with her free hand and drank.
Soon Poncle stilled. Having had her fill, she was content just to rest. Janken said, "Would you like me to take her for a while?"
"Yeah. That'd be great," Red said. "I've had plenty of the miracle of life and not enough of the miracle of sleep."
Janken smiled. He lifted Poncle out of Red's arms, supporting the tiny Fraggle's head with one hand and body with the other. The baby began to fuss, but quieted again when Janken held her to his chest. The warmth and familiar smell of his fur reassured her.
Janken carried Poncle into the Great Hall. Though her eyes were closed—Fraggle babies' eyes opened when they were a few weeks old—he could tell she was still awake. She was making little movements with her arms, legs, and tail, and pressing her face to his fur. When she was asleep she went completely limp.
He looked up. Mica, a gray Fraggle his age, had come up to him unnoticed. "That's your little sister?"
"Yeah. I'm taking care of her so Red can sleep."
"That's sweet of you."
"Eh, it's no big deal. She's just been fed, so all I have to do is be ready when the other end needs cleaning."
"Yeah." He shrugged.
Mica thought that he could feign a casual attitude as long as he wanted, but the way he held the tiny bundle of brown-and-blonde fluff close, stroking her face and playing with her fingers and toes, told her otherwise. They had been close friends as long as they could remember; she could tell when he was bluffing. After a few minutes she asked, "Can I hold her?"
Janken gave her the baby, but as soon as Mica was holding her Poncle began to squirm and whine. Janken said, "She doesn't recognize you. Here, sit closer to me."
"All right," Mica said, scooting over.
"Now turn partway toward me so she's between us." He put one arm around Mica. Poncle wriggled a little more, then settled down again. Janken said, "At first she didn't want anyone but Red and Gobo to hold her. This is how we got her used to the rest of us—hold her so she can smell someone she knows, and she'll get used to the other one."
"I never would have thought of that," Mica said.
"Me neither. I don't know who came up with that trick."
They sat together, hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder, holding the baby between themselves. When Poncle went limp, Janken said quietly, "She's asleep."
"Yeah," Mica said softly. After a pause she added, "You'll make a good father some day."
"You too," he replied. "Well, except you'll be a mother."
"It's nice of you to help Red out like this."
"Oh, I don't mind. I don't have anything better to do," he said wryly.
She understood his problem. He had talked with her about it. They were close enough to talk about almost anything, including things that it was hard to bring up with a parent. Sympathetically she said, "I know. But you'll find something."
Quietly he said, "I sure hope so."
Fraggle Rock and all characters except Janken, Sage, Poncle, and Mica are copyright © The Jim Henson Company. All copyrighted properties are used without permission but with much respect and affection. Janken, Sage, Poncle, Mica, and the overall story are copyright © Kim McFarland (negaduck9 at aol dot com). Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only.