To Serve Fwaggles
by Kim McFarland
Wembley wandered into the Great Hall. He had no idea what to do to amuse himself, but that didn't worry him. He never had to wait long for something fun to happen in Fraggle Rock.
Mokey was there, with a group of other Fraggles. They had jars of paint and brushes and blank boards. He walked over and said, "Hi, Mokey. What'cha doing?"
She turned and said, "Oh, hi, Wembley! I'm taking a painting class down to the Cave of Shadows. The lighting is so inspirational, and the plants are all in bloom."
"Wow, that sounds neat," Wembley said.
"Oh, it is! The first step to creating art is learning to truly appreciate the beauty around you—and when you paint a picture, you see what you're painting as you've never seen it before."
Interested, Wembley asked, "Really? Do you cross your eyes?"
Mokey laughed. "No, I mean, you see its inner beauty. For instance..." She patted a boulder. "What do you see?"
Wembley stared at it, concentrating with visible effort. "It's... a gray rock." He put his ear to the stone and listened hard. Then he said, disappointed, "Nothing special inside it."
"When you paint a rock, you see what color it is, and what texture, and where it's cracked, and what's growing on it and living in it. Look, this one has a little patch of lichen on the top, isn't it cute? And here it's lighter because a piece was broken off."
"Wow," Wembley said, awed.
"Why don't you come with us? We're going to spend all day painting. It'll be such fun!"
"I bet," Wembley said excitedly. "Let's get the radish and go!"
"Radish?" Mokey said.
"Yeah. Boober's doing a big radish roast today, remember? He needs a big radish for that."
"Oh, no, I forgot-" Mokey began, upset with herself.
"Hey, it's okay! I'll get it. I was looking for something to do anyway. You just go painting."
"Are you sure? Don't you want to come?"
"I'll come next time. 'Til then I'll practice looking at rocks so I'll be good and ready," he said cheerfully.
Wembley sang a half-nonsense song to himself as he bopped up the tunnel that led to the Gorgs' garden. Unlike most Fraggles, he liked Junior Gorg. He wasn't scary any more now that he was their friend. And he was their friend; not long ago he had abolished the Gorg monarchy. Not that Wembley understood what a monarchy was, and he was not quite sure about the word 'abolished' either, but he could see that Junior had decided that Gorgs were not the bosses of Fraggles and they should just be friends.
Now Fraggles could get radishes from the garden without having to scuttle around, fearful of being thumped. The Doozers also used the radishes, although Wembley had no idea how they picked them, as he never saw them in the garden. But, Wembley suddenly thought, what did they give the Gorgs? Gorgs did the work of farming the radishes that fed the Fraggles and supplied the Doozers with building material, and there were always enough radishes to go around, but it seemed like the Gorgs got nothing back, not even a thank-you. That didn't seem very nice. But what could a Fraggle give a Gorg? A rollie or smoothie—the typical gifts Fraggles passed among themselves to demonstrate affection—would be like a sand grain in a Gorg's huge hands.
When Wembley went out to the Garden he heard Junior, but he didn't see him. He walked between the rows of radishes, searching for the biggest one he could carry by himself. He had just found a good one when Junior came out of the tool shed carrying a knife and a basket. Wembley shouted, "Hi, Junior!"
Junior stopped in his tracks and looked down, in case he was about to step on someone. Then he spied Wembley's greenish-yellow among the pink and green of the radish patch. "Oh, Wembley. Gettin' a wadish?"
"Yeah. Boober's gonna have a big roast."
"Oh, have fun then."
Junior looked preoccupied, Wembley noticed. "What're you doing?" he asked.
"I gotta go into the swamp and get some bark."
"Ma and Pa feel bad, so I gotta get some thirsty-twee bark to make their headaches go away."
"Thirsty trees? What kind of trees are those?" Wembley asked, interested.
"Wanna come with me? I'll show you."
Carefully Junior picked Wembley up and put him in his shirt pocket. That was not the most comfortable mode of travel, but he could not keep up with the Gorg otherwise.
Junior walked into the swamp that surrounded the Gorgs' castle. After a minute he pointed to a tree whose branches seemed to be reaching down to the leaf-littered water around its roots. "That's a thirsty-twee."
"Oh, those. We call them drooptrees. And, hey! We make tea out of their bark for headaches."
"Weally? I'm making tea too." Junior knelt down carefully to avoid tipping Wembley out of his pocket. He took out a knife longer than Wembley was tall and cut a vertical strip of bark off the trunk. As he rolled it up and placed it in his basket Wembley said, "We passed a bunch of these trees on the way. Is this one special or something?"
"No," Junior answered. "But I've already gotten bark from those other twees, and if you take too much bark off a twee it'll die."
"Oh." That would never have occurred to Wembley, but then a Fraggle didn't need much bark to chase away a headache.
Junior and Wembley returned to the castle. He didn't put Wembley back in the radish patch, and in fact it slipped his mind that the Fraggle was in his pocket until Wembley called out to him. He took him out and set him on the kitchen table, saying, "Sowwy, I forgot you were in there."
"I never thought you'd forget you were holding a Fraggle," Wembley said. "You look worried."
"Yeah I am," Junior admitted. "Ma and Pa have never both been so sick at the same time. I haven't made this stuff by myself before." He gestured at a book that was open on the table.
Wembley went over to look at it. The pages were taller than two Fraggles lying foot to head. They were thick and heavy and discolored with age. The paper was a creamy light brown, and the ink was a dark umber, with occasional paint to add other colors. Most interestingly, the pages were covered with images rather than words. He climbed onto the page to look at it more closely. The drawings were simple pictures of various things. The table shook slightly as Junior placed a wide, flat stone on it. On top of that he set a thing like a wide metal cup, and with a pair of tongs fished several coals out of the fireplace. He put the coals in the cup, then set a teapot on top of it. From above Wembley heard, "Could you move over? I need to wead that."
Wembley said as he got off the book, "Read it? The pictures?"
"Yeah. This is the wecipe for thirsty-twee tea."
"This is a recipe? Why's it in pictures instead of writing?"
Junior looked at something on the page, then started scraping the bark from the inside with a kitchen knife. "It's a weally, weally old book of wemedies and medicines and stuff. It's been passed through a lotta generations, so the language's changed. But pictures always mean the same thing."
Wembley looked again. At the top of the page it showed a cartoon of a Gorg clutching its head and grimacing with pain, zigzag lines radiating from the top of its head. That had to mean headache. As Junior scraped the bark Wembley puzzled through the rest of the page. There was a silhouette of a tree with limp, sagging branches, obviously a drooptree, then a closeup of the trunk, showing a segment of the bark had been removed. On the next line it showed the bark being scraped, a picture of just the shavings, and several lines from it that converged in what looked like, after a few moments of puzzling, a kind of teapot. Beside it was a pot with several small circles floating above it. Boiling water, he realized. Another pointer linked the boiling water to the teapot. Then the teapot pouring the tea into a cup. Wembley looked up. "I can read this! It's the same recipe we use, too!" he told Junior.
"Wow, Fwaggles and Gorgs use the same medicine. Who'd'a thought?" Junior remarked.
"I guess our headaches are the same."
"Yeah. Hurry up, you dumb water, and boil," Junior told the pot.
The boiling water suddenly reminded Wembley of why he was there: Boober's roast. He had completely forgotten! He said to Junior, "Um, could you put me on the ground? I need to get a radish."
"Sure." Junior grasped Wembley lightly around the waist and set him on the floor. "Bye-bye."
"Thanks. I'll come back right after I bring Boober his radish."
Junior didn't watch Wembley scuttle out the door. He checked the teapot again, and now the water was boiling. He added the bark shavings and put the lid on again. At least the recipe was simple. He could make tea. Tea was easy, even though he wasn't allowed to use the pot over the fire because he might burn himself. Instead of boiling water over the fire and pouring it over the bark in the teapot he could boil it in the teapot. It couldn't make that much difference, he thought. He leafed through the book, glancing through some of the other recipes. They were all described in similar style, but many used unfamiliar ingredients and complicated processes. He was glad he didn't have to fool with them.
Junior let the tea steep for a while, knowing that the longer it did, the stronger it would be, and from the way Ma and Pa looked, they needed it good and strong. When he judged it ready he poured it through a tea strainer into a pair of cups. Then he poured what was left over into another cup and tasted it himself. He flinched from the bitterness. His mother said that the best medicine tasted terrible, so this ought to have them up and about in no time. But Junior hated nasty-tasting medicine, so he stirred a spoonful of garlic juice into each cup.
He blew on the tea to cool it, then carried the cups to his parents' bedroom. He paused at the door. He should always knock. They had told him that many, many times. But he didn't have a free hand. Briefly he considered knocking with his elbow, but then he'd spill the tea. He decided that this was a special case, and anyway they had to be feeling too yucky to get all lovey-dovey, and pushed the door open with his behind.
The air inside the room was still and heavy. His mother glanced up. She looked terrible, her fur matted and her hair every which way. She was scratching her arms listlessly. His father was lying on his side, facing away from the door, and didn't seem to have noticed Junior. Junior said, "I bwought you some tea. For your headaches."
"You're a good boy," Ma said, beckoning him over.
He set one cup on the nightstand and held out the cup to his mother. She started to take it, but when he saw how unsteady her hands were he said, "Here, Ma, lemme help you."
"Thank you, dear," she said. Junior held the cup for her as she drank the tea. When she finished she said, "I feel better already. You used my recipe, didn't you?"
Pleased, he said, "Yeah. With extra garlic, the way you used to make it for me when I was little. Now for yours, Pa."
"I don't want any," Pa grumbled when Junior walked around to his side of the bed. "That stuff tastes terrible."
"No it doesn't," Ma said. "Drink it."
"Go away and let me sleep. I don't have a headache when I'm asleep."
"Junior, if he won't drink it hold his nose until he opens his mouth, then pour it in!"
"All right, all right, I'll drink it! At least it can't make me feel any worse."
He reached for the teacup, but Junior said, "I'll help you with it," and held it for him.
Pa shot a glare at Junior for not allowing him to accidentally fumble the cup and spill the tea. He drank it, then said in a surprised tone, "Why, that's not bad. Are you sure you got the right recipe?"
"Sure, that's thirsty-twee bark tea. I followed the book vewy carefully!"
Ma said, "Junior, you'd better keep looking in that book. I think we have more than headaches."
Distressed, Junior said, "What should I look for?"
"Well, I have a fever, and I feel terribly weak. And I itch a little."
"I itch a lot!" Pa cut in irritably. "And my fur and teeth ache, and so do my ears from listening to all this yammering!" He lowered his voice. "Junior, be a good Gorg and let your mother and me get some sleep."
"Wight you are, Mommy and Daddy." Junior threw a salute, gathered the teacups, and retreated back to the kitchen.
He went back to the book and began leafing through its pages. The symptoms were listed at the top. Many didn't match at all, or only a few of the symptoms matched. But after extensive skimming he found a page which listed all the symptoms, plus a few others that, according to the book, appeared in worse cases. The name of the disease was spelled out at the top, but the writing was so archaic he wasn't sure he was reading it right. It looked like 'Fracofif.'
"Huh. Never heard of that," Junior said to himself. He continued reading. Sick Gorgs should stay in bed and take medicine and avoid scratching. The recipe for the medicine was below, and it looked simple; it only included four drawings. A creature holding what looked like the head of a wheat stalk; three converging lines, a boiling pot, and a teacup shaded in dark. Simple enough: boil something and drink it, like tea. But he'd never heard of making food or drink out of an animal. Yuck! He leaned down and looked at the first drawing. It had a round, furry body, stick-thin arms and legs, and big, staring eyes. And if that was wheat it was holding, then it had to be tiny.
Junior's eyes widened. Then he glanced at the castle door.
Wembley scrambled—not very quickly, as he was dragging a radish as big as himself—through the tunnels and down to Boober's home. Boober heard Wembley's squeaky panting as he tugged the radish in, so he wasn't startled when Wembley stuck his head in through the curtain that served as the door to Boober's cave and shouted, "Guess what?"
Boober replied, "You finally brought me a radish."
"Yeah. Is this big enough?" Wembley pulled the curtain aside.
Boober stared. Not only was it more than big enough, Wembley had dragged it in on a large, tough leaf to avoid scraping its skin. "It's a honey! I'll be able to make dinner for all of Fraggle Rock out of this," Boober replied.
"Oh, good!" Wembley said. They both picked the vegetable up and carried it into Boober's kitchen. "Guess what else?"
Boober stroked the radish fondly. "You even got the leaves intact. I'll have salad on the side."
"That's great! But you know what? Gorgs drink drooptree bark tea too!"
Boober looked around the curve of the radish. Wembley grinned back at him. Boober said, "What?"
"They drink that for headaches. They call them thirsty-trees, but they're the same thing. Junior made some tea for his parents because they had headaches!"
"That's nice," Boober said absently as he prepared to wash the radish.
"Isn't that neat? They use the same medicine we do!"
Boober turned to Wembley and replied, "All the more reason you won't see me getting too close to them. If they use the same medicines, they can catch the same diseases. Yuch!"
"Gee, I didn't think of it that way."
"And Gorg germs are huge. They have to be, to infect Gorgs. Germs the size of your head, swarming through the air! Imagine what they'd do to us! Why don't you help me cook this? But wash your hands first if you've been playing with Gorgs."
Torn between his promise to return to Junior, which he really wanted to do, and his impulse to agree to whatever any of his friends asked of him, he said, "Um, well, that is..."
Boober, recognizing an incipient wembling fit, took pity on him and said, "Never mind. I'll see you at dinner, 'kay?"
"Okay. See you!" Wembley scampered off.
Wembley hurried back up to the Gorgs' garden and, since the front door was ajar, peeked in just in case Ma and Pa were around. They always got upset when they saw Fraggles in their home. However, only Junior was there, sitting at the table, a worried expression on his face. Wembley walked in and said, "Didn't the tea work?"
Junior looked down. "Oh, hi, Wembley. No, it wasn't enough. Ma and Pa are weally sick."
"Oh, I'm sorry."
Junior lowered a hand to the floor, and Wembley got on. Junior lifted him up. "I've never had to take care of Mommy and Daddy. I don't know what to do."
Twisting around in Junior's hand, Wembley saw that the book was open to a different page. "Is there a cure in here for them?"
Uneasily Junior said, "Well...I don't know."
"What's wrong with them?" Wembley asked. He didn't expect to have any answers for Junior, but sometimes it helped to talk things out.
"The book calls it 'fwacofif'," Junior said.
Wembley could barely see the writing at the top of the page, but that's what it looked like to him. "There's a cure for it, right?"
"Yeah, there's an antidote. But I'd need a Fwaggle," Junior said unhappily.
"Really? I'll help! But could you put me down? You're squeezing me."
"Oh, sowwy." Junior put him down on the table. "I gotta go check on Ma and Pa now," he said, and got up and left.
Wembley watched as Junior hurried out of the room. Poor guy, he thought. He's really worried. It was hard to believe, because Junior was so huge and had lived unimaginably long, but he really was just a kid. He liked to play with Fraggles the same way Fraggle children played with rock beetles. And there were only two other Gorgs in the world! It was bad enough seeing someone you loved get sick, maybe dangerously so. It must be much, much worse when you only have two other people of your own kind in your life.
PLACE COMERCIAL HERE
Soon Junior returned to the kitchen. He looked even more upset. Wembley said, "Not good?"
Junior shook his head. "They look like they're awake and asleep at the same time, and they're all hot with fever. This is a whole lot worse than before. I gotta make them some medicine!"
Wembley watched, puzzled, as Junior began leafing through the book again. "Didn't you already find the cure?"
"Yeah, but..." He looked away and continued leafing quickly through the book. When he found a fever remedy he put the book down. "I gotta make this first. For their fevers." He looked through the list of ingredients—which was, to his relief, Fraggle-free—then went into the cellar where Ma kept the herbs and things that had to stay cool.
When he came back Wembley was reading the page. He got out of the way while Junior set out some seeds and dried herbs on the table. The Gorg rinsed out the small teapot with some water from a bucket, then put fresh coals in the base and refilled the pot from a pitcher. Looking back and forth between the book and the cutting board as he worked, he began chopping up the seeds and separating out the bits of the herbs he would need. This wasn't a difficult recipe, but he'd never made it before, and he was nervous.
He heard a soft sound, and glanced at the teapot. Wembley—Junior had forgotten he was here—was sitting by the base and blowing through the air holes to make the coals burn hotter.
When the medicine was finished brewing Junior poured out two cups and took them to his parents' bedroom. They were both asleep. He went quietly to the bed and set the cups down, then patted his mother's arm and said, "Wakey-wakey, Mommy. I got some more medicine."
Her eyes opened blearily, and she looked up at him. Then she jerked back and shrieked, "Fraggles! Get those Fraggles out of here!"
"Fwaggles?" Junior looked around, startled.
"They're everywhere!" She was swatting weakly at the blanket, as if the bed was infested. "Go away, you vermin!"
Several of the blows landed on Pa. "Huh? What?" he groaned.
"Fraggles! They're everywhere!"
Junior protested, "But there aren't any Fraggles, Ma! Not in here, anyway."
Pa growled, "If your mother says there are Fraggles, then there're Fraggles! Get rid of 'em, you dunderheaded lummox!"
"Do something!" Ma wailed.
Frightened, Junior darted out of the room. He asked Wembley in a whisper, "Ma's seeing Fwaggles that aren't there! What do I do?"
"That happened to me once. I had a fever so high I was hallucinating poison cacklers—"
"I saw things that weren't there," Wembley rephrased. "They sure seemed real. But Boober—he knows all about sickness—stayed with me and kept telling me they weren't real, I was seeing things because I had a really bad fever, and after a while I believed him."
"I gotta tell her they're not weal?"
"Yeah. Just talk to them. Tell them that you're there and you'll take care of them. It'll make them feel better," Wembley said encouragingly.
He doubted that just talking would work. His parents could be really, really stubborn. They'd just call him a dunderheaded lummox again. Which wasn't so bad; Junior was used to it. But he'd need more than words to convince them that there were no Fraggles in their bedroom. Then inspiration struck, and he grabbed Wembley.
He rushed into his parents' bedroom, one arm around his back, and made snatching motions at the bedspread with his other hand. "I'll get you Fwaggles! No Fwaggles are gonna invade my Mommy and Daddy's bedwoom!"
"Get them, Junior!" Ma said, cringing.
Junior held Wembley up in one hand. "Got 'em! Here's the nasty Fwaggle! Now I'll get wid of 'em so you can west all nice and peaceful!"
"Oh, take it away!"
"And pipe down!" Pa snapped.
Junior took Wembley back to the kitchen and put him gently down on the table. Wembley sat down dizzily. That had been a rough ride. Junior said, "Sowwy about that, but I didn't know what else to do to make them believe me."
"Yeah, it's all right," Wembley replied. He looked up and said, "Junior, I know you're really worried, but they're gonna be all right. People get really sick sometimes, but when people take care of them and give them the right medicine they get better again."
"The wight medicine..."
"Yeah. Just do your best, and I know they'll get better."
"I gotta go give them the stuff for their fevers," Junior said, and left.
This time there was no hubbub, just the sound of voices in the other room. Wembley could tell who was speaking, but not what they were saying. Junior was doing most of the speaking, or, as it sounded, wheedling. It reminded him of the way Boober had spoken to him when he had the pebble pox. Wembley smiled. Despite how sick he had been, it was a fond memory. Boober had put aside his dread of unknown caves and contagious germs and nursed him through the worst of the illness. Because he had treated Wembley's illness early on, Wembley had soon recovered.
Why hadn't Junior used the cure he found in the book? With both hands he turned pages that were wider than he was tall, and looked at the top of each page. Eventually he come to the one that read "Fracofif." Or, he thought as he looked at letters foreshortened by his low angle, maybe "Fracosis." He had never heard of either.
He looked at the images that described symptoms. They looked like the flu, with an allergic rash thrown in for variety. Moving down, he saw that the cure was simple, or at least short. A Fraggle holding a stick with something on the end, an arrow, boiling water, a teapot, and a shaded teacup. Make strong tea out of—what was that branch, and why was a Fraggle holding it?
When Junior came back with the empty teacups he found Wembley staring at the page. Wembley looked up and asked, "What's this mean?"
"You don't wanna know."
"Why not? It looks like tea, but I can't tell what you're supposed to make it out of."
And they call me dense, Junior thought. "It's Fwaggle tea," he admitted in a low voice.
Wembley started to laugh, but when he saw the look in Junior's face the humor drained out of the situation. Junior reached for him, and he fled to the edge of the table. He stopped there, looking for some way down that wouldn't injure him. Junior's hand wrapped around him firmly and lifted him into the air.
"That can't be right," Wembley said. "There's no medicine in a Fraggle body, and nothing to make tea out of!"
"I can make bwoth, though," Junior pointed out. He sounded queasy.
"You can't make that either! It'd kill me!" Wembley shrieked.
"Maybe I wouldn't need a whole Fwaggle. Maybe just part of one, like your tail?"
"But I need my tail! It's part of me!"
"But to save Mommy and Daddy-"
"If you take my tail, it won't make your parents any better, it'll only maim me!"
Junior paused, thinking. "Yeah. A little bitty tail's not enough, I guess," he murmured. It would be horrible to hurt Wembley like that for nothing. But he had to save Ma and Pa! They looked worse every time he saw them! But, he thought as he looked down at the Fraggle struggling to escape his grip, how could he turn his first Fraggle friend into medicine? He had a sudden inspiration, and asked, "Maybe there's a Fwaggle who's old or sick and not going to live vewy long anyway?"
In disbelief Wembley said, "You want me to go get another Fraggle for you?"
"Yeah! Would you?"
"No! Junior, if you killed someone, no matter who it is, you'd be killing a person! Someone's mother or father or son or daughter or something!"
"But one Fwaggle could save two Gorgs!"
"Would you let us kill your mother or father to save two Fraggles?"
"If I was still King of the Universe I could command you to bwing me one!"
"I still wouldn't do it! No Fraggle would!" Wembley shouted, then lowered his voice and pleaded, "Come on, Junior, you can't really want to do this. You know that killing Fraggles is bad. Remember how you felt when you thought your trap killed one of us? You know what's right, and hurting other people isn't it."
"But I need my Mommy and Daddy! Why can't you understand that?" Junior exclaimed desperately. Holding Wembley tightly with one hand, he took the cutting board from the pantry and put it on the table with a loud clatter. He held Wembley down on the board with a thumb across his stomach and said, "I'll make this quick!"
When he raised the kitchen knife Wembley screamed.
Carefully the knife made the first cut, piercing the ruddy skin and then biting into the soft, white flesh within. Boober had cooked the huge radish to perfection, and now he was proudly serving it up in the great hall to everyone who brought a plate. He carved it himself, as it would be at its most delectable when sliced properly thin. He would have liked to drizzle the sauce over it too, but he only had two hands. People could ladle it out themselves, and take some of the herbed radish greens that he had prepared for side salads.
Soon everyone had a helping, and there was still plenty of radish left. Knowing that many would come back for seconds, he cut up more of the vegetable. Then he took a slice for himself, sprinkled the sauce over it, and added some salad. He went over to where Red and Gobo were eating. They both gave Boober a nod and smile, but didn't speak. This pleased Boober. He liked to see them appreciating his cooking.
They ate quietly for a little while. Then Boober spoke. "Where's Wembley? I just realized I didn't serve him."
"I don't know," Gobo answered. "I haven't seen him for hours. I thought he was helping you."
Red said, "He's probably standing at a fork in the tunnel, trying to decide which way to go to get back here."
Gobo would have liked to defend his friend, but, well, Wembley really could be that indecisive sometimes. "He'll be here. He never misses one of your feasts."
"I wish Mokey was here too," Red said. "But you know her. Nothing can compete with the call of art, not even the dinner bell."
Boober said, "I'll save her some. And if Wembley isn't back soon I'll make a plate for him too."
Surprised, Junior lowered the knife. Wembley had screamed piercingly, then stopped moving. Had Junior scared him to death? He lifted the limp body. He couldn't see him breathing. But when he gently pressed a fingertip to the Fraggle's tiny throat he could feel a pulse. Relief washed through him. He had only fainted. He was still alive!
Junior looked at the knife on the table. If he did it now, Wembley wouldn't feel anything. But... he couldn't do it. Wembley was right; killing a creature, no matter how little, was an unthinkably terrible thing to do, even if it was to save someone else's life. And Wembley had always been so nice to him!
Maybe he wouldn't need the Fraggle medicine. Maybe somewhere in the book there was another cure. Maybe if he found things to make their headaches and fever and itchiness go away they'd be well again. He looked around, then went to his room and got an old cage. He put Wembley inside, set it on a high shelf in the pantry, and put the cutting board on top so he couldn't pop the latch.
He sat down at the kitchen table and began reading through the book again. He wished he had some more thirsty-tree bark; he had a headache too. But he was too tired to go out and cut more.
Later that evening, Gobo started to wonder about Wembley. It wasn't like him to be gone for so long without telling anyone where he was. He put down his gourd guitar and went over to Boober's room.
Before Gobo could speak Boober asked, "Have you seen Wembley?"
"No. I was hoping you had."
"No. And the radish I saved for him is cold, and the texture will suffer. It'll only be fit to make sandwiches with."
"Let's check with Red and Mokey."
The two of them went into the Great Hall. They saw Red looking out the window that overlooked the huge cavern. Gobo called up to her, "Is Wembley up there?"
She shook her head. "Nope," she called back, and disappeared.
She met them in the passage leading from the Great Hall to the room that she and Mokey shared. She said, "Maybe we ought to go look for the little green guy, just in case. Any idea where he went?"
"No, no idea," Gobo replied.
Unhappily Boober said, "Um... before he left he was talking about the Gorgs."
"What about them?" Gobo asked.
"Well... how they drink drooptree bark for headaches."
"What? Who cares?" Red exclaimed.
"He was all excited about how Gorgs and Fraggles use the same headache remedy."
The three Fraggles exchanged looks. The Fraggles and Gorgs had been on approximately friendly terms since Junior had renounced the throne. But they did not actually trust the Gorgs yet, and would not put it past them to capture or thump a naïve, trusting Fraggle. Gobo said it: "Let's go."
The three Fraggles emerged into the Gorgs' garden. It was quiet, and the ground was no more trampled than usual. Usually Junior's cleated shoes tore up the ground when he chased Fraggles. Gobo took point and led them toward the castle door. Red looked all around, in case any traps had been set. Boober lagged behind, in theory so that if Gobo and Red got caught by traps, he could free them again, but in reality simply because he was terrified.
Wembley awakened to find himself in a wicker cage. He'd expected to be dead; the last thing he remembered was Junior about to stew him! And then... he sat up and looked at himself. He was unhurt, aside from a little soreness from being held so tightly. He turned quickly and looked behind himself; his tail was still here. He sighed with relief.
He looked out through the bars. He was way up high, in the pantry, surrounded by spices and jars and dried foods. Junior, sitting at the table, had fallen asleep reading the medicine book. The knife was still on the table.
The only sound Wembley heard was Junior's snoring. The only movement was the flickering of the fireplace light—and something at the base of the doors. A speck of color. When it moved inward and another followed it he realized what he was looking at. He jumped to his feet and, clutching the bars, drew in a breath to shout to them. He stopped himself just in time, however, because at the last moment he realized that he would wake Junior up. The Gorg liked him, but he barely knew Red and Gobo, and might not spare them if he caught them. Wembley waved. They didn't notice. He flapped both hands, trying to attract their attention. It didn't work; they weren't looking up this high. He looked around for something he could throw. The only things he could reach through the cage bars were jars bigger than he was. Then he got an idea, and unbuttoned his shirt.
Boober, just outside the doors, whimpered, "Gobo, Red, come back! The place is full of Gorgs and germs!"
Red turned back. "You don't have to come in, Boober. Just keep watch and yell if Junior wakes up."
"No! I know what disease smells like! This place is full of sick Gorgs! Please, don't go any farther!" Boober begged in a whisper.
Gobo asked, "Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure! Don't I have the best nose in the rock?"
"Well, he's got us there," Red told Gobo. "Wembley wouldn't hang around a Gorg sickroom."
They turned to leave. Boober, almost weak with relief, had turned back when he saw a flicker of movement out of the corner of his eye. "What was that?"
Red and Gobo turned back and saw something white fluttering to the ground in front of the open pantry. As it fell they saw a familiar banana tree design. "Wembley?" Red exclaimed.
All three Fraggles looked up and spotted Wembley waving frantically from a cage. Without hesitation all three took off running,
Red and Gobo scaled the pantry without much difficulty, as there were heavy jars they could climb on and utensils they could shinny up. Under other circumstances it would have been fun. Boober, who was less athletic, kept up with much assistance. Soon they were on the shelf with Wembley's cage. Gobo passed Wembley's shirt through the cage bars. As Wembley put it back on he exclaimed in a stage whisper, "Get me out of here, quick! But don't wake Junior up!"
Gobo asked, "Where's the door?"
"I don't know. I must have fainted before he put me in here."
Boober, who had been admiring an enormous glass jar that smelled of honey, turned back and said, "You fainted? What happened?"
"Oh, it was horrible! Junior's mother and father are sick—really sick, like they have a bad flu or something—and Junior was trying to make medicine for them. That's how I found out they use drooptree bark tea; it's in their medicine book."
"The fainting?" Boober prompted.
"I was trying not to think about that. The cure for 'gorgofif,' whatever that is, is a boiled Fraggle! He was going to use me!"
"He was going to cook you?" Red exclaimed, horrified.
"Shhh!" Wembley hissed. "Yeah! He thought his ma and pa would die if he doesn't feed me to them! He caught me, and he put me on the cutting board, and he had this huge knife, and—I must have fainted!"
"Well, don't worry, we'll get you out," Gobo said, gritting his teeth angrily.
Boober watched as Red and Gobo set to work inspecting the cage for weak points. After a minute he said, "I know what the cure for the common Gorg is."
"Does it involve me?" Wembley whimpered.
Boober said darkly, "No. I can make it myself. I'll go get the things I need."
Boober climbed down with some difficulty. Down was easier than up, at least. He made it to the floor safely and fled through the hole in the castle wall.
He ran down the passage to his home, and entered the room behind it. He used this hidden chamber to dry and store the items he used in his remedies. He always kept extra on hand in case of epidemics or other catastrophes. He had many times more threadroot than he needed—a big jar of the fibers, much more potent after drying—in normal circumstances. Well, this was hardly a normal circumstance. As an afterthought he took one of his germproof masks. Before he returned to the Gorgs' castle he went to Wembley and Gobo's room and got several ropes. There was no way he could climb while holding onto this jar.
He paused only a few seconds to nerve himself before running back up the tunnel to do his duty.
PLACE COMMERCIAL HERE
When Boober returned to the castle, Red and Gobo were still trying to free Wembley. Currently they were struggling to remove the heavy cutting board that was atop the cage, blocking its door. It was up to him, then.
He nerved himself. He could barely believe what he was about to do. But it was for the good of all. Well, his getting himself thumped wouldn't be good for anyone, especially himself, but after hearing what Junior wanted to do to Wembley...
Holding one end, Boober tossed the coil of rope up to the back of the chair. After several tries it looped around one of the back supports and the other end fell down to him. He knotted the ends together and, the threadroot jar tied to his back, climbed up slowly and with much effort. When he reached the seat he stopped, panting, his hands on his knees. He was not an athletic Fraggle.
When he got his wind back he looked up. The table was two Fraggle heights overhead. He doubted there was anything to catch his rope on up there. But he could climb up the chair arm. He did that, first shinnying up the tree-trunk-like support, then crouching on the armrest, hoping he wouldn't fall off, land on his back, break the jar, and be stabbed to death by a shard. He inched forward, then pulled himself up over the rim of the table. Once on the table he rubbed his arms and muttered, "I'm gonna feel this tomorrow."
The Gorg was still asleep. Boober was amazed; it had seemed to him that he had made more noise than a rumblebug colony during the swarming season. For once his luck must be running the right way. He went over to the tabletop pot. It was full of hot water; Junior had fallen asleep in the middle of something. Gorgs boiled water in their teapots? Boober shook his head; it was just like those crude, bumbling Gorgs to botch something as simple as making tea. Quickly Boober unscrewed the lid of the jar and dumped in more threadroot than the entire population of Fraggle Rock could use in three years. After stirring it with a teaspoon that was, in Fraggle hands, the size of a shovel, he knelt down and blew into the base as hard as he could. The coals within brightened.
Junior's eyes flickered open when he felt the heat on his face. He saw a single Fraggle using the pot. At first he was puzzled, but then he realized what was happening. He had caught the same thing that Ma and Pa had, and was hallucinating Fraggles too. But since he liked Fraggles, that wasn't a problem. If he had to be deathly ill, at least he would be entertained.
Boober stirred the threadroot brew. When the bitter smell began to bother him he put on the mask. It was potent stuff, perhaps even strong enough for the fumes to affect him. He was not about to pass out on the Gorgs' table so he could be the second course.
Up in the pantry Wembley said, "Oh, no!"
Gobo and Red had moved some jars into place and were using a long cooking spoon to try to lever the cutting board off the top of the cage. "What?"
"Junior woke up!"
"Oh, great!" Red exclaimed.
"Hold on, let it down," Gobo said, because if he let go of the spoon it would snap back down and sling Red across the room. They eased the spoon back up. Then Gobo called as loud as he dared, "Boober!"
After a few tries Boober looked up to see Red and Gobo waving frantically. He shrugged exaggeratedly to mime "What?"
To answer they both pointed at something beyond him. Puzzled, he looked around, and met Junior's bleary gaze. Boober froze, transfixed. He began to feel lightheaded, and his vision started to grey out. Junior mumbled, "Hello, imaginawy Fwaggle."
Boober paused in mid-faint. "Imaginary?"
"Yeah. I'm sick and seeing things, like you. Are you making tea?"
Wembley shouted, "He's making medicine, Junior! He's going to help you and your Ma and Pa!"
"Imaginawy Fwaggles can do that?" Junior said, impressed.
"Yeah! So, you don't need me for the cure, so why don't you let me out of this cage, huh? Please?"
"Oh, yeah, sure." With some effort Junior made himself get up. Red and Gobo darted behind the jars, ready to push them onto Junior's head if he hurt Wembley. Junior paid them no attention; he lifted the cutting board off the cage, reached into it, and picked Wembley up. He returned to the table and set Wembley on his feet, then sat back down on the chair and rested his head in his arms on the table.
The Gorg's hand had been hot. "Oh, no, you caught it too," Wembley said. "But don't worry, Boober knows what to do."
Boober said, "Keep talking to him. Keep him calm."
"Okay." Wembley said to Junior, "Boober knows all about medicine. I was really sick with pebble pox this one time, and we were out on the middle of the caves, and he made medicine and watched over me until I could walk back with him. At first I was really scared because of all the germs and things that got me, but he told me about how getting sick once in a while is normal and happens to everybody, and even though it makes you feel really bad you shouldn't be afraid of it because you'll get better."
"Gee, that's nice," Junior mumbled. "I'm sowwy he had to cook you."
Wembley paused, startled. Junior's eyes were at half-mast; he really was out of it. "He isn't cooking me. He has different medicine. It's made with—What's it made with, Boober?"
"Never mind," Boober muttered, stirring the pot, looking into the swirling fluid.
Wembley looked over Boober's shoulder. "It smells like—"
Boober held an arm in front of Wembley. "Don't sniff it! This is very potent. Even the vapor might affect you. Why do you think I'm wearing this mask?"
"'Cause of germs?"
"Don't remind me," Boober said, glancing at Junior, who seemed to have dozed off. "As soon as I'm done here we can get out of this plague house."
Wembley noticed the jar Boober had brought, and read the label. "Threadroot?"
Boober stirred the boiling liquid and did not answer.
"Isn't threadroot what you used to put Rumple to sleep when he had a broken leg, and you had to set the bone, and he wouldn't hold still because it hurt too bad?"
"It can be used that way," Boober muttered.
"You made some tea out of it. It was really weak, and you only gave it to him a little at a time until he fell asleep because too much and he might not wake up again..."
Boober gritted his teeth. This was a heck of a time for Wembley to have an attack of perfect memory.
Boober's silence frightened Wembley. "Boober! That can't be..."
"The cure for the common Gorg!" Boober whispered harshly. "He tried to kill and eat you, remember?"
Wembley glanced over at the pantry. Red and Gobo were climbing down. He would get no help from them. "But he didn't!"
"So you want to give him another try?"
"Boober! He had me in his hand, and he wanted to make me into medicine for his ma and pa, and I was so scared I fainted, and he could have done it then, but he didn't, he put me in that cage instead! Even to save his mom and dad he couldn't kill me 'cause he knows it's wrong!"
"Oh, you're sure he had a change of heart, are you?" Boober replied heatedly.
"I'm alive, aren't I? Boober, look, it's hard to tell because he's so big, but he's just a kid. He's scared for his mama and papa. If he lost them he'd be all alone. Can you imagine being the last Fraggle in the world?"
Boober paused. He knew what it was like to lose a family. It had happened to him once.
Wembley, seeing an opening, pleaded, "Boober, you do good things. You cook great food and make remedies to keep us healthy and you give us clean clothes. You make the world a better place. You don't really want to hurt Junior, do you?" He pointed at the book. "He read all through that book of remedies and tried everything else he could find first. Look, it's right there. He didn't make it up."
"Book of remedies? A Gorg medicine book?" Boober was surprised; he didn't think Gorgs were that organized.
"Yeah. Look, it's still open to that recipe."
Boober had noticed the book, of course, but it was so big that he had considered it scenery. Interested despite himself, he handed Wembley the spoon and said, "Stir that for me, and don't breathe the steam."
Boober went to the book, and was surprised to see that most of it was pictures. Wembley had said that it described how to make Fraggle tea. There, at the bottom of the page was a cartoon Fraggle holding a berry branch, a pointer leading from the Fraggle to boiling water and a teapot, and a filled teacup. He climbed up onto the book and read the title, or tried to, then dismissed it and moved down. The symptoms were headaches, fever, itchiness, rash, staticky fur... He stared, then looked back down at the drawing of the Fraggle.
Wembley watched, bemused, as Boober went over to Junior's face and touched his cheek and nose as if searching for something. Then he stomped away from the Gorg, took the spoon that Wembley had been absently stirring the brew with, marched back to Junior, and swatted him on the nose with it. "You idiot! You fool! You—you—" He choked with rage.
"Dunderheaded lummox," Junior mumbled.
"—thank you—dunderheaded lummox!"
Red and Gobo had just climbed up the chair and reached the tabletop in time to see Boober attacking Junior with a spoon. Thinking that their friend had lost his mind, they rushed forward and grabbed him and his weapon. "Boober! What's gotten into you?"
"What's gotten into me? What's gotten into him! Look at him!"
"Yeah, so, he's a sick Gorg. Poor baby. Let's get out of here!" Red answered, dragging Boober away.
To her surprise, Boober fought back and actually succeeded in freeing himself. He said, "Headache! Fever! Delirium! Itchiness! Frizzy fur! What does that sound like?" He went over to Junior and ruffled the fur that covered his face, revealing a rash-like spot. "This hairy oaf has pebble pox! They all do! And he was going to stew Wembley because he can't read! Look at this!" He pointed at the drawing of the Fraggle. "See that! That Fraggle's holding a branch full of duganberries!"
"And it's duganberry tea that cures pebble pox!" Wembley exclaimed.
Red said, "Why's a Fraggle holding them?"
Gobo answered, "To show how small they are, maybe?"
Boober said, "Because duganberries only grow underground, where Fraggles live. Get some duganberries from a Fraggle, it means!"
"That's great!" Wembley exclaimed. "So let's get the duganberries and make the cure!"
Boober looked as if he wanted to refuse, but he said nothing. Red and Gobo glanced at each other. They had not heard the argument between Wembley and Boober; they only knew that Junior had captured Wembley, intending to cook him up, and now Wembley was defending the Gorg. Wembley, exasperated, shouted, "Look! It was me he was going to have for tea, and me who was in the cage! I've got the right to forgive him! So get the duganberries!"
Startled, Red said, "Okay, okay, we'll go!"
Gobo glanced at her, surprised, then told Boober, "Yeah."
"Good! I'll stay here with Boober."
Boober said, "Only get ripe duganberries. Leave the unripe ones on the bush; we'll need those as soon as they ripen, if these Gorgs are as sick as they look."
Red and Gobo climbed down onto the chair arm. Boober looked at the threadroot brew, then said with a sigh, "We'd better dump this out."
They both took the handle—the only part of the teapot that wasn't hot to the touch—and began to rock the pot. Soon it rocked far enough to tip over. The brew sloshed across the table and spilled over the edge. Boober said, "When this cools down I'll clean out the roots. Yuch, what a mess."
"Will we need to wash the pot out?"
"How? We're up here and the water's down there. But it doesn't matter. If there's only a little bit of threadroot in there it'll just help them rest."
"That just leaves the question of how we're going to get the water up here, not to mention more coals for the base. What's in there now won't last 'til they get back."
"I'll have to wake Junior up for that, I guess."
"Wait 'til Red and Gobo come back."
Red and Gobo ran down the tunnel leading into Fraggle Rock. Gobo said, "Getting medicine for the Gorgs. I can't believe we're doing this."
"I can't believe that Wembley and Boober are telling us what to do," Red replied. Wembley was normally so meek and indecisive that people often ran over him, and Boober was so nervous it was hard to imagine him leading anything more intense than a laundry class. It was startling to see either of them stand up for themselves—but on those rare occasions when they did, it was important.
"We need something to carry the berries in," Gobo said. "There are baskets in the pantry."
"Yeah. And if there's nothing free, we can snag Boober's laundry basket."
There were several large baskets in the pantry with fresh peas and beans in them. Knowing that Boober would fuss if they just dumped them out on the ground, they laid out some clean blankets and poured the food onto those. They each took a basket and ran down to the Cave of Shadows.
Normally the Cave of Shadows was a spooky place, but the Fraggles scattered around the cavern, working with great concentration at their easels, lightened the ambience. Gobo said, "Mokey's painting class. I forgot about them."
Mokey, hearing their voices, turned and said, "Red, Gobo! Have you come to paint with us?"
Red said, "No. We need to pick duganberries. Lots of 'em, quick. We could use help."
Mokey said, "Well, of course we'll help. Won't we?" The other Fraggles nodded agreement.
Glancing around, Red counted seven Fraggles in the cave besides herself, Gobo, and Mokey. She pointed to several of Mokey's students and said, "You three, Mokey, you're on my team. Gobo, you have the rest. We'll fill our basket before you fill yours!"
Trust Red to turn this into a competition, Gobo thought. But it would get the job done, and fast. He replied, "You're on. And, everyone, only pick ripe berries, leave the green ones alone. We'll need those later."
Red shouted, "On your mark, get set, go!"
The Fraggles scattered into the cave, so transported by excitement that they didn't bother to ask what the berries were for.
Soon the ten Fraggles had stripped the cave of ripe duganberries, and Red and Gobo had two nearly full baskets. Red had told Mokey about Junior while picking berries, so Mokey dismissed the painting class and went back to the surface with her friends.
They entered the castle through the hole in the wall. Wembley, who had been acting as lookout, said, "They're back! And they have the berries!"
"Hip hip hooray," Boober commented drily.
Wembley paid no attention to Boober's grumpiness. He patted Junior on the nose and said, "Junior, wake up. Junior!" The Gorg didn't stir, and Wembley could feel the heat of his fever. He knocked on one of the Gorg's eyelids and shouted, "Junior! Wake up!"
Junior's eyes opened a little. "Mmph. I wanna sleep in."
"You can go back to sleep in a minute. But first I need you to fill the teapot with water and put some coals in the base so we can make tea. You'd like some tea, wouldn't you? It'll make you feel lots better."
Slowly and lethargically Junior picked the pitcher off the floor and poured it in the general vicinity of the pot, in the process drenching Wembley. Wembley said, "That's fine, now get some coals."
Junior lifted the base of the teapot and dumped the ashes onto the fire, which was burning low due to neglect. Then he used a pair of tongs to clumsily scrape some glowing coals off the wood and drop them into the base, with Wembley coaching him anxiously, afraid that the Gorg would burn someone.
While that was going on Boober had let down the rope, and Red and Gobo had tied their baskets to it so he could haul the berries up while they climbed up the chair. They were heavy, but years at the scrub board had built up his upper body strength. By the time all the baskets and Fraggles were on the table Junior had replaced the teapot on its base, and Wembley was blowing into it to make it hotter.
Mokey went up to Junior Gorg and patted a finger as thick as her waist. "Don't worry, you'll be your old self in no time at all," she chirped.
"I will? Who am I now?" he asked, confused.
She laughed softly. "I've had pebble pox too. We all have; everyone catches it sooner or later. But you can only catch it once. After that, you're immune."
"Ma and Pa too?"
"Of course." She patted his finger again. "And think of all the sleep you can get while you're getting better. When you've recovered you'll be just bursting with energy!"
Boober, who had been watching Mokey, turned away and, shaking his head, grumbled, "I don't believe this. Making tea for a Gorg. If you can call this tea."
"Believe it," Wembley said cheerfully. "So what do we do next?"
"When the water boils, we have to squash the duganberries or cut them in half—break the skin somehow—and stir them in. When the tea's ready, we need to strain out the skins and pulp."
Gobo asked, "Will that stuff mess up the medicine?"
Affronted, Boober replied, "No, but would you want to drink tea full of pulp and skins? Think of the mouthfeel. Yuch!"
The water boiled, and Wembley, Red, Mokey, and Gobo squished berries between their hands and threw them in while Boober stirred until he told them to stop. He sniffed it and lifted a spoonful to inspect its color and texture. As a final test he tasted it, then, satisfied, said "It's ready. Where's the tea strainer?"
"Maybe we better skip that," Gobo told him. "The only one who can pour this is Junior, and I think he's gonna be doing good to get it in the cups at all."
Boober frowned. He hated to serve anything that was poorly made, but Gobo was right. And it wasn't like a Gorg would know any better. The only thing they could taste, he told himself, was garlic. "Fine. Wake him up. This has to be drunk while it's hot; if it cools it loses its potency."
Wembley knocked on Junior's eyelid again and said, "Wake up, Junior! The medicine's ready."
Junior's eyelids flickered, and he said "Aw, I wanted tea."
"Okay, you can have tea. It's special Fraggle tea. It'll make you feel better."
Junior jerked awake. "Fwaggle tea?" He looked at the five Fraggles on the table, then at the open book. "Did you...?"
Boober shouted, "No, we did not kill someone for your tea! Look at this!" He walked over to the book and pointed with the spoon. "See this? It's a Fraggle holding a duganberry branch covered with berries. Berries which grow in Fraggle caves. Which are used to cure pebble pox. Which is what you have! This means get duganberries from a Fraggle, not eat a Fraggle!"
Gobo joined in, "You would have killed Wembley because you couldn't read!"
Red added, "What kind of dimp doesn't recognize pebble pox? Everyone gets pebble pox!"
Junior, as sick as he was, understood the mistake he had nearly made. He looked at Wembley and, after a pause, murmured, "I'm sowwy."
"Sowwy," Boober snorted.
"We understand," Mokey said.
Wembley said, "Look, the tea's ready, so drink some and give some to your Ma and Pa. Drink it while it's hot."
"Okay," Junior said.
He managed to pour three cups full without more than minor splattering, and carried two out of the room. Boober put down the spoon and said to Wembley, "Are you happy now?"
Wembley either missed or ignored the sarcasm. "Yeah. Thanks, Boober. And thanks, everyone, for rescuing me!"
They had only tried to rescue him; Junior had actually set him free. But it was the thought that counted. "Like we would've left you here? Not a chance," Gobo said.
"Yeah," Red said.
Mokey had nothing to add, so she hugged Wembley from behind. He said, "Awww!"
Junior shuffled back into the room. He drank the last cup of tea. "That's nice. Could use a little garlic," he mused. Then he said, "I'm weally sowwy, Wembley. If I'd hurt you, I'd'a hated myself for the rest of my life. I'll never twy to hurt a Fwaggle again, never ever."
Wembley told him, "What's important is that you didn't do it. You know what's right and what's wrong."
Junior glanced at the door to his parents' room. "Sometimes it's weally hard to tell."
"That's when you ask your friends for help."
"I wish I could! But I just got Ma and Pa. And Gewaldine, but she's not vewy good at giving advice."
Wembley laid a hand on Junior's thumb. "We can be your friends," he said.
Mokey said, "Of course. If you had just asked us, none of this would have happened in the first place. Live and learn."
Red thought, Only Mokey could say that and actually mean it.
Gruffly Boober said, "Go to bed and get some rest. You won't get well any faster if you stand around here."
"Okay." Junior started to go, then remembered what a climb the table was for Fraggles and said, "I'll put you on the floor."
"No thanks. We have ropes," Gobo said.
Boober, unwilling to ride in the hands of a disease-raddled Gorg, said, "I need the exercise!"
The Gorg left. Gobo started down the rope. Wembley looked at the duganberry baskets. They were half full. He said to Boober, "There's enough for another pot. Let's leave 'em here."
"Yes. If his parents are as sick as you said, they'll need more tomorrow..."
Wembley, sensing Boober's unwillingness to go on, said, "I'll come back and help Junior make the tea then. I watched how you did it."
"Thanks," Boober said, relieved.
"You going to hang around here 'til then? Come on!" Red said.
"All right, all right," Boober said, and took the rope. He peered over the edge of the table. It was very high. Gobo, at the bottom, beckoned to him. Boober gulped and, gripping the rope hard, slid down.
Boober made it without incident, Wembley and Mokey followed right behind, and Red came last, leaving the rope behind for Wembley to use tomorrow. They left via the closest Fraggle hole, the one in the castle wall.
They walked down the tunnel for a little while without speaking. Then Boober said quietly to Wembley, "Thanks for stopping me."
It took a moment for Wembley to realize what Boober meant: the threadroot. He replied, "You wouldn't've really given it to him. You would've stopped in time the way Junior did. I just reminded you."
"I hope you're right," Boober said quietly.
Wembley said softly and sincerely. "Sure you wouldn't. I know you, Boober, and you'd never really hurt someone. Scare a guy's baloobius off, maybe."
Boober clasped his arms behind his back. He hoped Wembley was right. As angry as he had been, he had wanted to eliminate the Gorgs from their lives, but... no, he wasn't going to think about it. Wembley was right, he told himself.
Red told him, "Face it, Boober, you don't have a mean bone in your body. Lots of boring ones, though."
"Thanks," Boober said, and meant it.
Mokey said, "The Gorgs have been our friends all along, when you think about it. They grow the radishes that we eat and the Doozers build with. I'm glad we got to help them out in their time of need."
They had reached the Fraggle colony. Boober, who was very ready for a change of topic, said, "That's all very nice, but it doesn't solve my problem."
"What's that?" Gobo asked.
He turned to face them. "We were all breathed on by a diseased Gorg! I need to wash the germs off your clothes. Hand them over."
"Right now?" Red asked, startled.
"You want to wear germ-saturated clothes all day? Yes, right now!"
The others exchanged glances, then they began removing their clothes. Boober held out his arms insistently, and the Fraggles handed their clothing over. When he had it all, he said, "Thank you. Now go and wash yourselves off!"
"You heard him. To the swimming hole!" Red cried.
Red, Gobo, and Mokey ran off. Wembley remained behind. Boober said, "What are you waiting for?"
"Um...I'm kinda hungry. I haven't eaten all day. I'm sorry I missed your radish roast."
"Oh... well." Boober shrugged. "I saved you some."
"You did? Thanks, you're a pal! I'll help you do the laundry!"
"Sure," Boober said.
Boober sounded gruff, as if he'd rather be alone, but Wembley knew his friend better than that. He put his arm around Boober's shoulders and went with him back to his cave.
Fraggle Rock and all characters are 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.