I sat next to Kermit at the table. His lit cigarette silhouetted his face in the dark room. It was his turn. After taking a contemplative puff, his set the cigarette down and raised the stakes. My eyes must have grown wide. I secretly watched Gumby's reaction at the other end of the table. It was as if nothing had happened. Maybe Gumby had a good hand. It was impossible to tell.
"Gentlemen," Kermit said breaking the silence, "I'm so glad you've all come." The room was quiet with anticipation. "I'm sure you're all curious about why I asked you here tonight."
"It was so strange to get your invitation, Kermit," Cookie Monster interjected hesitantly." As Cookie Monster spoke I could see him shaking, his blue fur quivering. He was truly afraid of Kermit.
"These are no ordinary times," Kermit continued. As he spoke, the smoke from his cigarette looped aimlessly above his green, flat frog-like head and dissipated into the darkness. He looked older. Much older than the last time I had seen him.
It had been seven years. We had worked together at Smithson & Brighton—all of us. Sometimes I could close my eyes and see the old office. Kermit's desk in the room adjacent to Bugs Bunny's and mine. Cindy the cute copy girl would come in every Tuesday and Kermit would flirt with her. This scared her because Cindy had never been flirted with by a frog…or a Muppet for that matter.
The times at Smithson & Brighton were unforgettable. Kermit would take us all out for a drink after work at this bar McGinty's which was down the street from the office. Stan, the bartender, would slide Kermit a free Jack Daniels and give him the latest news: who was in town, who was working what areas, and which of Kermit's old associates had come into the bar recently. One time Stan told him that Statler and Waldorf, the two men that sat in the balcony of The Muppet Show and criticized the talent on the show, had been in the bar. That night he took us out and we found the old men. Kermit took them behind a building for several minutes and after that neither Statler or Waldorf was ever heard disparaging anything again.
Hanging out with Kermit was like getting a backstage pass into a world of cool and exclusivity. He knew all the important guys in town and seemed to have been with every girl worth being with. He had been with all the hot cartoons as well: Minnie Mouse, Dafney from Scooby Doo, all of the Power Puff Girls, and even Hello Kitty while on a business trip to Japan. To this day Mickey Mouse won't speak to Kermit.
Everywhere we went people knew who he was or were at least shocked to see a puppet frog smoking so profusely. People were always coming up to Kermit, shaking his hand, and talking about the "good old days." I'd naively ask Kermit who so-in-so was, and he'd just say it was one of his "old pals." Kermit had a special fondness for me, and often just the two of us would go out. He'd knock back his fifth Wild Turkey while I nursed my glass of Smirnoff, regaling me with tales of his old days as he referred to them. Kermit had a very different life before coming to work at our little accounting firm. I began to understand how Kermit could afford his manor on the outskirts of the city, his penthouse downtown, and his luxurious pond in the Hamptons. Kermit was a frog of exquisite taste. He had chocolate covered crickets imported from Italy, (Why Italy? I have no idea) hand-picked Parisian spiders, and donut holes from the Amish Market. Donut holes don't go with the frog diet theme, but Kermit just liked them. He also had a special apparatus created to help him swallow and digest his food, as his mouth was sewn shut in the back, his tongue with just a red fabric half-oval, and his intestines nowhere to be found.
It also became clear why I saw him with a succession of beautiful women hanging on his arm and every word he said…or sang…often a ukulele was involved…sometimes dancing girls…an orchestra…a band leader…a strange Hispanic man teaching kids about staying away from drugs and respecting their elders…it was a whole thing. I never saw the same girl more than once and I never learned any of their names. Kermit, as good as he was, was truthfully quite scary. When his eyes bore into you, you felt as if you would give him your soul if it would make him stop. He was extremely witty, yet he could gut you like a fish with his seriousness. One learned quickly to never question anything Kermit said, especially if he'd had a bad day. On one of those days he would sit by himself in his dark office chain smoking and listening to Frank Sinatra on the radio. The smoke so fully filled the room, the receptionist could barely breathe while bringing Kermit a memo.
I had been sure for the longest time that Kermit had never been married. We had all heard the stories about Miss Piggy, or the "whore bore" as he wittily referred to her. Miss Piggy ended up moving to LA to pursue modeling, but as she was not quite the look the modeling agencies were going for, she was short, ugly, and a pig puppet; she ended up doing a few pornos and then moving in with a retarded man named Jack who lived in a trailer park outside the city and worked at a waffle stand. (No, I don't know what a waffle stand is.)
On that night though, after downing a bottle of scotch, he told me about his ex-wife. Her name had been Loretta. They were high school sweet hearts and got married as soon as she turned eighteen. They had three kids and later divorced after Kermit found out she had been cheating on him with one of Kermit's friends…I won't say his name, but he's big and he's a bird. The light in the bar that night was so scarce I could barely see the look on his face, the look of recalling what it felt like to know one of his buddies had fucked his wife. I tried to see his expression which reeked of resentment and ceaseless raw anger. I was afraid for a moment he might leap at me – or stick his crazy frog tongue to me. He was still not over the horrible betrayal of his wife and friend. Had Loretta been a frog? Had she been a Muppet? It wasn't clear.
"What happened?" I asked dumbly. Kermit looked at me, the way I always hated. His two eyes, retinaless and perched on the top of his head bore into me like he'd just seen a French chef making cuisses de grenouilles (i.e. frog legs). I felt as if he could stare right through me and into the booth behind me.
"We divorced. She took the kids." He replied coolly, taking another drag of his cigarette. He then flicked off some of the ashes with his finger.
"Where is she now?" I asked, immediately regretting it. He looked at me again, just for a moment.
"Oh, I'm sorry," I staggered. There was a long silence. I tried to not look Kermit in the eyes. Every time I looked in his direction he was unperturbedly puffing away at his cigarette, looking across the bar not really at anything, just musing. Could a Muppet die? Again I didn't know. Was Kermit himself a real frog? Questions filled my mind.
"Have you ever been married?" he asked me, suddenly breaking the silence.
"Uh, no, Kermit," I stammered.
"You have a girlfriend or something?" he asked again.
"Uh, yeah, I do."
"What's her name?"
"I'm not sure. I guess." He puffed his cigarette again, considering this. Then he looked at me in that way again.
"Those are the ones that betray you. Those ones that get you to love them." His eyes were no longer on me. They were sweeping the dank bar obviously lost in his own private misery. I wanted desperately to leave. I glanced at the window, briefly contemplating jumping out of it and running home to Karen's and diverting my mind by telling her the tale of this night. I knew I could not though. Kermit was like an insurmountable obstacle, blocking my way out of that bat that night. That frog Muppet thing had an indescribable hold on me that to this day makes me shudder when I think of it. He went on more that night about his old times with his old job and old friends. But he never said any more about his wife.
Kermit had his back to us, looking out the window at his manicured gardens. Cookie Monster looked up from his hand at me as if to say “why are we here?” Were any of us so fond of Kermit that we had actually wanted to see him again? To say that one of us was not nervous, would be to say the world might be flat…or that anyone besides me sitting at the table had an anus. Bugs finished his Heineken, his fifth of the night. The glass sounded against the table as he set it down, trembling. Kermit still faced the window. We were at once glad to not have to face his stare, and at the same time wishing we could see his visage…to know what was coming.
"I know it's been a very long time, but I'm glad you all came. What happened seven years ago has never left any of your minds. Not for a minute." An eerie sense of knowing filled the room. We all looked at each other and at once we were aware why Kermit had called us here.
Finally, Kermit turned to face us, his large-frog eyes shimmering against the glow of the fireplace.
"Snuphaluphagus isn't dead." Kermit had taken us completely off guard. We all thought this had something to do with Snuffleupagus's murder, but this, this was incomprehensible.
"Wh-what," I could only stammer.
"A colleague of mine, someone I trust very deeply, saw Snuffleupagus taking ice skating lessons at a rink downtown."
"Why was your colleague at a skating rink?” Bugs asked, maybe unwisely.
"Because figure skating is a beautiful, undervalued sport!" Kermit screamed in his face. Bugs slinked down in his seat.
"Anyway, we have to do something about this."
"Kermit, I don't know if I have the nerve to kill Snuffle all over again."
"Then what the fuck are you doing here?!" Kermit was clearly becoming irrational.
"Let's just calm down," I proposed. "We'll figure this thing out." Kermit eyed me as he smoked, his mind seemed elsewhere.
"We have to do this tonight." he said calmly.
"Kermit, are you crazy?" Gumby pleaded for sense.
"Were we crazy seven years ago when we threw that bastard into the Potomac?" The truth was none of us could refute that getting rid of Snuffleupagus had been essential. At the time we were working for Smithson &Brighton Kermit was doing a lot of “business” with the Muppets on Sesame Street. It was all kept very quiet; not even any of the producers knew what was going on.
One night, Kermit was leaving his contraband at the drop site, under a light pole on Sesame Street. He had been told no one was there. Not one to trust, Kermit would check for himself, before he made the drop. Unfortunately for Kermit, Snuffleupagus, semi-retarded elephant puppet he was, decided to dress up as a tree for a joke. Snuffleupagus saw the entire transaction between Kermit and the Count. Snuffleupagus got scared and ran off. Kermit ran after him and tackled him. They tied him up and duct taped his mouth. Kermit called an emergency meeting of our group which consisted of me, bugs, Cookie Monster, and Gumby. Things happened in that warehouse that I don't care to speak of. Things involving Clay Aiken music. The end of the night ended up at the banks of the Potomac river…all of us thinking it would be the last time we would ever see Snuffle. Now he was back.
Kermit looked older to me than he ever had before. Usually he looked miraculously like he never aged, but tonight I could see wrinkles around his eyes; the seeming down his side seemed more apparent than ever. I could see shoddy patching Kermit must have done on himself over the years. A piece of plaid here, pink and blue stripes there. Kermit looked as if he no longer cared about how he looked—a far cry from the boozing, womanizer I had know seven years ago.
The rest of the night continued like this: Kermit scaring us and us pretending we hadn't peed our pants. Eventually Bugs came up with a solution. Gumby had connections to Georgetown University since he and his half-brother Cocoanut (it's a long story) had both gone to law school there. He mother had also been a model for classes on kinetic energy. We wrote an acceptance letter to the Georgetown School of Economics, knowing that Snuffleupagus would be to stupid to consider that he had never applied.
The solution was obviously a less violent one than Kermit had in mind—punching his face in with a brick—but we all felt good about it; I in particular when I left felt a weight lifting off of me. One I had held for even years. I hadn't killed a deranged puppet elephant. It was the sweetest moment of my life. Of course, it was Snuffle who had the last laugh. Not only did he enroll in Georgetown, but he graduated Summa Cum Laude, and went on to become the economic advisor for the Bush administration. Bugs went home to find out his wife was pregnant again. They're not kidding when they talk about doing it like bunnies—Bugs had six-hundred children. Gumby starred on a cable access show called "Nighttime Thoughts with Gumby" where he would talk about art, independent films, and different kinds of chewing gum at 3 am. The show was cancelled after three episodes. After all this I decided to become a priest, which was weird because I'm Jewish. It was a weird time for me. I later quit and worked as a bra salesman in Barcelona, Spain, then I moved to New York and met my wife, Shelley, who made my life complete. I made her pregnant. And that is how she became my wife. Kermit…well, Kermit wasn't heard from much again. He spends most of his time locked up in manor, away from people. I do hear from time to time people see him around the mall in D.C. chatting about the Vietnam War with homeless people. I also heard a rumor that Miss Piggy had returned to him and they were in the process of a reconciliation. It's all probably just rumors though. Although if I do see a half frog half pig child running around the capitol in the next few years, I will be suspicious.
In the end, I think I was thankful for knowing Kermit. He was, if not a good person, a person who at least was aware of who he was. Which of something we can't all say for ourselves. Kermit took me from being a green kid, into a world of excitement and adventure. He lead me into horrible things, but he also taught me a lot about life and about who I am. He also taught me to break-dance, which is important enough in itself to mention here. Kermit, I feel is misunderstood. I can remember some nights, when the summer seemed endless and the temperatures were consistently eighty degrees we would sit on his back porch talking about ambition and women. But we would also talk about life. Kermit was very deep and very spiritual. And I think in a way, a strange way (strange like the horrors of a half pig, half frog baby) that he was and still is my best friend. I owe some of the best years of my life to that frog-puppet-Mafioso, and I will never forget him for it.