ROSE TAKES A STROLL THROUGH SESAME STREET
By Roosevelt Franklin
Poor, poor humans. And here I thought we Muppets were condemned to a life of pain, stiffly parading through a nebulous existence dominated by wretched creatures called humans. In school, we were always told humans were kind, compassionate, and enlightened, endowed with powerful scientific minds as inquiring as Martians. Muppet education teaches aliens do exist. They may as well, as the myth of our mysterious origins continues. But as a free-thinking Muppet, I know we’re social constructs by way of human carpentry. You can’t fool a Muppet Corleone. I try to tell my friends and family - using human stick people charts - that humans aren’t our friends. They’re greedy, petty, vindictive, fearful, and hopelessly hubristic, easily manipulated myopic wretched creatures who eat way too much mayonnaise and ranch. The thickness of those condiments matches their meaty minds. But they don’t listen.
And the last time there was a party I was told I could only attend provided I cut it out with the “anti-human crap.” Maria and Gordon were very concerned with my well-being to the point they sent Bob to talk to me. “What’s with all this stubbornness, Rose?” he said. I replied, “Only my friends call me ‘Rose.’”
“What’s with this Dostoevsky stubbornness? Aren’t we the people in your neighborhood you friends?”
To which I responded, “Friends? What do you guys do around here other than sing songs and give righteous sermons? We own the businesses and do all the work. At least Mr. Hooper employs Muppets, but what do you do exactly? You sure as hell didn’t teach us to count. A Muppet did that.”
Out of the corner came that dimwitted bird. “Oh, Rose. Don’t you think you’re being hard? Just follow what you’re told.”
“Only my friends call me Rose” I scowled with a narrow gaze. “And fuck off you over grown yellow feathered mutant.”
Bob didn’t like this display of shocking boorishness and just walked away nodding his head in dismay. Mockingly I said with his back to me, “Hey Bob. Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven, eh?”
“Where did you learn that?”
“Never mind Bob. I can read. No thanks to you. Not all of us inner-city purplites are illiterate. Manhattan is a big town pal,” laughing heartily, proud of my unnecessary provocations. Soon after I was disinvited.
I was always punk in my heart, mind and soul, despite my attire. It immunized me from human stupidity and attempts to foster their experimental quackery on us. It helped sedate me to the horrors inflicted upon us to satisfy human curiosities. See, you may have heard about science using animals and orphans as test subjects and governments persecuting their own citizens, or people they deem to be enemies. But it’s never been reported that Sesame Street is the testing ground for all human experiments.
I learned that I had to laugh at the things that hurt me or else I’d go plumb crazy. Except, in my complete sanity, humans determined I was not.
Humans are notorious conspiratorial gaslighters. You see, Muppets weren’t always like this. We were once free. But slowly we began to lose our sense of independence, freedom, and street smarts once the humans started moving in from Vermont and Quebec. The Kebeckies mostly kept to themselves - like the Chinese - content in gayly harassing businesses for language inequities. We all roll our eyes. Well, if our eyes could roll.
Bit by bit we became our long, lonely journey on the road to serfdom. “It’s just a stick up your ass” and “it’s just a puppet string” and “it’s just a….”
Then we got hit with Covid-19. Everyone panicked. No one asked questions. They just all followed each other. There was an amulet shortage here (what humans call masks) and humans took to wearing diapers and demanded Muppets do their part to protect them. Even though we were Muppets with no history of being attacked by infectious diseases. Nor do we excrete saliva. We were 100% safe, but we were told we were something called “asymptomatic.” Another term in the realm of humonology. I now posed a danger.
But the problem with the masks was that they were manufactured and fitted for human faces. Not Muppets. The street was filled with Muppets in masks too big for their faces. I asked what good could these things do, and I was told to “Shut up and save Mr. Hooper.”
I worked for Mr. Hooper for a summer. Nice man. Paid me fair. Always gave me a Bartlett pear. I hate pears. Except for Forelle pears, but those were too expensive to waste on Muppets. I went over to see him. The store was empty. “No one is coming. I have all this papaya that will go to waste. Want one?”
“I don’t like tropical fruit.”
He dejectedly dropped it into the wooden basket. “What’s the point?”
“All of this!” he said exasperated.
“I don’t know. Seems a bit crazy.”
“Never lose your spirit son. Always challenge authority.”
“I came to see you. I didn’t want you to die.”
“Is Bob going around singing that stupid ‘Save granny’ tune?”
“Yes. Quite frankly I think he’s gone coo-coo.”
“The worst part is he comes in here sticking a mask on my face shopping with a six-meter stick to keep people away from him. Him I get. But what the heck is up with Gordon? I expected more from him. I mean, if I catch it, it’s God’s will and there ain’t no way around that. I’m not going to die while isolated. And what’s the point of going to the hospital if they won’t treat you?”
We both stood looking out the window watching the world slowly go mad, “You sure you don’t want a papaya? How about a pear?”
After I left Mr. Hooper's, I went to see Oscar. People don’t know, but Oscar was once Oscar Wildenut the Insatiable. He owned most of this neighborhood. He went from Brownstone mogul to tin pot grouch. “It’s just a needle,” they told him. Now he’s dealing with all sorts of side-effects. If he was grouchy before, I shiver and quake in concern what he’ll be like now. With half his torso hanging over the can he tells me, lifting his head slightly, “I don’t feel so good Rose, and it ain't the tuna.”
“Hang in there, Oz.”
“It could be worse. I hear Bert is in bad shape.”
I look up at Ernie and Bert’s window apartment and I see Ernie just staring out. I motion to him to open his window. “What’s up Rose?”
“Doctors say he has myocarditis. But that's ok. It’s mild.”
“What does that mean?” I ask.
“I don’t know. But he had a white coat and he said mild. So, I’m thinking it’s all good. Although I did see some spots and stains on his coat.”
“Yeh, well I’d get a second opinion if I were you! You know about these humans.”
“Okey-dokey, Rose!” he giggled, shutting the window.
I continued my walk. What was once a happy and bustling street with humans and Muppets co-mingling, has now been converted into a segregated dystopia created by a steadfast stream of propaganda and hateful rhetoric emanating from the deepest bowels of human fear. One woman stopped with dead eyes and growled, asking me to protect her from me as she scampered off. I chased her to ask what she meant, but by the time I turned the corner where she turned, she was gone. Poof. Another tapped me on the shoulder and said, "we're in this together! We're all linked in!" More like plugged in.
Exhausted physically and mentally from realizing inverted reality meant I was going to be deemed crazy, I went to the pub where Grover worked.
“Grover quit,” the hostess told me. “Something about too many flies in the soup.”
I left the pub and headed towards Grover’s pad. Grover may be a spazz but he was good with the ladies - both Muppet and human. I had to be careful but, as I approached this place, he was sitting on the stairs with elbows perched on them without much of a care in the world. “You quit?”
“Yeh, I fucken quit”
“I’m not gonna play a part in the charade. If I wanted to act, I would join the posers over at Poppyseed Street.”
A comfortable pause followed as an angelically docile breeze past. Elmo skipped past mumbling gibberish eventually running into a pole.
“You have to save yourself, you know? And if you drown, hey at least you tried as you swam for the shore. They won’t take that from me. Nope.”
"You have to let people come around on their own. They lose their senses collectively but regain them one by one,” I said.
"But by then the soup is cold. No one will care if there was a fly in it."
I never heard Grover so soberly grounded. I sat down next to him and said nothing. I didn’t think Grover would be so principled. Goes to show we all surprise one another.
I left Grover to his super thoughts and decided to grab an espresso and go home. Just as I attempted to enter, Harry grumbled. “Stationary, please!”
“Stationary? What are you babbling about Harry?”
“He looked around and whispered, “‘Papers please’ was too triggering for people so ‘THEY’ decided to change the request.”
“Who is ‘they?’”
“You know. ‘They,’” nodding his head into an aimless direction as if pointing to “they.”
“Look, I’m just gonna get an espresso and be on my way, okay?”
He just stuck out his complicit hand and curtly demanded, “It’s just a phrase. Stationary please.”
I looked at him. He knew.
I wanted no trouble and left.
It’s just a….