Sam Eagle cleared his throat. The Muppets’ Valentine’s Day Special would be airing soon, and he wanted to make sure his spoken lines did justice to the object of his affections. He had enlisted Scooter – the most trustworthy of all Muppets – to assist him in his delivery of a famous poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
“How do I love thee?” he began. “Let me count the ways. I love thee to the death and breath and …”
“Uh, Sam,” Scooter interrupted.
“Ah..what is it?” Sam said. This was not going as planned!
“Uh…The words are ‘depth’ and ‘breadth,’ not ‘death’ and ‘breath.’”
“Oh. Right.” Sam cleared his throat again. “How embarrassing to have missed such obviously strong, patriotic words!” Sam cleared his throat again. “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and the breadth and the hide-and-seek…”
“Um…Sam…That’s not right, either?”
“What?!” Sam was incredulous. “I said depth and breadth, didn’t I?”
“Uh, yeah. But you also said ‘hide-and-seek.’”
“I most certainly did not!” Sam said emphatically. “I don’t think my love will be playing hide and seek!”
Scooter shied away slightly. “The word is ‘height.’”
“Then I shall attempt it anew. Ahem. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth, and breadth, and height my soul can reach…”
In another room of the theater, Kermit was straightening the bowtie on his tuxedo. A delicate knock and carefully opened door produced Miss Piggy, a pink satin boa draped around her neck and flowing freely behind her.
“Kermee,” she said. “Isn’t Valentine’s Day the sweetest day of the year?”
Kermit, who honestly hadn’t thought much about the sweetness of anything for a long while, replied, “Sure, Piggy. Sure.”
“And Kermee,” she prodded. “Isn’t Valentine’s Day the loveliest day of the year?”
“Uh, sure, Piggy. It is a lovely day.”
“But is it the loveliest?” she crooned.
“Well, I like a lot of days in the year. For instance, I think that the loveliest days of the year include the first day of Spring and Christmas.
“And what about Valentine’s Day?” she crooned again, sidling up to him.
“Oh, sure!” Kermit agreed. “Yeah. It’s right up there with Boxing Day.”
“Boxing Day?!” Miss Piggy roared. “I’ll give you Boxing Day! Hi-yaaah.” Miss Piggy drop-kicked her beloved Kermit, causing his tuxedo to wrinkle and his bowtie to hang from his eyeballs. Satisfied, Miss Piggy left his dressing room with her snout held high.
Gonzo sat in Kermit’s director’s chair looking at publicity photos of his chickens and shaking his head. Seeing him looking so dejected, Fozzie Bear came up behind him.
“Wakka, Wakka, Wakka!” he said. “And why is our Gonzo so gloomy today?”
“I’m not gloomy,” Gonzo replied, looking up from the photos. “I just can’t decide which one I like best.”
Fozzie looked over Gonzo’s shoulder. “Well – Dat one looks nice,” he said encouragingly.
“Yeah,” Gonzo replied. “But the beak is all wrong. It needs to be straighter. See how it hooks too much?”
“Ohh. Well, let’s have a look at the next one, den,” Fozzie suggested. Once Gonzo had flipped the next picture over, Fozzie’s eyes got wide. “Dat’s a really straight beak!”
“Yeah,” Gonzo said unenthusiastically. “Too straight. I was looking for something a little more…natural.”
Gonzo flipped to the next picture. “I like this one,” Gonzo said. “Nice beak, kind face.”
“So what’s wrong with that one, den?” Fozzie said. “I think you’ve got a Win-ner! Wakka, Wakka, Wakka!”
Gonzo sighed and looked at his friend, shoulders in a slump. “There’s only one problem – a big one. That’s not just any chicken. That’s my mother!”
Sam the Eagle continued to practice his lines. “…I love thee freely, as men strive for Right; I love thee purely, as they turn out to Fight!”
“Sam,” Scooter interrupted.
“What is it now?!” Sam was agitated. “This is the fifth interruption.”
“The phrase is, ‘turn from Praise.’”
“Yes,” Sam said. “Well, I was getting to that. Ahem. I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise. I love thee with a passion put to use in my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.”
Kermit emerged from his dressing room, still disheveled, and raced down the steps after her. “Piggy! I didn’t mean that Boxing Day was more lovely than Valentine’s Day!”
Miss Piggy, marching down the steps of the theater stopped short and looked back at him, tilting her head with a smile.
“I was just saying,” Kermit continued, “that Boxing Day is also lovely.”
“Hrmph!” Miss Piggy tossed her curly hair over her shoulder as she continued her emboldened walk away from Kermit.
“Your MOTHER?” Fozzie finally allowed himself to say. “Looks like DAT? Wakka Wakka WowEE!”
Gonzo nodded. “She insisted on being part of the troupe. I told all the girls that I would dance with one special girl in the Valentine’s Day Special. I’ve been putting off the decision for so long, and now it’s come to this.”
“Well, you can’t dance with your own mother,” Fozzie said matter of factly. “…Can you?” Fozzie asked, now uncertain.
“See, that’s the dilemma. If I dance with my mother, the other girls won’t look at me the same. Shucks – my mother won’t look at me the same. On the other hand, if I don’t dance with my mother, I’ll be so distracted…”
“…dat you’ll be looking for someone that matches your image of perfection. I know. I have jokes dat are like dat.”
Gonzo continued to leaf through the photos. Fozzie, behind him, was deep in thought.
“I got it!” Fozzie said. “Why don’t you dance with all the girls?”
Gonzo brightened. “Yeah. I could dance with all the girls. When I was done with one, I could go and dance with another.”
Fozzie smiled, counting on his fingers. “How many girls are in de chorus, Gonzo?”
“Right now, seven thousand, five hundred ninety-seven. Of course, that number could change depending on whether Swedish Chef grabs any of the girls for his goulash.”
Just then, one of the chickens in the chorus raced past both Gonzo and Fozzie, Swedish Chef, his butcher’s knife raised, in hot pursuit.
Sam Eagle’s voice was strong. “Smiles. Tears. Of all my life!” Sam began to weep, melodramatically dropping to his knees. “And if God choose, I shall but love thee after death.”
Scooter, so moved by Sam’s performance, gave a rousing round of applause.
“Thank you,” Sam said as he stood up. “Now, where is she?”
“Who?” Scooter asked.
“Why, Old Glory!”
Sam was beside himself.
“The Star Spangled Banner! The Red, White and Blue!” Sam said.
“Huh?” Scooter asked again.
“The American Flag!” Sam almost yelled, afraid of ruffling his feathers further at such an austere time.
“Oh,” Scooter responded matter-of-factly. “On the flagpole. Where else?”
Kermit was nonplussed. The walk back to his dressing room was like walking the green mile. Back in his dressing room, he straightened his bowtie once again and looked in the mirror. What had he done wrong? He got along well with the other girls on the set, but with Piggy he was all toes. When he tried to say something from his heart, Piggy always took it another way. His shoulders slumped. What would a Valentine’s Day Special be with a broken-hearted host? At that moment, Kermit heard a knock at the door.
“Come in,” Kermit said, trying to conceal his sadness. Christian Bale, the special guest star, opened the door.
“Hi, Kermit. What was all that yelling about?”
“Oh, nothing,” Kermit lied. “At least, nothing that you should be worried about.”
“From what I’ve heard, you have a woman scorned.”
Kermit’s lips pursed, then relaxed. “It’s not that I meant to scorn her. She’s just…overreacting.”
“A little honey sweetens the whole pot,” Christian said. “Sweep her off her feet. Make her feel like she’s worth your trouble. And let her have her way – at least sometimes.”
Kermit nodded. “Thanks, Mr. Bale. I’ll keep that in mind.”
Fozzie and Gonzo sat at the stage director’s table with a notepad and a pencil. Fozzie was furiously scribbling as Gonzo spoke.
“Dierdre. Then, Janice. Then Henrietta…”
“How do you spell dat?” Fozzie asked, looking up momentarily.
“Just, write ‘Hen,’” Gonzo said.
“How do you spell dat?” Fozzie asked.
“T-H-A-T,” Gonzo spelled. “Now, moving on. Justine. Then, Madame Kluck. And finally, Mommy.”
Fozzie put the final strokes on the list, and handed it to Gonzo. “Finished.”
Gonzo looked at the list and nodded, satisfied. “You really did a great job at writing these names!”
“Really? It’s just chicken scratch.”
“Exactly!” Gonzo said. Rushing away, Gonzo called, “Girls! Dancing orders will be posted on my dressing room door!”
The Valentine’s Day Special began without a hitch. All the Muppets took their places and performed their skits without incident. As the finale – Gonzo’s Valentine’s Chicken Dance – approached, Kermit began to get nervous. He had watched Miss Piggy’s Catwoman skit with Christian Bale, and felt the uncomfortable, churning feelings of jealousy rise – and then settle – in the pit of his stomach. The look she had given Mr. Bale after the skit was enough to tell Kermit that she was more interested in a hero than in a tongue-tied frog.
“You’re on next, Boss,” Scooter whispered, then shuffled away to give others their directions.
The Swedish Chef wouldn’t be done for another five minutes, so Kermit tried to relax. But all he could think about was…
“Kermee,” Miss Piggy said, so too softly, dragging Christian Bale behind her. “Christian and I are going to get married.”
“Hold on,” Christian protested.
“We’re going to move to Rio de Janeiro and raise twelve little piglets,” she said.
“Hold on!” Christian protested again. “I can’t marry you.”
“And we’ll…What?!” Miss Piggy stopped her ranting and turned on the special guest, raising a threatening fist.
“Miss Piggy,” Christian began. “I think you’re wonderful. But I already have a wife and daughter in California.”
Miss Piggy’s lips pursed. Kermit sat up.
“Piggy,” Kermit said. “Would you…dance with me during Gonzo’s Chicken Dance?”
“Moi?” Miss Piggy said, surprised. Then, in her raspy voice she said, “Move over, Christian! I’ve found a real man!” Then to Kermit she said tenderly, “When you announce the dance, be sure to announce that we will be dancing, too!”
And he did.