Poppy Street Mangles Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

This opus is dated February 17, 1983 and was written when I was in Grade 11 (and inflicted on my long-suffering English teacher, Mrs. Janitis) and we were all studying Romeo and Juliet. Great literature is often inspirational, but in this case, it seems to have inspired the wrong sort of thing. Notice that I am including more details now as my writing style begins to mature (at least, as much as this sort of thing can be considered to mature...)
Copyright © Harold Reynolds, 1998.

Once upon a time, not too long ago and perhaps not so far away as we would like, there was a large island called Poppy Street, for lack of anything better. On this island were three main ethnic groups, the Snuffs, the Shorties and the Poppy Streeters, all of whom were about human size. The Snuffs were violent blue creatures that wore white caps, pants and shoes, save two. Papa Snuff, the leader, wore red and he had a full beard and moustache, while Snuffette, the only female, had long yellow hair and a dress.

The Shorties, on the other hand, were a race of almost 100% females, characterized by pungent body odours that resembled their names. Their leader, Strawberry Shortcake, was always trying to nab and molest the Purple Pieman, who had holed up in a strong fort in the forest they shared with the Snuffs. And, at the very south of the island, there lies Poppy Street City, home of the TV show "Poppy Street" which is broadcast 18 hours a day, live. Poppy Street is controlled by Bob, the self-crowned Prince. He is very powerful and difficult to dislodge, a more-or-less despot who rules with an iron pinkie. The Muppets resent the fact that he won't let them co-rule and periodically (every other day or so, if the weather's nice) try to overthrow him. The attacks are bloodily unsuccessful, despite the clone machines, and the gutters often are overflowing after pitched battles between Muppets and Men, Muppets and "innocent" kids, Men and "innocent" kids or more often all three. The kids were nominally on Bob's side, but are unreliable at the best of times.

Our story opens one fine dawn in Poppy Street, actually quiet for the first time in months. No little birdies sang because all the little birdies had been exterminated by Big Bird long ago because he hated them. Grover was trudging down a street with his M-16 slung over his shoulder, feeling a trifle dejected.

"Ah, me, what is life?" he sighed, stepping on an ant. "Why can't we go for an hour without a killing?"

Meanwhile, the Purple Pieman was sneaking through the forest, hoping he wouldn't be spotted by a Shortie patrol. He was heavily armed and had lots of dried provisions for a long stay at Poppy Street, where he hoped he would be safe from them. He wanted neither the Shortcake nor the sorceress Sour Grapes to discover his whereabouts now. At the time of dawn, 6:00, he was just at the edge of the forest near the City itself.

In the forest proper, near the Snuff village, there was a rundown old castle. Its inhabitant, Gargamel, was a nasty, sleazy, two-bit wizard whose spells were a trifle suspect. As usual, he was up to no good. His cat Asriel and he hated Snuffs virulently.

"Ha ha! This time I shall really destroy those stinking Snuffs! I'll get them with this spell I stole from a cripple! It says, to recite at sunrise, the following: "Oingo boingo, rolling stone, soon shall they be overthrown. Urble glurble, indiscreet, bring to here the Poppy Street!" Oh, no, not that!" But it was too late. A large section of the forest, excluding the Snuff village, silently vanished as SS City took its place. "What have I done?" groaned the shabby wizard. He would soon find out.

In Shortietown, Strawberry had been summoned by Sour Grapes.

"Shortcake," she grated in a gravelly voice, "Purple Pieman has escaped to Poppy Street!"

"How do you know?"

"I'm a sorceress, twit. I have my ways. Go get him."

"Why don't YOU go get him?" she retorted grumpily. "You're the sorceress. Conjure him up or something."

"My spells have no effect on him. After all, he is a man, you know. Besides, he has a powerful charm on his liver, the sot. But I can affect YOU, so take Apricot and Lemon Meringue with you!" Soon the Shortcake was on her way with her friends to get P.P.

Elsewhere, Snuffette was gaily traipsing through the woods, seeing how many of Gargamel's mines she could trip up in a minute, when she spotted Poppy Street, gleaming grubbily in the sunlight. She was startled, but ran home to arm for exploration.

Now we return to the city, to a room in a dilapidated house near the core, where we see Mr Hooper and a couple of henchmen plotting a fiendish plan.

"Switch on the bug destroyer," he hissed. A man flipped a switch and the house blew to bits. "THAT DOES IT!" the clone howled in the street. "I'm sick of Bob's meddling and spying! That's the LAST time that will ever happen! AATTAAACCK! CHARGE!" His tanks barrelled up from a secret sub-basement and raced for the palace. Actually, it was the various Muppet factions who had bugged the house and not Bob at all. Thus, by mistake, was started yet another bloody civil war.

The attack came as a complete surprise to Bob, who had no idea that one of his own men would turn against him this month. Before the anti-tank guns could be loaded, Mr Hooper's forces had opened fire and destroyed both them and much of the palace. The incumbent's forces quickly regrouped and retaliated by starting to blow up the other's chain of Gun and Ammunition Stores, after looting them, of course. The only way of increasing your slim chances of survival in an SS City war is to hurriedly pick sides, otherwise all factions consider you an enemy. Ernie and Bert were the dons of two of the biggest "families", calling themselves for some reason Capulets and Montagues respectively. They saw the chance and dove in, with Ernie going to Mr Hooper and Bert staying with Bob. With Ernie were Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster and Snuffelopagus, while Bert mustered Grover, Guy Smiley, Big Bird and Kermit. The Poppy Streeters were no longer bored. At about 8:00 a.m., Snuffette returned to the edge of the forest, only to find the city plunged into savage warfare.

"Oooh! Fun!" she squealed, racing into the fracas gleefully. The first thing she saw was a gang of Muppets viciously defending a cul-de-sac from a gang of "innocent" kids. She crept up from behind (the favourite Poppy Street tactic) and gunned the seven attackers down without mercy. Grover, the leader of the Muppet group, got up from behind a block of rubble and saw her standing with her gun smoking, the breeze tossing her golden hair and the background noises of warfare scaring her not in the least, and fell head over heels in love, smashing his skull to a pulp on the cement block. The clone reappeared and scooted to her.

"Who are you?" he asked dreamily, gazing into her eyes. She saw the rather pathetic, hairy blue creature with a big nose staring at her wistfully and her heart melted.

"I am Snuffette," she panted huskily. Their frantic, urgent kiss was shattered by a 20-mm phosphorous shell that exploded nearby. They lost their bodily fluids in one torrent that swept the ribbons of their bodies to the gutter.

Meanwhile, the Shorties had penetrated the city and had already run into their first battle: Ernie, Bert and their respective gangs fighting it out with machetes (their guns had been rendered useless). Upon spotting E. and B., Apricot and Lemon squealed "Men!" and charged while loosening their skirts. All fighting ceased and the two Muppets flung their weapons, accurately decapitating the targets. As the bodies squirmed and spurted, the Poppy Streeters fled pell-mell into the alleys. Unfortunately for Ernie, he was captured when he made a wrong turn and collided with Apricot. Their doings shall not be mentioned.

As Bert was running away from the pursuing Lemon Meringue, he found and picked up a loaded automatic shotgun. In doing so, he was spotted. He ran gamely on, right into a Cookie Monster ambush. He shattered Oscar the Grouch's head with one quick blast and Cookie's torso with another. Around the corner roared Lemon, burp gun blazing, and together they rapidly butchered the attackers. Once the baddies were safely dead, Lemon drew her sword and began mutilating the corpses with hefty swipes and splashes of gore.

"Hey, now that's my kind of woman!" said Bert, joining her in one of his favourite pastimes. When finally done, the two stood steeped in innards, sweat and grime. They ran into each other's arms and promptly slipped in the slime. Here we leave them.

While this was going on, Strawberry Shortcake had found the Purple Pieman, sneaking with Grover and Snuffette to the edge of town. "HA!" she exclaimed, leaping out at them from a doorway. Before anything else could happen, a pitched tank battle erupted in the next street. This quickly attracted artillery shells and rockets and a stray landed nearby, vaporizing the Shortie and chewing the others up. With the Pieman nowhere in sight, Grover and Snuffette high-tailed it for the city limits. Kermit and five henchmen burst out at them, but finding friends, they joined them.

"Ahoy there, Grover," said Kermit, "you seem to have gotten the flees already!"

"Yes, this life keeps me itching for solitude and peace," he parried easily, scratching himself.

"We don't want to louse things up, either," added Snuffette. Then Gordon, with the Snuffelopagus and a large horde of "innocent" kids appeared around a corner.

"Charge!" he bawled, doing so.

"Run!" howled Kermit reflexively, knowing that discretion is the better part of long life. The group took off for the nearest fortification. Grover had the pleasure of dropping a live grenade as he ran and hearing it explode amongst the others. To their dismay, a tank bearing Ernie's markings ground around the corner ahead and blew them up with its big gun. It then blew up the others too. Reappearing in scattered areas, Grover helplessly saw Gordon nab Snuffette and drag her off to a waiting jeep. Seeing that he couldn't rescue her, he decided to enlist the Snuffs to get her back. He violently procured himself a jeep and, after a harrowing ten-minute drive, ploughing through fields and forest, he found the Snuff village. It was filled with pandemonium: Lazy was snoring, Grouchy was sulking, Harmony was blatting fearfully on his trumpet and being lynched as a result, Brainy was bossing and being ignored and Papa Snuff was having a series of spells violently backfire, the cause of the panic. To attract attention, Grover fired a few rounds from his 50-calibre machine-gun mounted on the jeep. Dead silence, and a few Snuffs, fell.

"I know where Snuffette is!" he yelled. Papa's lab blew up and the clone appeared on the hood of the vehicle.

"Where is she?" he asked as the others gathered around.

"She was in Poppy Street helping us fight the usurper Mr Hooper and we fell in love. She was then abducted by one of his villainous henchmen! You must help me get her back!"

"Yahoo!" shouted Brainy.

"We know you are!" sniped Handy, laughing and getting knifed.

"SILENCE!" thundered Papa, flinging a few thunderbolts. "Of course we'll go!" Rescuing meant violence and the wedding meant booze, two of his favourite things. Before he could run off, Grover said that there were Shorties there. "Oh, no, not Shorties! That stupid pieman must have..." Grover nodded. Papa sighed and ran off. Ten minutes later, they were all assembled and loaded into troop trucks. "Charge!" enthused Papa from the rear.

Meanwhile, Gargamel was watching the raging battles on his giant TV screen and cackling vigorously.

"Har, them Smoifs is bound to goed in now that they's Smoifette haz bean cappychured!" One of his more odious habits was deliberately mangling grammar and spelling in order to shock the good-English-sensitive listeners that abound in such profusion. "I'll be the only one in the forest!" There was a knock at the door. "Who-who's there?" he quavered from under a table. The door was rudely knocked from its rusty hinges by none other than Sour Grapes herself. "Do come in," he squeaked.

"Get out from there!" she ordered. Getting no response, she dragged him out and sized him up. Suddenly, she had a hot flash and squeezed him to her. Her reverie was shattered when he screamed in her ear and bolted out the door and into the forest. "Come back dearest!" she called after him, still dazed. "I'll get you! I'll get all of you if it's the last thing I ever do!" she resolved mightily and gave chase.

The Snuffs were already in Poppy Street City by the time this had ended and were out of the trucks, hunting for Snuffette. The Poppy Streeters were puzzled by their arrival and even more puzzled when they inquired as to her whereabouts. By sheer luck, Poet and Dreamy Snuffs ran into Guy Smiley and Kermit, who said that she had been taken to Mr Hooper's stronghold by Apricot, Strawberry Shortcake and Gordon. As a reward, the Snuffs aided the Muppets in decimating a horde of "innocent" kids with anti-tank guns. They then informed Papa Snuff and the others by walkie-talkie. The Snuffs closed in.

In the stronghold, Strawberry had disarmed Snuffette, trussed her up in a large pram and in baby clothes had dressed her. She was also trying to make her drink from a baby bottle of milk.

"Kootchy-kootchy-OW! #$&(***=+2^?')!! My finger!" she cussed.

"Now, now," soothed Cookie Monster, attracted by the odours from the pungent language she used. "You mustn't abuse my wife-to-be," he chided, removing the Shortie's cat-o'-nine tails and eating it. This time it was Snuffette's turn to swear.

"I'll never marry a cookie addict! My Snuffs will rescue me, just you wait! And just who do you think you are, anyway, Shortcake?" she snapped. The Shortie was trying to feed her again.

"Your nurse, of course! You're too young to be fighting on the streets!" Snuffette slashed her bonds with a razor-sharp fingernail and responded.

"Anyone old enough to marry is old enough to fight!" At that, she leaped from the pram, broke Cookie Monster's neck with a karate chop, kicked Strawberry in the groin and hurriedly rearmed herself. Leaving a smoke bomb, she began following the exit signs.

Back outside, Kermit, Grover and Guy Smiley were rushing to Mr Hooper's HQ as fast as they could walk. Then they ran into Oscar the Grouch and his platoon of followers.

"Har, another bunch of pansies!" he mocked. His gang laughed.

"What's to expect from a bouquet of flower children?" Grover sniggered. Oscar's gang laughed again. The leader snarled

"Shaddap!" and brandished his Kalashnikov. They shut up. "Well, well, if it isn't Mr Wise Guy," he sneered at the frog. "Always quick with the retort, aren't you?"

"Especially since I'm a chemist," lied Kermit.

"We like to see you react," added Guy helpfully.

"Don't let's get fizzical," giggled Grover.

"You really are a bunch of pistols, of the pop-gun style!"

"Only when we're loaded," Kermit shot back explosively.

"YAAAARRGH!" yarghed Oscar furiously, shooting him down in warm blood (and lots of it) with a chatter. Grover replied with a flame-thrower and burnt the gang to a crisp with a roar of burning napalm. The two remaining Muppets found Kermit and ran on.

After several deadly false leads, Snuffette managed to reach the area of the one and only door out. To clear the area of guarding Poppy Streeters, who were shooting at attacking Montagues and Snuffs from a well-fortified machine-gun nest, she found a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher and flung it violently at a wall near them. The cylinder obligingly cracked and exploded as the liquid inside rapidly vaporized. Snuffette caught a glimpse of the pursuing Shortcake, Cookie Monster and a couple of guards before she ran out the door. She was blown up several times by both sides before finally appearing near her beloved Grover, who hastened to her gibbering with excitement and suppressed lust. But before anything could happen, a Cookie Monster clone appeared out of nowhere, the way they tend to, spotted them and yelled

"AHA! Cheating on me already!" accusingly.

"Ah, shaddap!" Grover growled, blowing him up with a recoilless rifle. The Snuffs were disappointed that Snuffette had escaped of her own accord because they had hoped to pull off one of their daringly violent rescues perfected of late on Gargamel. After consultation with Bert and Bob, they decided to help with the massacre anyway, just for kicks. Accordingly, Bob's combined forces pummelled the building with poison gas and corrosive acids to utterly dissolve resistance. Once the building had been completely razed, Bert and friends began to scour the city for any renegades, who were thrown in the vast prison for later sentencing when the kangaroo courts got around to them. As this was happening, Snuffette and Grover were walking down a street together in the light of the setting sun.

"Grover, do you think we can continue our relationship? After all, Gargamel's spells last only till sunset and your city will soon be back where it belongs." Grover scuffed his feet.

"No," he sighed, "None of our peoples would accept us, it pains me greatly to say," he added, pinching himself.

"Will you miss me?" she sighed dreamily, batting her eyelashes at him. Before he could reply, a voluptuous female Muppet appeared in a doorway and wiggled suggestively at him.

"Miss who?" he called back, running for the Muppet. Nature hath no fury like a Snuffette scorned, as Grover learned the hard way. Infuriated, she launched her entire arsenal at them in a flurry of grenades, bullets and knives. She succeeded in blowing up the entire front of the building as well as her intended targets. After stomping for five minutes in the general direction of the road out, she heard the sound of pattering feet, followed rapidly by the appearance of a red-faced and puffing Pieman.

Ever since we left him, he had been sneaking ever so carefully through back alleys and side streets towards the main road out. Once he'd heard of the massacre of Mr Hooper's men, he'd speeded his pace, knowing that Strawberry Shortcake was there molesting Snuffette. To his awful luck, he nearly bumped into her nearly ten minutes ago. Ever since then, she had chased him with all the determination of a high school teacher trying to open a locked safe full of booze. Snuffette, seeing her chance for revenge, allowed him to pass, but when Strawberry rounded the bend (if she wasn't so already) she intercepted a hail of lead from her burp gun. The Purple Pieman kept on running until he reached a decrepit five-story building, which he entered and went to the top floor. When he peeped out the front window, he saw her clone marching determinedly down the street in the direction he had been going. Valiantly quaking in his hobnailed boots, he waited until he'd caught his breath and crept downstairs in the now-failing light for a quick peek out the doorway.

"GOTCHA!" she yelled when he popped his head out, making a grab for him. When he regained consciousness he was on a bed in the building with her looming above. "Hi there!" she said.

"How--how did you find me?" he quavered, fearing her next act. She responded brightly:

"I followed my nose! You haven't washed for days and I could smell you from afar!" She pounced triumphantly.

Gargamel had succeeded in eluding Sour Grapes for most of the afternoon, but he stepped on one of his own land mines, attracting the sorceress to the area. His clone soon was captured and hauled to her house for "exercise", which lasted until he escaped a week later. So much for him. The Snuffs, now that the man-hungry Shorties had found out about them, were on the lookout and did their best to lie low from the search parties. As the story grinds to a close, everybody lived happily and peacefully ever after.

Well, almost.

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