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1985

Letters

Jeff is sitting up on the roof, writing a letter to Wanda Willoby.

"Dear Wanda, I'm writing this letter from the rooftop - it's such a beautiful night. Feels like magic in the air!" He looks up and explains to us that he is writing because he and Wanda are pen pals. "We write letters back and forth," he says, but apparently this is his first letter to her. He shows us another letter he got from Mrs. P who is on vacation at Slippery Saddle Ranch. She has included a picture of herself and a horse with fluffy blond hair just like hers. "Here's a picture of me and my horse Jasper, that's me on the left, ha-ha!"

Mrs. P's letter and picture give Jeff an idea. Since Wanda doesn't read well, he's going to draw pictures to send along with his letter so she'll understand it better. The first picture he will draw is a big fluffy piece of popcorn to accompany his story about the disaster that Muffy experienced the other night while trying to make herself a nice snack.

(Flashback)

Muffy is so excited to be making popcorn, she sings a tune, "Pop pop popcorn, pop pop! A pop-a-pop-a-popcorn, Pop! Pop!" Unfortunately, she forgot to put the lid on the popper, and pretty soon the popcorn is popping everywhere. She shields herself with the lid to deflect the flying kernels, but she is helpless to prevent it from making a mess of her house and even flying into the hall outside. She has popped an unbelievable amount of popcorn with her mouse-sized popper, and it's everywhere. She goes out into the hall to survey the mess and tries to sweep it up. "Oh! I'll never get done, I'm so tired now. I don't need a broom, I need a snowplow!" Just then she notices a small vent, a kind of trap door in the wall.

"Trap door, oh, where do you lead?" she asks, but then decides, "Who cares? You're just what I need!" She then gleefully sweeps mounds of popcorn into the open vent.

"Where do you suppose all this popcorn goes?" she says as she sweeps.

We soon find out. Down in the computer room, Sam is reading the newspaper when a couple of kernels drop from above.

"What is it - raining or something?" he muses, looking up. "No. Doesn't seem to be."

Then a trickle of popcorn begins, growing to a stream, then a torrent of popcorn raining all over Sam and his newspaper. He stares blankly as it falls, then shakes it off his newspaper, clears his throat, and keeps reading. Another normal day at the office!

(End flashback)

Jeff explains that after this incident, Muffy was barred sweeping any more popcorn into the trap door. However, she got some help from Jodie very soon.

(Flashback)

Jodie is using a powerful vacuum to clean up the popcorn mess in the hall and it looks like she's got most of it. Muffy asks to borrow the vacuum cleaner so she can make quick work of her apartment. Jodie warns her that the vacuum cleaner has a lot of suction, but Muffy goes ahead anyway. It's so powerful, it sucks up half her room, and she can't make Jodie hear her over the din of the vacuum cleaner. So we alert Jodie, and she quickly turns the vacuum cleaner off and opens it up to retrieve Muffy's things. She recovers skis, a hanging plant, and even a pickle in a garbage can.

(End flashback)

Jeff tells us that it took Muffy SIX hours to clean her room that night, but after it was done, it seemed like her troubles were over for that night.

But they weren't.

(Flashback)

Jodie is in the children's department looking at a package that was just delivered marked "open immediately upon delivery." Jodie is puzzled, since she doesn't remember ordering anything.

It is a box with holes in it, so Sam suggests hopefully that maybe they're brownies from Jodie's Aunt Millie.

So Jodie opens the box and then shuts it quickly in hurried disgust.

"Not brownies," says Jodie as she gesticulates expressively with a look of exquisite distaste on her face. "Toads!"

"Toads!" cry Jeff and Sam.

"Jumpin' catfish!" cries Sam.

"No, toads!" say Jeff and Jodie.

Jodie hasn't the foggiest idea why she was sent toads. Perhaps they were meant to go to the pet department instead, but it's a mystery why it was addressed to Jodie. So off they go to look for a container to keep the toads in.

Muffy, done with her labor, walks into the children's department and, curious, opens the box. The toads begin to come out. Muffy is horrified.

"Oh toads, oh toads, if it's all the same, please go back from whence you came!"

But the toads don't listen. One toad didn't get far and was easily caught, but there's one still on the lam. So they begin "The Great Toad Hunt". They look everywhere in the store, even call out "ribbit, ribbit" to get the toad's attention. In an attempt to think like a toad, Jeff and Jodie hop around the store. At one point, Jeff, trying to catch a frog, nets Jodie instead.

Soon, however, Muffy, exhausted, decides to turn in. She's had quite a night and she's really looking forward to getting some rest. So into bed she goes and turns out the light. Then, in the darkness, she hears a "ribbit!"

Yes, the toad is in her bed, crawling onto her hand - and when she turns on the light, there it is.

"YUCK!" she cries.

(End flashback)

(Jeff draws a picture for Wanda, depicting "Muffy nose to nose with the toad.")

But despite the disastrous night, something happens that makes the night special. Muffy has a dream. She dreams that she is singing with Oscar Peterson. We see the dream, and Peterson improvises on the theme of "Three Blind Mice" while Muffy sings the tune.

Jeff is ending his letter now.

"I guess that's all there is to say, Wanda," he writes, (he then looks up and says, "It's been a wacky night!") "Your pen pal, Jeff."

The letter is done, so now Jeff folds the letter, puts it into an envelope, and then reluctantly licks the awful tasting envelope seal with a shudder.

A high pitched giggle is heard. "Oh, that tickles!" says a voice.

It's the envelope!

"Envelopes don't talk, do they?" Jeff asks.

"Well, sure we do, when we feel like it." the envelope answers.

"Boy, that's some kind of magic!" says Jeff.

"You said it yourself, buddy, there's magic in the air tonight."

It's a good thing this envelope can talk because it prompts Jeff to do a few things he forgot - like writing the address on the front: Wanda Willoby, 16 Sycamore Possum Ridge.

Next the envelope reminds Jeff to put a stamp on the letter. (He shudders as he licks the stamp). Jeff explains that he hasn't written a lot of letters because he used to be a mannequin.

The envelope finds this hard to believe. "Yeah!" he says sarcastically, "A talking mannequin. That's a good one!" The envelope is about to go and jump into the mailbox when Jeff asks what happens to it after it gets in the mail.

"Ahhhh..." says the envelope, "You wanna hear my life story. How envelopes like me get from here to there."

As he explains, we see a film of an envelope being mailed, and we follow that envelope from the mailbox, to the mail truck, to a sorter where the addresses are read and bundled, to a plane or a truck after that to Possum Ridge (or wherever else an envelope is going). There, they're sorted again and given to the mail carrier.

Jeff envies the envelope its adventurous life and extensive travel.

Just then Jodie comes onto the roof and hears Jeff talking. Still, she refuses to believe that he was talking to the envelope. She laughs hard and long. "Jeff you are such a tease!" she cries. Jeff asks the envelope to say hello to Jodie, but all of a sudden, the envelope is mute. Jeff looks at us and says, "We really did talk, didn't we?"

After a quiz, reader Debbie Bishop reads us a Willoby tale.

"Today's Special is about letters and that's what today's Willoby tale is about, too." The story begins with the arrival of Jeff's letter at the Possum Ridge post office.

Postal Pete, the mail carrier, sees the letter and knows that Wanda will be "tickled pink," to get her letter, so he delivers it right away. Mama reads the letter to Wanda and then they put Jeff's pictures on the wall in Wanda's room. Then she tries to answer the letter.

"And that's when things got difficult," reads Debbie.

Wanda first tries to use a pencil to write to Jeff, but she finds the big pencil unwieldy and the letters she makes look peculiar. So next she uses her feet to type a letter on Papa's typewriter, hopping from key to key. This made her very tired, and every time she got to the end of the line, the typewriter bell would ring, and she would jump in startled surprise.

So it seems that Wanda will be unable to tell Jeff all the things she wants to say! But Mama Willoby has an idea. We'll find out what it was later.


Meanwhile, back at the store, Jeff, Jodie and Muffy are on the roof admiring the lovely night sky. Jeff mentions that the same moon is shining over Possum Ridge tonight, and Jodie guesses he is thinking about Wanda. It's been two weeks since he sent the letter and he's hoping to get an answer soon.

Just then, Sam brings a package up to them in a mail bag, with the writing: "Postal Pete's Delivery Service." The gang is wary. Could it be more toads? Jodie tries to find out by saying, "Ribbit! Ribbit!" to the bag and listening for an answer. When there's no answer, she assumes there are no toads inside.

Sam tries the direct approach: "ANY TOADS IN THERE?!" he yells, to everyone's amusement.

But then a little voice says, "No toads!" And then, the bag begins to move!

We soon see why. Wanda's inside!

Sam was hoping for brownies.

Wanda explains that she decided to come by mail because she couldn't write a letter. By mailing herself instead, she can tell Jeff her letter in person.

Jodie asks Wanda if she wants anything to eat after her long trip.

"Do you have any popcorn?" Wanda asks slyly, as Muffy groans.

Everyone laughs.

"I'm just kidding!" she says. "But later on, can we um, sing songs, and tell stories? And sing songs and then . . . sing songs?"

"Did you have a particular song in mind Wanda?" Jeff asks. Wanda whispers it to him. "Peaceful Possum," the song he wrote for her baby brother the year before. ("Babies," 1984). "It's my very favorite!" she says.

So they all sing it, with Wanda in her off-key voice singing alone at the end, "Peaceful possum, swaying in the breeze, peaceful possum, rest easy as you please!" She lets out a long, satisfied sigh of pleasure.

Quizzes:

  • Here's a letter - what's wrong with it? (Upside-down stamp). Interestingly, the envelope in the quiz is addressed: "Today's Special, Children's Department, The Department Store."
  • Here are four Today's Special stamps featuring Muffy's face. Which one is different? (The one in which she is not wearing a pearl necklace).
  • Can you tell what's in these packages? (The first is easy because of it's shape: It's a hockey stick. The second is rectangular and could be anything, but then they give us a sound clue and it's clear that it's a typewriter).

Nursery Rhyme:

  • None

Notes:

  • Jodie's pulling a pickle out of the vacuum cleaner is the first time since 1981 that Muffy's love of pickles has been mentioned. Most other episodes concentrate on her love of cheese, and there are few if any references to Muffy eating pickles from 1982-1984. "Letters" was the last mention of Muffy eating pickles.
  • The time Muffy had her popcorn/toad disaster is kind of obscure. At one point it seems that it happened on the same night that Jeff is writing the letter because he says, "It's been a wacky night!" But if it happened the same night, then the mystery is how did Jeff know that Muffy dreamed about Oscar Peterson? She would have had to get out of bed to tell everyone about it and then go back to sleep.
  • The puppetry on Today's Special is absolutely marvelous, as this episode shows. In the scene in which the popcorn is falling on him, Sam's deadpan expression is hilarious. It's hard to imagine a human actor playing that scene any better.
  • In the human department, Jodie's disgust upon discovering the toads is palpable, she is the picture of absolute abhorrence, which is portrayed beautifully by her gestures, her face, and her voice.
  • I thought the idea of mailing Wanda was deeply rooted in fiction, but in an article in Country magazine, there was a story of a postmaster who mailed his children to their grandparents. He even tied their hands together with string and stamped them "Fragile, handle with care!" Of course, they weren't sent in a container, they just hid behind the delivery wagon (this was quite a few decades back), and came out to surprise the grandparents after the mail carrier called them to the door. Additionally, I imagine the incident about the toads reminds us that people don't get mailed very often, but animals do.
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