Zipper's Wonderful Life
Christmas time at Headquarters was a season that each Ranger looked forward to. It reminded each one of the home they now shared and the good feelings that carried over from their childhoods. So when the decorations went up, everyone pitched in with enthusiasm and laughter. Gadget came into the main room, carrying some tinsel.
"Golly, this tinsel I made with my new tinfoil shred-a-matic is really going to give headquarters a spiffy look! And I know just the Ranger to help me..."
At this news, Zipper happily buzzed over. He loved Christmas, and was always eager to help out. Gadget saw him coming and smiled, but shook her head. "Oh, I didn't mean you, Zipper. Chip's the nimblest on the ladder." Chip zoomed over and took over the tinsel. "Sure thing, Gadget! I'll have it in place in no time!"
Zipper watched Chip go, then turned back around to ask Gadget what he should do but she was already heading back to her workshop to get more tinsel. He looked for another opportunity, and found Dale decorating the Christmas tree with a string of popcorn--or rather, he was stringing and mooching off the end.
Zipper tapped Dale on the shoulder. "Buzzzz?" He picked up one end of the string and made gestures of going around the tree. Dale dropped the end of the string he was slowly devouring, knowing he'd been caught. "Aw, I'm doing it as best I can! Go in the kitchen and see if Monty needs some help with the egg nog."
The fly hung his head and flew to the kitchen. Zipper landed on Monty's shoulder and sat there glumly. The Aussie gourmet tasted his cheese egg nog, and his mustache showed just how much of it was egg nog and how much was cheese. "Hey now, why the long face, mate? Don't tell me the Grinch has gotten to ya?"
Zipper explained to Monty that he was feeling left out of the festivities, as best he could. Monty couldn't believe that. "Left out? No one's leaving you out, pally! It's just that, well, everyone's used to doing for himself. Why don't ya go back in there an' find something you can do, and not worry if anyone needs your help or not. After all, you're as much a Rescue Ranger as any of us."
Zipper mumbled that it rarely felt that way. "Aw, now don't go on like that!" Monty replied. "Sure, you're important! Why, the team wouldn't be what it is without you, pally. Pally?"
In the middle of this, Zipper started back into the main room. He still felt a little down, but he shook it off. Why should he wait to be told what to do? Monty was right--he was a Ranger, and he should find a way to help out. With that, he began searching and his eyes focused on the large, long strands of garland that Gadget had made to go on the ceiling.
Zipper gritted his teeth and grabbed up the end of the garland and a tack to attach the first part of it to the wall. At first, everything seemed okay. Monty peeked in, and grinned when he saw Zipper deftly fly up with the end of the garland in his teeth. It took a lot of effort for him, but Zipper got the tack in place. He then flew down and gathered up the other end and another tack in order to fly it across the room and tack it on the other side. Chip noticed him now and came a step down the ladder.
"There's no hurry, Zipper," Chip said. "I'll get to that once the tinsel's up. Why don't you go rest and I'll call you if I need you."
That simply spurred Zipper on more, and he heaved up the garland. Unfortunately, he didn't notice that Gadget had left her hammer on top of part of it, and when he felt the garland snag and pulled hard, the hammer fell--right on Dale's foot. He yelped in pain, holding his foot and hopping up and down. Dale bumped the tree, knocking it over. The tree knocked over the box of Christmas balls, and when Monty went to help Dale he slipped on a glass ball and went scooting across the floor. Monty crashed into the ladder, sending Chip reeling. He fell, miraculously landing on the sofa.
Zipper watched the chaos unfolding around him, not knowing just how to stop it. He dropped the other end of the garland, which turned out to be the wrong move. Gadget had just returned with her tinfoil shredder, to show the others how well it worked. Before she could react, the end of the garland fell on her and the shredder started eating it. The overeager machine chewed the garland happily, pulling itself out of Gadget's hands, and ending up following the bright red cloth up to the ceiling tack where it finished its meal and promptly fell to the floor--breaking apart.
"Oh dear!" Gadget said, upset. "My new shredder! And golly, what happened to you guys?"
"It was Zipper's fault!" Chip said, pointing to the hovering fly. "He wouldn't wait when I told him to. Just look at all this!" Monty knew he was partly responsible and tried to intercede. "Now hold on, Chipper. It ain't all ol' Zip's fault. He..."
"Yes it was!" Dale said. "I saw it all! He tried to put the garland up, and he blamed me for not getting the popcorn string up quick enough!" Gadget turned to Zipper. "Zipper, did you do that to Dale?" Zipper was all confused at this point, and just shrugged.
"See? He can't deny it," Chip said. "Zipper, why don't you head outside while we finish this. That way, we'll get it done." Zipper pursed his lips and tears started filling his eyes. He buzzed angrily and flew out the door. Monty ran after him. "Zip ol' pal, hold on!"
Too late--the fly was out the door and going as fast as he could. Monty turned to Chip, his ire up. "Chip, I was the one who told the lad to do something on his own, 'cause no one was lettin' him help!"
"Well, why didn't you say so?" Chip asked.
"I tried to, pally, but you didn't let me get a word in edgewise!" Monty retorted.
"He still blamed me about the string!" Dale said. Gadget walked over and examined the item in question. "And did he also eat the last fourth of it off?" Dale ducked his head. "Well, no. He just held up the string for me to put it around the tree and..."
"Maybe he just wanted to help you," Gadget said.
"Oh, I never thought of that," Dale said. "Now I feel bad! We need to find Zipper, and let him know we're sorry!"
"Give him time, mate," Monty said. "He'll be back."
Zipper needed time to think things out and he wasn't up to going home to talk to Monty so he decided to head for the city. When he got there, he noticed a familiar large cat and his cohorts about to enter the Happy Tom Cat Food Factory. Zipper went to the top of the place and entered unseen through the metallic cat's mouth. When he got there, he flew into Fat Cat's office and took up an inconspicuous place on the wall just as they entered.
"It's a brilliant plan, boss!" Mepps said, as the criminal cohorts exited the elevator. "Now what is it, again?"
"Shut up!" Fat Cat said, in his usual rosy mood. "I don't expect you mental midgets to understand one iota of what I'm planning. After all, I got to the top on my own brains and ability. The lot of you couldn't get to the top of a sand castle."
"Can I have a candy bar?" Mole asked.
"No! Now let me get the plans out and show you what you'll be doing while I score the biggest hit of the year," Fat Cat said, going to his safe. Zipper walked a little closer, trying to see what was up. The criminal cat laid out what turned out to be the building plans for an old building and loan. "It's simplicity itself--the Wonderful Old Building and Loan stores all of its cash in the bank vault on Christmas Eve to be ready for the bank examiner. We'll tunnel under and take the dough, and no one will be the wiser."
Mepps had a thought, which was admittedly strange. "Uh boss, ain't that sort of mean to do now? I mean, I'm kinda tired of getting coal and switches."
"Yes!" Wart echoed. "I want presents this year!"
"Me too!" Mole said. "Santa might bring me a candy bar!"
"Let's wait until after Christmas," Rat said.
The complaining continued until Fat Cat slammed his fist onto the desk. "We're criminals, you dolts! We'll always get coal and switches. Now, when we get the money, you can buy any little thing your hearts desire. OKAY!"
Zipper had heard enough, and started to leave when Rat spotted him. "Hey boss, it's that fly from the Rangers!" Fat Cat gasped. "Get him! I won't have anyone spoiling my Christmas cheer!" Zipper flew quickly for the little exit where he'd come in at, but he'd strayed too far. Mepps wasn't all that smart but he was fast and managed to catch him in a glass jar.
Fat Cat took the prisoner and put the jar on the table. "So, you thought you'd outsmart me, did you? Well, you're in no condition to help anyone! In fact, I've never understood why the Rangers kept you around. When an idiot like Mepps can catch you, you're of no use to anybody!"
"Yeah, an idiot like me!" Mepps said, laughing. The goon squad and Fat Cat laughed at Zipper, pointing. At first he was angry, buzzing threats that none of them heard. Then the laughter and the talk started to get to him. The hurt he felt from before with the his goof-ups at Ranger Headquarters came back to haunt him. He could remember everything they'd said, and now he began to wonder if they weren't right.
Fat Cat could see the fly's melancholy and decided to press him. "You know, I think you'd be more valuable to the Rangers if you left them. Besides, who'd ever miss you? Mepps, release him."
"Release him! He's no threat to us, and no good to anyone."
Zipper stared at them when Mepps raised the glass. His insides were churning with emotion. Fat Cat intentionally turned his back on him. "Now here's what we'll do.." Zipper realized then that they didn't care if he heard or not. Tears began to fall as he headed slowly for the air duct he'd come from.
After three apple cores at Martini's Core Bar, Zipper made a decision. He flew out dizzily into the moonlit night, and headed for the Brooklyn Bridge. The Rangers had just been nice letting him stay around all this time, tolerating him. He was fooling himself to think he was useful--after all, Fat Cat had shown him that. Maybe he would've been grateful, if that revelation hadn't led him to think of doing what he was considering now.
He had only a moment to think about it, though, because a horsefly fell from the bridge at that moment, screaming for help. Zipper shook himself out of his depression and flew as fast as he could, just managing to catch up with the insect in need before the cold, rough waters of the Hudson would have enveloped them both. Zipper flew the old fly back up to the bridge and there they both caught their breath.
"Thank you," the fly said, between breaths. "My wings aren't what they used to be, and when a downdraft came I didn't have the strength to pull out. Thank you, for saving me."
Zipper shrugged and buzzed a "you're welcome", then began walking off. The horsefly followed, "Hey, why so glum?" Zipper began telling him about what had happened to him and why he was there. The old fly looked sympathetic. "Now, now, it can't be as bad as all that. After all, you're a Rescue Ranger. You're a very important person!"
After looking up to see if this fellow was serious, Zipper just shook his head. Then his eyes narrowed and he buzzed a question. The horsefly smiled in return. "How did I know? Oh, I know everything about you. You see, I let that downdraft take me because I knew you'd risk your own life to save mine rather than kill yourself. Did you really think that Fat Cat and his gang were right?"
Zipper turned in amazement. He hadn't mentioned that to this fellow yet. The horsefly nodded. "Yes, I know every detail about you and your life. You see, I'm your guardian angel. You can call me Harold." Zipper looked at him dubiously, but Harold held up a hand in a vow. "Honest. I know everything about you. Now really, isn't it silly coming here and thinking of drowning yourself? You really are more important than you know!"
At this, Zipper buzzed an angry reply.
"Oh, you mustn't say things like that! Why, if you hadn't been born at all, you’ve no idea what would...well, it did work the last time..."
Harold flew over and touched Zipper. "All right, then. You've never been born." A gusty wind came up from nowhere and nearly blew them both off the bridge. "Joseph, you don't have to do that every time!" Harold yelled.
"Brother, that was some wind," Zipper said. Then he stopped and felt his throat. "My voice...I have a voice! Well, it sort of sounds like Ron Howard but it least it's a voice! But when I was a boy--the accident..."
"That never happened now," Harold said. "Nothing happened that happened before. You weren't born, so now you have no concerns. No Rangers mad at you, no Fat Cat putting you down. No nothing."
Zipper puzzled over this. "Look, I don't know how I got my voice back, but you're a nut case. I'm going home, to Ranger Headquarters." Harold flew along with him. "What headquarters?" Zipper was beginning to get annoyed with this guy. "You've never heard of Ranger Headquarters? You must've led a sheltered life. Come on, I'll introduce you around. I'm sure they'll love to meet a guardian angel."
When they got to the largest oak tree in Central Park, Zipper stopped in midair, aghast--it wasn't there. The entire park was different. There were no rodents anywhere, only cats. Zipper flew to the sign for Central Park to be sure he was in the right place, but even the sign betrayed him.
"Fat Cat Park?" Zipper asked. "But how can this be? This is where Ranger Headquarters is! It has to be here!" Zipper flew down and caught a cat's attention. "Where's Ranger Headquarters?" The cat looked at him like he was crazy. "You're lost, fly. You need to head for the nearest forest. This here's Fat Cat's territory. Now scram!"
Zipper evaded the cat's swipe, and flew back up high above the park where Harold was waiting. "You did this somehow! What have you done with them? Talk!" Harold put a friendly hand on Zipper's arm. "You don't understand, it's not what I did, but it's what you didn't do."
"What do you mean?"
Harold led Zipper over to a high tree limb and they took a seat. "I told you, you weren't born. What that happened, every life that you impacted changed. The Rangers aren't here because of that." Zipper didn't like where this was going. "But...if they're not here, where are they?"
The angel in fly's body appeared reluctant to speak. "It's not pretty."
"Where are they? WHERE!"
Harold looked up and nodded. "All right, I'll show you."
Harold clapped his hands, and instantly they were in different surroundings. The flies were in a tropical jungle, and in front of them was a bamboo shack that had long since been allowed to fall into disrepair. Zipper's eyes bulged when he saw the big mouse that came out of it. "Monty!" Zipper shouted, flying up to him. The Aussie mouse looked at the fly in confusion. "Yeah, that's me name, but who're you?"
"It's me, Zipper! Your old traveling buddy and fellow Rescue Ranger! What are you doing here?"
"Rescue Ranger? Ain't never heard of that. As fer travelin’, I decided to settle down here in Panama. The flies are nice enough, and the cheese ships are nearby. Say, you look like a bloke I knew a long time back--name of Buzzor the second."
Zipper nodded emphatically. "My brother! He's my brother! Now do you remember?" Monty scowled at him. "He never had no brother. Buzzor died as a young lad when he tried to defeat the giant frog Guumin an' drowned in the swamp." Zipper shook his head. "That's a lie! I saved his life that day! He was nuts, trying that kind of stunt at that age. I couldn't let that old frog kill him, though. He ended up driving the Guumin from the swamp when he grew up. That's how I lost my voice, from drinking in some bad swamp water."
Monty crossed his arms. "You're plumb loco, whoever you are! The Guumin ate all the flies up, and Buzzor's buried right over there, by his father. Go look for yourself." Zipper flew over, not wanting to look, but he did. The graves were clearly marked, and now the little fly was afraid.
"No one ever realizes just how many lives we touch every day. Now, don't you see what a waste it would be to throw your life away?"
Zipper turned to Harold. "What about the Rangers?" Harold looked down. "Chip and Dale tried to stop Klordane and Fat Cat alone, and without the others they..." Zipper was shocked. "You mean...but what about Gadget?"
"She wasn't there to help them, because Monty wasn't there to lead Chip and Dale to her, because you weren't there to help Monty and keep him focused on adventures rather than cheese."
Zipper flew right up to him. "I want to see her, then." Harold sweated a little at the idea. "You're not going to like it." Zipper nodded. "I may not, but I have to know."
In an old abandoned plane at a now-nameless airport, Zipper and Harold flew into what Monty had once described as a veritable cornucopia of death and destruction. If anything, it was now ten times worse. Weaponry of every sort defended a central point, and even two small flies had a hard time evading the various trip wires and electronic beams. When they reached the center, they found a blonde-haired mouse tinkering with some kind of trap.
"Gadget?" Zipper said, almost whispering it.
The mouse jumped, seemingly afraid of her own shadow. "What! Who! Where are you!" Zipper flew a little closer. "Gadget, don't be afraid. It's Zipper." Gadget ran for a spear-pointed plunger gun. "Get out! I don't want anyone here! No salesmen, no boys, no nothing!" Zipper began to fly backwards in alarm. "Gadget, what's happened to you?"
"I'm waiting for dad to come home! He'll be coming and no one's going to take me away from here! You tell them that, you hear! You tell them!"
She fired the harpoon, and Zipper had to do some fancy flying to avoid the projectile. "Gadget, you lost your father long ago, remember? He..."
"Lies! He's coming back! He's coming back!"
Zipper looked into those eyes, and then he knew. It was shocking to see, but he knew. He flew back to Harold, even as Gadget kept echoing the mantra that had been going through her mind for years. Then one even more harrowing thought came to him. "Honey!"
Harold was already looking for a way out when Zipper caught him. "Tell me where she is! Tell me!"
Harold fought him. "I'm not supposed to tell."
"She's an old maid! She never fell in love."
Zipper pushed him away, flying speedily for the hive of the one female he cared for. Harold rubbed his head. "It never gets any easier. No, I didn't tell her I was a salesman!"
Zipper reached the hive, yelling out Honey's name. The place was empty--well, almost empty. One lone queen bee sat on a throne in a long-deserted throne room. When Zipper entered, she flew behind her throne. "Who are you?"
"Honey. Honey, it's me, Zipper!"
She looked at him, terror emanating from her eyes. "I don't know you. Go away, please!" Desperation was welling up inside of him, but still he had to ask her. "Honey, where's all your bees?"
"They left years ago when some evil human took them away. I've had to learn to forage for myself. Do you know where they are?"
Zipper fell at her feet, the weight of that hitting him hard. "Honey, please don't be scared. I care about you, Honey. I love you!" She screamed, flying quickly from the hive. "Leave me alone! Leave me alone!" Zipper flew out quickly, to once again be faced with the cats below in the park and Fat Cat being brought to the park fountain in an ornate procession. The cats lauded him as the ruler of the park, and bowed down to him.
It was too much. Zipper screamed in agony, and flew back for the Brooklyn Bridge. "Harold! Harold!" Zipper cried as he reached the ledge where he'd been what now seemed an eternity ago. "Harold! Please, let me live again. I don't care if I'm not recognized or appreciated. I don't care what happens to me, just let the Rangers be okay! I want to live again...please...I want to live again…"
Zipper turned around to find a familiar bat flying up to him. "Foxy?" he squeaked, his voice back to normal now. Foxglove landed next to him. "Zipper, what are you doing here? Everyone's been out looking for you. Uh, did you say my name, then? I still have trouble understanding you." Zipper beamed with pleasure and squeaked, "You had trouble? Yay!"
Zipper hugged her and flew away, quickly, Foxy following behind and quite bewildered. The fly passed by the bee hive and found Honey outside, waving. "Yay! Merry Christmas, Honey!" he shouted as best he could. He looked down at the park. "Yahoo! No cats anywhere!" Zipper flew toward the park's center, noting the sign was back to normal, and found the oak tree right where it should be. "Yay! Merry Christmas, Central Park!"
Zipper flew in and even considering his small size he nearly tackled Dale. The Rangers had just come back from looking for him, and now he was all over them with hugs and kisses. None of them could understand it, but they were all glad to see him again. Chip spoke up first.
"We're sorry about upsetting you, Zipper, and I'm sorry I yelled at you," Chip said.
"An' I'm sorry about blaming you for the popcorn bit," Dale said.
"Don't worry about the shred-a-matic," Gadget said. "I've already repaired it and made some neat modifications!" Zipper hugged her. "I'm so glad you're not hunting me with a harpoon!" he squeaked. Gadget blinked. "Huh? Did I hear him right, Monty? It sounded like he said..."
"Sounded that way to me too, lass. What'cha been up to, Zipper me pal?"
Zipper flew right up to his old friend. "And you're here and not in Panama!" Now it was Monty's turn to blink. "Panama? Why would I be there? Uh, you didn't overhear us talking about..."
Zipper turned around, knowing who the voice belonged to. It was Buzzor, his younger brother. "Hello, brother. The Rangers here told me you'd been feeling a little down lately, and I figured it would be a good time for a visit." Zipper's face broke into a teary smile. "Buzzor! Buzzor!" He flew over, hugging his brother. "It's so good to see you--more than you know."
"I'd say this calls fer a toast!" Monty said, and brought out the cheese egg nog. Buzzor took a thimbleful and held it up, looking at his brother. "To my big brother, Zipper--the greatest fly on earth." The Rangers echoed his sentiments, and drank the toast. Then the Rangers' Christmas tree moved and one of the bells on it sounded. "Hey," Dale shouted. "An angel just got his wings!" Zipper smiled up. "Thanks, Harold. Rangers, we've got a robbery to stop."
Needless to say, the Wonderful Old Building and Loan didn't miss a penny the next day. When they came home that night, the Rangers and the two flies gathered around the tree, singing Christmas songs. Then Zipper noticed a Christmas card addressed to him that hadn't been there before and picked it up. Inside it read, No one is a failure who puts his own life aside for his friends. Thanks for the wings--Harold.
Zipper looked around at the unified voices filling the tree with song and joy and knew he wouldn't have it any other way. He joined in, his squeaky voice a small price to pay for what he knew now was a wonderful life, indeed.
Buzzor, the Guumin and Harold are original creations of Indy. The story is based on It's a Wonderful Life, copyright Republic Pictures. Honey and the Rescue Rangers are copyright Disney and used without permission but with the utmost respect.