Submitted for your consideration, a young girl on her way home from school. She is about to be met on her journey by a young boy that she gave a valentine's day card to out of what she believed to be pity.
You may have seen one version of these events play out already. A most tragic outcome, where one child's inability to bring herself to order led to public humiliation and rejection of the young lad.
That version of events you may know...this is not that version.
In your reality, the little girl you know as Lisa Simpson often asked herself the burning question ''what would have happened if I'd went about things different?", here, for your enjoyment, is one possible answer out of millions.
Lisa is only a few miles away from her house when Ralph Wiggum accompanies her, still on a high after reading her valentines' card.
He tries to make small talk as best as his mental prowess can allow, but he is finding difficulty conveying anything of interest to Lisa.
" ... and my doctor said I wouldn't have so many nose-bleeds if I kept my finger out of there" he said.
"That's a little graphic Ralph" said Lisa.
"I don't remember drawing any graphics, we did'nt do computing or art today" replied Ralph in a confused state.
"No, no, there are two different meanings for 'graphic'" Lisa replied.
Lisa spent the majority of the walk home conveying to Ralph the differences between graphic design and graphic, and grotesque, physical acts, and why it grossed her out so much.
She didn't seem to make much progress on this front either.
"So if I eat my mom's nail polish, that's not me painting my insides the way they paint the inside of the house?" Ralph asked.
Lisa tutted and tried her best not to look Ralph in the eye. Something inside of her was tempted to emit a vocal, and mocking, laugh, the kind of laugh that compels you to say things at school of the encounter the next day, but a saner, softer side to her rose to the occasion this day, making her understand the boy's condition more.
Lisa instead opted to head towards her house as it came into view
"Well, here's my house" she said, creeping ever so delicately towards the front lawn.
Ralph remained transfixed on her with a dream like gaze, he gently waved to her as she began to rush to the door.
Once safely inside, Lisa went to the window and stared outward. Ralph hung around a minute or so more, skipping a little down the lane lost within himself.
Lisa felt something in her stomach that made her uneasy, she tried to calm her nerves, but they sprang up once more just as she began to settle.
She could not understand where this sensation was coming from, it wasn't quite clear to her just yet.
She walked past her older brother Bart and Homer, her father, who were watching television. It was another episode of Itchy and Scratchy. A valentines themed episode.
Itchy gave Scratchy a heart shaped box, Scratchy was confused as to why it was empty. Itchy took out a sharp edged kitchen knife and carved Scratchy's chest open, taking his heart out of it's compartment and depositing it in the box. Scratchy shed a small tear as part of him appreciated the gift given to him, until the lack of a vital artery ultimately resulted in him crashing to the floor in a lifeless heap.
Bart, who had laughed a great deal at the violent act, was left slightly annoyed afterwards by Scratchy's reaction.
"What's your malfunction boy?" asked Homer.
"It's one of those darned sentimental episodes they make to remind everyone that, though it appears they be enemies, there's a caring, sensitive side to the characters. That blows man" said Bart.
"Well it's a little more tolerable than the public information film with those two involving the kite and the phone lines above the train tunnel, those shorts are real scary" Homer replied
"Dad, that wasn't an Itchy and Scratchy short" Bart replied.
"Then who was the cat and the mouse then?" said Homer.
"That was Snowball II trying to catch a rodent in front of the tv" answered Bart.
"Oh yeah, I was wondering if that was non-canon considering the cat killed the mouse" said Homer.
Krusty the Clown, the children's entertainer, appeared on the screen in a tuxedo.
"Hey, kids! Don't forget to watch my 29th Anniversary Show, featuring clips like this one of Sideshow Mel wacked out on wowie-sauce"
Krusty showed a preview of what to expect, showing a clearly drunk and disorderly Cecil giving Krusty a piece of his mind.
"And you shall be informed, forthwith, you clueless clam, from me, and my compatriots to the right and left of me...or in whatever direction they are in that happens to fit my present vision, that you can take this job and shove it right between your..."
The clip stopped and Krusty reappeared.
"...Peak prime time viewing hours, that's totally what he was going to say right kids? At least, for the purpose of this segway anyhow. Find out what he was really talking about and so much more...when you turn 15 years old. In the meantime, come to my special at your current age and let the magic grow with you until then" Krusty continued.
"I'd do anything to go to that show" said Bart.
"I'd sell my first-born son" said Homer
"That's cold man, you're way too old for Krusty anyway" Bart angrily retorted.
"Hey, you forgetting that time I filled in for that clown?" Homer replied.
"I've tried with every rerun from that era" snapped Bart.
Lisa chose not to partake in this latest of family squabbles, and went to the kitchen to see her mother, little knowing tempers had cooled down in the living room as Bart chose to go outside to lose a little steam, leaving Homer to eavesdrop on the conversation between mother and daughter.
Deciding to intercede, Homer walked into the kitchen with the apparent intention of taking a beer out of the fridge, but he hung around the general area with his head lost in the chilled container picking up every trace of what Lisa had to say about Ralph.
Finally, Lisa asked the million dollar question which sprang Homer into action
"What do you say to a boy to let him know you...you're not...well..." Lisa began, but trailed off
"...A woman yet?" Homer replied, trying to finish her sentence
"Homer!" Marge retorted, telling him off with just the sheer pronunciation of his name.
"I was going to say 'interested'" said Lisa.
"Oh honey, a girl is always interested when a boy starts to show a little curiosity in them...what you mean to say is you're not ready yet" said Marge.
"Yeah, just rattle off these little fireworks" Homer said, checking his fingers.
"Let's seem, you should give him something to fight for, so say I've met someone, or I've met someone who looks like you, I know this boy, he's dumb as a rock, just give him a photo of himself to show what his 'rival' looks like and he'll attack the photo thinking it's literally him"
"I won't be that cruel Dad" Lisa replied.
"Sometimes you have to be kind to be cruel to be kind dear" Homer said
"Homer, you just laid out a scenario where Lisa would just be cruel for cruelty's sake" said Marge.
"Ok Marge, for your sake, since you're so hell bent on us giving little Lisa heaven sent advice, let me try again...Lisa, try these six simple words: I'm not gay, but I'll learn"
"Heavens above" Marge replied.
"My advice was that good?" Homer responded, in a vein hope his latest contribution had struck some sort of divine pay-dirt.
Lisa took her mother's advice to heart more so than her fathers', and the next day at school made her intentions clear to Ralph.
"Sorry Ralph, but I'm just not yet ready for this level of interest from you or any boy. I hope you understand" she said.
"I guess so" Ralph replied, taking his time to not only comprehend Lisa's words, but to also decode their meaning.
It was a thought that would pester him all the way to his own abode, and well into dinnertime.
Ralph approached his father, Chief Clancy Wiggum.
"Dad, my friend Lisa doesn't want me interested in her, but she also said she wasn't interested in boys YET" Ralph revealed, believing he had pinpointed a subtle clue in the delivery of Lisa's speech turning him down.
"Just shows she's playing hard to get, the key to a woman's heart is persistence, keep at it and before you know it, you'll clip that lovebird's wings and she'll fall graciously into your arms"
"Is that how you met Mom?" asked Ralph.
"Persistence is one thing, but seeing a man in uniform? That's an entirely different kettle of fish" Wiggum replied, giving Ralph a cautionary look.
"I hope you know my saying that in no way permits you to fill my uniform with boiling hot water and trout again, am I clear?" he asked.
Ralph laughed and nodded.
As another week ticked by, the days leading to Krusty's big anniversary bash drew closer, and Krusty was in a reflective mood as he talked of the show's history to his audience, with Bart and Lisa watching on television at home.
"The executive bigwigs...woo boy, and I mean that literally, they were as bald as a ball-point cucumber, said we wouldn't last six weeks on air when we started. We didn't, we got picked up by another network which had crashed and burned marketing telenovellas to the public. We remain their savin' grace"
"Oh if only we could nab tickets to that show, but our parents would have to be pretty high in society to be able to afford them" Lisa said anxiously.
Homer walked by the living area and overheard this, he looked quite down afterwards.
"Why am I so addicted to eavesdropping. Hmm...if I'm around Flanders, does it mean I'm adamandevesdropping?" Homer continued.
The doorbell rang, Lisa wandered over to the window to catch a glimpse of who was waiting for them on the other side of the door. She froze.
"What's the sytch sis?" asked Bart.
"It's Ralph, oh this is'nt good" said Lisa, clutching her stomach as it became a tense knot once more.
"I thought you told him to take his ball and go long with it" Bart asked.
"I did, but maybe he thinks I'm being difficult to attain on purpose...oh Bart, if he's not willing to listen I don't know how I'll be able to rid myself of him" Lisa said in a helpless state.
She opted to hide, and urged her father to make up an excuse as to why she could not come and see Ralph.
Homer answered the door and greeted Ralph.
"Hi Mr. Simple, is Lisa here?" Ralph said.
"It's that time of the month, come back later" said Homer.
"No dad, we want him gone for keeps" whispered Bart.
"Can I help her? I'd do anything for Lisa" said Ralph.
"Really now? Well, I think she said something about the roof needing some re shingling..." Homer replied, seizing an opportunity to make the most out of Ralph's lovesick obsession with his daughter.
"I'd be glad to help with your roof dingaling, could you give Lisa this from me in the meantime? " he said, handing out a package.
Homer took the package, and walked over to the closet where Lisa was hiding
Lisa gently stepped out of the closet and accepted the package, she headed back over to the living room and opened it up with Bart watching.
"Oh, the latest in the Malibu Stacy convertible range, I hadn't planned on getting this until sometime in the summer with my holiday money" Lisa said.
"Look, there's a note attached" Bart said, taking out the note
"Look in the tunk" he said, reading it aloud.
"Aw bless his heart, he means trunk" said Lisa.
Lisa opened the trunk of the convertible and found two tickets to Krusty's anniversary show.
"Oh that slow little devil, he's only gone and booked the two of you in the front row" Bart said furiously.
"How was he able to afford this?" Lisa replied,.
"It's not fair, I'm ten times the fan you are, I even have the autographs of all his ex-girlfriends" said Bart.
"Bart, I'm not sure going with Ralph to this is such a great idea" Lisa said.
"Precisely my point, you don't even like him, and if you go with him, he'll just assume you're ok with whatever he's willing to do for you" said Bart.
"Well, it's not exactly that I don't like him, what's not to like about a gift like this? It's just I don't want to leave him with a broken heart..." Lisa said.
"Look, if you're this wound up, I'm behind you all the way, I'll even go in your place disguised as you" Bart said
"Bart, what if he wants to...you know...hold hands? or Kiss?" Lisa asked anxiously.
"Hey, you've seen me in high heels, if I walk like a vixen, I can sure kiss like one" said Bart.
"That sounded more enthusiastic than someone of your sexuality is known for" said a despairing Lisa.
The two suddenly heard a thud, they walked over to the window to find a dazed and confused Ralph lying on the lawn.
Homer came through the front door to assure the two everything was ok.
"Not to worry kids, Ralph was getting to work on the roof and passed out inhaling the tar fumes" he said.
"What on earth was he out there doing that for?" said Lisa, rushing out of the door and towards Ralph's hands as he remained disoriented.
"I told him a little white lie about you wanting some work done on the roof, he leapt at it...no really, prior to me fetching a ladder, he tried leaping Six Million Dollar Man style onto the roof, couldn't get anywhere but a few inches, you should have seen it, it was a hoot"
"Maybe he'll die before the special comes on tv" Bart said, which further annoyed Lisa.
"He'll live Bart, and I'm definitely going now" said Lisa as she helped Ralph to his feet.
"Dad, talk to her, stop her, she's only going out of guilt" whispered Bart.
"What's she got to feel guilty about? Her Christmas presents have come so early, I may as well just stick Ralph in a Kris Kringle beard and keep him around for the rest of the year" said Homer.
The big day soon came, the night of Krusty's anniversary show, and Chief Wiggum had offered to drive Lisa and Ralph to the event personally.
Lisa stared at herself in the mirror, admiring the dress her mother had provided for her.
Marge stepped into the bedroom and was taken aback by how beautiful Lisa looked.
"Oh my little starlet, Ralph's a very lucky person" she said.
"Easy for him I guess, I feel my luck's completely run out" said Lisa.
"Oh honey, just focus on having a good time, I'm sure Ralph won't say something too out of line, or nothing too exotic" assured Marge.
"Mom, Bart thinks I'm going to this show out of guilt, or obligation, but a part of me is really very appreciative of what Ralph did for me...I just don't want him to think it's more than that" Lisa admitted.
"Oh dear, it's not like he's going to proclaim his undying devotion for you in front of millions. Go in as friends and seize the night" said Marge.
The doorbell rang, Lisa and Marge gave each other a reassuring hug and went downstairs to greet the visitors.
Ralph was dressed in a striking and swanky grey coat and shirt , he was looking his best.
"Hi Lisa, wow, you look like a looker" he said, giggling a bit.
"What's so funny?" Lisa said, puzzled.
"My dad told me to say that instead of what I normally say to nice looking ladies, at least according to him when he takes me on patrol in the streets" said Ralph
"And what would that be?" Lisa asked
"The same word that begins with an H" said Ralph.
Lisa smiled, seething just a little inside, but something compelled her to forgive Ralph for this remark.
Something was different this time, she didn't feel so anxious, she instead felt her mood lifted considerably by Ralph's choice to say 'looker' and felt quite complimented.
Chief Wiggum chauffeurs Ralph and Lisa to the anniversary show in the back seat of a police car.
"Mr. Wiggum, how were you able to afford the tickets?" Lisa asked
Wiggum proceeded to tell her of an encounter with Krusty at an adult movie theatre, Lisa cut him off before he could get further into it.
"This isn't very appropriate Mr. Wiggum, I'm only nine" said Lisa.
"I've been telling stories like this to Ralph since he was seven" Wiggum replied, shocking Lisa.
"Is this true Ralph?" she asked. Ralph nodded.
"Usually at bedtime, Dad says so long as he helps the town sleep at night, the stories should help me sleep too" Ralph replied.
"And do you?" said Lisa.
"I have lots of exciting dreams about nabbing robbers and protecting people, I get so excited about them I play them out at night" Ralph said beaming with positivity as he reflected on his adventures.
"So you don't sleep for long then?" said Lisa.
"Sleep is for cats, I read that was a saying somewhere, my cat's name is Mittens" Ralph said.
"I have a cat too, it's called Snowball II" Lisa replied, now most interested in Ralph's choice of pets.
"You have a sequel as a pet, that's funny. I own Empire Strikes Back, but it doesn't react to me" said Ralph.
"Alright kids, this is our stop, play nice" said Wiggum as the car pulled up at the studio. Lisa and Ralph disembarked and made their way to their seats.
Lisa looked at the teeming mass of youthful humanity pouring into the studio sound-stage, she was relieved to find not so many were from her class.
Some caught a glimpse of the two and began making small chatter among themselves, Lisa sat in her seat besides Ralph, who waved at her innocently. Lisa waved back, she felt surprisingly calm considering all that was conspiring against her in the back.
The show began. In the audience were Bill and Hillary Clinton.
"Hey, Ms. Clinton! I campaigned for the other guy, but I voted for you" Krusty said as he made his way onto the set.
Krusty introduced a clip of Robert Frost in 1963 reading one of his poems. Krusty made some faces at the camera before depositing a large load of synthetic snow on Ford, who continued to read out his poem regardless.
The next clip was from 1973,`'Kroon Along With Krusty''. A rocking and rolling Krusty sang, back-dropped by psychedelic Laugh-In colours.
"I think this is one of those instances where I have to ask myself what I was literally smoking" Krusty said aloud as the clip came to an end.
Ralph had decided around this time to indulge in some refreshment, and took a pair of chocolate ice creams out of a miniature container that he had carried into the studio with him, he offered Lisa one, but as she reached out for it, Chief Wiggum's hand snatched it from her.
"Mind if I confiscate that son?" said Chief Wiggum. Ralph nodded.
The chocolate, however, slipped from the top and dripped down onto Wiggum's lap.
"Oh great, excuse me a moment kids, I gotta go wipe this off" he said.
Lisa giggled at the calamity that had just occurred, but soon noticed Ralph himself was getting apprehensive without his father around.
"Ralph, what's wrong?" she said.
"People are talking about me, I can hear them. I need an adult" Ralph said, his eyes beginning to slightly water.
Lisa held his hand tightly.
"Everything's alright Ralph, you don't need to worry about what they say, just focus on what I think of you" she said.
"Your brother said you only came because you felt bad for me" Ralph revealed.
"Maybe that's how it started, but I'm having a great time, you're good company Ralph, you're generous and you're interesting, I don't think many of the kids in our class can measure up to that" Lisa said reassuringly.
"Now for my favourite part of the show...interacting with the audience" proclaimed Krusty.
Ralph's eyes widened with joy, Lisa was a little more nervous, but was steadily finding it easier to maintain her composure
She knew Bart was at home recording the program, she knew more of the kids in her class were watching at home. The kids in her class that were attending the event continued to make chat among themselves, taking little bets that the camera would soon be trained on Ralph Wiggum and whatever mad thing would emit from his lips at the expense of anyone associated with him.
Sure enough, Krusty approached Ralph and asked him what he was doing there.
"I'm on a date" he said
Lisa could hear faint bursts of laughter coming from behind her.
"A date huh? I take it the person sitting next to you is the lucky lady right?" Krusty said.
"Yes, her name is Lisa Simpson, she's the kindest girl I've ever known and when I grow up, I'm going to marry her"
All of the young audience's eyes were swiftly trained on Lisa, she gulped, realising the worst fears had come to pass, now the ball was in her court
In your reality, Lisa let her anxiety overtake her, she told Ralph in a fit of unparalleled frustration and rage that she had only given him that card out of pity, that she never loved him, and that she would never be his bride. The humiliation shattered a very tenuous link that Ralph had to the world and for a time he retreated into himself.
This is not that reality.
Here, Lisa opts instead to bring herself to order, this was such a special occasion for Ralph, a proud moment for him, and she was not about to ruin it for her own sake.
Besides, she no longer felt guilty, or apprehensive, or resentful. Those feelings had been purged from her system upon taking into consideration all the things Ralph had done for her over the last few days.
This was not guilt motivating her, nor was it bravery.
This, perhaps, was love.
"I, well, look Mr. Krusty, Ralph's sweet and everything, but we're just friends at the moment, would I like it to be something more than that? Maybe when we're older we could give it a go, but for now I'm just glad to be here with someone who wants to make himself and one other happy" she said.
"Sounds like you got friend zoned live on air kid, I feel for ya" Krusty said, nudging Ralph in the arm and resuming his show.
Ralph looked at Lisa, who stared back at him with sincerity in her eyes.
"You still just want to be friends?" Ralph asked, disappointed.
"Please don't be mad at me Ralph, it's just too soon for us" she said.
Ralph sighed, resigned to the knowledge his persistence had not paid off, now he had to respect Lisa's wishes.
"I'll be ok I guess" he said, before latching, once more, onto something she had said.
"Did you mean that? Will you be my girlfriend one day?" he asked.
Lisa smiled, and clutched his hand even tighter.
"Ralph, you never know how we feel about someone as you get older, but with luck, if you can stay true to who you are, and I can stay true to who I am, you'll always be someone I consider in the future" she said.
Ralph beamed and the two gave each other a warm embrace.
Back at home, Bart was watching the events unfold on television.
"Aw, and I was so looking forward to recording the precise moment his heart broke in half" he said aloud in despair.