Chapter 2:

Merrygoing Morning


The girls exited their bedroom in the same order as always. Katie first, her floppy nightgown bouncing with every jaunty step of her morning routine: singing as she ate her meal (often joined by her parents in the chorus), dancing as she brushed her teeth, spinning as she switched it out for something to face the day in, and so on.

Only by the time she had completed all these steps minutes ago did Frankie at last rise from her tomb, the bed. Discarding the clothes she’d worn yesterday- that which she’d slept in- she put on what was practically a copy of the same outfit, only cleaner. A million pairs of the same ripped jean shorts filled her drawers. And on her side of the closet, many shirts inscribed with the same image.

Percy Phytoplankton, protagonist of the eponymous series of youth fantasy novels Percy Phytoplankton. Next to the collection of the books near her nightstand- half of which she’d written herself, given the series wasn’t quite popular enough to go on past the fifth volume- this mace-wielding microorganism was the one thing that would cheer her up every morning when she saw it. She rubbed her sleepy face with the shirt.

“Thanks, Percy… love you.” she groaned.

She never brushed her teeth for quite long enough, and as short as her hair was, when she went to drink from the bathroom faucet afterwards, some water would inevitably stain her mint-dyed strands. Only after leaving the bathroom would she don her almost-pink, almost-red, but never-quite-either-colored baseball cap, brim always pointed in whatever direction it happened to fall. Today, it was positioned at the slightest left hand tilt.

She joined the rest of the Pop family in the living room of their small apartment, the three of them greeting her just as they did the day- with overwhelming excitement.

“Frankie—!” Her sister squealed, bursting at the seams as she rocked in her chair. Frankie lacked the perception (or care) to notice that she was any more excited than usual today.

“My very own youngest daughter, up and at ‘em five seconds earlier than yesterday! What a treat!” The father boomed, throwing his newspaper to the ground. “It’s all the same news as usual out there… my stocks are down too… honestly, it’s horrible! So it’s nice to see there’s some improvement going on around here!

“Goodmorning Frankie!” Her mother shot, then immediately returning to a conversation she was having with Katie… “so you wear the purple dress today, but then what about tomorrow? You’ll have to keep me updated through text or something, baby. Remember- if you meet any cute boys- or anyone- of age, send me their pictures if you can get them. And if you get any packages, don’t open them!  Mommy needs to feed her addiction, okay?”

“Gumornin’….” Frankie murmured, dropping her butt to the carpet as she sat criss-cross, allowing her company to please her family for a short while.

“Frankie?” Katie turned to her again. “Aren’t- aren’t you eating anything?”

“No…?” She answered. “Already brushed my… why? I never eat breakfast anyway, whatsit matter…?”

“You need to eat today! We’re going out!”

Frankie groaned. There was nothing she hated more than going outside the house.

“It’s so loud out there…”

“Frankie…” Katie frowned, already on the verge of tears. “It’s just gonna be you and me… I don’t wanna be alone…”

“Wait… huh?” Frankie shot a questioned glance at her parents, her brow furrowing.

“Oh! Yes, I suppose we never explained.” Her father turned back to her, clapping his hands together. “Your mother and I are going on a trip today. To the moon! Ahaha, it’s like we’re rich!”

“To the moon!” His wife giggled, giddy over the very idea. “How about that… won tickets over a radio show, one with that guy with the sexy voice I’m always calling in on. Can you believe it? Anyway, we’ll be headed out in a few minutes, so…”

Frankie sat open-jawed. “Wait- what? The moon? The f-freakin’ moon…? Right now?”

“Riiiight now!” Frankie’s mother beamed, eyes sealed shut in excitement. “Not quite as many rides there, but we’ll make do. And DON’T worry- the tickets were only one-way, but between your scholarship funds and our savings we’ve got more than enough to get back. So be good little children for us, okay? I promise I won’t cheat on your daddy while you’re gone.”

“Wait, our scholar- hey, nevermind!” Frankie shook her head. “Don’t that mean we’ll be like, all alone?”

“Yyyyup! Just you and your sister! Katie says she’s got plenty planned for you two!”

Frankie turned to her big sister, a dead stare paired with a wide-open mouth stretched in disbelief. Katie just smiled, quite happy for the two of them.

“That’s… n-no way, take me with you!”

“No can do!” Her father declared. “Trip’s only good for two. So it’s just gonna be me and your mother up there in that Kidney Foundation rocket.”

“Wait- but- uh- h-how long will you be gone?”

“Only a few short weeks!” Her giddy mother replied. “Make them count!”

“A few weeks?” Frankie shuddered at the idea, but steeled herself- maybe, just maybe, if it was only a few short weeks, she could make it. If she could survive her sister for just that long…


Frankie turned to her sister.

“And so… er… Katie, if I may… what exactly will we be… doing in those “few short weeks?”

Katie grinned from ear to ear.

“Visiting all the theme parks, of course! Every last one!”

Frankie’s pupils shrunk and her lips quivered. She sometimes seemed to dislike just about everything, but more than anything else, she hated theme parks.

“B-but Katie…”

“Yes?” Katie tilted her head with a smirk.

“T-The whole world… is nothing but theme parks.”

“You’re exactly right! We’ll be seeing every square foot of the entire world! Even if it’s just a few weeks, well… I guess we’ll have to start right away! Let’s go, Frankie~!”

Without warning or hesitation Katie grabbed her sister’s hand and bolted out of the door with her, tugging her all the way down the stairs of the fifty-floor building of which they resided on the fourty-ninth floor.

“W-wait wait wait!” Frankie scoured her mind for the smallest path of escape. “Aren’t you gonna- plan anything? Shouldn’t we bring food? Water? Er- Katie, I’m not even wearing shoes!”

“Guess we’ll have to visit all the gift shops too then!” Katie smiled, pulling her sister out into the great noise-polluted atmosphere of their hometown, Merrytown, as the park owner had named it.

“Katie- Katie, you gotta stop this! I- we- we can’t go around the whole world in a few weeks, it’s not- not possible!”

Katie ran her up into the town’s highest viewpoint, a fake lighthouse used as setdressing for a water slide. Bounding up the stairs, Frankie scraped her knees, face, and everything else as the unstoppable force dragged her upward. Only when they reached the very top did the relentless girl let her go.

“Katie…” Frankie breathed out with what little remained of her energy. “You’re insane… we can’t- we can’t possibly do this… so please don’t make me do this…”

“Look at it, Frankie!” Her sister announced, unfazed. “Look at it all!”

Frankie’s eyelids weren’t strong enough to close. Up in the tall tower she could see the whole county. Every residence, every town, every piece of land- all covered in coasters, rides, excitement and games. So much visual information that it blended together into a pink mist of artificial excitement.

“I really want… to see everything, Frankie. Before we both go one day. You get that, don’t you?”

“Not really… not at all.”

“Oh well. It’ll be fun, anyway! So come on! Let’s get started!” She stuck out her hand to her.

Frankie couldn’t believe what she was seeing. There was no way she was taking that hand. But with Katie, you seldom-if-ever had a choice.

Her big sister’s lip shook, teeth biting it to hold it in place as her eyes welled up. This was no desperate attempt at persuasion. She was well and truly thrown into the lowest pit of sadness by witnessing her sister’s non-agreement.

Frankie blinked, and she sighed.

“I wish I wasn’t such a pushover… you ass.” She grabbed Katie’s hand, if only to stand back up on her scraped bare feet. “Screw you.”

Katie smiled with some of the greatest joy she’d ever felt.

“Thank you, sis. Off we go then!”