|Apr/May 2020 Fiction|
Multimedia painting by Janet Bothne
Lily, who has visited the theme parks every year since she was born, thinks clockwise is best. She offers no reason for this, other than that's how her family has always walked around the world. Kaylee, whose first visit to the parks was her first day of job training for their college internship, says counterclockwise.
"All the articles on the Internet start with Canada," Kaylee says.
"The articles are wrong," Lily insists, watching most of the park-goers go right, towards Canada.
Gracie is the one who makes the decision, turning her Converse-clad feet left. "I want a margarita."
Kaylee doesn't move. "If we start with mixed drinks, we won't be able to finish!"
"We won't be able to finish anyway," Lily says.
Gracie turns and walks backwards, narrowly avoiding a stroller. "If we aren't going to finish, why are we even here?"
II. Jalapeño Margarita
When Gracie had learned she would be working in Attractions, she'd assumed that meant a real ride, the rollercoaster or the spaceship simulation. If she was exceptionally lucky, the pirate boat ride. Instead, she learned Attractions also included the trams in the parking lot. Gracie got off work at two in the morning and didn't get up until two this afternoon, but she feels like she could sleep until the end of her internship. When she pictures having to put on her yellow-and-white uniform and drive the tram, or hold on to the back and make dumb jokes to help guests remember what section their car is in, or stand at the pick-up/drop-off points and tell guests to stay behind the yellow line, her stomach hurts so bad she thinks she's going to be sick.
"Are you sure we shouldn't all split something?" Lily asks.
"Margaritas are my favorite," Gracie says.
She drinks her frozen margarita so fast, she gives herself brain freeze. Kaylee and Lily drink about half of their drink between them by the time they reach the next country.
III. Irish Cream and Coffee Liqueur
Kaylee wanted the shot of aquavit, saying it was more authentically Norwegian, but Lily and Gracie vetoed her, saying they wanted to enjoy their drink.
Their first week as roommates in the apartment complex owned and operated by their new employers specifically for the college interns, there was a hurricane. They drank cheap sangria until they thought it was a good idea to run out into the storm. They got soaked as they spun in a circle, singing "Ring Around the Rosy."
"Gracie only gets one sip," Lily decides, taking the drink from her and handing it to Kaylee.
Gracie huffs and adjusts her push-up bra. "Just because you two are lightweights doesn't mean I am."
Somewhere between "we all fall down" and getting back into the apartment, they realized all three of their names end in an 'E' sound. They determined it was destined for them to meet, and they declared themselves a sisterhood. Two months later, they still considered themselves inseparable, even though they rarely spent time together outside of their third-floor, one-bedroom apartment.
IV. Cantaloupe Juice and Vodka
Lily had thought her assignment to retail at the largest store on property, over 50,000 square feet, was some sort of honor for a great interview or an exceptional résumé. The store was giant, after all, which meant working there had to be difficult. She thought she'd been up for the challenge of a store that sometimes saw more guests than some of the theme parks did in a day.
"I don't even like cantaloupe," Kaylee says, passing the drink on to her roommates after only a small sip. "In Germany, I'm picking the drink."
They're sitting on a bench, their thighs touching, watching the Chinese drummers finish their performance. There are two little girls dressed in pink and green princess dresses dancing along, jumping up and down.
One time, Gracie came to visit Lily at the store, letting people skip her in line so that Lily could check her out. She leaned over the counter while Lily scanned the items and said, "This is insane. Do you even like working here?"
Lily put on her best salesperson smile. "What do you think, Gracie?"
V. Grapefruit Beer
They're three drinks in and starting to feel dizzy, so they get a soft pretzel to go along with the beer that Kaylee insisted on, though she did compromise for the fruity one.
"This was a terrible idea," Lily says, trying to type up their expenses on her phone so they can all pay each other back later. She exhales hard as her fingers keep hitting the wrong numbers.
"This was the best idea," Gracie says, a happy drunk, skipping as they continue around the man-made lake.
They pass a group of women wearing matching sorority shirts, laughing too loudly and clinging to each other. Kaylee shakes her head. "As long as we don't end up like them, we're fine."
After two weeks in food service, Kaylee got a temporary assignment to work the spa at the most expensive hotel on property. Every week when the schedule drops, she worries she'll be sent back to French fries and stacks of trays. She is the perfect employee at the spa, always early, always polite. She doesn't want to give her managers any excuse to send her away from what's turned in to a nine-to-five desk job as a receptionist.
"Who's idea was this design?" Lily says. "These landmarks are from three different cities."
"It's a theme park," Kaylee says. "It's not supposed to be accurate."
Kaylee loves this park, and all the other parks on property, and the themed hotels. She doesn't see her roommates much because their schedules are so different, but when she does see them, all they do is talk about how much they hate their jobs. Kaylee pretends to hate hers, too, afraid to be left out.
Gracie finishes off their drink and drops the plastic flute in a trashcan. "We should throw coins in the Trevi Fountain," she says. "Then I want a picture with the Leaning Tower of Pisa."
VII. Florida-Brewed Beer
To celebrate making it halfway through, they each get their own beers and corn dogs, sitting on a bench and looking at the lake, colonial America behind them.
Gracie wore a tank top and tiny high-waisted shorts even though Lily looked her over with a frown on their way out the door. Kaylee alternates between not caring and feeling like she's being teased. It doesn't help that Gracie is so tactile.
"This is the funnest night I've had since I got here," Gracie says, scooting closer to Kaylee and laying her head on her shoulder.
Kaylee isn't out to her roommates. At first, it just hadn't come up, but now it feels like a secret. She hopes Gracie would act the same if she knew, but until Kaylee says something, she won't know for sure.
Gracie sighs and closes her eyes. "We should do this every week."
Lily laughs so hard she snorts. "Gracie, you're drunk."
"We're all drunk," Kaylee says. It takes them several minutes to stop giggling.
Lily never drank much before coming to work here, but now she loves the dizziness and the tingling in her face from too much alcohol. She hasn't decided how worried to be about this. She doesn't drink as much as Gracie, but Gracie might be an alcoholic.
"I want to go to Japan," Gracie says, looking at the pagodas. Her tank top has dropped down and Kaylee is drunk enough to openly stare.
"I don't think it actually looks like this," Lily says. She wrote a paper once about how the world pavilion perpetuates stereotypes, but she can't remember her thesis.
Lily likes her roommates, but once the internship ends, she doesn't think she'll talk to them again. Lily is going to get her PhD. She is going to conduct sociological research. Kaylee has an associates degree. Gracie has graduated college, but doesn't have any sort of plan aside from wanting to go to music festivals. These are not Lily's people. Then again, she's never had this much fun with her friends back home.
"Should we eat more?" Kaylee asks. "I feel like we should eat more."
"Let's get sushi," Lily says. "Then we get baklava in Morocco."
Lily thinks she's subtle, but Gracie knows she disapproves of her clothes. She looks Gracie over sometimes, frowning at exposed skin. Gracie doesn't care. Except when she does.
"I'm getting my own drink," Gracie says. "Sangria's not too strong."
"We'll get our own drinks in Canada," Kaylee says. "We should probably keep sharing for now."
Gracie doesn't argue, even though she wants to. They get their one drink and she watches as her roommates each take a sip. She takes the plastic cup from them and drinks it down until it's half-empty.
"We should get henna," she says, walking towards the small shop across from the bar. She picks out a mandala design and has the artist do it on her thigh so it won't be visible in her uniform.
"I've always wanted a tattoo," Lily says, watching the artist place dye on Gracie's skin. "I was waiting until after I worked here."
"Do the henna," Gracie says, still holding the sangria, almost empty. "It's like training wheels."
Lily gets a small flower on her arm. Gracie has the artist sprinkle blue glitter on their drying ink and thinks it looks like fireworks.
X. Orange Liqueur Slushy
Sometimes they ask each other what their roses and thorns are for the day. Kaylee is the one who asks this time, after Gracie's finished taking pictures with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
"My thorn is definitely that I am getting a blister," Lily says, eyeing their slushy with distaste. The alcohol is starting to be too much.
Gracie goes next. "Mine is that these drinks are very over-priced." She takes the slushy from Lily and sucks on the straw, still walking steady despite weighing the least out of all of them. "They taste good, though."
"Can I anticipate something that's going to be a thorn?" Kaylee asks. "Because I'm pretty sure my thorn is that we have to walk all the way back to the parking lot after this."
The roommates groan and continue on, moving much slower than they were before.
XI. Guinness and Boddington
Gracie was horrified by the idea of mixing beers but is pleased with the result. Kaylee, having held back until now, drinks most of this one. Lily, who appears to have reached her limit, grimaces as she takes her one sip.
"My rose," Gracie says, picking up where they left off, "is that I didn't have work today. And that I'm drunk."
"Mine is that I'm going to get through this without throwing up," Lily says. "Probably."
"My rose is that we all got to come here and drink together," Kaylee says. "This is really fun."
Gracie heads towards the next country. "We have to have a toast when we get to Canada. To our Sisterhood of 'E' Roommates."
Lily rolls her eyes and heads after Gracie, grabbing on to the back of her shirt to force her to slow down. Kaylee waits for a moment, staring after them, thinking that she'll have to remember this because she doesn't think she'll get to do it again. Then she finishes their second-to-last drink and follows after them.
XII. Look Up
They don't make it to the last drink at first. On their way, the fireworks start over the lake, and they stop. This isn't the company's most important theme park, so the fireworks aren't quite as impressive, but they're still beautiful.
Gracie can see fireworks every night from the parking lot she spends most of her time in, but she associates them with everything she hates about work, so she never enjoys them. Seeing the fireworks here is different, though, and she's had a lot to drink, so she's happy looking up at these lights in the sky, so happy she reaches out and grabs her roommates' hands. They don't let go until the sky goes dark again.