Despite the fact that she thoroughly enjoyed watching a rousing game of Yooyuball, Kana couldn't really say she looked forward to the yearly Altador Cup matches.
Most of the year, the crimson Tuskaninny worked at a small, streetside slushie stand which made a decent profit.
However, when the Cup rolled around, she was called upon to work at the concessions stand, whipping up slushies for thirsty, impatient, and downright rude spectators.
It was much nicer when she could deal with customers one at a time, and even chat briefly while she prepared their drink. People waited patiently in line, smiled and thanked her when she handed them their slushie. Many of them were repeat customers, and Kana could greet them by name.
Here, at the world-famous Altador Cup, it was entirely different.
The crowds were insane. Neopets who were certainly pleasant enough people in everyday life (or at least Kana hoped so) were transformed by the competitive atmosphere. Fights broke out on a regular basis between supporters of different teams, especially fans of those teams who were competing against one another on that particular day. Fortunately, they rarely degraded to physical violence, but they certainly didn't help with the hostile atmosphere which pervaded Kana's stand.
Yet rabid fans weren't the worst of it.
In this place packed with Yooyuball-obsessed Neopians, there was one universal fear-- that they would miss the start of their favored team's matchup, or, even worse, miss a brilliant play by one of their favorite players.
But in the hot sun, spectators quickly got thirsty. When they felt the need to dampen their parched, dry throats with a cool, refreshing slushie, down they came marching to Kana's slushie stand.
They all wanted slushies, and they wanted them now.
Yet Kana had only two flippers. There was no way she could serve them all at once.
Yet that was what they seemed to expect, at least judging from their behavior when they actually-- horror of horrors!-- were forced to wait.
"Hey! I'm over here!" a purple Peophin, a snarl on her face, yelled over the crowd of thirsty Neopets. She stamped her hooves angrily on the counter. "I've been waiting!"
"Just a minute," Kana called back, filling a cup with Chokato Slushie and sliding it to the Peophin, who began to slurp it down without as much as a thank you.
"It's been nearly five minutes!" hissed an irritated Darigan Hissi. "Where's my slushie?"
"Here you are." Kana gave him the slushie and turned to serve the next customer.
"WHAT!?" the Hissi bellowed at her retreating back. "This is Jumbleberry! I wanted Zeenana!"
"Sorry. I'll make a new--"
"Never mind," the Hissi growled. "I'm late already." He whirled and slithered out, leaving the nearly-full slushie sitting on the counter.
"A-hem!" A grumpy-looking yellow Elephante glared at her. "I want a Zeenana slushie, and be quick about it!"
"Okay, okay," said Kana wearily. It was so hard to keep smiling and remain friendly, but she did her best.
Finally, after hours and hours of dealing with grumpy sports fans, the concessions stand was closed for the night, and Kana slowly made her way home, where she collapsed on the couch.
"You look downright exhausted," said Ellanet, Kana's older sister. The two looked much alike, and would be well-nigh identical if it weren't for the fact that Ellanet was blue instead of red.
"It was crazy today," Kana murmured softly. "The people..." She sighed. "And the Cup's barely started! I'll be working there for many more days..."
"You sound like you could use a break," the other Tuskaninny said. "How about I take over for you tomorrow?"
"Would you really?" Images of a quiet day spent far away from the stadium, heading out to the bay and having a nice, peaceful swim danced enticingly through Kana's mind.
But would that really be such a good idea?
Of the two sisters, Kana was much more sociable. Usually, she was quite comfortable in a crowd (the wild, impatient mobs of Yooyuball fans were an exception), but Ellanet preferred to interact with others in small groups or, ideally, one-on-one. She had often voiced her deep dislike of being stuck in the middle of crowds, and usually went out of her way to avoid them.
In addition, Ellanet could be a bit... impatient when others were acting in an unreasonable (in Ellanet's eyes, anyways) manner. Woe betide anyone foolish enough to irritate her when she was already on edge!
Still, the idea of having a day to herself was unmistakably appealing. As social as she was, even Kana needed some time alone to recuperate.
"All right," Kana said finally. "Thank you."
"No problem. That's what sisters are for!" Ellanet smiled. "Now go get some sleep. Your eyelids are starting to droop."
Kana nodded suppressing a yawn, and headed off to her bedroom.
"Remember, cups are kept in stacks between the three machines. Paper towels are kept on the far left. The Chokato machine can be a bit tricky; if it stops working, just give it a good thwack and it should start right up again."
"Okay, okay, I get it!" said Ellanet, laughing. "It doesn't sound all that complicated. Don't worry, I'll be fine. You go and enjoy yourself."
"Thank you so much," Kana said, smiling but still a bit unsure that she'd made the right choice. "I'll make it up to you sometime."
"Don't worry about it. Have fun at the beach!"
Ellabet waited until Kana left, then went to her room. She was a bit of a packrat, and had many items stored in her closet. She rummaged around for a few minutes until she found what she sought-- a megaphone and a set of Turnip Tonics.
Taking one of the tonics, she popped it open and quickly swallowed it down, grimacing as she did. She absolutely hated the taste of turnips, but if she were lucky...
As it turned out, she wasn't. Her skin had changed to a sunny shade of yellow.
Sighing, she opened another.
This time it had the desired effect: she was now a red Tuskaninny, and the spitting image of her sister.
With a conspiratory smile, she scooped up the megaphone and made her way to the stadium concessions stand.
She arrived early and checked on the machines. They were all working satisfactorily, so she served herself a Jumbleberry slushie and sipped on it as she waited for customers to arrive.
Ellanet didn't have to wait long. Neopets began filing in far sooner than she would have liked.
The first customers weren't so bad. They were polite, if a bit preoccupied, and Ellanet thought that perhaps today wouldn't be so bad.
Then came in the big crowds, too thirsty to wait but afraid that they would miss the start of the first matchup. In their impatience, they began to get nasty, and Ellanet began to see how even the people-loving Kana would become weary.
Still Ellanet waited. She was certain that it would get worse, and she wanted to make her move when the pandemonium was at its highest.
She wouldn't even have to fake the emotion for her performance. It would be very, very real.
Finally she decided that she simply couldn't take these people any more. She grabbed the megaphone and yelled into it.
"Listen up, all of you!"
The shocked crowd fell silent.
"I am sick and tired of your outrageous behavior!" If Kana was the more sociable of the two sisters, Ellanet was definitely the louder.
"You!" She pointed at a customer who had been about to leave, his empty cup still on the table. "Clean up your own trash! I'm not your mother, and I'm not the maid!"
"And you!" She swung around to point at two overeager fans who had been in a vehement altercation over which team would take first place, "You're both acting like toddlers! If you have a disagreement and you simply can't bring yourself to behave like calm, rational adults, then take it outside! I don't need you adding to the noise in here!"
Ellabet paused to judge the reaction. The crowd still appeared to be shocked... and rather intimidated.
"You are all going to fix your behavior. You are going to line up quietly and wait patiently while I get your orders ready. There are a lot of you, and I can't get to you all right away!" The Tuskaninny lowered the megaphone, panting for breath.
"Now," she said, in a calmer tone, "who's ready to order?"
The thirsty Neopets quietly formed several lines and made their orders one at a time.
Word that the Tuskaninny of the slushie stand had finally snapped spread quickly, and the customers made sure to be very, very polite all day long.
As the last customer of the day left, Ellanet smiled.
Her smile disappeared as she dug a Turnip Tonic out of her pack.
Three tonics later, she was once more her normal shade of blue.
After quickly serving up one last slushie to wash the turnip taste out of her mouth, she triumphantly made her way back home, where Kana was waiting.
She looked much better than she had yesterday. "How was your day?" Ellanet asked.
"Oh, it was lovely," Kana told her sister. "The beach was almost empty, and I found two new shells for my collection!" She paused. "How was yours?"
"It went just fine," Ellanet replied, smiling. Noting Kana's puzzled expression, she continued, "You just tell me if you need another break."
When Kana returned to work the next day, she was shocked to see that their behavior had changed dramatically in the day since she'd left. They formed orderly lines, said "please" and "thank you", and even cleaned up their own trash!
"It's the strangest thing," she told Ellabet when she got home that evening. "They're all acting so... nice. Did something happen yesterday?"
Ellanet responded with a mysterious smile. "Maybe they simply realized the error of their ways."
"Maybe." Kana didn't sound entirely satisfied with Ellanet's answer, but she didn't question her any further. "Well, I'm off to bed. Good night."
"Good night, little sister," said Ellanet.
Ellanet didn't think that the customers would dare start acting up again, but just in case they did... she planned to stock up on Turnip Tonics.