"Good morning, Marco."
"Good morning, Polo."
"Can you pass me the milk, please?"
"It will have to be white today, I'm afraid. We're almost at the end of our chocolate rations, and our tokens don't come in until Thursday. Is white okay?"
Polo sighed sadly.
"It will have to do. It seems so long ago that we used to be able to walk down to Macs and buy chocolate milk by the carton. Now we can barely get a handle on a litre a month!"
"I know," said Marco, dropping her chin into her hands with a sigh of her own. "I tried to buy a ration from Ophelia, but she told me to get myself to a nunnery and then she climbed out her window and onto that old tree outside. I think she almost broke the branch trying to jump into that river below. If she isn't more careful the poor oak is going to snap one of these days and she'll drown in that water."
"I can't say I blame her for resisting your bribe, though. I wouldn't sell our tickets for a million umlauts. It's just too precious a commodity!"
Marco and Polo ate their breakfast cereals in silence for a few moments. Their table used to resound with the sounds of snapping, crackling and popping cocoaey goodness, but now their bowls and spoons were as eerily silent and white as an asylum in January.
The chocolate milk industry was depleting at an alarming rate. Over the past six months North America had reached a depression-level shortage, thanks to the environmental activists that banned artificially coloured leather because it was draining the world of its tannin supplies. The famed Latvian blue cows were the first hunted for their naturally pigmented skins, after the same environmentalists passed a law to prohibit the poaching of animals without hair. No one could figure out what the moral difference was between killing hairy and bald animals, but the distinction saved a rainforest of rainbow heterocephalus galbers. After the blue cow, the brown Jersey was targeted and, as everyone knows, it's the brown cows that make the chocolate milk. In response to this, the Ministry of Natural Resources began to ration out chocolate milk tickets, hoping that regulating access would give farmers a chance to protect and stabilize their cocoaey herds. Unfortunately, the rationing served only to alert the public to the crisis and now people who did not normally drink chocolate milk were suddenly as concerned about its future as those who routinely lifted their glasses to the Good Lord in thanks for the brown cow. The result was that more people than ever were drinking down the heavenly-flavoured dairy products and instead of alleviating the stresses of the farmers in question, the motion actually served to increase demand three-fold. If something wasn't done soon, Canada would fall with the United States into a state of brown cow extinction - and nobody wanted that.
Polo raised her bowl to her lips and slurped up the last few drops of her very white cereal. Marco stared into her half-empty glass and sighed again. Polo sighed louder. Marco gave her a look and proceeded to empty her lungs with a dramatic, exhaustive blow. Polo took the cue and before long the two were in a very competitive "sigh-off," swooning, fainting and blowing air into each other's faces in the most ridiculous of fashions. Five minutes later their contest had ended, to nobody's surprise, in a wrestle to the ground and Polo threateningly hoarking into her hand.
"Enough!" cried Marco in mock panic and legitimate surrender. "I give up!" They both clambered to their feet and Marco let out one final exasperating sigh - and then quickly changed the subject before Polo could quite realize what she had done. "So," she said, "What is on our agenda for today? Shall we engage in a bit of northern piracy or travel to a distant land aboard the mighty Karen Thrasher?"
"Actually Marco, I was thinking that we should try and figure out a solution to the chocolate milk problem."
"You might as well aim to take over the world, Polo."
"You say that like we haven't tried it before."
"Well, what do you suggest, mon aime?"
"I thought we could try.... jelly."
Any other plan would have been written off immediately as ridiculous, but Marco couldn't help grin at the suggestion. It was irresistibly brilliant.
"Polo, have I told you recently that I love you?"
"No, not this morning, Marco."
"Well," she smiled, "I do."
The two girls abandoned their breakfasts, resolved to resolve the bovine dilemma. Their first stop, naturally, was Utterson. Others had already begun to gather at the famous site, where an American Dairy Princess and a Côte d'Ivoirian Theobroma Cocoa were first mated and a chocolate milk squirting Jersey was born. It was here that the Canadian concentration of the breed was kept in a sanctuary away from prying eyes and empty glasses, and it was here that Marco and Polo found exactly what they needed: inspiration.
The manager of the herd let them in immediately after they had exposed the beginning of their plan to him. It's amazing just how much hope can be stirred up in a hopeless heart at the word "Jelly." The sight that met their eyes was enough to make Marco's stomach turn sour... in the middle of a large field that could have held hundreds of cattle stood five. Five lonely, skinny cows drooping their lonely skinny heads into a trough of the world's finest imported grasses. Suddenly the magnitude of the situation flooded our heroes' hearts. This must be solved. Tonight.
Stay tuned for part two...