"So, considering both a) the budget crisis our government is still facing and b) the amount of goodwill the Harvest Festival brought to the Parks and Recreation department, we're asking every department to think about having a similar flagship project," said Ben, pointing at graphics at the front of the room.
Ann turned to smile giddily at Leslie at the mention of the festival.
"Ideally something that would bring in revenue, which your department would then have complete control over. Now, this is not mandatory-"
"But let's be honest, it is super fun. Why wouldn't you all want to do it?" asked Chris, his face bright as usual. Ben seemed to conceal a sigh.
"Because we're busy?" said someone Ann did not recognize.
"Because even though I don't understand it, sewage is not as endearing as spending a day in a park?" added Joe’s latest replacement.
"That's a good point," said Chris. "Anything we can do about that, Ben?"
Ben, looking up from his papers, widened his eyes slightly at the question. "No?"
Chris looked disappointed. "Ben says no. Sorry, sewage department."
"I mean," Ben started again, throwing a small look in their direction. "Obviously you guys are in a better position than we are to showcase your work. You are the ones who make it ... " Ann felt Leslie nod enthusiastically beside her, "... awesome."
Ann cracked a smile at Ben's pained face over the last word. She tuned out the sewage department's plans (a Pawnee-wide beauty contest for future interns) and whispered to Leslie "So, how many flagship projects are currently fighting for your attention in the back of your mind?"
"None," answered Leslie. "Well, just the usual fourteen. But since we've already done something big last year, Chris wants the spotlight off of us and on to the others."
"Oh," said Ann, trying to gauge Leslie's reaction. "That seems... unf-"
"No, don't say that, it's totally fair, and every department deserves to shine even though Parks is obviously the best one. With Health," she added as an afterthought. "Both the best, most important departments in the whole city of Pawnee."
"As long as the library doesn't cook up anything too awesome, right?" said Ann.
Leslie's face scrunched up before brightening again. "Like they possibly could."
Ben cleared his throat and they quieted down to pay attention to the rest of the meeting.
"So, what are you going to do?" asked Leslie as they walked out of the room a few minutes later. "I can't wait to see you magically make everyone healthy, Ann."
"Oh, I don't know. We don't have many resources... I was thinking about maybe remaking some PSAs, again..."
"Ann!" Leslie exclaimed, clearly flabbergasted at the thought, and not in a good way. "No! PSAs are not flagshippy at all. No, no, no. We need to think about this. Let me brainstorm - how about..."
Ann waited patiently for the usual bursts of genius. They didn't come.
"I'm sorry, I don't know anything about health. Or- being healthy. But! I'll research everything I can and come help you figure it out. Tonight! Your place! I'll bring wine!"
"Okay!" laughed Ann as Leslie walked quickly back to her office. "I'll make breakfast for dinner!" she shouted after her.
"You are the most beautiful wonderful cook ever!" said Leslie before turning a corner.
Ann smiled to herself and, excitement getting the better of her, tried to think of projects.
"I found your idea!" exclaimed Leslie as soon as Ann opened the door.
"I made waffles!" Ann answered, mimicking Leslie's excitement. "What do you want to start with?"
This threw Leslie for a bit. "Waffles. Work. Wait, do you have homemade whipped cream- let’s just go for both."
"Both it is," said Ann, already carrying the plates to the table. She had craftily cut up strawberries and put a layer of them between the waffle and the whipped cream - she wondered if Leslie would catch on to her healthy ways and take them off.
"Quidditch!" said Leslie once she ate her first mouthful. (Actually, as she ate it.)
"What?" said Ann, though she was already pretty sure where this was going.
"Quidditch is a sport, right? And sport is healthy? And this would be so much better than, I don't know, basketball or whatever, because everyone loves Harry Potter and everyone would want to play."
"So, you want to do a Quidditch tournament? Is there even a way to play it without flying brooms?"
"Oh, sure, I devised a set of real-world rules back when I first enrolled at Hogwarts. And we could have it on the lot just beside your house, and also have a maze like in Goblet of Fire, and maybe a Potions class full of, I don't know, medicine! Healthy medicine!"
"Oh boy," said Ann. "Okay, well, I like the tournament idea?" Leslie smiled through her next mouthful. (Strawberries were definitely being eaten. Ann suspected the excitement of Harry Potter was the cause.) "It just seems, like, well, a very Leslie kind of idea."
"Oh," said Leslie. "Is that bad? You usually like my ideas."
"Yeah, I really, really do. But if my department is going to work on something for months... if I'm going to work on something for months... I feel like it should be something that I really like, you know?"
"Crap, I keep forgetting! Not a Harry Potter fan! Oh Ann, I'm so sorry, it's just so hard for my brain to process that we could disagree on such fundamental an issue." Ann smiled. "But you're right. Okay. What do you really like, that's also healthy? And don't say that quinoa stuff."
"Well," started Ann before pausing. "I like... my job? Which is in the health field?"
"All right, we're going somewhere, working, health, fields, working out, exercise, working out in fields, I like this."
"I used to really like beach volleyball back in high school? We played in Ramsett Park."
"Oh, I love that park. We should totally have beach volleyball tournament there. Plus we could showcase the park in a great way, and put fake palm trees around it, and emphasize the great quality of the sand, ideally without mentioning those cat litter incidents. Oh, it's too bad we can't also do it in the Maplewood park, the decontamination showers there could be kind of beach-y..."
"We should just have a marathon around every park in Pawnee, really," said Ann, grinning.
Leslie stopped talking at once. Ann felt self-conscious. Like, oh, right, this probably wasn't such a bad idea.
"Ann, if I didn't know how beautiful you were I'd say you probably got everything in life because of your amazing brain," said Leslie.
Ann wondered if she should feel insulted.
"That's the best idea I've ever heard in my life," Leslie continued.
"It would be pretty great, I guess! I hate running, though."
"Ugh, so do I, I have no idea why anyone would bother. But it's healthy! And we wouldn't have to run! Wait, we have to plan this out. Where's your map of Pawnee? Never mind, no time, I'll just get mine," she said, running to her purse.
They devised the map for an hour. Leslie would probably have been done sooner - she weirdly knew by heart the distance between each park - but marathons were a really strange amount of miles, and math had to be involved, and at first they got confused with kilometers, and so an hour it was. The map was filled with dots and the circuit was relatively round. The halfway point was in a nice spot (and not Indiana's smallest park like Leslie had first suggested). It seemed run-able. Not that they knew anything about running.
"All right, we'll bring the proposition to Chris tomorrow," said Ann. "Do you think he will mind if we're doing something for two departments at the same time?"
"Oh, do you want the Parks department to be involved?" Leslie said. She was very obviously trying to contain her excitement at the idea, probably thinking of Chris' suggestion that she sit this out.
Ann grinned. "No, I think I'm going to do this massive project that's a great showcase for your department all alone. Because it's not like I would need help from someone who knows how everything's done in Pawnee, and who can organize things in her sleep, and-"
"Okay, I'll do it!" said Leslie very quickly, like she was afraid Ann was going to change her mind. She smiled with child-like glee.
"As long as it doesn't interfere with your campaign," said Ann. "I'm super willing to take on most of the tasks, with maybe a little mentoring."
"That's so nice and thoughtful of you, Ann," said Leslie. She looked at the map once more before saying, "Can you believe there was a time where we weren't friends?"
"I actually find it hard to believe that there was a time I didn't even know you existed. It's... hard to think that some people can live in Pawnee and not know who you are," said Ann with a grin.
"As soon as I saw you, I knew we’d be BFFs," said Leslie. "It was like... friendship at first sight!"
"Really? Because I'm pretty sure the first time you saw me I said I didn't care about politics and whined about how annoyed I was with the pit behind my house."
"Well, at least you were doing something about it, and talking to the right people, instead of just calling Joan Calamezzo's open line to throw mud at us, like most people would do."
"I guess," said Ann, sort of embarrassed. "I think I started really liking you when you fell in the pit."
Leslie burst out laughing.
"Wait, that sounds horrible, I mean-" and then Ann was laughing too. "I mean, before, I guess I just thought you were doing it for press! And then I saw how committed you were, and your enthusiasm was contagious!"
"Contagious, yes. That's probably why Mark ended up falling in the pit too," said Leslie, still half-laughing. "Man, thank God we filled it, huh."
"Yes," said Ann, taking Leslie's hand. "And we're going to build a park on it any day now."
Leslie stared off in the distance at the thought.
Ann sighed, then gasped. "Wait a second, what if we used the profits of the marathon for your park fund? Assuming there are any, I guess," she added, wrinkling her nose.
Leslie squealed a little at the idea. "Oh Ann! But- wouldn't that make it too much of a Parks project-"
"Oh, screw the Health department, I'll do a 15-second PSA and call it a day. This is way more exciting!"
"It is," said Leslie, matter-of-fact. "Okay, let's do it! Wait, we should still ask Chris about it, though," she added, getting her phone out.
"I think it can wait until Monday," said Ann, grabbing the phone from Leslie's hands and throwing a look at the clock. "I know Chris doesn't need as much sleep as a human being, but midnight is midnight. Let's just get out some girly movies and enjoy the weekend, okay? And The Eleanor Roosevelt Story is not girly," she added as Leslie brightened.
"What are you talking about, it is the girliest movie in the world. She marries a president, Ann! That's worth, like, five Princes Charming."
"A marathon! What a great idea!" said Chris with his usual enthusiasm. "I am fond of saying that a marathon is 0.0109% of the way to the moon." He paused. "You could probably round that up to 0.011% if you wanted to use it as a tagline."
"We'll think about it," laughed Ann.
He agreed to everything - "even though a new park is, frankly, less sexy a cause than funding research for a disease" - and even insisted to be the first one to sign up.
"I'll put you down on the list for the full marathon, then," beamed Leslie.
"As soon as the list exists," amended Ann.
"Fantastic. I'm going to start training literally right now. Ben, want to come along for my eleven-mile run?"
"Yes, Leslie has once again involved the entire department in a project that's unnecessary and disrupts our usual inefficiency," Ron told the cameras. "But marathons... well, let's just say they're a great combination of physical fitness, intensity, and discipline. It actually almost made it on the pyramid." He looked in the distance with a curious look before adding "I think 'Stillness' won that particular battle." He chuckled. "Which might explain why no, I'm not going to be running."
"Yes, I'm running," said Jerry. "I've asked Chris to help me devise a training plan - since he's apparently part of the family now. Anyway, I've been following it to the letter, and running a little more every day to be ready for the big day. I did lose some weight! It's very nice of you to notice."
"I wanted to sign us up as a team, but apparently they don't do that," said Andy, pointing to April, who shook her head as the implausibility of the idea. "It might be for the best, anyway. Ludgate wasn't sure about the three-legged race thing." April just stared at the camera with a tired look.
"Running?" said Tom, before bursting out laughing. "No, I'm not running. I'm not even working very much - I dug out some of the old E720 swag and offered them as prizes, and Leslie has stopped pestering me since then. I have no idea what I'd use an iPad for anyway. ... Or ten of them."
Donna just laughed.
"I'm not involved," said Ben. "I don't see why I'd be." A pause, then "Oh, right, Chris did convince me to sign up for the 5-mile circuit. But that's the extent of my involvement with the Parks department for this project. O-or its employees."
"No, we're not running," said Ann, shaking her head.
"We can't, really, otherwise we would have," said Leslie.
Ann looked dubious.
"We really believe in the necessity of being healthy. And exercise. Just yesterday, while we were putting up the signs for the circuit, Ann had to deal with this sit-in protest from the Anti-Exercise Group of Pawnee. And she made a big beautiful speech about running and how wonderful it was, and how it allowed you to eat more waffles. It was very convincing. They left right away, right Ann?"
"Yes. Well, their arguments were a little bit frail to being with. Something about exercise being invented by the combined marketing powers of Nike and whichever channel's airing the Olympics next."
"Anyhow, it's really too bad that we're too busy organizing other people's exercise to get healthy ourselves. ... After the speech we just went home and watched a movie," Leslie said, a little shamefaced.
"Well, I watched a movie while you reorganized my DVD shelf," corrected Ann.
"Yeah. Sometimes I just need the extra stimulation."
"Is anybody surprised with how boring a marathon's turning out to be?" asked Leslie as they waited for the first half-marathon runners to approach their finish line. "I feel like I could watch an iceberg move and it would be much more interesting."
"Well, it's not boring when you're running it," said Ben, his face still a little red from the exercise.
"Whatever. I'm not surprised Jerry decided to skip it," Leslie answered.
"I think he's sick, actually," said Ann. "Though I don't suppose he cared much about missing it."
"Oh! They're coming! Guys, the runners are coming!" said Leslie excitedly. "Do you have your water bottles ready?" April picked one of them off the table and waved it, pretending to be excited. "Is everything in place for calculating the winners' time?"
"Yes!" shouted Andy, watch in hand, while Tom and Donna just nodded, looking pretty bored.
"Great!" she applauded. "Let's get our cheering on!"
The small crowd was already clapping for the runners. A surprising number of people had signed up for the event. Ann suspected at least half of them to be Eagletonians, but she hadn't told Leslie, who would probably have turned them away at the starting line. (Or, actually, probably the finish line.)
"We should do this every year!" shouted Leslie amongst the noise as she handed out JJ's waffles to runners. (Ann had tried to offer salad from Sue's Salads, their other sponsor, at the end of the 5-mile circuit. It had not ended well.) "This was the best idea ever, Ann!" she added, beaming.
"How about we just do it until you have your park!" Ann answered over the noise.
"Okay! I counted - that'd be 4.29 years!" Ann bit her lip, but Leslie just seemed happy.
“Half a percent of the way to the moon,” Ann smiled. She gave Leslie a quick hug and went to fetch more waffles for the runners.