It's a Saturday. Normally Saturdays are for sleeping in - well, her parents sleep in while Bacon helps herself to cartoons and frozen toaster pastries - and roaming the backyard with Hobbes and sometimes Mr. Bun, too, making sure the garden is free of gnomes and that the apple trees are still free of mistletoe. This morning though, her dad's got bacon ("Ha ha, very funny, Dad!") and eggs and buttermilk pancakes ready to go by the time Bacon's even in the kitchen, and as they eat he talks to her about the Importance of Understanding Your Peers (Or At Least Knowing How to Deal with Them) and the Magic of True Friendship, which turns out to be a really longwinded lecture about their intended destination this morning: the neighborhood park. For a playgroup.
"You'll have a great time," her dad says. "There will be other girls your age to play with. And if you have a good time - I mean, you'll have a good time, of course - but what I mean is, we could make this a regular thing."
And her dad keeps saying things after that, but they're in the car at that point and Bacon tunes him out, because Hobbes says that's he's mostly just talking to reassure himself and that he'll let her know if her dad says anything important. She trusts Hobbes, and so the next thing she hears her dad say is, "Go on and play, now." And, never one to hesitate before leaping feet first into the possibility of adventure, Bacon grabs the nearest girl's hand and drags her toward the playground.
"I'm Bacon!" she shouts. She's always shouting. "It's short for Francis!"
The other girl yanks her hand back and uses it to pull her knit cap lower over her brow. "Edith," she says, "and don't you dare touch me again or you'll suffer the consequences. You almost made me drop my juice box!"
Bacon's eyes go wide and she can hear Hobbes muttering about overreacting much. She grabs him out of her backpack and brandishes him at Edith. "Yeah, whatever. This is Hobbes! And I wouldn't let him hear you threatening me. He'll pounce you!"
Hobbes protests, but not very hard, because it's true that ever since Bacon started taking gymnastics he hasn't pounced anybody in a while. He kind of misses it.
"Yeah? Well my dad's a supervillain and he'll freeze-ray your stupid tiger," Edith says.
"Your dad's a supervillain!?" another girl shouts, wide-eyed, from the top of the slide. She whooshes down in a heartbeat, her printed red dress already smudged with dirt around the hems and her feet bare.
"Who're you?" Edith demands.
"I'm Lilo. I'm not from around here," she says. "But I have a dog from outer space! And my friend is friends with the monsters in her closet!" She points to another little girl in pigtails peeking over the rail at the top of the slide. "That's Boo. Boo, c'mere!"
"You do not have a dog from outer space," Edith says. "If you had a dog from outer space my dad would know about it. He stole the moon once, he knows space."
"That was your dad?" Lilo yelps as Boo barrels out of the bottom of the slide and right into her lap.
"Yeah. I helped!" Edith says, and shuffles her feet at the hard look on Lilo's face. "Well. Sort of."
"Are you really friends with the monsters in your closet?" Bacon asks Boo, who nods as she picks herself up and helps Lilo to her feet. "Noble! I bet Hobbes would love to meet one sometime. Are they nice? They must be nice."
"They're mostly funny," says Boo, and Bacon wishes she'd look at her face when she's talking because her dad says that's how people signal that they're paying attention to each other and Bacon really needs to practice appropriate social signalling and if she has to do it then everybody else really should have to do it too. But then she realizes that Boo's looking at Hobbes and speaking to him directly and she figures that's all right, then, at least she's looking at someone's face.
"I've never had monsters in my closet," Lilo says. "Stitch would keep 'em away if I did, though. Maybe he's why. He's new to our family though and I never had them before he came either." Her head tilts a little. "Maybe Nani kept them away. My sister's pretty scary when she wants to be."
Edith nods knowingly and bumps fists with her. Sisters.
"Hobbes," Bacon asks the tiger, "have we ever had monsters in the closet? For real, not just the times I thought I heard something and you went and pretended to chase something out."
The other girls wait politely and only fidget a little in the silence that follows while Hobbes begins to explain, then changes his mind and quickly sums up his experience with monsters in closets. "Oh," she says out loud. She pauses again, brow creasing. "Well then. Thanks."
"I can maybe introduce you sometime," Boo says, and her voice is so soft that the others have to quiet down to hear her. "It's against the rules but ... so ... maybe."
"Helloooo," Edith says. "Dad's a supervillain? Following the rules isn't really part of our family values."
Lilo shrugs. "I'm technically breaking intergalactic law by telling you that Stitch is from outer space," she says.
Bacon grins. "I tell everyone that Hobbes can pounce them but no one believes me so no one's ever told me not to say it except my dad, but he says that's because of something about commuted reality and group reception and not because it's actually a secret. But I break all kinds of rules all the time just by existing, he says, so I'm not afraid of The Man! Bring it on!"
"I ... it'd be really nice to see Kitty again," Boo says, a small smile on her face. "He can't come to us, but maybe we can go to him. In the monster world," she adds, for clarity.
There's an awed silence as the girls mull over this new and considerably more exciting possibility.
"I'm in!" Bacon shouts with a whoop.
"If my dad can go to outer space to steal the moon I'm pretty sure I can go to meet some monsters in the monster world, no big," Edith says at last. She strikes the tough-guy pose she's been practicing lately, all cocked hips and crossed arms, and slurps hard at her juice box as if to make her point.
"Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb," says Lilo, and Edith very nearly does a spit-take.
Boo laughs, and draws them all closer so they can begin planning.