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Bringing the Angst
by Roland 'Jim' Lowery
"Everything I touch turns to angst," Daria Morgendorffer said quietly to herself as she walked down the halls of Lawndale High School. "Everything becomes ash. Everything."
She saw Kevin, the brain dead quarterback of the school's football team. He was, as usual, leaning up against Daria's locker as he waited for whatever of his brain dead buddies to come along. Daria approached him, but instead of telling him to shove off like she normally would have, she merely brushed her hand across one of his shoulderpads and kept walking. He stared after her, not sure what to make of the unexpected contact.
Just then, his girlfriend Brittany walked up, crying her mascara off. She pulled at her ponytails and tore at the cheerleader top she wore, and seemed close to digging her press-on nails into her own flesh or eyes.
"Oh, hey, babe!" Kevin said, cheerfully oblivious to Brittany's suffering. "What's up?"
"What's up?" the blonde girl asked, her voice squeakier than usual. "What's up?! I'm pregnant, Kevvie!"
"Oh! Cool! Can I watch the abortion?"
Brittany stamped her foot. "You don't get to decide if there's going to be an abortion or not!" she screeched, turning suddenly from sad to angry. "You're not the father!"
"I'm not?!" Kevin yelled, suddenly horrified. "You're cheating on me?!"
Daria nodded silently to herself as Kevin burst into tears, too. She continued down the hallway, walking right between Jodie and Mack, touching them both lightly on the arm as she passed through.
"Was that Daria?" Mack asked, hitching his backpack up on his shoulder.
"I think it was," Jodie replied. "But . . . well, she's rude, but usually not that rude. Anyway," she said as the two of them went on their way, "as I was saying, I got this letter from Turner University the other day!"
"Wow, that's great," Mack said happily as she showed him the envelope. "Open it up! I could use some good news now that my family is bankrupt and homeless!"
Jodie ripped the top of the letter off, fished out the letterhead inside, and started reading. "'Ms. Landon, we at Turner University would like to thank you for considering us for your continued educational needs. However-'"
She blanched, reading the next part to herself before shakily saying it out loud. "'However, we feel that a person with your particular ethnic needs would be far happier attending elsewhere . . . '"
Splotches began to appear on the letter, and in her shock it took Jodie a few moments to realize they were from the tears of anger and frustration that were rolling down her face.
Further down the hall, Daria passed by the Fashion Club, giving each girl a light touch of her hand before moving on.
"Like, wasn't that your cousin or whatever, Quinn?" Sandi asked, frowning at Daria's retreating back.
"That was my sister, you bitch!" Quinn suddenly snapped, pushing Sandi on the shoulder. "You know, I'm really sick of your crap, Sandi! I think it's time I took over this club!"
"Bring it on, Morgendorffer," Sandi snarled back, pulling a pearl-handled switchblade from her purse.
As Sandi and Quinn laid into each other, Stacy watched and whimpered. "Oh, I hope Quinn wins so I can tell her that I've secretly been in love with her since the day we met!"
"I'm adooooooopteeeeeeed," Tiffany droned sadly.
Joey, Jeffy, and Jamie tried to stop Daria and ask where Quinn was, but the girl silently touched each of their shoulders and ignored their queries. Almost immediately they started arguing about who loved Quinn more, the ensuing brawl denting several nearby lockers and breaking a trophy display case.
Upchuck tried to hit on Daria in his normal feisty way, but burst into drooling, sobbing tears after she ruffled his hair. His plaintive moans about how he was going to spend his entire life alone could be heard across the entire school.
One gracefully placed finger across Ted's jawline caused him just enough distraction to accidentally run into a wandering pack of varsity football players. Recovery from the resulting beating would take several weeks in a hospital at the very least.
Just the tip of a fingernail on the tip of Brooke's nose made it implode for a second time.
Even the teachers were not immune to Daria's angsty touch. Ms. Barch began to tear her hair out, one fistful at a time, while screaming out her ex-husband's name. Mrs. Bennett started choking on her lunch and had to be given an emergency tracheotomy with a pen. After being touched, DeMartino calmly went back into his classroom, pulled the whiskey and cigarettes from his desk, and started a shot, drag, shot, drag, shot, drag sequence until both were completely used up. Mr. O'Neill burst into wracking sobs before Daria even had a chance to get close.
Ms. Li, the principal, broke down into paranoid ravings about school shootings, secret agents, and space aliens after Daria traced a thumb down her turned back.
Daria turned a corner and almost ran face first into her best friend Jane. She merely stood and stared at the dark-haired girl, giving no apology and not appearing to fully aware of Jane's presence.
"Whoa there, amiga," Jane said. "I'd like to save my front end collisions for when I actually have a car. And speaking of total wrecks, have you noticed what's been going on today? I've never seen this big of a pity party since the cafeteria stopped serving chunky sals-"
Daria silenced Jane with a finger carefully laid across her friend's lips. When Jane stopped talking, she pulled her hand back and turned to Tom, who had appeared next to them as if by magic. Tom leaned in and gave Daria a super-hot, ultra-passionate, toe-curling kiss then looked over at Jane.
"Oh, hi, Jane," Tom said. "I just wanted to tell you that breaking up with you and getting with your best friend was the best possible thing that ever happened to me. I asked Daria to marry me, and she said yes. Don't bother getting excited . . . you're not invited to the wedding. In fact, Daria asked me to tell you that you're not best friends anymore, so why don't you go find someone else to cling to for a while?"
Eyes wide with terror and filled with tears, Jane took a few steps back and ran into the chest of a police officer that had been standing behind her.
"Sorry, ma'am," the officer said, "but are you Jane Lane?" When she nodded, he sighed heavily and said, "I'm afraid your brother Trent was caught in a shootout at a bar called the Zon. He's still alive, but he's at the hospital in critical condition. I can give you a ride there if you want."
Jane nodded blankly and followed the officer as he led her to his squad car. Daria looked around to see that Tom had wandered off at some point, so she decided to do the same. Eventually she found her way through the front doors of the school, leaving a tangled mess of broken hearts, broken minds, broken bones, and broken souls behind her as she went.
Outside it was bright, sunny, and cheerful. A wave of Daria's hand across the flawlessly clear sky left it dark, bleak, and filled with roiling stormclouds. Rain began to pour, immediately soaking her clothes down to the skin. The sound of a car horn brought her attention down from the flashing of lightning and peals of thunder to see her parents sitting in their car at the nearby curb.
"Hey, kiddo!" Jake yelled over the pouring rain. "We thought you might like a ride home today!"
"Come on now, Daria," Helen called out, "get in before you catch your death of cold out there!"
Walking toward the car, Daria remembered that Jake had a heart condition. She thought briefly on the agony it would put her mother and sister through if he were to suddenly have an attack. A slight smile threatened to cross her face as she leaned down at the open car window to touch her father's arm . . .
Roland 'Jim' Lowery
November 23, 2009