CONDITION

by

Robert Nowall

 

 

 

 

ONE-SENTENCE SUMMARY: Sandi Griffin is sick; you can take that so many ways.

 

 

 

 

It was going to be a strange breakfast at the Griffin household, Sandi thought, as she walked into the kitchen. Sure, her father and her two brat brothers were there, sitting in their usual places like they did every morning. Her father was absorbed in the News section of the Lawndale Sun-Herald, and Sam and Chris were stirring their spoons in their cereal bowls...and kicking each otherís shins.

But the odd part was seeing her mother at the table. Sandi looked at her: Linda Griffin, the woman who had it all and did it all. A glamorous look for an old person, and a great job at the television station. Usually she was up and out the door before the rest of the family got out of bed, but, this morning, here she was, reading the Business section of the paper. Sandi looked her over, and suddenly felt jealous, like her mother was Quinn or something. And the jealous feeling confused her. She felt dizzy.

Her mother must have sensed something. She looked up from her paper, and said, "Good morning, Sandi." Sandi watched her as she took a sip from her coffee cup.

"íMorning," Sandi replied mechanically. The bubble of jealousy had burst, but she felt dizzy, and tired too. She sat down in her usual place, between her father and Sam.

Sam grinned at her, and kicked her in the shin. "Ow!" Sandi said, and bent down and rubbed her leg. "You little---!"

"Sandi! Language!" her mother said. She fixed Sam with a stern glare, which seemed to pull him down.

"But, mother, he kicked me!"

"Thatís no excuse."

"Um, sorry, mother." Sandi looked down. There were slices of unbuttered toast on the table, her usual breakfast, but she didnít reach for one. Somehow, she didnít feel like eating, not even that. Better, she though. No eating, no weight gain.

Tom Griffin flipped the top of his paper down and looked over it. "Do you want anything, Sandi? I could whip up more eggs and bacon for you."

The thought of eggs and bacon set Sandiís stomach churning. Her father was always trying to get her to eat more, but today it was out of the question. "Um, no, dad, Iím not hungry."

Tom smiled. "Well, we could talk about the car we were planning to get you. I was thinking one of those neat little new Volkswagen Beetles."

"A punchbuggy! Dad!" A Volkswagen punchbuggy would be just awful. How would she coordinate her outfits around it? And sheíd probably have to settle for a yellow one, too. She shook her head. It was hard to think straight today. She was really tired.

Chris giggled, whispered something in Samís ear, then grinned and said, "Sandi, that shirt makes you look like one of the cups at the pizza place."

Sandi looked down at herself, mouth open, and then said, "You little bastard!" She raised one hand to take a swing at him.

"Sandi!" Linda said. "What did I just tell you?"

Sandi lowered her hand, then lowered her head and stared at her empty plate. "Um, sorry, mother."

Chris and Sam just snickered and punched each other in the arms.

"Well, Sandi," her father continued, "if you donít like the new Volkswagens how about one of those, mmm, what are they? PT Cruisers?"

"Oh, dad, they look like hearses!" Sandi shook her head.

All through this, Linda continued to look Sandi over. Sandi looked up and caught her doing it, then looked away, trying not to meet her motherís eyes. It made her uneasy, having her motherís attention focused on her.

Finally, her mother said, "Sandi. Look at me."

Sandi did, but only briefly. "Are you feeling all right?" her mother asked.

"What?"

"You look a little pale."

Sandi shrugged. She had looked at herself in her mirrors just before coming down to breakfast. She hadnít seen it. "Iím fine, mother," she said with a little more emphasis. "Iím just not hungry."

Rather abruptly, Linda leaned across the table and put her hand on her daughterís forehead. Sandi leaned back, and said, "Ow! Mother!" But Linda was too quick for her, and got her hand on Sandiís forehead before Sandi could push it away.

Linda frowned. "Sandi! Youíre burning up!" She took another deep, searing look at her daughter and said, "Thatís it. Go upstairs and get into bed, right now."

"What?"

The stir got the attention of her father. He put his paper and cup of coffee down and looked at her without speaking. Sandi glanced at him, looking for support, but finding none.

"You heard me. Go up and get to bed!"

"But, mother, I canít! Iíve got to go! Iíve got plans! Thereís a Fashion Club meeting at lunch. I canít miss that." She couldnít not be there, not even just once. She had to be there to keep Quinn from taking over. Without her there, Stacy would just go along with Quinn and Tiffany would just go along with both of them.

"No Ďbuts,í Alexandra!" Sandi shuddered inwardly. When her mother used her full name, things were serious or she was in trouble. Linda continued. "You will just have to see your little friends some other time. Tom!"

"Yes, dear?"

"Iíve got an important day scheduled, so youíll have to stay here and wait for the doctor." Tom looked unhappy at that, but said nothing.

"The doctor!" Sandi shouted.

"Alexandra! What did I tell you? Now go!" Sandi got to her feet, but her legs were wobbly and her head spun.

She heard Linda giving a steady stream of orders to her father as she walked out of the room. She would send for the doctor herself, but Tom would wait for him and give her a report as soon as the doctor left. She didnít wait to hear any more, but left the kitchen and climbed the stairs to her room.

But before she got to her room, her stomach began to growl and heave. Now she felt worse than when she had the vinaigrette on her salad for lunch. Quickly she turned and ran into the bathroom. Life was so unfair! She didnít want to be sick! There wasnít time! She had plans! "Damn!" she muttered as she bent over the bowl.

#

The doctor turned out to be Dr. Davidson, the gray-haired old fashion disaster who she had been seeing since she was a little girl. He had examined her, looked into her eyes, and given her something. Whatever it was had put her out but good, because the next thing she remembered was seeing her father fiddling with something in the corner of the room.

"Oh! Youíre awake!" Tom smiled at her. "How are you feeling?"

"Um, awful, Dad."

"Well, you just rest. The doctor said it could be the flu, but he didnít think it was serious, and you just need to rest until you feel better." He turned back to what he was fiddling with.

"Uh, Dad, what are you doing?"

"Oh!" Tom got to his feet and stepped aside. Sandi raised her head and peered into the corner. Her father had set up some kind of stereo in the corner. It looked old, and familiar...

"You used to love this old eight-track player when you were a kid," Tom said. "I dug it out of the basement, cleaned it off, and brought it up here. I thought it might help you feel better." He knelt down and pushed something into it---the eight-track cassette stuck in the slot.

Before it started playing, Tom got to his feet and said, "Iíll leave you alone. The doctor said you need rest and thatís what youíll get. Oh, and your friend called and asked about you."

"My friend?"

Tom held up his finger. "Shh, now. You need your rest." Before Sandi could speak again, he was up and out the door.

The eight-track started playing as the door closed. Sandi recognized the song---and the album. It was "Greatest Lame Hits of the Late Sixties," or some such equally pathetic title. Songs from over a hundred years ago. Sure, she thought it was cool when she was a kid. But she was a grown woman now, and she didnít listen to that sort of awful music any more.

As the sound of the Archies singing "Sugar Sugar" started, she grabbed her pillow and covered her head.

#

The eight-track, or the cassette, was busted and played four songs over and over. "Sugar Sugar" by the Archies, "Hair" by the Cowsills, "Condition" by the First Edition, and "Judy in Disguise" by John Fred and His Playboy Band. She felt shame and embarrassment that she could remember all those lame titles and artists after all the years since she last heard it.

It must have played a thousand times. She would have switched tracks by hand---better still, she would have turned it off---but the damned player didnít work with any button on her bedside remote and she didnít feel up to getting out of bed to take care of it. Instead she suffered through it, and slept from time to time.

Then she woke when she heard the sound being turned down. She raised her head, but still felt dizzy. Her eyes took more than a moment to focus on the eight-track, but when they did, she gasped.

It was Quinn, kneeling there, turning the volume down. She turned and smiled at her. "Hi, Sandi."

"Um, hello, Quinn." Sandi felt surprise, and suspicion. Why would Quinn be here at all? She remembered hearing somewhere that people imagined things when they were sick, something about high fevers and such. But it was Quinn, all right, real as ever, down to her long red hair and that stupid pink butterfly shirt.

Quinn dragged a chair over to the side of Sandiís bed and sat down, chair backwards, body leaning forward against the chair back, arms crossed over the top of it, chin on arms. She stared at Sandi without smiling. "So...how are you feeling?"

"Um, not bad." Sandi put her head back on the pillow. "Why are you here?"

Quinn held up a notebook. "Iíve brought you your homework assignments."

"Um, Quinn, they usually e-mail homework to me when Iím sick."

"I know, I know, but it didnít feel right, to get them and not bring them to you. When Mr. OíNeill mentioned it I thought Iíd get it all and bring it here." She paused, then said, "Also I wanted to see how you were feeling."

So you could replace me as President of the Fashion Club, you bitch! Sandi thought. But she bit the thought back. Sand had long ago decided that no matter what evil thing Quinn did, Sandi was going to be as polite as possible. Just because she was sick was no reason to stop. "Iím fine. So...how are Stacy and Tiffany?"

"Theyíre just fine, too." Quinn looked serious. "Iím watching out for them, so they donít commit any fashion errors while youíre out sick. After all, I am Vice President of the Fashion Club."

Sandi groaned. A question formed in her mind, and just had to come out. "Um, Quinn, um..." It was really, really hard to ask.. "Um, why havenít you taken over as President?"

Quinn laughed and waved her hand. "Oh, Sandi, nobody could take your place."

Sandi laughed, too, forcing it out.

They looked at each other for a while, neither speaking. Sandi looked Quinn over. Really it was a shame they couldnít be friends. But Sandi didnít like having friends. Friends always turned on her, sooner or later.

For a year or so when she was six she had a best friend, Jane. They did everything together that six-year-olds could do. But then Jane moved away from Lawndale and it was all over, and it felt terrible.

Then Jane moved back, just a few years later, and it felt awful. Sandi tried hard to be friends with her, but Sandi had gotten into clothes and makeup and fashion, and Jane was just a walking fashion disaster. She was into painting and Sandi couldnít care less about slopping paint on a canvas. She always wanted to watch that dreadful "Sick Sad World" when "Fashion Vision" was on.

Sandi tried hard, but she just couldnít bridge the gap. Jane had changed, and didnít want to change back. She didnít make sense to her any more. And after the year she was let back, it was hopeless. She still saw Jane at Lawndale High, but they never talked anymore. Jane hung with a different crowd, the loser outcast crowd. And Sandi was determined never to be part of that crowd.

How could she trust a friend, after what happened before? Sure there was the Fashion Club, there were Stacy and Tiffany. But they werenít her friends, they were just some girls she lorded it over.

And then there was Quinn. She and Quinn liked the same things...but with Quinn, something was different. It didnít feel like when she was six and was friends with Jane. She and Quinn werenít friends, but rivals in some kind of weird game. Neither of them could win, and Sandi couldnít even figure out what they were playing for. But she knew she couldnít let Quinn win.

Suddenly Quinn was serious. "Sandi, I remember the time the Fashion Club had that sleepover at my place, and you had to take the bed because of your, um, condition?"

"My condition?" Sandi said, then remembered. "Oh. Yes. My, um, condition."

"Well, I let you sleep in my bed, Sandi. And now this---" Quinn shrugged. "Well, I worry about you."

"You do?"

"Youíre a good friend, Sandi. I mean, youíre practically my best friend."

"I am?" Sandi frowned. Suddenly she felt tired. "Um, uh, Quinn, Iím going to take a nap now."

"Okay." Quinn put the notebook down on the table next to Sandiís bed. On top of that, she put a copy of the new issue of "Waif." "Look, Sandi, Iíll just leave these here for you to get to when you feel better. ĎBye, now!" And then she got up, waved, and was out the door before Sandi could even speak.

Sandi lay back in her bed and closed her eyes.

#

Then there came a morning a week later when Sandi felt well enough to get out of bed. The first thing she did was to go over and unplug the eight-track player. Then it was down to business. When she looked into the mirror she felt sick all over again. Was that the way she looked when the doctor and Quinn had come over? She spent more time than usual at her makeup and dress before coming downstairs to breakfast in her usual outfit.

It was the same as before. Her father, and Sam and Chris, in their usual spots. Sam and Chris were whapping each other on their hands with spoons, each one getting the other when the other reached for something. They yelped each time, and her father did his best to ignore it. And her mother was where she had been.

"Sam! Chris! Stop it!" Linda said. Sam and Chris put their spoons down. Sam kicked Chris under the table but Chris didnít make a sound.

To Sandi, Linda said, "I see youíre feeling better, Sandi."

"Yes, mother." Sandi took her usual seat.

"Would you like something to eat, dear?" Tom said.

"Um...just toast and juice."

"Are you going to school today?" Linda asked. "Because if you wanted to rest another day, it would be all right."

"Um, yeah." Sandi worried about the Fashion Club and what they had done while she was in bed. "Yeah, Iíve got to go back to school."

Just then Sam kicked her shin. She flinched, but just didnít have the energy to do anything more than look at him.

Linda caught it, and gave Sam a hard and cold stare. "Sam, leave your sister alone."

"Yes, Mom."

"Now, the two of you, go and get ready for school." As they quickly left the room, Linda turned her gaze back to Sandi. "All right, Sandi," she said, "but if you feel the least bit sick at school, your father will come to get you."

"I wonít be sick," Sandi said, and looked at her parents. They were looking back at her, their faces serious. Sandi looked away. "Um...you were worried, werenít you?"

"Uh, well..." Tom started to say.

"Well...thanks for caring." Sandi got up and quickly left. She thought her parents were about to go mushy-mushy on her and she didnít want to be there when they did.

#

She caught up with Stacy and Tiffany as they walked to school. "Sandi!" Stacy said. "You look...um, good? Doesnít she look good, Tiffany?"

"Um...yeah..." Tiffany said, in that awful slow speech speed she used. "She looks good."

Sandi looked at the two of them. They seemed genuinely concerned, Stacy maybe more so. She wondered about the two of them. Stacy always seemed so nervous lately and she would do anything when she was nervous and somebody asked her. It didnít used to be that way, before they got to high school. Now the only thing left of Stacyís will was that she wouldnít let her hair hang loose. No matter what styling the Fashion Club had done, her hair was always back in pigtails in a couple of days. Some willpower.

And Tiffany, well, Tiffany was starting to seem like some kind of retart or something, always talking so damned slow, and worried about her weight for no good reason. It was getting so Sandi didnít want to take the time to listen to her.

Sandi wondered if either of them cared about her, even a little bit. "Say, um, guys," she said, "how come you didnít come see me when I was sick?"

"We wanted to, Sandi," Stacy said, "but things were so busy in school and with the Fashion Club, that we, well, um..." Stacy looked down and bit her lip.

"Yeah, what Stacy said," Tiffany said.

"Besides," Stacy added, "Quinn wanted to bring you your homework, and, uh..."

"Oh, never mind." Sandi walked ahead, and the two of them fell in behind her. Sandi didnít speak to them; she just didnít want to hear their excuses any more.

#

They met up with Quinn on the front steps outside Lawndale High. It was crowded with students coming in, but Quinn ran against their flow and right up to the three of them. "Hey, Sandi!í Quinn said, smiling, "you look, um, you look really good."

"Iíve been sick for a week, Quinn," Sandi said, frowning. She looked at Quinn. Quinn spoke in her usual annoying tone of voice, like she was saying one thing but she meant something else. Was this whole thing going to start over again? Right now she really didnít feel like fighting with Quinn over anything.

"As long as youíre better now, thatís what matters."

"Um, yeah, right." Sandi glanced at Stacy and Tiffany, then glared at them and said, "Guys, um, can you go on in by yourselves? Iíve, uh, got to talk to Quinn about something."

"Right, Sandi," Tiffany said, then turned away and walked into school.

"Weíll be in the first floor girlís room!" Stacy called back as the two of them disappeared through the door. The number of students around them had gone down.

"Um, Quinn," Sandi said, "why did you come to see me when I was sick? Nobody else did."

"Nobody else did? Thatís so sad!"

"Yes, well, uh, thatís not important. Why did you come?"

"Well, I, uh..." Quinn seemed confused for a moment or two, then relaxed a little and spoke in a different tone of voice. "Well, like that Sixties song said, uh, I just dropped in, to see what condition your condition was in."

Damn eight-track! Sandi thought, then looked at Quinn. That tone of voice---Sandi couldnít remember Quinn using it before. She seemed really worried about her. Was she, really? Or was she just pretending like she usually did? Or---and Sandi felt cold just thinking it---maybe she wasnít really pretending, not then, not now, not ever?

"Well, um," Sandi said, "thanks for coming over."

"Thatís all right." Then, suddenly, the old, more bubbly Quinn was back. "Youíve got to see the new shoes Brookeís been wearing."

"Not patent leather again?" Sandi asked.

"With buckles!"

They laughed, and walked into Lawndale High. Sandi listened to Quinn while mentally tuning her out. All the while one thought kept going in Sandiís mind, over and over again, just like that busted eight-track. Why couldnít she and Quinn be real friends?

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DISCLAIMER: "Daria" and the characters and settings from it are the property of MTV Networks / Viacom International.

This parody of "Daria" is copyright © 2001 by Robert Nowall. It is not intended to profit the author in any way, and may not be distributed without permission of the author. (That means please donít post or circulate this without getting in touch with me first.) For the time being, Robert Nowall can be reached at: RobtNowall@aol.com

Thanks to Ben Breeck and Renfield, and everybody who expressed an interest in seeing the beta version / rough draft. And thanks to everybody at the Paperpusherís Board who made comment when I asked what Sandi Griffinís full name might be: you can see what my decision was in the story above.

Did you notice whatís missing?

Written 12/6/00 to 1/2/01

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