Write Where it Hurts
A Daria Episode Adaptation by Martin J. Pollard
Based on the screenplay by Glenn Eichler
Cast of Characters
Daria Morgendorffer, Quinn Morgendoffer, Helen Morgendorffer, Jake Morgendorffer, Jane Lane, Trent Lane, Brittany Taylor, Kevin Thompson, Jodie Landon, Michael Jordan "Mack" MacKenzie, Joey, Jeffy, Jamie White, Jesse Moreno, Mr. Anthony DeMartino, Mr. Timothy O'Neill
Yet another fun-filled evening at Casa Morgendorffer, thought Daria as she descended down the stairs and headed for the kitchen. Mom will make lasagna -- again. Dad will have a generous helping of his foot when he tries to participate in conversation. Quinn will prattle on about boys, fashion and shopping... not necessarily in that order. And I'll sit there trying to pretend none of it is happening.
She glanced down at her copy of On Moral Fiction, the book she needed to read for Mr. O'Neill's English class... a particularly lame and uninspiring book. And this doesn't help.
When she reached the kitchen, the sight of her father standing at the stove, wearing his "Kiss the Cook" apron and fussing around with a huge stew pot, interrupted her musings. Oh, God, not again. This didn't look promising. It didn't smell promising, either.
"Hey, kiddo!" said Jake by way of greeting, his enthusiasm bubbling like the concoction in the pot. "Guess you're wondering what ol' Dad is doing with the big stew pot?"
"Guess again," she said as she sat down at the kitchen table and began to read. Ever since that time Jake lost a major client and found himself with a lot of time on his hands, his interest in cooking had risen to new heights and he was constantly inflicting newer and even more bizarre recipes on his family. Julia Child he was not; as a cook, he made an excellent marketing consultant. At least it's not that horrid "penné a la pesto" again, she thought. I couldn't get the taste out of my mouth for a week.
"Daria, I woke up in the middle of the night with a hankering," said Jake, undeterred by his eldest daughter's usual lack of enthusiasm. "I suddenly remembered the old 'kitchen sink stew' they used to serve us at the military academy. Do you know why they called it that?"
Daria never even looked up from her book. No need; she could see what was coming as clearly as if it had already happened. However, she decided to humor him. "Because they put in everything but the kitchen sink?"
"Because they put in everything but the kitchen sink!" Beaming like a child with a nifty new toy, Jake turned back to his culinary concoction. "Hmmm, let's see... soup stock... peppercorns... oregano... chilies..." He mixed the ingredients, then dipped a ladle into the stew and tasted it...
"Aaaaaaaah!" Jake screamed, clutching his throat as the vile brew began to sear his gullet. He continued to scream incoherently as he staggered out of the kitchen and into the living room, nearly bowling over a confused Helen in the process. She watched her husband as he stumbled out of sight, presumably headed for the bathroom, and turned to Daria. "Why is your father...?"
Helen decided not to pursue the matter further; she knew her chances of getting anywhere with Daria when she was in one of her moods were slim, and besides, from the looks of things she would find out soon enough. Still, she wanted to have some interaction with her daughter -- Lord knows that Daria kept to herself far too much for Helen's liking -- but was unsure of how to go about it.
She then noticed that Daria was reading a book, presumably for school. "Reading something?" she inquired. Okay, it's a stupid question, Helen said to herself, but any opening is better than no opening at all. When all Helen received in response was a simple "yes," she decided to press further. "May I ask what it is?"
Daria gave a mental sigh; she wasn't going to get rid of her mother so easily after all. "It's a book. For school. About how fiction should do more than just entertain."
"That sounds interesting!" Helen exclaimed, but it sounded a little forced even to her. As usual, Daria picked up on it right away.
"Yeah. A writer writing a book about how writers should write books. Must have been a huge seller." The sarcasm was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Maybe that would discourage her...
Fat chance of that. "Well," said Helen, seeing she was getting absolutely nowhere but still not willing to give up. "Anything else going on at school?"
Daria looked up and shifted into her "let me count the ways" mode. "Let's see. Nobody talked to me again this week, not counting Jane; I wasn't invited to any parties for the weekend; and I think I'm getting one of those really painful cold sores. So, all in all, another great week."
"Oh, Daria..." sighed Helen, pausing only briefly when Jake yelled something about wanting the number for 911. "Do you have to look at everything in such a negative light?"
Daria was starting to get irritated. "Could you possibly be referring to the harsh light of reality?" She was spared from saying anything further by the arrival of her Fashion Queen sister.
"Tiffany says a cold front is coming through," Quinn said, referring to her Fashion Club cohort. "Has anyone seen my really cute fuzzy pink sweater, and if I can't find it can I buy another one? Thanks!" Not bothering to wait for a reply, Quinn bounded out of the kitchen and headed back upstairs. Probably off to finish inventorying her hair scrunchies, thought Daria.
Helen began to speak again, but Daria had had enough. "Don't bother." She turned back to her book, effectively shutting out her mother, and Helen knew that the conversation was over.
"My tongue!" Jake suddenly screamed. "Dear God, it's black! Helen!"
"Be right there, Jake!" Helen called out, a note of tired resignation in her voice. She got up to tend to her husband, finally leaving Daria in peace. Thank God that's over, Daria thought with a mental sigh of relief. That should take care of the "parental involvement" for a while.
Little did she suspect just how wrong she was...
LAWNDALE HIGH SCHOOL
Mr. O'Neill's Classroom
Mr. O'Neill was in the middle of his lecture on fiction writers. Daria and about half the other sophomores in the class were paying attention, though on the verge of utter boredom. The rest were either half-listening, or totally clueless. Speaking of which... thought Daria as she glanced over at Kevin and Brittany, seated in the front row. Both had their usual dazed, vacant look; it was amazing either of them retained enough knowledge to get through class. The Dumb Jock and the Airhead Cheerleader. They were made for each other.
Dumb and dumber, she thought wryly. If Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels won't do a sequel, then those two would be perfect. "Dumb and Dumber: The Next Generation." She stopped herself from going any further with that line of thought; lunch was coming up and she didn't want it to literally do so.
"... so, what Gardner is telling us," O'Neill was saying, "is that the writer of fiction has a duty that goes beyond the mere telling of a story. His or her job is to tell a story in such a way as to leave the reader... what? Kevin?"
Flustered at being called on, Kevin groped for an answer. "Screaming for more full-contact martial arts excitement?"
O'Neill looked like he was on the verge of crying. Wondering -- not for the first time -- if Kevin practiced without his helmet, he gave a mental sigh and turned to his star pupil. "Daria?"
What a surprise. "I believe Mr. Gardner feels it's the writer's duty to steer the reader toward more conscientious behavior," she answered, then added, "no matter how dull that makes the story."
Sighing with relief, O'Neill said, "Very good, Daria." He turned to address the entire class. "Now, keeping that in mind, I want you to each select a book from the list in front of you for a report on its moral intention."
Daria glanced at the list of books on the blackboard -- among them George Orwell's 1984, Mary Shelly's Frankenstein and Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn -- and became concerned. Uh, oh. Problem. She had already read everything on the list, and while she wasn't against reading a book twice, she'd much rather explore new territory. She'd have to talk to Mr. O'Neill after class.
O'Neill looked down at the front row and noticed that Kevin's hand was raised. With a note of tired resignation, he said, "Yes, Kevin?"
"'People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones,'" he said earnestly. Excitement and pride in what he thought was a major accomplishment emanating from his voice, he turned to Brittany and crowed, "I got one, babe! I got one!"
O'Neill couldn't take it anymore. He put his head in his hands and sobbed.
After class, Daria approached O'Neill desk. At least he stopped bawling like an infant, she thought with relief. "Excuse me," she said to get his attention.
He looked up and his mood brightened considerably. "Yes, Daria?"
"This list of books," she said, indicating the list on the blackboard. "I've read all of them."
"Oh, no!" exclaimed O'Neill. He considered for a moment, then asked, "Would you like to pick another book to read, then?"
O'Neill suddenly had an idea. "Wait! Brainstorm! Instead of trying to read a story for its moral dimensions, what if you wrote a story with moral dimensions? A special assignment, Daria, just for you!" He was very impressed with her writing, in spite of the fact that her choice of topics was usually... well... kind of icky. Still, talent was talent, and was something you didn't let go to waste.
"I don't know." Her voice told him that she was extremely skeptical. "Who would I write about? What would they do?"
A fair question, and one that he hadn't fully considered. "Well..." O'Neill said, thinking out loud, "why don't you write a story taking people you know in real life and turning them into fictional characters?"
Daria turned that over in her head for a moment. "I wonder," she finally concluded, "if anyone would notice the difference?"
As her best friend Jane stood nearby and worked on her latest painting, Daria attempted to write her story. She was experiencing frustration, an emotion that was not exactly new to her. The reason for it, however, was very new: For the first time in her life, she was unable to produce a single sentence.
Jane stepped back from the easel to appraise her work in progress and turned to Daria, who was sitting cross-legged on the bed. "So, how's the writing coming?" She glanced at her writing pad and noticed that Daria had not written a single word. "Does it disturb you if I talk while you're writing?"
"It would disturb me if I were actually doing any writing." The frustration in her voice was plain as day.
"What's the problem?" Jane responded. "Take people you know and have them do whatever you want." She shook her fist in the air, her voice rising to a fever pitch. "I'd make 'em crawl, I tell you! Crawl!!!"
"Easy, tiger," she said, amused in spite of her predicament. Trust Jane to take the sting out of any situation.
The moment of levity over, Jane turned back to her canvas. "So who are you going to write about?"
"I haven't a clue."
"Hmmm..." said Jane, thinking. "How about Kevin and Brittany?"
"I was only kidding about the sequel to Dumb and Dumber, Jane."
"I'm serious!" she replied. "You could write a thrilling romance leading up to their storybook wedding."
"You need to start wearing a hat when you go out into the sun," countered Daria, but strangely enough, the creative juices were starting to flow.
Thinking aloud, Jane said, "Boy, would I like to be there when those two tie the noose..."
It was, quite literally, The Wedding of the Year, the marriage of Kevin Thompson, local football hero, to his high school sweetheart, Brittany Taylor. The church setting was lavish, with flowers everywhere. People by the dozens were in attendance. Brittany was a sight to behold, resplendent in a long flowing white gown, while Kevin was dashingly handsome in his tuxedo. Under his arm he carried a football, a symbol of their love; sure, it was a little corny, but who was going to argue with True Love?
The day was perfect... so why didn't Kevin look happy?
They stood before the minister as he performed the ceremony. "... and do you, Kevin, take this pulchritudinous woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?" The minister was a bit eccentric -- he had a tendency to shout every fifth word or so, causing one of his eyes to bulge out of its socket -- but that didn't detract from the beauty of the ceremony. Well, not much, anyway.
Kevin was about to answer when a muffled cry echoed through the church, barely audible. It sounded a lot like someone calling his name. He glanced at the audience; no one else had heard anything. Must have been his imagination. "I... uh... what did you say?"
With barely controlled patience, the minister said, "I said, do you, Kevin, assume legal responsibility for this overripe specimen of female-hood standing next to you?" He indicated the bride-to-be. "The one in white, son!"
This time, the shouts were loud enough and distinctive enough to catch the attention of everyone. They looked up and saw Jane Lane standing on the balcony, pounding on the glass and shouting Kevin's name. Jane!
"Well?!!" The minister's patience was almost gone.
"Answer him, Kevvy!" This from Brittany, who was staring at him expectantly. Kevin looked at her -- a vision of loveliness. What man wouldn't be lucky enough to have her? He then looked up at Jane.
He made his choice... the only one he could possibly make.
Jane saw him shout her name and break from the altar. She rushed down the stairs and joined him in the vestibule. Together, they ran from the church, hand in hand.
Inside, the minister consoled the jilted bride. "Ah... Brittany... please accept my condolences on the unfortunate way the biggest day of your life has turned out."
Brittany regarded his words. Paused. Then, realizing that she no longer had to go through with a wedding that everyone "expected" her to go through, she tossed her bouquet in the air and let out an ear-splitting "Yes!"
Outside, Kevin and Jane boarded a bus that was stopped nearby. They sat in the back, staring straight ahead, contemplating the choice they just made and the unknown future that lay ahead...
"... Daria? Daria! What about their wedding? Wouldn't that be funny to write about?"
"What?" Jane's words shocked Daria back to reality. She looked down and realized she had just written Kevin, Brittany and Jane into The Graduate! She didn't know whether Buck Henry would have been flattered or insulted, but she did know that she was not about to let her best friend see it! She tore the pages off the pad, crumpled them into a ball, and tossed it over her shoulder. "Uh... no... I don't know..."
"O-kaaay..." Jane didn't believe a word of it, but decided not to press the matter. Daria always was a bit touchy about her writing, and even more so when she was deep in the throes of The Creative Process.
"I mean," she continued, a bit too hastily, "if I were going to write about mating rituals, I think I'd go back a couple hundred years, when women either married or shriveled up and blew away."
"Instead of marrying and then shriveling up, like they do now?"
"Mr. Lane left his card yesterday," Miss Quinn commented to her sister, who walked beside her. It was a warm spring day; perfect for a stroll through the English countryside of the Morgendorffer estate. "Mother said he appeared most anxious to call upon you."
Miss Daria considered her words. "I cannot imagine what for," she finally concluded. "Mr. Lane's temperament, outlook, indeed his very manners are such as to arouse bemusement rather than endearment in the object of his attention."
"Ah," she replied, then took on a more reproachful tone. "Flaky though he may be, one day all of Devon-Hevonshire will be his. His to share with whosoever is lucky enough to become Lady Lane."
"Dear sister," replied Miss Daria as she stopped to gather some flowers, "I would hope that whoever does become Lady Lane does so out of regard for Mr. Lane and not for his estate."
"What about his car?"
"Hmmm..." A good question, but one that would have to wait, as two figures on horseback appeared over the rise in the hill, approaching them in good stead.
"But look!" Miss Quinn exclaimed. "Here approaches Mr. Lane himself, along with his sister's admirer, Mr. Moreno."
The horses slowed to a trot and approached the two maidens. "Good morning, Miss Morgendorffer, Miss Quinn," greeted Mr. Lane as they brought their steeds to a halt. "I pray the day finds you well."
"Yeah." This from Mr. Moreno, a handsome man to be sure but strangely reserved in his conversational skills.
Miss Daria greeted them with her usual reserved smile. "And a good morning to you sirs."
"Indeed," Mr. Lane replied, "it promises to be a glorious morning, and one to gladden the stoniest of hearts."
"Yeah," agreed Mr. Moreno.
"Let us hope so indeed," said Miss Daria, "for nothing so recommends this world as the promise with which it offers up each gentle day."
"And pray, upon this dewy morning, what errand is it that finds you guys abroad?" inquired Miss Quinn.
"Errand we have none, but with any luck we shall have sport. We await the other members of our hunting party..." They turned at the sound of horses approaching. "... and I believe I glimpse them now."
Indeed, their hunting party had arrived. The three riders -- Mr. Joseph, Mr. Jeffrey and Mr. James -- slowed and stopped, and greeted the object of their affections. "Good day, Miss Quinn."
"Good day," she replied.
"Miss Quinn, may I get you a bracing spot of tea?"
"Do you need a powder to cure the vapors?"
"I'll tune your piano forte!"
Miss Daria could not help but smile at the sight of her sister's suitors doting on her. "Oh, Quinn! Your suitors are so numerous because you are so fair and good."
"Oh, sister," said Miss Quinn, "your wit and judgment assure that you will marry not only well, but wisely." They embraced, basking in the warmth of those who seek to give them their love.
But not everyone was so moved. "Did she say 'marry'?" Mr. Lane asked Mr. Moreno, alarmed at the particular turn of phrase.
"Yeah..." he said, equally alarmed. Both he and Mr. Lane turned and looked at Miss Quinn's admirers, who all wore similar apprehensive expressions. Without another word, the men turned their horses around and galloped away... at top speed.
The Morgendorffer sisters watched as they disappeared over the hills. "Oh, well," Miss Quinn commented, and they embraced again...
Daria looked at her pad. Not again, she sighed. Inspiration finally strikes and she ends up rewriting two movies in one day. First The Graduate, now Sense and Sensibility. What's next... Titanic, with her and Trent as Rose and Jack? Helen as the controlling, domineering mother? (Okay, so that one wasn't much of a stretch.) "Upchuck" Ruttheimer as the jealous lout of a fiancé? Oh, God!
As before, she tore the pages off her writing pad, crumpled them, and pitched them, with Jane looking at her quizzically. She'd have to remember to grab those before Jane did.
"I really suck at this," she said to no one in particular.
"No... no, absolutely not!" said Helen -- as usual, on the phone with her office -- as she walked into the kitchen. "That is unacceptable!" She hung up the phone and glanced over at the stove, upon which the stew pot sat once again. Apparently Jake hadn't learned his lesson from the previous night's culinary catastrophe. "Oh, my God, what has your father done now?" she complained, looking at the contents of the pot. If anything, it looked even more hideous than last night's concoction. "Jake!"
Getting no answer, she turned to Daria, who was at the kitchen table with her chin in her hand, lost in thought. "Daria? Is something wrong?"
"Huh?" Shaken from her reverie, Daria looked up to see her mother standing there, concern in her eyes. "Wrong? Uh, no. I'm thinking about an assignment I got at school."
"Anything I can help with?" she said, sitting down next to her at the table.
"No," she replied. She wasn't really in the mood to play this particular game today, but when Helen just sat there and stared at her, Daria relented with a sign. "I'm supposed to write a story using people I know as fictional characters."
"Really? That sounds fascinating!" Helen responded, this time sounding very much like she meant it.
"Not so far," replied Daria sullenly. "Everything I write comes out bad. I have no story."
Helen was surprised; after all, she knew that Daria had a definite gift for writing, and she was constantly receiving praise for her work -- despite the occasional strangeness of the subject matter. She was well on her way to being a successful author, or even a journalist, so an admission of difficulty was quite startling.
"Oh, I'm sure..." Helen began, but was interrupted by the phone. "Hang on a second, Daria. Hello?" Work again. She listened for a moment, then replied, "No, that's not a counter-offer, it's an insult. I will talk to you tomorrow, during office hours. Goodbye!" She clicked off the phone, then turned back to Daria. "Okay, now, what are the other students writing?"
"They're not," she replied. "This is an extra assignment, just for me."
"Oh!" exclaimed Helen, a smile on her face. Another recognition of her daughter's abilities! She could already smell letters of recommendation to major colleges, and even envisioned Daria inching closer to a Pulitzer... or -- dare she even think it? -- the Nobel Prize for literature. A mother can dream, can't she?
Unfortunately, Daria didn't share Helen's enthusiasm. "It's a punishment for being smart." She sank into her chair, more dejected than ever.
"Now, come on, Daria" Helen chided. "I'm sure you'll do a great job if you just put your mind to it."
"You are very, very wrong."
She could see how depressed Daria was getting, so Helen decided to try a little pep talk. "Sure you will! All you..." The phone rang once again. Irritated, Helen answered it with a curt, "Yes?" Listened. "Tomorrow! During office hours!" Furious, she clicked off the phone; if it were not cordless, she would have slammed the receiver down.
Getting her frustration under control, she turned back to Daria. "All you have to do is get off your toches and do it!" she said, doing a very credible imitation of a coach trying to inspire a losing team during the final minutes of a crucial game. "When Quinn has a challenge..."
Daria stared at her mother, not believing what she had just heard. When Quinn has...? "Quinn?" she said, her depression slowly giving way to anger. "All her challenges involve coordinating her shoes with the color of her date's eyes!"
"Daria, what I mean is..." Helen began, trying to placate her, but it was far too late... and what happened next came as total, shocking surprise.
"How can you talk to me about Quinn?" she exploded. "She'll never have this kind of problem. It involves thinking!" The anger in Daria's voice was rising as the seconds passed; it was as if many years' worth of frustration and resentment at competing with her cute and popular sister were suddenly being unleashed all at once. "You make me tell you what's wrong -- in between calls -- and then you bring up Quinn?!!" She got up from her chair, her fury nearly propelling it into the wall behind her. "Don't you know me at all?!!!"
Stunned, Helen could only sit at the table and watch as her enraged daughter stormed out of the kitchen, stomped up the stairs and slammed the door to her bedroom. She was in complete shock... not only from Daria's unprecedented emotional outburst, but also from the realization that Daria was right. She had stepped over the line and committed the cardinal sin of parenting: comparing one sibling to another.
What the hell was I thinking? Helen thought angrily. As much as I love them both, and as hard as I push Quinn to better herself, I know damn well that Daria has the best chance of making a success out of her life, despite her attitude and her lack of popularity. She doesn't need me throwing her more popular sister in her face. "Good one, Morgendorffer," she said to herself bitterly.
As if on cue, the phone rang yet again. The universe apparently had it in for her today. "Damn!" she yelled, flinging the phone across the table. It hit the potted tree in the corner and clattered to the floor, taking several leaves with it.
She sat in the kitchen for a long time, her head in her hands, wondering how in the hell she was going to repair the damage she had caused.
Alone in her room, Daria paced from one padded wall to the other, trying to get her emotions under control. Helen hadn't been the only one surprised by the ferocity of her outburst.
But what the hell else did she expect? I may not make a big show of my feelings, but damn it, I do have them, she thought angrily. I've had to put up with Queen Quinn and her mindless pursuit of popularity for as long as I can remember, and when Mom finally has the chance to actually help me, she has the unmitigated gall to throw her in my face!
She nearly slammed her fists into the padded wall in frustration, but instead she stopped, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. All right, Morgendorffer, she said to herself, get a grip! You're not accomplishing anything by brooding over Mom's remarkable lack of insight. You can either move past it, or continue obsessing about it until you give yourself an ulcer... or worse, make that damn rash reappear.
The best thing to do was to write it out of her system, she decided, so she sat on her bed, pad and pencil in hand, and began to write at a blinding pace. Once more into the breach...
"Man!" said Jake, leaning back on the couch. "What a good day to just kick back and chill."
Helen, who was seated next to him, snuggled a little closer. "You got that right!" she agreed. After all, it was a warm Saturday afternoon; why knock yourself out doing work when you could be enjoying such a wonderful day?
Their relaxation was interrupted by their daughter, Quinn, who was full of hyperkinetic energy as usual. "Can't stop to talk," she said as she walked through the living room to the stairs. "Big party at Stacy's in four hours. Gotta dress!"
"Quinn," said Helen in an exasperated voice, "don't you think you've taken this popularity thing too far?"
"Huh?" Quinn said, turning to face her parents.
"This 'well-liked teen' crap," Jake said emphatically. "Don't you have any depth at all?"
"Why can't you be more like Daria?" added Helen.
As if to drive the point home, Daria walked into the living room. She noticed the distressed look on Quinn's face, looked at her parents, and immediately concluded that she had walked into the middle of one of their rag-on-Quinn sessions. "Umm..." she said, "do you want to talk to Quinn alone?" Because I really don't want to be in the middle of this...
"No, sweetie," Helen assured her. "As a matter of fact, we were just telling her how we wish she could be more like you."
"Again!" said Jake, looking straight at Quinn.
"Well," said Daria, hoping to defuse the situation, "not everyone can have the same..."
"Don't you think I want to be more like Daria?" cried Quinn. "Don't you think I would if I could? God, Mom and Dad! Why won't you accept it? I'll never be like Daria. That's my curse... and my burden." Tears gathered in her eyes. "I know it's not your fault, but look what your perfection has done to me!" Sobbing uncontrollably, Quinn bolted from the living room and out the front door.
Greatly concerned, Daria asked her parents, "Shouldn't we comfort her or something?"
"Nah, let her go," said Jake, who wasn't concerned at all.
Helen agreed with Jake. "She'll get over it."
"We should at least tell her about that eight-lane highway they built outside the house overnight," Daria insisted.
Jake considered that for a moment. "Hmmm... you may be right."
Suddenly, there came from outside a honking of horns, the squealing of tires, and the unmistakable sound of several automobiles crashing together. The latter sound made all of them wince.
"That can't be good," said Helen. The words were barely out of her mouth when another crash occurred, sounding even worse than the first.
"Owww!" yelled Quinn. "God!"
Daria re-read what she had written and sighed mightily. "Another masterpiece..." she muttered, rolling her eyes to Heaven in supplication. This probably had to qualify as the worst story she had ever written. Not that it wasn't difficult to figure out why: her anger was making it hard to think clearly. Unfortunately, it also wasn't hard to see that what she initially thought would be a difficult but not insurmountable assignment was turning out to be damn near impossible.
What in the hell am I going to do?
EN ROUTE TO LAWNDALE HIGH SCHOOL
"So, it turns out that my life up to now has been a sham," Daria commented to Jane as they walked to school. "I can't write. I can't produce a simple story."
"Wow, Daria. I never figured you for a lack of imagination."
"I have imagination," she countered. "I can come up with all sorts of ideas. But none of them feels true."
Jane considered that. "Well," she said, "what's your definition of 'true'?"
"Something that says something."
"What?" Jane prodded. "Anything?"
Daria shook her head. "No, something about something."
Jane needed to wrap her head around that one for a moment. "Let me get this straight," she finally said. "You're telling me you want to write something -- not just anything -- that says something about something?"
"Gee," Jane said, her voice as dry as the Mojave. "Who'd ever believe you're having trouble communicating?" As expected, she got a "thanks so much" look from Daria, but it was obvious her heart wasn't in it.
Laying on her bed and staring at the ceiling, Daria hoped to be struck by divine inspiration... or an anvil... anything to end her current suffering. It was beginning to look like sleep would be the only thing to claim her when there was a soft knock on her bedroom door. "Whom shall I say is calling?" she called out, even though she already had a pretty good idea who it was.
"Daria?" Helen asked in a hesitant voice. "Is there anything you want to talk about?"
I called that one, she thought. The anger she had felt earlier towards her mother had eased to a dull ache, but that didn't mean she was eager to talk to her any time soon. She hadn't even come out of her bedroom after arriving home from school; at this point, reconciliation was not on her agenda. In her opinion, it was too soon for that. Much too soon.
"No, thank you."
"Are you sure, sweetie?"
"I need some time alone," Daria replied, wishing Helen would just go away and leave her in peace. "To work out my feelings."
"Or do a crossword," she said as she sat up on the bed.
"Gaaah! Helen!" she heard Jake suddenly shout. "My stew! The stove's on fire!"
"Oh, for the love of...!" Helen said, stomping off towards the stairs with every intention of wrapping the soup ladle around Jake's throat for blowing her chance to reconcile with Daria.
Saved by the Galloping Gourmet, thought Daria, but there was none of her usual dry humor in it. She briefly considered just calling it a night, but she was wide-awake now. Might as well give this another shot, she said to herself, as she reached for her writing pad...
Jake, the fiercest warrior in the land, galloped alone across the dark plains, grim determination etched into his pale features. Dark storm clouds gathered on the horizon, and, while it was not yet raining, lightning crashed around him, accompanied by ominous rumblings of thunder.
After what seemed like ages, Jake came upon his destination: a small, rocky hill, upon which stood an ugly old hag named Helen. She was busily stirring the vile contents of a huge cauldron, which was perched atop a raging fire.
Most people would not waste their time with the likes of her, but she was not just some old crone. In her hands, the fate of the kingdom rested.
"Unholy mother!" the warrior cried, the light of the fire dancing on his weathered visage. "Sister of Satan! Tell me what you see in your filthy brew. Tell me what the mists of Time hold for me!"
The old crone snorted contemptuously. "Have you my payment?" Helen asked, her voice creaking. "The tender liver of a newborn babe?"
"I... um... was in a rush," he said with some embarrassment. "Will you take a check?"
"A check!" she bellowed. Then, slyly, she asked, "Have you two forms of I.D.?"
"Tell me you can bring me power!" Jake cried, drawing his sword and rearing his steed. "Power to crush my enemies, to triumph over all!"
"Yes, I can bring you this power!" Helen said. "But, why should men get all the good jobs?" She raised her hands... lightning crashed, thunder rolled, and the very fabric of reality was rewoven.
"Tell me you can bring me power!" Helen cried, drawing her sword and rearing her steed. "Power to crush my enemies, to triumph over all!"
"I can't wait to taste this stew!" Jake the crone said excitedly, totally ignoring Helen.
"I swear by the unholy imp that spawned you," vowed Helen. "I will rule the land!"
"But when do I get to rule?" Jake whined.
Lightning crashed again, and Helen extended her arm menacingly in the old crone's direction. "Silence, toothless hag!"
Jake winced, and muttered, "You don't have to get personal..."
LAWNDALE HIGH SCHOOL
Mr. O'Neill's Classroom
At school the next day, Daria approached Mr. O'Neill. She didn't like doing what she was about to do, but under the circumstances she felt she had no choice. Not a single worthwhile story had emerged the previous night, and she didn't believe in fighting a hopeless fight -- not unless it was worth the effort. So far, this fight wasn't worth it... at least to her.
"Daria!" Mr. O'Neill said as Daria approached his desk. "How's the special assignment going?"
"Um," she said, wondering what the best way was to approach the subject, deciding that the direct approach was the easiest. "That's what I want to talk to you about. I'd like not to do it."
"Oh, no!" he replied, disappointment etched into his voice. "What's the matter, Daria? You haven't been able to write anything? No need to be ashamed about it; every writer goes through a 'slow' period every once in a while."
"No, I've written a lot of stuff," she assured him. "They just aren't up to my standards... and that disturbs me, because I don't have standards."
A good question, and one that Daria had struggled with for a long time before hitting upon the answer. "It's this idea of using people I know as characters. It simply isn't working out. I think I might be better off with a bunch of characters I just made up."
"But that's the challenge of the fiction writer, Daria," O'Neill said earnestly. "To take what we learn in real life and turn it into something that's not really real, but has a real life all its own."
"Well... that sounds great in theory," she replied. "I think. But I can't figure out what my characters should be doing."
"Okay, that's not a problem. We'll just alter the assignment slightly. Sometimes boundaries can paradoxically provide us with freedom." O'Neill was not about to let someone as talented as Daria simply give up without exhausting all the possibilities. "We'll say it should include an activity of some kind. Let's see..."
He thought for a moment. "A forest fire? No, that could end in tragedy." More thinking. "Some kind of orthoscopic surgery? No," he quickly said with an "eww, ick!" look on his face. "That could get messy." Finally, he hit upon an idea. "I know! A game of cards!"
"A game of cards...?" Daria made no attempt to hide her skepticism.
"Sure! And it can be any card game you want."
Daria turned to leave, rolling her eyes as she did. "Gee, thanks. That will really help." She apparently wasn't going to get off this particular hook after all. Great. Just great.
"Glad to hear it. Have fun!"
Mack, the fiercest warrior in the land, galloped alone across the dark plains, grim determination etched into his ebony features. Dark storm clouds gathered on the horizon, and, while it was not yet raining, lightning crashed around him, accompanied by ominous rumblings of thunder.
After what seemed like ages, Mack came upon his destination: a small, rocky hill, upon which stood an ugly old hag named Jodie. She was busily stirring the vile contents of a huge cauldron, which was perched atop a raging fire.
Most people would not waste their time with the likes of her, but she was not just some old crone. In her hands, the fate of the kingdom rested.
"Unholy mother!" the warrior cried, the light of the fire dancing on his weathered visage. "Sister of Satan! Tell me what you see in your filthy brew. Tell me what the mists of Time hold for me!"
The old crone snorted contemptuously. "Have you my payment?" Jodie asked, her voice creaking. "The tender liver of a newborn babe?"
Mack looked slightly uncomfortable. "I'm a little short on livers," he admitted. "Tell you what..." He pulled out a deck of cards. "Play you a quick game of five-card stud for it?"
Jodie considered for a moment. "Jacks are wild," she said, agreeing to the proposal...
Daria sat on the couch in the living room, staring dejectedly at the television. It wasn't on, but even if it was, she doubted she would have seen anything. She was out of ideas and out of hope. Depression was settling over her like a shroud, and she figured she had nothing to lose by letting it claim her. If they thought I was the 'misery chick' before, she thought glumly, they ain't seen nothin' yet.
When Helen arrived home from work, she noticed three things that weren't right. The first was that Daria was sitting on the couch, looking miserable. The second was that the television wasn't on. The last was that Daria was staring at the blank screen. "Daria? Daria, the TV's not on."
"Sssh," Daria replied. "I'm watching this."
Helen considered the lonely and depressed figure sitting before her and figured this was her golden opportunity to attempt reconciliation. "Daria, I'm sorry about not being more sensitive earlier."
Daria glanced sideways at her mother. "Doesn't comparing one sibling to another get you an automatic 'F' in Parenting 101?"
"There is no Parenting 101," Helen replied as she sat on the couch next to Daria. "That's the problem. There's no course that can teach you to be a perfect mother."
Helen stared at her daughter. Yes, it was obvious. What was also obvious was that Daria was not going to make this easy for her. "Daria, I apologized for not helping you before," she said gently. "I'm offering to help you now. What do you want to do?"
She waited patiently for Daria to make her decision. Just as she was about to give up, Daria made the choice Helen was hoping she'd make. "My story sucks."
"Well, honey," she said, seizing the moment, "I'm sure if you just give it another day or two..."
"Everything I do has already been done. I've visited Hollywood, England, and a few places even I can't believe I went." She stared at the floor, if anything even more miserable than before. "I wanted to write something meaningful. I can't write anything at all."
"Maybe you're trying too hard," Helen offered, her heart secretly aching at the sound of complete and utter resignation in her eldest daughter's voice. This was definitely not the Daria Morgendorffer she had known for sixteen years. "Maybe you don't have to write something meaningful, just something honest."
"I can do honest," she replied. "I look around me, I describe what I see."
"How about describing what you'd like to see? Honestly?"
Daria arched her eyebrow at that, intrigued in spite of herself. "What do you mean?" she asked.
"Daria," Helen explained, "the easiest thing in the world for you is being honest about what you observe."
"What's hard for you is being honest about your wishes," she said. "About the way you think things should be, not the way they are. You gloss over it with a cynical joke and nobody finds out what you really believe in."
"Aha! So my evil plan is working."
"See what I mean?" Helen said with a smile, happy to see some of the old Daria finally emerge from the cloud of depression that was threatening to swallow her whole. "If you really want to be honest, be truthful about what you'd like to happen. There's the challenge!"
Daria stared at her mother, utter disbelief written into every feature of her young face. Just when you think you know someone... "When the hell did you learn so much about me?"
Yes! "It's a funny thing, Daria," she said, her voice drier than one of Jake's martinis. "You give birth to someone, you just get an urge to keep tabs on them."
She stared at Helen once again, unable to say anything, her mental gears churning at a fast and furious pace. Maybe Aunt Amy wasn't the only place she got it from after all. Maybe there's hope for this family yet...
Daria strode up the walkway to her parents' home and rang the bell. As she stood waiting, she couldn't help but reflect on how much time had passed since she had lived here. It's been, what... ten, fifteen years? she mused. Funny how time seems to go by so quickly these days; back in high school, it seemed to drag on forever.
Her thoughts were interrupted as her mother answered the door. When Helen saw who it was, her face brightened. "Oh, hi, sweetie!" she said, giving Daria a hug and ushering her into the house.
"How are you, Mom?" she asked as they walked towards the kitchen. The house had not changed much over the years; some new furniture, and perhaps a few more knick-knacks scattered about. And, of course, the assortment of photos that had grown over the years, many of them from Quinn's rapidly expanding family.
"Pretty good," Helen replied. She did look good, despite the onset of age, wrinkles and gray hair. Retiring from that law firm was the best thing she could have done; the stress had been slowly killing her for years. "Every morning, though, it gets a little harder to get out of bed."
"For me, too," Daria said, and both women chuckled. They reached the kitchen, and Helen proceeded to the kitchen table while Daria poured coffee for them both.
"Your father, on the other hand, seems to be getting younger every day. Ever since he retired he's developed such a wonderful perspective."
"Well," said Daria, "triple bypass surgery will do that for a man." Now that was a pretty frightening period, she thought to herself, and not for the first time reflected on the miracle that it hadn't happened sooner, and that it hadn't turned out a lot worse.
"How's Marcello?" asked Helen.
Daria felt a warm feeling come over her at the thought of her husband. "Still fighting the same old curriculum battles against the rest of the faculty," she said, "and each fall there's a new batch of freshmen to potty train." She finished pouring and approached the table, a steaming mug in each hand. "Every year he threatens to quit teaching and go into research, and every year he returns to the classroom. He'll never admit it, but he loves the job; it's what he was born to do."
"Speaking of which," Helen said, "I enjoyed your column this week."
"More preaching to the converted," Daria said as she sat next to her mother. "I get outraged, the readers get outraged, and nothing happens." She gave a wistful sigh that was only partially exaggerated. "Sometimes I think I should have gone into television."
Helen had to laugh at that. "You in television, Daria?"
"I know. Who am I kidding?" Helen was right: She loved her work as much as Marcello loved his. Though she might claim otherwise, she really couldn't imagine herself doing anything else with her life.
"Have you spoken to Jane recently?"
"A few months ago," she replied. "The art scene in New York keeps her pretty busy. Another gallery is supposed to have a showing of her work in a few weeks; she promised to send me a Jane Lane original." Her expression turned to amusement. "She told me it would probably be worth big bucks when she died, so she promised to hurry the process along so I wouldn't have to wait."
They both got a laugh out of that. Helen loved Jane as if she were her own daughter, and was as proud of her accomplishments as she was of Daria's. She and Daria had remained good friends ever since their high school days, and Helen would be forever grateful to Jane for the companionship and camaraderie she had shared with her daughter.
"Has there been any further discussion about expanding your little family?" She knew this was a touchy subject, but she had to ask. A mother's duty, after all...
Daria groaned. "Mom, you know I'm not ready for kids. The whole idea makes me uneasy and I'm not sure why." They then heard the front door open, followed by the sound of "gimme that!" and "mine!" as two children fought over a stuffed toy. Quinn and her kids had arrived.
"Oh, yeah," Daria said, her sardonic grin now at full strength. "Now I remember."
"Hi!" Quinn said as she strode into the kitchen, children in tow. One of her daughters had reddish-gold hair like Quinn's, and her son was the spitting image of her husband, Jamie. Perched in an infant harness around Quinn's chest was the newest addition to her family. "You kids know where Grandma's TV is," she said to the kids. "Go watch something educational."
The three children scampered off to the living room as Quinn joined Helen and Daria at the table. "Boy, I'm exhausted!" she said as she sat down, mindful of the infant cuddled against her bosom.
From the living room came the voice of an announcer and a theme song that was all too familiar. "Breast implants for chickens?!!" said the announcer, a voice that was a combination of fake incredulity and snake oil salesman. Daria didn't need to check her watch; she knew from long experience that it was time for Sick, Sad World.
"Not that!" both Quinn and Daria shouted in unison. The last thing those children needed was to get hooked on a sleazy TV tabloid. Daria ought to know; it was her fifth food group during her school days, first in high school and then in college. They waited and listened, and were satisfied only when they heard the channel change.
"How are you, Quinn?" asked Helen as she stroked the baby's hair. He stirred, gave a tiny little yawn, and went back to sleep.
Quinn sighed. "Oh, you know... another day, another baby." She put on a conspiratorial look. "I swear, one of these days I'm going to slip something into Jamie's beer and, while he's unconscious, I'm going to go out and get my tubes tied."
"Better yet," Daria offered, "his tubes," and they all laughed. Daria marveled once again at the irony of Quinn marrying the one guy in high school whose name she could never remember. She still recalled how surprised she was that Joey and Jeffy weren't jealous when Quinn and Jamie announced their engagement, but the truth is that all three had gotten over their rivalry over Quinn long ago. They had remained friends over the years, and -- in an unusual twist -- both Joey and Jeffy had served as Jamie's best man at their wedding.
Quinn looked around. "How's Dad?" she asked. "And what does he want?" Both she and Daria were here at their father's request, but he had refused to tell them why over the phone. They hoped it wasn't to announce another round of open-heart surgery... or to cook them another meal. Even after all these years, he still hadn't quite gotten the hang of that stew recipe.
As if on cue, Jake arrived in the kitchen, fresh from his nap. Overhearing Quinn's comment, he replied, "I'm great!" All three women turned at the sound of his voice, as did the baby. Seeing his grandson, Jake made a goofy-face, which started the baby crying. "Sorry," he said apologetically to Quinn, who patted her son gently and rocked him back and forth until he finally calmed down.
Jake sat down at the table. "You know, girls, I was going over my will..."
"Not again," Daria protested.
Quinn looked exasperated. "Daddy, why are you so morbid?" It was almost becoming an obsession with Jake, so often did he look over and revise his will.
"That's exactly what I asked him," said Helen in a tone of voice that said she was long resigned to this particular quirk of her husband's behavior.
"But I like going over my will!" Jake protested, a sign of the old whiny Jake creeping into his voice. "It's got all that money!"
"Dad, you revised your will two weeks ago when you discovered your old gum wrapper chain in the attic," Daria reminded him.
"The kids are gonna love that!" he replied. "Anyway, who said anything about revising my will?"
"So what are we doing here?" Daria responded.
Jake got comfortable in his chair. "Well, I was reading my will, thinking about the past and the future, when it occurred to me that you girls have turned out exactly the way I'd hoped."
"No, it's true!" he said. "Daria, every week you write that column of yours, trying to wake people up to the truth. My daughter the crusader!"
"Well," she had to admit, "there is some pleasure in winning awards for saying the same things that made me an outcast in high school."
He turned to his other daughter. "And Quinn, you've taken all that energy and enthusiasm you used to direct toward being... well, a teensy bit self-absorbed..."
Quinn had to chuckle at that one. "Oh, be honest, Daddy; I was a stuck-up little nightmare!" She found it incredible to think that, at one time, all she was concerned about was fashion and popularity. A lot of water had gone under that particular bridge over the years, and although she had made some mistakes, she wouldn't trade her family for anything.
"Well... maybe a little," he admitted. "In any case, I'm damn proud of the way you refocused all that energy into bringing up those kids."
"And that's no easy task," Helen chimed in. "Believe me, I know!" She looked at Daria, who looked slightly embarrassed; in many ways, she had been even harder to raise than Quinn, what with her constant negativity and pessimistic outlook on life. Much water had gone under that bridge, too.
"How come you never complain about those little monsters of yours, Quinn?"
"Um... I like them, Daddy," she said as she regarded her infant son, fast asleep once again.
Suddenly, Daria stood up. "I'm still not clear on what all this is about." Even after all these years, patience was not one of her strongest suits.
"Well," said Jake, "I was having so much fun reminiscing, I thought, hey!" He put some kick into that last word, which caused him to start coughing. "Sorry. Anyway, I thought, why don't we get together for a family card game just like we used to?"
"Family card game?" replied a puzzled Helen.
"We never played a family card game in our lives," said Daria.
"Daria's right," chimed in Quinn.
Jake suddenly got a very familiar look on his face; he was about to go off on one of his "childhood trauma" reminiscing jags. "Oh, do I hear that! I remember asking my father to play 'go fish'...!"
Quinn rushed to calm her excited father. "Triple bypass, Dad!"
Jolted back to the present, Jake relented. "Okay! I'm all right!" He regarded his family. "Anyway, so screw it, then. We never played a family card game. Let's play one now!" He turned to Quinn. "Bridge?"
"Gin," said Quinn, falling into their old negotiating game.
"Hearts." Offer made, counter-offer proposed.
"Done." They then all looked at each other and smiled. It was just like old times.
"Okay!" Jake said, down to business. "I'm going to play a game of hearts with my beautiful wife and my two great kids."
"Oh, Jake..." said Helen. After all these years, he still knew how to make her blush. His ability to turn a phrase and sweep her off her feet was one of the reasons she married him in the first place.
"How about it, Daria?" he said, turning to his eldest daughter. "Hearts?"
Daria stood and regarded her family: Jake, her father, a bungler hiding a heart of gold; her sister Quinn, former fashion fiend turned responsible parent; and Helen, her former workaholic mother who, somehow, had gotten to know her better than anyone ever would have suspected. I suppose someone could do better for a family, she concluded, but not much. She considered her father's offer, looked at their expectant faces, then sat down. She had made her decision.
"Deal me in."
Daria sat on the living room couch as Helen, seated next to her, read the story that Daria had just written. Helen hadn't said a word the entire time, and Daria -- misinterpreting her mother's reaction -- feared the worst. "It's not very good, is it?" she said dejectedly. Maybe she hadn't "gotten it back" after all...
Helen finished the last page, then looked up with tears in her eyes. "Oh... Daria..." Her voice broke and she was unable to say anything more.
"It wasn't that bad..."
Helen couldn't hold back any longer. She reached out and embraced her daughter, the tears she was holding back now flowing freely. Daria had revealed a side of herself that she had never shown before, and she was touched beyond words.
Daria was, to say the least, startled. "Stop... stop!" she protested, unused to such emotional displays and unsure of how to handle them. "This isn't a story, it's real life!"
But Helen paid no heed to her daughter's protests, and continued to weep with a mother's pride and love for her child.
EN ROUTE TO LAWNDALE HIGH SCHOOL
The Next Morning
Daria summarized to Jane the events of the previous night -- minus a description of her story -- as they walked to school. When she was finished, she glanced over at her friend, who was, to say the least, floored.
"Wow!" she said. "So your story made your mother cry?"
"Out of happiness," Daria confirmed. "That's the sick part."
"And run the reason by me again...?"
"She took it as evidence that I'm secretly not as alienated as I seem or something." She sighed. "It'll take me years to undo the damage."
"Amazing," said Jane. "So, you gonna show it to O'Neill?"
Daria sighed again. "I have no choice. But if he cries, too, I'm dropping out of school."
"Wow." Jane still couldn't believe it. She was going to need some time to digest all this. Time to lighten the mood a little. "Well, listen," she said, wry humor dripping from every word, "now that you've got such a great attitude and everything, can I have your boots?"
"Yeah," Daria replied in kind, grateful for the change in tone. "Turn around and I'll give you one right now."
Jane smiled, then turned serious. "Daria?" she asked softly as they turned a corner. "Do you think... someday... I can read your story?"
Are you kidding me? Daria said to herself. Her story was one that was pulled from deep within her heart and soul. I'll never admit it to anyone, and I'll deny it if asked, but maybe -- just maybe -- Mom was right. To Jane, however, she said, "No, but you can read the one where you run away with Kevin."
"Daria" and all related titles, logos, and characters are trademarks of MTV Networks, a division of Viacom International, Inc. All rights reserved by trademark-holders under United States National and International Law and Convention.
"Write Where it Hurts" is copyright © 1998 by MTV Networks, a division of Viacom International, Inc.
This adaptation of "Write Where it Hurts" is copyright © 1998 by Martin J. Pollard. While he does not claim copyright or moral rights to the characters, titles, or stories from "Daria," he does claim copyright on this particular adaptation of the indicated story from the "Daria" milieu. Martin J. Pollard will not profit from these adaptations, and will not tolerate their being distributed in any manner which requires money to change hands for distribution.