Episode #311 The Lawndale File novelized by Bacner ()
It all began at school auditorium. This wasn’t unusual for Lawndale High, as Daria and Jane knew. However, this time, the whole school was surprised, as Ms. Li began. “Settle down, young people! Now, before the varsity interpretive dance team begins its performance—“History, We Are You”—we have a brief announcement from some special guests, agents...”
Ms. Li didn’t finish. The agents, who have been standing quietly in the wings of the stage before that, shouldered her away from podium.
“No names,” the male agent said.
“No credentials,” added his female partner.
Then the male agent continued: “Student, we’ll be brief. We’ve received some disturbing reports from this school, and we’re asking for your cooperation.”
The female agent picked-up: “Keep your eyes open. Watch for people who are different. They know who they are.”
“And with your help, kids, so will we,” the male agent finished.
The students began muttering, utterly confused. The whole episode seemed to have been taken out of the “X-Files,” or something like that.
“Different,” eh?” Jane said. “Hmm... I wonder what I get if I turn you in?” she added, teasing her friend Daria, pointing-out Daria’s “non-conformist” (putting it mildly) look.
“More free time to spend with Kevin and Brittany,” Daria insightfully suggested.
“Curse you different ones and your insidious logic.”
Later, at Jane’s house, the weirdness continued.
“From outer space to in your face! Aliens walk among us! A Sick, Sad World exclusive,” the TV announcer said.
“Oh, look, they’re going to explain the return of disco,” Daria said wryly.
Meanwhile, the man on TV continued: “The aliens aren’t coming. They’re already here. They could be your friends, your family. They act almost normal, but something’s off.”
Jane had enough. “Yes, the TV,” she said, turning it off. “If there were any aliens smart enough to come here, they wouldn’t be stupid enough to come here.”
“There goes my trick ear again. What was that?” Daria asked.
“Let’s say I’m an alien and you’re you,” Jane began.
“Part of this better be hypothetical,” Daria interrupted.
“Now, why would I, a being from the highly advanced planet Zippotron, travel light-years just to take over your body and go to high school?” continued Jane, ignoring Daria’s remark.
“Because Wednesday’s Jell-O day?”
“Exactly,” Jane said. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to rig up some remote system of control? Neck implants or something? Then they could make you do stuff like go to the mall or think about hair without actually having to do it themselves. Makes more sense than a full-scale infiltration.”
“Oh, yes. Much, much more sense.” Sometimes Jane’s logic was too much even for Daria. Like now. Of course, there were other times when it was the reverse.
“All right, then,” Jane continued, but was interrupted by Trent starting string cheerily on his guitar.
“What is that music?” Daria asked, forcing herself not to plug her ears with her hands.
“I don’t know. It’s been going on for two days,” Jane groaned, feeling rather fed-up with the music herself.
“You don’t know how much I want you to tell me that this is not Trent playing,” Daria pressed on.
“You don’t know how much I wish I could.”
“Hmm...” Daria said, somewhat wistfully. “Maybe there’s something to your remote control theory after all.”
Things didn’t improve at Daria’s house either. Helen instantly began to pomp her eldest child for information at breakfast. “Come on, Daria. Something interesting must have happened yesterday,” she said.
Daria thought hard. “Hmm... nope,” she said.
“How about that friend of yours? What’s new with her?” Jake joined-in.
“Not much.” Daria stuck to her story.
“What about the newspaper? Read anything interesting lately?” Helen wasn’t giving-up easily.
Daria had enough. “Hmm. I did see an article by an efficiency expert who claims one really intense conversation with your child over breakfast is worth a whole week of unfocused parenting. Did you catch that article?”
There was an uncomfortable pause. Daria’s message was obvious even to Jake, let alone Helen. But Helen wasn’t giving-up:
“Well... how about TV? Seen anything good recently?”
“Just the usual crazy guy claiming aliens are walking our streets,” Daria stated. This seemed harmless enough. She was wrong.
“Well, of course they are,” Helen said. “Many of them can’t afford a car. No shame in that.”
“Hmm... what?!” Daria almost goggled.
The phone rang.
“I’ll get it!” Helen said, pleased to get any response from Daria. “Jake, keep up the momentum.”
Jake nodded. Immigrants and aliens. He could talk about that. “Ten-four. Heck, Daria, your mother’s right. We were all aliens at one point or another, right, kiddo?”
Meanwhile, Helen was talking on the phone: “Hellooo?”
“We were all aliens?” Daria asked her father. She was missing something here, she was sure. Admittedly, sometimes her family did seem to come from the planet Zarbon or whatever, but surely this was just a metaphor? After all, what would this make her, if her family was aliens. ‘Course, it would explain a lot of things too, but…
“Quinn, telephone!” Helen called-out.
“I’ll take it up here!” Quinn shouted from upstairs.
Helen blinked. “Why didn’t she come down for breakfast? Daria, is anything wrong with Quinn?”
“If this weren’t a school day, I might have the time to begin answering that,” Daria replied, glad to be on the common ground.
Quinn entered and Daria blinked. Apparently, her family decided to start early surprising her. First Jake’s and Helen’s aliens bit, and now this: Quinn looking like a beatnik from the 70s. What was going-on here?!
“Morning!” Quinn said in her trademark perky voice, as if nothing was wrong
“Morning, sunshine,” Jake said, oblivious, as usual, to the going-ons in his family.
Helen tried to be supportive: “Why, look at your hat,” she said, half-succeeding.
Daria didn’t have any of such qualms. “What’s with the new look, daddy-o?” she said, bluntly.
Quinn turned frantic. “New look? What new look? I’m dressed like I am every day, more or less.”
Daria was too much Daria to press the issue further. Her family might think that she actually cared about how Quinn looked. That was a dirty lie, of course, and yet… yet voices began to sound in Daria’s mind.
“Neck implants or something? Makes more sense than a full-scale infiltration,” she remembered Jane from last night.
“Well, of course they are. Many of them can’t afford a car.” - Helen
“We were all aliens at one point or another. Right, kiddo?” Jake finished the suggestion.
“You know that spending too much time with your family makes you hear voices. Get out!” Daria thought and shook her head. She really needed Jane to talk about this. “Well, me, oh my, look at the time. I’d better get to school. Bye!” She hastily left. This was too much for her. Her parents couldn’t be aliens and using her and Quinn as testing subjects, could they? This was too much like Daria’s fantasies to be real.
On the other hand, Daria couldn’t think of a rational explanation on her own. Jane would have to help her out, and Daria didn’t doubt that she’ll do this willingly.
Helen stared as the hastily retreating back of Daria. “Well, that was odd,” she said. In Daria’s ordinary stone-hard demeanour apparent cracks were appearing “Quinn, is anything wrong with Daria?”
“If this weren’t a school day, I might have time...” Quinn began, but Jake interrupted her. “It’s not like her to act so prejudiced against immigrants,” he said.
“What?” Quinn asked, completely clueless.
“All of a sudden, she doesn’t like aliens,” Helen explained.
Now, in a usual household, using the words “immigrants” and “aliens” in the two neighbouring sentences would’ve solved everything, or at least set a path for clarification. This being Morgendorffers’ household, it all just murked-up even more.
“Who does?” Quinn asked, completely misunderstanding the point. “Aliens impregnate you and then they pop out of your chest and kill you while you’re trying to eat lunch. What’s to like? Got to go! Bye!” She left, leaving Helen and Jake staring after her.
“What exactly are they teaching about immigration at that school?” Helen asked, shocked.
“I don’t know, honey, but that sounds like a fascinating topic for a discussion!” Jake, as usual, has completely missed the point as well.
Helen snorted in disgust. “Oh, Jake, give it up,” she said and left the kitchen.
Jake instantly fell asleep.
At school, the weirdness continued, now stronger than ever, even for Lawndale. Students were whispering and gossiping in every corner, nook and cranny they could. But Daria and Jane were too engrossed in their own conversation to notice it.
“No, I’m not saying Quinn’s an evil space creature,” Daria was saying, but Jane didn’t listen:
“Oh, go ahead. It sounds so cool,” she protested.
Daria disagreed. After all, for all of her family’s shortcomings, she preferred to think that they were human. If they weren’t that then would be too much even for Daria. “I just think it’s strange that she’s suddenly covering up her neck,” she said.
At this moment Kevin and Brittany walked past them, nearly oblivious to everyone and everything around them but each other.
Jane trailed Kevin with a thoughtful look. “Hmm. When was the last time you saw Kevin without his neck thing?” she asked.
Daria immediately caught-on “You’re talking implants?” she asked.
Unfortunately, they were still within Kevin and Brittany’s hearing range. Fortunately, these were Kevin and Brittany. “I heard that, and it’s not true!” Brittany snapped and left, taking Kevin with her.
“I guess she thought you meant her U.F.O.s,” Jane said sarcastically.
Unfortunately, at this point Mr. O’Neill entered and things became worse than before. You could always count on Mr. O’Neill to start something that he couldn’t hope to control, nor prevent others from suffering from his creation.
“U.F.O.s?” the English teacher shivered. “Have you been watching The X-Files? I know I have.”
“And that’s good,” Daria deadpanned.
“But you know what’s interesting?” Mr. O’Neill continued, oblivious to Daria’s sarcasm.
“Why do you encourage him?” whispered Jane to Daria.
“All this creepy science fiction is just a throwback to the old Cold War paranoia.”
“Aliens in the sky, communists under the bed,” Daria explained for Jane’s sake, who didn’t catch for O’Neill said for the first time.
“Exactly, Daria! And accusations flying, all because of atomic jitters.”
This was said loudly, just enough for Joey and Jeffy, who were walking past, to hear it. And Mr. O’Neill continued telling Daria and Jane, oblivious to others: “You’re a communist! You’re an alien!”
Daria turned to Jane and said sarcastically: “Trade you Cuba for Jupiter.”
“One stood for the other in those old movies,” Mr. O’Neill finished saying.
“Now tell us about the time before microwave popcorn,” Daria suggested, feeling that she owed this to O’Neill: make him look more ridiculous, than he already was.
“Oh, gosh, does that take me back!” Mr. O’Neill rose to the suggestion was eagerness that was almost disappointing to Daria and Jane. And Joey and Jeffy left, eager to share their new rumour with the rest of the school: Quinn’s weird cousin and her equally weird friend were no ordinary students at all…
Meanwhile, at Quinn’s locker, Quinn was having her own troubles.
“Quinn, if you refuse to explain your strange outfit, I’m afraid the Fashion Club will have to consider sanctions,” Sandi said, barely hiding her desire for having Quinn refuse an explanation. The relationship between two girls was getting strained, sort-of lately.
Quinn knew this too. “I’ll tell you later, I promise! I swear! It’s not an anti-fashion statement,” she said frantically.
“Very well,” Sandi smirked, seeing that Quinn was at a disadvantage at this point. “But we have only your word to go on.”
This got interrupted by entrance of Joey and Jeffy.
“Hey, Quinn, Mr. O’Neill says that girl from your house is an atomic communist,” Joey said.
“Yeah, and her friend’s an alien,” Jeffy added.
“Eww!” Stacy said. She supposed that aliens and atomic communists were uncool. In her heart though, she disagreed slightly.
“Gross,” said Tiffany and meant that.
The news reached Kevin too and got him agitated. It didn’t take much to agitate Kevin, let alone news of this calibre. When Mack entered, he heard Kevin say: “I knew it! It’s just like when they made us have pep rallies for field hockey. We’re being invaded by communists!” Then he saw Mack and continued: “Bro! Daria and Jane are communists planted by the government to wreck team sports.”
Mack sighed. If Daria and Jane were communists (and he doubted that with an extreme force), then they would certainly do something more useful with their time than wreck anything with Kevin in it. “Remember that game when you fell on your head? Remember how you thought Vince Lombardi was sending you plays from hell?” he said, trying to change the subject. Hopefully, he’ll confuse Kevin sufficiently for the other boy to shut-up.
“Heaven, bro! Vince Lombardi did not go to hell,” Kevin replied, turning away from the topic of Daria and Jane. Unfortunately, this was when Tiffany and Stacy walked past.
“But... if Quinn’s cousin is an atomic communist from Mars, shouldn’t she have a more interesting outfit?” Tiffany asked. In Tiffany’s world nothing was more important than outfits. Well, except for her worry about weight.
“Stop it, Tiffany! You’re scaring me!” Stacy replied. This was true enough, Stacy couldn’t believe that even now Tiffany wasn’t concerned about anything but outfits.
“Sorry,” Tiffany said not knowing what for.
Mack sighed. Apparently, this rumour would not be easily squelched and required some strategy. He decided to consul with Jodie. “Yeah, yeah, I heard it, too,” he said as he left with Kevin and Brittany. They didn’t notice Upchuck, who had hanged-on to every word instead.
“Two of my favourite luscious ladies out to enslave Earth males and end gym class?” Upchuck purred. This was too good to be true. “Someone’s been reading my dreams.” He left to spread the rumour.
Outside the school the weirdness continued.
“A lot of weirdness around here lately,” Jane noticed.
“Yeah. I won’t be sorry to see this day end,” Daria sincerely agreed.
“You say that every day,” Jane noticed.
“Although this one was especially strange. But the worst is over,” Jane went on.
At this moment the doors flew open and Mr. DeMartino, the history teacher, emerged in handcuffs, flung by the two agents. Everyone, including Daria and Jane, stared.
“Remove these restraints!” DeMartino raged. “Governmental thugs! This isn’t Stalingrad!” Unfortunately, for DeMartino, the agents weren’t good in history field.
“You’re damn right, pal. And it isn’t going to be,” the male agent said.
“You can’t do this. I’m an educator!” the history teacher continued.
“Say it again! It only makes it easier,” the female agent countered.
The agents left with Mr. DeMartino, leaving the students gaping. An arrest was something new even for Lawndale High.
“Um, the worst is over now?” Jane said weakly.
“Don’t bet on it,” Daria said and was right.
Things continued to deteriorate at Daria’s house. As Daria walked past Quinn’s bedroom, she heard Stacy say “Quinn, I’m so happy you’re still one of us.”
“Really,” Tiffany added, her being an authentic yes-person.
“Well, God, Stacy, what did you think?” Quinn said, now free to act just a little bit indignant. A little bit.
“Quinn’s right, Stacy,” Sandi said. “Just because she was acting completely weird and not confiding in her dearest, most loyal friends is no reason to decide she’d finally given up her sad charade and revealed herself as a two-faced, little...” At this point Sandi saw Daria and changed tracks abruptly. There was absolutely no need for private Fashion Club business to be heard by outsiders. “Um, let’s resume discussing... plaids... later,” she said lamely.
Stacy didn’t get it: “Plaids?”
“Yes, Stacy. Plaids,” Sandi said firmly.
“Okay, plaids,” Stacy agreed, nervously.
“I’ll see you to the door and, you know, open it and stuff,” Quinn added, helpfully.
As the Fashion Club left, Daria could still remember Stacy saying: “Quinn, I’m so happy you’re still one of us.”
“Would you stop with the voices already?” Daria asked herself firmly and phoned Jane.
Jane, when she heard what has happened, was unsympathetic. “Come on, not even aliens would give the planet to the Fashion Club. You’re getting paranoid,” she said.
“I’m not talking about aliens,” Daria argued. “But there’s something out there. Something stupid.” She could smell it.
“You get rattled too easily,” Jane said. Then she changed the conversation. “By the way, can you come over here right now? I’m really scared.”
“I see. And to what do I owe this mood swing?”
“It’s Trent’s song. You got to listen and tell me if it’s getting more cheerful.”
“Now who’s paranoid?” Daria said wryly.
“Come on, I’ll order a pizza,” Jane started to placate her irate friend. “And don’t tell your folks where you’re going. I don’t want your mother getting all... motherly.”
This was easier said than done. As Daria walked downstairs, she ran into Jake:
“Hey, kiddo! Going out?”
“Yeah,” Daria agreed slyly. “I’m going for, um... a power walk.” This sounded lame and she knew it, and she paid for this.
Jake ran into the kitchen, crying: “A power walk? Helen, Helen, it is Daria! She just went for a walk!”
“That’s encouraging,” Helen said flatly. What was going-on with her whole family anyways.
“Encouraging?! Don’t you see? Daria’s turning wholesome and Quinn’s a beatnik. What’s going on?”
Helen giggled. This one was too easy. “Well, it’s simple. They’ve switched personalities,” she replied.
Jake, of course, completely didn’t get it. “They have?!” he cried.
“It’s a joke, Jake. Gees!”
Quinn chose to enter at this moment
“Oh, Quinn!” Jake cried emphatically. “Hi, honey!” Then he calmed himself down. “Your mother and I couldn’t help noticing you and Daria have been acting a little... different lately. Is there anything we should know?”
Quinn decided to humour him “Uh, let me think. Today Mr. O’Neill said that Daria is some kind of communist and she’s out to destroy the American way of life. Okay, I’m going to Sandi’s. Bye!” She left.
Jake paled. “Oh, my God! Did you hear that?”
Helen refused to believe this. After all, this was O’Neill Quinn was talking about. That man could’ve become a teacher only here, so he should be taken with more than just a grain of salt. “Oh, Jake, that man O’Neill has a screw loose. Besides, communists like downtrodden aliens.”
Unfortunately, Quinn remembered something else and returned to add it. “I remember now. He said she was an atomic communist. Okay, see you!” She left again.
Jake became worse. “Gawk! An atomic communist!”
Helen sighed. There was a mess in here somewhere, but she couldn’t solve it on her own. “Jake, if you want I’ll call that Mr. DeMartino. He’s a bit high-strung but he’s a fixture at that school, and he can tell us if anything odd is happening.”
DeMartino’s name sparked another memory in Quinn’s mind and she returned briefly, said “Oh, yeah, and Mr. DeMartino was led off in handcuffs. Toodle-oo!” and left.
Jake look like a fish on a shore “God! G-g-g-g...”
Helen began to turn pale herself. “Oh, my,” she just said. When people started to be led away in handcuffs, then something was definitely rotten somewhere. She intended to find out.
As Daria walked to Jane’s house, branches rustled. Daria jerked. “Come on now,” she told herself. “Aliens don’t hide in the bushes. It’s probably just a stalker. Yes, a stalker out to plant a teen in a shallow grave. Perfectly normal. I feel much better now. She walked down street, thinking about how even she was sometimes too much for her and ignored the kissing and moaning sounds.
“But, Kevvy. Kevvy!” Brittany’s voice said.
“Huh?” Kevin’s voice replied.
“Didn’t you say we were going to follow her and save the world and stuff?”
“Oh, yeah. But I don’t think we have to save the world right this second.”
Kevin and Brittany resumed making out. It was when Upchuck appeared purred softly: “Que passionato!”
“Hey! We’re trying to save the world here!” Kevin shouted, indignant.
Instantly multiple flashlights shone at each other.
“And I’m trying to find the space maidens’ ship so they can take me back and make me their love slave,” Upchuck continued, undeterred.
Kevin could dig this himself. “Oh, cool,” he said, wondering if he shouldn’t join Upchuck along, just this once.
Jodie and Mack turned on their flashlights as well. “Well, you were right. Everyone has gone crazy,” Jodie told Mack.
Mack turned to his part-time friend. “I knew you’d try something, Kevin. I figured I owed it to the team to keep you from humiliating yourself.”
The bushes rustled again, and Mr. O’Neill appeared on the scene.
“Mr. O’Neill?” Mack asked, surprised. “Don’t tell me you’re hunting communists, too?”
Mr. O’Neill laughed nervously. “I wouldn’t call it hunting. I heard a rumour about secret police kidnapping educators and spiriting them off to the gulag. But me? No. I frequently go for walks with a, um, flashlight in case the streetlights go out.”
Upchuck, meanwhile, was still talking about his little fantasy. “These reds come red-hot from the red planet itself. We’re talking Mars.”
Mr. O’Neill blinked. “Charles, I think you mean Marx,” he said and dropped his flashlight. “Darn! There goes my flashlight again!”
“Where’d you drop it?” Jodie asked helpfully.
All began to search for flashlight.
Meanwhile, at Jane’s house, Jane was letting Daria in. “You made it. Cool. I was starting to... whoa!”
Daria and Jane stared at flashing lights in the woods.
Mr. O’Neill’s voice came from there: “Found it!”
Then Jodie’s voice: “Great. Now maybe you can answer our question. Why are we all sneaking around with flashlights?”
The lights disappeared one by one.
“Did we just see a U.F.O.?” Jane asked Daria.
Daria shook her head. She was sure now that there was no U.F.O., just Lawndale’s stupidity working overtime. “You’re getting paranoid. It’s probably just an informal get-together of local stalkers. You know, hang out, swap stories, and try out each other’s skeleton keys.”
“But only an idiot would go stalking with a flashlight,” Jane protested.
“Come on. This is Lawndale.”
Back in the woods, Mr. O’Neill was saying: “You’re right, Jodie. We’ve all been acting very foolish.”
“Hey, man, speak for yourself,” Kevin spoke.
“Oh! Sorry, Kevin. But I wonder if maybe a rally might be in order. You know, something before classes to promote understanding, remove the fear, and increase the peace.”
Something snapped in Kevin’s brains and he said: “That’s when we have practice! He’s trying to destroy football. He’s one of them!”
“Who?” Brittany asked, now completely confused.
“Um... I thought you knew,” Kevin replied weakly.
Meanwhile, at Jane’s house, the guitar strummed some major chords now.
“Is that song getting happier or am I just getting more miserable?” Jane asked.
“It’s verging on bouncy, all right,” Daria said thoughtfully. “But please, continue with your delightful presentation.”
“Okay, lookie.” Jane held-up a drawing. “You’ve got these government types at school telling us to watch out for weird behaviour. Then the alien nut on TV says the same thing. Meanwhile, your parents are weird, your sister is weird, and all the kids at school look at us funny.”
“That’s not new,” Daria argued.
“Yeah, but now there’s respect. And that song? Maybe it’s the alien signal and Trent’s beckoning to the U.F.O.”
“Ah, but the U.F.O. went away,” Daria pointed-out wryly.
“Well, maybe aliens don’t like sucky music and he’s actually trying to save humanity.”
“When do we get to the crop circles?” Daria’s temper was growing short.
Then music stopped. Daria and Jane looked at each other – Daria questioning, Jane worried.
“Uh-oh. The music stopped,” said Jane, as she rolled-up her drawing and hide it under her bed.
Trent entered. “Hey... what’s going on?” he asked.
“Nothing,” Daria replied.
“Nada,” added Jane.
“Not a thing,” continued Daria, not to be outdone.
“Hmm...” said Trent, obviously not buying it.
There was an uncomfortable pause, then Daria spoke. “Um... that’s some song you’re working on. It’s different.”
Instantly, Trent grew defensive. “Nothing different about it. Nothing at all. I got to go and, uh, practice my same music that uh... isn’t any different from the other stuff I play.” He left. The girls looked at each other again, now equally confused.
“What was that?” Daria asked. This was unusually talkative for Trent.
“You’re starting to get weirded out, aren’t you?” Jane said smugly.
“No, absolutely not,” Daria protested, but the doorbell rung, and she peeped.
Jane slowly opened the front door. Artie the pizza boy stood there. “Pizza!”
Jane and Daria screamed: “Aaaaah!”
“Could you hurry up?” Artie asked. “I got other pizzas to deliver, and if I don’t get them there on time, they’re free. I really got to go.”
“On your way over here, you didn’t see any, um, lights in the sky or anything?” Daria asked. She was quite unprepared for Artie reached as he slammed the door close. “Oh, no! They’re back?! I hope they don’t plan to experiment on me this time. I was a mess the last time. See, they replace your skin with synthetic skin that stretches real tight on your head in the summer.”
Jane and Daria looked at each other and took Artie to the kitchen.
“That’s why they come at night. It makes it easier to steal your dreams. They got this big, big suction device that...”
Time passed and Artie talked: “... and anyone who tells you aliens are taking over their body is nuts. All they want is our skin ‘cause your skin remembers what it feels.”
“Hmm. Hey, you ever written any lyrics?” asked Trent, who by now have joined-in. (He was always near when so was food.)
Artie pager beeped. “Uh-oh. Fired again? Man, this happens all the time. Ever since my encounter with those darn aliens!”
Back at Daria’s house, others things were developing.
“ We’ve got to face it, Helen. We’re the enemy! We’re the people we marched against! That’s why Daria has turned communist! That’s why we’ve lost our little girl!” Jake was practically shouting.
Helen was still trying to be reasonable with her husband. “Jake, Daria’s never once called us capitalist pigs or running dogs for the bosses. This is probably just her way of engaging in some kind of social activity.”
But Jake was not to be placated. “Socialist, you mean! What’s happened to us? The house, the cars, my relaxed-fit pants! All these things, all this relaxing? We’ve got to recapture that hard moral core and get back to the soil.”
Helen had it. “All right, Jake, no more coffee after dinner.”
Daria chose this moment to enter.
“Back from your power walk, sweetie?” Helen asked.
“Um... oh, yeah.”
“So you’re walking for power, is that it? Want to take over? Kick over the whole apple cart? Well, let me tell you, young lady, if it’s a group you want to join, there’s a little bunch I know called the human race, and it ain’t half bad!” Jake shouted.
Daria stared. “Yeah. Thanks, Dad. That’s tremendously helpful.” She left
Helen sighed. “Let’s just make that no more coffee for you ever.”
The next day at school, Daria and Jane arrive at rally, which was presided by Kevin.
“Uh-oh,” Daria said. Anything led by Kevin was certainly led to a disaster, to put it mildly.
Jane knew this as well. “Yeah,” she said.
Back on the podium, Kevin was ranting: “So that’s why I say commies aren’t team players, so keep them out of team sports. All right!”
“Yay, no commie team!” Brittany was acting as a chorus.
It was when Mr. O’Neill appeared and spoke hastily into the mike. “Um, thank you, Kevin. But actually, the communist is your ultimate team player. The team is all; the individual, nothing.”
Kevin blinked. “Oh. Well then, never mind. All right!”
There were cheers and applause. Apparently, other students of Lawndale were as clueless about communism, as Kevin and Brittany.
“Good morning,” continued Mr. O’Neill. “As you know, we’re here to clear up some misunderstandings and suspicions so we can all feel better about each other and ourselves. So without further ado, I present to you a work in progress, a solo performance I call “Nothing to Lose But His Chains: The Life of Karl Marx.” The year is 1848.” An exercise tape began to play.
“Oh, dear, that’s my exercise tape,” Mr. O’Neill said.
It was then Mr. DeMartino pushed through the crowd, beginning Lawndale’s emergence from the latest brand of madness. “Anthony! You weren’t kidnapped!” Mr. O’Neill exclaimed happily.
Mr. DeMartino, on the other hand, was far from happy. “All right! I finally convinced those glorified dogcatchers from Immigration that I am not an illegal alien. But now I have a question. Who told them I was?”
“Oh, anyone can make a mistake. Damn it!” said Ms. Barch from the sidelines.
“Maybe it was the mind control babes from space, Mr. D., trying to create a distraction,” Upchuck added, helpfully.
Mr. DeMartino blinked. “Who?”
“Them.” Upchuck pointed at Daria and Jane. Everyone stared at them.
“Um, I hate to wreck a perfectly good lynching, but you’re the ones acting weird,” Daria said, uncomfortable to be in the centre of attention.
Kevin was back. “Us? Mr. O’Neill said you’re out to destroy football.”
“No! I was telling them about how communists and Martians are the same.” Mr. O’Neill said hurriedly.
“That’ll clear things up,” Daria wryly to Jane. Mr O’Neill was as helpful as always, causing more harm than good. Furthermore, the student body’s activists were reluctant to give-up their illusions.
“So there’s no communist infiltration?” asked Kevin.
“Oh, I don’t know. How do you explain that?” Jane pointed at the black-clad Fashion Club, who tried to pretend that they weren’t themselves.
“Don’t say it. Let them kill us,” Quinn hurriedly said.
“We’re dressed this way for Fashion Club solidarity,” explained Tiffany.
“One of us has a problem. That’s all you need to know,” Sandi added.
“Oh, dear! What kind of problem?” Mr. O’Neill was agitated once more.
“A private problem.”
“It’s a neck zit!” Stacy said helpfully, not getting it.
The crowd reacted in horror. “Stacy!” Quinn shrieked.
“Don’t worry, Quinn. They still don’t know it’s you,” Tiffany said. Quinn screamed and ran-off.
“Uh-oh,” Stacy said.
“Did I say the wrong thing?” Tiffany asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” Sandi smirked. This has turned-out much better than she had planned.
Meanwhile, Jane was complaining to Daria: “I liked it better when they were under alien control.”
“It was more believable,” Daria agreed, but secretly she was relieved that that wasn’t the case.
Mr. O’Neill tried to get the conversation back on line, not knowing that it was finished. “So you see, everyone? Mr. DeMartino’s disappearance, all these communist and alien worries... simple misunderstandings, all of them. What do you say we cement our newfound unity by joining hands and singing “Man in the Mirror”?”
The kids booed, groaned, and left. The alien/communist craze was apparently over. “Oh, dear,” Mr. O’Neill said.
It was Jake and Ms. Li entered. Jake looked worried, Ms. Li peeved.
“See? Look! What’d I tell you? Secret hush-hush gatherings right out in the open!” Jake told Ms. Li.
“What is going on?” Ms. Li asked the English teacher in a more than just a stern tone of voice. “I didn’t approve any assembly. This is a breach of discipline.”
“But I...” Mr. O’Neill began, but Ms. Li was past him, struggling with megaphone.
“People, people... how do you get this to work? Disperse immediately. Damn piece of crap. Kids are half deaf from their damn music, anyway. This assembly is unauthorized... oh, the hell with it.”
“Hey, can I try that thing?” Jake asked.
Back at Jane’s house, Jane was asking Daria: “So you finally convinced your dad that you’re not a communist?”
“Yeah, I’m showing him how much I love money by hitting him up for it every chance I get.”
The TV began to play music. “Hey, it’s Trent’s hell music!” Jane said in surprise.
“So that’s why he was acting strange. He was writing a jingle,” Daria answered. Another mystery solved.
Meanwhile Trent was singing in the TV commercial. “If you don’t have a car or your present car sucks, go to Happy Herb with a few thousand bucks. Then you can drive here, you can drive there, and drive where you want, Happy Herb doesn’t care. It won’t make you better or smarter, that true, but you can drive around when there’s nothing else to do. So go buy a car, buy a damn car, hit the road to nowhere in your Happy Herb car.”
“ I’m Happy Herb, and I sell cars, so come on down.”
“So now you know,” Trent said, as he entered Lanes living room unnoticed.
“Oh, um, nice jingle,” Daria flushed.
“You don’t have to tell me. I’m a complete sell-out. But I really needed the gig,” Trent sighed.
“What’s the going rate for an artist’s soul these days?” Jane asked.
“20 bucks, an hour of free studio time and a set of tires.”
“They’re new tires.”
On the TV, Sick, Sad World music began to sound. “Hey, look, it’s that guy,” Trent said, recognizing Artie.
On the TV, SSW Reporter was asking Artie: “And what unspeakable acts did the space beings perform on you?”
“They took my flesh and replaced it with an alien synthetic skin. A skin capable of sensations you can’t even imagine. But that’s not the worst of it.” He began to sob.
“Uh-oh,” Jane commented, “he’s going to get his skin wet and shrink it.”
On the TV, Artie continued to rant: “They used me, and then they made me lose my job.”
The SSW Reporter re-took-over the show. “You saw it first on Sick, Sad World. Alien love goddesses are depriving Americans of their skins and their jobs.”
And the TV showed illustration of Jane and Daria in “space vixen” outfits.
“Hey, cool,” Trent said.
“We should be upset, right?” Daria asked.
“I don’t know. Those outfits look pretty good,” Jane replied, and Daria secretly agreed. But she never admitted that.