Okay, I wasn't supposed to be smoking. Hell, it's illegal for me to buy cigarettes anyway, right? For the last time, though, I wasn't trying to burn the stupid house down! So instead of joining my parents for a summer in Hawaii (which I was looking forward to the same way most people look forward to experimental dentistry), they decided to book me into the Cedars of Lawndale Psychiatric Center. You ask me, I think the only reason they sent me there is because it was cheaper than a kennel. Anyway, I figured I was stuck in the straight jacket until I proved I was no danger to myself or others, so I might as well get used to the fit.
After a few days of not swearing all day and night at the top of my lungs, they decided to reward me by sticking me in the common room to watch t.v. with the other kids they had tranked to the max. I suppose I would have just zoned out into never-never land and let the static-covered reruns rule my life for a while, but they happened to drop me into a chair next to this one chick. Crazy houses are coed. Who knew? She wasn't bad-looking for a fellow nutbar, either. Her hair was long and auburn and she had these really freaky round glasses. At the time, we had matching jackets, so I used that as an icebreaker. I figured, what the heck, she was probably drugged out of her gourd anyway, so I might as well tell my life story to a literally captive audience. It took me two hours to figure out that she wasn't drugged, she was just ignoring me. This girl was cool. She said her name was Daria Morgendorffer and that if I didn't shut up she'd tell one of the orderlies that I was trying to pick her pocket. This girl was very cool.
We wound up having group therapy together, which means we sat around in a circle with a bunch of other kids and a doctor, and traded insults until someone cried. She was great at that. She got the doctor once. Really good, too. He was writing himself a prescription while the orderlies were helping him off the floor. One day we were alone in the arts and crafts room (lots of construction paper, no glue, go figure) so I asked her what she was in for. She said she was being watched to make sure she didn't commit a victimless crime. That surprised me about her. I could see her removing other people from the planet, herself not so much. Turns out, though, that apparently she'd always been labeled some kind of misery chick and her parents didn't need much of a nudge to have her committed. So when they found her diary and read the entry about how much she wanted to die because she wasn't going to be able to go to the Battle of the Boy Bands concert in New York, her 'rents panicked and tossed her in here. I mentioned that she didn't strike me as the Boy Band type. She agreed and wished that her parents were observant enough to pick up on that little detail. That and the pink bunnies on the diary's cover, right next to the phrase "Property of Quinn Morgendorffer".
Lucky for her, her dad got the first bill from the place shortly after that and demanded her release. He was quite a case himself. Nearly got himself committed when he barged into the place. A doctor was about to sedate him before her mom distracted him with a sheet of construction paper. Her kid sister was there, too, and her parents made her apologize to Daria right there in front of the chaos. Turns out the little fashion maven was just trying to grab some sympathy from her parents so they'd let her go to this super sale at some out of state mall, which they wound up doing, and she got a really cute sweater with some matching sandals, and they went with her eyes but not her boyfriend's car so she broke up with him and started dating this other guy which was just as well because she was so depressed over breaking up with the first guy that she bought a whole new outfit and now everything matched. It's the curse of every mental patient to constantly wonder what all the crazies are doing on the outside.
Before she left, Daria asked to speak to me. I guess they felt so bad about having tossed their daughter in there that her parents (her mother, I mean) browbeat the docs into allowing it. I didn't think we had gotten close enough for me to rate a goodbye, but she was really full of surprises. I asked her if there was a chance we could get together sometime after I got out. She was pretty noncommittal, but she slipped a piece of paper into my hand as she left. Turned out it was her phone number. It also happened that it was written down on the cover of a book of matches. I looked up to see her flash me a smile. It was the same smile the Mona Lisa had as she sat there watching some guy lift Da Vinci's wallet.
At night, I lie in my padded room, waiting for my parents to get an outrageous bill so they'll yank me out of here, and while I wait, the memory of her smile keeps me warm. That and the blazing fire outside my window, of course.
A first-person ficlet isn't my usual style, but I would love to hear what you thought of it. Please send feedback to me at Renfield@meerkatmeade.com.
Disclaimer: Daria and all related characters were created by Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis and are trademarks of MTV Networks, Inc., a division of VIACOM international, Inc. All rights reserved by trademark holders U. S. National and International Law and Convention.
"Fanning The Flames" is a work of fiction produced solely for fun, and is not meant to be distributed for profit.