Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged.

This is the forty-sixth John Lane story

Richard Lobinske

Substitute Plans

Ms. Ruiz paced back and forth in Principal Li's office beside Ms. Barch and Mr. DeMartino. "Might I remind you that was part of what made me agree to hire on to your school?"

Ms. Barch cut to the subject at hand. "Do we get our raise or not?!"

Ms. Li calmly said, "Better! A new coffee maker in the teachers' lounge."

Mr. DeMartino leaned forward against Ms. Li's desk. "That's not an offer, that's an insult! Now, as head of the Lawndale Teacher's Union, I..."

Ms. Li cheerfully continued, "With some of those international flavors you can just squirt right out of a bottle. Mmm..."

Outside the principal's office, Daria and John found Upchuck peeking through the keyhole and saying, "Ooh, I like what I'm seeing..."

John said, "Upchuck, are you really getting that desperate? Even your average freshman has better porn than looking at Ms. Li."

Daria shuddered. "I'm surprised you haven't already gone blind, Upchuck."

Upchuck looked back with a broad grin. "Oh, get your minds out of the gutter, sheesh. No, we've got a cat-and-dogfight here. Me-ouch! And it's about to get strike-o-licious."

Mr. DeMartino sternly said, "Give us our ten percent or we'll walk!"

Ms. Li laughed out loud. "Oh, you will, will you? Well, I hope for your sake your negotiating skills have improved since the last time you tried to pull this stunt...or have you forgotten that the dental insurance was contingent on your teaching a sewing class?"

Mr. DeMartino could only grumble at that.

"Did you hem those pants yourself?"

His anger enflamed, Mr. DeMartino yelled, "That's it! We strike!"

Upchuck backpedaled away from the door as the defiant teachers left and the gathered students in the corridor cheered.

John looked at Daria. "Could we really be so lucky?"

Ms. Li immediately announced over the PA system, "Students of Lawndale High, your attention, please."

Daria said, "Ten says no."

Ms. Li said, "In an unprecedented show of spine -- I mean, spite -- your teachers have announced a strike. However, school will continue just as before."

The other students groaned as the PA clicked off and John handed the ten over to Daria.

Still at her desk, Ms. Li said to the empty room, "It just won't involve teachers."

Frazzled and frustrated, Ms. Li pored through the personnel files of the available substitutes. "Damn, she's only taught first grade. These kids will eat her alive and blame their indigestion on the cafeteria."

She looked at the next file. "Inappropriate touching? Like I need that kind of a headache right now."

Next file. "Wait a minute, that's the address for...oh, forget it."

Ms. Li snatched the next file from the stack and read it. "Caught with a mix of MD20/20 and Jaegermeister in his lunch box?"

She pushed her chair back and stared up at the ceiling. "Where am I going to find enough substitutes to fill in for all those backstabbing teachers?

All I need to do is keep the students from burning down the school for a few days until the teachers' will runs out. It's not like they need to do anything difficult, like teach Kevin Thompson or..."

Eyes gleaming with her new idea, Ms. Li rocked forward and opened a drawer of student files. She selected four of them and said, "I'm sure that there will be no difficulty in explaining to their parents how valuable this experience will look on college applications and to the school board how much money it will save. Crisis solved."

Jodie and Mack were already waiting in Ms. Li's office when Daria and John arrived. Jodie whispered, "You, too?"

"I was about to say the same thing," Daria replied as she and John took the two remaining seats.

Ms. Li said, "I'm sure you're curious as to why I summoned you here today?"

"More like worried," John said.

Ms. Li gave him a tired smile. "It's my pleasure to offer you an unexpected opportunity."

"Now, I'm worried," Daria said.

Ms. Li ignored her. "I've already spoken to your parents."

Jodie said, "Now I'm getting worried."

"And they are in complete agreement."

Mack said, "We're screwed."

Ms. Li gave him a look, but went on to say, "Each of you has shown a splendid ability to teach and lead. Therefore, you will be standing in for some of your teachers during the current strike."

"Standing in? As in substitute teaching?" Daria said.

"Yes, Ms. Morgendorffer."

"Don't substitutes normally get paid at least minimum wage?"

"No need," Ms. Li said. "This is a special learning opportunity that the school board has already approved. Your pay will be the experience of sharing your knowledge with your fellow students and getting a leg up on your peers if or when you go on to graduate school."

"And saving you money." Daria sighed. "Okay, what are our assignments?"

"Ms. Morgendorffer. You will take over for Ms. Ruiz in English. Ms. Landon, you will replace Mr. DeMartino. Mr. MacKenzie, you'll fill in for Coach Gibson and Mr. Lane, you will substitute for Ms. DeFoe. Any questions?"

John said, "Do we get bullet-proof vests to cross the picket line?"

Daria said, "Ms. Li. Teaching is going to be a time-consuming task that will cut into our other extracurricular activities, such as editing and illustrating the fashion news at the Lawndale Lowdown.

"Don't worry, Ms. Morgendorffer," Ms. Li said. "I will make sure that your other school responsibilities will be adequately covered. I will have the Editor-In-Chief, Ms. Waters, find temporary replacements. Your teaching will take priority."

Jodie said, "Student Council President?"

"That's why you have a Vice-President. Mr. MacKenzie?"

"I don't have to pretend to like Ms. Morris, do I?"

"I don't expect the impossible. Besides, she's on strike, too."

The four had gathered for pizza at the usual hangout. Over her slice, Jodie said, "I can almost hear my father being proud of me for my first union-busting activity."

Mack said, "With how much I'm scrambling to pay for college, my folks are behind anything that can help."

"You'll never know what kind of doors this will open for you, sweetie," Daria said, mimicking her mother even if she couldn't replicate the tone properly.

John said, "And with my B-C average, Helen will go for anything that'll help me, too. We're stuck."

"You know, this place really does make you regret doing the right things," Jodie said.

"That sounds like me," Daria said.

"I'm starting to agree with your point of view more and more all the time."

Mack said, "So that's why you sent off for that application from Turner College."

"Shh!" Jodie said. "I don't want my parents to find out yet."

"Like Daria and John are going to say something, anything, to anyone?"

"Oh, yeah." Jodie said. "Sorry, Daria, John."

"No harm," John said.

"I take it that Turner is not in the Landon Family Plan."

Jodie rolled her eyes. "Mom and Dad are dead set on me going to Crestmore so that I can make all these great connections."

John said, "That sounds like Helen. Jake would be thrilled if we went to their old college, Middleton."

"That's the thing," Jodie said. "My parents went to Turner. My grandmother was in the first class to admit women. But no, I have to go to the high and mighty Crestmore. It sucks."

Mack said, "Um, change of subject. Well, back to the original subject. What are we going to do about teaching? How do we handle the students?"

"In your case," John said, "I'd recommend a cattle prod. Watching Boys P.E. is more a matter of making sure that they don't wreck the building than it is of actually trying to teach them anything."

"That is, when coach isn't trying to make it an extra football practice," Mack said.

Daria and Jodie grumbled, "Better than cheerleader practice."

"Uh-oh," John said. "Jenna doesn't look happy."

Jenna Waters had entered the pizza place and looked around. After briefly nodding at Daria and John, she spotted the Fashion Club and swiftly walked over to them. "Good afternoon, ladies."

Sandi said, "Um, Jenna. We might, like, work with you, but we don't expect you to hang out with us."

Jenna ignored her. "Quinn, Ms. Li pulled Daria away from editorial duties for the fashion column. I don't have time to specifically edit the column and hold onto the rest of the paper, so I'm making you editor of the fashion column."

"Me?" Quinn said.

"Yes, you. Staff meeting is tomorrow after school. I expect you to be there."

"But there's the Cruisewear Craziness at Cashman's!"

"I'm sure the rest of your collaborators can fill you in on the details. I'll see you tomorrow."

Stacy said, "I'm so sorry, Quinn."

"We're going to miss you," Tiffany said.

"What did your sister do to leave you in such an awful situation?" Sandi said.

"I don't know, but I'm about to find out," Quinn replied. She stood and firmly walked over to Daria. "Okay, what's going on? Jenna just told me that I'm taking over for you at the paper."

"Daria said, "That's because I, along with my esteemed colleagues here, have been assigned as substitute teachers at school. Starting tomorrow."

"What?" Quinn said, loud enough to be heard throughout the room.

"We're going to be substitute teachers," John said.

Panicked, Quinn asked, "What did Mom say?"

Daria cocked her head. "What do you think?"

"Oh, God."

"And she's going to be thrilled to learn about your new extracurricular activity," Daria said. In a softer voice, she said, "And I think, if you put your mind to it, you can do a good job."

Quinn looked back at the Fashion Club. "I don't have a choice."

"Hey!" Jake said over dinner. "Does that mean that you get faculty parking?"

John dope-slapped his forehead. "Why didn't we think of that?"

"Because we were too worried about having something we're totally unprepared for dumped in our laps?" Daria said.

"Oh, Daria," Helen said. "I think you are probably the most prepared people I can think of."

Daria said, "Um, thanks. But you still could've tried to negotiate a cash salary for us. At least minimum wage."

"Hey, can we work for tips?" John said.

Quinn laughed. "Like any of the school's students are going to pay you?"

"Worth a try?"

"And Quinn," Helen said. "I'm so pleased to hear about you stepping up to the plate with the fashion column in the student paper. It shows just how much you're growing, too."

"Does Ms. Li have you on speed-dial or something?" Quinn said.

"It's what an involved parent does, Quinn," Helen said. "But Daria was the one who made sure I knew about your promotion."

Quinn glared at Daria, who innocently looked down at her plate. "Look, glazed carrots."

Working at his easel, John said, "We get out of our other classes. That's a plus."

"But we're still responsible for the homework. The minuses cancel out the plusses," Daria replied from where she sat at his computer.

"Gym doesn't have homework."


"We don't have to run back and forth to our lockers every fifty minutes."

"Plus. But we're stuck in one room all day."

John admitted, "Minus. We'll get to buy lunch from the faculty line. Less waiting."

"So that we can get food poisoning sooner," Daria said.

"But they get the better grade of bad food."

"Oh yeah. They get the stuff billy goats can barely choke down."


"That's a plus for you."

"And tea."

"Okay, plus for me."

"You know, if we play this right, this gig might not be so bad," John said.

"Don't jinx it," Daria said. "Don't jinx it."

"I thought you weren't superstitious."

"I'm not. I'm realistic. If we get our hopes up too much, something will go wrong. That's not superstition; that's the cold face of reality."

"I always thought that was the cold face of Lawndale."

"Either one works."

Jodie stood at the blackboard and said, "Otherwise, consider me the same as Mr. DeMartino...without the eye problem."

Kevin Thompson said, "Cool. Does that mean we can call you Mrs. DeMartino?"

"Eww, Kevvie!" Brittany said, slapping his arm.

"Just call me Jodie."

Holding a baseball bat, Mack walked back and forth in front of a pile of baseball gear while the gathered freshman and sophomores watched. He said, "I found this equipment in the back of the storage room and, since it's spring, I thought we've give it a try."

One of the boys said, "I remember that stuff from Little League."

"The rules for baseball haven't changed," Mack said, "Even if the sport is mostly forgotten at Lawndale High."

"Where are we going to play?" another boy said.

Mack looked at the football practice field. "We'll have to measure space off over there. Extra credit for any useful help."

One of the art students pointed to the pile of drawing mannequins on the display table and said, "We're supposed to draw that?"

John nodded. "Yep. And then, do something with it. Show why they're in the pile."

"Um, how?" another student asked.

"Any way you like. Use your imagination."

The first student said, "Imagination?"

"I know you've got it and it's time to turn it loose."

Her feet planted firmly apart, Daria faced the English class and said, "I'm not going to waste most of the class playing twenty questions. Quinn, what play are you reading?"

At the back of the room with the rest of the Fashion Club, Quinn shrank down an inch before saying, "Romeo and Juliet."

"Okay, we know where to begin. Now, I have another question for you. Did anybody remember to bring a copy of the book to class?"

Nobody moved.




Still nothing.

Daria sighed and went to the bookshelf at the back of the room. After a short search, she found a worn paperback copy of the book. "In that case, everyone will just have to share this one."

When Sandi gasped, Daria turned. "Think of it as motivation to bring your book tomorrow. Since you've got my attention, why don't we start the reading with you, Sandi?"

Mack joined Jodie already with Daria and John outside the cafeteria. "Where are we going to eat? Teachers or students section?"

"After listening to students mangle Shakespeare all morning, I vote for the teachers."

"Now I really know why the teachers eat separately when they're not on cafeteria duty," Jodie said.

"I'll take a look at how the upper crust eats," John said. "Besides, I want coffee."

Mack said, "Count me in."

After emerging from the much shorter line, the four looked at some of the other substitutes in the faculty lounge with trepidation. John said, "Hey, why don't we eat out on the lawn instead? The fresh air will do us some good. Okay, Mack, you've probably had plenty of fresh air, but this won't smell like week-old gym clothes."

"Fine with me," Mack said.

Jodie said, "I can only go so far as a scab. Let's eat by ourselves."

Daria shrugged. "Outcast from both students and faculty. Did we really expect anything different?"

Jodie said, "A half an hour of peace and quiet. That's different."

Daria gave her a brief smile. "You're on."

"I'm beat," Jodie said as she and the others ate their lunch. "The only good thing that I can think of is that I've been excused from my extracurriculars."

"I'm with you on that," said John.

Mack said, "I'd almost say that Art can't be that bad, but something tells me that creative types find creative ways to get into trouble."

"It's a good thing that paint pigments don't explode," John said.

Looking over her shoulder, Ms. DeFoe fast-walked to the four teenagers. "John, we need your help."

"My help?" he asked.

"What 'we?'" Daria said.

Ms. DeFoe held a picket sign. "Ms. Barch's signs, well, they're not working."

Jodie said, "Why did Ms. Barch make the signs?"

"She volunteered."

John sighed and said, "What can I do?"

Ms. DeFoe said, "We need some more signs, right away."

"I'm fast, but I can only do a couple of signs before the end of the day, what with keeping an eye on your classroom and such."

Daria noticed a glint in the art teacher's eye. "John, I don't think she wants you to paint the signs."

"Then what...ah, I see," John said, understanding the idea. "I can do subversion."

Mack said, "What if Ms. Li walks in on you?"

"We'll have to make sure that Ms. Li stays busy," Jodie said.

John walked among the busy art students. "That's good. Sticking it to the man means big designs and primary colors."

A freshman boy leaned over and asked the girl beside him, "Why are we helping the teachers?"

The girl answered, "Because it will annoy Ms. Li."

"Cool, I can do that."

Standing in the door of Ms. Ruiz's room, Ms. Li said, "Ms. Morgendorffer. While I appreciate your caution, I can assure you that no parent has complained about the tights and codpieces shown on the cover of Romeo and Juliet."

"Please carry on, Ms. Landon," Ms. Li said as she moved to exit the history room. "There is no need to worry about using the words 'carpetbaggers' and 'scalawags' when discussing Reconstruction. They are legitimate historical terms and are not forbidden by the school's diversity policy."

Outside of the gymnasium, Ms. Li said, "Mr. MacKenzie, just use the damn cattle prod!"

In the workroom of the Lawndale Lowdown, Sandi said, "It's bad enough that your sister and her geeky friends have been teachers all week, but I think this whole strike thing is going to your head."

Having just handed back edited material, Quinn said, "Sandi, it's not going to my head. I'm only doing what Daria would do to make sure that all of us look good. Okay, she does it because she has this thing for grammar and such while I want do it for my friends."

Stacy said, "I really like your idea for my article, Quinn. I'm going to use it right away."

Sandi sighed and sat down. "Maybe you should make Quinn President of the Fashion Club?"

"But, Sandi, if we do that, how will I have time to edit our column?" Quinn said. "I could never do everything you do and still look over everything."

Tiffany said, "Yeah, Sandi. You do a lot."

"Very well, then," Sandi said. "In that case, I think we need to explore the latest arrivals at Cashman's. Or have you all forgotten that today is delivery day?"

Glancing at Jenna watching from her office, Quinn said, "And that's why you're the President and I'm only the editor."

"Thank you, Quinn," Sandi said, visibly relieved at backing away from her self doubts. "Let's go."

Still watching, Jenna said, "Hmm."

Jodie wrote on the blackboard, "Test Tomorrow." Hearing the student groans, she turned around. "Look at it this way. You only have to answer the test once. I have to read every one of them. Trust me, I'm going to be far more tired of the questions than you are."

Kevin said, "So...you're going to read each test paper?"

"That's right, Kevin."

"But, um, don't they all say the same thing?"

"Not after you answer the questions," Jodie said. As she turned back to the board, she added, "And not all the test papers will have the questions in the same order."

The grumbling from the students told her it was a good idea. Jodie went back to writing on the board. "These are your review topics for the test. If it's covered by the topics, it's fair game."

Tiffany slowly read, "For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo."

Daria said, "Thank you, Tiffany. That was very...steady. Now that we've learned that teenage romances in the Middle Ages were even more complicated than ours, it's time for a test. Tomorrow." Hearing the complaints, Daria said, "Don't blame me, orders from on high. But you should be used to it by now. Ms. Ruiz never misses the chance for a test and this is no different."

Jeffy said, "But, um, you're different from Ms. Ruiz."

Daria glanced down very briefly. About four inches shorter and four inches less in...other dimensions. "Very observant, Jeffy. But, I still have to show that I made some effort to squeeze Shakespeare into your brains. So, test."

Running late, Daria joined John, Jodie and Mack at what had become their preferred dining spot outside. "I wonder if the tests tomorrow are for the students or for Ms. Li to check on us."

Mack said, "Does it really matter?"

Daria sat down. "Probably not."

"It's going to matter if one of my eyes starts to bulge out like Mr. DeMartino's," Jodie said.

"I don't think Ms. DeFoe has ever given a test," John said. "What do I do, ask them to draw a line?"

"It would make grading easy," Mack said. "I'm giving a test on the rules for baseball."

John said, "Planning on flunking the entire lot?"

"I figure I can keep the failure rate down to thirty percent if I stick with the basics and ignore the infield fly rule or pinch hitters."

"There you are," Jenna said, walking over to the four. "Daria, can I have a moment?"

"No rest for the wicked," Daria said, rising and motioning Jenna aside. "What's up?"

Jenna glanced around before saying, "I know you weren't too happy about editing the fashion column."

"That's an understatement."

"How would you like to go back to just writing your column?"

"Interested. What do you want?"

"For you to back me making Quinn the Fashion Editor."

"Do you think she's up to it?"

"She's a little rough, but I think she can grow into it with a little help from both of us."

"Hmm, I can do that. One more thing, get John off illustration duty," Daria said.

"I can do that, too."



As she entered the study, Kay Sloane said, "Oh, Quinn. How nice to see you."

"Hi, Mrs. Sloane," Quinn said. "We're getting ready for some tests tomorrow."

"Why have a study if we're not going to use it for its designed purpose?" Tom said.

"How true," Kay said. "What subjects?"

Quinn held up her book. "English. Romeo and Juliet."

"How wonderful. I've always loved that story."

Tom said, "Philosophy. Early nineteenth century."

"Dear, me."

"My thoughts, exactly," Tom said.

"Good luck, children," Kay said. "Angier and I will be in the parlor if you need anything."

"Thanks, Mrs. Sloane."

"Thanks, Mom."

After Kay left, Quinn set her book down. "Thanks for tolerating me while I study. It was too weird to be in the same house with Daria while she's writing the test I'm studying for."

"I can see that," Tom said. "I wonder what she's coming up with."

"I hate to think about it."

Notebook in hand, Daria sat at her computer desk. "I'm jealous," she told John, who was lying on her bed, doodling.

"Art's about drawing, so I'm telling them to draw something," he said.

"You stole the idea from those art school ads in magazines."

John sat up. "I would never subject my students to Spunky the mutt."

"No, you're going to subject them to something from your vivid imagination."

"Exactly. Easy test to write and it covers what I need."

"I wish I could get away with something like that."

"Why can't you?"

Daria turned her head. "Wait a minute; I can." She scribbled something in her notebook and then sat back. "Done."

"That was quick," John said.

Daria went over to him and sat on the bed, bending over to kiss him. "I thought of something better to do since Mom talked Dad into going out to dinner for a date night and Quinn's at Tom's..."

John grinned. "I like the way you think."

Curiously finding the house empty and quiet, Quinn walked up the stairs. As she reached the upper landing, she saw John, wearing shorts and a rumpled t-shirt, carrying two empty ice cream dishes. "Hey, Quinn," he said.

"Hi, John."

"Good night studying?"

"I guess. Good night test writing?"

"You could say that." John continued past and down the stairs. "Pardon me; I need to put these into the dishwasher."

At her door, Quinn glanced at Daria's partially open door. "Wait a minute...no, I don't want to know. I don't want to know at all," she said before escaping into her room and closing the door.

"What Romeo and Juliet meant to me. Two hundred words, minimum. Any questions?" Daria told the English class.

Jamie held up his hand. "Um...what it means to me?"

"Exactly," Daria said. "Don't try to guess what it meant to Shakespeare and don't even try to guess my opinion. Oh, and don't even mention the movies."

Joey, Jeffy and Jamie looked at each other, then shrugged and started writing.

"Any other questions?" Daria said.

Sandi lifted her hand. "What if we didn't like it?"

"Then tell me why you thought it sucked and back it up."


Daria sat at the desk. "You'd better get started. You only have until the end of class."

John took a quick look at each sketch as he collected the tests. "Good, good. I like what I'm seeing."

"You're weird," one of the sophomores said. "But a good weird."

"It'll take that as a compliment," John said.

A freshman complained to Mack, "You didn't tell us there was going to be math on this test."

"What?" Mack said.

"Question two."

"How many strikes before a batter is out? There's no math involved. You just remember the number."

"That's a lot to remember."

"That's why the test is multiple choice."

At his new desk, Kevin looked around the room. "Hey, Jodie. I can't see anyone's test."

"That's the idea, Kevin," Jodie said.

"You mean, I have to fill out the test myself?"

"Yes, Kevin."

"Aw, man."

Feeling the pressure in her right eye, Jodie closed it and turned away from the class.

After reviewing the submitted fashion column, Jenna said, "Excellent work. Excellent."

Sandi said, "We always do our best."

"Our best," Tiffany repeated.

Eager to go, Stacy said, "Hey, guys, we still have time to get to the Mall for the Spring Accessories Preview."

Jenna smiled and said, "Research. Go on." After Sandi, Tiffany and Stacy had stepped out of the door, Jenna said, "Good work, Quinn. You make a good editor."

"Um, thanks, Jenna."

Quinn hurried after the others. "Let's go."

With a large pizza between them, John, Daria, Jodie and Mack camped out at a booth to grade tests.

"Essay, fill in the blank, multiple choice and, um, freehand drawing. I think we covered almost every testing form out there," Mack said.

Jodie said, "I'm beginning to understand how stressful teaching can be. I hope the teachers get their raise."

"Me, too," Mack said. "And I don't have half the stress you have...except my students are carrying around real weapons."

"Real weapons?" Jodie said.

"Baseball bats."

"Oh, yeah. I can see where that would be bad."

"You know," Daria said, "it hasn't been as bad as I thought. Granted, I felt like I was trying to push my way through waist-deep mud, but I think I got through to some of them."

Jodie sat back. "Did I just hear something positive out of Daria about her fellow students?"

"I think you did," Mack said.

"It won't happen again," Daria said, dropping her attention back to her papers.

Over dinner, Helen asked, "How are your teaching experiences going?"

"Daria gave us an essay test today," Quinn said. "I bet she did it just to annoy me."

"Daria?" Helen asked.

Catching the tone of Quinn's voice, Daria said, "Anything for my sister. I wouldn't want your writing skills to get rusty."

"That's my kids," Jake said.

Helen looked at each, sighed and said, "John?"

"I gave a test today, too. I'm grading on a creative curve."

"Creative curve?" Helen said.

"The more creative, the more I curve the grade. Actually, the kids haven't been that bad."

"Thanks, John. Quinn, how do you feel about covering for Daria as fashion editor?"

"It's not too bad," Quinn said. "I had a good teacher."

As the students looked over their work, John walked back to the front of the room. "Not bad. Not bad at all."

One of the students said, "I've never gotten a 'B+' before. Do you think I've improved that much?"

"You still need to work on technique, but...your imagination is well on its way to where it needs to be."


Another student said, "Can we do another project like this? I thought it was fun."

John looked over the class. I don't know how to teach art technique as well as I thought, but it looks like I succeeded in teaching them to be imaginative, if only a little bit.

"Hey, Coach Mack!" a sophomore yelled. "What about our tests?"

"I'll hand them back at the end of class," Mack said. That way, I don't have to hear you complain about your grades. Taking up the umpire position behind home plate, he called, "Play ball!" At least all of you learned to play, even if you can't answer questions on a test.

"Whoa, I got a 'B,'" Joey said.

Moving on, Daria said, "Though I never pictured you listening to classic rock, I'm glad you caught the relationship between the song and the play."

When she got to Sandi, Daria said, "I don't think that they had a Cashman's in medieval Verona, but overall, you found a, let's say, unique, way to critique Shakespeare."

Sandi accepted the grade and said, "Just because you're stuck in the Middle Ages, it doesn't mean that you can't look good."

Tiffany accepted hers. "You thought Juliet needed a facial, too?"

"No, but you had same interesting insights."

Stacy said, "Maybe all that writing we've been doing for the paper has helped out." She looked up. "And, um, maybe we've had some good advice."

Daria smiled and placed Quinn's test on her desk. "I think all of you are going to be okay."

"A 'C,' aw, right!" Kevin said as he saw his grade. "That reading the book thing really helped!"

"Yes, it does," Jodie said. "Didn't Daria suggest that to you last year?"

"Oh, yeah. But, um..."

"Don't explain, Kevin," Jodie said. "Just don't explain."

Brittany twirled her hair and said, "Jodie, what's wrong with your eye?"

Ms. Li's barely-coherent voice came over the P.A. system. "People of Mars! I mean, students of Lawndale High. This is your leader...um, principal. What was I saying? Oh! The teachers...the teachers...the strike's over! Your teachers will be back tomorrow! Good ni... day."

Jodie rested her head on the blackboard. "Mr. DeMartino, they're all yours."

To the gathered newspaper staff, Jenna said, "Welcome back, Daria, John."

"As hard as this may be to believe, I'm glad I'm back," Daria said.

John smirked and said, "Because this is less work than teaching."

Jenna walked toward Quinn. "With everyone here, I'd like to announce a small change. Daria and John will no longer work on the fashion column and can spend more time on their regular projects."

Scared, Stacy said, "But what about us?"

"I'm pleased to announce that I'm making Quinn the new Fashion Editor."

"Me?" Quinn said, honestly surprised.

"I think you've proven yourself," Jenna said.

Sandi started to glare at Quinn but softened and said, "It will be nice to have one of us as the editor. It should make things go smoother."

Stacy said, "Congratulations, Quinn!"

"Yay, Quinn," Tiffany said.

Quinn glanced at Daria and saw the small smile. "You knew."

Daria shrugged.

Back at the pizza place, John, Daria, Jodie and Mack shared a celebratory pizza. Mack stood and raised a slice as a toast. "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty we are free at last."

The others raised their slices and then took bites.

Daria said, "Jodie, how's your eye? It's still looking a little red."

"Sore, but better. Thanks."

John said, "So, do we chalk this whole thing up as a learning experience?"

Daria elbowed him. "You didn't have to say that."

"Come on," John replied. "If I hadn't, someone would've or we'd have exploded."

"That would've been entertaining," Daria said.

Jodie set her slice down. "I gained a big appreciation for what teachers go through, but I swear that I'm never going to do that again."

"Riding herd on the football team was one thing, but six classes a day? Not for a living."

"You must've had some appreciation," John said. "You put all the baseball gear away and the practice field doesn't look any different."

Mack said, "Coach Gibson's been through enough."

"You two seem to be unscathed," Jodie said.

John said, "I stuck with what I knew and things kind of worked out."

Daria was quiet for a couple of seconds. "Actually, I think I did learn something."

Some material from Lucky Strike by Peter Elwell

Thanks to Kristen Bealer and Ipswichfan for beta reading.
May-June 2010