BESSIE THE RED-EYED MAD COW

By Lawndale Stalker

December Ď03

Ö

"The mother of all domestic disputes! Saddamís ex tells all, next on Sick, Sad World!"

Daria picked up the remote and pressed the mute button as the commercials started. "That sounds like itís gonna be one of those segments thatís so hokey itís funny," she remarked to Jane, sitting beside her on the familiar Morgendorffer sofa.

"Didnít he bump his wife off?" Jane asked.

"I canít remember ever hearing about a wife," Daria replied. "He couldíve bumped off several of them, for all I know. His sons sure didnít show any signs of ever having had a motherís love."

"Mm, good point," Jane acknowledged. She looked around the Morgendorffer family room, largely unchanged since their high school days, and smiled. "I sure appreciate your family putting up with me for these holiday visits, Daria. Itís strange, but I think I feel as much at home here as I would at the old homestead."

"Well, you know Iím glad you came, and Mom and Dad are too. They were bugging me to be sure to bring you."

Before Jane could reply to that, the phone rang. Daria picked it up. "Hello? Oh, hi, Sandi. Öthis is Daria. ÖDaria." Daria rolled her eyes and looked slightly irritated as Jane watched with amusement. "You know, Quinnís cousin?" Jane snickered quietly at that.

Daria listened for a time, displaying various droll expressions. "Yes, Jane and I are here for Christmas break. Yes, just like Quinn. Quinnís out right now, she should be back soon. Are you home from college too?" Daria listened again, looking a bit surprised. "Oh, I see. That sounds like an interesting job. Are you enjoying it?"

Jane watched Daria frown slightly, then replace that expression with a wry smile. "Uh huhÖ Mm hmmÖ I see..." Daria covered the mouthpiece and spoke quietly to Jane. "Itís Sandi Griffin. Sheís clerking at Junior Five now. AndÖ something about the current Lawndale High fashion club."

Daria uncovered the mouthpiece. "Well, good for you. Iíll tell her you called as soon as she comes in." She frowned again. "You want to bring them over here? Can you fit them all in your car?"

Jane watched Dariaís expression change again, to a wicked little smile that she knew so well. Daria crossed her legs, leaned back, and threw an arm over the back of the sofa. "Sure, I know itís not far, Sandi, I just thought you might not want to be out on foot now, you know, what with the mad cow thing."

Dariaís expression reminded Jane of a fisherman watching his bobber while a fish sniffed around the bait down below. "Oh, sure, that one cow is dead, but they havenít found the rest of the herd it was with when it came down from Canada. And they havenít had time to trace all the cows it might have infected and test them, and get the test results back from the lab, or traced it back to its birth herd. So we have no idea yet how many cows are mad."

Jane shot Daria a "what the ****?" look, and got a wink in return. Daria listened, then continued, "Oh, sure, once they reach the falling-down stage, they arenít very dangerous, unless they fall on you. Thatís the last stage before death. But it takes years for the cow to get to that stage, with the disease gradually eating away at its brain. Each animal reacts differently, depending on what part of the brain is being attacked. In the initial outbreak in England, you know, hundreds of people were killed, as well as thousands of cows. You donít usually think of cows as dangerous, but they are very large animals. And they donít call it ĎMad Cow Diseaseí for nothing."

Jane leaned closer to Daria, trying to hear the other side of the conversation. She managed to hear Sandi say something about "Öfenced in, arenít they?"

Daria replied, "Well, sure, but those fences donít even keep normal cows in all the time, and if a cow didnít mind getting scratched up a little, they probably wouldnít be much good at all. And there are quite a few dairies and cattle ranches around Lawndale. But like you said, you donít really have far to walk. You probably wonít have any trouble. Quinn will probably be back by the time you guys get over here, and Iím sure sheíd love to meet the current fashion club."

Sandiís voice came tinnily from the phone. "Well, uh, when she comes in, just tell her weíre over here, and she can drive over if she wants to."

"Okay, Sandi, Iíll do that. Nice talking to you." Still smiling, Daria pushed the disconnect button.

Jane could hardly contain herself. "What the flock was that all about?" she demanded, grinning.

"Oh, Sandi was thinking of bring the current fashion club over here to meet Quinn, but she decided it would be more convenient to have Quinn go over there." Daria replied nonchalantly.

"I mean the part about the attack of the killer cows."

"Why, Jane, surely youíve heard that a case of mad cow disease has been confirmed in this country," Daria said.

"I havenít heard any of that outrageous balderdash about hordes of mad cows roaming the countryside that you were just spouting," Jane insisted, smirking.

Daria tried to look innocent but couldnít quite pull it off. "Well, goodness, Jane, I may have been speculating a bit, but thatís all any of us can do untilÖ"

The front door opened and Quinn came in, laden with shopping bags. "Brrr! Itís starting to get nippy out there," she said.

"Hi, Quinn," Daria greeted her. Jane waved. "Sandi called. She said the current Lawndale High fashion club is over at her place."

"Oh, yeah, we talked about her bringing them over here, and I was going to tell them about the latest college fashions," Quinn said. "Are they on the way?"

"Sandi thought it might be safer if she kept them at her place, and you came over there."

Quinn stopped taking off her jacket. "What? Why?", she asked.

"She said she didnít want to risk the mad cows unnecessarily," Daria replied, straight-faced.

Quinn stared open-mouthed at Daria, who shrugged in reply. She zipped up her jacket again. "That Sandi," she muttered. "I swear I donít know how she graduated high school!" Shaking her head, she turned and went back out the door.

Jane turned back to Daria. "Okay, amiga, what was that all about?"

Daria said, "Listen. Do you hear that?"

Jane listened. "All I hear is silence," she said.

"Exactly. I rest my case," Daria smirked.

 

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