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 seventh John Lane story
Lessons of Spring
"Hey Trent, isn't that Johnny and Daria?" Jesse Moreno asked from the passenger seat of the black van he and Trent Lane had borrowed from their band's drummer, Max.
Trent smiled, "Yeah, it is. Let's offer them a ride."
Trent stopped the van next to his younger brother and his girlfriend walking hand-in-hand down the sidewalk. John's black hair was still damp from showering after track practice.
John stopped and turned. "What's up with the Tank? Did the big blue bomb explode again?"
Jesse said, "Nah. Wanna ride?"
Daria shrugged. "Hey, I'm not the one who ran three miles today."
John slid the van's side door open. "I did, so I'll take it."
Daria followed him inside and smacked her head on the low overhead. "Ow."
Trent said without turning, "Watch your head."
Daria rubbed her head and sat beside John on a steamer trunk on the floor in back. "All the modern safety devices I see."
Trent laughed and coughed. "Yeah, we probably should talk Max into puttin' the seat back in."
"But then he wouldn't have a sofa," Jesse remarked.
Trent started the van back up and headed down the street. "Or a bed."
"Why do you have the Tank?" John asked. "Gig tonight?"
"Nah, we're goin' to Alternapalooza this weekend."
John's face lit up. "You're going to Alternapalooza?"
"Yeah, it's way out in Swedesville"
"And you didn't think Trent's car would make it?"
"Yeah, and the Tank's indestructible."
"More like inscrutable," Daria said.
Trent laughed and didn't swerve early enough to dodge a pothole, causing the van to jump and shake on it's worn out shocks. "Whoa, didn't see that one coming."
"Let us know if you do see one coming," John said as her turned to Daria, who was now sitting on the van floor behind the trunk with her skirt spread out around her.
Jesse sniffed. "Anybody else smell peanut-butter?"
Daria looked uneasy and leaned to the side. She carefully reached under her skirt and peeled some offending object off her rear, holding it out toward John without looking at it. "What was I sitting on?"
"Looks like a sandwich…and no need for an autopsy to know how long it's been here." He said and took it from her.
Daria turned back with a queasy expression. "And it's smeared all over my butt."
Trent looked over his shoulder. "Sorry. Next time, I'll warn you if I see one coming."
"Um, thanks." Daria carefully sat on the trunk and leaned against John to keep from sitting on the remains. "I don't suppose you would have something like a paper towel in here, would you?"
Jesse rummaged around at his feet and handed an oily cloth rag back. "We've only checked the oil a few times with that one."
Trent said, "You know Jess, this thing eats gas. I don't know what we're going to do for gas money."
"We could probably scrounge some up, couldn't we Daria?" John said.
Trent smiled. "Cool, we're there. If you can stand be cooped up with Jesse and me for four hours."
Daria looked around the van. "What did I just get myself into?"
Seated around the dinner table with her family, Helen asked Quinn, "What is that thing on your arm?"
Quinn rolled her arm to show a simple tattoo. "Don't worry Mom, it's fake."
Daria looked over from her dinner. "Aww, you got a tattoo to match your personality."
"I'm going to Alternapalooza this weekend," Quinn said. "This is so I'll fit in."
Daria smirked. "And if some guy named Pigpen asks you to be his old lady, hell, you'll be ready."
Quinn expertly said, "I'm also thinking of having my belly button pierced at the mall..."
John raised one eyebrow at Quinn. I wonder if Daria…nah, she wouldn't.
"What?" Flustered, Jake said, "No daughter of mine is going to mutilate her body for the sake of some fad."
Quinn sweetly smiled. "Then can I have twenty-nine, ninety-five for a removal nose ring? No piercing required."
"Good idea," Daria added. "You don't need any more holes in your head."
Helen warned, "Daria..."
Quinn asked, "Hey Mom, did you go to any festivals back in the sixties?"
Distracted, Helen half reminisced and said, "Oh sure, I did my share of partying."
Daria chimed in. "You mean you experimented with..."
"No!" Helen shot back. Changing the subject, she said, "Your father went to one of the most famous festivals of the decade."
Somewhat awed, Quinn inquired, "Woodstock?"
Jake dreamily said, "Altamont..." before suddenly becoming serious. "Terrible tragedy, but I demanded my money back and I got it."
Daria asked, "Wasn't Altamont free?"
"Ha, ha." Jake proclaimed, "That's the same line they tried to use on me."
Helen looked closer at Daria. "What did you do to your head?"
Daria reached up to the sore spot just below her hairline. "I accidentally bumped it getting into the Tank when Trent gave us a ride home."
"Isn't that the van the he drives sometimes?"
"Yeah, it really belongs to Max. It's a little safer for long distances or hauling cargo."
Helen nodded. "So, do you two have any plans for the first weekend of your spring break?"
"Well, um." John hesitated before saying, "Trent invited us to go with him and Jesse to Alternapalooza."
In reply to Quinn's gasp, Daria said, "Don't panic, I think we'll be able to lose each other in a crowd of ten thousand."
Quinn settled down. "I guess. You're not going wearing your usual, are you?"
"I hadn't thought about it."
"Daria," Quinn said with a sigh. "You really need to plan ahead for these things."
Helen's eyes slowly went from Daria to John. "Quinn said that she'd be gone overnight and would stay in a hotel with Sandi, Stacy and Tiffany. What are you two planning on?"
John immediately felt like an ant under a magnifying glass - with the sun focused on him. "Uh…we hadn't, um, gotten that far yet."
Daria spoke up to rescue John. "Trent only invited us an hour or so ago. We haven't had a chance to discuss it. I suppose I could get a single room and John would stay with Trent and Jesse in another."
"I'm not sure…you going alone with three boys," Helen said with gaining suspicion.
Daria stared at her plate for a couple seconds to collect her thoughts before facing her mother. "You're right, and I don't blame you for being suspicious. But, I trust John, Trent and Jesse. You know I don't give my trust easily and without reason. Will you please accept my judgment that I'll be safe?"
"Daria…I know you trust John. I'm still not sure about the other two."
Daria steadily looked at Helen. "Mom, the band protects me like I'm their little sister. I trust them."
With extreme caution, Helen agreed. "Okay. But all of this is riding on your word."
John looked up from the sculpture he was working on when he heard the bedroom door open. Daria held her hands up. "Put down your weapon, I surrender."
John looked at the glue gun in his hand and grinned. "If I'd known it was that easy, I'd have pulled the old Stick-Mata Five-Thousand out a long time ago."
John squatted down next to the sculpture. "Um, thanks for the save at dinner."
"That'll just be another one you owe me." Daria reached over to examine the sculpture.
"Don't touch! Took hours to build. It's the subject of a painting."
"Or a manifestation of your past-life as a barnacle."
John laughed and glued another bit of glass onto the piece. "Maybe that's why I enjoy it so much."
Daria sat on the bed and turned on the television to hear the announcer say, "Can monkeys surf the net and corrupt our kids? Chimpanzee chat rooms, next on Sick, Sad World."
Daria shifted and twisted toward John. "Um, after the bump and the sandwich, do you think Trent would be offended if I asked Mom to let us use her car for the trip?"
"Don't like living life on the edge?"
"Not really. And I suspect we'll be staying on the edge of the road if we take the Tank."
"You could be right, I don't know if the Tank's ever made a trip that far before. Max might get ticked off if we take something else, but Trent won't care."
Saturday morning, John was lacing his boots when he heard Daria in the hallway. "Where'd you get that eye-popping polyester number?"
Quinn chirped, "Daria, it's all about knowing where to shop. Wow, you look almost normal, but I hope you're not going to the concert with that shirt tucked in."
When Daria gently pushed his door open, John inwardly smiled to see her shirt pulled loose. She asked, "Ready?"
"Yeah." He stood up. "Let's go."
John followed her downstairs to where Jake and Helen were waiting. Helen handed Daria her keys. "You make sure Trent is careful."
Daria took them. "We will. After all, we'll be inside it."
"Okay. Your hotel reservations made?"
"On your credit card."
"Oh, yes. Well, then have fun at the concert."
Jake laughed and said, "Hey, stay away from the brown..."
Helen barked, "Jake!"
Jake became serious. "Remember Daria, just say no." He reached into his wallet and removed some cash. "Here's a twenty each, for souvenirs or what have you. I gave one to Quinn too. Get yourself something rad."
Daria accepted the money. "Thanks. Uh, what are you guys gonna do today?"
Helen said, "Pay the bills."
Jake added. "Wash the windows."
Daria said, "Wow, well, remember to take plenty of rest breaks and stay hydrated. Bye."
John waved. "Bye."
As they went to the end of the driveway to await Trent, John turned to look at Daria and noticed Jake and Helen watching them from the window, as if in anticipation of their departure. He shifted his attention back to Daria. "It drives me nuts sometimes how she doesn't trust us."
"I feel it too. But Mom did have a point when she talked to me after finding out about us. Quinn's dating for appearance only. She may be so flighty she'd be in orbit if gravity wasn't holding her to the ground, but she also considers her virginity one of her most valuable assets. Something she won't give up without a very valuable exchange. We however, have very real temptations, even if they scare the crap out of us."
"Hmm. Still, I hope she trusts us a little more after this trip."
Daria held his hand and showed the car keys. "She does. For some weird reason, she has a hard time saying it."
"And I though my Mom was strange."
"She is; mine's just closer."
After a couple minutes, the Tank arrived and Trent parked it in the driveway. He leaned out and said, "Hey Johnny, Daria. That the rig?"
As he opened the door, Daria handed him the keys. "My Mom's car. Guaranteed not to have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the back."
Jesse closed his door and said, "Cool."
After they were in Helen's red SUV, Trent started it and said, "Whoa, this thing has a muffler."
"Cool," Jesse said looking around the interior.
When the truck backed over the joint between driveway and road, Trent said, "Working shocks. I can get used to this."
Trent looked over his shoulder as the SUV approached a toll plaza. "Hey John, got any change?
Daria shook her head. "Trent, Mom has an E-Toll unit on the visor, just hit the transponder lane."
Trent looked up at the small device. "Gotcha."
Jesse watched the attendant in the next lane as they drove through. "Oh, man, that was Curtis Stalano."
John asked, "Who?"
"He graduated with us." Trent motioned his head backward. "Now he's working in a toll booth. Whoa."
Jesse proudly said, "You'd never catch me in a job like that."
Trent spent a long time looking in the side mirror before speaking. "Hey man, we're artists. Who knows where we'll be in 5 years."
John watched his brother carefully. Something's bothering him. A job?
Jesse looked directly forward. "We've got a vision."
"Eyes on the prize man." Trent nodded. "Eyes on the prize."
"Yeah, and this guy's not about selling out."
Once more, Trent hesitated. "No way."
I better give him an out. John said, "Cuz for that to happen, you'd need to talk the rest of the band into it."
The waitress at the small diner said, "Okay, that's a meatloaf, open turkey with fries, box of frosted flakes..." She stopped reading. "Those are pretty small hon, just one?"
Jesse closed his menu. "You're right. Make it five."
She faced Daria. "And you?"
Daria handed her menu back. "French toast and tea, please."
The waitress laughed for a moment and yelled toward the kitchen, "One mystery brick, a nekkid gobbler in the brush, five boxes of flakes, and one hundred years war!" She slid the order pad into her apron pocket. "You kids going to that rock 'n roll shindig out near Swedesville?"
Daria tilted her head. "No. We made a wrong turn on our way to Paris."
Everyone laughed at the comment and the waitress said, "You've a quick one, aren't ya?
"Ever thought of getting a master's degree and becoming a waitress?"
Tapping his fingers on the steering wheel as they waited in stalled traffic, Trent said, "This is like that R.E.M. video. Except you can't read anyone's mind."
Daria bit her lower lip. "I shouldn't have had that tea."
"You have to go?" John pointed out the window. "There's some trees over there."
Trent looked back. "What the matter Daria, you gotta whiz?"
"What's wrong?" Jesse asked as he twisted around.
Trent leaned his head. "It's Daria, she has to pee."
Attempting to be helpful, Jesse said, "You have to pee Daria? You can pee behind those trees. See those trees? You can pee behind there."
Daria opened the side door and climbed out. "If I'm not back in ten minutes, don't send help."
John cringed when he saw Daria trip and fall coming out of the bushes. She seemed to have been talking to something behind her. I better not ask.
When she climbed in, John asked, "You okay?"
"Just a little humiliation is all."
Trent asked, "Cool Daria?"
She sat with arms folded. "Yeah. I'm ready for my abuse, Mr. DeMille."
Trent put the car in gear. "Hey, I think the traffic's letting up." He slowly accelerated with the clearing traffic.
Daria tapped John's arm. "They're not going to make fun of me?"
"For peeing in the woods?" John said. "They're in a band Daria, those boys puke on each other on a regular basis."
Jesse said to Trent, "That reminds me, you owe me a shirt."
John whispered to Daria. "Trust me, don't ask."
John said, "Your turn Trent. We're up to D."
"I'm going to the picnic, I'm bringing asbestos insulation, brine shrimp, the cryogenically frozen head of Walt Disney." Trent paused a moment in thought. "And a dromedary."
Daria was next. "I'm going to the picnic and I'm bringing asbestos insulation, brine shrimp, the cryogenically frozen head of Walt Disney, a dromedary, and…a eurocentric view of world history."
John said, "I'm going to the picnic and I'm bringing..."
Jesse pointed and grinned. "Hey, there it is!"
Trent drummed the steering wheel. "All right. Alternapalooza. We're here."
John reached into his shirt pocket and removed four tickets. "I've got the tickets, let's find a place to park and get out. My legs are killing me."
Trent parked the SUV on the huge pasture turned parking lot and everyone got out. In the distance, music blared from the stage of the already started concert. They walked past long rows of cars to the ticket gate and other late arrivals also began to bunch up around them. As the crowd grew, John could see Daria becoming more nervous and drift closer to him. He slipped his arm around her.
She kissed his cheek and said, "Thanks."
After helping Trent spread the two blankets on the ground, Jesse heard the band on stage and raised both fists into the air. "Yeah! Spit Take! What a great name for a band!"
Trent shook his head and asked John and Daria. "Want something to drink?"
Daria sat next to John and leaned against him, holding the hand of the arm he had around her.
The music played and people danced. John hardly noticed much of it, his attention was on the soft touch of her hands entwined with his, the gentle pressure of her side where she leaned against him, and the smoothness of her auburn hair as he carefully rested his head against hers.
During a break between the performances of First Degree Felony and Lint Factory, Trent pulled out his acoustic guitar and started to tune it. John half-reclined on the blanket and Daria sat cross-legged near him. Jesse was on his back with his hands folded behind his head and becoming one with the atmosphere.
Daria asked, "What chord is that?"
Trent strummed the guitar. "G."
"Oh." Daria looked at his arms. "Umm, nice tattoo. Tribal?"
"Maori. I copied it out of Tattoo World's international issue.
"Very graphic, and meaningful."
Trent chuckled. "Yeah, it makes a statement. You know what it is?"
John smirked. "You got a tattoo out of a magazine."
Trent smiled. "That's it."
"I guess it's better than trying to copy one off the TV," Daria said.
Trent became serious. "Do you ever feel like maybe you are wasting your life?"
Daria tried to make light of it. "Only when I'm awake?"
"Like no money, no…um, money, and you still can't play an open D tuning.
Damn, he's having problems of some kind. John listened to Trent carefully.
Daria said, "Well, I haven't had those exact thoughts..."
"Maybe I will end up a townie doing covers. I mean, who's to say, right?"
"Umm, you know Trent, it takes a lot of guts to go after a dream, especially when you know that failure can mean spending the rest of your life playing gut-wrenching covers." Daria added after a pause, "In public."
"Hmm, I guess."
"And even if it doesn't work out, at least for now you're doing exactly what you want to."
Trent intently checked the tune on the next string and mumbled.
"Come on Daria, it's part of the experience," John carefully nudged Daria forward in the line. An all girl band called Cute Shiny Things was playing on stage.
"They're overpriced and probably paper thin."
"Yeah, your point?"
Daria sighed. "At least Dad gave us enough for the down payment. It would be rude if we didn't come back with one."
The grungy salesman in the pop-up sales tent said, "What size?"
"I, um, guess a small."
"Twenty -two bucks."
Daria handed over the money and accepted the folded t-shirt, reading the logo out loud. "'Music, Mud and Mayhem.' Sounds about right."
John said, "Medium," and collected his shirt.
Daria asked, "Want an overpriced slice?"
"Pizza'd make the day complete."
John returned to their base station and eyed the humanoid pile of mud on one blanket. He asked Trent, "What happened to Jesse?"
"He found the mosh pit." Trent looked at his friend, laughed and coughed. "More like a mud pit. Where's Daria?"
"She'll be back in a bit. Are you two stoned?"
"Eh, a little."
John sat down hard with his head hanging. "Dammit. Daria and I can't afford any trouble on this trip."
"Hey, we're mellow. No troubles."
"Except you can't drive."
"Oh, yeah. Well, we could just crash in the car."
"I'm not doing that to Daria," John said in great annoyance.
"John, lay off. I came here to relax."
John slowly turned. "What?"
"Work. I had to, only way I could keep an apartment."
"So that's what's been bothering you. Doing what?"
"The rest of the band doesn't know, do they?"
"How can I tell them? I'm selling out."
"You're doing what you need to."
Trent lost some of his usual composure. "Easy for you to say. You're living in a nice house and don't have to worry. I'm in a storeroom behind Axel's and scrounging for rent."
"I'm sorry. I'm the only one of us to come out ahead in all this."
"Don't be. At least one of us got lucky. I'll make it, but I need to get away some."
"I feel lucky. Go on and relax, but we have to get to the hotel after the concert."
"Oh, yeah. Um, I'm sorry, guess you're driving."
"I guess so, too. Just promise me one thing."
"Don't puke in her mom's car."
"And, we better hose Jesse off before we put him in the back."
Trent laughed and coughed. "And put him out to dry. But, you promise me something."
"Daria's cool. Don't pull a Wind."
"I'm not your mommie," Daria barked to a drunk suspended between two friends. She pushed past them and sat on the blanket in relief. "Trust me, the woods were better."
John parked the SUV and released his tight grip on the steering wheel. "That's a lot different than driving the band home from the Zon."
"But we made it." Daria opened the door. "I'll get us checked in."
"I'll try to wake up Trent and Jesse."
"Good luck." Daria walked to the hotel lobby while John reached over to the back seat, pushed on Trent.
"Officer, it wasn't my guitar."
"Come on, wake up. Daria's getting us checked in."
"I'm good. Sleep here."
"Room, then sleep."
John looked skyward. "Please, rooms on the first floor."
Daria leaned against the wall of the room and labored to catch her breath. "Think they'll mind being dumped in the same bed?"
John shook his head. "No worse than the whole band sleeping in the Tank, or the floor of Trent's place. Besides, if they can't be awake, they can't be choosy."
Daria weakly laughed. "Good point. Look, it's after midnight and I'm beat."
John held her close. "Good night." He gently tilted her head up and kissed her.
"I wish we could do that every night," Daria sighed.
"And this." John simply held her and stroked her hair for several minutes.
When they released, he followed Daria to her room. They quickly kissed again and said good night. John waited at the door for a few moments in thought, his hand raised to knock on it. He lowered his hand, shook his head, and went back to his room.
Inside, Daria stood at the door, her hand on the knob. After a few moments, she softly sighed and walked back to her bed.
John yawned and stretched. No surprise, Trent and Jesse were still sound asleep. John showered and put on fresh clothes, including the new t-shirt. On the way out, he grabbed the ice bucket before going to Daria's room.
Appearing uncomfortable, she opened it soon after the knock. "Hi." Daria also wore the concert shirt, which was pleasantly snug to John's eye.
"Morning. You okay?"
She pulled at the t-shirt. "Um…when the label said small, they meant it."
"Oh." Proportions without excess. But, I better stay quiet. John changed the subject. "Look, can I grab your ice bucket? We need to get Trent and Jesse up."
"A bucket each?"
"You have to wake them up just right, or they won't wake up at all."
Trent and Jesse sat across from John and Daria in the hotel diner booth. Both supported heads on fists and gazed off to infinity. The lights were on, but nobody was home.
The waitress in white asked, "Can they speak enough to order?"
John said, "We'll need two cups of coffee from the vat left over from the graveyard shift. Two bowls of oatmeal, and two tall, empty glasses."
She turned to the kitchen. "Two overnight bombs and two haggis stuffers, with dry cups on the side." She brought her tablet back up and asked John and Daria, "What about you two sweethearts?"
John blushed when he looked at Daria. "I'll have two scrambled eggs with bacon and toast."
Daria slid her menu to the waitress. "One poached egg and dry toast, with tea."
She yelled back, "Two blenders with porky on a slab, and a fish-eyed nausea delight."
"John?" Daria questioned. "What are you doing to them?"
"Just preparing a breakfast that they'll be able to get down."
It took only a couple minutes for the waitress to deliver the food. John dumped the coffee and oatmeal into each larger cup and stirred it together, adding milk and sugar. He slowly waved them under Trent and Jesse's noses. After a half-dozen passes, their hands fumbled out and took the glasses. By dropping their faces onto the cup tops, they began to consume the mix.
"That's something…I thought I'd never see outside of Texas, though they'd use grits."
"It gets caffeine, sugar, some vitamins and some bulk fiber into them."
"And makes less mess."
Approaching noon, they reached Daria and John's home after a fairly hair-raising ride back. Trent's driving skills matched Jesse's, which matched that of a deranged opossum. Since the Tank was still parked on one side of the driveway, he parked the SUV behind a yellow convertible. Still moving like a sleepwalker, Trent dropped the keys in John's hand and with Jesse, crawled into the Tank.
Trent waved and said, "Fun trip. Later," as he backed down the drive.
Beyond the yellow convertible, Quinn's three pet boys were busy at the side of the house. John examined a pile of bags from Wappington Mills Outlet Center that they were taking up a ladder to Quinn's open window.
John said to Daria, "I don't remember one of these at the concert."
"Like I would notice an outlet center?" Daria quipped and headed for the front door.
John followed Daria inside the house.
In the kitchen, Jake leaned against the counter, watching as Helen hummed and slowly ladled pancake batter onto the griddle. She said, "I should really make pancakes more often. The batter's so sensual."
Jake playfully said, "Like batter, like chef."
John remembered Jake and Helen impatiently watching from the window as he and Daria left the day before. Now I know what they've been up to.
Helen noticed the teens. "Hi kids."
Jake followed her gaze. "How was the festival?" Trying to sound hip, he said, "Those look like rad shirts."
Quinn came down the stairs and followed the sound of voices.
Jake said, "Hey Quinn! Where's your shirt?"
"Your shirt from the festival."
Quinn stared for a moment, unsure of what to say. One of the boys, Jeffy, poked his head in the front door and yelled, "Quinn! Could you get someone to move that red truck so we can get out?
Helen switched to lawyer mode. "Quinn, why are those boys still here?"
"Oh, um, they had to do something to the car?"
Jeffy noticed John and Daria. "Whoa, cool shirts."
Helen focused on him. "You didn't get any concert shirts?"
Jeffy stammered, "Um, no. We didn't get…oops."
Helen angrily faced Quinn. "Where did you go yesterday!?"
"We tried to go to Alternapalooza, but…but, we went outlet shopping instead."
"Paying for it…how?"
"Um, the gold card you gave me for the hotel room."
"Quinn! I agreed to pay for that so you could have a safe place to stay after the concert, not so you can go on yet another shopping spree!"
Helen turned to face Daria. "What about you! Where's the green card I gave you for the hotel?"
Daria took the card from her wallet and passed it to Helen, along with the hotel receipt. "The card and receipt."
"Oh, we did use your E-Toll unit on the turnpike, saved us half an hour travel time each way."
"That's okay, Sweetie." She swung around to Quinn. "Okay, the card and all of the receipts young lady. Now!"
"Just a minute." Quinn ran upstairs and returned a minute later with the gold card and a stack of receipts.
Helen quickly read the receipts. "Quinn. This…"
Jake read over Helen's shoulder. "Gah! You spent how much!"
Jeffy asked, "Um, can somebody move the truck? We need to get home, too."
John pulled the car keys from his pocket. "I'll move it." He quietly said to Daria, "We better get the non-combatants out of the area."
"I'll stay and watch."
"Be careful, we don't want a repeat of the last Family Court session."
"I'll try to head one off."
"Thanks." John walked past Jeffy holding up the keys, "Let's get you out of the blast radius."
Just as Jeffy closed the door, he said, "Um, Daria looked good in that shirt, when did she, um, grow…?"
"She's had them."
"Um, okay, but why didn't I notice?"
"She didn't want you to."
"Oh. Wait, how'd she do that?"
"She's a brain."
John let the three J's escape and parked Helen's truck. He walked back through the door in time to hear Jake yell, "It's my eye! Oh God, it's my eye!"
Jake held a hand over his eye and weaved in pain. He opened his hand to show the orb reddened from a burst blood vessel.
Daria said, "Oh no," before turning to John. "Got a camera?"
Quinn blanched. "Ugh."
Helen held up her hand. "No camera, Daria." She sighed and said to Jake, "Remember what the doctor said last time you burst a blood vessel?"
Jake grumbled, "Yeah, he said it would be two hundred dollars."
Helen held his hand. "Before that. He said we need to cut down on your stress." She began to try to cheer him up. "And we're going to do that next weekend. We're going camping like we used to before..." She gazed at the teens. "I'll take Friday off and we'll make a long weekend of it."
Surprised, Daria said, "You're going to take a day off?"
"Daria, a healthy happy family comes before work. Always. Besides I have vacation time coming and Eric told me that if I don't use it; I lose it." She pounded her fist on the table. "Dammit! Those bastards aren't gonna take away my days."
Helen put her arm around her husband and led him away. "Come on Jake, let's find the painkillers." She looked over her shoulder, "Don't even bother kids, you're coming with us. And Quinn, we'll be holding Family Court later. Don't expect the judge to be in a good mood."
"Daria! Please?" Quinn pleaded.
Daria stopped at the front door and turned. "We're going to the park to write and sketch. It's only Tuesday, are you that desperate already?"
"It beats sitting around here all day."
"That's what being grounded means."
"But it's spring break! And Mom won't let me leave the house unless a family member is with me."
"Quinn, you should've gone to the concert instead of spending all that money. By the way, did the rest of the Fashion Club buy as much as you?"
"Yeah, except Sandi. I think she bought more."
"How did you get all that in that little car?"
"Well, Sandi, Stacy, Tiffany and I all sat in the front. We left the trunk open and filled it. One of the nice outlet story guys got us some rope to tie the lid down. We put the rest in the back seat."
"Quinn, what did you do with the boys? Tie them on top?"
"Oh, Joey and Jeffy rode on the pile in the back seat. Come to think of it, I think they did use some rope. Jermaine rode on the stuff in the trunk."
"That's Jamie. Even I know that."
"So do I, but it keeps him guessing."
Daria rubbed her forehead. "At least Stacy was able to corroborate that the boys all stayed in a different room, or you'd be in even deeper trouble."
John came down the stairs carrying a small toolbox of art supplies and a large sketch pad. "I'm surprised you'd be seen with us."
"It's better than being here alone, and I wouldn't have to stay right next to."
Daria leaned against the door frame. "Quinn, please. We want to spend some time together."
"So? I could…ohhhh, that kind of time together. Look, I stayed quiet about you two going to the roller hockey game the last time we were grounded. Just today, and I won't bother you for the rest of the week."
Before John or Daria could say anything, the phone rang and Quinn ran to answer it. "Hello…who?...oh, sure…just a moment." She covered the phone and said, "John, for you."
"Hnh?" John set his gear down and took the phone from Quinn. "Hello?"
His mother, Amanda, said, "Hi, John. How are you doing?"
"I'm okay. How are things at the art colony?"
"This is such a creative place. I hope you get to stay here sometime."
"Are you busy this weekend?"
"Your father's family is having a reunion in Sloatstown and we were wondering if you and Trent could go to represent us."
"Gee, Mom. The Morgendorffers already had plans for this weekend, I won't be able to make it."
"Ah. What about Trent?"
"Well, he usually has gigs on Friday and Saturday nights. Now that he actually depends on the money, he can't miss them."
"I see. Maybe Summer and Wind will be able to show up for it."
"I'd give them a try. By the way, have the PI's found her kids?"
"Three of them."
John sat down on a sofa. "I miss you."
"I miss you, too."
"Um, all this has been kind of hard on Trent. He'd like to hear from you sometime."
"I should call him."
"Just remember to do it after five, otherwise Axel will answer the phone."
"Oh, yeah. Why does that man use Trent's phone for his tattoo shop?"
John hiked beside Daria as the family headed down a trail in the nearby national forest, subjected to Jake singing.
Give my regards to Broadway,
remember me to Herald Square.
Tell all the gang at Forty-Second Street
that I will soon be there...
Jake stopped singing and stopped at a clearing. "Is this great, or what? For the next seventy-two hours we're going to live off what nature sends our way! See that stream? That's our drinking water! See those berries! That's our breakfast!"
Daria deadpanned, "See that skeleton? That's our future." After everyone gazed in the pointed directions, she followed up with, "Made you look."
John elbowed her. "Tease."
Jake opened his arms wide. "Total isolation!"
"No phone, no fax, no e-mail, no voicemail!" Helen sounded just as happy and excited. "No way to contact the outside world! What a luxury."
Jake added, "Tonight we'll tell spooky stories around the campfire. Tomorrow we hike till we drop!"
Helen slid next to Jake and caressed his arm. "Just like we used to."
Jake dreamily asked, "Remember?"
She replied, "We were so relaxed in those days."
Daria pulled John aside. "Trust me, we never want to know what they're remembering when they do that. Never."
"If they're anything like my folks, it's a deal. Just be glad you didn't grow up in the same house that used to be their hippy commune. Some of the things we've dug up out of the back yard…"
Jake interrupted. "Kids, doesn't all this beauty take you right out of yourselves?"
Helen asked, "Daria?"
"I think I'm getting a chill." Daria walked to a fallen tree and sat down. "If you don't mind, I'm gonna crawl back into myself for a while."
He shrugged. "At least I won't have to listen to a bunch of middle-aged men banging away on drums like the last time I was camping."
Daria raised an eyebrow.
John sat next to her and said, "Dad went on one of those 'discover your manhood' events and dragged me with."
"What about you Quinn?" Helen asked the youngest.
With a blank stare, Quinn said, "No phone?"
"Ew. There's a bug crawling on this stick," Quinn complained from behind Daria and John. All three carried armloads of firewood.
John stopped and turned. "Let me see it."
When Quinn got closer, he balanced his wood in one arm and flicked the small beetle away. "There."
After they started walking, Daria asked him, "I know you were tempted to say it was something horrible."
"Yeah, but I didn't want her to have an excuse to get out of the grunt labor."
As they neared the camp, John could see Jake sitting on the ground in front of a tent and Helen standing with her hand on his shoulder. She noticed them approaching and said, "All right Jake, um, now you're letting out too much tension.
Jake whimpered, "Why did he think I was still wetting the bed at fifteen?"
Slight rustling of feet caught his attention and he looked up. "Oh, hi kids!"
The tent behind him collapsed and Jake sagged in frustration.
John set his wood down next to the half-dug fire circle and he returned to Jake. "I'll get this, why don't you help get the fire ready?"
Jake grinned. "Yeah!"
Jake rushed to the fire circle and began digging to complete it. John whispered to Helen. "Please tell me you have the matches."
John joined the rest of the Morgendorffers seated on logs around the small campfire. I must admit, they did a good job setting up camp. They really must've done some camping before Daria was born.
Jake had already started his story. "Then, lying there in the darkness, the boy heard a tiny splashing sound. Psh! Psh! Like waves on a faraway shore. Except! The nearest ocean was a hundred miles away... The boy reached out for his sleeping father! But he was gone. Shaking with fear the boy stumbled out of the rickety lean-to and that's when he saw it. His father, sitting alone at the campfire. Alone! With a whole case of beer." Jake pantomimed opening cans. "Psh! Psh! The selfish old bastard was wasted again."
John was reminded of his Uncle Max. I bet Wind's having fun dealing with him tonight. Once Max ties one on, everybody is his favorite, because they're a bum, just like him.
A while later, it was Helen's turn for a story. "'You're a vampire?' she whispered to the pale stranger with the brooding eyes. She felt her bosom blush and heave with excitement."
John carefully let his shadowed hand grasp Daria's. Sounds like Helen's been into the romances again.
Helen's story continued. "'You've come to take my blood!' 'Your blood?' he laughed. 'Oh there's time enough to take your blood. Tonight I'm going to take your...'" Helen caught herself and looked at Daria and John. "'…t-take your pulse! To make sure that you know, the blood will be there when I come back.'"
John felt Daria squeeze his hand slightly while she suppressed a laugh. Sometimes, it is nice to see them get uncomfortable instead of us.
"So Cinderella said, 'I can't go to the ball in these rags.' And her fairy godmother waved her wand and behold, she was wearing a gown of silver and gold." Quinn tried to make her voice sound ominous. "Big clunky silver and gold sequins, like you wouldn't wear to one of those seventies nostalgia proms, much less a formal party at a palace. And when she went to check out herself in the mirror, the one that usually made her look thin, instead she looked bloated!"
Helen yawned and asked, "Quinn honey, is this really a scary story?"
Quinn held up her hands. "Wait! I haven't gotten to the shoes yet!"
John pulled a pant leg up and stuck his boot out toward her. "Something like this?"
"John, this is horror, not science fiction."
Jake, Helen and Quinn were already looking queasy when Daria finished her story. "So the witch tore Hansel's arm off, popped it in her mouth, said, 'Hey, pretty good.' And within minutes had devoured the rest of his body, leaving only the lower intestine for fear of bacteria. Gretel she decided she wanted to hold onto for a while so she crammed her into the freezer the best she could."
Jake swallowed hard and seemed to fight some kind of internal battle for several seconds, probably with the upper portion of his digestive tract. Apparently achieving victory, he said, "John, your turn. Think you can scare everybody?"
John gazed at the fire and poked at the embers with a stick. "I once heard about a series of murders that happened in this part of the national forest years ago. They say the killer was a former park ranger that went over the edge from too many rude and inconsiderate park visitors. It was rumored that he'd been given a psychological discharge from CIA black ops for excessive violence and that they found what they thought was a nice, quiet job for him to settle down in. Little did they know…"
Ten minutes later, Jake and Helen held each other tightly and Quinn was making every attempt to dig her fingers into the log she sat on. John completed the story with, "The forensic team said that the fire was so hot, any human remains inside the bunker would've been completely destroyed. They considered the case closed, but others say that he's still out there in the forest with his night vision scope and sniper rifle, ready to pick off anyone he thinks is breaking the park rules."
A bit of resinous sap in the burning wood popped, sending a small shower of sparks and ash upward. Together, Jake, Helen and Quinn shouted, "Gah!" and dove onto the ground behind the logs they'd been sitting on.
While everyone else was still cowering, Daria quickly kissed John's cheek and whispered, "I'm impressed."
"Hey John! Up and at 'em!" Jake's voice boomed into John's consciousness. He cautiously opened one eye to see Jake holding the flap of the small pup tent open.
"Help me collect breakfast for everyone."
"It's barely light out there."
"I know we're running late, but breakfast won't be if you help."
"Um, yeah. Gimme a minute." John rubbed his eyes and crawled out of the sleeping bag. He grabbed his boots and placed them on the ground outside before putting them on. Bending almost double, he slid himself out of the cramped tent and stood.
Jake grabbed his arm and pulled him with. "Come on!"
"Yeah." John yawned and stumbled after, still more asleep than awake.
After several minutes of poking and searching among the underbrush, Jake located a bank of brushes sprouting red berries. He exclaimed, "Ah, breakfast."
John looked carefully at the fruit. "What are they?"
Jake began breaking branches off the plants. "Oh, I don't remember the name, but we used to eat these all the time."
John yawned widely. "Um, okay."
Jake popped a couple in his mouth and started to collect more. John shrugged and also picked some branches. Moving along the bank in the opposite direction, he didn't hear Jake faintly say, "Funny, they don't taste the way they used to."
John felt his stomach grumble and decided to try a berry. "Hmm, nothing to get excited over, but if they used to eat these, why not?" John ate a handful between yawns as he collected branches.
"Okay, that's enough." Jake waved to John. "Back to camp!"
Falling in step behind, John nibbled on a couple more berries. After he dropped off his load of berries, John went back to his tent to secure things inside.
Almost done, he heard Helen speaking in the next tent. "Daria, Quinn, get up, I need you. Your father's in a sickening mood."
Jake's voiced joined. "Are they decent Helen?"
Jake called into the other tent, "Up and at them ladies! Time to join the forest morning, already in progress. Breakfast is on Mother Nature. Yum! Meet you around the fire in five minutes!"
John heard more rustling, and then Helen quietly say, "Please girls. I'm afraid I may hurt him."
John walked next to Daria and directly behind Jake down a forested path. Daria asked John, "You really helped Dad collect those berries?"
"Well, I wasn't really awake, I'm assuming I did."
Jake waved his arm around. "Can you believe the whole continent used to look like this?"
Daria said, "It makes me yearn for the past."
Jake pointed to a fork in the path. The one to the right had a sign across it marked, "DANGER! TRAIL WASHED OUT." He said, "Look at that kids, a fork in the trail. If you go one way, you can't go the other."
"This is going to depress us, isn't it?" Daria said.
"This way over here leads to an entry-level job. A little bit of money in your pocket." Jake's voice rose as he talked. "Soon you're wearing a suit and tie everyday like all the other faceless saps, living in a boring little house, in a bland little town, and doing so well you're in debt up to your disappearing hair! That's where that trail leads, kids."
"I guess that other trail is the one that leads to personal and spiritual satisfaction." Daria sarcastically added, "That's why they don't want you to take it."
"Dammit, Daria! You're brilliant!" Jake exclaimed and climbed over the sign. With a satisfied grin, he started a fast pace down the forbidden trail.
Daria called, "Wait! It was a joke?"
John pulled on her hand. "We better keep an eye on him. He's sounding a little stranger than normal."
When they caught up, Daria said, "Dad I don't think this is a good idea."
Jake stopped and whirled around. "It's not cautious is it, Daria? It's not the sort of thing a responsible family man would do."
Daria started to become concerned. "Are you feeling okay? You look kind of pale."
Jake started into a new rant. "Maybe you think we should go back to camp, huh? You go back to camp, Daria! I'm going to see what... who is down this trail. You hear that old man? I don't care what happens to me Daria! I'm past feeling pain." He spun back around and started a fast walk - right into a tree. "Ow! Dammit!"
A call from Quinn reached them. "Daria!"
Daria led her father by the arm. "Come on Dad, Quinn needs us."
Jake held a hand to his bloody nose as he yelled back, "I'm not done with you yet old man!"
John followed behind, feeling a little odd. He stopped briefly and picked up a long, slender stem of a bush, stripping the side branches from it. Breaking into a jog to catch up, he swung the stem side to side.
He looked side to side and became concerned. "Better be careful." He dodged to the side and off the trail, keeping low to avoid being seen as he paralleled it.
John moved up carefully and listed to hear Helen say, "No honey, the tide! I was saying we ought to set sail while the tide's still high."
Quinn said, "Dad?"
Jake laughed. "Don't worry sweetie. Your Mom sounds a little nutty but she's making perfect sense."
"Sure. If we try to sail at low tide and ran aground, we'd be sitting ducks for Captain Cutlass's men." Jake laughed again. "I don't know about you but I don't want to be skinned alive and thrown to the sharks, right girls? Come on, let's go gather some provisions!"
Laughing, Jake ran off with Helen close behind. John moved to follow them a short distance, just to make sure. "Good, the Cardinal's men are gone."
He got back to the small clearing in time to hear Daria say, "This is really scary Quinn."
Quinn asked, "But why did they go insane?"
"Knowing Dad and his excellent woodland skills, I'd say it was the berries. Except..."
"It couldn't have been the berries."
"That's what I think. Because you and John ate the berries too and you seem okay." Daria looked around. "Wait…where's John?
Quinn shook her head. "No, I meant because those weren't the glitterberries."
Daria slowly turned. "Glitterberries?"
Quinn beamed. "You know, the glitterberries! The ones that fill your mouth with beautiful sparkling glitter when you bite into them. Those are the ones that make you act weird." She spread her arms and began to dance around. "I mean until you spread your shimmering wings and fly away."
Daria looked down. "Uh-oh." She looked around. "Dammit, where's John?" She raised her voice. "John!"
John rushed forward, brandishing the switch. "You called, my dear lady?"
"John, where have you…?"
Quinn said, "Daria, you don't have a mirror do you? I want to check my makeup."
Before Daria could say anything, John jumped between them and pushed Daria back. "You're safe now Constance. We'll get you out of here and safely back to Paris."
Quinn asked, "John, do you have a mirror?"
He held his 'sword' up and said, "Please step back, de Winter."
Wearing only a pair of boxer shorts and his hiking boots, Jake ran by calling, "Spirit animal! Come back spirit animal!"
John pushed Daria and yelled, "Run! The cardinal's men are back!" He turned to Quinn. "Milady, you will not succeed. Your actions are treason and the king shall know of it."
Helen ran up. "Kids, have you seen your father's spirit animal? He was just telling it about his childhood when it jumped up and scampered off.
Daria wasn't certain who to listen to. "This is getting very bad."
Quinn asked, "What did it look like Mom?"
Helen gestured with her hands. "Oh you know, yellow, stripes on the back, powerful hind legs, three horns, a beard..."
"Come on, I saw where it went."
Quinn ran in the direction Jake had gone, with Helen directly behind her.
Daria took several breaths to settle her nerves. "Okay. Remain calm. Family and boyfriend hav gone mad. Must get them back to civilization. But no way to contact civilization because mother made big deal about cutting off all communication. What to do?
A ringing emerged from Helen's dropped backpack.
Daria sighed in relief. "Rely on Mother's hypocrisy to see us through this crisis."
She opened the side pocket and pulled out Helen's cell phone. Just as he reached for the connect button, John swatted the phone from her hand.
"No! The countess has poisoned it."
"The Countess de Winter has poisoned the wine. Please Constance, we must get you out of here."
"Athos, Porthos and Aramis."
"We must leave before de Winter returns."
Daria inhaled and tried to calm her rising fear. "Um…d'Artagnan, please…'
John grabbed her hand and pulled her after him. "No time, my love. The others are just outside the bastion and have horses at the ready."
Daria was barely able to keep up with his fast pace.
Heavily winded, Daria dug her feet into the ground and pulled John to a stop. "Wait…need…breathe…rest."
John turned and embraced her. "As you wish. We shall rest for the present." He looked around. "Something must have happened, the horses are gone."
Daria still worked to catch her breath and desperately tried to think of a way to get John to go back. "Um…the goblet…"
John knelt down and kissed her hand. "Not to fear, we will be far away soon."
Daria thought furiously. "Jo…d'Artagnan, I'm not worried about the wine…I need the goblet."
"Why would that be?"
"There is an important message for the Queen hidden under it. We must get it back."
"You stay here, I'll return to the castle."
"What about the cardinal's men searching out here? I'd better go with you."
John sighed. "Oh, where are the others?" He again grasped her hand. "Very well, let us go."
Daria's legs were quivering from overuse by the time they made it back to the camp. John stopped her at the edge of the clearing, saying, "The countess and Richelieu are there, and a lady I do not know, perhaps one of de Winter's servants."
Daria inhaled hard and worked to keep a steady voice. "We need to work together on this."
"Fair Constance, I cannot allow you to be in any more danger."
"We will all be in more danger if I don't get that message. I see the goblet, keep the cardinal and the others busy while I get it."
He pulled her close and kissed her. "Ah, the fairness of a spring flower and the courage of a musketeer. It is no wonder that I love you."
"Um, thanks. We better get started."
John leapt from the brush and charged, branding his hallucinated rapier. "Step aside, your Eminence. Unless you normally consort with murderesses."
Jake spun and pushed Quinn behind him. "Captain Cutlass!"
Helen picked up two branches, tossing one to Jake. "He's not half the swordsman you are!"
Daria, still breathing heavily, crouched low and worked her way around to the fallen cell phone.
Jake swished the branch back and forth, facing John. "You've plundered your last galleon. I'm the finest swordsman on the Spanish Main."
John slowly rotated to keep Jake and Helen's attention on him, and their backs to Daria. "Richelieu, your treason will not go unnoticed; or unpunished."
John struck at Jake with the stick, which Jake swatted aside.
Jake grinned. "It'll be such a pleasure to run you through, you scurvy dog. You'll never live to swing from a yardarm."
Poking and swiping, John and Jake fenced clumsily in the clearing. John's speed and strength giving him the advantage. Helen watched intently while Quinn huddled near a tent and quivered.
Daria reached the phone, picked it up and switched it on, to no effect. "Damn," she muttered in frustration, and then turned the phone over to find the battery cover was loose.
Quinn backed farther away from the fighting, turning her head. When she saw Daria, she shouted, "You're alive!" and bolted to her. Quinn caught Daria in a bear hug that pinned her arms to her side while exclaiming, "We all thought Cutlass had fed you to the sharks!"
Daria ducked down to free herself. "Um, they weren't hungry that day?"
Quinn yelled to Helen, "Mother! Look!
Daria pushed the batteries into place and slid the cover shut. The illuminated buttons brought a relieved smile to her face. "Good."
Helen quickly backed over to Daria while keeping an eye on Jake and John. She grabbed Daria, sobbing with joy.
Daria pried her arm free. "Yes Mother, I'm fine." She used her thumb to hit the cell phone keys. "Hello, nine-one-one?"
John slowly opened his eyes and looked around in confusion before figuring out he was in some kind of hospital room. He felt like he'd been kicked in the stomach and his throat was sore. John noticed that one side of the room was an open curtain and a larger room was beyond with a nurses' station in clear view. The attendant smiled and motioned to someone.
After a couple seconds, Daria walked around and came into his room. "Hi, d'Artagnan."
Daria gave him a kiss. "Do you remember anything?"
"Um, I remember hiking, your dad going off on one of his rants, and then…nothing. Well, not entirely nothing, some vague dreams. What happened?"
"Those were psychotropic berries everyone but me ate for breakfast. Leave it to Dad to find the largest patch in the national forest."
"Everyone? Are they okay?"
"They're in the next rooms, in about the same condition. By the way, you're in Cedars of Lawndale's emergency ward. Everyone had their stomachs pumped and sedated while the effects wore off. You're the first one awake.
John faintly laughed and held Daria's hand. "That's a hell of a way to get some time alone." He noticed the duty nurse smile. "Well, not that alone."
"The doctor should be here soon. I'll also need to keep an eye on everyone else."
"Can you tell me any details?"
"You, um, had some interesting hallucinations and thought you were d'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers."
"Oh?" John lowered his head. "I hope I didn't say anything too embarrassing."
"Not too bad." She gently rubbed her thumb over the back of her hand and whispered, "But, someday, I hope you'll say one of them again."
Road Worrier by Anne D. Bernstein via the Outpost Daria transcript
The Teachings of Don Jake by Glenn Eichler via the Outpost Daria transcript
Band names from:
The Daria Diaries by Anne D. Bernstein.
Thanks to Martin J. Pollard for Daria's "flighty" comment about Quinn.
A nod to Galen Hardesty's The Teachings of Dona Daria: the 'pirate' scenes gave me the idea for John's hallucination.
Thanks to Ipswichfan and Mr. Orange for beta reading (and to Mr. Orange for suggesting the French dub for the "sandwich" line).