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. Original characters and plot copyright Richard J. Lobinske.
This is a sequel to Falling Into College set in the spring of 2013.
Trent Lane flinched from the off-key chord that came from his 10-year-old son's guitar. "I think we're good for today," he gently said.
Frowning, Andy Lane said, "Dad, I suck."
Trent set his hand on Andy's shoulder. "I used to suck, too. You'll get better, I know."
"Go on and play."
Andy placed the guitar in a case and closed it before running for the door.
Watching as her son hurried past, Lindy Lane said, "Have fun," before stepping in.
"Hey, Lindy," Trent said. After he was sure Andy was out of earshot, he added, "He's trying, but I don't know if we're getting anywhere."
Lindy sat down on the just-vacated stool. "I'm sorry if he picked up my talent for music instead of yours."
Trent shrugged. "He's probably like you or Janey."
"I don't think so, judging from the B- in art on his last report card."
"Maybe he's not an artistic type."
Trent chuckled. "Not artistic? He's a Lane. He'll find something."
Andy flopped onto his bed and ran his fingers through his blond hair. He looked around at a room filled with art supplies and equipment: an easel from his Aunt Jane, pottery completed in his grandmother's workshop, the guitar from his father and a graphics-grade computer from his mother. Assorted other crafts and arts supplies were tucked into odd corners around the room.
"I don't fit in," he muttered. "I'm the only Lane in town without artistic talent."
He got up and went to the computer, moving the mouse to rouse it from sleep mode. "At least Mom and Dad are trying. Some of my friends hardly see their folks."
He opened his browser and clicked on a featured link to bring up Bad Astronomy. Smiling, he settled back in his chair to read the latest space news.
From there, he bounced around between his favorite websites. At those, he read about dinosaurs, birds, lizards, astronomy, geology, and chemistry.
Then he opened the web page for Lawndale Heights Elementary School. He scrolled down and clicked on a link.
LHES Fourth Grade Science Fair
He sighed, remembering how much his parents felt out of their league whenever they tried to help him with his science homework.
"I have to figure something out."
Walking home from school the next day next to a girl with brunette hair pulled into a ponytail that fell to the middle of her back, Andy said, "Maybe Grandpa – when he's home, but I don't know. He switched over to digital and put all of his old stuff into storage. Too bad I can't come over to your place, Liz."
She nodded. "My big brother's a butthead, so we can't have anybody over until Mom gets home from work. What about your Aunt Jane? She's a teacher."
"She's an art teacher."
"Oops." Seeing a red brick house on the street ahead, Liz asked, "What about the Morgendorffers? Daria teaches college."
"She's in Florida."
"Oh, yeah. What about Mr. Morgendorffer?"
"Why not? And he's in the yard; you can ask him now."
Andy noticed the older man putting seed into a bird feeder. "Hi, Mr. Morgendorffer," he said.
"Andy! How's it going?"
"Okay, I guess. Um, can you do me a favor?"
"I suppose so. What is it?"
"I need some help with my science fair project."
"Science fair? That sounds great," Jake said, "but what about your folks?"
Andy kicked at a bit of grass. "They're, well, not that good at science. I bet you helped Daria and Quinn."
"Well, Daria never needed help and Quinn, she never entered one."
"Oh. I bet your dad helped you as a kid."
Jake sadly shook his head. "No. 'Science fairs are for eggheads, not men,' he said. So, little Jakey didn't get to enter."
Andy started to step back from the rising voice.
Jake caught himself and consciously exhaled. "I'll be glad to help you. We can learn together."
Andy smiled and took Jake's hand to shake. "Deal."
Glancing into what had been Daria's old room, Helen saw Jake seated at his office computer, intently staring at the large monitor. Walking in, she said, "What's so interesting, honey?"
He turned with a huge grin on his face. "I'm looking at science fair projects."
"Did you say, 'science fair projects'?"
"That's right. Boy, do kids have a lot of things to work on these days."
"Is there a particular reason you're looking at science fair projects?"
"Oh, Andy asked for some help."
"Trent and Lindy's Andy?"
Helen stood behind Jake. "Why aren't his parents helping?"
Jake shrugged. "Andy said that they weren't very good at science."
Helen nodded. "A couple of creative types; I can see that. So, have you had any success in finding a project?"
"Not really. Too bad Q and Quinn are away. I could ask him for help."
Helen thought for a moment and then said, "What about Karen's husband, Derek? He's a research tech at the University of Florida."
"Hey, yeah! Great idea, Helen," Jake said before jumping up and kissing her.
"I have my moments," she said before returning the kiss.
Standing in the kitchen while talking on the land-line phone, Karen Myerson said, "Mr. Morgendorffer? Is Daria all right?"
Jake said, "What? Oh, oh, she's fine. Not a problem. Same with Michael."
"Okay. Good. So, what's up?"
"Well, I was hoping to talk to Derek about help on a project."
Raising her eyebrow, Karen said, "You need my husband's help on a project?"
"I'm helping Trent and Lindy's boy Andy on a science fair project."
"I see. I'm surprised you didn't call Q."
"He and Quinn are at a grape conference in France. Well, conference and then a vacation for Quinn's birthday."
"I can still see Quinn hitting the boutiques in Paris. Anyway, Derek ran to the hardware store for some stuff, but he should be back any time now. I can have him call."
"That would be great, thanks. So, how is your little girl?"
"Eve will be four next month and as active as ever. Plus, now she's excited about having a baby brother."
"Oh, yeah. Daria mentioned that. When are you due?"
"August. Right in the middle of the hottest part of summer." Karen laughed a bit. "What were we thinking about with that timing?"
"I'm sure you'll do fine."
"I hope so. Since we're on the phone, what else are you up to?"
"I'm still semi-retired. The doctors say that selling the business was the best thing I could have done for my heart. I do freelance consulting from time to time for associations and non-profits. Usually Helen sends them my direction."
"How is she?"
"Looking forward to retiring from the Bar Association in July."
"Travel. Helen has been bookmarking travel destinations for the last year."
"Sounds like a good time to pamper yourselves. Anything more than travel?"
"We're going to sell the house. It's too big for us now, and the stairs are getting hard on my knees."
"Staying in Maryland?"
"I don't think so. Helen's not happy with winters anymore. Someplace warm."
"Or California. It has to be green. Helen doesn't want to move anyplace that looks like our old town in Texas."
"And closer to one of your children."
"We miss them," Jake admitted.
Karen looked over at Eve, who was playing in the living room. "I can see that."
"Besides expecting a child, what are you and Derek doing these days?"
"I'm happy at the equine hospital. Back in December, Derek transferred over to Fisheries, with a reclass to Senior Biochemist. He has a little longer drive to work since their labs are on the north side of Gainesville, but he gets to avoid the main campus traffic and parking headaches. However, I like to remind Derek that parking at UF is better than parking at Raft."
"I bet. Man, I used to hate trying to find a parking space at Middleton."
Feeling one of her regular, sudden urges to use the bathroom, Karen said, "I'm sorry, but I really need to go. I'm sure Helen can explain why."
"I got it."
"I'll have Derek call you as soon as he gets back."
"You're welcome. Okay, bye."
"So, today's the big experiment," Liz said while walking next to Andy.
"Yep," he replied, the excitement brimming over in his voice.
"Told your folks yet?"
"What did you tell them about today?"
"Mom and Dad are going to be late, so I was going to stay with the Morgendorffers anyway."
"Why don't you tell them?"
"They're artists. Everyone in my family is an artist; except me. I'm a freak."
"You still need to tell them."
Liz sighed. "Okay…"
Coming in after a day of work, Helen saw the kitchen counter and stopped. Besides Jake's laptop computer, she saw a blender, two measuring cups (one full of peas), a strainer, bottles of rubbing alcohol and dish soap, a container of meat tenderizer, and a rack of test tubes. "Jake…I’m almost afraid to ask what's for dinner."
Jake appeared from the other end of the room and said, "Oh, sorry about dinner. I'm helping Andy with his science fair project. Right, Derek?"
Watching over an Internet video connection from his living room, Derek said, "We sure are. Hi, Mrs. Morgendorffer. Sorry I can't see you; the computer is pointed at the experiment."
Helen walked around the counter to face the computer, where she then saw Derek's image on the screen. She waved and said, "Thank you so much for helping."
"Anything to corrupt young minds toward science."
Seated at the dining table scribbling in a notebook, Andy waved and said, "Hi."
"And that answers that question," Helen said. "Since you have the kitchen occupied, I'm thinking that I can call for delivery. Any preference?"
"I'll eat anything," Andy said.
Jake shrugged. "I haven't thought about it."
Helen sighed. "Pizza?"
"Sure!" Andy said.
Jake said, "Okay."
Helen took her smartphone from her purse and scrolled through the browser. "It's a good thing that Magic Mushroom Pizza has whole grain crust, low-fat options."
"Pesto sauce?" Jake asked.
"Agreed," Helen said. "Tomato, onion, bell pepper, mushroom, and ham?"
Andy said, "That sounds like something Grandma Amanda would order."
"Yes, it does, but will you eat it?"
"I'll eat it even if you put fuzzy fish on it."
Helen tapped in her options and with a final entry said, "Delivery in about forty-five minutes."
Jake said, "Thanks Helen. Isn't technology great?"
She nodded and thought, It beats frozen lasagna. Looking more closely at the arrayed supplies, Helen said, "What are you trying to do?"
Andy cheerfully said, "We're going to extract DNA from those peas."
"Extract DNA? Are you kidding?"
Derek replied, "No. It's actually pretty easy to do; that's why this is such a great project."
"I thought you needed expensive equipment."
"If you want to do anything with it, but just to extract, nah."
Helen smiled and said, "Then it looks like I'm in for an education."
From a seat at the table, Helen watched Andy and Jake blend the peas in cold, salted water, strain them into another cup, then add some of the dish soap. While they waited, Andy told her how his project was to explain how each step of the process worked. After that, he poured the slurry into a couple of test tubes and Jake expertly added a pinch of the meat tenderizer to each while Andy slowly swirled the tubes.
When she saw Jake open the bottle of alcohol, Helen held her breath. After pouring some into an extra test tube, he gently poured it down the side of the experiment tubes to create a layer on top.
He finally put those bartender lessons to use, Helen thought.
"Last step," Derek said.
Now very excited, Andy used one of Jake's many swizzle sticks to pick up white, stringy goo from between the pea solution and the alcohol. He grinned and said, "I did it!"
"Wow, that's great!" Jake shouted, equally, if not more, excited.
Derek said, "Congratulations. Put it in the alcohol tube and seal it so you can show off your work."
Helen stood and walked over while glancing between Andy, Jake and Derek's face on the monitor. She said, "I'm impressed, and I have a better feeling about kids these days."
Liz said, "So, are you going to tell them tonight?"
Walking beside her, Andy frowned, but didn't answer.
She pressed, saying, "They're going to ask about the big poster board you're carrying."
"Maybe they won't see it?"
"Moms have eyes everywhere."
"Yeah, you're right."
"I guess so?"
Liz pushed his arm. "Gotta do better than that. You want them there, right?"
"Okay, I'll tell them."
"Because you won't be so mopey."
Andy grumbled, "Argh," and broke into a fast walk to move away.
Liz smirked at his back and said, "Gotcha – again."
At home, Andy found his mother in her office, working on her graphics computer. He cleared his throat and said, "Mom?"
Lindy spun her chair around and cheerfully said, "Yes, Andy?"
Leaning against the folded poster board, Andy said, "I've got something to tell you."
"What is it, honey?" Lindy said, concerned.
"It's okay, you can tell me."
"It's – about a school project."
"Oh, that sounds nice. Do you need some art supplies?"
"No, I need to print some stuff on your good printer."
"Sure, honey. What kind of project?"
His shoulders slumped and he quietly said, "Science fair."
"Science fair? That's great!"
Lindy sat back in her chair and rolled her head to look at the ceiling. "We should've seen it. We really should've seen it."
She sat up and smiled. "You're not an artist; you're a scientist."
"Well, I guess."
"No wonder you get frustrated at us when we try to help you with science homework." Lindy rolled her chair over and pulled Andy into a hug. "I guess you're going to be teaching us."
Hands in pockets, Trent looked around the elementary school cafeteria and spotted Jake. Walking over, Trent said, "Hey, Jake. Thanks, man."
"Oh, hi, Trent. Um, sure. Don't worry, there were a lot of times when I didn't know how to help Daria, but somehow, we made it."
"So, do you want to have a look?"
"Oh, yeah. Kinda freaky, though."
"Lanes and science. Thought I'd never see that."
"Kids – they can surprise you."
Trent coughed and laughed. "Yeah."
Helen and Lindy were already at Andy's display and they heard Helen say, "Seeing all of that on my kitchen counter was not something I was expecting."
Lindy laughed and said, "I bet."
Andy spotted them and rushed over, "Hey, Dad. Hey, Mr. Morgendorffer."
Trent noticed the red ribbon on the display. "Second place. Cool."
Lindy joined them. "So what do you think?"
"I like it."
"We're going to have to buy a bunch of different stuff for him from now on."
Trent tousled Andy's hair. "I can deal."
March – June 2013Thanks to Louise Lobinske and Kristen Bealer for beta reading.
In case you want to do this at home.