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©2008 The Angst Guy (

Daria and associated characters are ©2008 MTV Networks



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Synopsis: Mr. O’Neill asks his class to write inspirational essays—and comes to regret that when Daria Morgendorffer reads one entitled, “You, Too, Can Change the World.”


Author's Notes: For an Iron Chef challenge in May 2006, asking for examples of Daria’s pet rants finding their way into her homework assignments, this tale was written.


Acknowledgements: My thanks to Gavrilo Princip . . . for nothing.











       “So, like, in conclusion,” said the buxom blonde cheerleader at the front of the classroom, “if anyone tells you that teens today don’t have the right stuff, you tell them what I said about that little baby bunny that my best friend Angie saved for almost an hour before she left it outside in a box and her neighbor’s dog ate it, and they’ll know that we kids have what it takes! Thank you!”

       Mr. O’Neill beamed as Brittany Taylor took her seat. “That was wonderful, Brittany! That was one of the most inspirational essays yet!”

       “If you’re brain dead from that dreck,” muttered a red-jacketed girl with black bangs.

       “What?” said Mr. O’Neill.Jane Lane, was that you?”

       “I said,” repeated Jane, “it was plainly read. Very direct.”

       “Yes, it was, wasn’t it!

       “Hey, Mister O’Neill!” called quarterback Kevin Thompson. “I thought my essay was like real inspirational, too, you know?”

       “Yes, Kevin, not many people would have been able to overcome . . . your, um, personal problems as you did, then defeat Oakwood in last Friday night’s game.”

       “That jock itch was fierce!”

       “Thank you, Kevin.” Mr. O’Neill sighed and looked down the class roster. “Next we have—um, Daria Morgendurffer—”

       Morgen-dorffer,came a dry voice from the front row.

       “Right, yes, that’s . . . what I said: Morgendorffer.” He swallowed as his stomach began to churn. Why did Daria make him so nervous? She might come up with a truly great work this time, something that wasn’t as negative or gruesome as all the other papers she had written up to this point. Change was always possible, though with her . . . well, he hoped for the best.

       A short brunette in a green jacket and black skirt walked to the front of the classroom, her black boots clumping against the tile. Once in place, she held her essay up, squinted, adjusted her glasses, cleared her throat, then began.

       “My inspirational essay is called, ‘You, Too, Can Change the World,’” said Daria. “Yes, it is true that we are yet but mere teenagers, still immersed in the struggle to prepare ourselves for the bleak and unforgiving real world that awaits us after high school, unless we are forced by circumstances to quit school early and work at menial jobs all our wretched lives, enslaved to minimum wage and failure until the day we cough up our last cancer-flecked ball of phlegm and—”

       “Excuse me, Daria,” said Mr. O’Neill, looking queasy. “I know I said description was good, but perhaps that part is a little too descriptive, and maybe you could—”

       “The important thing,” Daria went on, raising her voice to drown out the teacher, “is that we each have the power to make a difference in the world, regardless of age. Adults aren’t the only ones who can bring important changes to life. I offer here the example of young Gavrilo Princip, a sickly youth who was only nineteen years old when he struck a precious blow for freedom and liberty.”

       Gavi—who?” asked Mr. O’Neill, looking confused. “Daria? Who is—

       “Gavrilo’s world was dark and cruel. Six of Gavrilo’s nine siblings died in infancy, and he himself suffered from tuberculosis and did not expect to live long, but even in his suffering he wished to perform one last unselfish act—”

       “He had some kind of disease?” interrupted Kevin.

       Daria nodded and continued. “Gavrilo wished nothing more than to bring his beloved countrymen into the light of a new era, to see the sun shine down on his homeland in peace and prosperity, to see his Serbian neighbors freed from the hated yoke of slavery under the heel of the Austrio-Hungarian Empire that was crushing his nation into the dust.”

       Mr. O’Neill frowned. “Um, Daria, what—”

       “In his nineteenth year, at the end of June,” read Daria, ignoring him, “young Gavrilo and his friends went on a suicide mission to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, to hunt down their hated overlord, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Each was armed with nothing more than a machine pistol and a hand grenade. Once in Sarajevo, Gavrilo was fortunate enough to see the archduke’s open limousine drive by, and he thrust himself at the car with his handgun out, the trigger pulled.” Daria extended one hand, making a pantomime gun with her fingers. Pow! Pow! Pow!” she cried, her hand-gun jumping with each shot. “Gavrilo Princip put a bullet into the archduke’s pregnant wife, killing her instantly, and then—”

       What?” shrieked Brittany, her pigtails quivering.

       “—shot the archduke several times through the neck. Though the archduke’s bodyguards seized poor Gavrilo and beat him mercilessly with their swords, then threw him into a filthy dungeon with iron chains on his legs and arms, the archduke breathed his last and was no more. The wicked overlord of Serbia was dead!”

       “Right on!” shouted Kevin, jumping to his feet. “He did it! Gravy Whatzizname rocks!” Other football players in the classroom pumped their fists and cheered.

       “Class!” cried Mr. O’Neill in horror. “Please, don’t do this!”

       “However,” Daria went on in a louder voice, unperturbed, “Gavrilo’s gunshots had an even greater effect than he’d planned. Enraged, the Austrio-Hungarian Empire attacked Serbia, intending to punish it for the loss of the archduke. The Russian Empire, a friend of Serbia, came to its aid, but then the German Empire came to the Austrio-Hungarian Empire’s side and declared war on Russia. The battle for the world was on!”

       “This is like Star Wars!” cried Kevin. “This is so cool!”

       “No, it isn’t cool!” exclaimed Brittany. “He shot a pregnant lady, Kevin!”

       “But she was like Darth Vader’s wife!” protested Kevin. “It was okay!”

       Germany,” said Daria, her voice rising and increasing in tempo as she read, “then invaded Luxembourg and Belgium, going to war against France. The invasion of Belgium brought the British Empire into the war, with Canada, Australia, and New Zealand declaring Germany their mortal enemy. The Turks of the Ottoman Empire then joined the war on the side of Germany, Italy joined Britain and France, Bulgaria attacked Serbia to help the Austrio-Hungarian Empire, and a war unlike no other set fire to all of Europe and then the planet. Technology rose to the challenge, and for the first time tanks, airplanes, machine guns, and poison gas were used. Railroad-mounted cannon laid waste to battlefields. Zeppelins bombed cities day and night. Great battleships fought it out on the high seas as submarines patrolled the waters in savage wolf packs, sending hundreds of ships and sailors to watery graves. Civilian ships were attacked as well, until the United States entered the war when its own ships were targeted. Soldiers were torn limb from limb by huge explosions, were blinded and blistered from mustard gas, or were buried alive in trenches by bombs and shells. Cities were reduced to smoldering rubble. Empires were shattered. Whole populations were slaughtered, and rivers ran with blood. At the end of four brutal years, the Great War sparked by young Gavrilo’s bullets had slain at least fifteen million people, and twenty-two million more were wounded. Gavrilo’s dream of freedom had turned into a wailing nightmare—but it was only the beginning. Worse, much worse, was yet to come.”

       “Daria,” said a pale, shaken Mr. O’Neill, “please, that’s quite enou—”

       “The seeds of more terrible disasters had been planted and were about to bear poisoned fruit,” intoned Daria, holding her essay before her face as she read to the horror-stricken classroom. “The Russian Empire collapsed into civil war, and the specter of communism rose over the earth. An embittered corporal in the German army named Adolf Hitler dreamed his own dreams of revenge and began the violent tide of Nazism. Josef Stalin took command of the Soviet Union, born in Russia’s ashes, and purge after purge rolled over Asia and Europe, as China descended into decades of ruthless internal conflict. Mass murder was the order of the day, but worse was yet to come. Much worse.”

       “Daria, for the love of—”

       “Gavrilo Princip’s killing of the archduke and his wife threw the world into blood-mad chaos. The Japanese Empire, sensing easy victories over its long-time enemy, China, subdued Manchuria, butchered its people, and prepared greater blows against foreign colonial holdings all across Asia and the Pacific. An invigorated National Socialist Germany united with a fascist Italy and began dividing up the smaller countries of Europe. Then the nightmare accelerated into the fiery pits of hell itself as Germany and Russia invaded Poland, France and Britain declared war once again on Germany, and Europe was aflame with an unholy conflict unlike any ever seen. Fleets of aircraft turned great cities into flaming pyres in which hundreds of thousands burned! Africa was invaded! Germany and the Soviets tore at each other’s throat! France was toppled and conquered! England was attacked day and night, almost the only European nation left standing against the Axis juggernaut—and then Japan struck out against Pearl Harbor, and the United States once again entered the inferno! Soon almost every nation on this planet fought every other one, no quarter given or asked! Tens of millions perished in death camps, firestorms, and famines! Six ghastly years of the most terrible war ever seen, ending with the light of atomic bombs bursting over whole populations and burning them to nothingness in less than a second! Over sixty million dead in the Second World War, but still it wasn’t over! Korea! Vietnam! Cambodia! The Great Leap Forward! From the moment Gavrilo Princip’s gun splashed the blood of the archduke and his wife across their touring car, over a hundred fifty million souls were doomed to die of gunshots, starvation, murder, purges, pogroms, drowning, poison gas, fire, plague, rockets, bombs, and burial alive! Over a hundred and fifty million damned and lost in the bloodiest century since the first murderous human raised an antelope bone against his brother and slew him! All this, rendered by the hand of one lone teenager like you and me!”

       In the absolute silence that followed, Daria cleared her throat once more. “In conclusion,” she said in her normal monotone, “never let it be said that we young people will never amount to anything. A starving youth named Gavrilo Princip died of tuberculosis in his cell only a few years after he was imprisoned, but in one lightning moment, he had changed the entire world—and you can, too. Thank you.”

       Daria walked back to her seat, sat down, and laced her fingers on her desk as Mr. O’Neill wept in a corner and Brittany Taylor mercilessly beat her now ex-boyfriend Kevin with her Math Adventures textbook.

       “Can’t wait until next period, when you tell Mr. DeMartino which person you admire most in world history,” Jane whispered to Daria. “Fifty bucks says you can’t make his bad eye pop all the way out.”

       “You’re on,” Daria whispered back, and smiled a secret smile.





Original: 06/15/06; modified 07/22/06, 09/18/06, 01/20/07, 07/23/08, 11/05/08