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Daria and associated characters are ©2007 MTV Networks



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Synopsis: Tom Sloane discovers that his ex-girlfriend, Daria Morgendorffer, has gotten an unbelievable car—but he has forgotten that old saying about curiosity and cats.


Author's Notes: Angelboy posted an Iron Chef challenge on PPMB in October 2005, asking for a story about Daria getting a new car—a famous one that was capable of driving itself. I thought about that, and after a while I settled on this tale.


Acknowledgements: Thanks, Angelboy!













            Curiosity drew Tom Sloane to Boston that late spring weekend—curiosity, but not affection. It was nine months since he’d last seen his ex-girlfriend, nine months plowing through freshman classes at Bromwell while Daria Morgendorffer did the same at Raft. Though they were only hours apart by car, Tom was surprised to find out how hard it was to schedule a visit to see his high-school dating partner. Classes, quizzes, tests, midterms, finals, papers due, study groups—it was amazing he had time to brush his teeth in the mornings. Catch-up time with Daria was long overdue when a hole finally appeared in his calendar before the hell week of finals began. He agonized over it for one long Friday night, then got in his aged Jaguar and drove away on Saturday, without even a warning phone call to let Daria know he was coming. He wanted to surprise her, he told himself, and he knew she’d be surprised all right, assuming she was in town when he showed up. She had no social life that he knew of, so he trusted that she’d be there.

            Tom was halfway to Boston, not paying much attention to anything, when it came to him that the real reason behind his delay in seeing Daria was unrelated to his schedule. He had made the time to see other people—family friends, high-school buddies, even new girlfriends in geographically challenging locations—but the wall separating him from Daria was internal. He sighed and faced it squarely: it was a failure of nerve. There was a history there, the I-had-another-girlfriend-but-I-dumped-her-to-see-Daria story, only he’d not quite dumped the other girlfriend before taking up with Daria, and the other girlfriend had been Daria’s best and only friend. A river of angst and outrage had flowed, but hey, things like that happen, okay? It wasn’t like it was anyone’s fault, really, it was the hormones talking. Sure, Tom thought, he knew it had been his fault for making the first move, but Daria had been willing enough, hadn’t she? Caught up in the unexpected moment of the kiss? Sort of willing, though massively freaked out right after.

            And Daria’s pal Jane Lane had definitely not been okay with it. Jane had the expected reaction, striking out and shouting and making a scene, but then the rage burned away. Tom and Jane gave voice to the moment and sorted it out. Jane said Tom could date Daria all he liked, for all she cared. Go for it. It was over between Jane and Tom (and very nearly over between Jane and Daria, too), but as for Tom and Daria—hey, said Jane in so many words, try it, you might like it.

            And Tom tried it.

            Daria had been a tough one to win over, despite her initial enthusiasm. She was never again as impulsively passionate as she had been in that first clench in the front seat of Tom’s hand-me-down Jaguar, and her darker side quickly came out—bitch and moan, bitch and moan, jeez—some days it was hard for Tom to remember why he had gone out with her to begin with. Daria had looks, sure, if you were into the pissed-off antisocial sarcastic brainy type, and she had nice legs for sure, though she was blind to it, and a sufficient but not excessive amount of boobitude, as the frat guys at Bromwell called it. She certainly had more boobitude than Jane. Daria also had it further upstairs (meaning in her head, not in her chest) in places Jane could only dream of. For instance, Daria liked the cinema; Jane was all about exploding eyeballs and other popular thrills vomited over the big screen. Daria read Solzhenitsyn; Jane remembered hearing the name but couldn’t place it. And Daria played hard to get. If Tom had tried harder he could have gotten into Jane’s leggings on a nightly basis (so he told himself), but there was the boredom factor, the arguments, the I’m-not-available-because-I’m-working-on-my-art thing, and Daria was the alternative music, irresistible, a challenge like cloud-topped Everest.

            Or she had been, for a while.

            Tom wondered as he drove why he was even trying to see Daria, and the best he could come up with before he reached the exit into Boston was that there was unfinished business between them. Daria had dumped him, not the other way around. She had tried dumping him before, but that was part of her dump-before-you-get-dumped neurosis. Daria believed she was on the verge of being dumped by the entire world. That kind of maiden-in-distress misery drew Tom like a siren’s call. Daria was the kind of girl you could fix up and call your own, he thought, the kind who would be eternally grateful that you’d stood by her, brought her out of her shell, awakened her to life’s greater promise.

            Except . . . it hadn’t worked that way. Even as screwed up as she was, Daria had a will of her own, and one day she dumped him for good.

            And Tom had never gotten over it.

            So, what am I doing? he mused. He made the turnoff toward Boston. It was not yet nine o’clock in the morning. He wondered if Jane would be around when he dropped in on Daria. Jane was at the Boston Fine Arts College, near Raft, probably on track for a career in artistic website design if she was lucky. Her artistic muse had not been that inspiring; she was better at sketching morbid caricatures than creating truly great works. She would never have a one-woman show of her own, never live to see even a footnote mentioning her name in an art history book. She was mundane—the word was acid on the tongue. No more dreadful slam could be thrown against her. Jane the Mundane. (Yawn.)

            Daria, however, was not mundane. She was different—but different exactly how? It was hard to capture that quality in a word. Not mundane, but . . . different. There was an element of the unexpected, the sudden change from left to right you didn’t see coming. He certainly hadn’t expected she would dump him. No one else had ever dumped him. And to think of all he had done for her, pointing out her flaws, her self-destructiveness, the ways she could improve her writing technique—to think he did all that, and what had she done for him? Two passionate kisses, a multitude of so-so blah kisses, one clammy trembling hand to hold, and an unbelievable number of smart-ass remarks, razor-sharp insults, bewildering changes in mood, impenetrable expressions when something was eating at her inside, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. She had been impossible. It drove him mad. He could not make her his own. And then she dumped him. She dumped him.

            So, what am I doing? He frowned. He was going to see her. They had . . . unfinished business. That sounded right, though he couldn’t explain why. Unfinished business, okay, and for the sake of that unfinished business he was driving across New England on a Saturday morning to see a bad-tempered bitch in a small economy size, five foot two and barely over a hundred pounds, an ungrateful little brunette twit with big round coke-bottle glasses and nicely shaped legs she was totally unaware she had?

            He nodded to himself. That was it. He was going to see how she was doing. He’d take her to lunch, ask her about life, drop a few morsels about his own achievements and his bright and shining future . . . and then leave. That was it. He would leave. And when he left, she would think, Did I do the right thing when I dumped him? And her answer would be, I’m an idiot.

            That was why he was going to see her. It would make him feel better. He would feel better, and she would feel worse, and all would be right with the world again.

            Luckily, Daria hadn’t totally cut him out of her life, though communication between them had been reduced to a few e-mails every month, no attached photos from her. She did mention she’d gotten a used car, and she told him where she lived, in an off-campus second-floor apartment, the car stored in a nearby garage. She had added that she would be home studying this particular weekend. She was not expecting him. She would be alone and defenseless, easy prey for self-immolation after he left, given her long history of questioning everything she did and handicapping herself at whim. And Tom—he would go home that evening and feel great while she sank into ruin. Dump him, would she? So be it. She would take the consequences.

            Well, now, that’s not entirely true, he thought. It wasn’t really about the revenge. He was curious about her, curious enough to make the trip and waste a day. Tomorrow, though, she would be behind him and he could go on, because he would have dumped her this time. She would see what she had missed, what had been lost, and he would let her stew in it. Maybe it was about revenge. Whatever.

            Once in Boston he became occupied with following street signs, peeking at the Internet-gathered page of directions to her address. A half-hour later, he parked beside an unfamiliar row of two-story houses on a tree-lined street under a bright and cloudless sky. He got out of his car in a light windbreaker and peered at the house with the correct street number. Daria’s apartment would be on top, but how to get there? He walked up the sidewalk, up the steps, and rang the doorbell. Should I have gotten her flowers? White roses, should have gotten white roses. I wish I’d thought of this earlier. Too late now.

            No one answered the door. He waited and tried again. Several minutes passed in like repetition. No luck.

            I didn’t come all the way here for nothing, he decided. He gathered his nerve and walked around back along the driveway. Why am I nervous? I don’t have to be nervous. I’m just going to see the little twit, that’s all. No need to worry.

            The driveway led to two garages, one clearly for the owner and one for the renter. A long wooden stairway went up to the second floor from a spot next to the garage on the right, and he supposed the right garage was where Daria parked her undoubtedly amusing wreck of a car. Was she in? The car would tell. He decided to check. The garage door had windows in it. He could risk a look. He walked over and did.

            It was hard to see anything at first because of the dusty condition of the window, the glare from outside, and the poor light within. (Strange, he felt a drop in temperature when he got near the pane, but maybe that wasn’t so strange after all since all was shadow on the other side of the glass.) He shielded his eyes and pressed his nose to the window. His vision adjusted to the darkness.


            He sucked in a lungful of fresh April air, gaze fixed and glazed, eyes round and wide as moons. His mouth fell open in shock.

            How in God’s name had she gotten this? Was this really her car? It couldn’t be her car. It had to belong to the owner of the property, the guy who rented the apartment to Daria. It couldn’t be—it couldn’t—wait, there—

            There was a hardbound book on the dashboard of the car. The book was Solzhenitsyn’s The First Circle. It was the exact copy Daria had owned and read when she was in high school. He recognized it beyond a shadow of doubt.

            This was hers—this, this great marvel, this wonder, this treasure, was hers.

            He looked down at a car that belonged to the ages: a pristine-perfect, museum-quality vehicle that had no right to belong to a girl of Daria’s means: a classic two-door 1958 Plymouth Fury in the reddest of toreador reds, redder and brighter than new-drawn blood. Tom knew a little about cars, mostly the famous ones, and he knew that this gem was hardly a thing even a collector would have. Whitewall tires, iceberg-white roof, bright silver trim, high red fins, and not a smudge or streak or scratch on it anywhere. It was a car of dreams. It was a car that . . . looked terribly familiar.

            His gaze dropped to the license plate: EVIL D. Of course. It came to him in a flash. He knew this car, this exact model and make of car, thanks to Jane and her love of exploding-eyeball “cinema.”

            Daria’s car was a Christine.

            Not the real Christine, not the actual supernaturally possessed vehicle from Stephen King’s novel and movie of the same name, but a very, very nice knockoff. The real 1958 Plymouth Fury had not come in red, it had been a clever bit of author’s license, but after Mister King’s novel came out, red was the only color any collector had wanted for a Fury, and many had been repainted and refitted to match the movie or book. Real 1958 Furies were hideously expensive as a result. Hideously. Even for one of Tom’s means, just hideously.

            But she had one! Where had she gotten the money to buy it? She certainly hadn’t been rich, and neither had her idiot parents—but the Solzhenitsyn book said it was hers.

            He looked down at the license plate again. EVIL D. Evil Daria of course, but also an anagram for DEVIL, or LIVED (as in died), or LIVE D, Live Daria, or maybe Living Death. Oh, it was cute. Very cute. And morbid. So very Daria.

            How in the flaming hell had Daria gotten her own Christine?

            He then noticed a door on the right wall of the garage. He pulled back from the window and looked around the garage’s corner. A narrow sidewalk passed between the garage and a neighbor’s high board fence. He could reach the door—and maybe peek inside the garage—with only a few stealthy footsteps.

            Tom turned to look back at the house and the second-floor windows that undoubtedly looked into Daria’s apartment. No faces were at the windows looking out at him. He looked back at the Christine.

            He had to see it once, up close, even if Daria wasn’t home and he’d wasted the whole trip otherwise. How had she gotten it? It didn’t matter. He had to see it.

            So he walked around the side of the garage as if he had no worries in the world, as if he had done this often before, in case any neighbors were watching and assumed from his demeanor that he was a friend of the family. The side door into the garage was unlocked. He pushed it open and smelled oil and sawdust and a light touch of mildew.

            And he smelled the Christine. A new car smell. It rushed to his head and made his vision spin. His hands opened as if to grasp it.

            He pushed his way into the garage and closed the door behind him. It did not lock. There was plenty of light to see by through the windows—odd, perhaps, as he’d had so much trouble seeing in, but no matter. No one was running out of the house to stop him. No one was calling the police. He allowed himself a few seconds to gaze upon this prize, which must have bankrupted her or her parents. It was then time to explore, but again he had to summon his nerve to do it. No one is looking, it’s perfectly all right if I just have a little peek at it, maybe a peek on the inside

            His hand went to the car door handle. For a moment he remembered how Daria had put her own hand on the door handle of his aged Jaguar, opening it at his invitation to sit inside the car with him, talk a little, and betray her best friend. I’m not Daria, he told himself, I’ll never share her fate. He seized the handle and pushed the silver button to unlatch the door. The lock popped gently. The door swung open and let him in.

            The new-car odor drugged his senses. The seats were as red and perfect as the exterior. The dashboard had an old-style horizontal speedometer, a pushbutton TorqueFlite transmission, a gleaming red steering wheel, and . . . seat belts and safety harnesses, unlike the original vehicle, but laws were laws. A backpack sat on the floor of the passenger side, unzipped and clearly filled with books. Daria’s car.

            He stepped forward, intending to swing a leg inside the car and sit down in the driver’s seat and maybe dream a little bit, but his right foot hit something and he stumbled and fell. He put out his arms to keep from smacking his face into the door or interior. His clumsy fingers hit many things, and one of them was the garage door opener on the driver’s seat.

            With a moderately loud clanking roar, the garage door ascended. Cursing a blue streak, Tom struggled to get to his feet, but the car began to roll forward and kept him off balance. His gaze went to the pushbutton transmission—the neutral button was pushed in. Had he done it? He didn’t know. It was all happening too fast to think. The car continued forward as he scrambled to get up, but now the right sleeve of his windbreaker was snagged on the floor lever that allowed the driver’s seat to move forward and back. He got up on one knee for a second and jerked on the sleeve in panic, hoping to tear the snag away—but then the car door began to close on him, leaving him half in and half out of the vehicle. He gave a wild look up and saw the car door had hit the garage door frame, an inch away from the vehicle, and the door was being forced shut as the vehicle rolled forward into the driveway.

            The door pushed in on him and he remembered how Daria had gotten into his car and closed the door and been damned.

            And now it was his turn.

            He began to scream, but only the start of the scream made it out before he couldn’t scream at all.

            The car came to rest after traveling a few more feet, when one of Tom’s shoes snagged a nail in the doorway of the garage and pulled the vehicle to a stop. The driver’s door was now an inch away from closing, stopped by an obstruction in its way. The finish of the Christine was as bright and perfect as before, not a scratch or mark anywhere, except for places around the driver’s door where Tom’s flattened body dripped a red darker and duller than the toreador exterior.

            A robin sang. A light breeze blew. The Christine sat in the brilliant sunlight and waited for its owner to return from her morning run with her best friend, so it could show off what it had caught.





Author’s Notes II: I confess I mixed this story with a February 2006 Iron Chef from Dr. Mike, asking for stories in which Tom Sloane dies. That was fun.

            Online pictures of the 1958 Plymouth Fury (in red) are at:






Original: 02/21/06, modified 06/03/06, 01/20/07