Uranium in the

Drinking Water




©2006 The Angst Guy (theangstguy@yahoo.com)

Daria and associated characters are ©2006 MTV Networks



Feedback (good, bad, indifferent, just want to bother me, whatever) is appreciated. Please write to: theangstguy@yahoo.com


Synopsis: There really was uranium in Highland’s water supply—and a new kind of Daria Morgendorffer is the result! Meet Daria the Faerie, the counterpart to Tinker-Jane of “Jane Unchained,” in this delayed response to an Iron Chef fantasy challenge.


Author’s Notes: Prince Charon posted an Iron Chef challenge in September 2005 asking for stories using ideas from a list of fantasy clichés posted online (by Amethyst Angel) at:




I read down the list and noticed the following under “Overused Characterizations.”



Fantasy Cliché #29: Fairies (the 6 inch tall kind) are usually:

—scantily dressed and female
—cute beyond all reason,
—extremely hot-tempered
—jealously attracted to the Hero. (The fact that he’s 300 times bigger than she is and that the two of them have no hope of engaging in normal intimate relations does not appear to shake her resolve to love him one bit.)



In the first episode of Daria, Daria is told by her mother not to judge people so quickly. “You’re in a brand-new school in a brand-new town. You don’t want it to be Highland all over again.” Daria replies, “Not much chance of that happening, unless there’s uranium in the drinking water here, too.”


And then I remembered a marvelous work of fan art by Katie Cook from the year 2000, of Daria as a faerie being. The art appears on Katie Cook’s page in Fanart, on the Glitter Berries website (http://www.glitterberries.com/); it’s the top-center picture of that page.


That was all I needed. This story originally appeared on PPMB and SFMB from late May to early June 2006.


Acknowledgements: I have to blame Angelboy for this, mainly, because he asked for a story about either Jane or Daria as a faerie (per “Jane Unchained”), and I liked the idea. Thanks go to Prince Charon for a great challenge, too, and to Angelboy and Scissors MacGillicutty for figuring out Daria’s speech patterns (see “Author’s Notes II” at end).










Part the First



(Jake Morgendorffer drives his navy-blue Lexus along a suburban street. His youngest daughter Quinn sits in the passenger seat beside him. We cannot see who is in the back seat.)


JAKE: Girls, I just want you to know your mother and I realize it’s not easy moving to a whole new town—especially for you, Daria, right?


DARIA: (voice coming from the back seat)

We moved? I wondered why my room looked strange

When I awoke. I thought perhaps a flashback

From that LSD responsible,

Or else in tortured nightmare I was lodged.


QUINN: (rolls her eyes, turns radio up) What-ever.


JAKE: (laughs uncomfortably, raises voice over radio music) Daria, I’m just saying you might not make friends as easily as, you know, some people. (turns radio down)



Thou speakest of my sister, Quinn? The fiery

Scarlet of her hair outshines the glowing

Mandrill’s rear, attracting suitors near

And far. She shall not lack for worshipers.


JAKE: Uh . . . say, what’s a mandrill?


QUINN: Daddy, just ignore her. (turns radio up again)


JAKE: Look, Daria— (turns radio off) The point is, the first day at a new school is bound to be difficult for anyone, even people of, um, uh, people who are, uh—


(We switch to a view of the rear seat of the car. Sitting in the middle of the seat is a tiny feminine figure with dragonfly wings, long auburn hair, and miniature glasses, almost hidden behind the huge seat belt buckled over her.)



Elfish? Sprite-ly? Of faerie semblance cast

When parents of the Highland water drank,

Contaminated by atomic waste

From leaky nuke plant? Speakest thou of moi?


(Irritated, Quinn turns on the radio again and cranks up the volume.)



(angrily shouts over music)

Think not that I am bitter o’er it! Nay,

Not I! No outcast I, Miss Tinkerbell!


JAKE: Wait a second! (turns off radio) Now, what was I saying? Oh, yeah.


(The car arrives at school and pulls up to the front entrance. Quinn immediately prepares to get out as tiny Daria struggles to undo the seat belt buckle.)


JAKE: (turns around in his seat to Daria) All I’m saying, kiddo, is don’t get upset if it takes the other kids a little while to warm up to you. Oh, let me get that. (reaches back and frees Daria from the seat belt) I mean, Quinn might have problems fitting in, too. Anything’s possible.


(Quinn exits the car and is immediately noticed by the other students.)


STACY: Hi! You’re cool. What’s your name?


QUINN: Quinn Morgendorffer.


SANDI: Cool name.


BOY: Will you go out with me?



She cries for rescue, sister mine, her yacht

Adrift in typhoon winds, beset by sharks—

Oh, treach’rous fate! But though the odds be stacked

Against us, her I’ll guide to safety’s shore.

(flies out of an open car window)


JAKE: Uh . . . whatever you said, I guess!


DARIA: (waving goodbye with grim look)

Farewell, my father, till the final bell

Has tolled and homeward then I fly, unless

For pest I am mistaken, sprayed or swatted

By my peers, or caught for science lab!


JAKE: That’s great, kiddo! (drives away)


(A morose Daria flies off over the heads of the crowd. Some students watch her in mild surprise as she passes, then shrug and carry on with their daily school routine. The rest ignore her.)


STACY: (looking after Daria) Oh, I saw her on TV! (turns to Quinn) You’re the girl who kept her sister in a Mason jar for a week!




SANDI: Tell me how you did it. I was thinking of trying that on my little brothers.





Part the Second



(In a Lawndale High School hallway, Ms. Li, the principal, is giving the new students a tour of the school.)


MS. LI: As you can see, our Lawndale High students take great pride in their school. That’s why you’ll each be taking a small psychological exam to spot any little clouds on the horizon as you sail the student seas of Lawndaaale H— (stops in mild surprise when she sees Daria hovering over the heads of the other students; mutters under her breath) Oh, boy. (normal volume) Moving right along, I’ll choose one of you at random to be the first one tested, and that’s Daria Morgendorffer. We’ll schedule exams for the rest of you later during your lunch periods.


(Daria frowns and crosses her arms; Quinn smiles.)


MS. LI: (to Quinn) Excuse me, didn’t I see you on 60 Minutes? Something about a Mason jar . . .


(Later, in the school psychologist’s office, Ms. Manson is seated at a table. Daria sits alone on a dictionary on the other side of the table, in a bad mood.)


MS. MANSON: Now, Dharma, what do you see here? (holds up a picture of two people, a man and a woman in silhouette)



Within that image, running free across

The plains, a herd of ponies, wild as thy

Imagination when it comes to my

First name, which by the way is Dar-i-a.


MS. MANSON: Uh . . . Daria. All right. (looks at picture) There aren’t any ponies here, Daria, so try again.



When last I took an inkblot test, the shrink

Said clouds those coffee stains might be, or else

What e’er I wish, so if I say that ponies

Run, they run, and none gainsay my word!


MS. MANSON: (irked but patient) This isn’t an inkblot test, dear. In this test, the figures are people, and you have to tell me what they’re talking about or doing.



Lo, comes the dawn! The error of my ways

Is clear. Then hark, for there within the art

Thou holdest . . . O! The couple sees the ponies

Wild stampede their way—and trampled are!


(Ms. Manson scowls and lowers the picture. Daria gives her a triumphant smirk.)


MS. MANSON: You have issues.



As might a fellow student interject

At thy self-evident remark—well, duh!


(bell rings)





Part the Third



(Daria sits on her desktop in the front row of Mr. DeMartino’s American History class. Several nearby students eye her in curiosity.)


MR. DEMARTINO: Class, a new STUDENT is joining us today. Please welcome Daria Morgendorffer. (most students look around in confusion) She’s on top of the desk THERE. (points at her)


NUMEROUS STUDENTS: (upon seeing Daria) Oh! There she is! Weird!


MR. DEMARTINO: (under his breath) Not my day to climb back on the WAGON. (normal voice) Daria, as long as you have our undivided ATTENTION— (evil chuckle) Last week, this class began a unit on westward expansion. Perhaps you feel it’s UNFAIR to be asked a question on your first day of class, but here it IS: Can you concisely and unemotionally sum up for us the doctrine of Manifest DESTINY?


DARIA: (clears throat)

Jacksonians all thought it plain that westward

Must Caucasians go, that God had willed

Our bound’ries touch Pacific shores without

Consulting Indians, Hispanics, or

Canucks who blocked the way. Thus was the War

With Mexico excused, and Texas gained,

The stage set for the Civil War, and guns

And railroads flung from sea to shining sea.


MR. DEMARTINO: (surprised) Very GOOD, Daria—theatric, yes, and bordering on the sarcastic, but it had a BEAT! All right, who can tell me which President oversaw the War with MEXICO that Miss Morgendorffer mentioned? Kevin, how about YOU?


KEVIN: (points at Daria) Hey! I saw you on television! Aren’t you the chick who married Bigfoot?


MR. DEMARTINO: Stick to the topic, Kevin! Pretend it’s a football, like the air-filled sac I suspect occupies your SKULL!


BRITTANY: That wasn’t Bigfoot, Kevvy! She married Elvis!


KEVIN: Oh, right! I remember! (to Daria) But wasn’t Bigfoot like your kid or something?


DARIA: (angrily shouts)

Accurséd show! Not married I to elves,

Nor pregnant by a sasquatch, ghost, or Elvis

Clone, not dating Loch Ness beast—and not

Of Sick, Sad World’s prevarications speak!


BRITTANY: No, I’m sure I heard about the Elvis thing on Oprah.


MR. DEMARTINO: That’s ENOUGH! Miss Morgendorffer is NOT the TOPIC! Either someone tells me the name of the President when the War with Mexico was fought, or EVERYONE gets a pop quiz immediately, plus triple homework TONIGHT!


NUMEROUS STUDENTS: (collective gasp) Oh, no! Please! No!


JODIE: (energetically waving her hand in the air) James K. Polk! It was James K. Polk!


MR. DEMARTINO: (calming down) Thank you, Miss Landon. Once again, your classmates are in your debt. And Miss Morgendorffer—while I realize this will be challenging for you, given the intellectual level of most of your peers, please refrain from emotional outbursts in the classroom. That’s MY job!


(Daria is still angry but nods agreement, lowering her head from embarrassment. In the back of the classroom, a black-haired girl with blue eyes and a red jacket looks at Daria with a sad expression.)





Part the Fourth



(The Morgendorffers are having dinner around the table in their new kitchen. Daria is in her usual spot, but she’s sitting on a tiny chair at a dollhouse table, placed where a plate would normally go on top of the family table. Wings drooping, Daria picks at her tiny piece of lasagna and looks unhappy.)


QUINN: And then they asked me to join the pep squad, the French Club, the debate team, and the Young Optimists Society of Lawndale. They said I didn’t have to try out for anything because they’d all seen me on TV before, but I said, “Look, I’m new here. Give me a chance to get used to things.” So, for now, I’m vice president of the Fashion Club and the French Club, and I’ll have my own section in the next yearbook.


JAKE: Wow! But, isn’t that a lot of responsibility?


QUINN: Oh, no. I’ve got three assistants to do all the hard stuff, like writing and math and carrying my books and getting me drinks—Jeffy, Joey, and someone else, I forget who.


HELEN: I’m so proud of you! We never know how much we can handle till we try!


QUINN: Thanks! (turns to father) Can I have a raise in my allowance?


JAKE: Sure thing! (turns to Daria) What about you, kiddo? How was your first day?


DARIA: (glares at her food, speaks with increasing strength and anger)

Pariah, outcast, Quasimodo scorned

And mocked, forsaken heir to atom’s curse,

Baroque mutation hounded near and far

By japing mobs and tabloids—ever damned!


(Jake and Helen stare at Daria for a moment with blank expressions, then both look at Quinn.)


QUINN: (points her fork at Daria) She said it’s like being back in Highland.


JAKE: (to Daria) That’s great, kiddo!


HELEN: No, Jake! (to Daria) Sweetie, don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s only your first day here.


DARIA: (black mood)

In Lawndale’s doubtful favor, I’ll admit

No lack-brained miscreants have sought me out

For pick-up games of frog baseball—unknowing

Me the substitute amphibian.


QUINN: Hey! Can we not talk about that during dinner?


HELEN: Quinn, please. (to Daria) Now, dear, that whole ugly incident is behind us, and those two dreadful boys won’t be out of boot camp until they’re eighteen. You shouldn’t judge people in Lawndale as if you were still in Highland. Let everyone here get the chance to know you for the special and intriguing young lady you are.



Thy prescience amazes me. ‘Twas in

That vein that I was offered money by

The quarterback, to doff my rags and prove

My figure anatomic’ly correct.


HELEN: (frowns, trying to follow this) Wait, you’re saying that—


(The phone rings at this moment. Distracted, Helen gets up to answer it.)


QUINN: Gawd, I hope that’s not the Babysitters’ Club again. I should never have told them about the Mason jar.


(Daria looks up and gives her sister a lethal glare.)


HELEN: (to phone) Hello? Yes. Uh, yes, she’s my daughter. No, I’m not kidding. Yes, I could hardly believe it, too! You should have heard what I said when the doctors told me. They said it was something in the water. Mmm-hmm. No, I switched to bottled water before Quinn was born, cleared everything right up. Yes, she is beautiful, isn’t she! Oh, yes, she’s perfectly norm— (Helen notices Daria glaring at her.) Oh, uh, listen, was there some reason you called? Oh. Oh. I see. Okay, will this require any parent-teacher conferences, or can you send me an e-mail about her once a week to keep me updated? Okay, great. Thanks. Bye! (hangs up) You girls took a psychological test at school today?


QUINN: Daria did. Mine was postponed until next year.


HELEN: (to Daria) Dear, they want you to take a special class for a few weeks, then they’ll test you again.


QUINN: (to Daria) You flunked a test?


HELEN: She didn’t flunk anything, Quinn. The principal said she has low self-esteem.


QUINN: (under her breath) Well, duh.


JAKE: What? That really stinks, Daria! What did you do wrong now?


HELEN: Jake! (to Daria) We tell you over and over and over again that you’re wonderful, but you’re still having problems understanding it. What part are you having trouble with, sweetie?


QUINN: “Wonderful” is kind of a big word for a little brain.


HELEN: Quinn, stop it.


DARIA: (with a narrow-eyed look at Quinn)

Low self-esteem is not my burden; torment

Not thy souls for my sake. Rather, I

Have low—


(The phone rings once more. Helen again gets up to answer it. Interrupted, Daria hesitates—then subsides and looks at her plate again.)


HELEN: Morgendorffers. Oh, hi, Eric! No, nothing, just having dinner with the family. Do I have a few minutes? Well, I guess. . . . (Helen leaves the kitchen, phone in hand.)


JAKE: (checks watch) Hey, gotta turn on the tube! Big game tonight! See you girls at halftime! (Jake leaves the kitchen.)


(Silence reigns. Daria still stares at her food. Quinn finishes her milk and looks at Daria with mild interest.)


QUINN: Were you saying something, or what?


(Daria makes a face at her plate and shakes her head, but won’t look up.)


QUINN: Whatever. (pushes back her chair and stands) I’m going over to Sandi’s for a while, then we’re going by the mall later. Tell Mom I’ll be back by nine. No, make it ten—we might meet some boys at the food court.


DARIA: (looks up at last with a hopeful expression)

Dear sister . . . might thou passest by a bookstore

While thou makest merry with thy friend?


QUINN: (gives Daria a pained look) Gawd, Daria, you can’t expect me to go out and buy books for you all the time! Someone might see me in a bookstore, and—eww! (shivers) Can’t you just sneak one of Dad’s credit cards and order stuff on Mom’s PDA like you usually do? (turns to leave)



O hold! (sees Quinn stop and look back) My subterfuge is known, alas;

Well hid the credit cards and PDA.

Perchance, if happy fate allows, a tome

Of Angelou, Bukowski, Frost, or e’en


QUINN: Daria, look—


DARIA: (swallowing her pride)

Rememb’rest thou our game? Wouldst thou enjoy

Tonight a willing doll . . . for makeovers?


QUINN: (after a surprised pause) You’re kidding me.


(Daria shakes her head no.)


QUINN: You must be really desperate for a new book.


(Daria lowers her head and nods yes.)


QUINN: (groans) Oh, all right, fine. What book did you want? Never mind, I know what you want: one paperback full of poetry, not heavy enough to mash you, easy-to-turn pages, tiny packed type. (points at Daria) Makeover with my old Barbie fashion set tonight at ten-thirty sharp, or I’ll never get a book for you again.


(Daria nods rapid agreement.)


QUINN: I wish Mom would get you your own Internet account and a palmtop. This is so embarrassing. Me in a bookstore, gawd. . . . (leaves the kitchen)


(The sound of a TV football game drifts in from the family room. Daria sits down again at her place at the tiny table on the family table, looks at her plate, pushes it away, and sighs, staring sadly into space.)





Part the Fifth



(It is mid-afternoon the following day, at the start of another cycle in Mr. O’Neill’s after-school self-esteem class. Mr. O’Neill sits backward on a chair at the front of the classroom, facing seven or eight students in various attitudes of interest or boredom. Daria, tense and irritable, is perched on the back of a seat. She bears traces of lipstick, eye shadow, and rouge on her face, and her nails have been painted. Behind her, quietly sketching her image on a piece of notepaper, is a teenager with black bangs, blue eyes, dark clothing, and a red jacket—the girl from Mr. DeMartino’s class.)


MR. O’NEILL: Esteem . . . a teen. They don’t really rhyme, do they? The sounds don’t quite mesh. And that, in fact, is often the case when it comes to a teen and esteem. The two just don’t seem to go together, but we are here to begin realizing your actuality, and when we do, each and every one of you will be able to stand proudly and proclaim, “I am.” Now, before we


DARIA: (loud and sharp)

Thy pardon, sir, but clear as static be

The outline of our goals. Mayhap thou wouldst

Elaborate in phrases more like English,

Less like New Age psychobabbly tripe.


(Everyone looks at Daria in surprise, particularly the teacher.)


MR. O’NEILL: What?


DARIA: (equally loud and sharp)

To “realize my actuality” —

Pray, what unholy guru birthed that phrase?

What misbegotten wretch did curse our ears

And damn our brains with such pretentious raff?


MR. O’NEILL: (shocked) Why . . . why you . . .


(Everyone in class holds their breath, waiting for the expected explosion.)


MR. O’NEILL: . . . you’re speaking in blank verse! How marvelous!


(Daria starts to snap off a retort, but stops with a confused look.)


MR. O’NEILL: Unrhymed iambic pentameter, every phrase and sentence! That’s wonderful! The rhythm is quite good—a bit rough in places, but a superb effort! You have money in your self-esteem bank already, Darien!


DARIA: (volcanic yell)

It’s Daria, thou artless hedge-born lout!


MR. O’NEILL: (delighted) Shakespearean invective! Incredible! Perfect! (stands and applauds) Bravo, Miss Mortengarden! You’ll be a natural when we read A Midsummer Night’s Dream in our literature class next spring! Congratulations!


(Stunned, Daria stares back with open mouth—then her shoulders slump, her head droops, and her eyes squeeze shut as she rubs her forehead.)


MR. O’NEILL: (excited) I’d like to talk with you later about the possibility of having you in our school play, Darien, but we’ll have plenty of time for that! Let me finish the introduction, and then we’ll play a video. Now, um, where was I . . . oh! (to entire class) As I was saying, before we unlock your potential, we must first—


(As Mr. O’Neill carries on, the girl behind Daria leans forward and speaks to the diminutive faerie creature.)


JANE: (whispers) You cannot win a duel of wits with the witless. They’re immune to it. Save your breath.


DARIA: (looks wearily back at Jane)

If silence be my watchword, what recourse

Have I to penetrate this labyrinth

Of catchwords spouted willy-nilly? Dare

I hope for seeds of wisdom in such chaff?


JANE: (whispers) I doubt it. He’s memorized the speech, but he doesn’t know what it means. His English classes are like this, too. I don’t think his condition is curable.


DARIA: (depressed)

Then all is darkness? Nothing sane survives?


JANE: (whispers) Do you like pizza?


DARIA: (not so depressed)

Do bears in woodlands wild relieve themselves?


JANE: We have some pepperoni pizza at my house that you’re welcome to, as long as you don’t mind that it’s left over from my brother and his friends.


(Daria’s face brightens; her dragonfly wings lift and begin to buzz in rapid motion.)


JANE: I’ll take that as a yes. Just don’t eat anything else out of our refrigerator unless I okay it first. We don’t have a stomach pump. Not one that would fit you, anyway.





Part the Sixth



(Later: Jane walks home from school with Daria flitting along beside her. As they talk, Daria stays near Jane’s face, on one side or the other, wings whirring away.)



. . . and that is how to Lawndale’s green and pleasant

Malls we came, and left fair Highland, Texas,

To the schmoes and armadillo herds.

I fear the move did not improvement make.


JANE: I’m going to admit something to you that you’re probably not going to like.


DARIA: (sighs)

A perfect end to perfect day. Say on.


JANE: I’ve seen you on Sick, Sad World, every time they’ve featured you.


DARIA: (nods, expecting this)

I’ll not escape my legend, though I try.


JANE: I must say, you look taller in real life.



Thou thinkest so? Must be the ballet shoes.


JANE: Look, for whatever it’s worth, I’m not going to sell any stories about you back to the show, no matter how much money they offer me. I wouldn’t do it for a billion dollars. But if they offer me a date with a male porn star, no strings attached, you’re history.



Agreeable, though Sick, Sad World will not

Another show about me air—my mom

A court injunction gained, and even reruns

Of my episodes are banned fore’er.


JANE: I was wondering why they stopped showing them. (shrugs) Guess I’ll have to find some other way to meet male porn stars.


DARIA: (hesitant)

I cannot stand that show, so if thou wouldst

Still see it, pray hold off until I leave.


JANE: Don’t worry, I quit watching it weeks ago. Sick, Sad World went downhill without you.


DARIA: (relieved)

Alas. (pause) Another show is coming: Poor

Pathetic Planet. Should we check it out?


JANE: Definitely. I heard it premiers in October. Speaking of pathetic, we’re going to talk about body image with Ms. Barch, the science teacher, in the next self-esteem class.



The one whom all the football players fear?


JANE: The same. If you mention anything having to do with castration, she’ll give you and all the other girls in class an A, with no self-esteem homework. Works every time, if you can stand the ranting.



How didst thou gain such knowledge, yet six times

Didst fail to pass the test and leave the course?


JANE: I could pass it, but I like having low self-esteem. It makes me feel special.



Thou liest like a rug beneath a dog.


JANE: Oh, all right. I’ve got nothing else to do in the afternoons except sleep or draw.



We could hang out and share our misery.


JANE: We could. There’s a restaurant called Pizza Place two blocks from the school. We could stop there on the way home next time and be miserable together.



So long as pizza is our bond, agreed.


JANE: I was meaning to ask you one other thing. How is it you can go through school without carrying or using any books?


DARIA: (produces a tiny dark square from the pouch at her side and waves it)

The state’s required to meet my special needs

By law, so all my books are microfilmed.


JANE: And homework?


DARIA: (puts away microfilm)

We’ve yet to work that out. I hope to get

A palmtop, if my parents will relent.


JANE: Why haven’t they gotten you one before now? (sees Daria roll her eyes and sigh) Or did they?


DARIA: (coughs)

Too fond I was of online chat rooms, bookstores,

Message boards, and hacking Sick, Sad World.


JANE: You’re a twisted little pretzel, aren’t ya? That’s my home on the right. Ignore the thing in the front yard that looks like a dead tree. It’s art. Mom made it out of scrap metal.



And what’s that work supposed to represent?


JANE: A dead tree. Let’s get some pizza and see if Trent’s awake.





Part the Seventh



(Jane pulls a house key out of her red jacket and reaches for the handle on the front door of her home—but finds the door is unlocked and ajar. Daria hovers just behind her, about eye level with Jane.)


JANE: Hmmm. Trent was supposed to keep the door locked in case . . . (pushes open door and walks inside into the living room; a staircase is on her left) Trent? Hey, Trent! (goes into another room)


DARIA: (buzzing in slowly after, talking to self)

May all be well, I pray, in my friend’s world. . . .


JANE: (from another room) Trent! You were supposed to lock the front door in case the bank came by to foreclose!


DARIA: (despondent)

And once again, no Higher Power heard.


JANE: (walks back into the living room, looks up the staircase) He might be upstairs asleep. Could you go up and see if he’s there? I need to get everything down here locked up. My parents are in Africa somewhere—I think it’s Africa—and they forgot to leave the mortgage payments again. The bank’s a little irate about it, so we have to lock up the house and pretend we’re not home in case they come by.


DARIA: (low voice)

If they come by, they might foreclose, and then—?


JANE: We’ll lose the house and be thrown into the street.


(Daria’s eyes grow large with shock.)


JANE: Hey, don’t worry, we’ll be fine. The worst that could happen is that Trent and I will be homeless and the county’s child protective services will put me in a foster care until I’m eighteen, but that’s only a year and a half. And the worst that could happen then is that—


DARIA: (unnerved)

Enough, enough! Thy brother I will seek!


(Daria flies off, heading upstairs. Jane watches her go, shakes her head, then closes the front door and locks it. She looks out a window, sees no one coming, and is heading for another room when she hears a startled shout upstairs, followed by a crash like furniture being knocked over. A moment later, Daria zips back downstairs at high speed. She is turning bright red in embarrassment, both hands clasped over her mouth, and hovers in the air near the front door, her back to Jane.)


JANE: (looking Daria over) Wow. Is that a rash?


(Mortified, Daria looks back upstairs.)


TRENT: (upstairs, out of sight) Hey, Janey!


(Daria gasps in horror and flies behind the sofa.)


JANE: (puzzled, she watches Daria hide, then calls back) What?


TRENT: (walks to the top of the stairs, dripping wet, holding a large bath towel wrapped around his waist) I think there’s a bird in the house.


JANE: (looks at Trent, then at the sofa, then again at Trent—with a growing smile) A bird?


TRENT: (looks around) Yeah. It flew in my room right after I got out of the shower.


JANE: (looks at sofa with big smile) It did?


TRENT: Yeah. (pause) I think it was like a hummingbird. (pause, uncertain) With glasses.


JANE: Hummingbirds don’t wear glasses, Trent.


TRENT: Uh . . . right. (pause) Yeah. (pause) Forget it.


JANE: (huge grin) Okay.


TRENT: (looks around, confused) I’ll get dressed. (starts to leave) Sure looked like it had glasses. (out of sight) Kinda cute, though.


(Jane saunters over to the sofa, grinning like the Cheshire Cat.)


JANE: You can come out now, little hummingbird. He’s gone.


DARIA: (behind the sofa)

If merciful thou wert, my death thou wouldst

Effect without delay to end my shame.


JANE: Oh, where’s the fun in that? Come on out.


(A miserable Daria slowly flies out. She is bright scarlet from head to toe.)


JANE: That’s better. Hey, you look good in red.



I swear, I thought him fully dressed, so in

The bedroom did I spy, and there saw—Aiee!


JANE: (smirking) Yeah, those tattoos go all the way down. Or so I’ve heard.


DARIA: (hides her face)

Perhaps I’d best be winging homeward, ‘fore

Humiliation drags me to my grave.


JANE: Nah, you haven’t had any pizza yet. Oh! And I need to lock the kitchen door, too. Stick around, okay? I’ll be right back.


(Jane leaves the living room. Daria looks after her, then looks at the staircase and groans.)


DARIA: (softly)

So like a godling, tall and dark and, oh,

So handsome, so magnificent, so . . . bare!

I dare not stay! I’ll perish if he sees

And knows it was no hummingbird who gazed

Upon his unclothed form—and felt the sting

As Cupid’s arrow pierced her trembling heart!


(Daria quickly flies to the front door, unlocks it, and pulls it ajar with all of her tiny might. She flits out through the narrow opening—and almost flies straight into the faces of two men in pinstriped business suits who were about to knock at the door. Daria gasps in horror, hands once again over her mouth as she hovers in midair.)


(The two men stare at her, dumbfounded. They’re built like human bulldozers and stand about six-foot-six. One has a broken nose and a five-o’clock shadow; the other has a scar down his left cheek and is chewing on a toothpick.)


FIRST MAN: (with a New Jersey accent, points a finger at Daria) Hey! Didn’ I see you on Oprah?


SECOND MAN: Yeah, you’re married to Elvis, right? How’s he doin’?


DARIA: (panicked)

Oh, gods! What have I done? What have I done?


FIRST MAN: Well, you went an’ proved somebody’s home, for starters. Look, I’d love to talk with you about life with the King an’ all that, but we’re here on business. Is Vincent and Amanda Lane around? We’re with the First Lawndale National Bank—


SECOND MAN: I’m Eddie. (points thumb at partner) He’s Bruno.


FIRST MAN: Yeah, and it’s real important we see the owners as soon as possible.


SECOND MAN: (grins unpleasantly) The former owners.


FIRST MAN: We’re gettin’ to that. (to Daria) Just tell the Lanes we need to see ‘em, all of them, right now. They ain’t got no time to pack or nothin’. Just tell ‘em to hurry up and get out here, pronto. We’ll wait, but we ain’t got long.


(Daria looks over the two men, her panic fading. She looks back at the open front door, then turns to face the men and draws herself up in sudden resolve.)



(to herself) My only friend and my true love shall not

Such evil fear! (loudly, to the two men) Begone! Thou shalt not pass!


FIRST MAN: (surprised, then laughs briefly) Uh-huh. Cute. I like that. Kinda like Shakespeare or somethin’. (humor vanishes) Now, wake ‘em out and get ‘em out.


SECOND MAN: (flexing huge muscles) Or we will.


FIRST MAN: We’d like to avoid that. Eddie here’s still on parole.


DARIA: (cold, venomous tone)

Tempt not my unforgiving wrath. Thy mouths

Are writing checks not e’en thy bank can cash.


SECOND MAN: (balls up fists, takes a step toward her) Are you threatening us, squirt?


FIRST MAN: (grasps companion by the arm) Hold it, Eddie. Look, kid, we ain’t got all day to listen to you get butch on us. Outta respect for the King, I won’t smash you this time, so beat it. We got work to do. (attempts to brush Daria aside)


(Daria dodges the blow and flies back to block the doorway.)


DARIA: (darkly)

My secret shall thee learn, to thy ill luck.


(Daria’s wings buzz at hyper-speed as she hovers. She stretches out her arms and legs to form an X-shape, fingers extended, then closes her eyes and begins speaking softly and slowly, building in volume and intensity until her eyes open and she shouts the last few words. An unnatural silence falls as she continues, until not even the wind is moving.)








































(The two thugs stare at her.)


FIRST MAN: (claps hands several times) Impressive.


SECOND MAN: Yeah. I like poetry.


FIRST MAN: Me, too. Here’s my poem. (pulls a pistol from inside his suit coat, calmly aims it at Daria’s face) This is a gun, it’s time to r—


(Out of nowhere, a flying squirrel lands on the thug’s gun hand and bites him. He yelps and drops the weapon, shaking his hand to dislodge the screeching rodent—but more flying squirrels smack down on him and his partner, digging their claws into their victim’s scalps, suits, and faces. The men dance around in pain, hollering as they try to fight back, then hear a shrieking riot approach and see a horde of gray squirrels descending from trees and leaping from rooftops. Chipmunks jump onto their pants legs from hidden burrows in the ground. Attacked on every side, the two men scream and bat their arms in a futile effort to chase the rodents away, then flee to a car parked on the street. There, however, they encounter several dozen large groundhogs that attack and drive the men westward to the end of the street and into the woods beyond—accompanied by uncountable numbers of angry chipmunks, gray squirrels, and flying squirrels.)


DARIA: (sighing, watching them go)

If Dad finds out that I’m the Faerie Queen

Of Squirrels, there’ll be hell to pay indeed.


(A large obese marmot waddles by, puffing and panting, heading in the direction all the other creatures went. Daria waves it goodbye, then flies back inside the house.)


(On the other side of the door is Jane, apparently looking for Daria.)


JANE: Uh . . . oh! There you are! Glad you could stay for pizza after all. It’s warming in the toaster oven. Want some?


DARIA: (relieved)

A little pizza wouldn’t hurt. My thanks!


JANE: Don’t mention it, amiga. By the way, Trent will be joining us.


DARIA: (choking up)



JANE: Not to worry. He’s got his clothes on, mostly. You can sit on his shoulder if you want.


(Daria turns red all over. Smirking, Jane motions her to follow, and they head for the kitchen.)





Part the Last



(A few days later, we look in on the Morgendorffer family members as they have dinner together on Friday night. Everyone is present, including Daria at her tiny table and chair, with the addition of Jane Lane, sitting between Daria and her mother. Daria displays the aftereffects of another makeover session with her sister’s Barbie set (painted nails and toes, eye shadow, rouge, etc.). Helen Morgendorffer is pacing around the kitchen, the portable phone pressed to her ear, while everyone else is eating beef lasagna and various vegetable dishes. Jake is reading the morning newspaper, the Lawndale Sun-Herald, oblivious to all.)


HELEN: (slightly frazzled, to phone) No, Rita, there’s been no word in the news here about him. . . . Yes, I can imagine how upset you must be that your boyfriend ran off like that without calling you first, but you said yourself that he had a shady history, so . . . No, I haven’t the faintest idea where Bruno might be. . . . Rita, I am not, repeat not, covering up for him. He’s not in a witness protection program, so far as I know. . . . No, I am not going to check every prison on the east coast just to . . . Rita . . . Rita, I have to go. Jake’s choking on something. I have to go now! I’m not lying, Rita! He’s choking, damn it! Goodbye! (hangs up, puts the portable phone down, takes her seat at the table) I swear, the things I put up with from that sister of mine.


DARIA: (with a glance at Quinn)

The feeling’s not unknown to me as well.


QUINN: (without looking up from her meal) I was thinking the very same thing.


HELEN: Girls, please. Jane’s on her first sleepover here and we don’t want her to think you two do nothing but argue.



We also eat and sleep, and sometimes—


HELEN: Daria! Now, Quinn, how was your day at school?


QUINN: (glares at Daria) Great, until Mosquito Brain over there gave a speech during assembly and told everyone I pick my nose!


HELEN: What?


DARIA: (nonchalant)

We graduated self-esteem class three

Weeks early, and were forced to speak about

The hardships we had faced, and doing so

I thought of Quinn, who triumphed over—


QUINN: (outraged) I never picked my nose!


HELEN: (to Quinn) Not since you were six, no. (to Daria) Dear, while I’m proud that you and Jane graduated from your self-esteem class so early, it’s best not to use your sister when you give personal examples, especially if they’re negative. That would be like me talking about Rita, though I can hardly imagine how I could make her sound any more spoiled and self-obsessed than she already . . . um, anyway, why did you even mention Quinn to begin with?



My sister is my mentor, benefactor,

Shining star, my inspiration bright.

If Quinn can keep herself from mucous mining,

I can conquer lowered self-esteem.


QUINN: (gives Daria a glare that could maim a grizzly, then whispers) Remember the Mason jar?


HELEN: Girls, please be nice! See how your father and I are—


JAKE: (shakes newspaper) Gah damn it! The city voted down a proposal to use dynamite against groundhog dens! They’re not hogs, they’re giant rats with fur coats! And you can’t use automatic shotguns to defend yourself against gray squirrels, either! (wads up newspaper and throws it on the floor) It’s a dictatorship, I tell you! Down with The Man!


HELEN: (wearily) Jake, you’re going to pop another blood vessel in your eye.



And me without a handy camera—

Not even one that I can operate.


JAKE: It’s just not fair, Helen! I work hard all day, then come home to overturned trash cans and nut shells on the driveway and—


(The portable phone rings.)


HELEN: (picks up phone immediately, thumbs it on) Morgendorffers. Oh, Eric, yes. I left the report on your . . . oh. They did? Can’t I do it tomorrow? Well, all right, since you put it that way. Be there in fifteen minutes. (thumbs phone off) I can’t believe those people won’t settle! How many limbs does a narcoleptic chainsaw operator have to lose before—


QUINN: (grossed out) Muuuh-OOOM!


HELEN: Oh, sorry! (stands up, gets car keys from kitchen counter) You girls behave while I’m gone. I won’t be more than twenty minutes—unless we have a conference call, in which case midnight at the latest. Bye, dear! (kisses Jake on the way out to the garage)


JAKE: (calls after Helen) Don’t worry about us! Ole Jakey’s gonna have those bushy-tailed predators on the run in no time! (turns to girls) I bought two dozen stink bombs from a fireworks store on my way home tonight!


JANE: (to Daria) Help me out. Is this good or bad?


DARIA: (to Jane)

Dial nine one one the moment he’s outside.


JAKE: Any of you girls want to see how a real man handles a squirrel problem?


QUINN: (gets up from table) Sorry, I was due over at Sandi’s for an emergency fashion-club meeting in ten minutes, but that was fifteen minutes ago, so I’m late. Bye! (leaves kitchen through sliding glass door and is gone)


JAKE: (to Daria) How about you, kiddo? Want to see your dad drive those flea-ridden rodents back to the hills?



I cannot think of anything I’d rather

Do than brave the heady stink-bomb fumes,

Though asthma might seize both my lungs, and to

Intensive care or worse then carry me.


JAKE: Oh! Well, you two stay safely inside, and I’ll send those weasels running! (gets up from table, heads for garage) If you hear anything screaming, just ignore it! It’ll be those damn squirrels, begging for their lives! (goes into garage and shuts the door)


JANE: (turns to Daria) Aren’t you the least bit concerned about this?



He did this back in Highland after tripping

On a gopher hole. The neighbors will

Complain and make him stop, though we had best

Not leave the house until the air has cleared.


JANE: I mean, since you’re the Faerie Queen of Squirrels and all, aren’t you worried about your subjects?


DARIA: (startled)

My deepest secret! Tell me how thou know’st!


JANE: I was peeking out the front door when you drove off those two thugs. And, in case I didn’t say it earlier, thank you. I owe you everything, but I’ll have to pay you back in installments until I win the lottery. For starters, I’ll buy your poetry books from now on, so you won’t have to get those sisterly makeovers you’ve been complaining about.


DARIA: (recovering)

Twas nothing. Well, perhaps not nothing, but—


JANE: Shhh. You speakest way too much. (kisses her fingertip, then touches the fingertip to Daria’s cheek) That’s from Trent and me, both.


DARIA: (gasps and blushes)

From Trent? Thou mean’st he knows my secret, too?


JANE: No. I just wanted to see you turn red again. So, you’re not worried about the squirrels getting gassed by your dad?



If things work out as did in Highland—


(Daria is interrupted by a loud whistle and bang from outside.)


JAKE: (outside in the backyard) DAMN IT, THAT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO— (loud gasps and coughing) GAAAH!!!





JAKE: (still outside) HELP!!! ANYONE!!! (coughing) MY EYES ARE WATERING SO MUCH I CAN’T SEE THROUGH THE SMOKE!!! OW!!! DAMN ROSEBUSH!!! (more coughing) OUCH!!!


JANE: Shouldn’t we do something?



We were instructed to ignore all screams,

And also to remain where it was safe.


JANE: Your logic has won me over. Shall we retire to the family room and watch the bad movie I brought over?


JAKE: (still outside) OW!!! (coughing) DAMN IT, WHO LEFT THE GRILL RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF—OW!!! (coughing)



What foul delight hast thou this evening brought?


JANE: (pulls a VHS tape from beneath her red overshirt) I have Boxing Helena.



My limbs are thine. The family room awaits.


(The girls walk—and fly—toward the family room, and we fade out to the sounds of Jake yelling and coughing in the backyard.)










Author’s Notes II: Events in this story parallel both those in “Esteemsters” and in Daria’s diary, from The Daria Diaries. Bruno was mentioned in “I Don’t.” Boxing Helena was the source for the name of the last Daria episode, “Boxing Daria,” and a reference to Quinn’s earlier use of the Mason jar.

            Because I believe faerie beings should speak in poetry, Daria’s speech patterns are in Shakespearean blank verse (using enjambment), with the use of “thee” and “thou” from the Early Modern English period, per these online references from Wikipedia:






She breaks out of blank verse only when casting her “summon squirrel” spell (mutant power, whatever). Scissors MacGillicutty challenged me to create iambic pentameter as short as Thomas Pynchon’s line from The Crying of Lot 49: “-T-T-T-T-T!” I used this as part of a somewhat longer line instead, since I am not on Pynchon’s level, alas.





Original: 06/08/06, modified 06/18/06, 09/19/06, 09/23/06