Helen

in

"A Mother in Spite of Herself"

by

Admonisher

 

Dedicated to my mother,

of course.

 

ACT I.

INT. A HOUSE -- NIGHT

(We open in a bedroom, close-up on the lumpish shape beneath the blanket. There is thunder from the storm outside, and the outline of the window is cast onto the bed by lightning. The lightning flashes again, and this time we see a silhouette fall over the bed.)

VOICE: Young lady! I want you up this instant!

(The muffled voice from beneath the sheets sounds very much like Quinn.)

GIRL: (plaintive) Mother, I just got to bed five minutes ago. And I've got a big day tomorrow.

VOICE: (harsh) Oh? Another "big day" with that Hartwell boy?

(The sheets become suddenly still.)

GIRL: (quiet) What?

VOICE: Don't play dumb with me! I know where you were tonight! That boy is bad news, I've told you a thousand times! But no! You never listen to your mother! What do I know?

(The girl beneath the covers whirls around, and we see that it is a young Helen in her late teens. The speaker is, of course, Mother Barksdale.)

HELEN: Mother, *what* are you talking about? I was out today -- I was studying with my debate group! There's talks tomorrow at school, about the war ...

MRS. BARKSDALE: I know very well where you say you were! Your sister, however, was concerned for your welfare. She did the right thing coming to me.

(Helen's POV, we see past Mother Barksdale's arm to the doorway of her bedroom. Her sister Rita is halfway in view, a smirk just barely visible on her face.)

HELEN: (outraged) She told you WHAT? The bitch! The lying bitch! I wasn't with him yesterday!

MRS. BARKSDALE: Helen Ann Barksdale! 1 Mind your tongue! (beat) So you were with him before yesterday, hmm? Well young lady, we'll just see what your father has to say about this!

(Furiously, Helen scrambles out of bed and pushes past her mother.)

MRS. BARKSDALE: (irate) Don't you DARE treat me in this manner! I am your MOTHER! You march right downstairs --

(Helen slams the door in her mother's face, leaving her inside the bedroom. She sees Rita at the foot of the stairs and flies at her.)

HELEN: YOU!

(Rita grins, and steps back. Up the stairs, Mother Barksdale is carrying on furiously. Helen is about to launch herself at Rita, when ...)

MR. BARKSDALE: (offscreen; from the living room) What's all that damn noise!

(Helen looks from the living room entrance, to up the stairs, and then at a smirking Rita. Tearing herself away, she flees to the outside door. It is raining outside, and she is almost immediately soaked. She splashes across the porch to the ground and dodges around to huddle beside it, hidden from view.)

VOICE: So ... how's the weather, sis?

(Helen looks up. A younger Amy is looking down on her from her higher, drier vantage point on the veranda. She's smirking.)

AMY: You four at it again?

HELEN: Leave me alone!

AMY: You know, if you stop competing with Rita she'll stop tormenting you.

HELEN: Oh what do you know? It wasn't even true!

AMY: You mean you weren't seeing Brent Hartwell?

HELEN: Yes! Of course I was! But not tonight!

AMY: So what does that matter?

HELEN: (sniffling) What's the matter? RITA is the matter! It's not even so bad that she spoils my dates or gets me in trouble with Mom or Dad. I can get her back for that! (quivering with anger and frustration) She could have told Mom it was last week. I still would have gotten in trouble. She would have had her fun. But no! She says "tonight" and Mom believes her! She always believes Rita over me! Always "momma's little girl!" "Nothing but the best for my *darling* little Rita! She knows it, and she lied to Mom just to lord it over me!

AMY: (tough-luck sympathy) Look, Helen. Let me give you some advice. Forget what Mom says. Forget what Mom thinks. It's not worth it.

HELEN: And let that ... that bitch win?

AMY: It's not a competition, Helen. Face it. Rita's the sycophant. Rita's the prettiest. Ergo, Mom likes Rita best. It's not fair, but we have to live with it.

(This is a rare show of empathy from Amy, and an equally rare opportunity for Helen to form a bond with her sister, but Helen misses it completely. Instead, she lashes out defensively.)

HELEN: (irate) Shut up! It's not true!

(We hear the door to the house swing open.)

MRS. BARKSDALE: (offscreen) Helen Barksdale! Get back in here! Amy! Where is your sister!

(Without turning, Amy glances down at Helen before speaking.)

HELEN: (whispering) Don't lie for me.

AMY: (complying with Helen's wishes) She's hiding. She thinks you're playing favorites.

MRS. BARKSDALE: (dismissive) Nonsense. (shouting) HELEN ANN BARKSDALE! Get back here right now and apologize to your sister!

(This is the last straw. Helen runs out into full view, rain streaming over her face and nightgown, as she makes her stand.)

HELEN: I won't apologize, Mother! I won't demean myself in front of that lying bitch! I don't care what you think! Do you hear? I DON'T CARE! You can HAVE Rita! I don't need you! I'll make something of myself without you! Just watch me do it, Mother! WATCH ME!!! I DON'T NEED YOU AND I'LL PROVE IT! DO YOU HEAR ME, MOTHER??? I'LL PROVE IT!!!!!

[CUT TO:]

INT. MORGENDORFFER RESIDENCE -- NIGHT

(Another bed, another shape, turning, muttering. Pan back to show it is Helen, tossing about in the depths of a strong nightmare. Jake is awake next to her, shaking her gently.)

HELEN: (muttering) ... prove it ... prove it ...

JAKE. (worried) Honey? Honey, wake up!

(Helen's eyes flit open.)

HELEN: (not sure she's awake) Wha ... Jake? Oh, Jake!

(Helen clutches Jake close, exhausted. Jake's predictable reaction is temporary discomfort. Still, ever the dutiful husband, he manages a comforting smile and pats her on the back.)

JAKE. There, there. It was only a bad dream, Honey. You just tell Jakey all about it. Was it the one where we're celebrities, and our lives get spread out all over the internet? Was that the one?

(Helen has regained her faculties by this point. With a sigh of disgust, she pushes away from Jake.)

JAKE. (confused) What? Was that the good dream?

HELEN: (sarcastic) Celebrities, Jake? Does that sound good?

(At this point, Jake, exercising his nonexistent ability to detect sarcasm, decides that Helen is "in the mood.")

JAKE. (craftily) Oh, I get it. In the mood for a little role-playing, eh? (his sexiest voice -- Lord preserve us) Here ... I'll be John Travolta, and you can be ... be ... (searching ... ah! There it is!) That doctor chick from "Star Trek. The Next Generation!" 2

HELEN: (he just doesn't get it) Oh, Jake. (beat) It was Mother. I was yelling at her again.

JAKE. (attempting empathy) Yeah, I know the feeling. Unable to confront your neglectful parent, your feelings of anger and abandonment are repressed and repressed (slipping into rant-mode) Until you see him in your dreams! Your dreams! Dreams are personal! Dreams are private! You hear that, old man? Private! And I'm not gonna take it any more!

HELEN: JAKE! Please!

(Jake calms down enough to sink from rant-mode into martyr-mode.)

JAKE. (overly-dramatic) It's too late for me, Helen! Yes, it's tooo late for poor little Jakey. (sudden insight; Jakeish 3 mood-swing) But hey! You shouldn't have that problem! You can call your mom! Give her what for! I'm right behind you, Honey!

HELEN: Jake, it's Two in the morning. Besides, I'm through arguing with her. She's not going to change at this point in her life.

JAKE. But ...

HELEN: And that goes for Rita too!

JAKE. (out of ideas) Oh.

(Helen sinks back into the pillow and closes her eyes.)

HELEN: Just go back to sleep, Jake.

(Hurt, Jake complies.)

***

INT. MORGENDORFFER KITCHEN -- EARLY MORNING

(Helen, in her robe (sheís up early, so she hasnít dressed for work yet,) enters the kitchen. To her surprise, Daria has beat her up, and is sitting at the table eating breakfast. Dawn is shining its first light into the room. Helen walks straight to the coffee-maker.)

HELEN: Good morning, Daria.

DARIA: (mouth full) Mmph.

(As she passes the table, she does a double-take. Daria is eating pizza.)

HELEN: (starting the coffee) Daria, is that leftover pizza?

DARIA: (swallowing) Pizza is a nutritious breakfast food. High in carbohydrates and protein. And a good caloric boost. 4

HELEN: Didnít you reheat it?

DARIA: Itís better cold. And itís a lot better for you than that coffee. Have a slice.

HELEN: (distaste) Umm ... No thanks, Daria.

(Daria shrugs and returns to her meal.)

DARIA: What are you doing up so early, anyway.

HELEN: Oh, I couldnít sleep. What about you, sweetie, arenít you up awfully early?

DARIA: I woke up with a great short story idea. But Iím too tired to write, and I donít want to fall back asleep and forget it. So I decided on an early breakfast.

HELEN: (interested) Thatís great, honey, what are you writing about?

DARIA: Since when are you interested in what I write?

HELEN: (taken aback) Daria, do I need to justify it? Iím your mother! Now come on, what is it?

DARIA: Well ... since you asked so nicely, itís a scathing portrayal of a young man whose hopes and dreams are destroyed by the crushing realization that he can never live up to his expectations in a world where hypocrisy is valued above merit.

HELEN: (disappointed) Oh, Daria. Thatís sounds so ... so depressing.

DARIA: It is. So is most fiction.

HELEN: Daria ...

DARIA: Donít worry. Iím not suicidal. This is just designed to get a rise out of Mr. OíNeill. I made the mistake of allowing some subtle optimism to creep into my latest essay, and heís been going on about how much my attitude has improved.

HELEN: (reluctant) That sounds like him. Just ... just be careful, Daria.

DARIA: (flat) Sure.

(Daria stands, closes the pizza box and exits, leaving Helen alone, looking depressed.)

***

EXT. LAWNDALE HIGH -- DAY

INT. MR. OíNEILLíS CLASS

(The Junior class is in their usual positions, wearing their usual expressions. Mr. OíNeill is standing at the chalkboard, upon which is written "Melville," "Ahab," "Starbuck," and "Typee.")

OíNEILL: Now before we finish today, who can give me some characteristics of Herman Melvilleís writing? Kevin?

KEVIN: Umm ... lots of big words?

OíNEILL: Yes, Kevin! Very good! Lots of big words. (optimistic) Brittany?

BRITTANY: Animals? Like that whale!

OíNEILL: (optimism fading) Um ... no, Brittany. Iím looking for writing characteristics. (scanning the faces) Daria? (of course)

DARIA: (sighs) Melville utilizes semicolons and extensive use of preposition to extend his sentence structure. He also phrases words with an ironic or comical meaning.

OíNEILL: Very good, Daria.

(The bell rings.)

OíNEILL: Donít forget, class! Up to page 400 of Moby Dick by Monday! (among assorted groans, he approaches Daria before she can leave.) Daria, I was wondering if youíd stay after class for a moment.

DARIA: (looking around; Jane has bailed out) I guess. Why?

OíNEILL: I want to talk to you about your writing.

DARIA: Look, Mr. OíNeill, weíve been through this before. Iím not going to sell out.

OíNEILL: (protesting) Thatís not it at all, Daria! I would never ask you to do that! Just the opposite! I want to encourage you to buy in.

DARIA: Excuse me?

OíNEILL: Daria, have you ever thought about your career after High School?

DARIA: (caught off-guard) Umm ... I suppose so.

OíNEILL: You want to be a writer, right?

DARIA: Itís come up.

OíNEILL: Excellent! Now have you thought about getting published?

(Dariaís unbalanced expression indicates she hasnít.)

OíNEILL: (continuing) Oh, I know youíve had a few ... (chuckles nervously) things printed in the school newspaper. But have you considered submitting an article to the town newspaper? Or one of our local magazines perhaps. Many publishing companies accept short story submissions.

DARIA: I ... I suppose Iíd never given it much thought.

OíNEILL: (encouraging) Think about it. Thereíll never be a better time to start trying! The sooner you break in to the field the better! Start climbing now -- get in at the ground floor!

DARIA: Youíre mixing metaphors.

OíNEILL: I ... oh. Yes. (chuckles) Well, just remember, Daria. Iím here to help.

DARIA: (deadpan) Thanks.

***

INT. HELENíS OFFICE

(Helen stands behind her desk, phone in one hand, pen in the other, a stack of documents occupying her attention. Marianne bustles back and forth. Her attention split three or four ways, it is difficult to tell who exactly Helen is speaking to at any given moment.)

HELEN: I donít care what his excuse is, I need that background information, and I need it by this afternoon ... would you excuse me for one second? -- Marianne! Coffee! Now! -- Now where were we? ... MmmHmm ... Absolutely not! You know Reinhardt, heíll string us up by our heels! Oh damn! What? No, not that, this document needs Ericís signature, and -- Eric!

(Helen has noticed that her boss, Eric Shrecter is standing next to her desk. Marianne rushes up to the desk with Helenís coffee. Assuming itís for him, Eric takes the cup and Marianne rushes off.)

HELEN: Frank, Iíll call you back. (closes cellphone; calling after Marianne) Marianne, that coffee! (to Eric) Eric, thank God youíre here. Can you sign these immediately?

ERIC: Iím taking you off the McDonel case.

HELEN: (startled) What?

ERIC: I have a bigger assignment for you. Youíre being put in charge of the Holmes case.

HELEN: But what about ...

ERIC: Horowitz will handle it. (steps forward seriously) Iím going to be frank, Helen. The Holmes case is high profile. As prosecuting attorney, this kind of case is a big step towards becoming a full partner. As a matter of fact, Mr. Holmes is a close personal friend of Rick Vitale. But Rick wonít represent him because the defense could make a solid case for personal bias. He specifically requested you. Youíve earned yourself quite a reputation these past few years, and we have every confidence in you.

(Helen is momentarily speechless. Abruptly, her ambitions of the past decade have become suddenly, tangibly real. Eric waits a few moments as he sips his coffee.)

ERIC: Well do you think you can handle it?

HELEN: (emphatically) Yes! (toned down slightly) Yes, Eric. Of course. Iíll get right on it.

ERIC: Excellent. Weíve got a meeting in an hour with Mr. and Mrs. Holmes in 3C.

(At this point, Marianne arrives with a fresh cup of coffee. Eric takes it, hands her his now-empty mug, and exits. Helen is galvanized into action, folding up the papers on her desk.)

HELEN: Marianne, get these materials to Horowitz fast, and get me all the information on the Holmes case. And coffee! Try to get it to me this time.

(Marianne offers a breathless apology, seizes the documents and is gone in a flash. Helen sinks into her desk chair, a smile forming.)

HELEN: (to herself) Perhaps itís not going to be such a bad day after all.

***

EXT. LAWNDALE HIGH -- LUNCH

(Jane and Daria are eating outside in the courtyard.)

JANE: So OíNeill finally said something that made sense. And I missed it?

DARIA: As much as I hate to admit it ... yes. I mean, he has a point. Getting published is a major first step. And itís not easy.?

VOICE: Hey. Whatís going on?

(Daria and Jane look up. Tom is standing next to them, his rusty Pinto visible a short ways off near the sidewalk.)

DARIA: (deadpan) Donít look now, but itís a stalker. (beat) Oh wait. Thatís just Tom. (emotionless) Hello, Tom. 5

TOM: Hello, Sunshine. Mind if I sit down?

(Jane courteously waits for Daria to respond.)

DARIA: (genuine) Sure. (He does so.)

JANE: So, cheri, what brings you to (Li voice) Llllawndale High!

TOM: I had some time. Honestly, I was just on my way home when I saw you two having lunch. (holds out his hand) And I happen to have Mars Bars. 6

DARIA: You have redeemed yourself. Damn.

TOM: Donít jump the gun there! Iím still intruding on your time with Jane.

DARIA: Thanks for reminding me.

JANE: We were just scheming. Weíre trying to figure out the best way to get Daria published.

DARIA: Itís not something Iíd given much thought until now. Realistically, anyway. I mean, I write for myself. Itís what I do. But I donít know if I can make a living off it. Iím afraid I might be forced to start writing for other people, and thatís a compromise I donít think I could live with.

TOM: Even if it meant putting bread on the table?

DARIA: I donít know. Itíd have to be really good bread.

TOM: Why donít you ask Jane?

JANE: Yeah. Ask me about my gallery exhibitions.

DARIA: Your gallery exhibitions?

JANE: Yeah, Iíve had a few pieces circulated in local ... well, circles. With Ms. Defoeís help, of course. You donít think I get all my money from Mom and Dad.

(Daria just stares.)

TOM: Oops. Are you saying I knew something about you that Daria didnít?

JANE: Umm ... (to Daria) Well itís not like you ever asked.

DARIA: (faux bitter) So how long before the Smithsonian comes beating down your door?

JANE: Oh, I think thatís jumping the gun. I have sent out submissions to quite a few magazines, though.

DARIA: And?

JANE: And in return Iíve received several nice letters. (beat) Aaand some not-so-nice ones. (beat) Look, Daria, frankly Iím as stupefied by the whole thing as you are. The last thing I want to end up doing is "graphic design." I want to play by my own rules, no compromises. Trentís the same way.

DARIA: But even Trentís broadened his art to encompass TV commercials, remember?

JANE: Yeah. And if I have to paint houses between masterpieces, Iíll do it. The whole "starving artist" bit doesnít appeal to me.

DARIA: (long sigh) The idealist versus the realist.

TOM: (sympathetic) Itís a fine line to walk. But I wouldnít worry too much about it just yet. Thatís what college is for. What you can do in the meantime is try to get something published on your own terms. (beat) How about this. For the sake of objectivity, Jane can make up a list of all the different media you can possibly write for, and after school you can pick one.

JANE: Oh sure. Put the burden on me. And how about you?

TOM: (grandly) I ... will drive you home after school and drop you off.

DARIA: Ah-ha. Donít worry, youíll be able to stick around. I plan on getting some good writing in this afternoon. You twoíll just have to think of some way to occupy yourselves without me.

JANE: (somberly) And poor Trent will be so lonely ...

DARIA: (firmly) You can stop that train of thought right there.

(The bell rings.)

JANE: And so I shall.

TOM: Guess thatís my exit cue. Catch you two after school.

***

INT. ERICíS LAW OFFICES RM. 3-C

(Eric, Helen, and the never-before-seen Rick Vitale -- one of Ericís partners; I envision him as stone-faced, fiftyish with craggy features and a gravelly voice ... the Charlton Heston type -- are facing Anthony and Shirley Holmes, both in their late forties/early fifties. Anthony is stocky, and his hair is shot through with white. His wife is thin with short, curly dark hair and an ingratiating smile.)

RICK. Anthony, Iíd like to introduce Helen Morgendorffer. Sheíll be representing you tomorrow.

ANTHONY: (extends a hand) A pleasure, Helen. This is my wife Shirley.

SHIRLEY: Pleased to meet you.

HELEN: Likewise.

ERIC: I assume youíve familiarized yourself with the case, Helen?

HELEN: (professional) I certainly have. The two of you are suing Lana Morrill for the kidnapping of your young daughter Christine for a period of three weeks. I havenít had time to properly go over the defense documents, but it looks like the facts of the case are pretty clear cut. The challenge will be swaying the jury. And I understand the defense will be drumming up something on the basis of relation?

ANTHONY: Lana is our daughter.

HELEN: I beg your pardon? Your daughter kidnapped your other daughter?

SHIRLEY: For three weeks. Christine was only five.

ANTHONY: Lanaís twenty-two. A real bad apple. Married once, divorced ... no kids of her own. The police apprehended her in Colorado. We want damages, plus legal expenses, and a restraining order. I donít want her near our little girl.

HELEN: I see. Well ... Iíll have to put my assistant on getting the necessary information, and ... (glances at Mr. Vitale) Weíll have statements ready by tomorrow, of course.

RICK. Thatíll be fine, Helen. Excellent work. (Helen beams.) Now letís talk witnesses...

 

ACT 2.

INT. LANE RESIDENCE -- JANEíS ROOM

(Daria is lying flat on one side of the bed. Trent sits on the other end with his guitar, humming chords to himself and largely oblivious. Jane is sitting on the foot of the bed, holding her list, and Tom is sprawled over a nearby chair, listening.)

JANE: Okay, weíve nixed "graffiti," "informational brochures" and "public service announcements."

DARIA: Itís that whole good Samaritan thing ...

JANE: Right. Next up, "novel."

DARIA: Someday. But first Iíd have to write one. And besides ... book publishers like you to have a few other publications under your belt. My age and lack of experience is going to hurt me if I try to jump right in.

JANE: Okay. "Short story compilation."

DARIA: Again, Iíd probably have to submit to a larger companyís compilation. And there are no literary magazines in Lawndale. Iíd have to research that one.

JANE: "Internet fan fiction."

DARIA: Nnno.

JANE: Aww, címon, why not?

DARIA: For one thing, Iíd have to be a fan of something. For another, the internet is not a good venue for publication. Anyone can do it, and itís hard to authenticate. And third, fan fiction is a waste of time. Itís just an excuse for people who arenít creative enough to come up with their own ideas, but want to pretend theyíre writers.

TOM: Ouch. Thatís pretty harsh, Daria. Couldnít you say that itís a good challenge and a healthy creative outlet? That it allows the author to refine and hone certain skills, not the least of which is writing to a discriminating audience?

DARIA: Yes ... you could say that. You could also say our lives were interesting enough to write about.

TOM: Ah. I see your point.

JANE: Okay, fan fiction is out. Next up, "article" -- newspaper or magazine.

DARIA: (pause) This one doesnít sound too bad. For one, itís short, and non-fiction is more palatable to the general public. Itíll allow me to make a statement. And since itís appropriate for newspaper or magazine publication, Iíll have lots of opportunities for submission.

JANE: Well Iím glad you like it. (beat) Because barring "major motion picture," my list just ran out.

TOM: Perfect timing.

DARIA: Great. Now I can enjoy a week of sleepless nights.

JANE: Trouble with insomnia?

DARIA: When I get on a writing binge, I canít seem to shut my brain off.

JANE: (nods) Trentís the same way.

TRENT: (perking up at his name) Huh?

JANE: ... Except he doesnít seem to have trouble falling asleep. Hey, Trent, didnít you used to have trouble with insomnia? Howíd you get over that?

(Focus in on Trent. The image blurs as we slip into FLASHBACK mode. A young Trent is sitting on the couch, eyes wide and vaguely "out of it." His parents stand nearby. A man in a dark suit is sitting in a chair facing Trent.)

MR. LANE: ... I told him coffee beans werenít candy, but he wouldnít listen.

AMANDA LANE: Is there anything you can do for him, doctor? He just wonít sleep. Weíre beginning to get concerned.

MR. LANE: Donít worry, dear. Iíve seen them hypnotize wild beasts in Africa! Itís very effective.

HYPNOTIST: I can assure you, hypnotism is perfectly safe, and I think youíll find the results are extraordinary. (to Trent) Now whatís your name, young man?

TRENT: Trent.

(The hypnotist opens his briefcase, and removes a flat disc with a swirl design on it. There is a device attached, and the disc begins to spin. The hypnotist holds it up in front of Trent.)

HYPNOTIST: Alright, Trent. I want you to look at this here ... thatís right ... now relax. Let your mind wander. (long pause) Can you hear me, Trent?

TRENT: Yes.

HYPNOTIST: Okay, Trent. Now I want you to think of a word, Trent. The first word that pops into your head.

TRENT: (staring deep into the spiral) Spiral.

HYPNOTIST: Okay, great. "Spiral." Now Trent? Whenever you want to go to sleep, just call up the word "spiral" and you wonít have any trouble. Got it?

TRENT: Yes.

HYPNOTIST: Okay. Now when I turn this off, youíll be asleep, okay?

(He turns off the device. Trent instantly slumps back into the couch, asleep. 8)

AMANDA: Oh thank you, doctor. Are you sure there are no harmful side effects?

HYPNOTIST: Everything should be fine. If you have any problems, or if anything unusual develops, be sure and call me.

MR. LANE: We certainly will.

(Focus in on young, sleeping Trent. Blur to return to the present. We see Trentís face. He is half asleep.)

TRENT: (muttering) ... really should change the name ...

JANE: (voice only) Trent? Trent! Iím talking to you!

(Trentís eyes snap open, and we pan back to reveal Jane, Daria and Tom, staring at him.)

TRENT: I need to go lie down.

(Trent gets up and leaves the room, the trio staring after incredulously.)

TOM: That was interesting.

JANE: I swear, he gets weirder every day!

***

INT. MORGENDORFFER RESIDENCE -- LIVING ROOM

(Daria is lying on the couch, going over her notes. Helen enters through the front door, still flushed with elation, but obviously tired. Daria is the first person she sees, and she rushes to share the good news.)

HELEN: Daria! Great news!

DARIA: Theyíve finally come up with a diet cola that tastes more like regular cola?

HELEN: (ignoring the sarcasm) I just landed a very high profile case! Itís a major career-booster! You may be looking at the next partner in the firm of Vitale, Davis, Horowitz, Riordan, Schrecter, Schrecter and Schrecter.

DARIA: (deadpan) Throw another shrimp on the barbie.

HELEN: (put-off) You know, Daria, this is a major event for me. You might show a little more enthusiasm.

DARIA: Oh. Iím sorry. Here, let me drum up some. (beat; monotone) Yippee.

HELEN: (sighs) You know, it wouldnít kill you to feign happiness for just a minute.

DARIA: Itís insincere.

HELEN: No, itís polite. Iím not going to make you care about me, Daria, but assuming you do, itís insincere to deliberately avoid supporting the people you love.

(When there is no reaction from Daria, Helen peers over her shoulder.)

HELEN: Is this that short story youíre writing?

DARIA: I donít know. Is that sincere interest, or just your parentís handbook talking?

HELEN: (giving up) Oh, fine, Daria! Shut me out completely. Iím only your mother. Maybe your father has something intelligent to say.

DARIA: Donít bet on it.

(Throwing up her hands, Helen walks into the kitchen, exasperated and spirits dampened.)

INT. MORGENDORFFER RESIDENCE -- KITCHEN

(Helen enters to find Quinn sitting at the table, poring over a magazine.)

HELEN: (puzzled) Quinn, is that "Litigation Weekly" youíre reading?

QUINN: Yeah. You know women are never going to assert themselves in the workplace looking like that. (She holds up an image of a female judge.) I mean, white collar with black? She looks like some sort of priest!

HELEN: (not in the mood to challenge) Quinn ... do you think Iím a good mother?

QUINN: Huh? Oh ... sure. I mean, you buy me stuff and you havenít lost the house yet. Of course, my allowance could be a teensy bit more ... how shall I say it? "Large." And youíre a bit hyper-critical about school, and then thereís the whole issue of curfew ...

HELEN: Quinn, this isnít a poll! Iím asking you if you think Iím an adequate parent!

QUINN: Donít be silly! Of course youíre adequate! I mean, look at Sandiís mom.

HELEN: (under her breath) Linda. Donít remind me.

QUINN: (returning to the magazine) You worry too much, Mom. (calling to the living room) Daria, whatís "jurisprudence" mean?

DARIA: (calling back) Exactly what it sounds like.

QUINN: (grimacing) Ewww.

(Helen shakes her head.)

INT. MORGENDORFFER RESIDENCE -- MASTER BEDROOM -- THAT NIGHT

(Jake and Helen are in bed, going about their usual business -- in other words, Jake is reading his omnipresent newspaper while Helen is going over legal papers. Helen is obviously having trouble concentrating, and she puts down her pen, sets the papers aside and turns to her husband.)

HELEN: Jake, do you ever worry about the girls?

JAKE: (half-listening) Sure, honey. All the time.

HELEN: Jake! Listen to me! (Jake tunes in) Iím afraid weíre not connecting anymore. I told Daria the good news about my job today, and she practically shot me down completely. I donít worry about Quinn so much ... itís just Daria is so sensitive to real life. Iím afraid we may be alienating her. And I donít want to see the kind of gap develop that formed between me and my mother.

JAKE: (seriously) We have a good kid. I think we can trust her to make the right life choices. If anything goes wrong, itís not your fault.

(Helen is startled by this out-of-character advice from Jake. Narrowing her eyes, she pulls down his newspaper to reveal a pamphlet labeled "Bedroom Psychology -- What She Wants To Hear.")

HELEN: (angry) Jake, would you put that thing away? I want to talk to you, not some ridiculous "wife-guide."

JAKE: (dejected) But it sounds so good ...

HELEN: Try to understand what Iím saying, Jake. Iím afraid Daria doesnít need me anymore. That Iíve lost my usefulness to her. I mean, I try so hard not to be the kind of parent my mother was, always controlling and playing favorites. I try to give our girls every opportunity to find themselves and their potential. But sometimes I wonder if I havenít given them too much freedom. So much that they donít respect me anymore, only what I can do for them, and when thatís gone ... itís my own mother all over again. What do you think, Jake?

(Helen looks at Jake. He has fallen asleep. Helen deflates. A worried expression on her face, she leans over and shuts off the light.)

***

INT. COURTHOUSE -- THE FOLLOWING DAY

(If you have a copy of the "Daria Diaries" -- and chances are if youíre reading this you probably do -- get it out and flip to the map of Lawndale. The courthouse looks like itís near number eighteen. Ironically, itís closer to Morgendorffer Home Base than the High School.)

(Helen and Eric are sitting at the table for the Prosecution with Mr. and Mrs. Holmes. The Council for the Defense consists of a court-appointed male litigant. The jury is typically average, displaying a fair amount of boredom as they await the judge. Lana Morrill, the plaintiff, is a depressed-looking young lady with stringy blond hair. A female bailiff enters the room.)

BAILIFF: All rise. Court is now in session. Case of Holmes versus Morrill. The Honorable Judge Michael Foster presiding.

(Judge Foster enters the room. He is a relatively young judge, with dark hair and glasses not unlike Dariaís. He has the same flat stare, as well.)

HELEN: (whispering to Eric as things start off) Heís awfully young, isnít he?

ERIC: And progressive, which means heís more likely to side with the defendant. Youíve got your work cut out for you. Itís time for opening statements.

(Helen rises to address the court.)

HELEN: Your Honor, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Iíll be brief, as is appropriate to the facts of the case. We intend to show, beyond a doubt, that the defendant willfully and maliciously abducted her younger sister, endangering her well-being for a period of three weeks, and putting her parents through a trial that no parent should have to endure. We are confident that in a case where the evidence is so overwhelming, justice will certainly prevail.

(Several members of the jury appear to be parents, because they nod sympathetically. Helen seats herself, smiling as Eric and the Holmesí nod appreciatively. Helen looks behind her to catch a thumbs up from Rick Vitale, who is in the general seating. The Counsel for the Defense rises.)

COUNSEL: Your Honor, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. What we are dealing with here is not a matter of kidnapping. It is a matter of rescuing. We intend to prove to you that not only were Ms. Morrillís actions justified, they were both prudent and necessary. This is an unfortunate family crisis, and one that no child (he looks pointedly at Helen) should have to endure.

(Helen refuses to look worried, maintaining a show of confidence for her constituents. But it is clear that she is slightly less sure of herself that before.)

***

INT. LAWNDALE HIGH -- PRINCIPAL LIíS OFFICE

(Principal Li is going over files at her desk. Mr. OíNeill stands next to her, fidgeting nervously. We hear the door open, and Mrs. Li looks up.)

LI: Ah. Ms. Morgendorffer. Have a seat.

(The camera shifts, and now we can see Daria, scowling as she sits down. She skewers Mr. OíNeill with a baleful stare, instantly assessing the situation.)

LI: We do seem to be having these little chats more and more often, donít we?

DARIA: Letís cut to the chase. Whatís wrong with it?

OíNEILL: (justifying tone) Itís not that thereís anything ... wrong wrong with it. Itís just that we feel it came off a little ...

LI: (cutting him off; waving Dariaís paper) Ms. Morgendorffer, this is a flagrant attack on the Criminal Justice system! You canít honestly expect Lawndale High to endorse it?

DARIA: (still scowling) It was Mr. OíNeillís idea.

LI: That you attempt to get published, yes. Your academic record is outstanding here; a source of pride and tremendous honor -- a credit to your education here (Daria snorts) ... and we are more than happy to encourage your career, to bring publicity and positive reflections on Lllllawndale High. But this ... (she smacks Dariaís paper against the desk for emphasis) ... is not the sort of left-wing subterfuge we can stand behind.

DARIA: Youíre missing the point. Thereís no partisan message. Itís based on my experiences at "Take Your Daughter To Work Day," which you endorsed. 7 Itís not even negative. Itís a positive statement about how honesty and intelligence can accomplish more than deception and deceit. (she stands, confronting OíNeill) I was hoping a letter of recommendation, or even support, from my English teacher would help legitimize my attempts. Iíd hoped youíd follow through for once. But since youíve predictably chickened out at the first sign of controversy, it appears Iíll just have to do it myself. Excuse me.

(OíNeillís lower lip begins to quiver. Daria snatches back her document, fires off one more glare at OíNeill, and promptly leaves. He immediately buries his face in his hands and collapses into tears.)

LI: (disgusted) For Godís sake, get a hold of yourself! Youíre an educator!

***

INT. COURTROOM

(Mr. Holmes has taken the stand for the prosecution. Helen is in the process of questioning him.)

HELEN: Weíve already established that you and you alone have custody of your daughter Christine. You never granted permission for your other daughter to be alone with the child?

MR. HOLMES: That is correct.

HELEN: Nor did you voluntarily allow her onto the premises that night?

MR. HOLMES: I made it clear to her that she was not welcome in our home, and that I would take court action against her if she ever tried. (beat) Which she has, and more.

HELEN: And you didnít discover Christine was missing until you went to tuck her in for the night?

MR. HOLMES: (wiping away a tear) Yes.

(Helen is silent for a moment. The jury is clearly moved. Judge Foster, however, raises an eyebrow at the sudden show of emotion.)

HELEN: No further questions, your honor.

(Helen returns to her table, smiling graciously at the nod from Eric and the wink from Rick. The Defense Counsel steps up for cross-examination.)

COUNSEL: Mr. Holmes. Your own statement is that you did not actually see Lana take your daughter, and the police report shows that there was no evidence of Lanaís presence in your house.

HELEN: (standing) Where exactly are you going with this?

FOSTER: Please be seated, Mrs. Morgendorffer.

(Helen reluctantly complies. The Defense Counsel continues.)

COUNSEL: Mr. Foster, what makes you so certain that Christine was abducted? How do you know she didnít run away?

HELEN: (jumping in) Objection! Your honor, this is speculation.

COUNSEL: So is "abduction." You havenít gotten a confession yet.

FOSTER: Overruled. The Defense will be allowed to attempt to cast doubt on the circumstances Mr. Holmes is basing his case on.

HOLMES: If things were any different than I told you, Christine would have told me! Her statement stands, and I have nothing more to say on the matter.

COUNSEL: (pause) There are no further questions.

***

EXT. LAWNDALE SUN-HERALD 9

(Okay, get out your "Daria Diaries" map again. Look for No. 26 -- the Halcyon Hills Corporate Park. My guess is that one of those buildings is the Sun-Herald. Jakeís office is probably in this complex as well, by the way.)

INT. LAWNDALE SUN-HERALD -- EDITORíS OFFICE

(Daria is seated behind the desk of one of the editors for Lawndaleís premier newspaper -- the Sun-Herald. He is scraggly, in his early 30ís, with thin blond hair and wire-rim glasses.)

EDITOR: First off, Daria, let me just say that we are very impressed by your essay.

DARIA: (ever the pessimist) "But ... ?"

EDITOR: No buts. We like it. And weíd like to see it in print.

DARIA: (surprised; rare -- and I mean rare -- show of enthusiasm) Really? I mean ... thatís great! Thatís great. So do I have to sign anything? How much will I get paid?

EDITOR: (raising a hand; laughing slightly) Now hang on just a second, letís not go jumping to conclusions.

DARIA: (crestfallen) What? What? Is something wrong?

EDITOR: Well itís just that you seem to be under some false impressions concerning format.

DARIA: (defensive) Whatís so complicated? Itís an article! Whatís the matter? Too controversial? I thought you journalism-types thrived on controversy.

EDITOR: (laughs good-naturedly) True, Daria, true. And, controversial as it is, weíd love to print your essay. In the letters column. Why itís probably wild enough to keep the mailbox hot for the rest of the week!

DARIA: The ... the letters column? Only nutcases take the letters column seriously!

EDITOR: (wry grin) Nutcases form a considerable demographic of our subscribers.

DARIA: You donít understand. Iím trying to get published here.

EDITOR: Now, Daria, letís be realistic. We have a paid staff here. We canít just go around contracting freelancers, especially a low-profile one like yourself. It just isnít done. How would it look to our boys? This is a professional institution, Daria.

DARIA: (bitter) If youíd bothered to read my essay youíd see this is exactly the sort of thing Iím talking about.

EDITOR: Yes, and you have that right. Thatís why we print letters. But you canít just walk in here and expect us to publish you. Good as your essay is, it isnít going to fit where you want it to. You know, Daria, a good attitude can take you a long way.

DARIA: (bristling) Whatís that supposed to mean?

EDITOR: Look, Iím sorry. Iíve made every attempt to make this work for you. I care about developing young talent, I really do.

DARIA: (standing to leave) Yeah. You have a great way of showing it.

EDITOR: Iím sorry you feel that way. If you change your mind, our offer still stands.

DARIA: So does my response.

(Daria leaves the room. The editor watches her go, then shrugs it off and turns back to his computer.)

***

INT. COURTHOUSE

(Lana Morrill has taken the stand as a witness in her own defense. Her posture is sullen and defensive, and her voice is soft and bitter.)

LANA: Like I said, Christine came to me.

COUNSEL: And so you were at your parentsí house? And with their knowledge?

LANA: It canít be proven ... but yes.

COUNSEL: And you had an argument.

LANA: Yes.

COUNSEL: About what?

LANA: (pause) About Christine. I got mad and left. I found Christine outside. Do you know how she got there? She broke the door to her own bedroom window! They keep her door bolted shut at night.

(At this point, Eric looks at Helen nervously. But Helen doesnít notice. She is listening intently to the testimony. As is the jury.)

LANA: She canít even get up to use the bathroom. They did the same thing with me. Theyíre so afraid of losing control ... itís like child abuse.

(Eric raises his eyebrows in alarm, and Mr. Holmes begins to turn red with anger.)

ANTHONY: (hissing to Eric) You told me this wouldnít come up! Why doesnít she cut her off?

ERIC: (whispering) Helen?

(Helen is once more nonresponsive.)

LANA: (continuing) I saved Christine. Just like with me, in ...

(At this point, Eric jumps to his feet and interrupts, addressing Judge Foster.)

ERIC: Your Honor, Iíd like to request a short recess.

FOSTER: (raises an eyebrow) Mr. Shrecter, weíre in mid-testimony. On top of that, weíre almost finished for the day. Weíd have to pick up tomorrow, and I donít think ...

COUNSEL: (speaking up) No, Your Honor, donít worry. Iím willing to accede.

FOSTER: (surprised) Are you certain? You donít have to.

COUNSEL: Certain, Your Honor.

FOSTER: Very well, though Iíll admit itís a strange situation. Weíll reconvene here tomorrow morning. Court adjourned.

[CUT TO:]

INT. COURTHOUSE -- PROSECUTION MEETING ROOM

(Helen, Eric, Rick Vitale and Anthony Holmes sit around a table. All eyes are on Helen, and not all of them are friendly.)

ERIC: Helen, all we want to know is ...

(Mr. Holmes interrupts violently, banging his fist against the table.)

ANTHONY: Why the hell did you let her go on for that long?

HELEN: (blinks) It was her testimony.

RICK: (soothing) Now, Anthony, we knew this might come up. Itís not Helenís fault. Donít you worry. Helenís one of the best we have. Weíll be sure to discredit Lana. Her past isnít exactly spotless.

HELEN: (narrowing her eyes) Mr. Holmes, is there something you havenít told me? Because if there is, I need to be prepared for it, or I canít be expected to perform adequate prosecution!

(Anthony just scowls. Rick leans over, and says quietly:)

RICK: Fifteen years ago, Anthony was charged with child abuse.

HELEN: (shocked) What?

RICK: It was never proven, and the time for appeals has long since expired. But itís the kind of thing thatíll hit hard with the jury. Now I donít know why we got this recess, but I suggest you spend the rest of the day figuring out the best way to discredit the defendant as quickly as possible.

HELEN: (demanding) Was the charge true?

(Anthony reddens further, and opens his mouth to say something. Rick raises a hand to silence him.)

RICK: (softly) I donít really think thatís pertinent, do you?

HELEN: No? And you want me to discredit her?

ERIC: Helen ... are you telling us you canít handle this? Because if you canít ...

HELEN: (suddenly unsure) No! No. I mean ... thatís not what Iím saying. Itís just ... (long breath) I know this is important. Iím ... Iím a mother myself, you know, two girls ...

ANTHONY: (impatient growl) And?

HELEN: (hurried) ... and they need me there for dinner. (gathering her things) Iíll talk to you tomorrow morning. Eric, donít worry, Iíll call you tonight.

***

INT. MORGENDORFFER RESIDENCE -- LIVING ROOM

(Daria is sitting on the couch using the cordless phone. She is scowling furiously, and in the middle of a ferocious argument.)

DARIA: No, I wonít agree to that ... Yes I know many authors use a nom de plume, but "Craig" is a manís name ... I canít believe itís that relevant ... You donít understand, I know the Lawndale Insider is a magazine about politics ... the angle is fine where it is, if you change the focus you miss the point ... I said no! Iíve worked too hard on this to sell out. ... Only? Only? I donít care! Good-bye, damn it!

(Fuming, Daria turns off the phone and slams it down hard against the couch cushion. Helen enters through the front door, briefcase in hand, in time to witness this.)

HELEN: Daria? Is something the matter?

DARIA: (bitter) Always.

HELEN: Whatís wrong?

DARIA: (angry) Do you really want to know?

HELEN: Of course.

DARIA: Fine. I wrote an article about how screwed up the judicial system is. Iím trying to get it published. But every newspaper or magazine I go to either doesnít take me seriously or wants me to sell out, and Iím not going to do it.

HELEN: You canít let that get you down, Daria.

DARIA: Oh sure, easy for you to say. You donít get it, do you Mom? This isnít just some experiment for me. Weíre talking about my future career. How can I expect to make a living this way? How will this change or get better? It wonít!

(Helen sits down, grateful for the opportunity to advise and bond with her daughter.)

HELEN: Listen to me, Daria. I know this means a lot to you. But you have to be prepared for this sort of thing, sweetie. You canít deny you have a very ... abrasive personality. If you want to be taken seriously, sometimes you have to make a compromise.

DARIA: (bitterly) Yeah, youíre the master at that, arenít you?

HELEN: (taken aback) What?

DARIA: (angry) Your whole job is compromise, isnít it? You completely submerge your own scruples so you can give someone who doesnít deserve it a fair trial. Your job description is to win by any means necessary, and youíre proud of it. How can you talk to me about selling out? You define it.

HELEN: (scandalized) Daria!

DARIA: I donít need your help, or your advice! Iím more than capable of dealing with this without you. So if youíll excuse me ...

(Daria promptly gets up and leaves, going up the stairs, where we hear a door shut. Helen is too shocked for words, and she remains silent on the couch, staring into space, her worst fears realized. We hear Dariaís words reverberate in her mind, splicing together: "I donít need your help" ... "donít need your advice" ... "without you" ... "without you" ... "I donít need you." Abruptly, she tears herself upright and dashes up the stairs.)

 

ACT 3.

INT. MORGENDORFFER RESIDENCE -- MASTER BEDROOM

(Helen bursts in to find a startled Jake, lying in his casual clothes on the bed, paper in hand.)

JAKE: (alarmed) Helen?

HELEN: (choking back a sob) Oh Jake ... I just had the most terrible ... Daria blew up at me. And I think of Mother, Iím her Jake, I tried so hard, but Iím her! And our girls are paying for it.

(There is a long pause, as Helen tries not to break down. Jakeís eyes flit downward nervously. At last, he takes a few deep breaths and speaks:)

JAKE: (calming voice) Helen, you canít live in the past! You need to learn from your parentsí mistakes, but you canít let them dominate you. Itís the only way to grow beyond them.

(Helen isnít stupid. She realizes that this is completely out-of-character advice from a man who needs it more than she does. And she sees the marriage pamphlet poking out from two leaves of the paper, despite Jakeís attempts to conceal it. But the look on his face is so sincere ...)

HELEN: (softly) Youíre really trying, arenít you Jake?

JAKE: (doesnít quite catch it) Huh?

(In response, Helen collapses at the side of the bed, pushing the paper aside and burying her face in Jakeís chest. Jake holds her close, comforting.)

INT. MORGENDORFFER RESIDENCE -- DARIAíS ROOM

(Daria is lying on her bed, stomach down. Her arms are crossed under her pillow, and she is staring obstinately at the headboard. We see her from the headboardís perspective, with the door over her shoulder. It cracks open, and Jake peers in meekly.)

JAKE: Kiddo? (no response) Daria?

DARIA: (still sour) I answer to that name, yes.

JAKE: (comes fully into the room) Iíd like to talk to you ... about your mother.

DARIA: Whatís to talk about? She starts talking about compromising my principles like itís a good thing, and I suppose I shouldnít have expected anything more.

(Jake walks over and sits at the foot of the bed, his expression unusually somber.)

JAKE: Honey, you have to understand ... weíre your parents. And we love you. We donít want to see you getting so ... so cold and distant. (smiles) Youíre just like her, you know.

DARIA: (looking back for the first time) Like Mom? How can you say that?

JAKE: (seriously) You know, Daria, sheís not a sell-out. She got into law because she believed in the truth. Just like you do. I mean, the counterculture was great and all -- changed my life -- but it had run out of steam. She wanted to make a difference. (pause; Jake frowns to himself) If anything, Iím the sell-out.

(Daria turns back to the headboard, silent. But her angry look has been replaced by one of confusion and vague worry. Still, she maintains her silence.)

JAKE: (nervously rubbing the back of his neck) Look, forcing you to do things hasnít worked real well in the past, so ... just think about it, okay?

(A sad look on his face, Jake gets up and exits the room, leaving Daria to her solitary existence.)

***

EXT. LAWNDALE HIGH -- THE FOLLOWING MORNING

(Establishing shot: the sun peeks over the school.)

INT. LAWNDALE HIGH -- OíNEILLíS ROOM

(We see Jane, with a worried expression on her face. Pan out to reveal she is staring at Daria, who is sitting next to her, staring flatly ahead as they wait for class to begin.)

JANE: You know, class doesnít start for a whole five minutes. (pause) Did I tell you about the stupid thing Trent did this morning? (another pause) Sooo ... is it the silent treatment for me? Have I done something?

DARIA: (sighs) No.

JANE: Is something wrong?

DARIA: I blew up at Helen last night. She tried to advise me about compromise. I didnít take to it well, and I said some things Iím not sure yet if I regret.

JANE: And this was about what, your essay?

DARIA: I still canít get it published. And sheís not helping.

JANE: Have you talked to Mr. Baldwin?

DARIA: Huh?

JANE: You remember ... Mr. Baldwin. Short, balding guy with a beard? You took his writing class at the Sun Foundation Creative Learning Center this summer? 10

DARIA: Of course I remember.

JANE: You should give him a call. Heís a contact, after all. You sound like you need every resource at your disposal.

DARIA: (thoughtful) You know, thatís not a bad idea. In fact, itís a good idea.

JANE: (smirking) Gee, do ya mean it?

DARIA: Sure. If anyone can help, itíd be him. Iíll call him this afternoon.

JANE: Great. Problem solved. (checks watch) Now with all this family strife and personal angst, did you read up to page 400 in Moby Dick?

DARIA: (smirks) Iíve read the entire book three times.

JANE: Good. (beat) So could you fill me in on the details? I stayed up all night watching TV.

DARIA: Melville describes every object on the Pequod down to the molecule with cute little metaphors about life.

JANE: (sardonic) Well thanks a lot, thatís very helpful.

DARIA: No problem.

***

INT. COURTHOUSE -- A ROOM

(We see Helen, addressing an unseen person across a table.)

HELEN: So why did you want to meet me here?

(The angle changes to show her facing the male defense attorney.)

COUNSEL: My client wants to propose an out-of-court settlement.

HELEN: Is that why you agreed to finishing early yesterday?

COUNSEL: Yes.

HELEN: What are your terms?

COUNSEL: Ms. Morrill wants her parents to drop the charges. In return, she wonít bring up the issue of child abuse. Sheíll agree to cease any actions that could be considered harassment, and in return her parents will have to agree to submit to a series of evaluations to affirm that they are acting as fit parents for Christine. If they do this, sheíll agree not to prosecute. We feel itíll be better for the family that way.

HELEN: You know, this is going to sound unprofessional of me, because I think I can win this case, but I agree with you completely. I canít promise what my clients will think, but Iíll propose it and hope for the best.

[CUT TO:]

INT. COURTHOUSE -- ROOM FOR THE PROSECUTION

ANTHONY: Absolutely not!

(Cut to show the prosecution team, seated around the table same as before.)

RICK: I donít understand. We can win this thing, and you want us to settle?

HELEN: (firmly) Yes. Thereís no shame in it, you wonít lose anything and it will be much better for your little girl.

ERIC: She may have a point.

ANTHONY: No! I wonít do it! Iím not submitting to any damned evaluations!

HELEN: It would be the best way to settle any allegations once and for all.

ANTHONY: I donít care! Iím going to fight her! You! (he jabs a finger at Helen) Youíre a lawyer, not a God damn moralist! I pay you to argue my case.

HELEN: (confident; slightly angry) Well I donít think I can do that, Mr. Holmes. As a mother, I donít think I can isolate myself from your attitude where your children are concerned.

ANTHONY: (hot-tempered) Well you donít have to worry about that, because youíre off the case! (to Rick) I donít want this woman representing me! Do you understand me? I want someone else!

(Helen doesnít say a word. Rick Vitale, in turn, ignores her, turning to her boss.)

RICK: Eric? Can you handle this case yourself?

ERIC: (shrugs) Whatever you decide, Rick. Iíll do it if you want me to. (to Helen; flatly) You might as well go home, Helen. Iíll call you later about your next case.

(Helen gathers her things silently and departs.)

INT. COURTHOUSE -- JUDGEíS QUARTERS -- SEVERAL HOURS LATER

(We see Judge Foster sitting at his desk, facing someone.)

FOSTER: I must admit Iím surprised to see you here. (Cut to show Helen.) I thought you were taken off this trial.

HELEN: Yes, well, I just thought Iíd call a few things to your attention.

FOSTER: Iím listening.

HELEN: After I left the courthouse, I went down to the police station and had the Chief of Police survey the exterior of the Holmes residence to confirm what Lana Morrill claimed about the window being forced from the inside.

FOSTER: And did they?

HELEN: They did.

FOSTER: Mrs. Morgendorffer, that would appear to support the defense.

HELEN: Iím aware of that, Your Honor. I think given the fact that the evidence does not match the police report, you have no choice but to declare a mistrial. I also recommend that Mr. and Mrs. Holmes be evaluated by Child Protective Services.

FOSTER: (pondering) Indeed. (beat) Well, Mrs. Morgendorffer, Iíll have to say Iím inclined to agree with you. Frankly, this trial is a farce, and Iíll thank you for giving me a convenient way to end it. But if I might ask, why the sudden change of heart?

HELEN: I ... I took a cue from my own daughter, your honor.

FOSTER: I see. This canít have won you many points with your firm.

HELEN: (reluctant) Regrettably, no ...

FOSTER: Well I want you to know you can come to me if you ever need anything. In the meantime, Iíll see to it your boss knows what I think about your future. I can assure you, my opinion is not without weight.

(Helen beams radiantly. Foster smiles firmly in return.)

HELEN: Thank you, your honor.

FOSTER: Thank you. Your daughter has something to be proud of.

HELEN: (softly) So do I.

***

INT. MORGENDORFFER RESIDENCE -- KITCHEN

(Daria is sitting at the kitchen table with a copy of her essay in front of her, phone to her ear.)

DARIA: Hello? Is this the Sun Foundation Creative Learning Center? ... Yes, Is Mr. Baldwin in? ... Thanks.

(SPLIT-SCREEN: On the left side of the screen, Mr. Eugene Baldwin, on his telephone, slides into view. He is a roundish, balding man with glasses, suspenders and a hint of a beard. 11)

BALDWIN: Hello?

DARIA: Mr. Baldwin? Hi. Um ... you may not remember me. This is Daria Morgendorffer.

BALDWIN: Daria, of course, how could I forget? What can I do for you?

DARIA: Actually, I was hoping for some advice. The other day, Mr. OíNeill started talking about my future ... what Iíd do after High School, that sort of thing. So I decided to try and get something published. I wrote this article about the judicial system ...

BALDWIN: Wait, let me guess ... the content is scaring off publishers? Your age getting you in trouble? Your lack of previous experience?

DARIA: (miserably) All of the above.

BALDWIN: MmmHmm. I thought that might be the case.

DARIA: So do you have any advice?

BALDWIN: This sort of thing isnít uncommon. Although I must admit, most enterprising upcoming writers arenít quite as ... rigid as you are.

DARIA: Iím not going to compromise.

BALDWIN: And I donít recommend you do. Not exactly, anyway. But sometimes, Daria, you have to give a little to get a little. Like it or not, you have to deal with publishers if you want to get published ... and a lot of them are jerks. That doesnít mean you should be less honest ... just tone it down a little. Trust me. Thatíll give you a lot more freedom in the future. And thatís what counts, isnít it?

DARIA: (pause) Iíve heard similar talk these last few days.

BALDWIN: Itís good advice. True, it would be nice if everyone was intelligent and sensible. Of course ... then what would you write about?

DARIA: Mm.

BALDWIN: Listen, if youíre asking for help, I have a few connections. Iíll make a few phone calls ... see if I can find anybody willing to listen. But you realize I canít guarantee anything. And if not, donít worry. Itís not a mark of failure yet. Most people donít get published until college or beyond.

DARIA: Um ... thatís good to know?

BALDWIN: (smiling) Good-bye for now. Iíll get back to you if something develops. Donít let it get you down, Daria. Iíd hate to see such a promising talent go to waste.

(Baldwin hangs up, and the screen returns to normal. Daria sets the phone down.)

DARIA: (to herself) Thatís what Iím afraid of.

(There is the sound of the door opening, and Daria looks up to see Helen, returning from work. Daria stands up, says "Excuse me." and walks upstairs. Helen shakes her head sadly and walks into the kitchen. She looks down. Daria has left her essay sitting on the kitchen table. Intrigued, she picks it up and begins to read it. Several seconds pass. She sits down. Quinn enters the room, looking over her shoulder.)

QUINN: Jeez, what is it with Daria lately? (Not waiting for a response, she tosses Helenís copy of "Litigation Weekly" onto the table.) Here, Iím done with this. At least itís comforting to know your business ensemble is safe.

HELEN: (ignoring Quinn; still reading) This is good. This is very good.

QUINN: (thinks sheís talking about her business suit) Well itís not perfect, Mom. If you want, I could have the Fashion Club evaluate your wardrobe. Not that Sandi would know. Can you believe she wore chiffon to the party last night? I mean, thatís so two weeks ago.

(Helen notices the magazine Quinn has returned. Her eyes go back to the essay, and after a moments insight, she gets up and picks up the phone. Quinn intercepts her, deftly plucking it from her hands and heading for the living room.)

QUINN: (matter-of-fact) Muh-omm! Cellphone?

(Quinn exits with the cordless, and Helen fishes out her cellphone from her pocket and dials a number. As it rings, she eyes Dariaís essay, which she still holds in her other hand.)

HELEN: Hello? Judge Foster? This is Helen Morgendorffer ... Yes, Iím fine ... Actually, there is. Iím calling about that influence of yours ...

***

EXT. MORGENDORFFER RESIDENCE

(The sun peeking over the horizon tells us that this is the crack of dawn.)

INT. MORGENDORFFER RESIDENCE -- KITCHEN

(Daria sits, squinty-eyed, over a steaming bowl of mush that might be oatmeal. She doesnít express much interest, however, in actually eating it. Itís obvious she hasnít slept much. Once again, sheís up early.)

(The front door clicks open, and Dariaís eyes widen in surprise. We see Helen enter, wearing a coat, and carrying a few bags of groceries. She walks into the kitchen and sets them on the counter.)

DARIA: Mom? You went shopping this early?

HELEN: (small laugh) You know how life is. You have to find time somehow. And I wanted to be there when they stocked the newsstand.

(There is an uncomfortable pause as Daria stares into her bowl. Helen fidgets for a moment, then reaches into one bag and pulls out a smaller bag, which she sets on the table.)

HELEN: I got you something.

(There is no response from Daria. Helen is obviously choked up with emotion, and her next words are strained.)

HELEN: Listen, Daria, Iím ... Iím going to be in the living room. If you want to talk.

(Quickly, and holding back tears, Helen leaves. Daria stares at the small bag for a moment, then reaches over and removes the contents. We see her face as she sees what it is, and her eyes widen. She is still for a long moment. Then she puts the object back on the table and walks over to the phone, which she picks up and dials.)

DARIA: Hello? Sun Foundation? Iíd like to leave a message for Mr. Baldwin. Tell him ... tell him "never mind."

(Daria hangs up the phone and leaves the room. Cut to the table, where we see what the object was. It is a brand-new issue of "Litigation Weekly." In one of the corners, in tiny print amongst several other captions, are printed the words "Prudent Jurisprudence -- by Daria Morgendorffer.")

DARIA: (off-screen) Mom?

(Fade to black.)

THE END

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FOOTNOTES: Yes, I am borrowing this method from numerous other fanfic authors. I forget who started doing it first. Peter Guerin? I think so. Anyway, it works for me, so ... thanks!

1. The show may prove me wrong here. But it was a common name in the 50ís. And itís my motherís middle name. And itís my fanfic, so nyah!

2. Gates McFadden. See the casting of the fictional "Daria: The Movie" to get this.

3. "Jakeish" ... hmm ... Iíve invented a word! You have my permission to use it. Royalties pending.

4. I was eating pizza for breakfast when I wrote this. Itís all true! Pizza is a good breakfast food! And itís better cold.

5. My first inclusion of Tom! Iím just assuming heís a year or two out of High School, making him older than Jane but younger than Trent. Thatís also why he hasnít met Daria or Jane yet. I suspect the show will prove me right. Anyway, Iím giving him a test-drive, so to speak. Surprisingly enough, heís both fun to write for and integrates smoothly. A key part of keeping a show like Daria going for as long as it proposes to is coming up with new and interesting dynamics. Weíll see what the "professionals" do with him.

6. My mom -- along with most women I know -- loves these things! I donít know why! So I guess Iím pioneering a new female stereotype here. A subsection of "women love chocolate." (Umm ... I better hope my female readers enjoy Mars Bars. No, Diane! Put the ímaters down!)

7. It happened in C.E. Formanís "To Helen Back." Go read it! Also, my earlier mention of Judge Reinhardt is a tip oí the hat to this excellent fic.

8. Confession time. I have no idea how hypnotism works. If I turn out being wrong and this is completely bogus, hereís my loophole: the Laneís hired a bogus hypnotist, and thatís why Trent canít control it. There. Instant redemption! :)

9. As seen in every episode of "Daria." Itís the paper Dariaís reading during the opening credits. Silly me, I had to ask to get this information!

10. As detailed in C.E. Formanís "A Morgendorffer Scorned," one of my personal favorite works of fan fiction, as it deals with Daria the emerging writer. A superb read.

11. Eugene Baldwin, from the aforementioned "A Morgendorffer Scorned," appears courtesy of C.E. Forman.

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AUTHORíS NOTES:

Okay, first off this was REALLY HARD TO WRITE! I mean really hard! Stuff like this takes stamina! For one, there was the decision to do a Helen-centric fic, with Daria as the subplot. But this is an example of a subplot being crucial to the main plot, as opposed to a diversion or a secondary theme. Iím trying to chart Dariaís fledgling career even as I chart Helenís maturing one.

And that means law-talk! I know next to nothing about law, except what I recall from High-School. God knows, I tried to be accurate, and to keep it as simple as possible. Brushing it aside would have been a mistake, as her career is an essential part of Helen. I tried to keep the court scenes short and succinct -- and hopefully interesting. My greatest fear was turning this into an episode of "Law and Order."

Again, examining the family dynamic, Helen and Daria are really the key players. Quinn and Jake have more passive roles. (Okay, Jake and Quinn arenít always "passive" per se. So I tried to give them an appropriate inclusion.)

Anyway, this was a surefire toughie. It had me wishing I could quit every few lines. But the story kept demanding to be told. Like the good little slave I am, I told it. Iíd like to imagine "eloquence" and "pathos," but, subjective as I am, I canít differentiate such qualities from "hackneyed" and "cliche." Nothing for it, then, but to loose fingers to keyboard and let you, the reader, be the judge.

If you donít get the title of this fic, itís a reference to the famous farce by French author Molliere "A Doctor in Spite of Himself." A hilarious comedy. Go check it out from your local library.

Special thanks to C.E. Forman for allowing me to use the character of Eugene Baldwin. I hope his brief portrayal in this story meets with C.E.ís approval.

As always, anyone who wishes to has my permission to download or post this story at their leisure, as long as content remains unchanged. And as always, feel more than free to e-mail me about this fic at *DELETED* Thanks for making it this far!