Daria, a newly-hired reporter/interviewer for "Sick, Sad World," hears the story of a cowboy who has returned from a 'mysterious' disappearance.
NOTE: This Part 1 originally appeared as a "complete" ficlet, titled A Sick Sad Interview, until I wrote Part 2 and realized that it was too closely intertwined to be considered anything but a second part of the same story... resulting in this combined and retitled two-parter.
This ficlet grew out of a combination of two sources:
(1) the Jane and Daria alter-egos at the end of "Is It College Yet" (see "Good Mornings with Daria n Jane" by S.C. on DeviantArt for a fanart version, with the Fashion Club and Chuck added as employees); and
(2) The Angst Guy's story "Drive," available via Outpost Daria, wherein the show "Good Mornings with Daria and Jane" is part of the Sick Sad News network.
It occurred to me to wonder what it might be like at the very beginning, just after Daria started work at Sick, Sad World.
Note that my story cannot be considered a prequel to "Drive," since in The Angst Guy's story the path to Daria and Jane's hosting of that show began with Jane's all-night disk jockey job in her sophomore year at college (with Jane then talking Daria into joining her on the air).
Disclaimer: MTV and Glenn Eichler own Daria, Jane, and Sick, Sad World, I don't; no money changes hands, etc. etc. etc.
So, without further ado:
Part 1: Daria
The blinding glare and oven-heat of the midday sun were tempered somewhat by the windows and a straining air-conditioner; Daria couldn't consider herself to be comfortable, but it was at least... not completely intolerable. How did I get myself into this situation, anyway? Oh yes, of course: Jane. "Hey, they've got positions available for a junior reporter/interviewer and an assistant animator/graphics artist! With any luck, we can work there together!" and "Come on, it's Sick, Sad World!" So we get hired, and they stick Jane in a cubicle in an office building, doing stuff only very distantly related to her art, and send me all the way out to this one-horse town to interview some nut-case.
It's not really fair to blame Jane, though. After months of trying to find somebody who'd hire a recently-graduated Journalism major, I pretty much jumped at the opportunity myself, when it became clear they were seriously considering hiring me...
Ah, finally; the guy I've been waiting to interview. He seems to be limping a bit...
"So you're wonderin' where I've been for the past four days?"
No, I couldn't care less. But my boss tells me, "We got a tip that a retired ex-rodeo-circuit cowboy disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and re-appeared after a few days with a weird tale about what happened to him. Go and get us the story." So here I am...
"Well, here's what happened. Y'see, me and a few friends was sittin' in the back of the bar last Friday afternoon, drinkin' and talkin' about our bronco-bustin' and steer-ridin' days; and the long and the short of it is, I made a bet with Sam Standish that I could still hang on for at least three minutes, on the back of any beast he cared to name..."
Talk about your sucker bets! From what I know about it — admittedly, not much — even for an experienced man in the prime of his career, the odds would be against it. And this guy looks reasonably fit, but judging from his face, hair, and hands, he's probably closer to sixty than fifty, or maybe even older than that. How much had he been drinking?
"So the next mornin' we headed out to an old paddock on the west side of town, to settle our bet. But when we got there, I couldn't believe my eyes! I'd been expectin' Sam to bring out some ornery horse or half-wild steer, but no; somehow, that blasted schemer had got hold of a kangaroo!"
A kangaroo? Yeah, right. I doubt there's even the smallest of zoos within a couple of hundred miles, let alone a zoo with kangaroos.
"Mebbe he got it from that zoo in Mercerville, down the road a ways. But that's neither here nor there."
O.K., perhaps I'm wrong about the zoo. It should be easy enough to find out whether they've got any kangaroos there, and if so whether any of them have disappeared recently.
"The beast jest sort of sat there on its hind legs near the far side of the paddock, leanin' forward jest a little and bouncin' up and down a bit. I figured right then I'd soon be sayin' good-bye to my money; but my Dad never raised no quitter, so I'd give it my best try. I knew I had only the one chance. I snuck quietly 'round the paddock behind the kangaroo and leaped onto its back, flingin' my arms 'round its neck and my legs 'round its belly."
Sneaking up behind a kangaroo without it noticing, close enough to jump on its back? Two chances of that: slim and none. And that's being generous.
"Well, the beast sure didn't like that none. It took off like a jumpin' jack, shot over the paddock fence like it was nothin', and bounced off through the woods as if it was bein' chased by Ol' Scratch hisself, with me still clingin' tight as I could to its back."
Kangaroos aren't that big. Maybe they wouldn't collapse under the weight of a man, but I doubt they would be very mobile either. I wonder how I could find out the weight-carrying capacity of a kangaroo...
"In the end I did lose my grip and got shook off, but that musta been at least twenty minutes later; and by then the beast had carried me 'most all the way to Arborville. I landed kinda rough, so they took me to the Arborville General to heal up, and didn't let me out 'til now."
Arborville; I expect that's what passes for the big city in these parts. Perhaps he went to the red light district there that weekend, and threw out his back or had some other accident, then had to make up something to tell his wife. Is he married? That shouldn't be too hard to find out. And if I went about it right, I could probably find out whether he actually was at the Arborville Hospital, and if so, possibly even what he was treated for.
"Well, I gotta be goin' — I'm off to see ol' Sam about a little matter of a bet..."
Come to think of it, can he really be such a stereotypical cowboy? Or was he just acting the stereotype, to make for a better story? Is he even a cowboy at all, or someone trying to act the part in the hopes of getting on TV with this story? It really shouldn't take much digging to find out.
Oh, hell, who am I trying to kid about checking things out? I knew what this job entailed when I took it. It's a good thing I've had plenty of experience writing fiction...
Hmm... actually, you could consider his story to be a pretty classic example of a Tall Tale, and not too badly told at that, skirting just close enough to the boundaries of the possible that one doesn't immediately fall down in derisive laughter.
Daria paused for a moment as a thought struck her. I bet Jane will be inspired to create some pretty surreal paintings when I tell her about this. Maybe cowboys on kangaroo-back herding a flock of emus? Nah, nothing as tame as that, I'm sure...
She opened a window on her laptop, and started to type.