CALLING DAN WEBSTER
"Courage is fear that has said its prayers." (Anonymous)
Study period in Mr. O'Neills class differed with whichever students happened to be in his classroom at the time. With the Juniors, most were using the time to read (like Daria and Jodie), or sketch (like Jane and Britney). In other words, it was usually quiet, something Timothy appreciated.
The Freshman class, however, was noisy. Not loud and raucous, but semi-quiet conversations ranging from what was on TV last night, to commentary on the latest fashions. The last was usually the big topic with the fashion club who occupied the back right corner of the classroom. Today was no exception.
"I'm telling you, according to Waif Magazine, Bellbottom jeans are the latest trend. It's called the retro look, but I think it's more of an updated look."
"So Quinn," Sandy said, a snide look on her face," in other words, you're now in fashion and not behind?"
Before she could answer, the bell rang and the class emptied quickly. However, Mr. O'Neill said he needed to talk to Quinn before she left. In the back of her mind she knew what he wanted to talk about. Her grades were slipping again.
"Quinn, I'm really worried that your grades are starting to fall off again. You picked them up for a while and I thought you were really making an effort to improve. What happened?"
"A lot of different things." Quinn began. "Getting ready for the Homecoming parade, volunteering at the Hospital, Daria being in the hospital, helping her with Jennifer, it all just has a way of overwhelming me. I'll try to do better."
"I know things have been a little.. hectic, lately," O'Neill replied, "but you still need to pull your grades up if you expect to go to college. As it is, you may not graduate on time, and I know you won't want to attend summer school."
She knew she had to ask what it was she had to do. Summer school was not an option Quinn would accept. Taking a deep breath, she said, "I hope whatever it is I need to do doesn't take very long. I don't need to be any more overwhelmed than I am now."
"This shouldn't take long." O'Neill replied, "Allyou need to do is complete a few extra credit assignments, and your grades should come back up."
"Extra credit? You mean, like work that's not like normal classwork?"
"It should be easy for you, Quinn. Your sister, Daria does it all the time. All you need to do is write an original story and submit it. I'll see you on Monday. Good luck!"
As she left the classroom, Quinn thought to herself, "Yeah, good luck."
Riding home in Sandi's car, Quinn was staring out the window trying to think of how to go about this extra credit thing she had to do. As a result, she wasn't paying any attention to what Sandi was saying.
".. And since she's started to hang around this geek Ted, her duties as secretary for the fashion club have suffered to the point that we have very few notes on the past few meetings. I think it might be an idea to put her on sabbatical until she gets her priorities straight. What do you guys think?'
Tiffany's answer was pretty much standard when it came to questions of conflict.
"That's so sad. But, I guess we should, even though they make a cute couple."
Sandi scowled at her for the cute couple statement, then glanced in the rear view mirror at Quinn who was staring out the window. Remembering that Quinn told her about the extra credit assignment and how worried she was about it, Sandi smiled and thought to herself that this would be the perfect time to get rid of some 'dead weight' in the fashion club. And it would be Quinn who would take the blame.
"Quinn? What do you think? Yes or no?"
Without thinking, she answered, "Huh? Oh, yeah... whatever."
Tiffany slowly began to protest, but Sandi cut her off before she could say anything that might change Quinn's mind.
"Tiffany, dear, it's over. Time for us to move on." With that, Sandi glanced in the mirror one more time to see Quinn still staring out the window. Satisfied that what just happened hadn't hit her Vice President yet, she drove on in silence, a smug , satisfied smile on her face.
It wasn't until the next day that Quinn noticed something differant in the Fashion Club. Stacy was missing, and Brooke was there.
"Hey guys, what's Brooke doing here? We finally expanding the club?"
Looking surprized, Brooke answered, "I'm taking Stacy's place. You guys voted her out for neglecting her duties."
"WHAT? I don't remember ever voting her out! When did we do that?"
"Yesterday, on the way home? I asked you what you thought and you said yes, remember?"
Quinn's look went from shock to anger when she answered. "Dammit, Sandi, that's not fair! I wasn't paying attention so the vote doesn't count! I had other things on my mind."
"Irregardless, the vote was taken, and you had the deciding vote. Stacy's out. End of story."
"Wait a minute." Brooke chimed in. "If Quinn wasn't fully informed about the motion, then she's right, the vote doesn't count. I think you should put it to a re-vote now to be fair to Stacy."
Getting impatient, Sandi tried to divert Brooke. One thing she didn't count on was someone challenging her supremacy when it came to policy and decision making. Her mistake was to talk to Brooke the same way she would to Tiffany.
"Brooke, dear, that's not how the Fashion Club works."
"Then how does the Fashion Club work? Is there a copy of the club charter we can refer to?"
"No, there isn't." Sandi said. She was starting to think this might get out of hand and she had to do something quick before she lost control of her club. "The charters of all school clubs are on file with the student council and are available during council meetings at the end of the week."
Brooke seemed satisfied with the answer. "Fine. Let's table the vote until next weekend after we see our club charter. Is that okay with everybody?"
Quinn was beginning to like seeing Sandi squirm and decided to add her own thoughts.
"Why don't we just postpone the meeting 'til then? All in favor?"
Quinn, Brooke, and Tiffany collectively said 'Aye!' leaving Sandi speechless and stunned. She always knew her Vice President was a formidable foe, but she never counted on Brooke to be even more so.
As they all left Sandi's, Brooke asked if anybody needed a ride home. Tiffany's answer was that she needed the exercise, but Quinn took the oportunity to get to know the newest member and maybe add to Sandi's worries. As she got in the car, Brooke turned the radio on, asking "Do you mind Country music? I like the honesty in the songs. ''
The song that was playing was Charlie Daniels "The Devil went Down to Georgia" and Quinn thought "Why couldn't he come to Lawndale? I'd like to see Sandy try and talk her way out of losing her soul." Then she got an idea."Say Brooke. You don't live too far from the Landons, do you?"
"Just three houses away, why?"
"Well, it's just that Jodie's Vice President of Student Council and I thought that maybe she could get hold of our club charter so's we don't have to wait for Friday's meeting. It's just an idea."
As Quinn got out of the car, Brooke said,"Thanks. I'll give it a try." Brooke started to leave, then turned back saying, "Don't worry, we'll get Stacy back in the club soon."
Both girls waved as Quinn smiled to herself and thought, "Alright, Sandra Joan Griffen, let's see you talk your way out of this!" As she walked home, the smile that crossed her face was more like her sister's 'Mona Lisa' smile.
Back at theMorgandorfer home, Daria and Jane were getting ready to watch Saturday's classic film on the local PBS station. As this was the first weekend that Jennifer was home with her mother, both girls decided to 'do something normal' like they used to. Daria welcomed the suggestion, but seemed a little disappointed when the day came, a fact that Jane couldn't help but notice.
"Come on, you're not going to tell me that you miss Jennifer that much, are you?"
"It's kind of hard to explain," Daria began, "but I feel like a part of me is missing. It's wierd that a kid like her can grow on you that quickly. I never thought this would happen to me, of all people."
Thinking of lightening the moment, Jane replied," Oh, mom. You know she had to leave the nest sooner or later."
"That's something else about taking care of her." Daria paused a few minutes and reflected on the past two weeks with the child. " Having to be in charge twenty four seven, I'm beginning to feel like I am her mother. There are times when I wish she wasn't around, and times I'm glad that she is. Ideally, I could just give up and say, no more. But then, I'd feel an emptiness that would haunt me the rest of my life."
Jane sat next to her friend on the couch as she listened. "You've seriously thought about this for some time, haven't you?"
Daria just shrugged her shoulders. "I guess I'm weaker than I thought. That a five year old could affect me this way."
After a moments silence, Jane reassured her friend, "Daria, you're not weak. You're human. It's called change and it happens to everyone at one time or another. It'syou're time, that's all."
"I'll believe that when I see a few other people change. Quinn for instance."
"She has." Jane replied, then added, "Well.. a little. She's been cooking and helping you with Jennifer sometimes. I'd call that change."
"But she's cooked before. And she can't give up the old habit of babysitting because Quinn still gets calls to watch a number of her regular people." Daria paused, and before continuing, turned to Jane and smiled. "What would convince me that Quinn's changed is if she'd quit the Fashion Club and start improving her school work. How likely is that?"
"Even I wouldn't take the Vegas odds on that!" Jane quipped.
Before either could say anything, the front door opened and the subject of their conversation walked in. Quinn was still smiling. Jane noticed first and elbowed Daria in her ribs saying, "Where've I seen that familiar looking smile?"
"Quinn? What are you doing here and what's with that smile?"
Quinn walked over to the couch and sat down as she answered. "I think the Fashion Club is falling apart. Sandy doesn't know it yet but Brooke is going to oust her as President, soon , I hope." Quinn's version of her sisters smile got a little bigger as she looked at both girls who were somewhat stunned that she would be happy about this. The next thing she said was even more surprizing. "I think I might just quit the club for a while. I've got to get my grades up anyway."
"Damn!" was Jane's reaction. "I knew I should've taken the odds on that. Damn optimistic outlook!"
"You're kidding, right? Give up being a part of the most popular club with the guys, because someone is potentially working on having the president removed from office? Next you'll be telling us you'll be devoting more time to schoolwork."
Quinn's smile disapeared as she remembered O'Neill's assignment. "Oh, damn! That reminds me. I need your help with a homework project in English."
The two older girls looked at each other in surprize before Daria spoke again.
"Alright. Who are you really and what have you done with Quinn?"
"I'm serious, Daria. O'Neill wants me to write some fictional story, but I have to use people I know as the characters in it. What do I do? I can't think of anything that would get much of a good grade."
Seeing that Quinn was indeed serious, Daria thought, 'What the heck. Maybe she is trying to do better. ' "I won't do the assignment for you, but I'll give you suggestions and advice. Agreed?"
"Agreed." was the reply."I know you can't be there for me all the time. You do have a life now, and eventually we'll go our separate ways, so I've got to learn to do things on my own."
This was a side of Quinn that no one had ever seen. It actually made her sister smile at the thought that she would even make the effort to try.
"Could we table this for a while?" Jane piped in. "The movie's coming on."
"Good idea. Quinn, why not sit back and watch with us?"
"What is it?"
"A classic story of good versus evil. The Devil and Dan Webster."
Dan Webster? Webster's Dictionary?"
That was the second time today that Quinn heard a referance to the devil. "Oh, so that's why he wrote it. He lost his soul, didn't he?"
At that point, Jane lost it and laughed uncontrollably. Daria just shook her head.
"Just relax and watch the movie. All will be revealed."
As the movie started, they all sat quietly. Quinn was still worried about what to write for a story. Her thoughts wandered back to what she had told Brooke about the charter and her suggestion to speak to Jodie about getting a copy. She also found herself wishing that the Devil would take Sandy's soul. It'd serveher right to be on the losing end after what she did to Stacy.
At about halfway through the movie, Jane decided to go get something to drink. As she was getting up from th couch, she glanced over at Quinn who was sitting on an angle to the older girls. What she saw surprized her. Jane tapped Daria on the shoulder and pointed in Quinn's direction. What both girls saw was Quinn leaning forward, intently watching the movie. She was also doing something Daria had never seen her do. She was taking notes.
"What are you doing?"
"Hush, Daria. I'm taking notes."
Before Jane could say anything, Daria turned to her and shook her head. She knew Quinn had gotten an idea and wasn't about to disturb her concentration."This should be an interesting read."
By now, Quinn was deeply engrossed in the movie, furiously taking notes like a woman posessed. As the film ended, she looked at her notesand ws satisfied that she had a winner of an idea. Without waiting, she grabbed her papers and ran upstairs. Daria and Jane looked at each other and shrugged. The last thing they heard before Quinn's door slamming shut was her shouting, "Thank's guys."
Daria turned to Jane, and with a smile said, "About those Vegas odds?"
Along about dinner time, both girls noticed the fact that Quinn wasn't anywhere near the kitchen as she had been lately, and frankly, they had gotten used to her cooking. It wasn't all that bad. Quite good, actually. Jane was first to comment.
"Say, is it me, or is dinner kind of on the late side?"
Daria looked at her watch and was surprized that it ws so late."I guess she must actually be busy with her story. Looks like pizza tonight. That's something we haven't had in a while."
"Supreme?" Jane asked with a grin.
Returning the grin, Daria replied, "Don't push it, Lane. I've still got that gown from my cousin's wedding, you know."
"One of these days, I'm going to try that damn thing on just so you'll stop talking about it like it's the dress from hell."
Quinn, meanwhile, was just finishing up rereading her effort. Satisfied with what she had done, she hooked her laptop up to the printer and layed down as it did it's job."I just hope it's good enough for a passing grade."she thought before falling asleep.
Dance With The Devil
This is the story of two step sisters, Lynne and Joan. Joan was a mean, selfcentered girl, who was always taking advantage of her stepsister. Lynne was a kindhearted girl who was always ready to help anyone, even her stepsister, because to Lynne, family was family. One day, Joan came home from an interview for a modelling job and she was gloating about it to Lynne.
"I've just gotten an exclusive contract with the premier ABD modelling agency. Al says that with my looks, I'll be famous in no time. He's given me an advance on my salary, and I intend on celebrating with my friends tonight. Have my best outfit ready by the time I'm done showering, and I'll let you see a contract you could never get."
Genuinely happy for her stepsister, Lynne hugged Joan."That's wonderful! Mom'll be so happy!" She continued to hug her, even though Joan never returned the hug. Instead, she gently pushed Lynne away, saying, " Yes, and I'm sure Mother will be disappointed you didn't think of it first."
"I could never compete with you as a model, Joan. That wouldn't be right." Shyly, she asked, "Do you think I might have a chance at getting a modeling job?"
"Well, it couldn't hurt for you to try, at least. If he hires you, I'm sure you'll never get an exclusive contract like mine."
After Joan left the house to celebrate, Lynne sat down with the contract. Her sister was right that it was exclusive with all kinds of perks and a fabulous salary. As she continued to read she was truly happy for Joan, until she came to one part that made her heart stop. The color left her face, and her eyes went wide with utter fear. 'This can't be right!' she thought, 'It has to be some sick kind of joke!" There was only one way for her to find out, and that was to go to ABD and ask Al in person.
When she found the office in an old Brownstone building downtown, she was about to knock on the agency's door, when a deep refined voice came from the other side that sent chills down her spine.
"Come in Lynne, come in. No need to be so formal."
Nervously she opened the door and slowly stepped in. The man behind the desk was a large, sinister looking guy in a double breasted suit with jet black hair and a squared off beard. Even sitting behind the desk, she could tell he was built larger than the linebackers on her highschool football team. He was sitting back in the chair, arms crossed and examining his fingernails as Lynne nervously approached. Casually, Al waved her to the only chair in front of his desk. As she sat down, she noticed his nameplate facing her, and again, her eyes grew wide.
AL B. DAMD
Al gave a slight chuckle at Lynne's reaction, leaned foward folding his hands on the desk before he began his intimidating speech.
"Now.. shall we begin discussing your stepsister's contract?"
"How.. how did you know I wanted to talk about the contract? And how did you know it was me outside the door?"
In a calm but sinister tone, he answered, "Oh, come now. You're a clever girl. Surely, you've figured out who I am by now."
"The.. Dark One?"
Again, he chuckled."Just one name among others."
"Why did you trick Joan into signing that contract?"
"Trick her? I did no such thing. She signed of her own free will."
Lynne was beginning to shake. Al thought to himself "This will be easy to win. She's too timid to challenge me. '"
"You didn't even explain the contract to her. That's just as bad as tricking her."
"Joan had ample opportunity to read the contract herself. It's not my responsibility to see that she does."
"But that's not fair!" Lynne protested.
Al stood up and leaned across the desk, gettng louder as he continued to intimidate the frightened girl."FAIR? Do you think it fair that you should worry about a sister who treats you like a personal maid? One who cares nothing about your happiness? When was the last time Joan did a favor for you?"
Lynne avoided his gaze and answered hesitantly, "That doesn't matter. She's a part of my family, and I care about my family. I know she cares about me. She's just not the type to show it like other people."
Al just gazed at the girl for a moment."Hmmm.. yes." was all he said before slowly sitting back in his chair, drumming his fingers on the desk without taking his eyes off Lynne. After what seemed an eternity to Lynne, Al broke into a smile that made the hair on her neck stand up.
"Your niave faith in your sister is, to say the least, intriguing. After some consideration, I have decided to grant your request and release Joan from her contract.." Lynne was relieved, until he added,"on the condition that you perform one small task."
His smile grew bigger as the color left the frightened girls face and she slowly began shaking her head. ''I won't hurt or kill anyone, if that's what you want me to do!"
He chuckled,"No, that would be too simple. All you need do is make a wish that I cannot fulfill, or give me an impossible command, and Joan is released."
Lynne thought about this and said, "I at least have to try. When do you want me to come back?"
"Twenty four hours. That should be enough time for a clever girl like you."
As Lynne was leaving, he added, "Oh, by the way. Should you fail in this endeavor, I not only get your sister's soul, ... but yours as well." With that, he waved the girl out the office door. As she closed the door behind her, Lynne could hear his sinister laugh, as if he had won already. Now she was definately worried. She had only one day to come up with something that would void that contract and save them both from being lost forever. Every where she turned as she walked home, it seemed that Al would appear, laughing at her. Billboards, magazines, reflectons in windows, even people on the street took on the appearance of the evil one. She began running, running to her home. Surely once Lynne got there she would be able to think and solve this problem.
The house was quiet when she got home, the only sound coming from the clock on the mantle. Eight p. m. As she climbed the stairs to her room, she was startled to hear Al's laughter. She ran to her room terrified and slammed the door behind her. Again, she heard him laughing.
"Why are you doing this to me? Why won't you let me think?" A chill went down Lynnes spine when he answered. It felt as if he was standing next to her talking directly in her ear.
"I never said this would be easy, now did I?"
Throughout the night, every time she thought she had an answer, his taunting laughter would ruin Lynne's concentration and she would have to begin again. No matter what she did, he was there to intimidate and torture her thoughts, again and again, until, exhausted and out of ideas, Lynne collapsed in tears on her bed. It was 2:30 in the morning. Al left her crying, satisfied that he had won.
"God, I'm sorry. I tried, I tried. Please forgive me."
As she sobbed into her pillow, Lynne was sure she felt a gentle hand stroke the hair from her forehead. A comforting feeling came over her and she began to drift off to sleep. A gentle vioce was the last thing she heard before sleep took over."I am with you, always."
When she woke the next morning, Lynne was calm and sure she had the answer, a command that Al could never follow. As she arrived at the office, again he bade her enter before touching the door. This time, Lynne wasn't afraid.
Al was sitting back in his chair as he greeted Lynne and gestured her toward the seat in front of his desk. "Good morning, Lynne. I trust you... slept well last night?"
"Yes, thank you. I slept quite well."
Her answer surprized him and he sat forward in his chair now. Her sweet smile was an uncharacteristic response to his intimidations. It was... Unsettling to him."Really? Nothing heavy weighing on your mind?"
"No. Really, I slept fine last night."
"DON'T TRIFLE WITH ME, GIRL!" He yelled as he slammed his hands on the desk and leaned across 'til he was face to face with Lynne. He stared at her for a moment. She flinched once when he first stood up, but slowly turned back to him, confidently."Hmmm. '' was all he could say. After a moment, his patience ran out."Let's get on with this, shall we? Time is running out." Lynne's heart began to beat faster and she began to hyperventilate."GET ON WITH IT!"
She took a deep breath, and meekly said, "Go to Heaven." She turned her face away, and waited for him to yell again. But instead, he began to chuckle.
"Such a clever girl." He sat back in his chair and chuckled again. Then he said something totally unexpected. "Thank you."
"Th.. thank you? What for?"
"For reminding me about my inflated ego. Every now and then it needs... oh, how shall I put it?"
"Humbling. It happens now and again. In fact, the last time it happened wasn't too long ago in one of your southern states."
"Really? What happened?"
"I made the mistake of challenging a musician. Not only did I lose his soul, but a perfectly good violin as well."Al paused, then shrugged his shoulders. "Ah well, no matter. As agreed, your sister's contract is voided. She's all yours."
"And my soul?"
".. Belongs to you." he said as he opened the door for her to leave.
"And you'll never bother us again?"
As he slowly closed the door, he smiled and said,"That, my dear, is one bargain I never agree to."
Lynne gave a sigh of relief and was about to leave when Joan came storming up the stairs. She paused for a moment, surprized to see her step-sister there.
"Excuse me, I need to have a few words with Al about that modelling job he sent me to."
"If you must know, just before I got to the studio, the police raided the place and arrested everyone. It seems they were making adult films, if you know what I mean." Joan reached for the door, and when she opened it, both girls were surprized to find an empty office. No furniture or file cabinets. Instead, there was dust and papers, a single telephone sitting on the floor that looked like it hadn't been used in years."Hmmph!" Joan said angrily, "And I was going to tell him where he could go!"
Lynne put a hand on her sisters shoulder and with a smile, meekly said, "I already did."
As Jane finished reading the story in the school paper, she shook her head, still not quite believeing it was written by Daria's sister."If we didn't spend the weekend together, I'd swear you took pity on Quinn and wrote this for her."
"Nope, she did it all on her own." Daria replied. "And the really good part is she got a B on this. Now she's convinced that she can do anything she sets her mind to."
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like someone's proud of her sisters triumph over her overwhelming odds."
Daria didn't answer. Her smile said it all.
Daria is copyright MTV
"The Devil and Daniel Webster" copyright Douglas Moore
"Momma" copyright Genesis
"The Devil Went Down to Georgia" copyright Charlie Daniels Band