Author's Note: Daria Morgendorffer and her fellow characters from Daria are owned by MTV/Viacom. All other characters in this story are the property of Doggieboy. This is fan fiction and no money or other items of value have been exchanged for this story.
Daria the Hoosier, or
When in the World Am I?
The four students looked from the high school roof as the storm closed in on Lawndale and Daria Morgendorffer looked at her best friend, Jane Lane. "Do you find yourself wanting to sing something about going somewhere over the rainbow?" she asked.
The tall, raven-haired artist nodded and stared at the darkened clouds. A blast of hurricane-force wind pushed both of them back a few inches and she said, "Oddly enough, yes." She shivered. "That doesn't mean that I'm going to, though."
Daria looked back at Brittany Taylor and Kevin Thompson, but they were still trying to get the door opened. A second blast of wind pushed her forward and Jane caught her.
"I think we need to huddle down somewhere," Jane said, "until the storm passes us by."
"This is the worst place we can be right now, Jane."
Jane glanced at the clouds once again. "It's not like we have a choice, amiga."
The two moved closer to the other two teens when a third blast of wind, this one even stronger, hit them. This time, however, the wind lifted Daria up in the air in front of her amazed friends.
"Daria!" Jane screamed her name, grabbed for her and barely missed.
Kevin ran from Brittany and jumped for Daria. His right hand barely touched the heel of her left boot, but another blast of wind hit him and slammed him into a chimney. He slumped to the roof, dazed.
"Kevvy!" Brittany screamed. She and Jane huddled together near him on the roof. Their cries of terror were lost in the roaring winds.
Daria couldn't even scream as she was lifted higher and higher. She could only close her eyes as tightly as she could and one thought played continually in her mind: What goes up, must come down.
When she finally started downward, though, she screamed at the top of her lungs.
Daria awoke in a cornfield, of all places, and groaned as she felt the heat hit her. Man, it must be in the 90s, she thought as she sat up. What the hell happened? Where am I? Where's Jane? Where's Brittany? And where's Kevin?
She stood up, stretched and noticed that the corn spread around her as far as the eye could see. In fact, she was totally enveloped within the field. Not only that, but the smell of the cornfield was very strong, and it made her think of fresh corn on the cob. She exhaled loudly and felt a strong urge to laugh hysterically.
The auburn-haired teen quickly suppressed that urge. Don't go there, she thought. Keep a cool head, and try to be logical about this.
"O.K., I guess that I'm not in Lawndale anymore," she said as she looked around. "In fact, I have absolutely no idea where I am."
The sound of a truck as it drove by reached her ears and she searched until she saw it apparently some several hundred yards ahead on a road. She looked down at herself and brushed dried dirt off her shoulders and backside. Then she walked towards the road.
The midday sun beat down on her and she frowned as she wiped sweat off her forehead. Some of her hair even became matted from the sweat. "O.K., it was fall in Lawndale, but it's obviously late July or early August here. So, either I'm dead, or..."
The teen found that she couldn't finish her sentence, and a chill swept through her. I'm scared. I want Mom and Dad. Now.
She reached the road nearly ten minutes later and stared at it, a confused look on her face. It was a regular county road, with tar spread out in a haphazard fashion. "I don't remember Maryland county roads looking like this," she muttered and walked towards the west on what passed for a shoulder.
"I'll get to the nearest town and call Mom," she told herself and swallowed nervously. "She'll come and get me, and I'll never leave home again."
The sudden sound of an approaching vehicle caused her to turn around quickly, her eyes wide open. She debated jumping back into the cornfield and hiding, but settled on moving off the miniscule shoulder and into the ditch.
A light blue Dodge Sportsman van slowed to a stop and the driver put it in park. A teen boy looked out the open passenger window at Daria and said, "Hey, do you need a lift?"
She hesitated, but finally nodded and said, "Yes, please."
He smiled at her and nodded as well. "Hop in. I'm headed to Winchester, too, and there's no sense in you walking all afternoon in this heat."
Daria noted the van's metal door handle as she opened it. Strange, she thought. I haven't seen a handle like this since I was little. Van looks new enough, though. Must be a custom job. She got seated, shut the door, then buckled herself in.
The boy hadn't been buckled himself in, but did likewise. He blushed and said, "I haven't gotten in the habit yet. Name's Jim. Jim Williams."
"Daria Morgendorffer," she said. Wait until you get ticketed for not wearing one. That will get you in the habit fast.
Jim put his foot on the brake, shifted into drive and drove on. "Good to meet you, Daria. I don't think I've ever seen you around here before."
"I'm not sure where I'm at, to be honest," she said, then hesitated. "I don't even know how I got here."
He looked at her curiously, then shrugged. "Well, you're four miles southeast of Winchester, Indiana..."
Winchester, Indiana? How the hell did I get here? You're dreaming, Morgendorffer. That's all there is to it.
"...It's August the third, it's very hot, and I'm sorry we don't have air conditioning in the van."
"We?" she asked and wiped sweat off her forehead again.
"This belongs to my folks," he said. "Since I have my license, though, I get to drive it." He smiled, then added, "To tell you the truth, though, I'd rather drive my Dad's Plymouth Fury III."
Daria looked at the space between the van's bucket seats. A clipboard held several papers, some torn out pages from a magazine and what looked like a 3-D picture postcard of a black bear. A copy of Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers sat on top and she picked it up.
The boy tensed briefly, then relaxed as she opened it up and looked at the publishing information. BERKELEY MEDALLION EDITION, MAY, 1968. TENTH PRINTING.
"Have you ever read that before?" he asked.
"Yes," she said. "It's pretty good."
The boy seemed surprised by that news and his smile widened. "I've read Farnham's Freehold several years ago, but that was a bit wild for a twelve-year-old to read."
"Have you ever read Friday?" she asked.
He thought for several seconds, then shook his head. "Never heard of it. I'll have to look out for it, though."
Nearly five minutes after Jim picked her up, they came to the outskirts of a small city. Daria could see a large blue factory on the east side, passed by a slightly elevated highway. She could also see the familiar arches of a McDonald's restaurant on the other side of the highway.
"Where would you like to go, Daria? I'll take you there, as long as it isn't too far away."
"A pay phone would be nice, unless you have a cell phone."
He was suddenly confused and looked at her. "What's a cell phone?"
Daria blinked. What do you mean, 'What's a cell phone? "Sorry, you know, a mobile phone?"
Jim smiled again. "No, I don't have a mobile phone. I don't even know anyone who has one."
"Where do you go to school at?"
The auburn-haired teen debated ignoring the question, then said, "I go to Lawndale High School, in Baltimore. I'm here for the summer."
"How did you get out there in the middle of nowhere?" he asked.
"I don't know," she said. "I think somebody is playing a practical joke on me."
"Well, McDonald's has a pay phone," he said. "We'll go there." He slowed to a stop at an intersection, then glanced at her, suddenly nervous. "Would you like something to eat there? My treat."
He's afraid that I'm going to say no, she realized. I better play nice, for now. She gave him a small smile and said, "I'd like that."
He smiled again, and relaxed. Then he turned on a highway labeled U.S. 27, and drove on ahead.
They reached the restaurant two minutes later, and Jim parked in the shade of the building's east side.
The cars and trucks parked around the restaurant all looked to be 70s models, with some 60s and a couple of fifties to boot. Must be a cruise-in going on, she thought.
Daria walked with Jim and realized that he would be showing her off to whoever was inside.
At the front counter, a freckled brunette gave Daria the once over, then said, "Hey, Jim, who's your friend?"
He cleared his throat and said, "Kim Garner, this is Daria Morgendorffer. Daria, this is a friend of mine, Kim Garner."
"Hey," Daria said.
"Hi," she said. "Ask Jim about the love letter he sent me back in tenth grade."
"Kim!" he said and blushed.
The brunette laughed and said, "Oh, calm down, Jim. What can I get you two?"
Daria looked at the menu and saw the prices were lower than she was used to in Lawndale. Much lower. A dollar thirty-nine for a Big Mac? Man, the cost of living here must be great. Or else the local pay scale must really suck big time. "Uh, a Big Mac, fries and a large Ultra...I mean, a Sprite."
"Same for me," Jim said, then looked at Daria. "Pay phone's right over there." He pointed at the east wall near a corner. "Need some change?"
She gave him a weak smile. "Please? I don't know if I have enough."
He handed her a quarter and said, "Don't worry about it."
Daria looked at the quarter and felt a dozen questions well up inside her. She pushed them all down, then walked to the phone and stopped.
The phone was a rotary dial phone. She looked back at Jim, who smiled at her, but then he turned to Kim to answer a question.
Then Daria saw a partly folded newspaper on a nearby table and glanced at it.
The News-Gazette, the cover read. Friday, August 3, 1979.
Her face paled and she felt her chin quiver as she read the paper's date.
The newspaper had been abandoned and Daria picked it up. She gave it a quick scan and learned that just a couple of weeks before, Iraqi Vice President Saddam Hussein had replaced the resigning President Hasan al-Bakr. There was also a brief article about Michael Jackson's upcoming album and news about the Sandinista takeover of Nicaragua.
Then for several seconds, she grimaced as she felt her thoughts become confused. Nothing's making any sort of damned sense to me. What the hell am I doing in 1979?
Jim walked towards her, a plastic tray with their food and drinks on it in his hands. He stopped nearby and asked, "Reach anyone?"
She shook her head quickly and looked down.
He looked at her uncertainly, then asked, "Are you O.K.?"
"I'm fine!" she replied a little too fast. "I'm fine."
"Where would you like to sit?"
She looked around and pointed at a corner table that offered some privacy. "Is that O.K.?" she asked.
"Sure," he said and led the teen girl there.
When the two had sat down and began their meal, Daria thought, I've got to tell him the truth. If I'm going to be stuck here, I'll need help, especially with someplace to stay and food to eat.
"You're not saying much," he said.
The auburn-haired girl looked up at his face and said, her voice quiet, "Jim, I need some help."
He nodded, a small smile on his face. "You're a runaway, aren't you?" he asked. "You give off that kind of vibe."
"What?" she asked, surprised. "I'm not a runaway!"
Jim blinked and his face turned a beet red in color. "I'm sorry," he said. "I assumed when I shouldn't have. What kind of help do you need?"
She leaned forward slightly. "How open-minded are you?"
He looked at her sideways, his expression uncertain, and asked, "What do you mean?"
"You've read Heinlein, especially Farnham's Freehold, so you have exposure to...unusual possibilities."
"Why don't you come right out and say what you're thinking?" he asked. "That way, I won't make another wrong assumption!"
"Because you won't believe me!" Daria covered her face with both of her hands. "It's August the third, 1979, isn't it?"
He nodded. "Yeah." His expression showed his wariness and a slight bit of skepticism.
"What if I told you that this morning when I got out of bed, it was November the fourteenth, 1997?"
Jim looked at her for several seconds, blinked and then asked her, "How did you end up here, in this time?"
She kept her face covered. "I don't know."
He said nothing and ate his meal.
Daria looked at him briefly, then back down at her food. She also ate her meal, but didn't really feel up to it. He thinks that I'm some crazy lunatic, and will probably leave me here. What do I do then? How do I get home?
When Jim finished the last of his Sprite, he stood up, looked at Daria and said, "I'll take your trash for you."
She kept her soda and watched as he threw away the trash, then set the plastic tray on top of the trash can. Then he walked around a corner and out of her sight.
The girl felt her chin quiver and tears build up in her eyes. She fought the impulse to start crying and stared at the tabletop.
She jumped and looked up to see Jim stand at the table. "Do you need to use the restroom?"
She barely nodded.
"Go ahead, and I'll wait for you here."
A questioning look must have appeared on her face, because he said, "It's around the corner where I went earlier. Men's and women's restrooms are next to each other."
She blushed, stood up and handed him her soda. Then she walked to the bathroom. As she walked, she lifted her glasses and wiped her eyes.
As she washed her hands a couple of minutes later, a teen girl with straight and long black hair came out of another stall and said, "Hey, you want to buy some dope?"
The question threw Daria off and she nearly gasped. I did not expect that one, she thought. She hesitated before saying, "No. I don't smoke."
The girl smiled and said, "Your loss."
Daria stepped out of the bathroom a little faster than she went in. She rushed back to the table she and Jim had shared and noticed a concerned look on his face.
"Something wrong?" he asked and handed her the Sprite.
She shook her head and blinked.
"Good. Come with me, please."
She felt relieved and moved to follow the boy. He held the door open for her and then opened the van door as well. She sat in the seat and buckled up as he shut the door and walked around the vehicle.
He said nothing as he got back in, buckled up and drove away from the restaurant.
Winchester was a small city by Daria's standards, but close to the size of Highland from what she could tell. Just has a lot more trees, but seems about as rinky-dink.
When the van stopped at a red light, Daria saw two girls who looked to be around fifteen or sixteen years old. Both wore red-striped tube tops and her mouth dropped open. My God, they're form fitting! You can see everything!
She glanced at Jim, who looked at them briefly, but mostly paid attention to the signal and the other drivers. When the light turned green, he drove ahead.
"You didn't look at those girls very long," she commented.
"I saw enough," he said and snorted. "I know them. They're jailbait." He gave her a wry smile. "I take it that girls don't wear tube tops in 1997?"
"Yes, some do," the girl said and looked back at the younger girls. "But they sure don't reveal that much." She turned back around and shook her head. "You could seen the shape of their nipples!"
"I know," he said and sighed.
"I can't believe that their parents would let them go out like that!" she said.
A frown appeared on his face then. "Some parents don't care as long as they aren't being bothered."
When they left the town going west, Daria asked, "Where are you taking me?"
"My place," he said. "My family lives about four miles out of town."
He looked at her briefly, then back at the road. "I have absolutely no idea what else to do, that's why." He exhaled loudly as he drove, shook his head then added, "There was also the fact that I don't want anyone else hearing what you were going to tell me. Tell me what happened when you got up this morning."
She looked at him, then spoke. "I went to school, just as I normally do. There was a hurricane that day. We usually don't get them up north as far as Lawndale. Somehow four of us got trapped on the school roof. The winds got so bad, they picked me up. My friend Jane screamed my name, but I kept going higher and higher. I closed my eyes. Then when I started falling, I screamed. The next thing I know, I'm in a cornfield near the road where you picked me up."
"I see," he said. "You told me that you were from Baltimore, but just now you said 'Lawndale.'"
"Lawndale is a suburb of Baltimore," she explained.
"O.K.," he said. "I understand."
Daria looked out the passenger window and shuddered at the thought of never seeing her family again. "Is this hell?" she asked.
To her surprise, Jim laughed and laughed hard. "Some people think so," he said. "Winchester...hell, Randolph County is the armpit of Indiana."
"Kind of backward, huh?" she asked.
"There are people in this county who would bring back Prohibition, if the state or federal governments would let them." He then turned south on a county road. "What is your birthdate?"
Interesting way to change the subject, Daria thought. "November 8, 1980," she said. "You think I'm nuts, don't you?"
Jim shook his head. "No, but you do have to admit that your story is a bit...odd."
In response, Daria reached in her jacket pocket and pulled out a quarter. She glanced at it, nodded and handed it towards him. "Then look at this."
"I thought you were broke," he said. "You needed change to make a phone call at McDonald's, remember?"
"In my time, phone calls are at least fifty cents, Jim," she said. "Take the coin and look at it."
He took the offered coin and slowed down as he looked at it. Suddenly, he stopped the van, gawked at the coin and said, "1995?"
"Do you believe me now?" she asked, a small smile on her face.
When Jim looked at her, she saw that his face was totally pale.
He finally handed Daria her quarter back and drove on. After several seconds, he started laughing.
She watched him as he laughed, her expression alarmed. Finally, she said, "I don't know what you're laughing at."
His laughter slowed to a stop and he said, "Sorry. I had to laugh, cause the more I picture trying to explain this to my Dad, the crazier it sounds. He's gonna think I'm off my rocker, and that you're trying to con me."
Daria swallowed nervously and asked, "Where else can I go?"
"There's always the CIA, but then you'll end up looking stupid...or hidden away wherever that Area 51 place is."
"Nevada," she said.
"Area 51," she said. "It's in Nevada."
Jim glanced quickly at her, then looked back at the road. "I heard recently that it was hidden away at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio."
Daria shook her head. "Trust me, it's in Nevada."
"Oh? Is it open to the public in your time?"
"No, it's just as hush-hush then as it is now. It's just...harder to hide things in 1997 than it was...is in this time." She shook her head. "I'm not too sure I can get used to this."
"You'd better," he said. "Most people around here aren't very open minded at all. You tell them that you're from the future, and you'll end up in Richmond faster than you can think."
"What's in Richmond?" she asked.
"State mental hospital."
She looked at the dash and took a deep breath. "So what are you going to tell your family when you suddenly show up with me?"
"How old are you, Daria?"
"I just turned seventeen," she said. "A week ago. Happy birthday to me. Yay."
Jim thought as he drove, then finally said, "How's this one sound? You're eighteen, just graduated from high school, and your family kicked you out."
"Why would they kick me out?"
"That happened to a friend of mine in Union City. It was like, 'You're an adult, take care of yourself now.' Really messed him up."
"I don't know," she said and crossed her arms over her chest. "Do I look eighteen?"
"You don't even look seventeen," he said. "It doesn't matter, anyway. You can hang out in my Winnebago until we figure out what to do next."
Daria stared at him, surprised. "You live in an RV? How did that happen?"
For nearly a minute, Jim said nothing. Then he said, "It's kind of a payback for the way Dad treated me when I was really little. Since I graduated in the Spring, I have my own place, but still on his land, so I only pay for my electricity and phone."
She blinked and waited as he stopped at a four-way intersection, then drove on. "Did he beat you?"
"Nope," he said and looked at her. "Nothing like that. It's just that my Mom died when I was thirteen months old. She had gotten pregnant when I was four months old and she...wasn't fully healed from my birth. She and my baby brother both died, and Dad pawned me off on relatives. He blamed me for their deaths."
"Damn, that's horrible."
He shrugged. "Don't matter much anymore. After a couple of years of that, my great-grandfather and one of my uncles confronted him. Told him that if he wasn't going to be a man, they were going to legally take me away from him and ban him from family gatherings. By that time, he was involved with Sharon and she was also pushing him to 'do his duty as a father.' Well, when he and Sharon got married in 1965, I was back with him and he's pretty much tried to make up for that time ever since."
"How come you don't have your own car, then?"
"Insurance," he said. "Until I get a regular job that actually involves paychecks, Dad figured it would be cheaper for me to drive one of their vehicles."
Then Jim slowed the van down and turned right onto a gravel driveway.
Daria looked at the house and the grounds. The yard had been mowed recently, and was well-kept. The house looked somewhat new, two stories tall and with an attached garage.
Jim drove by the house and on another hundred or more feet until he came to an old Winnebago parked near a red shed shaped like a small barn.
"Where did the RV come from?" Daria asked as he parked the van.
He shut off the engine and looked at her. "It belonged to Sharon's folks. With the rising gas prices, they sold it to us and Dad lets me live in it."
Wait till you see how much gas costs in 1997, she thought. "Do you drive it?"
"Not hardly," he said and laughed. "I think it gets like six miles to the gallon. Come on, I'll show you the place."
When they got out of the van, Daria stopped and said, "Jim." He turned and looked at her. "Just because I'm sticking with you doesn't mean I want to...do anything intimate. I just want to go home."
He looked at her and nodded. "Kinda early for that, since we just met," he said. "Your situation intrigues me, though. As the kids in Mystery Inc. like to say, 'We've got a mystery on our hands.' That's Scooby-Doo, in case you didn't know."
"Scooby-Doo is still popular in my time," she said.
"Good," he said. "I like watching it, when I get the chance. I can't stand Scrappy-Doo, though." He unlocked the RV, opened the door and did a mock bow. "After you, milady."
She gave him a small smile and walked inside the vehicle. The interior was clean, and while there was a stack of magazines and comic books on the dining table, it still looked to be almost showroom presentable.
"You look surprised," he said after he came in as well. He then turned on a small air conditioner
"It's really clean in here," she said.
"One of the terms of my living here is that I keep it clean," he said. "I hate to be an absent host, Daria, but I have some work to do outside right now. Also part of the terms of my living here. Why don't you have a seat and either watch some TV or read some magazines. I shouldn't be more than an hour or an hour and a half."
"Do you have cable?"
He raised his eyebrows. "Out here?" he asked. "No way. But Dad put in a booster to pick up signals from all around, so it's just as good as cable, except we don't get Showtime."
Daria started to ask about various cable channels, but stopped herself and smiled. "Maybe I'll see what's on and read something while I'm waiting."
He nodded. "After I'm done, I'll get cleaned up and I'll let Dad and Sharon know about you being here."
When he started to step back outside, she said, "Jim, what if I can't get back to my time?"
"I have an idea about that," he said. "I'd like to think on it while I'm working before I tell you. If you want something to drink, I have Pepsi, Kool-Aid, or water in the frig." He stepped outside.
Daria watched him walk towards the shed and sat down on the couch. She looked around briefly for a remote control, sighed in disgust and stood up. "How the hell did people function without remote controls?" she asked herself and turned on the TV set.
The TV was a 20-inch diagonal Motorola Black-and-White set. The channel was set on channel four, and when it warmed up, showed the Bugs Bunny cartoon Hillbilly Hare.
As the cartoon played, she picked up a notebook from the shelf beside the couch. Inside a folder were several magazine pictures of Olympic ice skater Dorothy Hamill. Then there were various articles from Time, People and Argosy.
In the back of the articles was a pictorial taken out of a men's magazine and Daria's eyes opened widely as she looked at the pictures. "Whoa," she muttered and closed the notebook quickly. She replaced it on the shelf and watched the TV.
After a few minutes, she glanced at the notebook sideways and said, "That's what you get for being nibby, Daria."
The RV door opened and a dishwater blonde in her early to mid-thirties stood there. "Who are you?" she asked.
Daria looked at the woman and blushed as she sat there. Uh-oh. She swallowed nervously as she stood up and said, "Hi! I'm Daria Morgendorffer. I'm a friend of Jim's." She held out her right hand.
"I figured that you were a friend of his," the woman said, her tone cautious, and took the girl's offered hand. "I'm Sharon Williams, Jim's mother." She looked around. "Where is he?"
"He's outside, finishing up yard work." She motioned to the TV set. "He told me to watch TV while I waited for him."
"I see," the dishwater blonde said and glanced at her. She looked the teen over, and neither smiled nor frowned. "When Jim comes back in, tell him that I want to see both of you in the house."
Sharon left then and Daria exhaled in relief. "I think she's upset," she muttered. No, duh. She came in her son's place to find a strange woman instead.
When Jim came back in, he looked at Daria and asked, "Anything good on?"
"Bugs Bunny cartoons," she said. "Your mother was in here. She said to tell you that she wanted to see both of us in the house."
He sighed and his shoulders slumped. Then he shook his head. "Looks like I'll take my shower later on." He moved to the TV and turned it off. "We'd better go on in, or I'll have them both mad at me."
When they walked outside, Daria frowned due to the heat and wiped sweat off of her forehead. I hate this heat! It reminds me too much of Texas! She glanced at him and asked, "Are you in trouble because of me?"
"I don't know - yet," Jim said. "I know how they see things, though. Dad will be upset because he'll think that you're trying to take advantage of me. Or, more likely, that I'm trying to take advantage of you."
"Have you taken advantage of girls before?" she asked, a smirk on his face.
Jim glanced sideways at her, smirked back, and said, "No. As far as Sharon's concerned, however, she will be wary of you because she's always wary of my female friends. She's afraid that I'll get burned."
Inside the house, Daria sighed in relief at the air conditioning. This is a lot better than the AC in Jim's trailer, she thought as she briefly closed her eyes.
Then she saw the woman again, who sat beside a man who looked like an older version of Jim by at least twenty years. The resemblance was shocking, except that Jim's father was bald and the fringe of hair around his head was extremely short cut.
The man looked at Daria for a couple of seconds, then at Jim and spoke up. "Son, who's your friend? Sharon's met her, but I haven't."
Jim moved forward and motioned towards Daria. "Dad, this is Daria Morgendorffer. Daria, this is my Dad, Sam Williams."
The man stood up, smiled, and shook Daria's offered hand. "Where are you from, Daria?"
"Baltimore, sir," she said in an attempt to be respectful. She noticed a family portrait that had Jim and the two adults, along with two young girls, one blonde and the other brunette.
He held up his right hand quickly and shook his head. "No need for this 'sir' or 'ma'am' stuff here, Daria," the man said as he sat back down. "We're pretty informal in this household. How'd you end up in Randolph County from Baltimore?"
She took a deep breath and said, "I was kicked out by my parents after graduation and I'm just moving around, trying to find a place that I'm comfortable with. Jim here came upon me while I was walking and here I am."
"Dad, Sharon," Jim spoke up. His voice seemed slightly shaky and sweat appeared on his forehead, despite the air conditioning. "Daria was alone and walking north of Greenville Road - pretty much in the middle of nowhere. She needs a place to stay awhile while she figures out what she's going to do next. I was going to let her stay at the RV."
The two adults looked startled at the announcement. Then Sam frowned at his son. "The hell you are," he said. "Boy, just because you're eighteen doesn't mean that you can have girlfriends sleeping over. We've been through this discussion before."
"I was going to let her have my bed and I'd sleep on the couch!" Jim protested. "It's not like you're thinking! Besides, she's not my girlfriend!"
Both adults had skeptical looks on their faces at that announcement. "Jim," Sharon said, "Both your dad and I know how young men your age are. The best of intentions mean nothing when you give in to temptation." She looked at Daria and concentrated for several seconds. Then she looked over at her husband. What do you think, Sam?"
The man looked at Daria and then at his wife. "She can stay in Jim's old room here in the house," he said. "Daria, that means you'll be subject to the rules of the house just like Jim, Monica and Lindsey are."
"Are those two Monica and Lindsey?" the teen girl asked as she pointed at the family portrait..
"Yeah," Jim said. "They're my little irritating tagalongs and all-around pains in the butt."
"They're your sisters, Jim," Sharon said.
Sam gave his son a cynical glance. "The girls happen to think that you're a bossy troll sometimes, boy," he said. "When you're not acting like King Kong." Then he turned his attention back towards Daria. "The rules are that you help out around the house, don't smoke, don't drink alcohol, and don't curse - especially in front of the girls."
O.K. Looks like I'm kinda stuck for now. "I don't smoke or drink and I...don't curse."
"Well, that's good," Sam said. "Also, while we'll walk around the house in our pajamas, we don't run around in our underwear - or less."
Daria blushed. "Uh...I'm very modest. That won't happen."
The man smiled. "Good. Now, Sharon's going to pick us up a pizza for supper, so have a seat and relax until the food gets here."
Daria smiled at the thought of pizza and sat down on an upholstered rocking chair, while Jim sat on a seat with large armrests.
As Sharon grabbed her purse and the van keys, Jim asked, "Did you also order a sub?"
Sam laughed and Sharon rolled her eyes. "Yes, we ordered a sub," she said. "Is there anything else you want?"
"Broasted potatoes from the Chicken Shack would be nice," he added.
Sharon shook her head. "Don't push it," she said. "A pizza and sub is more than enough for four of us."
"Too bad," Jim said. "I love broasted potatoes." Then he glanced at Daria. "The Pizza House's subs are absolutely great."
"I wouldn't go that far," Sam said as he stood up and kissed his wife. When she left, he walked over to a large stereo and turned it on. Country-western music filled the room.
Jim frowned and saw Daria wince from the music. "Can't we listen to Winchester instead?" he asked. "Rock is better than this."
The man looked at his son as though he had announced that he was ruler of all Mars and the Asteroid Belt. "That stuff you listen to, boy, isn't rock. Real rock hasn't been made since Sharon and I got married." He looked at Daria. "What kind of music do you like, Daria?"
"I'm with Jim," she said and smiled briefly. "I like rock, though classical is pretty good, too."
Sam smiled. "What my grandfather always called 'longhair music.' Well, we've got an album of Johan Strauss, if you want to hear that, instead."
Daria's expression brightened, even as she thought, An album? Why not an 8-Track tape? "Does it have the Radetzky March?"
The man's smile widened. "Yes, it does. You know it?"
"Yes, they play it at the Vienna New Year's Concert every year. Walter Cronkite hosts it on PBS."
Both Jim and Sam looked at her sharply. "The CBS news anchor?" the older man asked. "I can't see CBS letting him off for that. Besides, PBS doesn't show the concert."
Oh, shit, he must not be doing that yet. She blushed, swallowed and said quickly, "I mean, I'd read somewhere that when he retires from CBS, he's going to do that."
Jim still looked at Daria, while Sam nodded and said, "I could see him doing that."
The album was put on and while one piece of music played, Sam briefly left the room. Jim turned to Daria and whispered, "Do you know when Cronkite actually starts doing that?"
The girl closed her eyes and muttered, "I think it happens in the mid-eighties. I was a little girl when I first saw it." She closed her eyes and shook her head. Dammit, why is my mind clouding up again? She shook her head again.
"You O.K.?" he asked.
"Yes," she said and looked at him.
"Be careful what you say," he said. "There's a fine line between giving a fact and sounding crazy."
"I will. I will. Sorry."
The sun was setting as Daria and Jim walked back to the RV, both full of pizza. "Your parents are trusting me to be alone with you?"
"I gave my word that we weren't going to have sex," he said. "They trust me, at least until I give them a reason not to."
They walked a little further. She said, "I thought you said that Sharon was your step-mother."
He nodded and replied, "She is. She just happens to hate the word 'step'. To her, it implies that someone gets stepped on. For all intents and purposes, she is my mother, even if she was fifteen when I was born, and nineteen when she and Dad were married."
"I don't think she trusts me," she said.
"She doesn't want me to be hurt," he said. "My relationship with Diana Rawlings ended badly last year and she's 'protective' because of it."
"How did it end?" Daria asked. Let's see what kind of guy you are.
"She dated someone behind my back," he said and looked straight ahead. "I was the last to find out." He shook his head and sighed. "It's over and done. No sense crying over spilled milk."
They walked on in silence until they reached the trailer. When they stepped inside, Daria said, "You said something earlier about having an idea about what we can do to get me home."
Jim nodded and shut the door behind him. He motioned her to the dinner table and they sat down across from each other. "I honestly want to avoid dealing with the government if at all possible. But it seems to me that one of the people who might be able to help us is Robert Heinlein himself. I know that he lives in California, but I'm not sure where."
She was shocked. "But he's a novelist!" she protested. "A science-fiction writer, not a scientist himself!"
"I know that. But he might be able to help us in finding a scientist."
"O.K., who are the other people?"
"Just one," he said. "Arthur C. Clarke. But I have no idea where he lives."
"I think he's in India."
Jim chuckled. "O.K., scratch that possibility."
"How are you going to contact Heinlein anyway?" she asked. "I'd say that his phone number is unlisted and that any letter you send him will get in response a generic fan service letter written by a publisher's employee."
"Simple," he said. "We go to California and see him."
"I've got money saved up, and I've been planning on going to The Golden State before I go to college in January."
Daria looked down at the table and shook her head. "Why?" she asked. "Why would you do this for me? We just met!"
Jim smiled and said, "Well, it's like this. One day, I was shooting at some food, and up through the ground came a bubbling crude...oil, that is. Black Gold, Texas Tea..."
She closed her eyes and held up her right hand. "Let me guess. The kinfolk said, 'Jim move away from here! Californy's the place you oughta be.' So you loaded up your truck and you moved to Beverly...Hills, that is."
He saw the pained look on her face and said, "Daria, I really was planning to go out west before I started school. This trip will tie into it rather neatly, that's all."
"What if it doesn't help?" she asked.
The boy thought for several seconds, then said, "I've always heard that it's better to act than to react. We could do nothing, but where would that get you?"
"Suppose we do go out there and see Heinlein and nothing changes. What then?"
"We'll have a trip to California under our belts." He saw the hesitation in her expression and continued, "I don't know what else to do, Daria. This situation is beyond anything I've ever experienced, or imagined, before."
Daria gave him a weak smile. "Thanks for trying, at least." She sighed. "I just wish I could search the Net for some ideas."
"Search the what?"
Dammit! They didn't have the Internet in 1979. She blushed. "Sorry. Something from my time. Jim, I don't mean any offense, but I find it odd, and more than a little bit scary, that you're so willing to help me."
"You've got a bit of the 'little girl lost' quality to you," Jim said and smiled. "I can't just stand aside and not help you. You see, Daria, you're scared and I can feel it - strongly. That makes me...hell, I can't remember the word. Not sympathetic, but..."
"Empathic?" she suggested.
"That's it! That's the word! I first saw that word when I read Man-Thing comics. What I'm trying to tell you is that you're not causing me any trouble, nor am I trying to win brownie points with you. You're not putting me out any."
"Yes, I am," she said and pointed at his chest. "I'm putting both you and your parents out. You've already spent both time and money on me and you've offered me someplace to stay. I have nothing to repay you with, except....I keep thinking that eventually you'll demand a 'return' on your 'investment'. A lot of guys would. Don't give me that line about how you're 'different'. I'm not ignorant about life, you know."
Jim looked at the girl for nearly a minute, then said, "Let me see that quarter again."
Daria dug the coin out of her jacket pocket and handed it to him.
"Washington quarters are pretty fascinating, I think," he said as he looked it over. "They were started in 1932 as a bicentennial commemorative of George Washington's birth. Replaced the Standing Liberty Quarters, which were actually more attractive, in my opinion. I find it funny that they'll still be using the same exact design for sixty-five years, excepting 1976, of course."
"I don't see--"
"Hang on, Daria. There is a point to this. I'm an amateur numismatist as a hobby, and I've seen my fair share of lame counterfeits." He looked at the coin some more and narrowed his eyes as he looked it over. "Did you know that states, cities and businesses can print their own scrip, but that it's illegal for them to make coinage?"
"No, I didn't," she said.
He smiled at her. "I find that fascinating, too. This coin isn't a counterfeit. It's mint quality is excellent, right down to the 'In God We Trust' slogan and the sandwiched look on the reeded edge." He tossed the coin back to her and she caught it. "You really are from 1997 and, in one respect, young enough to be my daughter. I don't know how you got here - but you did. I don't know how to get you back - but I'll do my damndest to get you there. I have to help you. For my own peace of mind and dignity, not to mention my sanity, I have to help you."
She looked at him, surprised and speechless.
Jim stood up and held out his right hand. "Let's get you back to the house. If we stay alone here too long at night, Dad and Sharon will both get upset and we don't want that."
She took his hand and let him pull her to her feet. Then, she said, "Thank you."
"Don't worry about it, Daria. We'll do what we can."
They left the RV and headed back towards the house.
"I hope this room is comfortable for you, " Sharon said as she led Daria into Jim's old bedroom. "I have no idea what kind of room you're used to."
The room that had belonged to Jim was now a guest room, clean, but still decorated with touches of its old occupant.
Daria wore a nightshirt borrowed from Sharon, a light blue one that extended to almost her ankles, since the woman was at least seven inches taller than her.
The teen smiled and said, "I'll be fine. Thank you for your hospitality."
Sharon smiled at her. "I wasn't too sure about you at first, but you seem appreciative and willing to abide by our rules. If Jim's willing to help you out, then the least we could do is help you, too." The woman turned to leave the room, then stopped. "Daria?"
"Jim's a good son and also a good brother to his sisters. I hate seeing him hurt."
The woman's expression gave the teen a silent warning, one strong enough so that it made Daria back up slightly. She said, "We're...we're not in a relationship, Mrs. Williams..."
"...Sharon. We are just friends. I haven't had too many friends, and I treasure the ones I do have."
"O.K., I'll accept that and add just one restriction to what Sam told you earlier. If we catch you and Jim having sex, or even just in bed together, you'll be out of here - fast."
Daria blushed and held her breath. "I'm...I'm not that kind of girl, Sharon."
The woman nodded and gave her a small smile. "You do seem reserved. Don't worry about getting in trouble for kisses or holding hands. You know what we mean."
"Yes, I understand."
"Good night, then, Daria. You know where the bathroom is."
"I do. Thank you."
Sharon closed the door then and Daria sighed in relief. Heaven help the girl who hurts him next. She'll probably tear her to shreds.
She saw a cardboard box just under the bed near a small table with a lamp and a clock radio. Seeing an analog clock on a radio blew her mind, though she did see a digital clock radio in the kitchen earlier. Apparently, they're still new on the market, she thought.
She pulled the box out and saw that one side held magazines and the other side held comic books. Famous Monsters of Filmland[, MAD Magazine, Castle of Frankenstein, Sick, Movie Monsters, Cracked and one newspaper called The Monster Times were among the magazines the box held. The comics selection included Star Trek, The Uncanny X-Men, Justice League of America, Batman and Action Comics.
Daria grabbed issue 100 of Famous Monsters, propped herself up on the bed and covered her legs. Then she read by lamplight.
Sometime during the late night (she thought the glow-in-the dark clock read 2:30 a.m., but her vision was blurry and she wasn't really sure) she heard a radio somewhere and listened to the song, a man singing a country song.
"...I used to have to walk nearly three miles to court her. She never had much, just a sharecropper's daughter..."
Her eyes closed briefly, then she jerked awake.
"...Tonight I'll put her on a train for Georgia. Gonna be a lotta kin folks squallin' and a grieving. 'Cause that Cedartown gal ain't breathing..."
Daria blinked her eyes twice, and chuckled at the lyrics. "Damn, that sounds like ole' Waylon himself. Sam and Sharon must be listening to music."
She closed her eyes as his song finished and another one came on.
The knock on the door woke Daria up and she felt a brief panic when she didn't recognize where she was. Then she remembered the hurricane, Jim and his parents. "I'm awake," she yelled and buried her face in the pillow.
The door opened and Sharon walked inside the room. "Yeah," she said as she looked at Daria's head buried in the pillow. "I can see that."
The teen turned over and blinked her eyes several times "Huh?"
"We've got breakfast ready, Daria, if you're hungry."
The girl sat up, yawned and then stretched. "You actually fix breakfast?" she asked.
"Not used to it, huh?"
For a brief moment, Daria thought of Helen's rushing through the kitchen as everyone fended for themselves at the beginning of the day. Despite that, the thought of losing that hurt and she quickly shook her head. "No," she said. "Usually, I just have a Pop-Tart for breakfast."
Sharon shook her head in disapproval. "That's not what Sam and I believe in," she said. "Pop-Tarts are an O.K. snack, but that's it." She saw the book box pulled out, as well as several of the magazines on the night table. "I'm glad you pulled that box out. I've been telling Jim to get that out to his RV, or else his sisters and cousins will tear 'em up. He keeps putting it off."
Daria stood up and looked around for her clothes.
"I washed them, Daria," the woman said. "Is that all you had to wear?"
Think fast, Morgendorffer! "My bag was stolen in Ohio," she lied and stretched again.
The dishwater-blonde shook her head again and looked angry. "It takes a real lousy jerk to do something like that to another person." She looked over the teen and said, "You're too small for my clothes. You might be able to fit in Monica's stuff, but definitely not her undies. Tell you what, though. We're all going to Richmond later on, so we'll get you some stuff while we're all down there."
Daria started to protest, but Sharon held up her right hand. "This is simple Christian charity and besides, since you'll be helping out around here, it'll be a trade-off, of sorts."
"Do you go to church?" the teen asked.
The woman nodded. "Yes, but it's a struggle to get Jim to go, anymore. Do you?"
Daria shook her head.
"Pity. Well, we aren't going to force you to go, but we expect the two of you to be on your best behavior while we're gone."
"O.K." She looked down at her clothes. "What about my clothes?"
Sharon opened her arms and showed her nightshirt as well. "We don't dress up for breakfast around here, Daria. Nightshirts and pajamas work well for us. Come on."
The two females left the bedroom.
After breakfast, Daria was back in her freshly washed (and dried) clothes and she walked from the house towards the RV with the book box in her arms.
Jim just happened to be outside when he saw her coming and moved to the door. "Let me guess," he said. "Sharon asked you to bring it out here."
"Actually, I volunteered," Daria said and carried the box inside after he opened the door.
"I was going to get it. I just wasn't ready to, yet."
"Let me give you some advice, Jim." She set the box on the kitchen table. "These comics and magazines are in good condition, but they won't be for long if you don't take care of them. That means keeping them out of little kids and their grubby little hands."
"Gee, one would think you've met my younger cousins."
She gave him a small smile. "What you need to protect these is some acid-free boxes and plastic bags for each book and comic."
"Acid-free boxes? Where the hell do I get those?"
Daria sighed and said, "One day they'll be available. In the meantime, you need to protect these better." She held up one issue of Famous Monsters. "While you may not plan to sell these, if you do in the future, they need to remain in good condition."
"I see," Jim said and a smile appeared on his face. "Is Forry Ackerman still alive in your time?"
She nodded and said, "Yeah, but he's really old."
"Figures. Anymore advice?"
"Yeah, don't get your hopes up for the 'new' Star Trek movie being spectacular." She smiled at him again. "The sequels will be better...except for the fifth one...never mind."
He sat down and started laughing.
A couple of hours after breakfast, the Williams family (plus Daria) piled into the family van, also a Dodge Sportsman, but a red 1978 model instead of the light blue 1975 one that Jim drove.
Daria and Jim sat in the rear seat and buckled themselves in, while his sisters Monica and Lindsey sat in the middle seat, turned to each other and started whispering.
Monica was a twelve-year-old blonde who wore her hair in a pony tail. She was dressed in blue shorts and a pink T-shirt. Lindsey was an ten-year-old brunette, and wore a light green dress that extended halfway down her thighs.
The girls had spent the night before on a sleepover with friends, so the unexpected sight of Daria captured their whole attention. That made Daria feel anxious, but it irritated Jim.
"Turn around and stop staring," he said and glared at them. "What's wrong with you two?"
The girls smirked at their brother; Lindsey looked at Daria and asked, "Why are you wearing boots in the summer?"
"They're Doc Martens," Monica said. "That's the kind of boots those creeps at the Winchester Arcade wear."
"Don't even compare her to those idiots, girl," Jim said. "I'll box your ears."
"Jim," Sam said from the driver's seat, his voice a warning. At the same time, he stared at the teenaged boy through the rearview mirror.
"Sorry," the boy said and looked away.
"They're very comfortable," Daria said to the younger girl, "even in the summer. They're good walking boots."
"I was curious about that myself," Sam said from the driver's seat. He drove down one of Randolph County's numerous county roads, over hills and down dips at the same steady speed. "I could use comfortable boots at work. Anything but those lousy steel-toed boxes they make us wear."
With each dip in the road, Daria felt her stomach jump. The same thing made the younger girls giggle. Jim seemed to ignore it, but he saw Daria's reaction.
"You O.K.?" he asked.
She nodded. "I'm fine."
"Anyone want the paper?" Sharon asked from up front and held up the day's folded-up copy of The Muncie Star. "I'm done with it now."
"Yo!" Jim yelled and held up his right hand.
The woman turned and handed the paper to Monica. "Hand it back," she said.
The teen then turned to her brother. "How much will you pay me for it?" she asked, a smirk on her face.
"You still owe me three bucks, kid," he said and yanked the paper from her hands. He looked at Daria and rolled his eyes. "Now you see why I stay in an RV."
"Did Daria stay out there with you last night?" Lindsey asked, a sly smile on her face.
Daria gawked at the girl, Jim glared at her and Sharon quickly turned around and said, "Lindsey!"
Both girls slowly turned around and the younger one blushed and said, "Sorry, Mom."
"Girls, you've been told about that before," Sam said.
"Well, Gary does it!" Monica said. "He's pretty open about it, too."
The older man nodded and said, "That's right, he does sleep around. It's your Uncle David's fault, too, and he'll eventually pay the price for that foolishness. Besides, Jim is not your cousin Gary. In my household..."
"Our," Sharon interrupted him.
Sam returned her smile, then turned his attention back to the road. "Sorry. In our household, we don't do that kind of thing. Daria's staying in Jim's old room. She's a guest and I expect you two to treat her with dignity and respect."
"You mean that I can't treat her like Jim?" Monica asked and grinned.
"Dad said 'dignity and respect'," Jim said to his sister. "Try something new, for a change."
The girl stuck her tongue out at him and turned back around.
"Jim, can I read the entertainment section?" Daria asked.
"Sorry," he said and pulled out one section of the paper and handed it to her. "We tend to be a little vocal."
"'Little'?" Sharon asked and Sam laughed.
Daria opened the paper up and smiled. Then her smile faded somewhat. While she liked watching the way Jim's family related to each other, she found herself reminded of her parents and her sister Quinn. I miss you three so much. I hope I see you again.
She closed her eyes, clamped her jaws shut and blinked several times to stop any tears from flowing. Then she read the first article, which talked about how well The Muppet Movie had done nationwide, and suggested that more movies were to come.
"They got that right," she muttered.
Then she saw an article titled "Wayne plans a new film for '80 or '81" and started to read.
"Film icon John Wayne, recuperating from successful cancer surgery in May, has announced that he will star in a new movie set to be released later next year. The planned movie will be a police action film, much in tone like his films McQ and Brannigan. The film will be made through the 72-year-old actor's own Batjac Productions and released by Warner Brothers."
The teen closed her eyes and tried to remember the details of Wayne's death as she knew it. Even though her father was a big John Wayne fan, the only thing she knew about his death was that it happened the year before she was born. He had succumbed to cancer, but what kind she couldn't remember. If he died the year before I died, then how can he still be alive and making another movie right now? The Shootist was his last movie. I know that for a fact.
"You asleep?" Jim asked.
The teen girl jumped and looked at her host. "I was thinking about John Wayne. My dad's a big fan of his."
He gave her a sad look. "I'd bet that he's dead in your time, huh?"
In your time, too, she thought. That's why that article confuses me so much. "Yeah," she said. "Where are we going to today in Richmond?"
Jim smiled and said, "First, we're going to have lunch at Miller's Cafeteria. It's pretty good. For the main course, you'll have a choice between roast beef au jus, which is what I always get, fried chicken and meatloaf. There are a lot of sides to choose from. Then after lunch, we'll go to Richmond Square Mall and the shops beyond that. Places like Sears, KMart and Ayr-Way."
"Any bookstores?" she asked.
He nodded. "The mall has Paperback Booksmith, which sells mostly paperbacks, with some magazines and comics as well. KMart and Ayr-Way sells books, too. The bus station downtown sells a lot of books, so we can stop there as well, if you want to."
Daria gave him a weak smile. "I don't have any money," she said.
She raised her eyebrows when Jim pulled his wallet out of his back pocket.
"Dad gave this to me earlier," he said and handed her a five-dollar bill. "He didn't want you to feel left out, so this is your allowance."
"This is a little too generous," she said.
"Not really," Sam said from the front and she jumped. "Sorry about that, Daria. Didn't mean to frighten you. It is an allowance, and like I said last night, you'll have to help out around the house."
What have I gotten myself into, she thought. "Thank you," she said.
"Hey, how come she gets five dollars?" Monica asked, a frown on her face. "You only gave me two!"
Sam tensed and, in turn, Jim tensed. "Uh, oh," he muttered and looked at Daria. "Here it comes."
"First, young lady, it is not your business what I give to anyone else." The father's tone was definitely angry. "Second, you and your siblings have accumulated money over the summer, or you should have. In other words, if you're broke, it's your fault. Third, Daria is broke through no fault of her own. Two dollars doesn't go far, and really, neither does five."
"It's more than generous, Mr...I mean, Sam," Daria spoke up. "Thank you."
The father then smiled at Daria. "You're welcome. Jim?"
"Let Daria know how things are when you two are alone, would you?"
The boy nodded. "O.K."
Daria looked at Jim, curiosity evident on her face.
Finally, the van reached a small town and, after a drive through various side streets, reached a highway. Daria looked around at the houses and the general store, then at Jim. "Where are we?" she asked.
"Economy. We always drive here to get on U.S. 35 when we go to Richmond." He looked at her.
The auburn-haired girl thought that the town's name sounded familiar. "Seems like I've heard of this place," she said.
"I don't see how," Jim said, but then held up his hand. "Wait a minute. One of the scenes from Stephen King's The Stand takes place here. Have you read it?"
She nodded "A few months ago. That may be where I remember it from." Then she sighed and leaned back.
"I was thinking about my home," she whispered. "We'll talk about it later on, O.K.?"
He nodded. "Sure." He opened the entertainment section Daria had read earlier and looked it over, while she glanced at him.
Looks like you're my new best friend, she thought and glanced out the window. I wonder how you see it?
"Says here that John Wayne's going to make a new cop film," Jim said to her. "I think he's getting kind of old for that."
"Maybe he'll use a walker when he's chasing a criminal," she said, glanced at him and smirked briefly.
He chuckled and asked, "You ever watch Cannon or Barnaby Jones?"
"Heard of 'em," she said. "Why?"
"Well, Cannon was very heavy and Jones, of course, was old, but they'd both take on people who should've run circles around them." He shook his head. "Then there's Longstreet, who was a blind insurance investigator."
Her smirk changed to a smile. "To think of all the classic entertainment I've missed," she said. Then, under her breath, she added, "Thank God."
Jim bit his lower lip briefly as he held in his laughter. "Good one," he muttered to her. Then, his voice louder, he added, "We could make up our own show."
"Yeah. Our main character would be an old, blind and fat detective who used a walker, along with a seeing eye dog."
Daria nodded and watched him. I can tell that the little gears are turning up there, she thought. Or else, you're just grinding up the cogs. "What would you call the show?"
She wasn't sure she heard him right. "What?"
"Rosebud. You see, I picture Orson Welles as the main character, who would solve no crime before its time."
She slapped her left hand over her eyes and shook her head. "You are sick," she said and chuckled. "Does he drink Paul Masson wine on the show?"
Jim smiled and said, "Well, he thinks he does. I won't go into details as to what he ends up drinking, seeing as we're in mixed company."
She moved her hand down and looked at him. "You are very sick. That sounds more like a Mel Brooks film than a TV show to me."
He stroked his chin and thought briefly. "You know, watching him perform Putting on the Ritz in character would be worth the production costs alone."
"As long as it's not your money."
He glanced at her sideways. "That's what investors are for."
In the front passenger bucket seat, Sharon listened to their conversation and shook her head as she covered her smile.
Inside the cafeteria, Daria stood behind Jim as they moved through the line. In addition to the roast beef au jus, he was served bread dressing, green beans, stewed tomatoes, as well as mashed potatoes and gravy and a roll.
Daria settled on the same main course that he had chosen, but only took dressing as a side.
"You can get more than that, Daria," Jim said.
He shook his head. "Don't worry about it. Trust me, you aren't going to break Dad. Besides, this is one of his favorite places to eat, and he wants everyone who eats with us to eat well and enjoy it."
She gave him a weak smile. "O.K." She added mashed potatoes and gravy, along with rice pilaf and a side salad.
At the table, the six settled into eating. Daria and Jim sat across from each other at one end of the table. Lindsey sat next to Daria, while Monica sat next to Jim and the two adults sat on the other side of the girls.
Sharon looked at Daria. "Have you ever eaten in a cafeteria before, Daria?"
"At school," she said and looked at her food, then at Sharon. "It wasn't as good as this, though."
"School food is generally cheap," Jim said and sipped his soda, "not good. Though Winchester schools did make a good chocolate cake." He thought briefly, then added, "Come to think of it, their spaghetti and meat sauce was good, too. So was their old-fashioned hash."
"Ugh!" Lindsey said and made a "yuck" face. "I can't stand that old-fashioned trash!"
Sharon gave her youngest daughter an odd look, and shook her head. Then she looked at Daria and asked, "What kind of food do you eat when you go out, Daria?"
"Usually, I go for pizza," Daria said, then cut off a piece of roast beef and ate it.
Sam looked at her as he ate a bite of his meatloaf. Finally, he said, "Man does not live by pizza alone."
"Yeah, there's also hamburgers," Jim added.
"Hot dogs," Daria added.
"Macaroni and cheese!" Monica said.
"Steak!" Lindsey yelled out and the other five stared at her. "Well, I like steak."
They returned to their meal.
After everyone finished their cafeteria meal, they walked out towards the van. Jim noticed that Daria stopped and seemed slightly confused; he stopped with her and touched her right arm. "Something wrong?"
She frowned. "Ever since I arrived in that cornfield, it's as if I can't concentrate too hard. You know that dream where you're in school taking what should be an easy test, but you can't figure it out? That is what this feels like and it's driving me nuts!"
He winced and covered his eyes. "I've had that one way too many times, along with the one where I'm naked in class, while everyone else is still dressed."
Daria had the briefest image of suddenly walking into DeMartino's history class completely nude and shuddered at the thought. "Well, you see what I mean then. Now, you know how you suggested that we go see Heinlein?"
He nodded. "Yeah."
"I just suddenly realized that there is a much better person out there to see and talk to. Isaac Asimov."
Jim's expression reflected his own surprise and he nodded. "You know, I never even considered him at all. You're right, he is a better choice. After all, he is a scientist."
"Hey, you two!" Sharon yelled at them from the van. "Better hurry up if you want to ride with us!"
"We'll talk more about this later," she said as they walked again.
They got in the van and situated in their seats.
After leaving the parking lot, Sam drove the van across the Whitewater River and Daria looked down over the edge of the bridge.
"Pretty deep down there," she said. "There's also a road and trees down there, too."
"Yeah," Jim said. "The road just runs along the river to the hospital on the north side of Richmond." He smiled. "Kinda pretty down there, with all those trees and the river itself. It almost makes you forget that you're in a city. Almost." Then he cleared his throat and spoke louder. "Dad, can we go to the bus station? Daria and I want to check out the books there."
"Oh, man!" Monica whined and frowned at her brother. "Books are for nerds!"
"Then why aren't you reading more?" he asked her. "You're the biggest nerd in the family."
Sharon turned to her daughter, smiled and said, "I'd bet that the bus station has those Dukes of Hazzard magazines you've been wanting."
Daria watched the interaction with some bit of wonder and smiled slightly.
"Oh!" the young blonde said and her frown disappeared suddenly. "In that case, I wanna stop there, too."
"Besides," Sam added, "it's not wise to insult the man who pays you your allowance."
Monica blushed. "Uh...you read those westerns and that's a lot smarter than those spy books and those history...oh, crap."
"That's the spirit!" Jim said and laughed. "Keep digging that hole deeper. Then, when you get deep enough, I'll shovel the dirt back in on you."
"Oh, shut up," the girl muttered.
As they drove around and found a parking place on a one-way street, Daria looked at the promenade that existed in front of the bus station. "Where's the street?" she asked.
Sam turned off the van and turned around in his seat. "Eleven years ago, there was a big natural gas explosion here. At least forty people were killed and many of the buildings were set on fire by the explosion. After they cleaned up, repaired the damage and buried the dead, they closed this street to traffic and made it into a downtown outdoor mall."
"Where do the buses park?" she asked and looked around.
"Right behind where we parked," Jim said. "This is a minor bus station now. The Greyhound station on 40 East is a lot busier now. But they still sell a lot of books here."
The six got out of the van and walked towards the station entrance. Daria held back slightly, and Jim slowed down as well. She ignored the fact that Sam and Sharon glanced at them and smiled.
"I'd like to buy a journal today," the teen girl told her friend as they walked. "Something to keep track of my experiences here."
He nodded and held open the glass door for her. "I've got some blank spiral notebooks at the trailer if you want to use some of them."
Daria shook her head. "I'd rather get a hardcover journal book." She smiled briefly, as if at a private joke. "It just feels more special."
"So does road rash, but a journal isn't as painful."
That comment threw Daria off and she said, "What?"
"Sorry. My daily dose of silly comments."
She looked at him, an uncertain smile on her face. "I'd bet that you'd enjoy Monty Python's Flying Circus."
"When Channel 20 plays it, yes, I do. In fact, Monty Python and The Holy Grail is supposed to be on tonight."
She stopped. "Are you...we...going to watch it?"
"Why not? I have some Dr Pepper and chips, if you don't mind eating after nine, that is."
"Why would that matter?" she asked. "I do that a lot."
"Sharon hates it when we eat late," he said. "But if we watch it in the RV, she won't say anything about that."
"Will they have a problem with us being alone at night that long?" she asked.
Jim chuckled and said, "Keep in mind that Sharon or Dad, or both of them, will walk in on us every so often during the show. Dad might even watch some of the movie, though he prefers to watch The Benny Hill Show."
"They don't trust you, huh?" she asked.
He smiled and shrugged. "They know how boys are," he said.
"If this isn't prying, did you and your ex-girlfriend get caught at something?"
Jim blushed and nodded. Then he looked to make sure that they were alone. "Yeah. Sharon walked in on us when Diana was giving me a backrub."
"What was so bad about that?" Daria asked.
"She only had on her panties, and all I had on was my underwear."
His blush seemed to intensify. "Needless to say, I got a lecture and a half after Diana left. So, as a result, expect them to walk in on us, because even though we're just friends, they don't believe it."
"I've noticed that," she said. "I thought you said last night that your parents trust you until you give them a reason not to."
"I did say that," he said and sighed. "Apparently, they decided to start anew after they forgave me for what Diana and I did." He gave her a rueful smile. "Besides, Sharon has told me many times that while I cannot get pregnant, I can get someone pregnant, and once that happens, your life's choices diminish dramatically."
"She's right," Daria said, then asked, "Does this place sell journal books?"
He shook his head. "Wait till we get to the mall. There's a Woolworth's there. I know that they sell them, and at a cheaper price than this place does."
At the bus station, Daria bought a fresh copy of Asimov's I, Robot, while Jim bought the current issue of National Lampoon. Lindsey bought an issue of Tiger Beat while Sharon bought a copy of The Empty Copper Sea and Sam bought a copy of Kiowa Trail. Monica found her magazine about The Dukes of Hazzard and went on and on to everyone in the van about how cute actor Tom Wopat was.
Back inside the van, Daria and Jim looked over what they had bought as they listened to the blonde girl as she rambled on and on about her favorite actor.
"Oh, brother," Jim said as he leaned towards Daria. "Did you ever act like Monica when you were twelve?"
Daria looked over her glasses at him and he backed up slightly. "No," she said, her voice frosty. "Did you?"
He smiled and said, "While I always thought that Raquel Welch was gorgeous, I never went on and on about it. That would have embarrassed me back then."
"What about Dorothy Hamill?" she asked.
Lindsey turned around, smiled and said, "He watches her every time she's on TV!"
Monica then turned around, smirked and added, "He licks the TV whenever she's on it."
"I DO NOT!" he roared as the younger girls laughed.
"Knock it off back there!" Sam said. "Jim, you know she's just teasing you. You'd think that you'd realize that by now."
Jim looked at Daria, who held her hand over her mouth to hide her smile. He whispered, "You saw the pictures I have of her, didn't you?"
She nodded, her hand still over her mouth.
"All of the pictures?"
She nodded again.
A deep blush reappeared on his face. "I figured."
Lindsey looked over at Daria, held up her Tiger Beat and asked, "Do you like Leif Garrett? I think he's so cute!"
I don't even know who Leif Garrett is, she thought. "He's a singer, right?"
Jim said, "He's also an actor. Of course, Lindsey also likes Paul Michael Glaser and Peter from The Brady Bunch."
The young brunette smiled and blushed. "They're so dreamy."
"Dreamy?" the older girl asked, her eyebrows raised.
Jim shook his head. "She's been watching a lot of Happy Days. She heard that word from there."
Daria shrugged and looked out the window. Sam drove by the mall and went instead to a strip mall on up a hill. As the van moved past a Sears store, it also passed a movie theater. The marquee advertised Alien, starring Sigourney Weaver and Richard Long.
She frowned. I've seen Alien, but I don't remember anyone named Richard Long being in it. Who is he? Then she looked at Jim and asked, "Who's Richard Long?"
"He was on The Big Valley and Nanny and the Professor on TV. If I remember right, he was also the oldest son in the Ma and Pa Kettle movies they show on Sunday mornings."
I still don't know who he is, she thought and said, "Oh."
The van parked outside of Ayr-Way and everyone stepped outside.
"I don't recognize this store," Daria said to Jim.
"It's a statewide chain," he said.
"It's a part of L.S. Ayers and Company," Sharon said as she walked by them. "Though, I've heard rumors that the Dayton-Hudson Corporation is wanting to buy them. But, getting back to what I was about to say, I worked here when I was seventeen...for about three months." She laughed. "I guess that I wasn't fast enough at stocking shelves."
All of them walked on to the store.
Inside, Daria followed Jim as he made a beeline for the books and magazines, while Sharon herded the girls towards the clothing and Sam headed for the tools.
Daria noticed how everyone split up in the store. "Is this how shopping usually goes with your family?" she asked.
He chuckled as they reached the magazine rack. "Not when we go for back-to-school shopping," he said. "Then we stay together, come hell or high water."
Inside the Richmond Square Mall, Daria looked around at how open the inside was. "It looks kinda odd," she muttered. "Kinda old, in fact."
"Well, back when I was little, it looked a little futuristic." He shrugged. "At least what they thought what the future would look like. It was also the only mall in this area outside of Cincinnati and Indianapolis back then."
Sharon walked up to Daria and asked, "Would you accompany me and the girls to the restroom, please?"
"Sure," Daria said and nodded. She watched Jim and Sam head for the men's room. "Is there a problem?"
The woman sighed and said, her voice quiet. "Sometimes, there's a drug dealer or two in there waiting for new customers." She frowned. "Jim hates it, but Sam usually accompanies him to the restroom here - and Jim's not exactly a pushover."
"That very thing happened to me at McDonald's yesterday," the auburn-haired teen said.
"In Winchester?" Sharon asked. When Daria nodded, she continued, "Did that ever happen to you in Baltimore?"
Daria shook her head and the four females moved to the public restrooms. "It kind of blows my mind," she admitted. "I mean, drugs are commonplace, but having people push it so openly is surprising."
"It's also disturbing," Sharon commented and the four female moved towards the restroom.
Inside the Woolworth's store, as Jim looked over the accessories for HO-gauge model railroads in one aisle, Daria found a bound, blue-cover book titled "Journal" and smiled.
"Bingo," she said.
"That's not what my dog's named," Jim said from the other aisle.
"What's he named?" she asked. "Jim?"
"Oh, hardy, har har." He looked around the end of the aisle and saw the journal book her right hand. "I see you found what you were looking for."
Daria nodded and sighed. "Maybe if I write things down, they'll start to make sense."
"I used to think that about my writing," he said, "until my English teacher decorated all my papers with her red pen."
That night, in Jim's RV, Jim and Daria watched the Monty Python movie, with ten-year-old Lindsey sitting on the floor in front of the TV. The young girl had a bowl of chips and a small glass of Dr Pepper, while the two teens each had their own glass returnable bottle and ate together from a bag of Seyfert's Bar-B-Que chips.
Daria glanced at him and said, a smile on her face, "I'm now certain that your folks don't trust us alone."
"Dad said that little kids keeps one decent," he said, then glared at the young girl. "That is, if you don't catch them peeping in on you while you're naked and getting dressed."
Lindsey looked at him. "I thought that Monica was doing something wrong in there," she said and made a yuck face. "I didn't know it was you. Ew."
Jim noted that the scene of King Arthur's confrontation with the Black Knight was coming up and said, "Cover your eyes, kid."
As the little girl covered her eyes, Daria said, "They'll cut that part out, won't they?"
He glanced at her. "Watch and see."
The scene progressed with the knight being dismembered (but still trying to fight) and the older teen girl smiled. "Oh, I guess not."
"Rather," he said.
After the movie ended, Jim carried a sleeping Lindsey as he walked Daria back to the house.
"I always thought that seventies TV was so tame," she said.
"PBS isn't as tame as the networks," he said. "However, you should have seen the Kiritsis incident from two years ago. Many of the Indianapolis stations played his tirade uncut - including every four-letter word he said."
She looked at him and said, "I guess you could say that we had a date."
He patted Lindsey's back. "A chaperoned one, at that." He smiled at her and when she returned his smile, he asked, "Daria, where does Isaac Asimov live?"
"Boston," she said. "I know that for a fact."
"O.K., see how this sounds. We go to the Winchester Library on Monday and check out the Boston phone book."
"Why would a small-town Indiana library have a Boston phone book?"
He shrugged. "They have phone books for Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and L.A. If they don't have it, then the Ball State library does have one. After all, I looked at the London phone book there once."
She nodded. "O.K., that sounds like a plan...if he has a listed phone number, that is."
"Have faith, Daria. Have faith."
When Daria awoke the next morning, tears covered her face. Mom...Dad...Quinn...I thought I was home. She closed her eyes and sobbed.
Then she heard the knock on the bedroom door and sat up in bed. The clock read twenty till nine and she quickly grabbed a facial tissue from the bedside table. She took several deep breaths, wiped her eyes and put on her glasses. "I'm awake!"
Sharon walked into the room and stopped beside the bed. There was concern on her face as she said, "I heard you crying, Daria, and came in to see if you were O.K."
The teen's face went deep red and she said, "I'm O.K., I'm O.K."
The woman sat down in a nearby rocking chair and leaned forward slightly. "You can talk to me, Daria," she said. "I may be an adult, but I can listen well and not be judgmental. After all, I do remember what it's like being a teenager." She waited a few seconds, then added, "I know that you and Jim are friends, but I also understand that there are some things girls just can't talk to guys about." She smiled. "Besides, it's better to get it out of your system."
The girl looked over at her host, then down at the light blue sheet that still covered her legs. "Had a nightmare," she said, "about lost chances and things that may never be again." She took a deep breath and exhaled. "It really upset me."
Sharon nodded and reached out to pat Daria's right arm. The move startled the girl, but the woman said, "We all have regrets in our lives, and other things that simply upsets us. For instance, has Jim ever told you about his real mother?"
"Well, every once in a blue moon, he gets all melancholy about her. He never knew her and all he has of her are some photos and an 8-mm. film shot by one of her uncles in the late forties. I know that he loves me and considers me his mother, but he'll always wonder about what he's missed."
"Did you know her?"
Sharon shook her head. "I'd seen her around town a lot. Waited on her and Sam when I was a carhop at D&J's Restaurant in Winchester. That was before I really knew Sam, though. But I didn't know her at all."
"What about Sam?" the girl asked. "Has Jim talked to him about her?"
A pained expression appeared on the woman's face and she leaned back in the chair and shook her head. "That isn't likely," she said. "Sam took Jenny's death hard - very hard. He refuses to talk about her to this day. He won't even let me put up any of her photos. Jim tried talking to him about her once a few years ago, and Sam changed the subject very quickly. I only got him to talk to me about her twice after we got married, and that was more trouble than it was worth, really. If it hadn't been for Sam's grandfather...well, things worked out in the end." She stood up. "We're getting ready for church. Are you sure that you don't want to come with us?"
"I don't do church," Daria said and climbed out of bed.
The woman nodded. "Well, if you ever want to go to with us, you'll be more than welcome. But, remember what I said about being alone with Jim."
The teen girl blushed again. "I don't know him well enough for that," she said. "Besides, I wouldn't insult you and Sam by abusing your hospitality."
"I appreciate it," Sharon said. "Oh, by the way, please don't talk about Jim's mother in front of Sam. It would be...awkward." She and Daria moved towards the door. "I don't usually fix a breakfast on Sunday, but we have Kellogg's Corn Flakes and Cocoa Krispies in the kitchen." She smiled at the girl. "Don't eat too much, though, because we're having spaghetti and garlic bread for lunch."
"That sounds good," Daria said as they left the bedroom.
Jim answered the trailer door on the third knock and looked down at Daria. He was dressed in a T-shirt and gym shorts and he looked slightly erratic. His appearance reminded the girl of the character Reverend Jim from the sitcom Taxi. "Don't you sleep in on Sundays?" he asked. " Jeez, girl, I was dreaming!"
Daria crossed her arms over her chest. "Did she have a name? Or just the important body parts?" She smiled and suppressed her laugh.
The boy yawned and rubbed his eyes. "Yeah to both. Her name was Kim and she had just served me a breaded tenderloin with crinkle-cut fries. All she had on was an apron and slippers. Now, I'm hungry. Come on in."
"Kim?" Her smile widened as she walked in. "You mean that Kim who waited on us at McDonald's on Friday?"
He blushed and shut the door. "Uh, yeah. I forgot that you met her. I can't help it if I dream about her."
"Why don't you ask her out, then? She's a really pretty girl."
"She has a boyfriend, Daria. I'm not in the mood to get punched out by Rick Peters."
"Oh. Sorry about that."
"Don't worry about it. Now I'm really hungry for a tenderloin and fries. What time is it?"
"It's past eleven," she said and sat down on the couch. "I've been up for more than two hours now."
Jim yawned again. "Who woke you up? Sharon or the girls?"
Daria shook her head. "Neither. I had a bad dream."
He walked to his kitchenette. "Bummer. Hey, you want something to snack on? Lunch probably won't be until one or one-thirty."
"Why so late?"
He snorted. "Church can last as late as twelve-thirty."
She waited while he rummaged around in the food cabinet and the refrigerator. After nearly a minute, he sat down with a pack of Pop Tarts and a glass of water, as well as a glass of water for her.
He held up the pack. "Want to split it?" he asked.
She shook her head. "No, thanks. I had two bowls of Cocoa Krispies after your family left for church."
He tore open the wrapper and took a bite off one chocolate fudge pastry. After he ate that, he drank some water and said, "I don't know what you're used to on Sundays, but we generally goof off for the whole day. Sometimes, we visit Sharon's parents, or I might visit my mother's parents - they're still alive. But for the most part, we stay home. Except that the rest of the family goes to church in the morning and later on at seven."
"What about your Dad's parents?" she asked.
"They're about four hours from here. Same with my great-grandfather."
Daria blinked. "How old is he?"
Jim laughed and said, "Eighty-nine, and still going strong."
"Wow," she said. "What kind of church does your family go to?"
"A non-denominational one." He concentrated. "Let's see, what did Jerry call it? Oh, yeah, a fundamentalist church."
Daria gawked at him, her mouth open. "A fundie church? Your family goes to a fundie church?"
He blinked and looked shocked by her reaction. Then he grinned and said, "You make it sound bad."
She laughed, but there was no mirth in it. "In my time, fundamentalists are seen as closed-minded bigots. They're famous for attacking abortion clinics and trying to stop the teaching of evolution."
"Oh, that's just great," he said. "It's to be expected, though, since the fight over evolution's been going on since at least the mid-twenties."
"They're also a Republican political force to be reckoned with in my time."
"For some reason, that just sent a chill down my spine." Jim shuddered. "However, I like that word you used." Then he cleared his throat and deepened his voice to sound like that of actor Ted Knight. "Now, in the men's underwear section. Fruit of the Loom Fundies, with stretchable crotches, for proper breathing of your unmentionables."
Daria laughed and looked at him. "You've never heard the word 'fundie' before?"
He shook his head and smiled at her. "Nope. Oh, Jerry and a lot of the members might be somewhat closed-minded and very much Republican, but they are no bigots, at least towards blacks. I know that for a fact."
Jim nodded. "One of the regular visiting preachers is a large black man from Pennsylvania. Rather intimidating on first sight, but actually very nice. I like to hear him preach. Besides, Jerry preached a sermon once about how racism was hatred and then connected that to how hatred excludes a person from 'being saved'."
"Wait until he meets some of his future contemporaries." She looked at him. "Why don't you like to go?"
"It's not my cup of tea, thank you." He sighed and said, "The times I went, there were cliques and that disappointed me somewhat. Other things that happened there upset me, too." He closed his eyes. "The main reason is that Diana goes to church there, as does her current boyfriend. She's Jerry's cousin."
Oops, she thought. "Sorry about that."
"That's O.K., Daria. You didn't know, so don't worry about it." He pulled out the blue notebook and said, "So you saw all the pictures in here, huh?"
She blushed then. "Uh, yeah, but I wasn't trying to cause any trouble. What will happen when your parents find out about it?"
He looked at her, a cynical smile on his face. "Sharon found them six years ago in my room. I had them well hidden in my underwear drawer - or so I thought."
Daria blinked. "How do you still have them? Wouldn't she have thrown them away?"
His smile relaxed as he thought back about it. "It happened when Dad was at work, and man, I was scared to death when she held that picture of Leslie Bianchini up in my face."
"Leslie Bianchini?" Daria asked.
"Playboy Playmate of the Month, January 1969," he explained as pulled one photo out of the folder and showed it to Daria. "Her."
"Oh. Kind of old for you, isn't she?"
"That didn't bother me one bit, thank you," he said and chuckled, "and she's only in her thirties right now. But when Sharon pulled that picture out, all I could think was, I am going to die." He blushed and shook his head. "I wanted to run away. But she surprised me. You see, Dad read Playboy and other men's magazines a lot when I was little. I can still remember looking over a comic magazine of his called From Sex to Sexty before Lindsey was born."
"Whoa is right. Well, Sharon finally got Dad to stop buying them around 1971 or 1972, because she was worried about me. I was noticing girls by then and had ordered a picture of Raquel Welch from some fan service. I actually admitted to her that I liked Raquel because she was beautiful and had big boobs."
You'd probably like Brittany Taylor, then, Daria thought.
"Well, when she found my stash, she sat me down in the living room and we went over every single picture together. That was totally surreal, let me tell you. She wanted to be sure that they were done in 'good taste,' whatever that meant. Then she gave them back to me, except for two, and had me put all the remaining ones in a folder. She then told me where to keep them and, as far as I know, she still checks to make sure that I don't get anything wilder."
"What ones did she take out?" she asked.
Jim frowned. "I can't remember, to be honest. I think they had full frontal nudity. I'm certain that Dad knows, too, because he and Sharon don't keep secrets from one another."
"He's never said anything about it? At all?"
He started laughing and shook his head. "No way. He was a wreck when he told me about the birds and the bees. Made him nervous and embarrassed and Sharon had to finish it for him." He looked at her. "I'm not trying to put them down or anything. I love my folks, and I'm glad that they aren't closed minded enough to make me feel dirty because I like to look at naked women. I only hope it doesn't offend you."
Daria blinked. "Why should it? It's none of my business, and, if anything, I should apologize for being so nibby."
"Some of my classmates and the girls from church would have seen that as proof positive of me being a pervert. One girl told her friends once that I liked to undress girls with my eyes."
She smiled and asked, "Do you?"
"No!" He put his right hand on his chest, put an offended look on his face and said, "I'd rather use my hands, since I have yet to figure out how to do that with my eyes."
Daria smirked. "You could have heat vision like Superman."
"That would be interesting," he said and smiled at her. "But how do you know I don't have X-Ray vision?"
She blushed and quickly smacked his upper right arm. "Don't joke about that!" She shuddered. "I dreamed once that a classmate of mine had that, plus a camera, and was able to put out a website called 'The Girls of Lawndale High' with detailed nudes of all of us."
Dammit! I did it again! Daria closed her eyes and slapped her right hand over her face. "In the future, personal home computers become commonplace. You can use the computers to send letters, look up historical facts, cooking recipes or travel information. You can also read comics, watch movies, buy stuff, form fan groups, even look at pornography. A website is simply a collection of related web pages put together within a common address."
He laughed. "The future sounds interesting...in a Chinese sort of way."
Daria nodded and said, "It is."
"Lovely." He then finished his breakfast and said, "Well, Daria, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get dressed."
She stood up and walked to the door. "I'll head back to the house."
"I'll be there in a few minutes."
After lunch, Jim and Daria stood up from the table and he asked his parents, "Were you guys going anywhere today?"
"Too hot," Sam said and shook his head. "Not even sure I'm going to church tonight. Sweated like mad this morning."
"Don't they have air conditioning?" Daria asked.
Sam, Jim and Sharon all shook their heads and Sam said, "Central air is too expensive right now with the way our tithing situation looks. I'm still trying to get them to buy some fans...or have services in the basement." He stood up and said, "I think I'll see if anything good's on TV, or else take a nap." He yawned. "Looks like the nap's going to win here."
Sharon stood up as well and said, "Me, too. Girls, you can play in your rooms, but leave Jim and Daria alone. All of you, keep the noise down." The two adults then left the room.
The two girls looked at the teens and smiled. Daria leaned towards Jim and whispered, "Why did I just feel an undercurrent of evil?"
"The same reason I did," he said. "Let's see what's on TV right now."
The girls followed them to the living room as Jim walked to the set and turned it on. He checked out several channels and settled on channel four.
"Looks like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly," he said. "That's odd."
Daria sat on the couch. "Why is that odd?"
"Usually, they save that one for election nights. While the networks play nothing but election results, channel four plays either this movie, or another long one such as The Great Escape."
She looked at him and thought, Wait until you get some of the cable movie channels when you're older. Or better yet, a DVD player. She looked around the TV set and asked, "Do you have a VCR?"
She sighed and looked at Lindsey as she sat on the rocking chair, an innocent smile on her face. "A video-cassette recorder," she said.
"I wish," he said. "They're way too expensive. The church has one, and the only reason they have it is because one member bought it and donated it to them."
"How much did he pay?"
"Fifteen hundred bucks for it, and it weighs in at fifty pounds. Besides, without a camera setup, what would we tape and play?"
"TV shows," she said. "You can hook them up to TV's, too. Instead of hooking the antenna to the TV, you connect it to the VCR, then on to the TV."
Jim thought about that and nodded. "That would be cool for movies like this one," he said. "Hopefully, the prices will go down."
Daria leaned over and whispered to him, "Do not ever buy a Betamax."
He looked at her face and whispered back, "Why?"
"Trust me. Just don't buy it. You'll thank me for it later."
"Are you two kissing?" Monica asked from their right.
The two teens looked at her and Jim asked, "What business is it of yours?"
Monica motioned to Lindsey and said, "Well, don't let us stop you."
Daria sighed and shook her head and Jim said, "You can either watch the movie with us, or you can go in your room and play your Donny Osmond records or something. Just leave us alone, or I'll tell Mom."
"She ain't your mom," Monica said quickly and sneered.
The instant anger that appeared on Jim's face alarmed both Daria and Lindsey. He jumped to his feet and caught his younger sister before she could get away.
"Let go of me!" the blonde yelled.
"Listen to me, you little shit! You ever say that again and I'll slap that sneer right off your face."
Lindsey paled and moved back in her chair.
Suddenly the door to Sam and Sharon's bedroom opened and the woman walked out. "Let her go, Jim," she said.
He looked at her, anger still evident on his face.
"I said to let her go."
A tear appeared in his right eye and he released the girl, turned away and left the room.
Sharon looked at the three girls and asked, "What happened?"
Daria's mouth opened and she shut it quickly. Don't get involved! Don't get involved!
"Jim threatened me!" Monica said.
Sharon looked at Lindsey, who looked down and said, "Monica told him that you weren't his mother."
The woman sighed and shook her head, while the blonde turned on her little sister. "Thanks a lot, you little weasel."
Sharon grabbed her older daughter's left arm and said, "Let's go."
Lindsey cringed as the other two left the room.
"What's going to happen?" Daria asked the young brunette.
"She's gonna get whipped."
"What about Jim?"
Lindsey closed her eyes and a tear ran down her left cheek. "He's in the bathroom crying."
Daria felt awkward and finally said, her voice quiet, "It'll be O.K."
The girl gave her a weak smile and sat beside her. When she leaned against Daria, the teen felt a bit awkward, but didn't try to move away.
Several minutes later, Jim and Monica reappeared in the living room and stood in front of the couch. "Go ahead, you two," Sharon said, her arms crossed over her chest.
Jim said to his sister, "I'm sorry for threatening you and calling you that name." Then he turned to Daria and Lindsey. "I'm sorry for my immature display in front of you two."
Monica swallowed and said, "I'm sorry for what I said about Mom and you."
Sharon looked at Daria and said, "I'm sorry that you had to see that. I don't know your views on corporal punishment, but this is the first time in several years that I've had to do that." She looked at Monica, then at Lindsey. "That better never be said by either of you two again. I am Jim's mother and don't either of you two forget it. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, ma'am," both girls said.
Then the woman looked at Jim. "Don't ever hold either of your sisters like that again, Jim. And don't ever do that to Daria either. You're stronger than you realize, and you could have broken Monica's arm."
"Now, sit down and watch TV and be quiet. O.K.?"
"O.K." all four young people said.
When Sharon left the room, Lindsey moved off the couch and Jim sat back down near Daria. His gaze straight ahead, he said, "I'm sorry you had to see that. Not much makes me mad...but that is a sore spot." He looked at the girl. "When I was younger, I was bullied, and Sharon was the one who got it stopped."
"My sister and I sometimes got into it." Daria looked at his face. "Are you O.K.?"
He nodded. "It just hurt when she said that." He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "It really hurt."
"I'm sorry, Jim, O.K.?" Monica said.
"Don't worry about it, kid," he said and ruffled her hair. "I'm sorry, too."
Lindsey moved over to the couch and plopped down on Jim's right side. "I'll watch the movie with you two, O.K.?"
Jim smiled at her and nodded.
"Good," Monica said. "That means I have the rocking chair to myself." She looked at the TV and made a "yuck" face at what she saw. "Ugh! This is a spaghetti western! Their lips move before they speak!"
"You're thinking of Godzilla movies," Daria told her as they settled back to watch the movie.
Author's Note: This comprises parts one through seven of Daria the Hoosier, or When in the World am I? as it appeared on the PPMB. Thanks go out to Lorenzo Sauchelli, for not only his comments, but his Iron Chef: When in Time is Daria Morgendorffer? which prompted this story. Thanks also go out to Brother Grimace, ikaa, Richard Lobinske, brnleague99, The Angst Guy, vlademir1, Steven Galloway, JrGtr42, Raskolnikov, losdia, Dark Kuno, Smijey, echopapa, Disco316, smk and J-D for their comments.