Finding Morgendorffer
By Thomas

Thanks to Steve Brown for helping me with my grammar.

(Lawndale High. The class of Mr. O'Neill)

Mr. O'Neill: Before we finish. I just want to say something for those of you who might be considering a career as a writer. You may experience rejection but that's no reason to give up. Yes, Daria?

Daria: What's the word you use when you've got a wound that's almost healed (1), but then someone comes along with a knife and cuts it open again.

Mr. O'Neill: (laughs nervously) I really think you should ask the school nurse that question. Anyhow I got the school paper to hold an essay contest. Anyone interested can contribute. This way you can try out in a small pool before jumping into the bigger pool of life.

Brittany: A pool? Can me and Kevin be the lifeguards?

Kevin: Yeah, babe. We can do some more of that mouth to mouth. (2)

Brittany: Keviie. You'll get us fired before we get hired.

(Mr. O'Neill starts crying)

Jane: (to herself) You'll get fired before you get hired. (to Daria) It sounds like a Mystic Spiral song.

Daria: (to Jane) Told you so (3).

(The hallway. Brittany walks up to Daria and Jane)

Brittany: Can I ask you something Daria? I need your opinion as a writer.

Daria: No you shouldn't use ink with the same color as the paper.

Brittany: You think so? But that's not what I wanted to ask. I'm going to participate in the essay contest. And I was wondering if you could read my story and tell me what you think of it.

Daria: You want me to be your Beta reader?

Brittany: Eeeew! Daria. That's... What's a Beta reader?

Daria: The opposite of an Alpha writer.

Brittany: Ooooh.

Jane: Say yes. They canceled this weeks Sick Sad World episode. We can read her story instead.

Daria: I don't know. Reading the script and watching the episode just isn't the same thing. But okay.

(Morgendorffer livingroom. Daria is sitting on the couch. She's reading something written on violet paper (4). Once in awhile she writes a comment on it)

(Quinn comes in)

Quinn: Daria, my friends are coming over to watch "Hairstyles of the Young and Famous". I need to use the TV.

Daria: Ten.

Quinn: (surprised) Deal. (hands Daria 10 bucks) That was cheaper than usual.

Daria: I thought I'd give you a discount as I'm going over to Jane's in a few minutes anyhow.

Quinn: Damn. Since when are you using violet paper?

Daria: It's not mine. I'm correcting a story Brittany wrote.

Quinn: (shocked) They made you a teacher again?! (5)

Daria: Calm yourself, grasshopper. It's for the contest in the school paper.

Quinn: (relieved) Oh. What does she write? (sits next to Daria)

Daria: It's a story of a young girl who loves an older guy from afar, but doesn't have the guts to tell him. Instead she ends up with another guy, but he turns out to be evil. He cheats on her and takes her for granted. Finally she breaks up with him and goes back to the first guy, who it turns out also loved her, but never told her because he thought she was too young for him at the time. Your standard romance novel in other words. (massages her neck with her left hand)

Quinn: Let me. (massages Daria's shoulders) What will you give her?

Daria: Mmmm, thanks. I'm reviewing it. Not grading it. (pause) But what does she know. (writes a "C" on the first page) And that's being friendly.

Quinn: It's that bad?

Daria: It sucks. It got powerful language, good metaphors and anatomically correct sex scenes. But it's badly structured, demonstrates a poor grasp of reality, contains a subplot that goes nowhere, it's too short considering how much is happening, and I'm concerned about the older guy she ends up with. He seems familiar.

Quinn: What do you mean?

Daria: Based on how he looks, talks and behaves. I could swear it's a description of Steve Taylor.

Quinn: (pause) Should we... I mean you, do something?

Daria: There are places where even I won't go. Besides she turned 18 two months ago.

Quinn: Have you ever wondered that even if our family is weird, it's still normal compared to the Taylor's?

Daria: But at least Brittany's got a younger brother instead of a sister.

(Quinn presses her thumbs into Daria's shoulders)

Daria: AAAAAAAAH!! Why you!

(Daria grabs Quinn and tries to pin her down. Sandi, Stacy and Tiffany enters. They stare at Daria and Quinn)

Stacy: Oh my god. It's Quinn... And her sister.

Tiffany: This is sooo criminal.

Sandi: Let's get out of here before they start taking their clothes off.

(Sandi, Stacy and Tiffany run away. Quinn gets up and runs after them)

Quinn: Guys wait! It's not what you think!

Daria: (voiceover) We may not be normal. But at least we never get bored.

(Lane kitchen. Daria is sitting at the table writing on her notepad. Jane puts a casserole on the stove, she takes several plates of chocolate from the refrigerator and drops them into the casserole)

Daria: Art supplies?

Jane: How did you know?

Daria: You seldom use the refrigerator to store food.

Jane: Lies. I store lots of food in there. But the gnomes come out and eat it at night.

Daria: Trent's a gnome?

Jane: I'm going to use chocolate to create an edible statue. As it gets eaten it symbolizes the body decay over time. Now I just need someone to model for me.

(Daria looks cross at Jane)

Jane: Just kidding. Besides I already know what you look like.

Daria: Some day, Jane. Some day.

Jane: What's that you're writing?

Daria: I decided to take a stab at that contest in the school paper. It would be a shame if Brittany's crap ended up winning the contest. So I'm writing a story about cows.

Jane: Cows?

Daria: Cows. It's really a fable over life at Lawndale High. The teachers are the cows and the students are the calves. The cows display character traits borrowed from the teachers. Their leader is manipulative, corrupt, totalitarian...

Jane: Ms. Li.

Daria: Exactly. Another cow is hysterical, loud-mouthed...

Jane: Mr. DeMartino.

Daria: And so on. In the end they all get put to death for having mad cow decease. Doesn't it sound great?

Jane: It sounds more like trouble to me.

Daria: That's the good part. The only way I could get in trouble over this would be if the teachers admitted to recognizing themselves in it. I doubt very much that would happen. I tell you, this is a winner.

(A few days later. The class of Mr. O'Neill. The students are leaving)

Mr. O'Neill: Daria? Can I talk with you a moment. It's about your essay in the school paper.

Jane: I'll wait for you in the cafeteria.

Daria: Good idea. That way you can taste the food before I eat it.

(The students leave. Daria and Mr. O'Neill are left behind)

Mr. O'Neill: I read your story about the cows. And while it's a good and intriguing story - although with a rather violent ending - well you know, I can't help thinking that it's really a fable of some kind.

Daria: What gave you that idea?

Mr. O'Neill: The people, I mean cows, seem so familiar to me. And I just want to know, for your own good of course.

Daria: Yeah.

Mr. O'Neill: Do you have trouble at home?

(Daria looks shocked)

(The cafeteria. Daria and Jane's table)

Jane: Your family?

Daria: Exactly. He thinks that the corrupt and manipulative cow is...

Jane: Your mom.

Daria: And that the hysterical...

Jane: Your dad. What cow did he think Quinn was?

Daria: Mrs. Bennett.

Jane: There you have it. You can't trust O'Neill to understand your story. The guy is a jerk.

(Brittany walks over to them. She looks mad)

Jane: What calf was Brittany? The one that runs it's head against the wall for fun?

Daria: No that was Kevin. But it was a qualified guess.

Jane: But if she understands it, everyone else will too. Right?

Daria: I guess.

Brittany: (walks up to Daria) I hope you're happy now Daria. Ruining my appetite like that.

Daria: Excuse me?

Brittany: I was going to have a cheese burger. But then I read your icky story. And now I'm afraid to get inseminated with angry cow decease.

Daria: Oh brother.

Jane: Don't worry, you're immune.

Brittany: Are you sure?

Jane: I promise. In fact you also can't get Alzheimers or brain cancer.

Brittany: Geee. Thanks Jane. (leaves)

Jane: So she didn't understand it either. Big deal. You'll see. Once the next issue of the school paper comes out. You'll be the one who got the most votes.

Daria: You sure?

Jane: I promise. In fact you'll probably get all the votes.

(A week later. Morgendorffer kitchen. Helen and Jake are having breakfast. Quinn comes in)

Helen: So what's with Daria? She's not sick is she?

Quinn: I'm not sure what she is. She's hiding under her blanket, and when I asked her if she was coming down for breakfast, she told me that God is a cheerleader, and that he hates her.

Jake: But how can God be a cheerleader if he's a man?

Helen: Jake! There's no proof that God is a man. (to Quinn) What's going on?

Quinn: O'Neill held an essay contest. And those who participated got their stories published in the school paper. I mean you'd think they would make the paper longer. But no. Instead they left out other stuff. Like the fashion clubs column. But they still had room for football...

Helen: Green.

Quinn: Gold.

Helen: Silver.

Quinn: Deal. Daria participated along with Brittany and six others. The readers could vote on what the best story was. Brittany got the most votes. Daria lost. That was yesterday.

Helen: Oh dear.

Quinn: (sits down and pours herself a plate of shredded wheat and milk) Not that I'm surprised. Her story was totally weird. Something about talking cows getting mad cow decease.

Jake: Mad cow decease! What if we ate some of those cows? Just think of all the lasagna.

Quinn: Don't worry dad. Unless you're feeling a small headache there's no reason to think you've been infected.

Jake: A headache? I think I have one now.

Helen: Stop imitating your sister.

Quinn: Sorry.

Helen: And give me that. (takes Quinn's plate)

Quinn: Hey!

(Daria's room. Daria is hiding under her blanket. Helen comes in with the plate in her hands)

Helen: It's me Daria. I brought you breakfast.

Daria: Why?

Helen: I just thought you might not be feeling well enough to go to school. So maybe you should stay in bed today. I know you wouldn't skip school unless it was something serious.

Daria: Like what little ego I have being ripped from me, and my dignity being trod underfoot by a cheerleader?

Helen: I'm sure it's not as bad as that. I'll just leave the plate, and see you when I come home.

Daria: That's it?

Helen: I wouldn't make you talk to me about it unless you wanted to, sweetie. Bye now. (puts the plate down and starts to leave)

Daria: (sigh) Mom?

Helen: Yes?

Daria: Can I ask you something?

Helen: Come out from under the blanket first.

Daria: (sits up, looks at the plate) Are you sure you made breakfast for me? You didn't just take Quinn's plate?

Helen: What makes you think that?

Daria: Shredded wheat?

Helen: Nevermind! Is there anything else you want to ask me?

Daria: (beat) Why can't people tell the difference between a good story and a bad one?

Helen: Is it about the contest in the school paper?

Daria: Quinn told you? Yeah. I mean I know I wrote something good, and I know Brittany wrote something bad. So how is it that people prefer her romantic drivel over my story?

Helen: Maybe they couldn't understand it. Have you thought about that? What was your story about?

Daria: Talking cows.

Helen: And when you submitted that story to Musings Magazine (1). What was it about?

Daria: A flesh eating bacteria.

Helen: So maybe you got turned down, not because it was bad, but because the editors didn't think their readers would like it.

Daria: (sigh) Maybe.

Helen: What is the last thing you wrote? Try to show me.

Daria: Mom I really don't think...

Helen: Come on. I want to see it.

Daria: The notepad on the floor.

(Helen picks up the notepad. Cut to the notepad)

"The Old Man and the Gun"

Melody Powers was lying in a hotel room bed with her former lower by her side. It had been a good evening, with dinner, dancing, romance and even a good cigar. There is something special about Cuban men she thought. Who else would have offered her a cigar after making love, and what other woman but her would have returned the favor by letting him smoke her cigar. Somehow he hadn't seemed grateful when she shoved it down his throat and pulled the trigger. "Sorry Sanchez" she had said to him. "But I don't have my silencer on me".

(Cut to Daria's room)

Helen: Daria!!

Daria: It's that bad?

Helen: (beat) No. You could probably find many readers with this.

Daria: You think so?

Helen: But my point is that if you want others to read your stories you have to give them something they want to read.

Daria: Sell out you mean?

Helen: No that's not what I mean. Sure it's easy to stand by your principles as long as no one is depending on you. One moment you're fighting for the little people. The next you're helping big companies break... I mean, bend the law. But you can't be expected to remain an idealist when you have two little girls to look after...

Daria: Mom. You don't have to explain. I don't think you've sold out.

Helen: (smiles) My little sweetie. (hugs Daria)

Daria: (meek) Help.

(Daria and Jane are walking to school)

Jane: So what happened?

Daria: What do you mean?

Jane: When we walked home yesterday you looked like something the cat had dragged in...

Daria: What kind of cat?

Jane: Don't try and change the subject. But now you're back to your old self...

Daria: And that's good?

Jane: I told you not to try and change the subject. What happened?

Daria: (sigh) I had a talk with my mom.

Jane: What did she use? Electroshocks? Lithium?

Daria: Worse. Friendliness.

Jane: You do realize that it's all part of her master plan to give you a makeover.

Daria: She told me that the problem wasn't my story but my readers. And she's right. How could I even think that the people I go to school with would appreciate my story over Brittany's romantic stuff.

Jane: So you're saying you'll write romance next time?

Daria: No I'm thinking more about a story of a young artist who likes to fingerpaint unknowing that her former friend has poisoned her paint with mercury. But lucky for her there won't be a next time. Because I'll try to forget all this ever happened and go back to concentrating on the day I graduate.

(Mr. O'Neill's class)

Mr. O'Neill: Now students. As you may all know Brittany won the essay contest. And while I'm proud that the winner was one of my students. I can't help thinking that maybe you weren't being entirely objective. That maybe you looked more on the outside than on the inside. You know. That you preferred the wrapping over the package.

Jane: (to Daria) Is he telling us that we shouldn't have voted for Brittany's story? Or that we should stop shopping at Cashman's?

Daria: (to Jane) A shame I can't be there to see the look on Quinn's face when he delivers that line to her class.

Mr. O'Neill: So I got the school paper to run the essay contest again. For those of you who want to, you know, give it a second try. Yes, Daria?

Daria: What's the word you use when someone stabs you, and then while you're lying on the ground bleeding to death, he starts kicking you and making fun of you?

Mr. O'Neill: (laughs nervously) I'll have to look it up.

(The cafeteria. Jane and Daria are sitting at their table)

Jane: I think I figured out why this means so much to O'Neill. I mean if Brittany's story was the best, what does that say about his skills as an English teacher?

Daria: We have an English teacher?

(Brittany walks over and sits next to Daria)

Daria: The answer is no.

(Brittany looks scared)

Jane: Don't worry. She can't read your mind. No one can.

Brittany: But, Daria. I need you to help me with my next story. This contest has given me hopes and dreams. It's shown me that there is life outside cheerleading.

Daria: Excuse me?

Brittany: Until now I always thought cheerleading would be my life. But now I realized that I can become an author instead. I'll go to college to study writing. And then I'll become the next Barbara Cartland.

Jane: You forgot the part about selling your soul.

Brittany: But I need you to help me. I'm sure I can get a "B" this time.

Daria: I'd love to. Except Sick Sad World haven't been canceled this week.

Brittany: But, Daria. I don't think I could have won the contest last time without your help.

Daria: Brittany. What's the word you... Oh nevermind. Just try and write something different this time. Will you?

(Daria's room. Tom and Daria are watching TV. Daria is writing comments on something written on violet paper. Tom has his arms around her shoulders)

Tom: How long must I keep doing this? Not that I mind.

Daria: Until I'm done. Just stop me if I try to claw my eyes out.

Tom: It's that bad?

Daria: No, this one is a lot better. It has all the usual flaws of a Brittany story. But unlike last time I love the plot. It's about a girl who cheats on her boyfriend, only there is this pervert who takes pictures of it, and blackmails her. But she takes revenge by kidnapping him and feeding him alive to some giant pigs that have been conditioned to attack anyone who screams.

Tom: And that's good because...

Daria: You'd have to be a girl, and go to my school to like it. (writes a "B" on the first page)

TV: Brought to life by black magic. Now the chopped off hand wants to have a social life. When blind dates turn bad. Next on Sick Sad World.

(There is a knock on the door)

Tom: Could that be...?

Daria: If so, tell it to go away. I'm taken.

Tom: (loud) Come in.

(Quinn enters)

Quinn: Hi, Daria. You know if you're not doing anything later today, how about we spend some time together?

Daria: Sorry. But it's too early for me to come out of the closet.

(Quinn fumes)

Tom: What?

Daria: Private joke. On her.

Quinn: Seriously. Everyone knows that we're sisters now. So I was thinking that maybe we could go to the movies, or maybe...

Daria: Fifteen.

Quinn: Twenty-five.

Daria: Twenty.

Quinn: Deal. Mom found out about the new essay contest. She hired me to keep an eye on you, and let her know if you decide to participate again.

Daria: And how did she find that out?

Quinn: (smirk) Mrs. Bennett showed us how suppliers sometimes create demand for their services.

Daria: You can tell her that I said I won't write a story this time.

Quinn: Okay. (leaves)

Tom: But if she tells your mom. Won't your mom figure out that Quinn told you how she was paid to spy on you?

Daria: I know that. You know that. The question is. Will Quinn find out in time?

Tom: It's a shame your fellow students don't appreciate your stories. I think you should win.

Daria: Oh I'll participate alright. And this time I'll win for sure.

Tom: But you told Quinn?

Daria: That I wouldn't write a story. (gets up) And I won't. I'll use something I already wrote. I know for a fact that my fellow students love these. (takes a binder from her shelf, and flips through it) Let's see... "From Russia With Blood", "Melody in Africa", "Four Funerals and no Wedding in Saigon", "The City of Lost Communists", "Driving Over Agent Daisy". Here we are. "Peking Duck Served Cold".

Tom: Is that what I think it is?

(The kitchen. Helen and Quinn are arguing)

Quinn: (whining) But mu-oom. You promised me I could have the gold card. We had an oral agreement; this is a breach of contract.

Helen: I'm glad to hear you're paying attention in Mrs. Bennett's class. But our agreement did not include letting Daria know she was being...

(Daria comes in)

Helen: Oh hi, Daria.

Daria: You don't mind if I don't stay for dinner do you? Tom just asked me out.

Helen: Now that is an awful short notice. What will you be doing?

Daria: Dinner and the movies. We're going to see one about a young girl with an overprotective mother, who ends up alienating her.

Helen: (sigh) Here you go. (hands Daria the gold card)

Quinn: Noooooooo.

(A few days later. Lawndale High. Daria walks up to a classroom door. Just then Brittany walks out. She's crying)

Daria: What's up?

Brittany: Oh, Daria. It's awful. My story has been rejected. And all because you helped me. He said we had to write it alone.

Daria: He said what?

(Brittany runs down the hall)

Daria: Brittany. Wait!

(The classroom. Mr. O'Neill is sitting at the desk. Daria comes in)

Mr. O'Neill: Hi, Daria.

Daria: You wanted to see me?

Mr. O'Neill: Ahh. Yes. It's about the story you submitted to the paper.

Daria: It's been rejected too?

Mr. O'Neill: Oh, you met Brittany. I'm afraid so.

Daria: How come?

Mr. O'Neill: Well. It's really a matter of context. You see Daria, given the current climate - with school shootings and violence - I'm just not sure that a story of that kind would be... um... appropriate.

Daria: Excuse me? My story is about a female agent who fights communists in China. How could that possibly have got anything to do with our high school?

Mr. O'Neill: I see your point. But Ms. Li thought that...

Daria: Ms. Li? (pause) I shouldn't have let it take place in China, right?

Mr. O'Neill: Now, Daria. I'm sure Ms. Li wouldn't let her ethnicity become a factor in what I'm sure was a purely professional decision.

Daria: But?

Mr. O'Neill: But maybe it would have been better if your... um... agent didn't target a minority group.

Daria: A what group? The Chinese are the most numerous people on earth.

Mr. O'Neill: If you see it that way. But I'm sure...

Daria: Is there still time for me to submit a different one?

Mr. O'Neill: (hopeful) Could you?

Daria: Sure. And it's one where "my agent" kills all white people. I call it "To Kill a Leprechaun". Would that be okay. Mr. O'Neill?

Mr. O'Neill: (nervous) I guess it is a little late to submit a new story.

Daria: I guess. But why did Ms. Li throw Brittany's story out?

Mr. O'Neill: Actually that was my decision. I talked with her about her story and found out how you helped her, and while I certainly appreciate my students lending each other a "helping hand" the idea was for this to be a solo effort.

Daria: (voiceover) You bastard. At least Ms. Li doesn't try to convince herself otherwise, when she abuses her power. (outloud) Oh me oh my. I guess it don't matter much. I didn't think her stories were very good.

Mr. O'Neill: Well, she isn't one of my brightest students. Unlike you. I know it would have meant a lot to you to win that contest.

Daria: (shrugs) I'll live. I just wonder why people voted for her in the first place. I mean. All we know about appreciating literature we learned from you.

(The Hallway. Daria leaves the classroom. She's smiling and has a peaceful look on her face)

(Jane walks over to Daria)

Jane: What did he want?

Daria: He told me that my story has been rejected. Due to it's content. That sort of stuff.

Jane: And you're smiling because...

Daria: I just realized that winning some stupid contest is nothing compared to the joy and satisfaction you feel, when you see a grown man whom you despise fall to pieces before you. See you later. Okay? (leaves)

Jane: Um. Sure.

(The bathroom. Brittany is standing by the mirrors and crying. Daria comes in. She opens all the stalls to make sure they're alone before walking over to Brittany)

Daria: Look, Brittany. If you still want to become a writer I say go for it. Don't let one bad teacher ruin your dreams.

Brittany: You think so?

Daria: Hey, who do you think knows the most about literature. Me or O'Neill?

Brittany: Um...

Daria: I would think hard about that one if I were you.

Brittany: You.

Daria: (mona lisa smile) I liked your last story. I'm sure it would have won. (voiceover) Given that mine was rejected.

Brittany: Yours got rejected too?

Daria: (surprised) Yeah. It was about Melody Powers. Maybe you remember her. That night in the coffee house 2 years ago (6).

Brittany: (smiles) I do remember. So you would have gotten all the male votes, and I would've gotten all the female votes.

(Daria looks astonished at Brittany)

Brittany: I better get going, I'm late for Kevin... I mean practice. (runs off)

Daria: See you.

(Daria and Jane are walking home)

Jane: But if Ms. Li was the one who rejected your story, why did you take it out on O'Neill?

Daria: Would you believe me if I said I felt sorry for Brittany?

Jane: Nope.

Daria: Just making sure. I suppose if I thought long and hard about it, I might come up with a way to get back at Ms. Li. But...

Jane: Why rock the boat when graduation is only a few months away.

Daria: Exactly. (pause) Have you ever wondered if maybe there's more to Brittany than meets the eye.

Jane: You mean like she's only pretending to be stupid? Nope.

Daria: But you told me yourself how she suddenly turned into a military genius at the paint ball exercise. (7)

Jane: So maybe she read a textbook on strategy, thinking it was a book on cheerleading.

Daria: Maybe. (sigh) I guess we'll never know.

Jane: I guess.


(1) "The Story of D"

(2) "Is it Fall Yet"

(3) "A Tree Grows in Lawndale"

(4) See the "The Daria Diaries"

(5) "Lucky Strike"

(6) "Cafe Disaffecto"

(7) "The Daria Hunter"