LUNCH HOUR IN LAWNDALE
A 'Daria' fan fiction by Brother Grimace
(Scene: The Ruttheimer Estate (lest any of you forget that the Sloanes are not the only wealthy family in town). Situated near the end of town, it looks like a slightly toned down version of Southfork (from 'Dallas'), with the main manor, the guesthouses, a gazebo, stables out about a quarter-mile from the main area, and acres upon acres of beautiful land. If the Ruttheimers were Black, one might quote Arsenio Hall & say that 'He's glad to see that at least ONE family's gotten their forty acres and a mule!' In other words - it's a nice place.)
(Scene: Outside Upchuck's room. Bronwyn Ruttheimer, Upchuck's mother, is looking through a sheaf of papers as she reaches the door, then knocks several times in a no-nonsense manner. She is six-foot plus and has an actual figure, with a full mane of scarlet hair and dark emerald eyes that hold the fire of the Irish within. Think of the actress Suzie Plakson (the female 'Q' from 'Star Trek: Voyager) and you've got the idea.)
Bronwyn: (her Irish accent coming through when she's angry - and she sounds like she's back in County Derry now) Charles Emerson Ruttheimer the Third, I don't care if you are at Death's door - you get out here right now before I beat you like a dusty old rug out of the basement!
Upchuck (OS) Mother, I didn't do anything!
Bronwyn: Oh. And you didn't do a thing, did you? (Upchuck sits up in bed as Bronwyn explodes through the door and across the room like a crimson tornado as she goes directly to one of the walk-in closets in her son's room.) And if I open this door and poke around a bit, that spineless little bit of suburban fluff won't come flying out, I suppose?
(Backing up a bit, Upchuck's room. Despite what one would think, it's not papered in centerfolds from 'Playboy' magazine. It is surprisingly tasteful - and average for a teenage boy's room - just a LOT bigger. There is a computer nook off to one side - the size of a bathroom in an average home - which holds enough high-end computer equipment to run a small corporation, and a king-size bed with normal sheets - NOT anything sci-fi oriented or 'R'-rated. On one side of the room, several professionally mounted paintings are hung on the wall. They are of surprising quality, and include 'Ride, Chuckie, Ride!' (from 'Arts N' Crass'), a flattering portrait of Bronwyn and a handsome, red-haired man about her age (obviously Upchuck's dad), a hauntingly colorful fractal work of a black hole, and a STUNNING, museum-quality reproduction of the 'nude demon' painting seen in Al Pacino's office in 'The Devil's Advocate' - but with flattering imagery of many of the students from LHS, including Daria, Jodie, Sandy, Kevin, Andrea, Mack, and others. The kid is apparently not without skills.)
Upchuck: Mother, you promised that -
Bronwyn: I promised that I'd afford you the same courtesy that you show me, Little Charles!
Upchuck: (wincing) Please don't call me that, Mother.
Bronwyn: We'll discuss your fragile ego later, son of mine. (snapping her fingers, then crossing her arms as she takes an imperial stance next to the door) Get the girl out here now, or I'll do it for you.
(Bronwyn winces as the door swings open to reveal Stacy Rowe, her eyes wide as saucers as she glances up at the older woman - once. She is all but shivering with fear.)
Bronwyn: Oh, look - and if it isn't 'Rowe the Doe' that we've flushed from the woods!
Stacy: (her teeth chattering with fear) Mrs. Ruttheimer, we weren't doing anything -
Bronwyn: (under her breath) As though you'd have the backbone to even try, like any normal girl who's taken a fancy to some young man of means...
Stacy: - I was just bringing Chas a few slices of pizza, since he's out sick -
Bronwyn: (advancing on Stacy) Go on...
Stacy: -And I wanted to see him!
Bronwyn: But not enough to come to the front door instead of sneaking through the window, I see. (She points towards the door.) OUT.
Bronwyn: You should be spending your energy saying goodbye to the skittering violet, Little Charles. (beat; turning to Stacy) BOO!
(The entire house is rocked by Stacy's scream, and the young woman tears out of Upchuck's room with amazing speed. Upchuck turns to his mother, who can barely keep from bursting out in laughter.)
Upchuck: Mother, you don't have to scare her every time you see her! It's bad enough that she acts like you eat babies...
Bronwyn: Only for snacks, and only when the villagers arouse my wrath. (beat) You know I'm only doing this to help you, my little man. You picked badly.
Upchuck: She's still my choice, Mother.
Bronwyn: She's a weak little child. She'll break if anything of consequence ever happened, and if some other boy who's more handsome and has more money came by - someone who her little friends would get all cliqued-off about - what do you think she'd do with you? (beat: Upchuck's head droops just a touch.) Now, you know how I feel about you acting like women are prizes and possessions -
Voice (OS): That's right, son - the most precious possession you can own! (Upchuck's smile brightens as Charles E. Ruttheimer, Jr. sticks his head into the room. He is a head shorter than his wife but just as attractive, with red hair a shade or two lighter and a small, well-trimmed mustache. Think of Eric Stoltz and that's the ticket.)
Bronwyn: Charles - you're not helping. (beat) The boy's already got the wrong idea about women!
Charles: I'll check for myself, thank you. (He flashes a smile and wink at his wife as he enters the room.) L.C. - do you like girls?
Charles: Would you like to have sex with a girl someday?
Upchuck: With more than one, Dad. (beat) Not necessarily at the same time, but then again... (His face takes on a dreamish reverie, and Bronwyn throws up her hands in disbelief before reaching for a pillow and plowing her son dead in the forehead with it!) OW!
Bronwyn: SEE? (beat) I blame you for this...
Charles: What's the problem, love? He likes girls!
Bronwyn: But he has no respect for them!
Upchuck: That's not true! (He sits up, and looks Bronwyn straight in the eye.) I respect YOU, Mother. How could I not have respect for women, when you are the most important woman in my entire life?
(Bronwyn's expression softens immediately as she goes to Upchuck, and Charles lets his breath out with a 'Man, did that kid dodge a bullet or what?' expression on his face.)
Bronwyn: Oh, my little baby boy... I know you do. (She hugs him, and then raps him upon the top of his head.) Now, if you could just practice that 'honesty' trick and get it down until the girls like you for who you really are - or at least don't take it personally - then maybe you'll find something a little better than Miss 'Do You Know Where Your Backbone Is?"
Bronwyn: Tell me you would have been interested if I had just come running up and jumped into your lap. (She scowls as Charles lets a slow smile cross his face.) Well, maybe YOU would have, but...
Charles: I get your point. (he flashes a look at Upchuck that clearly says, 'and YOU get the point, too - RIGHT?)
Upchuck: I understand, Mother. (At that moment, six scarlet-haired youths - two older than Upchuck, and four younger - fall through the door.) Oh, look - the bookends are here!
(The Ruttheimer parents turn towards Samuel and Joseph, the younger twins (five years old), Francis and Claire (the fraternals - around 12, and Francis is a boy), and Michelle & Danielle, the older pair (about 21.)
Charles: (jokingly; to Bronwyn) What's with all of them being here right now? Don't we pay good money to send them off to private schools so we can be alone?
Danielle: Isn't that why you keep ending up with Mom as a Xerox machine?
Michelle: I'd say that Mother needs a break from you, Dad!
Danielle: We came to take Mom out for lunch - sorry, Pops, but you're not invited. You get to go back to the office, invent more software and help people develop new computer tricks so we can waste your money on girl things - or at least, (motioning towards her twin) SHE does.
Michelle: And when did you ever think about sending us off to private school? (She snaps her fingers, and all seven Ruttheimer children speak in unison.)
Children: 'Public school was good enough for my parents and it got me to where I am, so you'll go to public school and make the grade so you won't have to depend on your parents' money to be worth something!'
Charles: And was I wrong...? (Upchuck pulls the cover over his head as he falls back into bed, and the others all pour out of his room - leaving Charles and Bronwyn standing alone.)
Bronwyn: Come on, tycoon o' mine. Let's let your boy get some sleep.
(Scene: The LHS Teachers' Lounge. Claire Defoe sits at a table next to the window, eating a fruit plate of mango, kiwi, plantain (somewhat like banana) wild berries and coconut chunks. She occasionally dunks a fruit chunk in the container of plain yogurt next to her plate, and sips from a bottle of mineral water - but there is an automatic feel to her actions, as she is staring out the window with a lost expression.)
(Timothy O'Neill walks into the lounge, an almost identical plate to Claire's - except he has vegetables, ranch low-fat dressing, and iced tea. He walks over to Claire.)
Timothy: Claire... do you mind if I sit down? (She is still lost in thought, and he sits.) You're still thinking about Anthony, aren't you?
Claire: (returning to reality) What did you say about Anthony?
Timothy: I was wondering... Claire, maybe you should date other men besides him.
Claire: I'm not dating Anthony-
Timothy: No, you're sleeping with him - and I think you're developing feelings for him. (beat) We've talked about this before... maybe it isn't a good idea for you to try to build something with him. I really don't think he's ready...
Claire: I'm not going to push him... we've both got plenty of time, and I make sure he's got his space, so he won't feel crowded in.
Timothy: Just some friendly advice. (beat; to himself) You were warned... (He turns back to his lunch, a wary look on his face.)
(Scene: Pizza King. Daria and Jane sit in a booth, warily eyeing the steaming-hot pizza on the table before them. Music - 'For Those About To Rock, We Salute You', by AC-DC.)
Jane: What's in this thing, again?
Daria: Rattlesnake, rabbit, squirrel, raccoon, grizzly bear, venison, and bison. (beat) The 'Wild West Meat Lover's Special'. (beat) It's sad - but you know, those trendy idiots are actually going to pay forty bucks for one of these.
Jane: Well -- this is what we get for basically making this our only known public hangout.
Daria: This is what we get for not worshipping at the local temple of the golden arches.
Jane: No - THIS is what we get for you agreeing to try the damned thing... free pies for a week isn't worth this.
Daria: The really scary thing is that it actually smells good. (pause; she points to a lump of meat) Do you recognize that?
Jane: Not even with dental records. (beat) Say, when did you decide on this psychic bungee-jump, anyway?
Daria: Necessary conservation of funds.
Jane: What's Grand Moff Helen come up with this time?
Daria: She's decided that, despite seventeen years and my emasculation in effigy of the thrice-dammed Val to the contrary, I would need to start thinking about having 'the right clothes' for all of those college visits I'll be dragged off to sooner or later. (beat) She's decided that, from now until the middle of my senior year, that half of my allowance will be used for buying clothes.
Jane: Ouch. Third-degree buzzkill. (beat) I'll bet Quinn's just thrilled about your upcoming adventures in fashion.
Daria: Mom's allowing her to come along with the rest of the Fashion Borg, so that I can see once and for all that 'I will comply'. Damn Type-A personalities...
(They look up to see Jodie come in, a thundering gloom on her face.)
Jane: (to Jodie) Hey, lady of the lake of sadness! Join with us, and eat of our pizza as you speak of the latest indignity cast upon your soul by those branded villains of our fair community, which you must endure before you are carried away to rejoice forever in the glorious halls of Valhalla – among the honored dead!
(Daria gives her a strange look, one echoed by Jodie as she heads over.)
Jane: (shrugging) Max brought over a metric boatload of his old 'Thor' comic books over last night. I've been doing the 'I say thee NAY!' thing on and off all morning.
Jodie: Save it for Mr. O'Neill and freak him out.
Daria: Better still, cut loose on Kevin in Barth's class and let her think you're born again.
Jane: Yeah. (beat)Tell me again why we decided to hit this place for lunch instead of after school?
Daria: Just something different. (to Jodie) So, why did you go over the wall?
Jodie: I just... I just needed to get away from the madness for a while.
(Daria & Jane notice the sad, almost defeatist tone in her voice.)
Jane: You know, it's really not all that bad here. (pause) You're in the best time of your life, you know?
Daria: Yeah – you're making relationships with people who, after you've spent your life becoming a worthwhile and wealthy person, will resent and curse you behind your back while planning to ask you to co-sign on major loans for them because they can't finance a new home and car on their take from working the concession stand at the local multiplex. (pause) Sometimes, I love being me.
Jane: Jodie, don't let the bastards get you down – unless, of course, you're into the group thing. (Jodie almost smiles.) Oh, is THAT how it is? It's always the goody-two-shoes who really know how to get their freak ON!
Jodie: You two are something else.
Daria: And as long as those boys at the NSA don't release DNA samples, you'll never know what.
Jodie: (actually relaxing a little) Can I ask you two something? You know... something personal...?
Jane: Every night, hon. It's very soothing.
Daria: Take your fingers out of the gutter and listen to her! (to Jodie) Go on...
Jodie: Do you... do you ever look at your life and think that there's nothing out there for you?
Jane: I don't understand.
Jodie: You know, like, no matter what you do, no matter how much you accomplish, no matter how many times you succeed in reaching your goals – you'll never really be a successful person?
Daria: Nope. Never get that feeling.
Jane: Me neither.
Daria: I can always become a super-terrorist and blow up buildings and jets.
Jane: As long as there's plastic surgery, a porno industry and CGI, I'll always be a success.
Jane: Being double-jointed will only take you so far. (beat) Jodie, did something happen?
Jodie (pausing for a moment as she glances around) I had a dream.
Daria: Wait until graduation night – then we'll all be free at last.
Jodie: I dreamed about... I thought – Daria, I dreamed about your mother.
Jane: (eyes wide) Whoa – now THAT one I didn't see coming! (beat) Does Mack know about this -?
Daria: Jane. Mind. Gutter. Out. Now. (beat) Talk to us, Jodie.
Jodie: (slowly) I dreamed that I was just like your mother - well, I dreamed that I had a career like your mother, but I wasn't happy with anything about my life. (beat) Everybody says that what we do now, while we're in high school, will determine how our lives turn out.
Daria: I know that I've heard that particular song far too many times.
Jodie: When I look at where I'm headed, guys... I'm not so sure that that's a place I want to go. (beat) I don't want to be a Black Republican, or a corporate weenie, or some rich, snotty bitch who looks down at everybody because I graduated first in my class from Harvard or Oxford medical or law school and makes at least five million a year...
Jane: Wow. (beat) Even when she's depressed, she's tasked for high-performance.
Jodie: I just want to feel that it's all going to be worth it, you know? I want to believe that what I'm doing is going to mean something - that I'll make a difference in the lives of others for the better. I don't really do anything for myself, so I just want to - (She stops talking, and Daria passes her a glass of ice water.) This is all time from my life that I'll never get back. Is it going to be worth it?
(The table goes silent for a moment.)
Jane: Is all of this worth it?
(Silence. The three young women mournfully look at one another. Jodie sips from her glass.)
Jane: Sure, it's worth it. I can always use the experience for some really cool cubist art project that'll score six figures in Manhattan, easy.
Daria: After I'm through here in Lawndale, I'll go on and write about this. Pulitzer, American Press Award, probably a Nobel for literature...
Jodie: No matter what I do - I'll have at least ten to forty million in the bank by the time I'm thirty, with at least one cover story in 'Ebony' or 'Jet' magazine about being successful...
(The area becomes silent once again. The threesome look down at the table with morose expressions.)
Jodie: No matter what I do - I'll always be known as the 'successful Black girl'...
Daria: I'll probably sell out and create a lot of crappy TV shows that'll go forever and make me rich because the idiots are so starved for something new and different, my stuff'll seem like the Second Coming.
Jane: All I want is someone to hold me in his arms and make me feel good.
(They look at each other.)
Jodie: I have to go.
Daria: Me, too. I might as well finish the day out.
Jane: Why? (The two look at Jane as if she just stepped on a kitten.) Look, we're all bummed - why go back to the cause? Let's just blow it off and have some fun!
Jodie: Like what?
Jane: Basement - my house. No parents. Just stocked the fridge the day before. Got the entire run of 'Renegade' on videotape. Trent and the band left a keg from last night cooling on ice.
Jane: Lorenzo Lamas out in the desert with tight jeans, no shirt and a gallon of ice water that he pours all over himself. To quote a local citizen of some disrepute - (she makes a pawing motion with her hands) 'Rrrrrrr...'
(Daria and Jodie glance at each other, and burst out laughing.)
Jodie: (wiping her eyes) Well, since we're walking anyway...
Daria: I don't want to go back. (beat) I also have a nice little excuse in my log that'll fit just beautifully for this little occasion.
Jane: Then it's settled! (beat) And there's a bonus...
Daria: What have you done now?
Jane: This I've been saving for a special occasion - or when I was really down and needed some laughs. (beat) About a month ago, I caught Upchuck wiring the showers for video. In exchange for my not turning him in or beating the crap out of him, he made a... special tape for me. (Jodie and Daria's eyes go wide.) That's right - 'The Men of Lawndale High - Uncovered!'
Jodie: (disbelieving) You didn't -
Jane: Oh, yes, I damn well did! (beat) So, proud co-conspirators - shall we adjourn to my house of ill repute, and indulge proudly in naughty teenage revelry?
Daria: We can do that.
(The girls head out of the eatery, unaware that two men in a nearby booth have been paying attention to their entire conversation.)
Man #1: After that conversation, sir - I think that you're wrong. Landon's the one with the problems, not Morgendorffer!
Man #2: (his form hidden from view) Trust me on this. Little Miss Cynic is the one we want.
Man #1: But Landon -
Man #2: -Would be perfect if we wanted someone who would suicide after they were finished. We want someone who's going to want to strike back, who's got her own agenda. The fact that we're going to give her a chance to hit back at them is ultimately irrelevant.
(pause) Have you ever read 'The Stand' by Steven King?
Man #1: A bit of it, long ago.
Man #2: There is a character within that our Miss Morgendorffer reminds me of. The Trashcan Man, they call him. He is absolutely and totally inept in the realm of the social, but he has a savant skill for destruction by fire. (beat) When he first meets Randall Flagg, man has beaten him down - but now, here is someone who will see the beauty in what he is and will accept him without reservation.
(Doctor Kyle Armalin stands, and we see that he is a tall, average-looking African-American man in his thirties.)
Kyle: For our young lady, the beatings will begin soon enough. She will be forced by necessity to find sanctuary with those who accept her unconditionally - and when she finds them...
Man #1: Dr. Armalin, I don't know -
(Kyle looks back down at the first man.)
Kyle: You don't have to know. It's been arranged. (He goes to the window, watching as Daria and her friends walk away, and speaks as if to her.) 'There's work for you in the desert' - the desert of the mind that is our world. (beat) Great work. If you want it.'
Man #1: (his skin going pale as he rises from his chair and goes to where Kyle stands) Doctor, you're starting to scare me...
Kyle: That is because you are smart. (He turns back to the window; his eyes fixed on Daria.)
'It was Daria Louise Morgendorffer, now known as the Misery Chick, now and forever, world without end, hallelujah, amen.' (The first man stands beside him as Kyle places his hand over the shrinking reflection of Daria in the window.) 'I'm going to set you to burn....'
THE END OF THE BEGINNING...
This is a tiny story. It stands on its own, but also serves as a prequel to 'It's All About Respect' - the work I'm currently working on at the Kuat Drive Yards. (Yes - although I didn't plan it to be that way, it's going to be that big.) IAAR is going to be the first of a number of works, all following a similar path and affecting one another, but standing as separate pieces. Think of the way the networks do the miniseries, such as the 'North & South' miniseries, or the upcoming 'Pretender' TV-films. I'd love to do a regular series of 'Daria' fanfics, but with my trying to get a damned agent again (man, this bites!), working on my seal script (still) as well as a 'Friends' episode ('You sellout-!' 'First chance I got, and look - my bills are paid!') I couldn't put out the product the way SOME people do. Even worse - the Canadibrit's out there setting the bar so damned high, I'm almost afraid to do a regular series!
What I do know is that I'm planning on a group of four to six fanfic minis for this universe, all about the same length, that cover the final year of Daria's high-school career. I can't say much more, except to say that IAAR should have been finished before Christmas break - but its not - and then there's the editing, and re-editing, and the damned people from Standards & Practices... anyway, enjoy!
One more thing - CINCGREEN, if you're interested in doing a little beta reading, give me a shout. You seem to have a bit more skill than the average bear in critiquing works, you don't shrink from using the heavy beam-weapon when needed and you seem somewhat lucid (despite your dislike of She Who Will Not Be Named. Oh, well. Everyone has faults.) Brothergrimace@yahoo.com. We will be waiting.
Oh, and P.S. - 'The Sun Will Come Out, Tomorrow' was only nominated for ONE category in the Canadibrit Fanfic Awards and DIDN'T win? I DEMAND A RECOUNT! I want hand recounts, and I want Paperpusher and CINCGREEN to fly over to London (okay, wherever she is) to oversee the recount! I demand Justice! I want -
Oh, hello, Lynn - excuse me, 'Miss Cullen'. Yes, I'm feeling all right - what are you doing with that sock, and why do you have those rolls of quarters? Why are you looking at me like that...?
I have to go (SWOOOSH!) MISS CULLEN! That was my HEAD you almost (SWOOOSH!) -What the hell is wrong with you - I'd like to think that between Trent and AP, you'd be a lot calmer, or doesn't sex soothe girls like -
THWACK! THWACK! SQUOOSCH!
That hurt. The pain that only a man can know. Ouch. I really mean it when I say 'ouch'. I really need to go lay down somewhere... never mind what I just said. Later.
January 7, 2001