Short Synopsis: The "Daria" Episode 402, "The Anti-Social Climber", re-done by me.
Disclaimers: "Daria" characters and this story’s story line belongs to Glenn Eichler and Noggin. The dramatics are mine. Please don’t be angry. Feedback is welcome, please contact Bacner atOlgak531@rogers.com. Feedback’s welcome.
The Anti-Social Climbers, Redone
Lawndale Weather Report for the Week-Days:
Monday – sunny, with a bit of cloud.
Tuesday – heavy clouding with a chance of thunderstorm.
Wednesday – heavy clouding; danger of thunderstorm turning to snow.
Thursday – thunderstorms/snowstorms.
Friday – sunny breaks beginning late in the afternoon.
Tuesday morning (early):
"Good morning, everybody," Angela Li smiled broadly, demonstrating practically every tooth in her mouth. "And can you guess what I hold in my hands?"
"Unless it’s a way to raise more money for the school we’re not interested," Anthony DeMartino grumbled, ignoring the rather painful shove in his side by Janet Barch.
"Ah, Anthony, but that’s what it is!" Ms. Li shook her head. "It’s the official opening of Lawndale’s Wilderness Adventure Club – an assured shoo-in for a lucrative sponsorship from Extreme Sportz Mania Worldwide Inc. "Hanging ten on the edge of the apocalypse..."
"But Angela, we don’t have a Wilderness Adventure Club!" Timothy O’Neill protested.
"We do now!" Angela Li shook her head. "The only trouble is, I don’t know how to serve it to ESMW – any ideas?"
"Why not take some students on a school trip and see how it works out?" the gym teacher, Samantha Morris, spoke-up. "Remember the time when I, Janet, and O’Neill over there took them?"
"Yeah, Timothy have told me all about it!" Anthony DeMartino chuckled. "Told Phelps too, as a matter of fact. Tell me, Samantha, do you intend to lose more students this time, or not?"
Ms. Morris scowled and shot DeMartino a dark look; Ms. Barch did the same, looking at O’Neill as well as DeMartino, however.
"Mr. DeMartino!" Angela Li’s voice was as dry as air over a glacier and equally cold. "Now’s not the time to settle old scores! There will be another trip up the old Greenhill, fair enough, and this time I’ll be leading it personally. You too will come, for that matter."
"Now Angela," Ms. Barch protested, "surely me or Samantha can help you better than that male!"
"Fair enough," Ms. Li nodded. "Janet, you’re coming along as well. Take O’Neill or Morris if you want, too."
"Take O’Neill, Janet," Samantha Morris said quickly, seeing that the Science teacher was indecisive. "My gym classes need some steeping-up to do, so I’ll have to pass."
"Then it settled," Ms. Li spoke with finality to the other three teachers. "Take these flyers and distribute them among your students – pronto!"
"Class, in my hands, I hold a piece of paper which has the potential to open up a world of positive experiences," Mr O’Neill said in his usual bright manner.
"Mandatory home-schooling legislation?" Dara asked him flatly in hers. Or was it Daria? At any rate, he couldn’t allow to be shaken.
"A sign-up sheet for an overnight hill trek. An excellent opportunity to understand the primal struggle for survival we made it through together in The Call of the Wild," Mr. O’Neill continued, ignoring her. He was especially proud of the ‘Call of the Wild’ bit – he hard heard it on one TV commercial and had been itching to use it ever since. A soft, sensitive new man, O’Neill was always subconsciously nervous about his masculinity, though he would never admit that. At any rate, he actually believed in what he propagated, and that what made him almost dangerous – to an average LH student at least. Neither Daria Morgendorffer nor Jane Lane were such students, however…
"Hmm, 24 consecutive hours with our classmates," Jane said sarcastically.
"It doesn’t get any more primal than that," Daria agreed.
"So my guess is you won’t be signing up?"
"No. My life is so full already that trying biodegradable toilet paper would just bring it to the bursting point. What about you?"
Jane almost shuddered. "No way. I had a bad experience on that hill with the Girl Scouts. We kept marching and singing and marching and singing about some freak named John Jacob Jingleheimer somebody."
"You were a Girl Scout?" Daria asked, incredulous.
"Not after the deprogramming," Jane shook her head. After she’d return from the trek up and down the Greenhill, she had acted in such a un-Lane-y fashion, that Trent didn’t think of anything else but to call their oldest sister, Summer, to help him "fix her". And the eldest Lane female sibling was never tender, though occasionally helpful…
"Never again," Jane quietly muttered. "I won’t go up there ever again. It’s bad karma."
"What’s a karma?" Brittany Taylor asked, confused and well meaning as usual.
"It’s what’ll happen to me if I go up there again," explained Jane. "Remember the last time we all went up there and there was this earthquake? Well, I’m thinking that it might’ve been Mother Nature telling us to get the hell out of there."
"Oh, cool!" Brittany beamed. "Still, I’m thinking that daddy will send me up there once again, yes. He likes when Brian and I leave the house without him and Ashley-Amber for some reason – he says that it makes his concentration easier…"
"So babe, you’re going too? Cool!" Kevin Thompson spoke-up enthusiastically, causing a groan from Michael Jordan Mackenzie whom was sitting behind him by several seats.
"Mack, what’s wrong?" Jodie Landon asked, semi-nervously.
"Did you hear what he had said?" Mack said, refusing to be consoled. "Now I’ll have to go, to keep an eye on him!"
"Mack, come on, let’s make tomorrow a Kevin-free day!" Jodie protested.
Mack shook his head. "Jodie, you don’t understand. Coach Gibson has been telling me every school year that as the team’s captain I’m responsible for the team’s members, no matter how stupid they are. And so, if tomorrow, Kevin goes unsupervised and breaks his leg, or something, in the end I’ll be the one at fault. Besides," Mack paused guiltily, "he probably thinks that I’m his friend!" He shook his head, and several gears snapped into the right places. "Besides, Jo, how would you feel if we spend tomorrow as a school-free day instead? Think of it as a picnic that we may never have otherwise."
"Well, all right," Jodie said, thinking. "I’ll think about that."
Wednesday morning – 8:00 AM
The next morning all four Morgendorffers were eating breakfast at the kitchen table, or at least the Morgendorffer women.
Jake was just holding cereal box while covering one eye. "K-I-N..." he muttered, "or is that an "M"? Damn eyes!" he smashed the table in anger and was promptly ignored by his family.
"Oh, Mom, look! These climbing shoes will look so cute with the matching tear-resistant cigarette pants," Quinn just chirped. When her – well, her and Daria’s parents learned that tomorrow she could be leaving for a field trip, they immediately jumped onto ‘Lets’-give-our-children-a-well-financed-time-outside-the-house-so-that-we-could-have-sex’ bandwagon, and Quinn was intending to milk that for as much as it was worth. The last time that happened was on that boat ride of Ms. Li’s, and she wasn’t about re-live that, no sir!
The only other downside that Quinn could see at that moment was that Daria would have to go to, but she didn’t care. Ever after rescuing Daria’s friend and Daria’s friend’s brother and Daria’s friend’s brother’s friends, things have warmed-up somewhat between Daria and her, and so Quinn didn’t think that Daria would cause her too much grief during the trip.
Now back to her parents…
"Yes," Helen nodded absent-mindedly. "Daria, is there anything you’d like to order from the catalogue?"
Daria sighed. Her mother’s attempts to make her act more like Quinn got really on her nerves lately. "How about the tear-resistant new identity?" Unwilling to deal with her family anymore, she got up from table and sat at the kitchen counter, but her sister’s voice followed her there:
"Of course, I’ll also need the Gore-Tex twin set for impromptu parties…"
Resigned, Daria turned the TV on for relief.
"Why are so many Siamese twins being born in this Bangkok hospital? "Babes in Thailand" tonight on Sick, Sad World," the television set said instead.
Disgusted, Daria turned the TV off. She seemed to be doing lots of time lately – for some reason, it no longer measured-up to what she was experiencing personally, in real life. If she wanted to act sick and sad, she just had to walk-in on Tom Sloane and her friend Jane, acting like a couple of – well, that Daria was debating, but she was pretty sure that a pair of goats would label them well. Sighing, she relaxed and listened to her mother’s promotion of the field trip. "…Dad and I would be happy to help you get outfitted for the field trip, too. Wouldn’t we, Jake?"
Jake, however, was again offering little help to his spouse, and began to get into a tantrum. "S-U-G-A... damn! What the hell is that letter?"
Hastily, Helen grabbed cereal box out of his hands, cutting him off. "Hey!" Jake exclaimed, but it was too late. Realizing that her husband was to be of no help again, Helen concentrated her full effort back on Daria instead, or would’ve, if Quinn didn’t choose that minute to interrupt.
"Now, I’ll need a credit card. Don’t worry about the calls, because it’s for a field trip, so, technically, we’re talking school supplies and "nothing’s too good for our girls’ education."" Quinn giggled lightly, demonstrating a new depth of her shallowness, and a level of hypocrisy unshown by her before.
Jake however, being he missed that. "You’re going on a trip?" was all that he understood. Helen decided that it was time to put her plan into action before Jake got into a tantrum or gave Daria a loophole to slip-out.
"Jake, with Daria and Quinn away overnight, this is the perfect opportunity for us to spend that quality couple’s time recommended by our intimacy counsellor," she quickly explained, getting into the stance.
"Great idea!" Jake echoed on his traditional unthinking enthusiasm, but then paused, as realization hit. "Who?"
Helen was prepared for this. She was going to have a quality time with Jake and shut Linda’s mouth once and for all. "I’ve been seeing an intimacy counsellor to promote growth and togetherness in our relationship," she lied through her teeth. "It was just easier to schedule if I went alone. I’ll fill you in."
All right," Jake easily agreed, taking, as usual, the easy way out. Helen privately smirked. He would forget about that in the next half an hour.
"I hate to burst this bubble of marital bliss, but since I’m not going on the field trip, you’ll have to forego your quality couple’s time for the usual inferior couple’s time," Daria’s flat, emotion-free, totally controlled voice sliced through Helen’s private gloating and brought her back to earth. Helen’s wasn’t the only reaction, though…
"Okay, Daria’s is talking so I have to leave now," spoke Quinn, getting up from table and walking out while the situation was still good – as she had learned by now, whenever Daria got talking, things got ugly, and any possibility of her getting more money from her – their – folks decreased drastically, if not vanished altogether. It was time to search for greener pastures and to shop!
Absentmindedly, Helen waved her youngest good-bye. "Bye, Quinn." Then she turned to Daria. "All right, Daria, name your price," she firmly said.
Daria arched an eyebrow. "Excuse me? My refusal to attend this field trip is based on moral and ethical objections so intrinsic..."
Helen was unimpressed – aside the fact that at least her oldest had learned something from her – she knew what Daria was really after – the same thing as Quinn. "$30," she finally said.
"Done," Helen said, keeping in mind that handling Jake was no picnic, and so a long bargain with Daria was most definitely not in her interests. However, Daria realized that too.
"Of course," she said, pressing her advantage for more cash, "this $50 merely buys my participation in the field trip. For an additional $20, I could be convinced not to tell Quinn about this arrangement."
"I gave you life, Daria; I can take it away," Helen said firmly, leaving. The important thing in that matter was to show the other side your limit of bargaining early and clearly; the carrot and the stick that was important as her father had taught her… Leaving, Helen almost didn’t hear Daria say in a resigned voice. "$50 should do it."
Jake, meanwhile, was forgotten. ""King Tut was buried without his diver." What the hell does that mean?!"
"That’s "liver," Dad," Daria smirked.
Jake’s only reply was a very Quinn-like "Eww..."
Wednesday morning – 9:00 AM
"All right, girls, your father and I will be at the Big River Cabins just a couple of miles from your campsite if you need anything at all," Helen said, as she let the girls out of the car.
"Unless it’s money," hastily added Jake. Helen had explained to him her plans for them to… relieve themselves, and he was eager not to prolong that moment for too long. "Bye!" Jake cheerfully added and drove away with Helen, leaving the girls alone. Naturally, Quinn immediately scooted off to her "friends", while Daria waited for the approaching Jane.
"Thanks for coming," was all she said.
"Hey, that’s what friends are for. Now, where’s that $50?"
Daria sighed as she handed the money to Jane. "You know, I really should have thought this through better," she said for form’s sake. Both she and Jane really knew that Daria had no chance but to play on youngest Lane’s in-born Lane greed; there had been no way for Jane to accompany her friend, but for cash – not under these circumstances, not on to that place.
At that moment Kevin and Brittany walked past, singing off-key, badly: "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, his name is my name, too..."
"Yeah, me, too," Jane gave Daria one of her darker looks, saying: "These $50 better be worth that." She had a really bad time with this jingle – and an even worse time of getting rid of it.
Daria said nothing but shrugged instead. Jane had known as well as herself, that Kevin and Brittany, along with Mack and Jodie, would be on the trip; in fact, quite a few familiar faces were – from both theirs and Quinn’s age groups; apparently, because of last autumn’s disaster, Ms. Li was taking no chances with younger kids – or perhaps the "recruiting" teachers, O’Neill, Barch, and DeMartino just had hot old familiars as well; Daria was quite certain that the 3Js for example (Quinn’s "knights errants" Joey, Jeffy, and Jamey) were Ms. Barch’s input.
While Daria and Jane were checking-out their fellow trippers, Quinn was holding court with her friends. "Oh Quinn, that scarf is so cute," Stacy was gushing.
"Yeah, so cute," Tiffany echoed.
Sandi gave the other two girls dark looks. She knew that Quinn knew that they both knew that the other two girls would be trying to please anybody else anytime, just for the sake of them having no backbones whatsoever. "I would have brought my really cute scarf, but I was under the impression we were supposed to take clothes that are functional and fashionable," she snapped. She was the President of the Fashion Club, she!
Quinn merely smirked at Sandi’s fuming. This match was she, set and go for the neck. "Actually, Sandi, they don’t call this a scarf. It’s a thermal neck insulator that easily converts into a sling-back heat-dispelling halternative for unseasonably warm weather conditions," she helpfully said, lying through her teeth. Well, not as much lying, as giving a new definition to a shawl that she had converted to a scarf. Daria and Helen weren’t the only ones in the Morgendorffer family to be able to spin a tall tale after all.
"Wow," Tiffany said, genuinely impressed.
"Wow, you think of everything, Quinn," Stacy echoed the other girl.
"And, it comes with a matching snakebite kit," Quinn said proudly. Personally she felt weird that you needed a kit to bite snakes, but it sounded really cool and outdoorsy, so why not say it?..
"But... why would you bite a snake?" Tiffany asked, genuinely confused.
Sandi shook her head. These were her best friends? "You don’t understand, Tiffany, dear. The woods are full of slimy, cold-blooded creatures. Isn’t that right, Quinn?" she gave Quinn a very pointed, cold look.
Quinn laughed nervously, as she remembered, or rather realized, that the slimiest, coldest-blooded creature that she ever knew was probably standing a few feet away from her, Stacy, and Tiffany. "Um, look at this stuff?" she tried to change the conversation.
"Oh, my God!" Stacy gushed looking at the huge pile that Quinn has brought along. As a matter of fact, the pile was so big, that it rivalled in size the amount of the supply stores that the LH’s faculty was taking along the trip.
"Oh, wow," Tiffany echoed her friend.
Mr. DeMartino chose that moment to appear on the scene. "Good morning, students. Please be so gracious as to haul your milk-fed buttocks onto the bus," he snapped and climbed onto the bus.
Ms. Barch, meanwhile, was loading bags into the bus luggage bay. "Hurry up, girls. You don’t want to get left behind."
"You mean it’s an option?" Jane eagerly asked, figuring that not going onto the Greenhill Mountain was probably worth that $50 bill that Daria gave her earlier, after eyeing the huge pile of supplies. Was Li planning to turn the trip into an all-nighter, or what?
Ms. Barch, however, meant something else as she closed the luggage bay door. "Oh, sure, being left behind seems like a cute idea to you now, but when it happens to you after 22 years of squandering your good looks and womanly charms, you might not find it so amusing to be abandoned with nothing but eight bags of dirty laundry and a pyramid of "Beers of the World" empties!" she raved, as she slammed the door shut.
"How does that saying go? "’Tis better to have loved and lost..."" Jane said wryly.
""If you know a good hit man,"" Daria finished flatly.
"Exactly," Ms. Barch spoke-up. "Glad to see some girls with their heads on their shoulders. Now, if you don’t mind-"
"Um, one last question," Jane quickly said. "Are we going to stay there overnight?"
"Well, yeah," said Andrea Hecuba as she passed them by. Daria and Jane quickly whirled around, but she was gone. Jane shot Daria an ugly instead.
Daria shrugged. "Well, I told you, I tried to get mom to pay another twenty – but, no luck."
"Daria, you don’t understand," Jane insisted, as the two of them walked off, and left Ms. Barch in peace…
Meanwhile, Mr. O’Neill was telling the 3Js their corresponsive roles. "And finally, Jamie, Joey, Jeffy, you’ll be in charge of transporting field supplies. And let’s all be respectful of this unspoiled wilderness, okay? Remember, we’re in God’s high school now. Oh, my, there’s a lot of pollen in God’s high school," he chuckled, even as he started to wheeze from his hay fever allergy. Even though it was autumn already, it was still September, and there were still a few flowers blooming, including the daisies, the goldenrod, and the bluebell flowers, spewing their final pollen into the air, and into Timothy O’Neill’s lungs. And so, Mr. O’Neill got so busy wheezing, that he forgot to add: "Or else I’ll tell Janet (Ms. Barch) about you," and that was not just important, but vital, for these two-three words – Ms. Barch or Ms. Janet Barch – were usually more than enough to scare any boy (though Kevin was partially immune by his stupidity) was enough to scare any boy into submission; while without them any instructions held no more weight than water in a desert.
"You don’t suppose we could be in for a blizzard of epic proportions?" Jane said, eyeing the English teacher and 3Js with distaste.
"That would only happen if we were stranded in the comfort of our favourite pizza place," Daria shook her head in a semi-genuine despair.
Sadly Ms. Li happened to overhear them. "Don’t you worry, girls. We’ll reach base camp long before any inclement weather should arrive," she said, purposefully forgetting the weather forecast for that day.
"Thank you, Principal Donner," Daria glowered at the older woman.
Ms. Li, however, ignored that, caught in her own little dream. "And once I’ve documented our triumphant ascent with this camera, Lawndale’s Wilderness Adventure Club will be a shoo-in for a lucrative sponsorship from Extreme Sportz Mania Worldwide Inc. "Hanging ten on the edge of the apocalypse..." Ooh!"
Daria shook her head. In her own way, Angela Li was as selfish a… witch, as Helen Morgendorffer was in hers. It was sad, really, that these two women practically ran her life (Jake didn’t count, he couldn’t even properly find his stockings on his own, or open a can of pudding).
Jane, meanwhile, was thinking her own thoughts. "But Lawndale doesn’t have a Wilderness Adventure Club," she said, echoing the words of Timothy O’Neill from the morning of the day before.
"We do now," Ms. Li firmly said once again. Then she turned to the English teacher, thoughts of revenge going through her head. "Mr. O’Neill, you’re artistic. Document these two doing something rugged," she said and walked-off.
"Okay, girls, let’s see that primal instinct," the English teacher growled.
Jane yawned, Daria rubbed her nose, and Mr O’Neill eagerly videotaped it.
Meanwhile, Quinn was trying to haul her bags as the rest of the Fashion Club walked past. "Sandi? Wait up, you guys!" she worriedly said.
"I know, Quinn. Why don’t you convert one of your mittens into a luggage carrier?" Sandi viciously replied. Quinn was not going to upstage her, she was the most fashion-wise girl in LH, she!
"Isn’t there anybody who’ll help me carry my bags!" Quinn exclaimed loudly and not with a little bit of worry either, for she didn’t want to leave her supplies behind.
But help for Quinn was quickly approaching, in the shape of 3Js - Joey, Jeffy, and Jamie. The latter had been actually arguing about who’s going to carry which bag, and couldn’t they all blow it off. Eventually, they decided that they couldn’t for Ms. Barch was still there (though unmentioned), and nobody wanted to mess with her, and returned back to arguing as to who’s going to carry which supply bag. Now though, with their Quinn in need, the argument about the supply bags got cast aside for much more interesting problem.
"Want me to get those for you, Quinn?" Jamie asked, glowering at the other two.
"That is so sweet!" Quinn immediately chirped, grabbing the "helping hand" with both hands. "Don’t fall too far behind!" she added as she walked away.
Immediately, the Three J’s began fighting over Quinn’s bags, the supply bags totally forgotten now.
"I got them!.."
"Come on, man!.."
"Hey, wait, guys! There are three of Quinn’s bags and three of us!" Jamie suddenly said.
Immediately, Joey and Jeffy each grabbed one of Quinn’s bags, dropping the supply bags in the process
"Oh!" Jamie quickly said, dropping his supply bag and grabbing Quinn’s remaining bag.
Then the 3Js got on the bus, which was just about to drive off.
Wednesday morning – the bus ride
"The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round!" Kevin Thompson sang loudly, making the others wince. It wasn’t that his singing was so bad, you could get use to it eventually, it’s just that ever now and again he would miss a note, and instead of leaving it be, he would return to it, and pounce on it, and run it into the ground. In other words, he sang as he played football – loudly, braggingly, and without any consideration of others, as Jane didn’t wait long to point it out to Daria.
"It’s not his fault, he’s the QB," Daria shrugged.
"So," Daria paused, "uh, look at the scenery instead?"
"What good will that do?"
"Well, it’ll provide a focus for us."
"And we need a focus because-"
"You need - we need – a focus to escape his singing," Andrea sighed from the seat across them – nobody had wanted to sit with her for the obvious reasons. "Truly, this dupe has about as much grace as the biblical Behemoth, and about as much talent for singing."
"Yeah, well you’re just mild," Daria sighed. "I think some time before I’ve heard Mack whispering something to Jodie about Kevin, and it wasn’t too brotherly, if you catch my meaning."
"Speak louder, Daria," Jodie looked over from the seat behind them. "I can’t hear you."
"Actually, I was asking you what Mack was telling you – about Kevin," Daria said.
"Oh, well, it’s- it’s not nice. If the teachers have heard him – or us – talking about Kevin, we’d be in trouble."
"We’re about to brave the mountain of doom, and you’re worried about our teachers?" Jane incredulously asked. "Besides, O’Neill and Barch don’t look too good themselves, and DeMartino and Li probably wouldn’t care, or at least DeMartino would. Li’s… she’s got other things on her mind, something about mooching money off ESMW – you know anything about it?"
"She doesn’t know about ESMW any more than you did about the overnight stay," Andrea chuckled mirthlessly, with Kevin’s singing providing the background.
"And speaking off the overnight stay," Jane turned back to Daria, "I hope your sleeping bag’s big enough for the two of us, or else I’m shaking Quinn out of hers – she owes me anyway for staying at my place while you and Jodie were at that preppy school for geniuses."
"You don’t need a sleeping bag," Daria shook her head. "We’re getting an entire bunkhouse, bunks and all."
"Oh? What’s the catch?"
"It’s half a century old, roughly put," Daria shrugged. "In late 1942 – or early ’43 – the contemporary mayor of Lawndale got scared that the Axis forces might yet reach America via the U-boats, and so built that bunkhouse as a refuge."
"A white elephant, perhaps?" Jodie asked, curious despite herself.
"Mmm. Maybe. Seriously though, the situation of the Allied forces at that time was bad, and so the mayor’s feelings were justified. The thing is, however, that later in 1943 the tide of war turned, and the bunkhouse was all but abandoned."
"But not forgotten, you mean," Jane chuckled grimly, indicating with a head-nod, the faculty of Lawndale High, and Daria nodded in agreement. Jodie, however, gave Mack an evil look, and Mack apologetically shrugged, for Ms. Li’s latest pet project seemed to be more bother than usual; the school trip just started, and already dark clouds of foreboding were rolling across the sky…
"Hey!" Mack belatedly realised. "These are real clouds."
"Great," Jodie but snarled, "can this trip get any worse?"
"…and so, using a great amount of wit and dexterity, I’ve been able to secure the future possible loan from ESMW," Ms. Li was busy telling her tale to the other members of the school staff. She paused for breath, and noticed that none of them were listening to her narrative. She didn’t wait one bit, but comment on it – rather sharply – to the nearest person, Anthony DeMartino.
"Relax, Angela," the History teacher smirked. "I am listening to you, just conserving my strength for the walk upwards – it’ll be no picnic, you know?"
"Aha, and the others?"
"Well, Timmy-boy is grasping his inhaler like it was an Olympian torch, and seems to be in a trance by just looking at it –see?" DeMartino shook the other man, who didn’t move, but something fell out of his trousers’ pocket and went clanking onto the bus’s floor, unnoticed by everyone present.
"Aha," Ms. Li said, not convinced. "And Janet?"
"Got me there," DeMartino shrugged. "Hey, Janet, what’s the problem?"
Janet Barch didn’t say a thing. She was remembering the last time she was there – before the trip with Samantha Morris and O’Neill. It was with her ex-husband, and, well, it wasn’t her usual memory of him; it was showing him in a rather positive light, back when they were still trying to work their problems out…
…Ms. Barch shook her head, getting her thoughts back on track. "I’m fine, what did I miss?" she asked Ms. Li.
"Oh, nothing," the other woman said, shaking her head. Even without the gloomy clouds coming over the horizon, she could see that pulling-off the first stunt of WAC won’t be easy.
Wednesday morning – 10:45 AM
The long ride was finally over, and the students and faculty members of LH were stretching their legs in one way or another. "Hey, babe, I got a surprise for you," Kevin Thompson eagerly said, as he produced to his "lady-love" Brittany a full bouquet of some heavy-looking flowers.
"Flowers!" Brittany excitedly squalled. "Oh Kevvy, this is so romantic!"
"Oh, you guessed it," Kevin said, sounding disappointed, but privately happy that he had re-learned the proper name for what he called lately "green-and-growing" or simply "weeds".
"Oh, Kevvy... that is so romantic," Brittany repeated, as she sniffed the flowers. Immediately, a swarm of bees arose from the luxuriant growths, and they most definitely weren’t happy. "Ow! Ow!" Brittany yelled as she fled for her life
"Hey, babe... where’s my thank-you?" Kevin yelled as Brittany fled down the mountain, chased by bees.
Mr. O’Neill could just helplessly stare at the head cheerleader’s retreating back even as his helpless wheezing intensified. "Oh, dear. You see, kids, even the lowly wildflower humbles us with its crafty defences, attracting bees or spewing lung-seizing pollen."
Mack frowned. The English teacher looked even more pale than usual. Come to think of it, he had looked in that matter even since they’ve assembled in the schoolyard and sat on the school bus. Come to think of it, he’s been using his inhaler a lot of times during the last couple of hours. Come to think of it, Mack never seen the English teacher in any wilderness area without the inhaler. Come to think of it… "Are you okay, Mr. O’Neill?" he asked, concerned.
"Just seasonal allergies," O’Neill admitted. "Nothing my trusty inhaler can’t cure... although this one appears to be empty," he added a few moments later, wheezing, as he searched his pockets in vain for a spare – which was lying, safe and sound, back on the school bus’s floor. "That’s funny. I could have sworn I packed a backup."
And as he frantically searched, the commotion that resulted from it attracted the attention of Ms. Li: "What’s the hold-up here, mountaineers?" she asked, fussing and fuming from impatience.
"Mr. O’Neill can’t find his inhaler," Mack said apologetically.
"Just... need... rest," O’Neill added, to Mack’s statement as he collapsed in a dead faint, his face in an odd shape, looking rather like a fish’s, out of the water. Come to think of it, a few of the students thought idly, he was making noises similar to such a fish too.
"Uh-oh, teacher down," Jane smirked.
"Now we’ll have to turn back. Darn," Daria said flatly. The actual trip was only starting, and she already a bad feeling about it. But Ms. Li was not defeated yet.
"No one’s turning back. I need those summit celebration shots to really grab those Extreme Sportz Mania Worldwide Inc. execs by the hacky sacks! Someone will just have to short-rope Mr. O’Neill!" Ms. Li almost snarled, as she purposefully looked at Ms. Barch, who was lost in thought, remembering…
…the beginning, when she felt like a heroine in that Civil war book, saying "As God is my witness, I will never pull a man’s weight again!"
…of the paint-ball range as she smooch-attacked O’Neill.
…of the medieval fair, as she dragged O’Neill under the fortune-teller’s table.
…of the great boating disaster as they made-out as the ship slowly sank.
… The students were extremely surprised, as Ms. Barch began to drag O’Neill up the mountainside via a rope sling, saying in an almost friendly tone (for her) "Come on, Skinny."
"Wow!" Kevin said, in an almost impressed tone. "Is that Ms. Barch?"
"Hah!" DeMartino said, scornfully. "I give the woman ten minutes, maybe fifteen – tops. Afterwards, well, she’ll break down, no doubts!" He paused, then added, gloomily. "And guess who’ll be stuck dragging her and O’Neill up the mountain? And Ms. Li doesn’t count."
"Hey Kevin," Andrea Hecuba, shuffled carefully over to the school’s QB. "Where’s Brittany?"
"I’m here," remotely Brittany-like voice snarled. The usually perky cheerleader was limping back to the group, her face swollen and distorted by bee stings, and the rest of her – body, clothing, and hair dripping mud, water, and various forest debris onto the forest floor. In other words, as Andrea almost said it, she looked rather like the Windigo of the Native Americans’ pantheon. "You jerk!" Brittany continued to rage. "Those monsters were as big as sparrows! They almost killed me! Ooh, I hate you, Kevin Thompson!"
With those words, she began to walk – or rather, to stump, upwards, by passing Ms. Barch, who managed to drag Mr. O’Neill only forty feet, before feeling something in her break-down, and she collapsed against a tree-trunk.
Daria and Jane exchanged worried looks. All joking aside, and all of Mr. O’Neill incompetence aside too, without him and Ms. Barch around, the field trip looked even more unpleasant. "He needs to be taken away from the flower field, fast," Jane muttered to Daria.
"Roger," Daria said and went over to Ms. Li. "Are we there yet?"
"Sure," Ms. Li replied, looking over her notes and the fork in the trail. "It’s this way!"
"Nah-ah, it’s not," said a boy who had run-on forwards to scout ahead on Ms. Li’s orders. "There’s just some really thick thicket and stuff; we go there, and we’ll just get stuck."
"Oh, then it’s this way," Ms. Li hurriedly said as she turned to the left fork of the trail, and began to speedily walk up it, leaving the rest of the staff and students to follow. There was, however, a short delay, as Ms. Barch tried to follow the leader, still dragging the English teacher, and collapsed this time for real, with Mr. O’Neill falling onto her like a dead log.
"Oh, great," Mr. DeMartino grumbled. He paused, looking at the principal’s retreating back. It seemed like the students decided not to wait up for him and other teachers and went on as well. This meant, DeMartino’s facial expression suddenly turned smarmy, he could probably leave Janet and Timothy lie, and no one would be the wiser to his actions.
"Are you going to take them or what?" a sudden voice spoke-up, promptly breaking all of History teacher’s dreams. "Miss Hecuba," he snarled, his usual mood returning. "How nice to see that you’re worrying about your elders. Please run along," he said, as he took his fellow teachers like a couple of pails of water, "and tell Angela to hurry, would you?" Ignoring Andrea hereafter, he began to walk upwards, making the sounds of a water buffalo in a bad mood.
Wednesday morning – 12:04 PM
It was afternoon now, and the "base camp", as Ms. Li had described it, was still nowhere in sight. In fact, as far as Jane and Daria could see, the principal now was completely lost, reduced to muttering to herself, in a mantra-like style, "Money that’s corporate. Sponsorship, that’s money."
However, Daria had enough. "Weren’t we supposed to be at the campsite by now?" she spoke-up sharply, feeling fed-up with the school trip already.
"Yeah, but something tells me things aren’t going exactly as planned," Jane responded to her before Ms. Li could.
At that moment in time DeMartino "chose" to join the group, dragging Barch and O’Neill behind him. "Please, no one offer to help! I’d hate to take any pressure off of my slipped disc!" he snarled.
"Gee, whatever gave you that idea?" Daria said, seeing that the History teacher had his hands full at that moment, and was safe for baiting.
"Don’t worry, girls," Ms. Li had finally realised that at least two of her students were getting concerned and fed-up. "We’ll have no problem reaching base camp before dark, as long as there are no more surprises."
At that point, a snowstorm began – the first snowstorm of the fall.
In her most dead voice, in a voice that could easily belong to the Grim Reaper himself, Daria uttered one word, and it was directed to Ms. Li: "Surprise."
"Miss Morgendorffer, I beseech you to-" Ms. Li had trailed-off. Slightly ‘framed’ by the falling snow, with the cold wind ‘playing’, in a sense, with her hair, with her eyes behind her glasses looking straight ahead very coldly at her, Ms. Li briefly had the image of some sort of a wintry spirit mocking her, rather than one of the more problematic students. She hurriedly shook her head to banish the hallucination, and turned to the rest of the students, which had now semi-surrounded her, Miss Morgendorffer, Miss Lane, and Anthony DeMartino, who was now dragging O’Neill and Barch. "You!" she said sharply, pointing at the same student who had ‘told’ her to turn to the left. "Tell me again, what was on the end of the other branch?"
"A copse of fir trees, and a swampy meadow full of matgrass," the boy muttered crossly.
"Aha! I knew so!" Ms. Li happily cackled, looking triumphantly at Daria, who stared back impassively at her, flanked by ever-loyal Jane. The Goth girl Andrea too had hovered over to them, and was adding her calm gaze onto the principal. "I’ve been accidentally mislead! On the other side of the meadow, there’s another of copse – of firs and junipers, and on the other side of that copse is our bunkhouse!"
"Great," the boy muttered crossly. "People, prepare to lose pieces of your clothing and hair – the first fir copse at least is going to be a tight fit for some of you with bulky clothing!"
Upon hearing these words, Quinn groaned, and Sandi smirked. She had learned from the last trip, when she and Daria had to travel together for some time, not to take too loose or baggy or overly flamboyant fashion accessories onto a field trip. Mother Nature was murder on fashion.
"That’s enough, Mr. Matthews," Ms. Li spoke firmly to the boy. "Now students, I want you all to turn around, and-"
Sadly, the students never learned what came after that ‘and’, for something truly monumental occurred at that moment: Kevin Thompson had reached the end of his thought.
Now, Kevin didn’t do much thinking outside of football. One of the reasons was that Mack, Coach Gibson, and a few other people (mainly in LH’s staff) had learned that a thinking Kevin was even worse than a non-thinking one, and when he was in his thoroughly thoughtful mood, then it really sucked. Currently however, everybody on the staff was either incapacitated or too busy otherwise to notice the signs. And now it was too late. "Hey, I remember!" Kevin suddenly spoke up. "The straight line is the closest way between two points. We don’t have to go back down the track, we just need to go that-a way," he pointed down the south-east side of Greenhill, "and we’ll reach the grassy-meadow-place-thingy for sure! Follow me!" and he raced in his direction.
"Kevin!" Mack yelled and raced after him. And that – seeing as two of more prominent boys had ran-off in that direction, caused the stampede of the others. This caused some casualties, including Mr. DeMartino, who, being still harnessed with barely-conscious Barch and O’Neill got carried away by the human stampede, swept off his feet, and rolled down the mountain – and still with the other two teachers…
…Soon, Ms. Li was alone barring Daria, Jane, Andrea, and Jodie. "I," she began, "that was-"
"We know," Jodie kindly said. "Come on Ms. Li, we’ll accompany you."
Wednesday morning – 12:24 PM
Mr. O’Neill has opened his eyes. "What has happened?" he wondered quietly, and looked around. Surprisingly, close to him lay both Janet Barch and Anthony DeMartino, and neither was looking too good. Come to think of it, he, Timothy O’Neill, wasn’t feeling too good either. And there was something on his neck…
"Hey, it’s Angela’s camera," he said, surprised. "How’d it get on me? She couldn’t have hanged it on me on purpose, now could she?" he looked around again. He could hear teenage voices, and-
"Tim? What in the name of Myanmar has happened?" DeMartino groggily got-up and looked-around.
"Uh," O’Neill said quickly. "Why won’t you just go that-a way and find-out? Take Janet with you – I would’ve taken her off your hands, but – got to go and get me inhaler, ye know?" With those words he briskly hop down the mountain; soon he was lost amongst the swirling snow and swing branches of the mountain ash and rowan trees.
Cursing, DeMartino got up on his feet. He too heard the children’s voices close to him, and knew, that if he just got rid of Janet Barch here and now, he’d have a doozy of an explanation to think-up off.
"Mr. DeMartino! Are you alright?" Jane Lane and Jodie Landon appeared next to him and the Science teacher. "Come on, we think that Kevin had fell of a cliff or something!"
Upon hearing these news, the History teacher wordlessly got up, and began to move so briskly, that Ms. Barch didn’t even hinder him at all.
Some spectacles deserve to be watched.
…When, however, DeMartino, Jane, and Jodie arrived there, all was over, and nobody had been lost to a snowy death. "What has happened?" Jodie asked.
"I think we’ve arrived directly to hat-sorting; the event’s over," Jane gloomily said.
"Don’t feel said," Sandi Griffin suddenly said, as she got alongside them. "I and a few others think that Kevin had started an avalanche down below; he stepped on this snow-covered slippery slope, and almost fell down like this cat in that ‘Cat-and-mouse’ cartoon sometimes does."
"You mean ‘Tom and Jerry’?" Jodie asked.
"What-ever. Basically, Mack, and the 3Js, and a few other students had to pull him up by his clothing – just like in those mountain rescuers movies!" Sandi beamed proudly. "And then Kevin hugged them all ‘for saving the QB’, he said. I thought Mack’s eyes would pop out of his head!"
"Gee, you’re in a good mood," Jane said wryly.
"Oh, that’s because Daria forced Quinn to donate one of her hats to Brittany, because snow was really piling-up on the crown of her head," Sandi easily said. "Well, talk to you some time again, cheers!" And Sandi walked-off.
"Nice girl," Jodie said to Jane, but before Jane could reply, from the head of the column came a shout:
"Here it is – the bunkhouse!!"
Wednesday morning – 12:54 PM
"43, 44, 45... okay, we’re missing one. Look around: who’s not here who should be?" Ms. Li snapped in irritation – she really didn’t want to have any more problems since the snowfall. Also, she was worried that O’Neill wasn’t really awake yet – he now had the camera, and if he made started to shoot – her, dirty, disgruntled, dishevelled, counting students in the same condition, herding them into a ramshackle wooden construction, quite bored by beetles and other bugs – everybody would think that she was giving field trips in Balkans or some place else, for the much-praised-by-the-ESMW-representative bunkhouse was actually a ramshackle mess.
"Someone with enough common sense to turn back while there was still time?" Daria muttered, startling Ms. Li, and making her remember that there was a missing person still.
"Yeah, where is that guy?" echoed Jane.
Mr. DeMartino, meanwhile, seemed to listen-in to the grunts and whimpers that Barch now seemed to be communicate the world via with. "What’s that? Barch here says O’Neill went back to the buses to look for his inhaler... abandoning her after all she’s done for him, just like... every other lousy man she’s ever known. "Men!" "I hate their stinking guts!""
Ms. Li just groaned. "The fool! He’ll never make it down in his condition. I’m going after him."
The History teacher just shook his head. He didn’t know just what kind of allergy O’Neill had, but as soon as the cold weather front arrived in all its’ glory and beat the pollen-heavy air to the ground floor, O’Neill recovered in almost record time and quickly scurried back down trail back to the bus for his spare inhaler, leaving DeMartino to think-up some sort of a story to take-back to Li. Thus - the pantomime with Barch, who still wasn’t quite conscious during the long roll down the mountainside, and couldn’t contradict what he’d just said.
"Wow, that’s kind of heroic," Jane turned to Daria, meaning that if the current weather trend continued, the trail would vanish completely.
"He’s got her video camera," Daria said, thinking that Jane was praising Ms. Li instead, and watching her, along with DeMartino, how Ms. Li had disappeared once again into the conifers, intent on recovering her camera.
"Oh, yeah," Jane said, remembering the principal slipping her camera over O’Neill’s neck as DeMartino was dragging him and Barch up the trail.
At that moment a distinct "thud" sounded in the silence, followed by Kevin’s "Ow."
"You might want to wait until there’s a little more snow on the ground," Mack told him, rolling his eyes. What’ve kept him from allowing that fool to roll down the mountain, raising piles of snow along the way? All fools were always lucky, weren’t they? "Too many witnesses," he finally decided, under his breath. "If I ever get another chance, though…"
While Mack was thinking thoughts of revenge, Jodie was busy remembering the almanac that she’d found on the Internet. Wasn’t it going to get dark soon? She’d left her watch at home - and overall it was a good thing, for by now it’d be certainly broken - but the ever-worsening weather conditions told her that whatever time it was, it soon would be dark. "Mr. DeMartino, considering the low visibility, shouldn’t we have a buddy system or something?" she finally suggested.
Sadly, Mr. DeMartino wasn’t in his reasonable mood. "I had a buddy once, until I came home one night and he married my mother!" he growled, remembering his past, and thinking dark thoughts of his own.
Upon hearing that, and realizing that they were about to hear the History teacher’s latest rant, Jane and Daria quickly went-on.
"Do we want to hear anymore of this story?" Jane asked.
"March, fast!" was Daria’s only reply.
Wednesday morning – 13:15 PM
It was about an eternity later, as far as Ms. Barch was concerned, or about ten minutes, as far as her watch was concerned. Sadly, she didn’t care about her watch’s opinion (and she was right – for needed to be re-winded a long time ago) as she lit up a lantern, showing most definitely very inhospitable living space. "DeMartino... out finding firewood. Get supplies unpacked. Remember, teamwork..." she began to make a mantra, when she spotted a student unpacking a sleeping bag. "Is that... sleeping bag? Mine!" she ran over and grabbed it, leaving the student flabbergasted, as she climbed into it, her usual mental processes suppresses by the sudden temperature drop and physical exhaustion (she still hadn’t recovered from trying to drag O’Neill uphill).
At that point Jane and Daria had re-entered the bunkhouse, finding the students standing around aimlessly while Barch shivered in the sleeping bag. They had left shortly after, deciding that even DeMartino’s stories were better than the bunkhouse, were air smelled of wood rot, and mould, and pill bugs, and earthworms. Finding DeMartino gone into the snowstorm only increased their decision to brave the storm rather than to go back in, but now the storm proved to be too much even for their stoic natures.
"Is it bad if I can’t feel my feet?" Jane nonchalantly asked the other girl.
"That depends. How much do you enjoy walking?" Daria asked, listening-in to the nearest conversation, which was sadly Kevin and Brittany’s.
"Babe, I just wants you to know that I’m not mad anymore that you didn’t thank me," Kevin was saying the wrong thing with the right intentions, as usual.
"You wanted me to thank you for this?" Brittany snarled, pointing at her swollen face.
Kevin shuddered. "Eww! But, no... I meant for the flowers."
Brittany erupted. "You jerk! Why, I ought to shove you down that slippery slope again!"
Kevin blinked. He still hadn’t recovered his confidence as far as that treacherous mountain ground was concerned. He hadn’t counted on that when he had completed his Idea. (And he was innocent – this time, for how he was to know that the swampy, watery, matgrass meadow under the sudden drop of the temperature would turn into a natural, near-perfect, skating rink?
Jodie meanwhile had gathered the bags that the 3Js had been lugging all that time to the bunkhouse, determined to stay in control and not panic. "All right, let’s get these supply bags open and start distributing blankets, food and... pink ostrich feather earmuffs?" she finished, as she pulled out the latter, instead of blankets, food, and other necessities.
"Oh, great!" Quinn happily chirped, not realizing just how much she was in trouble now. "I was wondering where those were." She grabbed the earmuffs, clearly making herself the next scapegoat in this disaster.
Mack, however, was thinking quickly. He remembered whom he saw last with the supply bags and to them. "Weren’t you guys supposed to be carrying the supply bags?" he asked them sternly.
"Yeah..." the 3Js echoed.
"So where are they?" Mack persisted, hoping that no one remembered that he was the last who talked to the trio and forgot to ensure that they were following Ms. Li’s orders.
"Back at the buses, maybe?"
"Definitely." – was the reply of 3Js.
Everything became clear now to most students present here (although some needed friends to explain it to them a first couple of times or so), and they started to converge on Quinn, clearly unhappy.
"What?" Quinn asked, stopping prancing in her new earmuffs.
"…Well, this is interesting. We’re isolated in a freak storm with no supplies and no way of having contacting the outside world," Daria said, as she and Jane sat on a bunk bed.
"Yeah, but look on the bright side: we’re going to see a lynching," Jane pointed-out, as the other students advanced further, herding Quinn into a corner.
"What?!!" Quinn repeated her question, starting to back-up, finally feeling the unfriendly vibe of others.
"Quinn," Sandi said slowly, "do you realise what you have done?"
"What did I do?" Quinn protested. "Guys," she turned to the 3Js, "what did I do?"
‘Nothing," Jeffy shrugged. "You were in trouble with your bags, and so we came over and took them over from you. You didn’t do a thing."
The focus of the others quickly shifted towards Jeffy and his two compatriots. "It figures," spoke another boy from the crowd. "Give them a chance to forget or mess-up, and they’ll take it with both hands!"
"Yeah," another voice spoke. "Let’s beat them up instead!.. We’ll get slightly more warm, too!"
"Hey, you can’t beat us!" Joey argued. "We’re the 3Js! Let’s get them, guys!" he yelled, and he, and the other two Js charged the two boys who spoke.
"Hey, all right, a tussle!" Kevin delightedly yelled as he charged at the quintet of the fighters, tackling them all in his trademark football manoeuvre.
"Kevin!" Mack yelled, and jumped after him. And as previously, on the mountainside, the actions of the leaders caused a chain reaction in the others, though this time it was mostly boys. Still, it proved enough to create a pile of fighters, rolling around the bunkhouse’s floor, causing the nearest bunks to wobble, and clouds of wooden dust and remains of dead insects rise into the air.
Daria silently looked at Jane.
"Nah-ah," Jane shook her head at the other girl’s unspoken question. "The wood’s here all rotten and cracked. I’ve been lying as still as possible, hoping to delay the inevitable and not to vibrate this thing to much, but I may yet ‘fly’ down to you – you know what I mean?"
Daria just groaned.
On the other bunk bed, Andrea and Jodie were holding their own conversation. "So does he do that often?" Andrea asked, indicating Mack following Kevin.
"Don’t ask, but I could kill Kevin," Jodie tiredly said.
"Why not incite Brittany to do it?" Andrea asked. "Thus she gets the blame, and you get to keep Mack in the game – because if you won’t do something, he’ll certainly do."
Jodie just sighed. "I’ll think on it," she said, while the fighting still shook-up the air.
At that moment the door slammed open and Mr. DeMartino entered the door, carrying a load of firewood – mostly boughs and branches broken off the trees by the wind. And it was a big load, and the students were too busy either fighting or watching the fight, and so, it wasn’t too surprising when scanty seconds later a monstrous crash shook the mountainside, followed by a deranged roar of "Kevin!!"…
Wednesday – 13:35 PM
Eventually, the situation got calmed down enough for the FC to sort out their problem(s) without interference. Sandi, of course, was relishing that. "Quinn, by causing the supplies to be left behind, you violated the Fashion Club oath," she said.
"I didn’t know there was a Fashion Club oath," Quinn said, genuinely surprised for a change. Nothing like that had ever come up before.
"Yeah, me either," Stacy agreed.
"Oath?" even Tiffany was confused.
But Sandi was not to be deterred so easily. "Oh, yes. "To promote a healthy glow by never allowing other members to be deprived of skin-enhancing water reserves." I’m afraid I have to call a vote on your standing, Quinn."
Quinn gasped in shock. Back in Lawndale she could’ve crawled out of this latest complot of Sandi’s without any trouble; now though, with her back to a semi-rotten wooden wall, and a raging blizzard outside of it, she was in trouble. And Sandi knew that too.
So did Daria and Jane for that matter. "I say she gets voted out of the Fashion Club and seeks her revenge from a book depository with a crossbow," the elder Morgendorffer girl said, feeling a chance to win back her $50 coming-up.
Jane eagerly rose to the bait. "Really? I say she stays in and becomes their leader, unintentionally bringing about the apocalypse."
Oblivious to this "behind-the-curtains" dealing, Sandi continued to speak. "…And who thinks Quinn should be allowed to stay in the Fashion Club?"
Stacy and Tiffany remained silent, sensing that this game was pretty much Sandi’s, just set and match.
"Ooh!" Quinn exclaimed, not quite licked yet, but definitely getting there.
Jane sighed and handed $50 back to Daria. "It’s not the money that hurts; it’s having that damn apocalypse postponed again," she said, trying to save her face. When would she learn not to make bets with a Morgendorffer?
Meanwhile, Mr. DeMartino was conferring with Mack and Kevin, the latter being the more senior of the lot; admittedly, Ms. Barch was also there, but even on her good day DeMartino would never talk to her, and currently, this day Ms. Barch was anything but good, as her successful imitation of a log indicated. "All right, sport," said the History teacher as innocently as possible. "You and Mack here are going out as search party number one!"
"Cool, a party?" Kevin said, zeroing-in on the familiar word and discarding everything else.
"This isn’t going to be a party, Kevin! You’re going out into that driving, blinding, flesh-tearing ice storm to look for Ms. Li and Mr. O’Neill. Got it?" DeMartino snapped. After a long wandering through the snow-covered copse and the quaint "hero’s welcome’ at the bunkhouse, the History teacher looked extremely grotesque with his eye bulging out.
"Uh, sure, but where’s the funnel?" Kevin asked, still lost in his little world.
"Down the trail, right by the dance floor," said Mack before DeMartino could answer, feeling pretty fed-up with Kevin himself. "This is it," he finally thought. "When he and I leave, only I will be coming back, yes…"
"All right!" was the last thing that Kevin said, as he and Mack left.
"Excellent!" Mr. DeMartino privately thought. "They’ll go outside, get separated, and then I’ll choke the life out of the little moron, yes!"
Jodie, after listening-in to the whole conversation, turned to DeMartino. Something was wrong here, but she didn’t know what, and was too tired to care. "But even if they do find Ms. Li and Mr. O’Neill, what are we going to do about food?"
Mr. DeMartino grinned in a very odd way. "That’s where search party two comes in. I’m going out in the storm myself, looking for help. The rest of you conserve your energy. Do as little as possible. Pretend you’re in class!"
Daria frowned, as the wheels in her formidable mind quickly churned and processed-out the new information. "You know, if this storm doesn’t let up, it could take days for help to arrive," she slowly said.
"Well, when everybody gets hungry enough, it’ll be interesting to see who gets eaten first," Jane said, half-mockingly.
"But on the downside, we’ll have to wait here with them," Daria pointed out.
Jane shuddered upon hearing that, for given their lucks, it’d be probably her or Daria. "Good point. Hey, Mr. DeMartino, we’d like to volunteer to go with you!" she suddenly shouted.
Mr. DeMartino frowned, trying to weasel somehow out of that unexpected offer. "As much as I appreciate your kind, if foolhardy offer, I have to decline. It’s too dangerous out there. Once you walk out those doors, you may not be coming back."
"Okay, then we’re all on the same page," Daria quickly said.
Mr. DeMartino shrugged. He could ditch them, no problem, and if they want to risk their lives outside – who was he to deny them that? "Very well, but dress for survival."
"Well, I was going to dress for perishing, but okay," Daria sarcastically said, as she walked over to Quinn. "Hey, Quinn, I need to borrow your neck insulator thingy to go out on this highly dangerous and potentially doomed rescue mission, okay?"
Quinn just apathetically shrugged at her sister-cousin, as she handed her scarf over to Daria. "Whatever. I’ve got my own problems."
"Please stop the sisterly tears of concern. You’re making a scene," Daria muttered crossly. That was enough for Quinn to blow her top.
"Look, can you please stop talking to me? If the Fashion Club sees this I’ll be like one of those baby birds that get put back in the nest but the mother knows it’s been touched by a human and pecks it to death, understand?" the younger girl snarled.
"Sure. You’re a birdbrain," Daria flatly said and walked away.
"Hey, nice scarf," Jane commented as they left.
"Look, it converts into a noose," Daria said, as the door closed behind them and the History teacher.
"Handy," was the only comment that Jane made.
Soon they were outside. The blizzard showed no signs of abating, and the visibility was really low. "All right girls," the History teacher snapped in his best ‘drill sergeant’ imitation. "Follow my lead, and don’t do anything-" he never got a chance to finish his sentence, as he slipped on the ‘path’, made by Kevin when the oafish QB had slipped on the icy meadow and started a small avalanche, and slid down the slope, followed by the serene gazes of Daria Morgendorffer and Jane Lane.
"…Okay, quick assessment of our situation: we’re lost in a blizzard with no equipment and no leadership, and if we don’t get help, we’ll probably have to drag back the body of our history teacher," Daria said when DeMartino’s screams had finally faded.
"When you put it that way you make it sound bad," Jane muttered. The billowing wind was playing with their hair, causing it to flutter around their heads like their auras – Jane’s shortly cropped and dark dyed-black, Daria’s long, and naturally auburn-brown. A wind rose seemed to have arrived today to the Greenhill Mountain, and the winds came from all the directions, carrying ounces of snow with them, snapping branches off shrubs and trees.
"Then let me rephrase: what started out as a grim, life-negating field trip has turned into a grim, life-negating gape into the void," Daria explained it further, looking at Jane through her frosted-over glasses. Jane’s face was somewhat triturated with snow, and her blue eyes glared fiercely yet coldly from the now semi-white face, as if Jane was some sort of a mountain nymph now.
"With our luck, we’ll probably be reincarnated and have to do high school all over again from the beginning," Jane sighed, wishing that she’d knew what Daria was feeling at this moment, was she serious or not. Her face, inexpressive to begin with, was now triturated with snow, alongside with her glasses; the overall result was that the bespectacled girl now looked like some sort of a snow creature with bulging, glassy, emotionless eyes. Jane had seen such eyes only in one of Adrian and Courtney’s D&D games, and that wasn’t a nice thought.
"That does it; let’s find those buses," Daria said firmly, as if she was dispelling some glamour of her own; at any rate, it had dispelled Jane’s, as the latter nodded her agreement to the former, and the two girls began to walk in the north-west direction.
Wednesday – 14:00 PM
Back at the bunkhouse, Quinn was determined to fix her position in the FC, ignoring the howling white death outside (just like the rest of the students). "Does anyone want to borrow my sunscreen lip gloss? I’ve got plenty!" she said, faux-cheerfully.
"Forget it, Quinn. We’re not letting you back in the Fashion Club. We have bylaws, you know," Sandi smirked. The Fashion Club was hers, hers!
Stacy tried to raise an objection, but Sandi’s glare took care of that.
"But I told you, it’s not my fault the supplies got left behind for my bags," Quinn argued.
Stacy shook her head. She couldn’t intervene directly, due to her fear of Sandi, but she had to do something, she a loophole to Quinn so that they all could take-on the future together, as a team, not divided, as Sandi was doing. "You didn’t have to bring so much stuff, Quinn," she finally said, hoping that she was giving the right hint at the right time, or Sandi would re-co-ordinate and ruin the last chances of them working as a team.
"It’s almost like you were trying to hog the spotlight," Tiffany unwittingly echoed, and that gave Quinn enough material to think of a way out. "What?!" she exclaimed indignantly. "That is so not true. I wanted to share all my Hot-I-Rondack stuff with you guys. Here, Stacy, take this camouflage yak fur canteen. And Tiffany, this metallic utility belt with detachable emergency food kit is for you. And Sandi, I wanted to surprise you with this Titanic edition Chenille Gorp bag." Quinn beamed proudly and honestly, while lying through her teeth. The stuff that she’d planned to share had been carefully selected on Tuesday’s afternoon, taken especially for such an emergency.
Upon hearing the words "canteen" and "food kit", Jodie approached the four younger girls. "Wait a minute, you brought food and water? We’re saved!" Then she examined the canteen and the food belt, and her face fell again. "Um, where is the food and water?"
"Well, I was going to bring it along but it just got so bulky," Quinn shrugged, as Jodie dropped the items and walked away in disgust, muttering something unflattering about the FC in general and Quinn in particular. "I’m sorry I’ve doomed us to a lingering death, Sandi," she added, then, when Jodie moved out of the hearing range.
Sandi shrugged. As her dad tended to say, every man has to die but once, you needed to be optimistic. "Oh, well. Can I have your ostrich feather earmuffs, too?"
"Sure," Quinn shrugged. They were all going to die anyways.
"Welcome back, Quinn," Sandi almost grinned. Even if they died, she’d still be in charge of the Fashion Club, she!
Quinn looked around, then quickly whispered: "Actually, it’s under one of the bunk beds, but it’s just enough for just us four, see?"
"Oh Quinn, you’re so smart!" Stacy beamed.
"Yeah, smart," Tiffany echoed.
"No problem, but I’m still not as smart as Sandi, who’s the President of the Fashion Club, remember?" Quinn quickly said, deciding to appease Sandi before things got out of hand.
Sandi Griffin just shrugged. Everybody had to die, sooner or later – so it just might be later, indeed!
Meanwhile, Anthony DeMartino was in a very foul, more than a little bit crazy, and almost insentient mood. His crazy "snow slide" ended itself in a shallow montane lake that was just beginning to freeze itself this morning, but during the day gobs of snow had fallen into it, and so now it was so jarringly cold, than it could give ten deep-freezer boxes a well-funded run for their money. The only reason why the History teacher hadn’t been preserved like a dead mammoth in Siberia’s permafrost was because the lake was so shallow, not even up to his waist – but it was wide, about thirty feet, and so, when DeMartino had finally emerged from it, he was in the mood described above, and also he was half-blinded by the pain, and the numbness, and the rage, and the determination to survive. He determinedly ploughed onwards, untouched no longer by wind in his armour of ice, uncaring about any obstacles in his path. He smashed snow piles to pieces, trampled bushes flat into the snow, knocked down saplings, and gave adult trees such rattlings, that tens and hundreds of brunches and boughs, with the occasional bird or squirrel, fell down into the snow.
Suddenly, something new appeared before the History teacher, and in some part of the spinal column, or, perhaps, the cerebellum, he recognised as a woodsman’s cabin. And that meant people. Screaming and half-frozen, Mr. DeMartino burst in. "Mr. DeMartino!" he heard a familiar female voice. "What are you doing here?"
"Need... phone!" DeMartino gasped.
Sadly, the Morgendorffers, for it was their cabin were little helpful, as they pointed-out that they didn’t have anything electronic, and offered a game of charades instead. Still semi-crazed, the History teacher headed towards door, only to be pulled back in by Jake. "You’ll do fine," Jake Morgendorffer said. "Everybody knows how to play charades."
"You go first, Mr. DeMartino," Helen added.
"Uh, uh, uh! No speaking!"
"That’s rule number one."
"Is it a book? A TV show?"
"An adult movie?"
Mr. DeMartino just grunted, and wondered if he should’ve stayed in that bone-freezing lake instead.
Wednesday – 14:25 PM
Back on the mountain track, Jane was starting to get nervous, if by nervous you’d mean ‘give-up hope altogether’. "I think this could really be it!" she finally said in almost cheerful tone, deciding to be defiant to the last.
"What are you talking about? Just keep walking. We’ll find our way," Daria shook her head, trying to get blood circulating through her body once again.
"I don’t know, Daria. This is bad."
Daria sighed and looked at the other girl, who was really turning blue under all that snow triturating their clothing and themselves. Well, ‘looked’ was perhaps too strong a term. The snow had also triturated her glasses to the point when Daria felt like she was looking through a pair of windows, covered with several layers of frozen sleet. "Listen, I’m sorry I gave you all that crap about your boyfriend," she finally said, thinking of all the times that she had walked-in on Jane and Tom Sloane, and privately wondered if she was jealous of Jane, who had seemingly found her final Somebody, leaving her behind.
"Well, I’m sorry I embarrassed you all those times in front of my brother," Jane shrugged, remembering all the times when she had – rather cruelly and foolishly – embarrassed Daria with her older oblivious brother Trent – for no other reason but because it’d been the main source of genuine amusement in her life for quite a while.
There was a pause, as both girls awaited the other one to speak next. "I feel like we should say more," Daria finally broke the silence, feeling odd. It took her a moment to realise what was odd – and recognised that it was the silence! The blizzard had stopped, and they were still alive! Still alive… and on the verge of spilling their guts.
"I know," sighed Jane. "That was kind of pathetic." She paused, looking at Daria, waiting for her to make the next move.
"Um... I’m sorry my parents didn’t stop at one child?" Daria said, suddenly feeling foolish and exposed.
"I’m sorry they added those ugly blue M&M’s," Jane said faux-lightly, but happy, feeling that things were getting back to normal. "Better?"
Daria shrugged. "I’ve made my peace."
The two friends continued their track downwards, in the northwestern direction.
"…Hey, Jodie, the snow’s stopped," Jodie Landon suddenly heard a voice, that was shuttering all of her dreams. "Wa? Wo?" she blinked and opened her eyes, and saw Andrea looming over her. "Gah! Don’t do that!"
"Sorry," Andrea’s voice sounded anything but; "it’s just that the blizzard had stopped."
"What!" Jodie blinked and listened to the surroundings – and recognised that it was quiet, truly quiet – the great snowstorm was over! "Hey everybody!" she yelled. "The storm’s over!"
Slowly, carefully, the students began to arise from their bunks, where they often shared them with their fellow students. The Fashion Club, in particular, must’ve settled down especially cosily, using their fashion accessories to combine with the double-bunk bed to make a sort of a burrow. Seeing all four of them emerge from there made Jodie think of a nest of ring-necked, or garter snakes in spring – not a nice allegory, but true enough.
Soon, there was cheering in the air, while Jodie turned to Andrea. "Sorry."
"About what?" Andrea was genuinely puzzled.
"About hogging your bunk."
"Activate your brain cells, A-student! These are double-bunks! If I wanted a bunk bed, I’d climb up there and sleep. ‘Course, whether or not it’d sustain me, I don’t know – the woodwork’s pretty crappy here, don’t you think?"
"Uh, yeah, but where did you sleep?"
"I kept the fire going, sitting on-"
"Ugh! What a terrible dream I had! I dreamt that I was a racehorse, and-" Ms. Barch arose from her appropriated sleeping bag like a totem pole. "Hey, what’s going on here?"
"The blizzard’s over!" somebody yelled.
"Yes!!" Ms. Barch shouted, ran to the door, opened it, and… fell face first into a deep layer of snow. Only her legs jiggled beyond it. Upon seeing that, Andrea began to laugh. Jodie turned to reprimand her, but the Goth girl’s laughter was so infectious, that soon the whole bunkhouse was laughing, even as they dragged Ms. Barch back out of the snow to thaw.
Wednesday – 15:00 PM
Michael Jordan Mackenzie was a very unhappy student. He lost Kevin soon enough – he sent him chasing after an imaginary jackrabbit long enough for the oafish QB to hit a massive-looking fir at full speed and get buried with snow, and an occasional tree branch. Then he proceeded onwards, trusting the directions that he had received from Ms. Li’s ‘scout’, Brandon Matthews, but had stumbled on a rock under the snow, and had rolled down the mountain for quite some time. After that, he couldn’t remember any details, but now he felt his spirits rising: the blizzard was over, and Ms. Li was in his seeing range. Though never on really close terms with the principal, after today’s recent events the latter appeared almost as a member of the family to Mack. He got up and went shakily, towards her.
As he approached Ms. Li, it became obvious to him that the latter being busy examining a pair of underwear attached to a branch like a flag. "Ms. Li?" he finally said to break the silence.
"What are you doing here, Mr. Mackenzie?" the principal turned away from the curious object. "We’re miles from the bunkhouse."
"Mr. DeMartino sent me and Kevin out to find you," Mack helpfully said.
Ms. Li frowned. "And where is Kevin?"
"Um,.." paused Mack, unsure how to tell (diplomatically) about what he had done to the school’s beloved QB.
Ms. Li sighed. Sending that pair had DeMartino written all over it – sensible on the outside, not so on the inside. "Never mind," she sighed, other things than Kevin on her mind at the moment.
"Okay," Mack gratefully said.
Ms. Li continued, ignoring Mack’s inner dilemma. "I think Mr. O’Neill may be in this cave. Let’s investigate."
"Um, all right," Mack agreed, as he and Ms. Li entered the cave, "but I hope he didn’t make any other flags."
Soon, the came onto Mr. O’Neill who was camping-out around a small fire, the video camera set up on a tripod; the camera was recording O’Neill’s last words: "Hello... Timothy O’Neill here. If you are watching these last words, then you’ll know that I’m gone and you’ve found this camera. Well, you already know that you found the camera, obviously, or how would you have the tape? Actually, if you found the camera, you must have found me. Unless you recovered the camera from looters, although I must say, it’s a pretty heinous thing to steal from a frozen man. Although, come to think of it, it’s not actually all that cold anymore. And the snow got rid of the pollen. You know, I feel pretty good!.. Ms. Li? Mack?"
"O’Neill, you’re wasting expensive videotape!" Ms. Li erupted, catching the ending gist of O’Neill monologue and feeling pretty cold-hearted herself at the moment. Mr. O’Neill realized that and cringed:
"Now, put these on and let’s go!" Ms. Li threw his underwear at him, as the English teacher chuckled (uneasily).
"Hey Mr. O’Neill," Mack spoke quickly, eager to discharge the atmosphere, as the English teacher retreated behind some boulder to change. "How’ve you been?"
"Actually, not bad at all, Mike, not bad at all. See, I was going down the mountain to get my inhaler, but the snow got so bad, that I climbed into the nearest sanctuary – this one – and prepared for the worst. I made that little flag outside, though, so that the rescue team could be able to find me, heh-heh."
"Aha, sure," Mack nodded critically. "Am… you weren’t afraid that there might be a bear or something in here already?"
There was a pause, as Ms. Li, ready to break-out into another rant turned to Mack and stared at him. Come to think of it, so did O’Neill.
"B…Bear?" the English teacher finally said, even more nervous once before.
"Yeah. My dad heard from Mr. Taylor that an occasional black bear can still be found hereabouts."
"Mr. O’Neill, take the camera and let’s go," Ms. Li commanded briskly and left the cave. The English teacher and Mack quickly followed.
Wednesday – 15:20 PM
The sky was much clearer now, and so were the spirits of Daria and Jane. "So this didn’t work out so bad. We managed to survive the blizzard and ditch the field trip," Jane actually said, feeling pretty proud and cocky once again. She had survived the blizzard, with no one but her closest friend for companionship, and was now ready to face the world. Okay, that was an exaggeration. Her clothing still felt like it weighted a ton, and the weather conditions could deteriorate once again, and they could be lost completely, and there were other people of Lawndale scattered in the woods behind them, but still – there was no more snow in the air, and it was no longer so deadly cold!
"Plus, you got that thing off your chest about the blue M&M’s," Daria agreed wryly, feeling rather down to earth. Not only did the clothing condition apply to her, she still felt like a pair of empty aquariums had been stuck in the framework of her glasses, leaving her to Jane’s abilities to be guided. And, sadly, while she was behind Jane for 100%, the latter’s abilities of a guide were another stories.
"…Do you think we should feel guilty about leaving our classmates stranded in the wild?" Jane said after a while, when the silence stretched out for too long.
"…Who?" Daria said after a longer one.
"Now, if my calculations are correct, the parking lot is just around this clump of trees here," Jane quickly changed the subject.
The two girls went around the corner, only to see Helen Morgendorffer doing a hornpipe dance while Jake and Mr. DeMartino were trying to guess what she’s doing; after all, they’re playing charades.
""The Good Ship Lollipop!"" Jake insisted. "Yeah, that’s it!"
"No, wait!" Anthony DeMartino argued. ""Popeye the Sailor Man!" Toot, toot!"
Wordlessly Daria handed Jane the $50 bill, as the two girls retreated.
"What’s that for?" Jane asked, honestly confused.
"Hush money," Daria said flatly, then she paused, took a full lungfull of fresh air, and said, much louder: "Hey Jane, I think this is my folks’ cabin! Let’s go around and check!"
Over the corner there was a brief silence, and then the trio of adults walked over to the pair of girls.
"Daria! Jane!" the History teacher sounded quite genuinely happy. "So nice to see you to make it!"
"Glad to see you too, Mr. D!" Jane replied cockily.
"If you excuse us," Daria interrupted, feeling suddenly very tired, "can me and Jane get inside and take a couple of naps inside? We’re so tired?"
Wordlessly, the Morgendorffers and DeMartino led the pair of girls in.
"…So what do we do now?" Stacy was worriedly speaking to the other students. "The snow’s stopped, but where will we go? And Ms. Barch isn’t much of use either."
"Well, I did manage to bring this shovel," Quinn nervously said, producing a smallish shovel.
"Let me see that," Jodie commanded. She critically examined the shovel and sighed. "No go. This shovel is used to dig-out fossil or minerals or plant roots – not shovel snow. Believe me, I’ve seen both types by now. Still, we may use it as an emergency."
"Hey, let’s give it to Barch!" somebody savagely giggled. "She is spending plenty of time in the snow already!"
"What is going on here?" Ms. Li’s voice came from the copse as unexpectedly as thunder does from spring’s sky. "Miss Landon, Ms. Barch? And where are Mr. DeMartino, Miss Daria Morgendorffer, Miss Lane?"
"They, uh, went with Mr. DeMartino as a second search party after the first one," Jodie meekly said.
"Knowing Daria, they probably went to our folks’ cabin," Quinn added. "It’s not far from the parking area, I can take you there if we can get back to the trail."
Ms. Li paused briefly, then nodded. "Very well. Miss Morgendorffer, Miss Landon, Ms. Barch – what is with Ms. Barch?"
"A third kind encounter with the deep snow," Andrea said flatly. "I don’t think she’s workable, though."
"I don’t think so either," Ms. Li agreed and turned to the English teacher. "Mr. O’Neill, she’s your responsibility. The rest of you – move it!"
The trip was finally (though prematurely) over. The long-awaited trek back home began.
Wednesday – 16:10 PM
"…How was the field trip after the snow stopped? Did you girls learn anything?" Helen asked some time later her daughters, acting oblivious that the field trip has been practically cancelled, and most of the time post-blizzard was spent leaving the bunkhouse behind at top speed – at least by Quinn and others; Daria and Jane had left it a long time ago.
"I learned that sometimes being too well-dressed can work against you. Who would have thought that one’s fashion sense could have a dark side? The normally life-affirming act of choosing an outfit..." Quinn sighed grimly. She was sure as Hell not was going to tell her parents about the grim events that surpassed in the near ramshackle bunkhouse, how she, and Stacy, and Tiffany, and Sandi, had huddled together, trying to be brave, while all around them, darkness ruled, lit only by the feeble fire made from the brushwood that DeMartino had collected – and it was giving off a terribly smelly smoke; most of the accessories have soaked the smell up, and Quinn doubted that she’d be ever got rid of it; she wasn’t sure if she did – she felt as if that smoke-smell stood for something now.
But she as sure (from now) as that Hell would open up would not tell mom and dad about that. Mom would take her to all sorts of shrinks, while dad would probably need to be hospitalised himself. And so Quinn Morgendorffer kept her council.
"Yes, Quinn," Helen quickly said, unwilling to deal with that issue just yet. "And what about you, Daria?"
"I came to the realization that, given a choice between sharing shelter with my fellow students or risking death by blindly marching into a blizzard, it’s blizzard ‘ho for me," Daria said flatly, remembering how the bunkhouse looked, when she and Jane (and Mr. DeMartino) had left it. The bunkhouse looked rather like a dwelling place of goblins from the "Hobbit", written by Tolkien, and all sorts of bad feelings were floating freely through it.
"Good for you, kiddo!" Jake boomed, oblivious, from the driver’s seat.
"Jake!" Helen exclaimed sharply.
"Wow. After all that quality time, you two are working together like a well-oiled intimacy machine," Daria said with an undertone of bitterness – after all, it was because of them that she ended-up in that mess with Quinn, of all people, for company.
Jake just laughed, ignoring the undertone completely. "Say, girls, when we get home, whose up for a game of family charades?"
Both Quinn and Daria just groaned, and then Daria went back to sleep, leaving Quinn to watch the school bus that went past them, carrying Jane with it. When Ms. Li and others have arrived at the Morgendorffers’ cabin, she and Helen Morgendorffer had a row that had put the row at the paint-ball range to shame, partially because others now could add their own two-bits to it. Mr. DeMartino was especially loquacious about it. In the end, Helen Morgendorffer ‘allowed’ Angela Li to take Jane Lane back home via the school bus in exchange for the right to ‘courier’ the school bus back to Lawndale High.
Currently, Jane’s snores were filling the school bus with sounds similar to beech logs getting sawed clean through. However, that wasn’t what was bothering Jodie (who was still sitting next to Mack; Andrea decided to sit next to sleeping Jane) instead, it was Brittany, who has now filled-in Andrea’s vacated seat and was ‘fighting’ with Jane’s snores for control over the bus’s air space. "I’m not sitting next to Kevin. I don’t care how hard he begs…Why isn’t he begging?"
"Um," Jodie said, looking around. "Where is Kevin?"
There was a brief pause, and then school bus stopped abruptly, followed by the Morgendorffers car as per ‘agreement’, but that’s another story…
PS. Kevin was found back outside the bunkhouse, laughing very nervously. "Uh, Mr. D? Mr. O? Come out, everyone! Um, Q.B. in distress!", and had to visit a lot of psychiatrists before he could play sports again. But that is also another story.