(Usual copyright warnings I generally omit here folks, I figure, MTV,
Glenn Eichler and Sue Lewis Lynn know who they are. Also, notice
how I manage to skillfully skirt other major copyright issues herein, I
think I did a good job running with a concept MTV would never conceive
of, let alone approach. Further, fair warning, this fic throws out
thoughts with minor/major racial overtones so don't think I'm trying to
offend, a lot of this is based on personal thought which to a large degree
is all perspective, my perspective. If my perspective offends you,
get your own is the point and you're free to try to change mine if you're
willing to make cohesive arguments and interface with me as an individual
with a viewpoint and history. Also, let's try not to take things
out of context, hmm? In case anyone cares about the time period for
this piece I'd say it falls sometime either before or slightly after the
third season ep "Just Add Water" before Jane meets Tom. Other than
that, I guess the main thing I hope people get out of this is, as an Instructor
I once had put it, "There are no hero's." Every action has a consequence
and there are no black and white (no pun intended) situations folks.
It's never as simple as it seems. With that, on with the show.)
(Setting: Late afternoon at Lawndale High on a Wednesday. Those brave boys in blue and gold(yellow?), the Lawndale Lions football team have just finished another hard practice due in no small part to the efforts of team Captain, Michael Jordan Mackenzie, combination den mother, drill sergeant, disciplinarian, and de facto assistant coach since the team's head coach got busted for accepting kick-back's (see the Daria Diaries for this one). The grass stained football players in their pads and jersey's talk noisily amongst themselves as they tromp through the now quiet halls of the school (empty except for several students serving detention or working on after school projects) on their way to the locker rooms. Bringing up the rear at the end of the beat up and mud covered line of teenage athletes is none other than Mack himself, looking more tired and care worn than we've ever seen. He's obviously had a rough day and listening to resident Lawndale BMOC sans functional brain, Kevin Thompson (also, unfortunately, the Varsity Quarterback) blathering continuously into his ear isn't making things any easier. The two young men finally stop at Mack's hall locker as the rest of the team files past on their way to the promise of hot showers and the usual high school locker room camaraderie (lewd jokes, hitting each other with towel's, good clean adolescent fun). Kevin keeps up his one-sided end of the conversation as Mack open's his locker and pulls out a book bag and a larger duffle bag before closing it a little harder than he would normally. Then.)
Kevin: So bro, since Brittany's busy studying for her final's, you wanna come over to my place and watch the pigskin channel?
Mack: Can't man, have to be some place, you know that place I always have to be on Wednesday nights?
Kevin(not even a glimmer): Uhhhh....no?
Mack: The reason I can't do anything on Wednesday night's that I must have told you about a thousand times and you still always ask?
Kevin(still doesn't get it): Ohh... right. So you're busy doing what?
Mack(doesn't have the energy to get pissed off at boy wonder): Never mind, I'll see you around.
(Mack grabs his gear, slinging both bags over his football pads and jersey and walks away.)
Kevin(typical Kevin): Cool, see you later Mack Daddy!
(Mack stops for just a moment and lets a slight growl of total frustration escape but Kevin is already heading for the boys locker room and is out of throwing or pummeling range. Instead, he shakes his shoulders to readjust the straps hanging off him so they're marginally less uncomfortable and continues on towards the main school entrance at a bone tired shuffle. Farther down the hall, a group of decidedly happy students is just getting out of afternoon detention, most are talking to each other or heading for the exits in order to go home, all except the last student to exit the classroom who pauses to check her watch before leaning up against the lockers nearby. You guessed it, we're looking at Daria Morgendorffer, cynic chick and all around teenage brain after her first and so far only encounter with that grand High School institution, after school detention. All in all she looks no more bored than usual though she's obviously waiting a bit impatiently for her friend and partner in crime, Jane Lane, to get done with her after school work with art teacher, Ms. Claire Defoe. She looks around her briefly in an unfocused way before giving up and going back to the book she was reading in detention. By this time Mack is just about to pass her (still looking tired but standing resolutely tall under the weight of the various stuff he's carrying) when it registers that she's standing there.)
Mack(stopping momentarily): Hey, Daria..
Daria(not really paying attention, she doesn't even look up, distantly): Hey....
Mack(letting his fatigue and frustration color his words slightly): You have the time?
Daria(still doesn't look up from her book, looks sideways at her watch): Ten after five.....
Mack(that's the last straw, he tries to contain what he's feeling but is only partially successful): Thanks...would it really kill you to look at me when I'm talking to you?
Daria(Surprised, Mack's never so much as looked at her harshly): Huh? (seeing Mack for the first time, his obviously tired appearance and trashed jersey speak volumes, sympathetically and taking her eyes off the book) Rough practice?
Mack(recovering, seeing she wasn't going out of her way to be inconsiderate): You should try getting Kevin to understand a Quarterback sneak some time... What are you doing here after school anyway?
Daria(still a bit embarassed over it): My little rant in DeMartino's class last week got me two hours of detention (reference to an earlier fan fic element of mine).
Mack(sarcastic): You know you shouldn't go around telling the truth about people like that, especially in a High School, people might start thinking for themselves.
Daria(a little surprised at Mack's response, she gives him one of her almost smiles) And we certainly can't have that..
Mack(can't help it, even under the dirt and sweat, he grins): No sir.... well, I'd better go, gonna be late.
Daria(surprisingly enough, she's all of a sudden feeling herself click with a person the way she does with Jane, she picks up her bag as Mack resumes walking): Mind if I walk you out? I'm waiting for Jane and the art workshop is just off the front lobby anyway.
Mack(actually looking slightly more alive): Sure, but it's your nose. I don't even want to think about what I smell like right now.
Daria(walking next to him, no big deal look on her face): You've never had an encounter with my Dad's famous "Kitchen Sink Stew."
Mack(still walking): I'm not even going to ask..
Daria: You're smarter than you look...(realizing she might have overstepped) I mean..
Mack(uncaring, ventures): For a big, dumb, jock?
Daria(covering): For the majority of the people in this school.
Mack(still smiling): Now if you'd said "compared to Kevin", I'd have been insulted.
Daria(relieved, but still deadpan): Compared to Kevin, certain major rock formations exhibit a higher degree of measurable intelligence.
Mack(chuckling then looking grim again): (shaking his head) Don't I know it..
(Together the two round the corner, just as Jane Lane, artist and pizza fiend, steps out of a nearby doorway still wearing a paint stained lab coat she's obviously appropriated for other purposes, she looks up and notices Mack and Daria.)
Jane(waving): Yo! I got inspired and lost track of time....(she's already quickly slipping out of the coat and folding it off-handidly).
Mack(nodding): Well..., there's Jane. I have to get going, got a ways to walk before six o'clock,.....see you around.
(Mack shrugs his shoulder's again to resettle the bags hanging off him and then makes for the lobby exit, Daria watches him go as Jane walks up to her.)
Daria(watching him leave in an almost interested way.): See you later.
Jane(watching the departing young athlete as he leaves): Well, so the "crush" finally wasn't enough to keep you away from other men, hmm? Gunning for Jodie's guy now?
Daria(roles her eyes): Give me a break... He just happened to ask what time it was and we started talking, that's all. Unlike some people I could name, my conversations with interesting members of the opposite sex aren't confined to "Hey, you're cute...lets make-out."
Jane(shoots back): When you actually have conversations with people, period, you mean.
Daria(yielding): There is that.
Jane: I guess he is a different kind of guy, you know?
Daria: A football player with a functional brain and a real sense of humor, an endangered species all-right.
Jane: Kind of a weird coincidence that we got on this subject actually, there's something I've noticed about Mack that's got me curious.
Daria: Now who's gunning for a guy?
Jane: Touche, but what I meant is, today is a Wednesday and I'm usually here late with Ms. Defoe on Wednesday and Thursday, right?
Jane: Well, this isn't the first time I've run into Mack after he gets done with practice when I'm here late(gesturing with a pointed finger)....and I've noticed a pattern. On Thursday nights, when he leaves, he's dressed like usual and all cleaned up, but on Wednesday nights he always leaves straight from football practice still dressed in his pads and carrying all his stuff.
Daria: Again, so what?
Jane: Well that's not the only different thing, on Thursday's he usually gets picked up by some guy I think is his dad almost immediately around 5:15 or so, but on Wednesday's...
Daria(cutting her off): Let me guess, he gets picked up by a heavily armed, unmarked, military helicopter?
Jane(smirking): Now, now, hear me out. He doesn't get picked up, he just starts walking towards the center of town.
Daria: So he walks home on Wednesday afternoon's, so do we.
Jane: No sale Tiger Lily, I know from talking to Jodie that Mack lives around her neighborhood all the way on the other side of town, in the opposite direction from the way he walks. If he's going home, he's making a real round trip, especially with all that stuff he's carrying.
Daria: This is all incredibly interesting, Agatha Christie, but for the third and final time, so what?
Jane: So..... he does something nobody seems to know anything about on Wednesday afternoons.
Daria(heavy sarcasm): And with that devestatingly brilliant leap of logical deduction, we have the explanation for the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.
Jane(refusing to be deterred): I'm still working on Hoffa, my point is, aren't you the least bit curious about where the guy goes and what he does there?
Daria: Hmmmm... No.
Jane: Admit it Daria, you've been going to school with the guy for two years, I've known him for three and we know jack squat about him except for the fact that he's a jock and Jodie's boyfriend. And from what we've seen of him, he's a real nice, normal guy. So how come every move he makes isn't public knowledge?
Daria(pausing to consider what's been said seriously): That is kind of strange... When someone who's an all around nice human being, athletic, outgoing, and good looking, who for all intents and purposes should be popular, is even less known and commented about then us anti-social non-entities... that is definitely kind of odd.
Jane: Now you see my point.
Daria: I grudgingly see your point, even if I'm not sure where that puts us.
Jane(crafty smile): I've been looking for an excuse to do this for a while and now that you just so happen to be here, I've got one. Why don't we follow Mack and see what he's up to?
Daria: I'm not sure which part of that plan I like the least. For one thing, maybe we don't want to know what he's doing. On the other hand, though, I've always wondered if I'd be any good at being a stalker.
Jane: Would be a switch, huh, overly curious girl's stalk a guy, might even make an interesting subject for an essay?
Daria: "Stalking Michael Mackenzie", it does have a certain off-beat kind of ring to it. Okay, but if we're going to follow him, we'd better get to it, he must be hell and gone by now.
Jane: Not likely, you saw how beat he was, he probably hasn't even made it a full block yet. You want to call home first?
Daria: No point, if I need to, I'll find a phone later. Mom wasn't supposed to be home until late tonight and even if she was, she probably wouldn't remember that you stay late Wednesday's and Thursday's so I'm usually home early.
Jane: Never got around to telling Helen about your introduction to detention, didja?
Daria: Parents, what they don't know, can't hurt them.
Jane: Or piss them off at you. I'd still like to see the Morgendorffer family reaction to their straight A student landing in detention hall, I'm sure Princess Grace would have been thrilled.
(Walking towards the exit Mack left through earlier, both ladies end up outside on the front steps of Lawndale High, bathed in the lighter hues of a slowly setting sun. Jane was right, Mack is still visible, slowly pounding pavement in the general direction of the Lawndale shopping district down the road a bit.)
Daria: Now push the knife in deeper.
Jane: Oh come on, it happens to everybody at some point or another, no matter how good they are at sotto voce insults or non-obvious innuendo. Get over it Daria, so you made a mistake.
Daria: I'm over it, I just wish I knew why it happened.
Jane: Need I remind you that your dad goes off like that all the time? You just finally reached the vent point, give yourself a break.
Daria(looking away towards the slowly vanishing Mack): And with that, my afternoon turns into the plot of a bad Nancy Drew mystery novel.
Jane: I was always kind of partial to Alfred Hitchcock's "Three Investigator's" myself. Wasn't one of them an artist?
Daria: I'm really hoping your kidding.
Jane(crosses her arms): Well maybe I am and maybe I'm not.....miss classical bibliophile.
(Jane and Daria continue to argue the merits of various bad mystery and spy novel's they've read as they follow Mack from a distance. It takes them about fifteen minutes meandering down suburban Lawndales side-streets and making several turns before Mack finally ducks into a paved parking lot just off the Lawndale Village Green (you know, the place with the statue of the famous guy who nobody know's or cares about in the center of it.). Moments later, Jane and Daria enter the same parking lot and react in surprise.)
Jane: Agatha Christie bored me to death anyway...... well huh?
Daria: The Lawndale Presbyterian Church?
Jane: I can't remember the last time I was in this part of town, you suppose he's religious?
Daria: It's five thirty on a Wednesday afternoon, there's nobody here.
Jane: Some kind of prayer meeting?
Daria: Good work, now I really am curious about what he's doing.
Jane: He's not heading for the church, where's he going?
(Jane is right, Mack passes right by the front doors of the church and instead walks toward a small tool shed slightly obscured by the tree's near the rear of the old building. Once there, he drops both of the bags he's been lugging with obvious relief and fishes a set of key's out of one of them. He quickly un-locks the sliding doors of the shed with the ease of long familiarity and steps inside before apparently turning on a set of interior lights. He then turns and pulls the two bags he had with him into the shed and neatly closes the doors from the inside, cutting off the girl's view of him, apparently Mack hadn't seen them standing in the parking lot.)
Jane: Okay, he walks way the hell over here from school on Wednesday's.....so he can hang out in a shed behind a church?
Daria: Maybe he works here.
Jane: Doing what, dusting the stained glass?
Daria: Okay, dumb idea. Why don't we just walk over there, knock on the door and ask him?
Jane: That's not bad, unless of course you were right about us not wanting to know what he's doing.
Daria: Please, it's not like the guy broke into the place or anything, he's probably got a perfectly good reason for being here.
Jane: Ahhh...but what if this place is just cover for whatever sinister activity Mack is engaged in? A fiendish plot for total world domination hatched from behind the Presbyterian church, who would ever suspect?
Daria(dry as the sahara): Yes...of course, that's it.
Jane(usual Lane bizarre form): In the interest of national security, we must get to the bottom of this!
Daria: Since when did we become our jock classmates keeper and since when is this really any of our business?
Jane: We've come this far, besides, maybe we'll gain an understanding of Ms. Li's fetish for surveillance through this real life example.
Daria(giving in): In that case, maybe we can even request course credit for this.
Jane: I've just got to know....
(Jane walks toward the shed with Daria right behind.)
(Interior shot of the outbuilding in question, we're looking straight at rippling muscle framing dark shoulders as someone pulls a khaki shirt with red shoulder epaulets (ribbon like patches) on. Shift to a front shot, two quick and strong hands deftly button the shirt over a stacked set of rock hard abdominal muscles, the light expanse of khaki is interrupted in numerous places by assorted patches of different shapes, colors and design. Perspective shift, we watch as the familiar dark-skinned hands neatly lace and knot a spit-polished black combat boot, ending with a quick tug to tighten the laces, after which the hands almost reverently pull a dark green uniform pant's-leg over the top of the boot. The camera shifts up, we're now watching the two hands tighten a bronzish yellow colored metal belt clasp around the top of the military green pants, a symbol of what appears to be an eagle superimposed over a three pronged sigil is stamped on the surface of the clasp. Instant shift upwards again, we now watch the hands and the strong arms they are attached to tighten a knot shaped piece of metal (with the same eagle-device stamped on it) holding a red, folded kerchief around the shirt collar which is a sharp contrast to the ebony skin framed by the collar line of the khaki shirt. A final camera shift upwards reveal's the face of Michael Jordan Mackenzie, looking proud and immensely confident, a 180 degree difference from the way he looked when we saw him earlier, as he pushes back the black locks of hair that normally hang down just above his eyebrow's and puts on the finishing touch, a military style, dark red beret with the familiar eagle device in the middle.)
(By this time, Daria and Jane are only about five feet away from the closed doors........when they are pushed open from the inside, revealing a tall, dark, uniformed figure looking right at them, Jane's heart skips a beat!)
Daria: Eep! (I couldn't resist)
Mack(startled as well): Huh?
(Everybody stops dead in their tracks as the two ladies regard this totally new version of the guy they're used to seeing every day.)
Mack(putting a hand to his head): Don't do that to me! You guy's surprised the hell out of....
Jane(holding a hand to her heart): Speak for yourself! Whoof..
Daria(regarding Mack): Looks like we found out what Mack's doing.
Jane(lascivious tone, winks): And we also know why Jodie keeps him around, there's definitely something about a man in uniform.
Mack(still surprised, but smiling): I had the feeling something was up on my way here, you guys followed me all the way from school?
Daria(slightly embarassed): I hope...(nudging Jane slightly).. we hope, you're not mad about us tracking you down, it's not like this is any of our business.
Mack(shrugs his shoulders): Angry? To be honest, I'm kind of flattered you cared that much.
Jane(shaking her head, but smiling): This is too much, Mr. Varsity athlete, football team Captain.....is one of the guys who's supposed to help little old ladies cross streets!? And it never even occurred to me!
Mack(straightening a bit, in a fake self-important tone, raises an eyebrow): That's Junior-Assistant Scoutmaster Mackenzie, to you civilians.
Daria(small smile): It does explain a lot, when you get down to it.....you're a good man Michael Mackenzie.
Jane(surprised): That may be the first time I've ever heard Daria give someone an honest compliment, let alone a guy, so I'd suggest you treat that with the respect and significance it deserves.
Mack(looking from Jane to Daria, a bit surprised himself and thankful): How do you mean?
Daria(gives Jane a quick glare of death): Well it finally explains why and how you manage to put up with Kevin for starters and why we've never seen you so much as give Ms. Barch a nasty look even though she uses you as one of her personal punching bags, day after day.
Mack(ruefull look): With Kevin, yeah, it helps to have a sense of discipline, but the reason I've never tried to get back at Ms. Barch is because the woman honestly does scare me.
Jane(nodding): That's understandable.
Daria(warming to the subject): So what is it you do here anyway, if you don't mind me asking?
Mack(almost touched): You really want to know, huh? I'll tell you what, come on in and sit down....
Jane: You sure? We don't want to be in your way.
Mack(actually looking hopeful): The meeting doesn't start for another half hour and I wouldn't mind having someone to talk to, to be honest....
Daria(in a rare show of compassion): Sure, why not?
(Daria and Jane follow Mack into the shed which is filled with equipment of all types and sizes stacked neatly on prefab metal shelves and among abandoned office furniture. Mack sits on a beat up wooden office chair that's obviously seen better days while his two guests take seats on a much used and abused couch off to his left.)
Mack(hands in his lap): Well, you didn't just follow me to tell
me what a great human being I am, right? What's the story?
Jane: Well... I saw you leave and I mentioned to Daria how it struck me as odd that you just seem to walk off into the shadows every Wednesday afternoon. Since she was there late because of detention anyway, it just seemed like a good time to figure out why.
Daria: And since it was a choice between figuring out where you were going and returning to our own boring lives...(thoughtful) well, no I guess that isn't completely it.
Mack: No kidding? Why else?
Daria(looking like this is difficult for her): Well...., I'm definitely not good at this...what I said, or more to the point, blurted, earlier is true. You really seem in general (looking uncomfortable, she doesn't want to be rejected) and based on my personal experience, like a nice guy and.....how do I put this?
Mack(filling in the blanks): How come I'm not king of the Lawndale social hill?
Jane: Whew... color me shocked, an actual admission of....(hand to her head like in "Ill") I may need to lie down..(Daria's eye's narrow dangerously.)
Daria: Burn in hell, Lane.
Mack(shaking his head): It's no big deal, I'd be lying if I said I didn't ask myself the same question every so often, you want to know the main reason and please don't take this the wrong way?
Mack: Well, because I'm black....and like I said, don't think I buy into this whole "we have to work harder than anyone else because they're all against us" thing, because I don't. Sure that's still a factor, probably more often than anybody wants to admit, but the main problem is a totally different viewpoint and perspective. Take Kevin....
Jane(quirks an eyebrow): Please..
Mack(chuckles again): I wish, but the thing is, the only frame of reference we have is football, that's it. The gap between the way I look at the world and the way he looks at it....is just unbelievable.
Daria(impressed): Oh....I believe it.
Mack: Really, I mean even if he wasn't the intellectual giant we all know and respect, (Daria and Jane both smirk)how do you find something in common with somebody who thinks Denzel Washington was the guy who discovered soy bean's. And it's the same thing with most of the rest of the guys on the team...
Jane: Wow, I have to admit, I never really even considered it...
Mack(shrugs again): Well, that's not surprising, there's how many people with my skin color at school and how many with yours, right? It just gives you an idea of what me and Jodie are up against and..... (shaking his head) I hate to admit this, especially because it's also one of the reasons we don't like to admit to ourselves that we both spend so much time working as hard as we do. The thing is, sure, being tired, stressed-out and over-worked all the time isn't much of a life but it's better than being alone.
Daria: But you and Jodie have each other, right?
Mack("what the hell look"): That's another thing everybody makes these superficial assumptions about, me and her. Our relationship just isn't that way, I mean, it'd be like me assuming you and Daria are....
Jane(gets into the act): OH no, (puts her hand on Daria's shoulder in a possessive way) dearest, someone know's our secret!
Daria(casually brushing Jane's hand off, deadpan): We'll weather this storm darling, nothing can stop our love.
Mack(can't help himself, laugh's again): That's exactly what I mean, you two hang out together and you're friends, I hang out with Jodie and it's the big, bad jock going steady with a popular lady...of course...what else could it be?
Jane: Just one of the small details that makes (far away voice)"student life at the dawn of a new millenium" the hell we all know and loathe.
Mack: Not that she doesn't give a mean back rub....
(Daria gets an "oh really.." look on her face, Jane smirks.)
Mack: But have either of you met her father? (negative looks from both girl's) Oh man, can you imagine what he'd do to me if Jodie and I......
Daria: After Jodie was finished with you herself of course.
Jane: Brutal.. but what about birth control?
Mack: It's just not where we are right now, no way... I may play football, I may even hang around Kevin, but I'm not stupid enough to screw up an important friendship over hormones.
Jane: So you're together more out of a sense of shared hardship and common belief's than romance or physical attraction, right?
Mack: Honestly, yes.
Daria: Hey, it works for me and Jane. I'm surprised we didn't figure more of this out on our own.
Mack: I was just happy you even bothered to ask, it's really kind of nice to talk to someone, I mean other than Jo, honestly and openly about these things. I really needed an outlet today too.
Jane(picking up on it): AWW..pet name alert.
Mack(rueful look again): Nothing much gets past you guys, huh? When we're alone, she's Jo and I'm Mike and maybe I did put down the romantic side of our relationship too much. I don't know.... we watch each other's back and cover for each other, in a way, it's like we're already married.
Jane: That's so sweet!
Daria: And given your emphasis on chastity it certainly does sound like my parents marriage....(thoughtful) But where did "Jo" come from?
Mack(resigned): What the hell, you've heard just about everything else, originally it's from Florence Griffith Joyner or "FloJo", Jodie's always admired her because of the way she did her own thing when she competed and I called her that one time and she seemed to like it, end of story.
Jane(prompting): And you're "Mike" because?
Mack: Because anything is better than Michael, let alone Michael Jordan (head in his hands, massages his temples).
Daria: This has been a real education. I can't believe you're so open to telling us about all of this.
Mack: Like I said, it was either talk to somebody or start pulling my hair out, besides, who are you going to tell? And what advantage would it give you?
Jane: Your right, in any case, since you seem amenable to keeping the steamy detail's of Daria and I's torrid secret affair under wraps, I don't see any reason we can't do the same for you.
Daria: Your pet names are safe with me.
Mack(appreciating their concern): Thank you.
Jane(thoughtful): And here we thought you were this big, easy going, well adjusted guy. Boy, compared to you, we're amateur's at the whole alienation trip.
Mack(sighs): You're probably more right than I'd like to admit. You still don't know a whole lot about me though, do you?
Daria: I wish we'd asked a long time ago, now. But what else is there to know?
Mack: Well, there's the answer to the first question you asked, why this when I'm already as overloaded or more so than Jodie?
Daria: Okay, why?
Mack: Primarily because it's the exact opposite of the football team, there I have to be a world class pain in the ass because if I don't take responsibility no one else will. Here, people believe in something and they care enough that you don't have to be a babysitter. Here, I work....we work, play and fight together believing in the same code of conduct and it doesn't matter what color your skin is or what's in your bank account....there, it's all about who you've made look bad recently and how much you can get for as little as possible with no responsibility attached!
Jane(looking at Mack with newfound respect): Daria... we have ourselves a crusader here.
Daria: We're going to have to be careful that idealism doesn't rub off....(pretends to shudder).
Mack: I wouldn't worry about it, if there's one thing I know, it's that you can't force your belief's on anyone and if you do, you're going to lose.
Jane: Tell that to Ms. Li.
Mack(taking off his beret and holding it in his hands): She proves my point.... I'll tell you a story about a guy I used to know, back in middle school. He was a straight A student, played three sports a year, had just made this rank right here (Mack holds the cloth emblem sewn on his left breast pocket where Daria and Jane can see it) popular with the guys, all around wonderful human being. Anyway, one day he was walking on home from a friends house over Christmas break and he see's two kids playing out on the ice on this lake, just being kids, doing dumb things the way young guys do.
Jane: Let me guess?
Mack: Yep, one of them goes right through the ice and the other kid gets pulled in after him. My friend's trained in lifesaving like any good scout, so he charges right in, uses a tree branch to reach the kid's struggling in the hole in the ice....one of them manages to get a grip on the stick, but they're out there in the sub-zero cold for fifteen minutes before somebody see's them out on the ice.
Daria: And then..
Mack: Finally, help show's up, but by then this six year old kid who fell in first is drowned, the kid who got a hold of the branch tried to hang onto him with his legs but in the end there was nothing he could do, it was him or both of them. My friend is a real hero, especially since the kid who survived turns out to be the little brother of one of my friends buddies in his scout troop, he's in all the papers, receives the second highest decoration for personal performance the scout's give out...a shining example of everything right with his community, right?
Mack(looking immensely sad): Except nobody but him seems to have seen the way the parents of the kid who didn't make it look at him and the kid who lived. My friend starts asking himself some hard questions, like "Was there anything more he could have done?" and "Should I have gone into the water after both of them" questions that don't have any answer. He starts having trouble sleeping at night, he tries to talk about what he's feeling with his friends but it seems like all he hear's is "hey man, you're this hero, you've got it made, what kind of problems would a great guy like you ever have?" Soon, things that used to seem so easy for him are a major struggle, my friend stops talking to his parents, can't seem to do anything right in school anymore, everybody's seems to be wondering what the story is, what happened to this guy who was the hero?
Daria(surprised by where this went): And?
Mack: And it just gets worse and worse for this guy, his parents seem like they don't care, he thinks his buddies are avoiding him, then one day it all comes to a head, this guy just can't hack it, he can't do it anymore and he doesn't even want to, he's beaten, he just wants everything and everyone to go away. Finally, he breaks down and goes to the student counseling office and asks for help. Three month's later, after a whole lot of expensive therapy and soul-searching, my buddy comes out a lot quieter and with a new perspective on life and he swears to himself that he's never going to let himself get bulldozed into the position he ended up in, ever again.
Jane(nodding): Wow, that's really something.
Daria(pretty sure she knows the answer): So what's this guy you knew doing now?
Mack(snapping out of his reverie): Oh...now? Now he's sitting in a shed after football practice chattering like an idiot in front of two very considerate ladies who are probably wondering about his mental health.
Jane: No, seriously, not at all.
Mack: There are other reasons than the one's I told you about that Jodie likes me.
Jane(smiling): I just bet.
Daria: I can't believe we missed all of this, it's been all this time that we've both known you and we never had any idea about any of this.
Mack: Don't blame yourself too much, like I said, Jodie and I are both guilty of putting work ahead of other people, family, even each other a lot of the time, it's something I think about a lot, even more so now that I've been in the position I told you about. I worry about Jodie someday ending up there too, I wouldn't wish what I had to go through on anyone. (glancing at a cheap digital travel alarm-clock on the desk nearest him.)Hmmm...it's getting late.
Jane(stands up): You've got that meeting to go to, right?
Mack: Sure do, they trust me with the keys to this place since they know it's easier for me to just walk over here after school and get dressed instead of going home and coming back. You know how to get back?
Daria(joining her): No problem, it's been.......(meaning it to her surprise) fun.
Jane: This has been a real day of firsts in the Daria expressing herself department...Oof
(Daria elbow's Jane in the shoulder, Jane rubs her arm and scowls at Daria )
Mack(smiling again): Have fun and try not to beat up on each other too much, you guys ever want to have a conversation again, just let me know, okay?
(Mack see's both ladies to the door...as Daria and Jane head for the parking lot he salutes neatly which Jane waves back in response before he turns and heads back into the shed.)
Jane(smiling broadly): He is SO cute in that uniform!
Daria: Take a deep breath, Xena. Besides, what about us?
Jane: Well I'll always have you, but a girl can fantasize can't she?
(Both girls are walking across the Lawndale Village Green, as the sun is setting slowly behind them)
Jane: Now aren't you glad we expanded our social horizon's?
Daria: Now you're sounding like my mother, stop it.
Jane: I just meant we went out of our way to find out more about a guy we both know and surprise, surprise, we have some things in common. This IS a frightening development!
Daria(deadpan): Jane....hold me.
Jane: Methinks you'd rather be in the arms of a slightly older and male member of my immediate family.
Daria: Don't start.
A fairly short story focusing on a character we still know little about, take it or leave it folks. Frankly, Mack has always impressed me as a strong if silent male character on a show where the same are routinely depicted as incompetent, unconscious or even genuinely deranged. But then, hey, it's fashionable to demean the modern white male (as opposed to his minority brother's), maybe a commentary on race/sex trends in modern entertainment if ever there was one. Hopefully this wasn't so heavy a story that people won't enjoy it but as my first serious piece I wanted to shoot a little higher than most of my other works (Daria Vs. Predator anyone?) As always, comments, criticism and raving can be directed to email@example.com. Always a pleasure.