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'Past Understanding' written March,2003

The 'Past Understanding' series takes place towards the end of the Final Season, 'Prize Fighters' and 'Is It College Yet' have not (yet) happened as per the storyline which can be safely set sometime in the Spring,2001.

Helen was alone in her office working on papers.

"Mrs. Morgantroper, Line One" the temporary receptionist

squawked over the speaker phone- her voice sounding like a laryngitic

crow's.

" That's Morgendorffer! Hellooo! Sorry. Hello? Hello? Hello!? Damn

it, Euphemia, it's Line Seven!"Helen boiled as she tried the various

lines on the earphone.

"Well, they were all lit up, Mrs. Gropenmorger!" Euphemia

squawked.

"Hello, Marianne!" Helen answered, her foul mood temporarily

clearing.

" So glad you liked the flowers. . . and that you and your

son are fine after yesterday's labor. .. Don't be silly! It was no

sacrifice!" Helen insisted as she stapled the florist bill to the

expense account voucher on her desk.

"I'll line you up with someone!. ..Now don't worry about

us! As a mother, I know how important it is for you and your husband to

bond with your children so take all the time you need. ."Helen chirped.

"Mrs. Borgenmorpher. ." Euphemia squawked over the speakerphone.

" Like the next week! [click] Hello!? What, Euphemia?" Helen

fumed.

"You said to let you know when your 3:30 arrived but I checked the

name and this person doesn't answer to Miss Quad Dorkengopher!"Euphemia

squawked- as she misread the words 'Miss Quinn Morgendorffer' written on the pad in front of her.

"Never mind. Just send her in!" Helen snapped.

"Could you make it quick, Mom? Sandi's in the fire lane with the

motor running! We're doing a preliminary Cashman's run today so we can strategize for the whole Fashion Club tomorrow!"Quinn explained rather flippantly-as she bounded in from the outer office.

"Quinn, between Marianne giving birth and the temp service sending

us Mr. O'Neill's cousin, I'm in NO mood for. . ." Helen thundered as she

stands up at her desk to jab her index finger to intimidate Quinn.

"OK, Mo-om, chill!" Quinn insisted as she nervously flashed her

teeth.

"I'd like to chill you permanently after this letter I got in

the office mail!" Helen explained-pounding her fist at the end.

" Letter? Is this another mother-daughter fashion show? I told

them that we wouldn't be entering but Tiffany and her mom will since Mrs. Mitsubishi isn't eight-months pregnant this time!" Quinn chirped.

" No, it's from the Oui-Swyp-Ewe Credit Card Accounting

Department"Helen snarled as she extracted a letter from a very large

envelope then held up the letter to read.

"Mo-OM!" Quinn gulped as she tried to snatch the letter out of

Helen's right hand.

"'Dear Mrs. Morgendorffer, We regret to inform you that we have

failed to receive our minimum payments for your co-signer Miss Quinn

Morgendorffer's account thus we are terminating her credit card!'" Helen

boiled as she waved the letter above Quinn's head while reading it.

"But. .." Quinn gulped.

" How many times have I told you to make the minimum payments and

NOT spend more than you earn!" Helen seethed as she brought her arm down

to the desk with letter tightly clutched in hand.

"I think about ten or fif. ." Quinn chuckled.

"OOOH!" Helen exploded as she pounded the desk with both fists.

" But, Mo-om! I did my best to take care of things, honest!" Quinn

quavered.

"Oh, yes! 'P.S. Enclosed is Miss Morgendorffer's 8 by 10 headshot.

Inform her that this is an unacceptable substitute for timely monthly

minimum payments. However; it was a boon to my wife's Ladies Dart Board

Tourney!'"Helen fumed as she pulled out the headshot from the

accompanying large envelope on her desk.

"[GASP] They impaled all my pores!" Quinn shuddered as she studied

the perforated photo.

"Quinn Morgendorffer, it's not just your credit that's been ruined.

I was on the phone all morning with those plastic pickpockets-

barely able to stop them foreclosing our house,"Helen seethed.

" Did you promise them another photo?" Quinn nervously laughed.

"Quinn, I had to take out a 2nd mortgage as well as virtually empty out our checking accounts and you girls' college account that your Dad and I've diligently set aside every month almost eighteen years! I don't know how I'm going to tell Daria !"Helen shuddered.

"Mo-om, how can you bring up her at a time like this?" Quinn

whined.

" Quinn, very carefully mind what you say! Let me remind you that

you are sitting in the office of a top law firm who'd pull just

about all legal angles to keep one of their best partners-to-be from

serving any time," Helen said in a low threatening voice.

"You mean. ..?" Quinn gulped as she frantically blinked her eyelids.

"That's right, Quinn. I brought you into this world, don't tempt me

to take you out of it! " Helen threatened as she sat down while Quinn

nervously did the same.

"PLEEZE, Mom! I'll do anything to make it up to you!" Quinn pleaded

as she shifted to her knees in front of the desk.

" Good! I've drawn up this contract that will dock $300 a month

from your salary until every dime's paid back- even if it means you'll

be the only senior citizen not wearing support hose to do it!" Helen

thundered as she drew out the contract.

"But, Mo-om, there's no way I can pay that much monthly with

babysitting the Guptys!" Quinn gulped as she got up from her knees.

"You had no problem spending multiples of that monthly!" Helen

seethed.

"But. ." Quinn shuddered.

" I know you don't make that much with the Guptys so I've added a

few others to your babysitting rounds," Helen declared as she unveiled a

large mounted graph with detailed times and names next to her desk.

" The Landon children? Sandi's brothers? Marianne's son?" Quinn

gulped.

" Frank," Helen suddenly remembered as she inked his

name in.

" Tiffany's little half-sister Orchid Mitsubishi? Mo-om, except for the

Guptys and Landons, these are all babies and brats!" Quinn groaned.

" Takes one to know 'em!" Helen sighed.

"But I won't have time to. .."Quinn gulped.

" Date the Three J's, shop, goof off or be in the . ."Helen

insisted as she counted her off her aloft left fingers with her right

index finger.

"NO! I can't give up the Fashion Club! I'd die!" Quinn burst into

tears.

" You've already come close to that today! I'm not falling for

your TV movie melodramatics!" Helen insisted.

" But Sandi's waiting for me and we're going to Cashman's

Spring Near Summer Before Fall and Winter Sale!" Quinn pleaded.

"You've more clothes than most 3rd world countries as it is. I'm

keeping all credit, debit and check cards! Hand them over!" Helen

ordered- as Quinn nervously did so before Helen took out a

large pair of scissors and sliced them to ribbons.

" MO_OM!" Quinn burst into fresh tears.

"Tell Sandi to take you straight home and sit in your room until

dinnertime. And don't think I won't call up Linda to check Sandi's

milage!"Helen ordered.

" How will I live? " Quinn sobbed.

"Oh,you have plenty of things to live for- such as circling want

ads and studying to earn a good scholarship so you can get into a good

college to make good money to repay me!" Helen seethed.

"But. .." Quinn bawled.

" And if you try to charm a dime from your Dad, I'll drive you

straight to Juvenile Hall and have them feed you till you're eighteen!

I won't have you pester him-especially not today of all days!"Helen

insisted.

"Umm" Quinn pondered.

"His birthday! Why d'you think I called your cell and had you meet

me here?" Helen seethed anew.

"You. ..wanted my advice on a present?" Quinn nervously chuckled and

flashed her teeth.

"You forgot!" Helen boiled.

"I didn't," Quinn stammered.

"Don't make this any harder. .." Helen insisted.

"I didn't mean to but didn't he have it a few months back?" Quinn

asked.

"Twelve! How could you forget this day?" Helen rhetorically

asked.

"Is it my fault that Cashman's didn't have its sale that day last

year?"Quinn asked.

"Tell me you at least got something for him. You didn't!" Helen

groaned.

"Mo-om! If you let me borrow one of your credit cards. . "Quinn

nervously suggested.

"No more credit cards, EVER!" Helen screamed as she jumped into her

chair's seat and flailed her arms at Quinn.

"But..Mo-om. Why punish Dad by not having me give him something?"

Quinn asked.

"Very well, but only because it's your father's birthday and

we're having guests whom I don't want seeing our dirty laundry! Here's

$50!" Helen snapped as she pounded her desk with the money.

"Mo-om! You can't expect a Fashion Club VP to use cash at

Cashman's?" Quinn gasped.

"Take it and a sabbatical from the Club or I personally'll have

Sandi expell you from it!" Helen boiled.

"Done!" Quinn gulped as she hastily signed her contract with Helen.

"Be home for the birthday dinner by 6 sharp, gift in hand, or

I'll hunt you down!"Helen insisted in a low voice.

"Mrs. Porkenloapner," Euphemia buzzed.

"Say, how about hiring me as the temp receptionist til Marianne gets

back?" Quinn asked.

" I can stand her garbling better than the sight of you these days!" Helen

seethed- as Quinn quickly left her office.

"You keep me late and nearly give me worry lines while I have

to explain to the officer the important reason why I'm parked here, then

you interrupt me," Sandi seethed.

"Er. .sorry," Quinn gulped, in no mood to be evacerated twice in one

day.

"Good, I'd hate to think you weren't able to concentrate on our

important research we're doing on behalf of the fashionably challenged!"

Sandi insisted.

"Actually, I'm honored you're here with me because I've taken

on a mission on behalf of a fashionably challenged older gentleman- my

Dad!"Quinn said with some relief.

They entered the rather crowded Cashman's and Quinn saw a cashmere

sweater for $40 and jellyfish liquid facial foundation for $10 for a 5

ounce container and was all set to buy the two items when. ..

"That foundation would make make your skin look even more beautiful,

Ka-Winn. Do you think it would help me?" Sandi asked.

"I guess so, " Quinn replied.

"So, you're not sure that it would! Does that mean you think my

skin is beyond help?" Sandi accused.

"Don't be silly, Sandi?" Quinn replied.

"So now I'm silly! That's most ungrateful after my nearly getting

worry lines while waiting for you, before giving you a ride!"Sandi

seethed.

"Since you put it that way, Sandi, I'll be happy to buy both of

us the 2 ounce foundation tubes because as Fashion Club President and

Vice-President, we should have skin that glows in the dark!"

Quinn insisted as she switched the 5 ounce bottle for the two 2 ounce

tubes.

"With sales and import taxes, that'll be $49.95, miss!" Monica, the purple-haired teen

salesclerk droned.

" Here you go!" Quinn chirped as she plucked the two $20 bills and

single $10 on the counter .

"Here's your change!" Monica droned as she handed Quinn the

receipt and a nickle.

"Wait!" Quinn gasped in a panic.

"Sorry,all sales are final," Monica insisted.

"But the 5 ounce jar's only $10," Quinn tried to reason.

"That's the one on sale- not the 2 ounce ! Clear the counter or

I'll have Security put you on The List!" Monica droned.

So, with a wave, the salesclerk dismissed Quinn who wished she'd remembered this was Teresa's day off.

"Gee, Ka-Winn, I hope you don't plan on further publicly shaming me here!"

sniffed Sandi.

"Don't worry, Sandi. There's just been a silly misunderstanding. I'll get

Customer Service to take care of all this! I'll catch up with you in a

little while!" Quinn proclaimed.

Sandi gave her a jaundiced glare and was about to insist on accompanying

Quinn when. . .

"Attention, Cashman Patrons, Nanook of Nome's Designer Mukluks are

marked off an additional 20 percent for the next half hour!" the loudspeaker

proclaimed.

"I would help you fight this battle with Customer Service but at least

one of the Fashion Club must have these mukluks in time for winter-

you understand," Sandi sniffed.

"Don't worry, I'd never consider this a dereliction of duty. Seize the

Nome!"Quinn proclaimed as she waved Sandi off.

Quinn walked with the maroon cashmere sweater in hand to Customer

Service and held her breath. The red pompadoured 60-year-old department head Mrs. C. Sarkisian was manning the counter. Quinn dreaded her because she wore gold hoop earrings,green lady's business suit,fire-engine red lipstick, rimmed glasses with a chain and always had a pen and pencil securely poking from her pompadour, not to mention the fact that she had a very sharp jawline with a virtually triangular chin.

"Yeah, toots. What's the problem?" Mrs. Sarkisian growled while tapping

her manicured nails atop her nameplate.

"No problem, Miz Sarks! I just need to buy this cashmere sweater for

Dad's birthday and bill it to my account,"Quinn chirped.

"Sorry, Miss M, no can do. Just got this fax from your mom saying that

she'd no longer be responsible for any future billings!" Mrs. Sarkisian

snapped- as she brought up the fax from below the counter.

"But it's for Dad's birthday !" Quinn wailed.

"We don't usually encourage it but tell ya what, toots! If you can find

some suck. ..er kind soul to charge it to their account, I can let you

have it!"Mrs. Sarkisian pondered.

"Great!" Quinn beamed- as she started to whip out her cellphone.

"Un-unh! Use this one! I insist!" Mrs. Sarkisian snapped as she

suddenly lifted up a large black metallic rotary-dialed telephone from

behind the counter and slung it on her desk so hard that it rang its bell

and shook the many photos of Mrs. Sarkisian's family set there.

"But. .." Quinn gulped.

"S'matta? You've never used a phone without a keypad before?"Mrs.

Sarkisian asked- as she adjusted her earpiece so she could monitor the

conversation.

"The Guptys have one but. ..you want me to put my finger where

unpopular people have gone before?" Quinn asked in horror.

"Here! Make it snappy!" Mrs. Sarkisian insisted as she brandished her

pencil from her towering pompadour and handed it to Quinn who picked it up as though it was from the bottom of a cesspool then gingerly used it to dial a number. Mrs. Sarkisian had a wire attached to her earjack so she could monitor the conversations.

Inside a locked desk, a cellphone was heard to ring. The desk was part

of a hospital bedtray and Jamie White tried to reach for it but his broken

right arm was in a sling being adjusted by a comely,blonde nurse with

flashing green eyes.

"Cedars of Lawndale, Jamie White's room- Nurse Irís Sepulveda

speaking!" Irís answered with a slight Barcelonan accent.

"Is Jamie OK, I need to ask him a favor?" Quinn asked.

"Ku-- inh?!" Jamie groaned and struggled to reach for the phone.

"He's been in an altercation with two others today and needs his

rest,"Irís snapped.

"Tell him I like him and I'll visit him as soon as I can find an

outfit that won't clash or blend in with the hospital walls!" Quinn

insisted.

"Oh. .ay!" Jamie wanly cheered.

"Since your voice is helping his morale, I'll convey your request!"

Irís conceded.

"Great! There's a $45 sweater at Cashman's I need so if he could give

out his charge card number and consent, I'd be more than happy to kiss his

cheekbone next time I see him!" Quinn chirped.

"Oh, oy!" Jamie yelped.

"I'm sorry but neither he nor his compadres can help.

However, you might tell them to save some green scrubs til my shift ends at

eight," Irís fumed as she abruptly hung up the phone whilst the three J's in

various states of injuries wanly pleaded with her not to do so.

"I need to exchange this-" the 350-pound plus Mrs. Johannsen screamed in line behind Quinn as she brandished a red spandex tube top mutilated from bursting.

"Not now! It's an emergency !" Quinn pleaded while Mrs. Johannsen

was wheezing.

"So's my love life!" snapped Mrs. Johannsen as she wheezed some more.

"Celeste,please catch your breath! While I'm pretending I didn't hear that,Miss

Morgendorffer can try again," shuddered Mrs. Sarkisian.

Quinn silently prayed for better luck this time while the metal dial

made its grinding sound. .

"Hello, Stacy!" Quinn chirped.

"Quinn. Is that you? Sorry I couldn't make it today but I'm busy

organizing my wardrobe to make room and. .." Stacy prattled on her cell.

"Listen, Stacy, I need a big favor. I want to buy a sweater for Dad's

birthday but I'm a little short so could you give them your charge card

number then I can pay you back?" Quinn asked while her right arm was getting

weary holding the ancient metal receiver.

"No problem, Quinn!" Stacy beamed.

"Great, this is about the nicest thing a friend's done for me!"Quinn

chirped.

"Er. .. about the nicest? You mean I haven't done enough?" Stacy

nervously asked.

"Don't be silly, Stacy! You've done more than enough!" Quinn replied

with a slight tremor.

"Oh, no! If you don't think I'm the nicest, that means Tiffany barely

tolerates me and Sandi hates me with a passion!" Stacy sniffed.

"That's not true at all," Quinn earnestly replied.

"So, not only am I not a nice person, I'm also a liar! Oh, no! Now

I'll be shunned from the Fashion Club and cast into. . the . .UNpopular crowd!

What'll I do, Quinn?" Stacy burst into tears.

"Stacy. ." Quinn tried to say.

"It was good being friends with you Quinn! Save yourself from being

dragged down by the likes of me!" Stacy bawled and hyperventilated as she hung up the phone.

"Miss Morgendorffer. .." Mrs. Sarkisian thundered as she started to grab

the phone from Quinn's hands while the line behind Mrs. Johannsen was

already out the door of the department.

"One more. Please!"Quinn wailed.

"Oh, alright but if you don't get a buyer this time, I'm keeping the

sweater behind the counter and you'll have to get at the back of the line

for further service!" Mrs. Sarkisian snapped.

"Hello, Tiffany?" Quinn asked over the phone a few moments later with dozens of angry pairs of eyes glaring at her.

"Quinn," Tiffany answered as she was painting her toenails.

"I need to get a sweater for Dad's birthday today and I'm a little

short so could you give Cashman's your credit card number so they can charge

you? I'll pay them back," Quinn nervously chirped.

"Of. .course. ..I. .will . .be . .. hap- py. ..to" Tiffany replied as

she put down the polish brush and went for her credit card.

"This is Mrs. Charmaine Sarkisian, Customer Service Director at

Cashman's. I'll need your name as it appears on your card," Mrs. Sarkisian

insisted as started to type the info into her computer console.

"Su-u--ure! It's.. .Tih-fah-nnh-nny. . . Bl-l-l-uhm. .Deh-eh-eck-ler,"

Tiffany replied.

"Could you spell it out?" Mrs. Sarkisian asked.

"Eye. ..Tee," answered Tiffany.

"Hah-hah-hah, I meant your name," Mrs. Sarkisian insisted with

decreasing patience.

"'T' as in. ..turquoise. .and. .topaz. .and tiara. Do you sell.

.turquoise. topaz . .tiaras?" Tiffany asked.

"I think I can manage the first name. Your surname, please!" Mrs.

Sarkisian groaned as she quickly typed letters.

"It's 'B' as in bauble. .and bubble. 'L' as in. .loungewear. .'U' as

in. ."Tiffany spelled out.

"B-L-U-M! GOT that! Is Deckler D-E-C-K or D-E-K-K-L-E-R?""Mrs.

Sarkisian snapped as getting closer to boiling.

"Um. .. .. you don't have to shout. .! I lost my place. I'll have

to start over. 'T' as in tur-"Tiffany started.

"Oh fer cryin' outloud!!" Mrs. Sarkisian exploded as she abruptly grabbed the metal

receiver from Quinn's right hand and slammed it atop the phone.

"But Mrs. Sarkisian. .?" Quinn wailed.

" I've wasted way too long with this crap! Go outside and try

to find someone on your own- then get back to the end of the line!"Mrs.

Sarkisian insisted.

"You don't mean. .?" Quinn asked.

"That's right!"Mrs. Sarkisian replied.

"[GASP] The Doorway Bench!" Quinn wailed as Mrs. Sarkisian pointed

her to it.

" I don't want to be seen with old ladies in saggy hose waiting for

busses and brats jumping up and down waiting for their moms to finish

shopping, when will this torment end?" Quinn wailed as she left but saw no

alternative.

So,she disheartenedly and slowly walked her way to the Doorway Bench

between the inside and outside Cashman store doors, taking her headscarf and

sunglasses out of her purse so no one would mistake her for anyone beside

'Quinnie O'! She looked at her Pocket Pilot and saw another name.

At that moment, in Washington D.C. Jodie Landon was happily sitting in

a prestigious auditorium. While she was honored to be there and receive her

latest commendation, she was more grateful that this meant her parents

Andrew and Michelle were too busy gloating to nag her their usual quotas

today. Jodie was next to the aisle wearing her Grandma Jessup's finest pearl

necklace in addition to her most formal dress and blouse. Michelle was in

her usual business suit but with Egyptian gold earrings seated to the right

of her elder daughter with the preteen Rachel in her Sunday best seated on

their mother's right side and the toddler Evan in sitting to his next elder

sister's right but with their black-suited and proud father Andrew resting

his left hand on his son's shoulder. None of them had any the slightest

inkling what humiliation was ready to befall them the next moment. That's

when Jodie's cellphone rang. The speaker stopped the speech and 600 pairs of

eyes from all over the auditorium glared at her. Jodie knew she had no time

to waste as she looked at the cell's display.

"Jodie, can. .?" Quinn started to say over the cell.

"Quinn, I'm in DC moments away from Maya Angelou giving me a plaque from

George Washington U. ."Jodie whispered.

"Eww! Why would you want George Washington's tooth plaque-even with a Mayan angel channeling it?", " Quinn cringed as she hung up the phone.

"Sorry, everyone," Jodie apologized in a normal tone.

"Jodie, how could you forget at a time like this to turn that cell

'off-off'"hissed her angry mother Michelle while Evan and Rachel were cracking up laughing at their oldest sibling's embarassment.

"I didn't! I forgot that Quinn's cell has 'Off-Off Override'!" Jodie

groaned.

Back in Lawndale, a phone rang and a hand was seen

putting down a hair dryer. The hand belonged to Brittany Taylor and she had

been using it to dry out a pom-pom.

"Hello, Brittany? It's me, Quinn!" Quinn chirped- a little more

desperately than usual.

"Hi, Quinn," Brittany squeaked.

"Listen, I'm at Cashman's and I'm a little short of funds at the moment

and I need to get a sweater for someone so could you give out your credit

card number and buy it for me? I'll try to back you back real soon!" Quinn

asked.

"Sure ! Who's the sweater for?" Brittany asked as she started

twirling the ends of her hair.

"It's for Dad's birthday today!" Quinn explained.

"I didn't know it was his birthday!" Brittany squealed.

" Well, it is. ." Quinn replied.

"Hmm, how come you know it's his birthday but I don't?"Brittany

asked.

"Because it's for my Dad!" Quinn replied.

"So you want me to buy your Dad a present on Daddy's birthday? At least Kevin spent his own money buying his Dad a present on Daddy's birthday! Hmmph!" Brittany snapped as she hung up on Quinn.

At that moment, Daria and her friends, the two youngest Lanes of her

generation were walking down a sidewalk pulling a red wagon with several

wrapped presents.

"Shouldn't we be meeting Wally and the Beav right about now?" Daria

asked.

"Come on, it's only another block! You two could use some exersion.

Keeps the mind active!" Jane proclaimed as she continued to pull the

wagon.

"Sorry 'bout the Tank dying!" Trent shrugged.

"We couldn't have fit these presents in your Plymouth," Jane

scoffed.

"Besides, we're probably getting back home faster this way!" Daria

quipped.

"And this is a good thing, Morgendorffer?" Jane laughed.

"Whoa, Janey! Her folks are having us celebrate Mr. M's big day an'

Daria needs our support!" Trent countered.

"She knows I'm kidding," Jane laughed.

" Mom said Quinn and I could each have some friends over. I guess

she didn't want to chance me running out on them with the friends

they've invited," Daria explained.

"And since Tom's debate teams' away this week in Switzerland. ." Jane

pondered.

"I'd have had you all over since Quinn's Fashion Fiends will be

there," Daria groaned.

"At least you don't have to worry about Jamie-Jeffy-Joey," Jane

countered.

"Yeah, but with them in traction, there goes half my tutoring

payments!" Daria groaned.

Quinn was desperate! It was 5:45- only fifteen minutes before she was

due back home and here she was stuck in the Doorway Bench with no gift

for Jake in hand. She saw the number and keyed it in. She knew it could

cause trouble but it couldn't be worse than what she'd have to endure

coming home sans gift.. .

"Who'd be calling? Don't they know he's in Switzerland?"Jane

asked.

"Someone volunteering for cuckoo duty," Daria deadpanned as she saw

Quinn's number on the cellphone display.

"It's me! Quinn! I'm sorry I got your number off of Mom's Caller ID

from the time you called to let Daria know you'd be late but since your

family's loaded and I'm broke, I REALLY need you to. .." Quinn spilled

out.

"Quinn," Daria replied.

"And, whatever you do, don't tell Daria I called because she'd

kill me if she found out I was begging for you to charge a sweater at

Cashman's for Dad's birthday but I forgot his birthday and Mom's

already.. ." Quinn prattled on.

"QUINN!" Daria repeated.

"What happened to your voice? OMIGAWD! Daria what are you doing

with Tom's cell?" Quinn gasped.

"Tom left it with me for safekeeping while he's in Switzerland.

. Never mind that! What do you mean you forgot Dad's birthday?" Daria

asked.

" Well, with all theses sales and everything, it just flew out of my

mind. Anyway, I've got fifteen minutes before Dad's birthday dinner and

I don't have a gift so could I borrow. ..?" Quinn begged.

"No," Daria groaned.

"What? But I can't come back emptyhanded!" Quinn pleaded.

"What part of-. .?" Daria started.

"Oh, don't tell me you're going to give me that tired old 'what

part of no don't I understand' line!" Quinn snapped.

"No, I was going to ask you what part of bor-row don't you

understand? I could pay Harvard in cash if you paid back

half what you owe me," Daria grumbled.

At that very moment back at Cashman's Doorway Bench.

"Ka-Winn!" Sandi sneered.

"[GASP]!" Quinn gasped and hung up her cell.

"Calling that cousin/sister/whatever who lives at your house?"

Sandi sneered.

"I was merely about to hang up on a solicitor! Are you ready?"

Quinn gulped.

"Ka-Winn, save your stories for a magazine lay-out. I know all

about your preDICament! When I phoned Tiffany, she was spelling out her

name and then I called Stacy and she was apologizing for not being the

Fashion Club's best friend ever," Sandi sneered.

"You put two-and-two together from that?" Quinn asked in

puzzlement.

" In addition, Mother phoned me of how your mother has enlisted

you to corral my monster siblings. Since you'll be sparing me of that

unfashionable yoke, I'm willing to forgive you for not coming to me with

your. . .problem" Sandi insisted- as she pushed several large Cashman's

bags in Quinn's lap.

"Oh, that's so wonderful of you, Sandi! Does this mean you'll help

me by buying that sweater for Dad?" Quinn asked.

"No, my funds are marked for more noble purposes, but I will aid you

in your quest. Come with me, Ka-Winn, before someone fashionable sees

us at the Doorway Bench!" Sandi ordered as she breezed ahead of Quinn

while Quinn struggled with the Cashman's bags.

Upon reaching Sandi's convertable, Quinn put the bags in the

backseat.

"We only have ten minutes before I'm due home!"Quinn pleaded.

"If you could allow a little pay-tience, I could solve your

predicament," Sandi sneered- as she pressed a lever and opened her

convertable's trunk.

"You have something in your trunk? "Quinn gasped.

"If you prefer going home emptyhanded. ."Sandi sniffed.

"No, not at all. I'm very grateful for this," Quinn insisted.

Sandi started walking towards her trunk and Quinn followed her-

hoping it wasn't going to be a spare tire or jack she'd have to give

Jake. She was relieved. Sandi had totally emptied and cleaned her trunk

of everything save for one rather large bottle.

"Since your Dad's of the 'old school', he might appreciate some

classic scent! Could I have some assistance?" Sandi asked as she

motioned Quinn to help her take out the large bottle.

" 'Paul Bunyan's Blue Ox Aftershave'? Where did you get this?" Quinn

asked as she saw the gallon-sized bottle's label with a picture of the folklore lumberjack and ox and struggled with the bottle- complete with wheels on the bottom.

"Are you questioning the source of your salVAYtion, Ka-Winn?" Sandi

asked as they set it on the parking lot asphalt.

"I'd never do that, Sandi. Was it from that three day period

when you went retro?" Quinn asked.

"Ka-Winn!" Sandi boiled," For the millionth time, I, Sandi Griffin,

have NEVER 'gone retro'. I was in that revived classic attire because of that

mailroom mixup!"

"It just seems odd that 'Waif' would send you a 1947 issue and

you wouldn't see the date because it being covered by the address label-

for three days," Quinn pondered.

"In any case, at the time I purchased this gift, I thought it

would go for a good cause. That's all you need to know," Sandi

sighed as she swallowed a tear.

For a few moments, Sandi thought back to that time in which

she dressed up like a 1940's movie star with a blue silk shoulder-padded dress and ankle-strap pumps and presented this large bottle to. that feodoraed, zoot-suited, vintage-snob. .. Nathan.

"Sandi,you thought that I'd like this industrial swill? Nathan sneered.

"The clerk at Forgotten Scents said that it was a favorite of 1940's

Hollywood types," Sandi pleaded.

"For grips and set builders wanting to impress their floozies at the

automat by using this to cover up not taking the time to shower! You

may look like a less-perky version of a young Lauren Bacall, but you

don't have what it takes to be worthy of being seen with me!" Nathan

sneered as he abruptly opened the door, climbed in, then revved up his vintage convertable-leaving Sandi all alone as tears rolled down her cheeks.

"Um. Are you alright, Sandi?" Quinn asked.

"Fine! We need to get this wrapped and deposit you home. Luckily, I

always carry wrapping paper so when I unwrap my clothes, they'll look

even better than how the store wrapped them!" Sandi beamed as she and

Quinn wrapped the gallon-sized bottle.

"I never knew you'd purchase cologne in bulk," Quinn giggled.

"Expanded sample, Quinn! Expanded !" Sandi groaned.

"Hmm," Jane hmmed as the trio was rounding the corner.

"What? You think I should have done the sisterly thing and given

Quinn a break?" Daria asked.

"I didn't say anything. Just 'hmm'," Jane replied.

" Come on," Daria scoffed.

"Actually, I was going to ask about your cell-guard duty. Any

other odd calls?" Jane asked.

"Just a few recordings telling him he's won trips,"Daria replied.

"Speaking of trip. Wait til you girls hear what I've composed for

Mr. M's birthday!" Trent beamed.

"Trent, you want them to invite us back! " Jane cautioned.

" My folks do serve things found on the Food Pyramid!" Daria

added.

"Okay, I'll just save it for another time," Trent groaned while

Daria gave him a fraternal pat on the shoulder.

"Dear God," Daria sighed.

"You want me to sing?" Trent asked.

"No, look who my folks invited! The Yeagers," Daria groaned as

each group came within sight of the Morgendorffer driveway and she saw that orange VW Beetle pull up.

"Those are the people you fled like they were Ebola carriers?

Never knew you were a snob! You are Quinn's sister!" Jane scowled.

"Janey, don't dis Daria so quick. They look cool, though," Trent

surmised.

" I wasn't being a snob! I just knew that they and my folks

would try to fake being wild hippies- and I wanted no part of the

scene!" Daria scoffed.

"And that would explain why Helen invited us- so you couldn't flee to Casa Lane," Jane pondered.

"Daria, you sure have. ..matured since we last saw you! Who are your

compadres?" Coyote Willow asked as he got out of the car and bearhugged

her.

"Jane and Trent Lane," Daria replied- barely maintaining her

civility.

Daria thought about bolting but. .

"Hey, you two! How was your trip?" Jake asked as he bounded out of the Morgendorffer House in a suit while Ethan was exiting the driver's side of the VW Beetle.

"Not as great as the trips we used to take!"Coyote chortled while

Jake and Helen sheepishly did their best to cooly fake laughs.

"Oh, God," Daria groaned as she covered her face.

"Um.. he meant the trips we all took to the . .. Grand Canyon!

Right, Coyote?" Helen nudged while gritting her teeth-and nudging

Coyote.

"Whatever turns you on. .Er yeah. .we just loved that .. Grand

Canyon!" Coyote sheepishly replied.

"Say, where's Willow?" Helen asked.

"She's not up for travelling cos she's doing a bit of prenatal care-"Ethan started to say.

"Jane, Trent Lane, these are our old chums Coyote and Ethan Yeager!" Jake

introduced- while Jane's eyes suddenly enlarged.

" We met once! Mr. Yeager. ."Trent started.

"Please, dude. It's Coyote!" Coyote insisted.

" Didn't you and your wife used to sell turquoise rings with secret

compartments outside Taos?"Trent asked.

"That's right," Ethan replied.

" I remember my folks hiking with my older sisters and brother-

while Mom carried me in a knapsack like a papoose. She bought one of your

rings and I remember teethin' on it!" Trent insisted.

"Mom's always had unconventional nutrition ideas," Jane laughed.

"Come inside everyone! I've got dinner ready!" Helen invited.

"But can't I open the presents first , Helen?" Jake asked.

"Not until after dinner!" Helen insisted.

"You always make me wait for them, Christmas, Anniversary,

Father's Day! Today's my BIRTHday! Please ! Mom never put off my opening

presents. ..at least when Dad wasn't around,"Jake insisted.

"Oh, alright! We'll go inside the living room and open the presents!"

Helen boiled- not wanting the neighbors to see this scene.

The Lanes, Yeagers and all the resident Morgendorffers sans

Quinn went inside.

"What's inside the box, Helen? Come on, Helen! Don't make me guess!"

Jake insisted as he eagerly grabbed the large oblong box.

"Your dad's sure restrained,"Ethan commented under his breath to

Daria.

" I wish he were !" Daria shuddered.

"New golf clubs!" Jake eagerly enthused as he grabbed one out of

the bag.

"Titanium so you can't bend or break them in frustration . .Jake

NOT in the house!" Helen groaned as Jake he stopped his swing. .but not

in time to keep from shattering the fruit bowl atop the coffee table.

Daria shook her head and wished that she and the Lanes were

anywhere but there- and was jealous of Quinn for being late enough to

miss this.

"Dad, here's Tom's gift!" Daria deadpanned- not knowing what it was but hoping it would distract everyone else.

" It's an 1869 Union Pacific Transcontinental Locomotive! Man, that's

going to be smokin' on the Big Jake Express! Toot Toot!" Jake yelled

and pulled an imaginary whistle chain as he opened the package with the

model inside while Helen and Daria cringed.

"Jake, here's something Ethan made that we'd like you to have!"

Coyote added as he pulled out a breadbox sized hemp bag.

"Aw, a hemp bag? That's so rad !" Jake shouted with glee.

"No, Mr. Morgendorffer, it's what's inside !" Ethan droned while Jake took out a pair of sandals from the bag.

"Wow! These take me back! I love these! " Jake

enthused as he started to take off his shoes and socks and put the sandals on.

"Er. .Jake, you're in a suit," Helen admonished.

"But it's my birthday and this'll give me a chance to recapture my

youth! Look they fit my feet like gloves. How'dja remember my size was

10D?" Jake asked as he started running around the room in them.

" Mine,too," Ethan related.

Daria shook her head and shuddered for she knew what was coming

next.

"Say, these look just like the ones you wore last time you

visited us!" Jake proclaimed.

"Cos, they are! I quit wearing 'em when I kept slipping

in 'em while rock climbing," Ethan explained as everyone but Coyote

took notice of his bare feet.

"Cool!" commented Trent as he gave Ethan a thumbs up.

"You mean?! EWWWWW!!!" Jake shuddered as he quickly ripped the sandals

off his feet then crawled on his knees.

"I only wore 'em to funerals, weddings, family vacations," Ethan shrugged.

"Don't sweat it. He freaked over my toothbrush. Nothing personal,"

Trent scoffed while Jake had made his way on his knees to the kitchen

sink and had climbed atop it to wash and scrub his feet to Helen's

mortification.

"Um.. very thoughtful of you. Jake just didn't realize how much

they clashed with his suit, "Helen groaned.

"Mom recycles and thought it would be better he'd get 'em than a

stranger," Ethan shrugged.

Jake dried off his feet then rejoined the rest momentarily while

Daria buried her head in her hands thinking the only thing to do next

was.. .

"Here's something you might like,Dad," Daria said while she gave

Jake a package that he opened.

"'The New York Times Top 500 Crossword Puzzles of the 20th

Century!'- and you've done the hard parts already! Thanks, Kiddo!" Jake

enthused-having bounced back to Helen's relief.

Just outside the front door. .

"I don't think you'd be interested in Dad's birthday. His friends

are very UNfashionable," Quinn nervously chirped.

"Today, I feel that I must do my best to spread the fashion word .

Besides, are you saying that I'm good enough to risk getting worry lines

waiting for you, drive you to Cashman's then bestow upon you a gift for

your FAH-ther but not good enough to join your family inside?" Sandi

accused.

"Don't be. .."Quinn started to say before Sandi's cellphone rang.

"Mother? . .But I've just been invited to Ka-Winn's Dad's birthday

.. the Dresden china, Persian rugs. .. washing machine. .. surely Ka-Winn

could. .. No, Mother, I guess you are right about us not needing

witnesses to their DE-struction! I'll be home at my earliest

conVENience," Sandi groaned.

"I'm sorry you can't make it to Dad's birthday!" Quinn replied-

doing her best not to let on her relief over Sandi not attending.

"As long as I can provide enlightenment to your family's

otherwise pedestrian and tedious lives by my gift, it will be reward

enough- even in my absence!" Sandi grandly proclaimed as she drove off

while Quinn had just enough time to struggle with the gigantic wrapped

aftershave bottle- with its card previously attached that she had

hastily signed.

"Mom, I'm sorry I'm late but. .." Quinn gulped as she walked

into the house pushing a large wrapped box on its wheels.

"Quinn, this better be a good present or else!" Helen

thundered.

"Oh, it's something Dad will never forget!" Quinn chirped.

"Well, you missed the earlier part of the present opening so

you'll have to be last !" Helen boiled.

"Aw Helen, don't be so hard on her," Jake whined.

" Jake, being too easy on her has caused tons of problems!

We'll open Jane's present first," Helen seethed.

"Here's something from us Lanes to you Morgendorffers," Jane

enthused as she and Trent took out a very large framed package from the

Radio Flyer wagon.

"Yes, Helen," Jake sighed but then opened the outer paper and was

about to open the inner lining when. . .

"POPPIES!!" Jake and Quinn screamed with joy while Daria suddenly

froze and convulsively shook while Helen shuddered and Quinn bolted towards the

bubble wrap that Jake was already starting to pop the individual bubbles

within with their hands (and Jake with his toes).

"Jane, I know you didn't know, but the Morgendorffer gene has some

kind of defect when it comes to bubble wrap," Helen groaned.

"But, Daria isn'-." Jane said in puzzlement then Daria actually

lunged forward to the outer wrapping.

"Poh-pees/ Buh-ble wrap!" Daria sang to the tune of 'Row, Row, Row

Your Boat' and also started popping- with a cool but possessed expression on her face.

"Daria's tried to train herself to hold out but she's no match for

their magnetic pull. Well, you lasted ten seconds. A new record,honey!"

Helen groaned while Daria joined the others until every last bubble was

popped.

"HA! I popped the most because it was birthday and I could use my

toes!" Jake taunted in triumph.

"Allow me to open the rest of the package,"icily commanded Helen as

she pried the popped bubble wrap from the three genetic Morgendorffers'

fingers.

"It's a painting! Thanks, Jane!" Jake eagerly cheered upon seeing the

three by two foot oil on canvas work.

"What is it?" Coyote asked.

"It's my vision of the Morgendorffer Coat of Arms! Upper Left-Hand

Quadrant has Mr. Morgendorrfer's Golf Club Over Pasta. Upper Right-Hand

has Mrs. Morgendorffer's Attaché Case Over the Scales of Justice. Lower

Left-Hand has Daria's Glasses over Book. ." Jane explained.

"Dante's 'Inferno'! I like that!" Daria beamed with her Mona Lisa

smile emerging momentarily.

"And Lower Left Hand Corner is Quinn's Compact Over Credit

Card," Jane finished while Helen glared daggers at that part of the

painting.

"We can hang it on the mantle!" Jake enthused.

"Not just yet, one thing needs finishing!" Helen ascertained.

Before anyone could think to stop her, she pulled out a red magic

marker and from the coffee table drawer and made a 'not' symbol over

Quinn's Credit card.

" Now , it's true to life!" Helen beamed while Quinn shuddered.

" Can we open my gift now?" Quinn asked as she pulled the large

wheeled box into the room.

"Sure, my baby! That's some package there!" Jake beamed- as he opened the card.

Daria and Jane saw it and gulped. It depicted Nathan looking in a mirror accompanied by the written words 'Here's looking at me,kid!'

"I got it at Cashman's and. ." Quinn started to explain as Jake

unwrapped the gigantic bottle of Paul Bunyan's Blue Ox After Shave.

He started to look a little puzzled and confused.

"Jake, it's aftershave. Though, I've never seen men's aftershave in

such a huge bottle before," Helen tried to explain.

"I'm not . .sure about this, honey," Jake paused as he went a bit

pale.

"Just push down the damn pump on top and squirt it into your

hand," Helen insisted.

Jake did so with disastrous results.

"GAH!!" Jake gasped- along with everyone else in the room at the sickenly strong stench.

" Please no, Daddy! Mah-mee?" Jake called out in a tiny voice much

higher than before.

"DAD?!" Quinn screamed.

"Jake, speak to me!" Helen ordered but in a panicked tone.

"Dad? You okay?" Daria worriedly asked.

Jake suddenly sat down on the floor next to the bottle but didn't say

anything else.

"What's happening?!" Quinn screamed as she burst into tears.

"Oh, man! He's gotten himself into a bummer!" Coyote shuddered.

"Dad, didn't you once say he told you something about his

dad's doing something awful after he gave him cologne?" Ethan asked.

"Oh, yeah. Helen. Me and Jake were smoking her. . herring and

he said something about his old man REALLY going off on him when he was

about six after he gave his dad a present! I'd forgotten it was

cologne," Coyote shuddered.

"Jakey! Your father's dead, you're safe with me and all of us

here love and care about you!" Helen forcefully shouted.

Jake just stared blankly ahead.

"Dad, we've made all your favorites ! Have some manicotti and mint

chocolate chip cake!" "Quinn pleaded through her tears as she ran from

the dinner table with those items.

Even after Quinn blew their aromas into his nose, Jake still

just sat there.

"Looks like you've checked out of this world into one of your own.

I have to admit that sometimes tempts me but. ." Daria started to say.

"Daria! " Helen shouted,"She didn't mean it, Jake!"

At that moment the portable phone rang and Quinn quickly rushed to

answer it.

"Grandma Ruth! How's your canasta cruise and. .." Quinn nervously

asked before Helen grabbed the receiver.

"Oh fine, sweety! Is my Birthday Boy Jakey there?" the white

haired Ruth Morgendorffer holding a portable phone and wearing a muumuu,clogs and lei shouted over oil-drum calypso music on the party deck.

"Sorry, Ruth, but Jake's in a state of shock after getting some bad

aftershave as a gift from. .." Helen started to explain while Quinn

shook her head and waved her hands begging Helen not to say her name

silently.

"Someone here besides me, Daria, the Lanes and Yeagers."Helen

seethed.

"My poor baby boy!" Ruth cried.

"Anyway, he's not speaking or eating and we were wondering if you

might have any details or insight. Coyote Yeager seems to think it had

something to do with a bad event with your late husband and aftershave

when he was six," Helen asked.

"I can't really say! You know I'd move Heaven and Earth to help

out my Jakey but this cruise is pre-paid and nonrefundable so I'll

have to suffer alone without my family here. Anyway, when all else

fails, Jakey'll eat. .." Ruth explained.

"Apricot JelloÒ with extra skin!" Helen and Ruth said in unison.

"You remember! Now, can you put the phone up to Jakey's ear for

me?" Ruth asked.

"Jake, it's your mother! PLEASE try to say something!" Helen

pleaded.

"It's Mommy! Happy Birthday, Jakey! It breaks my heart to hear you're like this but

remember that Mommy loves you no matter what- even more now that you

can't backtalk. ." Ruth beamed over the phone to Jake's total

nonresponse.

" LIMBO!" someone on deck was heard to call in the background.

"Gotta go,Jakey! They've just lowered the limbo bar to 5 foot six

so I won't hit my head. Remember when it rains to wear your rubbers!"

Ruth exclaimed as she hung up and joined the limbo dance in progress.

"Eww!" exclaimed Quinn who could hear her.

" Galoshes , Quinn! That's Grandma's word for galoshes !" Daria

groaned.

"Whoa! I gotta split!" Trent shuddered.

"Trent, come back here, deadbeat!" Jane snarled as Trent left.

"I'm sure Trent has his reasons," Daria tried to explain.

"Oh, yeah! Typical. He just walks out and leaves us high and dry.

.." Jane ranted.

"After 22 years with nothing to show for it but the corns on your

feet and a rash. ." Daria countered doing her best Barch imitation imaginable.

"Oh, God! Did I go Barch ?" Jane asked.

"It's okay! Now I can hold this over you instead of doling out

hush money!"Daria quipped.

At that moment, Trent burst into burst into the room out of breath

but carrying his guitar.

"Trent how'd you run to our house then back here carrying your

guitar?" Jane asked.

"It's an emergency so I did what I had to," Trent replied.

" But it's blocks away," Daria noted.

" Hey, I don't believe in streets, sidewalks and fences so I took

a shortcut!" Trent responded.

"Please, give it a try!" Helen pleaded.

Trent strummed a few cords on his guitar then sang:

"I know you want to stay where you are/

But we don't want you to go too far/

We want back here with us Mister M/

Please come home and let us know ya again!"

For the next half-hour, Trent sang to everyone's desperation then. .

"Please no, Dad! Mah-mee?!" Jake uttered in his most childish

voice.

"Jake, you're back!" Helen cheered as she, Quinn, Coyote and

Trent all hugged him.

"Dad?" Daria asked- as she realized he was still stuck in that

memory.

"You know 'LA Woman'?" Coyote asked Trent.

"Dad, I think that's a few years after Mr. Morgendorffer's

memory," Ethan explained.

" I know but it'd have been cool to hear again!" Coyote mused.

"Jane, Trent, I want to thank you for all you've done trying to

help Mr. Morgendorffer out of this but. .it may be more than any of us can handle.

Here's some manicotti for you to take home!" Helen insisted as she put

two large plastic containers in their hands.

"Thanks for trying, Trent,"almost everyone else echoed.

"No, thanks, Mrs. Morgendorffer. I just can't eat right now,"

Trent groaned.

"Me either but it couldn't hurt for us to take it home when our

hunger DOES overpower all other thought!" Jane considered.

"Thanks for your gifts and for being here!" Helen sighed.

"Before I go, Quinn. Just out of curiosity. Where did you get

that. . unusual card?" Jane pondered.

"It came with the bottle. Why do you ask?" Quinn asked.

"No reason. Just wondered if you'd have been interested in

someone like him," Jane shrugged.

"Schoolbus yellow coat and hat, greasy hair? EWWWW! Puh-LEEZE!

I can't even imagine Daria being such a total and desperate loser as

to want that ! Hello! Worse than tweed with elbow patches!" Quinn shuddered.

" I can't thank you enough for your insight," Jane icily replied.

" Jane, Trent, sorry we had to meet like this but it was good

meeting you two," Ethan said as he shook the Lanes' hands.

"Cool. Keep the faith, man!" Trent replied as he was shaking

Ethan's hand.

"Likewise, maybe we'll meet again!" Jane pondered with a noticable

smile.

" I'll get back when I can," Daria insisted as the Lanes

sadly left the house.

"Quinn, do we have the JelloÒ ?" Helen asked.

"Skin and all, Mom!" Quinn replied as Helen put a spoonful to

Jake's lips- and he actually did take it in his mouth, swish it around

and swallowed it but without the slightest change in his vacant

expression.

"At least you won't starve, Jake!" Helen consoled.

" Should we make a DependsÒ run?" Daria asked.

" I have an idea! Coyote, Ethan, would you carry Jake up to our

bedroom so we can. . talk!"Helen insisted while giving her daughters a

warning look.

"Sure! Ethan, you know what to do," Coyote insisted as he

stretched his arms overhead,grabbed his hands together while Ethan

lifted the seated Jake off the floor, flung him headfirst over his

right shoulder while grabbing Jake's knees with his elbow, then started

walking towards the stairs.

"Wow! You sure are strong, Ethan! How are you able to carry Dad so

easily?" Quinn gushed while Ethan started climbing the stairs.

"Practice," Ethan laconically replied while momentaily shooting

Coyote a steely glare.

Helen followed them up the stairs, with her daughters and Coyote

behind her.

"Ethan, just put Mr. Morgendorffer on the bed and close the door

behind you on your way out while we talk ! Quinn, why don't you and

Daria play Trivial PursuitÒ with the Yeagers for a while," Helen ordered

as she slammed the door shut.

"Mo-om, I don't wanna. .." Quinn pleaded.

In a moment, Ethan exited and suddenly was heard Jefferson

Airplane's '(Don't You Want) Somebody to Love' blasting from the

parental stereo in their bedroom.

"DARIA! CAN YOU AND ETHAN TEACH ME HOW TO PLAY?" Quinn shouted with intense discomfort and embarassment.

"SURE, SIS! WHAT COLOR PIE WHEEL DO YOU WANT?" Daria asked.

"GREEN!" shouted Ethan.

For the next fifteen minutes, the girls and Ethan played the game

while doing their best to shout their moves over the repeated playings

of 'Somebody to Love'.

"Something bugging ya besides Mr. M's shut-down?" Trent asked Jane as they

were walking back to Casa Lane dragging the wagon behind them.

"Trent, I know you meant well but thanks for nothing with your

caterwauling!" Jane sneered.

"Whoa, Janey! You'd better be careful not to say what you don't mean!

" Trent snapped.

"But I do mean it! There Mr. Morgendorffer was all vegged out and

you had to croak and twang," Jane boiled.

"Music's my life and I thought I could grab onto Mr. M's soul

before it went over the edge. I had to try ," Trent groaned.

"Trent, there's a time and place for everything and. .." Jane

snapped.

" You want me to bury my soul when it could save someone we care

about?" Trent gasped.

"Oh, yeah, something that barely gets your foot in toxic dives'

doors on amateur night's gonna do that," Jane scoffed.

"Janey, you of all people know that art's not done to bleed the masses but to free the soul," Trent pleaded.

"There you go with 'soul' again! What a thankless night this

turned out to be," Jane fumed.

"Everyone in that house who could did thank me for doing my best

to help Mr. M- even Daria's sister," Trent snapped.

"Real cool, Trent! Putting Quinn on a pedestal above me-

even after you heard her call me a bigger loser than Daria!"Jane

sarcastically spat.

"Daria's no loser and neither are you, Janey- even now but you put

out feelers by asking her if she'd go out with Nathan,"Trent

seethed.

" Just can't get enough of your support, Trent,"Jane groaned.

" Hey, things'll open up for you real soon and. ." Trent started

to say.

" Don't need pity, Trent- and I don't need you ! Your 'music' holds me back! I can't count the sculptures and paintings that got shattered and streaked by that noise" Jane exploded.

"Whoa! I've never complained about your paint fumes but, if that's how you want it, you won't have me around to dump on anymore. I'm moving out!" Trent countered- as they entered Casa Lane and Trent slammed the door in her face.

Jane unlocked the front door then stormed to his locked door.

"How? Where? You think I care ? You're wrong, Deadbeat! I've

taken care of us both since I could walk and I can take care of me solo

without you banging around!" Jane boiled as shouted to the locked door.

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE CORRECT ANSWER IS BELGIUM?"Quinn shouted in reply to Daria's reading the Trivial PursuitÒ card.

"DON'T ARGUE WITH THE. ..!" Daria started to shout but at that

very moment the endless loop of that Jefferson Airplane song stopped

blasting from the stereo in the parental bedroom- over six hours after it had started.

The Morgendorffer daughters along with the Yeagers froze in

anticipation despite their intense mutual discomfort at trying not to

imagine what might have been happening behind that bedroom door.

"Don't you WANT somebody to LOVE, JAKEY!?"Helen wailed as she was

heard bursting into tears.

"In spite of my serious revulsion at what I might see, something

tells me I need to go upstairs and . . knock,"Daria gulped as Ethan,

Coyote then Quinn followed her singlefile.

"Uh, Mom, Dad? May we come in" Daria asked.

"The door's unlocked. No point in delaying picking up the wreckage

of a beautiful bond," Helen sobbed.

Daria slowly opened the door and saw Helen quickly tying the sash

of her knee-length red silk robe and sobbing on the bed. Jake was still

on the floor with his suit somewhat more wrinkled than before but an

unchanged expression while Helen looked entirely drained- emotionally

and physically.

"Mom, are you alright?" Quinn gulped.

"No! I did my best, girls. ." Helen started.

"Eww!" Quinn and Daria replied simultaneously while shaking

their shoulders to shudder.

"But all your father did was repeat that phrase 'Please no, Daddy!

Mommy?'- in 37 minute increments," Helen groaned.

"Man, that's some flashback!" shuddered Coyote.

"Not that you would have personal knowledge of one, right

Dad?" sarcastically sighed Ethan.

"Ethan, at least your father's with you," Helen berated.

"Hold on, now. Helen, I think the boy's got some idea and. ."

Coyote replied.

"I'm sorry but I'm going to have to get professionals on this

one first thing in the morning. This has been just about the WORST day

of my life. Goodnight, everyone!" Helen groaned as Quinn and, yes, Daria

actually came up to her and hugged her tight.

Even Daria could see that Helen needed that reassurance.

"Goodnight, Dad. We're here for you even if you aren't,"

sniffed Quinn as she and Daria clutched his lifeless hands.

"[SIGH]!" sighed Quinn.

Daria was roused from her half-sleep she'd had in the sleeping bag

on Quinn's floor but tried to ignore Quinn.

"Ahem, [SIGH]!" sighed Quinn even more loudly than before.

"Okay, Quinn! What is it?" Daria snapped.

"Are you asleep?"Quinn asked.

"No, I'm racing huskies in the Iditarod over Alaskan tundra but the one thing that's keeping me going is thinking how to dump you into the nearest crevasse if you don't let me sleep," Daria groaned.

"I just need someone to talk to," Quinn sighed.

"Alright or I'll never get any sleep and you won't see another

sunrise!" Daria groaned.

"Do you think that, at this moment, Ethan's dreaming of me?" Quinn

asked.

" Oh, Dear God. Just when I think there could be a limit to your

solipsism. .." Daria shuddered.

" I mean, here I am just across the hall and- in spite of all

that's happened tonight- I can't help but think of him," Quinn

reflected.

"Quinn, why are you interested in him? Your Fashion Fiends would

burn you together at the stake and his disdain for footwear wouldn't get

him past the front door of Chez Pierre or Cranberry Commons," Daria pondered.

" But didn't you see how he so easily carried Dad up the stairs

and wasn't he smart at Trivial PursuitÒ ?" Quinn beamed.

"He hardly said more than three sentences to you the whole evening-

and he even talked to Trent more, "Daria considered.

"You think they were talking about me?" Quinn asked.

Daria gave Quinn her best glare in spite of the two being in

near-total darkness and Daria's vision being naturally blurred sans

glasses.

"I'll grant that he was quite helpful,"Daria

considered.

"Daria, are you interested?" Quinn gasped.

"Just because Tom's in Switzerland this next week doesn't mean . "

Daria scoffed.

"That's good to hear because we'd make a very good-looking

couple. He's sent me a token of his affection, you know, " Quinn giggled.

"Quinn, Mom's shut herself with Dad in their room , Dad's vegged

out and God knows what's going to happen to him tomorrow. How can you

just think drivel at a time like this?"Daria shuddered.

"Because if tomorrow's going to be bleak beyond our control what else

is there to do tonight? Pleasant dreams. ..Sis!" Quinn sighed.

"Goodnight, Quinn," Daria sighed and considered that Quinn might

actually have a valid point after all.

Hours later, Daria dreamt that Tom had opened the door of her

room,then soundlessly and wordlessly walked up to her bed, bent down with puckered lips and was about to plant a kiss when. .Daria opened her eyes- and, in spite of

her naturally blurred vision, realized that she was on the floor in

Quinn's room. Quinn was tossing and turning and quite restless.

"So that's how the other half-percentage sleeps, " Daria thought.

Then Daria herself went back to sleep and hoped to resume her dream

but fate wouldn't be so kind this time.

Sometime later, Daria heard the front door slam shut- and, quickly crawled to the bed then nudged Quinn while hurriedly trying to remember where on the floor she'd

put her glasses. Quinn peered out her window and saw two men carrying the prone, expressionless Jake into a van decorated with balloons, lassos and the words 'Birthday

Buckaroos!' on the side while Helen was walking with him and climbing

into the van. The Yeagers' Beetle was no longer parked in the driveway.

"Dad?! Mo-om?! What's going on?" Quinn bolted out of her room and

down the stairs in her pink nightgown while the van screeched away with her

parents.

"Quinn, what's happening?" Daria in her t-shirt and boxers asked in a panic after she

found her glasses that she had put on Quinn's nightstand and ran downstairs to join Quinn.

The two Morgendorffer sisters stood barefoot in their driveway

in stunned silence.

" Where's Ethan?" Quinn gulped.

" I guess the Yeagers left before this happened. Right now we

need to. ." Daria attempted to order as they both reached the driveway

empty but for Helen and Jake's vacant vehicles.

" He left without saying goodbye?!" Quinn said on the verge of tears.

"Dad would have if he. .QUINN! Dad's been taken by goons at

Mom's command and you're thinking about some guy who barely talked to

you? Hit me so I can wake up from this recurring nightmare!" Daria

groaned.

Quinn did so.

"OWW! Those carrot sticks must have more iron than I thought,"

Daria gulped as she rubbed her newly sore left arm.

"Daria, I love him! Opposites distract!" Quinn boiled.

"They sure do ! I'm in no mood to argue. We need to get back

inside and plan how to find Dad again!" Daria groaned as the two padded

back inside their house.

"And soon after that, Mom called on her cell and told us one of

her clients did her a 'favor' by committing Dad with no publicity. All

weekend, we tried to pump her for info but she wouldn't budge,"Daria

explained to Jane that Monday between classes in front of their lockers.

"Well, Jake sounds in good hands being kept by folks who needed

a law firm to save their butts!"Jane snapped.

"That's what I tried to tell Mom but she's convinced that a few

days of their therapy and feeding him Apricot JelloÒ with extra skin

should do the trick- and refuses to listen to us,"Daria groaned as

she took Burke's 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' out of her

locker.

"Anything else happen?" Jane asked.

"Nah, Quinn spent the whole weekend on a killer babysitting spree.

I rarely saw her. Thus, I could do my term paper without having to

listen to her moon about Ethan's departure," Daria scoffed.

" The Yeagers left early?" Jane queried-a bit tensely..

" Sometime in the wee hours before Dad's alien abduction. What a

weekend. Who'd have thought that working on that term paper would be my

only escape and Dad's birthday party would be the nadir?" Daria

shuddered.

"Funny how expectations rarely pan out," Jane scoffed.

"Side-splitting hilarious!" Daria groaned.

"So you've not had the chance to find Jake since the Roswell twins

beamed him away," Jane pondered.

"Despite my snooping through Mom's legal briefs about her clients-no. I wish I could find out something," Daria groaned.

"Well, it may not be too long before I'm gone myself. The

minute I've got diploma in hand, I'm taking off to sketch my way

across the country carrying only my sketchbook, a change of underwear and hygiene items in my backpack," Jane pondered.

"We don't own a car so that rules out us Thelma and Louise-ing,"

Daria scoffed.

"Who said it was 'we'? I'm going solo- at least as far

far as New Mexico- then become the 21st Century Georgia O'Keefe!" Jane beamed.

"Solo? We could spend a few weeks on a road trip before college

and," Daria considered.

"College? You'll find a good one and hook up with pods of fellow brains. Me? I don't have the grades and I sure as Hell don't have the funds. If I don't do this, my Lawndale careers will be 'paper or plastic' or 'fries with that'! I've gotta find a new muse. There's no one here for me anymore!" Jane snarled.

"Jane. .." Daria started to say.

"I know you're here but come September, you'll go to your new

life and I'd be all alone here. Ironic,eh?" Jane laughed in a

strange tone.

" Look, I know your folks are even more clueless than mine but

what about Trent?" Daria asked.

"He can go to Hell!" Jane snapped.

"What?! Jane. ." Daria sputtered.

"I don't wanna talk about it," Jane seethed.

"Okay, we can. .." Daria started to say.

" We got into a major blowout after the party and he moved out!"

Jane explained.

"Moved out?" Daria asked.

"To the garage. He thinks I'm going to break down and beg him to

come back into the house but I don't need him!" Jane snapped.

"Jane!" Daria exclaimed in a rare tone of shock.

" He's working on something out there," Jane replied.

"What?" Daria asked.

"How the Hell should I know. I don't care if they're planning the

next Bum-Aid Concert and I couldn't care less what he and his

deadbeat cronies are doing- at least while Jesse's visiting his

grandparents' Ecuadorian hacienda," Jane scorned.

"Jane, don't throw away. . ." Daria started to say.

" Oh, Miss Sister Slash Cousinhood is going to tell me how to

live! That's just jiggy, amiga ! "snarled Jane as she ran off and left Daria

even more alone than before.

"Dad, I wish there was a way to reach inside you. You don't know

how much I miss scoffing at your nonsense," Daria said aloud to herself

as she closed her locker.

"Daria?" a voice called out.

"Who's that?" Daria asked as she turned around and saw a blonde

girl with a large bang over her right eye and patched jeans approach her.

"Karen Disher, " Karen replied.

"I've. . .never heard you speak before. Sorry but I was having a

private conversation with. . .myself," Daria groaned.

"Daria, I know I've been in the background this whole time at

Lawndale but don't count us background folks out. You say you want to

get your Dad back? Meditation might be helpful. My boyfriend's heard what happened and can help," Karen insisted.

"Your boyfriend ?" Daria asked.

"You'd be surprised the kinds of lives we background people lead.

Did you know Andrea can do 300 birdcalls?"Karen insisted.

"Oh, God! Why. .?" Daria considered.

"I don't have much time before my next class but I have nothing to

gain by lying or misleading you. I'll give you a ride to where my

boyfriend's at after school," Karen pleaded.

"I know that I shouldn't logically be going with someone I've

never talked to before to a place I've never been to meet someone I

don't even know but maybe just this once I should just let faith guide

me. Dear God, what an unbelievable character development I've had here!"

Daria groaned.

" I know quite a bit about character development and direction," Karen laughed.

" I'll meet you in the parking lot after school. Don't you have

something to produce?" Daria asked.

"Directly," Karen insisted as she walked off.

Daria was about to go to Mr. O'Neill's class when Ms. Claire DeFoe

approached her.

"Daria, could I see you for a minute?" Ms. DeFoe asked.

"But I'm not in your class anymore, "Daria protested.

" I know but maybe you could help shed some insight. I had planned

to ask Jane but I can't find her anywhere," Ms. DeFoe explained.

Daria followed the single teacher who was simultaneously

competant and sincerely caring for her students' welfare at Lawndale

back to her classroom.

" I assigned the class to sketch this cluster of grapes but Jane

did something additional, "Ms. DeFoe pondered as she pointed to a cluster of black seedless grapes suspended from the ceiling by a wire.

The two of them stood before Jane's fresh colored-pencil sketch with mouths agape.

Jane had sketched herself as Cleopatra standing over the corpse of the

deposed pharaoh- her brother Ptolemy XIII clutching a lyre to his chest. Ptolemy's

face was Trent's. Cleopatra and Marc Anthony each had a foot on Ptolemy's

torso and Marc Anthony was thrusting a knife through Ptolemy's back that

went clear through and pierced the lyre. Cleopatra was simultaneously

feeding Marc Anthony the cluster of grapes while sneering at Ptolemy's

corpse. Marc Anthony's face was that of Ethan Yeager.

"I know Jane's art is supposed to be a safe venting of her

strongest emotions into an inspiration but this is somewhat disturbing,"

Ms. DeFoe gulped.

"Yeah, Jane forgot that it was Caesar instead of Anthony

who offed Ptolemy for Cleo!" Daria gulped.