Slow to Town
Daria and related characters belong to Viacom. All hail Viacom.
Dedicated to Mr. Anonymous and Ruthless Bunny
A Trent vignette, taking place during The Road Worrier in Season 1
by Medea42 are intended for adults
tossed draft sheets in the air while the collective Mystik Spiral
stared at her
stomping back. Nick had said something about the spiral drifting
left to represent the exploration of the band's dark angst, Max
it flow to the right based on zen energy principle, and in the middle
philosophical discussion (Nick yelling "left!" while Max yelled
interrupted by Jane's scream, toss, and retreat (1). Trent
exhaled into the stunned silence.
"Should I go talk to her?" Jesse offered. He was the one who had asked Jane for a design.
"No," Trent said. "I'm her brother, I'll go talk to her." He knew that when Jane went off, she really went off at him, not the guys, no matter how stupid the argument. Jane was still a little raw from the near foreclosure a few months back, and she had become particularly vocal about Trent's lack of a day job.
Trent hopped up the stairs two at a time and shut the door behind him in the vain hope that it might block the ensuing yelling. The sound of Jesse's rhythm guitar trailed his back, blocking any sound from the kitchen; Jesse got the situation pretty well. "Janey, both covers are good. Why don't you just make one of each and we'll figure it out ourselves?"
Jane had her fists balled up and her lungs full of scream. "No Trent, that's it! I quit! This is the fifth band you've been in since you were twelve! You're never gonna go anywhere, and I'm going to get stuck supporting your ass! You can't even organize these guys enough to pick right or left --- for God's sake, pick a direction!"
Trent looked at the floor. "Janey, give us time –"
"What do you want me to say, Trent? All that crap about how you're my big brother and I believe in you? I can't even finish an art project, or get a good night's sleep because of all this time you're wasting on bad music!"
Ouch. "No – you know I count on you to tell me the truth."
"Well I'm telling you the truth now. Give UP Trent – you and Jesse and Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dummer down there are nothing but a bunch of townies that can't even play Doors covers." Jane stormed upstairs. Trent froze for a moment, still locked in the onslaught of Jane's fears before he shrugged it off and returned to the basement.
The gig the next night did not help. Trent looked out in the audience and saw in the crowd Tommy Sherman(2), Curtis Stalato and Beverly Haddock. All were in his graduating class. Jesse saw what Trent saw. At their break in the sets, Jesse took one look out in the audience, hopped off the stage and had two shots of Wild Turkey waiting for Trent when he caught up to him at the bar. Neither needed to say a word: all three of their former classmates were their to celebrate their college graduation.
Beverly locked on Trent and caught him in her straight-ahead approach before he could escape into a stage excuse. "Hi Trent."
"Hi," Trent answered, frozen like a rabbit by a snake under Beverly's straight-on gaze. Trent remembered her from his biology lab; she was the girl that shrieked when Ms. Barch put a tarantula on the lab table in front of her. Jesse earned the only A ever given by Barch to a male since her divorce for hitting Bev upside the head with a dead earthworm he chose to play "cowboy" with during a dissection. Beverly had signed her own death warrant when she asked Barch when she could start testing lipstick on bunnies. She'd had five years to gain evil since then. Trent dreaded whatever might come from her mouth next.
"So, I see what you've been doing lately." Beverly gestured to the stage before handing her drink off to the bartender.
She moved in closely, trailing her hand down the
Trent's shirt before she stood on tiptoe to whisper in his
ear: "I knew you and that dumbass Jesse would wind up a couple of
losers." With that, she ran her fingers through her hair to show off a
diamond ring on her left hand, swallowed her drink in one shot, giggled
off. Jesse appeared beside Trent
in that moment, holding another Wild Turkey. Pep talk later, drink now
was the language of Jesse.
Max and Nick volunteered to break set themselves that night. "Walk it off," Nick told them. "Just get it away from me." Nick was going through the phases of Narcotics Anonymous (4); he dealt with the bar, but even exhaled alcohol fumes made him twitchy.
"We'll get you your ax back in the morning," Max promised as he unceremoniously shoved Trent and Jesse out of the van in front of Trent's house.
Jane was still up, watching "Sick Sad World" in the living room when Trent and Jesse stumbled over the threshold. Normally, she would have just gone upstairs and watched TV in her room, but this time she chose to just hang out and listen to the drunken jabber. The manager had approached Jesse about replacing the Rabid Dingoes for a couple weeks and Jesse wanted to talk about them, rather than ghosts of high school past. "What happened to them?" Trent asked.
Jesse managed to look disapproving and happy at the same time. "They signed a contract."
"Really?" Trent wasn't aware Lawndale had any agents roaming all three of the clubs.
"For a marketing agency! All they do is advertising jingles now!" Jesse burst out laughing. The Rabid Dingoes had been bogarting Mystik gigs for months; now they suddenly abandoned the battle for studio stools and the Almighty Dollar.
Trent snorted. "Sell-outs."
"I can feel it, Trentsch – Mystik Spiral has the vibe, it's gonna be our ticket," Jesse slurred.
Ah, the drunken pep talk had begun. "That's right. We just gotta shtay fixed on our goal," Trent agreed.
"Right man – we just gotta pay our dues!" agreed Jesse, throwing his arm in the air in an attempt to emphasize his statement.
just rolled her eyes and moved out of the way of Jesse's flailing arm.
you're going to pay dues, don't you have to register as a member?"
Trent's answer was swallowed by the pizza Wild Turkey-soaked pizza he'd eaten before the gig returning for an encore – all over Jesse's shirt.
Somewhere after the morning hangover, Jesse recovered enough to bring up a trip. "Nick got four tickets to Alternapalooza.(3)"
Trent played a quick arpeggio on his acoustic and shifted the phone to his other ear. "How are we gonna get there?"
Jesses had it covered. "Max has to work, and Nick
visitation. so Max said we can take the Tank– all in the name of
Trent pondered. Sounded like all the bases were covered, except for one thing. "Doesn't that thing cost like twenty dollars to fill up?"
Jesse paused. New detail. "Yeah."
"And Alternapalooza's in Suitsville, right?"
"Yeah…" Jesse was starting to grasp the complication. "So that's probably about forty bucks round trip."
"At least. How much did we make from last night's gig?" Trent had not bothered to count in his condition.
"So that's like, less than forty for each of us to cover gas and food and we don't have a gig next weekend to cover other expenses." Trent processed the numbers(5). He had to sleep sixteen hours a day to control his budget.
"Maybe we can find someone to go with us," Jesse proposed.
"Let's see," Trent agreed. At least Jesse did not propose randomly finding a couple of girls. The last time he agreed to that plan, they wound up listening to Debbie Gibson's greatest hits and never got as far as unfastening a bra. There wasn't enough alcohol in the world to vaporize that memory.
Opportunity rang the doorbell the next day during a pause in Trent and Jesse's practice. "Is someone else coming over?" Jesse asked as they tuned up their guitars.
"Just Daria – Jane's friend," Trent said.
"What's she like?" Jesse asked.
"She seems pretty cool," Trent said. "She's really smart," he added. She probably thinks guys like us are a couple of townie losers.
"Hey," said Jesse as the idea formed, "Maybe Jane and her friend can come with us to Alternapalooza."
The spark fired in Trent's head. "Yeah, but Jane's been pissy lately. Let's just make sure we ask them the right way."
"What's the right way?" Jesse still found approaching Jane confusing, particularly since the time she decided to use the ends of his hair to test dye colors when he passed out in the living room.
"Make them come to us," said Trent, reaching down to the amplifier and cranking it to full volume. "The glue gun should be warm by now, so just wait for it –" he said, strumming strings for no other purpose than noise value.
The door swung open as Trent belted the lines through his whiskey cut voice:
"You're an angel in black/And you sure have the knack –" out of the corner of his eye, he saw the basement door swing open with Jane and Daria looking somewhat in pain.
Trent kept singing, forcing Jane to get his attention "Yo! Trent! "
Trent counted to four before he "noticed" the girls.
"You wanna turn it down a bit?" He probably ruined one of Jane's junkyard contraptions with the opening chord.
"Are you kidding?" Daria and Jane's presence proved Max and Jesse's theory that the louder the guitars, the better the results.
"Hey Daria." Warm up the focus group, too.
Daria seemed to be suffering from sound shock. The first time an eardrum caved in under sound, it could cause her level of disorientation. "What do you think of the song?" Daria was smart. She should give good feedback.
"Um, cool." Or maybe she could respond with sound but no feedback, like a decently wired microphone. Except when a microphone did that, that was the desired result. Or didn't do that. Uh, yeah.
"It's called Icebox Woman," he told her. Come on Daria talk. Help Jesse and me break the ice before Jane breaks our balls.
Jesse grabbed the moment to take the direct approach. "You guys oughta come to our next Mystik Spiral gig. We'll put you on the list." Trent suspected that their guest list usually outnumbered the actually audience and definitely outnumbered those who came to the club for the specific purpose of hearing them play. But hey, two more bodies in the audience – besides, Jane was his sister, she'd show no matter what she actually thought.
"Daria thinks that the name Mystik Spiral sounds like a Doors cover band that plays in brew pubs, don't ya, Daria?" So it wasn't just Jane upset over Trent's recent failings; they really did project a going-nowhere image.
"Hmmm…. maybe you're right. Would it help if we spelled it with two ys?" Trent never did like Mystik Spiral as a band name to begin with; it seemed so vanilla and post-sixties. With all due homage to the late greats of the Doors, Queen and Pink Floyd, he needed something that hooked into the spirit of right now.
Jesse picked up his cue without needing a prod from the clue stick. "We doing a show this weekend?"
"Nah, we're going to Alternapalooza this weekend."
Jane looked interested and envious. Daria seemed to recede while standing right in front of them. "You're going to Alternapalooza?"
Jesse continued his performance. "Yeah, it's way out in Suitsville."
"You think your car will make it?" Jane saved Trent from needing to manipulate the conversation further. He only hoped that Jesse was reading the situation as well as he was.
"We're borrowing our drummer's van. The Tank. It's indestructible." Indeed, Jesse was reading the signals as though someone were holding up cue cards behind the girls.
Just one more little tweak, and they'd be done. "Yeah, but you know Jesse, it eats gas. I don't know what we're going to do about gas money." Please, please let Jane buy this.
Jane jumped at the chance. "I could probably scrounge some up. If you'd let us come along. We'd enjoy that, wouldn't we Daria?"
Daria looked as though she would most certainly not enjoy it. "Uh huh."
Trent wondered for a flickering moment if Daria was more suburban than she looked. He hoped not. The road trip in Max's van might kill her if she was. "Okay, cool, we're there." He smiled at Daria, hoping to reassure her. "If you can stand being cooped up in a van with Jess and me for four hours." They were, after all, a couple of smelly townie losers with delusions of professional music.
Jesse came out of his parents' house, shirt free and hair waving in the breeze. Trent momentarily feared a repeat of the night before, when Jesse wanted to know if he had enough product in his flowing brown locks. When Jesse's shower worked, he took full advantage of boosting his male beauty. Jesse's grunt as he pulled the van door shut reassured Trent of both his friend's sobriety and that he could stay free of any excess pretty-boy conversation.
Jesse had other concerns. "Are you sure Daria's up for the way we do things, man?"
"What do you mean?" Trent didn't think there was a particular way that he and Jesse did things. They gathered what resources they could gather and then attempted a direction with it. He pushed from his mind their failure to build enough momentum to leave Lawndale by now.
"She dresses like she doesn't care but if you look close, at her edges, she seems kinda… I dunno, soft. Like she's used to riding in her dad's Lexus and sitting on couches without stuff spilled on it."
Trent thought of Daria's reactions to the melee of Casa Lane. She seemed to like the disorder. "I'm sure she'll be OK. She's over at our house often enough."
At the sight of the Morgendorffer house, Jesse muttered "I don't know," before he slid the van door open. Trent realized Jesse was going to pay very close attention to Daria that day no matter what he said.
I wonder if I should warn Daria about the low ceiling in the van crossed Trent's mind just as her head connected with the ceiling. "Ow!" she exclaimed.
"Watch your head," Trent warned her by reflex. Yup, Jesse's gonna watch her like a hawk he thought as he started the van.
Trent doubted he had any quarters in his pocket, and Jesse's pants fit to tightly for him to carry change. "Hey Janey, got any change?" If they had exact change they could save a few minutes passing through the toll lanes instead of waiting in line at a change station.
Jane snapped back, "Hey Trent, got any shame?" Yep, despite the benefit of the concert, Jane was still mad. Money figured into why she was mad, so asking her for something that minor probably did not help. "I gave you all my cash before we left, remember?"
Trent chose not going to snap back – he and Jesse could not be on this trip without Daria and Jane. He momentarily forgot his anger when he looked into the booth to see Curtis Stalato in the dollar booth collecting tolls.
Trent remembered walking down the hall with a group of guys, Curtis among them. While he could not remember what started the conversation, he remembered Curtis, carrying a book, smiling and saying "I have an exact C average. I am exactly average – not a brain, not a moron. Nice, and safe, and average." Curtis's C average landed him at a highway toll booth. Fear crawled into Trent's belly. He had to tell Jesse.
"Hey man, that was Curtis Stalato back in that toll booth."
"Who?" Jesse knew few people outside of the bands they played in high school. He had spent his time either practicing, working out or showing up at class when someone forced him. When he was in class, Jesse was usually listening to the music in his head --- when not wondering what Lady Madonna looked like, lying on her bed.
"He graduated with us. Now he's working in a toll booth. Wow." Trent wondered if his future meant eventually warming a seat in a toll booth, faking smiles at crabby drivers all day long. He could be more than a townie, he could be a townie in a box. Momentarily he compared himself to Daria; her future came pre-packaged, all she had to do was open and consume whatever college acceptance letter fell out of it.
"You'd never catch me in a job like that," mostly because Jesse would have to wear a shirt to a job like that. Besides, he and Jesse would have to have jobs to get caught in one.
"Hey man, we're artists. Who knows where we'll be in five years." Most artists have to spend time working a circuit to move forward. Staying in Lawndale came as a conscious choice, he and Jesse made that choice together right after finding Nick on the roadside six months ago.
"We've got a vision." Jesse had a vision. He just needed to find a way to communicate it to the rest of Mystik Spiral.
"Eyes on the prize man, eyes on the prize." The winner gets a ticket out of Lawndale and never, ever has to see a former classmate ever again!
"Yeah, and this band's not about selling out."
Jane interrupted their mantra. "Because for that to happen, you'd need someone interested in buying!" she looked sideways at Daria. "Well someone had to pick up the slack!" So his guess was right; Daria and Jane both saw a pair of townies tooling towards the big concert in a crappy borrowed van. Trent could feel Jesse cringe with him. Jesse cared at least as much as Trent what Jane thought about their lives and success – he wanted to succeed just as much for Jane's sake as Trent did. Trent picked a bump in the road and aimed hoping that his sister might nail her head on the ceiling and be rendered, temporarily, unconscious. Daria wound up as collateral damage in his assassination attempt, and the poor girl had peanut butter on her ass to show for it. Obviously, Daria did not qualify for the artist's life – or the life of a couple of townies in a van.
Trent pulled into the diner parking lot and thanked his lucky stars that Daria did not suffer a bee-sting allergy. Alan Thomas got stung at Monique's graduation party, and the guy's lips swelled to three times the capacity of his face before they got him to a hospital. Daria seemed a touch whiny for the wear, but not too bad considering the injuries she sustained as a novice road-tripper. Her exchange with the waitress reassured Trent that Daria could indeed adapt, survive and continue her sarcasm unchecked.
"You kids going to that rock'n'roll shindig out there in Suitesville?" The diner was otherwise populated with men in baseball hats with tractor marks and women in big shirts and stretch pants out for a Saturday coffee.
"No. We made a wrong turn on our way to Paris." Trent had to laugh. Daria was a funny, funny girl once she forgot about the skin she wore.
The waitress looked amused, rather than angry. "You've got a mouth on you, don't you?
"Why?" Daria wanted to know.
"Ever thought of becoming a waitress?" This waitress obviously had even seen Daria's type before. Trent's estimation of the waitress rose, too. She was a country-townie, if there was a word for that, and she seemed to do fine slinging hash browns and sizing up how many corn flakes a customer needed.
Jesse still looked relieved when the girls headed to the bathroom. "I think Daria's used to more luxury than this, man."
Trent had to agree. "Yeah, I guess I didn't think about it, figuring since she hung around Jane and Jane hangs around us."
"Don't get me wrong though," Jesse was quick to assert. "She seems cool."
Trent took a sip of his soda and gave Jesse a questioning look. "I think you're just saying that because she's Jane's best friend."
Jesse looked slightly guilty. "Yeah, I guess so. But she does seem like an OK person," he paused thoughtfully. "Too bad she's not hot."
"Hot depends on the girl," Trent answered. "Besides, she's in high school."
"She doesn't act like she's in high school. I'd like to see her without her glasses," Jesse said.
Trent coughed a little. "The way these roads are I'm surprised she hasn't lost them yet." He paused a moment. "And remember what the nice officer says about sixteen getting you twenty?"
Jesse flushed, looking guilty for a moment. "Uh, yeah."
The silence that followed lunch gave Trent time to think. He observed the steady trod of his thoughts across his mind with increasing pain. He disliked these new lines and avenues in his brain; the synapses were concluding that maybe he was wasting his life, rather than Curtis in the toll booth or Beverly with her engagement ring. Trent could have money. He could have a girlfriend, he could have a place of his own to live. He could live somewhere away from Lawndale, filled with new possibilities. Loud music and sleeping helped him avoid hearing himself think and staved off the guitar-dropping moments of fear. What if I am wasting my life? I wonder what everyone else is thinking? If Trent was driving himself crazy, he wondered what Jane and Daria were doing. Trent could no longer stand to hear himself think. "This is like that REM video, except you can't tell what anybody is thinking." He wasn't sure, but he thought he heard someone mutter, "Thank God."
Trent got a little nervous idling the van while Daria peed in the woods; the Tank was running a little oddly, despite Jesse's claims of its indestructibility, and the inching forward through bumper-to-bumper traffic had to put a strain on the motor somewhere. The bzzzzz noise of the motor sounded on the verge of a bzzzzzzzzr-cough.
Daria shocked him when she came back to the van, enough that he forgot to mention the weird noises the van was making to Jesse. "Cool, Daria?"
"I'm ready for my abuse, Mr. DeMille."
Trent refused to respond . "I think the traffic's letting up."
"They're not going to make fun of me?" OK, that answered every remaining question Jesse had about Daria. Where the hell had she been living? Texas?
Trent let Jane take care of her friend. "For peeing in the woods? They're in a band, Daria, those boys puke on each other on a regular basis."
Now Jesse remembered Turkey-soaked conversation. "That reminds me, you owe me a shirt."
Eventually the boredom of potholed-rode got to Jane and the alphabet game began. Daria was a tough opponent; she shared the Lane capacity to conjure the weird at a moment's notice and she had the brain to remember – and reduce to normal – everyone else's bizarreness. As Trent's turn rolled around he thought, with a smile, of some pictures his dad brought back on a trip to Egypt. "I'm going to the picnic and I'm bringing asbestos insulation, brine shrimp, the cryogenically frozen head of Walt Disney and a dromedary." He smirked, picturing the picnic – it looked like a typical Lane special. Wind would probably introduce the dromedary as his new wife.
Only part of Trent's consciousness registered the pothole because he was concentrating on Daria's addition of "a Eurocentric view of world history" when the wheel connected with the hole in the road. Trent could heard the distinct chunka-cough and began his prayer to the auto-gods. Shit, he thought, just Daria yelled,
"Hey Janey, I saw that one coming!" He was driving. She had to wait to kill him until they got home.
Jesse looked happy to have something to repair. "Don't worry, I can fix them."
Jane quickly offered her glue gun, but Daria seemed opposed.
"There's some duct tape in the back there." Jesse accepted the roll produced by Jane. Duct tape, the solution to all man's problems.
Daria looked less than enthusiastic. "Duct tape. Great." Trent reminded himself that she was in high school, so even she deserved some whining allowance.
The van gave a chunka-chunk Max would envy, and broke down, thoroughly diverting Trent from Daria and Jane's high school-like behaviors.
Trent did not know cars. Sometimes Jesse had moments of understanding them, but his understanding came as randomly as an idiot savant reciting the alphabet in the desired language. Jesse popped the hood and stood with Trent, staring significantly. "I think something broke," Jesse announced.
Trent pulled at a rubbery flap that looked, possibly, like a belt. "Maybe this."
Jesse stared significantly. "Maybe."
Trent did not bother to put on the blinkers; he and Jesse managed with worse problems when they went to Arizona.
Jane took the opportunity to drag Jesse off. Trent said nothing --- he just worried that Jane's persistent excuses for time alone with Jesse looked to Daria like Jane was trying to set him and her up. If Daria were legal, he might allow for this circumstance, but then Daria would just have to be another townie to want to date him. Trent resorted to his usual conversational circumvention: he pulled out his acoustic guitar from the back of the Tank. This was as good an opportunity to practice as any.
Daria stared at him as he tuned his guitar. He figured she wanted to say something, but maybe she was like Jesse and had to work on how she wanted something said, first. "What chord is that?" Or maybe she simply had no idea how to start a conversation. Daria and Jane, from what Trent heard, did not spend time on the usual small-talk.
"Oh." Daria, apparently, could not build on a chord.
"Umm, nice tattoo. Tribal?" Trent got the tattoo specifically so girls could have an excuse to talk to him. It worked.
He had wanted one that did not look like the usual happy-dragon crap most guys did. "Maori. I copied it out of Tattoo World's international issue."
"Very graphic, and meaningful." No it wasn't.
"Yeah, it makes a statement. You know what it is?"
Daria looked at him. Trent could tell she was choosing not to say something, probably funny, that ripped on him a little bit. He wondered if she was an only child, she was so slow to let fly.
"I got a tattoo out of a magazine." Trent laughed at himself. He really was such a directionless loser he had to copy someone else's art instead of creating his own. No wonder he still lived at home and worked second-rate bars.
"I guess it's better than copying one off the TV."
All the unhappiness of the last few days welled up pushed at his fingers. He needed to talk to someone besides Jesse, who would simply lead him down the path of their shared self-delusion, or Jane, who would bust on him as deluded. "Daria, do you ever feel like you're wasting your life?"
"Only when I'm awake." She did get it. Probably why she didn't mock him along with Jane for sleeping all the time.
"Like no money, no job, you live with your parents and you still can't play in Open D tuning."
"Well, I haven't had those exact thoughts." Trent registered what Daria said, but mostly, he needed to expel all the doubts stuffing his brain cells.
"Maybe I will end up a townie doing Doors covers. I mean, who's to say, right?" Jane said. From her vantage point as the youngest Lane, she probably could call everyone else's future – and based on her tantrum the other day, she likely called his right.
Trent expected a non-response, a "yeah that's deep" typical of a girl asking a guy about a tattoo. "Umm, you know Trent, it takes a lot of guts to go after a dream, especially when you know failure means spending the rest of your life playing L.A. Woman. In public." Insight. He was impressed.
"Hmm, I guess." At least someone as smart as Daria did not think of him as a loser.
"And even if it doesn't work out, at least for now you're doing exactly what you want to."
"Yeah, that's true." She was right. Musicians and artists throughout history had to defend their work and their choices from time to time; even Mozart had his round as a slacker.
"A lot of people never even get that far." She had a point.
Trent thought of Curtis, sitting in that toll booth all day, and then thought of himself, going to a bar to play every weekend. He would much rather take Jane's criticism and keep playing clubs. He took stock of the girl in front of him. "I guess I'm not doing that bad. You know Daria, sometimes it's hard to believe you're in high school."
"I find the situation unbelievable myself."
"You're pretty cool." He now understood Jane's appreciation.
Then Jane came and disrupted their rapport. Daria recoiled, guard up, but not as badly as before. "There was nothing behind that wall but a cornfield, and the corn wasn't very helpful."
Jesse's mind remained fantastically one track. "Helpful Corn! That's a cool name for the band."
"Even better than Mystik Spiral, huh, Daria?" He knew that on some level, Daria still thought they were delusional losers, but at least she understood the reason behind the delusion.
As Jane finished gluing whatever part back in place, Trent turned to Daria. "Why don't you sit up front with me? I could use someone to keep me awake. Maybe we can brainstorm a new name for the band."
Daria agreed. Jesse made no protest; he seemed afraid of what else might happen to Daria should she ride in the back of the van any longer.
As Jesse and Jane dozed in the back Trent relaxed and enjoyed a comfortable silence.
1. MTV webpage: stated that Jane quit as the band's designer when she became fed up with the spiral direction controversy
2. The football star from "The Misery Chick" graduated in Trent's class
3. It occurs to me that there now exists a generation of Daria fans who do not automatically know about Lollapalooza
4. Per the MTV Daria webpage, Nick did experience an addiction problem
5. In "Groped by an Angel" Trent demonstrated math acuity
New operational theory: Jesse is the
mover and shaker. He's still dumb, but he has motivation. Motivated
stupidity is almost like smart.