Disclaimer : Characters from "Daria" are the property of
Viacom. Characters from "Peanuts" are the property of
United Features Syndicate. Proceeds from a Petrel lawsuit
aren't worth counting....

*******************************


Marcie and Patty finally made it out of Ms. Morris's gym class -- the last
class of the day for the new sophomores at Lawndale High. Marcie had no
secret athletic dreams and despised gym. Morris was about to put her
through the ringer, until she learned that Marcie Finley was
"Peppermint Patty" Clayton's best friend. Gym that day consisted of Marcie,
Patty, and the other jocks watching "The Matrix" on VHS while the less fortunate
ran laps.

Showers were over. Patty and Marcie walked out of the gym. "You know, Marse,
this is my favorite time of the school day."

"Sir...school is over."

"You got it."

As Patty and Marcie headed outside, they found one member of the crowd blocking
their way was Lucille van Pelt. Lucy blew a mock kiss towards Patty. "Get
a room, lovebirds!"

Patty's face turned red and she was about to plow her way through the
crowd, when Marcie grabbed her by the back of the shirt collar. "Sir! --
*Don't*!"

"Bitch," muttered Patty. "Just you wait, Lucy...you and me, alone...."

"Sir...I *don't* need the trouble. Okay?" The last time Patty tried to beat
Lucy up, it only added fire to the rumors that dogged Patty and Marcie
in Carverville -- rumors that Lucy, it seemed, was doing her best to fuel.

"Forget it, Marse. Who needs her? She's the biggest liar I ever met in
my life! Did I tell you about the time she left me with one pierced ear?"

"Yes, Sir. Many times, Sir."

"I remember when Lucy and me were little girls and we decided to get our
ears pierced...." As Patty chattered, Marcie hoped that the baseball field
wasn't very far away.

*******************************************

It was Coach Jimmy Hoyle's first job, and he suspected that Angela Li was
paying him the most minimum of wages. Li wanted a winning baseball
team, and she wanted it cheap. Baseball brought in the least revenue of
the major high school sports, so Li reasoned that he should accept sub-minimum
wage. It was times like this he wished he was playing in the Single A Green
Grass League. There weren't very many calls for 29 year old rookie first
basemen in the major leagues, though. At least, it paid the bills.

He had a grand total of eleven players. Four of them could pitch, supposedly.
One catcher acted as if it were so beneath him to catch that he almost walked
to the mound after every pitch to save his arm. A few football players who
he wouldn't see again until spring. He had twenty games scheduled and wondered
if he would be able to win even one of them.

"All right, Brown," the Coach muttered. "Get up there. Let's see your stuff."

Out beyong the outfield fence, the Lawndale Lions cheerleaders were practicing
their acrobatic moves for the football season. Even from four hundred feet,
Charlie Brown could have sworn he heard someone squeaking. "Nerves....that's
it," he told himself.

Charles Ruttheimer sat in the press box. It was just a practice, and there
was no need to announce anything. Besides, it was where he kept his copies
of "Swank" and "Perfect 10". He looked over Miss September ("Rrrrr!!!")
while he looked over the statistics from Carverville.

Charles Brown. Bats right, throws right. Batting Average = .050 (1 for 20).
Only hit of year -- a line-drive single that broke the knee of a runner from his
own team who was standing on second base, but Upchuck didn't know that. He
knew almost zero about baseball, but he knew pitchers didn't have to hit very
well anyway.

Earned Run Average : -----. That's all the printout said. He wondered if
there was some kind of error. Maybe it meant "0.00"! No runs given up!!
This kid could be some kind of star! "Now playing, number 80, Charles
"Flash" Brown!", Upchuck said to himself. "Could this be", said Upchuck
as he shouted into a dead mike, "the start of a new era in Lawndale sports
history?"

"Throw it in there, Charlie Brown! You can do it!", shouted the catcher.

This year, Charlie Brown told himself, this year...I'm going to show them
what I'm made of!!

He threw his best fastball. It was immediately hit to right field, where it
imbedded itself in the scoreboard, under the "S" in "VISITORS".

"O...kay. Lucky shot!", shouted the Coach in encouragement. "That was a gimmie...
Patterson, let's see you swing! Throw him a curve, Brown!!"

Brown looked at the batter. He gritted his teeth. It was time to show
Raw Strength and Courage! He took the sign from Schroeder, and Brown aimed
with a hard hanging curve.

The next shot sailed farther than any ball Charlie Brown had ever thrown.
And that was saying something...it traveled way beyond the confines of the
park. The only sound that was heard was that of cheerleaders screaming
in the distance.

Upchuck took one look at the blank line on his statistics sheet. Slowly,
carefully, he found the blank line ERA next to Charlie Brown's name and
penciled in the universal symbol for "infinity".

"Maybe...all right, Brown, pitch him outside! Don't give him a good pitch
to hit!!"

The next batter knocked the cap off Brown's head as the pitch bounced towards
center field.

The following batter almost hit the ball into Charlie Brown's groin. As he
barely evaded the line drive, he lost his hat, glove, and one shoe.

"White! You're up! Try not to hurt the pitcher...okay?" The other team
began laughing as cold sweat trickled down Charlie Brown's forehead.

"Kill him!" "Knock this one over the fence!", shouted the other players
as the role of sacrificial goat was assigned to the new sophomore.
Jamie White smiled, as he choked up on the bat. White looked like he
wanted to knock the ball down Charlie Brown's throat.

Schroeder gave the sign. Brown let loose with the high, hard one, which
quickly turned to the low, limp one. Brown rapidly ducked, losing his hat
a third time, as he barely missed decapitation by the batted ball.
The left fielder watched the ball bounce behind him, jogging a few feet to
chase it, then throwing down his glove in disgust.

White smiled and blew kisses to the imaginary crowd to the cheers of the
bench warmers. The left fielder refused to make a play on the ball,
glaring at the pitcher as the ball rolled to a stop. White decided to
make an exaggerated victory lap, making it the slowest of home runs.

"Hey, Charlie Brown! You're going to make the perfect batting practice
pitcher!", someone shouted. Laughter filled the baseball diamond.
The Coach just shook his head.

The left fielder, however, had thoughts of murder on his mind. He decided
to retrieve the ball, but something very white and very fast ran past
him, low to the ground, faster than human legs could run. The Lawndale
player looked for the ball, but couldn't find it....

...Jamie White raised his finger to indicate that he was, indeed, Number
One. Maybe not in Quinn Morgendorffer's heart, but at least, here on the
ball field! Maybe his heroics here would --

...it was then that he noticed that something was at third base. Blocking
his path. Some stupid dog had the ball in his mouth.

"Hey...Fido! SCRAM!" Jamie ran towards the dog, as if to intimidate it.

The dog was not to be intimidated. It flashed its canine incisors menacingly,
a low growl coming from the pit of its stomach. Foam-soaked flecks dribbled
from its lower jaw.

Jamie's pupils dilated, in terror.

"AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!", shouted Jamie as the dog sank its teeth into
his buttocks. Jamie ran faster as he literally dragged the dog behind him.
Jamie's role quickly changed from hunter to hunted as the dog chased him
back to second base, then to first base, then to home plate. The other
players brought bats, bags, and baseballs to try to fight back, but it was
no use. The small white beagle was everywhere, releasing Jamie to
have a go at everyone else on the Lawndale squad. He was a terror!
One player began climbing into the bleachers to try to get away. The others
would have no such luck, and everyone looked for the closest exit.

********************************************************************

"Sir, do you think that Charles will be playing baseball today?"

Marcie and Patty trudged up the hill to the baseball field. They were
quickly met by a squad of screaming players heading down the same
hill. One young man was holding his buttocks as he ran.

"Coach! COACH!!" Patty tried to get Coach Hoyle's attention as
he ran down the hill. She decided to run after him, trying
to find out about good ol' Chuck and to see if the team needed
any help.

"Sir? SIR??", shouted Marcie. Marcie began putting her little Billie
Jean King legs to use, bringing up the rear, running behind. It was going
to be a long walk home....

************************************************

Brown lay on the pitcher's mound, looking up at the sky. His hat, glove,
and one shoe lay scattered in the infield.

The dog calmly walked up to the pitcher's mound. Silently, it dropped
the ball on Charlie Brown's stomach and walked away. "Thanks", said
Charlie Brown as the dog continued walking, ignoring the round-headed kid.

Schroeder crawled out from under the bench. His catcher's gear still afforded
him protection from possible canine attack. He made his way out to the mound.

"You're not going to stay out here until ten o'clock again, are you?", asked
Schroeder.

"It's easy to lose track of time when you're comfortable. If I were
to die, right here, my body might form the compost that would make a new
pitcher's mound. With my luck, though," said Charlie Brown,
"they'd build a parking lot."

"Well," said Schroeder, "I think you did a lot better than you did last time.
After all...no one's knee was broken!

Charlie Brown sighed. "I can't stand it! I just can't stand it!"

"Well, Charlie Brown, I'd like to stand here and chat, but Beethoven can't be
kept waiting. I'll see you tomorrow."

"That's okay," said Charlie Brown, as Schroder departed, "I'll be right here."

********************************

Jane grabbed her collection of artwork and began the process of grading
according to the Lane method. The Lane method meant that no one would
get below a "C" unless they committed a Crime Against Art. Crimes Against
Art were hard to come by, because sometimes a Crime Against Art *was*
art. It was a difficult system, one that required the discipline of a
complete artist.

Maybe that's why she had only graded 10 papers in three hours. Secretly,
she wondered how long this paper-grading gig would last.

Ms. Defoe had given her Art I class a simple assignment. "Think of things
in threes...triples. Illustrate the concept of "triple", using your
artistic spirit." Jane remembered that same class. She turned in three
steel ball bearings glued to a piece of 8 x 11 art paper. The assignment
formerly had the phrase "let your creative juices flow" until Ms. Li
censored it. Can't have the student body of Lawndale spreading their
creative juices Bob-knows-where.

The papers she had read so far illustrated the pedestrian idea familar
to the bourgeois Lawndale student. There were drawings of three somethings,
three whatevers. One picture had three apples. Three cars. Three women
who looked like they were wearing dresses...maybe. Either it was
a conscious attempt to evoke primitivism, or the guy couldn't draw worth
shit. So far, it was "C" night for Jane Lane.

The next paper...or papers...were different. Instead of one sheet, this
person turned in eight 8 x 11 sheets of paper. Across each sheet, front
and back, were triples of all imaginable kinds. Three apples, three oranges,
three robots, three slot machines, three President Clintons, three computers,
three forks, three.... Each triple was quite small, but collectively....

She admired the artist's economy of expression. Jane turned over each sheet
of paper in fascination. All of the tiny drawings were cariactures, but
practiced ones, the work of someone who knew how to reduce a form to its
basic essentials. In short, the work of a future comic book illustrator,
or cartoonist. It was an amusing work. Jane knew that it was art when
you envied the creator. And she did.

She prepared to mark down an "A" on her list of names, but then discovered....
the creator never signed it! Eap! Not only could she not give this person
a grade, she couldn't smoke out her prospective competition. It might be
one of those Carverville kids. This work had to be brought to the attention
of Ms. Defoe, and pronto. She was determined to ferret out this person,
and either collaborate, or bury him in quicklime.

****************************************************

"Class," said Ms. Defoe, "I'm sorry it's taken me so late to get your papers
back to you. As a whole...your efforts are *worthy* of beginning artists.
You can all be *very* happy!"

"However, *one* of your works did not have a name on it." Defoe held the
mystery work up to the class. "I need to talk to the person who is
responsible for *this* work after class."

Charlie Brown saw Ms. Defoe holding his artwork and gulped loudly.

"What's the matter, Charlie Brown?", asked Linus, "do you need Tums?
I have some!"

Brown turned green. "It's...oh, no! She must have hated my assignment!
Rats! Ms. Defoe is going to hunt me down!"

Ms. Defoe began handing out the work to the class. Sooner or later,
a process of elimination would reveal the unsigned artist.

Linus's work was handed back. "Cool! I got an 'B', Charlie Brown!"

Brown began to sweat. "Wait a minute, Linus! I can turn in some late work!
Then, she'll think that the *late* work is mine...*not* the one she's holding!
I need some paper!"

Charlie Brown quickly grabbed some paper and began scribbling, rapidly.
"Done!"

"All right, class," said Ms. Defoe, pleasantly, "is there someone who didn't
get a paper back?"

"Uh...", said Charlie Brown, "I think I forgot to turn my paper in yesterday.
Here it is."

Ms. Defoe smiled and took the paper. Next to the name, "Charlie Brown"
were three pedestrian-looking smiley faces, with an arrow labeled "triple"
pointing to them.

"Oh, dear," muttered Ms. Defoe.

*****************************************************

Brittany wobbled down the hallway. Her head was bandaged, and she limped
down the hallway, bearing her weight on a crutch. A young, blonde girl
in Lawndale High colors followed behind her, carrying her books.

"Thank you for carrying my books, Sally! Normally, my Kevvy would do that!
But he has *football*! And he's doing a special job for me!"

"Really?", asked Sally Brown. Sally Brown was a real knockout, and was vacant
enough to be a cheerleader at any American high school. "What is he going to
do for you?"

"He's going to find out who...hit that baseball at our pyramid! I could
have almost been killed! Stupid baseball players! How can it be a sport
when you don't even have *muscles*?", she squeaked.

"My big brother is going to try to play baseball this year! Do you really
think I'll make the cheerleading squad, Brittany?"

"Of course, Sally! You have char-ASma!!" Brittany stubbed her toe
against an open door, and cursed. "Aaagghh! Just give me *five* minutes
with that stupid baseball player! He'll wish he'd never been *born*!"

The two hobbled by art class as the bell rang. "Brittany! My big brother's
in art class! We can ask him right now! And then there's...my sweet babboo!"

"Ooooo!", shouted Brittany. "Can I see him?" After all...someone had to go
on Brittany's "spare" list.

"Suuuure!", said Sally.

Charlie Brown and Linus were packing up their things and getting
ready for the next class.

"Hello, big brother! And...hellllOOOOOOOOO, LLiiii-nus!!!"

Linus grabbed his Bible. "Give me strength," he muttered.

"Big brother, you wouldn't happen to know who hit a homerun into our
cheerleading pyramid, would you?"

Charlie Brown turned red. "Well...I don't know everyone's name just yet...."

"Hi!", squeaked Lawndale High's chesty cheerleader. "I'm Brittany! Do
you play sports?"

Linus watched as Charlie Brown's jaw dropped. Linus had to elbow his
best friend into consciousness. "Uh...", squeaked Charlie in an octave
that almost matched Brittany's, "I'm Charlie Brown."

"And, Brittany," said Sally, "the hottie standing next to him is
my Sweet Babboo...Linus van Pelt!"

"I'M *NOT* YOUR SWEET BABBOO!!!", he shouted at the top of his lungs.

"Isn't he *cute* when he gets all indignant?" Sally looked like she
would keel over from being lovestruck. Linus stormed out of the room,
then turned around, grabbed Charlie Brown and stormed *him* out of the
room as well.

Brittany turned to Sally. "You're *weird*."

*************************************************

Charlie Brown and Linus trudged down the Mighty Halls of Lawndale.

"Well, so far, Linus, it's been a lousy year. My sister has become
a cheerleader. Lucy has become a member of the sophomore elite. I can't
find the plate to save my life. And I just got a 'D-minus' back from
Ms. Defoe!"

"Don't worry, Charlie Brown. You still have twenty-nine more months
to go. Then, you'll be graduated."

"Maybe I should take drugs, Linus. I just don't know how else I'll get
through the year."

"I would advise against it. You might have an 'acid flashback' or something."

"You're right, Linus. I would have to live parts of my life over again.
That would be a disaster. Maybe I can just bring my pillow to class and
sleep through the year. Or...get drunk on liquid Nyquil."

"Alcohol makes you break out in hives, Charlie Brown."

"I can't even get drunk! I --- "

Suddenly, Quinn turned the corner. Not noticing either Charlie Brown or
Linus, she walked right by them.

Charlie Brown watched her as she walked by. "Linus!", he said. He looked
like he was about to have an asthma attack.

"Huh?"

"She's!--I!--The!!--We!!"

"What are you saying, Charlie Brown?"

Charlie Brown forced it out...."The...LITTLE...RED-HAIRED...GIRL!! Ahhhhhh!!!"
With that, he passed out.

"Charlie Brown, she's *not* the little red-haired girl!" Linus looked back
to Charlie Brown, face down on the floor. "Uh oh."