Author's Note: From a PPMB Iron Chef asking writers to place the characters in a moment in history. I chose the shootings at Kent State University. During my research I found another, similar shooting that got much less attention. That was at Jackson State University in Mississippi. If you're not familiar with this pivotal moment in US History, let me invite you to look it up online.
Daria and Jane watched the scenes flicker on Jake and Helen's new 15" color TV over and over in mute horror. Cronkite, Brinkley, Smith; they all showed the same scenes. A young man just their age face-down, dead from a gunshot wound. Burning buildings on a campus not that different from Raft or BFAC. President Nixon offering lukewarm responses to the shooting, barely disguising his disdain for the "communists" who were shot for redressing grievances or just walking to class. The Ohio National Guard officially claiming sniper fire. By Thursday they could barely stand to even look at the television. Daria got up to turn it off, and for five minutes they both just stared at the blank screen.
"Daria, honey, why don't you ask Jane if she wants to stay for dinner," Helen called from the kitchen. "If you don't mind leftovers, that is, Jane."
"That'd be great, Mrs. M.!" Jane answered, getting up and walking over towards the kitchen. "If it's not too much trouble."
"Oh, not at all!" Helen answered just a bit too cheerily. "We're just so glad to have our girls back safe and sound. I'm so glad your schools came to their senses before all that violence spread to Boston. You're not taking part in any of that nonsense, are you, Daria? Good. Now, where are your father and Quinn? They really should be home by now."
Daria followed Jane into the kitchen, busying herself with a head of iceberg. "Actually, Mom, I'm –"
"Oh here they are!" Helen exclaimed. "Now, girls, let's just have a nice supper tonight, shall we? Daria? You know your father has a heart condition; we don't need a repeat of last night, do we?" Helen wiped her hands off on her apron and checked the status of her permanent wave with her hands before greeting her daughter and husband at the door.
"What happened last night?" Jane whispered to Daria.
Daria chuckled. "Oh, Dad was saying something about the tear gas canisters at Kent State, so I told him 'You don't need a Weatherman to know which way the wind blows.'"
Jane let out a low whistle. "Ooh. Jake and Bob Dylan. Bad combination there, Morgendorffer." Their light chuckles were interrupted by the strident voice of Daria's younger sister.
"So then I said 'Saaa-ndi, if you're going to wear the tie-dye, for heaven's sake don't dye it yourself! Honestly, Mother, if I wasn't there, these girls would be so – Oh. Hello Jane, Ms. Steinem."
"Quinn. I see that headband hasn't quite cut off circulation to your bouffant. Still alive and kicking."
"Muh-ohm! Why do you let her –?"
"Quinn," Helen interrupted, filling two glasses with ice and pouring generous amounts of whiskey into each, "I'm sure that's a lovely story. Why don't you take this into your father and then set the table for dinner. I'll talk with Daria, okay?" Quinn huffed and did as she was asked. Helen rounded on her eldest daughter.
"Daria? What did I tell you about arguing with your sister? We don't stand for that in this house, young lady. And don't give me any of that 'she started it' nonsense again; you're old enough to know better." Helen pulled a small bottle of pills out from a drawer underneath the counter, poured three into her hand and tossed them back with a slug of the whiskey. "Ah. That's better. Now, let's have a lovely dinner, shall we?"
Dinner was a rather uneventful affair. Quinn left the table several times to answer the telephone, dutifully reminding her suitors that she was to take no phone calls during the family meal. Helen kept the peace as best she could, even going so far as to kick Jake under the table when he asked about Jane's "beatnik brother." After dinner, Daria and Jane walked to Casa Lane, where Daria was going to spend the night. Being the best friend of an artist throughout high school, Daria was no stranger to the sometimes unwieldy sculptures that were known to take over large parts of Jane's room. Even still, she took a step backwards when a four-foot tall effigy of President Nixon's head was the first thing she saw after opening Jane's door.
"Gah! Jane, why is there a large Republican in the middle of your floor?"
"Oh, him? Well, unlike the real thing, he's relatively harmless. That's right, I didn't tell you; Trent got word of a protest march on Washington this weekend – you should come!"
"I can't – my parents would kill me."
"You're kidding, right? Jeez, Daria, do you want to stop the war, or what? How much longer are you going to be under the shackles of Ozzie and Harriet back there, anyway? You're a grown woman; you're 19, and you can really make these decisions for yourself. What happened to all that 'fighting the man' you talked about up in Boston, huh?"
"It's a bit different when said man pays for your education. I'd have to drop out of Raft."
"Then drop out."
"Come on. You're not serious, are you?"
"All I'm saying is that you talk a pretty good game up there in Boston with the SDS crowd; but when push comes to shove, you won't even break out of your comfy suburban world long enough to go to a protest march! You sound like that Jodie Landon girl from back in high school! "
"Hey, now that's just not fair, Jane. Just because Jodie's not as 'Black Power' as her boyfriend, doesn't mean she's co-opted. She just looks at things her own way, right? She was the first Black valedictorian Lawndale's ever had – don't' you think that's something? Besides, it's all well and good for you to have a groovy time singing songs and carrying signs, but some of the rest of us have things we want to do. I just can't risk not having Raft. Come on! For starters, where would I live?"
"We'd find a place for you, kiddo. Trent said he's thinking of going out to California with a couple of friends. I might tag along with him. You could come along, you know." There was no way Trent was going to stop smoking weed long enough to get into his car, never mind driving all the way across country. Nevertheless, Daria figured it was really time to stop arguing.
"Look. I'll think about it, okay? Now, you said your parents sent a package up from Mexico? Oh, and don't call me 'kiddo,' it's creepy."
Jane and Trent wound up making the trip to Washington alone. Or at least they made most of the trip – Trent's van broke down just south of Baltimore, and Daria was dispatched to pick them up. The Nixon puppet became a roadside distraction on I-95, until the Maryland State Troopers picked it up. It took a frosty couple of days, and much of the rest of that package from Mexico, but Jane and Daria were eventually able to patch things up.
Daria would later remark that the real change in her world view came about a week later. Once again, Jane and Daria hung on Walter Cronkite's every word, watching as protest after protest was quashed by soldiers or cops or both. Then, towards the end of the broadcast, was an item left generally unnoticed in the hubbub surrounding Kent State.
"And finally, student unrest has come to Mississippi; and with it, more tragedy. Two Negro students, Jodie Landon and James Green, were shot by police on the campus of Jackson State University, as they tried to disperse a violent demonstration. Officials there say…"
Daria never did make it back to Raft.