My Life: A Daria Fan Fiction By: Sam Lincoln

Disclaimer: I don't own the show Daria or any of the
characters therein, used without expressed written consent
of the MTV high priests. "My Life" published by Vix Lix
Music (ASCAP), lyrics re-printed without permission

Rating: PG

Summary: So, just what do we know about Mack anyway? Also
a little misunderstanding has serious repercussions for
Quinn.

Soundtrack: Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, 10/24/1998, Weis
Center for the Performing Arts. A great sounding stage-lip
recording of the Flecktones, highlighted by an unreal
Shanti, and a great Spanish Point, as well as a version of
this story's namesake.

"Cause it's my life and I can do what I wanna do."

My Life

Baltimore, nine years ago Baltimore, Charm City, a new
world city with old world decay. The sun hung low over the
harbor as the boy ran for home. Dad told him to be home
before it got dark out and dad backed up his directives with
his belt. It wasn't fair, the boy thought, he'd been
playing football with his friends, and none of them had to
be home this early. The boy wasn't quite nine so things
like gang wars didn't register as a concern.

The boy slowed as he got closer to his apartment building.
There was a white car parked in front of the residence. The
boy knew what that that meant. He looked around but didn't
see any police cars with their lights on so it was safe to
go inside. The boy started to walk up the steps to his
building, at the same time two men exited. One was tall and
white, the other was shorter and black; the black man was
putting on a fedora.

"Hi detectives," the boy said.

"Well look who it is Tim. Mike, our favorite informant,"
the black detective said, a smile breaking across his
normally passive face, white teeth flashed against dark
skin.

"Why so it is Frank, how are you doing Mike?" The white
detective asked, crouching down low so he and the boy could
look each other in the eye. The boy first met the
detectives a couple of weeks earlier when they were asking
questions about the murdered girl who used to live nearby.
He had answered all the detectives' questions and they had
given him a toy police badge in return.

"I'm doing ok, detectives," the boy replied, "I'm just
trying to get home before it's dark out so Dad doesn't
ground me."

The black detective chuckled, "We can't get such a fine
witness in trouble with the law can we? Come on Tim, let's
go grill some suspects downtown."

"Yeah sure Frank," the white detective said. "Now Mike if
you remember anything else about Adena, the girl we talked
about earlier, don't hesitate to give me a call. Here's my
card. Anything at all, no matter how small you might think
it is" The detective handed him a small piece of paper.

"Sure thing, detective," Mike said brightly.

"Nice kid," Mike heard the white detective say as they
walked away.

"Yeah, sure is," the black detective replied while lighting
a cigarette. "It'll be a shame when we have to investigate
his murder, or throw him in the box."

"Oh come on, Frank. How do you know that'll happen?"

"Because he lives in the ghetto, Tim! Statistically it's
only a matter of time before he catches a bullet, or pops
somebody." The detectives continued their argument as they
got into their car and drove off, leaving the boy standing
on the front steps of the apartment complex.

Lawndale, Present day

Michael Mackenzie let the weights clang back into place as
he finished his last set of reps. His family had moved to
Lawndale shortly after his encounter with the detectives.
He didn't even know who had killed that girl the detectives
had asked him about.

"I wonder why I thought about that now?" He asked himself
as he walked to the next weight station. He used to always
think about his former home, but as the years passed his
memories of Baltimore faded; but he still remembered those
detectives.

He started to lift the weights. This was his favorite time
of the day. He always worked out before the rest of the
team did so that it was just him and the weight room
attendant, who left him alone unless he needed a spot. It
was one of the few times that Mack was by himself and he
guarded it zealously. He sighed as Kevin and the rest of
the team walked into the weight room. He finished his set
and walked towards the locker room.

"Hey Mack," Jamie said, "Where are you going?"

"Home," Mack lied. "I'm all done with my weights for
today."

"Oh," the jock said dimly, "So, uh, like why don't you lift
with the rest of the team?"

Mack did his best not to flinch as someone changed the radio
station and the nasal shriek of Eminem replaced the
classical music that had been playing. "I like the time
alone to think, plus it helps me focus on my lifting," he
answered.

"Oh cool. Maybe I should try that someday."

Mack bit off the impending "What, think?" and instead said,
"Yeah, you should. See you around Jamie."

"Yeah, later Mack." Jamie turned away from Mack and faced
the weight room, "Hey guys Mack says if you lift by yourself
you, like, think!"

Mack sighed and walked into the locker room. He had a date
with Jodie that night and hewanted to be ready for it.

---xxx---xxx---xxx---

"Ok, Quinn, let's try this again, 'is the one love of his
sea life that was sardined with women.'"

"What seas did you see, Tom Cat, Tom Cat. In you sailoring
days long ago? What sea beasts were in the wavery green
when, when...' dammit all, what's the line?" Quinn shouted.

"When you were my master," Ann Raeder answered calmly.

"I knew that!" Quinn exclaimed, "Dammit I'll never learn
all these damn lines!"

"Yes you will. Look at how many you've gotten down already,
and there are still a couple weeks until the show."

"If you say so..." Quinn looked over at a nearly clock. "Oh
crap, I'm going to be late for the Fashion Club meeting."

"I guess that's the end of today's session," Ann said
sighing.

"Hey, I told you going into this that I wasn't going to
shirk my duties as Vice President of the Fashion Club,"
Quinn said as she stuffed her script into her backpack.

"And I respect you for trying to balance the two, but I
think you have to decide which is more important to you,"
Ann told Quinn as they walked out of the theater.

"But why?" Quinn asked. They stopped in front of a water
fountain.

"Because at some point your thespian activities are going
to conflict with the Fashion Club." Ann said before taking
a drink.

Stacy was walking towards the intersection where Quinn and
Ann were standing. She came to an immediate halt when she
heard Quinn and Ann. "Did I hear what I think I heard?"
Stacy asked herself, eyes wide with shock. She crept closer
to the intersection to hear better.

"Yeah, I know, but I'd rather not think about that," she
heard Quinn say.

"Quinn, have you even told them?" The voice Stacy did not
recognize said.

"Ann, I haven't even told my family, well Daria knows, but
my parents have no clue!"

"Oh god, oh god," Stacy said to herself, trying to stay
quiet. "Ok, maybe it's not what you think Stacy. Maybe
you're just overreacting, Quinn can't be..."

"Boy, won't they be shocked when they find out what you've
been up to this semester."

Stacy finally placed the voice as Ann Raeder, some geek in
her classes, "Why would Quinn talk to a geek like her?"
Stacy wondered to herself.

"Oh I know, but I'm sure they'll be supportive.," Quinn
said.

"Most parents are."

Stacy peered around the wall and saw Ann and Quinn standing
next to the water fountain. It seemed to her that they were
standing very close together.

"I really need to thank you, Ann. This hasn't been an easy
time for me and you've been a big help."

"It's no problem Quinn, everyone has some trouble their
first time out."

"Still, I don't know what I would've done without your
help." Quinn fumbled with the straps on her backpack as she
spoke.

"You'd have done fine, you're a natural at this. So, are
you coming by my place tomorrow for some more practice?"

"You bet."

"Ok great, see you tomorrow Quinn." Ann touched Quinn's
shoulder as a farewell gesture.

"Bye Ann," Quinn said to the departing teen before turning
and walking in the opposite direction.

Stacy watched in shock as Ann and Quinn walked away from
her. "Oh my God!" Stacy said aloud. "Quinn's a lesbian, I
have to tell Sandi!" She turned and ran back down the hall.

Lawndale, Nine years ago.

Michael stood in front of his new class; he nervously
shifted his feet as the teacher introduced him. He didn't
like having to join the class half-way through the school
year, but there was not much he could do about it. He dad
was relocated and that was that.

"Attention class, we have a new student joining us today,
isn't that exciting?" The class sat and stared at Michael.
"Now Michael, why don't you tell us a little about
yourself."

Michael cleared his throat, "Well, uh, my name is Michael
Mackenzie." He stood there, staring at the class.

"Where did you move from Michael?" The teacher prompted.

"Baltimore," Michael said reluctantly, offering no other
information.

"Thank you Michael, you can take your seat now." The
teacher said, giving up on getting any more out of the boy.

"Where should I sit?" He asked the teacher.

"Wherever an empty desk is will be fine."

Michael looked around the classroom trying to find a seat.
He'd never seen so many white kids in one place, except for
TV. He could only see one available desk, next to a smiling
boy holding a football.

"Hey there," the boy said, "I'm Kevin."

"Michael Mackenzie," Michael said politely.

"I already know a Mike so I'll call you Mack," the boy said,
still smiling vacantly.

"Uh, Ms. Hoover?" Michael asked.

"It's ok Michael, Kevin only refers to people by four letter
nicknames, it's the only way he can remember who they are.
It doesn't bother you does it?"

Michael thought about it for a moment before shrugging, "No,
that's fine." He didn't want to make a scene on his first
day, especially given the way the other students were
looking at him.

"Cool!" Kevin said, his grin broadening.

"Ok class, now if we get out our math books and turn to page
fifty-two..." Ms. Hoover said turning the class's attention
away from Michael.

"Hey Mack," Kevin said in a whisper.

"Yeah?" Michael replied.

"Do you play football?"

"Sure, a little."

"I play rec league flag football, I'm the QB. You should
play. Coach says we could use another player.

"Sure, that sounds like fun."

"Great, just remember that I'm the QB so you can't be."
Kevin patted his football protectively.

"Uh, sure, fine," Michael said, wondering what he'd just
gotten into.

Lawndale, Present day

"Kevin I'm trying to get out of here, I've got a date with
Jodie tonight and I need to get ready for it," Mack told
Kevin. Mack had finished showering after his workout and
was leaving the locker room when Kevin blocked his path to
the door.

"This won't take long at all Mack, I just need to show you
something," Kevin said, reaching into his bag.

Mack sighed, "Ok, what is it?"

"Well, the rest of the team and I wanted to give you
something, you know for being such a good captain and stuff.
So we all chipped in and got you this." Kevin handed Mack
a jewelry box.

"Oh gee, thanks Kevin, this means..." Mack said as he opened
the box, "...a lot to me." He grew silent as he looked at
the present.

"So, what do you think?" Kevin asked, his face alight.

"It's uh, great, thanks a lot," Mack said, badly feigning
enthusiasm.

"Aren't you going to try it on?"

"No!" Mack said sharply, "It, uh, wouldn't match what I'm
wearing."

"Oh, ok."

"Could you tell the other guys thanks for me?"

"Sure, but why don't you tell them?"

"Because I have that date with Jodie, and if I don't leave
now I'll be late."

"Whoa, dude you can't be late, I was late picking Brit up
last week and she wouldn't put out at the movie! Go, get
out of here." Kevin started to push Mack out the door.

"Thanks for being so, uh, understanding."

"Hey, no problem man," Kevin said happily.

Mack put the jewelry box into his backpack and walked out of
the locker room.

---xxx---xxx---

Stacy ran into Sandi's house; she then picked herself up off
the ground and opened the door. She raced up the stairs and
burst into Sandi's room. "Guys, I have huge news!" she
gasped.

"Stacy, did you, like, run into my house again?" Sandi
asked.

"Yes," Stacy sniffled, "but I have a good excuse this time,
I was distracted by what I just found out."

"Which is?"

"Well, you see, I was in the school getting ready to come
over here and I was walking down the hall when I overheard
it, so it might not be true but..."

"Stacy, out with it!" Sandi sternly ordered.

"Quinn's a lesbian!" Stacy exclaimed.

"A what?" Tiffany asked.

"Are you sure?" How did you find out?" Sandi demanded.
This was music to her ears; the only thing that would be
sweeter to her would be catching Quinn acting like a brain
again.

"She was talking to Ann Raeder..."

"That geek? Why was Quinn talking to her?"

"Quinn was thanking her for helping with something. And Ann
said that Quinn couldn't keep her secret forever."

" Quinn's got a secret? Maybe she's being tutored again,"
Tiffany said.

"She also said that Quinn's lesbian activities would
interfere with the Fashion Club."

"Oh...wow, Quinn's a lesbian," Tiffany mumbled.

"And she's obviously getting lesbian tips from Ann," Sandi
mused.

"But wait, doesn't Ann have a boyfriend? That guy, Mark, or
Mike, or whatever."

"Please Stacy, he's obviously gay. Have you ever seen him?"

"I guess...but what are we going to do about Quinn?"

"Nothing," Sandi said, a smile creeping across her face.

"Nothing, but she's a lesbian, and if people found out
they'd think we're lesbians too, and I'm not a lesbian, not
that there's anything wrong with that, but I don't want
people to think I'm something I'm not...plus I'm not as
popular as you or Quinn, I couldn't handle the stigma..."

"Stacy, settle down, it won't come to that. Remember, we
know Quinn's little secret, and she doesn't know we know.
We can make her do whatever we want."

"She'd probably be willing to do that without blackmail,"
Tiffany commented. Sandi and Stacy stared at her. "Well,
if she's into girls wouldn't she be attracted to us? We are
the cutest girls in school."

"Ohymygosh, Tiffany's right, what do we do if she tries to
put the moves on us? I bet she joined the Fashion Club just
to get close to us. She might try to slip me a mickey,"
Stacy exclaimed.

"Would you two relax, she'd never try anything with either
of you, at least not while I'm around. After all, I am the
cutest one here..."

"But..." Stacy hesitantly said.

"But what Stacy?"

"Well if she doesn't know we know how can we make her do
what we want?"

"What is the most powerful weapon available to the Fashion
Club?" Sandi said, with an air of great patience.

"Eyeliner?" Tiffany guessed.

"Our feminine wiles?" Stacy offered.

"No, rumor and innuendo," Sandi said, chiding the other
members.

"Starting a rumor about another Fashion Club member?" Stacy
gasped, "But, but isn't that against the charter?"

"Inuit?" Tiffany asked, still trying to decipher Sandi's
comment.

"Please Stacy, I wish you'd settle down. It's not against
the charter if the member in question is on secret
probation, and I think we all agree that the charter allows
the President of the Fashion Club to put member's on secret
probation without letting the member in question know."

"Uh, no it doesn't," Stacy said, her entire body quivering
as she spoke.

"What?"

"If a Fashion Club member is placed on Secret Probation the
rest of the Fashion Club has to be informed," Stacy quoted,
"You wrote that yourself."

"Fine, then Quinn's been on double secret probation, ever
since this summer. And since it's double secret the
President doesn't have to inform the other members,
especially the Secretary," Sandi's eyes narrowed, "Do I make
myself clear?"

"Uh, yes, perfectly." Stacy stammered.

They were interrupted by a commotion from the living room
that could only mean one thing. Quinn had arrived. "Ok,
neither of you say anything about this, we don't want to tip
our hand," Sandi ordered.

Quinn entered the room, "Hi guys, sorry I'm late, but I got
tied up helping someone coordinate. "So, what are we
talking about?" Quinn asked as she sat down next to Stacy,
who tried to discretely scoot away from Quinn.

"Well, if you had arrived on time you'd know that we were
talking about the dangers of secrets. How if you keep
secrets from your friends you get a really bad complexion
and start hanging out with uncool people."

"Is that a fact?"

"Yes, and it would be such a shame if a Fashion Club member
was keeping a secret from the rest of the club. Because, as
we all know, a bad complexion is grounds for instant
dismissal from the Fashion Club," Sand said, not so subtly.

"I agree completely Sandi," Quinn said, just a little too
smoothly. "What brought this up anyway?"

"There have been unconfirmed reports of an unidentified
Fashion Club member talking to a geek in a friendly manner."

"Says who?" Quinn demanded.

"As I said, these are anonymous reports, I don't have any
names, but if they are true and I find out who it is,"
Sandi's face broke into a wicked smile. "Well, it won't be
pretty. Do I make myself clear?" Sandi stared at Quinn.

"Oh perfectly, Sandi, besides you know if I had a secret I'd
come out and tell you. I hold honesty in high esteem." The
rest of the Fashion Club stared at Quinn. "Uh, what is it
guys, is something not matching?"

"What? Oh, we'd never think you'd have to come out and tell
us anything," Stacy blurted out.

"What Stacy meant to say is that we know you are above
reproach Quinn," Sandi said smoothly, trying to cover up
Stacy's slip.

"Well of course I am." Quinn looked down at the pile of
magazines on the floor, searching for something to change
the topic. "Hey, check out this dress Anne Heche is
wearing, isn't it cute?" She said, holding up the magazine.
The rest of the Fashion Club shared a horrified expression.

Lawndale, Eight years ago

Mack was sitting in class, trying to pay attention to the
teacher when the door opened and the principal walked in,
escorting a young black girl. Mack instantly snapped to
attention when he saw the girl. The principal and the
teacher exchanged a few words before the principal turned
and walked out of the classroom.

"Class," the teacher said, "I 'd like to announce that we
have a new student joining us today. Jodie, why don't you
tell us a little about yourself."

"Uh hi, my name is Jodie Landon, I just moved here from
Detroit Michigan and I can't wait to get to know all of
you," the girl said.

"Thank you Jodie, you can take a seat at any empty desk,"
the teacher told the girl.

Mack nudged Kevin in the ribs. "Hey, Kevin, move over."

"Huh?"

"You heard me, go sit by Brittany or something."

"Brittany, ewww, she's got cooties and stuff."

"Oh, just go do it man, you're not in kindergarten anymore."

"Oh, alright, but you owe me for this one bro," Kevin said
as he gathered up his bag.

"Fine, I owe you, just get lost." Mack told the departing
quarterback.

"Hey Brit, looking good...ow! Mrs. Grohl Brittany hit me!"

Mack saw the new girl looking around for an empty seat. He
waved to catch her attention. "There's a seat here," he
said.

"Thanks," the girl replied as she slipped into the desk.
"Hi there, I'm Jodie Landon."

"I'm Mack."

"Mack?" the girl asked.

"Actually my name's Michael Mackenzie, but everyone calls me
Mack."

"Ok, hi Mack, nice to meet you. I like your hair," Jodie
said, nodding at Mack's dreadlocks.

Mack self-consciously touched his hair, "Oh, thanks."

Jodie looked around. "So, are we the only two black kids in
the class?"

Mack nodded, "There are a few, not many though. There
aren't any in this class, that's for sure."

"That's what I was afraid of."

Jodie sighed, "Oh well, at least there's one other black kid
in the school, that's better than I thought it would be."

"There weren't many black people at your old school?" Mack
asked.

"Not all that many, how about you?"

"Michael, Jodie, can I have your attention please?" The
teacher asked sternly.

"Sorry," Mack and Jodie said in unison.

Mack did his best to focus on the teacher and not Jodie.
His concentration was broken by a piece of paper landing on
his desk. He picked up the scrap and read it. "Want to eat
lunch with me? -Jodie" Mack looked over at Jodie and
nodded. She smiled in reply.

"Well," Mack thought, "Maybe things are starting to look
up."

Lawndale, Present

Mack sat in front of the law firm Jodie was currently
interning for, waiting for her to come out. He bounced his
backpack on he knee and watched the people walk by. He
could hear the jewelry box rattle against the other contents
of the pack. Mack sighed and dropped the bag.

"What is taking her so long?" He muttered. Mack didn't
understand why Jodie's parents pushed her so hard. He got
their desire for her to get into a good school, but she was
smart, and a minority. All Jodie had to do was not get
thrown in jail and she was set. Mack stood up when he saw
Jodie exit the building. "Hey Jodie, over here!" He
shouted.

Jodie turned and saw Mack. She walked over to him. "Hi
Mack, what are you doing here?"

"What, a guy can't meet his girlfriend at work?" Mack asked
before kissing Jodie.

"I'm not complaining, I'm just surprised, I thought you'd
still be at practice."

"I cut out a little early, we have that thing with your
folks tonight, remember," Mack said as they started to walk
away from the building.

"Oh god, I totally forgot about that. It is tonight,
dammit, I wanted to spend tonight resting with you," Jodie
frowned.

"Well you can spend the evening napping with me at a really
expensive fundraiser," Mack said before supportively
wrapping an arm around her.

"It's just not the same," she groused.

"The food's better and we can always sneak off to a broom
closet or something if things get really dull."

"Of course you'd think with your stomach." She playfully
slapped Mack's stomach.

"You know me, I'm just a simple boy from the 'hood. I never
turn down a free meal."

"Traitor, selling me out for a hundred dollar a plate meal."

"I've never eaten off of a plate that cost a hundred
dollars," Mack observed. "Are your folks charged another
hundred dollars if I want seconds?"

"There aren't seconds. You spend a hundred dollars for five
bucks worth of food, and you then get the privilege of
listening to a bunch of gasbags drone on about something
they don't really understand."

"But is it good food?" Mack asked.

"It costs a hundred dollars, what do you think?"

"I'm thinking the organizers want to maximize their profits
and skimping on the food is one way to do that," he
commented.

"It won't be burgers and fries Mack. We are dealing with
people who are willing to spend over hundred dollars on
dinner and not bat an eyelash."

"Damn, and I was so looking forward to having a burger."

"Yeah, I'm sure." The two teens started to walk away from
the office building. "Oh, what did the team get you?" Jodie
suddenly asked.

Mack's face tightened, "How do you know about that?"

Jodie shrugged, "Brittany told me the team was buying you a
present, but she didn't tell me what it was."

"Oh, well, it's not anything special."

"This is Kevin we're talking about, it has to be worth a
look."

"It's not, ok?" Mack snapped. He sighed, "Look, can we
just not talk about this right now?"

Jodie looked at him a little taken aback. "Sure, whatever
you want Mack."

"Sorry, it's just...well...I don't want to talk about it
right now. There's nothing wrong, I've just got other stuff
on my mind that's all," Mack lamely offered, trying to
placate Jodie.

"Ok, if you don't want to talk about it that's fine, I was
just curious. Come on, I have to go home to get ready for
this dinner, and you have to do the same."

Mack nodded, "Right."

"We'll pick you up a little before six."

"Sounds good. See you then." Mack kissed Jodie goodbye.

"Clean up good, ok?" Jodie asked before returning the kiss.
The teens walked off in separate directions.

---xxx---xxx---

Quinn walked into the living room, holding her copy of
"Under Milk Wood." Daria was sitting on the couch watching
television. Quinn sat down next to her sister.

"What do you want Quinn?" Daria asked without looking up
from the television.

"What makes you think I want anything from you?" Quinn
countered.

"You entered the five foot exclusionary zone; you want
something from me."

"I think the Fashion Club knows about the play," Quinn
blurted out.

"And this is a surprise because? They were going to find
out sooner or later," Daria said, finally turning her
attention to Quinn

"But this is too soon. I haven't figured out what to tell
them," Quinn whined.

"The truth comes to mind."

"Very funny."

Daria shrugged, "Friends don't keep secrets from one
another...wait, forget I said that. Anyway, how do you know
that they know?"

"Well, they were acting really weird at the meeting
tonight."

"I'll take your word that this differs from their usual
behavior." Daria thought for a moment, "So they never came
right out and accused you of anything?"

"No, but that's not Sandi's style," Quinn added, cutting off
Daria's comment. "She likes to let you know that she knows
without actually says that she does. That way she makes you
think that you owe her something because she's not talking
about your dirty little secrets."

"Wow, Machiavelli with a schrunchy," Daria turned her
attention back to the television.

"Daria, this is serious. Sandi could do irreparable harm to
my image just by not telling people what I'm doing," Quinn
groaned and started to massage her temples

"Doesn't that mean you're damned no matter what?"

"Not if I could control how people found out."

"Uh-huh, and how were you planning on accomplishing that
trick?"

"Well that was the part I hadn't figured out."

"Ok, well, far be it for me to tell you how to handle your
affairs, but it seems to me that the longer you waited to
tell them the greater the likelihood of this blowing up in
your face increased; until you reached the point you're at
now."

Quinn sighed, "Yeah, I know."

"And cheer up, if they do know then you can stop sneaking
around and rehearsing on the side."

"I guess that would be a benefit. It has been getting
pretty hard to come up with a new excuse every time I have a
rehearsal.

"Frankly I'm amazed you managed to fool them for this long."

"We are talking about the Fashion Club Daria."

"Right, and you're a member as well, or did you forget
that?"

"You know what I mean."

"Do I understand that the Fashion Club is populated with
mental midgets? Yes, I that I do get."

"Present company excluded, right?" Daria did not respond.
"Dammit Daria, I'm not a midget!" Quinn shouted.

"Compared to Schroedinger you are."

"Please, even you don't measure up when it comes to one of
the founders of quantum mechanics."

"Touche," Daria said, a faint hint of admiration crept into
her voice.

"You didn't think I'd know who Schroedinger was did you?"
Quinn asked, a sly grin crept onto her face.

"No, I didn't, that time you spent this summer with your boy
toy certainly paid off."

"David was not a boy toy, he didn't even like me, and thank
you so much for bringing up that painful period of my life,"
Quinn said before storming out of the living room.

Daria leaned back on the couch, "I thought she'd never
leave...aw hell, damn conscience. Hey Quinn, wait up!"
Daria called out as she got up to follow her sister.

Lawndale, Nine years ago

Mack walked down the hall of the elementary school. He'd
been there for a couple months and was starting to no longer
feel like an oddity. The boy he'd met on his first day,
Kevin, turned out to be a little on the slow side, but
friendly enough, and Mack enjoyed playing football with him.
He did not have much to do with the rest of his classmates,
which was fine by him. There were some third-graders who
hung out with Kevin that he spent time with, but that was
the extent of his interaction with the other students at the
school.

"Hey Mack, wait up!" Kevin shouted. Mack stopped and
turned to face Kevin. When he saw the other boy Mack had to
rub his eyes to make sure he wasn't seeing things. Kevin
was wearing his clothes backwards.

"What the heck happened to your clothes?" Mack asked.

"Check it out dude, I'm like, totally crossed out," Kevin
said. He turned around to show that he was in fact wearing
his clothing reversed.

"You're what?"

"You know, Kris Kross, 'Jump!' 'Daddy Mack will make you
jump-jump. The Mack daddy make you jump!' They show the
video all the time on MTV." Kevin hopped up and down as he
sang.

"I, uh, don't watch much MTV. How did you get your pants on
backwards anyway?" Mack asked in disbelief.

"Uh, I don't want to talk about it," Kevin said, obviously
hesitant to go into details.

"Ok, sure, but what possessed you to do it in the first
place?"

"Because it's cool man, inside out is wiggidy-wack!" Kevin
paused as he thought for a moment. "Wait a second, your
name's Mack, hey, Mack-daddy makes you jump! Pretty cool
huh?"

Mack winced, "Please don't call me that."

"Why not, I mean you are the Mack-daddy of Lawndale
Elementary."

"Says who?"

"Who else could it be?" Kevin asked innocently

"You, you're the one who's crossed out or whatever," Mack
said, anger creeping into his voice.

"No way man, you're the guy," Kevin insisted, oblivious to
Mack's growing ire.

Mack sighed, "Whatever, just don't call me that."

"Aw come on, lighten up Mack-daddy."

"Kevin...I've got one question for you."

"What is it Mack-daddy?"

Mack flinched, as if restraining himself, "Just how do you
go the bathroom dressed up like that?" he asked
nonchalantly.

Kevin frowned, "What do you mean?"

"Well I know I'd hate it if I had to go to the bathroom and
I couldn't reach my zipper. The pressure building and
building and you can't do anything about it. If I were you
I wouldn't think about Niagara Falls, all those millions of
gallons of water pouring down every day. By the way, how
much did you have to drink at breakfast?"

A panicked expression crossed Kevin's face. "I, uh, got to
go." He ran off and crashed into the bathroom door.

"Uh, what's wrong with Kevin?" a passing student asked.

Mack shrugged, "I dunno, I think he had to go to the
bathroom." An anguished cry emanated from the bathroom,
filling the halls.

Lawndale, Present Day

Mack walked up to the his locker and started to work the
combination. He opened the door and gathered the books he
needed for the morning. When he unzipped his backpack he
saw the jewelry box Kevin gave him the previous day. He
picked up the box and stared at it.

Jodie walked up behind Mack, "Is that for me?" she asked.

"Huh?" Mack asked, startled. "Uh, no, this isn't
anything." He tossed the box in his locker.

"Mack, I know a jewelry box when I see it, are you planning
on giving that to another girl or something?"

"What? No, nothing like that," Mack sighed. "It's the gift
the team got me, I put it in my pack after practice and
forgot it was there."

"Oh, can I see it?" Jodie asked as she reached for the box.

"No!" Mack snapped, shoving the box into the locker.

"Come on Mack, I'm not easily offended," Jodie pleaded,
trying to persuade Mack.

"Ok, fine, see for yourself." Mack handed Jodie the box and
walked off.

Jodie opened the box and looked inside, "Oh, hell," she
murmured. The box contained a gaudy necklace with a diamond
encrusted "Mack" dangling from a gold chain. "Kevin, you
are an idiot."

---xxx---xxx---

Quinn was walking to class when Joey, Jeffy and Jamie
stepped in her way.

"Uh, hi Quinn," Jamie said with more trepidation than
normal.

"Hi guys, do uh, you know what's going on? Everybody's
looking at me funny today," Quinn asked the trio.

"We know what you're up to," Joey blurted out.

"What?"

"We know about you and Anne Raeder," Jeffy said.

"Who told you?" Quinn demanded.

"We have our sources," Jamie replied, though not as
cryptically as he would have liked.

"So, is it true?" Jeffy asked.

Quinn hung her head, "Yes, it is, I'm in..."

"Whoa, that's pretty cool," Jamie said, cutting off Quinn's
admission.

"Yeah, and it explains a lot," Joey added. "Like why you
haven't gone out with me for the past month."

"So you guys don't think I'm a freak?" Quinn asked,
astonishment and hope crept into her voice.

"What, no, it's actually kind of hot..." Jeffy paused,
"Could, uh, we watch sometime?"

"Well of course, everyone's going to get a chance in a
couple weeks," Quinn said, her relief at her non-ostracism
overshadowed the odd request.

"Cool, thanks Quinn," Jamie said in an awestruck voice.

"Yeah, who'd have thought lesbians would be so awesome,"
Joey muttered to the other two teens as they walked away
from Quinn.

"Wow, I'd have never imagined they'd be so nice about the
play," Quinn thought, not hearing what Joey said.

Lawndale, Nine years ago

Mack walked into his house after another day of school. He
immediately sought out his mother. He found her in the
kitchen. "Hi mom, what are you making?"

"It's a surprise."

"Well it smells good." He sat down at the kitchen table.
"When will dad be home?"

"Not until later, he called and said he'd be working late
again. Could you hand me the pepper dear?"

"He's been doing that a lot lately," Mack commented as he
handed his mother the pepper shaker.

"It takes a lot of work to get a new factory working
properly. How was school today Michael?"

Mack shrugged, "Ok." He looked thoughtful for a moment, "Hey
Mom?"

"Yes dear?"

"Why do all the kids at school think I'm going to act a
certain way and like certain things?"

Mack's mother stiffened slightly, "Has anyone called you
anything Michael?" she demanded.

"Just Mack," he said.

"I'm not fond of that nickname, your name's Michael."

Mack shrugged, "I don't mind it, and there isn't anyone else
going by that name, but there are a bunch of Mike's."

His mom sighed, "And I suppose there are worse names you
could be called. Like 'Black' Mike."

"That's what I thought too, but why do they think I know all
the words to Can't Touch This?"

"It's because they don't know any better dear. The only
things they know about black people they get from TV." She
told Mack as she sampled the contents of the pot.

"But that's so stupid."

"Yes, it is."

"So what am I supposed to do about it?"

"Just be yourself and the other kids will come around."

"And if they don't?"

"Then you still have to be yourself, don't let anyone else
dictate who you are Michael Mackenzie." She hugged her son.
"Now then, let's see if we can't find you something to eat
while we wait for dad to come home, how does that sound?"

"Sounds great, I'd like to have a sandwich please?"

"And just what kind of sandwich do you want to have?"

"Grilled cheese?" Mack asked hopefully.

"Well ok, but only if you help me make it."

"Alright," Mack hopped up from his seat and ran over to the
refrigerator.

"I need cheese, butter, and the bread," His mother told him.
Mack gathered the ingredients and mother and son set about
making a grilled cheese sandwich.

Lawndale, Present

Mack sat by himself at lunch, picking at his food.

"It's a violation of our human rights," a familiar monotonic
voice said from behind him.

Mack turned around and saw Daria, "Huh?"

"The food, it's in opposition of the Geneva Conventions."

Mack smiled, Daria had a pretty bleak outlook, but her sense
of humor was good for a chuckle or two. "I know, I
thought it was impossible to ruin a grilled cheese sandwich,
but damn." Mack poked at the sandwich on his plate."

"So that's what that is," Daria said, perfectly nonchalant.
"I'm more concerned about what the green blobby stuff is."

"I think the white chunks are marshmallows." Mack prodded
the green desert on his tray with his spork.

"Do you want to taste it to find out?"

"No, some things are best left unknown." Mack stuck his
utensil into the goo and watched as the spork wiggled.

"Mind if I sit down?" Daria asked.

"Uh sure, go ahead. Why aren't you sitting with Jane?"

"She's having lunch with the theater crew, they're having a
brain storming session and I really do not want to get
entangled with that." Daria took a hand off her tray and
waved it in the direction of a corner of the cafeteria.
Mack looked and saw Jane and a group of student engaged in a
heated discussion.

"And there aren't any other free tables," Mack finished.

"Exactly, what about you, where's Jodie?" Daria asked as
she sat down.

"Oh, the Student Council is holding a lunch meeting," Mack
answered, the disdain evident in his voice.

"And you don't want to get involved in that," Daria said.

"You got it, student politics just leave me cold. If it
wasn't for Jodie I wouldn't have anything to do with them.
I've got enough to do with the football team."

"I didn't realize being captain of the football team carried
a lot of responsibility."

"I have to keep Kevin out of trouble," Mack replied.

"Oh, I take back what I said, my condolences."

"Thanks, were you aware that I've known Kevin since
elementary school?"

"No, I didn't, and curiosity forces me to ask. How long has
he called you Mack-Daddy?"

"For almost the entire time."

"You are a man of great fortitude, why haven't you killed
him?"

"Because my mom says the best way to change a person's
opinion of you is just by being yourself, and beating up
Kevin wouldn't accomplish anything positive."

"Still, don't you wish you'd punched him the first time he
said it?"

Mack looked thoughtful, "I don't know, sounds tempting, but
I don't know if it would've been worth it. Kevin's an
idiot, and everyone knows it. I think I impress people
because I don't pound him."

"I'm impressed I didn't know you were so clever, of course
there is a lot I don't know about you."

"Just like there's a lot I don't know about you," Mack
pointed out.

"Care to hear my life story?" Daria asked.

"Not really, how about you?"

"I know my life so I'll pass on hearing yours; keeping my
own problems straight is enough work for me. Besides why
spoil a perfectly good mystery man?"

"Uh, thanks, I think."

"Well, why don't you want to hear about my life?" Daria
asked.

Mack shrugged, "Because, I, er..."

"Don't care that much to find out?" Daria said, supplying
Mack the answer.

"I wouldn't put it quite that way, but yeah, I suppose so."

"Same for me, sure you're a nice enough person, but I don't
have a burning desire to get to know you any better. And
it's not a crime to admit that. We move in a different
circles and beyond school don't have much in common."

"So where does that leave us?" Mack asked.

"Cordial acquaintances."

"You don't hear too many people describe their relationships
as cordial these days," Mack quipped.

Daria shrugged, "What can I say, I'm a throwback."

"I wouldn't say that, you're too independent to be
representative of an earlier time."

"And too apathetic to be an activist back then," Daria
agreed, "So I guess I'm just a girl who was bored enough to
read Roget's cover to cover one summer."

"It shows," Mack said, he enjoyed the chance to verbally
fence with Daria.

"Thank you."

"Just out of curiosity you wouldn't be interested in helping
Kevin have a little accident?"

"Contrary to popular belief I'm not an assassin," Daria
said, "But out of curiosity why do you ask?"

"Oh nothing, forget I said anything," he hastily replied.

"Against my better judgement I'm compelled to ask; what did
Kevin do this time?"

"It's not anything important, he and the rest of the team
bought me a little thank-you gift."

"And just how hideous a gift can it be if you're in the
market for a hitter?"

"Just a necklace with a 'Mack' pendant."

"That's not so bad..."

"Did I mention it was gold and encrusted with cubic
zirconia, and that 'Mack' is spelled out in two inch high
letters."

"Oh...I've never seen you wear anything like that."

"I don't," Mack grumbled. "In fact I hate all that
'bling-bling' crap. Besides, 'bling' is supposed to be
platinum, Kevin can't even get his gear right!"

"So just give it back."

"I can't, I don't want to hurt the other guys' feelings. I
know they mean well, but they just don't know any better."

"The only way they'll learn is if you tell them."

"Daria, I've been telling Kevin not to call me 'Mack Daddy'
for almost ten years." He angrily jabbed at his sandwich
with his knife.

"So what are you going to do about this latest outrage?"

Mack shrugged, "I...don't know."

"Well, I know I'm not the most qualified person to talk to
you about this sort of thing..."

"Because you're white," Mack said, finishing Daria's
statement for her.

Daria shifted in her seat, "Uh, yeah, plus there's the whole
'I don't know you thing.' Wouldn't Jodie be a better person
to confide in?"

"Because she's black?" Mack asked, the ire evident in his
voice.

"And she's been your girlfriend for as long as I've known
both of you." Daria paused, "Come to think of it, why is
everything about race with you?"

"Because it is, I'm black, just about everyone else in this
town isn't."

"You haven't had anyone antagonize you because of that have
you?" Daria asked.

Mack shook his head, "No, just the opposite in fact. People
go out of their way not to offend me...and usually end up
annoying me anyway. They expect I'm going to act a certain
way and like certain things that I don't do or like. Do you
know how many times people have offered me fried chicken?"

"You don't like fried chicken?"

"I don't hate fried chicken, but that's not the point.
People assume I like it because I'm black and we all know
how much black folk love their fried chicken."

Daria shrugged, "And people assume I'm a borderline
psychopathic misanthrope when they see me, big deal. People
are stupid."

"Yeah, but would you like to be voted Prom Queen just
because people thought you'd go Carrie on them if they
didn't. Sometimes I think people are nice to me because
they think I'm going to shoot them with my Glock if they
aren't."

"Hmm, good point," Daria conceded. She thought for a while,
"But still, why aren't you talking to Jodie about this?"

"Because she doesn't get it either, not totally."

"Ok, now you've lost me."

"Last night I went with Jodie and her parents to a hundred
dollar a plate fundraiser dinner. In my entire life I've
never spent more than maybe twenty bucks on dinner for just
myself. Jodie's never lived in the hood like I have. She
doesn't understand the realities of inner-city living
anymore than you do."

"Oh I don't huh?" Jodie said from behind them.

Mack turned around and saw a very angry Jodie glaring at
him. "Jodie, hi, I, er didn't see you there," he stammered.

"So what, I'm not black enough for you? Just because I've
never lived in a ghetto I can't know your pain?"

"Quite frankly no, you can't." Mack snapped, "Did you ever
get to know the homicide detectives who came around on a
first name basis? Or how about always checking to make sure
there wasn't a police cruiser parked along the street so
you'd know that it was safe to walk down the block? Or
memorize which corners not to walk past at certain times of
the day to make sure you don't catch a bullet?"

"No, but then again my parents didn't harbor crazy notions
about staying where their roots were even though those roots
were in the middle of a war zone."

"Well maybe if more people thought like my parents did and
stayed put, instead of running to the suburbs the
inner-cities might not be a war zone!" Mack shot back.

"Okay, you two obviously have a lot to work out, so I'll
just let you be," Daria said as she slipped away, taking her
food with her.

"Actually we don't, if Mack doesn't think I measure up to
his definition of a 'good' black person then I don't want
anything to do with him." Jodie turned on her heel and
stormed away.

Mack looked down at his lunch and sighed, "Great, just when
I thought this day couldn't get any worse." He pounded his
fist on the table, causing his can of soda to tip over,
spilling its contents on the table.

---xxx---xxx---

Daria walked out of the cafeteria in search of a quiet place
to spend the rest of her lunch period when Sandi, Tiffany,
and Stacy crossed her path.

"Hmph, look, it's Quinn's cousin, or whatever. You know, I
always thought she'd be the one," Sandi said to Tiffany and
Stacy.

"Yeah, I know," Tiffany agreed.

"Hold it," Daria demanded, "I normally don't give a rat's
ass what your living mannequins think about me, mostly
because you don't. But right now I'm just not in the mood
to be amused. So out with it, what did you think I was
going to be?"

"Well, I head Quinn talking to Ann Raeder yesterday," Stacy
hesitantly said.

"Oh, so you did find out about that," Daria said, cutting
the girl off before she could finish. "I don't really see
why you'd think I'd do that, but I suppose that would
require you to think."

"You knew?" Sandi asked, dumbfounded.

"Of course I knew, I live with her, it's hard to keep that
kind of secret from someone you live with," Daria snapped,
her irritation with the Fashion Club kept her from paying
closer attention to their behavior.

"But didn't that, like, freak you out?" Stacy asked.

Daria frowned, "Uh, why would it?" She sensed that maybe
they were not talking about the same thing.

"Hello, Quinn's a lesbian, how could you not be freaked out
by that?" Sandi said.

Daria did her best to keep her voice even, "Well, you know,
why would I be freaked out about that? There's nothing
wrong with being gay. You three don't have a problem with
homosexuals do you?" Daria asked, barely containing her
smirk.

"Of course we don't," Sandi said disdainfully, "the Fashion
Club is a bastion of tolerance in a cruel world. You know,
you really should try a different look from time to time; it
would make you look less like the loser you are."

"I'll take that under advisement," Daria said before walking
away from the Fashion Club. "Must find Jane," she muttered
to herself. Daria was walking down the hall when she
suddenly got yanked into a classroom. "Gah!" she exclaimed
before a hand clamped over her mouth.

"Shhh," Quinn whispered, "I don't want to attract any
attention."

"And shanghaiing people is sure a great way to keep a low
profile," Daria groused when Quinn removed her hand.

"I need your help, everyone knows about me," Quinn
frantically said.

"Oh they know something alright, it's just not what you
think," Daria quipped.

"What should I do?" Quinn asked, not paying attention to
her sister.

"What fun would it be if I told you everything?" Daria
said, smirking to herself.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Talk to Stacy," Daria said cryptically.

"Huh?"

"Stacy is the key, talk to her," Daria said before ducking
out of the classroom. She turned and walked into Jane, who
was heading down the hall in the opposite direction.

"We have to talk," they said in unison.

"To the roof?" Jane asked, Daria nodded. "You won't
believe the story I have for you," Jane said.

"I think I can do you one better," Daria replied.

"I wouldn't bet on that."

"I would," Daria said, smirking. "The Fashion Club thinks
Quinn's a lesbian, and Quinn doesn't know. She thinks they
know about her being in the play."

Jane's mouth moved wordlessly as she processed this
revelation. "Damn, that trumps what I've got."

"What were you going to say?" Daria asked.

Jane blinked rapidly, "You know, I've plumb forgot."

Baltimore, Nine years ago

Michael was sitting in the living room of the Mackenzie
apartment watching TV. "Hey mom!" He called out.

"Yes dear?" his mother asked from the kitchen.

"What's up with this guy's hair?" He pointed at the
television.

"What?" Mrs. Mackenzie asked as she walked into the living
room. "Oh, that's Bob Marley."

"Who's he?"

"Bob Marley was a musician from Jamaica, you know, like the
people who live down the hall from us?" Mack nodded, he
didn't really know them since they didn't emerge from their
apartment very often. "Well Bob Marley played a kind of
music called Reggae that was created by the black people of
Jamaica, and became popular all over the world."

"Kind of like rap?"

"Yes, like rap, and like rap, reggae music encapsulated the
life of the people of Jamaica, their hopes, realities,
dreams and frustrations."

"What happened to him?"

"He died many years ago."

"How?"

"He had a tumor in his toe, but he didn't let the doctors
operate because he didn't want them to cut off his toe."

"That seems silly."

"To you maybe, but to him it was a matter of being true to
himself and his faith. And that's an important lesson
Michael, no matter what any one says or does always be true
to yourself. Don't let anyone sway you from that. In the
end it's your life and you're the person who has to live
with the consequences of your actions, not the person who
talked you into it."

Michael nodded as he digested what his mother said. He
stared at the TV for a long moment. "Mom?" He finally
asked.

"Could I wear my hair like that?"

"It takes a long time to grow your hair that long."

"That's ok, I don't want it super-long. I just want them
braided like that to remind myself of what you said about
being myself."

Michaels's mother leaned over and hugged her son. "What did
I do to deserve such a wise boy?"

Michael shrugged, "Does this mean we won't have broccoli at
dinner tonight?"

His mother laughed, "No, it's the broccoli that makes you so
smart. It's like Popeye, spinach makes you strong, and
broccoli makes you smart."

Michael made a face, "That doesn't make me like the stuff."

"Just be glad I'm not making you eat zucchini young man.
Now then, turn that TV off and go set the table, your
father's going to be home soon."

Michael sighed, "Yes, Ma'am."

Lawndale, Present day

Mack sat in the empty stands overlooking the football field.
He was missing science, but that didn't really bother him.
Whenever he got the chance he avoided Barch's class Mack
sighed, he had a lot to think about.

"Dammit Kevin, why do you have to be so damn dense?" He
wondered. "All you had to do was buy a damn thank-you card.
Instead he gets that gaudy piece of junk. And now I'm
facing down my last year in this white-bread hell hole with
Jodie pissed at me."

Mack stood up and walked down the track. He needed to clear
his head and the best way he knew to do that was by working
out. He took off his shirt, shivering a little in the
increasingly cold autumn air and started to run.

---xxx---xxx---

Quinn found Stacy sitting under a tree outside of school.
"Hey Stacy," she called out.

Stacy visibly flinched when she heard Quinn's voice. "Uhh,
hi Quinn."

"Mind if I sit down here?" Quinn asked.

"Err, sure, go ahead."

Quinn sat down next to Stacy, who shifted a little to
increase the distance between her and Quinn. "So Stacy,"
Quinn said deliberately, "Do you have any idea what's going
on today?"

"Uhm, what do you mean Quinn?"

"Everyone's been acting so weird today. First Jeffy, Joey,
and Justin and just now Ms. Barch congratulated me for
'freeing myself from the shackles of male tyranny.' It's
all very strange."

"Well maybe they found out that someone was keeping a
secret, a dark, terrible secret," Stacy mumbled.

"So what, everyone has secrets. Keeping secrets is no big
deal."

"But this secret is. It's a very big deal," Stacy said.
"It brings everything I thought about...this person into
doubt. Everything Quinn!"

Quinn realized she was the person Stacy was talking about,
and she tried to calm her fellow Fashion Club member.
"Maybe you're just making a mountain out of a molehill, you
know how rumors are."

Stacy sniffled, "But this isn't a rumor, I know the truth
firsthand."

Quinn cleared her throat, "You, uh do?"

"Yes I do," Stacy stared at Quinn, "I saw you talking to Ann
Raeder yesterday, and I heard everything. So, is it true?"

Quinn sighed, "Yes, it is."

"Oh my god, so that means you're a..."

"Yes, I am," Quinn hung her head.

"Oh." An awkward silence fell over the pair as they
digested their individual interpretations of their
conversation.

Quinn, interpreting the silence as resentment on Stacy's
part, tried to explain herself. "Come on Stacy, it's not
like I'm a totally different person, we can still go out and
do stuff together."

Stacy didn't respond to Quinn. Instead she sat there, lost
in thought. She took a deep breath, "So, uh, Quinn...what's
it like?"

"It's a lot of work, and nowhere near as glamorous as it's
made out to be."

"Is it better?"

"I wouldn't necessarily say better, it's different sure, but
not better. There is a lot of memorization though."

"Memorization?" Stacy asked, confused.

"Yeah, who'd have thought Mr. O'Neill would be such a
stickler for detail."

"Mr. O'Neill?" Stacy exclaimed, horror creeping into her
voice.

"Well he is the director after all," Quinn said by way of
explanation, she didn't understand Stacy's shock.

"Director?" Stacy yelled. Several people standing nearby
turned and looked at the pair

"Stacy, are you alright?" Quinn asked, trying to calm the
teen down.

Stacy leapt up, "Am I alright? Am I alright? No, I'm not
alright, I only just started to even get used to the fact
that you're a lesbian, and now I find out you're making porn
with Mr. O'Neill as your director!"

Quinn's eyes grew wide in shock. "Stacy, what the hell are
you talking about? I'm not a lesbian, and I'm not making
pornos!" She paused, "Stacy, Ewwwww."

"But I hear Ann Raeder say you were yesterday. She said
your lesbian activities were going to interfere with the
Fashion Club." Stacy slowly sat back down.

"Oh...oh," Quinn said, realization dawning on her. "Ann
didn't say that. She said thespian Stacy, not lesbian,
thespian."

"So you're not a lesbian?"

"No, of course not."

"Oh....then what's a thespian?"

"It's nothing really..." Quinn stopped, then started to
speak again, "It's a fancy word for actor."

"Oh," Stacy said, not really grasping what Quinn said.
"Oh," she said much more meaningfully when the realization
struck. "You're not, like in the school play are you?"
Quinn hung her head. "You're in the school play? But
that's, like something only loser do. Why Quinn, why?" She
pleaded.

"I just tried out for the extra credit. I didn't meant to
actually get a part."

"Why didn't you just quit?"

"Because I'd lose the extra credit. I got trapped Stacy. I
don't want to be in the stupid play, but I don't have any
other option!"

"Why did you want the extra credit in the first place?"
Stacy asked.

"Well remember this summer, and the tutor?" Quinn started
to say his name, but stopped.

"Yeah, he was mean."

"No he wasn't," Quinn said, frowning. "Well, not too mean
anyway, but that's not important. The thing is, I decided I
want to do better in my classes."

"Why would you want that?"

"I don't want people to think I'm just cute."

"What's wrong with that?" Stacy asked, confused. "I
thought that was the whole point of the Fashion Club."

"Think about Brittany, do you really want people to say the
things they say about her about you?"

"But Brittany's a....oh, I see your point."

"If I get good grades then people can't say I'm just a
bimbo; I'll be more popular than ever. If all goes
according to my plan, next year I'm going to own this
school," Quinn said, the confidence dripping from her voice.

"So you're going to get even more popular by being a geek?"
Stacy asked, still trying to follow Quinn's logic.

"Stacy, ew! I'm never going to be a geek. I'm still going
to be in the Fashion Club, and stuff. I' just going to be
getting better grades, that's all."

"Ok, so why the theater again?"

"Because I wasn't doing well enough in English," Quinn
admitted. "I'm still getting all the bugs worked out of the
system."

"And just how are you going to explain this to Sandi?"

"I was hoping I wouldn't have to."

"But she thinks you're a lesbian, you have to tell her
something!" Stacy exclaimed.

"She does huh? Hmm, you know I could use that..." Quinn
paused, lost in thought. "Stacy you can't tell Sandi that I
know she thinks I'm a lesbian."

"Oh no, not more secrets," Stacy paused, "What are you going
to do Quinn?"

Quinn smiled, "If Sandi wants a lesbian I'm going to give
her one."

"Uh, are you sure that's a good idea?" Stacy stammered.

"Here, let me explain it to you," Quinn whispered into
Stacy's ear. As Quinn spoke Stacy's eyes grew wide.

Lawndale, Eight years ago

Mack and Jodie were sitting in the Landon's living room,
watching TV.

"Wow Jodie," Mack said appreciatively, "You sure do have a
nice house."

"Yeah, it's a bit much, but Dad insisted on getting it,"
Jodie replied, a little embarrassed by their surroundings.

"I think it's cool."

"My room's nicer than the one at the old house, and that is
a good thing."

"I know all about that. My room at home is like twice as
large as my room I the old apartment."

"What was that like?"

"What?"

"Living in an apartment."

"Oh, well, cramped mostly, but other than that not much
different than living in a house." Mack paused, "But it is
nice to not have to listen to the neighbors fight in the
apartment above you."

"I'll bet, tell me, what was the worst fight you ever
heard?"

Before Mack could answer, Jodie's parents entered the room.
"Jodie!" her mother exclaimed. "Who is this, and why
aren't you studying?"

"Mom, Dad, this is Michael, he goes to my school. Michael,
these are my parents."

Mack stood up, "Hello Mr. And Mrs. Landon."

"Hi there Michael, or do you go by Mike?" Andrew Landon
asked as he held out his hand to Mack.

"Actually, everyone at school calls me Mack sir," Mack
replied before shaking Mr. Landon's hand.

"What's your last name Michael?" Mrs. Landon asked.

"Mackenzie," Mack answered.

"That explains the nickname," Mr. Landon said, chuckling.
"So Mack, what does your father do?"

"He's a manager at the Ketter plant," Mack said proudly.

"Oh," Mr. Landon said, "Well, I suppose we can't all be
Executive Vice Presidents, right dear?" Mack felt like he
could see the condescension dripping from Mr. Landon's
voice.

Mrs. Landon ignored her husband, "Where's your family from
Michael?"

"Baltimore," Mack replied, he pronounced it "Bawlmore."

"Uh, Baltimore's a lovely city."

Mack shrugged, "It was alright, but the police were a little
annoying when the showed up at our apartment building."

The elder Landons shared a worried look, "So your family was
living in an apartment building?" Mrs. Landon asked.

"Yep," Mack said, "In the same neighborhood my dad grew up
in. My mom said it was important for me to know where my
roots are."

"Well that's certainly admirable isn't it Andrew?" Mrs.
Landon said. Mack could tell that Jodie's parents were
measuring him up. "I'm glad to see you're making friends so
quickly Jodie, that will help when you get involved in
student government."

"Now don't forget Jodie, we've got the NAACP benefit
tonight. Are your parents involved in the NAACP Mack?" Mr.
Landon asked.

"My dad says the NAACP is an anachronism that caters to
black people who've bought into the system and are
interested in keeping the status quo, but my mom's on the
local board of directors." Mack smiled to himself, it felt
good to get back at the Landons for their condescending
attitude.

"Wonderful, then we might get a chance to meet your mother
and tell her what a special boy she's raised," Mrs. Landon
said, a touch of menace in her voice.

Mack shrugged, "Ok." His mom always told him to speak his
mind.

"It was nice to meet you Michael, I hope you come over
again," Mrs. Landon said.

"Yes, it's good to see young black males getting out of the
ghettos. Pay attention to this boy Jodie, he's an example
of hard work paying off." Jodie's parents walked out of the
living room.

"Sorry about my parents," Jodie said, "They can be a little,
well, you know."

"Yeah, it's no problem," Mack picked up his backpack.
"Well, it was nice being here, but I'd better get home."

"I hope my parent's didn't..."

"No, nothing like that. I don't want to be late for dinner,
that's all. My dad's a little picky about me being there on
time.

Jodie smiled, "Alright, I had fun this afternoon, we should
do this again."

Mack nodded, "Yeah, we should. Anyway I need to, uh, go."
He turned to leave.

"Hey Mack, wait a second," Jodie said before reaching over
and kissing him on the cheek. "See you tomorrow."

"Yeah, sure, bye Jodie." Mack said, a little startled by
the kiss.

Mack walked out of the Landon's house and headed for home.
While it was true that his father demanded Mack be home for
dinner it was also true that his dinner wasn't for another
hour. He sighed, he didn't like lying to Jodie, but her
parents looked like they expected him to pull a gun on them.
He had grown use to the people of Lawndale acting like
that, but he hadn't expected black people to react the same
way. It made him uncomfortable and he needed to think by
himself. He picked up the pace and broke into a job. His
dad always told him that the best thing to do when you
wanted to think was to exercise. Mack headed for the park,
he figured he could get a few good laps in before dinner.

Lawndale, Present Day

Jodie walked up to the track, she hadn't seen Mack since
lunch and she knew there was only one place he could be.
She saw Mack jogging around the track. It looked like he'd
been running for a long time.

"Wow, I haven't seen him like this for quite a while," she
thought. "That necklace must have really bugged him." She
watched Mack cross the finish line and begin another lap.
"Hey Mack!" She called out.

Mack turned, saw her and slowed to a walk. "What do you
want?" he asked as Jodie caught up with him.

"You weren't in science class and I wondered where you
were."

"What made you think I'd be here?"

"Where else do you go when you want to be by yourself? I've
known you've long enough to figure that out Michael
Mackenzie."

"So what brings you out here?"

"You mean beyond a desire to admire the view?" Jodie asked
as she started at Mack's well-toned frame.

Mack glanced down and remembered he'd taken off his shirt.
"Sorry, I didn't want to get my shirt all sweaty."

"No need to apologize, but the real reason I'm here is to
see how you're doing."

"Me? Oh I'm fine," Mack said.

"You're not fine; you just spent the last hour running
laps," Jodie pointed out.

"I needed to work on my endurance."

"During science class?"

"Wouldn't you want to if Barch had a mad-on for you?" Mack
said with a chuckle.

"Come on Mack, out with it, something's bothering you,"
Jodie paused. "After all, why else would you blow up at me
like you did."

Mack sighed, "Yeah, look, I'm sorry about that, I was out of
line, and I didn't mean any of those things."

"Well what you said wasn't all false. It's true, I've never
lived in the hood, but that doesn't mean my life's been all
perfect, you of all people should know that."

"Yeah, true," Mack admitted.

"And so what if I'm not from a project. These morons don't
know that. Do you know how many times Brittany's told me,
'you go girl?' Mack, you're not alone in the passive
discrimination department."

Mack sighed, "I know, it's just...I expected more from
Kevin. I've known him since the first day I was here.
That's nearly ten years, and that self-absorbed, dim-witted
ass still doesn't know me."

"When have you carted about what Kevin thinks about you?"

"It's not just Kevin, it's the whole team. I've known those
guys for years, we've been through so much together and they
still all chipped in and bought me that piece of crap."

"So what are you going to do about it?"

"Huh?"

"You got a bad gift, what are you going to do about it?
It's not that hard a question."

"Kevin left the receipt in the box. I think I'll just
return the damn thing and get something I want."

"What are you going to tell Kevin?" Jodie asked.

"That the necklace didn't fit, what else?"

"It sounds to me like you've got this all worked out, so why
the mopey bastard routine?"

Mack shrugged, "I needed the time to think it through. I
did that, now life can return to normal."

"Good, I'm glad to hear it. You're not fun to be around
when you're being a mopey bastard."

Mack chuckled, "Gee, thanks."

"You're welcome," Jodie replied.

"What, no kiss?" Mack innocently asked.

"Come again?"

"Aren't we supposed to kiss now? We've made up, now we get
to make out right?"

"No way, you've been running. This is as close as I'm going
to get to you until you take a shower." Jodie wrinkled her
nose in disgust.

"Guess I'd better go have that shower then, huh? Hey, this
day's shot, want to just ditch and go somewhere more fun?"
Mack suggested

"Where?"

Mack shrugged, "I don't know, the mall, the park, catch a
movie?"

"Sure, why not...no damn, I've got a Young Democrats meeting
after school."

"You've suddenly become ill and can't attend. Come on
Jodie, everyone gets at least one pass do something
irresponsible."

"I suppose we could spend the time getting rid of that
albatross in your lock."

"Now that sounds like a good plan. I'll meet you outside
the locker room?"

"I'll be waiting," Jodie said before walking off the track
and heading back to the school. Mack finished his cool
down, retrieved his shirt and walked to the locker room.

---xxx---xxx---

Quinn and Stacy were walking down the hall to where Sandi
and Tiffany were standing.

"What do you want me to do Quinn?" Stacy muttered.

"Just don't let Sandi know I'm up to something."

"How am I supposed to do that?"

"I don't know, walk casual or something, now be quiet or
you'll blow the whole thing."

They were passed in the hall by Joey, Jeffy and Jamie. "Hey
cool, Stacy's a lesbian too," Joey said, noticing that Quinn
and Stacy were walking very close together and speaking in
hushed tones.

"What?" Stacy exclaimed.

"Stacy, how did you let Quinn convert you so quickly?"
Tiffany asked.

"But..." Stacy protested.

"So what if she is?" Quinn asked. "Why does it matter? Or
do you have a problem with lesbians?"

"Of course I don't," Sandi said indignantly, "but a lesbian
couldn't be in the Fashion Club, they don't date boys."

"Now wait a minute, I'm..." Stacy tried to say.

"Cool, chick fight," Jamie said to his two associates.

"That's just silly, we just date boys to get stuff out of
them. It's not like we actually like any of them," Quinn
said.

"Huh?" Jeffy asked.

"It's about the illusion Quinn, if they don't think they can
have you why date you?"

"I'm not a lesbian!" Stacy shouted.

"You're not?" Tiffany asked. "But Quinn..."

"No, and neither is Quinn."

"But you said she was," Sandi pointed out.

" She's not a lesbian, I'm not a lesbian, nobody's a
lesbian! I misheard her, she's in the school play," Stacy
paused, "Oh crap, sorry Quinn." An awkward silence
descended on the hall.

"You're in the school play?" Joey asked Quinn, she simply
nodded, "Wow, you were cooler when you were a lesbian."

"Quinn, you've got a lot to answer for," Sandi said, a
delighted grin on her face.

"It's not like I have a choice in the matter, Mr. O'Neill is
forcing me to because I'm just such a gifted actress," Quinn
told Sandi. "And guys, since I'm not a lesbian I can still
date you all. So, who wants to take me to Chez Pierre
tomorrow night?" The three boys still looked apprehensive.
"Plus I'd really appreciate it if you went to see the play
as many times as possible."

"You can count on me Quinn," Jamie said.

I don't know, the play seems kind of dorky," Joey said
dubiously.

"Did you know that Jennifer Aniston was in school plays when
she was in high school?" Quinn said.

"Whoa, she's hot," Joey said.

"So will you be there?" Quinn asked, smiling directly at
the dark-haired teen.

"You bet," Joey said, dumbstruck.

"But what about that stuff you said earlier?" Jeffy asked,
still not convinced.

"But who says I was talking about you three?" Quinn asked
as she smiled sweetly.

"I'm going to buy ten tickets!" Jeffy exclaimed.

"Then I'll buy fifteen," Joey countered.

"No way dude, you can't get more than me."

"Just watch me," the two teens started to trade blows.

Quinn serenely walked past Sandi, "See you at the meeting
after school." She said without pausing.

"Hmph, you're still in the school play," Sandi sniffed.

"And I'll look good doing it," Quinn said over her shoulder.

Stacy hurried to catch up with Quinn. "Oh Quinn, I'm so
sorry about that, you didn't get to use your great plan, I'm
so stupid."

Quinn shrugged, "M'eh."

"But it was such a good plan. I mean you were going to..."

"Stacy, I said m'eh. Just let it drop," Quinn snapped.
"This work out well enough."

"But...do the other people know that?"

"The what? Oh, crap," Quinn ran back down the hall followed
by Stacy. They found Ann walking towards Sandi. "Ann,"
Quinn said, "Forget it, she already knows."

Ann looked over at Quinn and sighed, "Well thank goodness
for that. I don't know how you talked me into doing this in
the first place, pretending I'm a lesbian to embarrass
Sandi, sheesh..." Ann walked off, muttering to herself.
Sandi frowned at Quinn, but did not say anything.

"Yeah, you're right, the other way did go much better,"
Stacy observed.

"Oh shut up Stacy," Quinn grumbled.

Lawndale, Nine years ago

Mack walked up to the door of the elementary school and
stopped. He was apprehensive about going inside because
today was the first day he was wearing his mini-dreadlocks.
"It sure seemed like a good idea at the time,: he muttered
to himself, "But why on earth do I want to make myself
stand-out more?"

Mack sighed and opened the door, "Because you do stand out
so why cares? Plus Mom would kick the crap out of me if I
skipped school." He walked down to his locker, resolutely
took off his wool cap, and nothing happened.

Then Kevin walked past, "Hey Mack daddy, whoa, that's a
pretty fly hair do. You look like those guys in Milli
Vanilli."

Mack winced, "That's not the point..."

"See you in class Mack daddy," Kevin continued on his way.

Mack hung his head and sighed. He started to walk towards
the bathroom. "Of course, Milli Vanilli, what was I
thinking? Oh well, it was nice while it lasted."

"Hey, love the hair," a voice said.

Mack turned and saw a dark haired girl leaning against a
locker. "Excuse me?" He asked.

"Your hair, it's pretty cool."

"Why, because it's like Milli Vanilli?"

"No, they're stupid. I like the statement dreads in the
'burbs, nice touch. Telling all us conformist dorks where
to shove it. I like it."

"Thanks, I'm going to go take them out though."

"No, you can't do that."

"Why not?"

"Because they suite you. The outside by default, opposed to
the outsider by choice like yours truly. You know your
different and you embrace that. It's a good statement."

"So you're saying I should keep them?"

"You'd be a fool if you didn't" The girl could see that
Mack was hesitating. "Hey, I think they look good on your
too."

"So what, you're the girl that eats paste."

"I do not eat paste...I taste it to make sure it's the right
consistency."

"Huh?"

"If the paste is too dry then it won't adhere as well."

"I never realized paste was so complex."

"If you're an artist like myself it is," the girl said, "Bad
paste can ruin a project."

"I'll keep that in mind," Mack quipped.

"Have I sufficiently freaked you out?"

"Not really," Mack said, shrugging, "Hi, I'm Mack Mackenzie,
and you are?"

"Jane Lane, resident artiste and misfit."

Mack chuckled, "Nice to meet you Jane," the first bell rang.
"Well I have to go to class, thanks for the advice."

"You're going to take it right?"

"I'll see how it goes today, then take it from there."

"Good enough."

"See you around Jane," Mack said before walking to class.

"No you won't," Jane muttered to herself as she watched Mack
walk off. Different or not Jane knew he was already one of
the most popular kids in school "Whereas I, Jane Lane,
remain the cat who walks by herself." She sighed, then
followed Mack into the classroom.

Lawndale, Present day

Mack found Jodie waiting outside the locker room when he
came out after his shower. She reached over and hugged him.
"Ahh, much better," she said after dramatically sniffing
the air.

"Very funny, now can we get the hell out of here?"

"Lead the way, I've never skipped out of school before."

"It's real simple, just act like you're not doing anything
wrong, and don't attract any attention."

The pair walked down the hall, but were stopped short of the
door by Joey, Jeffy, Jamie, and the rest of the football
team, with the exception of Kevin. "Hey Mack, hi Jodie,"
Jeffy said.

"Uh, hi guys, what do you need?"

"We were looking for you dude. We know Kevin gave you our
thank-you gift..."

"Uh, yeah, it's er..." Mack stammered, trying to find a
diplomatic way out.

"...and we know that Kevin probably screw it up," Joey said.

"Yeah, who knows why we put Kevin in charge of the gift,"
Jaime added.

"So we passed the hat again and got you something from the
whole team," Jeffy said as the rest of the team moved aside
to reveal a large box.

"This is actually what the team wanted to get you, but Kevin
insisted he knew what you really wanted. We went ahead and
got this anyway."

"Gee guys, I don't know what to say," Mack said as he opened
the box. Inside was a slightly battered Lawndale High
Football helmet mounted on a wooden base. There was a brass
plaque on the base that read, "To Michael "Mack" Mackenzie,
the best team captain in the history of Lawndale High. We
wouldn't have been half the team we were if it wasn't for
you. Thanks - The Lawndale Lions." Mack looked up at the
team. "Seriously, this is great. Thanks guys, it means a
lot to me." He paused, "Uh, how much did you guys chip in
for the thing Kevin got me? I'm going to return it and I'd
like to give back your money."

"Don't worry about it, Kevin paid for the whole thing."

"He said the QB should buy the present for the captain,"
Jeffy said.

"Sometimes I think Kevin's hit his head too many times,"
Joey said, the rest of the team nodded in agreement.

"Probably not too far off," Mack agreed. "Hey guys, thanks
a lot for this." He held the helmet up for everyone to see.

"You earned it Mack," one of the linemen said. "We know
that keeping Kevin in check like you do isn't easy."

"Still, this..." Mack looked at the helmet, "really does
mean a lot to me, it's going on my trophy case."

"Be sure to keep it next to your Heisman and Superbowl
ring."

Mack and the rest of the team laughed, "Sure thing. Ok guys
see you tomorrow."

"What about practice?" Joey asked.

"Make up an excuse for me with coach ok? Jodie and I have
to go spend some quality time together."

"Oh, sure thing Mack," Jaime said.

"Bye guys," Mack said.

"Bye Mack," the team replied.

Mack held the door open for Jodie and the two left the
school. "So, do you feel better?" Jodie asked.

"Yeah, I do," Mack answered.

"That's a really ugly thing," Jodie commented, pointing at
the helmet Mack held under his arm.

"Yup," Mack said, his voice brimming with pride.

"But you're going to keep it anyway."

"Yup."

Jodie leaned over and kissed Mack. "I knew I liked you for
a reason."

"What's that?"

"Huh?" Jodie asked.

"What's the reason?"

"You respond to genuine emotion, and you don't let the
phonies dazzle you."

"Is that the rich black girl way of saying I'm keeping it
real?"

Jodie laughed, "Word straight up, know what I'm sayin?"

Mack chuckled, "You would last five minutes in Bawlmore."

"I would if I had a big, rugged guy keeping an eye on me."

"Know any of those?"

"I sure do, he's really good-looking too."

"Oh?" Mack asked, feigning ignorance.

"Yeah, the total package, he's even big enough to apologize
when he screws up."

"Gee, I'd like to meet this guy sometime, he sounds pretty
cool."

"Just get in the car Mack," Jodie ordered.

"Yes ma'am," Mack replied. "So, uh, where are we going?"
He asked as he buckled his seat belt.

"Does it really matter?"

"No, I guess not," Mack said finally. "Although I'd rather
not go to a fabric store, or someplace like that," he added.

"Like I was anxious to go buy a bolt of cloth," Jodie
deadpanned.

"Just making sure," Mack said, "You know how much I hate
fabric stores."

"Oh shut up, we're going to the mall and that's final."

Mack shrugged, "Ok, whatever, I don't care...but I thought
we were going someplace a little more private..."

Jodie looked over at Mack, "The park then?"

"Sounds good to me," Mack leaned back in his seat and closed
his eyes. "But how about we stop for some food first?" He
held up his hands defensively to block Jodie's attempted
slap.

---xxx---xxx---

Quinn sat in the living room eating carrot sticks and
watching television. An open text book beside her revealed
her original intentions for the evening. Quinn looked down
at the book and sighed. She turned down the volume on the
television and picked up the book.

"I should be out on a date right now," Quinn muttered to
herself. "But I guess that's why this whole mess
happened...still wish I was out."

The front door opened and Daria and Tom walked into the
house. "Crud, Quinn's home, come on, let's find somewhere
else," Daria said.

"Hello, I'm sitting right here," Quinn said.

"Why so you are, now goodbye," Daria turned to leave.

Tom caught Daria by the arm. "And just where are we going?
We just left my house, and you're still not welcome at the
library."

"What?" Quinn asked. That sounded like something she
wanted to hear, and she knew Tom would love to tell the
story.

"It's a long story," Daria said, cutting off Tom's
explanation. "Let's go up to my room; we should at least
get some privacy there."

"What are you two doing?" Quinn asked her sister.

"We're trying to find a quiet place to get some studying
done," Daria replied.

"My little sister got to be too annoying so Daria suggested
we come here because you're never home," Tom added.

"I obviously miscalculated," Daria grumbled.

"Yeah well, something came up so here I am," Quinn said,
feigning cheerfulness.

"Ok, well, just stay out of our way tonight," Daria said.

"Sure, fine, whatever," Quinn replied.

Daria sighed, "I'll meet you upstairs, ok?" She told Tom.

"Uh, is anything wrong?" Tom asked.

Daria shook her head, "No, everything's fine, I just need to
talk to Quinn for a moment, alone."

Tom picked up on the hint, "Ok, well I'll be in your room
then." Tom walked up the stairs and out of sight.

Daria looked at her sister, "So, you talked to Stacy?"

Quinn nodded, "Yeah, and I told her the truth."

"And?"

"And she told Sandi."

"That's bad, right?"

Quinn shrugged, "It could have been, but you know, I learned
something today."

"The truth shall set you free?"

"What? No, if you're cute you can get away with just about
anything."

Daria stood there for a moment, as if she was trying to form
a reply, "I've got nothing."

"Huh?"

"I'm not even going to try and argue with you about this,
despite the fact that you've taken the worst possible moral
from your misadventure."

"Plus Tom's upstairs waiting for you."

Daria frowned, "That has very little to do with it."

"Yeah right, I believe you."

"Are you really, ok?" Daria asked, ignoring Quinn's jab.

"Oh I'll be fine. And Daria, you really must be slipping if
you're asking about my social standing," Quinn said, trying
to cover up any attempts at bonding.

Daria's face turned a shade of red, "And here I was worried
about how you were doing, silly me."

"Hey Daria,"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks for the tip today, it really helped."

"I was just making sure you weren't going to get any special
treatment you hadn't earned," Daria said stiffly.

"I know that, still, thanks."

Daria shrugged, "Don't mention it, though if I'd known I was
going to end up feeding your ego I might have reconsidered."

"Daria, why exactly are you standing here when Tom's
upstairs?"

"Because you wanted to say something to me you vacuous
twit."

"Well first of all that's not true, and second of all, when
have you ever listened to what I say?"

Daria smirked, "I think I liked you better before you
realized your head was good for something other than
makeup."

"No you don't."

Daria started to walk up the stairs, "You're right, I don't,
see you later Quinn."

Quinn watched her sister walk up the stairs before picking
up her book. She read for a little while before putting it
down, "This is not the Quinn Morgendorffer way," she said to
herself as she reached for the phone. "Hello Dave, it's
Quinn. Yeah, nice to talk to you too. No, that is so not
true. Right, well duh of course I'm not. Oh very funny.
Look, the reason I'm calling...where? Oh, the new Italian
place, of course I want to go there. Now would you mind if
I brought my math book along, I've got a few questions.
Great, I'll see you in a half-hour." Quinn hung up the
phone and smiled to herself.

Baltimore, Nine years ago

Michael watched as the movers finished loading the van. The
weeks following his dad's announcement they were moving had
flown by and the day of the big move had arrived.

Michael's mother walked up behind him, "Hey Michael, we're
almost set to go, are you ready?"

Michael turned, "Where we're moving, Lawndale, it's going to
be better than here, right?"

"Well, there's going to be less violence, and you'll have
more space to yourself, plus your school will be better.
But there will be less to do and we won't see your
grandparents as often"

"And I'll miss my friends here."

"Of course you will, but you'll make new friends."

"You sure?" Michael asked, his voice full of hope.

His mom hugged him, "I promise sweetie."

Michael's father joined them on the front step, "Ok folks,
time go. All set Michael?"

Michael looked between his parents, "Yeah I am."

The family got into their car and drove off. Michael
watched the apartment building disappear behind the corner.
AS they drove away Michael saw his old haunts flash past.
When they were stopped at an intersection Michael saw two
familiar detectives standing next to a white Cavalier.

"Bye detectives!" He called out the window. "We're moving
out of Baltimore so I guess I can't help you with your case
anymore."

"Hey that's great, bye Mikey!" the white detective shouted
as the Mackenzies drove away. "Well Frank," he said to his
partner as they watched the moving truck rumble away from
the center of the old city, "it looks like we won't be
investigating Michael's death."

The black detective took a long drag on his cigarette.
"Nope, but it only proves my point. The boy's going to
survive because he's leaving the inner-city."

"Oh come on Frank, that wasn't what I meant."

"I know, now shut up and get in the car. I've got a feeling
we are going to turn some of those names on the board black
today." The two detectives got into their car and drove
off, heading back towards the decaying heart of the city.

Fin

My Life Gonna buy me a pickle And eat it all by myself Get
me a jar of mayonnaise But leave it up on the shelf Gonna
catch me a bullfrog And kiss em right on the mouth Take a
trip to the North Pole But I'll get there going south 'cause
it's my life and I can do what I want do I got mine you got
yours Do you hear what I say? It's my life and I can do what
I wanna do I can do this, I can do that Everybody say it
with me one time. It's My Life! Gonna make me a record And
fill it all up with bas I can add a little keyboard if I
want to... But I don't Make a million dollars And keep it
all do myself Give some to the needy if I will But I won't
'cause it's my life and I can do what I want do I got mine
you got yours Do you hear what I say? It's my life and I can
do what I wanna do I can do this, I can do that Everybody
say it with me one time. It's My Life! Gonna get me a mirror
And drop it from the 13th floor Gonna join the Army But I
ain't gonna go to war Gonna buy me some kit string And knit
myself a dress Take a wooden nickel And sent it to the IRS
'cause it's my life and I can do what I want do I got mine
you got yours Do you hear what I say? It's my life and I can
do what I wanna do I can do this, I can do that Everybody
say it with me one time. It's My Life! And I know that I'm
responsible For everything I do But I know that I don't have
to be responsible for you 'cause it's my life and I can do
what I want do I got mine you got yours Do you hear what I
say? It's my life and I can do what I wanna do I can do
this, I can do that Everybody say it with me one time. It's
My Life! I can do this. I can do that I can be white. I can
be Black. I can be thin. I can be fat. I can be pitter. I
can be pat Everybody say it with me one time IT'S MY LIFE!

Author's Notes: I don't have a lot to say here, just a
couple quick comments. I don't intend this to be THE
Mack-fic. This is a fic with Mack in a central role. I
don't want the pressure of having to write THE Mack-fic, and
so I left out certain aspects. I found I didn't have much
to say on the dynamic between Mack and his father so I
didn't try to force anything and instead focused on Mack and
his unseen mother. Mack certainly is an interesting
character and I hope I did him some justice. Now, having
said that there are sections of this story that I just love
to pieces, the introduction, Kevin krossed out. This was a
fun story to write, and a bear to revise. But I finally hit
that f-it point and here it is.

Let it Bleed: I'll be quite honest, I bled to finish this
story, literally, there's dried blood on one of the pages on
my rough draft. But the pages themselves bled
metaphorically, while proof-reading I made sure that I made
at least one correction or modification to every page. I
know I certainly didn't squash all the little bugs, but
hopefully I got the most outrageous ones.

Farces are fun: I know, thespian/lesbian is a tired gag.
But then again, I don't think it's much of a stretch to see
the Fashion Club making that mistake.

"Double Secret Probation": I'm sorry, I couldn't help
myself, the concept just seemed so entirely Sandi.

Big thanks: I'd just like to give a shout-out/props/thanks
to all the kind folks who beta read this story. The story is
that much better for your input.

Flecktones!: Bela Fleck and the Flecktones are an amazing
band I highly recommend checking them out, either as a group
or at one of their respective solo dates, Bela is currently
touring in support of his classical(!) album.

Thanks for reading, stay tuned for whatever comes next
whenever that is.

-sam 2/11/2002