AUTHOR'S NOTES: This all started as a short gag on the Paperpusher Message Board. Various fic writers were musing about what Daria would be like if it aired in 2010 instead of 1997, and I figured "Helen and Jake would be former early-80s punks instead of late-60s hippies" – and then "what if they were still punks?". That, and a few other little ideas, led to a monster that shows no signs of stopping…
GOD SAVE THE ESTEEM
The wagon roared down the suburban street, grime and spraypaint and rust striking fear into the hearts of all those middle-class. Fiery letters spelt out "MORBIDDORFFERS".
Inside, a man in ripped jeans and a leather jacket with no shirt, adorned with aging badges; safety pins in his ears and spiked green hair. To his side, a young girl in tight black leather everything, garish rips torn open at strategic places, a shock-pink crew cut. Behind him... a girl wearing a skirt and jacket, vegetating on an iPod.
"Now girls, I know you're being stuck in another of the Man's gulags and that's always going to be tough, but your ma and I want you to know that we'll back you to the hilt if those totalitarian pigs try anything," said Jake 'the Snake' in a pleasant voice.
"That's good, I can try out arson at long last," responded the girl in the back.
"Ha ha... Um... Anyway, girls, try not to get too upset if the other kids can't handle your rebel natures, okay? And, in your case Daria, if they don't... um... recognise it straight away."
"I'll remember to try and be unique in the same way as everyone else."
"Gahdamnit Daria, your mother just suggested you get a piercing – suggested!"
"With a half-price coupon."
The wagon snarled to a stop outside of Lawndale High, and Quinn leapt out '**** you' boots first.
"Hey, you're cool," said a heavyset Goth girl at the first sight of her. "What's your name?"
"'Killer' Quinn Morgendorffer."
"Cool name," said a scarlet-haired girl.
Daria sighed and got out of the wagon. "Dad, are you sure we moved? Because it's all looking a bit familiar."
"I'm... pretty sure..." said Jake distantly, searching for the map with growing horror.
"Now, Quinn... what do you see here?"
"It's a picture of two people talking, like, duh," sneered 'Killer' Quinn. "That's supposed to be a test? Bitch, please!"
Manson drew in a deep breath. "Can you make up a little story about what it is they're discussing?"
"Let's see... they've been unfairly stepped on by The Man just because they've been late to school a few times and got caught smoking, so he's saying 'gahdammit I've had enough of ****ing school!' and she's saying ***** yeah, let's blow it up!' And then they sing Another Brick In The Wall while planting explosives." Quinn smirked.
"I… er… Dora!"
"I'm sorry... Daria. What do you see in the picture, Dara?"
"A herd of beautiful wild ponies running free across the plains."
Quinn snorted. "You always say that, Daria."
"Hey, it was the answer the first time I did this. It could be again. You never know."
"That's a different test, dear," said Manson, sounding on the verge of tears. "In this test, they're people, and you tell me what they're discussing."
" Oh... I see. All right, then. It's… what Quinn said?"
At the Morgendorffer house, everything was neat and tidy, but that would probably soon change. The family gnawed their way through piles of takeaway chicken.
"Then I met this stoner girl called Burnout – that's, like, her handle, no one knows her real name, and she thought I was bitchin' too! I may now have a ten-strong gang to mooch with. And the Fashion Club ran away screamin' after the first time we met!"
"You're doing great, sweetie," said Helen.
"What about you, Daria?" asked Jake. "How was your first day?"
"Well, my history teacher hates me because I know all the answers, but there are some interesting idiots in my class."
"That's great! Piss off the Man!"
"See Daria, you can make an impact if you try," said Helen. "Remember, you're in a brand-new school in a brand-new town. You don't have to be stuck with the same conservative rep you had in Highland!"
"I can't have my Highland rep. People here can pronounce my name."
At this point, the phone rang and Helen "Hellion Wheels" Morgendorffer sighed and got up to answer it, muttering that she hoped it wasn't the neighbours complaining again about the scrap metal statues outside.
"Hello? Yes. Uh, yes, they're my daughters. I see. Well, let me tell YOU something, mister: my girls are just showing the correct attitude from being forced to take some mind-oppressing, fascist bully-boy test designed to force them into conformity! They're not going to your poxy classes unless you want some trouble, mush!" She slammed the phone down. "You girls took a psychological test at school today?"
"It was a total bummer!" snorted Quinn. "At least they're not grading us. …they're not, right?"
"They claimed you had anger and violence issues, and Daria had low self-esteem. They wanted you in special classes so they can fix you. We've said no, of course!"
"I don't have low self esteem," said Daria. "I just have low esteem for everyone else."
"Attagirl, kiddo!" Jake abruptly hugged her, joined by Helen.
"We're so proud of you, Daria!"
"Hey, they thought I was violent!" cried a hurt Quinn.
"Oh we're proud of you too, Quinn! Come on, family hug!"
"With Daria? EWWWWW!"
"I have cooties," said Daria, unnoticed.
"Tomorrow, we're all going out as a family to celebrate!"
"Oooh, can we go to Chez Pierre? My new friends would think I was awesome if we made a scene at Chez Pierre!"
Before Chez Pierre, Jake and Helen had a mutual client to see. Daria and Quinn got pulled along after Quinn heard the client was in a band and begged to visit.
"Now behave yourselves and don't eat out of the Lane's fridge, they specified not to do that." As Helen rang the front door of the rickety house, she looked at Daria – still dressed in her usual – and sighed. "Oh Daria, you couldn't have at least worn a leather jacket? It's like you don't want to be part of this family."
"Well, I thought I'd wear something that'd get me into a restaurant, since I assume that's what we're after and not, I don't know, to make a scene at the entrance."
"We'll talk about this later, young lady."
A lanky, sleepy-eyed, unshaven sex god opened the door and Quinn gave an audible squeal. Daria tried not to roll her eyes – he looked good, but years of exposure to her parent's rocker and metal friends had immunised her to the appeal.
But I now get to see Quinn make an ass of herself. I'm glad I was taken along.
Jake took the man – Trent – aside to discuss his band, their image, and their web presence, assuring him "with the right look and buzz, you could double your web sales – at least!". Quinn followed around, basking in Trent's presence. Helen, however, was in a more serious discussion with the girl of the house who Daria was sure she'd seen somewhere before.
"They forgot to even you money for the mortgage? No offence, but your parents are tossers."
"Nah, that's fair," said the girl.
"Well, if they pick up your reminder and send it, you're okay. Otherwise, to prevent foreclosure… hmm, best tactic is to focus on you being a minor and having lived here all your life, it's in your best interests to stay. Also point out your brother's securing a greater source of income – Jake can testify to that in court – and offer to pay more on later instalments. I'll draft a letter just in case, the bank won't expect your family to have legal representation-"
"Thanks and all that, but I'm not sure we can afford a lawyer."
"As with Morgendorffer Consulting, Morgendorffer Legal is willing to adjust its payment schemes to whatever works best for you. If your parents send payment before I have to do anything, there's no charge." Grim fire burned in Helen's eyes. "Standing up to the power is my ****ing job! NO FUTURE!"
Please don't sing, thought Daria.
"You're that girl in my class that makes rude comments about everyone."
"And you're that girl in my class that passes out in class and draws rude caricatures of people."
"Let's make out!" She smiled when Daria stared at her. "Joke, honest. I'm Jane, and you're The Weird Girl."
"I have been known to go by that from time to time. My cover identity is Daria."
"And this is your family? Wow. They're actually at home and taking you places! Oh, and your mother's hair is green and mohawked with safety pins in it, but whatever."
"I study hard, dress conservatively, and have never dated. I am a shame to them."
"I've seen Quinn around school. I think everyone's seen Quinn, especially after she sung I Fought The Law in the cafeteria when Bennett tried to tell her off."
"A cynical person would say she's rebellious and wants everyone to know she's rebellious and go 'look at that cool girl who is rebellious, she's cool!'."
"Boy, I sure wish there were some cynical people to hang with at school." Jane smirked. "That's a big hint, by the way."
"Y'know, I'm surprised Manson didn't put you in Self Esteem. You have a personality and everything."
"She tried, Mum stomped on it. Besides, I don't have low self esteem. I'm not saying things are great, but… okay, you've met my family, they're very embarrassing to be related to and my parents will keep making a fuss because I'm not rebelling in the exact way they want me too, which is so ironic I can hardly believe it, but I do know I can count on them when I need to."
"What'd they do?"
"I just know."
Ten years ago.
"…what's your favorite game to play at recess?"
" I don't like games. I like to read."
"Don't you enjoy playing with the other children?"
" Not really. They never understand what I'm talking about and then they make fun of me. I like to read."
On the drive home, Daria set in a fug and waited to get told off – they always told her off for this at school, Granny Barksdale and Grampa 'Mad Dog' had done it last time she'd seen them, grown-ups always told her off, always.
Instead, Mummy said: "Sweetie… you're different to the other kids."
Daria braced herself.
"Well, Mummy and Daddy are different to other grown-ups, and sometimes those other grown-ups don't know what we're talking about and make fun of us too. But there are some people who aren't like that and are more like us. One day, you'll find another kid who's different too. Do you understand?"
"And I'll tell you this – there's nothing wrong with liking to read."
"Daria, get a move on, kiddo! If we hurry, we can get to Chez Pierre at the same time as the finance worker crowd!"
"Dream a little dream, Dad…"
Bonus Features: The Daria Diaries present Masochist's Memories
[A photo album entitled Magical Memories - the "Magical" has been crossed out and "Masochist's" has been written over it in Daria's handwriting.]
A faded photo of an elderly woman, Ruth Morgendorffer, futilely waving a teddy bear at a baby Daria. Daria just stares back, grumpy and unimpressed.
[in Daria's handwriting] Let me guess. It squeaks.
Daria's first birthday. She's surrounded by presents and a large cake, and has been dressed in a baby version of a leather jacket with a spiky wig. Looking faintly bemused, she holds onto a balloon animal.
It was all downhill from here.
A two-year-old Daria holds a newborn baby Quinn, who's crying with extreme force. Daria looks irritated.
She's broken, you better take her back.
Halloween. Daria is completely obscured, bar her glasses, in a 'ghost' sheet. An excited Quinn is dressed as Freddy Kruegar, while a smiling Aunt Amy - clad in a home-made Star Wars Stormtrooper costume (she holds the helmet under arm) - kneels down with them.
Give us candy or be psychologically terrorised.
A theme park's dodgems ride - Quinn and Daria are about to ram into each other, both with big grins; Jake cheers from the sides. Six year old Quinn has an adorable tiny mohawk.
This is why I can't borrow the car.
An Iraq War protest in Texas, with Helen and Jake raging with angry picket signs; Mr Van Driessen, a middle-aged Goth, waves a milder "No War For Oil". A nine year old Daria has a sign with small print and bullet points.
Quinn didn't make it. She couldn't decide on the right slogan.
A grumpy Daria at summer camp, wearing a Camp Dragonfly shirt. In the background, we can see severe fire damage.
Quinn took "Colour War" literally.
Jake and a policeman are high-fiving each other with looks of happy recognition; Helen and the policeman's partner are bewildered.
Dad meets his old friend Smash-the-State Tate. It seems he calmed down a bit since college.
The family in not-formal-at-all dress (except for Daria, wearing an ill-fitting dress) leave a church looking happy. Jake is flipping the church off.
Cousin Finn's wedding. We never got invited to another event by Dad's family ever again – just as he'd planned.
Teenage Daria in a yellow jacket stands with Earl, a grumpy violent thug. Quinn can be seen in the background, staring at Earl with a massive crush.
Earl and me at Highland, before his stint in juvie. It was self-defence.
Daria and a group of other nerds, from teens to twenties, eating pizza.
Sick Sad Message Board Texas meet, winter 2009. L to R: me, PenguinLover, firefly4eva, Watch_the_Skies, Fred19, MsMiss, and TheNoticablyFAT.
President Obama posing for a photo with Daria and Beavis and Butt-head. There are no other students around.
Most of the honour student's parents refused to let them be around "that socialist", so Principal McVicker had to boost numbers somehow. (I asked Obama some questions about the "Blue Dogs" and Republican opposition, but the Secret Service made me sign to say I wouldn't repeat his answers).
AUTHOR'S NOTES II: Thanks to Brian Taylor, who was a handy sounding board for ideas and coined Helen & Jake's punk names in his Moving Pictures fanfic. "Masochist's Memories" was a feature in the "The Daria Diaries" book, and some scenes above are alternates of them, included with some alternate Beavis and Butt-head.