Text ©2003 Roger E. Moore (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Daria and associated characters are ©2003 MTV Networks
Feedback (good, bad, indifferent, just want to bother me, whatever) is appreciated. Please write to: email@example.com
Synopsis: The Morgendorffers discover a new member of their family tree.
Author’s Notes: This tale grew out of a chat on PPMB, late in 2002, about a certain historical figure, General Barksdale (CSA) who took part in the Battle of Fredericksburg. In response to the discussion, I wrote this ficlet. It is assumed that the reader is familiar with the characters of the “Daria” TV show, so details on who is who are not needed.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to The Historian for bringing up General Barksdale in the first place and making the obvious connection.
“Thaks for briggig duh liberry book ober, Back,” Daria said, her nose completely stuffed up from her head cold. “I abbreciade id.”
“No problem,” said Mack. “I was in the neighborhood anyway.” He looked past Daria at the activity in the Morgendorffers’ living room. “What’s up? Family gathering?”
“Oh,” said Daria, pulling another tissue out of her bathrobe pocket, “Idz dothig, juz—”
Quinn interrupted, pushing a box of Kleenex in Daria’s face. “Hi, Mack!” Quinn said cheerily. “My mom just found a picture of one of our ancestors in our grandmother’s belongings! We had them in storage, and this afternoon we found this really cool picture of my great-great-something-grandfather, who was a—oh, what is it, Daria?” Quinn snapped. “Get a grip! You’re spazzing out!”
“Doh!” Daria gasped in panic, frantically waving her hands in Quinn’s face to cut her off. “Dohd zay id! Dohd zay—”
It was too late, however. Mack looked past Quinn and caught sight of the old painting that Helen held aloft for her husband Jake to see. Startled and wide-eyed, he raised an index finger to point. “Is that—” he began.
“That’s General Barksdale!” Quinn cried happily. “He was in some old war, I can’t tell any of them apart, but he was a general! Isn’t that wild? Of course, I can’t say much for their taste in fashions, that old military stuff is like, oh, so Gone with the Wind, and that suit just makes him look like a hotel doorman, but who cares? I just found out about him today! Isn’t that great?”
Daria covered her face with her hands. “Back,” she groaned, “Back, blease beleeb be, I diddit doh thad—”
Helen’s smiling face turned in Mack’s direction—and she froze in horror. She immediately put the picture down, turning it so the back of the picture faced the front door. “Oh, Mack!” she said, thinking fast. “We found a pile of old junk in my mother’s things today. It’s only good for a rummage sale, nothing important!”
“The hell it’s not!” shouted Jake. “Helen, he’s your direct ancestor! A real soldier, a real war hero, a Confederate gener—ouch! Helen, you broke my foot!”
Mack quietly pushed the door open and came inside. Daria stood by the doorway, slowly banging her head against the wall. Quinn led Mack to the living room and took the portrait out of her mother’s trembling hands, turning it around. “See, Mack!” she said. “A general! That means he didn’t have to do any work, I think, and just told people to bring him ice tea and that sort of thing. I could do that kind of work.”
Mack stared down at the old portrait of the clean-shaven general in the fancy gray uniform. His dark brown face radiated amazement.
“Brigadier-General William Barksdale,” whispered Mack. “Hometown, Columbus, Mississippi. Fought at Fredericksburg, December 1862. Killed at Gettysburg, 1863. And here you are, right in front of me. I never thought I’d see the day.” Mack shook his head slowly and stroked his broad chin.
Helen nervously cleared her throat. “You, um, know a lot of history, Mack?”
He shrugged. “Family history,” he said quietly, staring at the picture. “We’re from Columbus, Mississippi, originally. Both sides of my family.”
Helen closed her eyes and rocked back on her feet. The color ran out of her face. “Oh, no,” she said.
“Oh, by God,” Daria groaned, and she banged her head all the harder against the wall. “Oh, by God.”
“What?” said Jake. “There’s a Columbus in Mississippi, too? I thought only Ohio had—”
“So, your family is from the same town as Mom’s family?” cried Quinn happily. “Hey, that’s great! Did your family know General Barksdale?”
Mack looked down at the painting and nodded. “Yeah,” he said slowly. “They knew him. They worked for him and his family, sunup to sundown, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, until the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished.”
A fragile silence reigned—except for the loud thumping of Daria’s head against the wall by the front door. Quinn’s smile melted. She seemed to grow smaller where she stood. Helen swallowed and hung her head, mortified.
Jake looked from Mack to the painting to Helen and back to Mack. “You know what?” he said. “I left something out in the garage. I’d better go—”
“No, you didn’t,” muttered Helen.
“You’re right,” said Jake, looking depressed.
In a few moments, everyone was looking at Mack—everyone but Daria, who was still banging her head into the wall.
“So, he’s your direct ancestor?” Mack asked, glancing at Helen.
Looking at her feet, Helen nodded. She was bright red with embarrassment.
“Well,” said Mack, studying the picture, “in that case, it’s good to meet you—” He looked up at Mrs. Morgendorffer with a smile on his dark brown face “—Cousin Helen.”