©2003 Roger E. Moore (email@example.com)
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Synopsis: A decade after high school, Daria and Quinn learn that their widowed mother, Helen Morgendorffer, has a special man in her life . . . and it’s Kevin Thompson. A sensitive and touching portrayal of mindless sex gone wrong.
Author’s Notes: This story was another PPMB “Iron Chef” entry, this time for a contest set up by WacoKid to describe Lawndale's unlikeliest (heterosexual) couple. Things went rapidly downhill from there. A healthy knowledge of the regular characters in the Dariaverse makes the story go even quicker.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to WacoKid for the contest! Thanks also to Latecomer for encouraging me to continue after the first part, Thea Zara for recently making up a story in which Kevin Thompson and Sandi Griffin get it together, and Robert Nowall, TerraEsperZ, and Nemo Blank for making comments on the story as it developed, which influenced the story’s progression and [cough] improved it.
“So, Mom,” said Quinn Morgendorffer, settling back on the sofa to nurse red-haired Jeremy, “when do we meet the lucky guy?”
Daria looked up from little Colin, who was hanging onto her knee and staring at her with huge solemn eyes while sucking on his pacifier. She’d thought to ask her mother the same question, but hadn’t gotten up the nerve and doubted she ever would. Leave it to sister Quinn to barge right in.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Helen said, putting down her coffee. She blushed and looked at the floor. With this simple gesture, Daria’s fears were instantly confirmed. Her silver-haired, recently retired, recently widowed mother had found a bonking partner. From the depths of the blush, it was a major-league bonking, too.
“Come on, Mom,” said Quinn. “Don’t leave us hanging. Is he cute? Is he rich? Are you moving to Florida?”
“Well,” said Helen, fighting a nervous smile, “it’s kind of personal, you know.”
“Mom, David and Tom aren’t getting back from the store for an hour, assuming they even made it to the store with that new four-dee electronic whateveritis opening up next to Mega Food Lord. Daria and I are dying to know what’s going on!”
“Speak for yourself,” Daria mumbled. She did not want to know who her mother was bonking. The chances were marvelously good that it was some moron who wore his silk shirt unbuttoned to the navel, called everyone “baby,” and was in the middle of a midlife crisis that had turned him into a total ass. She hoped she wouldn’t be forced to kill him.
Little Colin would not let go of Daria’s pant leg. With a sigh, she reached down and picked him up to sit beside her. He cuddled up close and kept on sucking that pacifier. He was a good little nephew, even if he always stared and never smiled.
“Well,” said Helen after clearing her throat, “he’s younger, but a nice man.”
Which means, thought Daria, he usually remembers my name when we bonk.
“Cradle robber,” said Quinn with a grin. “How much younger?”
“We met when I had the kitchen redone,” Helen went on, ignoring Quinn’s question. “He helped me out so much with that ZapIt Internet connection, so I could turn on the appliances from my car with my phone, you know, and, um, he asked me out, and, um, we sort of started seeing each other, you know, and he comes over now and then, you know, so there’s nothing much to say!”
You just said a lot, thought Daria. Colin managed to get to his feet beside her on the loveseat and pulled himself up on her blouse to stare into her face from a distance of six inches, still going strong on his pacifier (it sounded like: nuk nuk nuk nuk nuk nuk).
“So, when do we meet him?” asked Quinn. “Call him up, have him come over, let’s do dinner.”
Helen shot an anxious look at Daria and Quinn both. Daria understood at once: We’ll hate him because he’s bonking our mother and maybe he doesn’t really love her but she doesn’t care because she’s got someone to bonk with now and why can’t we get a clue and shut up? We’ve been out of the house for ten years, already.
“Maybe next time,” said Helen, rubbing the back of her neck. “Quinn, why don’t you tell me more about your new project at the office?”
“Yeah, Quinn,” said Daria, desperately wanting a change in subject. “Why don’t you tell us abo—”
Colin put one hand over Daria’s mouth, as if to shut her up. His deep brown eyes were enormous.
At that moment, the doorbell rang.
“I’ll get it,” said all three women, trying to stand up at the same time. Quinn lost immediately, unable to get up with Jeremy firmly attached to her for his lunch, and Daria could not move Colin aside or detach his hand from her lower lip. Helen hurried out of the living room to the front door. Daria and Quinn leaned over in their seats to see who was there.
“Hey, babe!” called a familiar voice from the door. “Wanted to drop by and—oh, hey! Daria! Quinn! Welcome back to Lawndale!”
Colin’s grip on Daria’s lips kept her from speaking or getting up, which was good, because the sight of an adult Kevin Thompson at the door, wearing a black leather jacket and a silk shirt unbuttoned to mid-chest revealing several gold neck chains—with his right arm around Helen Morgendorffer’s waist in a too-familiar gesture of intimate closeness—was too much for her mind to absorb all at once.
“Dear,” said Helen (she called him dear! screamed a crazed voice inside Daria’s head), “we were just, um—”
“Hey, no problem, babe! I just dropped by to give you the instructions for the ZapIt.” He handed her some papers—and, taking his left hand from behind his back, he handed Helen a large red rose, redder even than Helen’s face. He smiled. “I had to see my hot little angel, too,” he said, and his voice dropped and he murmured something into Helen’s ear and pulled her closer (and she’s letting him pull her closer! screamed that crazed voice), and then Kevin bent his mouth to Helen’s and kissed her passionately and deeply, right in front of Daria and Quinn, and it was obvious that they had done this before because the movement was so familiar, practiced, and—Daria knew—welcome.
“I’ll see you tomorrow night, hot babe,” whispered Kevin in a voice Daria and Quinn heard clearly from the living room. Kevin and Helen kissed deeply goodbye, and then he waved to Daria and Quinn, and Helen closed the door. She turned around, still holding the red rose, and started to say something, but she didn’t and instead walked off through the living room into the kitchen with the rose, looking for a vase, and left Daria and Quinn alone with Colin and Jeremy. No one said anything for about ten minutes.
That was when Daria detached Colin from her lips, went outside, and screamed.
“I can’t believe it!” Sandi Griffin shouted, stamping back and forth in her apartment kitchen. “I finally get Kevin back after Brittany takes off for college, and—and—your mom steals him from me!”
Quinn stared open-mouthed at her best friend. “You were going out with Kevin?”
“Of course I was going with Kevin!” Sandi shouted. “He and I were all over each other the year before you moved to Lawndale! Didn’t Thea tell you? Then Brittany showed up and I lost him, then she finally leaves and I get him back, and then he dumps me for—damn it!”
Quinn felt like her head was going to explode. This just wasn’t possible.
“What is it with you Morgendorffers?” Sandi yelled, stopping by the sink to face Quinn. “You kept stealing all my boyfriends in high school, then you leave and I’m finally on my own in Middleton, and I get my Kevvy back, and—oh, it’s enough to make me scream! If it wasn’t for Upchuck, I don’t know what I’d do!”
* * *
“I can’t believe it!” Jane Lane shouted, stamping back and forth in her apartment kitchen. “I finally get a boyfriend after I move back to Lawndale from Boston, and—and—your mom steals him from me!”
Daria stared open-mouthed at her best friend. “You were going out with Kevin?”
“Of course I was going with Kevin!” Jane shouted. “He’s stupid as the day is long, but he’s a nice guy, and he rewired my whole apartment for free! I finally realized I didn’t need to get married, I just needed someone who gave me my own space and a really good—” Jane slammed a fist into the palm of her other hand “—when I need it, I find a guy who fills the bill, and then—damn it!”
Daria felt like her head was going to explode. This just wasn’t possible.
“What is it with you Morgendorffers?” Jane yelled, stopping by the sink to face Daria. “You stole Tom from me in high school, then we go to Boston, graduate, I move back here and I’m finally on my own in Lawndale, and I get Kevvy, and—oh, it’s enough to make me scream! If it wasn’t for Upchuck, I don’t know what I’d do!”
* * *
“I can’t believe it!” Mrs. Johansson shouted, stamping back and forth in her kitchen. “I finally meet this cute younger man after years of living by myself, and—and—that Morgendorffer wench steals him from me!”
Janet Barch stared open-mouthed at her best friend. “You were going out with Kevin Thompson?”
“Of course I was going with Kevin!” Mrs. Johansson shouted. “He and I were all over each other from the year he put the aluminum siding on my house! First you dumped me for that wretch Timothy, then Ms. Li dumped me for that mercenary jerk, I finally find someone of my own, then he dumps me for—damn it!”
Janet felt like her head was going to explode. This just wasn’t possible.
“What is it with everyone in this town?” Mrs. Johansson yelled, stopping by the sink to face Janet. “Every time I think I’ve found the right person, he or she up and—and—oh, it’s enough to make me scream! If it wasn’t for Tad Gupty, I don’t know what I’d do!”
“Daria,” said Tom urgently, “give me that newspaper. Your mother’s about to get married.”
“Leave me alone,” mumbled Daria, pulling the paper closer to her face. “It says that the mayor was just indicted for—”
The bridal march began on the church organ. Tom snatched the newspaper away from his wife’s hands, but Daria’s grip left two ripped chunks of section A in her fingers. Everyone in the church stood up and turned around.
Through the open back doors of the church came the blushing bride, Helen Morgendorffer. Daria gasped in horror. Helen wore a low-cut, hot-pink bridal gown with a tight miniskirt and high heels that made her derriere sway like a cargo freighter in a hurricane sea. She was solemnly escorted to the altar by Luhrman, Daria’s cousin Erin’s cousin on her divorced father’s side (that’s Erin’s father, not Daria’s).
“What?” Quinn said, her brain reeling in shock at the sight of her mother’s sex-crazed wedding apparel. She pointed. “Who’s that?”
“That’s your mom, and don’t nurse Jeremy right now!” David hissed. “Where’s Colin?”
Daria stared aghast and made a mental note to have Helen’s wedding consultant, Tiffany Ruttheimer, killed as soon as possible. Trust a former Fashion Clubber working at Cashman’s to pick out the worst possible outfit for this, the worst of all possible worst days in existence.
Something pulled on Daria’s pantsuit. She looked down. Colin stared up at her with his big eyes and pacifier working away (nuk nuk nuk). Daria groaned and bent to pick him up so he could stare at her face, which was apparently all he liked to do aside from eat and poop.
“This is all your fault,” Jane Lane muttered to Daria from behind. “Your mother stole my boyfriend right after you stole my boyfriend. You damn man-stealing Morgendorffers!”
“Hey!” Tom whispered. “Cut that out!”
“I agree. You damn man-stealers!” muttered Sandi Griffin, standing nearby.
“What?” said Quinn, her overtaxed reasoning powers gone.
“It’s not my fault!” Daria protested, but little Colin grabbed her by the lips and cut off everything else she was about to say.
“What the hell are you complaining about?” Jane said to Sandi.
“None of your damn business, geek,” Sandi retorted hotly.
“How about if I make it my business?” Jane snapped.
“Janey,” Trent said in a warning tone.
“Shhh!” hissed Tom and David at the same time.
“What?” said Quinn.
Helen walked past Daria and mounted the steps to the altar, where Kevin Thompson waited for her in a crushed red velvet tux with a broad leer on his face. He put his arm around Helen’s waist, his fingers working their way under the waistband of her miniskirt to help himself to a handful of firm, tight, 59-year-old bridal cheek. The miniskirt pulled up, and her skin-tight, leopard-spotted bikini briefs became abundantly apparent to the congregation. A loud thump echoed through the church as Daria’s Grandma Barksdale fainted and lay sprawled out in the aisle. No one in the stunned congregation moved to help her. Helen gazed upon Kevin with a radiant smile.
“She sure knows how to pick ‘em,” muttered Aunt Amy from behind Daria.
“Shhh!” hissed David.
“Kill me now, God,” Aunt Rita whispered to Daria’s left.
“Shhh!” hissed Tom.
Luhrman walked back to the pew across from Daria’s, his face impassive. Daria knew he was thoroughly enjoying this, and she hated him for it. She would have him killed, too.
“It could be worse,” Daria muttered. “We could be having a nuclear attack now.”
“No, that would be better,” said Aunt Amy.
“Shhh!” hissed David.
“What?” said Quinn.
“Will everyone be seated?” said the minister. He cleared his throat, trying not to stare down Helen’s bra-enhanced cleavage. “As we share the joy of this, um, lovely couple, Helen and Kevin,” he began, “we are to compelled to ask, what is love?”
Mrs. Johansson, Ms. Li, and Ms. Barch, sitting in the back of the church, burst into tears.
“I’m going to puke,” Daria said aloud.
“Shhh!” hissed everyone around her.
“What?” said Quinn.
“Yes,” said the minister, “love is like a tiny rivulet, which begins on a high mountain, and only after turning and twisting for tens of thousands of miles, overcoming uncountable obstacles must eventually meet and merge with that great ocean of love which is its birthright and destiny.”
“I’ll puke before you do,” whispered Amy from behind Daria.
“Betcha you won’t,” said Daria, but before she could make good on her threat, Colin grabbed her lips again.
“If there is anyone here who has any reason to . . .” The minister stopped and frowned as Helen leaned forward and whispered something to him. “Okay,” he said with a sigh, “we’ll skip that part.”
“Damn it!” Daria mumbled through her Colin-squished lips. “He can’t do that! He has to say that!”
“HELEN!” cried a voice that echoed through the church.
Everyone in the church turned around, except the minister, who merely looked up with a weary gaze.
Standing in the choir loft behind the congregation was Upchuck. “Helen!” he cried. “Don’t do it! I love you, you feisty fireball! Grrrroowrrrr!”
A second loud thump echoed through the church as Daria’s cousin Erin collapsed.
“Charles?” Helen cried. She raised her hands to her silver-haired head, which caused her pink miniskirt to rise, which caused six more people to shriek and collapse.
“Chuckie?” Aunt Amy cried.
“Upchuck!” screamed Jane and Sandi at the same time.
“Who’s that?” Tiffany Ruttheimer said, squinting her eyes at the distant figure.
“What?” said Quinn.
“There’s a taxi waiting out front!” Upchuck yelled. “I’ll meet you there!” He dashed off for the stairwell.
“Did he mean me?” Tiffany asked no one in particular.
Everyone turned to look at Helen. She stood trembling by the altar, paralyzed with indecision.
Kevin leaned close to her. “You always wanted to get it from a twosome,” he said. “Let’s do it.”
Relief flooded Helen’s face. “Oooh-kaaay!” she screamed, and she kicked off her heels and ran down the steps from the altar and down the aisle, leaping over her unconscious mother to flee through the open doors in back. Leering broadly, Kevin followed her out.
“Stop them!” screamed Amy, and she and Jane and Sandi bolted down the aisle after the almost-newlyweds. Clutching Colin to her (he wouldn’t let go of her lips again), Daria ran after them all. She made it through the back doors and outside to the front steps of the church, where she saw her mother, Kevin, Upchuck, and someone who looked like Tad Gupty piling into a cab. As the taxi pulled away, Helen Morgendorffer was momentarily visible in the rear window, pulling off her pink top before she disappeared into a tangle of unclad arms and legs in the back seat.
At the bottom of the church steps, Aunt Amy, Jane, and Sandi rolled on the ground, engaged in a vicious catfight. They cursed each other as they called out Upchuck’s name. They had torn off each other’s blouses by the time Daria reached them. A large crowd of men quickly surrounded them, screaming them on.
Daria sat down on the church steps. It was time for her mental breakdown. Little Colin kept a tight grip on her lips, which in the great scheme of things was probably for the best.
Moments later, Luhrman sat down on the steps beside Daria. He lifted an open bottle of champagne and drank deeply from it, watching the catfight all the while. He lowered the bottle and burped.
“Life,” said Luhrman in a solemn monotone. “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
“AAAAAALLL ABOOOAAAARD!!!” screamed 59-year-old almost-newlywed Helen Morgendorffer from the top of the stairs with uncontrolled excitement, and dozens of young, male, testosterone-charged wannabe train engineers immediately poured out of the downstairs kitchen and living room, heading upstairs at full throttle, the thunder of their feet as loud as a diesel-electric locomotive passing through the middle of the Morgendorffer home on its way to a complete servicing and lube job at the roundhouse.
That settled it for Daria Morgendorffer. She put down her copy of the state laws on how to involuntary commit close relatives to asylums, picked up her things, collected Quinn and her kids, and left. They reached their destination by foot twenty minutes later.
“All right, I’m coming!” Pulling her bathrobe around her, Jane Lane yawned as she walked to the door of her apartment and opened it. “It’s almost three in the afternoon and I’m not even awake, damn it! What’s so—”
Words failed her as she looked out. Standing on the steps outside was Daria Morgendorffer, holding up her nephew Colin. Colin, pacifier in mouth, was industriously hitting Daria on the head with a small blue plastic hammer. He glanced briefly at Jane without interrupting his activity. Bop bop bop bop. . . .
Jane looked down. In Daria’s left hand was a suitcase.
“Oh, no,” said Jane, holding up a hand. “Oh, no! No! Absolutely not! No way! No! Your mother stole my boyfriend, and now you want to come live with me? You have a husband, damn it! Where’s he?”
Daria sighed. “With my mom,” she said.
Colin continued hitting Daria on the head: bop bop bop bop. . . .
“Oh?” said Jane. “Oh. Ooooooh.” She blinked. “Wait, I thought she left for Acapulco last week on her sort-of-not-a-honeymoon.”
“The Mexican government had her deported as an undesirable alien. She’s home now.”
Jane blinked again. “So, your mom stole Tom? Seriously?”
“The short form of the story is, Tom sold our house and ran off with Tiffany Ruttheimer five days ago while comforting her because Upchuck ran off with my mom, so I had to stay at Mom’s house, then Mom was sent back, and Tom and Tiffany came by her house yesterday morning to pick up a stock portfolio he’d left behind, and somewhere between the front door and the living room they made it a threesome, and all the other guys came back from Mexico on a bus about three hours ago, and now you can’t even get in the door there without falling over the choo-choo train they’ve got going from the kitchen up to her bedroom. Can we come in, please?”
Colin glanced at Jane again. Bop bop bop bop. . . .
“Sure,” said Jane in resignation. She waved Daria inside. “Trent’s supposed to come by this afternoon with a pizza, so—”
“Trent will be late,” said Daria, walking in and setting the suitcase down. “Very, very late.”
“Late? What—” Jane gasped. “Oh, NO!”
“Oh, yes. Last I saw, he was third in line to be an engineer on the Helen Morgendorffer Express. You know how attached boys get to their trains.”
Jane groaned and put a hand to her forehead. “All right. There’s space in the second bedroom. Just move the plastic sculpture thingie against the wall.”
“Room for two?”
“You and your steel-driving man here? Sure, there’s—” Jane stopped. “Why is he with you and not Quinn?”
“Oh, just a moment.” Daria walked back to the open door and looked outside. “Quinn? Come on in.”
“NO!” yelled Jane. “No way! No! Why can’t you live with her and her husb—” She stopped again. “Oh, no.”
Quinn appeared in the doorway, a suitcase in one hand and young Jeremy in the other, nursing away happily. “We won’t take up much space,” she said glumly.
“Don’t tell me,” said Jane.
“I won’t,” grumbled Quinn.
“I will,” said Daria. “Brittany Taylor flunked out of college after nine years as a freshman and came back to Lawndale, and David met her at Mega Food Lord and took her back to his place to comfort her, and Mom went by there last night to borrow a can of vegetable shortening because she and Tom and Tiffany used up the rest, and she caught Brittany serving David a slice of hot, fresh cheerleader pie in the dining room, and—”
“Crisco, threesome, sold the house, choo-choo, okay, okay, I know.” Jane sighed. “You know, years from now, we’ll probably look back on this and laugh.”
Daria and Quinn stared at her. Jeremy nursed. Colin ignored everyone but Daria: bop bop bop bop. . . .
“Forget I said anything,” said Jane. “You’re sure you couldn’t go to Sandi Griffin’s place in Middleton, or even your Aunt Amy’s house?”
Quinn closed her eyes and exhaled. Daria cleared her throat and spoke. “There’s probably a railroad term for it, whatever you call the spare locomotives pulling a really long train—”
“Stop! Stop there! I give up.” Jane picked up Daria’s suitcase. “I’ll show you the room.”
“Is there a female judge in Carter County?” Quinn asked as she shut the front door and lifted her suitcase. “I’d rather not have a male judge for my divorce, if Mom’s going to be there.”
“Ditto,” said Daria. “Did Janet Barch quit teaching and go into law, by any chance?”
At 2:36 a.m. that morning, Daria, Jane, and Quinn found themselves standing on the sidewalk outside Jane’s apartment complex dressed in bathrobes, nightgowns, and fuzzy slippers, only half awake, watching enormous yellow flames lick out of the windows of Jane’s apartment. Jeremy was in Quinn’s arms, nursing happily, and Colin solemnly pounded on Daria’s head with his blue plastic hammer: bop bop bop bop. . . .
“You said Kevin rewired your place?” Daria asked Jane.
“Yeah.” Jane shook her head. “He didn’t charge me for it, because of the sex. Sounded like a good deal at the time.”
“Isn’t the fire department supposed to be here by now?” asked Quinn.
Daria shrugged. “Bet you both twenty bucks that the local fireman are unreeling their hoses over at—”
“Don’t say it,” said Jane. “Please don’t say it.”
“Yeah!” said Quinn. “Think of the children!”
Bop bop bop bop, went Colin’s hammer against Daria’s temple. “The children,” she said. “Right.”
“I hope this doesn’t mean we have to go live with your mother,” said Jane. She shivered.
“Don’t worry,” Daria replied. “I can get a refrigerator box behind Cranberry Commons big enough for the three of us, if we lie down all the time. The kids can stay outside on a leash.”
“Did you ever feel like your whole life was being scripted by some demented, evil cosmic storyteller bent on satisfying his perverted, sadistic impulses?” Quinn asked.
Daria and Jane turned to stare at her.
“It was just a question,” Quinn said defensively.
“You have a point,” Jane said, looking back at the flames. “The last few years have had a decidedly crazy edge. Me and Sandi shacking up with Kevin and Upchuck, you two marrying Tom and David—which you know just wasn’t mean to be—and your mother . . . well, it’s like, I dunno, sort of like—”
“Valentine’s Day gone nuts,” finished Quinn.
After a moment, Daria and Jane looked at each other with wide eyes.
“She’s right,” said Jane.
“Damn it,” said Daria. “That has to be it.”
“What?” said Quinn. “What did I say?”
Jane cast a final look at her the roaring orange blowtorch that was her former abode. “We’d better go find out,” she said, pulling her bathrobe belt tighter. “There’s nothing else to do at this hour of the morning.” She glanced at Quinn and made a face. “Doesn’t Jeremy ever stop nursing?”
“I can’t get him loose,” said Quinn. “You wouldn’t believe the suction.”
“Let’s stop talking about Mom and her boyfriends, and go fix this mess,” Daria said. “Quinn, you remember when those guys with the holiday names were staying in my room, back in high school? Well, Jane and I have a little story to tell you about them. . . .”
They walked through a deserted Lawndale in the darkness until they reached the Good Time Chinese restaurant on Fifth and Elmwood, by which point Daria had finished her story. “Jane and I have to do this by ourselves,” Daria told Quinn. “You and the kids should wait in that All-Nite Kwikie Mart. Maybe you can find Colin a softer hammer while you’re there.”
“Maybe I should have brought money with me, too,” muttered Quinn. “Guess it’s time to fall back on a more reliable form of currency.”
“You’re bartering your kids for food?” Daria asked hopefully.
“No, silly,” said Quinn. “I can always rely on my natural cuteness to get by. Good luck on your psycho freak-out hallucination trip to Holiday Inn, or whatever. I hope you don’t meet any one-eyed monsters.”
“Those are back at Mom’s house,” said Daria. “We’re just going to talk with Cupid.”
“I still think you took an experimental depression medicine and dreamed it all, but at this hour, I don’t care. If it fixes Mom, it’s worth it.” Quinn pried Colin loose from Daria and walked off to the All-Nite Kwikie Mart with her children. “Hey!” she called, looking back. “If you can’t fix Mom, come get me and we’ll move to that holiday place together, okay?”
“Sure,” said Daria, seriously considering the idea. “We’ll set you up with Christmas.”
“Good,” said Quinn. “I sorta liked him.” She left.
“Dibs on Guy Fawkes Day, unless he’s still a piggish wanker,” said Jane. “Too bad Halloween’s a girl, or you’d be all set.”
“Let’s not think about dating them until we see them. I still have my standards.” Daria pretended not to hear Jane snort at that remark. Instead, she led the way behind the Chinese restaurant. “I hope the dimensional wormhole is still behind that dumpster.”
The dumpster was in its usual place. Jane pushed the wheeled garbage container six feet to one side. “Ah, good,” she said, pointing to a ragged, yard-wide hole in the back wall of Good Times. “The gateway to Holiday Island, or the world’s biggest rat’s den. Um, you go first.”
“Anything that gets me away from Hammerin’ Hank is fine with me.” Daria got down and managed to bunch up her nightgown so she could crawl through the wormhole. Jane followed her in.
“On our way back,” said Jane, halfway through the wormhole, “let ME go first. That way I don’t have to look at your bare butt for ten minutes straight.”
“Hmmm,” said Daria. “Did I have chili for dinner or not? We’ll find out soon.”
“Oh, ugh!” cried Jane. “Don’t! Hurry up!”
At the wormhole’s end, Daria pushed aside a dumpster with “Good Times” written on the side in pseudo-Chinese script. She stood up and brushed off her knees and hands. “Interdimensional travel’s not as exciting as people in mental hospitals say it is.”
“The view leaves a lot to be desired, too,” said Jane, getting to her feet.
They walked toward Holiday High School, visible in the distance through the palm trees of Holiday Island, and stumbled upon Cupid within minutes—literally stumbled upon him, that is.
“Aaah!” cried Daria as she tripped over Cupid’s legs and fell on her face.
“Sorry, man,” muttered Cupid, “this space’s taken.” He sat propped up against a palm tree, clutching a paper sack containing a half-empty wine bottle. He was still the same tall chubby blond guy in the big diaper as before, but a dirty, scraggly beard had grown over his boyish face, and his bloodshot eyes were barely open.
“What happened to our very own Doctor Love?” Jane asked, helping Daria to her feet on the sand.
“Sssomeb’dy messed up my love taser,” Cupid slurred. He drank from his bottle and smacked his lips. “Think he wuzza fanfic writer or somethin’. Took my love taser an’ messed with the controls, yadda yadda yadda, an’ rooooned it.” He reached behind him and pulled out a strange device that Daria recognized from her previous meeting with the Holiday Folk. Daria grabbed the device from his hands before he could react.
“Hey!” Cupid cried, trying to sit upright. “Tha’s advanced techno-magico-artifactology-ism, or something. Don’ break it! Any more than it already is, I mean.”
Daria squinted at the device. “I can’t make heads or tails of this thing,” she said. “But I’m desperate, so this calls for percussive maintenance.” She took the device and smacked it against a tree three times as hard as she could, then looked at it again as Cupid howled. She then handed the device back to Cupid, who snatched it away.
“Hey!” Cupid cried, sitting almost upright. “This baby’s workin’ again! All right!” He tried to get to his feet but had to be content with lying on his ample stomach, staring with bleary joy at his repaired love taser. “I think it’s almos’ perfect now! Thanks, man! Oh, when I see that Ronin guy again—whoa! Mess up my love taser, will he? Just wait and see what you date next inna real world—huh huh huh huh huh!”
“You mean, who he dates next,” said Daria.
“Oh, no,” said Cupid. “I got special secret settin’s on this booger fer all sortsa things.” He shouted out, “Yeah, who loves you, baby? Mooooo! Mooo-OOOOO-ooo!”
“Does this mean my mom’s not a sex fiend anymore?” Daria asked.
“Yeah, she should be sorta normal now, or somethin’ like that,” Cupid said. “Same fer everyone else, I guess. Hey, you wanna party with one of the other holidays? Some of ‘em are a diff’r’nt gender this year. Happens now an’ then. Halloween’s a guy, I think, an’ Guy Fawkes’s still a guy. Kind of a wanker, but s’okay, sorta, if yer drunk enough. An’ there’s Chris’mas, or X, or whatever he’s callin’ himself today.”
Jane’s elbow nudged Daria in the side as she grinned and raised her eyebrows at her companion.
“We’ll consider a return trip,” Daria said, glaring at her friend. “First, we have to go home and make sure everything’s okay.”
“No prob. Come by anytime. Tell ‘em you’ve been to th’ Love Shack, baby!” Cupid began to dance, as much as he could lying on his stomach in the sand. “It’s a li’l old place where . . . we get together-rrr-rrr-rrr!”
Daria and Jane made their way back to the Good Times Chinese restaurant on Holiday Island, then through the dimensional wormhole. Jane came out in Lawndale first, fixing her bathrobe with an air of dignity, while Daria came out next coughing and making a terrible face. “You almost killed me!” she snapped at Jane. “Why aren’t you in a chemical warfare unit?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Jane, though her face had a satisfied look. “Let’s get Quinn and the Munchkins, and then go check on your mom.”
A half-hour later, Daria, Jane, and Quinn arrived at Helen Morgendorffer’s home. It was strangely quiet there, though all the lights were on. No one was visible when they opened the door. Colin stopped bopping Daria on the head and peered around the living room from Daria’s arms, puzzled at the silence.
“It looks promising so far,” said Daria. “Here goes.” She raised her voice. “Mom? Mom? Are you home?” There was no answer.
“Maybe she’s asleep,” whispered Quinn.
“Let’s forget about it until tomorrow, then,” Daria said. “I could use a cookie or doughnut or a bunch of cold chicken wings right now.”
The three headed for the kitchen, and Daria turned on the light as she walked in—
—and came to an instant halt, gasping aloud—as did Jane and Quinn.
Lying in a heap in the middle of the glistening kitchen floor were Daria’s mother Helen, her Aunt Amy, and her Aunt Rita. An empty can of vegetable shortening lay on the floor at Daria’s feet. All three sisters dozed contently, their glistening, naked, exhausted bodies surrounding the naked, glistening body of a young man who regarded the three new arrivals with a sleepy, deadpan expression.
“Life,” said Luhrman in contentment. “It just doesn’t get any better than this.”
“Maybe you should have hit the love taser four times against that tree,” Jane said, breaking the silence.
“Maybe,” said Daria. “But, you know, for some reason, I don’t care.” Daria reached up and untied the top of her nightgown.
Jane noticed her a moment later. “What are you doing?”
“Something I’ve been thinking of doing for a long time,” Daria said. She handed Colin to Quinn, then pulled her nightgown over her head and dropped it on the kitchen floor. Her eyes never left Luhrman, and his eyes never left her.
“Daria,” Jane said in a low voice, “I think that’s Cupid’s malfunctioning love taser talking.”
“If so, it’s coming through nice and clear,” Daria said. She began walking toward Luhrman, hips swaying.
“Daria!” cried Quinn, finding her voice at last. “Don’t! You can’t! You—”
“Quinn,” said Daria, “would you go to Mega Food Lord and get us another three or four cans of Crisco? Use Mom’s car and get money out of her purse. And hurry.”
Jane sighed and muttered, “Oh, what the hell. When in Rome. . . .” She undid her bathrobe, then shucked off her pajamas and slippers and followed Daria to Luhrman.
“AAAAUGH!” shrieked Quinn, and she fled with her children.
“So,” said Daria, stepping over her snoring Aunt Amy to kneel by Luhrman’s side on the Crisco-covered tile floor, “are you feeling . . . cynical, tonight?”
Comedy, Shipper (everyone with everyone, but mostly with Helen Morgendorffer)