Click, Click, Boom
©2003 Roger E. Moore (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Synopsis: Somewhere in an alternate universe, Daria Morgendorffer meets Jane Lane—and before you know it, things click and they’re all over Lawndale, shooting people.
Author’s Notes: This is an alternate-history “what if” tale of Daria and Jane, spawned by a PPMB “Iron Chef” contest started by Brother Grimace. He asked for stories in which one or two “Daria” characters followed one of their other major interests in life, not the one most prominently displayed on the show. The character otherwise had to be the same as on the show. A happy ending was also required.
This story’s title comes from the 2001 hit song by Saliva, “Click Click Boom.” It was too, too perfect.
Acknowledgements: Grateful thanks go out to Brother Grimace for the contest, and deep apologies to Wyvern, who was chatting with me online while I was complaining about getting distracted by story ideas, and about that same moment, this idea came to me and I didn’t write back to him right away, as I was too distracted. Sorry about that.
I can see it in my mind,
I can see it in their eyes,
It's close enough to touch it now,
But far away enough to die.
Click, click, boom.
Daria Morgendorffer sighed in resignation as the new high school came into view through the windshield of her father’s Lexus. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic, she thought, pushing her glasses up on her nose. This place can’t be any worse than Highland. A car horn honked to her left. She turned and saw a pair of students in a candy-apple Jeep pulling ahead of the Lexus. The driver was a moronic-looking black-haired jock wearing a football uniform, his passenger a buxom cheerleader with blonde pigtails waving at students in other cars. Damn it, wrong again. Daria glanced at her sister Quinn in the front seat, taking a moment to check her makeup in the car’s rear-view mirror. Ready to take the local dating scene by storm, she mused. Some things never change.
Her father Jake turned the blue Lexus into the semicircle drive that led to Lawndale High School’s main entrance, where a large crowd of students milled about. “Now, girls,” he said, turning in his seat, “don’t get upset if it takes the other kids a little while to warm up to you.”
The words were barely out of his mouth before Quinn was out of the car and gone, heading for a trio of fashionably dressed girls who appeared to be her age. Daria eased out of the Lexus with her backpack in hand, noting that Quinn was surrounded in seconds by a swarm of eager, testosterone-fueled young males. That didn’t take long. This could even be a new Quinn record for boy collecting.
“I’ll see Quinn through this difficult period of adjustment,” Daria told her father in her usual monotone. As she spoke, she carefully set her backpack on the ground and unzipped it.
“That’s my girl!” Jake exclaimed, standing up outside the car to stretch his legs. He looked down to see what Daria was doing. An anxious look crossed his face. “Uh, Daria, don’t you think—”
“I sure do,” Daria interrupted, rummaging in her backpack.
“I mean,” he went on in a pained tone, “after everything that happened in Highland, you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot here, do you?”
“It’s the only foot I have,” Daria replied. She pulled a Canon EOS-1N telephoto camera from her backpack and glanced at the settings, then popped off the lens cap and swiftly raised it to her face. The autofocus took over, and when the little light turned green and the moment seemed right, she pushed the button with her forefinger. Click. Quinn’s first day at Lawndale, captured for all eternity—the adoration of the masses for their newly crowned princess.
At that moment, for reasons Daria could not fathom, Quinn turned around. Perhaps she’d heard the film wind in the Canon with a low whirr. She spotted her sister and the camera instantly, but she betrayed no expression. A breeze lifted her orange-peel hair. Her look was perfect: unruffled, in charge, majestic and serene. Daria pushed the button again. Click.
Quinn turned back to her new friends as if Daria had never existed. Daria lowered her camera, sensing she had a winner. It paid to wait a moment after a shot was taken, just in case a better shot appeared—which it often did. Quinn had learned a thing or two about photography herself, primarily that she should never, ever make a nasty face when Daria had a camera at hand. It took some of the fun out of photographing her, true, but it made for pictures that Quinn would later buy for her personal use. A sister with a photo bug had its advantages for a wannabe fashion model.
“See you, Dad,” Daria said absently. She put her camera away, then shouldered her gray backpack and headed inside to class.
What did you do at school today, Daria? her mother would ask that night over dinner.
I shot Quinn with my Canon, she would reply.
* * *
The school psychologist was not amused when Daria took a surprise close-up flash photo of her while the shrink was giving Quinn an inkblot test. Daria’s mother came to school later to rescue the expensive Canon from confiscation, but further retaliation was in store. No one has a sense of humor around here, Daria mused as she walked down the empty hallway and pushed open the door to Mr. O’Neill’s classroom. Her fate was hideous: an eight-week-long, after-school class in self-esteem with an oversensitive teacher. So much for this town’s imagined superiority to Highland, she thought. Maybe there’s uranium in the water here, too.
Daria unslung her backpack and looked for a seat among the handful of other students—but the leggy girl with the red jacket and black bangs caught her eye in an instant. Rather, it was what the girl was turning over in her hands, at which she stared with a concentrated frown, that locked Daria’s attention. The girl was holding a black Nikon F-501, what appeared to be an original model from the late 1980s.
Without hurry, Daria took an empty seat next to the girl in the red jacket, who glanced at her before turning her attention back to her camera. Daria remembered seeing this girl in Mr. DeMartino’s history class, where the girl sat in the back and looked bored and said nothing. The girl squinted at her camera and made a sound of disgust.
“Yours?” said Daria.
The girl turned to her with large blue eyes. “Oh, it’s a hand-me-down from my dad,” she said in a gravelly voice. “He does magazine photography, travels around a lot. I get his rejects, the ones he doesn’t drop off cliffs or into volcanoes.”
“That’s a hell of a reject,” Daria said. She tentatively held out a hand. “May I?”
The girl looked at Daria, then at her camera, then handed it over. “Sure, why not. The autorewind’s jammed again, and I don’t have the tools to get it loose. Jane Lane.”
“Daria Morgendorffer.” Daria absently reached in a pocket of her green jacket and pulled out her camera toolkit. “You shoot a lot?”
“All the time.” Jane saw the toolkit and noted the familiarity with which Daria handled it. “Hey, thanks.”
“No problem.” Daria stopped and held up the Nikon, staring at the odd lens on it.
“It’s a fisheye,” said Jane. “I use it for taking pictures of teachers and classmates.”
“Warped portraits,” said Daria, catching on.
“I call them ‘truer than life,’ myself.”
“Welcome, seekers of self-esteem!” announced a cheery Mr. O’Neill to his little class, while perched on the edge of his desk. “Esteem, a teen. They don’t really rhyme, do they?”
Daria picked a miniature screwdriver from her kit, then turned Jane’s camera over in her hands. “You showed me yours. Wanna see mine?”
“Got it with you?”
Daria put the camera and screwdriver in her lap. She then reached down, unzipped her backpack, and brought out her Canon, handing it to Jane.
“Whoa,” said Jane, handling the camera with awestruck care. “This is bloody nice. What are you doing after school?”
“Um . . . what are you doing?”
“Me, too, then. What do you like?”
“Weird people, ugly things. You?”
Daria looked at Jane and blinked in surprise. “Ugly things, weird people. Truth.”
Jane smiled and put out her hand. “You’re a dream come true, amiga.”
“My sister says that, too,” said Daria, putting down the screwdriver again, “only I think she uses the word ‘nightmare’.”
They shook hands. The friendship was born.
“Does anyone know what self-esteem means?” asked Mr. O’Neill, looking around the classroom. “Anyone?”
* * *
They walked around Lawndale together after class, their backpacks on and cameras hanging from shoulder straps at the ready.
“Then comes role-playing,” Jane said. “We take turns being evil cashiers who won’t give correct change, or wimpy customers struggling with lifelong personal issues, like—”
“Target at two o’clock,” Daria said, eyeing a man in rumbled clothes, smoking a cigarette at a bus stop. Both girls stopped and went for their cameras. The man flipped his cigarette to the ground and went inside a store, unaware of his narrow escape.
“Bastard. Got away.” Jane lowered her Nikon. “Anyway, after the role-playing, they divide up the girls and the guys, and some lady talks to us about body image. Yadda, yadda, yadda. How’d you get into this?”
Daria inspected her Canon for dust on the telephoto lens. “I was on the school paper back in Highland. I took pictures of anything, just to see what they’d run. I won this last year in a state contest. I used to write, too, but that always got me into trouble.”
“What’d you write?”
“Oh . . . revenge fantasies, horror stories, end-of-the-world stuff, anything that would get a reaction.”
“So, photography kept you on the straight and narrow?”
“Nope,” said Daria solemnly. “It’s gotten me into more trouble than writing ever could.”
Jane grinned at her new friend. “You’re a twisted little cruller, aincha?”
“It’s what I do best,” said Daria. “What about you?”
“Oh, it’s all art to me. I drew on the walls too much when I was little. My oldest sister gave me a camera to keep me out of the crayons. The rest was history.”
Daria stopped and pointed. “Target sighted, two o’clock.”
They raised their cameras as the man in the rumbled clothing walked out of the store, smoking another cigarette, the very image of city grit and grunge.
* * *
The door-to-door sale of chocolate bars for Lawndale’s new cyber-café did not go as planned.
“We should be doing something about now,” said Jane, looking down at the overweight woman in the muumuu who collapsed after attempting to buy all of their chocolate bars. “I’m sure of it.”
Daria nodded slowly. “Yeah. I think you’re right.”
In unison, both girls raised their cameras.
* * *
“Big crack in the sidewalk coming up,” said Jane, guiding Daria by the elbow. “You’ll want to watch out for that. Oh—look out for that branch! There’s a dog coming. Never mind, it’s over by that maple.”
“Damn contacts,” Daria grumbled. Her eyes were still shot through with red. “Can’t even see through the viewfinder without tearing up.”
“Suffering from camera obscura, eh? Well, you made it this far. I can’t believe you didn’t bring your gla—”
A honking horn cut Jane off.
Daria squinted at the fuzzy blue car stopped on the other side of the street. “Who’s that?”
“Oh,” said Jane, waving. “It’s Trent.”
“Hey, Daria!” Trent shouted from his car. “Looking good!” He smiled, waved, and drove away.
Daria felt her face burst into flame. Boom, boom, her heart thundered in her ears. She swallowed and wondered what Trent really thought of her. She was terrified of finding out.
Jane let go of Daria’s elbow and took a step away. Daria made the mistake of looking in her direction, blushing furiously.
Daria gasped. “Damn you, Lane!” she shouted.
Jane merely grinned and held steady. Daria’s trick about waiting for a better shot had paid off in spades.
* * *
Daria lowered her camera, pleased with the shot she’d taken of the Lawndale Lions mascot, staggering drunkenly about in the parade. I wonder how he gets any air in that costume, she thought. Glad that’s not me in there.
“Well, I certainly understand why you wanted to share this experience with Jane,” she said, advancing the film with her thumb. She hated using the school camera. It was as old as the Stone Age. “Sorry that you two never hooked up.”
Tom Sloane shrugged, feeling far more tired than he thought he should. “It’s okay,” he said. He glanced at Daria, who was intently searching the passing parade for more photographic fodder. She hardly knows I’m here, he thought. She’s just as bad as Jane. She’s really different and interesting when you can get her to talk. She might even be brilliant, but . . . He looked away, shaking his head. “You know how she is,” he said.
Daria nodded as she raised her camera, focusing on the next float. Quinn and her fashion friends were on it. Daria was low on cash, and Quinn could use another batch of glamour shots. “Yeah, I know. She really gets into this.”
The irony of that remark was not lost on Tom. I’d better cut the cord, he thought, before I say or do something I’ll regret. “I’ll try looking for her over there,” he said. “Good luck with your yearbook photos, Daria.”
Daria nodded, getting Quinn in her viewfinder. “Thanks,” she said.
When she lowered the camera, Tom was gone. She shrugged and went on taking pictures of Quinn and a particularly dreadful looking clown.
“Hey,” someone called. She looked around and spotted Ted walking up with an excited grin on his face. “How’s it going? Get some good ones for the yearbook?”
He bent his lips to hers, and they closed their eyes. They kissed.
“You’ll be amazed,” Daria said when the kiss broke.
“I know what that means,” Ted said, rolling his eyes. His good humor faded. “Weird people and ugly things. Irony at its most cutting.”
“It’s what I do best,” Daria said with a smirk. “Have you seen Jane?”
* * *
“I can’t believe this,” Jane said. She sat with Daria at their usual table in Pizza King, a Mondo Supremo Deluxe half-eaten between them. “Not in a million years could I believe this would happen on the same damn afternoon. What did Ted say?”
Daria glumly reached for another slice of pizza. “Just what I told you. He didn’t like my attitude about photography, for one thing. Too much Diane Arbus, not enough Ansel Adams, I guess. Then he said I wasn’t getting into the spirit of the yearbook. He said it’s not about weird, ugly stuff, as if there was anything else to put in a high-school yearbook. I think Ms. Li chewed his ass off when she skimmed the layout and saw that pic of the dead rat in the cafeteria. That probably did it.” She paused before taking a bite of her slice. “So, what exactly did Tom tell you?”
“I don’t know. I was too busy yelling at him to hear much.” Jane picked up her glass and swirled her Ultra-Cola around inside it. “He was going on and on about me not paying any attention to him, being too caught up in my work, something like that. And all this time I thought he liked my artistic side.”
“He sure liked your nude photo series,” Daria said. She took another bite of pizza.
“Yeah, he liked that side of me, all right. He liked every side I had, there.” Jane exhaled long and slow, staring at her fizzing drink. “Maybe he’d have stuck around if I’d given in and put out like he wanted me to. Must have finally gotten to him, all the black-and-white but no pink. You think that’s why Ted broke up with you?”
“Mmmm,” said Daria, her mouth full. She gave an exaggerated shrug and reached for her drink. “Who cares,” she said a few moments later after swallowing. “Screw ‘em if they can’t take a joke.”
“Yeah,” said Jane, and she took a sip of her cola. “Screw ‘em. They say they love you, then—boom.”
They ate moodily for several minutes.
“Could have been worse,” said Daria at last. “We could have married them.”
Jane nodded. “Yeah,” she said. She found herself looking at Daria, who looked back at her without blinking. Their mutual gaze lasted much longer than either expected it would.
Daria put down her pizza slice and wiped her hands on a napkin. Jane put down her drink and wiped her hands on her red jacket.
They reached for their cameras. They took time to focus and adjust for ambient light. Each of them was clear and centered in the other’s viewfinder.
“Boom,” said Daria in her deadpan.
“Boom,” said Jane with a grin.