Categories > Cartoons > Daria > Tigresses

The Home Game

by DrT 1 review

The school gets a sponsor, and a film and pep rally give Jane a really big idea.

Category: Daria - Rating: PG-13 - Genres:  - Characters: Daria,Jane,Quinn - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2014-03-27 - 7276 words - Complete

Tigresses of Lawndale – 06 – The Home Game

By Dr T

The school gets a sponsor, and a film and pep rally give Jane a really big idea.


Two weeks after the attack, Daria had finally regained enough strength and dexterity to dress herself, although she still needed help with her boots. She was happy she could go to the rest room on her own again.

That Wednesday was also the day the school gained new neon soda machines and a plethora of advertizing for Ultra Cola. Daria didn’t say anything about them, but Jane could see her wince every time she saw a new sign.

The next afternoon, however, Daria tracked down Jodie in the library while Jane went to the art room to catch up on some painting. Daria just sat and stared, her eyes moving from Jodie to the obnoxious neon green-and-yellowish green poster behind the teen leader and then back again.

After a few moments of that treatment, Jodie sighed. “I know; they are kind of hard to miss.”

“Brittany in a tight sweater is hard to miss; these stick out even more,” Daria commented drolly, earning an eye-roll from Jodie. “Sorry,” Daria said. Daria then got serious and asked, “What’s the deal, anyway? Tuesday we had the dispensers in the lunch lines with generic cola, diet cola, lemon-lime, and orange soda, and two machines in the actual cafeteria, which offered the same generics, plus root beer. Six buttons, two for cola, one each for the others. There was also a machine that sold boxes of fruit juices that were actually mostly fruit juice instead of sugar and fake flavors. Now the soda has been switched to Ultra Cola and the fruit juice machine is gone, replaced by another soda machine. We now have at least seven other soda machines around, each with just four buttons -- three for Ultra Cola and one with Diet Ultra, and the price has gone up ten cents per can!”

“They also switched the one in the teacher’s lounge, and you missed one other, probably the one at the entrance to the balcony of the swimming pool” Jodie pointed out. “And, of course, the concessions at games have also gone from generic to Ultra Cola.”

Daria just glared.

“What? Lots of schools and businesses sign exclusive contracts with soda companies!”

“Okay, while I have a problem with this, for the sake of the argument let’s grant that doing so has no moral ambiguities,” Daria said. “That a school not only enters into a commercial deal, but that part of that deal is such blatant marketing and over-supplying of the market. Like I said, it bothers me a bit, but I could be wrong about that. Maybe that’s because my last school didn’t allow soda in the cafeteria.”

“Do you mean they did something better than us? Considering what you’ve said about that school, it’s hard to believe,” Jodie teased.

“Well, it wasn’t from any high moral ground,” Daria conceded. “Their food was even more unbalanced than here, they just didn’t want the students to be on a sugar or caffeine high. They even limited the starches they served.” Daria shook her head. “On the other hand, you could get whatever they were passing out as gravy over anything, and most days you even had the choice of either whatever was supposed to go with the meat, or what they called simply ‘sausage and white gravy.’ Plus, they were happy to let you put as much shredded surplus cheese as you wanted on anything.”

Jodie made a face.

“I know. But come on, studies are suggesting how too much corn-syrup sweetened sodas are contributing to obesity and diabetes, plus again, should we really be having the students chugging down sugar and caffeine between classes when a lot of them have attention problems in the first place? One or even two sodas at lunch time is one thing. . . .”

“Since we both occasionally indulge,” Jodie pointed out.

“Agreed. But eleven machines all over the school? Before you say anything about it being the students’ choice not to over-indulge, do you honestly think Ms Li and the suppliers would have put in that many machines unless they were sure they’d get a good payoff?”

“Probably not,” Jody had to agree.

“Do you know what the payoff is, by the way?” Daria asked.

“Not the amounts, but Ms Li thinks it will make up for the short-falls the school’s been having.”

“Of course, at least some of that has gone to the over-the-top security, and we all know how well that worked when someone needed it,” Daria reminded Jodie, holding up her heavy brace.

“True,” Jodie agreed. “However, I do know that some book orders for next term that were on hold have actually gone through because of this. And, because the switch-over took place before the first football game, the team can order replacement equipment, and you know she would have juggled the books somehow to grab that from academics if she had to.”

Daria frowned. “And all these posters?”

Jodie winced. “They are sleazy, but Ms Li also said that some of clubs wouldn’t have to work quite as hard selling junk door to door and what not because of what she got for advertizing space.” She glared at Daria. “What would you do to get out of being one of twenty students each having to sell at least five hundred rolls of over-priced, under-sized holiday wrap so the Model Congress can get a decent bus to go to Washington in the spring? Or so you wouldn’t have to stand in front of stores in your band uniform, selling ‘I Support Lawndale’ buttons so they can go to the State University Band Competition? Or, to bring it home, just think, as you make your leftover turkey sandwich the day after Thanksgiving or drink egg nog the day or two before Christmas, that the orchestra has to play holiday concerts for some civic groups to pay for the string program.”

“Huh?” Daria didn’t know about that one.

“It was part of the deal the city and county made with the school district. They pay for the string program, but the orchestra has to play six concerts around the county – two at senior centers, one at the mall, and one at city hall, all between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then two at senior centers in the spring.”

“Well, I could say that those are the prices you, the students, pay for participation in the activities, and that by getting other students to subsidize you via what amounts to a sin tax without your having to do anything to earn your way, you may be missing out on important life lessons,” Daria retorted.

“I never thought of you as a conservative,” Jodie responded.

“I don’t think the so-called ‘Puritan Work Ethic’ is necessarily puritan, let alone conservative,” Daria retorted. “I certainly want all students to have a chance to join those groups if they have the interest, and if some cases, the needed ability, which some might not have the chance to do if their parents had to pay for it all upfront. I just question the idea that having other students risk rotting their teeth or ruining their health in future years instead is an ethical choice.”

“Okay, I apologize for the conservative remark if you’re not,” Jodie said. “But I resent you implying I’m lazy.”

“You are anything but lazy,” Daria agreed. “I can even understand why you’d be glad for almost anything that lightens your load. That doesn’t apply to most of the other students.”

“I suppose,” Jodie conceded.

“I am sorry if it seemed like I was attacking you,” Daria added. “I suppose this means you think, well, not that this is good, but that there’s nothing you’d want to do to change it?”

“I don’t think there’s anything to do at the moment,” Jodie pointed out. “In a sense the company is paying for advertizing space. We’ve always sold space in the newspaper and the year book, and even though we have never had advertisements in the stadium or gym, other schools do. If anything, I’m surprised it’s taken this long to happen. So, as long as it doesn’t get much more egregious, and as long as she doesn’t allow worse companies advertize, who is really going to object?”

“Who would we even object to?” Daria asked. Seeing the look on Jodie’s face, she amended, “Okay, who would I even object to if I wanted to when it gets worse? The PTA?”

Jodie shook her head. “Trust me, that bunch will back Ms Li. You’d have to go to the County Superintendent, but things would have to get much worse.”

Daria sighed in defeat.

“Why do you think it will get worse?” Jodie asked, curious if this was just Daria being negative.

“Because none of this suggests good taste,” Daria replied, gesturing at the sign. “I think that if this brings in anything like the money Ms Li hopes for, both she and the company reps will independently decide more is better.” Somewhere, in the back of her mind, Daria knew she had heard about something similar happening back in Texas, but she couldn’t remember the details. She knew she would have to research it.

“Maybe,” Jodie conceded, “but I doubt it.”

“Ten bucks says there will be at least ten percent more advertising in some shape at some point before the Christmas break.”

Jodie thought about it. “Ms Li hinted we might get new score boards out of it. Leave out the stadium and the gym and you have a bet.”


Jodie decided to change the subject. “Are you and Jane coming to the game Saturday?”

“Yes,” Daria admitted. She looked at Jodie and asked humorously. “Looking for someone to sit with, or making certain you keep an eye out to avoid us?”

“Tell you what, sit with me and I’ll even buy you both an Ultra Cola,” Jodie teased.


That evening, Helen cornered Daria in her room as she prepared for bed. While she was enjoying the transition to partner a great deal, a few moments in the morning was not enough time to spend with her daughters. She had therefore taken to alternating talking to them before they went to bed.

To Helen’s surprise, this was not terribly difficult. Quinn was still dating multiple boys, but had stopped the longer dinner dates during the week; she was now home by 8:00 during the week. Daria and Jane were together after school, and even when Daria was out with Thor afterwards, she was back home by 8:30.

Helen therefore listened to Daria’s complaints about the advertizing, and, with surprise, listened to her daughter plot out six different plausible scenarios for dealing with Ultra Cola, depending on how things developed. The only other development Daria reported on was an offer by Ms Morris. She had been impressed with Daria’s dedication to walking during gym, and had also noticed Daria was doing the same immediately after school, before going to study in the library while waiting for Jane, who sometimes ran for fun and sometimes painted at school for a while. A Tai Chi group was starting in part of the gym, meeting from 3:45-4:30, and Ms Morris suggested that, if Daria would keep up the power walking during gym and attended at least two Tai Chi sessions a week, she could continue to be dismissed from gym class in most of the second and third trimesters. In the remaining part, Daria could either continue with the walking/Tai Chi or take the swimming unit. Since Daria had in fact passed all the swimming requirements, it was her choice.

To Helen’s slight surprise, Daria did not even need any encouragement to take Tai Chi. Daria had found motivation for life beyond reading and writing and Sick, Sad World, for which Helen was grateful.


The next morning, Quinn came up to Daria and Jane. Both were wearing jeans and denim jackets, and different tops, although both were dark yellow. For every home game of the season, there would be a pep rally at the end of school day on Friday, just as there had been for the first game, even though it had been an away game.

“You two look like unhappy members of the same gang,” Quinn told them. “If you hate wearing the school colors so much, don’t!”

“Would you believe we’re unhappy because we wore nearly matching outfits?” Daria asked.

“Since Jane’s still staying with us, no,” Quinn answered. “Either of you had time to change if you had wanted to. And I would have had a hard time believing it of you it even if she wasn’t staying with us.”

“Look, we want John and Thor to do well, and we don’t want them teased because we don’t look supportive as well,” Jane explained. “We just have a hard time giving into crowd dynamics.”

“And doing that would be bad?” Quinn demanded.

“What are you doing tonight?” Daria asked.

“Dinner date,” Quinn replied. “Gerry will pick me up around seven, why?”

“Come home with us right after school,” Daria told her. “I’ll show you a famous film that shows crowd dynamics played for high stakes.”

“Okay, do your worst,” Quinn said. “But I want some plain popcorn.”

“We’ll pick up a bag to pop for you on the way home,” Daria retorted.

“What are you going to show her?” Jane asked as they moved off.

“Ever hear of Triumph of the Will?” Daria asked.

“Heard of it, but I’ve never seen it,” Jane admitted.


“Well,” Daria asked, “what did you two think?”

“Kind of uneven,” Jane observed. “For anyone at the time who wasn’t a nationalist German, I would think the military and especially the Party leadership sections were probably overdone.” Jane shook her head. “Some really great images, and some fantastic photography, though. I can see why Riefenstahl has such a fantastic reputation as both a director and a propagandist.”

“I can almost see you planning a painting,” Daria teased. She turned to Quinn.

“I can see what you were getting at this morning,” Quinn said slowly. She looked at Daria. “You did over-do the comparison, you know.”

“In some ways, but it is still the same basic crowd reaction,” Daria replied. “In high school, yeah, it’s pretty harmless. But when you know what it can become, even pep rallies can make you feel, well. . . .”

“Dirty,” Jane said, “the bad kind of dirty.”

“Are all smart people generally unhappy?” Quinn asked. “Do you know that so much that can go wrong you just, well, aren’t happy in general?”

“I think that depends on what you mean by ‘unhappy’,” Daria replied thoughtfully. “I think smart and knowledgeable people may be happy less often than people who are too stupid to realize what’s going on around them, but I don’t know if they are really any more unhappy or depressed.”

Daria looked at Quinn intently. “I think you’re making the same mistake Manson does when she gives students those stupid tests. If a person seems bubbly or positive, they pass by everyone unnoticed, even if it’s just an act. If a person is not that way, then Manson just presumes you’re not only just not positive, but that you are actually unhappy or depressed, or have a low self-image. Even though I have tried to hide my physical self, that doesn’t mean I didn’t realize I have always been at least average looking.” Jane and Quinn both rolled their eyes at that assessment. Daria went on quietly. “I have never had low self-esteem, and, despite what you said at Quiet Ivy, I have never been suicidal. I am not, and have never been, a misery chick.”

“Daria, do you think I’m an airhead?” Quinn demanded.

“Huh?” Daria said, shocked at the opening Quinn had made for her.

“Do you honestly believe I am an airhead?” Quinn demanded again.

“Well, no . . . not as such. . . .”

“But, you think some times I’ve acted like one, or at least have given that impression, right?”

“Yes. . . .” Daria could see where this was heading, but decided she should give Quinn the satisfaction of actually saying it.

Quinn stood up. “I am no more an airhead than you are a misery chick. However, I assure you, you used to act that way, or at least give that impression. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to rush to be ready for my date.”

“I think I like her better this way,” Jane said brightly.

Daria just mumbled and grumbled and went to call out for a pizza with extra cheese.


Helen and Jake got home a little after 9:00 – they had been out celebrating, although they had not been clear what they were celebrating. Quinn was still out and Jane was in the guest room making sketches for the big idea she had gotten after watching the movie.

Helen sent Jake on upstairs and went to sit next to Daria. “Is something wrong, Sweetie?”

“What were you celebrating?”

“What? Oh, well, I guess we weren’t clear, were we?”

Daria almost smirked. “Nope, although we could tell you were happy.”

“I won my first big case for the firm today, on my own, although Eric had led all the preliminaries. Still, I had to close it, and I closed it and won it, even bigger than we had hoped.”

“Are you working more or less as a partner than you were?”

Helen gave Daria a smile close to Daria’s own small smile. “Well, if we don’t include the time I had to babysit Eric, a little more, maybe four or five hours more a week. Probably five or six less than I had to than if we include that babysitting time, and the hours are much less aggravating or irritating, and much more productive.”

“Overall, is that better for the firm?”

“Me over Eric?” Helen shrugged. “In my parts of the law, there are about four equal sections: pleasing the clients as we meet and organize the case; knowing the legal background and cases and getting everything organized; negotiating with the opposition; and winning in court when necessary. I know I organize and delegate much better than Eric. As for the rest, except for the negotiating with the opposition, I think I’ll be at his level soon, without the attending problems I hope.”

“Was he really better at negotiations, or did he just have the reputation?”

“Both. If I win a few more like today and don’t get cocky, I’ll gain my own reputation.”

“Are you happier?”

“Yes, I am. I just wish it hadn’t come at such a cost to Eric.” Helen looked at Daria. “How about you? Are you really happy?”

“The Greek philosophers had a saying: count no man happy until he dies,” Daria replied. Helen rolled her eyes. “That means. . . .”

“I know what it means,” Helen responded. “Happiness is in the sum of a lifetime, not its transitory stages. But how do you feel these days?” She adopted Daria’s own language and asked, “Are you happier, if not happy?”

Daria raised her braced left arm. “The attack still worries me, and I am dealing with that. I am unhappy only in that this means I can’t write much for a while, although I catching up on a lot of reading. I am closer to Jane than ever, I think my relationship with Thor is progressing slowly but steadily, and I think Quinn and I are at least at a reasonable accommodation. Over all, other than the attack, I am pleased, and yes, I am happier than I was at this point last year. How’s that?”

“Good enough, Daria.” To Daria’s surprise, Helen leaned over and kissed her forehead. “Get some rest so you can enjoy the game tomorrow.”


Considering how high football ranked as an important issue in town and at the school, it was a bit odd that Lawndale was the only school in the area without a lighted stadium. Daria suspected it was because that allowed Lawndale to monopolize the both the area interest in high school football as well as the local radio market in general on Saturday afternoon, since Lawndale State didn’t have a football team. The game, as usual, started at 1:00, so there was an early lunch at the Morgendorffers. Jake would drive the three girls to the game, where he would join a group of clients. Quinn would of course be meeting the rest of the Fashion Club, while Jane and Daria joined Jodie, who brought them into the stadium through a back entrance behind the home bleachers and then led them up into part of the press box which, it turned out, was divided into four sections. They were in the smallest part, which had lost some of its space to a stairway going up to an area above the press box, as well as a tiny private restroom (built under those stairs).

“Upchuck announces from the far end,” Jodie told them. “The radio announcers have the second part, and the newspaper reporters sit in the third. This used to be for school administrators, until Ms Li’s predecessor added the extra seats and that luxury box superimposed on this one. Normally, the president of the student council and a few others are allowed to use this part, but other than me they’re in the band, pep squad, or football teams this year.” Jodie smirked.

“Private space, cool,” Jane said. She pulled a sketch pad out of her backpack. There was a nice ledge to set food on she could use.

“Well, she’s set.” Daria noticed there was a heater, not needed in Lawndale during September but something which would be needed later in the season, and a small fridge. She leaned over and opened it. There was a six pack of Ultra Cola and three bottles of water. “Thank you, but shouldn’t we have paid?” Tickets were cheap for students, but they still cost $3 each.

“I bought them,” Jodie said. “I expected to be all alone up here before Thursday, so I don’t mind. If it bothers you, you can buy them next time.”

The conversation lagged as the game got started. When Mack got gang-tackled advancing the ball four yards, though, Daria asked, “How do you stand it?”

“Stand what?” Jodie asked. “The tedium of football?”

“You don’t like it?” Daria asked out of surprise.

“Not at all,” Jodie replied. “I’d rather watch basketball any day.” She frowned. “Have you even been to a game before?”

“Oh, yes; Mom and Dad dragged me here four times my first year, twice last year,” Daria replied. “I actually don’t mind watching football, I just can’t really root for either team.”

“Huh. Then what did you mean?”

“I was wondering how you stand watching Mack play and. . . .”

Mack was tackled again, making only two yards but getting the first down.

“Ah. That wasn’t easy,” Jodie admitted. Suddenly, it hit her. “Daria, are you worried about Thor?”

“I know, he’s probably the biggest and one of the strongest guys down there,” Daria admitted. “Still. . . .”

“I’ve gotten to know you well enough to understand where some of the sarcasm and cynicism comes from, and I think I know your family well enough to see where a lot of the stoicism comes from, but are you also just a little sentimental?”

Jane snorted. “Daria is one of the least sentimental people I know. She’s high principled, yet of course sarcastic and cynical and stoic. The principles and stoicism go together. What was it you told me about genuine stoicism?”

Daria said in her most deadpan voice, one she was rarely able to use anymore outside of answering some of her teachers and other adults, “It doesn’t mean unemotional, it means not letting your emotions interfere with your judgment or actions. A judge or a general does not let the news of the death of his wife or child stop him from administering justice or leading his troops into battle.”

“Some people, especially if they know and don’t like Quinn, think you’re like Kate from the first part of Taming of the Shrew,” Jane went on. “Well, you do have her sarcasm, but Petruchio could never have tamed you. You would have either tamed him or made a deal to act that way in public before you broke, or one of you would have killed the other.”

“I never really thought of you as a literary character,” Daria said to Jane.


“A Farside character at times, but not a literary one.”

“Well,” Jodie admitted, “I have sometimes thought of you as Kate, but more often I think I’ve thought of you as rather like Antigone.”

“Thank you,” Daria replied. “She certainly had the courage of her convictions. I could only hope for the same, although of course I also hope I’m never that challenged.”

“Maybe,” Jane mused, still sketching the stadium. “I have also thought of you at times as something like Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice or even a bit like Jo March from Little Women without the attachment to the sick sister – intelligent, independent, frank, but underneath it all, a little romantic.” Jane looked up at Jodie. “Romantic, yes; sentimental, I don’t think so.”

Daria glared at her friend.

“Come on,” Jane challenged. “Tell me, do you have any mementos of your childhood? Favorite dolly or stuffed animal?”

“Quinn took them all or ruined them,” Daria huffed.

“Favorite childhood book?”

“Quinn destroyed them.”

“I sorry, I didn’t mean to bring that part of your childhood up,” Jane said contritely, seeing the hurt look in Daria’s eyes as she remembered her lost treasures. “Is there anything you have that it would bother you to lose, if it could be replaced by the same thing or a better version?”

“Just that painting you gave me this summer, and of course this.” Daria held up her right hand, showing the delicate silver friendship ring Jane had given her. Daria then just looked down, not looking at either teen; she sat with her arms crossed glaring at the players below.

“She doesn’t like that side of her talked about,” Jane stage whispered.

Trying to change the mood, Jodie said, “You know, if you two weren’t dating John and Thor, those rings would have caused comments.” Daria had of course bought a somewhat different silver ring for Jane.

“Screw ‘em if they don’t understand friendship,” Jane stated. “Right, Amiga?”

“I’m going to say something that either of you probably ever thought you would hear me say,” Daria stated in her most deadpan voice. “I do love you, Jane, in every way you can imagine except the way gossip would have claimed. You can call that sentiment if you wish or part of my alleged romantic nature or whatever.”

“I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” Jodie said. Jane was too stunned to say anything.

Daria sighed. “I know. Can we talk about something else?”

Jodie turned to Jane. “Some of us went to the Zon the other night. Your brother’s band has, well. . . .”

“They suck, but not nearly as much as they used to,” Jane said, recovered her aplomb. “That’s in part because Daria wrote them better lyrics, which got them a few more gigs, which means they’ve been playing more than usual. If they had ever actually practiced more, they could have reached this level a few years ago.”

“Well, anyway, they got the gig for Homecoming.”


Daria sighed.

“What?” Jane and Jodie asked.

“I would imagine I’ll have to go,” she said. “What does one wear to Homecoming?”

“It’s a little dressier than the November dance Jane did the art for,” Jodie explained. “No guy is going to be wearing a tux, although a few of the girls may dress up more. Then there will be the dance in November, you know, like the one Jane decorated, and then the Snow Ball, which is more formal.”

“We can wear what we wore to the opera last week, if we’re invited,” Jane said.

“Why wouldn’t you be invited?” Jodie asked.

“I don’t know about Thor, but I got the impression from John that unless we fall madly in love, which we haven’t, this relationship was set for football season, maybe the end of the year at most,” Jane explained.

Seeing the surprised look on their faces, Jane held up her hands, “Hey, none of that! This is fun for both of us. I’ve no complaints.”

Seeing the look on Daria’s face, Jane said, “Look, even if John and I break up, that doesn’t mean you and Thor can’t go out if you both want to.”

Daria mumbled something that Jane took as roughly meaning ‘yeah, sure, whatever you say.’

The trio was quiet until early in the second quarter, with Lawndale leading 15-0 (Kevin had thrown for a touchdown, with a missed extra point; Mack had run for a touchdown with a kicked extra point; and Thor and another player had tackled the opposing quarterback in his own end zone for a safety). Jane was sketching away, and Jodie had actually brought a romance novel to relax with. Only Daria was really watching the game.

“Did you get your scores back from the last SAT you took?” Daria asked Jodie.

“Yes,” Jodie said with relief. “We got them yesterday. I scored a fourteen-forty, and Mac got a thirteen-sixty. If you could get him scouted by Bromwell and Raft, I know he’d appreciate it.”

“I’ll e-mail them tonight or tomorrow,” Daria promised.

“Is your dad still hot for Crestmore?” Jane asked, deciding to join in.

“Sort of, but my telling him Turner has added a full business department since he went to school there has softened him a bit. I think Mom convinced him that it would be useful for me to make some real contact with the African American community. He’s now saying if I’m accepted at Crestmore, I can go to Turner or another HBCU for two years and then transfer to Crestmore. I said I’d think about it.”

“Well, you’re half way there,” Jane teased.


The teens chatted through the rest of the first half, half time, and into the third quarter. Thor had easily shut down the inside running game and helped keep a lot of pressure on Green Hollow’s quarterback, resulting in two sacks for Thor, two others by other players, and two interceptions for the Lion’s defense, one by John. Green Hollow’s defense, however, had recovered from the shock of the first third of the game, so the score was still 15-0.

“Jodie, maybe you can explain something to me,” Daria said into what had been a few minutes of silence.

“Well, I’ll try,” Jodie responded.

“I can understand why the people who care about football would want Lawndale to win the state championship again. . . .”

“Okay,” Jodie said encouragingly.

“What would the players really get out of it, other than bragging rights?”

Mack had talked about this a few times, and of course Jodie had her own ideas as well. “Well, it would probably increase all their chances a bit to get scholarships playing football in college,” Jodie said. “It wouldn’t be a lock for any of them.”

“Do any of them besides Thor and Mack really have a chance?” Daria asked, a bit surprised. “At least among the seniors, anyway?”

“At top schools? Probably only Thor does, with Mack down a level,” Jodie agreed, “but there is still scholarship money available at most levels. Winning the State championship would help most of them get at least a little money.”

“Not Kevin?” Jane asked, half-jokingly.

“Mack says he actually does have the skills to play at just about any school, but I can’t see him making it through one semester at college, let alone longer,” Jodie said simply.

“I wonder if he’ll even graduate high school,” Daria commented.

“He’s made it this far,” Jane pointed out.

“Yes, he has, playing football since when?”

“Most of the middle schools in the county have flag football teams for each grade,” Jane said. “That way, the coaches can see the skills develop without a big risk of injury.”

“Kevin is a year older than us,” Daria pointed out. “I asked him once; he was held back in fifth grade but has had fairly smooth sailing since he hit middle school. Coincidence? I doubt it. He has been groomed and used by the system, and in eight more weeks, or four more beyond that if they go all the way to the state championship, his value to the system becomes zero. They won’t flunk him out, but they won’t continue to save him.”

“I think his dad knows that to some degree. His mother sure does,” Jodie conceded. “I think his dad just hopes he graduates.”

“Kevin wouldn’t have a football career without college,” Jane pointed out.

“He could, but it would be a long shot,” Daria said. “There are a couple of semi-pro leagues around. They have ex-high school stars who didn’t make college or who went into the military instead of college, or ex-college players. Almost none of them make it even to a pro training camp, but a few do, usually as walk-ons, even if almost none of them make it. A few more might make it as far as that Arena Football League. If all you have is that dream, it must be tough to give up on it.”

At that point, Thor nearly got his third sack. The quarterback released the ball just as he was hit, and the soft wobbling pass was easily picked up by John, who managed a twenty-seven yard return to the four yard line. Kevin passed to Jeffey on the first play for a touchdown, and Mack ran for a two point conversion. That would turn out to be the final score of the game, 23-0, as the Lawndale defense easily contained the Green Hollow offense from then on, and the Lawndale offense just missed several scoring chances. Coming off of a 33-0 win in the opening game, Lawndale had momentum. Still, it was a long way to go before they could even match the previous year’s record of 8-2. They would almost certainly have to be 10-0 to have a chance at the State Championship.

Jodie held Jane and Daria back as the crowd dispersed. Seeing their confused looks, she asked, “Aren’t you going to meet John and Thor?”

Jane and Daria looked at each other. “We talked about seeing them last night, but they just weren’t up to McGrundy’s, and so we all decided to do something special next Saturday,” Jane explained.

“Want to surprise them?”

“We should,” Daria mused. “We may not care about the game itself, but they did amazingly well.”

“They should be coming out of the locker room in thirty to fifty minutes unless they’re bruised more than usual,” Jodie explained. “We should wait here a few more minutes to allow the big shots time to clear out. . . .” She perked up and the other two could hear people coming down the stairs near the door to their part of the press box. As the steps died down, Jodie went to use the rest room. Daria and Jane did the same, and the trio made their way out of the back exit to the stadium and around to the door leading to the locker room.

The first members out were of course the players who had seen the least playing time. A number of other girls had gathered around Jodie by the time the first player came out, including Brittany.

“Hi, Jodie! Daria! Jane!” she greeted warmly. “That was a good game, wasn’t it?”

“It was from Lawndale’s point of view,” Daria agreed.

Brittany thought about that and said, “Wow, you ARE fair to everyone, aren’t you? That’s so nice!”

“Thank you,” Daria replied. “I’m sure you’re very proud of how well Kevin played.”

“Yeah, he had some good plays, didn’t he? Thor and John did, too!” She turned to Jodie. “So did Mack.”

Before Jodie could reply, Brittany squealed, “Kevie!” and leapt into Kevin’s arms.

Unfortunately Kevin was not in his usual pads and collapsed with a crunch that made Jodie, Jane, and even Daria wince. The trio moved around the groaning pair (groaning for once in pain) and greeted their guys.

“This is a pleasant surprise,” John said with a warm smile.

“And a welcome one,” Thor agreed.

“Jodie said you two usually take off together after a home game, and we don’t want to intrude. . . .” Jane started.

“But we did want you to know we saw you play, and were very impressed,” Daria concluded.

“After every home game, we go eat an obscene amount of beef and then soak in the hot tub at my parents’,” John said.

“You’re welcome to come if you have suits,” Thor added. “Or at least come to dinner with us, if you don’t.”

Jane and Daria looked at each other mouthed a few words at each other. “We’ll take a rain check on the hot tub, at least until the next home game,” Daria answered, which pleased the guys.

“We’ll gladly watch you guys devour a cow tonight,” Jane added.

“We’ll even buy the drinks,” Daria agreed.

Beef-n-Cake was a working class surf and turf place about a mile outside of town, offering burgers, steaks, and (of course) Maryland crab cakes amongst other fare. Jane had a burger, medium fries, and a small cola; Daria the crab cake, small fries, and a small cola. John had a 16 ounce sirloin, medium fries, and a medium chocolate shake, while Thor had two twelve ounce sirloins, large fries, and a large chocolate shake. The quartet also split two large orders of onion rings.

“Do you talk about the game after the game or other things?” Daria asked.

“Generally, anything but football,” John admitted.

“Choose a topic,” Jane suggested.

“What will you do with yourself next week, since you won’t be helping Daria?” John asked her.

“Funny you should ask,” Jane said. “I had a brilliant idea yesterday for a really big work! I talked Mrs. Sloan into donating the canvas, and Ms Defoe gave me tentative permission to use one of those empty storerooms between the arts area and the stage. If I can get Ms Li’s permission Monday, I’ll be working on it after school for the rest of the year, at least!”

Thor and John both looked surprised. “Jane, just how big is the canvas?” John finally asked.

“Six and half feet high by ten and half feet wide,” Jane replied. Both guys had a hard time visualizing painting something that big.

“Err, an abstract?” Thor asked.

“Fantasy hyperrealism, if I can pull it off,” Jane replied. “It could even take me into next year.”

“We practice until five o’clock, and don’t leave until around five-twenty. . . .” Thor suggested to John.

“I’ll probably be painting until six, and probably be cleaning up until nearly six-thirty,” Jane added.

“I’ll be with her after the library closes, reading,” Daria put in.

“We could easily get permission to use the practice rooms that late, as long as we’re gone before the community chorus comes in Mondays and Wednesday before seven o’clock,” John said.

“If we, meaning any of the four of us, have school work or something, we can drive you home. If not, maybe we can go somewhere some nights, as a group or in pairs,” Thor suggested.

The others found that agreeable.

“Mom wondered if you could come to dinner next Wednesday or Thursday,” Thor said, turning to Daria.

“It shouldn’t be a problem.” Daria looked at Jane.

“What?” Jane demanded. “Remember, my mother and John’s mother are both Lawndale natives. Mom even babysat his mom when she was in high school and his was in elementary school. We were at each other’s birthday parties when we were kids, before Mom started wandering a few years ago.”

Fortunately, that was when their meals arrived.


Whatever her other faults, Ms Li had an open door policy. Jane had no trouble getting to see her before homeroom that Monday. For a project this exciting, Jane easily got herself out of bed by 7:00 and presented herself, coffee in hand, at the Morgendorffers by 7:20 (for Daria to walk to Jane’s first actually added a bit to Daria’s route). Daria still needed help tying her boots, but otherwise was ready to go, sugar tart in hand.

Once in Ms Li’s office, Jane managed to explain what she wanted and why, including an outline of her planned painting.

Ms Li glared at Jane. “Ms Lane, do you honestly believe I would approve of such a painting?”

“Approve of personally? Maybe not,” Jane admitted. “However, I don’t see why that would mean you would disapprove of my painting it here at school. The painting is certainly not aimed at Lawndale High. I would gladly not use the school colors if that bothers you. In fact,” Jane added with a smile, “if you want to pick the colors of some other school that would be fine with me, so long as you tell me soon. I would add a thank you for the school’s accommodation to my artist statement as well, if you’d like. It would certainly be appropriate.”

“Why that storeroom?”

“It’s the right size, and last year we cleaned it out when we got rid of those old broken ceramics molds, so it should be empty except for some small lockers. I could use those to lock my paints away.” Jane held up her hand. “I would of course only use school rental locks for that.” That assured Ms Li that Jane would not use the lockers for any illegal purpose.

Li thought about it. She did not like this subject; it was subversive. On the other hand, it would keep Lane, a border-line problem, very busy and had the support of the Sloan Foundation. The problem with students like Lane and Morgendorffer was that they were too smart for the system in some ways, and so caused problems in part out of boredom.

“And Ms Morgendorffer?”

“Days she isn’t doing Tai Chi, she would probably be in the library until it closes at five o’clock, and then come and read in the store room, reminding me of the time so I can get packed away before the various night craft classes start arriving.”

“Very well, Ms Lane. Let’s go look at the storeroom and see if it’s as empty as you think it should be.”
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