Categories > Cartoons > Daria > Tigresses

Bleeding Neon

by DrT 1 review

Ms Li decides to allow more Ultra Cola advertising; Daria decides if she can’t beat it, she’ll overwhelm it.

Category: Daria - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama - Characters: Daria,Jane - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2014-03-28 - 5886 words - Complete

Tigresses of Lawndale – 08 – Bleeding Neon

By Dr T

Ms Li decides to allow more Ultra Cola advertising; Daria decides if she can’t beat it, she’ll overwhelm it.


“Well,” Daria said Monday morning, “either Dad added LSD to the breakfast cereal, or psychotic elves have redecorated here.”

“Are my eyes bleeding?” Jane asked.

Daria considered that idea. “I’d have to check with Dad to be certain, but I think it would hurt less if they were.” The walls were painted the eye-catching neon colors of Ultra Cola.

“Do you think there’s something someone can do now?” Jane asked.

“Probably not. . . .” Daria said thoughtfully. “H’mm, maybe we can at least start something of an end run to make certain this doesn’t get even worse, if nothing else.”


“Why don’t I see you two as often when you’re dating someone?” Mrs. Yanuzzi teased John and Thor that Tuesday. “Do you only eat pizza when you’re depressed and single?”

“You know we can’t afford to feed him too often anyway,” John retorted, jerking a thumb at Thor.

“Well, did you have to take two of our most constant customers away?” she retorted. She smiled at Jane and Daria. “Hey, Jane; we’ve missed you here. I’m glad you’re back.”

“Hi, Mrs. Yanuzzi,” Jane replied with a genuine smile. “Daria and I are having serious pizza withdrawal; we insisted we need our fix.”

“From you two, I can believe it. Two extra-large carnivores with extra cheese, with some anchovies on one quarter?”

“Mom, I don’t want us to go bankrupt,” John teased.

“Please,” Daria stated serious, “let me pay.”

Something in Daria’s tone made Mrs. Yanuzzi give Daria a closer look. “You three, go sit.” She turned to Daria. “Tell me, Daria, if you were me, and the place was making a tidy profit for the family, what would you do?”

“I’d make the same offer you did, but also accept a sincere gesture,” Daria retorted.

“Then two extra-large carnivores with extra cheese it is . . . for the price of two extra-large plains. Drinks and refills are on the house. When you and Jane come in by yourselves, I’ll be glad to let you pay for the pizza, but not the drinks.”

“Thank you; I appreciate that.” She handed Mrs. Yanuzzi her debit card.

“Daria, I’ve seen hundreds of teens come through here; I always thought you and Jane were two of the special ones. John and Thor are almost as good of friends as you and Jane, but I worry about them both. If John were a girl, I’d call him flighty when it comes to dating, and Thor was far more serious about Cindy than she ever was over him. I don’t know how you four will work out as couples, but I certainly approve.”

“Thank you.” Then Daria smiled coldly. “I was wondering if I could interest you in something else.”


“I can’t believe Mom charged you,” John said when Daria came back with the pizzas fifteen minutes later. “Or maybe I should say, ‘I can’t believe you talked her into it’.”

“Believe me, I got a really good discount,” Daria replied. She turned to Thor and handed him a thin stack of paper.

“What’s this?”

“An idea for you,” Daria replied. “Nothing more, and if you like the general idea but not the specifics, it should be easy for you to take things from here.”

Thor looked interested, so Daria explained. “There is an interdisciplinary major called ‘European Studies.’ It’s not offered at many places, and at most of them, it seems to be a mixture of history, literature, and either economics or sociology. At a few, it’s history, economics, and sociology. But at Ellis, it’s history, literature, and art history, with a music option.” Thor looked more interested.

Daria nodded. “What makes Ellis’ program different from any other place I’ve seen is that you have to apply through the art or music programs, plus you need at least a six hundred in the SAT history area and display competency in a major European language, which they define as French, German, or Russian, plus any other modern European language, in addition to English of course. With the music option, you need to play at least basic-level piano, which you said you do.”

“Good enough to meet a music school’s general requirement, but not nearly well enough to major in it,” Thor agreed.

“So, you’d only take two semesters of musicology, two of theory, and two of piano instead of the full music major, and they said acceptable levels at any other instrument would be a plus. In addition, Ellis does play Division One football, although I admit their record for the last ten years isn’t very good.”

“How bad were they,” John asked humorously. “Did they win any?”

“No winning seasons,” Daria admitted. “Fifty-one and sixty-nine. They have had three six and six seasons, including last year.”

“I’ll look this over,” Thor said, “and if it’s as good as it sounds, I’ll add them to my short-list.”


That Friday morning, Ms Li was surprised to find Daria Morgendorffer, dressed in her old outfit and calmly waiting to see her before homeroom. “And what can I do you, Ms Morgendorffer?” Li asked as Daria entered and then sat across from her.

“Pursuant to the bi-laws of the student council and PTA,” Daria said flatly, “and the regulations of both as filed with the County Superintendent’s Office, students are allowed to petition the principal for changes, and those petitions may also be filed with the PTA, the Superintendent’s Office, and the District and County School Boards for action should the principal fail to act in a timely manner. Therefore, to start, and hopefully end the process, I have two petitions, and I also have a suggestion.”

“I see, please go on,” Li said, more curious than upset. ‘Did she mention the other authorities as a threat, or so I would take her seriously?’ she wondered. ‘Possibly both.’

“A petition should have at least one quarter of the signatures of the active students to be considered,” Daria stated. “There are currently twelve-hundred and fifteen students listed as active as of Tuesday. The first petition has three hundred and twelve authentic signatures, the other three hundred and forty-eight.”


Daria nodded. “There were a few fake signatures and a few repetitions. Those are noted.”

Li merely nodded, knowing she wouldn’t have to trouble to verify the signatures; this Morgendorffer was too wily to try a trick like forging signatures.

“The first requests the return of a fruit juice machine for the cafeteria. Considering the state-mandated nutrition guidelines, Lawndale was bordering on a violation because the healthy juice had to be purchased separately. Not having the option at all could cost us some of the subsidized food from the state – which is currently used primarily to feed the poorer athletes full breakfasts.”

Ms Li managed to keep her poker face. She had worried about that very thing, but Lamm had talked her around. It still bothered her a little.

“The second would be more difficult to implement,” Daria stated. “Still, it is a petition to change one of the soda machines in the cafeteria to a generic machine, in the older style, with choices of root beer, lemon lime, and orange sodas and their diet equivalents.” This had been a concession to the Fashion Club to a degree, who wanted variety in their diet soda. Of course, no cola alternative would be offered to prevent a conflict with Ultra Cola. In return, however, they (or rather Quinn and Stacy) had gathered most of the signatures for both petitions. Daria went on before Ms Li could take a breath, “At first glance, the second could be seen as violating the original contract you had with the Ultra Cola distributers, however, that part of the school’s agreement is with those two distributors, Hamm’s of Oakwood and Darcy’s of Riverdale, not Ultra Cola itself, although they agreed to that contract as part of their contract with the school, at least according to the contracts on the public record. Hamm’s carries the proper fruit juices, and Darcy’s also supplies generic sodas, including those flavors. Therefore, both could supply both the machines and the products, allowing the school to stay within the contracts.” Daria slipped two of the four folders she had over to Ms Li.

“Thank you, Ms Morgendorffer. I shall contact the distributors directly.” Li realized she was in a position where she couldn’t lose, and so was not going to argue. “And the other matter?” While seeing herself as a master of political intrigue, Li was also interested in seeing the machinations of others.

“In effect, the school is selling advertizing space exclusively to Ultra Cola directly, not via the distributors,” Daria pointed out.

“And your point? You don’t seem to approve.”

“I do not, especially not in the pain-in-the eye colors now throughout the building,” Daria agreed. “However, after looking into the situation, I don’t believe I can change it, even at the new level of advertising intrusion. So, I think the playing field should be leveled.”

“And that would mean exactly what, in your opinion, Ms Morgendorffer?”

“Here are twelve businesses who should be at least as acceptable as advertisers as a cola company, with the rates they are willing to pay for the signage and locations specified, both in the school and in the stadium. None are businesses which anyone should object to, places like Pizza Prince in town and its affiliate franchises, like Pizza King near the Mall. The Mall and Cranberry Commons are represented as well. Since Ultra Cola is owned by a brewing company, there should be no problem with six of the businesses which are willing to advertize only in the stadium, like McGrundy’s, although they would prefer to advertise in both the school and the stadium. There are six others, like Happy Herb’s, who just want to advertize in the stadium.” She slid the third folder over.

“I personally disapprove of the school selling out.” Daria leaned forward. “Given that we are selling out anyway, however, I believe that if we’re going to sell out, we should at least sell out big.” Daria had done most of the research and leg work, but Jake and her mother had helped her a bit. “And, since everyone should get a cut, please note that Morgendorffer Consulting will handle all the accounts until at least July, 2011, other than what Ultra Cola and its distributors have already arranged. None of these ads in any way violates the contracts you signed with Ultra Cola or its distributors, and should at least allow you not to go down the route that a school in Texas did, where Blast Cola ended up pressuring them into changing the school colors to their horrid shades of neon red and purple and even using so-called ‘teaching aids’ which nearly caused the state to come in and take over the school.” Daria laid the last folder down and stood up. “Oh, you might be interested in knowing that the person who negotiated that Blast deal in Texas was a man named Leonard Lamm, who is wanted for questioning in Texas. Someone might have tipped off the Texas Rangers last night that he was setting up the same schemes in Maryland.”

Ms Li simply sat, stunned.

“If you look carefully through those files, you will also note that Mister Lamm totally neglected one possible revenue stream.” Daria now pointed at the last folder. “I believe the estimate on that income stream alone could double the rest of what is proposed there. Plus, since Ultra Cola is not represented in that school-controlled medium, I believe Morgendorffer Consulting can help you there as well. Have a good morning, Ms Li.” Daria stood and left.

“How does she do that?” Li muttered.


The game the next night pitted Lawndale against their toughest opponent, although not their main rival (which was Oakwood). Carter County Consolidated Schools was located in the neighboring county. CCC, as it was commonly known, was where most of the problem students from the county were sent, as well as a few from western Lawndale County. (That latter was part of a deal made when CCC was developed in Carter County and Lawndale County established a community college in the border town of Oakwood, allowing Carter County residents to attend Oakwood Community College on the same terms as Lawndale County students. Each county paid a proportion of the costs.) CCC therefore had the largest student population to draw from, easily more than twice Lawndale High’s, which was about average for the area.

Doug Thompson moved through the medium-dense crowd. The stadium CCC used was well-away from the very old ramshackle railroad stop-village village where the school (which also served as the village high school, to some of the residents’ continued disapproval) was located. CCC had to share the stadium with the slightly more up-scale county magnet-school. That placed it just far enough away from Lawndale that many fans were unwilling to come to the game.

Not Doug Thompson, though; very little kept him from seeing his boy play.

He sat about a third of the way up on the visitors’ fifty yard line and easily made himself comfortable. Since he was in the visitors’ area, there were few people nearby. Although only thirty-seven, he had long lost his player’s physique. He still had the superb situational awareness and hearing that his son had on the field, although he no longer always paid attention.

Doug’s attention was drawn to two men seated two rows behind him, who were greeting each other as if they had something to hide.


“Sam! What brings you to a real game? Another alleged alumni lead? At least I know you’re not after one of mine here.”

“Really? How many are you after?”

“Just scouting one; on Lawndale. You?”

Doug kept looking straight ahead, but concentrated on listening. These men had to be college scouts. Could someone really be scouting Kevin?

“The same. And what do you mean, ‘a real game’? Our guys are just as physical and don’t have as much protection.”

That confused Doug for an instant. The response, “Lacrosse is fun, but never think it will replace football,” at least cleared that up.

“True, but we field both.”

‘Ah, a lacrosse and a football scout, maybe even from the same school,’ Dough realized. That explained why they were surprised to meet at this game.

“I hadn’t heard of anyone that would meet the U’s standards playing for CCC,” the football scout observed. “Let’s see, who on Lawndale would make a decent defender. . . .”

“He apparently played middie in both an intramural and a summer county league in middle school,” the lacrosse scout responded. “Both mixed boys and girls. Then all the county schools shut down lacrosse on the varsity level and he moved on to football in ninth grade rather than going with intramural lacrosse.”

Doug grinned to himself. He had been one of the parents pushing for that, freeing up more money for girls’ sports so it wouldn’t be diverted away from football instead.

“Ah, it must be MacKenzie,” the football scout responded. “I knew he was one of the few intelligent players on the team. Still, I didn’t know he was up to dear old Bromwell’s standards.”

If Doug had been drinking anything, it would have gone through his nose. Bromwell!

“He is, and there are two other reasons. . . .”

“Well, one is you really do need to diversify your team.”

“I know, I know, but it’s not easy,” the lacrosse scout acknowledged. “That’s why. . . .”

“I know, that’s why you’re looking at a non-player who’s a very good natural athlete.”

“And he at least has a little experience,” the lacrosse scout acknowledged. “What do you think of him?”

“I scouted him a little last year when I was here to look at, well, I’ll let you watch the game and I’ll let you tell me who you think I’m scouting. I was a little interested, so I came and watched him play basketball. His athleticism matches football a bit better than basketball, but you know what? I think he would make us a good defender, maybe even a middie, for you guys. As a football player, he’d make a really decent Division Two player.” The football scout then asked, “How’d you get on to him?”


“Woods? What would Woods know about a skilled working class African American in Maryland who wants to go to business school?”

“He’s trying to recruit some student from Lawndale into his program, either as an undergrad or, if not then, into the grad program and she passed Mackenzie’s name to him, and he told me.”

“Ah, that explains a lot.”

The two scouts quieted as the National Anthem started.

CCC was in possession first, and they started playing their usual game. The CCC team was always a rough one, and they were also disliked because they were easily best trash-talkers in that part of the state. These were not your everyday ‘yo mamma’ or ‘yo sista’ insults, either. They had friends scouting the towns they played against, hanging out wherever teens congregated and looking for gossip.

Two of the three best trash-talkers were on the defensive line, while the third was a senior offensive guard. He had learned a lot about Thor and Thor’s love life.

Throughout the first quarter and into the second, the guard tried to give Thor the needle for being a musician and singer, and about his ex-girlfriend, the ballet dancer/cheerleader. He could tell he was annoying the big blond, but since he was six-foot five himself and weighed nearly the same as Thor (although Thor actually carried more muscle, as the offensive guard was a bit overweight) his only concern was to try and make Thor angry enough to make a mistake.

Thor was not happy, but he was decent at trash-talking the opposition himself, and while his observations were only about the opposing guard’s weight, looks, and brain-capacity, he was giving nearly as good as he was being forced to take.

The game itself was a tough one, but the Lawndale coaching staff had had a week to compensate for the temporary lose of Joey (he would play in the next game). Lawndale therefore was leading 8-0.

CCC had managed to put together a short drive, and an end-around had made it third and short yardage. Neither Thor nor the guard had been directly involved, and the guard thought it was time to skip the needle and go for the knife.

“We hear you got a new little girlfriend, Blondie,” the guard teased. “Is that owl-eyed red head really as good in the sack in the dance-slut?” ‘That got ‘em!’ the guard exulted.

As the two lines prepared to get into their stances, the guard continued, stating in very graphical terms what he and the entire CCC football team would like to do to ‘Blondie’s bird.’

For the first time since eighth grade, Thor lost his temper. That event had earned him his nickname. Now, however, Thor’s anger was not a roaring flame, but a glacier. The guard didn’t notice as he went down into his stance that Thor was going even lower into his. The guard sent the signal to the quarterback that the big nose guard might finally be distracted.

The quarterback called an audible which would send the running back past the other offensive guard – hopefully, the trash-talker and the center would be able to double-team Thor well out of the way.

Thor was off the snap quickly enough that the officials nearly called him off-sides. He came up under the guard so fast and hard it lifted the equally heavy player two inches off the ground. In doing so, Thor pushed the guard into the path of the on-coming ball carrier and on into the quarterback, who tripped, the guard landing on top of him. The ball carrier managed to stumble to a first down by an inch.

As the slightly shaken guard came up to the line, he heard Thor growl, “You’re not finishing the game, little man.”

The guard glanced up, and only then fully realized that while Thor was listed as 6 foot 7 and 270, he was in the midst of his last growth spurt and was now over 6 foot 8 and 282. The guard had not had to really look up at someone like that in two years.

The guard braced himself for the onslaught, but Thor had set him up – being so braced made him slow to react when Thor blew past him and sacked the quarterback hard enough to send him out of the game to catch his breath. Thor didn’t realize it, but he had never played the game at 100 percent – he had always held back just a bit, in part to protect his left hand from injury, and in part because he was so large and strong he was afraid of hurting someone.

At this moment, he cared about neither.

As the teams lined up, the third string quarterback having been sent in for the rest of the series (the second-string quarterback was sidelined due to injuries sustained in a knife-fight at school), there was no doubt from the look in Thor’s eye where he was planning on going.

The quarterback took the snap and handed it off to the tailback, who was heading towards the sidelines on a slant away from the side of the field Thor was on. Thor, however, was already mostly past the line, so the big CCC guard simply grabbed Thor around the waist in a hold so blatant that almost no one in the entire stadium missed it.

The tailback gained two yards before being tackled, while Thor had flipped himself around strongly enough to throw the guard off without actually having to put his hands on the player. The offense was penalized 10 yards and the guard was further embarrassed by being flung off with any real apparent effort on Thor’s part, bringing his short temper nearly to the end.

The blatant hold had of course also caught the attention of the small Lawndale ‘pep band’ present. After a near-riot four years before between the band and CCC students, Lawndale did not send its entire band to games at CCC. Instead, a ‘pep band’ went, consisting of three large percussionists in charge of an old bass drum (but each of them had a heavy wooden bass drum stick, which was over half an inch thick in the shaft and with a rounded head that also made it a potential cosh) and seven volunteers from the trumpet and alto horn sections, each with old banged-up trumpets they wouldn’t mind getting even more banged up in a good fight.

As soon as Thor flipped the guard off himself, the bass drum thundered out:

That caught the Lawndale crowd’s attention, and they knew what to do next. When the next BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! came, they chanted with it: ‘CCC!’ followed by ‘Carter County Chea-ters!’

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! ‘Carter County Chea-ters!’
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! ‘Carter County Chea-ters!’
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! ‘Carter County Chea-ters!’
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! ‘Carter County Chea-ters!’
The official paced off the penalty.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! ‘Carter County Chea-ters!’
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! ‘Carter County Chea-ters!’
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! ‘Carter County Chea-ters!’
The teams lined up again.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! ‘Carter County Chea-ters!’
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! ‘Carter County Chea-ters!’

As the ball snapped, Thor again went low and this time he stayed low, just high enough to avoid being penalized for it, knocking the guard up and over like a bowling pin. Meanwhile, the quarterback, although ordered to again send a runner away from Thor, had decided that this was his big chance to pass when no one expected it and was standing still, looking like a statue of a quarterback looking for a receiver.

Thor’s momentum had carried his through the line and he straightened a bit, picking up speed as he did so. The quarterback was caught looking the wrong way in a perfectly legal tackle that dislocated his shoulder, cracked a rib, and gave him a minor concussion.

The ball popped loose, and a Lawndale linebacker managed to pick up the live ball and half-run and half-stumble all the way to the end-zone.

Thor looked down at the shaken and angry guard, who was just getting to his feet, and sneered, “Some football player; just another punk Carter County Coc. . . .”

The guard lunged at Thor, knocking him to the ground. Thor showed he remembered what he had learned as a freshman, when he had also been on the wrestling team. He managed to flip the guard over and put him in a wrist lock, and of course all the time the officials were blowing their whistles. By the time the two were separated, Thor had sprained the guard’s wrist and partially dislocated his shoulder through sheer force.

Both players were assessed off-setting personal fouls, but the CCC player was ejected from the game, not that it mattered due to his injury. Kevin passed to Jamie for a two point conversion. Lawndale 16-0. CCC fell apart for the rest of the half, allowing Lawndale to score again, this time with Mack scoring the touchdown on a twelve yard run and Kevin taking the ball in for the two-point conversion. Lawndale 24, CCC 0 at the end of the half.

“You sticking around for the second half?” the football scout asked.

“Naw; I’ve seen enough. We’ll talk to MacKenzie and see how serious he is. I hope you’re after that nose guard, unless that was a fluke and you’re after the quarterback.” Doug perked up.

“That was pretty intense, but yeah, we’re considering him. So are a bunch of other schools, for that matter. That quarterback, Thompson, actually does have the physical skills, but apparently is a dead loss off the field.” The scout lowered his voice even more, and Doug could barely hear him. “It’s not official, but supposedly he scored a combined four hundred on his SAT, and they were surprised he scored that high.”

“Don’t you get four hundred for filling your name in right?”

“Like I said, they were surprised he scored that high,” the football scout replied drily.

“Too bad, if he has the skills.”

“Even if he had the greatest skills of all time, he’d never make it past one season at any college let alone into the Arena League or the CFL, never mind the NFL.” The scout shrugged. “He could have a decent semi-pro career, if a coach was willing to give him a chance.”

Doug spent the rest of the night depressed, leaving early when Kevin was pulled from the game after Lawndale had run up the score to 51-0. In the end, the game was the biggest rout Lawndale ever had, with a final score of 72-0.


Thor had exhausted himself during the game, as the coach had kept him in the whole time so he could work off his temper. He was in no shape to go on a date the next day. Jane spent that Saturday morning working on her painting, and then she and John spent the afternoon together just walking the local malls and going out to dinner. Daria was at loose ends, alone in the house all day, as her parents were at one of their all-day marriage retreats (taking ‘the costume bag’ – Daria did NOT want to know the contents) and Quinn was off on an all-day retreat as a day-spa.

On a higher note, the law firm had decided on an ad for their personal injury attorney based on the ad she had created with Jane, Thor, and John’s help. Jake had decided they deserved a bonus, since he had not asked them to do it, and so gave her a check for half the amount she had earned on the main ad, and similar checks to give to the other three.

In addition, Jake was very happy with the money coming in because of the school advertizing. Lamm had apparently not known, and Ms Li had forgotten to mention, that the school ran a cable access channel for the both the school district and the local cable company. Regular tv ads were not allowed, but ‘sponsored by’ announcements were allowed, as were, in some circumstances, streaming ads along the bottom of the screen. Altogether, between mid-October and the end of summer of 2001 (for Ms Li and Jake had the deal worked out before noon that Friday), Daria’s ideas would generate over $130,000 worth of total business for Morgendorffer Consulting (including the commission from Ultra Cola for additional costs for tv sponsorship). Granted, of that money $54,000 went to the high school and another $22,500 went to the school district (which also made Ms Li look good), and $28,200 went for various production costs, etc., plus $3,000 went to Lawndale Law, but that still would leave Jake with just over $30,000 of profit for about 15 hours worth of work on his part. This would be only a small part of his bottom line, but it was certainly by far his best hourly earnings. Jake would add ten percent of that into Daria’s college fund.

With Lamm exposed (again mostly Daria’s work, with some input from Helen), Jake also forced Ultra Cola to renegotiate. (Ultra Cola in turn would seize most of the money it owed Lamm in commissions). This would net the High School an additional $6,000, plus an even split of $3,000 each for Morgendorffer Consulting and Lawndale Law.

Daria’s left arm and hand had recovered enough for her to type, and so she happily spent well over two hours writing on the computer, but she realized by 11:30 that she needed to stop typing for the day. “What to do, what to do,” she mused aloud. She snorted as her stomach growled. Her mother had made certain she was awake before they had left at 8:20, but Daria had not felt like breakfast. A little foraging in the fridge discovered a lone chicken thigh. Daria stripped the meat off and laid it on a layer of tortilla chips, added salsa and far too much cheese and put it into the microwave. She turned it on a lower setting, so everything would warm through and the cheese would melt without overheating. She then grabbed one of Quinn’s diet lemon-lime sodas (as the only other alternative was Ultra Cola, and she just couldn’t face that) and carried it up to her room, grabbing the just-delivered mail on the way. She was still leery about using just her left hand to carry things, even as light as a soda, let alone a plate of nachos with six ounces of cheese plus sour cream.

Deciding to take advantage of there being no one else around, Daria put her cd of Carmina Burana on and turned the volume up loud enough to hear down stairs without deafening her when she returned. When she got back with her nachos and napkins, Daria turned down the volume a bit and checked her e-mail as she ate.

There wasn’t anything interesting in her in-box, and so, when she had finished eating she turned and sorted the regular mail. “Bill, junk, bill, junk, junk . . . h’mmm, our mid-term grades.” Daria tossed hers aside to open in a moment. “Junk, junk, and. . . .” Daria stared at the last two envelopes, and then nervously opened them, without daring to look at the contents for a moment. The first was from the detective magazine which had the option on her locked-room mystery, the second was from the romance book club she had sent a story outline and a writing sample to.

Daria burped. “Damn, Dad, where did you get that salsa?” she muttered. Deciding she had better read the mail before the salsa hit her again, she reached for the envelope from the detective magazine.

Daria smiled widely, and then blushed, glad no one could see her. She was more open than she had been about her emotions, but she was not comfortable about being this open. The magazine needed her story after all. She was going to have a story published, one that had won out despite the odds of an unknown getting into a decent magazine this early in her career. She glanced at the list of the other authors; although not a huge mystery fan, even she recognized three of the other writers.

Daria next opened her mid-terms. She blinked.

Daria always got As or A+s in her academic subjects, and As in everything else for that matter, except phys-ed, where she usually earned a B, B+, or, rarely, an A-. This time, it said A. She glanced at her brace. “Glad you were good for something,” she muttered.

Sighing, Daria glanced at the remaining envelope. She wondered which would be worse – being rejected (which she still did not handle terribly well) or having to write a romance novel, even under a pseudonym.

When her mother had talked (and bribed) her into taking the romance-writing session at Ashfield, Daria had sneaked over a few towns to a used bookstore she had looked over the previous year and found wanting in her areas of interest. It did have a large number of used romance books, and Daria had picked up a large selection from the various ‘lines.’ The writing of a third of them appalled her, and the plots of most repelled her.

Daria opened the envelope.

Her outline had been accepted.

Daria glanced over the offer, and called up the website listed to read over the standard contract.

Did she really want to do this?


Should she do this? That was the question. After all, could she be this picky this early in her career?


Did she want anyone to know she was doing this?

Hell no.

She replied to the editor, accepting the proposal, registering her pseudonym (Jane Street), and asking if she could delay signing the contract for a month, until her eighteenth birthday.

The editor was on-line and instantly responded in the affirmative.

Daria had until January 30, 2001, to complete the short romance novel.

Daria considered the e-mail confirming her contract for the romance novel, the checks for the ad, the contract for the locked-room mystery, and her mid-term grades. Then she looked at the brace.

Daria regarded the ceiling, and any being which might be dwelling above, or at least listening in. “I don’t know if this is serendipity, karma, or one of Quinn’s flying cats, but I hope I don’t have to keep breaking things or worse to continue publishing.”
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