Installment 6: The Lab Mouse. The Geek and the Convention Part 1
Monday, November 21, 2005
Lawndale High School
The sophomore Biology class was in session, with Lawndale High's head Science teacher, Janet Barch, teaching.
“And like a husband going home to his noble and self-sacrificing wife, the rat keeps returning to the food box. That is, the positive reinforcement.” She then turned to her misandry. “Huh, if only men could be more like rats. Oh, sure, they come home at first. You feed them, you wait on them, and then, after twenty-two thankless years, they just up and leave. No note, no phone call, no nothing!” She slammed the ruler on the desk. “Just... like... that!”
“I wonder why he left,” Daria Morgendorffer said to her friend, Jennifer Burns.
“Now, before I divide the class into teams of two, who can give me another example of reinforcement?” Ms. Barch paused. “Fine, class. Ignore me... just like he
“Uh?” Kevin Thompson drew out.
“Shut up, Kevin.” Ms. Barch said, her misandry at full intensity. She turned to Daria. “Daria? Reinforcement?”
“Hmm...” Daria began. “To make a child stop crying, a mother might say, "That's it! I'm sending you to El Paso to live with your real father." Whenever the child gets upset, the mother might wave an airline ticket in her face, or maybe even frame it on the wall by the clown picture. The ticket stops the girl from crying, or showing any emotion... ever.”
Jennifer looked at Daria. 'Is that right?'
“I like the way you think. Kevin... Daria will be your lab partner.”
'Uh, oh!' Jennifer thought.
“What!” Kevin's girlfriend, Brittany Taylor, shreiked.
“You two will design a maze, and condition Kevin,” Ms. Barch said, she quickly recovered from her almost faux pas. “I mean, condition a mouse using positive or negative reinforcement.”
“But babe, we've never been separated on a lab project before! What'll we do?” Kevin wondered.
“Pass? “ Daria asked.
Jennifer chuckled in amusement.
“Brittany, Charles will be your partner.”
“But Ms. Barch, I'm a cheerleader!” Brittany squeaked in protest.
“Give me an 'R.'” Charles Rutthiemer III, aka Upchuck, said suggestively.
“I really like doing mazes. Those ones on the back of cereal boxes are cool,” Kevin said.
“Well, now I am excited,” Daria said.
“Shut up, Mack!” Ms. Barch said.
Michael 'Mack' Mackenzie raised his eyebrows in surprise.
“Ms. Burns will be your partner,” Ms. Barch said.
'Cool, I can deal with that.' he thought.
“Cool,” Jennifer said.
“So, now Kevin's my lab partner,” Daria said at lunch.
“Next best thing to working alone,” Jane said.
“Oh, no. He likes mazes,” Daria said.
“I'd swap if Ms. Barch would let us,” Jennifer said.
“Mack's not that bad,” Jane siad.
“I'm not complaining. I've worked with him before, although that was years ago,” Jennifer said as she started to reminice.
4 years earlier
Younger Jennifer and Mack working on a project in Jennifer's living room...
They were collaborating on a design for a future city.
“So we put the hospital here?” Mack asked.
Jennifer merely nodded.
“Cool,” Mack said. He drew the hospital, slightly embellished.
Jennifer gave a thumbs up.
“So, should there be a park near the hospital?”
They continued their work
“Good times,” Jennifer said quietly.
“Cool,” Jane said. She turned back to Daria. “Maybe you could get a wind up toy to distract him,” she said.
“His wind-up toy is working with Upchuck,” Daria said.
“That is definitely unfair for her,” Jennifer murmured.
“Certainly,” Jane said.
Kevin came up to the trio. “Hey, Daria. Mind if we do the maze thing at your house? My cable's broken.”
Daria began to get a calculating look on her face.
'She's up to something,' Jennifer thought.
“Sure,” Daria said.
“Cool!” Kevin said.
Jane looked at Daria. “You have a plan, don't you?”
“Of course you do,” Jane said.
Helen Morgendorffer clicked off the TV. “Daria, I heard you're working with Kevin Thompson on a science project. He's quarterback of the football team, isn't he?”
Daria remained silent and looked at Quinn.
“Brittany was crying in the girls room,” Quinn said.
“Isn't he?” Helen asked.
“Yes,” Daria said.
“Science is fascinating. Tell me all about it, honey.”
“I can't. I signed a confidentiality paper. The other scientists would be mad,” Daria said.
Helen sighed. She turned to Quinn. “Oh, forget it. Quinn, how was your weekend?”
“It was awesome! Cindy and I totally pwnd all the guys in Halo
and Age of Empires
, and then the rest of the games were pretty even...”
Helen interuppted. “Daria, please
tell me about the project.”
Daria sighed. “It's about how behavior is affected by positive or negative reinforcement.”
“Sounds Super,” Helen said.
“Like... say, you have a friend who responds to everything you say with, "That's great!" This insincere reply is the same whether you saved a life or killed a bug, and thus becomes "negative reinforcement," causing you to withdraw from that person or persons,” Daria said.
“Wow. That's fantastic!”
Daria rolled her eyes.
“Maybe if you and Kevin work well together, he'll associate you with feeling good and want to include you in his circle of friends,” Helen said.
'I don't think so, Mom,' Quinn thought.
Daria just ignored Helen.
“Maybe I'll help with the project. I'm into science,” Quinn said.
“Quinn, that's great!”
“Quinn, I don't need your nerdiness in doing my project,” Daria said.
“Dar-i-a! I've told you many times. I'm not a nerd! I'm a geek! There's like a rather large difference,” Quinn said with annoyance.
“Not from where I sit,” Daria said.
Helen sighed, recognising the start of one of her daughters' many arguments.
However the doorbell rang interuppting the belligerence.
“Door!” Quinn said as she went towards it.
The phone rang.
“Phone!” Helen said.
Quinn opened the door. “Hey, Kevin,” she said.
“Hi, Quinn. Hey, Daria, I'm ready to start this maze thing,” Kevin said.
“I'll be helping, Let's go,” Quinn said.
“Sure,” Kevin said.
However, Daria had a distraction in mind. She turned on the TV. “Look, Kevin: the Pigskin Channel. Great big guys slamming into other great big guys. Fun.”
“Cool!” Kevin said.
“The Pigskin Channel! Classic football games 24 hours a day -- every day, all this month.
“I guess it's just you and me. Got your saw and sandpaper?”
“Sure,” Quinn said. She looked at Kevin totally engrossed in the Pigskin Channel. 'There's no way I can get his attention away from that without turning off the TV, or changing the channel.'
“Good play!” Kevin said.
Daria and Quinn entered the garage from the dining room. “So you have a plan for the maze?” Quinn asked.
“Of course,” Daria said.
“Good,” Quinn said.
Daria went over to where she had placed the pieces of wood.
Mack pulled his white Valiant up in front of a small two story house, with a ramshackle yard. He got out, walked to the door and knocked on it. Jennifer soon came to the door. “Hi, come in,” she said quietly.
“Hi, Jen, could we start on the project tonight?” he asked.
“Sure,” Jennifer said. She lead him towards the garage...
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Once again, Kevin Thompson arrived at the Morgendorffer's house. “Hi, Kev, my man,” Jake Morgendorffer said as he met Kevin at the door.
“Hi, Mr. Morgendorffer, is Daria home?”
“She's here, she's up in her room. Daria! Your friend is here!
Daria was up in her room, and on the phone. “So you and Mack, have been friends a long time then?”
“Since early grade school,
” Jennifer said.
“That's a long time,” she said.
“I guess so
,” Jennifer said.
Daria then heard her father call out that Kevin was there. “Daria! Your friend is here!
“Sorry, I have to go, Kevin is here,” she said.
“Thanks, bye.” Daria hung up and then went downstairs.
“Hi, Kevin,” Daria said as she came down the stairs.
“So, am I helping with the maze thing, or watching the Pigskin Channel?”
“Watching the Pigskin Channel.”
“Are you sure, Daria?” Jake asked.
“I don't need his help,” Daria said as she turned on the TV.
“Oh,” Jake said.
Daria then headed towards the garage, out the front door.
Quinn entered the living room from the kitchen, carrying snacks for her friends. She saw her father and Kevin watching a football game on the TV. 'Isn't he supposed to be helping Daria?' She had helped Daria with building the maze the previous night but she didn't want to do it again. “Kevin?”
Still no response.
Again, no response.
Quinn changed tack. “Daddy?”
“What is it, Quinn? I'm watching this game.”
“Why is Kevin watching the TV and not helping Daria?”
“She asked him to,” Jake said as he scratched his chin.
“Of course she did,” Quinn realised.
Jake turned back to the TV. “Wait a minute, I don't remember that!”
“It happened, Mr. M.”
Quinn re-entered her room and placed the platter of snacks on the table next to the computers.
“Oh, that Daria!” she exclaimed.
“What's up with her this time?” Kristen Bell asked.
“She's not allowing Kevin to help her with the lab project!”
“Did she give a reason?” Cindy Brolsma asked.
'She says that he would interfere with what she's doing and give her a bad mark!'
“Maybe you could ask her if she could find him something he can do and still contribute to the project,” Cindy said.
“I will think about it,” Quinn thought. 'If only I can find a way to ask her that won't lead to an argument...'
“Anyhow, you're ready for the convention this weekend?” Kristen asked.
“Yes, my Ichigo costume is almost ready,” Quinn said.
“Crossdressing?” Kirsten asked.
“No, Kristen, Tokyo Mew Mew
, not Bleach
!” Quinn said with a nervous laugh.
“Sorry,” Kristen said as Cindy laughed.
“So, are you coming?” Quinn asked.
“Certainly,” Cindy said.
“I'm coming,” Kristen said.
“It's going to be great!”
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Kevin arrived at Schloss Morgendorffer a third time. “Hi again, Kevin, watching the Pigskin Channel again?” Jake asked.
“Of course, Mr. M,” Kevin said.
“Cool,” Jake said.
Quinn had seen Kevin park his jeep through her bedroom window. She grabbed her cell phone.
Jennifer and Mack were in Jennifer's garage, training the mouse. Jennifer's phone rang. Jennifer dropped the mouse in surprise. “Where did it go?” she asked.
“I'll look for it whilst you talk,” Mack said.
“Thanks,” Jennifer said. She pressed the answer button. “Hi.”
“I know, what are you calling about?”
“It's about Daria, and Kevin. She's not letting him participate in their lab project!
“Have you talked to her about it?” Jennifer asked, she didn't want to broach the subject with Daria.
,” Quinn said.
“Talk to her about it, see if she could give him something for him to do.”
“Yeah, Cindy said something similar.
“Good, anyway I have to go, the mouse is being difficult.”
“How can a mouse be difficult?
“You don't want to know, bye.”
Jennifer put the phone in her pocket. She turned to Mack. “I'll help, don't want it getting into my food...”
Quinn hung up after her conversation with Jennifer. 'I guess I would have to talk to Daria afterall,' she thought as she went to her closet to get out her so-far-incomplete costume for the convention.
Brittany finished filing Upchuck's disgusting
magazines. 'I don't want to touch them ever again!' She went back to the Rutthiemer's garage.
“Ok, I have finished filing your magazines!”
“There are more chores I have in mind for you, otherwise...”
Hours later, Jennifer collasped into bed, exhusted. She and Mack had been unable to find the mouse...