Chan eil sinn uile ach air chuairt, Mar dhìthein buaile dh'fhàs Bheir siantannan na bliadhna sìos 'S cha tog a' ghrian an-àird. We are all of us on a brief journey, just like the field flower that grows and succumbs to the changing season, the sun no longer able to able to revive it.
An Eala Bhan/The White Swan Donanld MacDonald/Domhnall Ruadh Choruna
"Daria, I am so sorry."
Daria looked up at the griefstricken face of Sandi Griffen. She stood up and took the proffered hand.
"Thank you. I know you two were very close. I believe she thought of you as her best friend."
"She was my best friend, better than I deserved." Sandi gazed at the flag-drapped coffin and choked back a sob.
Daria felt her own throat tighten. Her little sister, gone in a stupid war she shouldn't have been involved in.
"Did... did she..." Sandi put her hand over her mouth and shuddered.
"From what they told us, it was instantaneous. She didn't suffer."
Sandi broke down and went back to her pew.
Stacy sat there devastated, Daria didn't think she'd stopped crying since she got there.
Tiffany looked stunned.
She felt a hand in hers. She looked down at her mother. She patted her hand and sat back down.
"How are you holding up, Sweetie?" Helen whispered.
"Just barely." She looked over at her father, sitting silently as the tears streamed down his face. Daria and Helen exchanged worried looks. He'd been that way since the news came.
She squeezed her mother's hand, and looked back at the coffin. What were they like, Quinn? she thought, What were your last moments like?
"March 20, 2004. We regret to inform you that 22 minutes after 1300, Private Quinn Morgendorffer was killed during a routine patrol of Kadhimiya."
Telegram to the Morgendorffer family from the US Army.
Quinn wished, for the thousandth time that day, to be anywhere else in this world besides the cupola of an armored personel carrier, being shaken and baked in the merciless desert sun, outside of a nowhere little Iraqi town with a name she couldn't pronounce.
She thought about how cool the weather would be back in Lawndale at this time of year, of the chilling rains she used to despise.
Jamal hit another pot hole and she cursed. She was certain he aimed for them.
She looked over at Timmy in the other cupola. He was eased back in his seat, his arm draped over the side, his other hand ready on the twin 50 caliber machine guns. He looked over and grinned at her. They both knew that despite their affected nonchalance, each was as miserable as the other.
Timmy made the universal sign of requesting a smoke. Quinn passed him her pack of Kools. He took one and passed it back. She got one out herself, promising herself she'd quit when she got back to the states.
Timmy had been the one that got her hooked months ago, after she'd first been shot at. "Losing our virginities" he called it. "A smoke after sex, 'cause we've sure been screwed."
She didn't know what she'd do without him. His bitchy humor, his love of fashion, his sensitivity. Why did he have to be such an obvious "don't ask, don't tell" case?
She flicked her ash into the wind and gazed out at the heat distortions in the distance. Last day of winter. "At least we won't have to worry about snow much longer," Timmy had said.
"You idiot!" she had said through her giggles.
She wanted so much to be home. One friggin' more week! She couldn't wait to see her family again, her friends. She wondered if they'd be the same, but how could they when she herself had changed so much.
How will they react when they found out she smoked? Cursed like a sailor? When they found out she'd killed? Would they understand.
All I'd wanted to do was to protect people, she thought, to guard bridges and highways. That's what the name implied, National Guard.
Guarding the wrong flippin' nation, she thought, flipping her butt to the wind.
She raised her hand in greeting to the crew of a tank as they passed. Must have been engine failure she thought, as one of the crew stuck her thumb out as if hitching a ride.
She turned to see if Timmy had caught it. He grinned and shook his head.
"Five minutes till dismount," Jamal said over the headphones. Quinn rolled her eyes. It was bad enough having to ride around in this rattletrap, but then they had to hoof it around and be targets for the guerillas? Impossible!
She shook out another smoke and lit up. She turned again, slapped the side of the cupola to get Timmy's attention and offered him the pack. He was reaching for it when all Hell broke loose.
She felt the shock more than heard it. A bright flash on the front of the APC, releasing a billow of black smoke that smelled of diesel and oil. Engine parts flew around her and she heard Timmy yell out in pain.
The APC lurched then went into a ditch on the side of the road. Quinn was thrown into the side of the cupola. She knew she'd feel that for days. There was the sound of small arms fire all around and a spray of bullets ricocheted off the armored sides of the vehicle.
"Quinn! Get insiYAAAH!!!"
She turned to Timmy. He was dropping back inside, but she saw that the right side of this face was covered in blood. She dropped through the hatch herself as the insurgents kept up their withering fire.
Inside there was already the smell of smoke. She saw that Timmy had been wounded in the eye, but worse, his arm had been shot and was hanging loose and bloody inside his uniform.
"Awwww, God," said Cpl Kramer, looking in the cabin. "Washington's dead."
"Are you sure?" Timmy asked.
"Man, they'll have to use a sponge." Kramer's eyes were wide and his face pale.
Quinn held back her emotions. Jamal had just celebrated the birth of his first son. Now he's gone, but they have to get out before they all fried.
PFC Morales flung open the door to get out, but fell back in a spray of blood. The Iraqis had the hatch covered. Pvt Myers pulled it shut as Morales screamed.
"We can't get out that way," Quinn said. "How about the cabin?"
"You'ld have to crawl over Washington," said Kramer, "and it's begining to catch fire!"
"We've got to get out of here someway," said Timmy. The compartment was already filling with smoke.
"I'm going back up," said Quinn. "I'll cover you with the fifty til you're off, then I'll jump down."
"You'll be killed!" Timmy protested.
"There's no other way!" she said as she climbed back out. "When you hear the fifty, beat it!"
Quinn stole a quick glance up the road. The APC in front of them was 20 yards up the road with it's tread blown off, involved in its own firefight. She grabbed the machine gun, turned it towards the Iraqi line and pulled the trigger.
An Iraqi bullet tore the helmet from her head. Not seeing any open targets, she fired in the general direction the shot came from, hoping to suppress the enemy's fire.
She was scared. She bargained with God to get her out of this mess. For the umpteenth time she thought I shouldn't even be here.
She heard someone slap the side of the APC.
"We're out, Morgendorffer!" yelled Kramer, "Get the Hell out of there!"
She fired off another burst. She felt the heat coming up from inside the vehicle and knew she couldn't get out that way. She stood up and got ready to jump.
She saw the man stand up and aim. She saw him fire the rocket toward her. She put her foot on the side of the cupola and jumped. She heard Timmy call her name and saw the rocket impact just below her. She didn't even have time to scream. For a brief instant she felt the intense heat of the explosion and the pressure pushing her upward, then nothing.
LOCAL GIRL, TWO OTHERS, SLAIN IN KADHIMIYA YESTERDAY
Headline from the March 21, 2004 edition of The Lawndale Herald.
From The Congressional Record, week of August 4, 2005
AN ACT Authorizing the President of the United States to award posthumously in the name of Congress a Medal of Honor to Quinn Louise Morgendorffer.
SEC. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President of the United States is requested to cause a gold medal to be struck, with suitable emblems, devices and inscriptions, to be presented to the late Quinn Louise Morgendorffer, formerly a Private, United States Army Reserve, Maryland National Guard, in recognition of her actions above and beyond the call of duty near Kadhimiya, Iraq on 20 March 2004, where in disregard of her own safety, she gave her life to protect her platoon.
SEC. 2. When the medal provided for in section I of this Act shall have been struck, the President shall transmit the same to Jacob and Helen Morgendorffer, parents of the said Quinn Louise Morgendorffer, to be presented to them in the name of the people of the United States.
SEC. 3. A sufficient sum of money to carry this Act into effect is hereby authorized to be appropriated, out of money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated.
Approved August 2, 2005.
Timmy Graham gazed sadly at the medal in its box, the blue ribbon supporting an eagle holding an upside down star. He didn't take it out.
"Thanks," said Daria, "for telling me the story."
Timmy closed the box and passed the medal back to her. "Thanks for looking me up."
"You meant a lot to her. There was hardly an email she sent that didn't mention you. To me or our folks."
He pulled out a pack of Kools. "You mind?"
"Not at all."
She watched in fascination as he managed to get the cigarette out of the package with only one hand. He smiled.
"Took some learning. Been doing this since I was twelve." He dug out his lighter and lit up. "It's take more than a lost arm to get me to quit. Not to worry. I'll get the prothesis soon."
He blew a puff of smoke into the already heavy air of the club. "She used to talk about you a lot. She loved you, you know."
Daria nodded. "Took me a long time to figure it out. Too long. I loved her too."
"She knew, girlfriend. She always liked to get your emails. Life in the Army made her understand your humor more, she claimed."
"Good to hear it. Listen, when Mom and Dad heard I was going to see you, they asked me to invite you to dinner. You can bring Robbie if you like."
"Don't mind if I do. Always wanted to see Lawndale. She promised me a tour when... well, she promised me a tour. So, do you think this book of yours is going to do any good?"
"Don't know. I'm not doing it because I think it'll bring me riches or publicity. I'm doing it for Quinn."
He nodded. "That's what I wanted to hear. Look, here's something for your '16 pages of revealing photographs.'"
Daria looked at the photo. Quinn and Timmy were standing back to back with their sleeves rolled up, showing off tatoos of the twin towers superimposed upon an American flag. Their biceps were flexed and they affected tough looks with barely concealed smiles.
"Quinn had a tatoo?!?"
He nodded and grinned. "We stopped on the way to Iraq to get some extra training at Rammstein. We went out and got drunk. Somehow we got back to base before being declared AWOL and the next day, surprise!"
"She always worried about what you guys would think."
Daria smiled. "I think I've found my cover shot."
"The credit should be to Sgt. Jamal Washington. He took the picture."
"His widow was nice. She let me have quite a few photos for the book." She closed her eyes and rubbed her temple.
"Are you alright?"
"Yeah, it's just... It still gets me. None of us wanted her to join, none of us wanted her to go. Dad even offered her a ticket to Canada."
Timmy stared into his drink. "You know what? I wish to God she had listened to you. I always say I've given a lot for this country. My arm, my eye, and my best friend."
He reached over and squeezed Daria's hand, shutting his own eye against the tears. They sat in silence and remembered.
This is a ficlet inspired by Kara Wild's entry in the "Scenes No Daria Fanfic Should Ever Have II" thread at The Paperpusher's Message Board. She is the one who wrote the telegram, and some of the ideas she had in a later post are used too. Thanks for the inspiration, Kara!
Daria and other characters from the show are of course, property of MTV and Viacom. Any original characters and settings are my own. This is a work of fanfic, and is therefore a work of love and not meant for profit. And all hail Glenn Eichler and Suzy Lewis!