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The Untitled failed NANO project.


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As it says in the title-that-is-not-a-title, this was something that I had originally intended to be for NANO. The thing is, that it wasn't supposed to be SF. But lo and behold I got distracted and it turned into an SF. An unusually long SF. Oneshot, so here it goes. This was supposed to be a multi-chapter, multi-story/character piece eventually connecting up at the end to make 30,000 words. But as you can tell, that never happened and I bottomed out around 4K this year. Hope you enjoy it anyway? Thanks for reading.

"I'm walkin' on sushine WO-O-OAH!

I'm walkin' on sunshine WO-O-OAH!

And don't it feel GOOD?"

Her blonde ponytail bobs in time with her springy step in time with the music being pumped through the telltale white earbuds straight into her skull. Swiping a runny nose across the overly large sleeve of her pink puffy jacket, the lady standing next to Chloe guesses that she is about sixteen. She would be right. On this afternoon Chloe has a hip-hop class in the 135th street studio. If the bus doesn't come soon she could be late! Just the thought of walking into the room full of people, walking past the teacher at the front of the class, past the staring eyes of her peers to put her schoolbag down in the back of the room underneath the barre makes her shudder in embarrassment. The horror! It happened to Debinse last week. She came in fifteen minutes late when they were already eight counts into the new routine. Some of the other girls had laughed at her when she turned the wrong way or used the wrong foot trying to catch up to where they had gone on in the routine. Chloe would never ever allow herself to be humiliated like that. Never! That bus had to get here, and soon. Nevermind that it was cold enough to freeze your toes off right now and that she had been stamping her feet for the last twenty minutes. She knew that it would come soon. She knew it! It just had to.

The bus came ten whole minutes later. By this time Chloe had her arms hugged tight around herself with her chin tucked in as close to the zipper of her pink puffy jacket as possible to keep from shivering. It didn’t help much. She walked up quickly onto the bus and smiled at the bus driver, cringing as she heard her teeth clacking together. Just as she was about to sit down on the last free seat she noticed the lady from the bus stop trying for that same seat. This was an older lady, greying hair, thick eye glasses but no cane or walking device. Still Chloe thought It’s only ten-ish blocks. And maybe someone will be getting off at the next stop and I’ll take their seat? The lady noticed Chloe’s deliberate hesitation and she smiled warmly at her as she sat down. Chloe gripped the pole tighter with her left hand and turned away to stare out the window.

“Next stop 135th street, 135th street next stop.”

The low rumble of the bus driver’s voice snatched Chloe out of her daydream. Only three stops into her journey she found a seat close to the back door. Holding her schoolbag on her lap Chloe’s head had drooped slowly onto the cold cloth. It felt soothing against her cheek in what had turned out to be the overly warm climate on the bus. Then again Chloe wouldn’t blame the bus driver for cranking the heat up extra. It must get really cold having to open up the doors next to him all the time. It was just too bad that the heat wouldn’t need to be on so aggressively in the press of bodies towards the back of the vehicle. But 135th was where she was getting out. The bus came to a halt and Chloe pushed her way through the stationary bodies until she was practically pressed up against the door. It was a good thing that the light to tell you the door was unlocked was off because Chloe would definitely have fallen out!

Pulling a face, Chloe anxiously glanced at her watch. She was already five minutes late and two blocks away! She determinedly tucked a tray lock behind her ear and continued puffing up the hill. In her hurry she had been watching her footfalls instead of the cleared path ahead and had now paid the price. With an oof! Chloe bounced off of the chest of a thick man coming the opposite direction.

Maybe it was the fault of whoever had cleared out the snow in front of the shops and apartment buildings but somehow she still felt guilty herself.

“Oh! Sorry!”

It was too late. The man was already walking away at a fast clip. Obviously their little clash had not upset him in the slightest. At least that was what Chloe hoped for.

Her cheeks were already coloring up as she walked up the stairs to the studio. The sound of the pounding bass didn’t distract from the anxious quickening of her pulse. Just as predicted, Chloe was ten-ish minutes late by the clock on the wall above the instructor’s head.

“Glad you could make it Chloe. Let’s go over those first few counts again. Ready? And...”

Chloe trudges out of the studio and back out into the cold of a New York City winter. She rubs her palms together breathing hot air that billows in visible clouds before her. She’s tired after class so there is Coldplay on her ipod. She’s standing in front of the bus stop pole before she realises.

“’scuse me, d’you know what time it is?”

“Oh yeah,” Chloe replies to the round-faced boy. “It’s...” she trails off staring at the spot on her wrist where her watch would normally reside. This is it. The dismal ending to a bad day. Her Mom is going to kill her! Just as the bus pulls up to the curb Chloe turns and runs up the street back to the studio.

“Miss Kent! Miss Kent!”

She spots her teacher halfway up the stairs and bellows up to her as she flies down the sidewalk, hair streaming out ina blonde ribbon behind her.

“Chloe what’s wrong?”

Feeling tears prick at her eyes Chloe starts to sniff as she explains about missing her watch. She has to get it back, she just has to! This was the third watch she had lost in as many weeks. She just knew that her Mom would not buy her another one to replace it for at least a year. But she couldn’t live without one! Absolutely not. It was like medieval torture to let your kid grow up without a watch, everyone knew that. But if she lost it how could Chloe convince her Mom of that?

Miss Kent had been saying something, probably something important too by the serious look on her face, but Chloe had been lost in her own thoughts.

“I said I thought I saw it lying by the far window.”

And that was exactly where Chloe now remembered she had put it. Since she had arrived late to class she had been in such a big hurry to change into her dance clothes, that she had forgotten to take off the watch and had only remembered just as she was going to take up her place at the back of the room. The back of the room was where the windows, and more importantly, where the window ledges, were. It all made sense now. And since the watch hadn’t been with the rest of her things she had completely forgotten about its existence when she had changed back into her regular clothes after class. Again Miss Kent was saying something so Chloe tuned back in.

“The studio is locked for the night and I can’t let you back in today.”


“But I’m sure it will be there waiting for you when you come back for tomorrow’s class.”

The blonde head shook sadly and her lower lip quivered. Her mother was definitely not going to like this.

There had been a look on Miss Kent’s face that Chloe was now trying to puzzle out. As the bus swelled and crested along the streets and avenues, so did Chloe’s thoughts dip and soar over the waves of possibility. The look in Miss Kent’s eyes had not matched neither her tone of voice nor her words. They had been sympathetic. Chloe had never seen that kind of light shining out from the young woman’s hard brown eyes. Instead of their normal dark color, so close to black, there had been a warmth added there. Miss Kent’s eyes had brightened into hazel. They had been brown, but with hints of an earthy green close to the pupil. Normally

Chloe didn’t care much for or notice much about a person’s eyes. On the steps, thought, Miss Kent herself and her face had come quite close to Chloe. She had felt a little awkward at first. Remembering what her father always told her mother about the importance of good eye contact every night at the dinner table as they discussed their days at work, Chloe had looked up. She had looked up and met Miss Kent’s eyes and had been slightly shocked by what she had seen there. What did it mean? Nevermind about that. How was she going to get through the evening and morning until the afternoon when she could return to the studio and reclaim that stupid watch? Stupid, stupid. How could she have been so stupid?

”How could you have been so careless Chloe? After the last two watches we bought you?”

She would never hear the end of it. That was just from her mother. Then her father would have to weigh in on the subject. Then eventually her little sister and brother would start in on her.

”Haha, Chloe you’re so bad!”

Maybe Mitch didn’t know any better. He was too young at five to understand that his unkind words would really hurt his big sister. So she would smile, ruffle his hair and then chase him around the living room until she caught him. Once caught, Chloe would tickle Mitch until he squeaked and giggled in delight. They would both feel better after.

But before the fun part, there was the hard part.

Second verse same as the first. Like the earlier trip, Chloe had to wait a few stops before a seat became open. She would smile shyly at other travellers who glanced her way. It wasn’t always as awkward as Chloe imagined it to be. In her own head she would agonise over every interaction. Did she stare too long at the woman in the outrageous wig? Or maybe she shouldn’t have winked at the little baby in his father’s arms? As she watched the scenery roll by out the windows, Chloe developed plan after plan for what to tell her mother.

Her first plan was simple. She would walk in the house looking sad. Mom would ask what was wrong. Chloe would burst into tears and between sobs relate the tragic story of schoolyard bullying where the mean kids had taken her watch and refused to give it back. But she realised that that wouldn’t really work. Next thing Mom would be asking all about what were the mean kids’ names and when Chloe stuttered on a name to pick or delivered a fake name, the game would be all over.

Her second plan was a little more devious. She would walk in the door looking sad and pale.

“What’s wrong honey?”

“I don’t feel good.”

Then she would pound up the stairs, lock herself in the bathroom and pretend to throw up. Mom would be so distracted by her sudden sickness that the watch would be the last thing on her mind or on Chloe’s, naturally. So a day or so later when Chloe was recovered...Oh no! She still would have to explain why she wasn’t wearing her watch to go back to school. Man, plotting was hard. At least Chloe still had twenty or so more stops before she would have to face up to her Mom.

What if she—

“Dude. What the fuck d’you think you’re doing? Yeah, like that’s really an option man. C’mon. Just c’mon. Seriously? Dude?!”

A tall man sitting across from Chloe was having a loud conversation on his cell phone. She admired his relaxed posture, sitting with his legs splayed out in front of him. Even his pants were loose with the crotch drooping practically to his knees. Though he didn’t actually say it, Chloe felt a What are you looking at? vibe from him. She had caught herself staring at the man and looked away quite quickly. He was off of his cell phone and looking angry. Chloe definitely didn’t want to be anywhere near touching on his nerves right now, and she thought that accidentally staring at him might be one of those things that might set him off. Better safe than sorry like Dad always said. And she was back to her problem, still keeping one eye on the street signs as they flew by.

Her third plan involved even more complicated deception in the form of her brother. The fatal flaw in this version was that her brother would never agree to it. Even if he did Chloe still kinda doubted that he could actually pull it off. There was far too much innocence in a five-year-old boy. They couldn’t lie convincingly and in order for the plan to work he would have to tell a lie if not more than one.

The fourth plan was a sort of half-formed idea that got interrupted before it had a chance to reach its full potential. A big woman got on the bus, bustling with her grocery bags plus three small children in tow. Chloe felt sorry for her. It was too bad she couldn’t just jump up and offer to help control her entourage or even offer assistance with her bags. One young man even tried after giving up his seat to her daughter, the smallest of the bunch. As soon as she plunked her kid down she turned to the man and gave him one of the harshest tongue-lashings Chloe had ever heard.

“No. No I don’t need you to help me. What, you think I can’t take care of my own kids, is that it?”

It wasn’t even that her words were harsh but that her tone was so poisonous. How could people have been brought up to be this rude in public and to strangers too? She flashed a smile at the young man as if to reassure him that it was all right; he had done the right thing. It wasn’t the woman’s fault that she was crabby. Maybe she was late getting home for dinner or something. Whatever it was, Chloe pretended to be absorbed in the buttons on her ipod as the woman, her groceries, and her children all marched off the bus. Chloe could have sworn she had seen the bus driver exhale as he closed the door after her.

So, it was getting to be almost the end of her journey and Chloe was still nowhere nearer to an answer for her Mom if she would ask where her watch was. Her stomach was curling into tight knots. Maybe she actually would feel like throwing up when she walked in the door? That could only be considered a good thing on a day like today.

Only a few more stops. 198th street was rolling away, and now they were pulling closer and closer to 200th street. This was it. Climbing to her feet with a sigh Chloe chucked her backpack over her shoulder and padded up to the back door. By this time there were a lot less people in the bus. There was also a kind of twilight hush that inevitably happened as the sun faded behind the fall apartment building facades. It was a sort of peaceful weariness. Chloe quietly thanked the bus driver as she clambered down the steps out into the bracing cold. Despite her hat, gloves, and scarf Chloe was shivering violently by the time she trudged up the steps to her house.

The door opened as she cleared the last step. Her Dad was standing in the doorway greeting her with a crinkly smile. Taking her backpack from her sore shoulders, literally lifting the weight from off of her Chloe thanked him as she shrugged out of her coat, pausing first to sneeze into her sleeve. Where did that come from?

“Bless you. Don’t use your sleeve.”


Chloe sneezed again, this time into cupped hands. Running to the bathroom with her face half-covered to wash the snot off of her hands, she was surprised to find the door not only closed but locked. It was apparent why in less time that it took to ponder the question. There was the painful sound of retching. Chloe’s own stomach flopped. It came again, more desperate this time, with the dreaded sound of splashing followed by the swoosh of the toilet flushing. Strangely mesmerised in the horror of the activities going on behind the door Chloe had stayed where she was, having long ago wiped off dirty hands on her jeans.

“You got a little cold.”

“No Dad, I’m fine.”

She was tired and it came out as more of a whine than she had liked. Dad saw straight through her. He pulled her in and kissed her brow testing for fever. He seemed satisfied; she passed the test. He ran a hand over her blonde locks smoothing out the wind-tossed wisps.

“Why don’t you go do your homework in front of the tv with Mitch?”

The sound of more flushing from within the bathroom reminded Chloe of why she had been standing here in the first place.

“Mom’s not feeling well. Dinner’s going to be a little late so take a snack for you and Mitchie from the fridge. But no chocolate pudding!”

Happily settled on the couch with a bunch of grapes between them, Chloe flicked the remote until it stopped on one of their favourite shows: Spongebob Squarepants. Mitch loved Spongebob’s silly antics and it wasn’t too distracting while Chloe did her homework. It was a favourite pre-dinner ritual of theirs. All that was missing was Mom buzzing around in the background getting dinner ready. Come to think of it it had been unusual for Dad to meet her at the door. He usually got home from work right around now. What was up with Mom? Chloe couldn’t ever remember her being so sick that Dad had to come home early before. Maybe this was serious? Chloe was starting to get that tight feeling in her stomach again with an extra heaviness settling in over her chest.

Who cared about her watch and the consequences now. She had to know what was going on.

“Dinner in 45 minutes!”

Dad was carrying on pretty much as normal though. So it couldn’t really be that bad could it?

Making conversation Mitch turned to Chloe.

“I saw Mommy throw up today.”

Chloe blinked at her brother. Covering her mouth in anticipation, Chloe drew in a deep breath releasing it on a loud sneeze.


“Bless you. You sick too? D’you have to go to the doctor too?”

“No Mitchie. I’m not sick.”

As she rubbed a finger underneath her nose Chloe thought maybe she was getting a little bit of a cold. But why add more worry when Mom was already sick?

“So what happened to Mom?”

Mitch leaned back on the couch cushions, assuming the story-telling position, of course.

“After Benny and Davy’s house, I saw the park where we do soccer? And I was going to ask Mommy to stop. I saw Mikey playing. But we did stop! But we didn’t get out. And Mommy opened her door and threw up.”

“Here, blow your nose.”

Dad had passed by with a box of Kleenex. Chloe took one out of the box quickly as her nose started to tickle again. This time following orders she used two more Kleenex shoving the whole soggy mess into her jeans pocket. Instead of the release of pressure from her sinuses she just felt even more tired and unwell. Well, it wasn’t like it was so bad. She would have to fight a little harder to pay attention in classes and maybe take a nap in the library at recess. No big deal; it’s not like she was throwing up or anything. Oh yeah, poor Mom. Chloe hoped to see her at dinner. She loved her Mom. Sure she could be strict sometimes but that’s what all parents were like, right? They were pals too. As girls they shared a special bond. When the boys would talk about sports or other guy stuff Chloe’s Mom would ask her when she wanted to go shopping again with a twinkle in her eye. She knew that her Mom looked forward to their girl-outings almost as much as she did. Chloe knew that she was lucky to have someone who was not only her Mom but her best girl friend as well. Other friends would come and go, but she would always have her mother.

“Max! Mitch! Chloe! Dinner!”

Dad bellowed from the kitchen and she and Mitch stirred themselves, stretching, from the couch to walk the ten feet to the kitchen table. As they were just sitting down Mom walked in. Chloe definitely thought she looked off. For starters she was in her robe and slippers instead of her regular though casual clothes. She definitely looked tired. There were large bruises under her eyes that made her too-pale face look sunken, except for the colour on her cheeks. She bent down and kissed her and Mitch on the top of the head and gave Dad a peck on the cheek. Dad was bringing in the salad bowl. Mom sighed and rubbed a hand over her eyes, something she only did just after she woke up. She must have been upstairs sleeping! That explains why they didn’t see her downstairs during Spongebob.

Hee-AHhh-Shew!! Chloe sneezed again.

“Bless you. You got a little cold.”

Mom turned her enquiring gaze on Chloe.

“No fever,” Dad responded before Chloe had the chance. She wanted to protest that she was fine again but a different line of attack came out of her mouth.

“What’s up Mom? Dad told me that you weren’t feeling well and Mitch told me what happened in the carpool from school. He even said you went to the doctor’s. Whats going on?”

Mom and Dad exchanged a look. Then Mom smiled. That was weird, seriously. Dad spoke first.

“Maybe you don’t remember from five years ago. There was a little while when Mom wasn’t feeling well. But then Mitch came along!”

Mom’s turn. “You’re going to have another brother or sister. What do you guys think?”

“Daddy, is Mommy gonna get fat like Mrs. Whitefield, Bobby’s Mom?”

At that everybody cracked up including Mitch. He wasn’t sure that he knew why he was laughing, just that it was funny, which made them laugh even harder.

“Chloe hon,” Mom asked as they came back from washing their hands before dinner, “Where’s your watch?”

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Ha! I KNEW she was pregnant. :D Had to be.

This is cute! I really liked all the detail you put into the bus rides; it really enlivened the story! And poor Chloe's cold. I love it when colds are sudden-onset, at least in stories. :laugh: Sucks about her watch! I can remember being so absent-minded when I was 16. I liked the ending of this, too. Even though it was planned to be longer, it seems right that, after all that happened, it should end with the question "Where's your watch?"

Thank you for sharing!

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Ha! I KNEW she was pregnant. :P Had to be.

This is cute! I really liked all the detail you put into the bus rides; it really enlivened the story! And poor Chloe's cold. I love it when colds are sudden-onset, at least in stories. :blushing: Sucks about her watch! I can remember being so absent-minded when I was 16. I liked the ending of this, too. Even though it was planned to be longer, it seems right that, after all that happened, it should end with the question "Where's your watch?"

Thank you for sharing!

Haha thanks! Glad you liked it. Honestly, I was just adding in detail wherever I could so as to elongate my word count however it was managed. And it ended up being kinda interesting I thought.

I was thinking about doing a piece about riding the bus in NYC. Which is "an experience" to put it mildly, And some of those sketches were based in real life, like the crazy woman yelling at someone trying to help her. It happened. I couldn't understand it. And everyone drew a collective sigh as she left the bus.

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Wow! I was really sucked in, I love it! The characters are great and your style is captivating and very well written. Heh heh, I thought she was pregnant too. Is that all? Well that's a little disapointing, I was really into it. Although it is a wonderful story on its own.

I hope you do expand on the characters you have, even if this story is complete. I would love to read more about them.

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Wow! I was really sucked in, I love it! The characters are great and your style is captivating and very well written. Heh heh, I thought she was pregnant too. Is that all? Well that's a little disapointing, I was really into it. Although it is a wonderful story on its own.

I hope you do expand on the characters you have, even if this story is complete. I would love to read more about them.

Wow. I think you've made my day, my month, and my year!

It means a lot to me that you really enjoy my writing. This was only one of the largest things I've ever written, but sure I'd be happy to slap on some more! Maybe I'll try for the whole 30K by the end of the summer? Who knows? =P

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