Quick Novel

::: the novel written in seven hours :::

chapter sixteen

Chloe was never particularly concerned with the issue of personal safety. She walked like she knew what she was doing, and assumed that her confident air would float her up and over any menacing townsfolk. The rest of the city doesn't feel this way. Following reports of a university football player being beaten comatose the previous night, Chloe noticed Ann Arbor's answer to violent crime. That solution parks on the sidewalk, right next to the hot dog vendors.

When the Daily spouts hard news about violence, one group rejoices and takes action. Those men are the peppergas vendors. Large signs, guaranteeing a safe and palpable future for anyone willing to shed a few dollars, line the streets of campus. Women wait in ultra-lengthy queues for a taste of personal freedom from the streets. Afterwards, some of them purchase hot dogs for lunch.

Chloe wanted some peppergas, and had the pleasure of arguing herself out of it. These women don't have the confidence or the ability or the gumption to take care of themselves. I'd be compromising my independence if I joined them. She noticed Kenny as one of the vendors, and the sight of him gave her a chill. Apparently he had taken on part-time employment. "Well", thought the girl. "I don't have ten dollars for aerosol weaponry. Better just turn this bastard in."

This, however, presents the ultimate blow to youthful idealism. Again, Chloe finds her hands tied with the prospect of dealing with law enforcement, giving way to the very same dilemma she had while thinking about purse weapons. Neither of these options fit her very structured persona. Chloe also had to take into account that her very structured persona was Kenny's housemate, and that his workday had to end sometime. She didn't bother to question whether it was him in the news that day, she could see asshole characteristics coming up in vapors out of his pores.

Dinner in the cooperative system is always a profound exercise in sitting next to a diversity of people that one doesn't particularly want to sit next to. Chloe usually made an effort to join and exchange pleasantries with the house treasurer, possibly ensuring her a few extra rent-free weeks before she had to leave town. This day, she shared some lentils with Kenny. In a shameless display of joining what you can't beat, Chloe had a new friend. This keeps her ideals intact and saves her ass in the meantime.

Two weeks worth of dinners told a lot about Kenny, and Chloe, for the first time, found herself taking an interest in the ordeals of another. Quite often , two people who show problems in accepting everybody else tend to bond a little. Chloe learned about his violent digressions but befriended Kenny enough to feel safe around him. Kenny was intrigued by Chloe's general disrespect for other people. They met in the afternoons by the peppergas stand to have lunch. Kenny gave his new companion a free can and a little quip about "you never know..."

Kansas is considered the heart of America. The middle. What this place is really about. Known to the masses for little more than flat ground and twisters, most Kansasians probably get a little pissed about the view they project to the world. Chloe was starting to think that her boredom with middle America may be confined only to that state. Possibly confined only to her hometown. She forgot whether the state she spent her youth in really did offer more than farmhouses and protestants abounds. She actually tried to remember one day. This town, nestled in yet another state that Easterners refer to as being "somewhere near Iowa," had a taste so sharp she couldn't possibly compare it to other places she had known. Chloe was not the nut here. Chloe was not the exceptional.

She started focusing a good portion of her time on Kenny. She did, however, keep things platonic. He was too charged an individual and too large in size for her to risk it with. Kenny was so focused on having an outlet for his thoughts that he had little feeling for Chloe beyond sheer gratitude. He once entertained some late night fantasy about hurting her, but the focus of that immediately dissolved when Chloe expressed immediate and detailed interest in the story. He started to wonder whether his tendencies were now out of helpless urge or helpless habit. Now that he had this girl as a vent, he suffered from a severe lack of pent-up energy. He, over the next week, spent a lot of time watching television on his off-hours. He started spending even more time with Chloe, getting her a job pushing self-defense items with him.

Chloe, like her partner, was losing the very defining part of her soul. She stopped reading, for one, immediately squelching her idea of superiority through intellectual pursuits. This was not a conscious decision, but instead a simple shift of interest. The grayness of the townscape and the vicious lack of sunlight that Michigan tends to offer helped sedate her. She found herself in a room in the afternoon with Kenny, alone, feeling no threat to her own safety, and slowly drifting off to sleep in his arms as the credits for "Matlock" began to roll.

The days lumbered on. Chloe, who used to greet most people, especially her housemates, with an acidic bitchiness that soon became legendary, found herself generally not minding most things. Kenny, on the other hand, hadn't had any feelings of frustration or even anger in a matter of weeks. He was content with this girl, disturbingly so.

Springtime, in the afternoon, on a weekend. Kenny and Chloe were not the only two strolling through the arboretum. The entire park was teeming with young couples, studiers, picnics, and dogs. They were not the only two to stop by the memorial tree planted at the site of the fallen football player, who never managed to wake up. They were, however, the only two to discuss in such detail the events that led to the placement of that sapling.

Kenny didn't find himself turned on by the retelling. Not remotely. Chloe wasn't even paying attention. And both of them knew what was happening; they sensed each other's thoughts, pretty much. They didn't like not being something. A curse called Ann Arbor, known for the huge spans of definition between all it's townsfolk, managed to polish off a couple rough diamonds until they didn't exist anymore. The two of them went back home for a while before returning for one of Kenny's late-night jogs. These were just for the sake of exercise now, and Chloe often came with him.

They weren't thinking of much while they stood on the bridge, generally tired of most things, thinking that the Huron river looked incredibly normal in the moonlight. The next morning's Daily suspected foul play in the passing of the two kids found smashed up on the rocks. Peppergas sales went up 54%.

...on to Chapter Seventeen...

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