Monday, August 25, 2014


It's Just One Year
80,000 words
New Adult Contemporary

Chapter One

 “Andie, can I speak with you?”

Oh God. Janet wants to speak with me. When my manager wants to speak with me, it is almost never a good thing. Not because I’m a particularly bad employee. Actually, I’m a rather fabulous employee. Janet just…well, it depends on the day with Janet. And this Tuesday is not one of those rare good days.

I’m currently “manning” the main register at the front of the store. Dressed in the neutral tones required of all staff members with a Global Bazaar apron completing the look, I have been “manning” the main register for the better part of this entire month. It’s not the worst job. There are far worse things than selling imported food and décor to suburban housewives. But this job was not part of the plan.


I still hesitate, and Janet adds, “Ron can watch the front for you while we talk.”

Ron is the bane of my existence, because working with Ron is like working with a four-year-old child, only in the form of an attractive, fills-out-his-shirt perfectly twenty-five-year-old guy. His attractiveness and charm – and my subsequent averageness and social leprosy – is severely unfair.
I walk out from behind the cash register, let Ron take my place, and meet Janet at Register 2, where she waits with a rather ominous spread-sheet printout in her hand.

“Yes Janet, what can I do for you?” I paste on some false enthusiasm. I wear it well.

“Have you been doing anything strange at the registers lately?”

Have I been doing anything strange at the registers lately. Really? 

“Umm…no. Not that I’m aware of?”

Janet eyes me and runs a hand through her short hair. For once I think she’s actually uncomfortable pointing out one of my flaws.

“Well…it’s just that you have an unusually large number of line voids.”

Line voids. Line voids…ahhh. Yes, another over-blown Global Bazaarterm. Essentially, a voided item is anything you accidentally ring up and then have to cancel. Sure, I have those “oh shit” moments every once in a while, but I can’t think why I’d have a big number.

“Unusually high?” Maybe she’s just exaggerating. I’m already getting a little nervous, since a high number of voided items does look pretty sketchy. It’s usually followed up by pocketing cash.

“The highest number in the company, actually. Nationally.”

“What? That doesn’t make any sense!”

And suddenly last week comes to mind:

My thought process last Wednesday afternoon, at approximately 3:30 PM, when literally zero customers had walked in for an hour.

Every single thing in this store is overpriced. Look at these chocolate bars. $3.75 for a freaking chocolate bar? If Lady Godiva herself had made it, I would not pay $3.75 for a chocolate bar.
Ooh. I wonder how much it would cost to buy fifty of these.

I ring up 50 of the ridiculous $3.75 chocolate bars. Shit! $201.56. That’s ridiculous! I wonder how much 500 would be.

I ring up 500 of them. Two-thousand fifteen dollars. On chocolate.

At this point I realize three things:

1.      Nobody would ever buy 500 of these chocolate bars.
2.      That’s pretty basic math I could have done in my head.
3.      Now I’m stuck with a transaction for $2216.56 on my register.

I glance around, make sure nobody’s watching (not difficult since the store is still deserted), and – because I would need a manager to void out the entire transaction – quickly void out the individual items. All five-hundred and fifty of them.

Janet is looking at me now, Tuesday, real time, waiting for a response. My options are to play dumb or actually admit to being dumb by explaining why I have the highest number of line voidsin the entire company.

Janet clears her throat. “When you make mistakes ringing up customers, are you cancelling out of the transaction? Or do you void the individual items? Because you shouldn’t be voiding the individual items. I figured that’s why you have such a high number.”

“You know what Janet, you’re totally right. That is exactly why I have such a high number. I’ll make sure to get a manager next time.”

“Good,” says Janet. She pats my shoulder in an awkward attempt at approval. “Back to the register.”
And then, to Ron, “Come on, you, we’ve got a project to work on in gourmet!”

Fucking Ron. Everybody loves Ron.

I need a new job.

In a world lacking Godzilla, plagues, and the zombie apocalypse, my greatest fear is being an unloved failure. My other, lesser fears stem downward: accidental pregnancy, immeasurable debt, a bizarre visceral phobia of being condemned for a crime I did not commit. Each of these reveals certain things – mostly a flair for the irrational – but they’re all really an enormous fear of feeling like a failure. And, despite my best efforts, four short months ago I lived out that very fear.

Half-way through ringing up ten packs of German sunflower bread and a jar of red cabbage, I muse about how I got here, every other thought punctuated by the soulless ding of my scanner reading a barcode.         

I went to college.


I hated it.


I made no friends.


And I dropped out.


The receipt prints for my transaction and the sweet German lady makes her way out the front door. Again, I’m left in a deserted Global Bazaar, alone with my thoughts.

This time I transport a little further back than last Wednesday – to last October. 

October 15th, 2007:

It was a Monday, the weather obscenely perfect as it tends to be in Santa Barbara, California. I was less than a month deep in my new life at college, and on this particular day, I felt a spectacular brand of disgusting. I’d gone to my daily Russian class in the pajama shorts I’d slept in (mistake one), combed my curly hair straight back (mistake two), and had forgotten to brush my teeth that morning and the night before, leaving my teeth with that mossy texture Holden Caulfield describes on his embarrassingly dorky roommate (mistakes three and four).

I was working up a sweat walking quickly across campus, which was stupid of me. I had nowhere in particular to rush off to. I’d just cut across the square and was passing the Student Union when, for the first time since high school, someone called out my name.


For once, it wasn’t said as a question; this was the sure-fire tone of a person that knew me and was seeking me out, in all my mossy day-old glory.

I turned, and found myself face to face with none other than Adam Hyde.

Adam hadn’t been what I would call one of my high-school-defining crushes; he was more that heartthrob upperclassman that made me swoon, with the added bonus of being my dialogue partner in my Japanese class.

 “Andie! How are you?”

Adam was all smiles and Ryan Gosling grin, gave me a hug, and did his best to get me to fill him in on the past month I’d spent at his school. This was the first time we’d caught each other on campus, and the first time I had seen him since his high school graduation over a year ago. I cringed to think of the impression I was making.


  1. I love this. Your MC's voice is spot on and hilarious, and I would love to follow this character further into the book.

  2. The voice here is really fantastic! I think you've nailed down a great tone for NA, and developed a cool sense of place in the store. My only sticking point had to do with her first flashback. I would think she'd know immediately what her boss was referring to, possibly even when she first gets called back. It could build an even greater sense of tension that way. Awesome job!

  3. My favorite part was when your MC was going through what led her to the point we meet her. The 'dings' of the register, also serving as sort of a mental, 'check' 'check', made me laugh. I've been there. I related to this character and that's what I look for when I'm reading a story. Someone I care about--someone I relate to--right off the bat. Best of luck!

  4. Have to agree with the others! Really strong voice - lots of depth to the character's personality. The register 'ding' sequence is also my favorite part - but I also really enjoyed some other moments:

    "His attractiveness and charm – and my subsequent averageness and social leprosy – is severely unfair."

    "My thought process last Wednesday afternoon, at approximately 3:30 PM, when literally zero customers had walked in for an hour." <--- I like the contrast of the documentary like precision of the date and time and the sarcastic commentary about having zero customers. Really humorous.

    "In a world lacking Godzilla, plagues, and the zombie apocalypse, my greatest fear is being an unloved failure. My other, lesser fears stem downward: accidental pregnancy, immeasurable debt, a bizarre visceral phobia of being condemned for a crime I did not commit." Just excellent.

    And I also love the catalog of mistakes.

    I don't know why, but for some reason I had a bit of trouble with this turn of phrase as the transition for the second sequence: " This time I transport a little further back than last Wednesday – to last October. " Maybe something as simple as changing "This time I transport" to "This time my thoughts take me" - but honestly that's a small nitpick about a strong piece!

  5. Fantastic voice here, and I already like the MC. I agree that you could build more tension when she gets called to the back by already knowing what the manager wants to speak to her about, since I found it odd she wouldn't remember the candy bar incident at first. My main concern with this excerpt is the flashbacks. Instead of trying to use blocks of flashback, I would try to weave in the past events without the headings in bold. The story will read a lot smoother that way.

    Good luck!


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