Normal for Once
status: novel completed, currently shopping for agents
length: 65,000 words

Even though it's only five minutes to nine, I'm the first one to show up for poker. Matt answers the door in nothing but board shorts. Two months into football, and the lines around his stomach are pretty chiseled.

“What're you knocking for?” He leaves me to close the door. “Rules haven't changed. When I know you're coming, you don't need to knock.”

“I wasn't sure.” I want to say something about things feeling different between us since the fight in the Quad. I want to ask him, How're the ribs? To find out if Kairns is going to let him play hurt in tomorrow's game. But before we're even halfway across the living room, a guy who wasn't at the poker game two weeks ago barges through the front door, silver case held high in the air.

“Let the games begin!” he yells.

I almost laugh aloud at the giant white question mark over the crotch of his shiny red board shorts. His black T-shirt has the oldstyle cross of a famous skateboarding logo.

“You made it,” Matt says. “Webber, meet my old friend Abe.”

“How's it going?” I say.

“Man, what happened to your grill?” Webber asks.

“Fight at school. One of them hauled off and got me with his foot.”

“No good at all.”

The laughter finally gets to me. “I give up. What's the deal with your pecker?”

“What?” He almost drops the metal case on his sandaled foot.

“I couldn't help but notice you've got punctuation on your pecker. That's all.”

Peckermark turns to Matt. “Your friend queer or something?”

I answer for him. “Only if you are.” Homophobes are the easiest to mess with. Peckermark's face is doing the old I'mTooOffendedToKnowWhatToDo thing. Matt gives me this overtheshoulder look that reminds me of the bet. The chance of me ditching beat up ole General Lee for his Roadrunner. His suggestion to just be normal.