Here’s a (raw, unedited) piece of the NaNo novel:

For context, this scene takes place in 1959, when our protagonist, Harvey, is 14.

Then there was the game of stickball, played on Harvey’s block on 85th Street in Bensonhurst. Harvey, Anthony, and a group of boys from the street were playing a team made up of Pete Trucillo and a bunch of boys who lived on the other side of 21st Avenue. Harvey had known Pete vaguely; they’d gone to the same schools, but Pete was a couple of years older, in high school by then. He was learning now that Pete was an aggressive stickball player, bossing the boys on his team around as if he were Casey Stengel.

Harvey was also about to start high school, and he was thinking that it would be a pretty good idea to get a guy like Pete Trucillo as an ally. Pete was so self-possessed and in-command. When he stepped up to the plate, Harvey watched him carefully form his vantage point at third base, watched the way the muscles in his arms moved when he took a few practice swings, watched the concentration on his face when he aimed to swing at the first pitch.

A flush came over Harvey as the stick connected with the ball and Pete sent the ball flying over the heads of all the boys standing on 85th Street. The ball was lost in Mrs. Weinstein’s yard somewhere. Pete took a slow victory lap around the makeshift diamond, knocking the caps off each of the basemen as he went by their respective bases. Harvey eagerly anticipated Pete blowing by him, and felt himself blushing when Pete’s fingers collided with the brim of his cap. Pete ran over home plate, then walked over to his team and high-fived them all. Harvey watched him, watched the way his ass moved as he did a little victory dance, watched him pull his tee-shirt off over his head and wave it around in the air like a flag. Pete’s chest was something to behold; he was strong in a way Harvey hadn’t anticipated. Harvey found himself wanting to touch it.

Pete looked up then, looked right at Harvey, and their eyes met. Harvey looked away almost immediately, but the truth of what had just happened hit him hard.

Harvey spent the rest of the inning standing next to third base and sweating, trying to figure out what this meant. He dreaded playing the next inning, but then he was rescued by a bunch of the neighborhood mothers calling their kids home. He busied himself by helping Anthony clean up. While they carried the big rocks they’d been using as bases back to Anthony’s yard, Pete trotted over and said, “Good game, guys.”

“Sure,” said Anthony. “Good game for you.”

Pete grinned. Harvey wanted to be like Anthony, wanted to have that sarcastic comment at the ready, but he found his mouth was dry and he couldn’t speak.

Anthony went about putting the big rocks back in his mother’s tiny garden while Harvey just stood there, not knowing what to do. Pete gave Harvey a long look. “Don’t take it personally,” Pete said. “You guys are fine players. I’m just better.” He grinned again. To Harvey, he said, “What’s your name, kid?”

“Harvey.” The word sounded strangled as it came out of Harvey’s mouth.

“All right, Harvey.” Harvey felt unnerved by the way Pete’s gaze lingered. Then Pete took a step backwards. “I’ll see you boys around.

Harvey went home after that, and made it into his house just as his mother was putting dinner on the table, which didn’t give him enough time to run up to his room and have the nervous breakdown he felt coming on. Instead, he sat at the table and fretted, and then he realized his father had also sat down and was staring at him.

“What?” he asked defensively.

“Are you all right?” his father asked.

“I’m fine.”

His father looked at him like he wasn’t fooling anyone. “What did you do all afternoon?”

Harvey shrugged. “Stickball with Anthony and those guys.”

“Yeah? Who won?”

“The other team.”

“Is that what you’re upset about?”

“I don’t care. It’s just stickball.”

Harvey’s mother put out cold cuts and pickles. His father helped himself, but Harvey stared at his plate. “Harvey, eat,” his mother commanded, so Harvey put a slice of roast beef on his plate, and then stared at that.

Bruce leaned forward and said, “The only time I was ever that out of sorts when I was your age was over a girl.”

Harvey blinked and looked up.

Bruce laughed. “That’s it, isn’t it? You’re mooning over a girl.”

“Pops, I…”

Bruce reached over and ruffled his son’s hair. “Don’t worry about it, son. These things work themselves out.” He shot his wife a knowing look. Anessa smiled back.

“Okay,” Harvey said, rolling his eyes.

“Don’t you roll your eyes, dorogoi. This is a good meal. I made chicken tonight. I didn’t escape the pogroms to have you not eat.”

Which only made Harvey want to roll his eyes harder, but he stopped himself.

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