Everyone does it is not a defense!
If everyone did it, that made it normal, right? And after Chance
did the research he knew he did nothing wrong.
Googling high school cheating because writing an essay was part
of the punishment.
Finding out four out of five high school
students—that’s eighty frickin’ percent—did
Majority rules. Just like that thing on his Social Action study
Social norms are the cement that holds societies together.
There you go, he was being a big help to society!
When he tried to joke about that with the parental units, they
Same as when he told them it was civil rights, no way could the
school force him to do community service outside the school
property. That was against the Constitution. Time to call the
That got Dad’s eyes all squinty. Chance turned to Mom but
she made sure not to give him any eye contact.
“The ACLU?” Big wet Dad throat clear, like after too
many cigars. “Because we make a significant monetary
contribution to the ACLU?” Starting to breathe hard.
“Every goddamn year. That’s what you’re
Chance didn’t answer.
“Cute, extremely cute. That’s your point? Well let
me tell you something: You cheated. Period. That is not the kind of
thing the ACLU gives half a shit about.”
“Language, Steve—” Mom broke in.
“Don’t start, Susan. We’ve got a goddamn
fucking serious problem here and I seem to be the only one who
fucking gets it.”
Mom got all tight- mouthed, started plucking at her nails.
Turned her back on both of them and did something with dishes on
the kitchen counter.
“It’s his problem, Susan, not ours and unless he
owns up to it, we can kiss Occidental—or any other halfway
decent college—fucking good- bye.”
Chance said, “I’ll own up to it, Dad.” Working
on what Sarabeth called his Mr. Sincere look.
Laughing as she undid her bra. Everyone buys Mr. Sincere but me,
Chancy. I know it’s Mr. Bogus.
Dad stared at him.
“Hey,” said Chance, “at least give me credit
for hand-eye coordination.”
Dad let out a stream of curses and stomped out of the
Mom said, “He’ll get over it,” but she left,
Chance waited to make sure neither of them was coming back
before he smiled.
Feeling good because his hand-eye had been cool.
Setting his Razr on vibrate and positioning it perfectly in a
side pocket of his loosest cargo pants, the phone resting on a
bunch of shit he’d stuffed in there to make kind of a little
Sarabeth three rows up, texting him the answers to the test.
Chance being cool about it, knowing he’d never get caught
because Shapiro was a nearsighted loser who stayed at his desk and
Who’d figure Barclay would come in to tell Shapiro
something, look clear to the back of the room, and spot Chance
peeking into his pocket?
The whole class doing the same exact thing, everyone’s
pockets vibing. Everyone cracking up the moment the test started
because Shapiro was such a clueless loser, the whole semester had
been like this, the asshole would’ve missed Paris Hilton
walking in nude and spreading.
Everyone does it is not a defense!
Rumley looking down his big nose and talking all sad like at a
funeral. What Chance wanted to say was, Then it frickin’
should be, dude.
Instead, he sat in Rumley’s office, squeezed between his
parents, his head all down, trying to look all sorry and thinking
about the shape of Sarabeth’s ass in her thong while Rumley
went on forever about honor and ethics and the history of Windward
Prep and how if the school so chose they had the option of
informing the Occidental admissions office and causing dire
consequences for his college career.
That made Mom burst into tears.
Dad just sat there, looking angry at the world, didn’t
make a move to even give her a tissue from the box on
Rumley’s desk so Rumley had to do it, standing up and handing
it to Mom and looking pissed at Dad for making him stretch.
Rumley sat back down and moved his mouth some more.
Chance pretended to listen, Mom sniffled, Dad looked ready to
hit someone. When Rumley finally finished, Dad started talking
about the family’s “contributions to Windward,”
mentioning Chance’s performance on the basketball team,
bringing up his own time on the football team.
In the end the adults reached an agreement and wore small,
satisfied smiles. Chance felt like a puppet but he made sure he
looked all serious, being happy would be a ba- ad move.
Punishment 1: He’d have to take another version of the
test— Shapiro would make one up.
Punishment 2: No more cell phone at school.
“Maybe this unfortunate event will have positive
ramifications, young man,” said Rumley. “We’ve
been thinking about a schoolwide ban.”
There you go, thought Chance. I did you guys a favor, not only
shouldn’t you punish me, you should be payin’ me, like
some sort of consulting deal.
So far, so good, for a second Chance thought he’d got off
real easy. Then:
Punishment 3: The essay. Chance hated to write, usually Sarabeth
did his essays, but she couldn’t do this one because he had
to do it at school, in Rumley’s office.
Still, no big deal.
Then came Punishment 4. “Because substantive
accountability has to be part of the package, Master
Mom and Dad agreeing. The three of them going all al- Qaida on
Chance pretended to agree.
Yes, sir, I need to pay my debt and I will do so with
Throwing in some SAT vocab words. Dad staring at him, like who
are you kidding, dude, but Mom and Rumley looked really
Rumley moved his mouth.
Community service. Oh, shit.
And here the frick he was.
Sitting in the Save the Marsh office on night eleven of his
thirty- night sentence. Shitty little puke- colored room with
pictures of ducks and bugs, whatever, on the wall. One dirty window
looking out to a parking lot where no one but him and Duboff
parked. Stacks of bumper stickers in the corner he was supposed to
hand out to anyone who walked in.
No one walked in and Duboff left him by himself so he could run
off to investigate how global warming got up a duck’s butt,
what made birds hurl, did bugs have big dicks, whatever.
Thirty frickin’ nights of this, nuking his summer
Five to ten p.m., instead of hanging after school with Sarabeth
and his friends, all because of a social norm four out of five
When the phone did ring, he mostly ignored it. When he did
answer, it was always some loser wanting directions to the
Go on the frickin’ website or use MapQuest, Rainman!
He wasn’t allowed to make outgoing calls but since
yesterday he’d started to hook up with Sarabeth for cell
phone sex. She was loving him even more for not ratting her to
He sat there. Drank from his can of Jolt, now warm. Felt the
Baggie in his pants pocket and thought Later.
Nineteen more nights of supermax confinement, he was starting to
feel like one of those Aryan Brotherhood dudes.
Two and a half more frickin’ weeks until he was free at
last, doing his Luther King thing. He checked his TAG Heuer. Nine
twenty- four. Thirty- six minutes and he’d be good to go.
The phone rang.
He ignored it.
It kept going, ten times.
He let it die a natural death.
A minute later, it rang again and he figured maybe he should
answer it, what if it was Rumley testing him?
Clearing his throat and getting Mr. Sincere ready, he picked up.
“Save the Marsh.”
Silence on the other end made him smile.
One of his friends pranking him, probably Ethan. Or Ben or
“Dude,” he said. “What’s up?”
A weird kind of hissy voice said, “Up?” Weird
laughter. “Something’s down. As in buried in your
“Shut up and listen.”
Being talked to like that made Chance’s face go all hot,
like when he was ready to sneak a flagrant in on some loser on the
opposing team, then get all innocent when the dude wailed about
being nut- jammed.
He said, “Fuck off, dude.”
The hissy voice said, “East side of the marsh. Look and
you’ll find it.”
“Like I give a—”
“Dead,” said Hissy. “Something real real
dead.” Laughter. “Dude.”
Hanging up before Chance could tell him to shove dead up
A voice from the door said, “Hey, man, how’s it
Chance’s face was still hot, but he put on Mr. Sincere and
There in the doorway was Duboff, wearing his Save the Marsh T-
shirt, geek shorts showing too much skinny white thigh, plastic
sandals, that stupid gray beard.
“Hey, Mr. Duboff,” said Chance.
“Hey, man.” Duboff gave a clenched- fist salute.
“Did you have a chance to check out the herons before you got
“Not yet, sir.”
“They’re incredible animals, man. Magnificent.
Wingspread like this.” Unfolding scrawny arms to the max.
You’ve obviously mistaken me for someone who gives half a
Duboff came closer, smelling gross, that organic deodorant
he’d tried to convince Chance to use. “Like
pterodactyls, man. Master fishers.”
Chance had thought a heron was a fish until Duboff told him
Duboff edged near the desk, showed those gross teeth of his.
“Rich folk in Beverly Hills don’t like when the herons
swoop in during hatching season and eat their rich- folk koi. Koi
are aberrations. Mutations, people messing with brown carp,
screwing up the DNA to get those colors. Herons are Nature,
brilliant predators. They feed their young and restore nature to
true balance. Screw those Beverly Hillbillies, huh?”
Maybe it wasn’t a big enough smile because Duboff suddenly
looked nervous. “You don’t live there, do I recall
“You live in...”
“Brentwood,” said Duboff, as if trying to figure out
what that meant. “Your parents don’t keep koi, do
“Nope. We don’t even have a dog.”
“Good for you guys,” said Duboff, patting
Chance’s shoulder. “It’s all servitude. Pets, I
mean. The whole concept is like slavery.”
Keeping his hand on the shoulder. Was the guy a fag?
“Yeah,” said Chance, inching away.
Duboff scratched his knee. Frowned and rubbed a pink bump.
“Stopped by the marsh to check for trash. Musta got bit by
“Providing food for the little guys,” said Chance.
“That’s a good thing, sir.”
Duboff stared at him, trying to figure out if Chance was messing
with his head.
Chance brought out Mr. Sincere and Duboff decided Chance was
being righteous and smiled. “Guess you’re
right...anyway, I just thought I’d stop in, see how
you’re doing before your shift ends.”
“I’m fine, sir.”
“Okay, check you out later, man.”
Chance said, “Uh, sir, it’s kinda close to the
Duboff smiled. “So it is. At ten, you can lock up.
I’ll be by later.” Walking to the door, he stopped,
looked back. “It’s a noble thing you’re doing,
Chance. Whatever the circumstances.”
“Call me Sil.”
“You got it, Sil.”
Duboff said, “Anything I should know about?”
“Like what, sir?”
Chance grinned, flashing perfect white chompers, courtesy five
years of Dr. Wasserman.
“Nothing, Sil,” he said, with utter confidence.
Excerpted from BONES: An Alex Delaware Novel © Copyright
2010 by Jonathan Kellerman. Reprinted with permission by Ballantine
Books. All rights reserved.