Jaws Fanfiction: Captain Quint Shark Hunter - 12. Chapter 12 The Challenge
Chapter 12 The Challenge
The first day of ninth grade Herbie Robinson had come home with a busted lip and a torn shirt. His mother had silently put salve on the cut and sewn up the shirt. When his father heard about it over the dinner table, he had given his son a piece of advice.
‘You ain’t got the build of a fighter, so you gotta learn to stay out of trouble. Don’t give anybody a reason to pick a fight with you, and if they do, just stay down when they knock you down.’
The words came back to Herbie Robinson now as he lay with his cheek pressed against the gritty floor of the mess hall. Stay down. Let them have their fun. They’ll get bored and move on. But when the cold water doused his head and a voice taunted him, he knew he was unlikely to get off so easily. A hand grabbed him roughly by the scruff of his collar and lifted him to his feet. Herbie raised an arm defensively against the blow he thought was coming.
‘Changed my mind,’ said a voice with a salty Massachusetts inflection. ‘Think I will have a piece of that pie.’
For a second Herbie Robinson thought that maybe this was all some kind of elaborate set-up to humiliate him. Were these guys in league with each other?
The grip on his collar loosened and the big hand gave him a friendly shove.
‘Go get me a slice, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.’
The men sitting around the tables had lost interest in the scene. What had looked like it was going to be a fight was just some klutz falling over his own feet.
Herbie walked towards the serving area, shaking the water out of his hair. He glanced back over his shoulder to see the guy from Back East squaring up against the guy from the Deep South. They exchanged words and a brief display of gestures, and then, abruptly, the guy from Back East walked away, followed by some inaudible taunt from the Southerner.
Herbie picked up a tray and stood in line. He collected two desserts and made his way back to his table, giving the Southerner’s group a wide berth. As he passed, the thin cruel face turned in his direction and sneered. Herbie scurried back to his place. He sat down opposite his new pal and slid one of the plates across the table.
‘They didn’t have any ice cream’, he said.
Abel picked up his fork and cut into the sugared crust. He scooped up a wedge of pie, put it in his mouth, and began to chew methodically.
He swallowed, licked his lips, and said, ‘Mmm, cinnamon.’
Herbie watched him eat another piece, and another, his eyes moving from the plate to the slowly moving jaws.
Abel crushed the last few crumbs of pastry between the tines of the fork and then pushed his plate away.
‘You gonna eat yours?’ he asked.
Herbie shook his head.
‘No, I guess I lost my appetite.’
Abel slid his empty plate across the table and drew the full one towards him, like a gambler switching cards.
He started in on his second portion of pie.
Herbie leaned forward and whispered.
‘What did you say to that guy?’
Abel looked up and motioned with his hand that his mouth was full.
He chewed on his pie for what seemed like a long time before he swallowed.
‘Not much,’ he said eventually, and took another sizeable bite.
‘You must have said something. He sure looked sore. You going to fight him?’
Abel went through the same pantomime of dinner table etiquette.
Herbie waited for the answer.
‘Not exactly,’ Abel said, lifting another forkful to his mouth.
‘What do you mean, not exactly?’
Abel took his final mouthful of pie and chewed reflectively.
‘What do you mean, not exactly?’
‘I told him he should pick on someone his own size. That’s not a very original comeback, I know.’
‘So you challenged him to a fight?’
‘Like I said, not exactly. I challenged him to an arm wrestling contest. My name’s Abel, by the way. Abel Quint.’
Herbie Robinson took the hand extended to him, and as he shook it he felt the latent power of its grip. Oh, boy, he thought, this is going to be something.