Jaws Fanfiction: Captain Quint Shark Hunter - 4. Chapter 4 Nighthawks
Chapter Four: Nighthawks
By the time the ferry docked at Woods Hole, Abel had been through the vessel from bow to stern in search of the old man, but could find no trace of him. As the passengers prepared to disembark, he accosted one of the crew and asked if he had seen a white-haired old man dressed all in black like a preacher.
‘Sure, kid,’ the sailor said, ‘I’m on personal speaking terms with every one.’ He raised an arm in mock aggression. ‘Get outta here.’
Abel joined the press of people heading for the gangplank. In his mind he tried to reason with his confused thoughts. Was it so strange that he had not been able to find the stranger? Maybe the old fool had deliberately avoided him. And was it so unusual that he knew his name? Amity was a small island. And what about all that crazy talk? Maybe he had long ago been cast adrift on the ocean, burnt by the sun and forced to drink salt water. That would make you crazy, for sure. Abel recalled a poem from school. He couldn’t remember the title of it, or the name of the poet, but fragments of the verse that his English teacher Mr Bone had read aloud to the class had stayed with him:
Day after day, day after day,We stuck, nor breath nor motion;As idle as a painted shipUpon a painted ocean.
Water, water, every where,And all the boards did shrink;Water, water, every where,Nor any drop to drink.
That had been a poem about a crazy old man with a crazy sea story. Funny how it should come into his mind now. Abel had never been a great reader until he had joined that class. Mr Bone had known how to win his students’ attention with tales of adventure and mystery at sea: from Herman Melville to Richard Dana, from Jack London to Stephen Crane, from Robert Louis Stevenson to Rudyard Kipling. By passing off classics of literature as exciting yarns, Mr Bone had managed to get more than one generation of Amity youngsters reading something other than comic books. Abel still felt there was something shameful about admitting to being a book reader – an attitude that might have been beaten into him by his father, who scorned learning with a dullard’s hatred. Nevertheless, Abel still kept the faith, and carried in his tote bag a well-thumbed, battered edition of Moby Dick.
He was jostled from his thoughts by the urgent movement of people about him. A newsboy on the sidewalk was doing a brisk trade in the latest edition of the morning paper. Abel asked him for directions to the bus station and the boy broke off his cries just long enough to give them. As Abel walked up the hill, the boy’s cries of ‘War! War! War with Japan!’ pursued him.
At the bus station he bought a one way ticket to New York City. He sat on a bench, trying to igmore the hunger that gnawed at his belly. When he could no longer resist the smell of frying onions from the concession stand, he bought a hot dog slathered in relish and ate it in three bites.
When the bus –a huge green and white vehicle with ribbed sides – arrived, Abel took a seat at the back, scrunched his jacket into a pillow, put down his head and closed his eyes. As the bus rolled along Route 95 through New Bedford and Providence and into Connecticut, Abel slept, waking only when the bus driver roused him.
‘This is it, son. The end of the line. New York City.’
Rubbing his eyes, Abel stumbled off the bus onto 42nd Street. The sun had gone down, but all about him were towering buildings of light. He had only seen this city in the movies – the one he remembered most from his childhood was that picture about the giant ape that climbed the tallest building and then was shot down by planes.
It was bitterly cold and thick flakes of snow were beginning to fall. Abel walked the streets for an hour before taking refuge in an all night diner, where he ordered a clam chowder with saltine crackers. As a kid he had always loved the salty crisp tang of the crackers on his tongue. Whenever the waitress came by his table he held up his coffee cup for a refill to stop her from asking him to leave, and by three a.m. she had given up caring.
The diner was populated with denizens of the city at night. A man in a dark blue suit and a hat sat at the counter with a redhead in a red dress. The man just stared blankly ahead of him while the woman polished her nails. They sat there for an hour without exchanging a word. Three women with heavily made-up faces came in and sat in a booth, giggling. A down-and-out went round the tables pan-handling until the busboy came from behind the bar and threw him out on the sidewalk, cursing him all the while for messing up his white uniform.
Finally, dawn broke and Abel left. He emptied his bursting bladder up against a fire escape in an alleyway. What he needed to do now was find the nearest recruiting office, and sign up.