Jaws Fanfiction: Captain Quint Shark Hunter - 5. Chapter 5 Arise Americans
Chapter Five: Arise Americans
The post office at Church and Vessey had been set up as a recruiting centre and by eight o’clock a line of young men already stretched around the block. Abel joined the back of the line, which slowly moved forward along the sidewalk, up a broad set of steps under an columned archway and finally into the relative warmth of a large marbled vestibule. Picnic tables had been set up with urns of coffee and plates piled with doughnuts, and women volunteers were serving the men who crowded round them, laughing and chatting as if they were at a church social.
Abel gave his name and an address to a bullet-headed sergeant who wrote the details down on a slip of paper and handed it back to him, with instructions to go to the end of the corridor and wait. After ten minutes Abel was admitted into a large room and told to fall in line. There were six ranks of young men standing somewhat self-consciously to attention. Abel made up the end of the final row. Two uniformed men, a man in a white coat and a young woman in a nurse’s uniform entered the room.
‘Okay, fellahs,’ The soldier who spoke had a deep southern accent. ‘You know the drill. Strip off.’
A murmur and some nervous chuckles echoed around the room and then, almost reluctantly, one or two of the young men began to take off their jackets, unbutton their shirts and loosen their belts.
‘That’s right, fellahs.’ The sergeant walked between the lines. ‘Just drop your clothes on the floor. Don’t you worry. It was swept this morning.’
Abel pulled off his vest and stepped out of his shorts to stand naked alongside all the others. Stripped of his clothes, he felt more like a boy than a man. His frame was thin and wiry and only his upper arms showed any sign of pronounced musculature – that had come from his summers working on the fishing boats, reeling in the sailfish, the giant bluefin tuna, and the sharks.
The doctor and nurse were moving down the front line, performing a basic medical check. Occasionally, the doctor would shake his head and the nurse would write out a rejection slip. By the time they came to the end of final row, Abel was feeling the cold of the marble floor in his feet and beginning to shiver.
‘What’s the matter with you, son?’ The doctor asked.
‘Nothing, sir.’ Abel replied.’I’m one hundred percent fit and healthy.’
‘I’ll be the judge of that.’
The doctor ran through a list of questions, which Abel answered mostly truthfully.
There were then a series of tests.
Abel couldn’t help himself from looking at the nurse who stood behind the doctor with a clipboard. She had a pretty round face and a cute bow of a mouth. Whenever she wrote something down, she would involuntarily bite the lower corner of her bottom lip. His eyes travelled down to her chest, which rose and fell under the crisp white uniform. As he looked, Abel became aware of a growing warm sensation, and felt something beginning to stir. He gritted his teeth and tried to think of other things.
‘Well,’ said the doctor,’it appears that everything is in working order. Wouldn’t you say, nurse?’
The nurse glanced downwards and smiled.
‘A1,’ said the doctor. ‘Fit for duty.’
Thankful the examination was at an end, Abel struggled into his shorts and pulled on his pants.
Once dressed the volunteers were marched out of the room into another waiting area, and then were called in to be interviewed one at a time. Abel was the last. On entering the room his attention was caught by a large recruiting poster on the wall. It showed a picture of a handsome strong-jawed sailor in whites manning a large gun, and below it was the legend:
Your Country and Your Liberty
are in grave danger … protect
them now by joining the …
UNITED STATES NAVY
or the U.S. NAVAL RESERVE
A naval officer sat behind a desk, smoking a pipe. Abel handed over the form he had been asked to fill in and the result of his medical. The officer took them without looking up and cast his eyes over the pages. As he read he sucked on the stem of his pipe and exhaled plumes of tobacco into the already fuggy atmosphere. Abel rocked back on his heels impatiently.
‘Stand to attention, mister!’ The words came out with a cloud of smoke in a voice barely above a whisper, but they might as well have been cracks of a whip.
Instinctively, Abel straightened his back and stiffened his neck.
The officer resumed reading. A minute passed and then another. Abel remained rooted to the spot. Having got this far, he didn’t want to blow his chances.
The officer put the papers on the desk in front of him, squaring the page corners with the edge of the ink blotter.
‘So you want to join the United States Navy, Mr Quint?’
‘Fight for your country and your liberty? Just like it says in the poster there?’
‘Well, it certainly looks like you’ve got what it takes.’
Abel felt his shoulders relax with relief.
‘Extensive experience at sea. Perfect medical record.’ The officer took the pipe from his mouth and tapped out the ash from the bowl.
‘Yes, sir.’ Abel could think of nothing else to say.
The officer turned to the first page of the form.
‘You were born on Amity Island – is that correct?’
‘Yes, sir. I’m an islander.’
‘And you moved to New York City when?’
‘Six – six months, ago.’ Abel stumbled on his words.
‘And this here is your current address? 2340 Broadway?’
‘How old are you,Mr Quint?’
‘It says right there on the form, sir.’
‘I know what it says, Mr Quint, but I’m asking you.’
‘I’m eight- eighteen years old, sir.’ Abel felt his last chance slipping away from him, but he wasn’t going to give up without a fight.’I’m young, I know it. I’ve lived on an island all my life. But that island is part of the United States, sir. The United States of America, and I’m an American, and I can’t stand by and do nothing. I am willing to protect what I hold dear, sir. I am willing to rise up and defend my country, and I don’t think it’s the place of any man to try and stop me.’
As soon as he had said the words, Abel felt that he had gone too far. He stiffened his shoulders and held back his head.
The officer took a pouch of tobacco from a drawer and started to tamp down the bowl of his pipe with the thick golden shreds.
‘That’s a very noble sentiment, Mr Quint. You have a way of speecifying, I can’t deny that.’
The officer paused to scratch a flame from a match and light the tobacco. He shook the match with a flick of the wrist and placed its smoking corpse carefully in the centre of the brass ashtray on the desk top. His hand then reached out for a large wooden-handled stamp, which he applied first to a pad of ink and then to Abel’s form. He held out the paper and Abel took it. Even upside down, he could read the word APPROVED in green ink at the bottom of the page.
‘Give this to the sergeant at arms at the front desk. He’ll issue you with your orders.’
‘Yes, sir,’ said Abel, snapping a salute. ‘Thank you, sir.’
As he turned to leave, the officer took the pipe from his mouth.
‘I used to live in this city, Mr Quint, and you know I seem to recall that there’s an all night diner at 2340 Broadway. But it’s been a while. Maybe I’m wrong’
‘Yes, sir. Maybe you are.’