Jaws Fanfiction: Captain Quint Shark Hunter - 6. Chapter 6 The March of Time
Chapter Six: The March of Time
Abel received another set of documents from the sergeant at arms in exchange for the papers he gave him and was told to report to the naval base in Saratoga Springs at zero eight hundred the following day.
‘Saratoga Springs?’ Abel asked. ‘Where’s that?’
‘Are you cracking wise, kid?’ The sergeant glanced over Abel’s papers, and then muttered to himself, ‘No, I guess not. It’s upstate, north of Albany.’
Another recruit pushed forward, and Abel stepped to one side. He tried to get directions from another soldier, but was rebuffed (‘What am I? A traffic cop?’) and told to move on. He made his way through the crowd of volunteers that was still flowing into the main hall, and stood on the steps. It was snowing hard now and the sidewalks were already white. The traffic was moving at a sluggish pace and horns blared under the impatient fists of cab drivers. Abel walked the streets aimlessly for an hour and then ducked into a deli for lunch. He sat in a window booth and watched the passers-by, a pastrami on rye and a glass of milk on the shiny formica table top in front of him.
Back home in Amity he had sometimes spent idle afternoons in the drugstore on Main Street, nursing a soda and watching the people on the sidewalks. The faces of the islanders – many of them familiar to him – bore the marks of constant exposure to the sun and the wind, and, like the wooden fences that ran along the dunes, they were worn and weathered. Here in New York every face was a stranger’s. There were society women with scarlet mouths in fur-collared coats and pill box hats, businessmen in gray worsted suits and gabardine coats, down-and-outs in ill-fitting jackets and baggy pants tied up with string, uniformed policemen carrying billy clubs, labourers in denim overalls and cloth caps,sailors on shore leave following the sashaying secretaries on their way back from a lunch break.
Abel swallowed the final crust of his sandwich, drank down the last of the milk and wiped his upper lip with his sleeve. He made his way back to Broadway, and as the sun set, the Christmas decorations glowed and glittered all around him. He passed a movie theater and on an impulse bought a ticket. Inside, the foyer was like a sultan’s palace: there were plaster mouldings of stars on the ceiling and thick curtains of red velvet wrapped around imitation marble columns that flanked a wide crimson carpeted staircase. At the top of the stairs a man in a violet uniform with gold piping inspected Abel’s ticket stub and opened the door. Abel stumbled into the dark and groped his way to a seat.
The feature had already started. Across a giant screen flickered images of black and white: some men, their faces hidden in shadow, talking in a room, and then a rainy night outside a nightclub, followed by a winter scene outside a cabin, a large dinner party with dancing girls, a political rally, a scene from an opera, and a crazy bald man walking the long corridors of an old castle. Abel couldn’t follow the story at all. He closed his eyes and fell asleep, woken only when a departing couple brushed past him. The matinee was over and the lights had come up, but Abel was reluctant to leave the warmth of the auditorium. He watched more patrons file in for the next show, and finally the lights came down again.
A strident fanfare of trumpets announced the beginning of the newsreel, and a sombre voice spoke over a title card that read BOMBING OF PEARL HARBOR.
‘Amongst the archipelago of Hawaii lies the island of Oahu, the base of the United States Pacific Fleet.’ A spinning globe wreathed in white vapour faded into a crude map of the islands. Palm trees and sandy beaches, sailors in white uniforms receiving garlands of flowers from grass-skirted natives. ‘Hawaii, a paradise on earth, and home to twenty thousand military personnel and their families.’ Women playing tennis, children on bicycles, a man in shirt sleeves mowing his front yard. ‘A paradise that on the morning of Sunday 7th December became a living hell.’ Huge battleships listing in the water, billows of black smoke, planes, strained desperate faces, the walking wounded, women weeping. ‘A day that will live in infamy. A cowardly unprovoked attack by a nation greedy for power.’ Japanese generals in full regalia with ceremonial swords. Fighter pilots bowing before the flag of the rising sun. Maps of the Pacific with animated arrows showing the lines of attack. ‘America now prepares for war. Across the country men and women step forward to do their duty.’ Lines outside recuiting offices. A soldier saluting the stars and stripes, which, fluttering in the breeze, slowly fills the entire screen as the words ENLIST TODAY! appear.
There were cheers and whistles from the audience. The newsreel was followed by a Merrie Melodies cartoon and then the feature presentation. Abel stayed for half an hour in the hope that he would be able to make some sense of the picture if he saw it from the beginning, but he finally gave up and left.
As Abel trudged through the snow, the images from the newsreel flashed in his mind, and as he walked his fists tightened and his determination hardened. He was ready to fight.