It was forced on me as I sat chilled through the chapel service, that this probably vindicated the rules of Devon after all, wintery Devon. If you broke the rules, then they broke you. That, I think, was the real point of the sermon on this first morning.
Jobs like mine were usually taken by boys with some physical disability, since everyone had to take part in sports and this was all disabled boys could do. As I walked toward the door I supposed that Quackenbush was studying to see if he could detect a limp. But I knew that his flat black eyes would never detect my trouble.
“Listen, you maimed son-of-a-bitch…”
I hit him hard across the face. I didn’t know why for an instant; it was almost as though I were maimed. Then the realization that there was someone who was flashed over me.
Nothing was very funny that day, the work became hard and unvarying; I began to sweat under my layers of clothes. By the middle of the afternoon we had lost our fresh volunteer look, the grime of the railroad and the exhaustion of manual laborers were on us all…
When we did speak it was about aviation training programs and brothers in the service and requirements for enlistment and the futility of Devon and how we would never have war stories to tell our grandchildren and how long the war might last and who ever heard of studying dead languages at a time like this.