Excerpt of All That Is by James Salter
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Next, Iwo Jima fell. The Japanese pronounced an ultimate pledge: the death of a hundred million, the entire population, rather than surrender.
In the path of it lay Okinawa.
Day was rising, a pale Pacific dawn that had no real horizon with the tops of the early clouds gathering light. The sea was empty. Slowly the sun appeared, flooding across the water and turning it white. A lieutenant jg named Bowman had come on deck and was standing at the railing, looking out. His cabinmate, Kimmel, silently joined him. It was a day Bowman would never forget. Neither would any of them.
"Anything out there?"
"Not that you can see," Kimmel said.
He looked forward, then aft.
"It's too peaceful," he said.
Bowman was navigation officer and also, he had learned just two days earlier, lookout officer.
"Sir," he had asked, "what does that entail?"
"Here's the manual," the exec said. "Read it."
He began that night, turning down the corner of certain pages as he read.
"What are you doing?" Kimmel asked.
"Don't bother me right now."
"What are you studying?"
"Jesus, we're in the middle of enemy waters and you're sitting there reading a manual? This is no time for that. You're supposed to already know what to do."
Bowman ignored him. They had been together from the beginning, since midshipman's school, where the commandant, a navy captain whose career had collapsed when his destroyer ran aground, had a copy of A Message to Garcia, an inspirational text from the Spanish-American War, placed on every man's bunk. Captain McCreary had no future but he remained loyal to the standards of the past. He drank himself into a stupor every night but was always crisp and well-shaved in the morning. He knew the book of navy regulations by heart and had bought the copies of A Message to Garcia with money from his own pocket. Bowman had read the Message carefully, years later he could still recite parts of it. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cubano one knew where?.?.?. The point was simple: Do your duty fully and absolutely without unnecessary questions or excuses. Kimmel had cackled as he read it.
"Aye, aye, sir. Man the guns!"
He was dark-haired and skinny and walked with a loose gait that made him seem long-legged. His uniform always looked somehow slept in. His neck was too thin for his collar. The crew, among themselves, called him the Camel, but he had a playboy's aplomb and women liked him. In San Diego he had taken up with a lively girl named Vicky whose father owned a car dealership, Palmetto Ford. She had blond hair, pulled back, and a touch of daring. She was drawn to Kimmel immediately, his indolent glamour. In the hotel room that he had gotten with two other officers and where, he explained, they would be away from the noise of the bar, they sat drinking Canadian Club and Coke.
"How did it happen?" he asked.
"How did what happen?"
"My meeting someone like you."
"You certainly didn't deserve it," she said.
"It was fate," he said.
She sipped her drink.
"Fate. So, am I going to marry you?"
"Jesus, are we there already? I'm not old enough to get married."
"You'd probably only deceive me about ten times in the first year," she said.
"I'd never deceive you."
She knew exactly what he was like, but she would change that. She liked his laugh. He'd have to meet her father first, she commented.
Excerpted from All That Is
by James Salter. Copyright © 2013 by James Salter.
Excerpted by permission of Knopf. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.