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THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES OF War

He stopped in the doorway of the KP room and looked back at the messhall. He remembered the picture the rest of his life. It had become very quiet and everybody had stopped eating and looked up at each other.
“Must be doin some dynamitin down to Wheeler Field,” somebody said tentatively.
This seemed to satisfy everybody. They went back to their eating. Warden heard a laugh ring out above the hungry gnashings of cutlery on china, as he turned back into the KP room. The tail of the chow line was still moving past the two griddles…
That was when the second blast came. He could hear it a long way off coming toward them under the ground; then it was there before he could move, rattling the cups and the plates in the KP sinks and the rinsing racks, then it was gone and he could hear it going away northeast toward the 21st Infantry’s football field. Both the KPs were looking at him…
Warden grabbed his coffee cup in one hand and his halfpint of milk in the other and ran out through the messhall screendoor onto the porch. The far door, into the dayroom, was already so crowded he could not have pushed through. He ran down the porch and turned into the corridor that ran down to the street and beat them all outside but for one or two. When he stopped and looked back he saw Chief Choate and Stark were right behind him. Chief Choate had his plate of hotcakes-and-eggs in his left hand and his fork in the other. He took a big bite. Warden turned back and swallowed some coffee.
Down the street and over the trees a big column of black smoke was mushrooming up into the sky. The men behind were crowding out the door and into the street. Almost everybody had brought his bottle of milk to keep it from getting stolen, and a few had brought their coffee too. From the middle of the street Warden could not see any more than he had seen from the edge, just the same big column of black smoke mushrooming up into the sky from down around Wheeler Field. He took a drink of his coffee and pulled the cap off his milk bottle.
“Gimme some of that coffee,” Stark said in a dead voice behind him, and held up his own cup. “Mine was empty.”
He turned to hand him the cup and when he turned back a big tall thin red-headed boy who had not been there before was running down the street toward them, his red hair flapping in his self-induced breeze.
“Whats up, Red?” Warden hollered at him. “What’s happening?”
The red-headed boy went on running down the street concentratedly, his eyes glaring whitely wildly at them.
“The Japs is bombing Wheeler Field,” he hollered over his shoulder. “I seen the big red circles on the wings!”
He went on running down the middle of the street, and quite suddenly right behind him came a big roaring, getting bigger and bigger; behind the roaring came an airplane, leaping out suddenly over the trees.
Warden, along with the rest of them, watched it coming with his milk bottle still at his lips and the twin red flashes winking out from the nose. It came over and down and up and away and was gone, and the stones in the asphalt pavement at his feet popped up in a long curving line that led up the curb and puffs of dust came up from the grass and a line of cement popped out of the wall to the roof, then back down the wall to the grass and off out across the street again in a big S-shaped curve.

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