Until now, in spite of everything, I had welcomed each new day as though it were a new life, where all past failures and problems were erased, and all future possibilities and joys open and available, to be achieved probably before night fell again. Now, in this winter of snow and crutches with Phineas, I began to know that each morning reasserted the problems of the night before, that sleep suspended all but changed nothing, that you couldn’t make yourself over between dawn and dusk.
So the war swept over like a wave at the seashore, gathering power and size as it bore us on, overwhelming in its rush, seemingly inescapable, and then at the last moment eluded by a word from Phineas; I had simply ducked, that was all, and the wave’s concentrated power had hurtled harmlessly overhead…
The gym was at the other end of the school, a quarter of a mile away….
By the time we had reached it sweat was running like oil from Finny’s face, and when he paused involuntary tremors shook his hands and arms. The leg in its cast was like a sea anchor dragged behind. The illusion of strength I had seen in our room that morning must have been the same illusion he had used at home to deceive his doctor and his family into sending him back to Devon.
“Leave your fantasy life out of this. We’re grooming you for the Olympics, pal, in 1944.”
And not believing him, not forgetting that troops were being shuttled toward battlefields all over the world, I went along, as I always did, with any new invention of Finny’s, There was no harm in taking aim, even if the target was a dream.
And now when we were served chicken livers for dinner I couldn’t help conceiving a mental picture of President Roosevelt and my father and Finny’s father and numbers of other large old men sitting down to porterhouse steak in some elaborate but secluded men’s secret society room.… And when in chapel day after day we were exhorted to new levels of self-deprivation and hard work, with the war as their justification, it was impossible not to see that the faculty were using this excuse to drive us as they had always wanted to…