Read an Exerpt of Sweet Science

“Captain! Captain, it's time.”

The hand on his shoulder maintained its relentless pressure in spite of his efforts to ignore the regular, insistent and far from gentle shaking. He finally murmured a sleep-slurred: “Piss off!” and attempted to burrow further under the bedclothes but found there was no significant reduction in the ongoing attempt to rouse him. Finally he emerged from his cocoon and squinted through the gloom towards the muted torchlight which, at least, his tormentor had seen fit to aim at the floor.

“This better be good,” he mumbled, warningly, knowing that he wasn't operational and seeing no other reason to be up before the sun unless, of course, Jerry was bombing the shit out of the base, in which case... He sat up and rubbed his eyes. “Okay I'm awake. Whassup?”

“Training.” He recognised the voice and the hulking shape of Sergeant Sanchez hunkered awkwardly by his cot. “Remember? The fight? Gotta get you in shape.”

Captain Chris Larabee, pilot in the US Eighth Air Force, fell back onto his pillow and groaned, recalling only too well his promise of the night before to champion the squadron in the forthcoming boxing tournament made, if he remembered correctly, in front of the entire mess. Well intentioned and sincere but definitely made under the capricious influence of strong liquor.

“For Chrissake, Josiah, it's the middle of the night!”

“Sunup,” corrected Sanchez, “Now how 'bout you stop bitching and get your ass moving. The fight's only two weeks away and the honour of the squadron is in your hands!”

Larabee groaned again.

“Why'd you let me do it, Josiah?”

The older man laughed quietly, a sound totally without sympathy.

“Hell, you were in no fit state to see reason. Besides, I've seen you in a fight. Reckon my money's on you, Sir.”

With a heavy sigh, he cradled his head and softly cursing, willed the throbbing ache behind his eyes to go away. Whatever had possessed him forget the most basic tenet of the armed forces: never volunteer for anything?


Sanchez was still waiting patiently so, with the deep and regular breathing of his mess-mates, Lieutenants Tanner and Standish, mocking him he quickly grabbed his kit and trudged after his burly top gunner and into the misty dawn.