The Happy Life of Preston Katt
Main Street Books, St. Charles, MO
Late in 1941, Preston Katt enlisted in the US Navy to escape a hard life with no prospects back home. On the morning of December 7th, Katt is starboard lookout as his ship gets underway during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Preston is a boot and doesn’t know how to stand the post. An experienced sailor should have been at the post to instruct the new man, but Seaman Moriarity left to grab a submachine gun to fire at enemy planes.
Sampson poked his head out the door of the pilothouse and hollered at him. “There’s a Jap sub inside the harbor. Understand? Inside the harbor. Find it.” A disgusted expression came over the boatswain’s face, and he charged onto the lookout station, pulled binoculars out of the aluminum bin, and thrust them into Katt’s hand. “Find the ****** sub.”
Katt pulled the eyepiece covers off, glanced around for a place to put them, and finally dropped them in the storage bin.
Through the binocs, the world was blurry. ****. Focus knob. He rolled the knob one way and then the other. The world crystallized sharp and--
A straight silver line on the surface of the blue harbor was pointing right at the Callahan. He’d never seen one before, but there was no question about what it was.
“Torpedo! Dead ahead!” Katt bellowed into the brass tube.
The torpedo had them nailed. It was going to strike the bow. Over the voice tube, he heard, “Hard left rudder. Engines ahead flank.”
The bow started swinging left, away from pointing directly at the torpedo. Then the bow stopped. Now the torpedo was coming right for where Katt stood. It would strike exactly beneath him.
Katt closed his eyes. O my God, I am heartily sorry. I’ve been whoring. I’ve been drinking. I cussed. I didn’t send money to Momma.