In the beginning, West Point: A Novel shadows new Cadet John Paul (Jake) Jacobs on his first day of Beast Barracks. Educational perhaps to the reader, but a mind-stunning indoctrination for those that have been chosen to be a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The following excerpt is a precursor of the adventure to unfold.
"What the hell is this, Lamont?" the table commandant said, staring at the apple pie in disbelief. "Eyes up here. All you, smacks, look at this!"
The new cadets reluctantly looked to the head of the table as the old cadet held the pie at an angle for them to see. There may have been ten pieces. But then again, there might have been more, or less. One piece was the size of a full third and others were cut so thin they would not make for a single bite. "I'm not believing this, Lamont! This is pitiful! Fix it!"
The pie was shuffled back down the table toward Lamont, handled by the new cadets along the way as though it were a live grenade. Everyone at the table had the same thought. How does one recut an already cut pie? The question was terrifying because it was apparent that the table commandant fully expected the pie to be fixed. The beads of sweat were no longer confined to the back of Lamont's neck. The pressure. His face suddenly glistened as though he had just walked in from a heavy rain.
"Well, fix it, Lamont!" the demon-possessed old cadet shouted.
Following two or three minutes of silence at the table with all three upperclassmen staring at Lamont, as he in turn, helplessly stared at the pie in front of him while praying for a miracle, Cantrell said, "Mister Jacobs!"
"Yes, sir!" Jake replied, wondering what this God-awful dilemma had to do with him.
"Since you claim to be the most handsome among your classmates, and since you are from Texas, I'm sure you'll have no problem helping your classmate. Take the pie from Mister Lamont. You fix it!"
Jake hesitated. Lamont's fear was contagious. After a moment, he took the pie and placed it next to his plate as ordered. A reasonable solution to the problem seemed to escape him because of the distracting thought of wanting to reach out with both hands and strangle Lamont.
"Well, Jacobs," Cantrell said. "We're waiting. Surely a Texan can do something as simple as fix a broken pie."
Without a moment’s hesitation, Jake picked up his spoon, and viciously attacked the pie. He decimated it into a thousand tiny pieces and vented his anger at Cantrell's flippant insults toward the State of Texas. As he slashed at the pie with wild swings, bits and pieces took to the air and splattered both Patrick and Lamont.
In less than ten seconds, Jake dropped the spoon with a loud clatter, picked up the pie in both hands, and announced in a military manner, "Sir! Apple cobbler to the head of the table for inspection, please sir!"
Silence followed for a full minute. All three of the upperclassmen sat stunned, mouths slightly open, eyes staring at Jake in disbelief as he sat with the recently acquired cobbler extended in front of him.
Upperclassmen at adjacent tables had heard the pie problem as it developed and its solution. They now came over to the table with the same unbelieving stare. In that silent minute, the table was surrounded by upperclassmen who came to get a closer look at the bold before June plebe and to see how Cadet Captain Jonathan Scott, the company commander of the 7th New Cadet Company, was going to handle the situation. Or, possibly, to try to prevent the murder of a new cadet in front of so many witnesses.
Without moving the pie, or his eyes, Jake was very much aware of the mob gathering. A single bead of sweat slowly rolled down his back, an excruciating sensation adding misery to an already hopeless situation.
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