They didn't let Harry fly the planes, his eyes were too bad. Instead, Harry was supposed to drive the trucks that fueled the aircraft. As time marched on, Harry would be reminded of the Centurion at the cross, attempting to give Christ his final drink, something to numb the pain. Even though the flying tigers were painted with angry faces that weren't frightened easily by the Japanese enemy, every time he touched one he pictured it going down in flames. It was less a fear than a strange, irrepressible mental image. But India was before all that.
Harry was driving the truck, one of the trucks that would lead them into grand China where they were meant to spread their wings, but for now Harry cursed and griped with the rest of the men as they folded themselves into their tiny quarters. Everything in India seemed tiny, except for the population. No matter what area the American troop would push through, there was not a day that appeared without a crowd surrounding them. Harry had not seen a single patch of open space or been able to breath in a solitary fresh breath of air since his arrival. His spacious, empty Illinois was already fading from memory-- he hated India. The land made him feel claustrophobic at every instant.
Still, the people were nice, for the most part. Their guide, a man whose name Harry found very difficult to pronounce, spoke clearly and cheerfully and seemed very smart. He warned them of the conflict within the land they were moving across, pointed out good noteworthy points of geography, and talked joyfully of a future day in which he would toast to them, all of them, his war buddies. He especially liked Harry, whom he rode beside, and reminded Harry of his very simple order passed down from his superior-- the truck must never make un-designated stops. It must keep going, no matter what. Harry made sure he had little to distract him at night-- no drinking-- in order that he might be clear-minded on all days. He kept his mind only on the schedule. He would not be the one to stop. Even if they ran out of gas, he would push the truck uphill if that was his option.
As they drove through northern India, the elevation began to increase, but the population did not, much to Harry's dismay. He also noticed that his Indian companion had grown less cheery than before. He was no longer making jokes. As Harry wondered why, he began to notice that the expressions on the passing sun-kissed faces grew more objecting, more unwelcome. He wished his eyes were better-- it was hard to be aware of peripheral action when one sported a pair of the clunkiest glasses in the world. Still, even Harry became acutely aware of the direction of anger and confusion pointed towards his caravan. Or perhaps it wasn't even the carravan. Perhaps it was only at oneanother. Harry could not be sure, but when his companion pointed his toe towards the accelerator, Harry was only too glad to comply.
The truck lurched forward, causing a ripple effect in the crowd. The murmuring of disgruntled citizens turned to an outburst of panic. Young men began to shout angrily at the trucks, and older men yelled at the young men. Women ran out to join the throng, and children shoved at one another to get a good look. As Harry sped by shout after shout, he flinched at the grabs from angry or encouraging citizens. He tried to wipe at his dripping forehead with his sleeve. His partner yelled at the crowd and cursed them, no longer attempting to be polite. The world became a sea of hands and feet and loud voices, and it looked as though it would never end. This is the war, Harry thought. It's not in the air for me. It's here. His speed increased. He was a real flying tiger now-- the truck could very well have lifted from the ground and over the city, were it Harry's will. Hands, feet, voices. Harry's companion looked over and gestured again at the accelerator. Harry leaned on it once again, and his copilot recoiled-- apparently this was not what he meant after all. Harry had bad eyes, though, and Harry could not hear him over the feet, noise, hands. But he did remember that the truck must not stop. Voices, feet, hands, feet, voices.
Only two of them actually saw the boy go under the truck. The rest of them felt the momentary change in terrain.