Francis picks up his childhood flashback with the day Larry announces his decision to enlist in the Marines to get back at the Japanese for the bombing of Pearl Harbor. When he makes his announcement from the steps of the Wreck Center, he declines the applause of his pupils, claiming he is just answering the call to duty.
By masking a desire for bloody revenge behind the nobility of answering a call to patriotic duty, Larry again shows a more malicious side to his supposedly heroic character. However, the children do not understand the implied moral dilemma in his decision, and thus still applaud him as a hero.
Starting with the closing of the Wreck Center in Larry’s absence, Francis begins to recount some of the major changes to Frenchtown during the war: the kids now hung out in the St. Jude schoolyard to in front of the local drugstore. As more young men enlist in the armed forces, children and women begin to fill in the employment gaps at many businesses. Francis, for instance, is hired by Mr. Laurier to work in the drugstore.
As the St. Jude schoolyard replaces the Wreck Center, it shows how commonplace religion is in Francis’ life: a supposedly sacred place can seamlessly replace a place of recreation. However, for Francis, all these changes are in a way exciting, showing that he still does not comprehend the true gravity of the war.
Luckily for Francis, Nicole begins to frequent the drugstore, giving him more opportunities to speak to his crush. Eventually, he musters enough courage to ask her out on a date: as he puts it, “the Earth paused in its orbit” before she agreed. The two then began their innocent romance, with weekly dates at the local cinema where they would share a furtive kiss before the end of the movie.
With his hyperbolic statement, Francis again shows that the obstacles in his life are still relatively trivial things. Additionally, his new romance only grows his happiness during the war, further showing his inability to comprehend the full depth of the conflict.
At the cinema, Francis, Nicole, and the rest of Frenchtown also began to see the “war reels:” short vignettes of footage from the war, displayed with the excitement and fervor of a film, bringing the “exotic” locales of the faraway war home to Frenchtown. Often, the reels elicit cheers and excitement from the cinema crowds as they show Allied success on the battlefield.
Here, Francis finally explains what he and other veterans had meant when they said war was “nothing like the movies.” The “war reels” were intentionally designed to distort the appearance of a bloody conflict, presenting it with the excitement of a Hollywood movie.
One day as Francis and Nicole walk home after their date, they pass the now shuttered Wreck Center, remembering how on the second night of their “double header,” Nicole’s party was abruptly cut short as the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor broke. They recalled how the party seemed frivolous in the face of such tragedy.
With their conversation, Francis and Nicole both show signs of recognizing the scope of the war and the possibility of being able to view their own lives through a larger, more adult perspective. Symbolically, it is another hint that the war plays a part in their coming-of-age, which also implies violence and trauma.
As the war continues, Mr. Laurier’s drugstore soon becomes the unofficial meeting place for the men of Frenchtown, congregating around the radio to listen for news of the war, often interspersed with patriotic “war songs.” It is here at the drugstore that a breathless Nicole announces that Larry has been awarded the Silver Star, news that is later carried to the rest of the jubilant town on the “war reels” at the cinema.
The radio, much like the war reels, is another example of the official media distorting the war and presenting it in a more exciting, less threatening manner. As Larry appears on the war reels with his Silver Star, it is the first major instance of the war “coming home” to Frenchtown, even as the violent implications of his award are masked with celebration.