Chapter 14 Summary
Steinbeck has already introduced the early morning hours on Cannery Row as a time for magic in Chapter 4, and he returns to the premise in Chapter 14. While the earlier chapter revolved primarily upon the mystical Chinaman with the flopping shoe, in this section, the magic belongs to everyone.
The "silvery light" of dawn is the conduit for the mystery and magic. It is a time of peace and a time of rest before the busy workday begins. The hustle that will come once the sun has fully risen has not happened, neither for man nor for beast. Cats slither about unbothered by human activity, not yet on their daytime guard. Dogs roam around and mark territory. Seagulls perch and wait for the day's bounty that will come forth later, just as sure as the sun has risen. Sea lions yap like dogs in the crisp morning air. Gophers emerge from their holes. Some people are in the street, but not too many, "just enough to make it seem more deserted than it is." One of Dora's girls is making her way back to the Bear Flag after a home visit to a client. The old Chinaman is there too, flopping as he walks, but this story is not his story.
On one of these mornings, two soldiers and two girls are lazily strolling down a street. They had just left La Ida, exhausted but happy. Both girls are blonde; neither is petite. Their dresses are wrinkled and clingy from sweat; each girl wears her guy's hat tilted on her head.
The soldiers are just as tired as their girls, and their appearance matches that of their dates, their shirts open and their ties pulled loose. They wear their ladies' hats. Together, the four of them walk hand in hand, passing the Bear Flag and then Lee Chong's. They walk up the railroad tracks and past the boats, finally coming to a small stretch of reef-boarded beach, where all gratefully sit down in the sand. The girls stretch out and the men put their heads in the girls' laps. All four are exhausted but content and smiling.
A watchman spots the couples and soon comes with his dog to investigate. He snaps at the trespassers of his private property and insists that they leave immediately. The soldiers act like they cannot hear him, and the girls continue stroking their hair. Lazily and without malice, the solider turns to the man and tells him to "take a flying fuggut the moon." He returns to admiring his girl. The watchman leaves but none of them pays attention to his departure.