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The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant THERE was a summer in my life when the only creature that seemed lovelier to me than a largemouth bass was Sheila Mant. I was fourteen. The Mants had rented the cottage next to ours on the river; with their parties, their frantic games of softball, their constant comings and goings, they ap~ peared to me denizens of a brilliant existence. "Too noisy by half," my mother quickly decided, but I would have given anything to be invited to one of their parties, and when my parents went to bed I would sneak through the woods to their hedge and stare enchanted at the candlelit swirl of white dresses and bright, paisley skirts. Sheila was the middle daughter-at seventeen, all but out of reach. She would spend her days sunbathing on a float my Uncle Sierbert had moored in their cove, and before July was over I had learned all her moods. If she lay flat on the diving board with her hand trailing idly in the water, she was pensive, not to be disturbed . On her side, her head propped up by her arm, she was observant, considering those around her with a look that seemed queenly and severe. Sitting up, arms tucked around her long, suntanned legs, she was approachable, but barely, and it was only in those glorious moments when she stretched herself prior to entering the water that her various suitors found the courage to come near. These were many. The Dartmouth heavyweight crew would 57 THE BASS, THE RIVER, AND SHEILA MANT 58 scull by her house on their way upriver, and I think all eight of them must have been in love with her at various times during the summer; the coxswain would curse at them through his megaphone , but without effect-there was always a pause in their pace when they passed Sheila's float. I suppose to these jaded twentyyear -olds she seemed the incarnation of innocence and youth, while to me she appeared unutterably suave, the epitome of sophistication . I was on the swim team at school, and to win her attention would do endless laps between my house and the Vermont shore, hoping she would notice the beauty of my flutter kick, the power of my crawl. Finishing, I would boost myself up onto our dock and glance casually over toward her, but she was never watching, and the miraculous day she was, I immediately climbed the diving board and did my best tuck and a half for her, and continued diving until she had left and the sun went down and my longing was like a madness and I couldn't stop. It was late August by the time I got up the nerve to ask her out. The tortured will-I's, won't-I's, the agonized indecision over what to say, the false starts toward her house and embarrassed retreats -the details of these have been seared from my memory, and the only part I remember clearly is emerging from the woods toward dusk while they were playing softball on their lawn, as bashful and frightened as a unicorn. Sheila was stationed halfway between first and second, well outside the infield. She didn't seem surprised to see me-as a matter of fact, she didn't seem to see me at all. "If you're playing second base, you should move closer," I said. She turned-1 took the full brunt of her long red hair and wellspaced freckles. "I'm playing outfield," she said, "I don't like the responsibility of having a base." "Yeah, I can understand that," I said, though I couldn't. "There's a band in Dixford tomorrow night at nine. Want to go?" THE BASS, THE RivER, AND SHEILA MANT One of her brothers sent the ball sailing over the leftfielder's 59 head; she stood and watched it disappear toward the river. "You have a car?" she said, without looking up. I played my master stroke. "We'll go by canoe." I spent all of the following day polishing it. I turned it upside down on our lawn and rubbed every inch with Brillo, hosing off the dirt, wiping it with chamois until it gleamed as bright as aluminum ever gleamed. About five, I slid it into the water, arranging cushions near the bow so Sheila could lean on them if she was in one of her pensive moods, propping...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780822978855
Related ISBN
9780822962533
MARC Record
OCLC
568748238
Pages
160
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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