Do Clams Bite?
Chapter 1: My Pelecypodophobia
YOU CAN READ THE FIRST HALF
TIME TO TIME, my parents would take me to stay for a weekend with my father’s
large and sturdy parents, whom I called Big Grandfather and Big Grandmother,
or simply Grandfather and Grandmother. My parents stayed just long
enough to fulfill an obligation. They would ordinarily leave after
dinner if we went on a Friday, and after an hour or so if we went on a
Saturday morning. I would stay until Sunday evening. Though
I loved my big grandparents dearly, I was never comfortable during these
visits, in part because Grandmother and Grandfather were so much larger
than anyone else in the family, and in part because all their furniture
was upholstered with scratchy scarlet fabric, but mostly because, as soon
as I was old enough, if the weather allowed it, Grandfather would take
me clamming with him on Saturday and Sunday.
Grandfather clammed in the flats, where the water reached somewhere between his knees and his waist and somewhere between my waist and my chin. He would hunt for clams by “treading,” feeling for clams with his toes. When he found one, he would duck beneath the water, bring the clam up, and drop it into the front of his brief wool bathing suit. Soon his bathing suit would fill up with clams, bulging enormously at the front, and he would waddle to his boat, the Rambunctious, where he would empty the clams onto the deck. I knew that I was expected to do as he did, but even thinking of dropping a clam into the front of my bathing suit brought a stab of pain between my legs; my stomach grew cold and empty. I was sure that clams must bite and that they were likely to snap at me in there. Every moment of every visit was marked by fear of being bitten if I did as Grandfather did and fear of disappointing him if I did not.
Each of these visits began with a climb up the stairs to the rooms where Great-grandmother Leroy lived, at the very top of the house. I began to move more slowly as I neared the top of the stairs, not out of any reluctance to see Great-grandmother, but simply to adjust myself to the pace of things in her rooms, for in Great-grandmother’s rooms everything moved slowly, and while downstairs events marched on toward the time when I would have to go out on the bay with Grandfather and suffer through the squirming anxiety that came with the thought of dropping snapping clams into my little woolen bathing suit, here at the top of the house I would be, for a while, outside the rush of forward motion. Great-grandmother herself had lived so long up here, above things, that she had slowed to immobility and beyond, had begun to move backward, slipping farther into the past with each reluctant tick of the old clock that she kept on the table beside her. From my visits, I had acquired a sense of how this had happened, and my initial impatience during early visits to Great-grandmother—to be away, to get downstairs, to be moving, to do something, even to do something frightening—slipped away little by little, with each succeeding visit, yielding to an insinuating somnolence, a comforting drowsiness. The longer I spent with her there, the thicker the atmosphere became, as if the room were filling with one of the undulating gelatin desserts my mother was fond of making, and I could relax, stretch out, float, and drift. But always, sooner or later, my mother would call from downstairs, and I would have to say good-bye and descend into confusion and haste.
Here are a couple of swell ideas from Eric Kraft's vivacious publicist, Candi Lee Manning:
Tip the author.
Add yourself to our e-mailing list.
Little Follies is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogues, settings, and businesses portrayed in it are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
“My Mother Takes a Tumble,” “Do Clams Bite?,” “Life on the Bolotomy,” “The Static of the Spheres,” “The Fox and the Clam,” “The Girl with the White Fur Muff,” “Take the Long Way Home,” and “Call Me Larry” were originally published in paperback by Apple-Wood Books.
Little Follies was first published in hardcover by Crown Publishers, Inc., 201 East 50th Street, New York, New York 10022. Member of the Crown Publishing Group.
For information about publication rights outside the U. S. A., audio rights, serial rights, screen rights, and so on, e-mail the author’s imaginary agent, Alec “Nick” Rafter.
The illustration at the top of the page is an adaptation of an illustration by Stewart Rouse that first appeared on the cover of the August 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics and Inventions. The boy at the controls of the aerocycle doesn’t particularly resemble Peter Leroy—except, perhaps, for the smile.