Do Clams Bite?
Chapter 14: Stalking the Wily Bivalve
YOU CAN READ THE FIRST HALF
MY FIRST CLAMMING TRIP with Grandfather, I had watched him go through this
routine, filling the front of his bathing suit, then waddling to the Rambunctious,
his suit distended and lumpy, dumping his catch on the deck and going right
back to the hunt, and I developed a deep admiration for Grandfather’s sangfroid
that has never left me. I had seen at once that popping clams into
one’s bathing suit was the manly way of carrying the clams one had caught,
but, I thought, “If the little devils bite, then doing the manly thing
may be the cause of my being unmanned.” I didn’t think exactly that,
but I thought along those lines. I wanted to ask Grandfather then,
“Do clams bite?” but I knew that if I asked, he would look at me with his
smart gray eyes and know at once why I was asking, so I did not ask, and
instead I began a halfhearted imitation of his shuffle, worrying all the
while about what to do with the clams I found, if I found any. Should
I take the awful risk? “I’ll be unmanned if I do, unmanly if I don’t,”
Almost at once, my toes struck something hard, something that could only be one of the tasty bivalves.
Slowly, resignedly, I took a breath, dipped beneath the water, and dug it out of the sand. I stood up slowly.
“You got one,” called Grandfather. He beamed at me. “I think maybe you’ve really got the knack. Now your father—”
“Yah! Woo! Hey!” I shouted.
Grandfather’s mouth fell open. He watched me thrashing in the water, rolling around, holding the clam with both hands, twisting, turning. Soon enough, a hefty chowder clam flew from my hands and fell into the water, baloomp, some distance away.
“Damn!” I cried, smacking the water with my open hand. “It got away!”
Grandfather looked at me for a little while, and I thought he was going to say something. He opened his mouth, then closed it without a word.
“It’s harder than I thought,” I said. “I’ll get the next one.”
I went through the rest of the afternoon without, apparently, finding another clam. Now Grandfather was a very savvy clammer, and when he stood in the bow of the Rambunctious while we glided across the flats looking for a likely spot, he must have been able to see the clams through the sand, for he invariably picked a spot so loaded with them that I couldn’t take a step without feeling a couple, but I rarely admitted finding any that day, and by the end of the day I was committed to another fiction, harder to maintain than the hard-candy one. I was passing myself off as hopelessly inept at clamming. Whenever I did call out that I had found one—just often enough, I thought, for verisimilitude—the wily bivalve got away.
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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.