Do Clams Bite?
Chapter 18: A Visit from May
YOU CAN READ THE FIRST HALF
DID GO TO BED, upstairs, where I always slept when I visited Grandmother
and Grandfather, in the room my father had had when he was a boy.
It was still a boy’s room. On the walls were maps of faraway countries
and charcoal sketches of boats. A tall bookshelf was filled with
boys’ adventure stories and aviation magazines. A cupboard and a
set of shelves above it were filled with ship models, the models that he
had built from The Boys’ Book of Boatbuilding. A couple of
these were half-finished, as if my father had been at play, working on
his models one day, when there was a knock on the door and someone had
barged in, caught him playing, and said, “Stop that, now. You’re
grown up,” and he had never returned. I always stayed in this room,
but he never came upstairs to visit it. I sometimes thought of finishing
the models, but they were too complicated for me then, and they bored me
The room was in the front of the house, with three windows along the front wall, above the roof over the porch that ran the length of the front of the house, and one on a side wall, facing west. Below the west window, Grandfather had built a small desk, where my father must have done his schoolwork. Beside the desk was a set of drawers. In the top drawer were a student’s supplies, abandoned, old, and useless: yellowed sheets of paper, a grammar book, pencils with hardened erasers, pens and nibs, bottles that held the dried remains of ink and mucilage.
In the second drawer was equipment for adventures: a compass, hand-drawn maps of Babbington, the bay, and the course of the Bolotomy, a code book, several coded messages, a book with its middle pages cut out to make a secret compartment (empty), a whistle, a camera, a telescope, a magnifying glass, and a burnt cork.
The third drawer seemed to be filled with a hodgepodge of souvenirs: rocks, shells, postcards, ribbons, newspaper clippings, booklets, badges, and the like. From investigation, however, I knew that at the bottom of this drawer were guilty pleasures: a corncob pipe, a half-empty package of Lucky Strikes, and a dozen photographs of a nude woman.
She was at the ocean, romping in the surf, standing at the edge, running into the water, running from the water, throwing sand at the photographer, imitating September Morn, sticking her tongue out, striking a bathing-beauty pose, lying in the surf, standing with her hands on her hips, toweling herself dry, and finally, holding the towel at her side, draping it on the sand, just smiling at the camera, a little chilled, with goosebumps on her skin, so very happy that my heart leaped each time I reached the last picture. The pictures were clear and sharp. My father had taken a passionate interest in photography for a while; these pictures had been printed with great skill and care.
I WAS IN BED, examining the pictures with the magnifying glass.
There was a knock at the door. I shoved the pictures under the covers,
just as the door opened and May slipped in. She was holding a finger
to her lips and wearing a conspiratorial look, her eyes squinted half shut,
her brows knit, and her lips pursed. She made a bit of business out
of looking over her shoulder into the hall to see if she’d been followed,
tiptoeing into the room, and closing the door with exaggerated caution.
In a napkin she had some of Grandmother’s coconut balls. She sat
on the bed, spread the napkin, and picked out half of the balls for me.
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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.