“Take a good shot, Dutch.”
“After you, Stein.”
“No. What the hell. Go on and drink.”
Dutch took a good long pull. Nick resented the length of it. After all, that was the only bottle of whiskey there was. Dutch passed the bottle to him. He handed it to Luman. Luman took a shot not quite as long as Dutch’s.
“All right, Stein, old kid.” He handed the bottle to Nick.
Nick took a couple of swallows. He loved whiskey. Nick pulled on his trousers. He wasn’t thinking at all. Horny Bill, Art Meyer and the Ghee were dressing upstairs. They ought to have liquor. Christ, why wasn’t there any more than one bottle.
After the wedding was over they got into John Kotesky’s Ford and drove over the hill road to the lake. Nick paid John Kotesky five dollars and Kotesky helped him carry the bags down to the rowboat. They both shook hands with Kotesky and then his Ford went back up along the road. They could hear it for a long time. Nick could not find the oars where his father had hidden them for him in the plum trees back of the ice house and Helen waited for him down at the boat. Finally he found them and carried them down to the shore.
It was a long row across the lake in the dark. The night was hot and depressing. Neither of them talked much. A few people had spoiled the wedding. Nick rowed hard when they were near shore and shot the boat up on the sandy beach. He pulled it up and Helen stepped out. Nick kissed her. She kissed him back hard the way he had taught her with her mouth a little open so their tongues could play with each other. They held tight to each other and then walked up to the cottage. It was dark and long. Nick unlocked the door and then went back to the boat to get the bags. He lit the lamps and they looked through the cottage together.
It was getting hot, the sun hot on the back of his neck.
Nick had one good trout. He did not care about getting many trout. Now the stream was shallow and wide. There were trees along both banks. The trees of the left bank made short shadows on the current in the forenoon sun. Nick knew there were trout in each shadow. He and Bill Smith had discovered that on the Black River one hot day. In the afternoon, after the sun had crossed toward the hills, the trout would be in the cool shadows on the other side of the stream.
The very biggest ones would lie up close to the bank. You could always pick them up there on the Black. Bill and he had discovered it. When the sun was down they all moved out into the current. Just when the sun made the water blinding in the glare before it went down you were liable to strike a big trout anywhere in the current. It was almost impossible to fish then, the surface of the water was blinding as a mirror in the sun. Of course you could fish upstream, but in a stream like the Black or this you had to wallow against the current and in a deep place the water piled up on you. It was no fun to fish upstream although all the books said it was the only way.
All the books. He and Bill had fun with the books in the old days. They all started with a fake premise. Like fox hunting. Bill Bird’s dentist in Paris said, in fly fishing you pit your intelligence against that of the fish. That’s the way I’d always thought of it, Ezra said. That was good for a laugh. There were so many things good for a laugh. In the States they thought bullfighting was a joke. Ezra thought fishing was a joke. Lots of people think poetry is a joke. Englishmen are a joke.
Remember when they pushed us over the barrera in front of the bull at Pamplona because they thought we were Frenchmen? Bill’s dentist is as bad the other way about fishing. Bill Bird, that is. Once Bill meant Bill Smith. Now it means Bill Bird. Bill Bird was in Paris now.