When he married he lost Bill Smith, Odgar, the Ghee, all the old gang. Was it because they were virgins? The Ghee certainly was not. No, he lost them because he admitted by marrying that something was more important than the fishing.
He had built it all up. Bill had never fished before they met. Everyplace they had been together. The Black, the Sturgeon, the Pine Barrens, the Upper Minnie, all the little streams. Most about fishing he and Bill had discovered together. They worked on the farm and fished and took long trips in the woods from June to October. Bill always quit his job every spring. So did he. Ezra thought fishing was a joke.
Bill forgave him the fishing he had done before they met. He forgave him all the rivers. He was really proud of them, it was like a girl about other girls, if they were before they did not matter. But after was different.
That was why he lost them, he guessed.
They were all married to fishing. Ezra thought fishing was a joke. So did most everybody. He’d been married to it before he married Helen. Really married to it. It wasn’t any joke.
So he lost them all. Helen thought it was because they didn’t like her.
Nick sat down on a boulder in the shade and hung his sack down into the river. The water swirled around both sides of the boulder, it was cool in the shade. The bank of the river was sandy under the edge of the trees. There were mink tracks in the sand.
He might as well be out of the heat. The rock was dry and cool. He sat letting the water run out of his boots down the side of the rock.
Helen thought it was because they did not like her. She really did. Gosh, he remembered the horror he used to have of people getting married. It was funny. Probably it was because he had always been with older people, nonmarrying people.
Odgar always wanted to marry Kate. Kate wouldn’t ever marry anybody. She and Odgar always quarreled about it but Odgar did not want anybody else and Kate wouldn’t have anybody. She wanted them to be just as good friends and Odgar wanted to be friends and they were always miserable and quarreling trying to be.
It was the Madame planted all that asceticism. The Ghee went with girls in houses in Cleveland but he had it, too. Nick had had it, too. It was all such a fake. You had this fake ideal planted in you and then you lived your life to it.
All the love went into fishing and the summer.
He had loved it more than anything. He had loved digging potatoes with Bill in the fall, the long trips in the car, fishing in the bay, reading in the hammock on hot days, swimming off the dock, playing baseball at Charlevoix and Petoskey, living at the Bay, the Madame’s cooking, the way. she had with servants, eating in the dining room looking out the window across the long fields and the point to the lake, talking with her, drinking with Bill’s old man, the fishing trips away from the farm, just lying around.
He loved the long summer. It used to be that he felt sick when the first of August came and he realized that there were only four more weeks before the trout season closed. Now sometimes he had it that way in dreams. He would dream that the summer was nearly gone and he hadn’t been fishing. It made him feel sick in the dream, as though he had been in jail.
The hills at the foot of Walloon Lake, storms on the lake coming up in the motorboat, holding an umbrella over the engine to keep the waves that came in off the spark plug, pumping out, running the boat in big storms delivering vegetables around the lake, climbing up, sliding down, the wave following behind, coming up from the foot of the lake with the groceries, the mail and the Chicago paper under a tarpaulin, sitting on them to keep them dry, too rough to land, drying out in front of the fire, the wind in the hemlocks and the wet pine needles underfoot when he was barefoot going for the milk. Getting up at daylight to row across the lake and hike over the hills after a rain to fish at Hortons Creek.