Years later, after I had been living in Texas for more than three decades, I returned to Cape Cod for a summer visit. I found the cottage in Hatchville on Coonamessett Pond, and to my amazement and delight, the lady with the rowboat still lived there.
The salt and pepper of her hair was now pure white and her bright blue eyes now sparkled behind bifocals. She took a moment to fix my name and the older face that went with it. When she placed me firmly in her mind she invited me inside the cottage for a cup of coffee.
As she poured, my eyes surveyed the age-darkened pine walls and focused on the shape of a huge smallmouth bass that had been mounted and hung there. She laughed and said, "You know, that fish was caught right off the point where you used to fish. The taxidermist in Falmouth—he used to be in Hyannis—gave the mount to me because the man who caught the fish never returned to claim it. It was lying around his place for many years."
I went over to the dust-covered mount and read the engraved brass plate:
SMALLMOUTH BASS (MICROPTERUS DOLOMIEUI)
6 LBS. 7 OZ.
COONAMESSETT POND, MASSACHUSETTS—1951
The woman continued, "There were a couple of men who used to fish here in a canoe after you went into the Army...."
The canoe. The old-boy accent. The smell of the tobacconist's Union Boat Club blend. My bass.
I found myself in a time warp of resentment. Four decades vanished in a wink. The realization was as shattering as if I had been fleeced of my bass just the day before by the Beacon Hill robber baron.