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Welcome to another excerpt from Beatrice Allen Page’s unpublished manuscript, Landscape With Figures:

” The Comptons invited me to go trolling for mackerel with them, a definitely nostalgic experience considering how many times Father used to take us on similar trips.

The sound of a small motorboat idling at the dock, making ready to cast off on a still morning, is one man-made sound I like. I also like its muted, throaty purr while maneuvering slowly out of the quiet harbor among all the boats resting at their moorings above their shimmering upside-down reflections. I even like the sound as we come out into the clear of a couple of brisk snorts like some sea beast getting ready to expend its power, and then the sudden acceleration and the wild, free, exhilarating sensation as we head full charge out to sea and the waves rise up beside the bow in shining arcs and flow back like molten glass with the sun playing through them in tiny lightning flashes.

The ocean was smooth today in the sense that its surface was unbroken but it rolled and billowed gently as if trouble spirits moved restlessly under the water, heaving its smooth surface up into continually shifting knolls. Every once in awhile a particularly restless spirit pushed out of the water and for a second we’d see a hissing line of foam. Once we passed through a school of minnows and the green translucent water was shot through with thousands of tiny silver darts.

It was a delight to relax to the lilt of the boat – the upward rise, the momentary pause and the easy plunge down again into the trough. It becomes a little hypnotic after awhile, of course. You fit yourself to the motion of the boat, which fits itself to the motion of the sea, and eventually you and the boat and the sea begin to merge as a single whole.

Trolling is the one form of fishing I care for, and then only if there are no fish biting. I can understand why some people find it a thrill to haul in a big fish after a tough fight that has involved skill, patience and determination, but it isn’t my kind of fishing. To see a beautiful blue and yellow dolphin, for instance, slammed into a boat and its lovely colors fade with its life is sad. (Be it to my shame I must confess that I have eaten such a dolphin within hours of mourning its death, and enjoyed it.) I’d prefer to catch plastic fish, provided the plastic was disposable. Even that isn’t necessary. I am quite content to move slowly over the water, trailing a line which doesn’t have to be baited with live bait, to feel an occasional nibble just by way of greeting, so to speak, but without actually hooking anything. We trolled back and forth for some time this morning before Stan hauled in a fair-sized mackerel. I hated the sound of it slapping its life out in the tin-lined basket. Although the cover was closed, I could see it in my mind’s eye – the white belly, the green and gray and black striped back, the gold ring around the eye, the spot of blood on the torn jaw.

I was relieved when that turned out to be the sum total of the catch, but had sense enough not to say so to the Comptons, who are ardent fishers.”

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