The Bass, the River, and Sheila Mant

by W. D. Wetherell

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What does the narrator try to find courage to do at the start of the story?

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In “The Bass, The River, and Sheila Mant,” the narrator is a fourteen-year-old boy who develops an intense crush on his neighbor Sheila. He spends a large part of the summer attempting to catch her attention with his swimming skills. Eventually, he gains the courage to ask her out directly:

It was late August by the time I got up the nerve to ask her out. The tortured will-I’s, won’t-I’s, the agonized indecision over what to say, the false starts toward her house and embarrassed retreats—the details of these have been seared from my memory, and the only part I remember clearly is emerging from the woods toward dusk while they were playing softball on their lawn, as bashful and frightened as a unicorn.

The narrator asks Sheila to see a band in Dixford with him the following night, and Sheila agrees. He frets over taking her, planning for the two to travel in a canoe. While he is maneuvering the boat, however, Sheila mentions her extreme dislike of fishing. The narrator, as an avid fisherman, is dismayed when a large bass (perhaps the largest he had ever encountered) starts pulling on his line. He spends the time with Sheila trying to disguise the pull of the fish because he does not want to look bad. In the end, his time with Sheila comes to nothing, and he is left more disappointed by the lost bass.

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