It was the day of the boat races, and Stanley Marvel and his friend Rolly were there, sitting on a grassy bank overlooking the river. The river was brown. On it sped the thin bright shells of the rowing teams. Red, blue, green, and yellow boats coasted over the river. In the stern of each boat, a coxswain rocked, urging his team on through a megaphone strapped to his head. They could not hear what he said to inspire them in their furious paces, but Stanley Marvel secretly believed it was dirty stories.

Both he and his friend Rolly were alumni of one of the colleges whose boat crew raced towards the yellow rope stretched between row boats downriver. They were alumni of the Class of ’15. It was Skimmer, an annual college spectacle, that had brought them to sit on the grass.