Clam Chowder

by Denise Jolly
Canby, Oregon, USA

Clam Chowder

They said he wasn’t right for me but I was fifteen and desperate to be loved; we ran off together.

I ended up pregnant and he abandoned me in Weed, California. I waited for the money he said he’d wire but it never came. So there I was, alone and wanting to die. I had two dollars and went to the drug store to buy razor blades. The purchase left me with a quarter and I went to the lunch stand in the back of the store. I was so hungry, and I knew the dying always got a last meal.

I don’t think I really wanted to be dead, but with the over-dramatic emotionalism of my age, I could see no alternative.

The only thing on the menu I could afford was a cup of clam chowder. I didn’t like clam chowder but I ordered it anyway, and while I waited I began to pray for some kind of sign that I should stay alive.

I was interrupted when the waitress sat a big bowl of clam chowder in front of me. But I only have enough money for the cup of chowder, I whispered to her. She put down a big glass of milk beside the bowl of chowder and said, “That’s all right, kid. You look like you need it!” Her hand briefly brushed mine.

I had to look back down quickly because my eyes were filling with tears. I knew my prayer had been answered and that I’d been shown there was still kindness in my world. I knew then that I could go on.

I called my father and he arranged for a bus ticket back home. There were more hard times ahead; I lost the baby but several years later I married a wonderful man.

The kindness of that waitress has stayed with me. She could not have known the power of her kindness, but she taught me that no kindness is ever wasted, no matter how small it might seem at the time. I am a mother and a grandmother now, and I love clam chowder.

Originally published as HeroicStories #58 on Sept 14, 1999
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 1.

2 thoughts on “Clam Chowder”

  1. very touching story…… have survived to live a beautiful life. Maybe other young girls in trouble could benefit from your story……….and save their lives.


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