Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When Clams Attack

A few weeks ago, Math Guy and I were chatting online when he pointed me toward a YouTube video of a group of tourists standing in waist deep water, surrounded by sharks. (This was a very apropos topic given my approaching Caribbean Cruise, for which I am scheduled to depart this very Saturday.) Given that the video exhibited (1) people and (2) sharks in a fairly confined aquatic space and notwithstanding the fact that (3) the video had been posted in the first place, it was no great shock to me when, at length, one of those toothy marine predators latched onto the leg of one of the tourists. (Why the tourist was surprised by this, I cannot say.)

Math Guy and I began to elucidate on the rather foolish nature of this endeavor and to postulate alternative places one could stand while minimizing the risk of a shark attack such as the one depicted in the video. I casually mentioned that one such place with an inherently low chance of shark attack was my kitchen. Math Guy found this amusing and the conversation continued. It is quite true, in point of fact, that in the fifty plus years my house has been standing, there has not been one reported (okay, well, substantiated) shark attack.

It then occured to me, however, that during that same time, there have been at least two reports of attacks by clams. As many kitchens (and beaches for that matter) are not the scene of clam attacks, I thought it might perhaps be useful to you the reader to retell the tales of those events here.

The most recent attack was prior to my taking ownership of Upham Manor. My late grandmother, "Nana", was shucking clams in the kitchen preparing supper for her and Papa. Seafood has always been a staple of my family, so this scene has been repeated many times. However, on this occasion, all at once, one particularly ornery specimen latched onto her finger and held there fast, refusing to be removed. Nana fought valiantly against the cantakerous quahog but to no avail. She prodded it with a knife. She ran it under cold water. Then hot water. She even stood with her hand in the freezer for several minutes trying to cause the clam to loosen its grip.

In the end, much to her embarrassment and chagrin, she tip-toed into the parlor and quietly informed my Papa of her predicament. This was in many ways worse than the pain she endured from the clam because Papa had earlier admonished her, "You no toucha the clams until I come in and-a helpa you a-clean them," or words to that effect. He made himself comfortable in his chair and proceeded to watch Perry Mason until such time came to help make supper.

But now, seeing the stubborn mollusk upon his wife's finger, he grew very upset. Through a stream of Italian castigation, he led Nana into the kitchen. Using his pocket knife first to crack open the shell and then cut at the muscle, he managed to dislodge the clam and free his wife from shackles of the cockle.

A few years prior to this event, there was another incident of an attack by -- or, this time, rather -- with clams. This is one of those stories you hear all of your life as you grow up, but you just can't quite decide whether you want to allow yourself to believe it -- largely because it's your father doing the telling. However, since my mother recently corroborated it, it has been entered into the history of Upham Manor as fact. (I shall recount here my father's version of the tale, as it carries with it more action, drama, and impending litigation.)

It happened that on a certain day, some forty-odd years ago, my father arrived at Upham Manor with two precious parcels upon his person: Firstly, a diamond engagement ring he wished to bestow upon my mother; and secondly (and of only slightly less importance) a large bag of steamers he purposed to impart to Nana as a gift.

He entered the kitchen of Upham Manor where he found my mother and her young nephew. He gave the boy the bag of clams and said, "Here, take these into the parlor and give them to your Nana. She will be very excited to have them." The lad, my cousin, promptly ambled off with the bag of steamers as directed. My father, being then left alone with my mother, went to bended knee and romantically requested my mother's hand in marriage. Delighted, she accepted the proposal, and the two held fast in the fond embrace of a kiss.

It was at this point Nana entered the kitchen, bag of clams in hand. Seeing her youngest daughter daring to kiss this man in her own kitchen, she drew the bag of clams back and brought them down heavily upon the head of my father. My father, being rendered incapacitated for a moment, fell to the floor, a large knot welling on his head.

My mother, however, still with the glee of a young lass who has accepted a proposal of marriage, cried out to my grandmother, "Ma! Look! He asked me to marry him!" Nana, then seeing clearly the diamond upon my mother's finger, was over come with joy at this event. She hugged my mother and celebrated with her through tears of joy. My father also in tears, albeit not of joy, remained prostrate upon the floor as my mother and grandmother, in Italian tradition, poured cordials and toasted the occasion.

As I grew up, any time Nana had gotten the better of my Dad, I can remember him telling Nana that the court case was going to come up one of these days and that one day he'd have his revenge. (The wheels of justice move very, very slow.)

And thus is the telling of the history of Upham Manor. If you should ever visit , you might find, sitting on the windowsill in the kitchen a small bottle of liquid labelled "Clam Repellent".

One can never be too careful.



Anonymous said...

So you are saying your father was cold-cockled by your nana? An auspicious beginning. I thought perhaps your nana was insulted that your father only thought your mother was worth one bag of clams.
Funny story.
But watch out for the land sharks. Have a good vacation.

AsterixChaos said...

Best. Tale. Ever.