The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
🎧 760: She shook . . .
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🎧 760: She shook . . .

What a Piece of Work I Am, Chapter 53 concludes, read by the author
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     She shook her head, eyes down, with a sadness in the rhythm of the shaking that made me wish I had kept my mouth shut. Some members of the audience, speaking so softly that they were barely audible, began the long, drawn-out chant that one heard more and more often now: “Arrr-eeee-annn, Arrr-eeee-ann.” She immediately held her hands up to silence them.
     “It all fits in life’s big cauldron,” she said. “My mother—but first you have to understand that my mother had a big soup kettle that she called a cauldron—you remember that, don’t you, Peter?”
     “I do,” I said. “I told you: I remember it all.”
     “She had her cauldron—and then you have to understand that the only dish she taught me to make was clam chowder. She only taught me to make that one dish, but she put everything into it.”
     “Into the chowder?” I asked. I wanted to help her out. I thought she needed a chuckle in here somewhere.
     “No,” she said, and she must have agreed with me about the need for a chuckle, because she chuckled herself. “I don’t mean that she put everything into the chowder; that would make a hell of a mess. I mean that she put everything she knew into teaching me to make chowder. All the folk wisdom that a mother is supposed to pass on to her daughter my mother passed along through the medium of clam chowder. And now I’m astonished to discover how much of it I remember.”
     “Perhaps the stomach is an organ of memory,” I suggested. “Think of all the metaphors and dead metaphors that suggest that: digesting new information, regurgitating facts for an exam, and so on. Think about it.”
     She was wearing something awfully close to a frown.
     “I might be right,” I said. “Who knows?”
     “So,” she said, turning again to the audience, “my mother would have said, in fact she did say, ‘I never liked celery.’ ”
     I pulled a face and shrugged for the audience to indicate that I had no better idea than they did how celery had gotten into this.
     “She’d be slicing celery as she said it,” said Ariane. “She’d say, ‘I never liked celery, but it’s part of the chowder. Got to be in there. I’ve tried making chowder without celery, and it doesn’t come out right. Something’s missing.’ It’s amazing what my mother knew.”
     For her sake, I wished she would cut this embarrassing meeting of the chowder-and-philosophy society short. I cleared my throat and was about to speak, but she turned and gave me a look. I kept my mouth shut.
     “My mother said, ‘You can’t make a chowder with nothing but clams. A cauldron of clams is not a chowder. You’ve got to have all the rest. Even the celery. It’s a mystery.’ And, you know what? She was right. In a full, rich, flavorful life, you’re bound to have some celery.”
     A reverential hush fell over the audience. I mistook it for a pall. To dispel it, I said, “It’s a good source of fiber.”
     In the front row, a man with a notebook jotted something down and punctuated it with a humorless laugh and a shake of his head.

[to be continued]

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The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
The entire Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy, read by the author. "A masterpiece of American humor." Los Angeles Times