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That Highly Intelligent Clam

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The New York Times
July 17, 1909

HE burst, an unkempt and ragged figure, into Mac’s Corner Place just as Jim Gilligan had concluded the recital of an anecdote about a pet goat that belonged to his rich aunt in Syracuse. Mike, the waiter, had just taken the order for a fresh round.”Mike, make mine the stuff that killed father,” exclaimed the stranger with a magnificent wave of the hand as he seated himself at our table. We stared in silent amazement. He was a tall, sallow, hard- looking chap of thirty-five or thereabout.

“He’s crazy,” whispered Jim Gilligan to me. “Better humor him,” he added as Mike set the glasses in front of us. The stranger drained his glass, making a noise as the last drop disappeared like an actor in a temperence drama. As he set down his glass he spoke again in his peculiar saxaphone-like voice. “Highly intelligent animals–goats. Knew one once that could drink whiskey like a Christian. But if any of you gents is looking for a nice quiet domestic pet that you can leave at home with the children and that your wife won’t object to having around, let me recommend the common or garden clam.”

He paused impressively, while we glanced at each other. “I told you so,” whispered Gilligan sadly. “It is a fact, I assure you,” continued the stranger. “I speak from experience. The way I got my clam was this. Like to hear about it?”

He went right on talking without waiting for a reply. “I was swimming at Rockaway one day when I felt something pinch my toe. I reached down and found that it ws a clam. At the same moment I realized that I was on the brink of destruction. In front of me was a whirling whirlpool. In another moment I should have been involved in it. The clam had saved my life.”

“Did you say this was at Rockaway?” I asked? “I said at Rockaway,” replied the stranger, fixing me with his glittering eye. “Gentlemen,” he continued, “is there such a thing as gratitude? Yes. The noblest emotion of which the human heart is capable filled my cardiac region at that moment. Gentlemen, the clam, the humblest beast of the field, had saved my life. Let us drink his health while I recover from the emotion that overcomes me at this juncture of my narrative.” Before we could expostulate he had actually beckoned to Mike and, poiting to me, said: “This gentleman insists on our drinking another round. Make mine the same.”

Mike hurried off while we were regaining our breath. The stranger drained his replenished glass at a gulp. While I was casting about for a dignified means of expostulation he was off again. “As I said, the clam had saved my life. If I was not to prove myself the blackest hearted of mankind it was up to me to do something for my benefactor. In a flash it came to me. I would give that ignorant creature a course in the higher education. I took him home with me, gentlemen. I made him one of my domestic circle. He soon because the life of our home. The children found in him a friend. Myself, a constant means of solace in my hours of depression. The clam, gentlemen! Let us drink to the clam–the friend–the companion of man!”

The rascal actually lifted Gilligan’s glass, which that gentleman had not yet touched, and drank it off with the most affable air imaginable.”Gentlemen, if I had the time or you the patience I could tell you for hours about the pretty tricks my pet clam picked up. His intelligence was abnormal.”

As his artistic sense developed he displayed a striking taste for music. On Sunday morning I would put him on the table while I whistled The Star-Spangled Banner. You may believe me or not, as you see fit, but I assure you that as I concluded the immortal anthem of liberty that appreciative beast would open and shut rapidly in token of applause. “It was this musical taste that led him to his death. One day while I was out he clambered up on the windowsill to listen to the strains of Nancy Brown as discoursed by a street organ. The window was open. In some way he missed his footing and–how shall I say it!–my pet clam fell to his death. G-ge- entleme-en–all have a drink on me.”

Our orders given, the stranger sank his head in his hands in a melancholy reverie. When the drinks arrived he drained his feverishly, and without a word hurried from the room. A few minutes later Mike the waiter approached me. “The gentleman who has just left said the last round was on you.”

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Product Description

9″ repeat, straight-across match

Roll: 27″ wide x 5 yards long

Print: 27″ wide x 36″ long (ideal for framing)

Sample: 9″ wide x 11″ long

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Story Resources:

– New York Times.  http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F60F14FA345E12738DDDAE0994DF405B848CF1D3

Additional Information

About Far Rockaway

It’s hard to pinpoint why the history of Far Rockaway is so alluring. Perhaps because it was once such a popular and fashionable destination, yet little remains of its opulent architecture and frolicking Victorian crowds. The grand hotels and homes that once lit up the waterfront have all succumbed to fire, development or the sea. The coast has shifted and entire islands have disappeared. Neighboring Coney Island (and its sister parks of yore: Dreamland, Luna Park and Steeplechase) have also seen constant change since their respective Grand Openings. At their height, they boasted journeys to the moon, wild sideshows, romantic promenades, hanging gardens and trips through time to distant lands. As a rule, little expense was spared in cultivating amusements of the highest quality–from the one million lightbulbs that made Dreamland dreamy, to the fully functioning “Lilliputian Village” with over 300 dwarves. Though a handful of rides still dot the landscape, the sheer imagination and ingenuity of those long gone amusement parks is lost, remembered only distantly through stories and fading photographs. Our Far Rockaway Collection is an homage to those fancy and fantastical summer days, when New Yorkers exchanged their cramped city streets for Queens’ breezy coast.