Hey, Raw Meat!

My little brother and I would wait for the card game to end in the deserted ladies lounge. We got unlimited sodas from the bartender and a pocketful of quarters for the jukebox, playing “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” over and over since it was the only song we knew. This was free day care before day cares dotted the landscape.

Jimmy and my dad played a lot of poker together, and when one of them bet on a losing hand and had to flip over his cards, the other would shout: “He’s raw meat!” Eventually they called each other “Raw Meat” and then just “Meat” all the time.

Everything they said to each other ended in an exclamation point.

JimmyAt the county fair: “Hey, Meat! You gotta try this fried dough! It’s the ‘World’s Best Fried Dough’!”

On Jimmy’s boat: “Hey, Meat! Throw me that line! Make yourself useful, for Christ’s sake!”

They wore complementary tee-shirts around town, one shirt proclaiming “I’m with Stupid” and pointing to the other one that read “Stupid.” They wore “Captain” and “First Mate” tee-shirts on Jimmy’s boat.

They wiped their mouths with the back of their hands while eating ribs and would never turn down a chance to prank each other. As I turned from that little kid playing Vicki Lawrence on a jukebox to a surly teenager listening to Led Zeppelin behind a closed bedroom door, I would still choose to tag along with them. They were a guaranteed good time, shouting, laughing, treating any kids around to anything we wanted.

And then, all of a sudden it seemed, Jimmy was losing a battle with cancer. He became thin, haggard, weak. My dad’s exuberance could still raise the corners of Jimmy’s lips, but that was it.

“Hey, Meat!” my dad shouted from Jimmy’s doorway.

“Meat,” Jimmy whispered.

My dad barged into the formal living room where Jimmy was encamped on the sofa. He had driven to Jimmy’s house straight from the shore, where he had gathered a big plastic bucket of clams.

He sloshed dirty water as he walked, and he plopped down the bucket, thick with dark mud, onto Jimmy’s wife’s white shag carpet.

“Meat! Eat these clams! They’ll cure you!”

My dad had seen a news tidbit that clams were being studied as a cancer cure.

Poor Jimmy, no appetite, no energy, let my dad hoist him up to a sitting position and feed him raw clams. Jimmy’s wife, a serious woman with an immaculate house, stood speechless in the doorway.

The footprints of mud from the door to the sofa. The filthy bucket. The raw clams? She said nothing and watched, shaking her head a little that my dad couldn’t accept that his best friend was dying.

Jimmy slurped down the clams, one after the other.

I’ll be damned if Jimmy wasn’t cured. His cancer went into remission, and he regained his strength. He died many years later of a different illness, cancer free.

Jimmy and Joe on boat 1979

Humble thanks to Yeah Write for awarding this the jury prize and for selecting it for its “Best of” grid. Click the button below to read some amazing essays from throughout Yeah Write’s two years. Happy birthday, Yeah Write!


button 150x150  This is part of a series, Scene from a Memoir.

About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days (and beyond), and writing my memoirs. My book: Timid No More.
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43 Responses to Hey, Raw Meat!

  1. Marcy says:

    By the way, I heard about the bucket of clams years later at the luncheon after my dad’s funeral. Jimmy’s widow told me the story, sadly laughing. The story was so “my dad” I might as well have been in the corner of her pristine living room watching it all unfold.

  2. What a great story! Beautiful portrait of a friendship and the photos are priceless.

  3. I loved this story! And wow, raw clams. So amazing. And what a precious friendship they had.

  4. I’m calling this one Surf-N-Turf. Loved it.

  5. I was not expecting that ending! I’m so glad the friends had more years together.

  6. Bee says:

    I’m really glad the clams “worked”! Sure sounds like your dad and Jimmy had a really special relationship.

  7. What a wonderful story!

  8. What a story! Such a lovely picture of friendship and the strength of quiet love.

  9. Vanessa D. says:

    Damn you made me cry – really, kleenex and everything. It’s a beautiful story.

  10. dberonilla says:

    What a great story! I love your memories of Jimmy and your Dad, and the ending of the story is just amazing. So happy for a happy ending!

  11. TriGirl says:

    I was not expecting that turn of events and it was so great! Sounds like they were a fantastic pair!

  12. Perfect story! I feel like I know your dad and Jimmy even if just a bit. True friendship, especially between grown men, always makes me smile. Good for them for being so close for so long.

  13. I love this portrait of friendship, and you wrote it so beautifully.

  14. I love this story. Well told and really wonderful.

  15. nataliedeyoung says:

    What a great picture of friendship! I really enjoyed reading this.

  16. iasoupmama says:

    What a lovely story of friendship! We should all be so lucky to have such a friend…

  17. Chrystal says:

    Love friendships like that! Great, great story!

  18. Everyone should be lucky enough to have a friendship like that. They both sound like real characters! I’m sorry for your loss.

  19. Such a unique, intimate portrait, and with a happy ending! Love these details that make it REAL. Well done!

  20. christina says:

    wait, for real? he was cured?

  21. jadeluxe says:

    This is the best post on the grid and I’m bloody out of votes!!! Hate myself right now! No seriously. I loved this.

  22. eringraves says:

    Oh, I love this story Marcy. Even if the pictures weren’t there I could imagine your dad and Jimmy playing poker, hanging out on the boat and your dad bringing the raw clam offering to help his dear friend.

  23. What a wonderful piece! I loved the story of their special friendship and the welcome surprise of a happy ending. Raw clams. Who knew?

    • Marcy says:

      Thanks. I tried to do a little looking into it, and there were news stories about a compound from clams still being studied.

  24. jenny leigh says:

    I sure didn’t expect that ending. What a great story!

  25. Erica M says:

    You are kidding me with that ending, right? So perfect.

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  27. Just an all-around great story, and a great teller. I’m still flinching from the muddy bucket on the white carpet! Congrats on your jury prize 🙂

  28. What a great story! I can just see them…and the poor wife…and her poor carpet. 🙂

  29. Marcy says:

    Thanks, Shannon.

  30. Sil says:

    Nice Job Marcy! To use poker terms — those two were quite a pair; your father one of a kind.

  31. Ammie says:

    What a great story! You are such a good writer.

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  33. This made me cry. What a beautiful story!

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