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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Winter (the season) (08/13/09)

TITLE: A Cup of Manhattan Chowder
By Dee Yoder


All the cabs are filled and no one stops for me. My boots have been splashed about fifty times as I stand here on the corner of Times Square, holding out my arm like a statue, to hail a taxi. I start walking again, hoping I’ll see an empty cab somewhere along my way to Cid’s Deli. I won’t have time to go anywhere further for lunch before my break is over and I’ll be due back in my office.

The air is crisp cold and my watered boots slush through piles of gray snow. I wish I’d come to New York in spring, or even through the stale hot-aired summer. I shrug further into my wool coat and pull my arms closer to my chilled body. The tall buildings are creating a powerful wind tunnel, and I actually wonder if my cheeks will be permanently chapped red when I’m finally back in the office after lunch.

I watch, miserably and am increasingly grumpier as taxi after taxi speeds past me. I mumble about all those lucky New Yorkers riding in comfort and grouse over their carbon footprint. I pat myself on the back that I, at least, am not contributing today to the global warming problem and then laugh at the absurdity, considering the weather.

My small-town roots have been nipped loose from Midwestern soil, replaced by the grungy and steel-like dust that covers Manhattan. I no longer crane my neck to search for the source of the sun, high above the shiny towers that house a myriad of workers and natives. I cull my glances now without seeking friendly smiles, but instead, keep my head down and my stride purposeful. The impersonality of the city has infiltrated my soul.

I have no more thoughts about corn or soy bean fields, farms or rolling hills, and cattle or chickens. Living close to the earth is a memory long gone. I don’t even mind that, other than the people I come into contact with at work each day, I don’t talk to anyone I don’t know anymore. The word “neighbor” isn’t even in my vocabulary, or for that matter, neither is “Hi.”

Somehow, I’ve adjusted much more quickly to this sterile world than I thought possible. Sometimes, I worry about what I’ve lost, but then, I shrug it off. Someday, I’ll leave this assignment and head someplace else…maybe a smaller city next time. No doubt, I’ll remake myself there, and perhaps, some of that simpler childhood personality, wrought in dirt and hay mows, will reappear.

I glance ahead as a surge of men and women merge with me onto the sidewalk. They all pull inward and grab their coats and scarves more closely to themselves against the winter and the faceless crowd. We walk en masse but with no friendly connection at all. We move forward toward our goals, the icy wind only a little lessened by our fish-schooled bodies. We shift around impediments as one.

I spy Cid’s off to the right about twenty yards ahead and begin my subtle arc toward the edge of the crowd. I pride myself on my ability to merge right with little or no contact with any other hurrying New Yorker. The city breathes its chill approval on my talent to keep wholly to myself.

The door to Cid’s is scarred and marked with age, and its hinges squeal a welcome as I push in. Warmth blasts me like a furnace, and, instantly, my nose, toes and fingers begin to tingle to life.

Cid’s elderly mother hurries from behind the counter and helps me unwind the scarf that protected my neck outside. We laugh as we do a tango with its long fibers.

“There now!” she pronounces happily. “You are better, no?”

“Yes. Thank you. It sure is cold out there.”

She nods and pats her finger knowingly against the side of her nose. She winks. “In more ways than one, Dearie. Have a seat. I’ll bring you out the best cup of Manhattan chowder you’ve ever tasted. You’ll be warm as spring in no time, eh?” Her smile shines over me like a heat lamp, and her fragile hand pats my arm as she hurries back to the kitchen.

Later, as I cuddle the hot cup of chowder, I watch the people outside flow past the window, and, once in a while, when someone looks in at me, I lift my hand to them and smile.

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Member Comments
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Charla Diehl 08/20/09
So much in this story I related to from my young years commuting from farm country into Chicago to attend business school. It's called the Windy City for a reason. Well written story that is right on topic.
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/20/09
I love this story with its wonderful descriptions. It could serve as a model for writing atmosphere and the effects of setting. Your ending was delightful--a cup of Manhattan Chowder leading to a changed attitude.
Mariane Holbrook 08/20/09
I am one of those who would go to war to preserve the recipes for New England clam chowder and destroy those of Manhatten or New York clam chowder but this piece was so written I may have to re-think my position. **grin**

Very well done! It captures the taste, the smell, the texture, the look of winter and much more. Kudos!!!
Mona Purvis08/20/09
A very tightly written, on subject piece that I truly enjoyed. Yes, you nailed the atmosphere, scenes. I could feel the cold, wet unpleasant weather and also enjoy the hearty, warm chowder. Nice touch with lady in deli.

Loren T. Lowery08/21/09
Wonderfully atmospheric - felt like I was in Cabot Cove waiting for Jessica Fletcher to stop in and say hello and talk about her latest mystery. What a terrific way to spend the day.
Lynda Schultz 08/23/09
Boy, that chowder sounds powerful enough to stop a few wars! Good story.
Jan Ackerson 08/24/09
A wonderful exercise in atmosphere--even though I'm a New England clam chowdah gal, I really savored that last paragraph with your narrator.
Deborah Engle 08/24/09
Wonderfully dicriptive story telling. Excellant job.
Colin Swann08/24/09
This is good - very, very good - should do very well in the tallies, I hope now I've said it. All the best with it! Colin
Kimberly Russell08/24/09
Great descriptions (reminded me of Michigan...*blah*). You did a really nice job.
Beth LaBuff 08/24/09
Oh wow… Love your paragraph with "grouse over their carbon footprint" and "am not contributing today to the global warming problem". So very, very clever! I like how you describe the "impersonality of the city". You have such a masterful style of writing! I loved the ending, where you couldn't take the "country" out of your MC! (it gives me hope) :)
Deana Thomas08/25/09
Ahh. I can feel myself thaw with the warm atmosphere at Cid's and the lovely Clam Chowder. I loved your humor, too.
Bryan Ridenour08/25/09
You transported me to the winter of New York City. I felt the coldness of both the weather and passersby. Very well written!
Yvonne Blake 08/25/09
Great setting and mood...

I want to know the rest of the story!!
Eliza Evans 08/27/09
Wonderful! And yummy! :)

*Huge* Congratulations, Dee! :)
Chely Roach08/27/09
Brrr, I felt your words down to my core. Very, very well done. Congrats on your EC!
Lisa Johnson08/27/09
I've never been to New York, but I could see it through the eyes of your MC. Loved the story... and especially loved the ending. Congrats on yuor EC placing.
Lisa Johnson08/27/09
Congrats on your level placing as well.
Beth LaBuff 08/27/09
Congrats on your EC Dee! This is well-deserved! Love it!
william price08/28/09
Congratulations on your EC. I enjoyed the story. Super atmosphere and pace that kept us truging along with your MC to enjoy that lunch.
God bless.
Laury Hubrich 08/28/09
Oh wow! I see how you got 2nd place. What an awesome entry! I especially love the last part. I was wondering why the mc would go out on such a cold day but by the end I understood. That human contact was so worth it. Great job!