Connie’s Fried Chicken and the Kindness of Strangers

Apparently I am a total cliche, so I’m taking the first of the year as an opportunity to take some writing classes and try out some new techniques. Below is one of my first stabs at one of them. 

………………..

20161230_202631_001The smell of deep fryers and a hint of sweetness hang in the air with the din of conversation as we line up behind 10 or so other hungry people at the dingy beige counter. Overhead is a menu board offering “BREAKFAST (with gravy)”.

It is New Years Eve and we’re in Connie’s Fried Chicken in Tupelo, Mississippi and we’re here in search of biscuits and gravy. We’re in town on an overnight pit stop on a journey to Clarksdale for a holiday weekend of blues and barbeque. I settled on Connie’s after stumbling upon beautiful pictures of fried chicken on one of several travel sites that I read obsessively and was immediately in love.

“Oh my god, look at those doughnuts. Can we move to Tupelo?”

Tasty fried things are the way to Rosie’s heart.

“No, we’re moving to the delta.” We’ve joked about moving to the delta since our visit last spring when we completely fell in love with it, which is why we’re headed back now.

“You know ladies, I heard you talking about those doughnuts but they only have one left and I’m going to get it.” The older man in his faded gray flannel and house shoes ahead of us offers with the smile. It’s the kind of quip that would make more sense jokingly directed at a child, and feels like something my grandfather would have said when I was little.

I glance at the dozens of blueberry doughnuts lines up behind him and reply, “I don’t know. We might have to wrestle you for it then.”

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“In that case maybe I’ll have to let you take it.” He says with a laugh.

We continue talking about odds and ends, like being from Atlanta and on our way to Clarksdale for the holiday.

As he walks up to the cashier he turns back, “You know I just held up a convenience store so I think I should buy you ladies breakfast, seeing as the convenience store is paying.”

We are completely taken aback. I’ve never had this happen before. I’ve never even been in a pay it forward chain at Starbucks.

“Oh, thank you, but we couldn’t….”We try repeatedly to politely pass but before we know it we it we’re ordering chicken biscuits with gravy, blueberry doughnuts, and coffee. He does the same and pays, though not with a wad of convenience store cash.

He hands ups the receipt with the order number. “Here you go. Just bring my biscuit when it’s ready. And ya’ll don’t dance too hard in those juke joints.”

W20161231_094814e had hoped to sit with him and keep talking. Instead he slides into a booth across the small restaurant with what are clearly his son and granddaughter.

After the food is ready and we deliver breakfast to our benefactor, thanking him again, we slide into the booth behind him, where we are watched closely by the blonde haired five year-old beside him.

 

I inhale the chicken biscuit and contemplate ordering another. It’s buttery but light and filled with perfectly fried chicken and gravy, making it impossible to each as a sandwich, so I shovel it in with a fork instead. The doughnut, which looks heavy and cakey, is actually fried and light in my hand. I take a bite. It’s like perfect blueberry flavored cloud for a Pegasus to perch on and seems to melt it’s so delicate.

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If Tupelo is has these doughnuts and adorable little old men who want to buy me breakfast, I could get used to this.

“OK, we can move to Tupelo.”

 

……………………………….

We got more doughnuts for the road, and thanked him yet again. After eating we stopped down the street at Sanctuary Village Shoppe, a completely volunteer based thrift store benefiting Sanctuary House, a hospice center that provides free hospice care to patients that aren’t able to pay for it themselves, including meals and transportation for family to visit. We were happy to give them what we would have spent on breakfast (and then some).
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