The Cheese Stands Alone by Jennifer Anthony

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25 April 2008

“And the most fascinating thing of all – did you know that Greece – not France – is the world’s largest consumer of cheese?” Allison asked.

Kyoko leaned over to kiss Mitchie on the snout and stifle a yawn in the Yorkie’s fur. The dog barely stirred. Kyoko envied her – when the dog grew bored of Allison waxing on about the minutiae of cheese, she could simply drift off to sleep. Meanwhile, she had been at the office until midnight the night before and then been unable to sleep from the day’s stress. And now here it was – a Saturday – and she was cooped up in Allison’s apartment talking about coagulated milk.

“Soft cheese is really so passé – so nouveau riche,” Allison was saying.

“I actually kind of prefer it –” Kyoko tried to interject.

But Allison would not be stopped when it came to one of her two favorite subjects. “The ex was very fond of it. He just didn’t know any better. Two days ago, I picked up this amazing Gouda at a new cheese shop not far from here – so much more refined and with much more attractive employees than that cheese store owned by She Who Shall Not Be Named.”

Kyoko seized upon an opportunity for freedom from a conversation that was barreling toward the topic of Allison’s ex-husband and his new paramour. Pulling the snoozing dog onto her lap, she said, “New cheese shop? Maybe we could walk Mitchie over there?”

Allison allowed herself a smile at the sight of the slumbering pile of fur, before leaning back onto the couch and taking a long, thoughtful sip of syrupy sweet iced tea. “Back home, I wouldn’t so much as have to think about my cravings. My gentleman friends would come over with every sort of gift imaginable. They knew how to treat a lady right.”

Kyoko clamped her lips shut and concentrated on petting the dog. If Roxie were here, she would remind Allison that one of those gentlemen was the very same man who had dumped Allison for another woman. But Kyoko preferred the redirect method, which always worked quite well in court.

“Honey, you’re in New York now. You can’t wait for them to come for you. You’ve got to be aggressive.”

Kyoko scooped Mitchie up and placed her four on the floor. Something had to be done before Little Miss Muffet started carrying on about her curds and whey again.

“Let’s get Mitchie some exercise,” she said. “I want to see this cheese shop.”

“But I – I’ve got some of that Gouda here for you to try,” Allison stammered.

Mitchie let out a sudden shrill bark and pawed at the hardwood floors.

“Would you deny Mitchie her walk?” Kyoko asked, affecting Scarlett O’Hara’s Southern drawl.

Tittering, Allison set her tumbler down and stood. She grabbed Mitchie’s leash from the coffee table and waited for the dog to finish spinning in excited circles before clipping it onto her collar. “I could never deny that dog a thing,” she said.

***

The bell on the front door tinkled when Kyoko and Allison breezed into the cheese store. Kyoko stood momentarily immobilized by the olfactory assault of countless smelly cheeses. But when she glanced over at Allison, her friend was eagerly sniffing the air, eyes closed, mouth slightly agape.

Kyoko gave her a playful nudge in the side and motioned toward the street, where Mitchie sat tied up, sulking and shivering. “We can’t leave her out there too long.”

Allison came to the rest of her senses and smiled. “Now I can teach you all I know about cheese.”

The very thought of that prospect had Kyoko more nauseous than the stink of the store. She pulled Allison toward the display counter that offered giant, molded masses of white, orange, beige, and…was that purple? She leaned in to get a closer look.

“May I help you?” came a voice, soft and sultry.

Kyoko peered up to find a saleswoman staring back down at her through chunky, black-framed glasses. Her white apron was smudged with a diagonal stripe of cheese, and her black hair was tied into an impossibly thick braid that begged for release. Kyoko imagined pulling her fingers through the young woman’s mane of freed hair.

“Oh, I don’t know much about cheese. I just know what I like,” Kyoko began.

The saleswoman pulled her glasses off and twirled them in slow circles with one hand. “Well, then. Let’s say we start off with what you like.”

“I prefer soft,” Kyoko said.

Allison coughed lightly to remind the two of them that she was still there. Kyoko pried her eyes away from the saleswoman and glanced around the store. As she did, a second salesperson emerged from the back room, carrying a stack of cardboard boxes with muscled arms exposed by sleeves he had pushed up to the elbows. Beside her, she heard Allison’s sharp intake of breath.

Allison straightened and said, firmly and loudly. “I prefer hard.”

“I can help you over here!” the salesman said.

“Now that’s the way to get what you need,” Kyoko said, beaming.


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Posted by Mirela Gluck at 08:38 AM
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