Cheese and Worship

by Amalasuntha

We don’t make cheese here; this is a place of worship.” The attendant, immaculate in perfectly pressed crimson crossover tunic and professional make up looked neutral.

For a long moment I knew I’d made the worst mistake of my life. A vision ran in full Technicolor before my eyes; the agent discretely pressing the button to train the cameras, scan ident, run my ID through the national database. From there her quick glance upwards would ensure I was marked as warranting especial attention from now on, an entry on the ‘curious, possible track’ list, and by the time I’d walked casually back to the stained-glass panelled front doors with a, ‘oh, my little joke, I’m dreadfully sorry haha, my, is that the time? I’ll just be going’ My face would be plastered all over the ‘Trace Possible Cheese Addict’ list. I would be picked up quietly outside, by nondescript polite men, who would initially take me to a quiet cell and place, the rumours said, a thick slice of Brie on the table before the questions began. Brie! It was almost worth getting caught for that. Oh God, how could I have been so stupid? If I walked through that door for the questions to begin it was all lost. No one came back. Not from that. People like me were getting progressively more desperate; and sensing the end those known in slang as the Jersey’s were making their methods more devious as our dwindling numbers necessitated our increasing cautiousness. Once I sat down in front of that piece of Brie, those men would smile kindly and quote the Dairy Prohibition Act of 2024: did I happen to know that the consummation of bovine milk, butter and cheese of any variety was an illegal act? And furthermore that it was considered a base act of treason? And I would have to look at them, those harmless polite men, and that piece of Brie, just lying there, creamy perfectly-aged British Brie in a beautiful white dull-waxed coat, just waiting for me, and I would have to admit ‘yes’. And they would follow that with asking nicely of what varieties I was partial, and I would smell the delicate waft of Brie and have to take a deep breath and eventually say in a small voice ‘Red Leicester’ and then stop myself. And? they would say, knowing full well that an addict does not simply stick to one variety, but tries to taste as many as possible to vary his experience and knowledge. And then it would all come out ‘Cheddar’ pause ‘not the mild kind, but strong and white, or with peppers and chillies, or smoked in applewood’ slightly shorter pause ‘Cheshire,’ shortest pause, and then in a rush ‘Double Gloucester with Spring Onions, Ledammer, Edam, Oh, Edam, Gruyere, the beautiful perfection of Brie, the subtlety of toffee and apple Cheddar, soft cheese and walnuts, I’d love to have that again, Stilton, Wensleydale, Cornish Yarg, Derby Sage, Blacksticks Blue, though I’m not sure if that’s impostor coming from goats or not. Still, can’t be picky, eh?’ And then, and then I would fall silent, having revelled in my glorious illegal addiction and by doing so, sealing my fate with the nice ordinary men. Damn the Dairy Prohibition Act. Thrice damn it. And then I would disappear. Perfectly nicely, in a quiet way, with no fuss. One less cheese connoisseur. All that risk for the chance of a new broker, the sniff of a steady supply of cheese made and aged to perfection, no pun intended. Desperation had made me careless in my desires, and now I had shamelessly revealed them to a perfect stranger. A stranger who was under obligation, nay, compulsion to report my words and bearing to the authorities with a simple touch of a button and a nod of the head.

The attendant looked at my horrified frozen expression with the carefully blank visage of a votive statue, and slid an entry ticket across the glass counter. “But if we did, I’d look especially hard at the third corridor on the right, pink door.” She paused as if thinking “and perhaps remark to the attendant there that you’re especially interested in seeing the penance clocks.”

I thanked her, scooped up my change and the fresh printed ticket, noticing the little delicate copperplate script ‘c’ hand-written in black in the top corner as I scrunched it into my pocket, and walked in.

(Read more of Amalasuntha’s work HERE)

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