“I’d have to say no. It wasn’t worth waiting for. And after all that!”
Cherryl looked at the pile of wrappings spread all over the living room floor and felt like kicking the box it all came in. Her feet were itching to kick something. It was her go-to move.
“After all that,” she repeated, shaking her head. Devon wasn’t sure how he was supposed to react. It was nothing to him. What did he care, except that when she was disappointed like this, and itching to kick something, he’d learned it didn’t bode well for the rest of the weekend. He might as well be calling Martin and making plans for poker or something. Maybe a wine tasting would turn it around. He thought about suggesting it, but then remembered how awful she could be after just a bottle or two. He was already reconsidering everything in his life.
“Oh well,” Cherryl suddenly announced. “I probably should have known better. Next time I’ll think twice, and then twice again.”
Cheerful now, she hopped up and started collecting all the papers strewn about, and before Devon had time to re-factor the changes she’d already grabbed a trash bag, stuffed all the waste into it and was even bouncing down the stairs to take it all outside. Now it was his turn to be a little disappointed.
In later years I investigated crimes that were not committed, and not just those against cheese, but all sorts of pairings and varietals as well. One case you may have heard of involved some rather attractive dumplings and a stew that should remain un-named. Incidents like these took me on the road a lot, and I toured a number of exotic locales without formal addresses or even legitimate street signs. Those were the early days of the hashtag resistance, before the calendars went all emoji and such. You couldn’t slide down a tube without a general freakout about one biodegradable cause or another. Non-committal was all the rage back then. You only had to think about a thing and there it was, projected three dimensional from the back burners of your brain. Didn’t make it any less illegal. Food for thought – heh, the Boys in Bleu used to use that joke a lot.
I guess you’d say the Delaware Dairy Guys was my most famous apprehension. Man, I could tell you stories about that lot.
The hardest part was following the rules. Julie kept changing them, and with Karen interrupting every five seconds it was hard to keep everything straight.
“You’ll want to lay off juice for eleven days,” Julie said.
“Including organic?” Karen asked.
“Except organic. Refined sugars, no.”
“I wouldn’t,” Julie said.
“And this is good for?”
“Balance. And nutrition. And shedding those extra pounds.”
“And after eleven days, then all the juice you want?”
“I’d go another five days,” Julie said.
“So that’s sixteen days, no juice, except organic, but not prune.”
“Eleven days,” Julie reiterated, “and then I’d go another five more.”
“So that’s sixteen,” Karen mumbled but I had already lost count.
“Eleven, and that’s just juices,” Julie said, and then she moved on to grains. I already knew this diet was doomed.
“She used to love me,” Marlon insisted. I could tell he was being serious. He usually didn’t drag out this old bean unless we were somewhere in the mountains sitting around a campfire on a cold night after a long day of futile stream fishing. In the morning he’d be right back in the moment, making plans, but this special time was reserved for the righteous self-pity that only a memory of Paloma could invoke. Any old word association could trigger the thing. This time I’d happened to use the code word ‘smoke’, as in ‘the goddamn smoke from this here fire” and he was off and running with the good old days and how Paloma used to do this and used to say that and the way she brushed her hair out of her eyes and the smell of the peppercorn trees and that look in her eyes when she thought about pasta bolognese.
“I know she did,” I told him, hoping to put the subject to rest but knowing better. He’d be on it for a while, probably until the time he turned in for the night, and I’d just sit there, staring at the flames and doing my best not to think about all the times that Paloma and I, well, doing my best not to think about that.
It was cold that day, according to anonymous sources. I was too shit-faced to tell you the truth. I did wake up in a snowbank. My first thought was about corn flakes. I had seen this commercial, you see, and that brought me back to my childhood, when things were a hell of a lot simpler, especially choices because you hardly had any. Breakfast was corn flakes or nothing pretty much. And my head was killing me. There was the snow, and the hangover, and the bruise where Bernie had socked me pretty good. And the city, god the city was ugly. Trash all over the place, and the streets all slushy and ice. I tried to get up a couple of times, slipped back down, landed hard on my ass. Sat there a while.Finally I worked up enough of a spirit to get to my feet. I thought for a minute about where I should go. Then I noticed the bar was still open, so I went right back in.
Jane draped herself all over George like an overly heated blanket. He shifted his shoulders to try and accommodate the weight but his lungs felt like they were being crushed. Before he could take in a deep breath she planted her mouth over his and began forcing her personal air down his throat. George attempted to use his arms to try and at least get her off his chest a little but discovered they were pinned to the couch by her elbows. Jane was making noises now, moans he guessed. She seemed to be enjoying herself. He couldn’t tell how long he had left to live. Could be moments. A minute at best. As she pressed down onto his lap and forced his neck back against the couch his last thoughts were of regret for saying those three little words.
Shotput set his glass on the edge of the table and wiped his chin with the same napkin he’d just sneezed into. He looked around the table, pausing to check the reactions of all his witnesses. Crumbs sure wasn’t going to say anything, the coward. Ragtop looked down at his fingers with newfound fascination. Rip was the only one with any kind of nerve at all. He stared right back at Shotput with no intention of being the first to blink. Shotput snorted, his favorite kind of laughter and then grunted, his favorite kind of speech. Rip shook his head and sort of smiled.
“You’re a real piece of work,” Rip said. “You know that?”
“I’m on a journey of self-discovery,” Shotput replied.