He’s young. Mid-twenties I’d guess. He is bagging my groceries but he isn’t paying attention. He is just looking at me.
So, I give him the nicest smile I can, then I make a startlingly obvious remark about the weather.
He answers by saying, “You like cheese?”
It feels like a trick question. So I plead the Fifth Amendment.
“It’s REALLY GOOD cheese,” he insists.
The cashier giggles, and I half-expect this kid to ask me to pull his finger.
But instead he whispers, “It just came in. You wanna go see it?”
“Go see what?”
How silly of me.
Thus, even though the cashier probably thinks I’ve fallen off my toy horsey, I follow him to the dairy section.
He walks with a limp, but he moves fast. I notice a large moon-shaped scar on the side of his head where hair doesn’t grow.
“Hey Dan!” says my dairy-liaison to a man in a red apron. “This guy wants to see the CHEESE!”
The man leads me to a basket in the cooler case.
“This is it,” says the red apron. “We only get it once a year. Comes from Georgia, aged thirty months.”
It doesn’t look so special. I ask him if it’s truly as good as my broker advertises.
“It’s pretty good,” he says. “If you’re into cheese.”
“AND IT COMES IN A WHEEL!” the young man points out.
The older man explains how the cheese arrives in a big circular package, and how it’s up to the deli to slice the stuff.
Traditionally, such an honor is given to the most valued deli employee. This year, the privilege fell to a certain young bag-boy with a vibrant personality.
The kid’s face lights up like Biloxi. “I CUT THE CHEESE!” He laughs as hard as he can.
As it happens, besides being a champion cheese-cutter, I learn this kid was once a promising outfielder, and an even better golfer.
Before the accident.
It happened when he was on his way home from school for holiday break, years ago. He twisted his car around a tree. He should’ve died, but he didn’t.
The man tells me, “He’s a good boy.”
And that’s as much as he has to say about it.
But the kid has much more to get out. He tells me that ever since the wreck, loud noises bother him, that too much light make him uncomfortable, that he’s glad to have this job.
“These employees are my best friends,” the kid says.
So, without hesitation, I buy a wedge of cheese.
I pay the cashier twenty-two big ones for this stuff—which is more than a case of Budweiser.
She smiles and says. “So, I guess you met our Jason. Isn’t he a mess?”
And from the looks of it, he’s one hell of a fighter, too.
Michael Bishop - February 18, 2017 2:08 pm
Hell of a fighter indeed, and a story about cheese that isn’t in the least cheesy. Thanks.
Constance Ridgway - February 18, 2017 2:09 pm
Sounds like great cheese and an even greater kid. Hope you don’t grate the cheese.
cindy bryan - February 18, 2017 3:00 pm
You inspire me. Thanks.
Sandra Marrar - February 18, 2017 3:35 pm
Jacque Kochak - February 18, 2017 5:27 pm
I’m becoming addicted to your writing. You’re a treasure!
Carol DeLater - February 18, 2017 10:53 pm
Someone in my childhood used to say “a mess” but I can’t for the life of me remember who it was. It was never said insultingly. It was more like a bad thing that was a good thing. People that have time for those less fortunate in any way are doubley blessed.
Cherryl Shiver - February 19, 2017 1:28 pm
A mess is a good thing,….it’s about as good as it gets. Would you rather have one pea, or a mess of peas ?
He sounds like a friend worth keeping, and the older I get, the harder they are to come by.
You were Blessed to get to meet that young man, sounds like the Lord had a reason for leaving him down here, even if it’s to bring smiles to people, we all need them.
Gaye - February 20, 2017 5:26 pm
You see well below the surface.
You listen to the silent whispers.
Your writing touches me deeply.
cathy barron - February 21, 2017 5:16 pm
This made me tear up…so touching.
Byron Audler - April 1, 2017 11:33 am
You write 500 words and with one sentence, tie a bow on it and touch our hearts. You’re good…damn good.
Sandra Hamm - April 1, 2017 11:37 am
Loved this one!
Michele Mink - April 1, 2017 12:57 pm
I love the word pictures you create with your writing. You are the modern-day Jesse Stuart! Thank you for sharing your gifts with us.
George Buchanan - April 1, 2017 7:06 pm
I look forward to your stories everyday.
Every one has touched me much as my contemporary Lewis Grizzard’s columns did.
Ben Smitj - June 21, 2017 12:55 am
Awesome. Sounds like he’s got a God given talent.
Charaleen Wright - April 4, 2019 3:57 am