The Cheese Man

Larry never felt like he belonged anywhere. Anywhere except his cheese van.

He loved that van, almost as much as he loved cheese.

He’d developed quite a reputation in his hometown of Somerset for, not only the range of cheese his van offered, but his quite remarkable sense of smell. In his latest press release, he boasted the ability to recognise over 1,700 cheeses by scent alone and claimed to be able to detect goat’s milk up to 500 yards away.

Camemwhere? Over there! His van’s sign read. A piece of Brie? Come here and see! This is a van owned by the Cheese Man!

Larry was mightily proud of his cheese van, but after several failed marriages, countless fizzled-out friendships and a decline in sales, he wanted to know why he shared his van only with himself.

“You’re boring,” said his mum.

“Excuse me?” asked Larry, confused.

“Oh come on dear, don’t be so naive. All you do it talk about bloody cheese. Whether it’s the history of Cheddar or the latest stuff they’ve discovered in Sardinia, you never stop banging on about it. Yeah, cheese is nice, but people don’t want to be talking about the difference between shorthorn cow’s milk and Nigerian dwarf goat’s milk. It’s dull. And sure your nose is impressive, but you’re verging on arrogance now. Anyone could smell cheese that far off with a honker the size of yours! And don’t even get me started on your stench! You bloody stink of the stuff. The second you came in here I got a whiff of Stilton. When did you last eat Stilton? It’s as if you’ve got some in your pockets. Wait. You’ve got some in your pockets…haven’t you? Jesus Christ, Larry. The trouser pockets? You better take a serious look at yourself son, you’re nearly 40. If you’re not careful, you’ll never find people to be around.”

Larry thought for a moment.

“Shut up, mum.”

And with another relationship destroyed, Larry went walking. And thinking. And walking. And crying. And walking. Until he found himself in France.

With sore feet, a bruised ego and grumbly tummy, Larry wandered in to the nearest Fromagerie.

It was beautiful. It was wall-to-wall cheese, with some of the finest cow’s milk options in the world. There was Beaufort, Munster-Géromé and Emmental de Savoie. There was Gruyère, Morbier and Brie de Meaux. It was the stuff of dreams. The waft of churned milk hugged Larry like a lifelong friend. He felt calm. He felt at home.

Behind the counter was a man standing roughly six feet tall, four feet wide, with a smile like a hungry shark.

“How can I help?” asked the man, in broken English.

Larry took a whiff and licked his lips. “I’ll have some of the Banon.”

“Sorry, sir” said the man. “We have no Banon. We do not do goat’s cheese.”

“Yes you do,” said Larry, taking a bigger whiff. “I can smell it. Out the back. Far end of the storeroom. Behind the boxes of napkins.”

“My word!” said the man. “That’s my secret stash of goat’s cheese! How could you possibly smell if from there?!”

Larry tapped his nose. “It’s kind of my thing,” boasted Larry.

“Well come with me right away, sir.”

The man led Larry through a door, to the far end of the storeroom, behind the boxes of napkins.

“Here it is,” said the man, nodding at a mountain of goat’s cheese.

Larry drooled as he picked up one of the seemingly endless blocks of Banon.

“Tuck in, sir,” said the man.

Larry sank to his knees without a second’s hesitation. He revelled in the pleasure of finally being in the company of a like-minded soul. He plunged his nose into the pile. He caressed his fingers against the soft-ripened delight. He whispered sweet nothings as he undressed and embraced his new mistress with each of his limbs.

The man smiled as he bent down to help lather Larry’s skin with Banon, before clamping his teeth into his latest victim.

Every munch to his cream-kissed flesh filled Larry with an indescribable joy. But it wasn’t until he made it safely inside the warm, acidy stomach of his consumer, that Larry finally lived happily ever after.

© Carl Burkitt 2017

Brief by Laurence Davies: “I’d like a story about a man who owns a cheese van and lives happily ever after.”

This piece was written as a part of a fundraising project for Rethink Mental Illness, where I’m inviting people to set me any writing brief in exchange for donations.

Read all of the details here and if you’d like to get involved, email ca.burkitt@gmail.com or Tweet @CarlBurkitt!

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