What I learned about life in a cheese shop

Shirley Holder Platt

by Shirley Holder Platt

Okay, so I decided I could write. But the first thing I had to do was overcome fear. Pure, unadulterated fear is pretty potent stuff, and all the self-help books in the world won’t help you overcome it.

What does work, though, is doing something that scares you. So that’s what I’m doing here. It’s scary for me, but even scarier for you. I mean, you’ve got to be wondering if it’s going to be worth it to read this short story. Well, take the plunge. I did, and I love it—maybe you will too.

My fear was mainly of having nothing to say. But then I thought about all the stories I’ve told to entertain people—or to get out of working—and I reasoned there was no way to lose.

What are some of these wonderful stories, you ask? Well, here’s one:

One day as I sat around the house being all bored and tired of my life, I decided that what I needed to do was learn about cheese. Now, you may ask, why? Don’t ask, just go with the story.

Next door to my apartment building was this shop called The Cheeseman. What a wonderful place to learn about cheese, I thought. So I got myself off the couch, walked next door, and asked for a job.

“Sure,” the proprietor said, “when can you start?”

“Tomorrow?”

“Okay.”


What’s wrong with this picture, I’m thinking to myself. These corks have their full lives ahead of them, and I’m stuck here in this green room with stinking cheese.


So there I was in this shop, and it was all green. I mean, this man had green carpet on the floor, green walls, even shelves that were painted green. And it was an old kind of green, like it reminded me of the hallways at my elementary school—and it probably hadn’t been painted since before I was in elementary school. Pictures drawn by first- and second-grade children hung all over the walls and even on the ceiling. I had been to this shop before, but until I started working there, I hadn’t noticed all this stuff everywhere.

There were all kinds of things made out of corks. Whole pictures. Like the Rhine River in cork, still life in cork, flag of Germany in cork. And frames. Flags of the world framed in cork. I mean, the man was crazy about cork.

“So when I serve wine,” I asked, “should I save the corks, or…?”

He just looked around, waved his hands over his head. “Oy vey,” he muttered, and left the room.

Seemed like a reasonable question to me.

I looked around some more and found a bucket full of corks. What’s wrong with this picture, I’m thinking to myself. These corks have their full lives ahead of them, and I’m stuck here in this green room with stinking cheese.

That’s when I met my first co-worker, a very shy, strange man. He looked like an average guy, but maybe shell-shocked from the war or something. He’d be tooling around, cleaning off all the green shelves with his green towel, when a customer would walk in, setting off the tinkling bell above the door.

This man sprang into action, darting behind—no, wait…trying to get into?—a can of imported capers like he was dodging bullets. Now I was left to wait on the customers, but the problem was I knew nothing about the store or the products, except that we really liked to save the wine corks.

Plus, waiting on customers while a man is trying to squeeze himself into a tin of sardines can be distracting. But I did my best.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

“Yes, I’d like some cheese,” the customer replied.

Duh. “Obviously, you’ve come to the right place,” I said. “What kind of cheese would you like?”

“Oh, I don’t know. What would you suggest?”

“Well, what do you like?”

“Umm…”

I helped him along. “Sharp, mild, soft, hard?”

“Sounds kinda kinky.”

What? “It’s cheese, sir, it’s supposed to be cheesy.”

“Well, I’m having this party,” he said, “and I want something everyone will like.”

“Try Havarti,” I said. “It’s smooth, creamy, and there’s absolutely nothing to dislike about it.”

“Okay, but can you tell me,” he said, gesturing toward my colleague, “why that guy is hiding in the shelving paper?”

“Oh, never mind him. Let’s get you this cheese.”

And so it would go.

I learned from the proprietor that my coworker’s name was Adam. Kind of a cute name for such a strange guy. I also learned that he lived in his car, and everything he owned was packed into it. So when I got off work, I checked out the Chevy in the parking lot. Sure enough, it was loaded. Newspapers on the windows, blankets covering all the good stuff, and locked up tighter than Fort Knox.

How do I work with a guy like this? I thought. I decided to act as if his sardine routine was purely a natural thing to do whenever the door chime rang. I pretended all was normal. I’d come into the shop, and while I was wrapping my apron around my waist I’d say, “Hey Adam, what’s doing with you?” And he’d sort of smile and hide in the utensil aisle.

One day as I walked into the shop, Adam came up to me and handed me a Granny Smith apple. It was crisp and tart and everything an apple should be. I just stood there, eating this marvelous apple and smiling at Adam between bites.

“Thanks, Adam,” I said. “Don’t know when I’ve enjoyed an apple more.”

No reply.

The next night when I got to work, the proprietor told me that Adam was gone. He had simply driven off and never returned.

But I sure enjoyed that apple.

Thanks Adam, wherever you are. I hope the world is treating you well.

Shirley Holder Platt is the author of five romance novels and one chick lit novel. Her book-in-progress, Mama Needs New Shoes, won the October 2018 Most Buzz Award, and several of her now-published novels appeared first on ChapterBuzz.

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