The Cheese Mountain

 He wants cheese and he works really hard for it.

And it’s not that he only wants cheese, he is sometimes okay with bread too, brown ones, white ones, dough in any form, really. Especially if they are moist, soaked in milk, pleasant to bite at. Sometimes he fancies wine too, but doesn’t have the rich palate for it. It’s the cheese in different forms he wants; orange, yellow, white, beige. Some colors are more valuable to him than the others. So on days when he gathers the less valuable cheese he gathers it in abundance.

The funny thing however is that he saves the cheese instead of savouring it. He wants to build a mountain of it, a colossal display of his accumulation, then he will savour it. That’s his plan. He even has a vision board with a cheese mountain drawn on it.

Once in the distant future he has built that mountain, maybe he will giveaway a small portion of it to the others who don’t have enough. To the unfortunate ones, the ones with no vision or visual acuity. What he wouldn’t do is give it to the thieves and bums. The ones who steal crumbs of stale buns from homeless guys, invade old age homes in packs and colonise properties.

He despises them.

They come from shit and they are full of it.

Who else he despises are the ones who are quite the opposite of the underbellies of the society, those who come from families with a lot of cheese. They were born in cheese, he thinks, they rolled in dough all their life, and now, sitting on their cheese mountain that they inherited, they think it’s a fair game. If only they had to scurry around all day to get a fair share of a single cheese cube, they would know its worth. It takes nine hours of scavenging everyday, plus the run to the mill is no run of the mill job. That’s another two hours, if you are talking summers. Once it rains, the city is a slow-moving deathly trap.

After a day’s hard work all he has is one block of cheese, that he eats a little and saves a little. Stocks it up on top of other cheese bricks for his cheese mountain.

The thing about cheese mountains is that once you build it, it keeps growing, unless you hedonistically fuck it up. Spend it in exchange for something that you don’t need. Something luxurious, something totally unwanted, like peanut butter or blue cheese. Some of these vices aren’t even good in moderation.

It’s also true that once you have enough cheese, you attract enemies. They are everywhere, and are not often visible to the naked eye. They come out of gutter, lure you in exchange for things you don’t need and drag you to the gutter with them.

Then there are booby traps with cheese shoved all around them. He keeps away from such choices. He knows there is no shortcut to the mountain he wants to build. It will take him all his life if he works like this, maybe even two lives, to build half of that mountain. He still keeps working, day and night. Mostly at night, that’s when the work doubles. Plus no one really wants to work during the night, but someone has to do the job. He is okay being that someone.

Exhausted from the hard work, he sits on his couch, turns on the TV and what does he see? Cheese stocks falling, gimmicks from the groups who want to make a lot of cheese like he does, fear of a deadly virus engulfing and spoiling most of that cheese market, media bickering over an actor’s death under suspicious circumstances, reporters not telling him when will the cheese market be back to normal. If there will be a normal.

“Will the virus go away?” He types on his computer and gets a lot of answers to the questions he never asked. Virus might go away, but it will take a good portion of the cheese along with it, an article reads. More than impacting life, the virus has impacted the cheese economy. There is a shortage of cheese mills. Most of them are shutting down. Mills and factories where he had hidden his cubes are shutting down too. They say, once you hide your cheese in these factories, it multiplies. He doesn’t know how, but has seen it himself. It is true. Once he had put three blocks of cubes in the factory and a month or so later, it had turned into a quarter more than three. Ever since then, he has been putting half of his cheese in these factories. But they are being shut down now. His cheese is locked inside and there is no one to tell him if they will ever reopen.

He had put in a lot of labour in moving those blocks; he had starved himself, spoiled his relationships with the family, had never taken a trip, often eaten just one meal a day (that too fungus infected marshy crumbs).

He doesn’t know too many like him who died so often only in a hope to live a little.

It seems like this whole year has been about everything else other than cheese, yet it’s the cheese that has depleted the most. That has killed the most. Virus or no virus, if there is no cheese, most like him can’t survive on bread crumbs for long. Their bones will become weak, almost immobile after a while. There won’t be any exchange for goods without cheese circulating around. You giveaway cheese in exchange for whatever you want and not crumbs of biscuits. Biscuits have become obsolete anyway. If you fall sick, you can’t get immediate attention. No one can save you. So you need to keep a strong immunity, which again, is impossible without consuming enough cheese.

Yet, the cheese is going away, from him, from everyone else. They say it’s going away, but they don’t say where exactly it is being taken to. Maybe it’s going to the ones who already own the cheese mountain. He doesn’t know for sure. Media keeps telling him why the actor’s own friend’s sister’s real brother’s personal servant had said about the actor a decade ago.

God bless the actor’s soul and may his family, friends and fans get closure. But now it seems to him that media is after more cheese than closure. And they are not talking about the national cheese depletion because there is no real cheese in it for them or maybe there is no cheese left to talk about at all. Or perhaps, no one cares about cheese as much as he does.

 So he looks at what he has accumulated for his cheese mountain all his life. What he sees is not even a knoll, not even a pile, just a pimple of the ground. He couldn’t even exchange this for a sac of crumbs. The cheese from the factories may or may not come back to him. And if it did, it won’t result in more cheese than what it was a few years ago.

He is hungry now, but all he has eaten in last seven days are mud-soaked crumbs, stale ones, not even soaked in milk, just brownish tid-bits battered in marshy soil. He scurries around hungrily, surprised at the sudden surge in his agility. Ironically, hunger does that to you. He doesn’t find anymore crumbs. No dough. No grains. Not even an edible speck in his feaces.

He doesn’t want to eat the cheese out of his future mountain. It’s not meant for the rainy days, he thinks. Then he thinks, well … that’s stupid! It won’t harm if he takes a small bite of it. Maybe he will have enough energy to go and look for more cheese the next day.

So he takes a bite, but he doesn’t stop at one bite, he takes multiple bites. The cheese never tasted this good. What is the end goal after all? To save it or to savour it?

The mountain (or whatever is left of it) is now a plateau.

He burps and snuggles up next to his vision board that has a picture of his cheese mountain on it.

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