Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Cheese Angel Sent Straight From Peanuts

In a park near my house yesterday I encountered a large choir, outfitted in white robes in the sweltering heat, and swaying and chanting the same word over and over.

"Peanuts," I thought the word was. The spectacle was entrancing. There was some sort of revival or festival, but it was poorly attended.

It wasn't until maybe ten minutes later, after my dog and I had gone on our way, that it occurred to me that the word the choir had been singing was in fact (and obviously), "Jesus."

Still, even now, more than 24 hours later, when I close my eyes and hear that song looping in my head the word I'm hearing is "Peanuts."

It seemed to me that the song was familiar to me somehow, something from a gospel collection I own, and I have been shuffling through my gospel CDs and records for the last couple hours or so, trying to find the Peanuts/Jesus song, but I've had no luck so far.

I wish I could find some inspiration --or even entertainment-- in the stories of redeemed wastrels that regularly appear in the Sunday New York Times, but I cannot.

Earlier tonight I had an inexplicable craving for cheese --well, not really so inexplicable; I love cheese. Problem was, I had no cheese in the house. I had no food whatsoever in the house. I had not eaten anything in 48 hours, and I was starving.

This afternoon I had driven out to some hellish commercial strip to buy food and treats for my dog. This cost me $78, which you might find ridiculous, and even unconscionable, but I will always feed my dog before I feed myself.

At any rate, on the way home from that expedition I had realized that the gas gauge light on my car's dashboard was illuminated, and the needle indicated that the tank was almost empty.

So at ten o'clock at night, as I wrestled with this craving for cheese, I was faced with some major obstacles. Those obstacles were as follows: I had just sent out checks for my rent and utilities. My car insurance was expired, but my agent had agreed to carry me for another month. The car was presently sitting in front of my house with an empty tank. I had a five dollar bill and some change in my pocket, which was literally the only money I had access to at the moment.

Undaunted, and woozy from hunger and several hours of obsessing about cheese, I drove to the Holiday station nearest my apartment and put four dollars worth of gas in the tank. Gas was $2.69 a gallon. I then drove the approximately three miles to a giant 24-hour supermarket.

I went to the deli counter and emptied my pockets. There was one rumpled dollar bill and thirty-eights cents in change. I noticed my hands were trembling. I put the money on the counter and said to the guy wearing a hair net, "I want as much cheese as I can get for that."

"What kind of cheese do you want?" he asked.

"The most cheese I can get for $1.38," I said.

He informed me that American cheese was the cheapest. I told him that American cheese did not qualify as cheese in my book.

He looked at me for a moment, the expression on his face inscrutable.

"We have a special on Colby," he said. "But you're not going to get much for that."

"Please just give me as much as I can get," I said.

The man put the block of cheese in the slicer and proceeded to shave off a large pile, which he deposited on the scale. One pound almost on the nose. He didn't say a word to me as he then removed at least eighty percent of the cheese, held it aside in one plastic-gloved hand, and punched in some numbers on the scale. I watched as the machine spit out the paper label with the price, which the guy then slapped on a plastic bag into which he shoved the cheese --the meager portion he had actually weighed along with the larger stack of slices he had held in his other hand.

He handed the bag across to me, smiled, and said, "Enjoy your cheese."

I was momentarily stunned and confused. The bag I held in my hand contained a pound of Colby cheese, but the label read ".21 pounds," and the price was $1.33.

I don't know that I've ever God blessed anyone in my life, but I God blessed that man. And I devoured the entire pound of cheese the moment I got to my car in the parking lot.


  1. Oh, I love this. Love it. Blessings on the cheese man. Cheese men, both of you.

  2. A good deli man knows a cheese emergency when he sees it. They are trained for such things.

  3. I've come to rely on the cheesy kindness of strangers.

  4. I do not think this story is really about cheese. But it is lovely and you are a lovely man.