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Thomas and Gerald

Cheddar, slow-cooked in a pool of milk with a stirring so methodical that the cheese dripped from the spoon. Simmered on low heat for twenty minutes, just before the Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack can be tossed into the pot and swirled together. The dripping slowing to a drop as the yellow made love to white. Like gravy does the cheese fall from the spoon. An aroma filled the room.

Finally, a drop or two, or three, or four, was added for good measure. Slowly mixed into the concoction bubbling against the metal, cooled by simple laps about the base. The spoon being much harder to move than it was in the beginning. The cheese gripping the curves like maxi dresses. The dish dressed in yellow, intoxicating. Somehow, the spoon found the strength to carry it high from the pot down into the bowl. Over, and over again, filling the pottery with dairy. Carefully, it was placed beside the wall. Cunningly, it was observed from afar.

Jerald was enticed by the fragrance, floating from his hole in the wall across the floor. His nose sniffed for the trail in the atmosphere. He wanted to be led to the riches. He didn’t even notice the lion standing between him and destiny. Nose guiding him, he stepped closer and closer.

Thomas roared, restoring all sense to Jerald. He looked across the room and saw two staring at him. One, looked at the son of man, while the other looked as the pride of Judah. Still figurines observing but never moving. They were so still that one could mistake them for furniture. Jerald did. Thus, he found himself lured by the aroma once more.

Feet tracked the source. The body was willed into position. The richness of the cheese like a reel and Jerald, a fish hooked on a line that never swayed to the left nor right. Its purpose was clear and apparent as its master.

Gently, Thomas growled. Jerald looked. Was death at the door? Did the lion grow too tired of observing? Was he about to clamp his jaw down on the soft, fragile belly of Jerald? His glance revealed his fate.

The son of man approached. He stood, tall and powerful, towering over the little mouse. His feet long enough and wide enough to crush three Jeralds. Yet, Jerald was only one. The man bent low, waving his hand. Jerald kept expecting sharp pains about the head, but with each brush, the son of man painted the room in fragrances like incense. Jerald tasted the cheese flowing through his nostrils.

For Jerald, the cheese was the blessing. He could have everything if he merely tasted that sweet-smelling dish just once. A blessing like this could feed four Jeralds, let alone one. With one elongated snort, Jerald approached the bowl.

The peppers rose from the surface of gold. There were portions sticking to the walls of clay like cream. It could’ve been a custard it felt so light. Merely dipping the hand soothed the body. It glowed the more he focused on it. Jerald couldn’t wait for chips. He dug his face into the bowl and consumed.

With each lick, the world outside of the bowl grew dim. All Jerald could do was focus on gobbling down the meal he had been gifted. Bite after bite, his belly grew. He had lost control of his appetite and guzzled the dip with delight. As the cheese disappeared, he reached further and further in, extending his arms into the bowl so that he might scoop handfuls into his mouth. Click.

Thomas roared again, but Jerald kept scooping. The cheese streamed into his belly like water as he grew fat. His cheeks began to swell. His eyes became bloodshot. His mouth tingled. Click.

Thomas hurried to him. He pulled Jerald out of the bowl and stood him on all fours. He spoke with words muffled. The room was spinning. Jerald could not recognize the voice reaching out to him. Everything was numb. He could only taste the cheese stuck on his whiskers. Little morsels reminding him that a most glorious bowl was sitting next to him.

Thomas wanted Jerald to see reason, but Jerald could only lick his dry lips, crazed by the addiction to the substance sweltering within him. Temptation was so strong that the sweat upon his brow streamed down his cheek until his tongue lapped up what it could to rehydrate. The bowl. He could still smell it. The cheese.

In the middle of their conversation, Jerald returned to the bowl, this time, reaching deep into the bowl to where only his toes kept him grounded. Click. The sound didn’t alert him before, but it echoed off the crater his gluttony had created. Part of him thought he was hearing things. His mind had been dulled for some time being lost in the riches of consumption. He stopped, trying to remember what was said to him. He could not remember. The cheese, still hot as if it had never cooled, attracted.

Deeper, he dug into the rich flavors. He had one leg lifted up to the rim of the bowl, trying to position himself better to eat more cheese. He didn’t notice how long he spent distracted. He could only see the brown fur of his skin withering into grays and whites. He didn’t care about anything other than the riches filling him up.

He only noticed little things. He could no longer fathom the deeper things of what his life had become. He had guzzled so much richness down his throat that he could hardly breathe. He was consumed. He could hardly move. His weight was all he could feel – that, and the taste of the next slurp. He was eating out of habit rather than need. He hadn’t realized it until his old age.  Why hadn’t he noticed it before? Click. Whoosh.

What were these sounds? He wondered. He saw his hands. He saw his whiskers. He felt his heart beating fast. However, he could no longer feel the ground. He lay in the bowl with little cheese left for him to consume. With a feeling of relief, figuring this new feeling would be gone soon, he began to eat the last of the concoction. Once he was done, he imagined, he could find his way out of the bowl.

Lick, lick, lick, lick, lick, lick, lick. With each lick, the taste became further tainted. It was strange. The seasonings usually nestled near the bottom of the dish. This cheese almost tasted like raw and rotten flesh. He wiped his tongue free of that foul taste only to find a red liquid beneath his fingernails.

Quickly, his delight turned to terror as he searched for the where his red liquid had come from. The longer he took to think on it, the more the bowl filled with it. Though his mind was hazy, he had just enough sense to realize his predicament. His eyes followed the red river. It actively seeped into the dish like hot sauce added after the fact. This, however, did not taste like hot sauce. This was a far worse taste.

That is when he saw it. The bowl had been cut open. It was not a clean break, but one that stretched from one end to the other, cracking here, but breaking there. He had no idea how such a shattering experience went unnoticed by him. However, what was more alarming caught his eye just after.

He could not see his belly. All that he had consumed was spilling out of him onto the floor. His heart began to race as he searched. His lower body had been broken off with the bowl. His legs were no longer there. Fear overcame him as he realized he was dying.

Where did this pain come from? When did this devastation take place? He looked around for his enemy. Above him, sat rods of metal. They were to the left, right, above, and below. The rods were painted black but coated in red. It was a place that had been used before to catch another. He recognized it. It was a cage. He hadn’t realized he even entered one.

The bowl sat upon a block of wood with smaller rods encased around it. There were springs and a latch. The latch had been opened. Click. A metal rod hurled above. Swoosh. Then, a crash landed through him and the bowl together. Clank!

Jerald wanted to scream, but his voice was clogged by the cheese. He wanted to move, but his body had been broken. The blood covered the remainder like syrup on a pancake. He could only watch as the man smiled big to approach him.

The man closed the cage, sealing Jerald’s fate. He lifted the contraption and carried Jerald out into the yard behind the house. Jerald could see Thomas, who merely watched in sorrow. The man escorted Jerald to a mound. Atop the mound was a heap of ash, making the small hill look like an erupted volcano, covered in black and gray.

The man opened the cage and emptied the contents onto the ashes. Jerald could taste the smoke in his mouth, but he could not cough it out. He was rendered motionless. He could only feel the pieces of the bowl clashing upon his head and the thud they created when they hit the ground. He was terrified still, but nothing could be done.

The man reached into his pocket and pull out a match box. He took a match and placed it on his lips, wetting the bottom. Finally, he took the match and stroked it against the box. A flame erupted from the wood, heating the stick as he smirked. He tossed the match down, setting ablaze the concoction, and therefore, Jerald.

He wondered how his life had come to this. A moment ago, he was filled by riches beyond his wildest dreams with flavor, texture, and aroma far greater than any meal he had tried before. How was he suddenly being punished?

He looked for his answers as the flames rose. He could not look left or right. He could only see Thomas between the embers. Thomas, who had been there the whole time. A lion that did not wish to feed upon the mouse. He stood, watching from a distance, accepting the result. Jerald was gone. Another soul in the heap of ashes.


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