Keep on keeping on: email@example.com. I’m looking for stories of approximately 500 words (though I will take longer pieces and definitely am always looking for shorter ones).
— Lyle Rosdahl
My condiments were as follows: one stick of salted butter and one very fancy pepper mill with the salt shaker twisty thing on top. It had salt but no pepper. I had pepper, of course, don't get me wrong; I just couldn't afford to buy it. The pepper I did have came from the Purple Garlic itself, and none other. After all I did live in the best zip code in the city, 78209. Certainly, I was no one's heathen. I took great care of the little plastic throw away cup I had stolen it in. The lid fit nice and tight. My pepper stayed fresh.
I also had, and it made me feel completely decadent, a big old jar of picante sauce that wasn't from New York City; or at least I didn't think so. I took some pride in that, whether it was warranted or not. The last of my gastronomical treasures, and no one must ever, ever know about this, was a big block of finely aged cheddar cheese.
This was no ordinary cheese mind you; it was sharp, cheddar and mine. Sweet biscuits from Thursday, I never told anyone about my secret cheddar heaven. Once in a while, I'd slice myself off a little sliver of that yellow crack from Wisconsin, my eyes would roll back in my head and the only thing standing between me and Nirvana was the dog.
His eyes were big; real big and brown. They were the color of syrup without pancakes. They were also the hungriest eyes I ever saw, except my own. I was lucky back then; I had no mirror. But I did have cheese. I wasn't a hoarder per se; but I figured that the people who lived up front in the real house had all kinds of cheese. Hell, they probably had gouda, provolone and even parmesan in one of those tall jars that you could shake too much of onto your pizza.
Me and the dog didn't envy them their cheeses or their house. They were kind enough to let us live in their garage out back. It was detached and cold, or hot, depending on the season and their mood. We learned to live with all of it. We had our privacy and some modicum of dignity. The dog seemed to never notice that I was running a little short on pride. I looked for some at the grocery and dollar stores when the welfare checks came in those few, brief months. I never found any that you could pay for with food stamps. So I did without. It was fine. We made do with what we had. We had each other and our cheese. It was enough.
*** Lyle Rosdahl, a writer living in San Antonio, edits the flash fiction blog & best of in print for the Current. He created, facilitates and participates in Postcard Fiction Collaborative, a monthly flash fiction response to a photo. You can see more of his work, including photos, paintings and writing, at lylerosdahl.com.
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