Told what to do…by cheese

As a freelance writer, I spend every single working day of my life being told what to do, more than most people. I say more than most people for good reason, I think: most people only get told what to do by one person, or manager, or boss, or set of children, or wife — unless you have lots of wives, which you clearly brought on yourself you greedy, greedy man — whereas every client I have is telling me something different, and I have dozens of clients; a list that’s growing all the time (I’m not complaining about any of them, by the way — generally speaking I’ve been really lucky with who I’ve worked with. Besides that, this is all my choice so I have absolutely no reason to complain, really).

So the last thing I need is to be told what to do after work. Especially by cheese…even though I have no wife, wives, children or single manager, being told what to do by cheese is just demeaning.

Stay with me. Please. You’ll get the idea soon.

It was the middle of the night. I was tired. Wow, I’m impressive when it comes to stating the obvious. Anyway, when I flopped into bed I was sure I’d fall asleep within minutes, but then, out of nowhere, I started coughing and couldn’t stop. It was the floating spore-like evil hovering over from the oilseed rape fields which I’m always going on about on Facebook, of course (they pretty much surround the village where I live just like the plot of some Maine-themed Stephen King novel, intimidating hayfever sufferers and torturing them callously; you’d go on about it too, believe me). So I was all in a conundrum: shut both windows and attempt to get to sleep in stifling heat, or leave them open and hope that the coughing would pass. Both terrible options, but great training for real life, which is full of terrible options, so it wasn’t all bad.

It refused to pass. Every time I started to fall asleep it — my stupid face — awoke me abruptly. Then followed about 10 minutes of intense procrastination where the cough maliciously disappeared without a single bloody trace, where I found myself sitting on the edge of my bed singing, very quietly, I’m like a bird by Nelly Furtado, except replacing it with hate-filled lyrics directed at my cough, which I had now come to view as a kind of malevolent monster living inside me.

It was time to leave the bedroom.Β  I just had to get out of that damn bedroom. And try and forget about Nelly Furtado. For now, at least. That would be difficult, though, for she was presently all over the media like a rash, promoting the hell out of her latest musical offering (which was nowhere near as good as I’m like a bird, but then, nothing ever is).

On the way downstairs, I smiled, as the event which so often grew into some-big-thing passed without incident of any kind. What a relief. Usually, you see, when venturing downstairs in just my boxers, a hell of a situation ensues when Jojo, our dog, sees my pale skin and grows quickly vicious and agitated (she always sees me, even when I creep downstairs and make absolutely zero noise, or what my ignorant ears deem to be zero noise). Greyhounds are rarely vicious dogs, but Jojo — as with many Greyhounds, I suspect — has never been able to grasp the concept that clothes are clothes and skin is skin. She just cannot separate the two! Not that that’s her fault, what with her limited worldly knowledge. I can only speculate about what she thinks when she sees me coming down the stairs, but my guess is that she is horrified and truly believes that someone has skinned me, one of her most beloved human beings, alive. The obvious speculation, I guess, when you see someone you live with wearing what you assume has to be skin all the time, but is actually garments and you could never know it. Oh, to be a hound. I wish I could just explain to her what clothes are, it’d make life so much easier…

I found myself, then, in the pantry. In no way whatsoever was I hungry, but it made sense to do something with my time, and hunting for food and being all manly and primal seemed the obvious thing. I knew there was hardly anything in the way of goodies, of course, but that didn’t stop me. Something about being up in the middle of the night always makes me believe that there might be something hiding somewhere, that the normal rules of daytime life have been suspended, somehow. And so I searched, until I came across some Cornish Wafers — kind of like cream crackers except softer and more round. So actually nothing like cream crackers at all, then. Yes, they really are an anomaly.

What looks like cigarette ash, mummified pick ‘n’ mix and congealed stomach bile (or a close-up image of some unspeakable atrocity as seen on Channel 4s Embarrassing Bodies?). Call me a pessimist, but suddenly it looks unlikely that Philadelphia will call me back about that copywriting campaign I pitched for…

Philadelphia made them come alive, I tell you! On their own they’re a bit dry and boring, but with Philadelphia — which is a soft cheese you can buy here in England, if you didn’t know — they’re something–

Something was wrong with the packet. It was confusing me. Confusing me because I was a) wandering around somewhere between consciousness and unconsciousness and b) the packet, the lid to be precise, wasn’t like it should be. I like my Philadelphia simple and normal in the packet it has always come in. Don’t get me wrong, I can handle a new typeface or change in graphics…but this…this wasn’t just a slight change…this was something more fundamental.

When I leaned slightly to the left or the right, the word on the top changed from Philadelphia to Macaroni cheese.

At first I smiled, thinking it clever. It was one of those holograms I remembered from childhood, where the image morphs into something completely different.

Then, I started to feel unsettled. Much as I like my macaroni cheese — home-made, I can be a real snob about the crap ready-made stuff, but so sue me, I’m the one who’s gotta eat it! — I don’t want anyone putting thoughts about in my head. And that was precisely what the big boys at Philadelphia HQ were doing here. It was being thrusted upon me and in the middle of the night, all tempted and with nothing much else to do, I was helpless. I was right on the verge of just making it there and then like some kind of midnight-cooking-renegade (fortunately my good senses kicked in, though, as I remembered what a nightmare pans are to wash-up).

Here are some more reasons why I don’t want to be coerced into making macaroni cheese:

1) I may not feel like it. I may have already had macaroni cheese that day and eaten way too much of it; in which case, coming across a should-be innocent tub of Philadelphia becomes a nightmare scenario which makes me feel sick.

2) That’s about it. I think I’ve just run out of reasons. I actually really love macaroni cheese…