69By Ross Fleming
I have shattering news for all of you. 1969 will ultimately go down in history as the year that a seven year old boy proved for children everywhere that The Moon Is Not Made Out Of Cheese!
And, incidentally, the year that The Millwood Kindergarten Yearbook printed his astonishing and valuable conclusions.
Allow me to elaborate.
My dear Father was a raconteur of note and he was always partial to a good Camembert. (Aunt Molly said he was actually a compulsive liar and that he was into all sorts of other stuff as well but guess what happened to her!)
I recall a warm July evening in ‘69 when we were gazing up at that wonderfully luminous, lunar beauty, and when he said to me, ‘Look, lad - there’re people up there tonight, and the world needs to know it. Pass the cheese please.’
It was a matter of seconds before we had the family telescope up and out, and were taking a rickety look at that august, astral body. I have a singular memory of Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, lumbering along like a drunken dinosaur, and a sharper focus of him bending down, picking up a soil sample and chewing it. He then spat it out in disgust, and shook his head at his colleague in graphic negation. I have it on reliable authority that our telescope had a tweeter on it, which was a magical instrument for amplifying and accelerating light waves.
Father’s next words will stay with me forever.
‘See any Cheese?’ he asked.
‘No!’ was my firm reply.
And so, while the rest of South Africa hung, poised over their radios, listening to a 2 minute old delayed broadcast of The American President feeling loquacious, Father and I were watching in real time the instant when the most important discovery of the 20th Century was being made! Being of an enterprising ilk, I was quick to describe the situation on my jotter. When I presented my thesis to my grade two teacher the next day, tears of joy welled up in her eyes and she said to me, ‘My child, this has potential!’
The need to enlighten the children of the future has always been my priority. The monstrous lie of endless cheese available for all has gone on for too long. I don’t agree that fairy tales are good for developing minds. Stick to the facts, and the imagination will take care of itself. The moon has never been, and never will be made up of dairy products.
Visualize my anxious quivering in the Monday assembly, when the headmaster asked me to stand up straight so all of my schoolmates could see what strong descriptors I had. Imagine the looks of aching jealousy when my cousins all gathered round my school yearbook at the family Christmas dinner. And of course the offer by my Great Aunt Suzy to pay to ‘send the child to a decent boarding school, where such laudable talent will not go unnoticed’.
The path to my next publication was not arduous. Once my fame had spread, the seeds of success were planted. The entire school community of Woodwind Secondary wept to the tune of Death of a Cheese Wedge, a sensitive allegory about a teenager consuming a midnight snack while dying on the inside.
My Sergeant-Major in the Military could not look me in the eye, saying ‘Take it away - for God’s sake take it away,’ when I presented my postmodernist film script, The Unbearable Temptation of True Stilton, to him during basic training.
The Army Psychiatrist was prompted to stand up from behind his desk, walk around me in fond admiration, and pinch my bottom while murmuring, ‘You’ll go far, Rodney. Let’s see what we can manage.’ He was always calling me Rodney. I put it down to an incredibly high intelligence being preoccupied with urgent matters of National Importance.
If you look at the ’88 graduation class photograph at The University of KwaZulu-Natal, I am the one with a towel over his head in the front row. My friend Winky has a broad smile on his face and is standing just behind me. He had just that morning told me of an invasion of the Science Building by Aliens. Apparently the very same cheese bacteria whose existence I had denied all those years before had come back to exact revenge. Only warm, damp towels applied to the head could protect you. I stand before you today as living proof of this groundbreaking theory. If only the medical profession had the same insight as dear little Winky, may he rest in peace.
My MA dissertation, Of Mice and Cheese – John Steinbeck’s Secret Obsession with Haute Cuisine, achieved the summa cum laude award. The lecturing staff there still talk dreamily of the day I walked off with the prize.
My unpublished memoir, Open Your Mouse Unt Say Cheese, is behind the headboard in my bedroom. Should I disappear in suspicious circumstances, the family solicitor has a soft copy that will go out on the Internet. Already my theme tune is available on YouTube. Watch out for Around the Brie in Eighty Days.
To all of you young writers starting out, I have a message. Follow that youthful vision. Only you can create your own particular flavour of cheese. Don’t be intimidated by editors who ask, How cheesy is that?
My raison d’être was to see the youth of the world liberated from its obsession with nocturnal interplanetary cheese. This mission has largely succeeded. The kids of today are looking to sources closer to home for their cheese. My tombstone will announce to all visiting pilgrims, long after I am gone, the message I lived out: The Cheese isn’t Out There - It’s In Here!
Ross Ian Fleming devotes his days to testing Telecoms software, satisfying his wife’s need for fast food, and educating his three kids. At night, however, he dreams of Poetry. He has written six small volumes of poems, all available on Amazon Kindle
Although occasionally inhabiting an imaginary land beyond description, in reality he lives in Cape Town, South Africa, the next best thing in the chain of being.
He has published work in Itch and New Coin and has won 3 online writing competitions at the SA Writers College over the past 5 years. Also see Slipnet for more.