I’ve mentioned before in this blog that I enjoy using writing “prompts” to jumpstart my creativity and to exercise my writing chops. I was looking through some pieces I’ve written over time and ran across this one from a few years back. The prompt was to write anything for 25 minutes, starting with the phrase, “I remember the smell…”
I remember the smell of Limburger cheese. I haven’t smelled it since 1972, but I remember that smell like it was yesterday. German cheeses could be truly odiferous, but I couldn’t convince my high-school sweetheart of that. We were going on a picnic in the park, and we’d decided to do the wine-cheese-bread-thou thing, and the bread was French, the wine was Mogen David grape wine but the Limburger cheese was something else again. I warned him it would be awfully stinky and hardly conducive to a romantic outing, but he was adamant, and I reluctantly consented to buy it. I knew this cheese, my German-descent mom enjoyed it, but I was unable to get past the odor of it. He’d just to have to find out for himself, I reasoned, and I shrugged as I paid for a small block of it.
We packed a basket the next morning and headed off to the park. It was a warm, sunny day, and we took plenty of time rambling about the hills, even taking time to swing on the swings like children; we didn’t care. We hiked up the hill and sat on the low stone wall as we looked out over the city. When the sun rose high in the sky we decided it was time to have our picnic lunch, picked up the basket and found a shady spot on the other side of the hill.
The basket had been sitting in the sun for some time, so the cheese had plenty of opportunity to get rather ripe in the warmth of the day. We took out the bread first and broke pieces off for each other, and we took out two Dixie cups for our wine. We weren’t sure if we were supposed to have alcoholic beverages in the park, so we surreptitiously poured the wine and slipped the bottle back into the basket.
Then he took out the cheese, which had been vacuum sealed, so it was just now being exposed to the air. On peeling back the plasticized foil, he began to grimace and sneer. “Ugh! This cheese, it stinks!” he exclaimed. “Why didn’t you tell me??”
“I did tell you, but this is what you said you wanted,” I reminded him.
He looked exasperated. “Man, it smells rotten! I can’t eat this shit!”
So much for romance, but I knew from the outset that with that cheese it wasn’t going to be that kind of day anyway.
“Well, I’m not eating it!” he shouted. And with that he sprang up and turned toward the top of the hill. He reared back and flung the package of Limburger cheese as far as he could, and I rolled on the grass with laughter as I watched it disappear over the hill. I don’t know what anyone on the other side would have thought when they saw this package come flying over the hill; I hoped no one had been hit by it.
He grumbled as we ate what we could of the bread and had a very small amount of wine; we were both 18, but we were afraid to go home smelling like alcohol, as we’d both catch it from our respective parents. When we packed up what was left of our meager picnic, I said, “I guess we should drive by where the cheese probably landed and throw it away.” He nodded silently and we drove slowly up and around the road that went past the low stone wall. We got out and searched as much of that side of the hill as we could, but couldn’t find the cheese anywhere.
“Maybe somebody from the parks department already picked it up,” he said hopefully and I laughed, imagining the expression on the face of a hapless park worker who had the bad luck to stumble upon our ill-fated cheese. We searched the hill again, but we never did find it.
Several months later we were married, and we never again purchased Limburger cheese, but from time to time we would laugh again about the time he flung the cheese over the hill. I don’t know how long that cheese took to decompose, and in the daily sunlight it must have stunk to the high heavens. I’ll always remember that smell!