Thursday 27 February 2020

French for Cheese

by Dawn Knox

a glass of Beaujolais 

 Previously, the Three Wise Monkeys were tricked into signing an unfavourable contract by wily showbiz manager, Mr Krapowski. Their only choice was to split up and go into hiding. Eddie decided to search for the source of the Custard River but he didn’t bargain on Miss Havisham following him...

Eddie made it to the jetty at Cakehall just as his wings gave out. He’d forgotten how hard it was to row through custard, and to make matters worse, Miss Havisham was restless. She’d been complaining she was hungry since they’d left Spudwell, and it appeared she became very tetchy when her blood sugar dropped.
The smell from the nearby cheese mine was simply too hard to resist and Eddie thought it might be a good idea to stock up with fresh cheese, and then decide whether to continue on his quest for the source of the Custard River. He also needed to escape from Miss Havisham, but not until she’d bought lunch. She owed him that, after moaning all morning. He had, after all, paid for the hire of the boat, and now had no money left.
Miss Havisham barged her way to the front of the queue in the cheese shop, “Two large lumps of cheese, my good man. And be quick about it!” she said to the young, female vole behind the counter.
“Which type would you like, ma’am? We have Cakehall Supreme, Cakehall Bluevein, Cakehall ̶
“Yes!” Miss Havisham banged her tiny fist on the counter, “And don’t dilly-dally. I haven’t got all day.” She waved a handful of bank notes, “And don’t stint on the biscuits, young man!”
“Don’t what on the biscuits?”
“Stint! Stint! What’s the matter with you, laddie?”
“Why don’t you go outside and find us somewhere to sit, Miss Havisham, and I’ll bring the cheese,” Eddie cut in, smiling apologetically at everyone in the shop. He steered the mouse away from the counter and gave her a slight nudge towards the exit.
“And biscuits!” called Miss Havisham as she fell through the door.
“You should’ve stinting-well told your stinting friend you don’t have to push a stinting automatic door,” said the young, female vole with a toss of her head.

Miss Havisham wiped her mouth with the back of her paw, “…best cheese I’ve ever had,” she announced, and burped.
Eddie nodded.
“So, if it’s yours, why aren’t you making the most of it?” Miss Havisham asked.
“Making the most of what?” Eddie asked looking down at the cheese rind and biscuit crumbs left on his lap.
“That cheese shop.”  
“But it doesn’t belong to me.”
“You told me it did!”
Eddie thought for a moment.
“Oh, no, I think you misunderstood. It’s not mine, it is a mine. A cheese mine.”
“Exactly. And if I may say so, I don’t like your choice of staff. Damn rude, if you ask me. But I think I can help you. I’m looking for a business venture. I was going to put my fortune into Krapowski’s hotel but there was something a bit dodgy about it. So, I’ve changed my mind. Anyway, I like you, young chicken, and I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to back you in a new business venture.”
“You are?” Eddie’s beak fell open.
“Indeed I am.”
“But doing what?”
“Whatever it is you do with your cheese,” said Miss Havisham gnawing on the rind.
Eddie was about to admit to not doing a great deal with the stuff, other than eat it, when he had second thoughts. He was broke. And Miss Havisham seemed to have plenty of money. There was just one problem – he didn’t own the cheese shop or mine.
Perhaps he could talk her round to something different? As well as managing a rock band, he’d always dreamed of owning his own fashion designer label. Perhaps she’d invest in a fashion business?
“Fashion?” she peered at him with her tiny head tilted to one side, “Well, it’s radical. But it could work… Yes, why not!” She held out her paw and shook his wing. “I’ve got a few contacts, so leave the factory to me. Here,” she said pulling a wad of money out of her handbag, “this should get you started.”
He was so used to life knocking him down, that now, as Fate held out its paw with a gift, Eddie automatically flinched.
“You drive a hard bargain,” said Miss Havisham, pulling more money out of her handbag, “is this enough?”
Eddie gulped and took the money.
“So, what are you proposing to call this company of ours?” she asked.
“Um,” said Eddie, whose brain hadn’t quite caught up.
“How about Say Cheese?” she suggested.
“Well, if you’re going to make clothes out of cheese, it should be reflected in the name, don’t you think?”
“Yes, young chicken. Now stop repeating ‘cheese’ and say something sensible. It’s getting tedious. You may be a fashion guru but you don’t appear to have much business sense. Luckily for you, I’m very astute and can spot a business opportunity. So, you get on with making the cheese cloth and designing your new range and I’ll provide the machinery.”
Eddie’s brain finally came up to speed. He was being offered an amazing chance to realise his dream. The only problem was that his clothes would be made of cheese. Unless…
“Perhaps, Miss Havisham, we ought to use ordinary cloth first. Just until we get established. Cheese can come later.”
“Nonsense! Lots of people make clothes out of fabric. No, I’m certain cheese is definitely the way to go.”
“It is?”
She nodded. “Definitely.”
Eddie sighed. It was cheese or nothing.
“So, what are we going to call this new enterprise?” she asked.
“How about a French-sounding name? Something like From—"
“Yes! From Cow to You!” Miss Havisham beamed.
“No, I was thinking of Fromage—"
“What’s that then?”
“It’s French for ‘cheese’.”
Miss Havisham’s eyes lit up and she held her paws together, “Yes, I love it! A new company is born and the name is perfect – French for Cheese.”
“But I meant—"
“It’s settled,” said Miss Havisham, “Now, I wonder what size needles one would need for knitting yoghurt?”

“All rise,” bleated the court sheep.
Everyone in the packed courthouse rose as a portly owl in judge’s robes and wig entered and settled himself at the bench.
“Eddie the Bald Eagle Chicken, you are charged with wilfully exposing the public to clothes made out of cheese, thereby risking an outbreak of cheese mites, and also of inflicting aggravated cheese odours. How do you plead?” bleated the court sheep.
“Not guilty!” Eddie said glaring at Miss Havisham, who was seated next to her lawyer, “and what’s more, I object, your owlship!”
“Indeed!” said the judge, looking down his beak at Eddie, “And what is it exactly that you are objecting to?”
“I object to being here and if I have to be here, I object to the jury. It’s full of mice.”
“Yes, it certainly is,” said the judge, eyeing the jury.  He wiped away the string of saliva that was hanging from his beak, “I’m sure they will be most delicious…er…dextrous. Yes, that’s it, dextrous…and tasty…I mean…trusty. Yes, that’s it, dextrous…and trusty. Won’t you?” he asked fixing the twelve mice with his beady stare.
“Free Miss Havisham!” one of the jury-mice shouted with his fist in the air.
“Miss Havisham is not on trial, young fellow-me-lad,” said the judge, “it’s the chicken you’re here to condemn.”
Eddie’s lawyer grabbed Eddie’s beak and pushed him back into his seat.
“Let us proceed,” said the judge.
Miss Havisham’s lawyer stood, tucked her claws in the lapels of her gown and began. “Ladies and gentleman, my client Miss Havisham has been swindled by this excuse for a chicken—"
“I’m not an excuse for a chicken! I am a chick ̶  No, I’m not even a chicken, I’m an eagle—"
Eddie’s lawyer grabbed his beak again and deftly twisted an elastic band over it.
“As I was saying, my client, Miss Havisham, has been swindled out of a large sum of money and in return, she has contracted Caseous acaridosis, more commonly known as Cheese Nodules, this is a serious illness, and her life is now under threat. I would like to call my first witness.”
One of the jury-mice stood up.
“You can’t have a witness who’s also a jury member,” objected Eddie’s lawyer.
“Then I shall call my second witness.”
Another of the jury-mice stood up.
Eddie’s lawyer objected again.
“Do you have any witnesses who are not also members of the jury?” the judge asked.
“No, your honour.”
“Then let us hear the defence.”
Eddie’s lawyer got to her feet, glanced at Eddie’s beak to check the stability of the elastic band and with claws tucked inside her gown, she began.  “Firstly, my client did not claim to own the Cakehall Cheese Mine and shop. Miss Havisham offered her money freely. Secondly, my client kept his side of the bargain, spinning cheese into fabric and making clothes from the cheesecloth. It is not his fault that Miss Havisham’s cheese outfit attracted Acarid caseosis, better known as the common cheese mite. Neither is it his fault that she is allergic to the said cheese mite. But I would like to point out that Cheese Nodules can hardly be classed as a serious illness, m’lud.”
“I see,” the judge said, shifting his gaze to the prosecution, “I believe you claimed that your client’s life is under threat. Would you care to explain how this disease is affecting her?”
“Oh, no m’lud, it’s not the cheese mite that’s threatening her life, they’re the least of her worries. And she’s undergoing treatment for Cheese Nodules. No, it’s the mice that concern her. And then, of course, the cats.”
“Would you care to explain please?”
“Well, your honour, if worn for long enough, the cheese clothes leave the wearer’s skin impregnated with the odour of cheese. Miss Havisham found that wherever she goes, she’s followed by hordes of mice. And as we all know, where there are hordes of mice, there are teams of hungry cats. My client now can’t set foot outside the door for fear of being eaten.”
“Shame!” shouted the head jury-mouse.
“In fact, it is this very group of mice,” Miss Havisham’s lawyer waved her paw at the jury, “who have been following my client around and attracting cats. Everywhere she goes, they follow.”
“But Miss H is the Chosen One!” shouted the head jury-mouse, “She has the Smell. We must follow her until the end of our days.” He looked uncertainly at the judge, who was staring at him, trance-like, dribbling. “Your honour?...”
The judge blinked, “Err, yes…silence in court!” He banged his gavel, “We will adjourn for one hour.”  

“We find the defendant guilty!” said the head jury-mouse, “Guilty, guilty, guilty!”
Eleven, tiny murine heads nodded emphatically at the pronouncement.
Eddie emitted a loud, strangled squawk and the elastic band shot off the end of his beak, “I object, your owlness!”
“Sit down, Mr Bald Eagle Chicken. The jury have given their verdict and I now sentence you to a fine of two thousand ducats and an apology to the plaintiff.
Miss Havisham leapt to her feet, “I object! I deserve more compensation than two thousand ducats!”
“Madam, the two thousand ducats are payable to me, for wasting court time. The apology is intended for you!”
“This is outrageous!” said Miss Havisham, waving her tiny fist.
“Go, Miss H!” shouted the head jury-mouse.
“You…” said the judge, pointing at the head jury-mouse with his gavel, “can shut up. And you, Mr Bald Eagle Chicken, follow me to my chambers, you will pay your fine and write your apology there.”

“Your owlness, if I might have a word. You see, I have a slight cashflow problem and two thousand ducats are slightly beyond my means…” Eddie said, his wingtips pressed together in supplication.
“But that sum won’t be beyond your means, young chicken, once I have purchased French for Cheese from you, for the exact price of two thousand ducats.”
“But it’s worth far more than that…” Eddie tailed off when the judge glared at him, “on the other hand, that seems a reasonable offer.”
“And one which you will find difficult to better,” said the judge, drawing his wallet out of his robes and opening it to display a large number of notes. He counted out two thousand ducats and placed them in front of Eddie, before picking them up and putting them back in his wallet. “There, now your fine is paid and once we sign the contracts, I will pay Miss Havisham a small sum and then take ownership of French for Cheese.”  
“Fair enough. But I’ve got one question, your owlness. Why do you want the company? It certainly didn’t bring me much luck.”  
“I have a whim to wear cheese clothes.”
“But your owlness, you heard the evidence, they make you smell of cheese and then mice follow you around…”
“Exactly…” said the judge, saliva beginning to dribble from his beak.

Links to previous stories in The Macaroon Chronicles series

The Macaroon Chronicles Prologue and the Three Wise Monkeys

About the author 

Dawn’s latest book is ’The Basilwade Chronicles’ published by Chapeltown Books and she enjoys writing in different genres and has had romances, speculative fiction, sci-fi, humorous and women’s fiction published in magazines, anthologies and books. She’s also had two plays about World War One performed internationally. You can follow her here on , Facebook here DawnKnoxWriter or on Twitter here


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