I never intended to become a cheese maker. Of all the futures I might have imagined for myself as a young adult, certainly none involved raw milk. So it was an unlikely path that brought me in my late twenties to the place where I was considering a job that could include making cheese.
Church bells punctuated our lives, doling out information and instructions, for the church clock tolled every hour. Eight bells meant it was time to jump out of bed and get ready for school. One bell meant it was lunchtime. Six bells, and it was time for Dad to switch on the evening news. Bells at 7:30 PM on a Friday meant the ringers were holding their weekly practice. In the evening, ten bells meant it was time to switch out the light.
I once lived in half a dorm room in the middle of Paris, right across from the École des Mines. Every afternoon, from the speaker of a rickety, cheap tape recorder, the music of Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto stretched its immense arms past the chipped, hundred-year-old bathroom sink that doubled as a kitchen sink, over the cold communal showers, the ancient grease-thickened hot plates, and the toilet in the hallway, operated by a string.
We are on a date, but Dafne’s heart isn’t in it. Both she and her date keep darting their eyes to me where I sit on one side of the table, a frozen explosion of orange fur against the pressed quiet of the white tablecloth. I imagine the gentleman thought he was more open-minded than he has turned out to be once in my presence. Dafne has unthinkingly placed me so that I face him. As always, I’m snarling and my limbs are splayed out midleap. I must look like I’m going for his throat.
He thought of himself as the New Graham now. Not New and Improved, because it wasn’t an improvement. He would have liked to go on being the Old Graham, but that wasn’t an option. The Old Graham had thought he’d stay married to Audra forever; the New Graham wasn’t so sure. The New Graham’s future was unknown.
Sam and Kat, Kat and Sam, as unassuming as their three-letter names but, to their minds, violent with potential. In the spring of 1998, they met in St. Louis, when they both had to board a bigger bus. Two kids in zipped pullovers smoking and picking at their fingers as they watched the driver fling their bags into the belly of the coach as if they weren’t their only belongings in the world.