“Have you considered the alternative?” said Willis. The sheep was standing upright, leaning against the wooden railing of their square pen. There was an absentmindedness to his posture, a sass. His hip was cocked upward and bent opposite the direction of his lean. In his hooved hand he held a thick brick of cheese. Cheddar. He took a bite. The cheese, with each wrench and wind of his jaw, gathered eagerly with the saliva in his mouth, and as the two met and mingled they began to form a thick dairy, and unruly, soup. His eyes, and he, hell-bent on the flavors, rolled into the back of his skull.
“There are so many other ways to go about this, Robert. Take a diet, for example,” he said and waved the brick of cheese which now sported a serrated half-circle at its peak. “You don’t need to give up cheese, entirely. There’s no reason to.”
As a mouse, Robert, his entire life, had been expected to eat and love and live for cheese. And he had done just that. But now, after so many years, Robert had begun to look at things from a very different perspective. He was in a new phase in which he had committed to question and analysis and reevaluation – of everything he had done and known up to that point. Cheese was first on the list.
“Willis, you just can’t understand. You don’t crave the stuff like I do. It’s in my DNA. This kind of abuse is in my genes. It’s a sickness, a condition that needs to be treated medically by a doctor, or a psychologist. I need antibiotics. I need to go on prescription pills of strongest, most absorbing arrangement,” Robert said.
On his stomach his hands rested. He could feel the abuse he spoke of, he could grab at it and try to tear it away, but it would remain. He had built it himself, strong and resilient and layered. It would go nowhere fast.
The sheep, Willis, took another bite from the brick he still held.
“Here’s what I’ll do,” he began after pushing his mouth’s contents to its left side pouch of cheek. “I’ll be your sponsor.”
“Yes, like a coach, or a trainer. Your support system, old buddy.” He took another chunk and welcomed it into the mess he already held between his teeth. “Every time you feel the urge, the tick, you tell me and I’ll take care of it for you. Any time, day or night, I’m here for you. I’ll eat cheese enough for the both of us. I swear it,” he confirmed, his eyes glazed with syrupy desire.
That’s not a bad idea, thought Robert. It couldn’t hurt to have Willis around.
“Okay. I’ll give it a try, but don’t you go falling in love with the cheese the way I have,” the mouse warned. “It’ll ruin your life, Willis. Trust me.”
“Me?” Willis said, gesturing to himself. “I’m a sheep, Robert. Listen to me. Bah. I’m a sheep.”
The brick of cheese had been reduced to nothing.