He was setting up across the street as I was leaving work: a card table filled with blocks of cheese and a hotplate. A sign hanging off the front read: Fortunes Told!
“Excuse me, sir! Can I tell your fortune?” he called as I tried to hurry past. I was the only one on the street, so it was hard to be inconspicuous.
“I don’t need my fortune told,” I said. Still, the cheese was making me curious. “So, how does it work?”
“With cheese. I’m a tyromancer,” he said, quite proudly.
“Uh, okay, how much is it?”
“It depends on how detailed you want it. $5 for regular, $10 for an extra detailed fortune. It takes more cheese that way,” he added.
I was intrigued and the cheese was making me hungry. “Okay, I’ll take a fiver. Can I eat the cheese afterwards?”
He seemed shocked at the idea. “Eat the cheese? Eat the cheese? Do you eat the X-ray film when the doctor is finished? Or the mechanics tools when he’s finished fixing your car?”
“What do you have to do with the cheese?”
“I just melt it. I’m a progressive tyromancer. Now, what kind do you want? I’ve got cheddar, mozzarella, gouda, gorgonzola—”
“Is there a difference?” I asked, as he looked prepared to list off his entire stock. “Surely if it’s a fortune, it’ll be the same either way.”
He shrugged. “Different cheeses emphasis different things. It’s like when you go to the doctor: different doctors will tell you slightly different things, although your condition will be the same. So, which one do you want?”
“I’ll take the Swiss, I guess,” I said. I knew immediately by his face that this was the wrong choice.
“I’d stay away from the Swiss at first,” he said. “We in the business call that the Widowmaker. The best fortune I’ve ever seen come out of a piece of Swiss was a divorce.”
“What was the worst?”
“Double decapitation,” he said. “Don’t ask—it’s not pretty.
“Fine . . . I’ll take the Gorgonzola. Is that okay?” He was looking at me with a small smile.
“Yeah, that’s fine. Perfectly. Let me just add a slice of Edam, just because I like you.”
He cut off slices of the cheese and put it in a frying pan on the hotplate. Then we both got close and peered at it.
“What’s that mean?” I asked.
“That’s just grease on top. That doesn’t mean anything.” The cheese started to melt and bubble.
“Ah ha!” the tyromancer said suddenly. “Do you know anyone by the name of . . . Bob?”
“Really? I’m pretty sure you do.”
“Well, I have a second cousin named Bob, but—”
“I knew it! Never lie to the cheese. Bob is going to call you in the next five minutes.”
“Oh come on!” I said. “I only met him once when I was ten. He doesn’t even have my phone number.”
“The cheese doesn’t lie.” The tyromancer was staring at the bubbling cheese closely. “It looks like he has a business venture opportunity for you. It’s going to fail horribly in less than six months. You’re going to lose a lot of money.”
“Well, I guess that’s good to know. I’ll be sure to turn down any business ideas my cousin Bob gives me.”
Sarcasm was obviously not the tyromancer’s strong point. “Oh, you have to though,” he said. “It’s your future; you don’t have a choice.”
My phone rang and his eyes lit up like Christmas morning. “Ha, there’s Bob now. What did I tell you?”
I took the phone out and showed him the caller ID. “It’s my mom.” I put it up to my ear. “Hey, what’s up?”
“Hi, you probably don’t remember me, but I’m your cousin Bob. I’m over at your mom’s house right now; she gave me your number. Listen, I got this great idea I think you might interested in: Chia Cars. It’s like the Chia Pets, but with cars. All I need is a bit of start-up cash—”
I ended the call and pulled out a $10 bill. “Okay, give me a sharp cheddar with a sprinkling of gouda. Let’s see what else you got.”