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The Cheese At Grandpa's House

“I’m not overdoing it. It’s really good.”

By Stephen Kramer AvitabilePublished 6 months ago Updated 6 months ago 23 min read
The Cheese At Grandpa's House
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Sam rushed into his grandpa’s place, stopping to look around wildly. There was his grandpa sitting in his chair in the living room. Sam threw his hand in the air and did an erratic wave. Arm still in the air, he sprinted off to the bathroom.

“Hi Grandpa!” Came afterwards from the bathroom as Sam squeaked the door shut.

Craig entered much more calmly. Toby entered behind him. They closed the front door and set their suitcases down on the floor.

“Four-and-a-half-hour drive with no stops.” Toby said with a smirk. “He’s got a tiny bladder.”

“No stops?” Grandpa starts to stand up. Toby and Craig rush over to help him out of his chair. Grandpa shoves the aid away with his arm, pushing himself out of the recliner.

“Well, we stopped at a rest stop about 20 miles in. But then we drove the rest of the way.” Toby continued to help his father even though he was still resisting. They all moved into the kitchen.

“And what, you got no bladder?” Grandpa looked at Craig. Then, he looked to Toby. “The boy’s a camel? Holds it in?”

“I’m bigger than Sam. I can hold it longer.” Craig said with an odd pride.

Sam whipped the bathroom door open. He took one step out of the bathroom.

“You wash your hands, Sam?” Toby asked without even looking back. He helped his father get into a seat at the small, kitchen table. Sam turned on his heel and reentered the bathroom. The faucet turned on. A half-hearted and hurried splashing of hands under the water. The faucet squeaked off.

Sam rejoined everyone in the kitchen. He and Craig sat at the table with their grandpa. Sam watched his grandpa, noticing his arm’s trembling. Sam figured his grandpa must have been cold, even though he felt very warm. But Sam knew he always felt very warm after he went pee. He often held his pee in too long and then it was a mad dash for a toilet, which resulted in a mad dash to go to the bathroom without having any slip ups. He was five now, he wasn’t supposed to have anymore slip ups. It was such a hectic ordeal, rushing to the bathroom, going to the bathroom without making a mess when his bladder was filled to the brim with soda, he was always so worked up and sweaty afterwards.

So, Grandpa was cold because it was cold in his place, Sam deduced. And Sam just felt hot because of that post-bathroom rush.

“Oh, I got lunch in there.” Grandpa said and started to get up. Toby held his arm out and kept Grandpa in his seat.

“I’ll get it. You sit.”

“That’s fine. I want to talk to the kiddos, anyway. How was the drive?” Grandpa leaned in, excited to hear all of their stories. Sam knew Grandpa was eager to know every detail.

“We saw a bunch of license plates. Craig and me both. And Dad.” Sam went right into the story. “But I saw the most. I saw 15 of ‘em… from different states… license plates from different states I saw, 15 of ‘em.”

“Oh yeah?” Grandpa’s smile widened. Sam could tell he was so impressed with his license plate spotting abilities. “So, you saw more than the rest of them?”

“Yeah!” Sam continued. “Craig only saw 13 and Dad saw 10, but Dad was driving, and he has to not crash us into anything so that’s okay. But I saw 15. I saw all of New England, that’s six states, Grandpa. Then, there was New York. We’re in New York so we saw a ton of New York. New Jersey too. Transylvania. Delanmark… Delarus… what’s it? Denmark?”

“Delaware.” Toby offered from inside the fridge as he pulled stuff out and set it on the counter.

“That one. Denmark.” Sam kept going on. “I saw Florida. Only South Carolina not the North one… what else? I’m pretty sure I saw Hawaii…”

“You did not see Hawaii!” Craig yelled, half-laughing but also half-angry.

“Yeah, I did! You just weren’t looking. You had your finger up your nose and were looking the wrong way.”

“Okay guys.” Toby is cracking up as he watches his father feigning enthusiasm. “Grandpa has maps, he doesn’t need to hear about every single state in the world.” Toby re-examines… maybe his father really was enjoying this. That smile looked too authentic.

“I bet you did see Hawaii.” Grandpa whispered loudly to Sam so that everyone could hear.

“How could anyone from Hawaii have gotten here with their car?” Craig asked. “It’s surrounded by water!”

“Oh yeah!” Sam retorted immediately. “Well… the United States is surrounded by water! So, how did anyone ever get here?!”

Toby put plates of food down on the table. “He’s got you there, Craig.”

Sam was proud of himself. It’s not every day he beat his older brother in an argument. It’s not any day, really. He always stacked those few won-arguments in the trophy case in his mind. He looked at the plates his father set down. A thick slice of bread and a couple thick slices of wet, white cheese on each plate. Sam looked at the plates curiously. He noticed his father nudge Craig with his elbow and give him a look.

Craig grabbed Sam and forcefully dragged him out of the room. “Help me with the suitcases.” Craig said after-the-fact.

Craig brought Sam all the way to the suitcases by the front door and then finally let go of his arm.

“What the heck! I’m not helping with the suitcases! They’re bigger than I am!” Sam yelled. Craig shushed him.

“Listen, Dad wanted me to tell you something.” Craig whispered with an eye on the kitchen. “Grandpa is sick. So, we have to be nice…”

“I am nice. I was telling him all the license plates til you dummies…”

“No, listen.” Craig grabbed Sam’s arm to let him know he was serious. “We have to be really nice to Grandpa. And he doesn’t have a lot of food in the house because he has been too sick to go get some for himself. So, just pretend the food is really good, okay? And don’t say anything about him being sick.”

“I won’t…” Sam was confused but understood he needed to listen to his brother. He followed Craig back into the kitchen and they sat back down at the table.

Sam looked at his plate. He was curious about both the bread and the cheese. He hadn’t seen either of these. His Grandpa and father were both eating. Sam took a bite of his bread. It was tough, so he had to really tear a piece off with his teeth. As he chewed it, he realized it was actually delicious. He hadn’t ever tasted this type of bread, but it had a great flavor.

Next, he tried the big wet, white cheese. He took a big bite. It was soft in his mouth and had a very satisfying feeling to it. Sam didn’t understand what the big fuss was. Why would he be pretending to like this food? It’s delicious! He took another bite of the cheese. And another. It was mild and flavorful all at once.

Grandpa began to cough, and Toby helped him up and took him out of the room.

“This cheese is really, really good.” Sam made sure to call out so they could hear him. “I really like it. And the bread too!”

After Toby and Grandpa were out of the kitchen Craig elbowed Sam.

“Don’t overdo it.”

“I’m not overdoing it. It’s really good.” Sam said honestly. He could tell Craig didn’t believe him. He didn’t want everyone to think he was just saying this so he thought he should really force the issue to show how much he liked the cheese. He spoke louder, calling out to his grandpa and father. “What kind of cheese is this? I really like it!”

“I’m not sure, the guy at the deli gave it to me.” They heard grandpa call back from the other room and then he began coughing again.

Craig slapped Sam in the arm. “You’re laying it on too thick.”

“I’m not. I actually really like it.” Sam said bashfully. “Can I get some more?”

“You didn’t even finish what you have.” Craig went back to eating his bread and cheese. Sam took another bite of his cheese and savored it. He reached over to his father’s plate and grabbed one of his slices of cheese and put it on his own plate. He continued eating ravenously. Maybe now Craig will realize he isn’t overdoing it.


The rest of the visit was uneventful. Sam and Craig did a puzzle on the floor while the TV was on. He had no idea what was on. It didn’t look interesting to him. It didn’t seem that Craig was interested, nor his father. Only Grandpa knew what this show was. He kept talking about the people on the show like everyone knew who they were. A commercial came on.

“How’s the puzzle coming along?” Grandpa looked over at Sam and Craig’s work. They were putting together a map of the United States.

“Pretty good.” Craig said, searching around the floor for pieces. “We got over half of it done. But I think we’re missing a few pieces…”

“You mean these pieces?” Sam pulled several pieces out from under him and put them down. “Oh look! Hawaii!”

Toby and Grandpa laughed heartily. Grandpa’s laugh turned into several painful coughs.

“You and Hawaii.” Craig couldn’t help but smile. “You know you didn’t see Hawaii today.”

“Yeah, Sam, Hawaii is across an ocean.” Toby began to explain to his son. “If someone were to come here, in order to also have their car…”

“I bet you did see Hawaii.” Grandpa cut him off. “You know, one time I saw a Puerto Rico license plate!”

“Puerto Rico!” Sam was fascinated. “You must be the only person to have ever saw that one!”

Toby and Craig smirked. They knew, Grandpa couldn’t help but to tell Sam fun stories and tall tales. Sam was a sucker for them. But Sam never thought these were tall tales. He just knew that his grandpa experienced the greatest stuff.

Grandpa coughed painfully again. Sam wondered what he was sick with. Probably a cold, since he saw him trembling in the kitchen before. But it was weird, Sam only noticed him coughing. He didn’t see his grandpa sneezing or sniffling and he sounded like his usual self. Not all clogged up. He also didn’t see his grandpa taking any medicine. Sam knew if he was sick his father and mother would be force-feeding him medicine every moment they were able to. They were hawks on the Directions side of the medicine bottle. Like two crazy mathematicians adding hours together, figuring out the best way to get the most medicine into Sam’s little body. Then, Sam’s father would be telling him to “drink plenty of fluids” because that’s what the doctor would have told him. It’s funny, that was the only ever time they were called fluids… when someone was sick. All other times it’s “drink some water” “have some juice” “here’s a beverage” but if you’re sick, then they are fluids.

He wondered why his father wasn’t telling Grandpa to drink fluids if he was sick.

Sam, Craig and Toby shared the guest bedroom that night. Sam slept well… once he was able to get comfortable. It was always difficult to get comfortable in a new bed. It didn’t have the familiar dented portion that he could sink right into. The pillows didn’t flatten into a pancake the way he wanted them to. They had a lot of fluff. Which was nice. They felt like fancy pillows. But his face sunk into the pillow and the sides stayed raised up and Sam felt like he was slowly being smothered.

He had to push his face all the way to the edge of the pillow so that there weren’t any parts that were pressing into his nostrils. He was probably going to need to breathe in his sleep, after all. Also, the smell of the pillows was peculiar. They smelled like the rest of Grandpa’s place… but if you had taken Grandpa’s place and put it into some smell-force-multiplier. Enhanced Grandpa smell.

Sam didn’t mind that smell. The best smells in Grandpa’s house were all the old books, especially the atlases. Those had the smell of some heavy knowledge in them. Sam always went through the bookcase, opening books one by one, right to the middle of the book, sticking his nose into the binding and taking a deep whiff. Not all books smelled the same. You had your library smells, you had new book smell (a stench for newcomers to the game, for sure), there was old-book-so-old-the-pages-are-yellow smell (like an aged cheese not suitable for all), and then of course, old-book-thick-page smell. There were many variations, but those were among some of the most popular. But Grandpa’s books, they smelled like books that man had never laid eyes on. Like books that were tucked away in a cave or a dungeon. Sam loved it.

The pillows didn’t quite smell like that. But they were in the same neighborhood. Sam continued thinking about smelling books as he became aware he was falling asleep. He let it happen, happy that these were the thoughts he was having as he was drifting asleep. It was very comforting.


The next day, Sam’s father drove him and Craig and Grandpa to his aunt’s house. Sam and Craig stayed there and hung out with their cousins while their father and Grandpa left to go do something. What… Sam was unsure. He had a sneaking suspicion that Craig knew and also that Craig wouldn’t tell him… so he didn’t even bother asking.

Sam’s cousins had a Nintendo. They had a Mario game that Sam and Craig had back home. They asked if Sam had ever played it. Sam said no, because he wanted to impress his cousins when he turned out to be really good at the game. Craig ruined the fun and told them that Sam was lying and that they had the game for a while. Sam was annoyed but he impressed his cousins anyway. He was by far, the best at the game. They took turns on all the different levels and Sam was clearly the master among them all.

Sam’s Aunt kept bringing them slices of pie while they were playing. It was really nice of her. They were tasty pies that Sam had never had. One of them was hunkaberry and the other had rootbarbs or something. Who knows what kind of pies they have out here? Sam was partial to pumpkin pie. When he asked for pumpkin pie Craig told him not to be stupid and that no one has pumpkin pie except for when it’s October or November.

“I’m not stupid.” Sam said. “Lots of people would love pumpkin pie at all times of the year. Not just in October or November. It’s one of the best pies ever. Ask anyone.”


Sam thought it was strange that the trip was so short. Usually when they visited it would be for a long weekend, several days, maybe even a whole week. That trip was just one day, one night, half of the next day and then they headed back home. They had brought Grandpa back home before they took off.

“I’ll be looking for Puerto Rico.” Sam told his grandpa before they left. He gave him a big hug and Grandpa gave him a wet kiss on his cheek. Sam wanted to wipe it away but waited until they had driven out of Grandpa’s neighborhood before he did, just to be sure.

The ride home was quiet. Sam’s father was often quiet when he drove as he wanted to concentrate on the road, but this was basically silence. Craig was very quiet as well. Sam just watched cars out the window, checking the license plates. He was already up to five and they hadn’t even been in the car for 20 minutes. He was going to see if he could break his previous record of 15.


Sam stood in front of the tall mirror in his parents’ room, examining himself. His mother walked by behind him and tussled his hair. She left the room and Sam saw his hair was sticking every which way. Sam found it so curious that grown ups were always so particular about kids looking their best and looking neat and presentable, yet any chance they got to mess your hair up they would take it.

Hippo-cricks.” Sam thought. “Messing my hair up, telling me to fix my hair, make up your minds.

He fixed his hair with his hands. Sam knew combs and brushes were all part of a gigantic scam. Look how well he was fixing his hair with his fingers. As he put the hairs back in place, his father came over and tussled his hair. He then knelt down next to Sam. He started to fix his little suit, getting it to be perfectly aligned on his little body… even though he just went and messed up Sam’s hair.

“I just wanted to talk to you for a minute before we headed off.” Toby said to Sam. Sam nodded and realized that the suit he was wearing was like a tiny replica of the suit his father was wearing. They also wore the same red tie that Sam WASN’T ALLOWED TO PULL ON OR IT WOULD COME UNDONE. But sure… tussle Sam’s hair repeatedly, everyone.

“Craig, help me load the suitcases into the car!” Sam’s mother called out.

“Agh! What’s Dad doing?!” Craig complained from afar.

“So…” Toby attempted to find the right words. “You know that we’re going to see Grandpa today, but it’s not going to be the same, right? When we last saw Grandpa, that was really the last time we were going to see him. Because he is gone now.”

“Passed on.” Sam stated from memory of what had been told to him.

“Exactly.” Toby smiled, proud of his little guy’s memory. “But like your goldfish. Passed on, and sure we can’t see him anymore, but the memory of him still lives on. And that way, it’s like he’s still always with us. So, you get that we aren’t going to see Grandpa anymore?”

“Yeah.” Sam said plainly. He knew this situation was supposed to be sad… and that it was sad… but he didn’t quite grasp the totality of it. The sadness hadn’t struck him, and he wondered if it would. He also was just expecting to see Grandpa again, regardless of what everyone was telling him. “I get it.”

“And it’s okay to feel sad about it. It is sad.” Toby continued on, fighting tears of his own. “And it’s okay if you cry. It can be good to cry.”

“And if Craig makes fun of me for crying, I’m going to punch him in the arm.” Sam said bluntly.

“Yeah.” Toby laughed, glad to have something to continue to keep the tears at bay. “I will too.”

“Good, but let me do the first one. Because I want him to feel my punch first.” Sam instructed.

“He won’t laugh.” Toby stood up. “You know your grandpa loved you guys, right?”

Sam nodded. Toby grabbed a box off of the bed. It was a puzzle of North America.

“He got you guys another puzzle that he sent to us. You guys can do it when we’re there. After… well, you guys can do it when we get there.”

Toby took the box with him, spun quickly and exited the room. Sam found it strange how quickly his father just left the room but shrugged it off. He looked back at himself in the mirror. He felt he looked very good in a suit, but man, what a hassle to get this whole thing on. It was probably 18 more steps than any of his other outfits. The tie alone was like… six steps. He gripped his hands around the knot at the top of his tie.

“You okay, honey?” Sam heard his mother say faintly in the hallway. Then, he heard footsteps receding away. Then, footsteps approaching him. And there was his mother, entering the room.

“Sam.” His mother reached down and peeled his hands off of his tie. “Remember, we said don’t touch the tie. It takes a while to get it all set up, so we want to leave it alone.”

“I bet I could redo it.” Sam said confidently.

“We’re going to try to be strong for Dad today, okay?” His mother said. “Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t cry. You can cry. But we also want to think of Dad and be extra nice to him today.”

“Right. And if Craig laughs at me for crying, I get to punch him in the arm really hard.” Sam embellished on his prior agreement with his father.

“Sam…” His mother said with barely any conviction.

“It’s true, Dad said, you can ask. He said I could punch him but don’t ask about the ‘how hard’ part but still I get to punch him, and I’ll punch him as hard as I can times ten plus a million, and I’m getting the seat behind you before Craig can get out to the car because that’s the best seat and has way more room.” After Sam used one breath to hurl his plans for brother-domination, car-domination and, quite frankly, world-domination, he took off out of the room and headed for the front door.


Sam was lucky to have the seat behind his mother. He noticed all the room he had to stretch out his legs. He lifted them off the floor and stretched them out as far as he could. Craig looked over out of the corner of his eyes and sneered at Sam. Sam sneered back and then chuckled because Craig couldn’t stretch his legs out as much. Their father had his seat reclined back much farther.

Craig turned back towards the window and stared out. Sam observed his father driving, eyes straight ahead on the road. And his mother next to him, eyes also on the road, ready to help at every moment.

“That next rest stop is 10 miles.” She said and then checked a map. “That one’s pretty close to a halfway point, probably the closest one.”

Sam’s father simply nodded, but with some kind of kindness to it. His mother put her hand on his father’s arm and just left it there. Sam felt like that couldn’t be helpful for his father while driving, but he probably didn’t mind.

Sam looked back out the window. There’s the woman with the messy hair they had already passed twice and who had already passed them twice. Now, they were passing her for a third time. Sam felt proud of this moment. He had been creating a story in his head and all the cars on the highway were in a miles-long race. They passed messy-haired woman again and now they were beating her… and probably winning amongst everyone too.

Sam’s father, perhaps somehow knowing that Sam wants to win the race, steps on the gas a bit more. They pass the blue car ahead that they hadn’t yet passed. Perfect, Sam’s family’s car was really winning now. They approached a green car. Sam squinted to make out the license plate.

“Illi-noise!” Sam called out.

“Hey, that’s another one!” His mother said enthusiastically. “Good job. What are you up to now?”

Sam looked down at the piece of paper and pencil in his lap. Past all the drawings of monsters and coyotes and lightning bolts was the tally. He counted them up. He had 14! He tallied one more.

“Illi-noise makes 15!” Sam was excited. “I tied my record!”

Craig looked over interested. Even Toby perked up and looked around the car.

“Wow. So, one more and you could break your record!” Toby was impressed. He started to pull the car into the next lane… and the next. “We’re going to stop at this rest stop but maybe once we get back on the road, you’ll be able to spot another one.”

“Yeah, the rest stop is a good idea.” Sam said in deep thought. “I’m probably going to need my rest if I’m going to break my record.”

His parents snickered in the front seat. Toby continued to pull the car over across the lanes.

“I’ll help you look too.” Craig said with a smile. Sam smiled back. He looked back out the window to see who else they were passing to win this race.

A white car slowly started to pass them on the right. Sam looked into the car and saw an older man. He had a friendly look in his eyes. He saw Sam and smiled a big toothy grin. Sam smiled too. He didn’t want this guy to pass them and win the race, but at least he seemed like a nice guy, so it was alright. The car continued to pass them. As the tail end of the car evened out with Sam’s window, he checked the license plate.

“Whoa!” Sam yelled out. “Puerto Rico! Look, it’s Puerto Rico!”

Everyone whipped their heads towards the white car. Sure enough, the license plate read Puerto Rico. They were all astonished.

“What?!” Craig was in disbelief. “How did…”

“Remember?” Sam was intent to remind them all. “Grandpa said he saw Puerto Rico once. Now, we saw Puerto Rico too!”

“Wow.” Toby has a look of wonder come over his eyes. “He did say he saw Puerto Rico when we were there last time. I didn’t… I didn’t believe him…”

“Why wouldn’t you believe him?” Sam asked. “Obviously he wasn’t lying. Hey! That’s 16! I broke my record!”

“That’s kind of amazing that he said that the last time we were there…” Toby shakes his head slightly.

“And now we’re headed back there!” Sam said joyously. “I can’t wait to tell Grandpa!”

The car fell silent. Everyone turned away from Sam and looked out their respective windows. Sam wrote down one more tally line on his piece of paper. Next to it he wrote a big ‘16’ and circled it several times. The sound of the highway rolling underneath the tires of the car whirred on. Repetitive bumps sounded each second. Bah-bump. Bah-bump. Bah-bump.

Sam admired his tally marks on his piece of paper. Then, he admired his stellar drawings as well. This piece of paper was going to have to be hung up somewhere. Maybe in his room on the wall. Or maybe in Grandpa’s room. Maybe he’d give it to Grandpa to keep.

“Hey, when we get there, can we get some more of that cheese that we had?” Sam asked, looking forward towards his parents.

“Yeah.” His father responded without turning around. “That sounds like a fantastic idea, Sam.”

Craig turned to Sam, a weird look on his face that Sam couldn’t determine. He figured Craig thought that he was still overdoing the whole cheese thing. Which he wasn’t.

“I really do like that cheese.” Sam said.


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About the Creator

Stephen Kramer Avitabile

I'm a creative writer in the way that I write. I hold the pen in this unique and creative way you've never seen. The content which I write... well, it's still to be determined if that's any good.

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran4 months ago

    This story was vsad but it gave me a few chuckles at the same time! I loved your sense of humour: - The boy's a camel? - Enhanced grandpa smell - Hippo-cricks I also loved reading from the POV of a kid. It was very fascinating. I forgot how fun it was to go for car rides and always wanna be the car that wins the race. I loved the point you made that fluids are only used when we are sick. But my most favourite part of the story is the cheese! It made my mouth water, lol! I enjoyed reading this story!

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