The Ultimate Struggle
A Short Story by Tim Josephs
Written using the suggestion "Black"
Originally featured on 06-08-2007
As part of our series "Checkered"

My friend Jarrod sent me an e-mail about another protest, the third one of the month. Things were certainly getting heated — the last one resulted in 18 arrests and several people had to go to the hospital after tear gas was sprayed.

Until this all started, I hadn’t considered myself very political. Sure, I kept up with the news, but as for getting involved in things, that just wasn’t me. But this was an issue I couldn’t ignore; this was something worth fighting and maybe even dying for.

I quickly replied to Jarrod and told him I’d be there; there was no way in hell they were going to take Chester Cheetah away from us without a battle.

 

Like most people, I remember where I was the day it was announced, when that pin head Milcher told the world Chester would no longer be the spokes-cheetah. I was watching TV in my living room when the “Breaking News” logo flashed across the screen. Then they cut to a rat-faced, middle-aged man in an orange suit standing behind a podium. Even before he said anything, I had an uneasy feeling.

When the press conference was over, I felt numb. Chester Cheetah was a huge part of my childhood (I still had my Chester bed sheets), a huge part of my life in general and I couldn’t believe he was being taken away.

A couple minutes later Jarrod called. I knew how hard the news must have hit him, after all, his quote in the high school yearbook was “It ain’t easy bein’ cheesy.” Always the proactive thinker, he was already planning; he started talking quickly about letter-writing campaigns, boycotts, protests.

What began as just a few friends meeting with signs in the center of the city, soon progressed to hundreds and then thousands. All across the world people took up the cause. “Save Chester” shirts were seen everywhere; Jarrod set up www.savethecheetah.com which at its peak was getting over two million hits a day.

But for me, it just wasn’t enough. I told Jarrod there was really only one way we could get things to change: we had to talk to that skunk Milcher.

“Not gonna happen,” Jarrod said. “Since I posted his office and cell numbers online, they’ve all been changed and blocked. I heard now he’s got 24-hour security and a bodyguard.”

I decided to ambush Milcher, Michael Moore-style and just show up at his office with a camera and demand he talk to me. If nothing else maybe I’d get a cool documentary out of it.

Jarrod wanted to go but was too busy with work at Chester Headquarters (his studio apartment), but he said he had a friend with a camera who might be interested.

I met Brian the next day and explained what I wanted to do. His impressive girth told me he had eaten his share of Cheetos and he immediately signed on.

The first step was coming up with a story. I called the Frito Lay Company and told them I was doing a video project for my thesis about the snack food industry. Fearing suspicion, I didn’t mention Milcher; I figured as long as we were able to get into the building we could get to him. The woman I talked to was happy to help and set us up with an appointment to see a Mr. Rafferty for the next day.

It was about a six hour drive to the office and aside from Brian’s constant munching on the large supply of food he brought, it was a rather quiet trip. Before we got up to the gate in front of the building, we passed hundreds of protesters — several yelled “Scab!” at us — and I told the guard why we were there and he let us through.

While we waited in the lobby, I pretended to have to use the bathroom and started snooping around. I found a directory near the elevators and quickly found Milcher’s name. As luck would have it, Rafferty was on the same floor.

When I got back to Brian, he was standing with a young, smiling woman. She rode with us in the elevator and showed us to Rafferty’s office. Another smiling woman sitting behind a desk told us it would be a few minutes and offered us some coffee.

A minute later the phone on the desk rang and the woman picked it up. “Yes, I’ll be right there,” she said after a moment, looking a little distraught. She hung up and quickly stood. “I’m sure Mr. Rafferty will be right out,” she said to us and then hurriedly left.

“Okay, Brian, here’s our chance, let’s go.” I crept to the door and peeked outside. “C’mon.” I took a right and started scanning the names on the doors. After a moment I found what I was searching for: “F. Milcher” was printed on a door straight ahead. I smiled.

“Is the camera ready, Brian? Brian?” I turned around to see him standing at a vending machine.

“Dude, you don’t even have to put money in, it’s all free!”

“C’mon, Brian!” I whispered.

After taking another glance at the machine, he began following me. Just as we got to the door, it opened. Milcher was there with a large man wearing a jet-black suit.

“Mr. Milcher!” I shouted, shoving Brian closer as he pointed the camera. “I’d like to ask you a few questions.”

Milcher’s face turned red. “How’d you get in here, what is this about?” The large man stepped in front of him.

“Don’t try to hide behind your goon, Milcher, you know why we’re here.”

Suddenly the color drained from his face. “Oh my God, you know? You know about the poison Cheeto?” Brian and I looked at each other. “Like I told the lawyers, I had very little to do with that.”

“Poison Cheeto? No, this is about Chester!”

“Let’s go, punks.” The bodyguard began pushing us down the hallway.

“Chester Cheetah!” I yelled as Milcher walked away. “Why’d you do it, Milcher?! Why?!”

After an uncomfortable elevator ride, we were thrown out of the building. Brian’s camera was virtually destroyed but thankfully the film survived.

“Well, that was interesting,” I said as we drove back to the highway. Brian didn’t say anything and I glanced over at him. He was slumped against the window with his eyes closed, the bag of Cheetos he had snagged on the way out was crumpled up on the floor.

I pressed down a little harder on the accelerator, anxious to get home and tell Jarrod about our experience. I realized we still had a long way to go in the struggle but I knew we’d get Chester back, I just knew we would.

Read More By Tim Josephs

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