Fitzy was a hedgehog with a problem. Born Fitgerald Toulouse LeFou Alistair V (an illustrious name for a fellow that spends his days napping in a den, and his nights running amuck in hedgerows and avoiding owls), he had one simple dream. Fitzy's greatest dream was to sample just the smallest slice of cheese. Camembert or cheddar, asiago or aragon, mozzarella or muenster, Fitzy did not care. He just wanted the chance to taste that creamy goodness on his tiny tongue, to savor the deliciousness of that mythical substance. Fitzy had feasted on insects, snails, grass roots, bird eggs, mushrooms, berries, and on one occasion a watermelon that had fallen from a cart and busted open on the ground beside his favorite hedgerow. That was a treat indeed. But nothing could compare to the dream of cheese.
Now this is the part where one would usually chime in about how all of Fitzy's friends thought he was crazy. But, the truth is, Fitzy didn't really have friends. Hedgehogs are solitary creatures, and none were more solitary than Fitzy. His time was spent on his own pursuits, and that was the way he liked it. It was bad enough that he had to worry about being snatched up by Archimedes, that ancient owl with eyes sharper than when he had been an owlet. Or devoured by Collette, the sinister lady badger who would love nothing more than to sink her claws into him. Fitzy had spent a good chunk of his life avoiding her.
Despite the many dangers in his community, Fitzy had a good life. He had a cozy den, full of objects he had collected here and there. He had his mushroom garden, and his books. He lived near a lush garden, where he could take moonlit rambles and perhaps have a snack. Yes, his life would have been perfect, if not for the lack of cheese.
Now, I mentioned earlier that Fitzy had a predilection for collecting random objects. His cozy den was filled with his treasures. Due to his fortuitous location near the aforementioned garden, collecting was easy. Humans were always leaving things lying about. Fitzy did not fear humans. He dined on the snails that would have dined on the plants in the gardens, and the gardener was grateful for it. The gardener had small children, and these children were forever losing things, and Fitzy confiscated them. His collection was filled with shiny bottlecaps, old coins, bows, tiny beads that had once been a bracelet, bits of paper, twine, and one small rubber ball that one of the children had lost when it rolled into the hedge. But the prize of Fitzy's collection, the feather in his cap, so to speak, was his shoelace assortment. He had shoelaces in every color- red, blue, green, yellow, orange, magenta, indigo, violet, white, and black- and he had festooned the walls of his den with them. It was truly lovely. Fitzy was immensely pleased with his collection.
One particularly lovely evening, Fitzy had been running about among the hedges, gobbling up errant snails and berries, and having a grand time. A storm was brewing on the horizon, and the wind had begun to pick up, heralding its imminent arrival. Fitzy had lost track of time, and did not realize that the sun would rise soon. He had stopped to inspect a particularly smooth pebble when he noticed something bright and colorful fluttering in the farthest reaches of the hedgerow. He ambled off to inspect it, and to his delight, it was a rainbow colored shoelace, just the thing to make his collection complete. But before he could reach it, Collette the badger leapt out of the hedge, and snatched it, holding it in her wicked claws.
Now Fitzy was not the bravest hedgehog, but he wasn't the stupidest one either. He knew how dangerous Collette was, and that curling up into a ball would not work with her. She would just roll him around until he was exhausted, and could no longer hold that shape, and then she would feast on his tender belly. Fitzy had not lived two long years to be eaten by a badger now, when he had just found the most magnificent shoelace he had ever seen, and had still not fulfilled his lifelong dream of eating a small slice of cheese. He thought furiously about what he should do.
Then Fitzy heard the sound of his salvation. There was a wagon coming down the lane, probably on its way to the market. If Fitzy could outrun Collette, he could lead her into the lane, where she would be crushed by the wagon wheel. But could he outrun her?
As if it were a sign from the heavens, the wind gusted furiously, and the marvelous shoelace flew from Collette's grasp, past Fitzy, fluttering furiously, as if it wanted him to follow. He did, and Collette took up the pursuit. Fitzy dashed into the lane, as if he were pursuing the shoelace, and Collette was close behind. The shoelace flew in front of the wagon, and Fitzy followed without any hesitation, feeling as though following the shoelace was his only hope. The driver of the cart saw the tiny hedgehog running swiftly after the shoelace, and yanked his reins in surprise (it's not every day you see a hedgehog chasing a shoelace). However, Fitzy's gambit had paid off. Though the wagon slowly came to a stop, it was not slowly enough for Collette, who had run right in front of the horses, and been trampled by there hooves. That, in turn, spooked the horses, and they reared, and overturned the cart.
The shoelace had landed on a bed of clover, and Fitzy gingerly took it in his tiny hands. He turned back to look at the mess in the road. The human driving the cart was unharmed, but furious. He was yelling at the horses, the dead badger, the heavens, and gesturing fruitlessly, for his whole load was overturned, and rolling down the slight slope on Fitzy's side of the road. It was a strange and comical sight, and Fitzy allowed himself to be amused, even though his heart was still racing after his close encounter with Collette.
As Fitzy was standing in the clover, catching his breath, one of the small, cylindrical objects the wagon had been carrying rolled toward him, and stopped at his feet. Fitzy sniffed it, and closely inspected it. It was round, and covered in a red substance, and...could it be?
Fitzy nibbled experimentally at the red covering as the driver of the wagon cursed in the distance. The red substance was waxy and not entirely unpleasant to the taste. But underneath, there was something more. This beautiful, red, gift from the gods of circumstance...this glorious circle of beauty...this bountiful cylinder lying before him...it was cheddar cheese!
Still holding tight to his shoelace, Fitzy dug his teeth into the cheese and dragged it backwards, into the taller clover, where the driver of the wagon would not see it when he ventured downhill to pick up his spilled load. Later, Fitzy would begin the arduous journey of dragging the wheel of cheddar home, but for now he could just wait and give thanks for the many wonders of the day- the beautiful shoelace, the end to Collette, and most importantly of all, the cheese.
Later that day, after the driver had gone, and Fitzy had dragged his prize home, he fell into an exhausted sleep, the shoelace wrapped around his claws, and one hand on the cheese wheel. When he awoke that night, he would discover how truly delicious just a small slice of cheese would taste when accompanied by the mushrooms from his garden, and the berries he had stashed. As he delicately nibbled his cheddar, he was struck by how truly wonderful the previous night had been to him, and also how lucky he had been. The cheese was every bit as wonderful as he had imagined, his shoelace completed his collection, and he would never have to worry about Collette again. With his belly full of cheddar and mushrooms, Fitzy was the most content hedgehog in the history of all hedgehogs.
*No badgers were harmed in the writing of this story.
**Hedgehogs are highly lactose intolerant, and you should never really give one cheese. This is obviously a work of fiction, not a guide to the diet of a hedgehog.