I've Got Your Cheese, You Nitwit! A simple but inspirational tale of rats and eensy-weensy people and how you, too, can learn to accept your fate and shut up about it.
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Hello. I'm elated to be able to bring you this little fable, which has transformed the lives of many both professionally and personally, rendering all human experience instantly manageable even when the situations that give rise to confusion and suffering remain completely unchanged and unacceptable. I'd get to the story right away, but I have a full page here and a whole column on the next page to fill. By offering this little introduction I am using up more than a hundred words even before I get started. That makes things easier for me, and that's what this story is all about.

A few more words before we end this little section of remarks that appear before we start. The story that you are about to read is a parable. For those of you who are moving your lips as you read this, I will tell you what that means. No, it doesn't mean two male cows! Ha ha ha! On the contrary. It means we will be writing mostly in words of one syllable to give the illusion that what we have to tell is a very, very simple story that even a child could understand. The fact that this is indeed the case makes my job even easier, and as I said, that's just fine too.

So that you are not confused by the weighty matters in this tale, I will even tell you what the characters represent. There are two rats, Grab and Gimme, and two tinyfellows, Whoa and Whazzup, who are the size of rats both physically and emotionally but are actually humans in business suits. Grab takes things because he thinks they are coming to him. Gimme wants a lot but is afraid to take it, allowing Grab to do most of the work but in the end getting most of the Cheese himself because he has sharper teeth. Whoa, our little friend in the Armani blazer, is amazed at everything and likes to think things are going fine the way they are because he has a few stock options. And Whazzup just wants to hang around and drink beer. These are all parts of ourselves, get it?

Good. Now we can begin.

Once, long ago in a land far away, there lived four animate life forms who ran around looking for things to fill up their miserable existences until the time that Providence saw fit to release them from this mortal plane. Sometime around 1986, all four creatures fell into a vat of Cheese that was very plentiful and tasty. They were very happy with their Cheese, but what they didn't realize is that it wasn't their Cheese at all. They were only borrowing it. The Cheese belonged to a global, transindustrial corporation that had no knowledge of their existence and couldn't possibly have cared less about them.

This wasn't always the case. Early in their careers, both rats and men worked for a corporation that actually made Cheese. Those were happy, carefree days! They had company cars, and there were no faxes to make them move their Cheese around on a real-time basis, and e-mail had not yet been invented to make their Cheese all runny and hard to grab, and there was time to just sit with the Cheese now and then in an enjoyable and pretty unproductive fashion. Many times, the Cheesegiver would drop by and give them a little Cheese, just to watch how happy it made them.

In the late '80s, however, it became clear that the Cheese could no longer stand alone, that stand-alone Cheese, in fact, was unable to compete with Cheese that could achieve economies of scale and back-office efficiencies. So in the early '90s, their Cheese was moved to a cheaper part of the maze and at the same time lumped together with a lot of other Cheese to create one very large, smelly, and synergistic mound.

Grab and Gimme and the two tinyfellows were left with hardly any Cheese whatsoever, and what Cheese they did have was processed and almost completely without character. This was very disappointing, because they had given the best part of their lives for their original, beloved Cheese and believed they had a right to feel proprietary about it. In fact, in the previous decade they had been encouraged to take Ownership of that Cheese, and now it was gone!

Grab and Gimme, because they were, after all, rats, put on their itty-bitty Nikes and ran back into the maze, chewing through walls and other rats until they found a room full of Cheese they could glom onto for a while and sell books to.

Things were tougher on Whoa and Whazzup, however, because they had brains and not just limbic regions surrounding rudimentary ganglia. Whoa, for his part, carefully ventured back into the maze, leaving scribblings of crushing simplicity on the wall. "If the Cheese is bad, don't eat it," he wrote at one point after a disappointing meal at a restaurant that also featured very small portions. "Cheese is where you find it," he observed at another juncture while shoving a smaller tinyfellow off a cliff and snatching his stash. He left these messages, of course, for Whazzup, but his poor comrade never moved from his original Cheese location. He is, as far as I know, living there still, sleeping a great deal at his desk and subsisting on a diet of laser-printer toner and linoleum.

Finally, as summer turned to winter and then to spring, Whoa overcame his fear of the unknown, turned a corner in the gigantic maze of life, and found a room full of the most beautiful Cheese on the planet. Man, was that some cache of Cheese! Unfortunately, I was sitting in a very comfortable recliner in the center of the room keeping all that nice Cheese for myself. To this day, in short, anyone who wants any Cheese at all has to go through me or someone very much like me. Now and then I let the local tinyfellows have a scrap of Cheese, of course, but only when I feel like it, and when the Cheese hits a certain target price, I will move that Cheese again, believe you me.

And that's the end of the story. It's a great and inspirational one, I think you'll agree--so good, in fact, that I'm going to make everybody I know go out and buy it in bulk. Before long, millions of people will be reading it and wondering if they're the only ones who think it's simplistic, condescending, and infuriating. But by then it will be too late! Because the Cheese will be mine--forever and ever! And if you don't like it, you can lump it! There's only so much of it to go around! Get your own, you losers!

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name. He can be reached at stanleybing@aol.com.