I’m normally not the biggest fan of Chinese food, but I find they have a good enough selection at the buffet down the street to appease my persnickety palate. A few months ago I went with my friends and something unusual occurred. The meal was normal, and it ended just like most Chinese buffets do; they gave us a check and a fortune cookie. Oh, those little goddamn cookies! Who would’ve thought they could hold so much power?
The end of that meal was when I first noticed something strange. I cracked open the fragile cookie and pulled the crinkled fortune from the broken pieces. It said, “You will find unexpected wealth”.
Wouldn’t that be nice, I thought. Then after paying and making our way back to the car, I happened to look down and saw a five dollar bill crumpled up on the ground. Just a coincidence, I figured. I mean, five bucks doesn’t really count as “wealth.”
A week went by and I forgot all about the fortune. I was sitting at home with my family and everyone was arguing about where we should go for dinner. Without thinking, I blurted out, “How about the Chinese buffet?”
I expected some rebuttal to this—as is the way with my family—but no. Everyone seemed surprisingly pleased by this idea. So, we went. Again, everything was normal. We stuffed our faces, paid the bill, got our cookies, then left. But this time I stuck the cookie in my pocket without opening it. Everyone else opened theirs and shared their generic fortunes. But I pretended I was too full and was gonna eat mine later. My sister teased me a little but that was the end of it.
Then something great happened; I ran into Karen, a girl I used to go to school with. I always had a huge crush on her. We were even close friends during senior year and I wanted to ask her out so many times. But every time I tried I became insanely tongue-tied. But for whatever reason, that night I easily struck up a conversation with her in the parking lot. I was smooth, witty, and made her laugh like crazy. I wasn’t talking to her long, but somehow I ended up asking her out on a date—and she said yes! I was elated.
In the back of the car on our way home I couldn’t help but stare at the contact info she put in my phone. She put her number—and instead of Karen for the name, she wrote “future girlfriend.” I couldn’t stop smiling. That’s when my little sister butted in and started making fun of me. I told her to knock it off, so she smacked me on the leg and went back to playing on her phone. But when she smacked me I heard a loud crunch. The cookie!
“How about the Chinese buffet?”
I’d almost forgotten about it. I fished the flat, broken cookie from my pocket and carefully opened it—making sure not to spill the crumbs in the car. With hands as delicate as a surgeon’s, I gently pulled the paper fortune from the carnage that was crumbled cookie. I read it—then had to reread it to be sure what I was seeing was real. It said, “You’ll ignite the flames of a lost love.” No way!
You could say I was a little more than freaked out. But it seemed like these little cookies we’re two-for-two so far. Of course, I told myself these were probably just random coincidences. But I still couldn’t stop myself from imagining what else waited for me in those little semi-sweet fired nuggets of wisdom. This caused me to start frequenting the restaurant by myself. I wouldn’t go too often because I couldn’t afford it. but each time I did go the fortunes were accurate.
One week it said, “A dollar will take you a long way,” and wouldn’t you know it, I hit for $500.00 on a scratch off ticket. Another week it said, “Staying home tonight would be wise.” That night a friend of mine invited me to a party downtown. I heeded the advice of the fortune and turned him down. Sure enough, the cops raided the party and arrested a bunch of kids for underage drinking.
The cookie I got last week said, “Open your eyes and a new career path will present itself.” A few days later I got an email from a small press magazine I’d submitted some stories to in the past. The email informed me they were interested in publishing my stories. That’s nothing Earth-shattering, mind you, but it’s definitely better than the low pay freelance work I’d been doing up to that point.