The fortune inside my fortune cookie began with the words, “Your success…”
I did not get to read any further. The wind, ever a fractious thing, skirted snakelike across the blacktop of the strip mall parking lot, whispering and clawing dust up from its sunbaked surface. It yanked the fortune from my hands.
“Hey!” I said through the last fading bits of sugary-sweet fortune cookie clinging to my still peppery lips. The fortune danced on the wind, the single strip of cheap paper tossing and tumbling on the updrafts like a dinghy floundering at sea.
My stomach protested as I ran after it, the kung pao chicken resting uneasily with this change in momentum. But as a young man with big degrees and small job prospects, the hint of fortune and success was too strong a lure to pass by. I dodged around shoppers and walkers, darted between parked cars and skirted around moving ones. I dashed under eaves and past gurgling, cheap and tacky fountains, in search of that single dancing, twisting strip of paper, carried beyond my grasp by the fickle Austin wind.
It constantly eluded my grasp, flitting here and there like some sort of demented butterfly, borne ever upward and onward by the fickle fingers of Texas heat and wind. That is, it eluded my grasp until at last, by some mercurial twist of chance, the wind carried its charge from the warmth and light of the sun into the grasping fingers of shade and old night. The lift of heat gone, the fortune plunged to earth, drawn magnetlike to the cool flagstones, where it was promptly sucked through a closed door, the air conditioning inside drawing it inward like a greedy spider reaching for its fly.
I bumped my head against the door in my haste. Rubbing my forehead against the pain, I opened the glass front door and stepped inside. I retrieved my fortune from the ground. “Your success,” it read, “has been under your nose the whole time. Lucky numbers # 7, 12, 32, 60, 88. LEARN CHINESE! Ni hao = hello.” On the back were printed the ever-so-appropriate words, “Printed in Pakistan.”
“What a crock,” I said to no one in particular, and turned to leave, only to collide with the door again. Or at least, to collide with the “Help Wanted!” sign on the door. I rubbed my still smarting nose in growing wonder and fascination. Outside, the wind shook the door once, softly, but enough to make the bell attached to the doorknob jingle slightly, as if tipping its hat in acknowledgment.
Lane Haygood is struggling through his final year of law school, kept sane by his wonderful girlfriend, two cats, and his love of reading.