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The Fortune Cookie
By D H Theile
Monday, January 15, 2007
Rated "PG" by the Author.
When a magical fortune cookie is opened, it starts a chain of events designed to make the fortune come true .
The Fortune Cookie
Motion tickled the corner of Jim’s eye causing him to look up from his computer, only to be rewarded by his cubicle neighbor, Gary’s, disembodied head resting it’s chin atop their common wall. “What’s up?” Jim said.
“Where do you want to go for lunch?” said the head.
“How ‘bout Chins?” Jim replied, returning his attention to his terminal.
“Again?” Gary groaned. “Can’t we go somewhere else once in a while? I want to get a burger.”
Jim turned to face the head. “Do I have to go through the reasons again?” Gary groaned as Jim ticked off the reasons one by one. “Cholesterol, calories, mad cow disease-“
Hands now joined the head, covering its ears. “Okay, okay, I give. We can go to Chins. Jeez.”
The head disappeared behind the wall, and Jim grinned as he went back to work, only to be interrupted once again, this time by the bosses booming voice.
“Can I have everyone come out onto the floor for an announcement.”
This caused Gary’s head to reappear. “I’ll bet he’s gonna announce who got the promotion. If you get it, you’re buying.”
Jim snorted as he shrugged his lean frame into his suit jacket. “Not a problem, pal.”
Mr. Bodewash was already pontificating by the time they reached the assemblage. “As you all know, we’ll be needing a new department head since I’m being bumped upstairs, and … well … we’ve finally chosen someone. You’ll be happy to know that I’ve picked someone from our own department.”
Everyone started whispering excitedly, including Gary, who nudged Jim in the ribs. “Atta boy Jim.”
Clearing his jowly throat, the boss continued. “I’m pleased to announce the newest department head at Borachio and Pettifogger; Bill Kwistgoed.”
Everyone applauded and gathered around their new supervisor to offer their congratulations while Jim and Gary stood there nonplussed.
“Yeah, wow.” Jim grunted. “Well, we better go and congratulate him so it doesn’t look like we don’t like him.”
“But we don’t li-“ All the air went out of Gary as Jim elbowed him in the abdomen.
* * * *
“I can’t believe they gave that weasely, little son of a bitch my promotion. I know this job inside and out, and that asshole doesn’t know diddly.”
“Yeah, but he sure knows how to suck up. Probably majored in it in college.”
The two of them leaned back as Mr. Chin set their plates in front of them. “Pork low mein, Mongolian beef. Did I hear you right. You not get promotion?” The diminutive, wiry, energetic, Chinese proprietor asked in his Indy-car paced staccato patter.
“Yeah, Lee, they gave it to a guy who started six months ago. I’ve busted my hump for two and a half years. I deserve that promotion.”
“You good man. That not right.” Lee shot out.
“Well, you know what they say.” Gary said. “Nice guys finish last.”
“Confucius have much better saying.” Lee said.
“Oh yeah?” Gary said. “What’s that?”
“I don’t know from top of head, but sure it better.” The three of them had a good laugh. “Enjoy.”
Gary and Jim thanked him and dug into their lunches, ripping on Bill Kwistgoed throughout the meal. When they were just about finished and obviously slowing down Lee came out and set a fortune cookie in front of each of them. Jim’s was easily twice as big. “I make you special fortune cookie, old family recipe.”
“Thanks Lee, you shouldn’t have.”
“I want you be happy. You best customer.”
Gary snorted. “I don’t doubt it.” He broke open his cookie and pulled out the tiny strip of paper. “Depart not from the path which fate has you assigned. I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean.”
“Stay the course.” Jim explained.
Lee picked up the special cookie and pushed it at Jim. “You read yours. Read. Read.” He said, gesturing with the cookie.
Jim took it out of Lee’s gnarled old hand and broke it open gingerly, popping a piece into his mouth. “Mmm, that’s good Lee.”
“You read.” Lee insisted.
Jim read the fortune and rolled his eyes. “Very funny Mr. Chin.”
“What’s it say?” Gary urged.
Jim sighed and read the fortune with little enthusiasm. “You will get the promotion.” He looked over at Lee. “You’re a little late my friend. They gave it to someone else.”
“I know, I know, that’s why I give you fortune cookie. If you got promotion, no need cookie.”
“You’re a strange man Mr. Chin. Is this some sort of ancient Chinese sarcasm?” Jim asked.
“Very special, very old Chin family secret.”
“Well, I thank you. And, oddly enough, I feel better already.”
Jim and Gary got up from the table and settled their bill. “Thanks again Lee.”
“No problem. You get promotion. You see. Bye bye now.” Lee pattered on, even after they went out the door.
* * * *
On the walk back to the office they heard multiple sirens and were passed by several squad cars and rescue vehicles. They stopped dead in their tracks as they turned the corner and were greeted by a scene from a disaster movie; police cars closed off both ends of the block, rescue trucks, ambulances, and fire trucks filled the street. Paramedics were gathered around a yellow taxi parked in front of their buildings main entrance.
“Holy shit.” Gary breathed. “I wonder what happened.”
“Some guy fell off the curb and got run over by a cab.” A smartly dressed woman standing next to them said as she craned her neck to see over the crowd.
“Man, talk about your bad days.” Jim said. “I wonder who it was?”
“Was being the key word.” Gary said pointing to the gurney being pushed into the ambulance bearing a cloth covered body.
“Do you think it was anyone we knew?” Jim said, instantly spotting something new. “Hey, look over by the fire truck… talking to the cops, …Isn’t that the boss?”
“I wonder what he’s doing down there?” Gary said.
“Let’s see if we can get closer to the door.” Jim said. “We need to get back to work anyway.”
Halfway to the door they ran into Jenny, a fellow cubicle dweller from their cluster. She grabbed Jims sleeve. “Too bad about Bill huh?”
“Yeah, I can’t believe that little shit-eater stole my promotion.” Jim snarled back.
Jenny looked hurt, and tears welled up in her eyes. “You stupid jerk. That’s him in the ambulance. He tripped and fell off the curb right in front of that cab. It split his head like a melon.”
Her tears had now become a waterfall, so Jim gave her his handkerchief. “I didn’t…that is…I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
She took off towards the doors, holding the handkerchief over her eyes, knocking people out of her way with her elbows, while Jim stood there stunned. Mr. Bodewash, who was, unfortunately for Jim, quite near, glared at him openly. “Oh boy, I put my foot in it now.” Jim muttered.
Grabbing his elbow, Gary dragged him to the doors and out of the bosses line of fire.
* * * *
All anyone could do the rest of the afternoon was talk about Bills accident, and a couple of hours later Mr. Bodewash called everyone out on the floor again. “By now I’m sure you’ve all heard the news about Bill Kwistgoeds unfortunate accident. If you haven’t … well … Bill was struck by a cab on our way to lunch today to-“. Bodewash was on the verge of breaking down and took a deep breath to compose himself, wiping his forehead with his handkerchief. “We were going to celebrate his promotion.” His lips trembled as he continued. “I think we’ll leave early today. Thank you everybody.”
As everyone milled about on their way out, the boss walked up to Jim. “I’d like to see you in my office before you leave.”
Jim followed him into the office, closed the door, and waited for the boss to invite him to sit. He didn’t. “Jim, I was very saddened by what happened today, and I’m not just talking about the accident. What you said out there was unprofessional, improper, and disappointing. You were my second choice for this position, a close second, but after what you said out there today, there’s no way I can give this job to you. I need team players, and you obviously, are not. So, I’m promoting Jenny Curple instead.”
Bodewash leaned forward over his desk. “I’ll be watching you Jim; very closely.” He leaned back. “Go on home.”
* * * *
Next morning Jim walked through the door and had to shoulder his way through a gaggle of cubicle mates gathered in the foyer. Gary emerged from the group and sidled up to him. “Did you hear about Jenny?”
“Yeah, Bodewash told me yesterday before we went home.”
Gary looked at him like he had a gas pain. “Huh? How could he tell you then, when it didn’t happen until later?”
“He told me he was going to do it.”
“He told you he was going to kill Jenny?”
Now Jim had gas. “What are you talking about?”
Jim had stopped walking before Gary realized it, so he had to step back to him. “I thought you knew. Jenny was killed yesterday afternoon.”
The room spun a circle around Jims head and his knees buckled. Gary caught him before he hit the floor. Jim turned his head and asked weakly. “What happened?”
“No, I mean what happened to Jenny?”
Gary helped Jim sit up and started brushing lint from Jim’s shoulders. “Well, you know how Bodie sent us all home early yesterday?” Jim nodded weakly. “Well, Bodie took Jenny golfing out at his country club, and as she’s teeing off on the first hole, some schmuck on the eighteenth hole overshoots and hits her right between the eyes. Blunt head trauma, they called it.”
Jim shook his head. “Is the boss in yet?”
“Yeah, he was here when I got in.”
Jim got up and hurried towards Bodewash’s office. “I’ve got to warn him.”
Gary trotted to keep up. “Warn him about what?”
“About the fortune cookie. He’s got to give me the promotion or people are going to keep dying.”
Gary grabbed Jim’s arm and jerked him to a standstill. “Are you sure you didn’t get hit in the head with a golf ball?”
Jim’s voice became intensely quiet. “I’m serious, damn it. Ever since I got that fortune, everyone who’s gotten that promotion has gotten killed.”
Gary sounded skeptical. “Because of a fortune cookie?”
“How would you explain it?”
“Puh-lease.” Jim pushed past him and reached for the doorknob.
“So, what are you going to tell Bodie?”
Jim stopped with his hand on the knob and turned around. “Shit. Good question.” Jim put on his best fake smile. “Good morning Mr. Bodewash, do you know why everyone around here keeps getting killed. It’s all because of this little fortune cookie I got yesterday.” Letting go of the doorknob, Jim headed for his cubicle. “Crap, he’d have me committed.”
“So, now what?”
“I’ll figure something out.”
* * * *
Concentrating on work was next to impossible for Jim all morning. Luckily, Gary’s head came to the rescue. “Want to go to lunch, my treat.?”
“Your treat? Hell froze over and I didn’t get the memo?”
“You’re looking at the new head of the department, pun intended.”
“Very funny my disembodied friend.”
“Bodie’s going to make the announcement tomorrow.”
“You’re serious.” Jim said incredulously.
“Yup. Bodie just gave me the news.”
“Shit! You need to go back in there and tell him you don’t want it.”
“Hey, no way. I want that promotion as much as you do.”
“I don’t want to lose a friend.”
“We can still hang out together when I’m the boss.”
“Let’s discuss this over lunch,… at Chins.” Jim’s suggestion made Gary’s head groan.
* * * *
Lee burst out of the kitchen as soon as they walked through the door of the cozy little take-out restaurant. “Jim, Gary, come, come, sit, sit, I take your order.” They ordered their usual. “Ready in five minute.” Lee was back in the kitchen without seeming to have moved, and back again with drinks before either of them blinked. “So, you get promotion?”
“No-“ Jim began.
“I did.” Gary finished. “I think you gave us the wrong fortune cookies.”
“I give you right cookies, I give you right cookies!”
Jim grabbed Lee’s arm. “Lee, you’ve got to do something. Two people have died already, and I don’t want Gary to be the third.”
“What you talking about?” Lee said, pulling his arm free.
Gary interjected. “You know that guy, Bill, who got the promotion. He got hit by a cab. Then a girl named Jenny got the promotion and got hit in the head with a golf ball.”
“As doornails.” Gary said.
“Oh, this bad. Very bad. I no want nobody get hurt”
Jim grabbed Lee’s arm again with an iron grip. “Lee, tell him to turn down the promotion.”
Lee wrenched his arm free, rubbed it, and looked at Gary. “You turn down promotion. Fortune cookie very powerful magic.”
“Well, my fortune said to stay the course, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.”
“Make another fortune cookie, Lee. Make it say I won’t get the promotion after all.” Jim said.
“Fortune cookie not work that way. Fortune say what fortune is.” Both men looked at Lee with puzzled expressions. “I make cookie, put blank paper inside, it come out with fortune.”
Gary started laughing. “Good one Lee.”
“Not joking. This very old family secret recipe handed down for generations. Very dangerous, so I no use hardly ever.”
“And what about the fortune I got?” Gary asked.
“That come from bakery. Fortune nonsense.” He leaned his age lined face in close, and his voice became deeper than you could imagine coming from a small man like Lee. “You turn down promotion, you know what good for you.” He stood back straight, and went into his usual staccato patter. “I go get food.”
“You going to listen to him?” Jim asked quietly.
“Both of you are nuts. I earned that promotion just as much as you did.”
As Lee placed the plates on the table, Jim sighed. “Lee, make me another fortune cookie. Make it say I don’t want the promotion any more.”
“I tell you, it not work that way.”
“Please Lee. Make one for Gary too.”
“Very dangerous. Very dangerous.”
“Yeah, go ahead Lee. Maybe it will tell me how I’m going to kick the bucket. It’ll be fun.” Gary said.
Lee leveled his eyes at Gary and spoke ominously. “You not take seriously. But you will. You will.” He measured each man carefully with his eyes. “I go make. Enjoy lunch.” And headed back to the kitchen.
The two men ate in silence for a short while, weighing and measuring each other with calculating stares.
“You really believe this nonsense, don’t you?” Gary finally said.
“Yeah…maybe…I don’t know. I mean…well…shit.” Jim put his fork down and gave it some thought. “If you’d have asked me yesterday, I would’ve laughed, but after two people died, I don’t know what to believe.”
“Personally, I’ve never believed in anything supernatural.” Gary replied. “Science can explain everything. All it is, is the laws of probability coupled with coincidence.”
“I hope you’re right. But there are a lot of unexplained occurrences in the world.”
“That’s only because science hasn’t advanced enough to tell us the real story yet. When we get today’s fortunes, and nothing out of the ordinary happens, you’ll see.”
As if on cue, Lee appeared with two oversized fortune cookies on separate plates, and set them down gingerly. “This very bad idea.”
Gary reached out and took the cookie that was in front of Jim. “Let’s see what happens when we mix them up.”
“Won’t matter.” Lee said. “Fortune be what fortune is.”
Gary grabbed the other cookie. “What would happen if I opened both cookies?”
“Both be your fortunes.”
“Both the same?”
“Don’t know. No one be such pig before.”
Laughing, Gary placed the cookies behind his back and mixed them up. “Pick a hand.”
Jim pointed to the left, and Gary brought that cookie out and handed it to him. “You first.”
Holding it up to the window, Jim tried to read the fortune through the cookie crust, without success. He held it with both hands, turning it over and over until he finally stopped and broke off a corner and stuck it in his mouth, very carefully removing the strip of paper from the broken end. “You will come into money.”
“See, that’s not too bad.” Gary said.
“Neither was, you will get the promotion.”
Sighing and shaking his head, Gary took his cookie, broke it, pulled the fortune out, shoved a large piece of cookie into his mouth, and read it out loud. “You will die. Very funny Lee.” He laughed and the cookie lodged in his throat. It was a perfect fit; nothing could go in or out.
Gary motioned frantically that he was choking. Jim knocked over his chair getting up, and hurried around the table. Picking Gary up from behind, he tried to perform the Heimlich maneuver to no avail. He set him back in his chair and looked at him. “He’s turning blue Lee. Call 911.”
Lee was already at the counter with the phone in his hand. “Phone dead.”
His friend was getting bluer and weaker, and Jim shook him to get his attention. “Gary! Do you want the promotion or do you want to live? Shake your head yes or no! Do you want the promotion?”
Gary feebly shook his head from side to side. Jumping behind him, Jim picked him up and performed the Heimlich again sending the cookie flying across the restaurant. Gasping, Gary sucked in a huge breath, then sat there panting deeply. After about a minute he finally wheezed. “That was a dirty trick. How could you? That cookie softened up from the moisture in my throat, and it would have come out anyway. You’ve got some nerve making me answer that question first. That’s like the police beating a confession out of a suspect, it’ll never hold up in court. I’m taking that promotion, and my first order of business will be firing you.”
He got up, threw a twenty on the table, and walked out of the restaurant. Stunned, Jim stood there, before collecting himself and running after him.
* * * *
“Beat it.” Gary growled without looking at Jim.
“I didn’t mean to lean on you in there. I was just trying to save your life.”
“You could have done it a little faster without the third degree.” Gary said, picking up his pace a little.
“I’m sorry, okay. With all that’s happened lately I thought turning down the promotion was the key to saving you. I still do.”
“Well I still think it’s a bunch of hooey, and I’m taking that promotion whether you like it or not.”
“Then I’m sticking to you to make sure you live to collect a paycheck.”
“Besides, you don’t need it anymore. You’re coming into money, remember?”
Jim stopped. “Oh yeah…shit…I forgot. I wonder how that’s going to happen.”
Gary stopped when he noticed Jim was gone, and walked back to him. Before he could say anything, a large piece of concrete hit the sidewalk where he would have been had he kept on going, and he stood there with his mouth open. Afraid to turn around, he asked, “What was that?”
“Looks like a piece of the building facade fell off.”
Gary turned around slowly, saw the rubble and feinted into Jims waiting arms.
* * * *
They burst into Bodewash’s office and both started talking.
“Whoa, one at a time. Anyone ever hear of knocking?”
“Sorry boss.” They both said, and then started talking at the same time again.
“Whoa, Gary, go ahead.” Bodewash said, fixing Jim with an admonishing glare.
“I changed my mind, I don’t want the promotion.” Gary blurted out.
“Why not? I don’t get it.”
“Let’s just say it’s not in my best interest right now. I think you should give it to Jim.”
“I wouldn’t give it to Jim if he was the last person in the office. I’d hire someone from outside the company.”
“That’s a little harsh. I’m sorry about that crack I made about Bill. I was just a little miffed that he got the promotion instead of me.” Jim said.
“Bodie, you’ve got to give it to Jim, you’ve just got to.” Gary said frantically.
“I don’t got to do anything.”
Jim and Gary put their heads together. “Should we tell him.” Jim asked.
“He’d never believe it.”
“What wouldn’t I believe. Somebody better tell me something.”
“Jim got a fortune cookie that said he was going to get the promotion, and ever since then, everyone you’ve given the promotion to has died.”
“A fortune cookie? That’s preposterous! If it wasn’t for those two deaths I’d be laughing you right out the door.”
“Look, right after I got the fortune, Bill got killed. Right after. When did you give Jenny the word. How long before she got killed?” Jim demanded.
“I’m not going to answer the ravings of a lunatic.”
“How long damn it?”
Bodewash glared at Jim, but he thought it over. “I gave her the promotion as we were walking towards the first tee. She was so excited…she gave me a big hug, and thanked me…she teed up her ball and hit a beautiful drive…watched it sail down the fairway, and blammo, a ball comes out of nowhere and hits her right in the head. Had to be like, five minutes, tops.” His voice trailed off and his eyes welled up. “She never knew what hit her.”
His tale was greeted with an awkward silence until Gary leaned on Bodies desk and looked him in the eye. “I thought Jim was a nut job too until I almost choked to death on a fortune cookie, and even then I still didn’t believe him. Then on the way back to the office, I was almost crushed by some falling concrete the size of your desk. So believe me when I tell you, I don’t want that promotion.”
Jim leaned on the desk next to Gary. “Just to be on the safe side, give me the promotion-“
“No, I told-“
“Hear me out sir. Give me the promotion, I’ll keep it for twenty-four hours, and then I’ll turn it down and you can give it to Gary. He can be our witness.”
“Well, as long as you promise to turn it down. I’m still not sure I believe a word of it, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt. All right, Jim, as of right now, you’re the new department head.” Bodie stood up and offered his hand.
Jim shook it. “Thank you sir. I hope this works.”
“Me too, not that I think it needs to mind you.”
Bodewash’s intercom buzzed. “Sir Mr. Shardborn has an emergency call on line two.”
“Thank you Gladys. You can use my phone, Jim.”
Jim picked up the receiver. “Yes? What? Oh my God.” He fell into Bodies chair, dropped the phone and looked dazed.
“What is it Jim?” Gary asked.
“My parents,” Jim muttered. “My parents were killed in a car accident. Probably right after I opened that damn fortune cookie.”
“What do your parents have to do with the fortune cookie?” Bodie asked.
Gary put his arm on his shoulder. “It’s a whole other fortune cookie, sir.
“How many people is this one going to kill?”
Looking back at Jim over his shoulder Gary said. “I’m pretty sure this one has run its course. Unless, of course, someone contests the will.”
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|Reviewed by Vivian DeSoto
|I absolutely love your stories! Well written, very enjoyable. One can painfully predict what the others seem oblivious to and I caught myself wanting to cry out to Jim. Fabulous writing...|