Fortune Cookie

By Al Dixon

He unfolded the slip of paper and read: “You will enjoy this fortune cookie.”

 

It was a strange fortune since he’d eaten the fortune cookie before looking at the fortune, as he’d been taught to do long ago by Robert Ho, a guy he knew in high school whose dad owned a Chinese restaurant. Of course, Robert Ho could’ve been fucking with him.

 

“So did you enjoy it?” someone asked him.

 

He could remember looking forward to it as he unwrapped it. He could remember noting the lemon flavor. Mostly he’d been wondering what his fortune would be, hoping it would be good, even while expecting the usual bullshit.

 

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s not a valid fortune since I ate the cookie before I read it.”

 

“No,” someone said. “It was your fortune the moment you took possession of the cookie.”

 

“It’s true,” someone else said. “Even if you never read it, it’s still your fortune.”

 

“Well, did you enjoy it?” they asked.

 

“I don’t remember,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean I didn’t. I might’ve been too busy enjoying it to notice.”

 

“You don’t remember eating it, do you?”

 

“I do.”

 

“What did it taste like?”

 

“Like a fortune cookie. It had a little bit of lemon flavor.”

 

“They all taste like lemon.”

 

“Did you like the way it tasted?” someone else asked.

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“So the answer is no.”

 

“I didn’t say that.”

 

“Your fortune was wrong,” someone said. “So what? It’s not necessarily your fault you didn’t enjoy it. Maybe it was a lame fortune cookie. Mine was kind of stale.”

 

His fault?

 

“The real question is: Did you enjoy the process of eating it?” someone else said. “Even if it was stale you could still enjoy eating it.”

 

The process?

 

“Did you?”

 

The only way to know for sure was to go back and eat that fortune cookie again. So that’s what he did.

 

He was surprised at the experience because he’d never gone back in time before. He didn’t know you could just do it, but apparently you could. He was lifting the fortune cookie from the tray again, tearing the thin cellophane, snapping the cookie in half. Going back in time was not at all like he’d imagined. It reminded him of the way he’d imagined sex versus the way it ended up being. The enjoyment he’d expected to receive was based on observing. But here you were, part of the action—no time for spectating. Already he was chewing the fortune cookie, wondering what his fortune might be, if it would be more B.S.; he noted the taste of lemon; he wondered how much his share of the bill was, and how much he should tip. He couldn’t afford to eat out all the time; was he so lazy that he couldn’t cook a meal for himself? He wondered if his fortune would at least be humorous; he hoped that one day soon something good would happen to him. He swallowed the cookie and chased it with water. He wondered what kind of mints they would have at the counter.

 

“So did you enjoy it?” someone asked.

 

Were they asking again, or was this the first time they asked?

 

“Did you?”

 

Did he? He could go back again, he supposed. But what was the use? They were asking the wrong question.

______ 

Al Dixon is from Athens, Georgia, though he now lives in Tucson, where he is in the University of Arizona’s fiction MFA program. His fiction has appeared in The Yalobusha Review and is in the current issue of Failbetter.com.

Published on June 29, 2008 at 12:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

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