’No, Thank you. Only the check please,’ she would say.
The waiter would nod and take back the fortune cookie untouched and carefully wrapped in transparent packaging. He would then get her the check of $10 for a lunch of Wok Tossed Veggies and a green tea.
Zhang Min, the restaurant owner watched her refuse the fortune cookie every time. Every Friday she would come in for lunch exactly 1 pm, order the same Wok Tossed Veggies and a green tea, refuse the fortune cookie, pay her bill and leave sharp at 2 pm. Every Friday. Without fail.
One such afternoon, which was undeniably a Friday, he decided to serve her the fortune cookie. He walked over to her and offered her the plate.
She looked at it and nodded.
’No, Thank You. Only the check please.’
’Try it. You will love it,’ Zhang Min said.
She looked up at him, curious at the sudden change in service. The other waiters had always taken back the fortune cookie without a word. Today was different. Noticing Zhang standing before her with the offer, she refused politely and asked for the check again.
’Try it. It will get you good fortune, I promise,’ Zhang Min said.
’No, thank you,’ she replied.
‘Nobody refuses a fortune cookie,’ Zhang insisted.
‘Is it sugar free?’ she asked.
’No,’ he said.
‘Is it gluten free?’ she asked.
’No,’ he replied.
‘Is it purely vegan?’ she asked.
’No,’ he said.
’That’s it then. I can’t have it. I don’t trust a cookie to bring me good fortune,’ she replied.
She paid her $10 and left.
‘It does not bring in good luck if you refuse a fortune cookie,’ she heard Zhang Min say while she was leaving.
His last words stuck and replayed in her mind.
Will it really bring her bad luck? Will this bad luck be a cumulative bad luck for all the fortune cookies she had refused over the last few weeks, or will it be only for today?
She could not think straight. No, no cookie can bring luck and fortune, she told herself. I should not be a victim of carbohydrates and edible paper.
But his words continued to rule her subconscious all day.
That evening, she had to rush home early. Her neighbour had found her cat attacked by a bunch of wild cats. She rushed her pet to the hospital and came back home alone.
‘Zhang Min was correct,’ she said to herself while wiping her tears.
The next Friday she ate her Wok Tossed Veggies and had her green tea at Zhang Min’s.
As soon as she had finished her lunch, Zhang Min bought over a beautifully wrapped tiny gift for her.
’This is for you,’ he said.
She looked at it.
‘What is it?’ she asked.
‘Good fortune for you that is vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free and healthy,’ he said with a smile that revealed several broken teeth. ’Specially baked for you,’ he said smiling.
‘Oh. Thank you,’ she said and picked up the packet gently. The last few days had been really sad for her. She could do with a fortune cookie now.
He watched as she opened the wrapper with nimble fingers. There lay before her the most expensive fortune cookie he had ever made in his restaurant. The perfect moon shaped cookie with a treasure hidden in its core.
‘Go on. You will get great fortune. Maybe a lottery number. Maybe a boyfriend, husband,’ he grinned. She could not wait to see what lay inside for her.
With shaky fingers, she cracked open the cookie from the centre hoping for a positive message. To her extreme disappointment, there was no fortune in there!
She remained slack-jawed on seeing an empty fortune cookie in her hand.
Zhang Min was flabbergasted.
‘Extremely sorry Madam,’ he said, almost running away. ‘I think they forgot to put the fortune inside. I’ll get you another one.’
She could feel her ears growing hot with forebodings of ugly days ahead.
Zhang Min rushed back from the kitchen to the table but found it vacant.
That was the last he saw of his Friday afternoon customer eating Wok Tossed veggies and sipping on green tea.