Three cookies arrived with our check from Pappa Chow’s Chinese Buffet. Two were partially crumbled, but one sat pristine and whole in its crinkly wrapper. It called to me. My hand darted out and snatched the perfect cookie before Patty and Greg had a chance. They were so busy arguing over the bill that they didn’t even notice.
The cookie snapped in my fingers; it had a satisfying thickness. As per my ritual, I ate every last crumb of the sweet shell before unfolding the slip of paper inside.
You will receive your heart’s desire.
“That’s a good one,” Patty said, looking over my shoulder as we walked outside. “Not stupid advice masquerading as a fortune.” She showed me hers.
A man with true friends has all life’s riches.
“There should be a place to cash in your fortune.” I imagined a clean, modern office building with a woman behind a desk. I handed her my slip of paper, and she gave me a coupon good for one agent and a multibook contract with a big enough advance that I could quit my day job and write full time.
Greg leered. “I’ll cash it in for you, Jenny. I’ll give you your heart’s desire in bed.”
I rolled my eyes. “And then you’d die, because my husband would kill you.”
On the back of my fortune slip were ten numbers–two groups of three followed by a group of four.
“What are these numbers, anyway?” I wondered aloud. I’d always seen them back there, and never really understood what they were for. Fortune cookie serial numbers, so they didn’t duplicate a fortune? Though, considering the number of times I’d seen that fortune about true friends, I doubted it.
“Lottery numbers,” Patty replied. “Maybe if you play them, you’ll get your heart’s desire and win a million bucks.”
“I thought there were only six numbers on a lottery ticket.” Of course, I’d never played the lottery, so what did I know? I peered at the numbers in confusion. That configuration looked so familiar.
“Maybe the others are for the power ball?” Patty shrugged.
When I got back to my desk, I put my purse in the drawer and moved to toss the fortune in the trash, but I couldn’t do it. How often did a girl get her heart’s desire anyway? She shouldn’t throw it away.
And then it hit me where I’d seen that number combination before. If the first three numbers were in parenthesis and there was a dash between the last two sets, it would be a phone number!
I told myself that this was more than my usual insanity, that I was high on rice noodles and shiitake mushrooms, but I picked the phone up anyway. My hands shook as I punched in the numbers. I expected the call to fail, but a moment later, it began to ring.
A calm female voice answered. “Fortune Cookie Hotline. How may I direct your fortune?”
“I’d like my heart’s desire, please?”
There was a pause, and this time when the woman spoke, I heard the smile in her tone. “Oh my dear, how wonderful. I’ll patch you through to the right department, and they’ll set you up. Congratulations.”
A moment later, a man’s voice came on the line. “Department of LifeChanging Fortunes, Mike speaking. Please state your heart’s desire.”
Erin M. Kinch lives and writes in Fort Worth, Texas, where she shares her home with her husband and a rambunctious golden retriever. Her short fiction has appeared in various print and online publications, including “Allegory”, “A Thousand Faces”, “Electric Spec”, and “Sporty Spec: Games of the Fantastic”. For more information about Erin’s stories, visit her blog at www.erinmkinch.com.