Cookies of Fortune

By on Jan 5, 2015 in Fiction

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Fortune cookie that reads "This cookie will change your life" superimposed over the Golden Gate Bridge.

I scanned the Golden Gate Bridge toting fortune cookies in my backpack, the wind whipping the hair islands encircling my ears and chilling the crown of my head. The elements were unkind to balding men like me. My bushy mustache warmed my upper lip, which didn’t require warming. I had hair everywhere but where I wanted it, where it would have benefited me in becoming a ladies’ man or even a man’s man. I was clownish. But I didn’t mind. I was in the business of making people laugh.

I could usually detect the ones I had come for from across the bridge. Their silhouettes, alone and lingering, as if undecided, as if wrestling with their life force, as if snuffing it out was against their nature. The agitated ones paced like captive cougars ready to pounce; the subdued were statuesque in a standing meditation. All studied the rolling waves as if waiting for a message to emerge from the sea. As if waiting for just the right swell, just the right gust, just the right lull. Or perhaps they didn’t even see the water. Scenes from their lives leading up to this moment played like a slideshow captured with a shadowy lens, images overlaying the ghostly sea below. Hardly ever did they take in the panoramic view, the expanse of the bridge, or the sparkling islands of civilization at each end.

They never looked up.

That’s how I knew. Tourists peered away from the water, because it held nothing for them at nightfall. Except phantoms. And tourists didn’t come for phantoms. They came for the bright lights, big city, the wow, the world of awe, of wonder, of thrill and excitement.

The older ones fancied themselves wise about love and life. But collecting life experiences had a way of making them foolish. They said this: sometimes the pain wouldn’t cease; sometimes life let them down in unimaginable ways; sometimes there was no escape from evil; often ennui had settled in for good. I thought them unwise for permanently trading in hope for despair.

They could take all night, which was okay. I had all night to give.

The older ones didn’t want to try again. Trying is what had turned their lives into shambles in the first place. I pressed them to divulge until they were so weary their empty beds beckoned more than the sea. If I could get them to morning, I’d have won.

The young ones were the easiest. They’d experienced a single heartbreak, bullying, or parents gone awry, and, because they were untainted, the virgin pain seared. What they didn’t know yet was the pain would cease. It was my job to teach them. It took no time to persuade the young ones that all endings weren’t bad. And that all bad endings fade. If we just let them. Hope was just a whisper away.

On this night, a gaunt young man in a dark hoodie and sagging pants leaned over the bridge railing with a piece of paper trembling in his hands. I approached him from behind.

“May I read it?” I asked.

“Who the fuck are you?” He wadded his paper and stuffed it in his hoodie pocket.

“Someone who wants to know why before, not after.”

“Fuck no. Get lost, dude.”

“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me why.”

He groaned.

With young guys, it was almost always about a girl. “What’s her name?”

“Jasmyn. Spelled with a y-n.”

“And you are?”

“Jason spelled like it sounds.”

“Did she break your heart?”

“You could say that.”

“Left you for another guy?”

“She jumped from here a year ago, okay? Happy now?”

It socked me in the gut, but dwelling on it could make me lose another. “So your plan is to join her? Have you ever thought that she might want you to live the life she can’t?”

“No, not really.”

“What made her so special?”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“Please. Try.”

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Ann Tinkham is an anti-social butterfly, pop-culturalist, virtual philosopher, ecstatic dancer, political and java junkie, and Kauai-lover. Her fiction has appeared in The Adirondack Review, Word Riot, Wild Violet, Toasted Cheese and others. She writes about pop culture and politics at Poplitix.


  1. You had me with the first line.I think this piece is so well done.Please find me a book with beautiful imagery like this.More,more.

  2. Thanks so much, Sally. I’ll go digging for some fabulous books for us.

  3. Very creatively and well done, I must agree…Then again, no surprise there!

  4. Wonderful story….as always, so many levels and angles of creativity, compassion and concern about the “fortune” of others! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Thanks, dear Mary and Jay, for taking time away from IDing and teaching to read my story. Where would a writer be without her readers?