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.

He glanced down at his heart. “I don’t know why I’m telling this to some random dude. Her Woody the Woodpecker laugh. The way she slurped her sesame noodles. The way she flipped her hair when she was nervous. The way she composed hilarious poems from fortune cookies. To this day, I can’t look at a fortune cookie.”

I just happened to have one on me. I reached into my pack and offered him an individually wrapped cookie.

“Why are you doing this? I just told you I can’t fucking look at those things.”

“Please, just open it, and eat it, if you’d like.”

He snatched it, tore it open, and crushed it, shoving the pieces into his mouth.

“Now read the fortune.”



“It says, ‘I think you just ate your fortune.’” The downturned corners of his mouth perked up and he snorted a chuckle. His eyes no longer squinted against pain. “Okay…She would have said something like: your fortune will pass and will soon come out of your ass.” He shoved the fortune in his pocket. “I’m saving this one.”

I knew I had him then.


I went searching for the man who had saved my life on the anniversary of Jasmyn’s jump. I crisscrossed the bridge, scanning the glowing expanse for an elfin character with dark clown hair protruding from both sides of his shiny head and a mustache that took up half his face. I wanted to thank him. For pulling me back from the edge, for helping me to believe in someone just long enough to start again, for helping me to remember, for giving me a fortune to hold onto, for getting me to see that joy can come again.

I returned to the bridge often but never spotted him. I started to wonder if he actually existed at all, or if I had created him to save my life. But I had the fortune he had given me. I wasn’t just dreaming.

One blustery night when the creeping fog had settled around my coatless body like a blanket of frost, I spotted an old guy with a pea coat and a newsboy cap who mirrored me on my jump night—on the edge, slumped yet determined. I ran to him and asked him if he needed someone to talk to. He said not a word but shook his head and extended his hand in a stay-away gesture.

Ever since my experience, I carried fortune cookies in my knapsack. I offered him one. He refused. I insisted, forcing the cookie into his hand, curling my fingers around his, and asked him to read it aloud.

At first he didn’t resist my touch but then snatched his hand back, keeping the cookie. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he grumbled.

“Oh, go on. Just give it a try,” I said.

He removed the wrapper, broke into the cookie, and extracted the fortune. “Help! I’m a prisoner in a Chinese bakery!” He read, his voice raspy. For a moment, he forgot where he was and let out a hearty belly laugh.

I knew I had him then.

I told him my own story as we walked away from the sea in the whipping wind. He offered me his coat and said he didn’t mind feeling chilly if it meant he was still alive.


I watched that night as Jason escorted a would-be jumper to safety. It reminded me of a dark December morning years ago when my head of hair was full but my heart empty. I had my running shoe on the bridge’s railing and the other on the ground, poised to spring up and over. Someone yanked my leg just as my shoe was about to bounce up from the surface of the bridge.

I caught my balance and spun around to see a pudgy man offering me a fortune cookie. “Please. Open it.”

So furiously amused by this interloper’s prank, I didn’t even think to resist his absurd request. When I cracked the cookie in two and pulled out the thin strip of paper, I squinted to read the tiny words as I munched the cookie’s sweet crunchy goodness. My fortune said: “The fortune you seek is in another cookie.”

He had me then. I needed to find that other cookie.

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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?