Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Way The Fortune Cookie Crumbles

So much for my career as the next Michael Ondaatje. In June, with the help of my friend, Ron, I submitted an entry to Geist magazine, a Canadian publication focused on writing and photography. The theme of the contest was "fortune cookies" and people were invited to send their best story, poem, rant, etc. that matched this topic. The word limit was capped at 500, but otherwise, there were no restrictions. The list of winners was published this week, and sadly, my name wasn't there. But I hate to let anything go to waste, so, in the green spirit of reusing and recycling, here is my entry:

That’s the Way the Proposal Crumbles

I’m nervous. I reach into my pocket for the tenth time to make sure the ring is still there. “Take it easy, Norman,” I mutter to myself as I walk along East Hastings Street. I know everything will work out perfectly tonight, but the pessimist in me still delights in sowing doubt. As if on cue, a light rain starts to fall, and I hurry to reach Leung’s before the downpour.

Ducking inside the restaurant, the familiar smell of garlic reaches me immediately, and I begin to relax a bit. I had told Amy to meet me here at seven, so I still have plenty of time to check that everything is ready. I speak to the manager on duty, and he assures me that my special surprise has been prepared and will be delivered as planned. He wishes me luck with a wink and motions for one of the waiters to take me to a table by the window. I pass the time watching people dodge the raindrops.

Amy arrives ten minutes later, looking a bit harried from her battle with the rain. I wave at her and she joins me at the table. After commiserating about the weather, we order our food and a bottle of red to celebrate the end of another work week. The meal is delicious, and we get caught up on today’s gossip from our respective offices. We linger over our bottle of wine and debate whether we want dessert. The rain has all but disappeared, so we decide to make a run for it. I ask for the cheque, and it arrives with the customary fortune cookies. The waiter gives me the slightest of nods, and I pass the cookie on the right to Amy. As I pretend to busy myself with getting my wallet out, I keep my eyes on Amy as she opens the cookie and pulls out her fortune. My hand goes into my pocket to retrieve the ring as she reads the message written there. Her brow furrows and she glances up at me. “What the hell kind of fortune is this?” she asks as she passes me the slip of paper. Not exactly the reaction I was hoping for. I take the piece of paper and read the very elegant script:

No man wants to marry you.

I can’t help myself. I burst out laughing. “Can I borrow a pen, honey?” I ask Amy, whose look of confusion has grown to one of irritation by this time. She hands me the pen impatiently and asks me what I’m going to do. Carefully filling in the missing “r”, I pass the message back to her. As she reads it for a second time, I pull the ring out of my pocket and get down on one knee beside the table. This time, there is no confusion, and she takes a deep breath as I propose to her.