By Jeffrey Bishop
Tell Time: 3 minutes 30 seconds
Scare Rating: 1 of 5 Ghosts
Becky loved her weekly dinners with her dad, and her Dad loved Chinese food. So despite his doctor’s orders to minimize sodium and fat intake, she arrived to his home with a large paper bag of the take-out.
“For you, moo goo gai pan, white rice and two egg rolls. For me, cashew chicken, fried rice and crab rangoon,” she said as she withdrew half a dozen identical small white boxes.
“And for each of us, a fortune cookie. You pick!” she said, sliding both across the table to her dad. As she did, a broad smile filled her face and she gave him a wink that he answered with a frown. An intentional frown that his daughter’s smile had anticipated.
“You know I don’t eat those,” he grumbled good-naturedly. “On mere principle: I don’t believe in superstition!”
“Harumpf!” mocked Becky. “That’s ok; I’ll eat yours. And I’ll get your fortune, too!”
“You’re welcome to it!” he replied.
The two settled in and enjoyed the steaming plates before them, and shared lively conversation about Becky’s latest work project and her planned vacation to the Caribbean in the spring. As Becky continued talking, dad cleared the table and served hot tea.
“To go with your many good fortunes,” he said as he set the hot cup and saucer before her.
Becky cracked open her cookie and withdrew the coiled paper from inside.
“Choose fortune or choose fame. One will be yours,” she read aloud. “Lucky numbers 33, 16, 54, 11 and 93.”
“Play those numbers in the next Lotto and you might choose fortune,” quipped Dad.
“Or I can take your cookie and have both fame and fortune,” she replied.
“Not today!” Dad said, as he swiped the cellophane-wrapped package from the table. “I may not believe the fortunes, but I’m not about to let my little girl get more than her fair share. And, odd as I am, I kinda like the taste of the little cookies.”
He cracked his open, but found no strip of paper inside. He raised each half and shook them to show his daughter.
“Just my misfortune to have NO fortune,” he said. “It’s as if they knew. But, I still have the cookie!”
He popped one half into his mouth and slowly savored its mildly sweet flavors.
Suddenly, he was choking. He stumbled out of his chair and back against the wall, quickly changing from his normal ruddy complexion to a pale blue-white. Becky jumped out of her chair.
“Dad! Dad! You’re choking!” She didn’t know how to do abdominal thrusts, but she’d seen enough cop dramas on T.V. to know that she had to try something.
Becky rushed behind her dad and placed her fists into the top part of his stomach and pulled hard. Her dad almost fell back onto her, and a heavy gasp of air slipped out, but nothing dislodged. The airway remained closed.
Becky tried again, once, twice. Three, four and five more times. She felt her strength slipping away as she tried to pull as hard as she could. It wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t working. Dad collapsed onto the cold kitchen tile, taking Becky with him to the floor.
“Stay with me, Dad!” she shouted to him through tears. “Stay with me!”In her fear, her frustration, her anger, she slammed her fists into his unmoving chest.
“Why! Did! You! Have! To! Eat! That! Damned! Cookie?!” she shouted, pounding his chest with each word. On the last hammerfall, her dad let out an involuntary puff of air, and with it shot a small, white wad that fell onto the table. Through heavy tears, she managed to pull herself up, move to the phone, and dial 911 for help.
The paramedics arrived and rushed to help, but it was too late. As they carried her father from the house on a gurney, Becky collapsed against the counter with uncontrollable sobs. Her anguish was interrupted by the sight of the object that had choked her father, resting just as peacefully as Dad now in a puddle of wet saliva. She moved to examine it more closely.
On the table, amid the remnants of rice and cabbage, was his fortune, a wadded up piece of paper now wet with saliva and mucus. She unfolded to read his fortune, or rather, his misfortune:
“The end is near. For you, very, very near.”