Wednesday, February 24, 2016

From an unfinished collection of short stories

Among my unfinished writing projects is Penultimate, Wisconsin, short stories or tales about a small community on the Wisconsin/Minnesota border.

Here is one of them:

Dearest Wish

            “Ha! No fortune!”
            The woman in the adjoining booth laughed at the wide-eyed gape of her husband holding the shattered remnants of an empty fortune cookie.
            From the looks of the equally empty crab leg remnants piled on the plates before them, they had done themselves proud by the Paper Moon Chinese Buffet’s all-you-can-eat seafood counter.
            “You just finish your rice,” her husband said, pointing at her plate as he rose to head for the soft-serve machine. He may have had no fortune, but a bowl of imitation ice cream with imitation chocolate syrup was a consolation near to hand.
            Kyle looked down at his own bill and the plastic-wrapped fold of pastry on top of it.
            Even though no one takes fortune cookies seriously, he thought, it is a little disconcerting to get an empty one.
            He picked up the plastic wrapper and tugged at it. No give. He put a corner between his teeth and pulled. No luck. Re-positioned it and tried again. Still no luck.
            He turned it over and over in his hand until he found where the plastic sheet folded together and finally managed to rip it apart.
            The cookie broke neatly into halves in his hands, cradling a sliver of paper marked with red ink. Kyle pulled it out, popped half the cookie into his mouth and unfolded the paper.
            Your dearest wish will come true.
            “That’s nice.” He crumpled the paper into a pellet and dropped it onto the plastic tray with the remaining half of the cookie. He glanced at the bill and left four quarters for the tip.
            Your dearest wish will come true.
            The opposite of no fortune.
            What is my dearest wish? he mused as he climbed into the car and turned the ignition. You would think a person would know what his dearest wish is. Money. Fame. Beauty. Health. Love.
            “Maybe I want too many things to decide which is dearest,” he said aloud as he turned onto the county road leading out of town.
            Several years before Kyle had been stunned when someone asked him what he wanted. Stunned because he had no idea.
            I must want something, he had thought at the time, but nothing came to mind. He realized that all his life when asked that question, his answer had invariably been, “What do you want?” What the other person wanted – mother, father, sister, teacher, coach, preacher, girlfriend – that was what Kyle said he wanted.
            “I guess what I want is no hassle,” he told himself. “A pretty sad wish -- a wish for not-something.”
            Even now, driving through the autumn color-change on the hills, even now at fifty-seven years of age, even now – dearest wish?
            “What is my dearest wish?”
            To rest. To be free to do nothing. Or something. To have no obligations. To be totally self-centered. To do things until I find the thing that I want to do. And then to keep doing it.
            “My dearest wish? To know my dearest wish.”
            Kyle turned into the rocky drive and parked the car. The frost that had brought color to the trees had blackened the tomato vines. He walked over to look and saw a handful of green tomatoes that would never ripen, a couple of red ones that were rotting on the vine. He tugged and twisted to free the hard green fruit and thought, That’s me. Dying on the vine.
            Your dearest wish will come true.
            Sighing he took his burden into the house.


Anonymous said...

To know without doubt that God's Spirit dwells inside me. That's my dearest wish.

Anonymous said...

Today I stumbled across a new cover to an old song.
Felt like sharing it with you.

Mitchell is Moving said...

"Killing me softly with his song..." I used to go through that same angst every year when it was time to make a wish and blow out the birthday candles.

P.S. I have a very superstitious good-Catholic friend from the Philippines who panics when a fortune cookie has no fortune inside. She says it's very bad luck and demands another cookie. Once I got three in a row with no fortune. She was apoplectic. I'm not sure which book of the New Testament she got that from.

Michael Dodd said...

Fascinating video. They take an urban-based song and transpose it to something that looks like a post-apocalyptic wilderness ... and the shipload of musicians is definitely a Celtic element of life coming to those on the Western shore.
PS -- The very quest for God's Spirit is the surest sign of the presence of that Spirit within you.