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Last Fortune Cookie Writer Dies

My father’s art
will not appear on
a museum wall

Standing next to him in line
would you notice
a stooped man with upturned eyes, bushy salt and pepper hair
wrapped in a black trench coat with two buttons missing
arthritic hands holding a head of broccoli?

But every time you sat down in Raleigh, St. Louis
Atlanta, Salt Lake, Birmingham, or the Bronx

And ate at Triumphal Palace, Jade Garden, Heaven’s Gate
China Inn, Guang Dong
or a back alley place
a friend dragged you to
in search of
“authentic” Chinese food

He was there with you

Long hours he kept
the golden age of fortune cookies

40 years
crafting a 100 sayings a month
a dozen words fit on
a half-inch
by two-inch slip of paper

looking for phrases to delight you

“In China,” he once told me
“they can take the bad with the good.”
“Here fortunes are always positive.”

Can you recall the sweetness he brought to you
during your first date
or birthday party
or girls’ night out?

After the plate of leftover slivers of orange chicken removed

When you clutched a cookie,
knowing just the right one to grab
cracking it open
read the fortune
and for a moment

Michele Tracy Berger is a professor, a creative writer, and a pug-lover. Her short fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction has appeared, or is forthcoming in 100 Word Story, Glint, Thing, FIYAH: Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, Flying South, Oracle: Fine Arts Review, Carolina Woman, Trivia: Voices of Feminism, Ms., The Feminist Wire, Western North Carolina Woman, Blood and Bourbon, and various anthologies. Her science fiction novella, Reenu-You was recently published by Falstaff Books. Much of her work explores psychological horror, especially through issues of race and gender.


  1. Marj

    I love it!

  2. Anonymous


  3. Cathy Pelham

    Wonderful and evocative


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