The Fortune You Seek Lies in a Different Cookie by Clare MacQueen

Monday evenings, Ella takes the chopsticks to their favorite restaurant, orders her usual sweet and sour chicken. After fumbling through half her meal, she switches to a fork as always.

Now is the time to enjoy something new.

Four years together and her beloved Boone has moved on with her resigned blessings, hoping to find someone who can bear his children. He left behind his favorite chopsticks, their abalone skin lacquered and serene and so much her opposite now.

Your emotional nature is strong and sensitive.

Their collected fortunes fill the rice bowl perched on a bookshelf in her bedroom, sharing space with Watts and Kumin and Francis of Assisi, an ascetic who treated all living things with benevolence.

Your kindness to another pays unusual dividends.

Contemplating the bowl, Ella decides to consider its wisdom, too. Perhaps cookies can tell her why she’s alone.

The eyes believe themselves; the ears believe other people.

A thousand slips of paper whisper within her cupped hands. Ten million words rumble along hairpin curves between the bindings of books.

What is hidden in an empty box?

Philosophers, poets, aphorists stand by, guidance at her fingertips 24/7. Cooley’s hit-and-run artists often surprise her into laughter yet she feels no safer, especially after Thoreau reminds:

“There is no remedy for love but to love more.”

Her pulse keeps pace with the bedside clock. At last Ella looks beyond the finger that points toward the moon, yet she cannot see the trembling aspen for the grove. She wonders why her efforts toward enlightenment make her feel slow and insignificant, just as the chopsticks still make her feel clumsy.

Author’s Notes:

  1. Mason Cooley (1927–2002): “The aphorist is a hit and run artist” (City AphorismsEighth Selection; New York, 1991).
  2. Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), American essayist and philosopher (Journal 1, 20 July 1839, 81).

Clare MacQueen has been webmaster and copy editor for Serving House Journal since its 2010 launch. She served on the General Advisory Board of The Best Small Fictions 2017 (Braddock Avenue Books); as Assistant Editor, Domestic for The Best Small Fictions 2016; and as a roving editor for TBSF 2015. She’s also editor-in-chief and publisher of KYSO Flash, the online literary journal she created in 2014 to celebrate a smorgasbord of short forms and hybrids. Her writing appears in, among others, Best New Writing 2007, Bricolage, Serving House Journal, and Winter Tales II: Women on the Art of Aging.

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