Life in the Old Girl Yet
I have pitched a tent at the crossroads of Life. Every day I light my fire and cook over it, and hang out in the tent, watching the people pass.
So in the meantime, have a story. How Fortunate the Man With None
Once upon a time in the Big City of Many Lights, a young man named Jack listened to the whispers and rumors about the illusory restaurant Black Dragon Chinese, which everybody knew about (Everybody in The Know, that is, or most of the theatre world) and nobody could find. This person vaguely remembered it to be in one part of town when he ate there and that person said that it was completely across town and north and yet another thought it moved around but it was more like it found YOU, not that you found it, but upon two things everyone could agree: always drink tea after eating and get a fortune cookie, for the fortune would be true; and whether it was part of some cosmic law or not, a person would (or could) only eat there once.
Jack had tramped all across the city in the throes of writer’s block, at midnight and noon, but the Black Dragon eluded him until one night coming back from someone else’s opening arm-in-arm with actress Jasmine. “Ooh, look!” she shrieked through red-slicked lips pursed around a cigarette, and there it was across the street – a pagoda-style roof and a neon sign sandwiched between a corner greengrocer’s and a Korean tailor’s on the other side.
There was nothing to do but go inside, and go they did. “Isn’t this place FABULOUS?” Jasmine said, and Jack had to agree that it was, from top to toe, FABULOUS, with décor straight out of a movie portraying 1930’s Shanghai, and gorgeous Asian waitstaff gliding every which way, in either cheongsam dresses or tuxedoes.
Their waiter, a young man who made Jack’s cynical heart skip a beat each time he looked in Jack’s direction, didn’t let them order from the menu – he just brought them food that was delicious (according to the sounds Jasmine was making), and then tea in tiny cups, and the requisite fortune cookies, one each. Jack’s mouth was dry waiting for this moment – he hadn’t tasted a thing or noticed anything Jasmine was nattering about – and taking a deep breath, he broke open his cookie and stared down at his fortune with desperation, then dismay.
“Jack darling, mine says that I will rise to the top of my profession, can you believe it?” Jack looked up at her with stricken eyes and showed her his slip of paper – perfectly blank on both sides – before he stood and ran from the restaurant, blindly crashing into tables and waiters, ignoring Jasmine’s calls, in his haste to get to the bridge and toss himself off.
“Excuse me,” Jasmine said to the waiter when he discreetly brought the bill, “I think there’s been a mistake – my friend’s fortune cookie was blank.”
“Ah, but how wonderful,” said the young man, “the man with no fortune foretold writes his own future however he likes.”
Copyright 2007 Heather N. James With thanks to Dead Can Dance for the title