By round three, no attempts were made to arrange, in a neat presentation, the garlic chicken next to the chop suey next to the lo mein next to the combination fried rice; the works were thrown into one dish, zapped for three minutes and eaten as an amorphous stew called simply, "Chinese".
Patty's observation, "Oh...my...God! You eat more on one fork than I eat on seven!", touched me. Clearly, she was noticing I was hungry. Had she been even more perceptive, she may also have noticed a residual tinge of bitterness about my being denied other choices for my meal.
When I finished, I reached into the enormous bag of plum sauce, hot mustard and soy sauce (which, for some inexplicable reason, always explodes out of the package upon opening) and fished out a handful of fortune cookies.
The fact there were at least a dozen cookies only reinforced Patty's smug assertion that I'd ordered far too much for two people. Whatever. I didn't hear her complaining as she tucked into the potstickers on Day One and "reserved" the remaining potstickers for lunch on Day Two (with some thinly veiled threat of impending menace.)
I thought, "I don't get it. What is that supposed to mean? I don't have time for this!" I tossed it to Patty, said, "Here...you figure this out," and opened another:
Okay, this was a trifle unsettling. I've long known that my Mom has some pull, but this was just creepy. I imagined a Stephen King/Dan Brown collaboration about a neglected mother commanding a vast network of worldwide resources, all in an attempt to browbeat a child into a state of unbridled terror, all for a lack of attentiveness.
I grabbed a napkin from next to my plate and patted the cold sweat from my brow--in the process adorning my face with a soy-sauce variation on Ash Wednesday. Omnipotent or not, Mom could wait until later.
I made a resolution. I would do this fortune cookie thing, over and over, until I ran out of fortune cookies (I could always order more) or found a prediction I could live with. The next:"Okay, okay, I get it, Mom! I'll call you in just a minute. Haven't you ever heard about the value of patience?"
Something told me my next message would read, "Bang. You're Dead," but I felt compelled to read just one more, even if my fate hung in a tenuous balance. With some trepidation, I gently eased the white slip out of its almond-flavored batter envelope.
At first, a smile played at the edges of my lips. I liked this. Oh, I really liked this.
Still, ever the realist, I set the cookie down and reached for another.