Copyright 2016 Mario V. Farina
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
All Rights Reserved
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Mario V. Farina
Email: [email protected]
This is a little embarrassing, Mr. Collier, but here goes.” Robert paused, then tapped his mouth with a cloth napkin, and took a sip of water. “I’m very fond of Wanda Fisher, but she doesn’t seem to take more than a passing interest in me. I think she likes me, but I have no way of knowing how much. I’m too shy to say something. You’re wise, and you probably understand my dilemma. I don’t know what to do.”
Robert Drake had needed advice. He had been captivated by the charming Wanda Fisher who worked in the data processing department. Whenever he’d walk by the large picture window of the computer room, he’d see her pressing keys on the computer’s console or mounting tapes on the tape drives. He’d stop for a moment to admire her auburn hair, which fell to her shoulders, and stare at the fluid motions of her lithe figure as she glided from one piece of equipment to another. She would notice him, stop what she was doing, and glance in his direction. She’d sweep aside her hair, causing her long earrings to swing to and fro. And she’d smile. Robert would feel himself flush. He’d break eye contact and return to his office.
As a specialist in documentation, Robert had his own office on the fifth floor. His days were spent at his personal computer writing the instructions that employees needed in learning how to use their own computers. Robert was a tall, slim, serious-looking young man in his early twenties. He was conservative in demeanor and grooming, his thin rectangular face, clean-shaven. His dark brown hair was piled high on his head with no particular part, the sides cut short. His usual attire was a dark blue or gray suit with a tie of complementary hue. While working, the only departure from conservatism that he allowed himself on the job was the removal of his jacket and loosening his vest.
Today, Robert decided, was the day that he was finally going to do something about getting to know Wanda better. A 4:45, a little earlier than his usual quitting time, Robert stood and fastened the six buttons of his vest. He picked up his brown leather briefcase and left the office. Six doors down the brightly lit hallway, he entered the office of Harry Collier, Supervisor of the Shipping Department.
“May I see you for a moment, Mr. Collier?”
“Certainly, Bob.” Mr. Collier’s face broke into a quick easy grin. “What can I do for you? Harry Collier, husky, of average height, was in his early sixties. His hair, which swirled below his earlobes to form bushy sideburns, and his small mustache, which partially covered his upper lip, were of the same color, white with a few strands of black giving an overall impression of slate gray. He wore glasses with thin silver rims. There was a small hearing device in his left ear. He wore a beige bow tie, flecked with brown spots over a white shirt.
Harry had already put on his blue jacket and was adjusting a matching felt fedora into place.
“Mr. Collier, you always speak so fondly of your wife. I know my you must love her very much. I’m in need of some advice and you’re the only one in this company, that I can think of, as being able to help me. If you would just as soon not…”
“Nonsense, Bob, nonsense! I’d be happy to help if I can. I’m flattered that you would ask me. Why don’t you come over for dinner? We can talk then. Don’t worry about Matilda. She likes unexpected guests and always prepares plenty. I live only a few minutes from here. Why don’t we walk?”
Robert accepted. Mr. Collier put on a gray topcoat and the two men began strolling down Main Street, Robert matching his pace with the more leisurely gait of the older man. It was cool for May and Robert was impressed with Mr. Collier’s foresight in having brought a coat to work.
They arrived at a two family, white framed dwelling, walked up the stairs of the wooden stoop and stopped momentarily at the left of two doors. Harry turned the knob. He and his young companion were almost instantly greeted by the round, smiling, unlined face of Matilda Collier. She was about the same age as Harry, somewhat stocky, with short blondish hair. She was wearing a lavender and brown print blouse over a black skirt. Harry took her hand, pulled her toward him, and gave her a smack on the lips.
There were the introduction formalities and a bit of small talk. Robert found that he had formed an instant fondness for Mrs. Collier.
Later, the three were seated at the dinner table, which was crowded with dishes, water goblets, a large platter of roast beef with several cut slices, a wooden salad bowl overflowing with greenery, serving tureens filled with yellow squash, and snowy white cauliflower. The table was draped almost to the floor with an embroidered tablecloth. Mr. Collier tilted his left ear toward Robert. “Now, how can I help you?” He asked?
The men had removed their jackets but Robert still wore his vest. While waiting for an answer, Harry cut some meat with his right hand, then transferred it to his mouth, Continental style, with the fork in his right hand. Taking another cut, he dropped a small piece of meat to the floor where a small, orange tabby appeared as if by magic.
After Robert had asked this question about what to do concerning Wanda Fisher, Mr. Collier smiled. He leaned back thoughtfully in his chair and put one finger to the side of his cheek. “Well…,” He mumbled and began rolling up his sleeves.
Matilda was standing at the counter fluffing whipped cream on to the top of three green Jell-O desserts that quivered in individual serving glasses. “I know what you can tell the young man, dear” she interjected. “Why don’t you tell him about the China Garden. Tell him what you did.”
Harry knit his eyebrows. “China Garden, Mattie? Something I did?”
“Yes, you know – the fortune cookies!”
Henry seemed puzzled, then brightened. “Of course!” he smiled. “Yes, I can do that. Let’s finish dinner, then we can talk in the living room.”
After dinner, Harry tugged at the knees of his pants, rose, steadied himself on the chair, then slowly turned and led the way into the living room. He settled into a large leather recliner, pushed it back about one third of the way, then placed his hands on the arm rests. Matilda and Robert sank deeply, side-by-side into the overstuffed brown tweed couch facing him.
“Well, it was like this,” Harry began. “I was young and in love with Mattie, here, only she didn’t know it. And I was shy just like you. So I did a little snooping and found that she liked Chinese food a lot. One day I asked her to go with me to the best Chinese restaurant in town, the China Garden. She said yes. That was thirty-five years ago, but I remember the meal as if it were yesterday. I had fresh pork chop suey and Mattie had General Tsong’s Chicken. There were noodles, sweet sauce, the main dishes, rice, egg drop soup, and tea. For dessert, we had fortune cookies.” Harry glanced at his wife and winked roguishly.
“When Mattie broke her cookie, the fortune on it read, ‘An interesting person has come into your life.’ My cookie said, ‘You have met a woman who will become very important to you.’”
“Both Mattie and I were fascinated by the fortunes and we wondered if fate was speaking to us. We decided that we would go to the same restaurant the following week to see what the fortunes had to say.”
“The week passed slowly, but at last, Friday came and Mattie and I went to the China Garden again. We don’t remember what we ate. We were too interested in the dessert. At last, two fortune cookies were delivered and we broke them. Mattie pulled out hers and it read, ‘You are becoming very fond of the young man who has come into your life.’ Mine said, ‘Your new friend has become very dear to you.’”
“Each of us was thrilled by what the cookies were saying, but we weren’t sure. We decided to go back one more time. This time the cookies were much more explicit. Mattie’s read, ‘The young man, sitting across from you, loves you very much and wants to marry you. Follow your heart.” Mine read, ‘The young woman with whom you are having dinner, returns your love. Ask her an important question.”
“Both of us felt that destiny was speaking, and I was only too happy to propose. Mattie answered yes right away. We were married the following month, and both of us have been very happy ever since.”
“That’s a remarkable story,” Robert commented. “The fortunes were amazing, but I don’t understand. What would be the meaning of this for me?”
“This story isn’t quite finished, Bob,” Harry replied. “You’ll see what this means to you soon. The fortunes of the cookies were not there simply by chance. I had spent half a week’s salary to have some unique, professional-looking fortunes printed at a print shop. Then, I had obtained some very special fortune cookies from a bakery who had agreed to create them for me. There went the other half of the salary. Finally, I had made arrangements with the owners of the China Garden, who I suspected were romantics at heart, to serve my cookies instead of their usual ones.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Robert, “you won Mrs. Collier with a ruse.”
“No, no, not at all, Bob. I was being creative. If it wasn’t meant to be, my ploy would not have worked. So here’s my advice to you. Be creative. Phone Wanda and asked for a date imitating a well-known personality. Or, stand at the picture window and hold up a sign saying something nice. These are just examples. You know what I mean. Be resourceful! Do something that amuses her. Follow up with a request for a date. She’ll say yes, I’m sure.”
Robert set pensively for a few seconds, then smiled broadly. “Of course,” he exclaimed. “I know what I’ll do! I’ll phone and imitate a computer voice. I’ll say that this is Robert Drake’s computer speaking and that Robert Drake has asked the computer to phone Wanda to see how she is. She’ll laugh. I know she will. That will break the ice. What do you think?”
“Sounds just right to me, Bob,” agreed Harry. “You can also have the computer voice invite her for dinner and a movie Saturday night.”
“Exactly! Just right. That’ll work. Thank you, Mr. Collier, you’ve given me just the kind of advice that I was looking for!”
After Robert had left, Harry looked into his wife’s eyes. “Thanks for the idea you gave me, Mattie,” he remarked. “I was stumped for something to suggest and didn’t want to disappoint Bob. I feel like a fraud, though. It was you who did the things that I claimed I had done. Remember how I laughed when you finally told me? You were the one with the imagination.”
“Fiddlesticks!” Mattie smiled. “What difference does it make who did what? We got together, didn’t we? And you helped Bob Drake. That’s the important thing.”