Here are a few of the fortunes I devised during my first week as a writer of fortunes at Trang’s Fortune Cookies Ltd:
LOOK NOT TO THE RIGHT NOR TO THE LEFT BUT SIMPLY DO.
I LOVE YOUR EARS, MY LITTLE FRIEND.
Mr Trang speaks no English, but he pops his head round my office door every day and expresses his benevolent interest in my work by means of gestures and facial expressions. I show him my work book. I concoct something in the region of 500 fortunes a day. More, on a good day. Mr Trang cannot read them but he casts his eyes over my work politely. He smiles and nods encouragingly. Sometimes he bows and mimes applause. I smile back, bow in return and mime modest shrugs. This appears to please him and he leaves.
I came to work at Trang’s after losing my job at the Ministry of Insects. I was doing quite well at the Ministry. I’d only been there five months and had already been promoted to Under Secretary For Grasshoppers. I had my career path mapped out. I would ascend to helm the Grasshoppers Department and then I would rise to a mid-level position in the related field of Locusts. Once leadership of Locusts was mine, as it surely would be once I had ousted that fool Ormstead, I would deal directly with the other Heads of Department for the various bureaux in the Agricultural Pests Division. I would establish a power base amongst Pests and clamber up the greasy pole until I was in a position to become the Pests Oversecretary. The current Pests Oversecretary, Himmelfarb, would be hard to nobble, but I was confident I would find a way. From there it would be only a short step sideways to any one of several possible paths. I could choose which path I wanted to take based upon circumstances at the time. I might continue to rise in Insects, via a route through the large and complex Flies Department. I saw potential openings in Trichoptera and Megaloptera. Progress through this area of the Ministry would be slower but would have the advantage of giving me more experience, which might be an issue that would come up later on. Or I might jump sideways to the smaller but infinitely more prestigious Ministry of Arachnids. Or I might even be able to jump over spiders and go straight to Marine Arthropods, depending on Tinkerman’s attitude to me. I found Tinkerman enigmatic, with his cold eyes and his monotonous voice and his habit of breaking things slowly and deliberately. Chairs. Desk tidies. Books. Paperclips. Anything that happened to be in front of him, he dismantled and left in pieces. I wasn’t sure he disliked me, however.…