“Dad, do you know the one thing I want before I die?”
This from the mouth of my 9-year old in the backseat the other day. No one else in the car. My eyes begin darting around in rapid movements. My mind startled as I grasp for something appropriate to offer in the silent moments after Everett’s death wish. Scanning my memory banks for the latest research on pre-teen suicidal tendencies. I come up empty, for lack of time and due to the ambush-factor.
“Um, what’s that, buddy?” is all I can manage to squeak from my own mouth. A half-octave higher than my normal voice, and reed-thin. Presumably I’ve blown my cover, revealing my panicky incompetence as a father.
My head swims from all the adrenaline flooding my bloodstream and electrical impulses firing madly in my brain. The blood rushes downwards from my face and inwards from my extremities. I look cross-eyed at my hands on the steering wheel, trying desperately to snap my vision back into focus. Force myself to pull it together. Regain my composure. I didn’t go over the metaphorical cliff as I thought I surely would. The roller coaster, thankfully, bottomed out. I’m still here. Deep breath, then exhale.
“A Twinkie??” I inquire into the rearview mirror.
“Yeah,” he responds, matter-of-factly. “‘Cuz they’re not around anymore.”
A Twinkie. A Twinkie? It feels goofy even to type that word. Twinkie.
I probably should have anticipated that something like this was coming. A few minutes earlier, Everett reported unprompted that he wanted to work in a fortune cookie factory. Maybe it’s Fortune Cookie Factory. He explained that he wanted to put “terrible messages” into the fortune cookies.
“Like what?” I say, bracing myself for the worst.
“Like…’SUCKS TO BE YOU.'”
I contort my face, scrunching my nose and wincing my eyes, trying to figure out whether this is awful or actually funny. Intensive psychotherapy or a congratulatory slap on the back from his beaming teacher? Budding psychopathic serial killer or comedian in a new medium? Incarceration or hoisting a golden trophy by the legs? Now that I think about it, a Funny Fortune Cookie Factory that produces fortune cookies containing truly funny fortunes is not a bad idea for a business. But, someone else has got to be already doing this….
Ev then snaps me out of my mental gymnastics funk, reducing the topic to yet another data point supporting the absent work ethic of younger generations: “That way, they would fire me after 2 days.” My shoulders slump, utterly defeated.
Presumably, Ev figures, he could then get back to the truly important business of spreading his Lego pieces all along the ridges of our living room couch. And precariously hanging a couple dozen Buckyballs like a magnetic icicle from his bedside lamp. Anything other than some sort of real job. And clearly, he is hell-bent on sabotaging himself right out of the gates with this new Funny Fortune Cookie Factory business of his. It doesn’t matter how hard he worked to develop the idea, research the market, build a business plan, file this or that with the USPTO, take in some outside investment, hire a few dozen workers, enter into a long-term lease agreement for some old brick warehouse space, and find vendors wiling to supply a couple tons of raw fortune cookie dough and several reams of white paper cut and ready for his unique speciality: Authoring “terrible” fortunes. Everett can’t really type, so presumably he dictates the terrible fortunes or hand-writes them for someone else to type up. Probably that someone else has had to sign a solemn confidentiality agreement so that the company can keep the terrible fortunes proprietary, away from their competitors’ prying eyes.
Regardless, despite all of this work, in Ev’s perfect world, he’s already been fired and escorted from the building by security long before a diner discovers that it sucks to be him or her. Appalled and deeply offended, the diner finds the “Funny Fortune Cookie Factory” on Yelp, dials up, and indignantly tells the customer service representative his or her story of the “terrible fortune,” demanding immediate satisfaction. Recompense! “Oh,” the monotone voice on the phone reports, “We let the terrible fortune cookie writer go last week. He doesn’t work here anymore. I think he’s over at the Twinkie Factory now.”
Apoplectic, and attempting to slam the phone down in anger — an archaic therapeutic physical act that cannot be achieved by touching a fingertip to an iPhone screen — “Harummph!” goes the diner, whom it evidently does suck to be.
Thanks for reading.