Colonel of Wisdom
â€œAre you laughing at my laugh?â€ The clerk stared at me, her eyes screwed up in scrutiny.
â€œAre you laughing at my laugh?â€
No. Who laughs at laughs? Iâ€™m just trying to buy milk and not watch the elections on the TV screen overhead.
â€œBecause people laugh at my laugh. Not because itâ€™s funny. Well. Funny strange, not funny ha-ha.â€
Since leaving the campaign office three days ago, my life had taken on a distinct type of unraveling. Weâ€™d been broke and down ten points in the polls. Probably because beat-walking cop recently happened to glance down in the window of a parked Volvo and glimpsed my candidate canoodling the intern.
â€œItâ€™s not funny to laugh at other peopleâ€™s laughs.â€ She snorted abruptly. Was it a planned snort? Can someone plan a snort?
Did I mention the intern was my girlfriend?
â€œI didnâ€™t laugh at your laugh. I laughed at a fortune cookie that came out with my billfold.â€ It was true. In between crumpled five-spots, a pristine white strip had fluttered to the countertop.
â€œSee? Thatâ€™s all you had to say.â€ Snort. I waited for her to hand over my change. I waited for my girlfriend to explain. I waited for my career to resurrect. â€œWhat does it say?â€
â€œWhat?â€ My eyes had drifted up the TV stitched to wall behind the convenience storeâ€™s register. A friend â€” he managed this senate race in Colorado â€” had won. Some of us swim in victory. Others get the love of their life knocked up by their boss. But I donâ€™t make the rules. I just swim in the shit.
â€œWhat does the fortune cookie say?â€
Itâ€™s not a cookie, just a fortune.
â€œIt says: Wield that shit before you yield that shit.â€
â€œI donâ€™t get it.â€ She snorted again. She must be planning the snorts. Theyâ€™re pitch perfect.
â€œItâ€™s a kernel of wisdom, I suppose.â€ Sheâ€™s counting the dollars. Really? Iâ€™m only getting four back. But the fortune rattles around in my neuropaths. No job, no love. It dawns on me that if I can get past the basic insecurity, Iâ€™m free for whatever. Anything. Everything. Life.
Sometimes a pint of milk and a dumb cashier bring forth the fortune teller.
â€œWas he a famous Chinaman?â€ She asks as she hands over my bills.
â€œThe Colonel of Wisdom. Was he a famous Chinaman?â€
Ridiculous. I take my bills and start laughing. She joins in, then snorts. And asks again if Iâ€™m laughing at her laugh.
But by then, Iâ€™m already gone, into the autumn rain. Itâ€™s time to wield that shit.