Since it’s Halloween, I thought I’d give you a slice of old writing of mine just for fun. This piece was all I wrote of this story. I titled it—
Expect Bill On Thursday
On Saturday, Harry the mailman delivered a strange package to Mr. and Mrs. Barnes out on Route 6, Shady Loop Road. It was a box, about as large as brick, wrapped with paper-towel paper, having a pattern of blue flowers printed on it, and the box rattled as if it contained a single nut inside.
When Mrs. Barnes opened the package, there was nothing inside except a broken fortune cookie in a cellophane wrapper which had been opened at one end and resealed with scotch tape. Mr. Barnes ate the cookie anyway.
And inside the cookie was a fortune, of course, except instead of a normal fortune this one had a scrap of paper on which was a handwritten note in very tiny print.
“Here! What does it say?” said Mrs. Barnes impatiently. “It’s too small for me to read,” she added, handing the scrap of paper with the tiny printing on it to her husband.
“I’ll have to fetch my glasses,” said Mr. Barnes.
“Oh, hurry up, will you. I don’t see why you can’t keep your glasses with you for times like these when we receive messages in fortune cookies. You know they are bound to have tiny print.”
It took several minutes but finally Mr. Barnes found his glasses where he had left them on the kitchen table beside the peanut butter jar.
“Come on! Come on!” insisted Mrs. Barnes. “Hurry up. Read it. What does it say?”
“It’s very tiny writing,” said Mr. Barnes. “Oh, okay. It says: Expect me on Thursday. Bill.” Mr. Barnes finished reading triumphantly.
“What does that mean?” said Mrs. Barnes.
“Well, I suppose it means that Bill is coming to visit us on Thursday.”
“I know that! But it doesn’t make sense,” said Mrs. Barnes exasperated.
“It seems pretty clear to me,” answered Mr. Barnes.
“We don’t know any Bills, now do we, Walter?” said Mrs. Barnes.
“No, I don’t suppose we do. Hmm. That is a bit odd,” mused Walter. “Well, perhaps he’s a nice fellow and we’ll enjoy his company, this Bill. Say, Trudy, why don’t you make one of them lemon cakes of yours for when Bill drops by?” suggested Mr. Barnes.
“I’m not making a cake for some…Bill we don’t know.”
“It is odd; I’ll give you that. Perhaps, though, he’s a relative, a cousin, we’ve never met and he’s decided he’d like to meet us. I can’t remember the last time we’ve had family by for a visit. It’s quite exciting, don’t you think, dear? I wonder where Bill’s from?”
“Or maybe the package wasn’t meant for us,” said Trudy. “Maybe Harry delivered it to the wrong address. Have you thought of that? And now you’ve gone and eaten someone else’s cookie and Bill—whoever the devil he is—is not coming here at all. And someone else, who should have gotten this package, and should have eaten your cookie, is now not expecting their cousin or uncle or friend when he arrives on Thursday.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” said Walter.
“You never do,” said Trudy. “You never think of the most direct, practical explanations, do you.”
“Well, we can find out easy enough,” said Walter who directly found the address label on the box that the fortune cookie came in.
“Yep, that’s our number,” Walter said, “Box 9, Route 6, Perryville. It’s our address, Trude.”
“But who is it addressed to? Whose name is on the package?” demanded Trudy.
“No name. Just the address.”
“Well, see,” said Trudy, “it could belong to anyone.”
Walter shrugged. “It is our address, Trude.”
Trudy snatched the box from Walter’s hand and studied the address herself.
“This! This!” She showed it to Walter. “Now what did you say this was?”
“Aha! I’ve found your mistake, Walter, and I can always trust you to make one. It’s this! You said it was a six when clearly it is a five. I’ve caught you,” said Trudy triumphantly.
“It looks pretty plain a six to me,” said Walter.
“Oh tiddlywinks! I will show this to Harry on Monday and I’m sure he will agree with me and will understand what happened and take the box to its rightful owner. Bill, indeed! We don’t know any Bills. I knew it had to be a mistake. So Walter, what do you say to that?”
“I say we’re going to have dinner at the Lucky Dragon tonight.”
“What an absurd notion. You know Chinese food plays havoc on my digestion—all that MSG.”
“You can have the hamburger and salad like always. I’m going to have the General Tso’s Chicken this time and the panfried Lo Mein. I do love Chinese!” rejoiced Walter.
“We are not eating at that heartburn factory! Not tonight! Not anytime! I’ve only endured it as a gift to you on your birthday but if it were up to me, Walter, we’d never darken the door of that greasy, vile smelling, hole in the wall again and we’re certainly not eating there tonight.”
“But how else can we get a fortune cookie to put back in the box? Because if we’re going to return the package, don’t you think we ought to return it the way we got it?” Walter asked.
“Oh Walter, you are such a child. All we have to do is include a note—you know, in the box—explaining how Harry delivered the package to the wrong address and how you ate the fortune cookie by mistake before realizing it was not yours. And then we’ll apologize and that will be that. The rightful owner will still get the message before Thursday; that’s all that matters.”
“But what if, Trude, there’s some secret significance in the message arriving in a fortune cookie? What if Bill is telling his lover he wants to meet her on Thursday and the fortune cookie is part of the message? What if that’s the case?”
“My Lord Walter! How on earth do you think up such ridiculous things? How could a fortune cookie possibly be part of the message? That makes no sense!” Trudy grew exasperated. “The message is very simple: ‘I’ll be at your house on Thursday,’ that’s it.”
“Nope, nope, that’s not what it says,” countered Walter. “It doesn’t say anything about where he will meet her. So perhaps the fortune cookie indicates that he will meet his lover secretly at the Lucky Dragon. It could be that.”
“Well, I say, if the Lucky Dragon is this Bill fellow’s idea of a nice place to take a girl for a romantic dinner then, by gosh, I say he deserves to have his fortune cookie eaten by a wheezer like you and his stupid message thrown away. It would serve him right, by my book.” Trudy folded her arms in victory.