One of our neighbors told her children that a four-leaf clover or a rabbit’s foot on a key ring brought good luck (Did anybody ask the rabbit?), fairy godmothers appeared when you needed them, and fortune cookie messages were Chinese insights to the future. She tolerated fibs from her children if it kept them out of trouble. “It’s not even a white lie,” she said by way of explanation for detours from the truth. Maybe that’s why she was never a guest in our home across the street where truth was sacred.
“There’s no such thing as a fib or white lie,” my father said. “Always tell the truth.”
I did, but only in response to direct questions. I didn’t know about the Fifth Amendment then, or I would have tried it. Perhaps my father didn’t know, or didn’t care about it either. He insisted on full disclosure from me when he tolerated frequent door-to-door salesmen who hid some facts and squished others like running a rag through the wringer on our washing machine.
There’s little or no evidence that the Chinese originated those original promises of glorious travel, an encounter with a tall, dark, handsome stranger, or receiving a large inheritance. Now, with more than three billion cookies baked in the U.S. every year, even with the database of archived writings, getting the right one with your meal is like spinning the roulette wheel. There’s a gambler’s chance that your message will be a nothing more than a fib.