Ben Yokoyama loved noodles the most. He loved them more than cheesecake, French toast, and kiwi fruit, which he loved almost
He loved spaghetti noodles and udon noodles and tiny noodles shaped like stars. He loved thin noodles and wide noodles and round noodles and flat noodles. He loved any food with “noodle” in its name. Ben was a noodle man.
Are you ready to order? asked his aunt Nora, looking up from her phone.
Ben was not ready to order. He’d never been to a Chinese restaurant.
There were so many options.
His parents preferred the Japanese restaurant, but they were home paying three months of bills all at once. Nora was in charge tonight.
Do they have noodles? Ben asked.
Yes, they have noodles, said Nora like her brain was on one planet and her mouth was on another. “There,” she said, pointing to a part of the menu that said NOODLES.
Aunt Nora had long fake fingernails on top of her regular ones. They tapped against her phone like rain on a roof. Ben wondered how hard it would be to open jars with fingernails like that.
He read the list of noodle dishes.
Ben wanted to eat a noodle that was fun!
But there was no rush. Ben was only eight years old. He had a whole wide lifetime to do these things. So instead, he sat patiently while Aunt Nora used her phone to take a picture of her menu.
By the time the waiter came, Ben had forgotten the name of the fun- sounding noodle and he couldn’t find it again in the ocean of options.
Two orders of lo mein, said Aunt Nora. And then she went back to fiddling with her phone and not talking to Ben.
He didn’t mind. The TV over her shoulder was showing great mountains of noodles being born in a noodle factory. It made the waiting difficult.
When the actual noodles came, Ben ate them like a f lame eats a piece of paper when you throw it in the fireplace. Lo mein wasn’t particularly fun, but it sure was delicious.
Nora ate six noodles. Ben knew because he counted. He couldn’t understand it.
“Are you going to eat the rest
of your noodles?” asked Ben once his noodles were gone. But Aunt Nora didn’t hear him. She was busy taking a picture of her fingernails.
Ben felt sorry for Nora’s noodles, sitting there unloved.
Here, he said to the noodles, I’ll make you feel better.
Ben took Nora’s plate and ate her noodles like an anteater eats ants. He was sad that his stomach was not infinite.
The waiter took their plates away and brought a tiny tray that held two little lumps wrapped in plastic. They looked like dried- out ravioli, which was another kind of noodle Ben loved.
they? he asked.
Fortune cookies, said Nora.
They’re full of wisdom.
Ben was a big fan of wisdom.
Nora split her cookie in two, pulled out a tiny strip of paper, and read out loud.
Be sure to notice the wonders that surround you, or else you might miss them.
That’s good advice, said Ben.
It really is, said Nora, placing the strip of paper on the tiny plate and taking a picture with her phone.
Ben split his cookie in two and found his own strip of paper inside.
Here’s what it said:
Live each day as if it were your last.
Oh boy, said Ben, his mind devouring the wisdom like a black hole devours planets and stars.
Ben thought about his fortune all the way home.
He thought about it as he walked past the dining room table, where his parents were still paying bills.
He thought about it as he brushed his teeth, put on his pajamas, and got into bed.
And then he dreamed about it. Everything was different now. Suddenly a lifetime had become a single day.
Copyright © 2021 by Matthew Swanson; illustrated by Robbi Behr. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.