It was a little over a year ago that Janice Hadary was sitting in a chinese restaurant, going through the ritual of opening a fortune cookie.

"There we were, my husband and I, both out of job and this strip of paper was giving us one of the usual happy predictions," she recalled. "I asked why they didn't tell it like it is once in a while."

Since no truth-in-fortune-dookies law has yet been enacted, Mrs. Hadary decided then and there to take matters into her own hands. She and her husband conferred with a friend, a scriptwriter named Michael Durkin, and the three of them set out to launch Misfortune Cookies.

"Start tomorrow with a smile," Durkin wrote for one of the samples. "It'll be your first and only chance."

Nobody in Chinatown thought it was funny.

"We made the rounds of all the big bakeries," Joel Hadary said. "Not only was no one interested -- very few of them even spoke English -- but some gave the impression that they were a little offended."

One outfit said they would bake a batch of cookies, but only if an order could be placed for 2,000 pounds of them, which the three local enterpreneurs had no money to do.

"But finally we found a little bakery in Chinatown," Mrs. Hadary said. "The owner's son spoke English and they had an ancient machine operated by a woman who would fold each cookie individually around the fortune.

"The son said he thought we had a dumb idea, but that the bakery was willing to enshrine a few of the misfortunes in douth." Hadary, who was getting his MBA at Pepperdine University here, lined up a printer.

And Durkin hit the typewriter.

Said one fortune: "Tonight you will meet the love of your life, but only if you tell your wife you're working late."

And: "Your analyst will try and tell you different, but people really are trying to stab you in the back."

And: "If you're looking for prosperity, happiness and remance, you chose the wrong cookie."

The writer came up with 50, friends contributed a few others and the unholy trinity was ready to begin operations. However, it was already September.

"My marketing teacher advised that it was too late in the year. He suggested that we wait until after the holidays."

But the Hadarys and Durkin managed to place their $8 cans of Misfortune Cookies in a few boutiques and specialty stores.

Not only that, but Hadary was graduated and then reported for a job, his wife has been hired as a script reader and Durkin has some entertainment people interested in a couple of his plots.

To top it off, the cookie venture is renning in the black. Ms Confucius or somebody once said:

"It pays to use your noodle."