Find a penny pick it up and all day you’ll have good luck.
You ‘ave always made fun of me for tha’ one.
Jenny the Penny you called me.
My whole life I picked up every penny I found. Tha’ glint of light on the ground appeals to the inner magpie in all of us. Do you know ancient cultures thought found coins were important? To find metal was precious it was a gift from the gods. For me, it goes back to being a little kid with my grandma walkin’ across the heath and findin’ my first penny. I held it up to her in the light. All shiny and new like a piece of the sun. Tha’ was when I ‘eard the phrase for the first time. I shoved tha’ coin in my pocket and she said.
“Wha’ you doin’?”
“I’m puttin’ it in my pocket.”
“No Jenny, you need to put tha’ somewhere special. Tha’ coin is lucky. You need to keep it. That’s not for sweets, that’s for life.”
I ‘eld it firmly in my ‘and the whole way home, she gave me this beautiful, old, glass mason jar and made me promise to put all my pennies in it from now on.
Forty years on, I now ‘ave six old mason jars full of old pennies. Each one found on the ground while I went about my business. Not just pennies either; foreign coins. There are two rules. It’s to be found and it ‘as to be the lowest denomination of currency.
It’s all to do with the number one. It represents a oneness with a higher power.
If I found any other coins they go into the pocket with the rest. I try to remember them though and still even now in my forties, I make the effort to spend them on sweets.
Now all tha’ was important so you can understand the next bit.
Do you remember the Spyder twins?
Oh you do, yes, you do, the rough pair tha’ lived in Marshalswick?
Well, it was six years ago and there was a knock on my door and there standin’ in front of me was the twins. They were suited and booted. The one on the left ‘ad a fat lip and ‘alf the buttons ripped on his white shirt and the other ‘ad a black eye and his jacket was all muddy as if he had been rollin’ round on the ground.
Well Jack Spyder, the dad, had died. They ‘ad come from his funeral. The mother ‘ad thrown them out of the wake for fighting each other. They chose to come to me. I ‘ave no idea why; I didn’t even know them tha’ well. The twin on the left, I will call him Fat Lip as I couldn’t tell them apart, had a package wrapped in paper in his ‘and. Black Eye, the other one, asked if they could come in, they needed to talk to me. I did not feel threatened. They were big lads and I knew they could ‘ave a row. At that moment I just felt sorry for them. There was somethin’ broken about them.
I brought them through into the kitchen.
I decided to not make them a cup of tea and reached into the cupboard under the sink and pulled out a bottle of whiskey. Pourin’ us all a slug.
“Now boys, tell me what the problem is.”
“It’s this,” responded Fat Lip holdin’ out the package.
I unwrapped the brown paper and pulled out an old tin box. It was one of them vintage lunch boxes with a seventies TV show emblazoned over it.
“Open it,” said Black Eye.
Inside the tin was a small black moleskin book and a small square of folded paper. I opened the square of paper and there was an American penny. An old one. I picked up the black book.
“Read it out loud,” said Fat Lip.
The boys were not the brightest so I indulged them.
You are two of the most ungrateful sons a man could wish for.
Despite this I still love you.
You will not have my fortune.
So I offer you a different fortune
I want you to learn and look closely at all life has given you.
Your whole inheritance is this box.
Inside is my lucky penny may it bring you luck.
I hope this last lesson teaches you that life needs to be earnt not given.
May it help you to find value and happiness and become the men I know you can be.
Even from beyond the grave I will teach you to be grateful, even if it kills me. Ha, ha, ha.
Now Jack Spyder was a rich man and this was a crummy inheritance by anyone’s standards. He ‘ad left everythin’ to their mother. Leavin’ a hard moral for his tearaways. He had cut them off with a penny.
“I don’t understand wha’ you want me to do?” I said.
“Joey says you’re the penny girl; no one knows more about pennies than you,” said Fat Lip.
“Yeah fix this,” said Black Eye, “we are not allowed back ‘ome until then, Ma said.”
I was flummoxed. I collected found pennies, that’s it, and ‘ere I was adjudicating a family row. I needed more information. I topped up our whiskies and decided to get to the heart of the matter.
It appears after their initial disappointment; sole possession of the penny was key. Sharin’ was not an option. Neither brother trusted the other to turn over the artefact when their time was up. Fat Lip even suggested his brother would swap the penny for a dud. I suggested a third party hold it. Black Eye in particular believed tha’ couldn’t work. The penny clearly had an invisible energy tha’ had once been their fathers. To him, he described it as a super power. Only the next person ‘olding the coin could assume it. To give the power to a third person would be foolish. Cuttin’ the penny in ‘alf might damage the luck, it could even bring bad luck to the boys. It was a puzzle and they expected me to solve it. It did occur to me tha’ despite these two terrorisin’ the countryside for the last ten years, they clearly did not like or trust each other.
“Let me look at tha’ penny,” I said.
It was a 1921 US Lincoln cent. My brain was itchin’. I grabbed my jar of foreign pennies and emptied them over the counter. I started pickin’ through them, discardin’ choice after choice. Then I saw it and ‘eld it up to my eye. Checkin’ the date, it was unbelievable. It was impossible. Destiny has a strange way of tappin’ you on the shoulder.
I returned to the table.
“Are we friends?” I said.
“I don’t understand,” said Fat Lip.
“Are we friends?”
“Yeah, course,” said Black Eye.
“Let’s shake on it and seal the deal.”
We all shook ‘ands and then I picked up their precious penny and slammed it under one hand.
Liftin’ up my hand there were now two identical pennies.
“Hey, wha’ you playin’ at?” said Fat Lip.
“Now calm down and listen. Let me explain.”
I had taken a big gamble. This could end up going one of two ways. There’s no way to stop now I had already rolled the dice.
“Now don’t bother askin’ me which is which. I don’t know. Here you ‘ave two identical pennies. One for each of you.”
“But which one is the lucky one?” moaned Fat Lip.
“They’re both lucky,” I explained, “One of you will get the original penny, the other will get a special penny from me.”
“I don’t understand wha’ makes the second penny special,” said Black Eye.
“Are you not listenin’,” I argued, “Now the one without the original lucky penny, ‘as an identical lucky penny. There is power in a gifted coin from a friend, especially a new friend.”
Grumbling they agreed. To my surprise this simple new solution fit. They each took their own penny, finished their whiskey and got up to leave.
“Don’t forget your tin and book,” I said.
“Keep ‘em,” said Fat Lip.
They then walked out each of them holdin’ their respective penny between thumb and forefinger; walkin’ off as if they were hypnotised. Neither talking to the other.
Up until that day, life for me had been ‘ard and not very lucky. After tha’ day things took a turn. Fixin’ their little problem somehow left me blessed.
So wha’ of the twins?
To me, after tha’ night, they were always Fat Lip and Black Eye, so forgive me for not using their real names.
The most amazing thing ‘appened to the twins. They parted company from each other and went independently out into the world. Black Eye started dating Debbie Moran the model, easily the most beautiful girl in town and Fat Lip set up his own cleaning company and scored some big contracts from the council. They were succeedin’ and thrivin’.
Then they became really famous.
Aah ha, I thought tha’ might ring a bell for you. Yes, ‘them’ Spyder twins. You probably read about it in the newspapers.
No one actually knows wha’ happened tha’ November night, so bear with me as I explain to you wha’ I think happened.
Each brother became convinced tha’ the other brother had the original penny. One envied the girl, the other the wealth. I believe, Black Eye broke into Fat Lip’s house planning’ to steal it. Fat Lip caught him and shot him dead. Then wracked with grief he went mad. They locked him up in Broadmoor.
They should’ve kept that black book and heeded their Da’s message.
They should’ve kept the tin lunch box too.
After they left I kept starrin’ at it. It had a ‘eadshot of Patrick Duffy on it. Tha’ bloke from the TV show Dallas, this was for a show called ‘Man from Atlantis.’ This show from 1977 had been a disaster, Patrick could not do the underwater swimmin’ shots. Only six episodes were ever made, it was supposed to be a big success a lot of merchandise had been licensed. All of it ended up being scrapped. What’ I did not know then tha’ only three of these lunch boxes were thought to exist in the world. This one was number four and in better condition than all of them. It was the holy grail of vintage lunch boxes.
After Fat Lip went to Broadmoor I put it on eBay, it broke all records. It sold for almost four times the price the last one was sold for, twenty thousand American dollars and one cent. Tha’ extra American penny tickled me. It was fate. A gentleman in California was very, very pleased with it.
You know, I also kept tha’ little black book. It was a crackin’ little book. I used to write my shoppin’ lists in it. When I had filled it, I bought a second one. I transcribed Jack Spyder’s message into the front of the new one and read it every time I opened the cover. Always learnin’ to be grateful for whatever life gave me that day.
Do I think I stole from the twins? Tha’ somehow if I had been ‘onest and shared the Spyder’s fortune, tragedy could ‘ave been averted?
I think them twins were born cursed. Their fate was decided the day they entered this world. They were destined to self-destruct. Tha’ tin lunch box was destined to come to me. The karma played out exactly the way it was designed. I just moved the pieces I was supposed to move.
I did exactly wha’ my Grandma taught me.
She gave me the lessons.
It was she tha’ said
Now give tha’ penny to a friend and your luck will never end.