Find a penny, pick it up…
Do you believe in luck? And if so, how much do you believe? Me, I’m a rational person with a scientific mind and a tendency to contingency plan everything until the outcome is a forgone conclusion. Until things start to go wrong, of course, and then I cross my fingers and knock on wood. But, that’s just for gp.
I can remember a time when luck seemed like a pretty potent force in the world I and the other kids inhabited. There were rules to how it worked, and it was the only fighting chance a kid had at getting life to go their way…unless it backfired.
Walker and Mark leaned a little closer to Spencer’s desk. Their faces were sober, and their eyes focused intently on his fist–clenched around the penny.
“The important thing,” Spencer said, his voice just loud enough to reach them. “Is to keep it heads side up. In everything I do, all day long, I have to make it stay heads side up.” He opened his fingers one by one, to reveal the coppery grimy-green penny resting on his palm, heads side up.
“So, if I wanted to put the penny on my desk,” Spencer went on. “I wouldn’t just flip my hand over and set it down–that could mean tails. I’d slide it off my hand, like this”–he demonstrated by using the index finger of his other hand to nudge the penny off his palm, onto the desk–“so the good luck would continue and the next guy wound’t pick up bad luck. You don’t want to be anywhere around if it gets picked up on tails.”
Walker and Mark nodded soberly.
Spencer leaned back in his seat, and waved a hand expansively at the penny. “Go ahead, one of you pick it up. I’ve used up the good luck it can get me, so if we want to get out of today’s test we need someone new to be the penny-keeper.”
Walker looked at Mark, and Mark gave him a nod to go ahead. Walker stretched out his hand.
“Careful!” Spencer said. “Remember, heads side up!”
Walker nodded, and his fingers shook a bit. But he picked the penny up and managed to keep it heads side up as he folded it in his palm.
At the front of the room, Ms. Granger stood from her desk and called the class to order. “I have an update on today’s plans, which I’m sure you’ll all be delighted to hear. The copy machine wasn’t able to print copies of the test, so we won’t be taking the test today.”
The room erupted in ragged cheers. Mark gave Walker an excited look, and Spencer nodded approval. He leaned over, to whisper. “To increase the good luck, transfer the penny–still heads up–from one hand to the other.”
Ms. Granger clapped her hands. “However, this does not mean we won’t be learning today.”
Walker transferred the penny from his left to his right hand, still heads side up.
“We just won’t be learning in the classroom!” Ms. Granger smiled. “We’re heading outside today, where we’ll–”
Walker transferred the penny back to his left hand, his face glowing.
–“follow Mr. Daublin to the picnic grounds, and share some cake!” Ms. Granger finished, with a flourish.
The door opened, and Mr. Daublin walked in, right on cue, carrying a giant chocolate cake, big enough to feed the class three times over. The cheering class lined up behind him, making a parade around the room, heading towards the outside door.
Walker’s face was alight with glee, and as the other boys stood, he couldn’t resist transferring the penny one more time.
Except, this time, he slipped.
The penny tumbled through the air, flipping as it fell.
“Catch it!” Walker cried. His hand swiped through the air, missing the penny.
It thunked onto the desk, and spun on it’s end.
“Wait!” Spencer held out a hand. “Not if it lands–”
The penny fell on it’s side, tails up, and in the same moment, Mark’s fingers closed around it.
Spencer reared back in horror as Mark opened his fingers to reveal the penny resting on his palm–tails side up.
“I–I didn’t meant to,” Mark said, desperation wringing out the words.
The classroom parade had reached the outside door. Two boys darted ahead to open it, but jostled Mr. Daublin as they pushed past him.
“Steady on!” Mr. Daublin cried, juggling the cake.
Above the classroom, thunder boomed, shaking the windows.
Mr. Daublin jumped. The cake tipped, slid sideways in a mad rush of grasping fingers–and landed with a splat, upside down on the floor.
Outside the windows, thunder split the sky again, and rain sluiced down.
Spencer sighed. “This is going to be a long, long day.”
Did you ever have a lucky penny, as a kid? Did it make you lucky? In honor of today–Lucky Penny Day–I plan to pick up any pennies I see as I go about life. We’ll see if I find any!
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