‘Find a penny, pick it up…’
Jez Deeley was feeling pretty damn good that day. Life didn’t get much better when you’re just a few weeks shy of your eighteenth birthday and puffing on a spliff whilst driving your own set of wheels that went like shit off a shovel when you pressed the pedal to the metal. With the July sun shining brightly in a cerulean sky and a new bird who thought he was the dogs bollocks in bed to meet up with later Jez Deeley’s life felt just about perfect.
Ernest Martindale cursed the arthritis that wracked his body and cursed a God he’d stopped believing-in when his beloved elder sister succumbed to cervical cancer at the hideously young age of thirty-eight years. Okay, the warm day helped ease the worst of the goddamn affliction, but every one of his joints ached like a bitch anyway, even if it was only slightly less painfully than yesterday.
His mood had not been improved much by the bastard letter from the bank – the same goddamn bank he had been with for more than fifty years, no less – advising him that, not only had they failed to pay one of his regular payments due to allegedly ‘insufficient funds’ in his account, they were also going to charge him half a bloody weeks’ grocery shopping bill for the fucking privilege! He, Earnest Martindale, would bloody-well see about that little matter!
Okay, so the stereo system was crap, but it was loud - even if the poxy speakers did distort the music, especially when Jez cranked up the bass. It was more about the volume than the quality when you’re almost eighteen and driving your first car. It was all about image and street cred as far as Jez Deeley was concerned. He cranked the volume up a little more until the noise level inside the car was actually painful. Not that Jez would ever admit it. He was a ‘lad’ and ‘lads’ didn’t admit to weaknesses.
The band he was listening to were a bunch of nob-heads in Jez’s opinion, but the bird he was expecting to be shagging tonight liked them. Out of a selfish sense of courtesy Jez felt he ought to at least give the wankers a listen-to before he slagged them off to his new bird. Vocally they stank, but musically? Wow, they were fucking awesomely loud!
Ernest Martindale was eighty-seven years of age. Every single day of every one of those years sat heavily on his careworn shoulders as he shuffled in ill-fitting slip-on shoes along the unevenly-paved High Street. He was sweating profusely and had to keep stopping every few feet to wipe the moisture from his reddening brow. He’d forgotten his battered trilby hat, which meant the sun was shining into his face and giving him a bastard of a headache. It did not help improve his mood.
The bank was across the road, next to the supermarket, the same supermarket the bank were trying to prevent him spending his weekly shopping allowance in if they had their way. Ernest snorted derisively as he formulated the words and phrases he was going to unleash on the snot-nosed kid of a manager who had also got up Ernest’s nose a few months ago when he tried to sell Ernest some bullshit pension plan. ‘Snotty little shit’ was Ernest Martindale’s succinct – if somewhat unfair -summation of the up-and-coming bank official.
The CD finished, and in the deafening silence that ensued, Jez Deeley found himself momentarily confused. Due the strength of the spliff that he’d smoked so far down it had singed his fingertips he wasn’t thinking quite as quickly or as sharply as he should have.
Instead of concentrating on the road ahead of him, Jez was more interested in restoring the deafening racket to his car’s interior. To that end he reached for another cased compact disc from the parcel shelf on the passenger side of the vehicle. Steering one-handed and flicking his eyes between the view through his car windscreen and his groping hand reaching along the parcel shelf, his fingers finally connected with the desired object.
Ernest Martindale had never been the most patient of men, as his late wife would have attested had she still been around to ask. She would have told the enquirer that, although they were not a couple prone to arguing, the prime cause of their few disagreements were with regard to the way Ernest spoke-to and generally treated their three sons. The late Muriel Martindale felt that husband Ernest was too quick to ‘snap’ at their offspring for often minor infractions of the household rules. As their mother she felt it her duty to leap to their defence at such times. Her husband, of course, disagreed and an argument would ensue.
The lights at the pedestrian crossing had just changed from red to green. Ernest ‘tutted’ in annoyance as a stream of vehicles thundered over the black and white stripes that marked the crossing. He knew from bitter experience that it could be up to three minutes before the green man symbol announced that it was safe for those on foot to cross the carriageway to proceed with their tasks and chores. Ernest Martindale didn’t want to waste three irretrievable minutes of his life waiting impatiently for a sodding light to tell him when he could or could not cross the road. Bugger that!
He watched until there was a reasonably large break in the traffic and stepped off the kerb into the road. The next car due – a sporty-looking red thing – was some distance down the road and appeared to be travelling quite slowly as Ernest took another step into the road. As he did so a shaft of sunlight glinted off something bright and shiny laying smack in the middle of the carriageway.
With his right hand steering the slow-moving vehicle Jez Deeley fumbled with the compact disc case, unsuccessfully attempting to extract the shiny disc. His marijuana-fogged mind could not work out exactly how to get the case open. He began to grow impatient and irritated.
“Open, you stupid bastard!” he pointlessly yelled at the plastic case. It refused to cooperate.
In frustration and anger Jez threw the object violently onto the seat. Unfortunately for him, the manufacturer of the vehicle he was ostensibly in control of had taken the comfort of any potential passenger to heart. They had produced and installed a seat that was ergonomically designed for maximum posture control and minimum discomfort. It boasted all the latest in automobile seat technology, which included a special padding that was especially springy. When Jez Deeley threw the hard plastic case onto the car’s passenger seat the seat ‘threw’ it back at him with the same force.
Jez swore – loudly – when the sharp corner of the case bounced off his arm and slipped into his lap. Had he not smoked a very large, very strong spliff he might have had the wherewithal to act differently to how he did. He slapped the hand that was steering the moving vehicle onto the sore spot on his arm where he had been struck to ease the pain. He made a grab for the CD case as it slipped off his lap and fell into the foot-well, right where his feet were controlling the clutch, brakes and acceleration.
Instinct rather than common-sense took over. Without even thinking about it, Jez steered the car with his right hand again as he ducked below the dashboard to try and retrieve the fallen compact disc…
It was a new-looking pound coin that had caught Ernest Martindale’s attention as he crossed the busy road.
“See a penny, pick it up…” Ernest muttered the old adage to himself as he leaned his aching, arthritis-raddled and aged body over and reached for the shiny coin. He felt his knees ‘pop’ as he squatted and touched the money…
Jez felt the car swerve as he reached for the CD. Slightly panicked and a little befuddled he over-compensated and threw the car into a larger swerve in the other direction as he corrected again. He heard the irritated ‘beep’ of the vehicle behind him. At that moment his fingertips brushed the edge of the hard plastic CD case. To his intense annoyance and frustration the smooth plastic slid away from his fingertips.
“BOLLOCKS!” Jez swore.
He raised his head up to look through the windscreen to try and get his bearings. He was horrified to see that less than fifty yards in front of him an old man was crouched down in the middle of the fucking road! A surge of adrenalin coursed through his veins which caused the foot covering the accelerator to twitch – downwards. The sudden injection of fuel to the engine sent a surge of power to the drive mechanism. The car, which had been travelling sedately – if somewhat erratically – leapt forward like an angry tiger released from captivity in a cage. In seconds almost two tons of steel, plastic and electrics was hurtling along at more than sixty miles an hour.
Ernest Martindale was feeling pleased with his find. Life wasn’t all champagne and caviar on a small pension so every penny counted. The bonus of an unexpected pound was almost enough to put a smile on his grumpy unshaven face. Almost.
The scream of a woman and the shouting of several loud aggressive voices alerted him that something was amiss. He turned slowly to see the sporty little car he had seen a moment or two ago driving slowly down the road heading for him at an alarming rate of knots.
Ernest Martindale didn’t have time to be scared.
Jez Deeley did, though. He could not work out how to stop the car he was supposed to be in control of. His brain had gone into ‘total panic’ mode and essentially shut down on him. His foot was still heavy on the accelerator as it ploughed into the old man and threw him several feet into the air before he landed noisily on the roof of the car. Ernest Martindale was dead before he slid almost gracefully back to the solidity of the tarmac-surfaced road.
‘… and all day long you’ll have good luck’