“The top of the morning, Mr Devil,” says Mickey. “My, but it’s a wonderful day to be alive so it is.”
Today, Satan is suited and booted. He is wearing a razor-sharp pinstripe suit with someone else’s name sewn into lining. Leather shoes polished to a diamond shine. Crisp white shirt. A killer silk tie made from the poopy glands of silk worms. And when you put it like that, it doesn’t sound so nice, does it?
“You’re in a good mood,” says the fiend. He sniffs the air. “Ah, yes. You’ve been paid. There’s a jingleful of coinage in your pocket.”
“Appy days, your loathsomeness. Appy days.”
“And what are you going to do with your riches?”
Mickey dances a happy little jig. “The world’s my lobster, ain’t it? I was thinking of necking a few pints of Willy Wilter. Mebbe a goose and gubbins pie. And then I was thinking of asking Rosie to go dancing.”
The Devil smiles a wicked smile. “Sounds hellishly.”
“I mean, it sounds good. What you might call ‘heavenly’.”
“Oh. So you approve then?”
“Of course I approve,” says the Devil. “You’re giving your money away and making other people rich. All you’ll get in the morrow morn is a headache and an annoying little rash in your tenders.”
“And what would you do, horned one?”
The Devil sighs, and it makes the sound of a million tortured souls crying out in anguish as if they have been roasted over a hot fire for a thousand years and would really like to be turned over so they get browned on the other side.
“Haven’t you been listening?” asks the Devil. “Give me one of those coins and I’ll show you.”
Mickey fishes into his pocket and pulls out a shiny penny, all gleaming and lovely in its promise of beer and pies and Rosie’s thighs.
Satan places the penny in the middle of his upturned palm. “Ah, yes, I remember this little chap. He’s been stolen a dozen times. Lived under the floorboards at old Mother Higgins’ house. Bought a lady’s favour. Settled a rich man’s gambling debts. What stories this penny could tell!”
“If it could speak.”
The Devil looks a tad superior. “If you could but listen. Now watch this.”
Strange things happen in the Devil’s hand. The penny starts to move. Just a little at first – a nudge, a twitch, a squirm. Then metallic legs and arms sprout from its sides. The coin stands up and stretches its arms.
Mickey peers closely, expecting the coin to grow a little head. But that would be silly, wouldn’t it? Let’s be satisfied with arms and legs. It’s enough to make the point.
That is when the penny starts singing.
Oh yes. This penny can sing. It is a heart-felt ballad, a love song, a croon. There are echoes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong, Barry White. It is the male version of the siren song.
Come be my love and I will keep you safe and warm. I’ll show you things you only dreamt of. Take you to places where the palaces are made of soft pink marble, peacocks strut along leafy avenues, the fwocks are gossamer thin and the fountains are made of pure gold.
But first get into my bed, awright?
It is a horny song drenched in honey. Horny honey. The randy penny is calling for a mate.
“That’s a clever trick …” says Mickey.
“Shhh! Don’t interrupt a master at work.”
They hear it before they say it. An answering call from some distance away. It is another penny song, high pitched, hopeful, compliant. Within scant moments, another penny comes bounding along the road, scuttering and rushing on its ickle legs. Without so much as a by-your-leave, this second penny jumps onto the Devil’s palm.
The singing stops. The two pennies nustle into each other. It’s a snuggle. A stroke. A cuddle. The second penny slips into something soft and silky. There are the unmistakeable sounds of Sadé on the hi-fi. A red silk scarf thrown over a table lamp. The two pennies are getting jiggy with it.
The Devil closes his second hand over his first. “Let’s give these two young folk a bit of privacy,” he says, with a leering wink. Or maybe it’s a winking leer. It’s hard to tell with the physiognomy of creatures from the Underworld, especially the apex predator thereof.
The Devil’s cupped hands bounce and shake to the unmistakeable sound of passionate claims against the house insurance for broken furniture.
Then there is a fiscal cry of “Yes! Yes! Yes!” – a blended harmony of one bass voice and one treble and both are rather happy about something.
Satan’s cupped hands go still. A little whiff of smoke drifts up from between his clenched knuckles. There is a tiny flash of light which may or may not have been a fridge door opening.
The Devil counts to thirteen – his favourite number – and then opens his hands. There on his palm are three coins. Two pennies and a ittle bittle thrupenny bit. Awww … ain’t it cute?
The thrupenny bit is wailing in a police-siren blare of sufficient volume to wake the dead. The two pennies argue about whose turn it is.
“Remind me never to shake your hand,” says Mickey.
The Devil puts all three coins in his pocket. “Don’t you see, Mickey? Money makes more money. The rich get richer. If you take your earnings and spend it all on booze, pies and Rosie, then by the morrow you’ll have none left.”
“Yes, but I’ll have had some fun,” says Mickey, jutting out a defiant lip.
“Sure. For a little while. But can have more fun with more money. You can have two pennies and thruppence worth of Rosie instead of just a penny. If you think what she’ll do for a penny, imagine what you’ll get for tuppence.”
It is an intriguing thought. Mickey allows the ramifications and possibilities to play across his horny mind. If you don’t mind, we ought to give him some private time for that. And remind ourselves never to shake his hand, either.
The Devil draws his line in the earth again. “This is your money,” he says. “In a metaphorical and metaphysical sort of way.”
“Never mind. If you spend your money on stuff that doesn’t last, you’ll be giving it all away to rich folk. You’ll be living your life on the line. Neither getting better nor getting worse. And frankly you might as well walk straight over to the Baron’s mansion and give him all your pay.”
“All right, all right,” says Mickey. “I get it. But what should I do instead?”
“It’s simple,” says the Luciferous one. “Use your money to make more money. Put it in savings and earn interest. Invest it in something that makes you a profit. Open your own pub. Don’t pish it away down the pub wall. Money fornicates and makes more money. If you let it.”
Mickey pauses to think. Then a dawning thoughts dawns dawnily. “Hang on a minute, Prince of Darkness. You’ve still got my penny.”
The Devil laughs like the moment when a sound technician at a Motorhead concert accidentally turned the volume up to thirteen.
“Mickey, my boy, you’re learning. Let’s call it the fee for today’s lesson.”
And with that he vanishes.