The Christmas Penny

“It’s Christmas and I’m skint,” Jack moaned.

The two of us ambled through the streets of New Babbage, kicking small furrows of snow into the gutter with the toes of our shoes. My empty stomach rumbled as the smell of freshly baked pastries wafted from a nearby bakery, through the crisp winter’s air.

“It’s been a whole day since I’ve eaten,” I confessed, “and I’m famished! Let’s return to Canal Street and see if we can beg for some scraps there.”

The corner of Canal Street and Emerson Way, outside the old Imperial Theatre, was a good location for a couple of street urchins to gain sympathy from the many passers-by. Occasionally, some rich gentleman would drop a farthing or ha’penny into our upturned caps, enough for a crust of bread or a slither of cheese, and we would relish every mouthful of our cache.

Jack and I turned and we headed back from the docks, towards the centre of New Babbage, through the shivering winter winds that funnelled their way down the long narrow streets. As we passed the shops, hanging turkeys, plucked pheasants and all sorts of other festive delights teased our senses and created dreams of lavish Christmas feasts in our impoverished minds.

Jack halted abruptly and pointed down into the gutter.

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