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The Penny Lunch
By Paul Francis Mc Cann
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Not rated by the Author.
Story about a man who lost his life and found it and how he gave and received help to many in need
Most people get up every morning and get ready to go to work , or school , or look after children . Some get up to pray or fulfil the calling in their life .
Then there are those who get up hungry and spend they day looking for food , or begging to survive .
PJ had spend most of his life doing all of these things together.
He was a priest who had left the church , after deciding the religious life wasn’t for him . A few years later PJ married a girl but shortly after the wedding day tragedy struck and PJ’s wife was killed in terrible car accident
After this tragedy , PJ lost the plot for a while and some say tried to take his own life a few times before being rescued by an ex-priest who he had known for years . His friend provided some shelter and support for him . When PJ was ready to confront the world again he took up a part time job in a child care facility , but that job soon closed . One by one every job he started ended up the same way . Eventually PJ became homeless and hungry . Driven by poverty to the doors of the welfare system he was sent to the doors of charities for handouts , who told him about the Penny Lunch in Liberty street where every Friday at noon , where you could get a feed .
It was the church who were the providers of penny lunches for hungry men - It didn’t matter if you hadn’t got a penny , you still got a lunch .
Early one Friday morning when PJ crawled out from the bus in the depot he wandered through the empty streets again , looking to kill a few hours before lunch . He passed by the Quay and on to the custom house then noticed a hole in a security fence , so he decided to go in and take a look Around . In an old derelict building he pushed a door open and among the rubble and garbage on the ground he saw a suitcase . PJ opened it and found he had hit the jackpot .
To his surprise the suitcase full of money . PJ screamed out ,
“Thank you God , I knew you’d come through .“
PJ knew the suitcase had been abandoned and left there for him to find:
for whatever the reason .
PJ decided it was time left for him to change the circumstances in his life and also improve the quality of life in others .
PJ was one of those people who you rarely meet in life .
For he had known both sides of the city life and now he had the ability to make a difference,
After spending many years walking the cold streets, in a place where life had forgotten him and others like him .,
The vulnerable , the unwanted . the poor , the homeless and the hungry .
Among all these people were children runaways , old folk , the addicted , the refugees , those who had slipped through the welfare system into an abyss , where they hadn’t enough to survive .
PJ took a look down at the rags that he wore and decided it was time for him to change his wardrobe . Now almost time for some of the stores to open and almost time for him to change his appearance .
First a haircut and shave followed by the fitting of a suit .
He felt human again and was able to look the world in the eye .
It was amazing the difference it made .
PJ purchased a new briefcase for carrying some of the money he had found .while the remainder he placed in the care of the left luggage at the railway station .
Now dressed like an executive he went inside one of the up town restaurants and sat along side the swells , at table for one and ordered steak with the works and desert with coffee and cake .
It was intriguing how the waiters spoke to him and how he was treated by those around him , who gave him the nod of approval , as if he had made it into the secret world of high society and how plastic it all was , however he did enjoy it for a while .
As soon as he had eaten the meal , he paid the bill and the next thing he wanted to do was visit his friends at the Penny Lunch .
He looked at his new wristwatch and saw it was getting close to lunch time .
Then he quickly made his way to Liberty Street with his briefcase in his hand .
Along the way he saw small numbers of the street community who he recognised but they never knew him .
PJ had the choice to remain the stranger in their eyes and walk on or to stop and say hello to them but being aware of the time he wanted to make the Penny Lunch before it closed and so he decided to pass them by on the street knowing well he could catch up with them later .
When he reached the church on the corner , the tall steel gates that surrounded the granite stone building of the Penny Lunch were just being opened and the line up of regulars were filtering into the courtyard to await the doors to be opened to the basement were people could get a penny lunch .
PJ walked in with them and stood amongst them there.
Old Skin , as always sat there ,on a milk crate by the door . Half insane , answering to no one , he sat talking to himself .
There was Nailer who once was a carpenter before he had escaped into liquid paradise :
Then there was Tucker ,who was a chef before he completely lost touch with reality, due to his mind being hi jacked by narcotics and Dapper , the Derelict who once owned a chain of clothes stores before the global downturn and economic crash sent him to the poorhouse .
Mackster stood in his old boots with no laces , looking into the faces of the Penny lunchers as if he wanted to speak but never could because he was deaf and dumb since birth . After his Mother died Mackster went out to the mercy of the streets and found many others there just like him there so he stayed .
Stitch was there again in the same well worn donkey jacket . He used to be a tailor before his wife died and after she was gone people said he forgot to look after himself and eventually bent to alcohol and lived off the welfare system ,who had sent many of their clients to the penny lunch ,as did the charities and churches around the city .
So between all of the penny lunchers they had one understanding
Which was hunger . They were all accepted by each another , even PJ in his new suit . He took a seat with them and no one looked at him wrongly , for he too was accepted .
When the basement doors opened PJ made his way in and took a seat on the side near the wall and watched as the penny lunchers stood in the queue as the meals were being handed out .
Every one got the same a large deep bowl of broth and a thick slice of bread buttered thickly from edge to edge .
PJ sat beside Old Skin and looked on never speaking a word .
He smiled as Skin finished the soup in seconds .
Like an animal he had devoured the bread and soup .
Now nourished and satisfied Skin lifted his eyes and looked into PJs face .
Where PJ sat smiling and said .
“I never seen anyone eat like that before .”
Skin replied ,
“I haven’t ate since last Friday .”
PJ reached out his hand and said ,
“Don’t say nothing to nobody , ok Skin , now this money is for you .“
He handed over large bundle of notes .
Skin grabbed it and said .
“Thanks Mister , do I know you . What’s your name sir ?”
“It doesn’t matter Skin because I know you and this is our secret ok . “
Skin nodded and smiled and before he left he said ,
“Here I’m glad to know you .“
With that Skin got up and left the building .
During the time the Penny Lunch was on he quietly took a seat with everyone and PJ said the same thing to everyone handing over an amount of cash to them .
Everyone that day who had come to the penny lunch left like Multi Millionaires . PJ himself was feeling as rich as anyone could ever hope to be .
His next thought was to book into a hotel for the evening and plan the holiday of a lifetime . His mind though was elsewhere as he left the building and never looked sideways crossing the street . From nowhere Skin appeared and grabbed hold of PJ and threw him out of the danger zone . The truck driver blew the horn and shouted out something as he thundered past PJ who lay on the pavement bewildered but still alive .
“Sir you’ve got to be careful when you’re crossing the roads you know .”
Then off he went .
PJ got up and before he picked up his briefcase , a young well dressed man grabbed hold of it and ran , but he never even made it to the corner , as Stitch stepped out from a doorway with a bottle in his hand and put his shoulder to the thief , who fell fair and square , hard to the ground .
Within seconds Stitch took hold of the briefcase as the thief ran off .
PJ approached Stitch said ,
“Thanks Stitch “
“No bother at all . I guess we’re square . The thing is some people don’t know what they’ve got til its gone . You have a good day sir .”
As PJ walked down through town he saw Dapper in a clothes shop looking at some clothes and he saw Mackster in a shoe shop looking at shoes .
For some unknown reason during the day PJ had come across everyone he gave money to at the Penny Lunch .
He found a nice room in a fancy hotel then spent time checking out the travel agencies in town . After dinner at the hotel that evening he enjoyed a sauna and spa bath, before falling into the most comfortable bed he had ever slept on , in his entire life .
The next day PJ picked up the suitcase he had from left there at the luggage at the railway and opened a bank account making a large cash deposit into it .
Within the week there was PJ in Las Vegas surrounded by glamorous women
And good fortune on the roulette table . With his new found fortune PJ retuned to his hometown and started work on the new Penny Lunch Project .
It was a dream come true for many when the first of the Penny Lunch Restaurants opened around the city .
As head chef ,Tucker had found new meaning to life and expressed it in the meals he created .
The Penny Lunch was an overnight sensation .
PJ never questioned where the money had come from .
All he could see was the good it had done and how it had changed the lives of many people .
PJ again found a love in his life and after a whirlwind romance they were married and lived happily together forever .
By Paul McCann
Site: ABC Pool
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