If took twenty-four hours too long to recognise the trick. We should have known, but when the tall New Zealander turned up at the kitchen door with a wad of cash and an order for six premium hams and six puddings, a sale of somewhere like six hundred bucks. It got IXL’s attention!
“Look! she grinned, “I’ll take one ham now and pick up six hams and puddings tomorrow.”
I collected the ham, placed it in a cool bag and deposited it into the boot of her beat up Nissan as instructed.
As I walked in again, she had placed the ham money, seventy something dollars on the desk in front of IXL and the money for the future sale of six in front of herself and was saying,
“I just won twenty-five grand on Lotto and I want these people here,” she said, waving a fine brown arm towards the kitchen where Deb was baking Christmas tarts and Rae was packing hampers, “to have some champagne on me.”
She took two ten cent pieces from a dish on the desk, handed one to IXL and held one in her hand.
“Here’s what I’ll do… mind, this has nothing to do with the six hams and puddings I’ll pick up tomorrow. I’ll bet you the seventy there against the six hundred I have here that I can pick heads or tails of two coins we throw up like this.”
She then flicked one of the coins and caught it, slapped it down on the desk and grinned.
It was a tail.
“It can’t be fairer than that. Here,” passing the other coin to IXL, “You try.”
IXL flicked the coin and slapped it down, revealing another ‘tail’.
“That’s it!” the Kiwi laughed. “Now this has nothing to do with tomorrow’s six hams. You call heads or tails and then we throw the coins until we get two of what you call, or I get the opposite. OK?”
We both nodded, wondering why she would bet her six hundred bucks against IXL’s seventy on what was clearly an even bet.
As if she head read our thoughts, she assured us that “I don’t care if I lose, I won plenty and I just want those people there to have some champagne on me!”
That’s when I had a mental niggle but nothing specific came so I said nothing.
IXL chose tails, I guess because two tails had already been thrown and the bet was on.
Up went the coins and they were slapped down. My side had a tail and the other was a head.
Next throw, again IXL got a tail and the other was a head then it was over. IXL threw a head and the other coin was a head. A big brown hand grabbed the pot and it disappeared into her jeans only to reappear accompanied by a hearty laugh.
“Look, I really do want you to win. I’ll give you a chance to get it back!” she grinned. “I bet all this against a pudding.”
I couldn’t believe it. She was betting almost seven hundred against a thirty dollar pudding. I knew the puddings were then best around, but seven hundred bucks!?
IXL looked at me for assurance which I stupidly gave.
“Chances are even and you’re on a hundred to one shot.” I said, airing my impeccable knowledge of odds. “You’d be crazy not to try.”
So on it went. IXL chose tails and after a few tosses she lost again. The pudding disappeared out the door to join the ham.
Next day it hit me. I hardly had the heart to tell IXL, but I had to.
At school when I was about ten years old, we learned to toss a shilling in the same way. We could almost always predict the outcome. Start with a ‘tail’ showing and flick. Catch it and turn it over and it almost always came up heads.
With the call made before the throw, our wily ham snatcher knew what she needed to get. In the excitement and in front of a gathering group of bystanders, nobody noticed how she carefully chose which side was up before flicking.
There was always a chance she could lose but I remember at school, way back then, throwing maybe a hundred correct calls in a row.
Of course, she didn’t come back for the six hams and puddings. We had been scammed, victims of just a little greed and my faltering long term memory.