The voice cuts through the general white noise of mumbled conversations, shop music spillage, and distant street-busking and traffic, slowing my determined lunchtime strolling through the precinct. I glance at the area in which the voice originated; it’s a woman, older than me, shorter than me, and holding more plantlife than me in an outstretched hand. And she’s started to smile, I’m guessing because I’ve paid her some attention.“Lucky heather?” she says again, edging towards me and forcing a couple of other pedestrians to swerve out of her way swiftly and with a barely-concealed look in my direction that says sucker from every angle.
I lean towards her and then peer down at the sprig of flora gripped tightly in her small hand. The non-green bits are a pale mauve sort of colour but my knowledge of anything to do with nature is so poor that I can’t be certain that this isn’t dandelions with a lick of paint. Or even just dandelions. Maybe you can get mauve dandelions. I’m trying to clarify just how little I know about the subject.
“What is it,” I say slowly, “about this heather that gives it a probabilistic advantage over other heather?”
“Lucky heather!” she says with a wink. “Two quid.”
“Uh huh,” I continue. “I’m just wondering if you have any peer-reviewed analyses of double-blind trials conducted on the luckiness of this type of heather.”
“Have the findings of any research performed on heather variants to determine whether some have a correlation with statistically relevant improved luck appeared in a peer-reviewed publication?”
The happy look has most definitely been replaced by one filled with irritation and confusion and it seems to suit her round face better. I begin to feel sorry for her and consider parting with two whole English pounds, justifying the transaction in my head as being one that might permit me to run a few scientific experiments on the mauve flowers later when I feel a tap on my shoulder.
“Fortuitous dock leaf?” asks the scruffy, scrawny, bearded man behind me. He waves a rather sad-looking bit of greenery at me. I take a quick, deep breath in preparation to ask him a pertinent question but the newcomer lifts up a glossy magazine. “19% more fortuitous than other leaves in clinical trials in Canada according to Leaf Science Quarterly,” he adds. I’ve heard of Leaf Science Quarterly and know it’s got a good reputation in the field of scientific leaf analysis.
Moments later I’ve exchanged two pounds for a dock leaf almost overflowing with fortune but that still leaves the forlorn-looking woman and her clump of wildlife. I reach into my pocket but realise I’m out of change and don’t really want to break into any of the tenners in my wallet.
“Not your lucky day,” I tell her.