The Scales’ Murkiest Capacity

The Scales’ Murkiest Capacity

Part 6: After-dinner Conversation

Trying to let the irritation wash away, Vinny took two breaths and then left the kitchen, leaving the flickering light on. One step later, the living room and the shitstorm of wrappers, plates, and dust surrounded Robby, who stood with his toes against the couch, studying its covering. There was a layer of wrinkled clothing on a very visibly worn sheet draped over sagging cushions. The furniture might have looked more at home on the street than the small room with peeling walls.

Vinny felt embarrassed for a moment. “Oh man, cool couch, right? Spotless!” he muttered, causing Robby to look at him. They both shook their heads; Vinny groaned, “That’s a joke.”

Suppressing a yawn, Robby didn’t look amused.

Scratching his knuckles, Vinny wanted to break the discomfort. “Hey, the bed’s big enough! You know, as long as you don’t mind sharing.”

Looking at the couch again, Robby took a moment, before pressing his hand to the cushion. Immediately it made a crinkling sound like paper; the wafting scent of old clothes left to age and starched by sweat reached the two of them. He wrenched his hand back and couldn’t stop his sickened hiss. “This is gross.”

Vinny grumbled a lengthy laugh, caught by the understatement, “Yeah, the bed’s cleaner. That’s why I offered it.”

Robby actually considered it. “But aren’t you going to bed soon?”

“Probably, yeah? I have to sleep when I can. The job doesn’t wait.” Fatigue moved him towards his bed. Vinny left the contract there, kicking clothes out of the way to make a path through the room between the bathroom and the door.

The other man watched him for a moment, but not moving to help, possibly thinking this room couldn’t be any cleaner than the other. “You don’t mind sharing the bed?”

“I offered, didn’t I?” By the turn of things, Robby should have irritated Vengeance with the interruption, but all Vinny could feel was indifference, tinged with confusion at how they both arrived together. He hadn’t ever heard of a contract being pulled with a shift, but it seemed plausible, he guessed. He’d never questioned the science behind it. Vinny caught himself calling the contract by the man’s name, and chided himself. He’s not a friend; forget his name! Why’d you even ask that?

Jud’s the only person who might know why Robby shifted to the apartment (Damn it, he’s the contract!). Jud was a creep, skulking through life, and although Vinny operated solo much of the time, he relied on Jud’s advice from time to time when they weren’t at odds.

Robby’s old sneakers shuffled over the carpet tiredly; it was too much effort to pick up his feet when he walked. Unnerved by the sound (he wasn’t used to hearing the sounds of guests) Vinny looked up and saw the man’s thoughtful face. Meeting glares for a moment, Vinny turned his back to the contract and kicked a pile of shirts into a pile of jeans. “What’s up?”

Breaking his eyes from Vinny’s back, he complained to the vengeful, “It’s so early; how do you ever get to sleep?”

“People have different habits.” It was an obvious question. The curt answer left Robby saying nothing else.

The only meticulousness Vinny cared about was making his bed. It remained a constant thing in his home life; when he woke up, he made the bed. Like Robby’s comment on the earliness of his bedtime, making the bed was a filler with the intent to waste time between contracts.

Undoing the sheets for another felt wrong. He could have let Robby do it himself, but it was an excuse to do something. It struck him at the moment that it was odd to have this one habit, but not others, like cleaning his living room. Vinny never thought about it before now.

After a long, still silence Vinny worked his voice to cheerful, “Tomorrow we’ll get you home.” He knew he failed though, he could only rise to hollow.

Part 8: The Scales’ Consequences


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