37: “Maybe the moral is that you should shut the hell up”

Joey was still working at the Cell Phone Emporium, still going to Bible Study, still not selling drugs from his sketchy backpack in the deserted corner of the Best Buy parking lot, and still not pushing hard liquor or wine made by his nona onto everyone at every party. It was bizarre and it was beginning to weird Robin out. He didn’t know what to make of the new and improved Joey, or, as Oscar referred to him, Jesusy Joey. Robin found his presence eerie and unsettling now, which he supposed should’ve really been the opposite. Most people would probably be pleased to discover that their roommate had gotten a legitimate job and was no longer selling drugs to strangers in the dark recesses of private property. But Robin hated it. He’d gotten used to Joey and his strange charm. Now he listened to Lighthouse albums and pretended to read the Bible in his downtime.

“How do you know he’s not reading it for real though?” Miles asked one night while the two of them were out for dinner with Bear and Oscar. Frank and Ramsay had passed up the invitation in favour of the gym. Ramsay apparently had adopted a really strict gym schedule, which made sense to roughly no one, not even Frank who had been the one to get him into the gym in the first place.

“Because who would actually read the Bible?” Robin returned.

“I mean, I think a lot of people have read the Bible,” Oscar interjected. “It’s a best seller.”

“Alright, fine,” Robin said, rolling his eyes. “I don’t think Joey is actually reading the Bible. I haven’t seen him read once in the entire time we’ve lived together.”

“He doesn’t really seem the type,” Bear agreed mildly.

“He also doesn’t really seem like the type of person who goes to Bible study either,” Miles added. “But then again, Finch doesn’t really seem like the kind of dude who goes to church every Sunday. So maybe the moral here is that we shouldn’t judge books by their covers.”

“Maybe the moral is that you should shut the hell up,” Robin returned.

“Seriously, so obnoxious,” Oscar added, giving Miles a disappointed head shake.

With Joey’s new Jesusy attitude, it seemed to leave something of a void in Vinny and Sabrina’s lives. They continued to spend an excessive amount of time at Joey and Robin’s apartment, but now Joey didn’t want to do any of the things they wanted to do. In Sabrina’s case, Joey didn’t want to aggressively and angrily swear and begrudge the many and varied people who had wronged her, including her former pickle ball partner, who was their uncle, her ex-boyfriend Todd, formerly known as the stupidest asshat in the world, her brother-in-law Mario, and her current manicurist Petra. Petra, apparently, was a stone-cold bitch. She had dared paint Sabrina’s nails coral when Sabrina had specifically asked for fuchsia. Joey’s new Jesusy attitude made it so that he couldn’t merely blindly agree to every disparaging remark Sabrina made. He had learned peace and forgiveness. Sabrina was furious about that as well. In any case, what it ended up meaning was that Robin was left to agree to all of the many disparaging remarks she made frequently.

“Why would she do this to me?” Sabrina demanded one night, lounging on one end of Robin and Joey’s couch. Joey was sitting at the kitchen table with his Bible open. Robin was sitting on the other end of the couch from Sabrina, shooting longing glances at his bedroom and the sweet solitude it would provide.

“I don’t know,” Robin answered, partially because he didn’t know why Petra would have done that to her, but mostly because he had stopped paying attention to the actual words leaving Sabrina’s mouth and “I don’t know” had become his catchall response. It didn’t seem to bother her. He got the impression that he could’ve been asleep or a horse and it wouldn’t have stopped her from complaining about Petra.

“She knows I hate coral,” Sabrina continued. “What am I, a hundred? Who the fuck wants coral nail polish?”

“I don’t know,” Robin repeated. “Old people?”

“Right?!” Sabrina returned, smacking him in the arm in triumph. She had a mean backhanded slap. Robin winced. He couldn’t really understand how Petra had managed to paint Sabrina’s nails a colour she specifically didn’t want without Sabrina noticing. Surely she was awake and cognizant while it was happening and would’ve been able to tell. He kept that to himself, though, lest he incur her wrath as well.

Vinny’s issues were significantly less angry, but significantly more illegal. Joey had given up his life of petty crime, but Vinny had not. It left Vinny without a partner in crime and apparently no one to fill the void. Vinny had turned to Robin. It happened while the two of them had gone to pick up some snacks late on Friday night. Vinny and Sabrina were over and Joey was reading his Bible in the kitchen again. Vinny had demanded food, Robin had opened their fridge to nothing but cream cheese and yogurt, neither of which appealed to Vinny, and so the two of them set off to the nearest convenience store to pick up some chips. At least, that’s what Robin had thought they were doing. But Vinny led them to a convenience store that was rather inconveniently out of the way and in kind of a shady neighbourhood. The convenience store had metal bars on the windows and doors and there was only one person working inside. His name tag said “Lazy-eye Tony” and so did his throat tattoo. Robin didn’t actually think either descriptor were necessary because Tony’s lazy-eye was difficult to miss.

“The fuck is this?” Lazy-eye Tony demanded, giving Robin the stink-eye with the one eye it seemed he could control. Robin wondered if his other eye was a false one. And then he started wondering about how Lazy-eye Tony had potentially lost his eye and Robin got the urge to flee into the night.

“He’s an associate of mine,” Vinny answered dismissively. “Don’t worry about it.”

While technically true, Robin definitely wasn’t the kind of associate that Lazy-eye Tony likely assumed he was. Robin and Vinny had a loose acquaintanceship built around Vinny trying to sell Robin stolen electronics and Robin refusing.

“Why’s he so skinny and…pale…?” Lazy-eye Tony asked, giving Robin a skeptical and disdainful onceover. Robin was in fact quite pale. He was so pale, he was nearly luminescent. He was that pale because his mother descended from England and then moved to Canada where it was winter for six months of the year.

“Iron deficiency,” Vinny answered for Robin, who bizarrely found himself offended at the implication, as if being accused of having low iron was the worst thing happening to him in that moment. He was fairly certain he was about to be an accomplice to a crime.

“Alright,” Lazy-eye Tony replied skeptically, giving Robin one last glower with his eye, before turning back to address Vinny. “You got it or what?”

Robin thought Lazy-eye Tony had a lot of nerve to act like they were the ones holding him up when he had in fact wasted their time asking pointless questions about why Robin was as pale as he was. He obviously didn’t say that out loud for fear he would join Lazy-eye Tony in the realm of lazy eyes.

“I got it,” Vinny replied, but he said it as if he was equally as exasperated with Lazy-eye Tony as Lazy-eye Tony was with him. They had a terrible working relationship. Vinny pulled a wad of cash out of his tracksuit jacket pocket. Robin eyed it in awe, not because the amount of money, but because Vinny had apparently been just carrying it around in his tracksuit pocket like an idiot. Lazy-eye Tony took the money, counted it, counted it again, and then counted it for a third time. Then he bundled it up, opened the cash register with a ding, and then shoved it inside unceremoniously. He reached under the counter and pulled out a small black urn. He handed it over to Vinny. They nodded at each other once and then Vinny turned and began to exit the convenience store. Robin hesitated briefly, wondering if he could still buy some snacks, but one look at Lazy-eye Tony quashed that. Robin hurried after Vinny.

“What the hell was that?” He demanded, catching up with Vinny on the sidewalk.

“These are the ashes of George Tucker,” Vinny answered menacingly, shaking the urn.

“Who’s that?” Robin asked, thinking that George must’ve been fairly important.

“He’s the fucker that accused me of stealing and then fired me from Best Buy,” Vinny answered. Robin gave him a long, hard look.

“But you were stealing from Best Buy though, right?” He retorted flatly.

“Yeah, but he didn’t know that,” Vinny retorted.

“I mean, clearly he did,” Robin pointed out. Vinny ignored him.

“Lazy-eye Tony’s cousin works at the funeral home where George was cremated,” Vinny explained. “His cousin replaced George with dirt from a fireplace.”

Vinny laughed like this was the funniest thing he’d ever heard.

“So what are you going to do with George?” Robin asked, despite being fairly certain he didn’t want to know the answer.

“I’m going to dump him in a fucking port-a-potty,” Vinny answered vindictively. Robin made a vow to himself that a year ago he would’ve bet good money he wouldn’t have made: to get Joey back into selling drugs. He was even considering lending Joey his car.

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