This started from a writing prompt by WriMuse on Twitter: Write about an introvert trying to sell something in a restaurant.
I might continue this but I'm gauging demand first, since I'm writing other things too.
The kid didn't even remove his bonnet in the sunny diner. I couldn't even tell the color of his hair or how well he kept it, but his dull, disinterested eyes stared out the window of the bistro we were in. His left hand idly toyed with his fork, from which a bit of fried egg dangled. The streets were empty at this time in the morning, but an hour later, we knew the streets would be bustling. By then, I hoped, we would be long gone.
I cleared my throat. "Dennis. The Scales, please."
He glanced at me once and immediately shifted his gaze somewhere thirty feet behind my head. His right hand reached into his dusty wool scarf and pulled out a silver coin. He gave the room a quick glance, never keeping his eyes still for more than half a second, until he covered the coin and slid it towards me, a gloved hand shielding it from curious onlookers. "Don't touch it," Dennis mumbled.
I tilted my head around the kid's cupped hand to get a better look at it. A coin of pure platinum, its sheen dulled from the shadow Dennis's hand cast. Embossed on its surface was a pair of scales, one cup lifted above the other. Libra was in imbalance, forever searching for a way to even the odds. I mouthed their name, resisting the urge to touch the coin, to keep it away from this ten-year old and the people who would want it. People who would spill innocent blood for what this little bit of metal could grant.
"Asking price?" I posed the query quietly, glancing around. So far, no one seemed to be paying us any attention. The waitress was busy placating an angry old man two booths away, and the other customers were seemingly busy stuffing their faces with mashed potato and roast beef.
"You're not serious, Dennis?" I leaned forward, trying to arrange my face muscles in a way that (I hope) seemed more concerned than arrogant.
I sighed, leaning back into the soft faux leather. "Dennis, you're a smart boy. You know just how dangerous this thing is, and I'm impressed. Dumber kids than you would have traded it away for a measly 600 thousand."
Dennis wasn't speaking, still looking far behind my head. For a moment, he caught my gaze, and immediately looked away. His lips were drawn tight, and his gaze was still more or less blank.
"You have to understand, Dennis," I continued. "We're trying to protect you. We're trying to keep the Scales and its siblings away from people who want to hurt others. And, well," I forced out a chuckle, hoping to get something out of the kid. "five million is a rather steep price, even for us."
Dennis, his expression still drawn, shook his head. "I can't lower it. I don't even know who you are. Who you are."
I had to force down a genuine smile, even a laugh. "And for good reason. You're a sharp boy."
Dennis let out a noncommittal noise, probably trying to deflect the praise. He put his hand on the coin and started dragging it away.
"Dennis, wait." I fought the urge to put a hand on his shoulder. "Before you retract your offer, let me write you a haiku. You know what a haiku is, right?"
"Of course I do. Five-seven-five syllables. It's a Japanese poem structure."
"Very good," I acknowledged, pulling out a ballpoint pen and a stack of Post-Its from the inside of my coat. "Five-seven-five. Easy enough to remember, right?"
Before I could let Dennis have the chance to respond, I started writing. I had to pause a couple of times to make sure that my syllable count was right. Within five minutes, there was a haiku. I gently separated the top sheet from its fellows, folded it, and slid the yellow Post-It towards Dennis. Still holding his hand firmly on the Scales, he opened the note with his left. I watched his expression morph from sullen to concerned. Like a chameleon, his face grew white as realization spread across his face.
"Well?" If we weren't out in public, I would have let myself smile and nod.
"No shit," Dennis whispered.
"Have you had a change of mind, Dennis?"
The kid was silent for a while. "Two million. And… I'll go with you."
"No shit? Just like that?"
"Very good, Dennis. Get your stuff, we'll be driving in ten minutes. Anything else you want from the menu?"
"Nah. I'm not hungry."
I took out a pair of tweezers and a tiny zip bag from the other side of my coat. Within ten seconds, I had also produced a minuscule strongbox from my suitcase, about the size of a container of Tic Tacs. Carefully, Dennis lifted his gloved hand, less than an inch from the Formica tabletop. Gently, I took the little coin and slid it into the plastic pouch. Before anyone could see, I shifted my hand over the bag, slid it from the table, and popped it into the strongbox. Immediately, the box sealed itself, emitting a little click.
As I inserted the box back into my suitcase, Dennis took the Post-It, tore it in half, and threw it into the remainder of his orange juice. He took his fork and started annihilating the pieces until the orange juice looked ten weeks old. This time, I let a little smile out.