Chapter 7

The problem with having a room specifically devoted to watching movies in your home is that no one uses it to watch movies in.  The kids used it for video games but Jack and Myrah did most of their TV viewing either in their bedroom at night or at the breakfast table in the morning.  There were just too many distractions in the day to day life of adults for them to afford the time to sit in one place for too long.

Since moving in, Jack had used the theater to host several football parties but even that was problematic.  By design it could only hold nine people and they often invited more than ten.  It was also too far away from the kitchen.  You had to go down a flight of stairs and across four rooms just to grab a beer.  Doing so was taking a risk that you might miss out on a crucial play.

There was also the matter of the screen which, before he’d purchased the 150 inch plasma had been fuzzy and muted.  Going with a projection system had seemed like a good idea when they’d first moved into the house but with high definition broadcast and blue-ray movies the couple quickly found that the technology was lacking.  Markoff had spent seventy-thousand dollars special ordering the new TV from Japan just to correct for this deficiency.  It wasn’t football season and he hadn’t even gotten to watch one single action movie on the thing yet.

Today, he and the other men from the neighborhood were gathered in the living room watching the news coverage of the asteroids destruction on the 50 inch flat screen that was mounted over the fireplace.  On it, men in dark suits and women wearing red blazers stood in front of an empty launch pad at Cape Canaveral talking about the operation.  The craft was within one to two hours of launching its payload into the meteor. 

Biggs leaned forward cradling his son on his lap.   “That right there!”  He said as he excitedly pointed at a black and white image taken from outer space. “They have to hit that spot right there in the center where it looks sort of dented!”

On the television a man with his shirt-sleeves rolled up to his elbows used a digital pointer to highlight the same area.

“If they don’t hit it there, then this is all a huge waste of time!”  He continued.

Gage looked up at his father and gurgled.

“This whole thing has been a waste of time.”  Kinkaid complained.  “All they’ve done is tell us to wait.”

Absently Biggs adjusted one of his son’s socks.  “I talked to some guy who works out at the Johnson Space Center the other day and he told me that they had a 50/50 chance of missing their mark.”

Markoff, in a leather chair that was turned facing the couch pointed towards Kinkaid.  “Do you call it the Johnson Space Center?”  He asked.

Kinkaid snorted.  “No one calls it the Johnson Space Center.”

“I call it Johnson.”

“That’s right!”  Kinkaid shot back taking a swig off his beer.

Markoff nodded.  “I tell people, ‘I’m building over by Johnson’. Or, ‘Meet me by the Marriot across the street from Johnson.’”

“Right on!”  Kinkaid agreed crunching his can.

“Whatever guys.”  Biggs said seriously.  “The thing is that I don’t like 50/50.”

The child smiled.

Thom Grey shook his head.  “NASA doesn’t do 50/50.  They do 100% failure.  With them in charge, we’re all going to die.”

Kinkaid sat in the center of the sofa.  Suddenly he turned to Biggs.  “Is that even an official estimate?”  He asked skeptically. 

“What do you mean?”

He pointed at the television.  “That dude right there just said this was a slam dunk for technology.”

“Well he doesn’t work for NASA.”  Biggs said as he moved the boy over into the folds of the couches arm.

“You don’t know that.”  The older man argued.  “We don’t know who he is.  He could be head of NASA for all that we know and you could have been talking to some guy who cleans up astronaut-piss in the bathrooms over at Johnson.”

Markoff laughed.  “Do you think that astronauts dribble?”

“Everyone dribbles.”  Kinkaid smiled giving all of them a winking look.  “Even I dribble and I’m way more kick-ass than any astronaut could ever think about being.”

Markoff raised his beer towards the man.

At his side, Dan Wells handed the builder his camera.  “That one right there.”  He said pointing down to a boat that was displayed on its digital screen.  “That one will get you out in the deep waters without breaking the bank.”

“How much?”  Markoff asked looking up at him.

“I’ve seen them from anywhere to one-hundred-and-fifty to two-hundred-thousand.”  Wells shot back.

Markoff whistled through his teeth.

If any one of the men could be called athletic, Dan Wells would have fit that description best.  Markoff was brawny, Kinkaid was stocky, Biggs was rotund and Grey was non-descript.  Only Wells had the look of a man who could still play quarterback.  He was tan, white-toothed and trim.  No one knew exactly what he did for a living.  He went to work everyday but it was generally agreed upon that his wife was the one who made most of the money.  He was nothing more than kept-man albeit a very likable one.

“Thumb forward.”  Wells said pointing towards a button on the camera’s side.  “I want to show you my catch.”

Markoff scrolled through images.  Beaches, fiestas, Mexican hats, and mixed drinks flashed past until finally he came to one of the man with his fish.  It had been taken at night.  Wells looked sun-baked but totally alive as he stood next to a swordfish hanging from a hoist.  The beast was almost as long as he was tall.

“Damn!”  Markoff spat.

Wells smiled, pointing towards the couch.  “Hand it to Kinkaid, I want to show him.”

Markoff leaned forward. 

Kinkaid took the camera, squinting at the screen.  “Nice.”  He said.

Biggs hovered over his shoulder balancing the boy on the arm of the couch as he tried to get a look.  “How big?”  He asked glancing up in Well’s direction.

“320 pounds.”  The man answered proudly.  He stepped from around Markoff’s chair, taking the camera back from his neighbor.  “The record is 500.”

“Where is it now?”

“I flew it back on ice.  It’s being stuffed.”

The infant laughed, as he wiggled back and forth.

Markoff looked up at the deer heads lining the room.  There were three of them, one on each free wall mounted next to prints of bucks feeding in meadows and doe’s tip toeing through snow banks.  None of their horns were anywhere near as big as the fish from the picture in their overall width.  He wondered where he would hang his own trophy catches once he got the boat. 

On the television a man was pointing at a model of the spacecraft.  Nimbly, he plucked two missile shaped objects from its cylindrical side.  Setting it down, he guided them using both hands into a rock that was sitting on the edge of his desk.  This is how the impact will work.”  He said confidently.

Kinkaid yawned, scratching his eye.  “I’m beginning to wonder if there’s ever going to be an impact.”

Grey looked into his beer.  “NASA.”  He said ruefully.

Biggs eyed the screen with rapt amazement while Gage bobbed and dipped his head.

They’d planned to go upstairs and kick the kids out of the theater as soon as the impact grew closer but for now there were delays and more delays.  They’d already eaten and their digestive systems were making them groggy.  Markoff decided that it was time to go up there now.

Rising to his feet and stretching, he said.  “Let’s head upstairs.  Well send the little monsters to their rooms and we’ll all play some football.”

“I hate that video game crap.”  Kinkaid spat. 

“Well unless you want to sit here and watch these idiots say the same thing over and over again then there isn’t much else we can do.”

“I could go home and play my guitar.”  The older man said folding his arms.

Dan clapped the builder on his back.  “Get up Kinkaid.”  He chided looking down at the man.  “They’ve made these things to where you can’t tell it from the real thing.  You can watch and pretend that it’s already season.”

Reluctantly he stood.

Grey sat his beer can down on a nearby table.  “I don’t want play either.”  He muttered as he pushed himself up and flexed knees.  “I’ll watch, but it’s only because I know that Jack with pick the Cowboys and I love seeing them get beaten.”

“What makes you think I’ll lose?”  Markoff asked, grinning.

“Dan’s better at everything than we are.”  Grey shrugged.  “I’ll bet he doesn’t even own a single video game but he always wins.”

Biggs remained seated, his attention focused on the screen.

“You coming?”  Markoff asked as the rest of them headed towards the door. 

“No thanks.”  Biggs answered apologetically.  “I know that they keep saying the same thing over and over again but I think it makes me feel better.”

“I thought this stuff made you nervous?”

“No.”  He said playing with his little boys fingers.  “It’s the asteroid that makes me nervous.  Talking about it makes me feel better.” 

The End

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