In late October a brilliant ball of light streaked across the skies of three continents before it crashed down in a remote valley of the Himalayan foothills. It left a crater of melted snow around it and caused trees to collapse and splinter like matchsticks for miles. Fortunately, no one had been killed.
Despite the lack of casualties, the news covered the event for days. They sandwiched scenes of Sherpa’s pointing at the blackened mass over jagged mountain ridges between stories of kittens stuck in drainpipes and images of soldiers fighting wars with ammunition from Thom Grey’s boxes. Helicopters rushed in and men in brightly colored jumpsuits probed the rock taking samples. A former astronaut, with a chiseled jaw and baby blue eyes went on a cable news talk show and told everyone not to worry. It was all very exciting.
Myrah stood outside of the coffee shop on the third floor of the mall with her son on the phone. “I’m being told that I’ve got to take him to see Baby Man this weekend.” She said smiling over at Tara as she listened.
“Yeah, he’s apparently some geek at that carnival that they just put up in the parking lot of the old mall. He acts like a baby wearing a diaper or something and the kids get to throw eggs at him while he cries. He’s the talk of the school.”
Tara laughed. “Are you going?” She asked taking a sip from her coffee.
Myrah shook her head. “I’m telling him that Jack will take him. That’s a father’s job.”
“Do they get along?”
It was Friday afternoon and the crowds were heavier than they usually were. People wearing starched shirts and slacks, overly formal dresses and panty hose passed back and forth around the two women as they stood on the marbled walkway overlooking the lower levels. These office workers were here to start their weekend early by rewarding themselves with a purchase. Some of them were already carrying bags.
Myrah was dressed in tight fitting blue jeans and a black jacket while Tara, having just come from work still wore khaki pants and a brown sweater. They’d planned to have lunch with one another before doing a little shopping but in between those things her kid had called. A pipe had burst in the chapel of the church where he went to school and they’d sent all the children home early. The boy was so overjoyed that he had to share.
“Honey!” Myrah said cutting the boy off from his rambling. “I’m at the mall with Tara right now. I’ll be home in a few hours. You’ll never guess where we just ate!”
“Tell him about the ski lift.” He friend offered.
“Yes!” She smiled into the phone. “Slopes is open!”
“The crowds were awful.”
“Tara wanted me to tell you that they have a ski lift out front that you can take up to the restaurant.” She continued. “The crowds were bad and the food’s just average but they do some trick with the lighting inside so that it makes it look like it’s snowing while you eat which is pretty cool. We’ll have to go with Jack and your sister later on this weekend.”
“Do you hear from his real father at all?”
Myrah put her finger over the mouthpiece. “Jose’s living in Oregon now. I don’t hear from him unless he decides to send me child support which is rare. I couldn’t care less if he rots in hell.”
Tara took another sip.
Myrah finished up, listing off a few chores for her son and warning the boy to stay out of trouble until she got home. Hanging up, she dropped the handset back into her purse. “What the hell were we doing?” She asked flashing her friend a look of mock exhaustion.
“Well, I’ve got to go get some boots for Gage.” Tara said leaning over the side of the walkway. “Do you think they sell boots at First Year?
“I don’t think they make boots in his size.”
“His father’s got some big crushing desire to dress him up as a cowboy for Halloween so I need to find boots.”
“Thank God my kids are getting to old for that.”
“I know. Gary says that it’s something that he always wished he would have been so now I’ve got to find boots for a one-year old.”
“That’s not going to be easy.”
“Tell me about it.”
Myrah leaned against the rail next to her. “Has Gary been to work this week?” She asked. “I’ve seen him digging with the backhoe almost every morning and Jack’s getting pretty tired of being woken up.”
The Markoff’s bedroom window overlooked the Biggs’ backyard which was large and covered in fish ponds. There were three irregular shaped ones spread out between pathways and shrubs as well as a newly started hole close to the property line between their houses. Gary had installed all of them over the course of the past two years and he’d been working on the unfinished one since the middle of summer. Myrah secretly loved looking at them even though she hated the sound of the digging.
“He took the week off.” Tara answered taking another sip. “He says that he wants to finish up with this expansion before we get too far into winter. He hates the cold”
“What’s taking him so long? Didn’t Gary get the other three finished in about two months?”
“He says he’s going deep for this one.”
“I guess.” Tara shrugged. “Personally, I hate those ponds.”
Myrah sighed. “Sometimes I hate the buildings that Jack builds. I may have liked them once upon a time but then I’ll just drive past them one day and suddenly find myself hating everything about them.”
The woman nodded. “Where is Jack today anyway?”
Myrah shrugged. “He had to go to the bank to negotiate another draw for the Taj Mahal.” She spat. “That projects pretty much making my life a living hell right now.”
“Jack’s pissy because it’s behind and over budget. All he does anymore is come home and yell at the kids for having their stuff out or being too loud. He screamed at them last night for leaving a half eaten bowl of popcorn in the theater and that caused all sorts of drama. They were ticked off because he kicked them out of there for the rest of the week and Jack was pouting because nobody picks up after themselves. I’ll be glad when it’s done.”
“But they’re already putting the signs up for the shops.”
“They’re ready to move in.” She answered, nodding. “Its going to be a pretty sweet place for all of us to go Christmas shopping but the owners wanted this misting system that will perfume the air with exotic smells like some Far East market and Jack still hasn’t figured out how to make it work the way it’s supposed to.”
“All that trouble over one little thing.” Tara mused.
“It’s the little things that seem to always cause the trouble.” Myrah quipped. “Jack doesn’t just build buildings anymore. He hasn’t for a few years. The new trend in commercial construction is to create a gimmick that will draw in shoppers. He’s got a new development planned off exit 6 that is going to look like something out of a science fiction movie. They’re going to be whisking people back and forth in little tubes and having robots bring your food out to you in the food court. It’s going to be a nightmare getting all of that to work.”
“This mall will seem so outdated by then.” She said gesturing out across the expanse of stores spread out before her.
“That’s fine.” Myrah nodded. “It’s almost filled up by now. As soon as you get these places full it’s time to move on.”
“I wonder if we’ll be taking our grandkids to a carnival that’s set up in the parking lot of this mall one day?”
“Only if they have Baby Man!” Myrah quipped.
Both of the women were thrown into a loud fit of laughter by this final remark. They held their coffees over the banister and closed their eyes against the shear force of it. Shoppers streamed past carrying special edition magazines with pictures of the Himalayan crater printed on the front of them. They ordered Meteor Meals from the food court and threw away paper cups with shooting stars printed on their sides. They shot the women jealous glances as they stood there laughing.