Markoff and Kinkaid were just finishing up with the first row of lights when Biggs came banging out of his front door. They turned to watch him, looking over the heads of the student diggers as the computer programmer rushed down the steps of his house and gingerly made his way along the pathway leading out to the street. He was obviously frantic but still careful to stay out of the boundaries that had been designated by the man from the state for the protection of the excavation.
“What the hell are you so excited about?” Kinkaid asked Biggs as he ran along the curb.
“NASA!” The man huffed.
“It’s something big.” He said coming up into Markoff’s driveway and over to the edge of the porch closest to where they stood.
It took Biggs a moment to answer as he bended at the hips with his hands on his knees. “Announcement.” He wheezed. “They’re holding a press conference at 8:00pm tonight.”
“It’s about the meteor.”
“They’re interrupting college football to make it.”
“Wait a second.” Markoff said stepping around the older man. “Not cool. I’m planning on watching the UT game tonight.”
One of the students working in the front yard held up his tiny shovel. “Go UT!” He called out.
“Up your’s prick.” Kinkaid shouted back at him. “Finish up your God damned work and get the hell out of here.”
The older man had been out there all day helping Markoff with his Christmas decorations and already he was well into his tenth beer. The weather was cold and grey. A northern had blown in while they had been working and the sudden drop in temperature made him surly as he stood in the spitting rain still clad in a long sleeved T-shirt and shorts from that morning.
“They’re interrupting the UT game.” Biggs continued. “It’s going to be on all the major channels. They’re interrupting everything.”
“Damn.” The builder spat.
“I was really looking forward to that game.”
Kinkaid reached down and picked up his beer. “I’m so sick of that God damned meteor.” He said taking another drink and then holding it out to regard the label. A flaming asteroid was depicted on the aluminum can streaking across a starry night’s sky.
Biggs pushed himself into a more erect position. “If they’re interrupting football it’s got to be important don’t you think?”
“Hell, I don’t know.” The builder spat. “Why can’t they do it now? Why do they have to wait until my games on? It’s a God damned Bowl game for cry it out loud!”
“They want everyone to listen.” Biggs answered. “They made the announcement just a few minutes ago so that everyone would know to be in front of their TV’s tonight.”
“Why didn’t they just say what they had to say then?” Markoff repeated. “Why do they have to interrupt my football game? I get to watch one or two games on that big TV a week and this was one that I was looking forward to the most.”
“It’s got to be big.”
“Yeah but on the weekend?”
“Exactly.” Biggs said still out of breath.
“Is this the meteor in space or the one that fell over there in India?”
“The big one.”
Markoff looked out across his yard. The portly girl and the bearded kid were engaged in some kind of discussion about the grid. She was using her spade to point to various unexcavated portions of the yard as the boy nodded along happily. The kid who’d presumptively cheered on UT football was focused once again on the hole where he kneeled.
“I’m pretty concerned.” Biggs continued. “I mean, what could they need to say about the meteor that they’d have to interrupt college football for? Is there another part of it that’s going to hit us? If so, when and where?”
“Jesus, shut up dude.” Kinkaid barked. “If I have to hear you worry about this damned asteroid falling on your head one more time, I’m going to go over there and pull your underwear up around your head.”
“It’s probably nothing.” The builder interrupted in a cool even tone trying to calm them both down. “They most likely just want to pat themselves on the back for a job well done. Maybe they’re going announce some kind of special space rock that they found or something. Didn’t that probe have sensors on it?”
“Yeah.” Biggs answered.
“So there it is.” Markoff replied. “They just want to get it out there during football because they know that’s when everyone’s watching. They’re always hurting for more funding from the government. This’ll probably get them financed for a few more years if they make a big enough splash with it. Heck, even I can tell you from submitting bids on property that timing is half the battle to getting profitable work.”
Kinkaid shook his head. “These God damned nerds.” He muttered.
“What do you mean?” Biggs asked.
“Nerds!” Kinkaid said more forcefully. “Dorks, dweebs, eggheads, pansies, dingle-berries and lame-assed-geeks! I’m sick of all of them.”
Markoff laughed. “I didn’t know there was such a big nerd problem around here.”
“Not here.” Kinkaid spat. “Everyone around here is cool. You build buildings, Thom runs a factory, Dan’s a vegetable now but he used to be a sportsman. These are all cool things.”
“What about me?” Biggs asked.
“You’re on the bubble dickhead.” The older man barked pointing over at the man. “You’re a computer programmer but you sell all your crap to sports teams so that makes you enough of a bad ass to barely get by. As much as you worry about this asteroid though, I ought to just kick your ass on general principal.”
“So what’s the deal?” The builder asked.
“It’s these idiots.” Kinkaid answered throwing his arm out to indicate the kids digging in their yards. “Archeologist screwing up our lawns, NASA warning us to be afraid of asteroids, doctors on the television telling us all that we’re going to die any minute from the flu. Don’t these people have anything better to do than to tell us what we can’t do and make us worry?”
“That’s their job.”
“Well screw them.” The older man said taking another swig from his beer and crushing the can. “I’m sick of all of them. Everyone gets the flu and no one ever dies from it. If it ain’t an asteroid that’ll get you, a damned fish will chew you up. If you buy a house in a gated community then the state will come and send a bunch of stupid kids to mess up your front yard. You can’t get away from all the crap ever.”
Markoff shook his head and laughed.
Biggs looked worried.
Kinkaid stood there for a moment considering the object in his hands. A mischievous grin spread across his face. The builder was just about to suggest that they go inside and warm up when, without warning the older man suddenly threw the empty beer can out into the yard. “Label and tag that you bunch of pricks.” He spat.
The students all looked up from their holes in a mixture of both shock and confusion. To Markoff they seemed like a bunch of prairie dogs.
From around the corner of the house the man from the state who’d been sent there to oversee the dig and tell all the residents where they could and could not walk stamped across the yard. “What’s going on here?” He said in a whiney voice. He was old and withered with a beaklike nose and a thick grey beard. Clad in baggy corduroys, a tan work shirt and a pair of leather boots he wore thin wire framed glasses. On his head was a dirty cowboy hat.
“What?” Kinkaid asked mocking innocence.
“You threw a beer can at my students.” The archeologist said. “I saw you.”
“You didn’t see me do nothing.” Kinkaid smiled. “You were over there reading your map.”
“I’ve been watching you two all day.” The man said raising a bony finger towards both him and Markoff. “You two aren’t even supposed to be out here in your yards but I’ve been letting you because you’re stringing Christmas lights.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“You threw a beer can.”
In frustration, archaeologist turned to face his student. “Did this man throw a beer can at you?” He asked them all as they crouched in their holes. “Did he? Yes or no?”
Before they could even nod their heads, Kinkaid stepped forward and grabbed the waistline of the man’s white cotton briefs. With a violent jerk, he tore them up and twisted them around the top of his head knocking his cowboy hat to the ground. It was the most violent and beautiful wedgie that Markoff had ever seen.