Markoff sat in the theater one row back with his New Years dinner balanced on his lap while the game played. No announcement from NASA had been given all morning long. Myrah was next to him cutting a slice of ham on her plate. The kids were in their rooms, playing video games on the smaller screens on separate consoles that were over the homes wireless network.
“I don’t like my car anymore.” His wife said, shoving a piece of hame into her mouth and chewing.
“The Suburban?” He asked.
“That’s a good car.” He argued.
“It’s too big.” She replied.
They’d just bought the SUV last year. Markoff had liked it for its roominess and the sense of being above the traffic that it offered him. He found driving it to be similar to driving his truck except that the kids could sit comfortably in back while watching television on the seat mounted consoles. That sort of thing kept them quiet and lessoned the arguing.
“Well what do you want to drive?” He asked, annoyed by her decision.
“No.” The builder answered. “They’re lemons.”
“Clara drives one.”
“Clara doesn’t have kids.”
“Hers is a convertible.”
He sat there a little while watching the player’s line up on screen. The field covered the entire wall. The Cowboys were ahead but already losing their defensive edge. It was only the second quarter and already the Eagles had scored once on an interception.
“Why do you want a car like Clara’s?” He asked.
“I don’t know.” His wife responded. “I guess I want to be my own person. You picked out the SUV. I guess I’d like a car that I picked out for a change.”
The quarterback snapped the ball. It fell incomplete. The teams huddled together and lined up again.
“Well, I guess we’ll go down to the dealership next weekend and see about trading it in.” He said after a short time thinking it over.
A pair of linemen from Philadelphia rushed over the line of scrimmage taking out the quarterback before he’d even had a chance to release the ball. It was a painful looking sack and he laid there a moment trying to recover. Referees, coaches and players rushed out to try to help him up.
“I also don’t think that Jose like’s soccer.” She said.
“He’s not very good at it.”
Markoff nodded. “Maybe we should put him in football.” He answered.
“He says he likes video games.”
“That’s not a sport.”
Myrah cut another slice of ham off her plate and put it into her mouth. “He doesn’t have to be in sports.” She said chewing. “There’s a program at the University of Houston to teach video game programming to kids. Tara told me about it.”
“That’s too far to drive.”
“I’ll take him.”
The television cut to a commercial just as medical personnel were seen running out onto the field to revive the injured player. It was an advertisement for a program called Degenerate Japan that would be running later on in the week. A grim faced American host stood inside a room that had been designed to look like a subway train. “People pay for sexual encounters here?” He asked a round faced Asian standing at his side. The man, clad in a suit and tie as well as thick horn-rimmed glasses which stereotyped his whole demeanor nodded with a smile.
“I don’t understand what’s wrong with sports.” Markoff asked. “I’ve been working with him on his throwing. He’d get better if he could focus himself.”
“I guess he’s not interested in throwing.” Myrah shrugged. “He likes video games.”
“Fine.” The builder spat.
“Good because I’ve already registered him. Classes start after school next week.”
Another ad, this one for beer. A can hovered above the earth as an unseen narrator spoke of its preservative qualities. “Lined with titanium alloys to lock in amusement.” He said. The cylinder spun lazily in its orbit.
“I hate that beer.” Markoff commented.
“I just hate beer.” His wife said. “All beer.”
“I thought you liked beer.”
“No.” She said. “You don’t listen.”
Suddenly the picture changed to a thunder filled marquee indicating that a Special Bulletin would follow. The words came flying in from off screen pausing at the center before being swept away again. They were replaced by a grim faced man and woman sitting at a desk.
“We apologize for interrupting the game but reports are coming in right now that indicate that another meteor has hit the earth.” The woman said in a staccato like cadence.
“Indeed.” The man nodded. “This one impacted a semi-populated area of North Africa near the border between Iran and Afghanistan. We have reporters headed out to the scene now but by early indications it appears that this one is the most devastating strike so far in the rogue field that we were informed about last month.”
“Another?” Myrah said, surprised. “One just hit your building last night!”
The anchor woman, wearing a pin on her lapel, continued. “Mike Firestone was on the ground covering the wars in that region when he felt the blast.”
A split-screen appeared. On one side, the man and woman sat at their desk while the other showed a grainy camera image that had been trained on a spot far off on the horizon. Flames leapt into the air painting the clouds above them orange.
Unseen, a man with a British accent started describing the mayhem over a buzzing cell phone connection. “I’m looking at the sky to the west of where I’m now located and you can see that the land beyond the mountains is ablaze with fire. Whatever struck the earth moments ago has caused significant alarm here and everyone is on edge. I’ve heard aircraft overhead headed in the direction of the devastation and the troops that I’m embedded with now have all been ordered to man their vehicles should they receive a call to pull back from their current positions.”
“Mike, what can you tell us about the blast?” The man at the desk asked.
“The earth groaned and shook.” The man answered without hesitation. “Several of the rocky cliffs around here underwent landslides in the quake and all livestock in the area began to bellow out. Children from the nearby village have been crying ever since and the women have been screaming out to their Gods. The impact was an awe inspiring and fearful event. My first thought after hearing it was that I was lucky to be alive.”
The woman put a hand up to her ear. “I’m being told that we have images from Tehran.” She said looking down in concentration. “Rain Krishnan is there broadcasting from her hotel room.”
In the theater room, the builder turned to his wife fixing her with a dubious stare. “I’ve seen you drink beer.” He argued. “You drank beer last night at the party.”
“I prefer wine.”
“But you like beer if it’s around right?” He asked
“Sure.” She agreed.
“So you like beer.”
“No, I don’t like beer. I just drink it if there isn’t anything else.”
The screen segmented into three different images. The upper middle held the reporters sitting at their desk while on either side below two different pictures showed a burning mass hidden by the horizon. The two cameras were simultaneously beaming what they saw to the channel from their different vantage points. Each showed a chaotic mass of flame just beyond the curvature of the earth.
“Are you there Rain?” The woman at the desk asked.
“Yes Julia, I’m here in the Ambassador’s Palace Hotel just outside the airport of Tehran where you can clearly see the area of impact.” A woman answered through her own cell phone. Her accent was more Middle Eastern sounding. “The massive fireball that’s visible to the east of here lit up the sky about twenty minutes ago. It was precipitated by a deafening roar and a violent shaking of the earth.”
Sirens wailed in the background and at the base of the enormous television’s screen the builder and his wife could actually see the flashing lights of emergency vehicles as they took to the streets of the city.
“With it being night it’s difficult to tell what’s going on.” The woman at the desk said. “Can you describe the scene to us Rain?”
“The scene can best be described as one of mass panic and chaos.” The woman on the phone said using what could best be described as metallic sounding reply. ”Most of the people in the city were asleep when this happened but now I can see hundreds of them wandering out onto the streets and looking out towards the flames in the distance. Many of them are wondering if this could be some sort of attack by the American military although representatives from the government are warning against speculation.”
“Can you tell us anything about the area that was hit?”
“The area is largely a desert region but there are a number of moderately populated cities in that region of the country.” The woman answered. “It’s difficult to say what the number will be at this time but it would be a shock if there weren’t a massive amount of casualties.”
“You’re changing your story, Myrah.” Markoff shot back, ignoring the picture. “You either like beer and you drink it or you don’t like it and you don’t drink it. Why are you telling me all of a sudden that you don’t like beer?”
“I don’t know.” Myrah shrugged with exasperation. “Why do I have to like it to drink it? I can just drink it can’t I?”
“No.” The builder argued. “You can’t. I don’t like orange juice so I don’t drink it. I don’t even drink screwdrivers. I hate all orange juice. I don’t like it in anything. If there wasn’t a drop of liquid left to drink in the entire world but orange juice I’d let myself die of thirst.”
A chime dinged. The screen suddenly divided into four separate images. At the top, the two scenes of destruction and flames. The bottom held the man and woman at their desk while next to them the football game continued. Markoff smiled. He was happy to see that the quarterback had gotten up and was back in the game.