Markoff sat in his office looking over the bills for his various projects. As usual, he was overextended and behind on most of them. He thumbed through the green and yellow invoices, searching for the ones that were the most overdue and those where the vendors were threatening to cut off service. He divided them out into two separate stacks, one to hold and one to pay. This week, the hold stack was much larger than the pay stack.
He had three current construction sites working along the interstate. One was for a mountaintop village complete with a fiberglass peak that loomed over the shops, one was for an enchanted castle where the storefronts would be built behind fairy covered gates into the various wings of the palace, and another was for a Roman looking structure with gilded statues of Roman Gods and heavy columns fabricated to look like marble.
Normally he wouldn’t have been too worried about building on the draw but after the New Years meteor strike all three of the interested buyers that had been lined up on these properties had backed off from signing their final contracts. Investors just weren’t willing to purchase large commercial real estate when they thought that the end of the world was at hand. It was bad for the economy.
It hadn’t been this way at first. The initial announcement from NASA hadn’t slowed business for him at all. He’d been riding a lot of good will off of the Taj Mahal and people just didn’t put as much faith in the space agencies warnings as they used to. Most everyone looked at the matter as something to be cautious about but not to put their lives on hold for. Sales were up and profits were forecasted.
It had been the jarring realism that the devastation in Iran and Afghanistan had wrought that had brought everything to a halt. The stock market had dived. Durable goods orders were predicted to dry up in the coming year. Economist warned that people would now choose to spend their money in more hedonistic and short-term ways. Trips to Japan. Visits to fake subway cars for sexual encounters. Things that were already available but hadn’t been dreamed of before death became apparent.
He still had tons of calls for his bomb shelter plans but his company had yet to line up suppliers for the materials that would be needed to build them. Most, if not all of the factories that worked in the small scale prefabrication business were not prepared for his short term request for plastic rocks and tree roots. Their engineers needed time to work on these things and that gave his competition time to get a foothold in the new market of Armageddon proof construction.
His architects refined their initial designs and added new ones. They drafted the Jewel Mine with lighted crystals jutting from the walls, the Egyptian Tomb with golden sarcophagus beds, the Submarine complete with a lighted map-table for dining on and a periscope for looking out onto the scorched earths surface with. People loved them but basic need for un-augmented protection forced them to go elsewhere to get their projects done.
Markoff would have to go to the bank soon and request more financing if things didn’t pick up. It was amazing how fragile the business that he was in could be. Just a week ago he’d been poised to make a fortune.
His phone chimed. He picked it up.
“I’m in jail again.” Came a low voice from the other end.
It was Kinkaid. He sounded as if he were announcing something that happened everyday.
“Jesus!” The builder spat. “Why?”
“That archeologist prick from the state.” His neighbor said. “I caught that scrawny cock sucker taking tap water from your spigot so I kicked him in his ass.”
“Wait a second.” The builder asked in confusion. “You mean you kicked his ass?”
“No.” Kinkaid explained. “I kicked him in his ass.”
Markoff shook his head turning to look out the window. Behind its plate glass surface, cars passed silently back and forth along the freeway.
“That nerd was stealing water from you.” The older man continued. “When I seen him doing it, his back was turned so I just put my foot up his ass as hard as I could.”
“My God.” Markoff muttered.
“Tell me about it!” Kinkaid shot back. “I hate that geek bastard.”
“Well you can’t go kicking him in the ass.” The builder chided. “You’ve already had one run in with the guy so why’d you want to provoke him again? You’re probably going to get your butt sent to jail for a long time now you stupid idiot.”
“I’m suing all of their dweeb ass's.”
“That doesn’t matter. You can’t kick them in the ass even if you are suing their dweeb ass's.”
“I can sure as hell do it if I see them stealing your water.”
The builder leaned back in his chair with a look of exasperation. “Why was he stealing water from my house?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well surely there must have been a reason.”
“They’ve been all over your yard today.” The older man replied. “They found something that they’re real proud of but since I can’t walk out there I can’t see what it is.”
“And this pissed you off?” He asked.
“So you took it upon yourself to kick a man in his ass over my spigot and my water?”
“Your yard too.” The older man reminded him.
“Yeah.” Markoff replied. “But why would you care if he was stealing my water?”
“I think he was trying to get some water to wash away some dirt or something.”
“In my yard?” He asked.
“What makes you think what they found is so important?” He asked.
“Well for one thing every single one of them dorks got gathered around there looking at it for a good long while after they dug up whatever they found.” Kinkaid responded. “Then they put a tent up over it and called the cops to come out and watch over the place while they went and messed around with whatever it was.”
“There’s a tent in my yard now?”
“And you kicked this guy in the ass for stealing my water?”
“And the cops were already out there?”
Markoff’s office was in a fifth story suite that was situated at an angle to where he could see the fruits of his empire dotting each exit along the interstate’s length. Off in the distance the Taj Mahal gleamed, broken and vacant. Looking at the structure, speaking with the older man, the builder placed his fingertips to his temples.
“What time did all of this happen?” He asked with resignation.
“About two or three hours ago.” Kinkaid answered. “I was changing a carburetor.”
The builder sighed. “Have you had your bond hearing yet?” He asked.
“Nope, I just wanted you to be prepared.”
“To bail your ass out?”
“Why not get your lawyer or your girlfriend to do this?” He asked. “Why me?”
“My girlfriend and I just broke up.” Kinkaid answered. “It happened on New Years day. She claimed she was pregnant.”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, what about your lawyer?”
“He’s in court right now.”
“You know that they make me sign paperwork when I do that saying that I’ll be responsible for you?” The builder asked.
“And now you’re back in jail.”
“For kicking an old man in the ass over my water spigot?”
“Yep.” Kinkaid answered. “It’s a damned shame that a man can’t protect his neighbor’s water spigot anymore.”
“Did Myrah see any of this?”
“Fine.” Markoff sighed. “I’ll go talk to the bondsman.”
“Look.” The builder warned. “If I’m able to get your butt out of jail again then you have to promise me that you won’t breathe a word of this to Myrah.”
“If she finds out that your stupid ass got arrested again you know that she’ll never let either of us live it down.”
Markoff spun around in his chair and slammed down the phone. The invoices were still there waiting to be paid. There were catalogues and fliers bearing pictures of boats that he was interested on their covers. He’d even circled some of them but for now, the invoices were still there.